WHAT BAD POLITICS LOOKS LIKE: One more thing Rachel won’t explain!


Part 4—Our own Bizarro World:
Was the news report accurate?

Is it true? Did Governor Bentley, current top racist in the red states, actually close 31 driver’s license offices? More to the point, was this statement true?

“Nearly all of the offices were in predominantly black neighborhoods.”

Well actually, no! Unless we grant a generous allowance for the imprecision of several terms, that statement just isn’t accurate. But the statement appeared in a news report in The Hill, a leading Capitol Hill daily.

When we asked The Hill for a source for this claim, we learned the horrible truth. As it turned out, that statement was a lazy paraphrase of other misleading statements. The Hill provided no source to justify its statement—a statement which is grossly misleading and almost surely just wrong.

It’s true that the mustachio-twirling Bentley closed 31 satellite offices in response to a budget cut by the Alabama legislature. (Some of the offices had been open just one day a week.) But those offices were located in 30 counties—and many of those counties are much more heavily white than the state as a whole.

Below, you see the eight largest counties which lost a driver’s license office. (With the exception of Lauderdale County, each county lost its only such office.) As a basic frame of reference, Alabama was 67.0% white in the 2010 census:
The eight largest counties which lost an office
Lauderdale County: 92,709 (86.4% white)
Lawrence County: 34,339 (77.6% white)
Chambers County: 34,064 (58.8% white)
Franklin County: 31,704 (83.0% white)
Geneva County: 26,790 (86.3% white)
Cherokee County: 26,021 (92.7% white)
Winston County: 24,484 (97.3% white)
Bibb County: 22,597 (75.8% white)
Were “nearly all the offices” located “in predominantly black neighborhoods?”

That statement made a pleasing story even better. But The Hill was unable to justify the claim. Almost surely, it's wrong.

This fascinating episode has lasted several weeks. It has created a classic case study of a type of extremely bad journalism, in which false or misleading claims are produced in support of a pleasing story.

That bogus claim in The Hill was just one part of a large body of bogus reporting. In the course of this dissembling, we liberals have been shielded from knowing a wide set of basic facts.

Uh-oh! In comments to a recent Washington Post report, one reader began pushing back against our dissembling! In our view, that reader’s comments help us see why this sort of tribal clowning represents bad liberal politics.

Those comments—the commenter’s name is Ken Black—are part of a wider trend. But first, let’s note one last part of our own tribe’s dissembling. This brings us back to Rachel Maddow, who has dissembled her way through five separate segments about this topic on four different Maddow Show programs.

On October 2, Maddow aired her first report on this topic. As she finished, she made a statement which is basically flat-out false:

“Out of all God’s great green evolving earth, Alabama Republicans really did manage to pick this one spot, this center of African-American life in their state, in the Black Belt, as the place where they could really save some money by cutting all those offices where you get what you need to vote.” (our emphasis)

Check that list of the eight largest counties to see how bogus that statement is. On Maddow’s show, this was the start of the process by which liberal viewers were misled, misinformed and dumbed way down concerning the facts of this case.

Maddow’s second report aired on October 13. Please note the important information she decided to share about Governor Bentley. Then, please note a basic matter she didn’t attempt to explain:
MADDOW (10/13/15): Governor Bentley was already unpopular with members of his own Republican Party at home. In part, that is because Governor Bentley’s wife filed for divorce this year after fifty years of marriage. And the rumors about that sensitive matter have only recently left the headlines in that state. In the uproar over that issue, Governor Bentley faced calls for him to resign, faced calls for investigation into potentially inappropriate use of state troopers on the state plane.

This has not been a great year for Governor Robert Bentley in Alabama. It has not a great year for him with his own party. But the past two weeks have just been a disaster.

After the news broke about Mr. Bentley’s plan to close all the DMVs in all those Black Belt counties, he first tried to defend it.

He told reporters that closing all of those offices in mostly black counties had nothing to do with voting rights whatsoever. He tried to defend his decision.

But in the end, he could not defend his decision
—and today, Alabama press is reporting that those offices where you get that most common form of voter ID, those offices could reopen because now, Governor Bentley has decided to change course...
After she finished with Bentley’s divorce—the rumors lingered in the headlines!—Maddow reported that Bentley had “tried to defend” the office closings he had ordered “in all those Black Belt counties.”

According to Maddow, Bentley “told reporters that closing all of those offices in mostly black counties had nothing to do with voting rights...But in the end, he could not defend his decision,” she said.

