Bloomberg's anonymous source nailed it first!

THURSDAY, JUNE 22, 2017

Or then again, maybe s/he didn't:
Bloomberg had it first.

Whatever those Russkie hackers were trying to do with our voting systems, they tried to do it in 39 states, Bloomberg reported last week:
RILEY AND ROBERTSON (6/13/17): Russia’s cyberattack on the U.S. electoral system before Donald Trump’s election was far more widespread than has been publicly revealed, including incursions into voter databases and software systems in almost twice as many states as previously reported.

In Illinois, investigators found evidence that cyber intruders tried to delete or alter voter data. The hackers accessed software designed to be used by poll workers on Election Day, and in at least one state accessed a campaign finance database. Details of the wave of attacks, in the summer and fall of 2016, were provided by three people with direct knowledge of the U.S. investigation into the matter. In all, the Russian hackers hit systems in a total of 39 states, one of them said.
Bloomberg had three anonymous sources. They said the Russkies were active in 39 states, "almost twice as many states as previously reported!"

Well actually, one of Bloomberg's anonymous sources made that assertion. Bloomberg apparently built its lead around the claim by that one source.

For all we know, that statement may have been accurate. On the other hand, here's the way the Washington Post reported yesterday's hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee, hard-copy headline included:
ZAPOTOSKY AND DEMIRJIAN (6/22/17): Hacking attempts on 21 states are tied to Russia

People connected to the Russian government tried to hack election-related computer systems in 21 states,
a Department of Homeland Security official testified Wednesday.

Samuel Liles, the Department of Homeland Security’s acting director of the Office of Intelligence and Analysis Cyber Division, said vote-tallying mechanisms were unaffected and that the hackers appeared to be scanning for vulnerabilities—which Liles likened to walking down the street and looking at homes to see who might be inside.

But hackers successfully exploited a “small number” of networks, Liles said, likening the act to making it through a home’s front door.
According to this official source, the actual number was 21 states—roughly half as many states as Bloomberg reported.

At this point, it doesn't matter what the number was. What matters is our ability to stave off some future Election Day disaster.

Does anyone think we'll be able to do that, given the way the culture is descending into tribal division and all-around full-blown nuttiness?

On the other hand, there could be a lesson here about reporting based on anonymous sources. Bloomberg went with what one person said.

Should Bloomberg have done that? To what extent should such reports be trusted?

Final question: Final question, while we're at it, and while we're working the numbers:

How many meetings did Sessions have? That was all entertainment, wasn't it? Entertainment and the exciting tribal chase.

(Based on an unreliable source? By the name of Comey the God?)

The health care confusions that just keep giving!

THURSDAY, JUNE 22, 2017

What Pelosi actually said/Watching Medicaid grow:
Everyone knows it! The Republican health care bill would cut Medicaid badly.

Everyone knows it until they read front-page reports in the New York Times. Yesterday morning, Robert Pear's front-page report started off like this:
PEAR AND STEINHAUER (6/21/17): A growing rift among Senate Republicans over federal spending on Medicaid and the opioid epidemic is imperiling legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act that Senate leaders are trying to put to a vote by the end of next week.

President Trump had urged Republican senators to write a more generous bill than a House version that he first heralded and then called “mean,” but Republican leaders on Tuesday appeared to be drafting legislation that would do even more to slow the growth of Medicaid toward the end of the coming decade.
According to the highlighted passage, Medicaid will continue to grow under the Republican plans. They're just slowing the growth of the program!

This is one of the horses we rode in on. In part, we started building this site in 1997 because of the ludicrous Medicare discussion of 1995-1996. During that ludicrous pseudo-discussion, reporters were completely unable to handle this basic question:

Was Newt Gingrich proposing cuts to the Medicare program? Or was he simply reducing the rate at which the program would grow?

That basic question was too hard for the upper-end press corps to handle. Today, major reporters are experiencing the same problems with the GOP Medicaid plan.

This is part of what we mean when we say that our upper-end press corps seems to have virtually no analytical skills at all. People think we're speaking hyperbolically. But actually no—we aren't.

In another highlight, consider Karen Tumulty's report in this morning's Washington Post.

We happen to like the reporter in question. But dear God! This very day, discussing the passage of Obamacare, Tumulty seems to quote "an infamous declaration" by Nancy Pelosi:
TUMULTY (6/22/17): In the end, Democrats got their bill [in 2010], but the legislative maneuvering it took to get it over the finish line was not pretty.

There had been special deals for individual senators that became known as the “Cornhusker Kickback” and the “Louisiana Purchase.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) made an infamous declaration that spawned a legion of attack ads: “We have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it.”
Pelosi's famous "infamous declaration" has been ridiculed forever. According to the standard interpretation, Pelosi, and Democrats generally, didn't even know what was in the mammoth Obamacare bill!

In this morning's report, Tumulty puts a bunch of words inside quotation marks. You'd almost think that she was quoting what Pelosi actually said.

As far as we know, she isn't. There is no link from Tumulty's report to any actual statement by Pelosi. Meanwhile, it has been explained, a million times, that Pelosi's actual statement was different.

Unless Tumulty has some other statement in mind, Pelosi's "infamous declaration" was made in a speech to the National Association of Counties. Speaking about the disinformation being spread about the bill, this is what she said:
PELOSI (3/9/10): You've heard about the controversies within the bill, the process about the bill, one or the other. But I don’t know if you have heard that it is legislation for the future, not just about health care for America, but about a healthier America, where preventive care is not something that you have to pay a deductible for or out of pocket. Prevention, prevention, prevention—it’s about diet, not diabetes. It’s going to be very, very exciting.

But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.
"But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy."

You can watch her say that here.

As usual, Pelosi was less than sharply articulate, even in these prepared remarks. But she was saying that we had to pass the bill so the American people could learn what was in it, aside from all the dissembling—aside from "the fog of controversy" which was being generated by all the partisan dissembling.

In fact, the dissembling never stopped. And this very morning, Tumulty seems to have misquoted Pelosi's actual words, dropped a key phrase, and omitted the basic context.

"Slowing the rate of growth" is one of the horses we rode in on. (The Lincoln Bedroom was another.) Soon after arriving, we spent years watching the press corps misquote and misparaphrase Candidate Gore, with disastrous consequences for the U.S. and entire world.

Ridiculous Us were too dumb and compliant to complain about these things when they were actually happening. We've been too lazy and dumb to establish the history of these events in the years since. We'd rather spend our time dropping R-bombs on Them. That's easier and more fun.

Today, twenty years later, we still live in the journalistic land of "slowing the rate of growth," and in the land of the massaged pseudo-quotation. On cable, our biggest stars mug and clown and entertain us, then stuff millions of dollars into their pants.

We tell them how great we think they are. It's all part of the way we lose. It's the soul of Ridiculous Us.

RIDICULOUS US: Heroic behavior produces an answer!

THURSDAY, JUNE 22, 2017

Part 3—Cable star praises herself:
Yay yay yay yay yay!

Last night, we received the latest tale of the heroism being performed by an unnamed cable news star.

The heroism was described by the cable star herself. The report came near the end of her cable news program.

Heroism is in short supply in these final days. For that reason, we'll post the full text of the star's report, her third on this silly faux topic.

As you may know, the star has been chasing some shifty behavior by Vice President Pence. Her work has been drenched in insinuation, innuendo and dissembling, all aimed at the diminishing brain cells of the group called Ridiculous Us.

By last night, the cable star had finally gotten some answers to her silly "questions." Liberal brain cells screamed in pain as she heaped praise on herself.

Mugging and clowning and working the grift, the cable star started as shown below. To watch this performance, click here:
MADDOW (6/21/17): We have an answer. We have an answer. We have an answer.

I told you we would eventually get an answer on this, and we have now got it! All right.

Since last week, we have been asking, What on earth is Vice President Mike Pence doing in this picture?

[PHOTOGRAPH OF PENCE AT A PODIUM, WITH HIS WIFE]

This single picture, which he tweeted, has been the only glimpse we had of a fund-raiser that he held in Indiana on Friday, a fund-raiser for his brand-new PAC!

Now, it's strange enough for a sitting vice president to have a political action committee of his own. That is very unusual.
But what does Mike Pence intend to do with the money his PAC has, the money that he's now raising for his PAC?
Yay yay yay yay yay yay yay yay yay yay yay yay yay!

We finally had an answer to the cable star's question! We finally have an answer to this:

What does Pence intend to do with the money his PAC will raise?

In truth, the cable star was simplifying her story just a tad. In fact, when Pence's PAC was created last month, Pence announced that the money he raised would be used to support Republican candidates.

PAC money is routinely used in such ways. The excited star has persistently excluded these facts from her silly reports.

That said, you can probably see the insinuations floating in last night's report. "What on earth" was Pence doing in that photograph? So the star suspiciously asked.

In fact, Pence appeared to be speaking to a group, something that's commonly done. But the cable star won't stop suggesting that something nefarious was going on as Pence so strangely did this.

What was Pence doing in that photo? Finally, the cable star said, we finally have the answer! As her self-glorying story continued, so did her dumb remarks, aimed directly at the brain cells of Ridiculous Us:
MADDOW (continuing directly): The reason I've been asking is in part because of the timing. Because on Thursday last week, that's when Mike Pence announced that he had hired a top-shelf, A-list, private lawyer to personally represent him in the Trump/Russia investigation.

Then the very next day, on Friday, there he was, in Indiana, very quietly holding a top-dollar fund-raiser, not for the Republican Party or for any active candidates in the elections, but for his new PAC, with tickets going for $1000 to $5000 a plate.

