We don't know if the health bill will pass!

SATURDAY, JUNE 24, 2017

But Kevin Drum may well be right:
We don't know if the GOP health bill will pass the Senate next week.

It may not pass the Senate at all! Sadly, though, we have to say that Kevin Drum's assessment could be right.

Yesterday, Drum offered a set of predictions and possibilities. Every part of this could turn out to be right:
DRUM (6/23/17): This is just a note about the Senate health care bill. Do not believe any prattle about Mitch McConnell “being OK with a loss.” Or about “moderate Republicans” who will vote against it. Or about conservatives who are “revolting.” Or about “desperate attempts” to hold the Republican caucus together.

Next week the CBO will release its score of the bill. They will confirm that it doesn’t increase the deficit. The Senate will debate for a day or two; pass a few minor amendments; and then pass the bill. The vote will be 51-50, with Vice President Pence breaking the tie.

If Paul Ryan is smart, he will simply bring up the Senate bill for a vote and be done with it. It will pass because everyone will understand that this is their only chance. Either vote yes, or else give up on repealing Obamacare and give Democrats a big win.
It may not work out that way at all. On the other hand, those predictions could well be right. The bill will pass the Senate, then pass the House in identical form.

We'll offer one small caveat. It concerns that 51-50 vote.

Why is Drum predicting that Pence will have to break a 50-50 tie in the Senate? Presumably, he thinks McConnell may grant "free passes" to two Republican senators. He'll let them vote against the bill for political reasons involving their standing in their (blue-leaning) home states.

That used to be the way it was done, but a problem arose. When an unpopular or controversial bill passes on a tie vote, or by a one-vote margin, that means that everyone who voted yes has "cast the deciding vote."

If the Republicans pass this bill on a 50-50 vote in the Senate, all fifty Republicans could be attacked that way in a future general election campaign. But hold on! If the bill passes the Senate on a 51-49 vote, that means that no one has "cast the deciding vote!"

For this silly rhetorical reason, the tactic has shifted away from passing an unpopular bill by the narrowest possible margin. In this case, that would mean that McConnell would grant only one "free pass," and the bill would pass the Senate, 51-49.

Pence wouldn't have to break the tie. He could continue to travel all over the country, nefariously raising buckets of money for his "legal defense," the way he's been doing of late in the fever dreams of our resistance.

(It's also possible, of course, that two Republicans will insist on voting no, producing that rhetorically unhelpful tie.)

Drum's predictions may all turn out to be right. Unfortunately, the rest of his post is accurate too—accurate and darkly illustrative:
DRUM (continuing): The only way to break this cycle is to generate some new opposition. Senate Republicans already know that Democrats oppose the bill, AARP opposes the bill, hospitals oppose the bill, and so forth. They don’t care. The Democrats won’t vote for them no matter what they do and the others aren’t threatening to withdraw campaign support. They oppose the bill, but only on paper. They also know that their bill will take away health coverage from millions. They don’t care about that either. They never have.

This is it. There’s a week left. Lefties need to generate some new opposition to the bill that wavering senators are actually afraid of. Any ideas?
There you have it. With one week left, Drum says we lefties need to generate new opposition to the bill.

What he says may well be right. But it's much too late for our brilliant resistance to accomplish any such task. Who can we recruit, after all? We already have Johnny Depp!

This call for help is much too late. It's thirty years too late.

Over that stretch of time, we lefties have diddled and clowned and partied and played and let ourselves be endlessly conned by our putative intellectual leaders.

In truth, we just aren't especially bright. Our attention span? It doesn't exist. Gnats feel sorry for us!

Except within our own sweet dreams, we're remarkably ineffective. Making matters worse, we're almost insanely self-impressed and defiantly self-deluded.

According to U.S. officials, we're among the least savvy people who ever drew breath on the planet. Scientifically, this fact has been proven within the past year. But as proof of our general haplessness, we're unable to process this fact about Ineffectual Us.

