BREAKING: Strangest paragraph of them all!


The gang that coudn't troll straight:
Robert Mueller dropped 16 indictments on Russkie heads last Friday. The indictments concern alleged illegal electioneering, not the theft of Democratic emails or possible blackmailing of Donald J. Trump.

How effective was this Russkie electioneering? We can't answer that question, but this strikes us as the strangest paragraph in last week's indictments:
31. In order to collect additional intelligence, Defendants and their co-conspirators posed as U.S. persons and contacted U.S. political and social activists. For example, starting in or around June 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators, posing online as U.S. persons, communicated with a real U.S. person affiliated with a Texas-based grassroots organization. During the exchange, Defendants and their co-conspirators learned from the real U.S. person that they should focus their activities on "purple states like Colorado, Virginia & Florida." After that exchange, Defendants and their co-conspirators commonly referred to targeting "purple states" in directing their efforts.
That seems like a very strange paragraph. Here's what it seems to say:

It seems to say that the Russkie invaders only learned about so-called "purple states" (swing states) in June 2016. That would have been amazingly late on the game. Some such suggestion popped up in the public discourse a few months ago, and we noted its oddness.

That's a very strange paragraph. It seems to identify the Russkie invaders as the gang that couldn't troll straight. If you don't even know how our state-by-state electoral system works, you don't know squat, squadoodle or even squadoosh about our election system. According to this paragraph, the Russkies only learned about this part of the system in June 2016, from an unwitting contact in Texas.

This doesn't mean that these operations had no effect on voters. It seems to suggest that the Russkies got off to a rather slow start in this area, knowing their asps from their elbows-wise.

That strikes us as a very strange paragraph. Tomorrow, we'll mention another semi-puzzling matter.

BREAKING: Who in the world is [Name Withheld]?


And how can The Times be so bad:
Matt Shuham is two years out of college (Harvard 2015).

Yesterday, his TPM report about Trump's latest tweets had us gnashing our teeth. This passage sent us over the edge:
SHUHAM (2/18/18): Trump is incorrect in saying “I never said Russia did not meddle in the election.” At times he has specified that his campaign did not collude with Russia. But he has also frequently tossed nuance aside and called the entire Mueller investigation a “witch hunt,” or declared that “Russia is fake news.”
According to Shuham, Trump was "incorrect in saying 'I never said Russia did not meddle in the election.' " Shuham's chesty words of assurance made TPM readers feel good.

That said, Shuham offered no examples in which Trump made the inaccurate statement in question. He simply said, or seemed to say, that Trump has "frequently" done so.

Stating the obvious, that was terrible work. On the brighter side, hiring extremely young reporters presumably lets Josh Marshall make more money. Like every tribe in prehuman history, we liberals want our tribal sachems to be very rich.

That said, Shuham's post left us wondering. Has Trump ever flatly said that Russia didn't meddle?

At this point, let's offer a word of warning. Trump's statements tend to be extremely fuzzy. He tends to work on insinuation, suggestion and association rather than explicit statement. It's often hard to articulate what he has actually said.

(Example: We don't think we've ever seen anyone offer an accurate paraphrase of Trump's famous remark about the Mexican rapists. In our view, it was an appalling remark. It's also hard to paraphrase.)

Shuham's example-free assurance had us gnashing outr teeth. This morning, though, Linda Qiu really took the cake in the New York Times.

Qiu is three years out of college (Chicago 2014). For unknown reasons, the New York Times has hired her to be the paper's official fact-checker.

Qiu's skills are virtually non-existent. This morning, in a full-length, hard-copy report, she attempts to fact-check that same assertion by Trump.