What's that money for? Is the vice president conceivably going around the country quietly raising money to pay for his own legal bills? That's an expensive lawyer he just hired.

Nobody from the vice president's PAC would tell us. The vice president's own spokesperson would not say one way or the other. All we had was this one picture and a whole bunch of our unreturned e-mails.
Speculation is her! As she'd done in her first two reports (links below), she imagined that Pence might be "going around the country quietly raising money to pay for his own legal bills."

There would be nothing wrong with something like that, of course, but the cable star made it sound nefarious, slick and slippery. Was Pence "going around the country" doing some such thing? This speculation was based on one fundraiser, held in Pence's home town.

Meanwhile, the star killed brain cells with her comment about that suspicious timing. We were supposed to imagine—what?

Pence hired a lawyer on Thursday, then was magically staging a fundraiser the very next night? Is that how it seemed to the star?

(We remind you that Pence's intention of raising funds was announced last month, when his PAC came into being. We don't know why it would seem surprising to see the fundraising start.)

Meanwhile, tickets to the fundraiser had gone for as much as $5000! This is about as surprising as learning that water is wet, unless your brain cells have been destroyed by an array of slippery cable stars.

Mike Pence had hired an expensive lawyer! Would he use PAC money to pay his fees? For reasons she'd never quite explained, the cable star had been feigning interest in this utterly trivial question since last Friday night.

And dear God! "Nobody from the vice president's PAC would tell us," the cable star now confessed.

Could it be they wouldn't tell her last week because no decision had yet been reached? Could it be they simply had enough sense to avoid this horrible star?

There's no way to answer those questions. But finally, yay! Showering herself with praise, letting us enjoy her snark, the giant star let us know what the answer to her pointless question had "finally" turned out to be.

For the record, the first statement we highlight below is an example of cable gong-show culture at its magnificent dumbest. You're being told that the cable star believes your IQ is 9:
MADDOW (continuing directly): Today, we tried again. At 1:18 p.m. Eastern Time, we wrote to Mike Pence's personal lawyer, explaining that we really would like an answer to this question.

Then, at 3:45 p.m., a couple hours later, the Wall Street Journal published an answer to our question. No, Mike Pence will not be paying his legal bills with money from his PAC. That sort of seemed to be the plan as of last week, but it is apparently officially not the plan anymore.

So now we've got an answer. It still leaves the question of how Mike Pence, who is not Mr. Money Bags, how he is going to pay for the powerhouse new lawyer he just hired, who's got experience incidentally in Watergate [CHUCKLING] and Iran-Contra.

That lawyer, Richard Cullen, told us very politely today that he doesn't like getting into the details about how his clients are going to pay his firm. Nobody else will say.
The cable star sent her question "to Pence's personal lawyer?" As if he was going to answer the question about how he would get paid!

Reading that silly confession, you finally know what it is to be thoroughly played by a cable news clown! In fairness, though, the cable star finally had the answer she'd sought:

Pence won't be using money from his PAC to pay his legal fees! At last, we finally knew!

Even here, the slippery star couldn't leave simple facts alone. "That sort of seemed to be the plan as of last week," she disingenuously said. Can you feel your brain cells dying as you get talked to that way?

The cable star kept snarking at Pence as she continued. Pence "is not Mr. Money Bags," she said, forgetting to tell us that she herself does belong to that class, thanks to her corporate clowning.

Once again, she reminded us of how "expensive" that "top-shelf, A-list, powerhouse" lawyer is. And she added the requisite reference:

Hint hint hint hint hit hint hint! The expensive lawyer "got experience incidentally in Watergate and Iran-Contra!"

As she finished her report, the corporate star of whom we speak ever-so-briefly cited some real information. Then, she quickly went back on the clown:
MADDOW (continuing directly): We also heard from an expert in these matters, Craig Holman, at Public Citizen. He says the vice president has a couple of clear choices for getting the money he's going to need to pay for his expensive lawyer. He could start a legal defense fund, the way Bill Clinton did, or he could ask permission from the FEC to use Trump/Pence campaign money.

It may be worth noting here that the president not only funded much of his campaign last year, though not to the extent he promised, he also re-upped the campaign on Inauguration Day. Donald J. Trump for President Inc. is open for business. The president's re-election campaign already exists, and that campaign did announce a new fund-raiser this afternoon at the president's own Trump hotel in D.C. That's set for Wednesday, a week from tonight, a high-dollar donor fund-raiser.

If anybody happens to notice a tip jar at that fund-raiser for Mike Pence's legal fees—

[CLAPS HANDS AND CHUCKLES]

Please let us know.
In one brief shining moment, the cable clown mentioned the fact that politicians have various ways to pay legal fees of this type, especially if the fees become extremely large. (At this point, there is no reason to assume that this will be the case with Pence.)

Who knew! Politicians can start a legal defense fund, or perhaps use campaign money! The star had done two previous reports on this invented topic without stooping to mention such facts.

Wonderfully, though, she ended with snark. Yay yay yay, we dumbly said, as she snarked at Pence with her wonderful "tip jar" jibe.

The cable star who delivered this nonsense is a multimillionaire corporate employee. Your brain cells die, she gets a raise. This is the gong show she's chosen!

Today, she sits at the head of a deeply ridiculous "cable news" prime time lineup. With the exception of Chris Hayes, her colleagues' past behaviors identify them as a rogues' gallery of journalistic misconduct.

The big star praises each one. The prime enabler of Trump's birtherism turns out to be her drinking buddy! Please please please watch her wonderful show, the cable news star once implored.

Tomorrow, we'll run through the truly ridiculous prime time lineup aimed at Ridiculous Us. Your nation's culture is coming apart. These people have been among the architects of our disastrous decline.

Tomorrow: Past work by the star's pals

Completing the rule of three: The cable star has aired three reports on this invented topic. The first report was especially slimy. Why not watch all three?

For last Friday's segment, just click here.

On Monday night, we got a second dose of this bullshit.

Last night completed the rule of three. The nonsense can be seen here.

All three "reports" were wonderfully faux. This helps explain the haplessness of the group called Ridiculous Us.

Friedman refuses to break the rule!

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 21, 2017

There must never be blood:
Thomas Friedman wrote an excellent column today, except for the fact that he wrote a remarkably terrible column.

You see, Friedman observed a key tenet of Hard Pundit Law:

There must never be blood.

Friedman's column concerns the disintegration of our political culture. As he starts, he describes the rise of a political culture devoted to hard tribal vision.

This is the way the column begins. Hard-copy headline included:
FRIEDMAN (6/21/17): Where Did ‘We the People’ Go?

A few days ago I was at a conference in Montreal, and a Canadian gentleman, trying to grasp what’s happening to America, asked me a simple question: “What do you fear most these days?”

I paused for a second, like a spectator waiting to see what would come out of my own mouth. Two things came out: “I fear we’re seeing the end of ‘truth’—that we simply can’t agree any more on basic facts. And I fear that we’re becoming Sunnis and Shiites—we call them ‘Democrats’ and ‘Republicans,’ but the sectarianism that has destroyed nation-states in the Middle East is now infecting us.”

It used to be that people didn’t want their kids to marry one of “them,” referring to someone of a different religion or race (bad enough). Now the “them” is someone of a different party.

When a liberal comedian poses with a mock severed head of Donald Trump, when the president’s own son, Eric Trump, says of his father’s Democratic opponents, “To me, they’re not even people,” you know that you are heading to a dark place.
It's what we mentioned yesterday. Our two tribes now share a common motto:

"Don't Let Them Win"

Increasingly, we loathe The Others—and each tribe has its own set of acceptable facts.

Friedman asked a friend, the author Dov Seidman, to tell him how this came to be. What is the source of this brutal tribalism? In one basic way, the answer which emerges here is very, very strange:
FRIEDMAN: We’ve had breakdowns in truth and trust before in our history, but this feels particularly dangerous because it is being exacerbated by technology and Trump.

Social networks and cyberhacking are helping extremists to spread vitriol and fake news at a speed and breadth we have never seen before. “Today, we’re not just deeply divided, as we’ve been before, we’re being actively divided—by cheap tools that make it so easy to broadcast one’s own ‘truths’ and to undermine real ones,” Seidman argued.

This anger industry is now “either sending us into comfortable echo chambers where we don’t see the other or arousing such moral outrage in us toward the other that we can no longer see their humanity, let alone embrace them as fellow Americans with whom we share values.”

Social networks and hacking also “have
enabled us to see, in full color, into the innermost workings of every institution and into the attitudes of those who run them,” noted Seidman, “and that has eroded trust in virtually every institution, and the authority of many leaders, because people don’t like what they see.”
Donald J. Trump is part of this problem, Friedman says. That point is more than fair.

That said, he and Seidman seem to have settled on two other bogeymen—"social networks and cyberhacking." They're the twin technological demons which have created the "anger industry," an industry which turns We the People into Us and Them.

Good lord! Let's assume those twin demons of technology have played the role described. At no point does Friedman mention these other technological advances of the past thirty years:
Sources of tribal otherization:
Talk radio, especially national talk
"Cable news," especially partisan cable
Internet "news" and opinion sites
How do you talk about Us and Them without mentioning the rise in tribal identity which started with talk radio, then continued to wend its merry way through the twin realms of partisan cable and the partisan Net?

Why would Friedman blow past these obvious bogeymen? Just yesterday, we gave you the answer! In writing about a book review in the New York Times, we incomparably told you this:

"We haven't read Luce's book; we've only read this review. That said, we know something from past experience—if Luce criticized trends in our rapidly evolving news business, a reviewer in the New York Times might be inclined to skip that part of his book."

Dearest darlings, it's Hard Pundit Law. What happens in the news business stays in the news business! The problems are all Over There.