Maddow said that Bentley had tried to defend his decision. She then forget to explain what sorts of things he had said in his own defense!

Why had Bentley and other officials said that the office closings wouldn’t affect voting rights? Maddow has never explained that Alabamians can still get a free photo ID for voting purposes in every Alabama county—a basic service which wasn’t affected by the office closings.

Beyond that, Maddow has never described the wider set of facts involved in the office closings. She has simply continued dissembling in the way shown above:

She keeps talking about office closings in Black Belt counties while failing to mention the office closings in larger, heavily white counties. Let’s put that another way:

She keeps forgetting to mention the basic facts Ken Black would note in his comments!

We’re sorry, fellow tribals! The office closings were not restricted to “this one spot, this center of African-American life in their state”—to “those Black Belt counties.” The office closings occurred in counties all over the state, affecting black and white Alabamians in a proportion which closely matches the population of the state as a whole.

In five full segments on this topic, Maddow has never explained those facts. It almost seems that she has tried to create a different impression!

Beyond that, Maddow keeps noting that Bentley tried to defend the motive behind his decision. But she keeps refusing to tell her viewers what the defense consists in!

In this way, liberal viewers are kept barefoot and deeply clueless. We’re pleased by the story our TV star tells—but we don’t know the basic facts.

We think there’s a special place in “cable news” Hell for corporate multimillionaires like the horrendous Maddow. By some bizarre mental process, such people feel they have the right to pick and choose the facts the rest of us rubes will know.

We’ve seen Sean Hannity play this game with conservative viewers for many years. When she isn’t clowning and wasting our time with pointless snark about Herman Cain, the horrible Maddow now plays this role in the lives of us liberal rubes!

This creates a new type of Bizarro World. All across the conservative world, voters are permitted to hear a fuller set of facts. But over here in our liberal cocoon, hustlers like Maddow now keep us under-informed!

Increasingly, the liberal world pays a political price for this kind of dissembling. That price was there for all to see when Ken Black began pushing back.

Alas! On October 17, the Washington Post’s Vanessa Williams did a blog post about Alabama. Before long, misinformed readers began leaving comments—clueless comments which reflected the line Maddow and others had pimped.

Liberal readers were full of bluster—and they were pitifully clueless. Ken Black had researched the facts!

Increasingly, this represents a very bad type of liberal politics. Tomorrow, we’ll tell you why—and we’ll show you what was said in those pitiful comments.

Tomorrow: Damaged by The Dumb


  1. IMHO false accusations of racism, sometimes now called "race baiting", are good for electing Democrats. Dem policies often help other constitutiencies at the expense of blacks. School vouchers are good for blacks but bad for teachers unions. Dems oppose them. Amnesty for illegal immigrants is good for illegal immigrants but bad for blacks. Dems support amnesty. High minimum wages are good for union workers but bad for blacks. They're especially bad for black youths just trying to enter the work force. Dems support high minimum wages.

    As long as Dems and their media enablers can convince blacks that Republicans are racists, then blacks will continue to elect Dems, even when Dem policies are harmful to blacks. Furthermore, liberal whites also consider imaginary Republican racism as a reason to vote Democratic.

    1. Shorter David in Cal: those blacks are too stupid to know that the Republican Party today is better for them.

  2. None of our misinformed fellow liberals even responded to Ken Black.

    1. I don't want to invest the time to do it, but you could make the same argument, with more validity, how the GOP somehow manages to push policies that do nothing but helping the wealthiest (e.g. abolish the estate tax) and somehow convince a lot of saps like D in C to support them

  3. "They're especially bad for black youths just trying to enter the work force."

    This would be true if there were any evidence to support a permanent loss of minimum wage jobs following an increase in the minimum wage.

    But since the evidence shows exactly the opposite, you once again wind up looking rather foolish, David.

  4. " . . . clueless comments which reflected the line Maddow and others had pimped."

    Would one of those "others" be Hillary Clinton? She seems to have "disappeared" from this post. Down the memory hole she goes!

    1. We liberals have been shielded from knowing a wide set of basic facts.

  5. According to Bernie Sanders, the real unemployment rate for black youth is 50%! So the recovery in minimum wage jobs alleged by Anon 4:10 hasn't been adequate for this group. What policies do you think would make employers more apt to hire a minority youth or less apt to do so?

    1. David logic: Black youth unemployment is high; ergo, the cause is minimum wage laws.

      Above my pay grade to think up a quick and easy solution to a problem that has been plaguing this nation for decades. But one way might would be more jobs that they can actually get to.

