General Flynn is stark raving mad!

MONDAY, DECEMBER 5, 2016

The surprising appeal of The Crazy:
Way back when, itinerant merchants would peddle "elixir remedies" designed to "cure what ails you." During our sophomore year in college, we created an award-winning show which referenced this fact.

The show was an homage to our Grandfather Rufus, who we'd learned about the previous year from our older half-brother. It had an award-winning cast.

This will sound chronologically improbable, but Grandfather Rufus was a traveling showman starting around the time of the Civil War. He even has his own Wikipedia page concerning this early part of his career.

(One of them perfesser fellers has studied this part of his life.)

In October 1966, we took our act of homage to a coffeehouse at Wellesley College, an earlier, less expensive version of Trump University. As Melinda Henneberger later revealed, a future presidential contender performed a humorous sketch as our elixir salesman.

Henneberger had her chronology a tiny bit wrong, but the bulk of what follows is accurate. Ignore what Kapetan said:
HENNEBERGER (6/21/00): At the end of their freshman year, Mr. Gore, Mr. Jones and a couple of other friends assembled a musical revue that they actually took on the road—for one performance, at a Wellesley coffeehouse. "It was kind of like the Little Rascals: 'Let's put on a show!' " said Michael Kapetan, now a sculptor at the University of Michigan.

"Here at last, no longer coming soon," [the poster] said, "the Old-Time Country Panorama, featuring those old-time country musicians of note, Tommy Lee Jones and the Ben Hill County Boys."

"I was the stand-up comic," Mr. Gore said, "if you can believe that." And sure enough, there he is, billed as "the highly respected professor of animal husbandry and the curative sciences, Doctor Albert A. Gore" who "has promised to favor us with readings from the society pages of The Carthage Courier, including news on Wilber Gridley's recent trip to Bristol."

Mr. Gore does not remember the show as an unqualified success: "The women of Wellesley were in between puzzled and amused," he said. "Not quite the reaction we were shooting for."
Mr. Gore's recollection was perhaps a bit faulty. Of course, by the time this report appeared, everyone knew about his problem with the truth!

Dr. Gore had taken the stage that night to sell his "Tennessee Elixir Remedy (No Refunds)." Back in the era of Grandfather Rufus, itinerants would actually peddle such phony products to us, the susceptible rubes.

All too often, we the people couldn't tell that we were being scammed. Federal agencies now exist to regulate such craziness.

Over the past fifty years, reliable journalistic gatekeepers have been replaced by scam artists. In the process, we've learned that large numbers of us the people are highly susceptible to the kinds of claims the press now calls "fake news."

Until about fifteen minutes ago, the mainstream press was doing its best to ignore this general phenomenon. For that reason, our big newspapers made little attempt to explore apparently widespread crazy beliefs about President Obama's place of birth.

(Before that, the press made little attempt to challenge crazy claims about the many people the Clintons were said to have murdered. Later, the press corps played the leading role in inventing and spreading phony claims about Gore's deeply troubling lies. That was "fake news" too, of course. Our journalists peddled it hard.)

As people like Walter Cronkite were replaced by arrays of scammers, we learned a surprising fact—many people are inclined to believe The Crazy. At present, conservatives believe that Obama was born on the dark side of the moon. Liberals believe that The Others are all racists, based on stupid shit we get from professors and 10-year-old journalists.

As it turns out, many people seem to be strongly inclined to believe The Crazy. One such person is General Michael Flynn, who will soon be destroying the world.

General Flynn's crazy son seems to be even worse. For an overview, read Kevin Drum's report.

The press corps reveled in this lunacy for decades. Now they suddenly find it disturbing. For decades, they worked to build this culture. Now, they're very upset.

In the 1860s, Grandfather Rufus had a show called "the Civil War panorama." Wounded veterans would take the stage and describe battle scenes. Later, he toured at the head of Barnum-era traveling shows with colorful names, such as "Professor Wormwood's Trained Monkeys." The show broke box office records in the Maritimes in the late 1870s.

He also gave public lectures about the evils of hypocrisy. In paraphrased form, at substantial length, these lectures would appear on the front pages of major newspapers.

He died in 1903; we were born in 1947. (Yes, he was our grandfather and yes, the numbers work out.) In 1966, we learned about him for the first time. The rest is slightly inaccurate history.

If General Flynn had been in the crowd at Wellesley that night, he probably would have rushed the stage, such as it was, to purchase Professor Gore's remedy. The general seems to be starking raving mad, but so is our failed public culture.