The New York Times has run and hid from talk radio and cable news for a very long time. It ran and hid from Rush Limbaugh and his thousand imitators. In more recent years, it ran from the pernicious effects of an influential crackpot/hustler like Alex Jones.

In recent years, the Times has begun using cable news as a means of self-promotion. That may be enough said right there. For decades, no one has criticized cable news because everyone wants to appear there.

The endless demonization of Them got its powerful start on talk; more recently, that stupid, destructive culture has migrated to cable and to the Net. The Times pretends it doesn't see the destruction being wrought by these powerful country cousins.

Dearest darlings, use your heads! For reasons which go unexplored, unpleasant commentary of that type simply isn't done!

It wasn't people like Rush and Sean. The hackers have made us nuts!

RIDICULOUS US: Cable star's world-record dissembling!

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 21, 2017

Part 2—An assault on Ridiculous Us:
Sadly but inevitably, it's now one of our FAQs—one of our most frequently-asked questions.

It comes from schoolkids and seniors alike. The question goes something like this:

"Have you ever seen so much dissembling in a 14-minute segment?"

The question refers to the 14-minute opening segment of a major "cable news" program last Friday. Incomparably, we've commissioned this reply:

"Actually, no! We're not sure we've ever seen that much dissembling in such a short chunk of time!"

To watch Friday's segment, click here.

The cable star who produced that dissembling is a big major cable news star. She's considered the leading star on a "corporate liberal" cable news channel—a channel which has been showing large large ratings gain as her blizzards of bullshit fly.

She's the widely-lauded hood ornament in a gruesome prime time "cable news" lineup, a rogues' gallery we'll review tomorrow. But because her constant dissembling is aimed at a liberal audience, it is, in effect, an attack on the moral and intellectual health of the group called Ridiculous Us.

The widespread dissembling in that fourteen minutes, and in Monday evening's sequel, thus lies at the heart of the withered worldview of Ridiculous Us. We'll try to run through its various parts in today's report.

Like Caesar's Gaul, the cable star's segment can be divided into three parts. We'll memorialize them thusly:
The entertainment feature: The cable star began the segment with one of her entertaining old stories. The story which was larded with silly embellishments, s we'll note below. On the brighter side, it contained a large chunk of unintended comic relief, as we described on Monday.

The tribal cheerleading feature: After telling her entertaining story, the cable star told her audience that Donald F. Trump had hired another incompetent lawyer. This false impression was accomplished through an act of vast dissembling. On the brighter side, it let her liberal viewers go Yay yay yay yay yay.

The slimy McCarthyite play: The cable star concluded her segment with a slimy attack on a favorite target. The attack was continued on Monday night. It was driven by an array of McCarthyite insinuations and misrepresentations.
In these ways, corporate stars turn the liberal world into Ridiculous Us. A lot of dissembling occurred Friday night. Let's make an attempt to plow through it.

The entertaining old story:

As we noted on Monday, the cable star's entertaining old story involved Fife Symington, the governor of Arizona from 1991 through 1997, when he had to resign his office after a criminal conviction.

The story involved a "possibly apocryphal" claim the star didn't exactly seem to believe—the claim that Symington saved Bill Clinton from drowning when both men were maybe 19.

The dissembling came early and often as the star told her tale. For starters, the cable star claimed that the near-drowning story had been widely discussed in the past, especially in 2001, when Clinton granted Symington a legal pardon.

That was a major embellishment. The comic relief occurred when the cable star said, on two occasions, that she herself has heard the story "a million times"—even as she kept mispronouncing the name of the story's protagonist!

Our youthful analysts tore their hair as the star referred, ten times, to a man named Fife SIMM-ington—a man who doesn't exist. She'd heard the story a million times—but had never heard his named pronounced correctly?

Over the course of time, we hope the young analysts will learn to laugh at clowning so sadly ridiculous.

For today, we'll note a few more points about which the star dissembled. Making her story seem more exciting, she was soon saying this:
MADDOW (6/16/17): In 1997, Fife Symington had been convicted of seven felonies related to his business life as a commercial real estate developer. Fife Symington was charged with a whole raft of corruption charges. He was ultimately convicted of filing false financial statements. Basically, he was convicted of bank fraud.

Ultimately down the road, an appeals court would overturn his convictions and then later, in 2001, he would get a presidential pardon from bad swimmer Bill Clinton.

But when that case was brought, when those convictions happened, that was a big traumatic legal case, in the country broadly, but obviously specifically for Fife Symington. He was a very popular figure at Republican politics. People were looking at him as a person of potential presidential timber. Those convictions in 1997 forced him out of office immediately as Arizona governor and ultimately ended his political career.
Earlier, the star had claimed that Simington's pardon created lots of discussion in 2001. That simply isn't true.

She'd also claimed that the drowning story was widely discussed at that time. That claim was also false, though it did make her story more thrilling.

In the passage shown above, she claimed that SIMM-ington's trial "was a big traumatic legal case, in the country broadly." We're sorry, but that isn't true, as we saw when we checked.

Meanwhile, had people been looking at Symington "as a person of potential presidential timber?" You can Google and Nexis as much as you like. You'll have a hard time finding evidence supporting that claim, which made the story more exciting.

To read an AP overview of Symington's career, you can just click here. The story goes something like this:

Symington was first elected to office in November 1990, at age 45. In 1991, he became embroiled in a major federal lawsuit as part of the era's savings and loan scandals. As his business ventures collapsed, his net worth dropped to minus $23 million that year.

In November 1994, he squeaked out a surprise re-election. It was part of a huge Republican year; he had trailed by 15-20 points in polls earlier in the year.

In 1995, he declared personal bankruptcy. In 1996, he was indicted on a raft of federal charges.

We'll suggest you read that AP report and ask yourself when you think the GOP saw Symington as a White House hopeful. Increasingly, the cable star's stories are full of claims which makes her entertaining old tales more thrilling, but also less true.

We'll also note the possible jibe she aimed at—"Surprise!"—the Clinton pardons. This cable star seems to have a negative jones about Bill Clinton. It's part of her overall cluelessness about modern politics, a cluelessness she constantly tries to spread to Ridiculous Us.

The tribal cheerleading feature:

Why was the cable star telling this pointless old story? As she started telling the tale, she said it was "sort of relevant tonight to what we've just learned in Washington."

Pathetically, here's what she meant:

In his 1997 criminal trial (and in his successful pursuit of a reversal), SIMM-ington was represented by John Dowd, a well-known Washington lawyer. And uh-oh! Last week, Donald J. Trump added Dowd to his personal legal team.

The cable star wanted to let Ridiculous Us go yay yay yay yay yay. So she pretended that Dowd is a hopeless, incompetent legal bumbler, in the mold of a few of Trump's other lawyers.

In fact, Dowd is a thoroughly mainstream figure who's held in general high regard. In order to let Ridiculous Us go yay yay yay ya yay yay yay, the cable star embellished, dissembled and picked-and-chose to make us think otherwise.

How could she lead us to think that? She selected three cases from Dowd's career, then pretended they'd gone "very badly." This included the SIMM-ington case, where Dowd's client, who was quite likely guilty as sin, won a legal reversal of his convictions, and then a presidential pardon.

For her second example, the cable star selected Dowd's representation of John McCain in the Keating Five scandal. Of the Five, McCain escaped with the lightest punishment and the least amount of denigration, but the cable star seemed to say that Dowd had bungled that too.

From The Five, she segued to this wonderful bit of selective "con man" reporting. As the passage ends, she is helping us liberals see that Dowd is clownishly inept:
MADDOW: So John McCain survived the Keating Five scandal, but by the skin of his teeth, and his lawyer in that matter was the Fife SIMM-ington guy. It was this guy, John Dowd.

John Dowd is also famous for this case from 2011. This is a case that went very badly. I will, I will just read you the lead sentence from the New York Times report on this case the day the ruling came down.

Quote, "The fallen hedge fund billionaire Raj Rajaratnam received the longest prison sentence ever for insider trick—for insider trading on Thursday."

That fallen hedge fund billionaire—his lawyer when he got the longest prison sentence ever for insider trading, his lawyer was [dramatic pause] John Dowd.

John Dowd, Fife Symington.

John Dowd, John McCain.

John Dowd, "longest insider trading prison sentence ever."

And that same lawyer, John Dowd, is now going to be Donald Trump's new lawyer.
Yay yay yay yay yay yay yay! At home, in our best pajamas, Ridiculous We loudly cheered.

Sadly, we'd been played. In truth, the cable star's negative portrait of Dowd was almost impossibly clownish. Note this pitiful statement by the cable star:

"I will just read you the lead sentence from the New York Times report on this case the day the ruling came down."

The cable star offered that one sentence to create the impression that Dowd had clownishly failed. She failed to mention the length of that longest sentence ever—a mere eleven years—or to quote the parts of the New York Times report which explained the size of the convicted figure's misconduct:
LATTMAN (10/14/11): ''No matter the crime, if the rewards are great enough, people will ignore the risk of getting caught,'' said Jonathan B. New, a criminal defense lawyer and former federal prosecutor. ''For people who think that insider trading isn't a serious crime or that the rewards outweigh the risks, these heavy sentences do send a powerful message to the contrary.''

Still, at 11 years, the sentence lacks the symbolic heft of the 19 to 24 years prosecutors sought. Mr. Rajaratnam deserved an outsize penalty, said the federal prosecutor Reed Brodsky at Thursday's hearing, because his crimes were ''brazen, pervasive and egregious,'' and, ''There is no one who is Mr. Rajaratnam's equal in terms of the breadth and scope of his insider trading crimes.''
According to the prosecutors, Rajaratnam had committed the largest crime of its type ever encountered. This explains his "longest sentence." Prosecutors had sought a much longer sentence due to the scope of his crimes.

