YEAR(S) IN REVIEW: Utter dismay in Tinton Falls!


Conclusion—Those by whom you've been failed:
Last Sunday—it was Christmas morning—Name Withheld was pulling very few punches.

Her letter, to the New York Times Book Review, came from Tinton Falls, New Jersey, a borough in Monmouth County. We reprint that letter in full:
To the Editor:

I was utterly dismayed when I read the list of the 10 Best Books of the year. This is the worst selection in over 40 years. However, I should not have been surprised, as I have been very disappointed in the Book Review for some time.

Name Withheld
We're not sure why you'd publish that letter. But publish that letter they did!

On that same day, the Book Review published responses by 47 people to a hard-hitting year's-end question.

"In this season of giving," the Book Review said, "we asked some notably avid readers—who also happen to be poets, musicians, diplomats, filmmakers, novelists, actors and artists—to share the books that accompanied them through 2016."

Hours north of Tinton Falls, at least one reader had an uncharitable reaction to the sharing which ensued.

"These are the notably avid readers who failed us through all these year(s)," this tough-talking analyst said.

On the penultimate page of that same Book Review, The Year in Reading 47 were joined by The Bookends 16, who'd been asked a similar question.

"All those avid readers and not a drop to drink," one underwhelmed thought leader said.

Down through the years, these are (among) the many people who failed you! In fairness, we counted fourteen of The Year(s)' End 63 who found a way to signal membership in the club by saying how awful this past year has been. But we found very few notably avid readers who went even one step past that.

At the start of that Book Review section, Open Book columnist John Williams discussed his own year in reading. This is the way he began:
WILLIAMS (12/25/16): This year we asked some notable writers, musicians, actors and others to tell us about their year in reading.

I started the year vowing, arbitrarily, to read more philosophy. If this sounds overly ambitious, that’s only because it was. After chewing on just a bit of Kant and an even smaller bit of Hegel, I satisfied my appetite with something more digestible: “Irrational Man,” by William Barrett, a 1958 primer on existentialism’s roots and branches that might pair well with one of our 10 Best Books of 2016, Sarah Bakewell’s “At the Existentialist Café.”
"The foppishness is everywhere," at least one reader said.

For ourselves, the Bakewell book may have been the most memorable book of the year. That said, we found it memorable due to its highly instructive and world-class complete total incoherence.

Needless to say, this caused reviewers all over the world to praise the book's lucidity. Inevitably, this caused the Times to pick it as one of the year's ten best!

In Tinton Falls, one tough-talking reader pushed back hard. But make no mistake:

The Times had assembled a gaggle of giants to discuss The Year in Reading. Over the past twenty-five years, these are the people who didn't have a thing to say about the trends which have now produced the ascent of Donald J. Trump.

The foppishness was general as we read Sunday's Book Review. So were the scripted howls about this extremely bad year, which gave at least one avid reader "a feeling akin to seasickness."

Or so this reader said.

Next week, we'll start up again; we may start with the pleasing phrase, "mass poisoning of the entire city." That said, a bottom line is already clear. Simply put, our self-impressed tribe simply lacks the tools to perform on the national stage.

Some may suspect this in Tinton Falls. Possibly nowhere else.

YEAR(S) IN REVIEW: Post columnist pushes back!


Interlude 2—The late Debbie Reynolds and health care:
We always knew that Catherine Rampell was likely to push back hard.

She does so in today's Washington Post. In her new column, Rampell says that Singin' in the Rain has always been her favorite film.

We've always found the film to be unwatchable. (In part, our gender politics are probably tougher than Rampell's.) As such, it's obvious that this column constitutes Rampell's response to our earlier post, in which we challenged her portrait of the racist stupidity of the white working class.

In the column we challenged, Rampell discussed Sarah Kliff's intriguing report about certain Trump voters. In the face of November's election debacle, Kliff's report has turned out to be an "inkblot test" for us upper-class liberals.

Live and direct from Corbin, Kentucky, Kliff's report for Vox appeared beneath these headlines:
Why Obamacare enrollees voted for Trump
In Whitley County, Kentucky, the uninsured rate declined 60 percent under Obamacare. So why did 82 percent of voters there support Donald Trump?
Why would Obamacare enrollees ever have voted for Donald J. Trump? Kliff was asking a very good question. We liberals have proven unwilling, or perhaps unable, to process the possible answer.

Why would an Obamacare enrollee have voted for Donald J. Trump? Along the way, Kliff described the unfortunate situation of one woman in Corbin.

Again and again, then again and again, we liberals have failed to see that the following passage describes a serious problem. Because our liberal blindness has been so widespread, we post the relevant passage at some length:
KLIFF (12/13/16): [Health care worker Kathy] Oller renewed a 59-year-old woman’s coverage (who asked her personal information be left out of this story) just after lunchtime on a Tuesday. She and her husband received a monthly tax credit that would cover most of their premium. But they would still need to contribute $244 each month—and face a $6,000 deductible.


The deductible left [the woman] exasperated. “I am totally afraid to be sick,” she says. “I don’t have [that money] to pay upfront if I go to the hospital tomorrow.”

Her plan did offer free preventive care, an Obamacare mandate. But she skips mammograms and colonoscopies because she doesn’t think she’d have the money to pay for any follow-up care if the doctors did detect something.

The woman said she only buys insurance as financial protection—“to keep from losing my house if something major happened,” she says. “But I’m not using it to go to the doctor. I’ve not used anything.”

The woman was mad because her costs felt overwhelmingly expensive. These are some of the most common frustrations with the Affordable Care Act. Surveys show that high deductibles are the top complaint; 47 percent of enrollees told the Kaiser Family Foundation they were dissatisfied with their deductible.

A study from the Commonwealth Fund earlier this year found that four in 10 adults on Affordable Care Act plans didn’t think they could afford to go to the doctor if they got sick. Fewer than half said it was easy to find an affordable plan.