    2. Yes, if private businesses would start more operations in the inner city, that would help inner city youth get employed. Why would a business want to do that? Typically the inner city is uglier, has high crime and poor municipal services. Often, the government is corrupt. (My wife experienced this situation working at New Jersey Medical School in Newark.)

      Businesses might be more willing to take on these problems if ther were offsetting advantages. E.g, if they knew they could hire low-wage workers. But, if they have to pay a minimum on $15 an hour, they'd have every reason not to locate their operations in the inner city.

    3. This was tried in the 1970s.

    4. Can’t disagree more, whoever you are. To suggest that a higher minimum wage would result in even further reluctance for businesses to “take on these problems” (which they are already not doing), would discourage them from investing in the ghettos of America.

      “Yes, if private businesses would start more operations in the inner city, that would help inner city youth get employed. Why would a business want to do that?”

      Well, could be because “Typically the inner city is uglier, has high crime and poor municipal services. Often, the government is corrupt.”

      Indeed! Why would a business even try? But you leave out the inner- city entrepreneurs who are trying. Why can’t they succeed?

      Oh yeah, all that other shit you mentioned.

      Would they suffer from this? Perhaps in the short-run. But the corporate titans have the most to lose, and they’ll still be billionaires.

      Look: Raising the minimum wage is not going to hurt business. “Businesses” is clearly your main concern here, which ones is unclear. Not the people they, whoever they are, already, so valiantly attempt to employ.

      You look at this a Business problem, not a Human problem.
      McDonalds loves you!

    5. A business problem is a human problem, Kratius. Maybe you and I think businesses should start lots of inner city operations, because it's morally right and because they can afford the risk. But, in reality they're not doing that. We need to find ways that actually work to get more minority kids employed. I find it striking that Bernie Sanders recognizes the problem, but proposes an approach that would make the problem worse.

    6. David's well-though-through theory: if businesses could hire black teenagers at $3.00, they would do it out of the goodness of their hearts, even if the kids would just sit around doing nothing. Just what is that extra work they would be doing, anyway?

    7. David is going to cling to the myth of the disappearing minimum wage job because that's what the people who think for him tell him, that's what he wants to believe, and he lacks the intellectual curiosity to see that all the evidence is exactly the opposite.

      As Robert Reich explained, in a consumer-based economy, the job creators are the consumers. They are the ones that buy the services and products that other people, including the entreprenurial class, make. And without them, businesses go bust.

      When you increase the minimum wage, you are increasing the spending power of the people who are most likely to spend on the goods and services made by others, thus increasing demand for more people to produce those goods and services -- in other words, more jobs.

      And unfortunately, the problem of high unemployment among inner city youth is one that is enormous and defies solutions simple enough for Dave to wrap his mind around.

      So he is open only to the demagogues who offer the easiest answers for him to wrap his mind around without distorting his simplistic world view.

    8. The main beneficiary of those inner city job-creation programs aimed at stimulating businesses to employ youth were the businesses who received the incentives. It didn't help the kids. Enterprise zones and similar projects didn't work and were abused to benefit businesses. They were one of the first things Governor Brown abolished in CA when he took office. Beefing up education and directly funding youth programs works better. Educated workers are in more demand than uneducated ones. Consigning minority youth to drop out status in underpaid unskilled jobs, even at $15/hr, is wrong.

    9. David, I know this is a very late reply, but your response here is not how you framed your viewpoint, which depended upon the fact that a $15 minimum wage would further discourage businesses – they would be much more inclined to start businesses with a low-wage workforce in place.

      If I’m understanding you correctly, I find your view on this issue reprehensible. You’ve already pointed out, quite rightly I think, that businesses don’t want to go anywhere near the inner city. Of course they don’t, unless they’re payday lenders!

      The deeper issue is why “inner-cities” exists at all. Bottom line is, a higher minimum wage would do so much for those employed in those jobs. And not just in the “inner city.”


  6. Was there anything in this post that is new? Oh, the WaPo blog link with reference to comments.

    1. What could be newer than a comparsion of Rachel Maddow to Sean Hannity?

      I know. A comparison of Bob Somerby to Philip Francis Queeg.

    2. Ah, but Bob has proven once again, with geometric logic, that Rachel Maddow is a nincompoop, with a perfunctory slap on the wrist to Hillary before banishing her to the memory hole.

      You would think that by now, after seven years and many, many "Rachel Maddow is a nincompoop" posts that even Bob's most loyal fans would have gotten it by now, and would be yearing for Bob to move on to something else.