The cable star left all that out. She was creating a comic book portrait, in which we liberals got to think that Donald J. Trump had hired another dud. Yay yay yay yay yay yay yay! That's why we love her so much!

Within the legal world, John Dowd is a major mainstream figure. Last week, everyone got to hear that fact. Except Ridiculous Us!

The slimy McCarthyite play:

The third part of Friday's segment was the slimy McCarythyite feature. The cable star continued this slimy attack in the final segment of Monday evening's program. (The cable star didn't post the tape from Monday's segment.)

In this part of Friday's segment, her target was Vice President Pence, who had just hired a personal lawyer. The star set out to make us think there might be something fishy about the way this lawyer will be paid.

She also kept referring to her target's "legal defense." It's the type of slimy play this particular cable star loves.

Let's start with the issue of payment. The cable star expressed her slippery approach to this topic for the second at the start of Monday evening's final segment.

Providing a bit of unintended comic relief, she started the segment as shown below. You can see her make the same points in the tape of Friday's segment:
MADDOW (6/19/17): I think we are on to something concerning Vice President Mike Pence. So far, he will not tell us yes or no, so we can't be sure if we really are on to something. But the fact that he won't say either way is starting to become a telling thing. It's at least starting to make me more and more interested in this story.

OK. The vice president and his family are not rich. It is—it's not like the guy at the top of the ticket, right? The Pence family, unlike the Trump family, they have normal American family finances. They are not Trumps. They are not Kushners. They're not even Manaforts.
The Pences aren't rich, the cable star said, as she started her slimy segment. "They are not Trumps. They are not Kushners. They're not even Manaforts," the slimy major star said.

"They're certainly not Maddows," several analysts cried, as they watched the slippery star perform. Does anyone provide as much comic relief as this disordered star?

The star was discussing an obvious point. As everyone knows, the age of scandal has presented waves of federal officials with the unpleasant task of paying large legal fees.

This has been true of major figures who are actually charged with misconduct, whether rightly or wrongly. It has also been true of many people who are simply involved in federal probes on the witness end.

At the present time, Vice President Pence hasn't been charged with a crime. There is no sign that he is the subject of any federal probe.

When he hired a lawyer last week, sensible people stressed the fact that this is standard behavior which doesn't suggest an admission of wrongdoing. On CNN, Jeffrey Toobin, an aggressive Trump critic, declared the hiring was "a non-event." He said that everyone knows this.

Everyone but Ridiculous Us! On Friday night, the cable star began suggesting that Pence was up to something shady regarding the payment of his forthcoming legal fees. She also used an unfortunate phrase again and again and again and again and again and again:
MADDOW (6/16/17): I mean, this is the person who's going to defend Mike Pence and represent Mike Pence in anything having to do with the Trump-Russia scandal or the obstruction of justice investigations. This is a lawyer who gets paid a lot per hour and is probably going to be working a lot of hours.

Is it possible that this fundraiser for Mike Pence's PAC tonight in Indianapolis, is it possible that's actually going to be a way for people to fund Mike Pence's legal defense?

We called the vice president`s spokesman tonight to ask whether the money that the vice president is raising right now tonight for his PAC, whether that money might be used in the future for Mike Pence's legal defense. The vice president's spokesperson would not really say exactly. But this is the exact response we got from him.

Quote: "His legal fees will be paid by non-tax dollars."

Quote: "That's all we are saying." We have not discussed it except to say that it is not tax dollars.

That was in response to us asking if this fundraiser for his PAC tonight is going to raise money for his legal defense. "It won't be tax dollars. That's all we're saying."

So, we don't know if that means that donations to Mike Pence's PAC are going to be used to pay his legal defense. If that's now going to be how he spends his time as vice president, doing fundraisers to pay for his lawyers. The only assurance that we have from the vice president`s office is that you know he's not going to have a taxpayer-funded defense. But we knew that already he can't have a taxpayer-funded defense.
We hate to be the kill-joy here. But at present, Mike Pence isn't involved in "a legal defense."

Do you get the feeling this cable star wanted you picturing something different? Again and again and again and again, she just kept using that term.

We'll say this for the staffers who write this cable star's scripts. They're a gang of major enablers. But they're perfectly competent writers.

The repetition of that unfortunate phrase was stylistically clumsy—and the star and her staff aren't clumsy writers. We'd say the repeated use of that phrase was straight outta Tailgunner Joe, pretty much all the way down.

Love him or loathe him, Mike Pence isn't involved in "a legal defense." You won't see real journalists making that slippery claim.

The star said it again and again and again, stroking herself in the process. As she did, she made a set of slippery insinuations about the fundraiser Pence was holding that night.

The creation of Pence's PAC had been announced last month. The fact that it would engage in fundraising was explicit from the start.

Now, the cable star began suggesting that there was something odd about the fact that Pence was raising funds the day he announced that he had hired a lawyer. She began suggesting that he might use the PAC money to pay the legal fees, and that there would be something wrong about that if he did.

If your stomach is strong, you can watch her pimp these insinuations in the tapes from Friday and Monday nights. Especially in the Monday tape, you'll see her selling herself to Ridiculous Us as an admirable, dogged moral crusader as she spreads this slime around.

For ourselves, we'll simply ask you to remember the fact that people who are less wealthy than Maddow do, in fact, face terrible problems in the face of these federal probes.

Even in cases where they themselves have been charged with nothing, their legal fees may be very high. How can they pay these legal fees? This conundrum was widely discussed during the age of the legally expensive Clinton pseudo-scandals.

Many people were stuck with large legal fees during those gong-showe years. Might Pence end up using PAC money to pay his own future legal fees?
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Despite this star's insinuations, there would be nothing illegal or unprecedented about something like that. Back in 1994, the Post's Ruth Marcus reported the way "bad swimmer Bill Clinton" had decided to handle the problem. She also named a bunch of slimeballs who were part of his Pence-like scheme:
MARCUS (6/29/94): President Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday established an unprecedented defense fund to help them pay legal fees for the Whitewater investigation and the Paula Corbin Jones lawsuit that could run as high as $2 million annually.

The fund will not accept contributions from corporations, labor unions, political action committees or other organizations. The donations and outlays will be reported twice yearly.

[...]

White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers said the Clintons decided to establish the fund because "it's in the best interest of the country and the president" to have the large legal bills paid, and the Clintons could not afford it on his $200,000 salary.

In a statement, the chairmen of the fund, the Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh and former attorney general Nicholas deB. Katzenbach, said: "No previous president has had to face the enormous personal legal expenses confronting President Clinton. Whatever the merits or motivations of these proceedings, we believe it is in the public interest to assist the president in meeting a financial burden that could otherwise distract him from performing his public responsibilities."

Also on the board of trustees overseeing the fund are two Republicans, former attorney general Elliot L. Richardson and former secretary of state John Whitehead; former Democratic representatives Barbara Jordan of Texas and John Brademas of Indiana; Los Angeles lawyer Ronald Olson; former Columbia University president Michael Sovern, and Michael Cardozo, an investment banker who was White House deputy counsel for President Jimmy Carter.
Slimeballs like Hesburgh, Richardson and Jordan were helping the Clintons with their Pence-like scheme. Five years later, the Post's Edward Walsh reported where matters now stood:
WALSH (2/25/99): The trustees of President Clinton's legal defense fund said yesterday that they have raised more than $4.5 million to help pay his legal bills and may eventually be able to cover most of the cost of the president's legal defense in the Whitewater investigation, the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit and Congress's impeachment inquiry and trial.

At a news conference, Anthony F. Essaye, a New York lawyer who is a trustee and the executive director of the Clinton Legal Expense Trust, said the trust received 29,500 contributions totaling about $2.2 million from last August through the end of last year. He said that so far in 1999 the trust has taken in another 11,000 contributions totaling more than $800,000.

Essaye said that as of the end of October Clinton's legal bills totaled $9 million...

The trustees also released the names of people who have contributed to the Clinton defense
and, as with the first wave of donations that were reported last year, the biggest givers included well-known names from the worlds of entertainment and business. The maximum contribution to the trust is $10,000 a year, the most that can be given without having to pay the federal gift tax, and 39 people gave that amount.

They included singer Tony Bennett; New York investment banker Steven Rattner; Hollywood producer Lew R. Wasserman and his wife, Edith; and Robert L. Johnson, president of Black Entertainment Television.

Another 17 people gave $5,000 each, including agri-businessman Dwayne O. Andreas and his wife; actor Robert DeNiro; writer Stephen E. King and New Orleans Saints football player William L. Roaf.

Essaye and former senator David Pryor (D-Ark.), who founded the trust last February, said the vast majority of donors gave small amounts. More than half the donations were for $25 or less and almost 95 percent were for $100 or less, they said.
Slimeballs continued to give to the fund. Some of their names were mentioned.

No one knows what sorts of legal fees Pence may accrue. Everyone knows that the acquisition of huge legal fees has been, and is, one of the major problems surrounding this era of scandal and pseudoscandal.

The cable star isn't like the Manaforts in her wealth, but she's way past the Pences. In her role at corporate cable, she's paid $10 million per year to drive the culture of scandal. She was "working hard for the money" on her horrible "cable news" program last Friday.

At present, Pence is not engaged in "a legal defense." Last Friday night, and again on Monday, Tailgunner Joe and Roy Cohn smiled on the cable star's locution, and on her slippery insinuations, in which she has suggested, for several nights, that Pence has something shady in mind with respect to his legal fees.

