Drum suggests Homer was right all along!

THURSDAY, MAY 25, 2017

Why we can't have nice things:
Friend, do you find yourself thinking that Homer may have right all along?

Do you find yourself thinking that we human are toys of the gods? That the gods stage-manage human events for their own amusement?

We considered this possibility when we read Kevin Drum's tough-talking post about health care. His tough-talking headline said this:

"Health Care Systems Are Expensive. Deal With It."

Drum was talking tough. After some back-of-the-envelope calculations, he said we could maybe have a single-payer health care system, but it wouldn't lower health care costs. In closing, he offered this:

"Short of some kind of legislative miracle, there's really no way around this. Health care is expensive."

So true! Health care really is expensive. So are health care systems!

We lunkheads should shut our traps and deal with this. These familiar facts help prove Drum's tough-talking point:
Per capita spending, health care, 2015
United States: $9451
Germany: $5267
Canada: $4608
Australia: $4420
France: $4407
Japan: $4150
United Kingdom: $4003
Finland: $3984
Italy: $3272
Spain: $3153
South Korea: $2488
As you can see, health care systems are expensive! Rather, our health care system is.

We're listing the standard OECD spending figures for the United States and the world's most comparable nations. We're throwing in miraculous Finland for the obvious reason.

In fact, health care systems aren't expensive; our health care system is! Among comparable nations, only Germany spends even half as much per person. But it was decided long ago:

In this nation, we aren't allowed to discuss this matter. We proles are here to get looted and conned.

The gods were laughing on Olympus when they read that recent post. In this earlier post, Drum staged a bit of self-frogmarch, apologizing for what he did, or failed to do, last summer.

Health care systems are expensive! Was a certain blogger placed on earth as a way to amuse the gods?

Ladies and gentlemen, deal with it! Homer was right all along!

Comey the God had little choice!

THURSDAY, MAY 25, 2017

Also, the Post seems to miss the point:
At times like these, you'll find yourself getting conned in a wide array of ways.

One such way appears in this morning's Washington Post. In a front-page report, the Post describes an apparent fake intelligence report by which James B. Comey—Comey the God—may himself have been conned.

Allegedly, the apparently fake document played a role in Comey's controversial conduct in the Clinton email probe.

Last July, Comey took "the extraordinary step of announcing the findings of the Clinton investigation himself without Justice Department involvement." So the Post correctly notes.

Along the way, the Post cites unnamed figures explaining why he did that—why he pretty much had to do that:
DEMIRJIAN AND BARRETT (5/25/17): Current and former officials have said that Comey relied on the document in making his July decision to announce on his own, without Justice Department involvement, that the investigation was over. That public announcement—in which he criticized Clinton and made extensive comments about the evidence—set in motion a chain of other FBI moves that Democrats now say helped Trump win the presidential election.

[...]

Current and former officials have argued that the secret document gave Comey good reason to take the extraordinary step over the summer of announcing the findings of the Clinton investigation himself without Justice Department involvement.

Comey had little choice, these people have said, because he feared that if Lynch announced no charges against Clinton, and then the secret document leaked, the legitimacy of the entire case would be questioned.
Warning! You're looking at part of the ongoing attempt to restore the godlike status of Comey the God.

James B. Comey "had little choice," these unnamed figures have said. Because of what the fake document said, he pretty much had to make the announcement on his own, without consulting with Justice.

Warning! You'll be assaulted with these attempts at restoration in the months to come. Meanwhile, did you notice that the Washington Post seems to have missed the point of last July's flap?

Readers, please! In the Post report, unnamed figures seek to explain why Comey "announc[ed] the findings of the Clinton investigation himself"—why he made "his July decision to announce on his own, without Justice Department involvement, that the investigation was over."

That said, no one complained about the fact that Comey "announced on his own that the investigation was over." People complained about the fact that, after announcing his legal judgment, he went on to make a long oration in which he stated his own highly negative view of Clinton's underlying behavior.

The Post report notes the fact that Comey did that. But we see nothing in the Post report which addresses the reason for that decision.

Why did Comey criticize Clinton in the course of making that announcement? That was the behavior in question—except on the Maddow Show, where Comey's behavior was hailed for two nights by guest host Steve Kornacki, then completely ignored by Maddow.

Why did Comey take that step? We see nothing in the Post report which speaks to that basic question.

In one way, today's report is embarrassing for Comey. The report implies that he got taken by fake intel from the Russkies. Oof.

On the other hand, the report includes the latest attempt to restore the gentleman's standing as an insider Washington god. You're likely to see many more such attempts in the weeks and months ahead.