Her failure is astonishing. Headline included, here's how her report begins:
QIU (2/19/18): Trump Falsely Claims, ‘I Never Said Russia Did Not Meddle’

President Trump falsely claimed
in an early Sunday morning Twitter post that he had never rejected the notion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

“I never said Russia did not meddle in the election,
I said ‘it may be Russia, or China or another country or group, or it may be a 400 pound genius sitting in bed and playing with his computer,’” Mr. Trump wrote. “The Russian ‘hoax’ was that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia—it never did!
According to Qiu, the tweeted statement by Donald J. Trump was "false." She proceeds to offer eight examples in support of her claim—but only one of her examples seems to support her claim in anything like an unambiguous fashion.

How absurd are the bulk of Qiu's examples? Good lord! The bulk of the examples she cites are as absurd as this, her second example:
September 2016: “I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the D.N.C.”

As the presidential nominees of their political parties, Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton began receiving government intelligence reports in August. On Sept. 22, top Democrats on congressional intelligence committees issued a public statement blaming Russia, “based on briefings we have received.”

Four days later, during the first presidential debate, Mr. Trump declined to agree:

“I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the D.N.C. She’s saying Russia, Russia, Russia, but I don’t—maybe it was. I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, O.K.?”
Good lord! In that alleged example, Trump explicitly said it could be Russia who hacked the DNC.

In that statement, Trump didn't say it wasn't Russia. He said he didn't know.

In even a slightly rational world, it would be astounding to see the New York Times present that statement as Qiu does—as an example of Trump denying that Russia did it. In a slightly rational world, it would be astounding to think the New York Times' fact-checker, and her editor, possessed such limited analytical skill.

That's how it would be in a slightly rational world. But in this world, the New York Times is a hotbed of journalistic and intellectual dysfunction. As part of that routine dysfunction, the paper hired someone barely out of college to serve as its official fact-checker, despite her remarkable lack of basic skills.

Her unnamed editor lacks those skills too. Amazingly, this is the intellectual norm at our floundering nation's most famous daily newspaper.

On the brighter side, Times readers aren't likely to notice. According to today's page A3, yesterday's "most emailed article" was the one you'll find at this link.

"Why Yoga Pants Are Bad for Women." As the Times is happy to note, that's the report from the Sunday Times we brainiacs emailed most!

We claim to be appalled by Trump. Our utterly fatuous upper-class values just keep pointing the way toward our decline, perhaps toward our society's death.

Reviewing Qiu's examples, we find one example where Trump seemed to deny that Russia did it. Based upon Qiu's other examples, it looks like he quickly abandoned that stance.

MAKE THE WORLD GO AWAY: Kessler frisks first lady's folks!


Part 1—When Milbank and Stormy get blue:
How ridiculous does it get when we commit ourselves to The Chase—to thrilling tribal entertainment and to nothing else?

How ridiculous can it get? For starters, consider Glen Kessler's weekly hard-copy report in the Washington Post.
As always, Kessler's weekly report appeared in Sunday's editions. We refer to his weekly report as top dog at the Post's "Fact-Checker" site.

For the record, yesterday's report followed a fraught week or two. It had been the week of the seventeen high school killings. It had also been the week of the sixteen indictments.

It had been the week when Dreamer legislation died in the Senate. Donald J. Trump had recently released his budget plan. In the wake of some utterly bollixed reporting, a wealth of basic questions remained about the Rob Porter matter.

Quite a few topics had flooded the news. So what was the Post's fact-checker checking?

The Post's fact-checker was fact-checking the first lady's mother and father! Do they belong in this country at all?

Hard-copy headline included, he stated his brief as shown below. We'll throw in the word "inaccurate:"
KESSLER (2/18/18): White House tight-lipped on the immigration status of Melania Trump’s parents

Several readers asked about the immigration status of Melania Trump’s parents,
Viktor and Amalija Knavs, after spotting [inaccurate] social media posts such as this one:

"Here are Melania's Parents. Viktor and Amalija Knavs. They live in the United States Permanently now because of Chain Migration after Melania's Visa Expired & she stayed here Illegally and married Donnie for Citizenship. None of them have a degree or a job".