The mainstream press corps worked for years to bring us to this dangerous point. Many top liberals helped in this work, although we agree not to say so.

COMEY'S GIRL: A funny thing happened when Comey declaimed!

MONDAY, DECEMBER 5, 2016

Part 1—The silence of the Ivankas:
A funny thing happened when James B. Comey injected himself into the White House campaign.

Comey, the FBI director, is, within the modern context, a classic insider type. As of July 2016, he'd long been cast by Washington elites as the morally upright Republican straight-talker, a rather familiar type.

On the scandal-purveying side, the role had been played in previous years by "Judge Starr" and by Louis Freeh, among others. On the policy side, the role has long been assigned to Speaker Ryan, a man whose proposals never make sense—but whose rectitude can't be challenged.

Except by Paul Krugman, whose analyses will be ignored.

(At present, the presumption of rectitude is being extended to Governor Romney, who is said to be courting Donald J. Trump due to his patriotism. In line with standard insider scripting, Romney's thinking is being paraphrased thusly: "He's our fake con man now." In line with familiar insider practice, few suggestions of runaway ambition have been offered.)

On July 5, Director Comey injected himself into the White House campaign. In a departure from normal practice and explicitly stated procedure, he assailed Candidate Clinton, saying she'd been "extremely careless" in her email practices. Two days later, he appeared before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, where he continued his criticisms of Clinton's "extremely careless" ways.

Comey—he's often referred to as Comey the God—had departed from normal procedure himself in voicing these highly subjective assessments of the presumptive Democratic nominee. That said, a funny thing happened when he did so—two funny things, in fact.

Let's start with the first thing that happened. In that House committee hearing, one Democrat after another stood in line to note the obvious rectitude of the great Republican figure.

Our own congressman, Elijah Cummings, showered the godly figure with praise in his opening statement. We'll offer a few of the highlights:
CUMMINGS (7/7/16): Director Comey, thank you for being here today.

I want to begin by commending you and the public servants at the FBI for the independent investigation you conducted. You had a thankless task. No matter what recommendation you made, you were sure to be criticized.

There's no question that you were extremely thorough. In fact, some may even say you went too far in your investigation. But of course, that was your job. That is your job.

[...]

Contrary to the claims of your critics, there is absolutely no evidence that you made your recommendation for political reasons; no evidence that you were bribed or coerced or influenced; no evidence that you came to your conclusion based upon anything but the facts and the law. I firmly believe that your decision was not based on convenience, but on conviction.

[...]

Finally, I want to make it clear that I condemn these completely unwarranted political attacks against you. They have attacked you personally. They have attacked your integrity. They have impugned your professionalism. And they have even suggested that you were somehow bought and paid for because you made your recommendation based upon the law and the facts.

I know you're used to working in a world of politics, but these attacks have been beyond the pale. So you do not deserve this. Your family does not deserve it. And the highly skilled and dedicated agents of the FBI do not deserve it. I honor your professionalism and your service to our country.
Things went downhill from there.

By the end of the campaign, many people were saying that Comey's conduct, starting in July, had cost Candidate Clinton the White House. In real time, the godlike fellow was showered with praise from Clinton's side of the aisle!

A second funny thing occurred in the week when Comey declaimed. Guest hosting on The Rachel Maddow Show, Steve Kornacki offered several nights of reports about Clinton's bad conduct, reports which might have seemed a bit over the top had they been broadcast on Fox.

Tomorrow, we'll review those remarks. Later this week, we'll review the way Maddow reacted to Comey when she returned, the following week, from a richly-deserved vacation.

Having said that, let us also say this. By the time Maddow returned, important questions had been raised about the god's performance.

At Slate, Fred Kaplan had offered a challenge to Comey's claim that Clinton endangered national security through her "extremely careless" behavior. As this week's reports proceed, we'll review the way Maddow and other MSNBC hosts handled such basic questions.

By September, Comey's high-minded claims about Clinton's carelessness were dominating the conversation wherever press script was sold. During NBC's Commander in Chief Forum, Clinton made a dramatic statement about the emails to Matt Lauer, who seemed able to think about nothing else.

Actually, Clinton was speaking to a Republican who had been chosen to present the first question by an audience member. Needless to say, the question NBC had selected concerned those vexing emails, and contained a harsh accusation:
QUESTION (9/6/16): Secretary Clinton, thank you very much for coming tonight. As a naval flight officer, I held a top secret sensitive compartmentalized information clearance. And that provided me access to materials and information highly sensitive to our warfighting capabilities. Had I communicated this information not following prescribed protocols, I would have been prosecuted and imprisoned.