On the third hand, we'd have to say that the Washington Post has missed the point of last July's dispute. Why did Comey—Comey the God—blast Clinton in that long, irregular oration?

That is where the god misbehaved. No one in the Post report seems to address that conduct.

The god was criticized last July for stating his highly negative views. Did Demirjian, Barrett and their editors understand this point?

FLYNN FACTS: The New York Times slips and slides down a slope!

THURSDAY, MAY 25, 2017

Part 3—Puts Flynn "on the Turkish payroll:"
Just last evening, we were surprised by what we heard at the start of The Eleventh Hour.

Brian Williams, our dapper host, started his first panel discussion by throwing to Glenn Thrush of the New York Times. The fellows shared the type of towel-snapping banter which sends a warning to sensible people.

"Warning," such repartee says. "You may be getting played:"
WILLIAMS (5/24/17): Glenn, we'll start with you. Tell us about what your colleagues have written tonight on Russia, and why it's important, while I take a drink of water.

THRUSH: [Laughs] Well, I think the president needs to take a drink too, Brian.
Basically, that's how Brian's program began.

Williams had had until 11 PM to think up an opening question. Despite the long preparation time, his opening "question" was simply an invitation to talk, accompanied by a wonderfully ironical bit of business.

Thrush chuckled at the star's witty ways, then directed some snark at Donald J. Trump. This is what our upper-end "journalism" starts to look like when a chase is on.

We were less than impressed by that Brianesque first exchange. The last time Brian went down this road, he ended up getting fired and "going away" for a couple of years.

That said, we were actively surprised by what Thrush said next. He spoke of his newspaper's "revelations," then seemed to dream one up:
THRUSH (continuing directly): Look, you know we have just, day after day, had these revelations. Today's revelation is that the Russians discovered the possibility of being able, as you said before, to influence Michael Flynn, who was then an adviser to the campaign, who was also at the same time on the payroll of Turkey and was being paid by RT, Russian television...
Masterfully, Thrush continued from there. Already, though, we were puzzled.

Was Michael Flynn "on the payroll of Turkey" during the 2016 campaign? Also, had the New York Times ever made that assertion?

You're asking excellent questions! Regarding the work of the New York Times, let's take a look at the record. What has the newspaper said?

The New York Times hadn't done much reporting on this matter until this March. At that time, Flynn registered as a foreign agent under terms of the rarely-explained Foreign Agent Registration Act.

"Foreign agent!" It's a wonderfully scary term, though it's also perhaps a bit imprecise. But on the New York Times' front page, Baker and Rosenberg reported such facts as these:
BAKER AND ROSENBERG (3/11/17): Michael T. Flynn, who went from the campaign trail to the White House as President Trump's first national security adviser, filed papers this week acknowledging that he worked as a foreign agent last year representing the interests of the Turkish government in a dispute with the United States.

[...]

Mr. Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, registered as a lobbyist last year but did not file papers with the Justice Department registering as a foreign agent, providing a fuller understanding of his role, until Tuesday. While he did not work directly for the Turkish government, the firm that hired him, Inovo, is owned by a Turkish-American businessman with links to leaders in Ankara and asked him to work on an issue important to the government.

[...]

On behalf of his firm, the Flynn Intel Group, Mr. Flynn signed a contract on Aug. 9 with Inovo, a Dutch firm owned by Ekim Alptekin, the chairman of the Turkish-American Business Council. Mr. Flynn's firm was to receive $600,000 for 90 days of work.
In that report, Baker and Rosenberg did not assert that Flynn had been "on the payroll of Turkey." Indeed, they explicitly said that Flynn "did not work directly for the Turkish government."

You're right! The word "directly" is doing a lot of work in that sentence. (Baker and Rosenberg never quite explained what that somewhat slippery word meant.)

At any rate, Baker and Rosenberg didn't say that Flynn had been "on the payroll of Turkey." Without using the exact formulation, they said he'd been on the payroll of Inovo BV, a Dutch firm owned by a Turkish-American businessman who had "links to leaders in Ankara."

As far as we know, Ekim Alptekin, the owner of Inovo, isn't Turkish-American. As we noted yesterday, our biggest and laziest, most famous newspapers haven't quite puzzled that out.

But in this report, Flynn was "on the payroll" of a Dutch firm, not "on the payroll of Turkey." Flynn was said to have done lobbying work for that Dutch-based firm.