With congressional debate beginning on overhauling immigration laws, it’s certainly an interesting question. President Trump has favored bills that would severely restrict “chain migration,” including the granting of immigration visas to the parents of U.S. citizens. So naturally, readers have wondered whether the president is being hypocritical.
According to the Post's fact-checker, some readers had spotted some social media posts! Naturally, those social media posts had set these readers to wondering!

This explains the embarrassing report which appeared in Sunday's Washington Post. In the face of a vast array of serious major important news topics, Kessler had spent his week asking the first lady's parents to please show their papers.

Kessler went on to produce a lengthy, somewhat insulting fact-check on this utterly pointless topic. He listed four possible bases on which the parents may be in this country. The fourth basis he listed was this:
"Parole," the fact-checker wrote in bold. They might be here on "parole!"

In the face of all those serious topics, Kessler engaged in a lengthy frisk of the first lady's parents. At one point, he warned us that the parents could be engaged in illegal conduct if they've been taking care of their grandson, Barron Trump.

Humans, might we speak? That's the kind of bullshit to which we're inclined to descend when the tribal thrill of The Chase makes us take leave of our senses. To wit:

Some readers spot something stupid somewhere. Working from a very high platform, a journalist takes a deep dive.

It was much the same with Dana Milbank in the same Sunday paper. In a full-length, page'filling column, Dana Milbank, like Stormy Daniels, was feeling both ballsy and blue. Hard-copy headline included:
MILBANK (2/18/18): Why Stormy Daniels isn't a bigger storm

President Trump is a force of nature. Actually, he is a full-blown meteorological phenomenon.

This week, what in any other presidency would have been a Category 5 hurricane made landfall at the White House. It felt more like a drizzle.

The president’s personal lawyer confirmed that he paid $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels, reportedly so she wouldn’t talk about an alleged affair with Trump dating to 2006,
months after Melania Trump had given birth to their son, Barron. Daniels’s rep said she is now free from her confidentiality agreement and ready to talk.

Trump in an adulterous affair? With a porn star? And hush money? You couldn’t invent a scandal better than this.
Alas, poor Milbank! "Trump in an adulterous affair?...You couldn't invent a better scandal," the blue-balled blue-blood sadly said. But because of all the other scandals, the Stormy scandal hasn't been getting its due!

Stormy hasn't become the full-blown scandal of silly-boy Milbank's dreams! There are too many others things in the news, so people like Milbank can't reap the full joy of sexy-time stories from Stormy!

(They way they did with Gennifer Flowers, who almost surely invented her stories! Remember how great that was?)

These pitiful pieces by Kessler and Milbank help show us the shape of the times. They help display the hard-wired drift of our journalists' tiny small minds.

Once you let these life-forms commit to The Chase, this is the bullshit you're going to get. And we haven't even mentioned the harrowing report by Robert O'Harrow, who has spotted a Trump nominee behaving in much the way CNN does.

O'Harrow's report appeared in the front section of yesterday's Post, along with Kessler and Milbank.

When journalists commit to The Chase, this is the kind of behavior you'll see. For several decades, they committed to The Chase against Clinton, Clinton and Gore. Now they're chasing a disordered person named Donald J. Trump, while displaying their own disorders.

How do they want to conduct The Chase? Let us count the ways:

Milbank gnashes his teeth at the lack of attention to Stormy Daniels.

Dylan Farrow—in The New Yorker!—burns acres of trees to the ground so we can learn about a consensual affair with a former Playboy model.

Glenn Kessler fact-checks social media posts about Melania's parents. On CNN, Don Lemon and a second ghoul stroke their privates as they discuss that Playboy model's claim that Melania always preferred a separate bedroom.

(CNN never did post the transcript of Lemon's second hour last Friday night. We'd be embarrassed to post it too. We'd also be inclined to take Lemon off the air until he can get it together.)

Children, let's review:

The first lady always preferred a separate bedroom. Reportedly, that is!

