Maddow watch: Four days in May with a corporate clown!

TUESDAY, MAY 31, 2016

Cable star really bad at her job:
On Tuesday evening, May 24, Rachel Maddow decided to end her cable news show with a typical bit of snark.

Tribal snark is now a standard part of Maddow's cable program. In such segments, we liberal viewers get our time wasted in remarkably low-IQ ways. But the purity of our tribal identity gets reinforced and stoked.

Maddow's target in Tuesday's segment was New Mexico governor Susana Martinez. Donald J. Trump would be doing a campaign event in Albuquerque that night. But uh-oh! Martinez, who isn't a fan of Trump, had said she wouldn't attend.

For this offense, Martinez became a target of Maddow's snark in her short closing segment. Liberal brain cells were dying all over the country as Maddow closed with this fact-challenged dose of embarrassing tribal porridge:
MADDOW (5/24/16): Donald Trump's first campaign fund-raiser was tonight in Albuquerque. He's following that up with a rally in Albuquerque right now.

The Republican governor of New Mexico, Susana Martinez, is also the chair of the Republican Governors Association. But when Donald Trump said he'd be coming to town tonight, Governor Martinez said she would not attend—for one very simple reason.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Everybody, of course, wants to know if you will be attending Donald Trump's rally tomorrow.

MARTINEZ: No, I will not.

REPORTER: What's your reason? Tell us why.

MARTINEZ: You know, I'm really busy—

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: [LAUGHTER]

The chair of the Republican Governors Association [PAUSE TO ADOPT SNARKY TONE] is really busy. She'd previously said she would also be too busy to attend the Republican convention this summer, until someone reminded her that she has to go because [CHUCKLING] she's chair of the Republican Governors Association.

So she will have to go to Cleveland. But she does not have to come out of hiding while Donald Trump is in her town. Not yet at least.

That does it for us tonight. Now, it's time for The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell.
As Maddow's program came to an end, viewers saw her snarking about Martinez's dumbness and cowardice. Martinez had been too dumb to understand that she had to attend the Republican convention! And not only that! She was afraid to "come out of hiding while Donald Trump is in her town."

To watch this segment, click here.

This type of snark is now quite common on the Maddow program. Aside from the oddness of aiming all this snark at a politician who has often criticized Trump, what was wrong with this short segment?

Let us count the ways:

1) You'll note that Martinez's statement to that reporter was edited quite abruptly, cuing Maddow's snark. (In professional circles, this is now known as "the Maddow edit.") To see Martinez's fuller response, you can just click here.

2) According to Maddow, Martinez had previously said that she wouldn't be attending the Republican convention in Cleveland. Maddow treated this as a sign of Martinez's dumbness.

We find no clear evidence that Martinez ever made such a statement, although it's possible she did. The AP had reported, back on May 10, that Martinez would be attending the convention. (For the National Journal's May 11 report, click here.)

We find no convincing evidence that this reversed a previous stance. For tape of Martinez's statement on May 9, you can just click this.

3) There is no sign that Martinez decided to attend the convention because "someone reminded her that she has to go because she's chair of the Republican Governors Association." Maddow treated this as a marker of Martinez's amusing dumbness. The notion that someone had to remind Martinez of her position seems to have been invented by Maddow for entertainment purposes.

4) Martinez didn't seem to be "in hiding while Donald Trump is in her town." She made a direct, open statement that she wouldn't attend his event. Her previous complaints about Trump's behavior and statements would have been known to many New Mexico residents.

Maddow was snarking hard in this short segment, as she routinely does. As a special treat at the end of her low-IQ program, we got to chuckle at the dumbness and the cowardice of this Republican governor.

For viewers of the Maddow Show, this is a familiar type of low-IQ tribal fun. But uh-oh! That very same evening, Trump ridiculed Governor Martinez in much the same way Maddow had done!

According to our tribal verities, this meant that Martinez had become the victim of a racist and sexist attack! Embarrassingly, it also meant that Maddow had positioned herself in alignment with Candidate Trump!

Result? The very next night, Maddow opened her program with a segment about how wonderfully bright Martinez is! We'll review that pitiful clown show tomorrow, with last week's real problem to come.