(That same day, the Washington Post reported that Flynn's firm had been "hired last year...by the Netherlands-based firm Inovo BV, which is owned by Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin...Flynn's firm was paid more than $500,000 by Inovo for public relations and research work." The Post believed that Alptekin was Turkish, not Turkish-American. But they too said that Flynn had been on the payroll of a Dutch-based firm.)

At times like these, when a chase is on, such facts aren't likely to stand. At times like these, reporters for newspapers like the Times may start massaging and shaving such facts, producing the stories they like.

Case in point:

The Times returned to this matter on April 2, one day after April Fools. In these passages, Mark Rosenberg's formulations had perhaps begun to slip and slide:
ROSENBERG (4/2/17): Mr. Flynn has faced fierce criticism for the Moscow speech and for his lobbying efforts for Turkey. But the work paid well, and the disclosure forms showed income of nearly $1.5 million, a sizable amount for a man who left the military less than three years ago.

[...]

The payments for lobbying work that Mr. Flynn did for the Turkish government—and did not disclose until March—were handled through the Flynn Intel Group, and are not listed separately on the disclosure forms. Mr. Flynn did not work directly for the Turkish government; the firm that hired him, Inovo, is owned by a Turkish-American businessman with links to leaders in Ankara and asked him to work on an issue important to the government.
In this report, the New York Times has headed down a slipshod slope.

Rosenberg was still willing to note the fact that "Flynn did not work directly for the Turkish government," whatever that was supposed to mean. But before he offered that disclaimer, he referred to Flynn's "lobbying efforts for Turkey," then to "the lobbying work that Mr. Flynn did for the Turkish government."

It had started to sound like Flynn had been "on the Turkish payroll!" Rosenberg hadn't said that in so many words. But he was humming the tune.

The New York Times returned to this topic last week. A prosecutor had issued subpoenas to Flynn, including a subpoena "for records about Ekim Alptekin, a Turkish businessman who is close to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and is chairman of the Turkish-American Business Council."

By now, the Times was saying that Alptekin is Turkish, not Turkish-American. Also, the basic facts had been massaged by the Times within an inch of their life.

Those basic facts had almost gone through a blender. By now, Rosenberg and Mazzetti were truly making it sound like a certain foreign agent had been on the Turkish payroll:
ROSENBERG AND MAZZETTI (5/18/17): Michael T. Flynn told President Trump's transition team weeks before the inauguration that he was under federal investigation for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey during the campaign, according to two people familiar with the case.

[...]

The investigation stems from the work Mr. Flynn did for Inovo BV, a Dutch company owned by Mr. Alptekin, the Turkish businessman. On Aug. 9, Mr. Flynn and the Flynn Intel Group signed a contract with Inovo for $600,000 over 90 days to run an influence campaign aimed at discrediting Fethullah Gulen, an reclusive cleric who lives in Pennsylvania and whom Mr. Erdogan has accused of orchestrating a failed coup in Turkey last summer.

When he was hired by Mr. Alptekin, Mr. Flynn did not register as a foreign agent, as required by law when an American represents the interests of a foreign government. Only in March did he file a retroactive registration with the Justice Department because his lawyer, Robert K. Kelner, said that ''the engagement could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey.''
In these latest formulations, Flynn had been "secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey during the campaign." He wasn't just a foreign agent. By now, he had become a secret agent too!

Inovo BV got mentioned again, but we were then told that Flynn had failed to "register as a foreign agent, as required by law when an American represents the interests of a foreign government." That's what Flynn had apparently done.

A few nights later, a wise-cracking journalist went on TV and made an inaccurate statement. In fairness, you almost can't blame Thrush for saying that Flynn had been "on the payroll of Turkey."

Who knows? Given the things his paper had published, Thrush may even have come to believe what he said!

In truth, nothing the New York Times has reported justifies the pleasing claim that Flynn was "on the payroll of Turkey." That isn't where his checks came from. His checks came from Inovo BV, a Dutch-based lobbying firm.

In truth, no one has ever shown that Flynn was "on the payroll of Turkey." But so what? At times like these, with a major chase on, such pleasing claims will emerge.

No, Petunia! As far as anyone has shown, Michael Flynn wasn't on the payroll of Turkey. He was on the payroll of a Dutch firm owned and operated by a man who is probably Turkish, though our big newspapers are too lazy and incompetent to find out.

Our mighty newspapers have never quite bothered to establish that basic fact. They've been too busy massaging and disappearing facts, the enterprises in which they tend to engage when a chase is on.

Was Flynn doing something "wrong" when he worked for Inovo? Not necessarily, no. He was advancing some unconventional views, but that is normally not a crime, and Flynn evinces many signs of being at least half-nuts.