Secretary Clinton, how can you expect those such as myself who were and are entrusted with America’s most sensitive information to have any confidence in your leadership as president when you clearly corrupted our national security?

CLINTON: Well, I appreciate your concern and also your experience. But let me try to make the distinctions that I think are important for me to answer your question.

First, as I said to Matt, you know and I know classified material is designated. It is marked. There is a header so that there is no dispute at all that what is being communicated to or from someone who has that access is marked classified.

And what we have here is the use of an unclassified system by hundreds of people in our government to send information that was not marked. There were no headers, there was no statement, top secret, secret, or confidential.

I communicated about classified material on a wholly separate system. I took it very seriously. When I traveled, I went into one of those little tents that I’m sure you’ve seen around the world because we didn’t want there to be any potential for someone to have embedded a camera to try to see whatever it is that I was seeing that was designated, marked, and headed as classified.

LAUER: Let us—

(CROSSTALK)

CLINTON: So I did exactly what I should have done and I take it very seriously, always have, always will.
As Lauer tried to interrupt, Clinton rudely continued talking.

"I communicated about classified material on a wholly separate [email] system," the candidate said. "I did exactly what I should have done."

Given the claims by Comey the God, those were striking statements by Clinton. As the week proceeds, we'll review the way Maddow and her colleagues reacted.

Comey intruded on the campaign again on October 28. Eleven days were left in the White House race.

He declaimed for the third time on the weekend before the election. After the election was done, the Clinton campaign said that these last two intrusions flipped the final vote.

All this week, we'll be reviewing the way our liberal stars reacted to Comey's intrusions. We'll start with Kornacki's weird performances, then move forward from there. We'll also review the way these TV stars reacted in the fall of 2012, when the script about Clinton and Benghazi was crafted by another figure of obvious rectitude, the straight-shooting John McCain.

Benghazi and the emails! To state what is blindingly obvious, this potent pair of scripts played a key role in Candidate Clinton's defeat.

For that reason, it's worth reviewing the way our fiery corporate liberals dealt with these potent scripts. With that in mind, might we offer a personal note?

Especially when we think about the role Maddow played in this matter, we think of the great Marcie Blane. Back in 1962, the compelling teen acknowledged that she "wanted to be Bobby's girl."

All those years later, did Maddow want to be Comey's girl? More on Blane's big hit to come. For today, we'll tease you with this:

On the front page of today's New York Times, a nattering headline pokes at Donald J. Trump's grifter children. In our hard-copy edition, the snippy front-page headline says this:

"Tangle Awaits 3 Trump Children Molded for Business Since Birth"

When we read that snippy headline, we thought of our own set of cable news children. Have they perhaps been molded since birth? For service to the corporation? For service to their bosses? To the guild?

In the end, might a person sensibly ask if they resembled a gang of Ivankas in the way they approached the campaign? We'll return to this thoughtful question by the end of the week.

Does the compliance of the Ivankas help explain the way we got ourselves teabagged last month? Might our love for these silly kids help explain our remarkable loss?

Tomorrow: Guest host, over the top

Timss talk: Post reporter succumbs to script!

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 3, 2016

Sees the glass ten percent full:
Emma Brown is a Washington Post education reporter with the soul of a Globetrekker host.

According to her official Post bio, Brown is "a latecomer to journalism who worked as a wilderness ranger in Wyoming and as a middle-school math teacher in Alaska before joining the newspaper in 2009." We'd say that capsule tends to overstate her age and to understate her apparent spirit.

Brown graduated from Stanford in June 2000. During the academic term, she absorbed four years of overpowering Pacific-10 dominance. In the summers, she worked in the Wind River Range!

From there, she followed the path laid out by Capucine in the feature film North to Alaska, the only major Hollywood film which paired the Parisian star with her single-name counterpart, Fabian. She got a master's degree in teaching at University of Alaska Southeast, then taught junior high math in Juneau for three years.

She transcribed interviews with Alutiiq elders. At some point, she kayaked Baja California.

During this time, she began to dabble in journalism. She returned to the Lower 48 to get a master's in journalism at Berkeley, then joined the Post in 2009.