There's no reason to think any such thing. The star was engaged in sliming.

McCarthy and Cohn surely cheered as they watched the ways she presented herself as a dogged moral crusader. They laughed to think that all this bullshit is aimed at Ridiculous Us!

Regarding the question we're frequently asked, we're going to have to answer in the negative. Last Friday's 14-minute segment was a masterwork of dissembling.

Have we ever seen anyone dissemble that much? In that length of time, we'll say no.

Tomorrow: The rest of the (completely ridiculous) gang

Tonight, we get our latest distraction!

TUESDAY, JUNE 20, 2017

A tag line which captures the age:
Yay yay yay yay yay yay yay!

Tonight, we get real excitement on cable! Tonight, we get to learn who won the Georgia race!

Brian and Rachel are going to tell us. Yay yay yay yay yay!

When a tribe is caught in a web of denial, it needs a new distraction each night. Regarding that trillion-dollar House race, it has now produced a tag line which perfectly captures the age.

It's the tag line to that pitiful anti-Ossoff ad which may yet turn that race. (Or not.)

You can watch that pitiful ad at this link. Kathy Griffin is there with her severed head. At the very end, this tag line appears:

Don't Let Them Win!

"Don't Let Them Win," with the emphasis plainly on them! It's the tag line to that pitiful ad. Given the state of Ridiculous Us, it could be our slogan on cable.

Don't Let Them Win! That's about as deep as it gets these days. For Them, but also for Us.

More from that pitiful ad: More language from the memorable text of that pitiful ad:
The same unhinged leftists cheering last week's shooting are all backing Jon Ossoff.
And if he wins, they win.
Stop them. Stop them now.
At least our two teams can agree on one point. The enemy is "them."

Concerning the longing to lock him up!

TUESDAY, JUNE 20, 2017

David Brooks asks, Where's the beef:
Did someone in or around the Trump campaign collude in some way with the Russians?

We have no way of knowing.

Does someone within the Russian government have some sort of leverage over Donald J. Trump? We can't answer that either, although it's certainly possible.

We hope to see those questions answered. In truth, though, we're less interested in those questions than in a pair of larger political question:

How have Democrats managed to lose so many elections in the past decade? Also, how did a person like Donald J. Trump ever manage to get all those votes? Candidate Clinton won overall. But how did he get so close?

We're more interested in the politics of substance than in the politics of scandal. We think David Brooks has an interesting column today about that general question.

Brooks starts with a recollection about the start of the modern scandal era. He also voices a bit of skepticism about the collusion chase:
BROOKS (6/20/17): I was the op-ed editor at The Wall Street Journal at the peak of the Whitewater scandal. We ran a series of investigative pieces “raising serious questions” (as we say in the scandal business) about the nefarious things the Clintons were thought to have done back in Arkansas.

Now I confess I couldn’t follow all the actual allegations made in those essays. They were six jungles deep in the weeds. But I do remember the intense atmosphere that the scandal created. A series of bombshell revelations came out in the media, which seemed monumental at the time. A special prosecutor was appointed and indictments were expected. Speculation became the national sport.

In retrospect Whitewater seems overblown. And yet it has to be confessed that, at least so far, the Whitewater scandal was far more substantive than the Russia-collusion scandal now gripping Washington.
Ah yes—the thrill of the chase! In truth, no one ever understood the actual claims which were made about the Whitewater pseudo-scandal. But it was exciting at the time!

"At least so far," is Brooks right about the collusion matter? Is it even more of a nothingburger than the Whitewater pseudo-scandal?

We can't answer that question yet. But as he continues, Brooks makes some decent points:
BROOKS (continuing directly): There may be a giant revelation still to come. But as the Trump-Russia story has evolved, it is striking how little evidence there is that any underlying crime occurred—that there was any actual collusion between the Donald Trump campaign and the Russians. Everything seems to be leaking out of this administration, but so far the leaks about actual collusion are meager.

There were some meetings between Trump officials and some Russians, but so far no more than you’d expect from a campaign that was publicly and proudly pro-Putin. And so far nothing we know of these meetings proves or even indicates collusion
For ourselves, we won't be surprised if it turns out that some of the crazier elements of TrumpWorld were involved in some sort of collusion. But so far, no such evidence has been leaked by all those "U.S. officials" who are so verbose about everything else. We're supposed to be thrilled by the fact that the apparently crazy ex-general Flynn sat next to Putin that night.

The culture of scandal—of "Lock him up"—can be very thrilling. But for us modern liberals, the thrill of the chase is helping us hide from our remarkable inability to talk about major substantive issues in winning ways.

Our tribe is very, very dumb. The current exciting chase helps us avoid that fact.

The culture of scandal is very exciting, especially on cable news, where it's simplified and served to us by our favorite stars. We think Brooks' comments in that general area are also worthwhile:
BROOKS: There’s just something worrisome every time we find ourselves replacing politics of democracy with the politics of scandal. In democracy, the issues count, and you try to win by persuasion. You recognize that your opponents are legitimate, that they will always be there and that some form of compromise is inevitable.

In the politics of scandal, at least since Watergate, you don’t have to engage in persuasion or even talk about issues. Political victories are won when you destroy your political opponents by catching them in some wrongdoing. You get seduced by the delightful possibility that your opponent will be eliminated. Politics is simply about moral superiority and personal destruction.

The politics of scandal is delightful for cable news. It’s hard to build ratings arguing about health insurance legislation. But it’s easy to build ratings if you are a glorified Court TV, if each whiff of scandal smoke generates hours of “Breaking News” intensity and a deluge of speculation from good-looking former prosecutors.
That portrait of scandal and cable news is ugly but right on point. In particular, liberals are being sold down the river by the weirdly grinning, multimillionaire corporate tools we're handed on cable each night.

"In the politics of scandal, you don't have to talk about issues?" So true! As Rachel hands us her manifest bullshit, the GOP, behind closed doors, is working on dismantling the ACA.

As the GOP works behind closed doors, Rachel is mugging and clowning, and baldly dissembling, and telling the endless pointless stories her staff pulls out of their ascots. She would jump off the Golden Gate Bridge before she'd discuss the actual way our looting-based "health care system" works. Before she'd discuss the way the corporate world works—the world which is paying her way at $10 million per year.

We liberals! Our inability to discuss health care is the latest chapter in the long book entitled Ridiculous Us. There's a con being played on Ridiculous Us. To judge from the ratings, we love it.

RIDICULOUS US: Decline of the west!

TUESDAY, JUNE 20, 2017

Interlude—Aimed at Ridiculous Us:
This morning, at an unnamed cable news site, we learn of heroic action.

At the very top of the site, access to a videotape is offered. Beneath the featured videotape, this synopsis appears:
Otto Warmbier, former North Korea captive, dies leaving questions
Rachel Maddow reports on the death of Otto Warmbier, the U.S. student released from 17 months of captivity in North Korea just a week ago, and [on] the questions that remain about how he was treated by North Korea.
Heroically, a certain cable news host "reported" last night on the death of Otto Warmbier, and on the questions that remain about how he was treated by North Korea. The presence of this report at the top of her site was a rather obvious statement about her moral greatness.

That said, there's one more line to that synopsis, a line we've so far withheld. It appears directly beneath that stirring synopsis. Enjoy a bit of comic relief! This is what it says:

"Duration: 0:55"

That's right! Last night, this major cable star's "report" lasted some 55 seconds. During that time, she "reported on" this young man's death, and on the questions that remain about how he was treated by North Korea!

Did she also swim the Yangtze, like Chairman Mao before her? Based upon that synopsis, we aren't entirely sure.

Alas! North Korea is a cult of personality. Increasingly, so is the cable news show which is highlighting the videotape of last evening's "report."

Last night, this major star opened her cable show with that 55-second report. After that, it was on to her program's only real product, the thrill of the highly dramatic chase as we try to lock them up.

(Last night's initial targets? Paul Manafort and his wife. For years, this cable star has seemed to take a special weird joy in including the spouses and kids.)

That heroic 55-second "report" is the way last night's program began. The final segment of last evening's show was pure political propaganda at its stupidest, least varnished and worst. It was a sequel to the worst part of the stupid and faux 14-minute segment with which the major cable star had opened last Friday night's program.

In yesterday's report, we extracted a bit of comic relief from that ridiculous fourteen minutes—from the ridiculous work aimed at Ridiculous Us. That said, even we were surprised to see the segment which aired last night, a sequel to the ugliest part of Friday night's dumb, faux, slippery work.

That said, as was once the case with Them, the same is now true with Us. As Rush once worked to dumb The Others down, this extremely peculiar multimillionaire star is now attacking the brain cells of Us.

As The Others couldn't see through the cult of Rush, we can't seem to see through the cult of this increasingly ridiculous corporate star. That said, there is no transcript, at this time, of her closing segment last night. For that reason, we'll postpone today's report till tomorrow so we can discuss the topic involved here in full.

That said, we thought of this major cable star as we read today's New York Times—more specifically, as we read a book review by Michiko Kakutani.

Kakutani reviews a "harrowing new book" by Edward Luce, a columnist for the Financial Times. This is the gloomy headline which sits atop her review in the hard-copy Times:

"In 'The Retreat of Western Liberalism,' How Democracy Is Defeating Itself"

We thought of the cable star's assault on Ridiculous Us as we read Kakutani's review.