But her frustration isn’t just about the money she has to pay. She sees other people signing up for Medicaid, the health program for the poor that is arguably better coverage than she receives and almost free for enrollees. She is not eligible for Medicaid because her husband works and they are above the earnings threshold.

Medicaid is reserved for people who earn less than 138 percent of the poverty line—about $22,000 for a couple. This woman understood the Medicaid expansion is also part of Obamacare, and she doesn’t think the system is fair.

“They can go to the emergency room for a headache,” she says. “They’re going to the doctor for pills, and that’s what they’re on.”

She felt like this happened a lot to her: that she and her husband have worked most their lives but don’t seem to get nearly as much help as the poorer people she knows.
In that passage, Kliff was describing a serious problem. That 59-year-old woman has insurance. She just doesn't have health care!

That said, Kliff didn't specifically describe this situation as a problem, and a raft of us upper-end liberals have turned out to be unable to see it as such.

Perhaps because we loathe Those People, we can't seem to see that it's a problem when a 59-year-old woman can't afford to go to the doctor. Instead, we start saying or implying that the woman is racist, even though "the poorer people she knows" are almost surely white.

(Increasingly, this seems to be the only thing we liberals know how to say or imply. We know this one play, nothing else.)

We love to loathe Those People! Indeed, Rampell was hardly alone in her unsympathetic reaction to this part of Kliff's report. A raft of liberals have cited Kliff's work, aparently without being able to see that a problem was being described in the passage we've cited.

That brings us back to Rampell's column about Singin' in the Rain. More precisely, the column concerns the late Debbie Reynolds, a person Rampell has always admired for the courage she showed when she was suddenly selected for stardom as a teen.

We're willing to go with that too! But we've long been intrigued by Reynolds' bio for a different reason—because she was one of the many stars of that general era who emerged from Los Angeles-area high schools, right in the shadow of Hollywood.

Reynolds was discovered while a student at Burbank High. (Four years later, Robert Redford graduated from Van Nuys High.) That said, she wasn't born into the Hollywood system (neither was Redford). According to the leading authority, her family background went something like this:
Mary Frances Reynolds was born on April 1, 1932, in El Paso, Texas, the daughter of Maxene "Minnie" (née Harman) and Raymond Francis "Ray" Reynolds, a carpenter for the Southern Pacific Railroad. She was of Scottish-Irish and English ancestry and was raised in a strict Nazarene church. She had a brother two years her senior, and Reynolds was a Girl Scout, once saying that she wanted to die as the world's oldest living Girl Scout. Her father was a ditchdigger and her mother took in laundry for income while they lived in a shack on Magnolia Street, in El Paso. "We may have been poor," she said, "but we always had something to eat, even if Dad had to go out on the desert and shoot jackrabbits."

[Quote from Reynolds]: "One of the advantages of having been poor is that you learn to appreciate good fortune and the value of a dollar, and poverty holds no fear for you because you know you've gone through it and you can do it again...But we were always a happy family and a religious one. And I'm trying to inculcate in my children the same sense of values, the same tone that my mother gave to me."

Her family moved to Burbank, California, in 1939. While a sixteen-year old high school student, she won the Miss Burbank beauty contest in 1948. Soon after, she had a contract with Warner Bros and acquired the nickname "Debbie" via Jack L. Warner.

One of her closest high school friends said that she rarely dated during her teenage years in Burbank. "They never found her attractive in school. She was cute, but sort of tomboyish, and her family never had any money to speak of. She never dressed well or drove a car."
Was Reynolds' father a carpenter, or was he a ditchdigger? The leading authority has decided to let us decide.

Either way, she came from Those People, even including all the religion! Last week, Rampell joined a raft of ranking liberals in offering an unsympathetic, insulting reaction to another such person's plight.

Debbie Reynolds seems to have been a good person. In fairness, no one is ever as good as We are. But just last year, she received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, presumably for a lifetime of work on behalf of people with mental health problems.

That said, we're willing to guess that the woman in Corbin is a good person too. Had she only been selected for stardom, we liberals might like her more!

We've always been fascinated by the number of stars of that general era who emerged from Los Angeles high schools. As this year drew to an end, we became fascinated by something else—by the number of upper-class liberals who couldn't seem to see that a problem was being described in Sarah Kliff's report.

We thought Rampell was especially blind to this state of affairs, but she has had plenty of company. This morning, she has pushed back hard against our critique, as she of course should have done.

That said, the passage we've posted became a year(s)-end inkblot test for us upper-class liberals. For years, we've loved to loathe Those People, The Others. Along the way, our loathing has possibly made us blind to a wide range of problems, including the political problems which let Donald J. Trump slither through to the White House this year.

This year, the loathing hit the fan. Why didn't Those People, The Others, vote the way We told them to vote? Despite our tribe's admitted brilliance, we can't seem to figure it out!

The twice-told tale: We've long admired Robert Redford for a specific reason. On two occasions, despite his vast stardom, he devoted a year to making a film about a suffering (teen-aged) child.

Big huge gigantic Hollywood stars don't have to do that. We refer to Ordinary People (1980) and to The Horse Whisperer, which appeared eighteen years later. (Redford directed each film.)

The later film re-explores the earlier film's story line; in our view, it does so in remarkable detail. Most broadly, the suffering in the earlier film stems from the drowning death of a teen-aged boy's brother. The suffering in the later film stems from the horseback-riding death of a teen-aged girl's best friend.

(In the earlier film, the child is saved in part through the intercession of a psychiatrist. In the later film, which we prefer because it's less literal, the child is saved through the intercession of a person who's caring and wise.)

Why did Redford visit this story two separate times? We'd never found an explanation. Indeed, we'd never even seen a profile which described this as a twice-told tale.

Upon our return from the North Pole last night, we rechecked the facts about Debbie Reynold's Hollywood-area high school story; we rechecked Redford's as well. In this recent profile from The Daily Mirror, we thought we may have spotted the start(s) of an answer to the question we've never seen asked.