We plan to return to the topic of health care next week, reviewing decades of liberal/progressive ineptitude. We'll also peruse this remarkable text at the new and improved Salon.

Truly, it's a seminal text. It portrays the self-defeating soul of the group known as Ridiculous Us. That remarkable text is built upon the rock of our tribe's self-delusion.

Fox & Friends, the dumbest show ever!

FRIDAY, JUNE 23, 2017

Look who's catching up:
Long ago and far away, we first discussed the massive dumbness of the morning show, Fox & Friends.

At the time, it struck us as the dumbest news program ever broadcast. It was while we were watching Brian Kilmeade on the Fox & Friends of that era that we were first struck by an unfortunate thought:

Performers on these programs are being paid amounts of money they would never receive in any other walk of life. For that reason, these people never rock the boat on such shows. In large part, they're being paid for their obedience to the corporate mission.

In this piece by Adam Raymond, the world-class dumbness of this program is back today in full flower.

Today's dumbness involves Steve Doocey, who may have created more dumbness by now than anyone else in the history of TV news. Ainsley Earnhardt is also involved. Also, dear God, Ed Henry!

You'll have to read the piece by Raymond to see how vast the dumbness was in the incident he describes. Having said that, though, we'll also say this:

Rachel Maddow's recent segments about Mike Pence's legal fees were every bit as dumb. Assuming minimal emotional agency,
Maddow was talking down to the rubes, just as the Fox & Friends gang has always done.

Assuming minimal emotional agency—and we don't make that assumption with Maddow—she was showing her ultimate disrespect for the people who watch her program.

There's an obvious difference here. Maddow was originally peddled to us as Our Own Rhodes Scholar. She would score very high on an IQ test. Assuming minimal emotional competence, the dumbness she displayed in those segments was entirely deliberate. It can't have happened because she herself is dumb.

Meanwhile, if it's The Big Tribal Dumb you like, just consider this second report, in which Raymond discusses Trump's recent interview with the Fox & Friends gang. In this chunk shown below, Raymond accuses Trump of "witness intimidation" due to his suggestion last month that he might have tapes of his conversations with Comey the God:
RAYMOND (6/23/17): The President also addressed the nonexistent tapes of his conversations with Comey. Thursday he admitted that the tapes don’t exist. He reiterated that in the interview—“I didn’t tape, and I don’t have any tape, and I didn’t tape.”—but [Trump] added that he concocted the ruse to keep Comey honest. And he thinks it worked.

“When he found out that I, you know, that there may be tapes out there—whether it’s governmental tapes or anything else and who knows—I think his story may have changed,” Trump said. “You’ll have to take a look at that because then he has to tell what actually took place at the events. My story didn’t change—my story was always a straight story, my story always was the truth. But you’ll have to determine for yourself whether or not his story changed, but I did not tape.”

Earhardt then complimented Trump, saying the ruse was “a smart way to make sure [Comey] stayed honest during those hearings.”

“It wasn’t very stupid, I can tell you that,” Trump said. “He did admit that what I said was right.
And if you look further back before he heard about that, I think maybe he wasn’t admitting that.”

And with that, Trump can add “witness intimidation” to the ever-growing list of crimes he’s being accused of committing in his short five months in office.
For starters, let's get clear on what Trump is saying. He's saying that Comey was forced to tell the truth because of the bluff concerning the tape. Otherwise, Trump is saying, Comey might have dissembled or lied.

That may or may not be the case. Based on the published record, we'd have to say that Trump's bluff may have had that sort of effect on anonymous Comey "associates." It seems possible that certain claims by some "associates" may have been tempered after Trump issued his bluff.

At any rate, that's what Trump is saying. Now, try to fathom what Raymond is saying in the text we've posted. (As a general matter, we mentioned the peculiar reasoning in which he's engaged in our first post today.)