The first lady's parents might be breaking the law if they take care of their grandson!

The first lady stopped at the Holocaust Museum only because it was on the way to the airfield!

We should be discussing Stormy much more. Also, Trump engaged in sexy-time sex with a former Playboy model! In 2006!

This is where these people go when they're allowed to commit to The Chase. People are dead all over the world because they've done this in the past. You're rarely told about any of that in service to liberal careers.

Citizens, can we talk?

Long ago and far away, Eddy Arnold enjoyed his biggest hit. "Make the World Go Away," the velvet-voiced country star wonderfully crooned.

The lyrics were even better than that. "Say the things we used to say," Arnold crooned. "And make the world go away."

With one small change in those lyrics, that's what's happening now. Our pundits are saying the things we want them to say and making the world go away.

What parts of the world are they disappearing, including on Rachel and Lawrence? We'll answer that thoughtful question all week. For now, though, a trigger warning:

Anthropologists sadly say this may be the best we can do.

Tomorrow: Making Paul Krugman go away. Coming, Patrisse Khan-Cullors!

For your listening pleasure: To hear Arnold's hit, click here. According to the leading authority, it hit #1 on the country charts, #6 overall.

BREAKING: Three things we saw on cable last night!


We'll save the worst for last:
Ever so quickly, we'll cite three things we saw last night on our flailing, floundering nation's pitiful "cable news" channels.

At one point, we saw the "opening monologue" on Sean Hannity's show. On this, the evening of the indictments, he offered his monologue beneath a large graphic proclaiming this:
Readers, we sh*t you not!

No transcript has yet been posted. Beyond that, we expect to discuss Uranium One next week, within an award-winning report entitled Krugman Ignored, or something much like that.

For these reasons, we'll leave this particular bullshit right there, though we will offer two questions:
Which major American newspaper published a gigantic, 4400-word front-page report about Uranium One and the scary uranium deal?

Have you ever seen a single "career liberal" mention, challenge, question or name-call the stunning journalistic disgrace produced by that major newspaper?
Because we're saving the worst for last, we'll go to Maddow next.

Roughly ten minutes into her show, we heard the analysts in the next room emit their familiar keening wail:

"I I I I I I I," the youngsters familiarly said.

Maddow's transcript isn't up yet. We could transcribe what she said from our award-winning On Demand service. But, eschewing such self-degradation, we'll leave her words for another day.

(Full disclosure: Knowing how gong show leads on to clown car, we doubt if we should ever come back.)

The worst thing we saw last night came from Don Lemon and guests. His transcript isn't available either, so we'll patch and fill.

First, Lemon interviewed Ronan Farrow, who seems to have his nose in the underwater drawer at this time. We didn't see much of that interview, but then the guest pundits came on.

There followed a grotesque discussion between Lemon and Tara Setmayer about the reason why Melania Trump prefers a separate bedroom—reportedly, that is. Setmayer is brighter than the average "cable news" bear, but she and Lemon were appalling last night.

We regarded Farrow as a hero of journalist labor for his dogged, important reporting about Harvey Weinstein's criminal assaults and attacks. Doggedly, he told the story that all our New York Times "goddesses" and our all-around heroes had long chosen not to tell.

Now he has his nose in the drawer, busily reporting on Donald J. Trump's fully consensual conduct. He's also reporting on the six figures one woman took from a man named Pecker—a guide who only had at heart her story getting lost.

Our questions:

Could we erect a giant statue in honor of David Pecker? Also, could we establish a federal fund designed to keep all men and women from discussing their consensual affairs with major public figures?

As Lemon and Setmayer showed us last night, once you let us humans start discussing such matters, we'll want to discuss little else. This week featured 17 killings and 16 indictments, but Don and Tara were hard at work, snarking and scolding and proving to be "all too human."

When Lemon was still working weekend shifts, we praised him as kinder and gentler than the average cable host. He later got promoted to a demanding, two-hour nightly prime time slot.