Along the way, she'd been praised for her writing. In his introduction to American Nature Writing 2003, John Murray opined thusly:

"At twenty-three, Emma Brown is one of the most gifted young writers I have ever encountered, and that includes the over six hundred undergraduate and graduate students I taught during my years as a university writing professor." Murray went on to say that Brown's prose evokes "the best of such diverse writers as Edward Abbey and Norman MacLean."

A ranger in the Wind Rivers! You'll have to thumb quite a few resumes to encounter a greater sense of adventure. That's why it's so striking to see the way Brown succumbed this week to the upper-end journalist's curse—to the kryptonite of script.

Brown reported for the Washington Post about the new Timss scores from last year's quadrennial testing. We hadn't actually seen the scores when we read her news report, but her headline seemed to have blown in from the Narrative River Range.

As Brown began her report, she took the path more traveled by. Extending a mandated gloomy framework, she saw the glass ten percent full.

Hard-copy headline included. Presumably, Brown didn't write it:
BROWN (11/29/16): U.S. pupils still trail Asian peers in math, science

Eighth-grade students across the United States showed some improvement in math and science over the past four years, but fourth-graders’ performance was stagnant and students in both groups continued to trail many of their peers in Asia,
according to the results of a major international exam released Tuesday.

The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, or TIMSS, was administered to nearly 600,000 students in dozens of education systems across the globe in 2015. U.S. scores are likely to stoke renewed debate among politicians, educators and business leaders about why math and science achievement has not improved more quickly relative to other nations.
Darn those eighth-grade students across the country! Their performance was "likely to stoke renewed debate...about why math and science achievement has not improved more quickly!"

Let's be fair to Brown. She started with a few words about "some improvement."

Beyond that, her instant prediction will likely turn out to be true. Given the way our discourse works, these new data probably will "stoke renewed debate" about our students' alleged lack of progress. Given the way our elite mandates work, no other type of debate is allowed in the Script River Range.

Once again, let's be fair. Everything in those two grafs is true, as is the headline's assertion. On average, American students did "trail their Asian peers" on the Timss last year, by a substantial amount.

Still, we'd have to say that Brown went out of her way to see the glass empty—or at least, that's the way we'd review her report as published.

How well did American students perform as compared to their peers around the world? We'd say an obvious preference for gloom prevailed when Brown returned to that question. She named every system our students trailed, no one whom they surpassed:
BROWN: On TIMSS, the average score of U.S. fourth-graders in math put them behind students in 10 other systems: Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Russia, Northern Ireland and Ireland, Norway, and the Flemish portion of Belgium.

In Singapore, for example, 50 percent of students scored high enough to be considered advanced in math, compared with just 14 percent of U.S. students who reached that benchmark.

U.S. fourth-graders’ average score was indistinguishable from nine other systems and higher than 34 systems.

U.S. students ranked comparably in science.
All ten systems we trailed got named. Brown named none of the forty-three (43!) "education systems" our students matched or exceeded.

That strikes us as a peculiar choice. It becomes even more peculiar when we consider that slightly peculiar term—"education system."

Uh-oh! As you might note, some of the "education systems" which outscored our kids aren't exactly nations. This isn't a criticism of the Timss. We do regard it as a criticism of the Post.

What's a more significant piece of information? The fact that our students were outscored by the Flemish portion of Belgium? Or the fact that our students outscored their peers in such places as these:

Germany, Canada, Australia, Italy, France, Spain.

That's right! On the test in question, U.S. fourth-graders outscored their peers in those large, well-known nations. Beyond that, on the level of statistical significance, they matched the scores of their peers in England, even in miraculous Finland.

These triumphs were withheld from Post readers. Instead, Post subscribers were told that our perpetually disappointing kids got outscored by Belgium, at least in the Flemish region!

This strikes us as a weird, but highly familiar, approach to such data as these. Journalistic elites accepted the mandate long ago:

We must find a way for gloom to prevail whenever we report test scores!

In this case, Brown listed all ten "systems" who humbled our kids, but none of the 34 they bested. She was refusing to see the glass largely full.

How aggressive was Brown's refusal? Consider the torture involved in her focus on those ten education systems.

Some of those systems aren't even nations. More significantly, some of those education systems serve populations which are rather small:
Total populations of four smallish entities:
Hong Kong: 7.2 million
Flemish region of Belgium: 6.5 million
Ireland and Northern Ireland: 6.4 million
Singapore: 5.6 million
It isn't that those populations aren't significant. It's just that they maybe possibly aren't as significant as these:
Total populations of eight major nations:
Germany: 82 million
France: 67 million
Italy: 61 million
England: 55 million
Spain: 46 million
Poland: 38 million
Canada: 36 million
Australia: 24 million
In what realm is the Flemish region of Belgium journalistically significant, while Germany, France, England and Canada aren't?