Raymond is saying that, by forcing Comey to be honest in his testimony, Trump engaged in "witness intimidation!" He describes this as a crime.

Let's go over that again:

In the imagined scenario, Trump's bluff forces Comey to tell the truth in his Senate testimony. He can no longer lie under oath because a tape might exist.

According to Raymond, Trump was thereby committing the crime of intimidating a witness! He was robbing Comey of the freedom to lie under oath.

Desire to maintain faith with the tribe can make people say many things. All over cable last night, scripted pundits were voicing softer versions of this manifest tribal lunacy.

This morning, his lizard apparently barking, Raymond served the lunacy straight. With The Crazy running wild on all sides, we live in dangerous times. A major nation can't survive when the tribes start playing like this.

That said, will your lizard let you consider our original point?

The ludicrous Doocey = Maddow? Will your lizard let you see it?

The New York Times joins the fact-checking game!

FRIDAY, JUNE 23, 2017

Who is Linda Qiu:
Recently, the New York Times got into the fact-checking game.

They were rather late to this trend.

At present, their fact-check presentations are being done by Linda Qiu. We'll admit that we've occasionally thought her work falls short of the mark.

This morning, Qiu has a high-profile FACT CHECK piece in the hard-copy Times. She fact-checks Donald J. Trump's recent speech, the one he gave Wednesday night.

Qiu starts like this, hard-copy headline included:
QIU (6/23/17): An Adoring Crowd, And a Dozen Things That Aren't True

President Trump returned to familiar rhetorical territory during a raucous campaign-style rally in Iowa on Wednesday night, repeating exaggerations and falsehoods about health care, jobs, taxes, foreign policy and his own record.

Here’s an assessment.
Sure enough—twelve fact-checks follow. That's an even dozen.

Qiu's third fact-check is very significant. She offers this brisk report:
QIU: He falsely claimed the United States is “the highest-taxed nation in the world.”

In 2015, the United States ranked in the middle or near the bottom compared among 35 advanced economies in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development by the typical metrics: No. 28 for total tax revenue as a percentage of gross domestic product, No. 22 for corporate tax revenue as a percentage of G.D.P. and No. 13 for tax revenue per capita.
That's exactly the kind of fact-check a major newspaper should stress. It reviews a major, gong-show claim—a major claim which gets made all the time. Through this standard claim, millions of voters get disinformed about a very basic topic.

That was an excellent fact-check. By way of contrast, it seems to us that Qiu's sixth fact-check isn't:
QIU: He falsely claimed Gary Cohn paid “$200 million in taxes” to serve as his economic adviser.

Mr. Cohn, the former president of Goldman Sachs, was required to divest company shares under ethics laws, and sold about $220 million worth of Goldman stock. He also received a cash payout of about $65 million. The nearly $300 million payout is, of course, eventually subject to taxation but characterizing it as money paid to the I.R.S. is not accurate.
All of a sudden, we're off in the weeds, and we seem to be splitting an extremely fine hair. This is the kind of nit-picking point which will convince many people that they're dealing with a partisan, and that they should therefore ignore all her points.

Other fact-checks were hard to follow, or made minor small points, or seemed to take us toward the land of difference of opinion or emphasis. At one point, we experieneced major puzzlement. Because of certain claims we heard last night, we were especially interested in this topic:
QIU: He said he would bar immigrants from receiving welfare benefits for five years, but they already are prohibited.

The requirements sought by Mr. Trump have largely been in place for two decades since the passage of welfare reform or the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996.

Legal permanent residents who haven’t worked in the United States for 10 years are not eligible for food assistance or Medicaid within the first five years of entering the country. States have the option of waiving the Medicaid rule for pregnant immigrants and children.

Refugees, asylees and victims of trafficking can collect some benefits, and immigrants who’ve served in the military are eligible without a time requirement.
"Legal permanent residents who haven’t worked in the United States for 10 years are not eligible for food assistance or Medicaid within the first five years of entering the country?"