Ever since MSNBC became "the place for politics," Maddow has become a consummate corporate clown. For the most part, we liberals don't seem to be able to see this.

Maddow's clowning about Martinez was simply dishonest and stupid. Her clowning became politically dangerous last week when it was aimed, in a menacing way, at a second governor.

That person was Governor Terry McAuliffe. Is anyone but Maddow dumb enough to trash him in the way she did on two separate programs last week?

Rachel Maddow is bad at her job. Over the next three days, we'll review "four days in May" as she snarked and clowned last week.

Tomorrow: The greatest flip of all


DILBERT KNOWS BEST: Says Donald J. Trump is going to win!

TUESDAY, MAY 31, 2016

Part 1—It's not necessarily wrong:
First, a bit of disclosure.

We've never read the Dilbert cartoon. Until yesterday, we didn't know the name of its creator.

Today, we do know that name—Scott Adams. We know it because of an on-line report in the Washington Post, which explains why Adams thinks that Donald J. Trump will win November's election.

Apparently, Adams thinks Trump is going to win by a large margin. In the passage shown below, the Post's Michael Cavna provides a basic outline of Adams' view.

Cavna's report appeared in March. It offers this overview:
CAVNA (5/30/16): ...Adams believes Donald Trump will win the presidency. In a landslide.

Adams, in other words, believes that Trump himself has turned the campaign game around.
On the stump, the real-estate mogul is not running on the knowledge of his numbers or the dissection of the data. He is running on our emotions, Adams says, and sly appeals to our own human irrationality. Since last August, in fact, when many were calling Trump’s entry a clown candidacy, the “Dilbert” cartoonist was already declaring The Donald a master in the powers of persuasion who would undoubtedly rise in the polls. And last week, Adams began blogging about how Trump can rhetorically dismantle Clinton’s candidacy next.

Adams, mind you, is not endorsing Trump or supporting his politics...And he is not saying that Trump would be the best president. What the Bay Area-based cartoonist recognizes, he says, is the careful art behind Trump’s rhetorical techniques. And The Donald, he says, is playing his competitors like a fiddle—before beating them like a drum.

Most simply put: Adams believes Trump will win because he’s “a master persuader.”
Has Donald J. Trump "turned the game around" in the manner of "a master persuader?"

In many ways, he has. That doesn't mean that he will "win in a landslide" this fall. We'll be surprised if he does. He may not win at all.

Still, Trump has "turned the game around" in certain dangerous ways. In our view, it's important to note a related fact:

In doing this, Trump has been playing on some of the ways the mainstream press corps had already "turned the game around" over the past thirty years.

Has the mainstream press "turned the game around" over the past thirty years? For the most part, liberals haven't been allowed to read, hear or think about this important question.

As part of an obvious code of silence, the tribal leaders we liberals trust have refused to discuss this topic. They've disappeared the basic facts which show how this game has been played.

Their names are Drum and Chait—and also Maddow, Hayes and Blow. They have refused to discuss the behavior of their upper-end press corps colleagues over the past thirty years.

Drum, Chait, Maddow, Hayes and Blow are viewed as trustworthy liberals, but they're also engaged in a long-running code of silence. For these reasons, the typical liberal knows very little about the way the mainstream press had already "turned the game around" before the arrival of Trump.

We recommend Cavna's report. He lists six things "Candidate Trump is doing to win campaign hearts and minds, according to Scott Adams."

All six points are worth considering. The press was involved in all these behaviors before Candidate Trump came along.

Who will win November's election? We have no idea. That said:

In the next few days, we'll review the points Cavna makes in his Adams Report. We'll visit the logic of Superman comic books and "reality TV" shows. We'll ponder the 1962 film, The Manchurian Candidate.

In that famous and fascinating film, "poor, poor Raymond" Shaw has been successfully brainwashed. That film was fiction, of course.

In the real world where we actually live, distant cousins to "brainwashing" actually do affect hearts and minds and voters' basic perceptions. Over the past thirty years, distant cousins to such techniques have in fact taken wide hold in the silly, gong-show-based world of the "mainstream press corps."