The key to this conundrum may lie in the scary term, "foreign agent." The term is wonderfully scary, and that makes it potentially useful. It may seem to imply various things which it doesn't imply in the situation under review.

Tomorrow, we'll review the meaning of that term, which has of course gone unexplained by our most glorious newspapers. The reason for that lethargy is simple:

Michael Flynn had become so crazy a few years back that people began rolling their eyes about his unreliable claims. Those claims were referred to as "Flynn facts." There he goes again, his associates were wont to suggest.

We can't judge the various claims which got eye-rolled that way. But at times like this, when a chase is on, our upper-end press corps is strongly inclined to start inventing facts too.

They sand, massage, disappear and invent elementary facts. They fail to explore the most basic distinctions. They make no attempt to clarify even the most basic points.

In the process, they produce their pleasing group stories, the kinds of stories they very much like. They end up saying things like this:

Michael Flynn was on the Turkish payroll.

Pleasing though the claim may be, no one has ever shown that it's true. When you see performers like Thrush clowning with Brian, then going on to make such claims, you are seeing the same old turkeys inventing their own "Flynn facts!"

Your lizard brain will tell you it's great. As always, your lizard is wrong.

Tomorrow: What is a "foreign agent?"

At the Washington Post, they're selling the car!

WEDNESDAY, MAY 24, 2017

Newest product yet:
Yesterday, John Brennan testified to the House Intelligence Committee.

In all honesty, he said virtually nothing that was new. Unless you read the front page of this morning's Washington Post, where Greg Miller, or his editor, were busily selling the car.

This was Miller's first paragraph. Warning! They're selling you the car!
MILLER (5/24/17): The CIA alerted the FBI to a troubling pattern of contacts between Russian officials and associates of the Trump campaign last year, former agency director John Brennan testified on Tuesday, shedding new light on the origin of a criminal probe that now reaches into the White House.
Did Brennan's testimony "shed new light on the origin of a criminal probe that now reaches into the White House?"

Not exactly, no. Everything Brennan said has been said several times before.

This isn't a criticism of what Brennan said. It's a comment on the process of selling the (daily) car.

Several hours later: Maddow offered a gong-show edit of something Brennan said. It tilted the tale in a way we like.

There was certainly nothing new there!

FLYNN FACTS: Who the heck is Ekim Alptekin?

WEDNESDAY, MAY 24, 2017

Part 2—At times like these, nobody cares:
For the record, Michael Flynn strikes us as a bit of a nut.

Last summer, he stood on stage at the Republican Convention, leading chants of "Lock her up." He retweeted a claim about the way Hillary Clinton was running a child sex ring out of the basement of a D.C. pizza joint.

At the business he founded, he chose his even-crazier son to be his chief of staff.

That said, Flynn had a distinguished military career—and he has geopolitical views. If we're willing to be honest just this once, most of us liberals aren't sufficiently knowledgeable to say, with any real authority, that his views are "wrong."

Along the way, Flynn's craziness and his geopolitical views made him the apple of Donald J. Trump's eye. These are the wages a society pays when its "elites" mug and clown their way through thirty years of gonzo pseudo-political history, as our "elites" have done.

Now we're engaged in a great newspaper war, with the ludicrous Flynn providing much of the excitement. This leads us to our question for the day:

Who is Ekim Alptekin?

Who the heck is Ekim Alptekin? For now, let's let the New York Times tell us!

Alptekin has been all over the news in the past six months. He's routinely featured in news reports which deal with Michael Flynn's international adventures.

Despite his ubiquity, Alptekin remains a bit of an international man of mystery. Let's let the Times clear things up:
ROSENBERG AND MAZZETTI (5/18/17): The subpoena also asks for similar records about Ekim Alptekin, a Turkish businessman who is close to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and is chairman of the Turkish-American Business Council. There is no indication that Mr. Alptekin is under investigation.

ROSENBERG (4/2/17): The payments for lobbying work that Mr. Flynn did for the Turkish government—and did not disclose until March—were handled through the Flynn Intel Group, and are not listed separately on the disclosure forms. Mr. Flynn did not work directly for the Turkish government; the firm that hired him, Inovo, is owned by a Turkish-American businessman with links to leaders in Ankara and [sic] asked him to work on an issue important to the government.