Are we missing something here? Has any such person "worked in the United States for 10 years" "within the first five years of entering the country?"

There may be a way to exit this maze, but we'd have to guess what it is.

We've been frustrated by Qiu's presentations in the past. For that reason, we finally decided to check her background.

She's three years out of college (University of Chicago, 2014). We're just wondering:

Reducing labor costs can be great if that's what we're looking at here. But at a newspaper like the Times, does fact-checking seem like a major beat for someone of such tender years?

Presumably, a person that young could do that job. That said, we've often thought that Qiu's work isn't quite up to snuff at this point in a very important field.

Is this the best the Times can do? Youthful scribes to the side, we find ourselves asking that question a fair amount of the time.

RIDICULOUS US: Our own rogues gallery of prime-time hosts!

FRIDAY, JUNE 23, 2017

Part 4—Much loved by Ridiculous Us:
All around the globe, wherever such groups have performed, lynch mobs have sometimes stampeded off in pursuit of a guilty party.

That doesn't mean they weren't lynch mobs, with all the moral and intellectual squalor which serve to distinguish such groups.

At present, a group of this type is chasing Donald J. Trump around. In our view, they're chasing a deeply disordered, dangerous party who shouldn't be where he is.

That doesn't mean that they aren't a mob conducting an old-fashioned chase.

Our press corps has staged several such chases in the past twenty-five years. This time, they're chasing a "guilty party." But they're still behaving like a mob, as they did when they were chasing Clinton, Clinton and Gore.

Case in point—our own "cable news," last night.

Yesterday, the Republican leadership in the Senate released its health care proposal. By common assessment, tens of millions fewer people will have health care in the future if the bill ends up passing, as it very well might.

Last night, on liberal cable, this rather large problem took a back seat to an entertaining chase. We'll call it The Hardy Boys and the Case of the Grandfather Clock. In that title, we refer to the conversation which took place in the shadow of that grandfather clock.

When he testified before the Senate last month, James B. Comey kept referring to the grandfather clock, which is found in the Oval Office. Pundits praised him at that time for his magnificent narrative skill. They said his inclusion of such detail suggested that he was right about pretty much everything else.

That foolishness was part of the chase. So were some of the conversations on liberal cable last night.

Before the pundits could talk about health care last night, they had to talk about Donald J. Trump's newest revelation. No, he didn't have audiotape of his conversations with Comey the God, the president had finally said.

This distraction returned the pundits to The Case of the Grandfather Clock. Nancy Drew was also present, in the person of Nicolle Wallace, guest-hosting for Brian Williams on The 11th Hour.

Wallace opened the show with a segment about Trump's non-existent tapes. After a panel of hanging judges all said all the mandated things, she went to her first break at 11:13, saying this:
WALLACE (6/22/17): Thank you Jeremy Bash, Michael Crowley and Mieke Eoyang.

Coming up, reaction to all this from a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. Senator Jeff Merkley joins us in studio, next.

And later, the Republican health care bill is out and there's already enough resistance to kill it, from Republicans. The 11th Hour is back after this.
Yay yay yay yay yay! The health care bill was already on the way down! But first, we were going to discuss Donald Trump's tapes some more! The tapes were entertaining and fun. As every overpaid pundit knows, health care discussions are boring!

That's the way our own cable works in the hands of a Republican host. (Wallace was communications director in the Bush White House. She's long been excellent as a cable news guest, is improving as a host.)

In fairness, Wallace turned to health care fairly quickly when she spoke with Merkley. That said, the Case of the Grandfather Clock came first. It was the lead on The 11th Hour, and it produced a scripted conversation, part of the ongoing chase.

Needless to say, the conversation involved speculation about Trump's original motives for suggesting he had those tapes. Also, the conversation involved the chance that Trump's suggestion meant that he had maybe perhaps committed obstruction of justice.

