Cable host reports mystery solved!

FRIDAY, MAY 26, 2017

News orgs succumbed to "Telephone," cable host declares:
It started with this dramatic tease midway through last night's program:
MADDOW (5/25/17): On top of that, though, there is one mystery about James Comey's firing and the question of whether or not that was the president trying to obstruct justice in the Trump-Russia investigation.

There's one piece of that that we think we've solved tonight. We've got that exclusive, next, right after this break.
The Maddow Show had solved a mystery concerning James Comey's firing! Maddow was going to have that exclusive right after the break!

After a commercial break, Maddow began an interminable, 15-minute segment with this nugget statement:
MADDOW: So we've got some new information in the Trump-Russia investigation. It is not a blockbuster revelation, but I think it's important and clarifying. It's about a key part of the behavior of the Trump administration with regard to the FBI since Trump has been in office. So, not during the campaign, but since the inauguration.

And I think what is widely believed to have happened, what is widely believed to have—actually, widely reported to have happened at this key point in time—what we think we know about it I think is wrong. And I think we can correct that record tonight.

So just settle in for a second and follow this through with me.
In fact, we would have to settle in for almost fifteen minutes. But if we just settled in in for those many minutes, Maddow was going to correct the record on something which had been widely reported!

The analysts were catatonic by the time she was done.

We've just been informed that this is a holiday weekend, so we're going to wait until tomorrow to lay the whole thing out. But Maddow went on to tell the world that, based upon her program's reporting, she now believes that James B. Comey did not request more resources for the Russia probe shortly before he was fired.

Based upon her staff's reporting, she now believes that congressional sources engaged in a game of "Telephone," which ended up with people making misstatements about what Comey had actually done.

You're right! We specifically warned you about this possibility in real time. We didn't have to do any "reporting." We simply read the Washington Post and the New York Times, noting the weakness of their sourcing on the morning of May 11, the morning when this exciting report produced a banner headline across the front page of the Post.

(The exciting report topped the Times' front page too. Over the subsequent two days, it seemed to us that the Washington Post was walking its banner claim back.)

We discussed this report in detail, warning you that this is the sort of thing which happens when a chase is on. Last night, Maddow spent fifteen minutes telling us that her staff's reporting had broken this case wide open.

She forgot to say that she herself was one of the people who had "widely reported" the claim she now believes to have been mistaken. She did that because she chose to report this pleasing claim on Wednesday night, May 10, about ten minutes after it hit the web.

That's what happen when people rush, at times when a chase is on, to feed us the stories we'll like.

Wednesday evening, May 10! That was also the night when Maddow spent twenty minutes telling us that Andrew McCabe had "joined the Trump disinformation campaign" last February. Where did she get that explosive report, which she has never mentioned again? For unknown and unreported reasons, Maddow was accepting the word of Reince Priebus for this otherwise unsupported but highly dramatic claim.

Just for the record, Maddow produced no particular new "reporting" during last night's segment. She merely said that her staff had received a new statement from the Justice Department, in which the spokesperson we cited two weeks ago vehemently denied the claim in question again.

The analysts were catatonic by the time Maddow finished last night. Tomorrow, we'll show you the text of what she eventually said, after roughly ten minutes of laborious, trademark time-wasting.

For now, you can observe an instance of high pomposity in the service to strange ascot-covering! To do so, just click here. You'll be observing the sort of thing which happens when the press is conducting a chase.

"EXCLUSIVE: NEW REPORTING ON CIRCUMSTANCES OF FBI DIRECTOR'S FIRING"

Somewhat comically, that's what the signage behind the cable host said.

FLYNN FACTS: What the heck is a foreign agent?

FRIDAY, MAY 26, 2017

Part 4—Exploring a scary term:
Today, let's start with a basic premise:

Crazy people get to be overpaid lobbyists too.

Crazy people get overpaid by firms right here in the United States. That doesn't mean that they're "on the United States government payroll," even if the work they're doing supports the policies of a sitting president.