Whatever the answer may be, we admire Robert Redford. Big huge famous Hollywood stars don't have to make films like that.

Christmas falls on the 25th again!


Producing holiday travel:
Just as predicted by major news orgs, Christmas had fallen on the 25th once again. This has us heading for the train and for northbound travel.

We don't expect to post again until the end of the week. At that time, we'll continue our posts about the year(s) in review.

We spent two years pretending to conduct an election. During all the folderol, which topics didn't you hear discussed?

Which topics never get discussed? Which facts never get explored, even by liberals and progressives? If we liberals could get people to listen to us, which we can't, which topics would we have a hard time explaining?

We'll plan to pick up there. It's relatively easy to react to the things which do get said. Sometimes it's more instructive to go in search of the things which get disappeared.

On that cheerful, upbeat note, we head off for a family romp.

YEAR(S) IN REVIEW: Visited, possibly in a dream!


Interlude—The Ghost of Losses Past:
Early this morning, we were visited by The Ghost of Progressive Losses Past, possibly in a dream.

As the chain-clanking spirit appeared in our chamber, we activated the taping device built into the mirrored ceiling above our quilt-festooned bed.

For that reason, we're able to quote the specter directly. Here's the first thing she or he said:

"You liberals! You just managed to lose an election to the craziest candidate in history!

"And yet you still insist that the problem can't possibly lie with you! By definition, you insist that the problem lies with Them!"

We couldn't imagine what our visitor meant. Then this:

"Read Catherine Rampell's new column," the thoughtful intruder suggested.

We're guessing that the sepulchral figure was citing the column in today's Washington Post. Two paragraphs into Rampell's piece, we began to sense what the spirit may have meant.

Here's the way the column begins. Headline included:
RAMPELL (12/23/16): Why the white working class votes against itself

Why did all those Economically Anxious (TM) Trump voters reject policies that would have helped relieve their economic anxiety?

Maybe they believed any Big Government expansions would disproportionately go to the “wrong” kinds of people—that is, people unlike themselves.
Did the white working class "vote against itself" when it voted for Trump? That's what the headline seems to say, though Rampell may not have written it.

Meanwhile, a careless reader might get the impression that everyone in the white working class voted for Candidate Trump.

Rampell doesn't explicitly say that, of course. But so far, she has made no attempt to qualify an impression which may be lurking in her presentation—the impression that all Those Consummate Working-Class Dopes voted for Candidate Trump.

A third problem lurks in those opening paragraphs. Rampell explains why all those voters may have done what "they" did:

They may have voted for Candidate Trump because they believed that any Big Government expansions would disproportionately go to the “wrong” kinds of people. Or so Rampell says.

Everyone alive on the planet knows what that ugly line says. Rampell is painting a portrait which has prevailed within our tribe through decades of Progressive Losses (TM). She's painting a careless, sweeping portrait in which All Those (Dumb-Assed) People cast their self-defeating votes on the basis of race.

In this morning's New York Times, Paul Krugman writes a much more informative version of this same column. Krugman drops his first R-bomb in paragraph 2 after having suggested, in paragraph 1, that Trump voters voted for Trump thanks to "an animus against ethnic minorities."

These associations, which are never explicit, continue all through Krugman's column. We liberals have been writing such columns for a great many years. This may be why The Ghost of Progressive Losses Past was clanking her chains this morning.

Let's return to Rampell's column, the work of a Princeton grad.

Just for the record, Candidate Trump received only 66 percent of the white working class vote. (That is, of whites without college degrees.) No such information, explicit or implied, intrudes on Rampell's column.

Still and all, what can we say about the 66 percent with whom we're left? Were they (dumbly) voting against their own interests when they voted for Trump? In an uglier vein, were they spiting themselves in this way because they don't like black people, as Rampell plainly implies all through her column?

Instantly, Rampell starts churning anecdotes to teach us to think that. Like a wide range of Ivy League typists before her, she immediately turns to Sarah Kliff's trip to Corbin, Kentucky, which Kliff reported for Vox.

Briefly, Rampell lists some Democratic policies which went down the drain with Candidate Clinton's loss. She then flies to the Kentucky of her apparent dreams:
RAMPELL: Here’s the problem. These Democratic policies probably would help the white working class. But the white working class doesn’t seem to buy that they’re the ones who’d really benefit.

Across rural America, the Rust Belt, Coal Country and other hotbeds of Trumpism, voters have repeatedly expressed frustration that the lazy and less deserving are getting a bigger chunk of government cheese.

In Kentucky, consumers receiving federal subsidies through the Obamacare exchanges complain that neighbors who are less responsible are receiving nearly free insurance through Medicaid.

“They can go to the emergency room for a headache,” one woman told Vox’s Sarah Kliff.
Everyone alive on the planet knows what our Princeton grad is saying. (Before that, she prepped at Andover.) She's saying Those People—people like the woman who spoke with Kliff—voted against their own interests because they didn't want Those People, the blacks, getting that government cheese.

This is ugly conduct—on our team's part, that is.

In fairness, Rampell correctly records what that Kentucky woman is said to have said to Kliff. That said, Kliff has a much bigger heart. She reported the misery that 59-year-old woman has been experiencing with her Obamacare coverage. She pays a premium every month, but can't afford to go to the doctor because of her $6000 deductible.

Rampell, who's roughly 31, can't seem to care about this. The professors didn't teach her to care about people with problems like this.

Kliff also explained what that woman meant about the luckier duckies who get help for their headaches. Because they qualify for Medicaid under Obamacare, it sounds like they get a substantially better deal than that woman does.

According to Kliff, those lower-income Medicaid recipients receive "arguably better coverage than she receives and [it's] almost free." According to Kliff, this is why the 59-year-old Kentucky woman "doesn’t think the system is fair."

It's hard to say that this woman is wrong in that judgment. It's obvious why such a person might think that there must be a way to improve this.