On balance, the assignment hasn't gone well. The pressures of dealing with Donald J. Trump have dragged Lemon several miles out to sea, seemingly well past his depth.

By last night, he had descended to speculations about why a woman he doesn't know prefers a separate bedroom—reportedly, that is.

"That's it's for us," Lemon said as the segment ended. "That should be it for you, motherfrumper," one thoughtful young analyst said.

Extra-credit reading assignment: The power of paraphrase is on display in Christine Emba's new column in the Washington Post.

She paraphrases "many" people, quotes none. Dead strawmen frequently litter the countryside when such columns are done.

Emba didn't invent this approach. That said, why can't the youngsters come along and reject the mistakes of the ancients?

RACE TO THE PAST: "What difference does it make?"


Part 5—Let's return to this topic:
Incomparably, we were called away from our desk this morning, interrupting our work on this topic.

That said, this topic is very important. It involves the destructive old skin game called "race."

We think it's a great advance that people who are defined as "white" have been able, in the past fifty year, to slip the chains of their "origins."

Ethnicity came to be optional. Nobody hugely cares any more. That isn't yet true about "race."

We all still get defined by "race," a taxonomy which comes to us live and direct from what Professor Genovese called "the world the slaveholders made." Plainly, race isn't hugely optional yet, but that's a type of additional liberation which should be the goal.

This brings us back to the wonderful question Professor Gates asked last year. He was speaking with Ava DuVernay about her genetic "origins," some of which led back to Europe, some of which led to people who lived "under African skies."

DuVernay displayed a rooting interest in how the balance of her "origins" would turn out. "What difference does it make?" the professor deftly asked.

What did Professor Gates mean by that? As the year proceeds, we'll offer our suppositions.

Meanwhile, we've liked Christine Emba's work at the Washington Post. We think her instincts were slightly unhelpful on this particular matter, and yes, she's stuck with her youthiness, though that will transplendently fade.

That said, we like the cut of Emba's jib. She deserves to be freed from the chains which are under discussion, as does everyone else in your town and on your block. The concepts have come to us live and direct from people with gruesome ideas.

It's good that Marty slipped some of these chains. It wouldn't be smart to go back.

BREAKING: Where does information come from?


Pretty much out of our asps:
We largely skipped the latest evening of reactions to the latest mass shooting.

Such evenings are pretty much all alike. But even though we didn't watch much, we did see Brian say this:
WILLIAMS (2/14/18): I read a stat tonight, there have been 18 school shootings elsewhere in the world over the last two decades. In our country alone, there have been 18 school shootings in the last 35 days. I know you're not a politician, but you were at the crux of this public issue today. And do you believe lawmakers failed you in that moment? Do you believe we can do better than this?
We saw him say that at 11 PM Eastern. As it turns out, in the previous hour, Lawrence had said this:
O'DONNELL (2/14/18): Police say a 19-year-old who was expelled from the high school last year was apprehended as the shooter and as he was leaving—trying to leave, trying to blend in with the crowd of students, rushing away from the high school after the shooting. This is the 45th day of 2018, and in this year, we have already had 18 school shootings.


In a moment, my first guest will be a student who stayed calm and helped other students survive this shooting because he was ready for it. Because he knew this was possible in his school or in any school in America. And so, this video you're about to see, if you choose to watch it, is a horrifying look at something that has already happened at 18 schools in America this year, in just the first six weeks of this year.
Lawrence said that at 10 PM Eastern. At 9 PM, Rachel had said this:
MADDOW: It is honestly hard to—obviously it's hard to watch that video. In terms of patterns, in terms of what kind of event this is, you know, it's hard to keep track. We alone in the world as a country are plagued by this problem as a multiple times per week occurrence.

But we think this latest assault is at least the 18th school shooting in this country this year, just since the start of 2018. We're not even halfway into February.
According to Rachel, events of this kind are "a multiple times per week occurrence." Did that sound right when you heard it?