Crazy people can also be overpaid by firms based in foreign lands. That doesn't mean that they're on some foreign government's payroll although, at exciting times like these, it can be fun to say so.

The "crazy" person of whom we speak is Michael Flynn. Last year, he was overpaid for three months by Inovo BV, a Dutch-based firm operated by Ekim Alptekin, whoever he may actually be.

In this morning's editions, the Washington Post again asserts that Alptekin is "a Turkish American businessman close to top Turkish officials." For whatever it may be worth, that would mean that Alkptekin is an American citizen, though we have no idea if the Post knows what it's talking about.

At times like these, when a chase is on, our newspapers sometimes don't bother.

In President Lincoln's time, we were "engaged in a great civil war." Today, in the reign of President Trump, we are engaged in a newspaper war, and in a very large chase.

Increasingly, our daily newspapers are being scripted by unnamed figures who are, in fact, breaking the law through their carefully parceled, often quite murky disclosures.

This may or may not be a good thing. But at times like these, your newspapers will often serve you novelized tales rather than hard information. In all honesty, these tales are designed to further the chase, not to inform the public.

Michael Flynn, who seems to be crazy, is the object of one such chase. Perhaps for that reason, we're now being exposed to various "Flynn facts"—inaccurate or misleading claims which further the corps' preferred novels.

One such claims was voiced Wednesday night as Brian took a drink. Millions of people heard the New York Times' Glenn Thrush say that Flynn "was on the Turkish payroll" during his lobbying days.

As far as we know, no one has ever produced any evidence in support of that imprecise claim. The claim does support the current novel, in which the apparently crazy Flynn is the object of a chase.

At times like these, exciting claims of that type sell newspapers and attract eyeballs. They don't produce a well-informed public. We can't have it all, it would seem.

Was Michael Flynn "on the Turkish payroll" during his overpaid days? We know of exactly zero evidence in support of that exciting claim.

Today, though, we stand to examine another claim—a thrilling claim which is plainly "technically accurate." We stand to examine the claim that Flynn worked as a "foreign agent" during his overpaid days—a thrilling claim which is technically accurate and also the source of much mischief.

The apparently crazy Michael Flynn worked as a foreign agent! This thrilling claim, which is technically accurate, has spawned other thrilling claims in the past few months.

On Wednesday night, it spawned the apparently inaccurate claim that he was "on the payroll of Turkey." Just last week, it spawned the claim, in a New York Times news report, that he "secretly work[ed] as a paid lobbyist for Turkey during the campaign."

Flynn was a "secret agent man!" To enjoy Johnny Rivers' 1966 hit of that name, you can just click here.

Today, let's explore that exciting "Flynn fact." Did the apparently crazy Flynn work as a foreign agent?

Technically, yes, he did. We know that because, on Tuesday, March 7, Flynn belatedly registered as a "foreign agent" under terms of the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Needless to say, this produced a ton of excitement. As of this past week, that excitement had us hearing that Flynn was "on the payroll of Turkey" and had "secretly work[ed] as a paid lobbyist for Turkey," which sounds like much the same thing.

The apparently crazy Flynn worked as a foreign agent! The claim can be said to be technically accurate. For today, let's try to get a bit more clear on what this "Flynn fact" means.

For unknown reasons, the Washington Post and the New York Times didn't report Flynn's registration until Saturday morning, March 11. At the Post, Ashley Parker's front-page report started like this:
PARKER (3/11/17): Attorneys for Michael Flynn, President Trump's former national security adviser, informed the incoming White House legal counsel during the transition that Flynn might need to register with the government as a foreign agent—a phone call that raised no alarms within Trump's team, despite the unusual circumstance of having a top national security post filled by someone whose work may have benefited a foreign government.

The firm Flynn headed, Flynn Intel Group, was hired last year during the presidential race when Flynn was an adviser to the Trump campaign by the Netherlands-based firm Inovo BV,
which is owned by Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin. Alptekin has close ties to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Although the contract ended after the election, new details about the work Flynn did for Inovo resurrect the controversy over his short tenure as Trump's top national security aide.