The review is gloomy right from the start. Here's how Kakutani begins:
KAKUTANI (6/20/17): In his insightful and harrowing new book, Edward Luce, a columnist for The Financial Times, issues a chilling warning: “Western liberal democracy is not yet dead,” he writes, “but it is far closer to collapse than we may wish to believe. It is facing its gravest challenge since the Second World War. This time, however, we have conjured up the enemy from within. At home and abroad, America’s best liberal traditions are under assault from its own president. We have put arsonists in charge of the fire brigade.”
We agree that Donald J. Trump is engaged in a type of assault on Western liberal democracy. But so is the major cable news star, along with all the other talk radio/cable propagandists who have preceded her in this brave and disordered new world.

Kakutani's review doesn't mention these corporate creatures. At the same time, she says that Luce sees Donald J. Trump as a symptom of our deeply serious cultural problem, not as its actual cause.

We agree with that assessment. That said, it seems to us that Luce and/or Kakutani is ignoring one of the most significant causes:
KAKUTANI (continuing directly): Luce does not see Donald J. Trump or populist nationalists in Europe, like Marine Le Pen, as causes of today’s crisis in democratic liberalism but rather as symptoms. Nor does he see President Trump’s victory last November as “an accident delivered by the dying gasp of America’s white majority—and abetted by Putin,” after which regular political programming will soon resume.

Instead, he argues in “The Retreat of Western Liberalism,” Trump’s election is a part of larger trends on the world stage, including the failure of two dozen democracies since the turn of the millennium (including three in Europe—Russia, Turkey and Hungary) and growing downward pressures on the West’s middle classes (wrought by the snowballing forces of globalization and automation) that are fomenting nationalism and populist revolts. These developments, in turn, represent a repudiation of the na├»ve hopes, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, that liberal democracy was on an inevitable march across the planet, and they also pose a challenge to the West’s Enlightenment faith in reason and linear progress.
Is downward pressure on the middle classes fomenting nationalism and populist revolts? Are these forces creating a challenge to the West's Enlightenment faith in (and practice of) reason?

Presumably, yes. But so is the conduct of people like Rush and this major unnamed cable star.

We haven't read Luce's book; we've only read this review. That said, we know something from past experience—if Luce criticized trends in our rapidly evolving news business, a reviewer in the New York Times might be inclined to skip that part of his book.

Why do we mention that possibility? Because we agree with this description, but we also think something is missing:
KAKUTANI: In his prescient 2012 book, “Time to Start Thinking: America in the Age of Descent,” Luce uncannily anticipated the politics of resentment and the bitter fights over immigration that would fuel “Brexit” and last year’s American election. And in this new book, he lucidly expounds on the erosion of the West’s middle classes, the dysfunction among its political and economic elites and the consequences for America and the world.

The strongest glue holding liberal democracies together, Luce argues, is economic growth, and when that growth stalls or falls, things tend to take a dark turn. With growing competition for jobs and resources, losers (those he calls the “left-behinds”) seek scapegoats for their woes, and consensus becomes harder to reach as politics devolves into more and more of a zero-sum game.
We're inclined to agree with that economic analysis. But do you know what else leads people to "seek scapegoats for their woes," with "consensus becoming harder to reach" as "politics devolves into more and more of a zero-sum game" as "things tend to take a dark turn?"

It isn't just dysfunction among political and economic elites which may lead us in those directions! Dysfunction within our (so-called) journalistic elite can and does serve that end too.

Increasingly, our big cable star is engaged in entertainment-fluffed demagoguery in service to a low-IQ personality cult. This pleasing porridge is served each night to Ridiculous Us in the guise of journalism.

Her segment last Friday was clownishly faux. To see her continue that conduct last night, her closing segment is here.

You may not see what's wrong with that work, in which she's aggressively selling the car known as her own moral greatness. Alas! Just as with Ridiculous Them, so it increasingly goes over here, in the tents of Ridiculous Us.

Tomorrow: An emerging demagogue

Thursday: An immensely ridiculous lineup

Did Donald J. Trump mean to confirm that he was being probed?

MONDAY, JUNE 19, 2017

A president's mental disorder:
Last Friday morning, Donald Trump issued one of his most famous tweets.

Truth to tell, the famous tweet took the form of a pretty good joke:

"I am being investigated for firing the FBI director by the man who told me to fire the FBI director! Witch hunt."

If we assume that Trump was referring to Rod Rosenstein, that can be read as a comedian's fairly good joke. In all honesty, that was the first way it struck us. On a comedy stage, we thought, that's a darn good joke.

That said, a chase is currently underway, a chase after Donald J. Trump. In part for that reason, pundits have widely interpreted that tweet in the following way:

Donald J. Trump was confirming the fact that's he's under investigation! Just like the Washington Post had reported!

(Note: How would Trump know he was under investigation? Have you see one pundit ask?)

Did Trump really intend to confirm the fact that he was under investigation? Aside from the widespread desire to lock him up, we think it's silly to draw that conclusion.

This is Donald J. Trump, after all. Among other things, he seems to be badly disordered. (Plus, he tends to speak in ironic jokes.)

Donald J. Trump seems to be badly disordered. He contradicts himself in much the way other people breathe. He rarely seems to have any idea what he's talking about.

You can't believe a thing he says. He rarely seems to give much though to the ways his statements will be taken.

Trump seems to have a disordered mind. It seems to us that the press corps has been slow to come to terms with the implications of that fact. Consider his alleged confession of motive to Lester Holt last month.

On May 9, Donald J. Trump fired Comey the God. Two days later, he discussed the firing with Holt. The remarks we've highlighted below have been widely cited, in part because they seem to incriminate Trump.

That doesn't mean they're accurate, even though they came from Trump's mouth:
TRUMP (5/11/17): Look, [Comey's] a showboat. He's a grandstander. The FBI has been in turmoil. You know that. I know that. Everybody knows that. You take a look at the FBI a year ago, it was in virtual turmoil—less than a year ago. It hasn't recovered from that.

HOLT: Monday, you met with the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Did you ask for a recommendation?

TRUMP: What I did is— I was going to fire Comey. My decision. It was not—

HOLT: You had made the decision before they came in the room?

TRUMP: I, I— I was going to fire Comey.

[...]

TRUMP: Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey, knowing there was no good time to do it. And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, "You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story." It's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election, that they should have won...
The highlighted statements have been widely quoted, in part because they seem to support the idea that Trump has committed an obstruction of justice.

That said, in the rest of his conversation with Holt, Trump made an array of statements about the firing. These statements cut in several different directions. In part, the highlighted statements have been stressed because they serve the aims of the chase.

Why did Trump fire Comey? We can't answer that question, nor are we sure Trump can.

Nor is there any particular reason to believe anything Trump ever says. We can easily imagine that Trump decided to fire Comey for a different reason altogether—because Comey's "a showboat, a grandstander" (see Trump's statement above), as Comey had proven with a statement to a Senate committee six days before he was fired.

Comey was discussing the possible effects of his procedurally irregular attacks against Candidate Clinton last year. In remarks which were widely discussed, the showboating fellow said this about the meaningless cache of emails he discussed in public in late October 2016, helping send Trump to the White House:
COMEY (5/3/17): Look, this is terrible. It makes me mildly nauseous to think that we might have had some impact on the election. But honestly, it wouldn't change the decision.
James B. Comey was showboating hard. Is it possible that those grandstanding remarks are what got him fired?

Consider:

Ideally, you were supposed to think that Comey the God meant this by what he said:
I hate the idea that my morally upright work at the FBI might have affected some votes in a White House election.
That's what you were supposed to think the great man meant by his statement. Trust us, though—this is what Donald J. Trump thought the great man had said:
It makes me nauseous to think that my conduct helped elect Donald J. Trump!
As always, Comey was showboating in service to his desire to be seen as a moral paragon. Given Trump's absurd reactions to matters like this, are you sure it wasn't that widely-cited bit of grandstanding, all by itself, which caused the great man to be fired?

Trump said many things to Holt on May 11. In part because a chase is on, a few of those remarks have been singled out.

That said, Donald J. Trump seems to have a disordered mind. There's no reason to assume that anything he ever says is the actual truth.

We doubt that Trump was trying to confirm a fact with last Friday's tweet. (For one thing, how would he have known?) Nor do we think it's obvious why he fired Comey the God, though it certainly may have been an attempt to undermine the Russia probe, as has been widely asserted.

That said, our sitting president seems to be badly disordered. It seems to us that our somewhat less disordered press corps has been slow to come to terms with the implications of that dangerous fact.

Todd and Tapper fail to ask!

MONDAY, JUNE 19, 2017

The world's most obvious question:
Yesterday afternoon, we watched a rebroadcast of NBC's Meet the Press.

(Full disclosure: we knew Chuck Todd a bit in the past. We very much like Chuck Todd.)

Let's return to yesterday's Meet the Press. At various points, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow made these dogmatic assertions:
SEKULOW (6/18/17): The president is not under investigation by the special counsel.

[...]

The president, as James Comey said in his testimony and as we know as of today, the president has not been and is not under investigation.

[...]

Let me be very clear here...The president is not, and has not been, under investigation for obstruction.

[...]

I want to be very clear here and very direct. The president has not been, and is not, under investigation.
As you can see, those were unqualified statements. Sekulow said it four separate times:

Donald J. Trump has not been, and is not, under investigation! The Washington Post's report to the contrary was fake news and was also wrong!

For ourselves, we don't know if Donald J. Trump is under investigation. But as we watched this maddening interview, an obvious question popped into our heads:

How does Sekulow know if Donald J. Trump is under investigation? It was perhaps the world's most obvious question, and Chuck Todd didn't ask.

(Neither did Jake Tapper. Like Todd on Meet the Press, he played "Who's On First" with Sekulow on CNN's State of the Union.)

How does Sekulow know if Trump is under investigation? The recent background to that question goes like this:

Back in May, Trump said that Comey had told him, on three separate occasions, that he wasn't under investigation. As we noted last Wednesday, the press and pundit corps widely insisted that this claim was absurd. (Warning: ten million examples.)