Answer: In a realm where the prevailing winds blow in from the Script River Range!

Just for the record, our fourth-graders also outscored their peers from The Netherlands, the Czech and the Slovak Republics, Hungary and Sweden, while matching their peers from Denmark. In what realm is Norway worth citing by name, while Finland and Sweden are not?

(Warning! Norway showed a very large score jump on last year's Timss, accompanied by a murky footnote which suggests that a change has occurred in the way "fourth grade" status is computed in that land. We'd be slow to stress Norway's score without determining what happened.)

Do our journalists ever tire of seeing the glass hugely empty? When it comes to our embarrassing, gruesome public schools, actually no—they do not.

We'd have to say that this claim is supported by Brown's gloomy framework—and sure enough! Inevitably, the Post's framework matched that of the AP, whose report bore a similar headline:
Washington Post headline: U.S. pupils still trail Asian peers in math, science

Associated Press headline: US STUDENTS LAG PEERS IN EAST ASIA IN MATH, SCIENCE
People, we're just saying! The glass largely empty is, by law, mandated, hugely preferred.

(Are points subtracted when Post editors copy off their neighbors?)

Those headlines are accurate, of course. American students do trail a set of Asian tigers on international tests. So does everyone else in the world—but that's only part of the story.

It's also true that American students outperformed most of the rest of the world on the 2015 Timss. Especially given the way this topic has been treated over the past twenty years, readers of the Washington Post deserve to have this surprising fact made clear.

When he discussed these Timss results, Kevin Drum coined a term; he talked about our "peer countries." He mentioned the success of the Asian tigers, but he also noted our students' relative success on this test as compared to almost every other large developed nation.

He also mentioned something important. Importantly, Drum said this:
DRUM (11/30/16): One other note. If you really want a takeaway from the latest TIMSS test, it's the same as the takeaway from every other test ever administered to American schoolkids: we do a terrible job of educating black children. The single biggest thing we could do to improve education in this country is to cut out the half measures and focus serious money and resources on poor, black school districts.
When we posted the scores for Grade 4 math, we "disaggregated" the American scores, showing our very large racial/ethnic "achievement gaps." Here's what Grade 4 math looks like when you talk about our "peer countries," and when you report those gaps:
Average scores, Grade 4 math, 2015 Timss
South Korea: 608
United States, Asian-American students: 605
Taiwan: 597
Japan: 593
Russia: 564
United States, white students: 559
England: 546
United States: 539
Finland: 535
Poland: 535
Germany: 522
Australia: 517
United States, Hispanic students: 515
Canada: 511
Italy: 507
Spain: 505
United States, black students: 495
France: 488
We didn't include the Flemish region of Belgium. We did include the developed world's larger nations—and we included the data which help us consider our own large achievement gaps.

Our domestic achievement gaps are very large. How did the Washington Post report this topic? Incredibly, this is the way Brown's report reaches its end:
BROWN: Among fourth- and eighth-grade students, the gender gap has narrowed or closed in math and science, according to TIMSS results. But there continues to be a yawning gender gap among the advanced high school seniors: Males scored 46 points higher than females in physics, and 30 points higher in math.
(Warning: those "advanced high school" scores involves results from a highly limited set of students who are taking advanced math courses. It's a very different type of measure than the Grade 4/Grade 8 scores.)

In Grade 4 math, the U.S. gender gap stands at seven points, with boys scoring higher than girls. In Grade 8, the gap is just two points. By way of contrast:

In Grade 4 math, the black-white achievement gap stands at 64 points, but so what? Brown's text discussed the gender gap. Race wasn't mentioned at all.

Especially given the endless propaganda, American kids scored surprisingly well on the 2015 Timss. In Grade 4 math, our students, even in the aggregate, outscored most "peer countries," even miraculous Finland.

Our white kids did better than that. Essentially, our Asian-American kids outscored the world.

Post subscribers weren't exposed to those facts. As is mandated by the Hard Pundit Law which blows off The Privatization Range, Post readers saw a gloomy headline, then learned a hard fact. Those Flemish kids kicked our asps! Our "leaders" will surely complain about the lack of progress!

A note about small populations: The Asian tigers outperform everyone else in the world. That basic fact should be reported. Beyond that, though, please understand this fact:

You can always find some small jurisdiction which has achieved good scores. For years, middle-class Finland (population 5.5 million) was the club the press corps used against our ratty public school teachers and their fiendish unions and their slacker approach to our embarrassing kids.