One additional point. In the 2010 census, Corbin, Kentucky was 96.69 percent white, 0.26 percent black. When that woman referred to lower-income neighbors, there is a tiny, minuscule chance that the neighbors in question are white.

In Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance describes his working-class disgust with the white freeloaders he says he saw all around him. Our Princeton grad seemed more eager to paint a familiar old portrait, a portrait we liberals adore.

The woman Rampell brushes aside is in a bad situation. For her, Obamacare ain't been no crystal stair. Rather than acknowledge this fact, Rampell plays an easy old card. She continues playing that card right to the end of her column.

Mom and Dad both went to Princeton; Rampell went there too. Reflexively, she expresses scorn for those who are stationed below her. That said, we liberals have endlessly played the game this way. This may be why The Ghost of Progressive Losses Past appeared in our chamber today, possibly in a dream.

Throughout her column, Rampell scorns the numbnuts who voted for Trump, endangering their own magnificent coverage. Although she presumably read Kliff's piece, she didn't seem able to process the part which explained the way the program actually works for the 59-year-old, lower-class woman she chose to cuff to the curb.

Nor does Rampell explain the other reasons Corbin people cited for their votes, some of which involve coal. When we liberals tell this story, only one reason survives.

Regarding Obamacare, Rampell plays a game many others have played of late. She scorns the manifest dumbness of those who doubted that Trump would repeal Obamacare, as he kept saying he would.

Like others before her, she doesn't say what everyone knows. Trump said he would repeal and replace Obamacare! Does that tiny disappeared fact possibly alter this tale?

In his own column, Krugman explains, for the millionth time, that Trump won't be able to replace Obamacare with something as good or better. We assume his assessment is right. But is there anything worse than an Ivy League grad who scorns the lower breed because their grasp of policy may not be fully refined? But oh, what kind of education is this, which goes from bad to worse?

We liberals have written these columns forever; they're part of our DNA. This may explain the last few words The Ghost emitted last night.

"It's why they won't listen listen listen...," the apparition seemed to say as she exited through our walls. Indeed, why would anyone listen to Us, considering the way We behave?

There's nothing we liberals like as much as trashing Those People as racists. When we read these persistent pieces, we often find ourselves asking a thoughtful question.

How insecure must we liberals be concerning our racial good faith, we ask, if we're so eager to insist that the racists are all Over There?

It all comes flooding back: As we read Rampell's piece, details of this morning's visit kept flooding back. When we read the following passage, we recalled something else The Ghost of Past Losses said:
RAMPELL: We’ve known for a long time, through the work of Martin Gilens, Suzanne Mettler and other social scientists, that Americans (A) generally associate government spending with undeserving, nonworking, nonwhite people; and (B) are really bad at recognizing when they personally benefit from government programs.

Hence those oblivious demands to “keep your government hands off my Medicare,” and the tea partyers who get farm subsidies, and the widespread opposition to expanded transfer payments in word if not in deed.
Those Americans! They're "really bad at recognizing when they personally benefit from government programs," our haughty know-it-all says.

"Look who's talking," the specter had muttered at one point. "These liberals are really bad at recognizing how they manage to lose to crackpots like Trump!"

Meanwhile, Rampell even returned to that shallowest well. She even quoted the cracker who made that comical statement, years ago, about keeping the government's hands off her Medicare!

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ohourgod! So stupid!

Why would anyone listen to us? We love to say how dumb They are! We also love to showcase the ways We scornfully manage to lose.

Still coming: Conclusion to our award-winning Year(s) in Review report!

Three of the world's most wonderful places!


You're only told about two:
Propaganda is often about the things you aren't allowed to know.

With that in mind, let's return to Amanda Ripley's recent report in the New York Times about last year's Pisa.

Public school students in the world's developed nations take part in two different sets of international tests—the Pisa and the Timss. Ripley disappears the Timss, only mentions the Pisa.

In her recent report for the Times, she followed the standard "ed reform" line. In this passage, she mentioned a wonderful "handful of places" which help put the U.S. to shame:
RIPLEY (12/8/16): For now, the PISA reveals brutal truths about America's education system: Math, a subject that reliably predicts children's future earnings, continues to be the United States' weakest area at every income level. Nearly a third of American 15-year-olds are not meeting a baseline level of ability—the lowest level the O.E.C.D. believes children must reach in order to thrive as adults in the modern world.

And affluence is no guarantee of better results, particularly in science and math: The latest PISA data (which includes private-school students) shows that America's most advantaged teenagers scored below their well-off peers in science in 20 other countries, including Canada and Britain.

The good news is that a handful of places, including Estonia, Canada, Denmark and Hong Kong, are proving that it is possible to do much better. These places now educate virtually all their children to higher levels of critical thinking in math, reading and science—and do so more equitably than Americans do.
Ripley's report was the New York Times' only report about last year's Pisa and Timss. (She never mentioned the Timss.)

As we noted in an earlier post, we have no idea why Denmark was listed among that "handful of places" (data below). For today, let's focus on little Estonia, which is now clearly being sold as "the New Finland."

Let's also focus on Finland itself, which, for the past fifteen years, has been sold as a public school superpower. And let's focus on a third place. Let's focus on Massachusetts, whose population (6.8 million) matches that of tiny Estonia and little Finland combined.

We've all been propagandized for years concerning miraculous Finland. It's now clear that tiny Estonia is the new international sell.

We want to give you a fuller look at the way Massachusetts students have performed as compared to their peers in those other places, which may well have excellent schools. As we do, we're hoping to help you see what propaganda looks like.

Massachusetts participated in last year's Pisa as an independent entity. Below, you see the way its students scored as compared to those in Estonia and Finland.