At 8 PM, Chris said it was "at least the twelfth, twelfth school shooting this year here at February 14th." Only the twelfth?Where does he get his information?

Through the evening on MSNBC, this had been the 18th school shooting, or event of this type, this year! Did that seem to make sense at the time? In this morning's Washington Post, Cox and Rich do a good job discussing what's wrong with that claim.

The claim ran wild on The One True Channel. To their credit, CNN eschewed it.

By the way, how good was the work in the Washington Post? In hard-copy, the analysis piece ran beneath this headline:
Gun-control group's widely shared tally of 2018 school shootings misleads
Good for them! They managed to say that the claim was "misleading," not that it was a lie, or even that it was flatly wrong. These distinctions exist in language because they exist in real life.

In what way is that claim "misleading?" If you read the Post report, you'll be able to find out. Under the circumstances, we'd say the claim is highly misleading. That said, your lizard may want to tell you that the claim's technically accurate.

Where does our information come from? When we traffic in BREAKING NEWS, it sometimes comes, live and direct, right straight out of our asps!

What should we do about these recurrent disasters? If we stop licking our lips about Stormy Daniels and chasing $4000 plane rides around, we might imaginably be able to figure that out.

Our chances wouldn't be super-good. But they would be better.

BREAKING: The latest extremely strange news report!


The Post frisks Sanders regarding the Porter affair:
This morning's Washington Post contains the latest extremely strange news report about the Rob Porter affair.

Why was Porter still at work until recent weeks without a security clearance? On Tuesday, Sarah Huckabee Sanders offered this explanation:

According to Sanders, the FBI had sent its various reports to the White House Security Personnel Office, an obscure office staffed by career personnel, not by Trump appointees. For background, see this report.

According to Sanders, that office was still conducting its investigation when the Daily Mail ran its recent report about Porter's apparent misconduct. The FBI's reports hadn't reached major players like McGahn and Kelly.

Were these claims by Sanders actually accurate? Rather than try to find out, cable news and major newspapers blew right past her claims. No one asked the staffers in the White House Security Personnel Office if her claims were accurate. No one asked the FBI where they sent their reports.

No one did this basic reporting. On cable news, our favorites simply began shouting "Lies."

This morning, the Post published a rather lengthy report about this very matter. But how weird! Reporters Gearan and Wagner interviewed all sorts of former officials from past administrations, seeking their views of the plausibility of Sanders' claims. But there is no sign—zero; none—that they attempted to speak to anyone who would have direct knowledge of what actually happened.

Specifically, there is no sign that Gearan and Wagner asked anyone in the actual White House Security Personnel Office about the accuracy of Sanders' claims. There is no sign that they have asked anyone at the FBI if Sanders' claims could be true.

To whom did the FBI deliver its reports? Did those people pass the information along to the major players who are getting trashed about Porter' retention—to Don McGahn or John Kelly?

The Post devotes 1243 words to this specific topic today. But there is no sign that Gearan and Wagner attempted to speak to anyone who would have direct knowledge of what actually occurred.

Watching our major news orgs perform creates an endless puzzle. This morning's lengthy report in the Post is as odd as reporting can be.

That said, we now advance, for the second time, one hypothesis about what might have happened. What makes us think that this isn't the way things went down?
Don McGahn told Donald J. Trump that Porter had apparently engaged in domestic violence. Trump said he didn't care.

"Go pound sand," Trump specifically said. Porter remained at the White House.
That isn't what Sanders has said, of course, but she only know what she's told. Is there any obvious reason to doubt that that could be what happened?

Is that why Porter stayed on the job? Like you, we have no way of knowing. But we've seen no one on cable news ponder this possibility. They're having big fun with Kelly/McGahn. Who cares what really occurred?

Who cares what really occurred? Based on this morning's peculiar report, not the Washington Post!