Yay yay yay yay yay yay! Wallace's trio of pundits wondered whether Trump had meant to intimidate Comey the God by suggesting he had tapes, or whether he meant to threaten him. We liberals were given those choices on Our Own Partisan Cable. No other possibilities needed to apply.

Here on our sprawling campus, our analysts were somewhat puzzled. They wondered how Comey could have been kept from making accurate statements about his conversations with Trump by the possibility that a tape of those conversations might exist.

Of one thing the youngsters could feel quite sure. They would hear no suggestion that Trump's suggestion about the tapes kept Comey, or his "associates," from making inaccurate statements about those conversations.

As we noted last week, it can almost seems that some such thing actually may have occurred. Before Trump made his remark about tapes, "associates" of Comey were insisting that Comey had never told Trump that he wasn't under investigation. These insistent, false statements came to an end after Trump suggested he might have tapes.

We liberals aren't forced to hear such facts on our own partisan channel. The channel exists to make us feel happy at night, and to make plenty of money for the corporate owners, just like over on Fox.

Last night, on liberal cable, we were thereby enjoying the fun of the chase. On The 11th Hour, facts about health care took second place, just as it ever has been, for the past dozens of years.

Meanwhile, over on Fox, people were hearrng different topics discussed. As we flipped back and forth, in sheer boredom, to Tucker Carlson Tonight, we were struck by the topics our fellow citizens were hearing discussed Over There.

The first time we flipped over, Joe Concha was telling Tucker that MSNBC and CNN had refused to broadcast Donald J. Trump's speech the previous night. We think their decision made perfect sense, but Concha was bringing some heat.

They talk about Trump almost all the time, Concha said, offering data which are garbled in the Nexis transcript. But they refuse to air him live! He then offered these remarks:
CONCHA (6/22/17): So when you are so myopic on a particular person, in this case the president, why wouldn't you cover him live to actually hear what he has to say? Unless that unfiltered version of Trump doesn't allow for commentary, punditry, or maybe speculation around their latest bombshell that came via unnamed sources.

So then we talk about the business end of this...How did the ratings work out? Was this a good editorial decision by CNN and MSNBC not to cover this rally live as Fox did?

I have the numbers in front of me. Fox more than quadrupled CNN's audience during live coverage at 8 PM Eastern last night.

Total audience: Fox 3.3 million, CNN 821,000. Against MSNBC: Fox 3.3 million, MSNBC 1.53 million.
Fox had conquered again, the channel's viewers were told. They were also told that MSNBC won't cover Donald J. Trump except to speculate about their latest anonymous bombshell.

Sadly, there's an element of truth to that.

The next time we flipped over, Carlson was battering an immigration attorney about the claim that immigrants can't receive welfare benefits in their first five years in the country.

Carlson said this liberal claim is grossly misleading, to the point of basically being wrong; he seemed to go into some detail. We can't tell you if he was right, but neither could the attorney!

We flipped again, and Fox viewers were being told about a professor at Trinity University, Carlson's alma mater. Let's just say that this professor may have gone Kathy Griffin one better:
CARLSON: Several days ago, shortly after House majority whip Steve Scalise and four others were shot down on a baseball field outside of D.C., a sociology professor at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut went onto social media to applaud the violence.

His name is [NAME WITHHELD]; he is a professor there. He linked to an article on Facebook that argued Congressman Scalise should have been left to bleed to death on the field. Here's part of what he wrote:

Quote, "It is past time for the racially oppressed to do what people who believe themselves to be white will not do. Put an end to the vectors of their destructive methodology of whiteness in their white supremacy system."

And then [NAME WITHHELD] added this. "Let them EFFING die." He spelled that out. In a later post, Williams referred to white people as, quote, "inhuman." Whoa!

He still works there. Forced by news reports to respond to all this, the president of the college, Joanne Berger-Sweeney, issued a statement saying the school will look into [his] post...
We haven't researched the incident, but let's face it. Someone within our liberal tents is always creating a moment like this. Over on our own cable channel, we aren't required to know or think about this.