According to Ripley, 39 points on the Pisa scale is equal to one academic year. We're including scores for Massachusetts' white students for reasons we've explained many times, and will explain again down below:
Average scores, Pisa 2015
Science literacy:

Estonia: 534
Finland: 531
Massachusetts: 529
Massachusetts, white students: 546

Reading literacy:
Massachusetts: 527
Finland: 526
Estonia: 519
Massachusetts, white students: 540

Math literacy:
Estonia: 520
Finland: 511
Massachusetts: 500
Massachusetts, white students: 514
In science literacy and reading literacy, the scores are basically the same. Using Ripley's rule of thumb, Massachusetts is about a half-year behind Estonia in math literacy.

The Bay State's white students—the state's "majority culture" kids—outscored their peers in these ballyhooed lands in both science and reading. We offer this comparison because, in Finland and Estonia, the students are pretty much all "majority culture" kids.

Those were the results on last year's Pisa. That said, U.S. kids tend to do better on the Timss, the test Ripley disappears.

Massachusetts took the Timss as an independent entity in 2011. This is the way its scores compared to those from Finland. Estonia didn't take part:
Average scores, Timss 2011
Grade 8 math:

Massachusetts: 561
Finland: 514
Massachusetts, white students: 572

Grade 8 science:
Massachusetts: 567
Finland: 552
Massachusetts, white students: 587
Estonia took the Timss only once, in 2003. (The Timss is administered every four years.) Here's what their scores looked like:
Average scores, Estonia, Timss 2003
Grade 8 math: 531
Grade 8 science: 552
Massachusetts participated as an independent entity for the first time in 2007. These were the Bay State scores:
Average scores, Massachusetts, Timss 2007
Grade 8 math: 547
Grade 8 science: 556
Massachusetts is bigger than Finland. It's five times Estonia's size.

Its demographics are more challenging, but it has performed at least as well as these storied locales on the world's international tests. But, for whatever reason, you're not allowed to know that. Our education experts fly from Logan, eager to learn from that handful of places located Over There.

Bay State scores are disappeared. There's a word for this practice, which is quite uniform. It looks to us like propaganda, of the ed reform kind.

There's something quite average in Denmark: In the New York Times, Ripley talked up Denmark. She said it's one of "a handful of places" which are proving that we can "do much better."

We have no idea why. These were Denmark's average scores on last year's Pisa:
Average scores, Denmark, Pisa 2015
Science literacy: 502
Reading literacy: 500
Math literacy: 511
Why was Ripley peddling Denmark? We don't have the slightest idea. You will have to tell us!

Reporting the new indictments in Flint!


In search of explanations and facts:
New indictments were announced this week in Flint.

On Tuesday night, Rachel Maddow devoted more than half her program to the general topic. (Huge chunks of time were burned.) On Wednesday morning, the new indictments were reported in the New York Times.

The reports were instructive and not so instructive. Let's start with the Times.

Below, you see the start of Monica Davey's news report, which got prominent placement in the hard-copy Times. So far, we'd call this instructive and not so instructive. Hard-copy banner included:
DAVEY (12/21/16): 2 Former Flint Emergency Managers Are Charged Over Tainted Water

A criminal investigation into this city’s water crisis reached into the top ranks of supervision over Flint on Tuesday as Michigan officials announced felony charges against two former state-appointed emergency managers, accusing them of fixating on saving money rather than on the safety of residents.

The managers, who were appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder to lead Flint out of fiscal distress, were charged over their roles in the public health crisis prompted by the city’s switch to a new water source, as well as the delays in responding to residents’ complaints as they suffered the devastating effects.

Announcing the charges at a banquet center not far from the Flint River, Bill Schuette, the state’s attorney general, described “a fixation on finances and balance sheets” as at the root of what happened in Flint, where the water has been tied to the lead poisoning of children and the deaths of 12 people from Legionnaires’ disease.

“All too prevalent in this Flint water investigation was a priority on balance sheets and finances rather than health and safety of the citizens of Flint,” said Mr. Schuette, a Republican who is seen as a possible candidate for governor in 2018.
Here's what we've seen so far:

Two former emergency managers have been "accus[ed] of fixating on saving money rather than on the safety of residents."

That sounds like a bad thing to do. On its face, that isn't a crime.

We note that prosecutor Bill Schuette is "seen as a possible candidate for governor in 2018." Might this explain the political assessments which seem to dominate his first quoted remarks?

Please note: We don't know who did what in the case of Flint. We don't know who may or may not have engaged in criminal conduct—but as Davey began explaining the charges, we weren't even sure we knew what's being alleged.

In Davey's next graf, she reported that the two emergency managers face "charges of false pretenses, conspiracy to commit false pretenses, misconduct in office and willful neglect of duty." So far, we found this unclear.

That said, the two emergency managers seem to be joining a cast of thousands. In paragraph 10, Davey began calling the roll of the indicted:
DAVEY: The state criminal investigation into Flint’s water crisis, opened in January, previously had led to charges against one employee of Flint’s water plant and eight state officials, including a state epidemiologist and the former leader of Michigan’s municipal drinking water office.

Of those nine, two have accepted plea deals. The rest are awaiting trial, and some have sought the dismissal of the charges against them.

On Tuesday, two additional Flint officials were also charged with crimes. Howard Croft, a former director of the city’s Public Works Department, and Daugherty Johnson, a former utilities director for the department, were accused of false pretenses and conspiracy to commit false pretenses.
By our count, this means that thirteen city and state officials have now been charged with criminal conduct. Needless to say, Maddow's show was dominated by the prayer that Governor Snyder might be added to the list.

Did thirteen different officials (and counting) actually commit crimes? We have no way of knowing. Beyond that, we have no real idea what a charge of "false pretenses and conspiracy to commit false pretenses" actually consists in.

At this point, Davey began detailing the charges against emergency managers Darnell Earley and Gerald Ambrose. For ourselves, we were struck by the lack of clarity at the end of this passage:
DAVEY (continuing directly): Mr. Earley oversaw Flint as its emergency manager from late 2013 until early 2015...Mr. Ambrose worked as a finance director under Flint’s emergency managers and then was appointed in 2015 to become the emergency manager. The state charges allege that they used a false story to secure an unusual bond deal so Flint could take part in a regional water pipeline plan.