      But apparently, even they can't get enough of the sheer brilliance, and geometric logic, of yet another "Rachel Maddow is a nincompoop" screed.

    3. Rachel Maddow is not a nincompoop. She is a pimp. And she is like Sean Hannity.

      And speaking of Sean Hannity, Bob "Not a Journalist" Somerby does not have to cover Hannity becasue plenty of othe liberal sites do that for us.


    4. When you want something to change, you don't say it once and then shut up. You keep complaining until that change happens. We want Maddow gone -- as long as she is labeled a liberal and yet serves the plutocracy, she is taking space that could be occupied by a real journalist. Liberals deserve better than frauds pretending to serve their interests while feeding audiences propaganda designed to subvert our common causes. Maddow is a self-serving fraud. Somerby needs to keep saying that until her audience wises up.

    5. Ah yes! The old tactic of scouring the nation for the worst behavior of a small segment of a movement, then smear the entire movement with it.

      You know, once upon a time there was a Bob Somerby who once exposed the phoniness of such tacticts. I believe it was the time Bill O'Reilly, citing an editorial written by a sophomore in a high school newspaper, used that as evidence of how "liberal" teachers -- and they are all, "liberal" doncha know -- are poisoning the minds of the nation's youth from coast to coast.

      But today? He's got other bacon to fry, so to speak. He can't be bothered with pointing out how the hosts on the most-watched cable "news" network might be affecting the nation's discourse.

      He does that, and he might miss what Rachel Maddow might say next to give him two more weeks of material.

    6. "When you want something to change, you don't say it once and then shut up. You keep complaining until that change happens. We want Maddow gone."

      Gee, haven't seen that tactic since my four-year-old threw a temper tantrum because I wouldn't buy Fruit Loops.

  7. Is it true? Did anyone in this fascinating saga, which Bob Somerby began covering 11 days after it began but has now done so 10 times since, actually call Governor Bentley the top racist in the red states?

  8. No, Virginia! Say it ain't so! Rachel "keeps forgetting to mention the basic facts Ken Black would note in his comments!"

    This is the same tactic she employed when she refused to answer the question Bob Somerby put to her in 2008: Why was she paraphrased saying nice things about Chris Matthews?

    You pay a price for dissing Bob Somerby. But when you pimp facts like race hustler Maddow, as Ken Black himself might note in his own inimitable style

    "Really/ You are one ignorant b!tch."

  9. Bob has promised a post about comments for four full segments on this topic. Is all we are going to get is comments to the WaPo blog of Vanessa Williams? There were only sixteen of them, three by his new BFF Ken "You Ignorant B!tch" Black.

    Anyone want to guess which ones Bob cherry picks for his presentation if he finally get there?

    1. Bob was no doubt impressed that Ken looked up the population of select Alabama counties and posted them multiple times.

  10. This is what the comments are like when it is nothing but trolls talking to other trolls (or themselves).

    1. It could be all one troll. Hard to believe their more than one that twisted up.

    2. Look we all know the major media do not cover what really matters. But when Bob does, readers show they care.


  11. The NY Times Highlights of testimony are mostly excerpts of Republican accusations without her responses to them.

    1. Guess complaining about HuffPo was out of the question today.

    2. Clinton picked up bad habits working for Obama.


  12. Bob Somerby likes to present numbers. His presentation of cherry picked numbers in service to his narrative is his favorite way of misleading while convincing a very devoted group of followers of unknown number that our press corp is doing the same to its readers.

    Four times in this ten post series Somerby has presented a quote from Rachel Maddow. He does it again today in a post which is titled "One More Thing Rachel Won't Explain."

    "In five full segments on this topic, Maddow has never explained those facts." Somerby complains. Sadly. Alas! Gack! Somerby in all four presentations of that quote has never told you what words Maddow spoke, even placed on the screen, before she said what Bob has described as "basically flat out false" and after as well.

    Here is what she said. The opening lines appeared on screen as she read them in a quote from 52 year old Alabama native columnist John Archibald. What Somerby has left out repeatedly is highlighted.

    "Maybe it`s not racial at all, right? Maybe it`s just political. And let`s face it, it may not be either. But no matter the intent, the
    consequence is the same."

    Hope springs eternal, that Alabama Republicans did not just deliberately zap the ability to get the most common voter ID in all of the blackest counties in that state, right? Hope springs eternal that it wasn`t specifically that racist.
    But out of all God`s great green evolving earth, Alabama Republicans really did manage to pick this one spot, this center of African-American life in their state in the black belt as the place where they could really save some money by cutting all those offices where you get what you need to vote.