BAKER AND ROSENBERG (3/11/17): Mr. Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, registered as a lobbyist last year but did not file papers with the Justice Department registering as a foreign agent, providing a fuller understanding of his role, until Tuesday. While he did not work directly for the Turkish government, the firm that hired him, Inovo, is owned by a Turkish-American businessman with links to leaders in Ankara and [sic] asked him to work on an issue important to the government.

NORDLAND (11/19/17): General Flynn's article, as Politico reported, did not disclose that he was a paid lobbyist for a consultancy founded by a Turkish businessman, Ekim Alptekin, who is also the head of the Turkish-American Business Council.
You just can't beat the New York Times for cool clear consistent reporting! According to our smartest newspaper, Alptekin is either a Turkish businessman, a Turkish-American businessman, or a Turkish businessman who is the head of the Turkish-American Business Council.

In two recent attempt to identify Alptekin, Rosenberg and Mazzetti seemed to say that he's an American citizen. As far as we know, that's false. But even that elementary fact remains unresolved within our floundering "elite" press corps, which is currently on a chase.

(As we noted yesterday, the Washington Post keeps jumping around about Alptekin's citizenship too!)

Good God! Alptekin's employment of Flynn became a major topic last November. Even now, our big newspapers haven't managed to get clear about his citizenship, which would seem to be relevant to the matters at hand.

In fairness, everything else is murky too! Even after some recent searches, we don't think we've ever seen a statement about Alptekin's age, or about his place of residence.

How old is Alptekin? Where was he born, and where does he live? What is his citizenship? Because the corps is on a chase, details like these no longer matter. We're being sold an exciting tale, in which the most elementary facts seem to have no place.

Who the heck is Ekim Alptekin? We have no real idea—but over the weekend, as part of a search, we finally came upon a biographical profile from a non-journalistic source.

Because it comes from some sort of interest group, we can't swear for its perfect accuracy. But what the heck! Here it is:
RESEARCH TURKEY: Ekim Alptekin is a successful young businessman, specialised on transatlantic trade and the development and maintenance of commercial and political cooperation between Turkey and the US. He was born in Ankara in 1977. He completed his studies in law and economics in Utrecht University in 2001. He speaks Turkish, English, French, German, and Dutch. After completing his studies he moved to the USA and worked in the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) as well as other international organisations. Alptekin also carries important diplomatic missions. He is honorary consul of Turkey to Albania and member of the board of the USA Newroz Commission. In addition, he is member of European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) and Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSİAD).

Ekim Alptekin also carries out important activities in trading sector. He is the founder and a principal partner of Eclipse Aerospace Inc., a New Mexico-based company manufacturing aircrafts. He founded EA Aerospace in Turkey to buy American Eclipse Aerospace, which was re-founded in 2008. EA Aerospace is significant as it is the very first Turkish company that made aircraft industry investment in the USA. In addition to EA Aerospace, Ekim Alptekin owns EA Construction, ATH Defence and One Colony companies active in real estate, construction, defence, security, entertainment, and tourism industries. Alptekin agglomerated his companies under the name of AE Group, where he acts as the Chair of the Executive Board. He also worked as the President of the Turkish-American Business Association (TABA/AmCham) between 2012 and 2014, and he was elected as the Young Leader by the American-Turkish Society in 2012. He won the Commercial Leadership Award of American-Turkish Council thanks to the Eclipse Aerospace initiative in 2011. Alptekin’s EA Construction has been active in Istanbul’s construction sector through Beykonak Houses and Kartal Kule projects and his "Kartal Kule" project was awarded the "Best Architecture Single Office Europe by International Property Awards.

Since October 2015, Ekim Alptekin is acting as the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Turkish-American Business Council (TAİK), an organisation under the Foreign Economic Relations Board of Turkey (DEİK).
According to that account, Michael Flynn's recent employer is 39 or 40 years old. Especially considering his age, he seems to be a go-getter.

It sounds like he's Turkish, not Turkish-American. That said, he seems to have gone to college in the Netherlands. Could he maybe be Turkish-Dutch—a Dutch citizen of Turkish extraction?

Did Alptekin move to the USA after college, as that profile declares? Does he maybe possibly live on Imus' ranch in New Mexico, where he founded Eclipse Aerospace Inc.?

Rather plainly, no one knows or cares!

Who the freak is this guy? Incredibly, the New York Times and the Washington Post still haven't bothered nailing down the basic facts about his citizenship. But this is the way our "press corps" behaves when they engage in a chase.

A few key facts do seem to be known about Alptekin. At some point, he founded Inovo BV, the Dutch-based firm which hired Flynn on a short-term contract last year.