This year, American kids outscored miraculous Finland in math. Rather than mention this fact, the Washington Post moved to to the Flemish region of Belgium.

Regarding small regions, please note:

In the 2011 Timss, the state of Massachusetts (population 6.8 million) participated as an independent "education system." Massachusetts is larger than Finland. It's even larger than the Flemish region of Belgium.

Massachusetts students scored extremely well in math on the 2011 Timss. They approached the Asian tigers, smoked the rest of the world. If you want to go hunting for successful small regions, you can find such regions right here! In 2011, the United States got outscored in math by eight of its own small regions, as you can see by clicking here.

Brown's report was highly selective. For that reason, it was also strikingly uninformative. Based upon her earlier life, we'll assume she handed in something better—that her editors took things from there.

Or did she succumb to the power of script? Within our propagandistic press corps, script has functioned like kryptonite for many free thinkers down through the years.

Certain frameworks are heavily favored. Human nature takes over from there.

Coming tomorrow: Reporting the Timss!

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 2, 2016

Today, some comic relief:
On Tuesday morning, the Washington Post reported the test results from the 2015 Timss. To read that report, click here.

The Timss is one of two international testing programs for the world's public school students. It's administered every four years.

Given the amount of propaganda which swirls around international test scores, you'd almost think our major newspapers would want to report these results.

So far, the New York Times hasn't published a word in its hard copy editions. On line, it has posted this somewhat comical AP report.

What's funny about the AP report? Why do we find it amusing?

As is required by Hard Pundit Law, the AP reports the American glass ten percent empty rather than ninety percent full. As we'll note tomorrow, the Post seems to have followed the gloomy AP down this mandated trail.

Still and all, the AP report by Jennifer Kerr offers some comic relief. After an initial dollop of doom, it offered an unintentionally funny third paragraph, relying on expert appraisal:
KERR (11/29/16): Eighth graders in the United States improved their scores in math over the last four years, up nine points. Scores for science, however, were flat. In fourth grade, scores were unchanged in the math and science tests.

"The results do suggest a leveling out in the most recent cycle," said Ina Mullis, an executive director of the TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center at Boston College, where researchers helped coordinate staff to administer the assessments. "One always prefers to see improvement, but holding one's own is preferable to declining."
If we're able to follow the logic there, it's better to show improvement than to "hold one's own." But it's better to hold one's own than to show a decline!

We get these data every four years. That was the AP's third paragraph. And no, the Times didn't leave something out. Here's the official AP version.

(By the way: Is a gain of "nine points" a lot or a little? Given four years to figure it out, the AP doesn't say.)

Tomorrow, we'll look at the Post's report, which strikes us as rich in both script and avoidance. For an overview of the results, see our own Wednesday report.

Journalists try to critique Donald Trump!

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 2, 2016

Journalists try and fail:
In our view, a fascinatingly weak discussion took place on Wednesday's Diane Rehm Show.

Three major journalists tried to discuss the challenges of covering Donald J. Trump. in various ways, we thought they did a poor job.

How well did this discussion go? How skillfully has it been critiqued? One exchange with Trump spokesperson Scottie Nell Hughes has produced a fair amount of reaction. We thought Rehm and her journalist guests handled it poorly, and that subsequent discussion has often been inept.

First, a note about Hughes. She is one of the many Trump spokespersons who have served as "minders" on CNN programs this year. That said, she is one of the less articulate major Trump spokespersons.

Kayleigh McEnany, who's straight out of Harvard Law School, is a very articulate spokesperson. Simply put, Hughes is not. This fact is relevant to the exchange on Rehm's show, and to the subsequent commentary.

Let's start with what Hughes said. Rehm's journalist guests had been discussing some of Trump's "lies." When Hughes was finally brought on the air, Rehm invited her to respond.

Below, you see the initial exchange. As always, Hughes is quite inarticulate.

Her presentation is so jumbled, it's hard to know what to highlight. We'll do the best we can. For tape and transcript, click here:
REHM (11/30/16): Now I know you've been listening since the top of the program, and I'm sure you've heard James Fallows talk about "lies" that Donald Trump has put out there in tweets, in things he's said. What do you make of that?