Since it was in financial distress, Mr. Schuette said, Flint was not permitted to borrow money unless it could prove a significant emergency. To get a state waiver, the city claimed it needed the money for an emergency cleanup of a retention pond. But Mr. Schuette said the money was actually intended for the long-term water project.

Mr. Schuette said they also agreed, as part of that project, to switch temporarily to Flint River water, even though they knew the city’s treatment plant was not ready to handle the treatment necessary to prevent contamination.

In the end, officials failed to properly treat the new water with chemicals
that would prevent materials from corroding and leaching metals like lead.
In the first two paragraphs, the managers stand accused of seeking money for one purpose, using it for another.

We'll assume that this may happen fairly often. On its face, such conduct is illegal, of course. That said, depending on what you think of the projects at issue, you may not find this kind of conduct so awful.

In the last two paragraphs, the rubber starts hitting the road. Or does it? We were struck by something resembling a contradiction of sorts:

In the third paragraph, we're told that the emergency managers switched Flint over to river water "even though they knew the city’s treatment plant was not ready to handle the treatment necessary to prevent contamination."

That sounds like a bad thing to do. On the other hand, we're immediately told that "officials"—we aren't told which officials—"failed to treat the water with chemicals" which would have prevented the leaching of lead.

Here's our question:

If those chemicals had been used "in the end," would everything have been OK? Do you mind if we suspect that Davey may not exactly know?

Years later, can anyone explain the basics of what happened here? If we're talking about journalists, we'll guess the answer is no.

For starters, no one actually cares about what happened here. That's fairly obvious, especially if you've watched the Maddow Show.

Don't get us wrong—Maddow seems to exude concern. That said, her intermittent "reporting" on Flint turns on one obvious burning passion—her desire to see Governor Snyder thrown head-first into jail.

Because it's so clear that this is her interest, we would say that her treatment of this topic has tended toward repulsive. We'll cover this in more detail in tomorrow's "Year(s) in Review."

On Tuesday night, Maddow prayed for Snyder's scalp. She dreamed of lengthy prison terms for the emergency managers. She demonstrated her lack of interest in the key word "alleged."

She let us see how much she loves the deeply upsetting word "poisoned." She actually said what's shown below. It's why she should be off the air:
MADDOW (12/20/16): And, of course, famously, there was the mass lead poisoning of the entire city of Flint, including thousands of kids who will live for the rest of their lives with the consequences of having been poisoned by lead, having lead exposure in their drink water when they are kids. It is something you don`t grow out of. It is something for which there is no magic anecdote.
"The mass lead poisoning of the entire city of Flint?" Maddow, AKA The Nun, lives for such thrilling descriptions. The key word "poisoned" does lots of work when she sells us this car.

It's time to tell the truth about Maddow. She turns out to be a bit unhinged. In the absence of supervision, she shouldn't be on the air.

Over the past few years, Kevin Drum has been cast in the role of Gallant, playing opposite Maddow's Goofus, on the subject of Flint. Maddow dreams of locking them up. Drum has supplied basic facts.

More tomorrow as we finish our award-winning Year(s) in Review reports.

YEAR(S) IN REVIEW: Most Consequential Absence of Skill!


Part 4—Most Consequential False Facts:
Sometimes, if it weren't for the press corps' lack of skill, there would be no skill at all!

Lack of skill is on constant display within our mainstream press corps. And not only that! In the beginning was the end, much as Eliot said!

We keep those bromides in mind today as we announce an array of year(s)-end awards. For starters:

In the opinion of our judges, this year's Most Consequential Absence of Skill happened in 2012!

The judges refer to a conspicuous absence of journalistic skill which surfaced, with killing results, on and after September 16, 2012. On that day, Susan Rice appeared on all five Sunday news shows. She discussed the previous week's attack in Benghazi on four of those network programs.

Immediately, John McCain and the great Bob Schieffer began misparaphrasing what Rice had said. But alas! As had become all too clear in 1999 and 2000, mainstream journalists lack the skills which are required to address or correct such deceptions.

In 1999 and 2000, Candidate Gore was misquoted and misparaphrased, in a number of high-profile instances, for a period of twenty straight months. Many of these misquotations were generated by the mainstream press corps itself. No major journalist displayed the skills which are required to straighten such nonsense out.

(Full disclosure: It is often difficult to separate absence of skill from absence of will. Some journalists may have possessed the requisite skills, but decided not to employ them.)

In 1999 and 2000, Gore was constantly misparaphrased and misquoted. Now, in September 2012, it would be Rice's turn.

McCain, of course, is an established figure of moral rectitude within elite Washington culture. Taking advantage of that designation, he began misstating what Rice had said as soon as she finished her segment on Face the Nation.

Poisonous scripts about Benghazi were developed from there. These scripts hardened, then turned to stone, over the next few months.

As this happened, the mainstream press corps sat and watched. So did the "corporate liberal" cable star, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow.

Caught in a re-election campaign, President Obama chose to let Rice be thrown under the bus. This may have been the best political move. But when people like Maddow aped the White House, they committed a familiar journalistic abomination.

Twelve years before, they had done it to Gore; now they did it to Rice. Scripts about Benghazi were born. This year, those punishing scripts helped sink Candidate Clinton.

Could that "conspicuous absence of skill" possibly have been this year's greatest absence of skill? The judges have paired it with the conspicuous silence which occurred when James B. Comey—Comey the God—issued an irregular denunciation of Candidate Clinton on July 5 of this year.

Comey's irregular denunciation produced the year's most appalling political event—the fawning tributes to his moral greatness offered by a string of Democrats during his July 7 appearance before a House committee. To cringe with embarrassment about this behavior, you can just click here.

That was a deeply embarrassing political moment; it shone a spotlight on several decades of Democratic Party submission to power. Still, that was a political abdication. There was no reason why journalists should have copied this conduct.