Having said that, let us also say this: "a Dutch-based firm" is not the same thing as "the Turkish government." For whom was Michael Flynn working last year? Let's review the masterful way Rosenberg dealt with this basic question:
ROSENBERG (4/2/17): The payments for lobbying work that Mr. Flynn did for the Turkish government—and did not disclose until March—were handled through the Flynn Intel Group, and are not listed separately on the disclosure forms. Mr. Flynn did not work directly for the Turkish government; the firm that hired him, Inovo, is owned by a Turkish-American businessman with links to leaders in Ankara and [sic] asked him to work on an issue important to the government.
According to that paragraph, Flynn "did lobbying work for the Turkish government" without "working directly for the Turkish government."

It's possible this could be explained, though no one has really bothered.

(Through early March, Our Own Rhodes Scholar kept exciting and delighting us liberals by telling us that Flynn had been "on the Turkish government payroll." On its face, this exciting claim always seemed to be false.

(Our Own Rhodes Scholar no longer makes this claim, though she still sometimes implies it. On alternate weeks, she tells us that the money for Flynn's work came from Putin-connected Russian oligarchs, without seeming to notice that this second exciting story doesn't directly jibe with her first.

(Even as she dropped her thrilling earlier account, Our Own Rhodes Scholar never fired up her gong-show based DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS to explain the change in her story. She was assuming, quite correctly, that we liberals are too dumb to notice the change in her account, and/or too addicted to narrative to care.)

Did Michael Flynn do something wrong when he worked for Alptekin and Inovo BV, which is either 1) the Turkish government or 2) an arm of Putin's oligarchs? We can't answer that question.

We can tell you this:

A chase is on in the mainstream press. At such times, elementary facts and logic tend to disappear.

What matters is preferred talking points, which get repeated again and again. In the current instance, the greatest such point is this:

Michael Flynn registered as a "foreign agent!" That is a very exciting point. But does anyone know what it means?

Michael Flynn worked as a foreign agent! It sounds wonderfully vile. But what the heck does that term really mean? And to what has Michael Flynn copped?

Tomorrow, we'll start to sift those questions. In the meantime, Ekim Alptekin, Flynn's fresh-faced employer, is either Turkish or American or possibly Dutch. Flynn was on the Turkish government payroll. Or he worked for Putin's oligarchs!

As with New England weather, so too with elementary facts when a chase is on. If you don't like the most recent account, you can just wait a while!

Michael Flynn strikes us as a bit of a nut, but so do large swaths of the elite press. Thirty years of their low-IQ clowning got us all into this mess.

Tomorrow: What is a foreign agent?

POSTSCRIPT: Did Andrew McCabe sell out to Trump?

TUESDAY, MAY 23, 2017

The Post's peculiar reporting:
On Wednesday evening, May 10, Rachel Maddow made an angry allegation about acting FBI director Andrew McCabe, her program's latest villain.

Back in February, Maddow angrily said, McCabe became part of "the Trump disinformation campaign!" We discussed this topic all last week.

Did McCabe really do that? If so, someone should tell Dianne Feinstein! On Sunday's Face the Nation, she recommended that McCabe become the FBI's permanent director. Apparently, Feinstein hasn't been watching the Maddow Show!

Full disclosure! In our view, Maddow's May 10 report was her latest weirdly researched, embellished "villain tale." During her twenty-minute performance, she offered exactly one journalistic source for her fiery claim about McCabe—an analysis piece in Time magazine whose author had simply seemed to accept the truthfulness of a set of accusation by Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer, the nation's least famous truth-tellers.

Priebus and Spicer made their claims during the period when Donald J. Trump was thrashing about, trying to shoot down reports about possible collusion with Russia. Absent evidence, why should anyone have believed the claims by Priebus and Spicer?

Maddow never addressed that point during her May 10 report. Very few viewers would have realized that her attack on McCabe was based on claims by Priebus and Spicer, claims they made last February during a highly fraught time.

Maddow simply launched her attacks. In fairness, her diatribe was exciting.

As a postscript to last week's reports, we thought we'd note the peculiar way the Washington Post reported these accusations by Priebus and Spicer.

The paper's sole report on this topic appeared on Saturday, February 25. In the passage shown below, Miller and Entous reported the accusations by Priebus and "administration sources."

In the process, they simply seemed to accept the accuracy of these claims. No further evidence needed!
MILLER (2/25/17): The administration's push against the Russia coverage intensified Sunday [February 19] when White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said in television interviews that he had been authorized "by the top levels of the intelligence community" to denounce reports on Trump campaign contacts with Russia as false.