Increasingly, our political discourse has become "narrative all the way down." In his efforts since last June, Candidate Trump has been surfing behind that undiscussed, brain-damaged culture.

Will "Crooked Hillary" go down to defeat this fall? Yes, that really could happen. The silence of the career liberal lambs has helped create the comic book world in which Donald J. Trump's comic book pitch actually could take hold.

Tomorrow: "Willing to do and say anything"


Model and actress watch: The old sex scandals of Columnist Blow!

MONDAY, MAY 30, 2016

For whom the gong show tolls:
We weren't planning to post today. Then, we read Charles Blow.

Headline included, his column starts as shown below. On display is a twenty-year breakdown on the part of the people we still regard as our journalists:
BLOW (5/30/16): The Ghosts of Old Sex Scandals

We are now being forced to relive the decades-old sex scandals of Bill Clinton,
as Donald Trump tries desperately to shield and inoculate himself from well-earned charges of misogyny.

I say, if we must go there, let’s go all the way. Let’s do this dirty laundry, as Kelly Rowland, former Destiny’s Child, once crooned.

First, multiple women have accused Clinton of things ranging from sexual misconduct to rape. Paula Jones famously brought a sexual harassment case against Clinton. The case was dismissed, but on appeal, faced with the prospect of having to testify under oath, Clinton settled the case out of court.

Clinton has maintained that he had inappropriate sexual relationships with only two women: Gennifer Flowers, a model and actress, and Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern.

Clinton was impeached on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice in connection with his affair with Lewinsky.

Let’s just say this: Clinton was as wrong as the day is long for his affairs. There is no way around that.

But the problem was that many of the men condemning the beam in Clinton’s eye were then shown to have one in their own.
Other problems occur later on in this piece, as we'll note below. But good lord. Where to begin?

For starters, Blow says that Bill Clinton has been accused of rape, "but the problem was that many of the men condemning the beam in Clinton’s eye were then shown to have one in their own."

That is just a very, very dumb approach and construction. Once you say that someone has been accused of rape, you probably need to say something more about the strength and status of the charge, which extends beyond the claim of having "a beam in his eye."

We offer that as a basic point. Let's move ahead to Blow's account of Bill Clinton's alleged confessions.

Sex addicts, please! Eighteen years later, Bill Clinton has not said that he had a sexual "relationship" or "affair" with Gennifer Flowers, at least not in any normal sense of those terms.

In the testimony to which Blow is referring, Bill Clinton wasn't asked if he had a sexual relationship or affair with Flowers. Eighteen years later, Blow still doesn't seem to know this.

Meanwhile, was Flowers a "model and actress?"

It certainly makes the story that much more exciting! But in 1992, when Flowers published her error-laden claims about Clinton in the tabloid paper The Star, she was a $17,000 per year Arkansas state employee. Before that, she had been a local Little Rock TV reporter during some of the time covered in her error-laden string of charges, for which she testified to having been paid $500,000.

Blow's description is suitably thrilling. We'd also say it's misleading, in the way these journalistic claims have been all along.

That said, let's give Blow some credit. Though he refers to Monica Lewinsky as "a White House intern," he doesn't call her a "21-year-old intern," the erroneous description which dominated press corps accounts during the thrilling year of impeachment.

Addicts, can we talk? Bill Clinton did acknowledge having a relationship/affair with Lewinsky. The relationship lasted several years. During the bulk of that time, Lewinsky she was a 23-24 year old federal employee.

(Lewinsky was already 22—almost 22-and-a-half!—when she first encountered Clinton. Technically, she was still in her last few weeks as an intern, but she had already accepted a full-time job as a White House employee. People like Blow kept calling her a "21-year-old intern" because the erroneous claim about her age made the story more exciting. So does Blow's exciting claim today about that "model and actress." Also, Kelly Rowland! This is exciting stuff!)

Do any of these points actually matter? It's pretty much as you like it. People like Blow will continue to tell these stories in the ways they remember or like to imagine them. Blow's more consequential blundering comes near the end of his piece.