Inevitably, that's what they did.

What an embarrassing story! On July 6, Fred Kaplan published this report at Slate. In it, he challenged the basic claims and accusations made by Comey the God.

Kaplan challenged Comey's claims—but all across the mainstream press, it was 2012 all over again. This was most glaringly true on MSNBC, where the weirdly grinning Rachel Maddow didn't so much as mention Comey's name until he struck again in late October.

Kaplan's name was never mentioned on this quisling corporate channel. Once again, the children paid to play liberals on TV simply refused to perform.

Was Maddow's silence due to a lack of skill? Or did it represent a decision to avoid conflict with the corporate world's most favored elites? (Our judges have awarded Comey their Most Favored Player Status award for the year 2016.)

There is no way to answer that question. As a courtesy, the judges have decided to honor this two-part journalistic silence—this journalistic refusal to serve—with a less accusatory designation:

They're hailing the refusal to respond on Benghazi and on the emails as the Most Conspicuous Absence of Skill of the Year(s).

Maddow's silence enabled the invention of an array of fake facts. Fake facts about Benghazi, then about those damn emails, have helped send Donald J. Trump to the White House, just as that array of fake quotes by Candidate Gore sent George W. Bush to the same place.

That said, the judges have made a surprising pick this year in their Most Consequential False Facts category.

Yes, the discourse teems with bogus facts which come from the "conservative" realm. But the judges have announced a special lifetime achievement award for the bogus facts which we liberals enjoy so much Over Here on Our Side.

In making this surprising award, the judges cite the liberal world's unparalleled ability to spot bogus facts as long as they come from The Other Side. They seek to call attention to the liberal world's inability to perceive "our own twaddle."

The judges note that most of our "liberal" false claims in recent years have concerned matters of gender and race. They further note an important point:

Even though we liberals are unable to see these bogus facts, the rest of the public is made aware of the bogus claims our side spawns.

The judges sought to draw special attention to three such performances, although they noted there were many other bogus facts worthy of celebration:

First, they noted Maddow's clownish performance in 2012 after she mistakenly described the gender wage gap on Meet the Press.

("Most ridiculous refusal to correct," one judge sadly said.)

They noted the way Ta-Nehisi Coates' award-winning book, Between the World and Me, starts with an utterly bogus account of an appearance by Coates himself on Face the Nation.

("He had transcripts he could have read, and videotape he could have watched. It's a statement about the flaws of the liberal world that he chose to ignore them," this puzzled judge ruefully told us.)

Finally, the judges cited our tribe's most consequential false fact of the year(s)—the inaccurate claim that the late Michel Brown said, "Hands up, don't shoot." The judges especially noted the way liberal journalists avoided discussing the Justice Department's eventual account of what happened in this incident.

("Everyone else hears about this type of liberal conduct," one judge insightfully said. "It helps teach voters that liberals' claims about various matters can't be believed or trusted.")

Other awards followed. Despite recent termination of Krystal Ball, Ronan Farrow, Alex Wagner, Abby Huntsman (now of Fox News) and even Toure, the judges hailed MSNBC as Most Ridiculous Emerging News Org. "Basically, this prize awards itself" one judge thoughtfully told us.

In their Least Authentic Cohort category, the judges selected the "corporate/careerist liberal world."

Tomorrow, we'll review some of the reasons for the judges' controversial decisions in those last two areas. Spoiler alert: we'll discuss their top choices for Important Topics You Aren't Even So Much As Allowed to Learn About, Discuss, Review or Consider.

For ourselves, we'll cite a pet peeve which reinforces the judges' decisions. And no, we aren't making this up:

Last night, Rachel Maddow sang the praises of "my friend," "the great Greta Van Susteren," on her increasingly ridiculous cable news program. Our statement in the form of a question:

How much abuse will we liberals endure before we decide it's time to leave this abusive home?

Tomorrow: The things you'll never hear

Maddow among the greats: Why in the world would Maddow want to hail "the great Greta Van Susteren?"

We'll guess it's all part of selling the car. Last evening, Maddow inferentially praised herself for not feuding with Fox, where Van Susteren worked all those years.

For a review of Maddow's fawning to the greats, the geniuses and the treasures, you can just click here.

We'll guess it's just part of selling the car. That said, the analysts had to run into the yard after last evening's example.

The liberal world is not in good hands. Now that we've lost an election to Trump, even we liberals ought to be able to see that!

Professor Dyson attempts to sound off!


We need some clarity over here:
For decades, we liberals have been poorly served by our comedians. Also by our professors!

Earlier this year, a University of Missouri professor made the most embarrassing statement yet. "I need some muscle over here," she embarrassingly said.

Conservatives hear about statements like that. So do unaligned voters. In the process, they come to believe that we liberals are full of crap.

That professor said a dumb thing, but we were sorry to learn that she lost her job. Everybody makes mistakes. That's even true of Professor Dyson and his admirers.

Thus Sunday, Professor Dyson sounded off in the Sunday New York Times. He was on the front page of the Sunday Review. His headline said this:

"What Donald Trump Doesn’t Know About Black People"

For ourselves, we don't know what Donald J. Trump doesn't know about black people. We do know that the professor's headline didn't quite match his essay, which struck us as typically bumptious and unhelpful.

The professor emitted plenty of heat, but may have been a bit short on the light. "I need some clarity over here," one of the analysts said!

In fairness, the professor started by banging on Trump, but then he made a turn. He began to bang on "liberals and the white left" while quoting just one such person:

He quoted only Bernie Sanders. We'd have to say he almost made it sound like Bernie's as bad as Trump.

Is Bernie Sanders as bad as Trump? One way to give that impression is by quoting the former out of context. Also, by dishing some very strong snark. This is the passage in question:
PROFESSOR DYSON (12/18/16): The road ahead is not easy, primarily because Mr. Trump’s ignorance about race, his critical lack of nuance and learning about it, exists among liberals and the white left, too.