The last time we flipped, Tucker was discussing Kamala Harris with Asra Nomani, the very sane-seeming co-founder of the Muslim Reform Movement. That segment started like this:
CARLSON: Just last week, California Senator Kamala Harris became a feminist mantra by persisting in her questioning of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. But the day later, Harris had an actual chance to help actual women and she took a big pass on that.

Asra Nomani and Ayaan Hirsi Ali appear before the Senate Homeland Security Committee to testify about the dangers of Islamic extremism, particularly for women. They have experience those dangers, first hand, both of them.

Senator Harris, who sits on the committee, didn't have a single question for them, nor did Senators Heidi Heitkamp and Claire McCaskill, the other Democratic women on the committee. Why the silence? Asra Nomani joins us tonight.

NOMANI: Thank you, Tucker.

CARLSON: Thank you for coming on. You wrote a powerful piece today in the New York Times in which you said that not only did these purported feminists in the Senate ignore you, an actual woman who has suffered under Sharia law. But one of them, Claire McCaskill questioned the reason for the hearing in the first place and in effect scolded you by implication for complaining about it.

NOMANI: Yes. We were shocked.
We don't know what actually happened, but the segment proceeded from there. Again, Nomani seemed extremely sane. Her New York Times column is here.

This was occurring on Fox. Over on our own cable channel, we were enjoying the chase. Over There, on Carlson's show, The Others were hearing the types of things we rarely hear discussed.

At issue, on each channel, was our nation's greatest current challenge. That's the challenge of dealing with the Us-and-Them which is being created by corporate cable, by talk radio and by the partisan Net.

At present, each team is making millions of dollars offering the pleasing porridge one group or the other enjoys. On our pwn liberal channel, a rogues gallery of cable hosts is conducting the chase in prime time.

Their names are shown below. One party has been excused:
Our own prime-time rogues gallery:
6 PM: Greta
7 PM: Chris Matthews
8 PM: [Excused absence]
9 PM: A certain unnamed cable star
10 PM: Lawrence O'Donnell
11 PM: Brian
For several years, when she worked at Fox, Greta was the prime enabler of Donald J. Trump's birtherism. A certain unnamed cable host swears by Great's manifest greatness, says she's her drinking pal.

In the late 1990s, Matthews was perhaps the craziest, most influential player in the hunt against the Clintons and against Candidate Gore, the crazy chase which sent George W. Bush to the White House.

Matthews' behavior was crazy and crazily dishonest for years. A certain unnamed cable host tells us how great he is, and how great a friend!

Lawrence and Brian also played key roles in that crazy, death-dealing chase after Gore. They were being paid at the time by their zillionaire conservative corporate owner, General Electric CEO Jack Welch.

Night after night, Bran ranted and complained about Gore's deeply troubling clothes. Years later, he got canned for making stupid shit up. Lawrence has had to apologize to virtually everyone on the face of the earth, not excluding Donald J. Trump.

The gods must rock with laughter each night, watching this gang of corporate con men hosting on liberal cable. People are dead all over the world because of what Matthews, Williams and O'Donnell did in the twenty-month War Against Gore. Greta played the fool for years, helping Donald J. Trump pimp his birther madness.

An unnamed cable host praises them all. When Trump announced in June 2015, she weirdly assured us that she had nothing against him.

At the same time, she has run from every consequential tribal fight during the eight years of her multimillion-dollar corporate employment. When Comey went after Candidate Clinton last July, he had little to fear from the likes of this car salesman clown.

Last night, we liberals enjoyed the porridge this rogues gallery served. So it has gone for twenty-five years among the pitiful hapless group known as Ridiculous Us, a group best known for spectacular dumbness and, of course, for its tribal certainty that the very dumb and stupid ones can all be found Over There.

Tomorrow: Wonderfully unintentional humor: Completely Ridiculous This

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?
e
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