Blow spends the bulk of his piece telling readers that many of Bill Clinton's Republican accusers had "relationships" and "affairs" too. That's interesting, but it doesn't speak to the aggressive claims Candidate Trump and his willing mouthpieces now making about Hillary Clinton, the person who's actually running for president in this particular year.

Blow seems to know what Trump is saying, but he seems to have trouble staying on point. Here's how his sexy-time column ends:
BLOW: Last week, when the Trump lawyer Michael Cohen was confronted on CNN with Trump’s defenses of Clinton during the sex scandals, Cohen responded that at the time Trump was simply trying to “protect a friend.” And yet, this is the same camp lambasting Hillary Clinton as an “enabler” for trying to protect a husband?

It’s all incredibly distasteful, yes, but it also doesn’t jibe. And, aside from the unshakable feeling that there is something tragically off about using a husband’s philandering as a weapon against a betrayed wife, I also doubt the public will have much stomach for these stories, just as it didn’t in the 1990s.

Dirty laundry, done.
Blow seems to know that Candidate Trump and his willing mouthpieces are making a set of rather nasty charges against Hillary Clinton (see his use of the term "enabler"). He also quickly wanders off point. See his instant fuzzy claim that Trump is "using a husband’s philandering as a weapon against a betrayed wife."

As you may know, Trump and them are aggressively claiming that Hillary Clinton behaved in nasty and threatening ways toward Bill Clinton's accusers. Not long ago, we noted the sheer absurdity of one of these claims—the claim that Hillary Clinton savaged Lewinsky. The claim that she threatened Juanita Broaddrick is several times stupider still.

That said, players like Blow will never be bright enough to explain such facts to the public, or to help the pubic see what these facts tells us about the way our discourse has worked for the past several decades. They've run gong-shows throughout the era. Their gong-shows aren't likely to stop.

At present, there are two key parts to this story. Don't expect people like Blow to notice:

First: the specific charges against Hillary Clinton are well beyond moronic. People like Blow will never be able to tell the public this.

Second, and very important: several of the Clinton sex accusers lack almost all credibility. Flowers is one such person.

Good God! By 1999, she was running a money-making web site devoted to pimping the Clinton's many murders. That August, she went on Hardball, then on Hannity & Colmes, to pimp these ridiculous tales at 30-minute length, then for the full hour.

People like Blow never reported that remarkable fact! It wasn't mentioned in real time, not once. It hasn't been mentioned since.

Why did Blow's colleagues avert their gaze from Flowers' appalling, crackpot behavior? Duh. By 1999, Flowers was one of their treasured accusers. People like Blow just kept propping her up.

Today, Blow calls her a model and actress and says she did have an affair with Bill Clinton. As this hapless fellow sells us these claims, you are possibly able to see for whom the gong still tolls.

It's a simple but counterintuitive fact. On the simplest levels of intellect and character, the people we still regard as journalists are remarkably wanting.

Kevin Drum and Jonathan Chait will never be willing to tell you that. Within the guild which feeds and clothes them, it simply isn't done.

Tomorrow, we'll be starting a multi-week series in which we explore an array of such facts. We're still in the midst of a decades-old gong show. Come November, we may be surprised to learn for whom the gong has tolled.

Starting tomorrow: Don't ask, don't tell, don't inform, don't inquire

Chait speech: Education reform, plus the rise of Trump!

SATURDAY, MAY 28, 2016

Our own liberal kindergarten:
We liberals are skilled at noting the intellectual povery which exists Over There, in the other tribe.

We're less skilled at noting our own tribe's intellectual poverty. Consider two recent examples from the work of Jonathan Chait, who votes the way liberals do.

One example concerns "education reform;" in this post, Chait adopts a contrarian view. The other example concerns the way "Republican politics and conservative thought" evolved during the Clinton/Gore years. It constitutes a perfect pander to the liberal world's tribal outlook.

Each piece by Chait is written on the kindergarten level. It's stunning to think that we liberals accept such work. But quite routinely, we do.

Let's start with education reform. In this recent New York Magazine post, Chait hails Michelle Rhee' for her successful tenure as chancellor of the DC Public Schools.