A rectitudinous god like James B. Comey would never tell Donald Trump something like that! So the pundit corps widely insisted. They said it would violate Justice Department procedures to tell Trump something like that.

As it turned out. Comey had told Trump, on three separate occasions, that he wasn't under investigation. Because an immortal like Comey the God can;t be challenged in the current novelized structure, the pundits all agreed to pretend that they hadn't said, a million times, that such a disclosure would violate Justice Department procedures.

Still and all, those claims had been widely advanced, even by legal experts. Yesterday, up jumped Sekulow, claiming to know that Donald J. Trump still isn't being probed.

How did Sekulow know that? Who had told him that? It was the world's most obvious question. But on Meet the Press (and on State of the Union), the question went unasked.

How did Sekulow know that? Who told him? Todd never asked him on Meet the Press—and sure enough:

When Chris Wallace challenged Sekulow's claim on Fox News Sunday, it turned out that Sekulow doesn't know if Trump is under investigation. Sekulow doesn't know, one way or the other, if Trump is being probed.

If you want to sort out the facts about yesterday's interviews with Sekulow, we'll recommend this news report in today's Washington Post. Long story short:

Chris Wallace and John Dickerson asked the obvious question. Todd and Tapper did not.

We offer this as the latest example of the paucity of analytical skills found in our upper-end press corps. Four times, Sekulow made the claim.

Four times, Todd didn't ask.

This afternoon: Our take on Trump's recent tweet, and even on his apparent confession to NBC's Lester Holt

Sekulow backslides: A bit later in that Meet the Press segment, Sekulow backslid from his dogmatic assertion. In the passage, he executed one of those ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-changes:
SEKULOW: And Chuck, I think this is really important. If the leaks [in the Washington Post] were correct about this investigation—again, those are leaks, they're not substantiated and we have no knowledge of an investigation.

But if those leaks were correct, here's what the legal theory of this case would have to be. And this would raise a serious constitutional issue right out of the beginning...
Say what? All of a sudden, Sekulow said that he and his client "have no knowledge of an investigation." That was a major change in his story. NBC's Todd didn't notice.

Is Donald J. Trump under investigation? We have no way of knowing.

To appearances, Sekulow doesn't know either. If you watched yesterday's Meet the Press, that key point was never made clear.

Dickerson makes it look easy: Here's what happened on Face the Nation after Sekulow's very first statement:
SEKULOW (6/18/17): ...The fact of the matter is, the president has not been and is not under investigation. So this was his response via Twitter, via social media, was in response to the Washington Post piece with five anonymous sources.

And by the way, John, five anonymous sources, they don't even identify the agencies upon which these individuals purportedly work. So the response there is clear. And I want to be very clear about this, the president is not and has not been under investigation.

DICKERSON: How do you know?
Oof! Sekulow's dogmatic claim fell apart forthwith.

RIDICULOUS US: As the truthiness turns!

MONDAY, JUNE 19, 2017

Part 1—Just for starters, cable star provides some comic relief:
Last Friday evening, at 9 PM Eastern, an unnamed major "cable news" star started the broadcast of her hour-long, eponymous cable "news" program.

After a few brief news updates, she opened her program with a 14-minute segment which was a marvel of truthiness.

Although its contents would become darker, the segment began with a silly, pointless tale—a pointless story the cable star didn't quite seem to believe.

The cable star had started her program with brief updates about the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise and about a collision at sea involving a U.S. Navy ship.

Then she launched her peculiar story. It was part of a 14-minute testament to the spread of truthiness Over Here, among Ridiculous Us.

To watch the full segment, just click here. Her story started like this:
MADDOW (6/16/17): Because it's Friday—if we're being honest, because it's a day that ends in Y in this era—there is a lot of news, including late-breaking news tonight, coming out of Washington as well.

In terms of the Washington news tonight, I need to tell you a story that starts with Bill Clinton,
who went to college at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

Bill Clinton as a young man got there as an undergraduate in 1964. He graduated in 1968. And one of the stories about Bill Clinton's college career ends up being sort of relevant tonight to what we've just learned in Washington.
Odd! The cable star was going to start with a story which was only "sort of relevant" to the news of the day. She said she "needed" to tell us the story despite its limited relevance.

In fact, it wasn't just that the story was of (extremely) limited relevance. As would soon become clear, the major star didn't seem to believe the story she told. She said she'd heard it a million times, but she didn't quite seem to believe it.

Truthiness flooded her own sinking ship as she continued, like this:
MADDOW (continuing directly): Legend has it, legend has long had it, that at some time during Bill Clinton`s early college years, when he was at Georgetown, when he was a young man, maybe when he was about 19, so maybe when he was a freshman, young Bill Clinton went to a party in Massachusetts that was a beach party. And political legend has it that, at that beach party, he was swimming in the ocean and he basically got grabbed by a riptide and started to get pulled out to sea.

And when that happened, another young man, another, you know, 19-ish year old man, a Harvard student, came to his rescue. And the man who came to Bill Clinton's rescue in that possibly apocryphal near-drowning story was a man named Fife Symington.

Fife Symington was a Harvard student at the time this supposedly happened. He also went on to be a very famous politician in his own right.

Fife Symington was a Republican. He ended up becoming governor of Arizona. Bill Clinton, of course, was a Democrat who ended up becoming governor of Arkansas and then president of the United States.

I have to tell you, I've heard the story a million times. I have always suspected that the 1960s beach party, riptide, Fife Symington/Bill Clinton rescue story might be wholly or at least in part apocryphal.

But I've heard it a million times, and it is one of the things that people talked about a lot, years later, in 2001, at the end of Bill Clinton's time in office, when he issued—Surprise!—a presidential pardon to Fife Symington, the guy who maybe saved him from drowning all those decades earlier.
Three times, she said this near-drowning story is "legend." Two times, she said the story is "possibly apocryphal."

At two different points, she said she's heard the story "a million times." And although she's heard it a million times, she seemed to say that she's never really believed it.

Beyond that, the story was only "sort of relevant" to the day's news, the cable star said. But she told us she "needed" to tell it, even though it may not be true, despite its minor relevance.

Viewers of this "cable news" show won't be surprised by this oddness. This particular cable star tends to spend large chunks of time telling pointless, decades-old stories about political figures.

Some U.S. officials say the star is just killing time as she tells these long, irrelevant stories. Other unnamed people allege that she does this to create a "brand," in which she's perceived as being highly knowledgeable about modern political history.

(Spoiler alert: She isn't.)

In this case, she told a "near-drowning story," a story she's never really believed. The story involves the supposed near-drowning of the 19-year-old Bill Clinton, and—"Surprise!"—one of the Clinton pardons.

At this point in the star's recitation, the relevance of this possibly apocryphal story wasn't apparent at all. As we'll see tomorrow, the story, even if true, bore exactly zero relevance to that day's news in Washington.

That said, the cable star threw herself into the story heart and soul. She even received an off-camera laugh from a sycophant as she started the pointless tale.

She's heard it a million times, she said, not once, but twice. It was widely discussed in 2001, she said.

The truthiness was all around us. A few of the problems are these:

In fact, this old story, while not non-existent, is extremely obscure. For ourselves, we couldn't remember ever having heard it as we watched the cable star make her series of shaky claims.

The next day, we asked a major Arkansas-based, Clinton-watching journalist about the story. He said he couldn't remember having heard it either.

The story is very obscure. Was the story "one of the things that people talked about a lot, years later, in 2001, at the end of Bill Clinton's time in office, when he issued—Surprise!—[that] presidential pardon?"

That basically just isn't true. According to a search of the Nexis archives, the story wasn't mentioned in the Washington Post or the New York Times at the time of the Symington pardon.

In fact, according to that search, this possibly apocryphal tale has never been mentioned in the Washington Post at any time at all (for search terms, see below). It seems the story has been mentioned in the New York Times just once, in passing, in 2003, on one of the three thousand occasions when Symington hinted at a possible political comeback.

Forget the near-downing tale. In and of itself, the Symington pardon was barely discussed in 2001. Major turmoil did surround several other Clinton pardons. But perhaps for that reason, no one talked, or seemed to care, about the pardon of Symington for a set of alleged crimes he either did or didn't commit.

(A 1997 conviction had been overturned on appeal at the time of the 2001 pardon. The pardon meant the case couldn't be retried.)

Was Boudu saved from drowning when he was just 19? We don't know, and no one with an ounce of sense could possibly wonder or care. The cable star didn't even seem to know, despite the million times she said she has has heard the tale!

Trust us! As she continued with her story, then with her larger segment, the cable star's embellishments only grew. She proceeded, during the rest of her segment, to offer a slimy set of attacks on some political opponents, along with a set of bogus and/or selective claims about a range of topics.

Her work in this segment was especially faux even for increasingly ridiculous her. It showed how the cult of truthiness has been spreading Over Here, among the major corporate and journalistic figures we'll describe as "Ridiculous Us."

Already, though, in the text we've shown you, the star had provided some unintentional comic relief. We refer to a matter of pronunciation.

The major star said she's heard the story "a million times." She made that truthy claim two times as she told her pointless, truthy tale.

But how odd! Despite the very large number of times she's heard the tale, the cable start didn't know how to pronounce the name of her protagonist!

Alas! Fife Symington pronounces his last name in precisely the way you'd expect. He pronounces it as SY-mington, as did his more famous cousin, Missouri senator Stuart Symington, a Democratic presidential candidate in 1960.