HUGHES: Well, I think it's also an idea of an opinion. And that's—

On one hand, I hear half the media saying that these are lies. But on the other half, there are many people that go, "No, it's true." And so one thing that has been interesting this entire campaign season to watch is that people that say facts are facts, they're not really facts. Everybody has a way—it's kind of like looking at ratings or looking at a glass of half-full water. Everybody has a way of interpreting them to be the truth or not true.

There's no such thing, unfortunately, any more of [sic] facts.
And so Mr. Trump's tweet amongst a certain crowd, a large—a large ma—a large part of the population, are truth. When he says that millions of people illegally voted, he has some fa—he, in his, amongst him and his supporters, and people believe they have facts to back that up. Those that do not like Mr. Trump, they say that those are lies, and there's no facts to back it up. So—
At this point, Rehm broke in. She threw to Politico's Glenn Thrush, who said he had to get his jaw off the floor.

"There are no objective facts? I mean, that is, that is an absolutely outrageous assertion," Thrush thundered, responding to what he apparently thought he had heard.

Is that what Hughes was saying in that (rather typically) jumbled oration? Was she trying to say "there are no objective facts?"

We don't get that impression. Like many people in cable news, Hughes is routinely unclear, bordering on incoherent. But it seems to us she was probably saying something like this:

Many people assert that certain "facts" contradict the things Trump says, but their alleged "facts" are often less than fully clear or less than fully dispositive. Unfortunately, everyone has a way of interpreting facts to suit their own purposes. When Trump's followers agree with his claims, they believe that they have facts which support his claims.

When she appears on CNN, Hughes is routinely jumbled. That said, she's no high theorist. In this case, we don't think she was making some sort of postmodern claim about the nature of truth. We don't think she was saying that there's no such thing as an objective fact.

We think she was saying that many critics of Trump overstate the case for their own basket of alleged "facts." And, without any doubt, that does sometimes happen.

This didn't settle the objective question to which Hughes referred. When Trump said that "millions of people illegally voted," was he making an accurate statement?

More precisely, was he making a statement whose accuracy he could demonstrate? Could he point to actual facts which demonstrate the accuracy of his statement?

Rehm and her journalist guests never established that point. Instead, they wandered the countryside, quickly moving on to a different question.

At one point, Hughes did offer "evidence" in support of Trump's claim about illegal voting, citing a study by four Old Dominion professors. This study has been widely discussed, as Rehm's guest should have known. Its relevance to Trump's claim has been widely challenged, including by at least one of its authors.

That said, Thrush didn't seem to have heard of the widely-cited study, and no one else jumped in. As is typical in pundit discussions, another journalist changed the subject before this matter could be further resolved.

Hughes' presentation was barely coherent. On the other hand, Rehm and her journalist guests were rather undisciplined too. They jumped about from point to point, failing to demonstrate any point. To our ear, Rehm's guests were unprepared on the subject matter, under-skilled to boot.

For these reasons, Hughes' jumbled oration faded into the mist. Until Kevin Drum presented an edited version of what she had said-a version we'd consider describing as "doctored" had it come from anyone else.

Below, we'll show the full text of what Hughes said. Then, we'll show you the version of her remarks presented to Drum's readers. We'll include Drum's highlights:
FULL STATEMENT BY HUGHES: On one hand, I hear half the media saying that these are lies. But on the other half, there are many people that go, "No, it's true." And so one thing that has been interesting this entire campaign season to watch is that people that say facts are facts, they're not really facts. Everybody has a way, it's kind of like looking at ratings or looking at a glass of half-full water. Everybody has a way of interpreting them to be the truth or not true.

There's no such thing, unfortunately, any more of [sic] facts. And so Mr. Trump's tweet amongst a certain crowd, a large—a large ma, a large part of the population, are truth. When he says that millions of people illegally voted, he has some fa—he, in his, amongst him and his supporters, and people believe they have facts to back that up. Those that do not like Mr. Trump, they say that those are lies, and there's no facts to back it up.

EDITED VERSION BY DRUM: People that say facts are facts, they're not really facts....There's no such thing, unfortunately anymore, as facts. And so Mr. Trump's tweet, amongst a certain crowd, a large part of the population, are truth. When he says that millions of people illegally voted, he has some facts amongst him and his supporters, and people believe they have facts to back that up. Those that do not like Mr. Trump, they say that those are lies and there's no facts to back it up. [emphases, ellipses by Drum]
To us, that's a shaky editing job. It did let Drum ridicule Hughes for having made the ridiculous claim that there's no such thing as facts.

We liberals love being fed this gruel. As is true in the other tribe, many pundits are willing to be our suppliers.