Priebus's denunciations ranged from calling the articles "overstated" to saying they were "complete garbage."

Administration officials said that Priebus's comments had been cleared by FBI Director James B. Comey and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. In doing so, the FBI's leadership would appear to have been drawing a distinction between authorizing comments by a White House official and addressing the matter themselves.
"In doing so, the FBI's leadership would appear to have been drawing a distinction between authorizing comments by a White House official and addressing the matter themselves?"

In that statement, Miller and Entous seemed to assume that the administration's accusations were accurate. They offered no evidence in support of this assumption.

Later, they quoted former CIA director Michael Hayden casting doubt on what Priebus had said. But in that earlier passage, they seemed to accept the accuracy of the administration accounts.

It gets worse. On that same day, a Post editorial did the same thing. For unknown reasons, the editors even referred to the accusations by Priebus and Spicer as "the week's revelations."

In its own report on this topic, the New York Times didn't seem to accept the accuracy of the administration's claims in the way the Post did. Still, we'd have edited one part of the Times report to make this fact more clear.

Let's review:

Back in February, Priebus and Spicer delivered a set of accusations against McCabe and Comey both.

According to Priebus and Spicer, McCabe and Comey had both said that a New York Times report about collusion was inaccurate. For reason which went unexplained, the Washington Post seemed to accept these accusations as accurate.

At that time, Rachel Maddow did two reports which cast McCabe as the hero of the piece. (As we noted last week, those reports appeared on February 23 and 24.) On May 10, without explanation, she launched her attack on McCabe, apparently accepting the accuracy of what Priebus and Spicer had said.

Just like that, McCabe went from hero to goat! Priebus' attacks on Comey went completely unmentioned. Maddow's earlier reports, which cast McCabe as the hero of the piece, also went unmentioned. No explanations required!

Maddow often plays this way. In fairness, accusations of this type are exciting and tribally pleasing.

Beyond that, it's fun when she mugs and clowns! It helps Our Own Channel beat Fox!

Rachel Maddow is very good at giving us liberals our villains. Someone should tell Senator Feinstein about what Our Scholar has said.

Synopsis is all!

TUESDAY, MAY 23, 2017

Visiting King Lear again:
Upon our return to our sprawling campus, we found ourselves surrendering, once again, to curiosity concerning King Lear.

Once again, we found ourselves turning to the leading authority. At the start of their savantic report, our top unnamed sources said this:
King Lear is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare. It depicts the gradual descent into madness of the title character, after he disposes of his kingdom giving bequests to two of his three daughters based on their flattery of him, bringing tragic consequences for all.
Needless to say, "gradual descents into madness" are tragedies for all. Thank goodness that's not happening here, "based on their flattery"-wise!

Descents into madness can have tragic consequences? Shakespeare, of course, who didn't exist, simple adored "fake news."

Yet to come: Eventually, we plan to record the way number-one Lear daughter Ivanka recently "quoted" Maya Angelou. But only if liberals are good!

FLYNN FACTS: And the lack of same!

TUESDAY, MAY 23, 2017

Part 1—The way the press corps functions:
Midway through last night's 7 o'clock hour, cable news went "all-Manchester all-the-time."

Before that happened, we were struck by several aspects of Erin Burnett's journalistic performance on CNN.

First, Burnett discussed the newest report from the Washington Post, a report which appears on this morning's front page.

The Post reports that Donald J. Trump "asked two of the nation’s top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government, according to current and former officials."

Before events in Manchester took precedence, this report was destined to be the focus of last night's cable excitement.

Did Donald J. Trump really do the things described in the Post report? We were surprised to see Burnett treat the report as established fact. Whatever the facts may turn out to be, that wasn't the world's greatest journalism.

Soon after, we were surprised by Burnett's treatment of a new report concerning Michael Flynn. She seemed unfamiliar with a ludicrous claim Flynn first made last summer.

The ludicrous claim concerns the money Flynn was paid for a speaking engagement in Russia—a December 2015 engagement which is now quite famous. According to a congresional committee, Flynn received roughly $45,000 for the engagement. But by whom was he paid?

At least as early as last summer, Flynn was answering that question in a ridiculous way.

In a widely-discussed interview with Michael Isikoff of Yahoo News, Flynn offered an absurd explanation. He wasn't paid for the Russians, he said. He was paid by his speakers' bureau!
ISIKOFF (7/18/16): Were you paid for that event?

FLYNN: You’d have to ask my—the folks that I went over there on behalf of.

ISIKOFF: Well, I’m asking you. You’d know if you were paid.