Anyone familiar with modern politics would likely have heard this family name about a million times. But alas:

As she told her truthy tale, the major star kept referring to a fellow named "Fife SIMM-ington." In the part of the story we've shown you above, she had already mispronounced Symington's name five times, or her way to a world record ten.

She's heard the story a million times, she rather implausibly said. But in a bit of comic relief, she didn't know how to pronounce the protagonist's name! Our analysts groaned and stared into space. One of them called it a "tell."

More and more, day by day, this cable star is becoming increasingly truthy. In Friday's 14-minute segment, her truthiness was a stupidifying blend of the pointless, the false and the ugly, pimped along by the laughter of the corporate sycophant class.

In her full recitation of her pointless tale, she burned more than five minutes off her 14-minute segment. The American project is badly served when such Trumpist behavior is allowed to be aimed at its target, the floundering victim class we'll describe as "Ridiculous Us."

Tomorrow: What is truthiness? Plus, a model of same

Coming Wednesday: A truly ridiculous line-up!

Thursday: The Atlantic explores an older type of math

Conducting the search: It's hard to prove that a topic hasn't been discussed in some newspaper. In our search for the near-drowning story, we searched on the terms "Clinton AND Symington AND drown! OR riptide OR rowboat," along with variant spellings.

We added "rowboat" because, on the infrequent occasions when this story has been told, Symington has said he rescued Clinton through the use of a rowboat. Inevitably, the New York Times bungled this fact on the one occasion when it cited this pointless tale.

Simply put, it's what the Times does!

To see Symington pronounce his own name, you can just click here. (Warning! UFO discussion!)

To watch the rest of the world pronounce Symington's name, YouTube is wondrously there.

Before Friday night, had anyone ever referred to a man named Fife SIMM-ington? Apparently, the truthy-tilting cable star had heard it a million times!

This was a bit of comic relief. Tomorrow, we'll watch as her relentless truthiness grows darker. At some point, Ridiculous We will have to address this growing Trumpist behavior. Or are we just Fox after all?

We finally confess to our meeting with Berry!

SATURDAY, JUNE 17, 2017

Our "press corps" during a chase:
Today, we plan to make an extensive set of confessions.

First, let's establish some context. This will involve the press corps' behavior when it's involved in a chase.

At present, the press corps is involved in a chase. The main person they're chasing, Donald J. Trump, may well be guilty of actual crimes.

(Or not.)

He may be guilty of actual crimes—but that doesn't mean they aren't staging a chase. And when our press corps stages a chase, they routinely engage in a wide array of journalistic "crimes."

They do this as a group.

The most remarkable chase we've covered was the twenty-month chase after Candidate Gore during Campaign 2000. During that chase, the press corps engaged in an orgy of bogus paraphrase, among other journalistic "crimes."

(Example: They happily played their misogyny cards during their "month of Wolf.")

Rather plainly, their conduct sent George W. Bush to the White House. People are dead all over the world because of the conduct in which they engaged.

(To this day, career liberal journalists are not permitted to tell you this. The Drums, the Chaits, the Marshalls, the Rachels will never tell you that these journalistic crimes occurred.)

Bogus paraphrase doesn't lie at the heart of the chase after Trump. But that doesn't mean that it isn't a chase—and when the press corps stages a chase, they're willing to cut many corners.

The chase after Trump involves a secondary set of chases, including the chase after Sessions. In that chase, the press corps has recently engaged in a remarkably stupid journalistic crime:

They've pretended that they don't understand the conventional meaning(s) of the familiar word "meeting."

They've played it very, very dumb as they've tried to determine how many meetings Jeff Sessions had with Ambassador Kislyak last year. Rather, as they've pretended that they're trying to puzzle that out.

Having offered that context, we're now prepared to offer our confessions. Hands pulled tight behind our back, we're willing to be frogmarched out to confess to these, our own personal crimes:

In December 2000, we had a meeting with Chuck Berry—right there in the White House!

Probably a year or two later, we had a meeting with Lauren Bacall. That meeting occurred in the lobby of WMAL, a Washington radio station.

In August 1962, when we were just 14 years of age, we had a meeting with Harmon Killebrew in the elevator of a Los Angeles hotel.

We were there with family and friends to visit Disneyland, a local amusement park. Mr. Killebrew was in the area to take part in this major league baseball game and in two other such contests.

Thirty-eight years later, to the month, we had a meeting with Bill Richardson, also in the elevator of a Tinseltown hotel! We were there to attend the 2000 Democratic Convention.

We once had a meeting with Tuesday Weld on a cross-country plane flight. (In retrospect, good God—Tuesday Weld!) Neither we, nor Ms. Weld, have ever discussed this meeting in public until this very day.

A few years ago, we had a brief meeting with Martin Sheen outside a D.C. hotel. At a different D.C. hotel, we had a meeting with Coach Joe Gibbs in 1993.

More specifically, we sat next to Coach Gibbs, and chatted pleasantly, all through the course of the then-world champion Washington football team's annual post-season banquet. We were struck by how impressive he was.

Remember our meeting with Chuck Berry? Earlier in December 2000, we had a meeting with Naomi Campbell—and with Stevie Wonder!

We freely confess to all these meetings, although we've had quite a few more. We freely confess to these meetings now that the Washington press corps, a guild which is engaged in a chase, has mugged and clowned and toyed with the meaning(s) of the familiar English language noun, "meeting."

They've done this as part of their chase after Sessions, who is much less likely to have committed a crime than his boss, Donald J. Trump.

(In another part of this chase, some of them make a point of referring to Sessions as "Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III." This is an extremely bad act, as it was when The Others toyed with Obama's name.)

Feeling purged by our confessions, let's nail down a few basic facts:

As part of their ongoing chase after Trump, the guild has staged a secondary chase after Sessions. As part of this chase, they have pretended that they're trying to determine how many meetings he had with Kislyak, a Russkie tool of their less-than-obsessively honest, low-IQ stupid group chase.

It's abundantly clear that then-Senator Sessions did have one meeting with the Russkie ambassador. That meeting occurred on September 8, 2016, right there in Sessions' office!

If we're all still speaking English, it hasn't been shown that Sessions had any other "meetings" with Kislyak. But the guild is currently staging a chase, and so they've agreed to pretend.

Now, dear friends, a question:

If Person A mills about in a room and brushes past some Person B, has he "had a meeting" with that second person? Actually, no, he hasn't, if we're speaking conventional English.

To cite an example, Hank Williams hadn't had a meeting with his ex-girlfriend in the circumstance described in these famous lyrics. They're some of the greatest since Homer, as Professor Auerbach would have seen:
A picture from the past came slowly stealing
As I brushed your arm and walked so close to you...
In truth, he hadn't had a meeting with her even as he brushed her arm! But had the guild been chasing Hank Williams, they surely would have agreed to pretend, if the pretending was useful.

We've watched the "press corps" for nineteen years at this award-winning site. We've come away with several conclusions. They strike us as counterintuitive:

We've come to see that our major journalists have virtually no intellectual skills. Or at least, we've come to see that they have no skills they won't abandon when a chase is on.

That is a very key point. Concerning the people who read the press, we've come to see this about them:

They may get upset when the guild stages a chase after one of their own. (Or not. Career liberals have often let such chases go unmentioned. For that reason, the rank and file has often failed to understand that a chase is occurring.)

We the people may get upset when the guild chases one of our own. But we will cheer the press corps on when the chase is aimed at The Others.

(For a literary portrait of a chase, we'll recommend Twain's portrait of the lynch mob in chapters 21 and 22 of Huckleberry Finn. Note the way Twain juxtaposes the groupthink of the mob to the suspension of disbelief of the crowd which is hugely enjoying a staged deception at the circus.)

How could it be that Candidate Gore got so aggressively paraphrased so many times? Very slowly, we've come to believe that many journalists simply don't have the intellectual skill to recognize tilted paraphrase when they see it. We've definitely come to see that very few journalists would ever speak up if they saw their guild engaged in that type of behavior.

These conclusions strike us as counterintuitive. By now, though, we'd have to say that these conclusions are unmistakably clear.

That said, our human intellectual skills are remarkably limited in general. We have reliable technological skills. In almost every other area, we're just basically sad.

To test that proposition, we'll refer you to this book review in last Sunday's Washington Post.

The author of the review is a neurologist. Based on his professional status, we'd assume he's a very good one.

That said, his analytical skills are very slight in the realm he calls "deep philosophy." Our guess: he's hard to fool about neurology, easily fooled in such realms.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep. Our human analytical skills are extremely limited.

With respect to the guild, their moral standards are strikingly low. In the current example, they've proven that Session had one meeting, but they keep calling it three! (And they keep insisting that Brother Franken didn't ask a rambling question.)

That's exactly how the press corps behaves when a chase is on. People are dead all over the world because they keep playing this way, and because people like those we've named above are willing to let this continue.

The neurologist's claims: We never see reality. We don't experience reality directly. We don't truly experience reality.

There is an objective reality, but our brains don't give us access to it. According to the neurologist, this is "a thrilling and deeply philosophical point."

Neurologist, please! People who chase this sleight of hand are like Twain's delighted crowd at the circus. Also this:

When the press corps hands them all manner of crap, they are unable to tell! People are dead all over the world because these people, our highest professors, routinely accept the journalistic products they're sold.

An alternate meaning from other lyrics: From the 1963 Folkways album, The Watson Family:
A meeting is a pleasure and a parting is grief
But a false-hearted lover is worse than a thief.
A thief can but rob you and take what you save
But a false-hearted lover take you to your grave.
To listen to that presentation, click here. Questions:

Is that the same kind of "meeting" as the meeting Sessions had last September?

Also, what about a false-hearted journalist? What can that person achieve?