The national security adviser is supposed to be an honest broker within the executive branch, pulling together military and diplomatic options for the president so he can decide what policy to pursue. But Flynn's work potentially benefiting Turkey meant he was representing the interests of a country other than the United States at the same time he was advising Trump on foreign policy during the election.
As is often the case with Parker's work, we're already in the conceptual weeds. Consider:

Parker notes that Flynn was hired by a "Netherlands-based firm," not by the Turkish government. (At the time, the firm's owner was said to be Turkish, not Turkish American, as he's described in this morning's Post.)

Parker says that Flynn's work "may have benefited a foreign government," not that it was done on behalf of a foreign government. She says Flynn's work "potentially benefit[ed] Turkey," not that it did benefit Turkey and not that it was done at the direction of Turkey.

But uh-oh! In the same breath, Parker says that Flynn "was representing the interests of a country other than the United States" through his overpaid lobbyist work. That makes it sound like the apparently crazy Trump adviser was working for the Turkish government, or something very much like that.

Already, we were in the weeds; Parker tends to be like this. As time goes on in a matter like this, you'd almost think that major journalists would try to bring more clarity to the discussion.

Pollyanna, please! That isn't the way our "journalism" works when a chase is on.

Parker's basic formulations here were rather muddy. Before long, she added this:
PARKER: On Tuesday, Flynn filed paperwork with the Justice Department identifying himself as a foreign agent who was paid last year to do work that could benefit the Turkish government.
Flynn had been paid to do work "that could benefit the Turkish government?" Do you understand what that means? Frankly, we do not.

Parker tends to be like this. Soon, though, she authored some surprising remarks—remarks which have gone down the memory hole as the chase has continued.

Hay-yo! Parker discussed the law under terms of which Flynn had registered as a "foreign agent." Breaking every rule in the book, she introduced a bit of nuance, even the hint of information:
PARKER: Dan Pickard, a partner at Wiley Rein and an expert in the Foreign Agents Registration Act, under which Flynn registered, said it is unusual but not unheard of for a senior campaign official to also be registered as an agent of a foreign government.

"I've been aware of people who are registered under FARA being involved at relatively senior levels of a campaign,
but in my experience that's more the exception than the rule,'' said Pickard, adding that the legal burden of complying with FARA "is relatively modest.''

FARA was passed in the run-up to World War II as a means of making pro-Germany activists acknowledge whether they were receiving financial support from that country.

For some in Washington, the political appearance of being a paid agent of a foreign government can be more problematic than the actual legal issues, according to others well versed in the law.
Is Parker allowed to do that? She quoted an expert who said it's "not unheard of for a senior campaign official to also be registered as an agent of a foreign government."

It's "more the exception than the rule," the expert unremarkably said. But he's been aware of this in the past!

The expert's comments made this matter sound a bit less nefarious. Meanwhile, though, did you notice what happened there?

In that passage, it suddenly sounds like Flynn has "registered as an agent of a foreign government." But when did Parker ever show that Flynn had done that?

This jumbled work is very typical of our floundering "press corps." For today, let's try to get clear on what a "foreign agent" actually is under terms of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, hereafter known as FARA.

We aren't experts about that act, but we do have access to Google. For that reason, we were able to visit FARA's web site, where we were able to peruse the act's basic provisions.

The basic fact you should know is this. If a person registers as a foreign agent under terms of the FARA, he is not necessarily declaring that he worked for a foreign government. The FARA site starts like this:
FARA SITE: The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) was enacted in 1938. FARA is a disclosure statute that requires persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, receipts and disbursements in support of those activities. Disclosure of the required information facilitates evaluation by the government and the American people of the statements and activities of such persons in light of their function as foreign agents.
You see a reference to "foreign principals," not to foreign governments. But doesn't that mean "foreign governments?"

We're sorry, but no, it doesn't. Here's an official Q-and-A from the FARA site:
ARE FOREIGN GOVERNMENTS THE ONLY FOREIGN PRINCIPALS?