FLYNN: Yeah, I mean I went over there as a speaking event. It was a speaking event. What difference does that make? Did somebody go "Oh, he’s paid by the Russians?"

ISIKOFF: Well, Donald Trump has made a lot of the fact that Hillary Clinton has taken money from Wall Street, Goldman Sachs.

FLYNN: I didn’t take any money from Russia, if that’s what you’re asking me.

ISIKOFF: Well then, who paid you?

FLYNN: My speakers’ bureau. Ask them.
He wasn't paid by the Russkies, Flynn said. He was paid by his speakers bureau! To watch that exchange, click here.

Periodically, that silly distinction has bubbled up over the past ten months. Yesterday, it seemed to bubble up again in a letter by Rep. Elijah Cummings—but Burnett seemed to think the silly distinction was new.

Burnett's apparent cluelessnes regarding this point struck us as unimpressive. That said, there's been a lot of journalistic heat surrounding Flynn's behavior on the international stage, not always a whole lot of journalistic light.

How competent have our news orgs been in their discussions of Flynn-in-the-world? Not gigantically competent! Consider something we read in Saturday's Washington Post.

The report concerned Flynn's work for Inovo BV, a Netherlands based lobbying firm. In this passage, two Post reporters described Ekim Alptekin, the founder of the firm:
BARRETT AND ZAPOTOSKY (5/20/17): A grand jury in Alexandria, Va., recently issued a subpoena for records related to Flynn's business, the Flynn Intel Group, which was paid more than $500,000 by a company owned by a Turkish American businessman close to top Turkish officials, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Flynn Intel Group was paid for research on Fethullah Gulen, a cleric who Turkey's current president believes was responsible for a coup attempt last summer. Flynn retroactively registered with the Justice Department in March as a paid foreign agent for Turkish interests.
Alptekin wasn't named, but he was described as "a Turkish American businessman." Two weeks earlier, Matea Gold had described him the same way in this front-page report in the Post:
GOLD (5/5/17): [Flynn's] research was financed by a company owned by Ekim Alptekin, a Turkish American businessman close to top officials in Turkey, the documents show. Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accuses Gulen for fomenting a coup attempt last summer and wants him extradited from the United States.

Inovo, a Netherlands-based company owned by Alptekin, paid Flynn Intel Group $530,000 to activate an "investigative laboratory" made up of former top security and intelligence officials to research Gulen, according to documents Flynn filed under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
Alptekin is "a Turkish American businessman," Gold also reported. That would be fine, except back in March and April, the Post was describing Alptekin as "a Turkish businessman," which isn't the same thing.

The New York Times has also toggled back and forth in its descriptions. Sometimes Alptekin has been "Turkish-American," sometimes he's been "Turkish."

Does this distinction matter? Given the charges and claims involved here, it probably pretty much could!

That said, we'd make a different basic point. Given the amount of attention paid to Flynn's work for Inovo BV, it's amazing that our biggest newspapers can't be bothered to establish even the simplest facts about the man for whom he worked.

Is Ekim Alptekin a Turkish citizen? Is he "Turkish American," a designation which seems to imply that he's an American citizen?

Might he be a dual citizen? Does anyone at these major newspapers know or care?

The Post and the Times have both toggled about between these dueling descriptions of Alptekin. Given the amount of focus directed on this matter, this is lazy, incompetent front-page pseudo-reporting as its ridiculous worst.

In fact, reporting on Flynn's work for Inovo has been riddled with incompetence and error. This extends beyond the work of the Post and the Times, extending up the slopes of Olympus to the aerie which houses Rachel Maddow, whose accounts of this much-beloved matter change on a daily basis.

In the next few day, we'll try to nail down a few basic facts about Flynn, Alptekin and Inovo, the Dutch-based form Alptekin founded and still runs. But our focus won't be on Flynn or Alptekin. As always, our principal focus will be on the work of the press, which is currently staging a chase.

A headlong chase is currently on; excitement fills the air. When such episodes occur, our journalists sometimes send their standards and skills on holiday. On partisan cable, you may get severely conned.

Flynn, who strikes us as a nut, has been widely ridiculed for his unreliable "Flynn facts." That said, the press corps has produced its own array of puzzling, murky "Flynn facts" as it has pretended to cover this high-profile topic.

Who the heck is Ekim Alptekin? As we attempt to fumble through the press corps' array of "Flynn facts," that will just be our initial question.

We'll end with the most exciting question of all. What is a "foreign agent?"

Tomorrow: Who is Ekim Alptekin?