    Hillary Clinton put out a statement on this today calling it a blast from the Jim Crowe past. Whether Alabama Republicans meant to do this with as much racial specificity as it seems they did, that I cannot say. But the important question now is whether or not they`re going to get away with it.

    In one post Somerby had the nerve to present the opening lines from Archibald then write this:

    "Based on the evidence Archibald offers, we can’t necessarily tell you. And by the time his rather limited claims went national, his limited claims had been greatly expanded by our cable stars.

    Below, you see one gruesome example. This isn’t what Archibald said:"

    Somerby the used the cherry picked truncated Maddow quote without noting it began with the Archibald disclaimer.

    Today, after presenting the Maddow quote for the fourth time he writes, "We’re sorry, fellow tribals! The office closings were not restricted to “this one spot, this center of African-American life in their state”"

    We're sorry Howler readers, Maddow never said they were restricted. However badly Maddow and others have covered this story, the man critiquing their work has done exactly the same sort of thing.

    Tomorrow: What would Bob Somerby have written if Rachel Maddow had praised Al Gore's "initiative in creating the internet" statement?

    Soon: "Hillary: Pol In Hell or Just a Pander Away from Nomination?

    1. Yesterday the Radical Right had it's worst day in a generation, and Maddow was on the money. So, Bob probably won't write about it.

    2. No, he will write about the way Amy Chozick covered it. After he cherry picks from the 13 clueless comments over at the WaPo blog offering that Ken "You ignorant Bitch" Black courageously fought back against.

    3. It is flat out wrong that "the consequence is the same". Maddow's remark that the intent doesn't matter, which you complain that Somerby omitted is just as wrong as the statements he did include, when the consequence is that both white and black people will be inconvenienced by the office closures. It doesn't matter whether Somerby chose to focus on those wrong words or the others that he did quote. Maddow was saying wrong things.

      You claim that Maddow's brief disclaimer absolves her of the entire discussion that followed, which clearly shows she considered the closure to be motivated to suppress black votes. That is crap reasoning.

      But your goal here is to say anything, the longer the better, to make it appear that Somerby is that problem, not Maddow. No one is fooled by your crap.

    4. 10:49 You are * * * t o t a l l y * * * wasting your time.

  13. "Bob this issue is quickly becoming your Benghazi."

    The rest of your post is rather harsh and personal, but that analogy is spot on, especially after the events of yesterday.

  14. "The rest of your post is rather harsh and personal"

    Yes, we think there’s a special place in “blog comment” Hell for rubes misled by the horrendous corporate multimillionaires.

  15. Typical of trolls to miss the key point and be distracted by the superficialities.

    Benghazi is a long investigation producing nothing, aimed at embarrassing candidate Clinton.

    Somerby's posts typically have a point that is well supported by the evidence he presents, which should embarrass the reporters in question, in this case Maddow.

    Your ongoing attacks on Somerby are more like Benghazi, off-target, focused on trivialities, launching a variety of accusations without support, moving on to the next whenever one fails, and endlessly repetitive.

    The harsh and personal remarks just reveal the motivation, which is always hate.

  16. Bob has spent how many posts on this latest Sin of Rachel Maddow? About 11? Or about one for every hour Hillary took questions yesterday?

    And like Hillary's inquisitors, Bob has spent all those posts asking the same questions and giving the same speech over and over and over again.

    But like all those right-wingers yesterday, I'm sure entranced, watching every moment and reading every word because that "gotcha" moment is going to happen, any time now.

    Well, I hate to disappoint you and your buddy above who is going to hold his breath until he turns blue until Maddow is gone, but Rachel ain't going nowhere soon.

    Here's another hard truth for you. Seven years of Bob ranting hasn't hurt her one bit. Not even a dent. In fact, the only person it seems to have hurt is Bob himself.

    His audience is down to two types of people. Sycophants who think his every word is divinely inspired, and people out for a good laugh at the expense of a self-important blowhard.

    So you tell me. Who is Bob trying to convince, and what does he think he can "change"?

    I also might ask, as he continues to think up new childish names to throw at Maddow, who is he to lecture anyone about how to conduct themselves properly in public "discourse," but I don't want your heads to explode.

  17. @1:48 PM Very well said. This use to be a must read blog for many on the left for calling out right wing misinformation in the media. But several years ago BS took a sharp turn to the right and he started engaging the same practices that he once derided others for doing.

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