No.
The term also includes foreign political parties, a person or organization outside the United States, except U.S. citizens, and any entity organized under the laws of a foreign country or having its principal place of business in a foreign country.
In registering as a "foreign agent," the apparently crazy Flynn wasn't saying that he'd worked for a foreign government. Unless you're exempt under certain provisions, you have to register if you worked for a wide array of foreign entities or persons.

Back in the fall of 2016, Flynn had registered as a lobbyist under terms of the Lobbying Disclosure Act. It seems that he and his lawyers were later convinced that they had to register under the stricter terms of the FARA. Belatedly, they did so on March 7.

At that time, Flynn's lawyer made several murky statements about the technical reasons requiring this registration. One such statement has been quoted at various times, but no one has actually tried to explain the legalities of this matter. Things like that simply aren't done when a chase is on. As Journalists Ken and Barbie once said, "Explanation is hard."

We're making a small tiny point here. In registering as a "foreign agent" under terms of the FARA, Flynn wasn't saying that he had worked "on the payroll of Turkey."

On the other hand, he had associated himself with a wonderfully scary term. As Parker had murkily seemed to say, this can create "the political appearance of being a paid agent of a foreign government." And indeed: at times like this, when a chase is on, the actors who are cast as our "press corps" will have a grand old time with that term. Everyone will gain from this, except the American public.

Several times, we've mentioned the fact that Flynn is apparently crazy, with lots of semi-crazy ideas. We've done so for a reason.

At times like these, the haplessness of our liberal world tends to get exposed. In a wide array of contexts, we don't explore the crazy ideas of our political opponents.

Instead, we look for ways to say that our opponents have committed crimes. Either that, or we run to the courts, begging them to give us the wins we can't achieve on the ground.

In the case of Flynn, the press corps got busy embellishing the facts involved in his registration. "Foreign agent" sounds especially scary, so the phrase gets repeated a lot. The clowns you see on cable TV were soon repeating inaccurate claims, including the wonderful claim that Flynn was "on the Turkish payroll."

At times like this, few attempts are made to develop real facts. Instead, we're handed pleasing partisan novels.

We liberals have little skill at winning political debates. Rather than confront this problem, we tend to pray that The Others will get into legal trouble.

We're thrilled when a GOP candidate body-slams a reporter; it might let us win a campaign! We exult when the criminal figures behind the screen instruct our hapless newspapers to print the claim that Jared Kushner is now a "person of interest." However murky this claim may be, it lets us suggest that he is involved in crimes.

We love love love love love that stuff! We love it because we're lazy and dumb and are thereby born to lose.

To what extent are we inclined to play it this way? Consider:

Yesterday, two "stories" emerged about Kushner.

In an investigation for the New York Times Magazine and ProPublica, Alec MacGillis presented horrific facts about Kushner's life as a giant slumlord. Also, shadowy figures behind a screen directed our newspapers to print a fuzzy claim about an investigation in which Kushner is now said to be a "person of interest."

In the latter case, those shadowy figures were coming close to conducting a smear of Kushner. In the former case, dogged reporting showed that Kushner had engaged in widespread reprehensible conduct.

Which of these topics was being bruited all over "cable news" last night? Dearest darlings, please!

With compliments to the Times editorial board, did you have to ask?

Drum suggests Homer was right all along!

THURSDAY, MAY 25, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comey the God had little choice!

THURSDAY, MAY 25, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

[...]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THURSDAY, MAY 25, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[...]

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

[...]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Case in point:

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

[...]

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

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

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

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

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

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

[...]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Flynn was on the Turkish payroll.

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

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

Tomorrow: What is a "foreign agent?"

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

WEDNESDAY, MAY 24, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

There was certainly nothing new there!

FLYNN FACTS: Who the heck is Ekim Alptekin?

WEDNESDAY, MAY 24, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who is Ekim Alptekin?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rather plainly, no one knows or cares!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We can tell you this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tomorrow: What is a foreign agent?