As for our major journalists, they stage scattershot discussions all the time, even on the Rehm Show. Skill levels are remarkably slight atop our mainstream press corps.

People like Trump exploit this fact. Our tribe enjoys kicking down at the folk who get conned in the process.

LOSERS: Coming next week, "Comeyed again!"

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 2, 2016

Epilogue—The enemy will be Us:
Today, we complete our second week of award-winning election post-mortem reports.

We've added a week of "Losers" reports to our earlier "Teabagged" series. Next week, we'll offer a series which bears this working title:

"Comeyed (again)."

We're inclined to agree with Kevin Drum. We think James B. Comey's intrusion on the White House campaign may well have swung its outcome. For that reason, it's important to see how we fiery liberals dealt with the actions of this powerful insider god.

More specifically, it's important to see how our corporate liberal "journalists" dealt with the god's behavior. We'll pursue such questions as these:

How did they respond to Comey's original actions in early July? How did they respond to Fred Kaplan's instant challenge to Comey's potent claims?

What did they do when Candidate Clinton told Matt Lauer that she behaved exactly as she should have with respect to her emails? Also this:

To what extent did they tie Comey's remarkable conduct, which they surely must have challenged, to the Comeys who came before him?

Duh! James B. Comey was hardly the first high-ranking Republican to intrude on a modern White House campaign. Before Comey, we had Louis Freeh and Robert Conrad, conducting their high-minded probe of Candidate Gore back in Campaign 2000.

Before Freeh and Conrad, we had the move from Robert Fiske to the high-minded Judge Starr of the Baylor football program. This led to all those high-minded probes of Bill and Hillary Clinton.

When we got Comeyed this summer and fall, we utterly brilliant, super-smart liberals were in fact getting Comeyed again! How dogged were our multimillionaire corporate stars at handling this decades-old theme?

We'll focus on "our own Cantinflas" as we review this topic. How did we get to be teabagged losers? In part, by tolerating Hannityesque, orange-shoed TV star gong-shows like hers!

(We were "fastened to a dying animal," exactly as Yeats said!)

These new reports will begin on Monday. For today, let's finish our current series, skillfully adding an epilogue to Paul Krugman's new column.

In his new column, Krugman predicts the future. Quite reasonably, he predicts that roughly five million white working-class Trump supporters will lose their Obamacare-based health insurance under President Trump.

He further predicts that Trump won't be able to "bring back the manufacturing jobs that have been lost over the past few decades. Those jobs were lost mainly to technological change, not imports, and they aren’t coming back."

Beyond that, "there will be nothing to offset the harm workers suffer when Republicans rip up the safety net," Krugman sensibly says.

As journalists proved all year, predicting the future is hard. That said, Krugman's predictions are perfectly reasonable.

So is the further prediction shown below. In this passage, Krugman predicts what will happen when Trump's various campaign promises start to collapse:
KRUGMAN (12/2/16): Will there be a political backlash, a surge of buyer’s remorse? Maybe. Certainly Democrats will be well advised to hammer Mr. Trump’s betrayal of the working class nonstop. But we do need to consider the tactics that he will use to obscure the scope of his betrayal [of the white working class].

[...]

[I]f and when the reality that workers are losing ground starts to sink in, I worry that the Trumpists will do what authoritarian governments often do to change the subject away from poor performance: go find an enemy.

Remember what I said about Trump Twitter. Even as he took a big step toward taking health insurance away from millions, Mr. Trump started ranting about taking citizenship away from flag-burners. This was not a coincidence.
This was not a coincidence? We don't know how Krugman knows that.

That said, will Trump "go find an enemy" if his promises start to collapse? It's entirely possible, but his designated enemy won't have to be flag-burners.

The enemy could simply be Us. Here's what will maybe happen:

Trump will say that Obamacare had to be repealed because it was imploding. In response to that, we'll say two things:

We'll say his claims about health care are wrong. We'll also say that his supporters only believe his claims because they're such racists and bigots.

We simply love that second play. Increasingly, it seems to be the only play we know; we rarely leave home without it. But because we'll make that second statement, his supporters won't even consider listening to us when we make the first.

We've been losing this way for a very long time. This pattern is deeply engrained in our broken political culture.

We "liberals" seem to love losing this way. We seem to love our sweeping claims more than any possible wins, more than life itself.

We can't seem to see this about ourselves. But until we decide to improve our game, it will remain who We are.

New York Daily News on our own Cantinflas: A self-described fan salutes a major star.