He works from a silly, underfed study from the conservative-leaning Urban Institute. The study examines the growth in average NAEP scores in the DC Public Schools from 2005 to 2013, as compared to the amount of growth predicted by a demographic analysis—a demographic analysis which goes unexplained by the Urban Institute and unexplored by Chait.

We'll focus on Grade 8 math. According to the study which Chait affirms, DC's changing demographics would have predicted a four-point gain in Grade 8 math scores during that eight-year period. But good lord!

Under Rhee, the DCPS actually recorded a 17-point gain in average scores! Chait uncritically accepts the idea that this much larger gain shows that Rhee's reforms were effective.

Truly, this is sad. Chait accepts the Urban Institute's unexplained demographic projection without even batting an eye. Incomparably, we decided to do something which made a bit more sense:

We decided to compare DC's score gains during that period to those recorded in other big cities. Our decision to run this simple check required almost no IQ points.

Duh. As everyone knows except New York Times readers, NAEP scores were rising all over the country during the years in question. To simplify the demographic confusion, we looked at how DC's black kids did during that period, as compared to their peers in other cities.

In what you see below, we're including every city school system which took part in the NAEP in 2005 and 2013. As you can probably see, the score gain in DCPS was remarkably average:
Growth in average scores, Grade 8 math
2005-2013, NAEP, black students only

Atlanta 19.78
Los Angeles 16.72
Boston 15.17
Chicago 14.29
Houston 13.23
DCPS 11.48
Charlotte: 7.83
San Diego: 7.39
New York City 5.82
Cleveland: 5.34
Austin 4.85
For all NAEP data, start here.

Duh. The score gains achieved under Rhee suddenly seem less amazing. That said, we decided to examine this question from a second perspective. We decided to ask a different question:

How well did DC's eighth-graders score in math in 2013, at the end of Rhee's reign?

In theory, it's easier to produce large score gains if you're starting from a very low point. DCPS was low-scoring, even compared to other big cities, when Rhee's tenure began.

Below, you see how matters stood by the time she left.

We include a wide range of the city systems taking part in the NAEP as of 2013. By a very rough rule of thumb, ten points on the NAEP scale is often compared to one academic year:
Average scores, Grade 8 math
2013 NAEP, black students only

Charlotte 271.41
Boston 270.97
Houston 270.70
Austin 267.51
Dallas 262.67
New York City 262.59
Atlanta 260.58
San Diego 260.34
Miami 259.41
Chicago 259.12
Philadelphia 257.59
Baltimore 257.22
Los Angeles 255.84
DCPS 252.65
Cleveland 249.39
Milwaukee 247.23
Detroit 239.01
If we might borrow from our cummings: How do you like your bright-eyed chancellor now, Mister Professional Journalist?

Please understand. We don't offer these data to assess Rhee's work in DC. We do so to assess Chait's work as a major journalist.

Judged by normal intellectual standards, Chait's post about Rhee's tenure was a piece of silly true belief straight outta kindergarten. And yet, he has been a leading liberal journalist for a good many years!

Can we talk? Like the evil conservative tribe, our own glorious liberal tribe just isn't especially sharp. Consider Chait's recent post about the rise of Trump, which fits more comfortably within our typical liberal narratives.

Below, you see the start of Chait's post, headline included. It's hard to believe that Chait wrote the highlighted passage in good faith:
CHAIT (5/16/16) How Trump Has Revived the Republican Cult of Manliness

About a week ago, Donald Trump managed to say something noteworthy even by Trumpian standards, and unusually revealing. “All of the men, we’re petrified to speak to women anymore, we may raise our voice — you know what, the women get it better than we do, folks, they get it better than we do.” This was remarkable not only in its ignorance of well-established inequalities between male and female pay and household burdens, among other things, but also in Trump’s bizarre political thought process. Trump had casually reverted to discussing men and women as “we” and “they,” as though he were addressing a men’s-rights rally rather than competing for an electorate in which women will compose some 53 percent. “Us versus them” is a standard trope for demagogues, but demagogues usually grasp that the “them” is supposed to be an unpopular subgroup, not a constituency that will cast a majority of the ballots.

It is easy to forget now how crucial a role traditional gender norms have played in Republican politics and conservative thought. Bill Clinton’s infidelity made him slick, weak, unmanful. (A famous 2000 Peggy Noonan column contrasted Clinton’s decision to send young Elian Gonzalez back to Cuba with the heroism of Ronald Reagan, who, she resoundingly concluded, “was a man.”) For Bush-era Republicans, manliness was an essential trait in public life. Republicans mocked Al Gore as a girlie-man who loved earth tones, and John Edwards who “looked like the Breck Girl.” National Review editor Rich Lowry decried what he called a liberal “war on masculinity,” prompting Al Franken to challenge him to a fistfight. (Lowry declined.)
We liberals have been trained to love presentations like the one in the highlighted passage.

That said, that highlighted passage is straight outta kindergarten too. It's very, very hard to believe that Jonathan Chait didn't know that when he was typing it up.

Careerist music man, please! Did Republicans "mock Al Gore as a girlie-man who loved earth tones?" We suppose they did, to some extent. But that isn't where the punishing script began, and that was a decidedly minor part of this punishing story.

Music man, please! The idea that Candidate Gore was "a girlie-man who loved earth tones" came from the mainstream press corps! It came from Time magazine and the Washington Post, and then from the New York Times.

Starting on October 31, 1999, these punishing insults were invented and pimped by the mainstream press corps! Republicans merely followed along, in a decidedly second-hand effort.

We find it very hard to believe that Jonathan Chait doesn't know that. It's impossible to believe that he wrote this in good faith:

"Republicans mocked...John Edwards who 'looked like the Breck Girl.' "

Republicans did that? Actually no—that was straight-up Maureen Dowd! At the time, it was one of Dowd's favorite insults. It takes a village idiot to think that Jonathan Chait doesn't know that.

(Dowd also played a leading role in the invention of the several scripts according to which Candidate Gore was "a girlie-man who loved earth tones." By the way, why would this alleged love of earth tones make Gore a girlie-man? Because, according to the mainstream press corps' script, Naomi Wolf had instructed Gore to wear earth tones, and to behave like an alpha male. There was no evidence that any of these claims were true, but all good mainstream pundits stood in line to recite them. Al Gore hired a woman to teach him to be a man! These nasty, misogynist scripts came from the Washington Post and the New York Times, not from the Republican Party. We find it very hard to believe that Chait doesn't understand this.)

Al Gore hired a woman to teach him to be a man? John Edwards was the Breck Girl? These were mainstream press corps jibes; they didn't come from the Republican Party. It's hard to believe that Chait doesn't know this. Why then did he write what he did?

We'll take a good solid guess:

As with Kevin Drum, so too with Chait. They give us the story we liberals enjoy. More significantly, they give us the story which can't harm their precious careers.

As we've told you for many years, mainstream career liberal writers do not discuss the behavior and conduct of the Washington Post and the New York Times. They certainly don't discuss the gong-show behavior of vintage music men and women like Matthews, Maddow and Dowd.

Despite their endless dissembling, we liberals seem to love the false and misleading stories these career journalists tell. We gulp them down the same way conservatives swallow the tales which come from Sean and Rush.

Unfortunately, these stories keep us liberals barefoot and clueless. But even as we gulp them down, we love to say how dumb and gullible they are in the other tribe.

Years ago, we discussed Chait's account of the role of the New York Times in the coverage of Campaign 2000. His account appeared in his 2007 book, The Big Con. It may have been the most ridiculous account of any topic we have ever seen.

Presumably, Chait was being less than obsessively truthful when he wrote that ridiculous part of his book (chapters 5 and 6). In the process, he was making us liberals much dumber—much less aware of the way the world has actually worked over the past thirty years.

These music men will never stop handing us the bowdlerized tales which erase the work of the upper-end press. As our part of the tribal bargain, we liberals keep truly believing the bogus tales we're told.

Still coming: Maddow goes after McAuliffe two times. Has anyone ever been dumber than this nutty music man?