From the start of his 2016 presidential campaign, Bernie Sanders was prickly about race, uncomfortable with an outspoken, demanding blackness, resistant to letting go of his preference for discussing class over race. He made efforts to improve the way he spoke about the realities of racial discrimination. But Mr. Sanders seemed to remain at heart a man of the people, especially if those people were the white working class.

Since the election, Mr. Sanders has sounded an increasingly familiar theme among liberals that they should “go beyond identity politics.”
He warned that “to think of diversity purely in racial and gender terms is not sufficient,” and that we need candidates “to be fighters for the working class and stand up to the corporate powers who have so much power over our economic lives.”

In a recent speech in California, Mr. Sanders said that it is “very easy for many Americans to say, I hate racism, I hate homophobia, I hate sexism,” but that “it is a little bit harder for people in the middle or upper middle class to say, maybe we do have to deal with the greed of Wall Street.”

This is a nifty bit of historical revisionism. For the longest time there was little consideration for diversity, even among liberal elites, much less the white middle and working classes. It seems more than a little reactionary to blame the loss of the election on a brand of identity politics that even liberals were slow to embrace.
"Especially if those people were the white working class?" Thus spake Snarkathustra!

Liberals need to tell our bumptious professors to stop shoveling pellets like that. White liberals need to come to terms with the fact that black professors can be just as full of hot air and bad judgment as their white counterparts have been.

The professor's typically bumptious work doesn't make much sense. Let's start with those last two paragraphs.

In that passage, the professor seems to say that Sanders was "blaming the loss of the election on a brand of identity politics." He seems to say that Sanders was making that claim in the statements he quoted.

Let's be clear. It's possible that "a brand of identity politics" did cost Clinton the election. It's virtually impossible to measure such things. It's possible that she would have won had she taken a different approach to something someone might want to describe that way.

That said, was Sanders making some such claim in those quoted statements? In the quoted statement about "identity politics," he was giving advice to a young woman who said she was thinking about running for office.

The professor quotes Sanders saying these things: “to think of diversity purely in racial and gender terms is not sufficient," because we need “to be fighters for the working class and stand up to the corporate powers who have so much power over our economic lives.” Why would a fiery black progressive want to argue with that? Is it OK to run on issues of gender and race while kissing the hems of Big Corporate Power?

How about what Sanders said in that "recent speech in California?" In that speech (click here), he seemed to be criticizing the values of upper-class Democratic leaders in Washington—people like Nancy Pelosi.

Why exactly would it be wrong to say that these people find it easy to reject racism, homophobia and sexism, but are less inclined “to deal with the greed of Wall Street?” The professor might not agree with that assessment. But why would it strike him, or anyone else, as an act of racial bad faith?

Once he's finished with all this crap, the professor moves in for the kill. This is the way he closes:
PROFESSOR DYSON: Now we hear again the cry that the neglected white working class is the future of American progressive politics. The tragedy is that much of the professed concern about the white working class is a cover for the interests of white elites who evoke working-class solidarity to combat racial, sexual and gender progress.

Identity has always been at the heart of American culture. We must confront a truth that we have assiduously avoided: The most protected, cherished and nurtured identity of all has been white identity. After all, the needs of the black and brown working classes, which are not exclusively urban, are, again, even in progressive quarters, all but forgotten.

Mr. Trump, and to a degree, the liberals and progressives who advocate a vision of America that spurns identity politics, make one thing clear: The real unifying force in American political life is whiteness, no matter its party, gender, region or, at times, even its class.
New York Times readers, please! Who exactly has said "that the neglected white working class is the future of American progressive politics?"

Professor Dyson names no names as he dispatches this straw man. What grade would a professor give a student who assembled a case this way?

Is it true that "much of the professed concern about the white working class" is a cover for white elites who want to combat racial, sexual and gender progress? If so, would that mean that progressives can't show concern for that same white working class?

Isn't the white working class getting ripped off by the same interests who rip off the black working class and overpay people like Dyson? Why shouldn't a progressive of whatever race be concerned about that?

Professor Dyson tends to be full of the sound and fury. As you can see in the comments to his cry, we white liberals can't seem to discern this fact.

We liberals have been badly served by our professors down through the years. Key learning:

Black professors can sometimes be unclear and unhelpful too.

Two comments to Dyson's piece: Below, you see a comment about the professor's essay from a reader in DC. Then, you see a fascinating rebuttal to that first comment:
COMMENTER FROM DC: Professor Dyson seems to have made the correct judgment that Donald Trump has little sympathy or understanding for the needs and aspirations of black Americans...At the same time, Professor Dyson is wrong to castigate the Democratic Party's renewed recognition of the needs of white, working class Americans. There is no conflict between Democratic support for racial minorities and working class whites. Progressive economic policies and progressive stances on civil rights are both positions that increase opportunity. The Democratic Party is at its strongest when it champions both broad economic opportunity and the rights of racial, religious and LGBTQ minorities.

COMMENTER FROM FLORIDA: The Party may try to champion both positions, but as long as working class white identity includes a belief in the inherent privilege of their color, making them easily manipulated by racist (however coded) bombast, why would they join forces with those who are "different" from them?

They see the world as a vertical hierarchy and they are fighting for their place in it, an unassailably reserved seat for whites only. Upward mobility is a zero-sum game—the less others have, the more they have. This is reinforced by their most powerful communities (churches) and, more recently, by their access to a post-truth world of fake news and emotional propaganda. As a result, it remains unlikely that they will be able to objectively identify the real source of their economic woes. That's why they elected a con man who's not going to do anything for them, who's part of their problems: he validated their feelings and their problematic worldview.

The Democratic party you envision might become possible simply through shifting demographics and an intense effort to get out the vote, but it will not be without its problems, either—such as the anti-LGBT sentiment among some of the other groups.

If we as a species can't adapt out of tribalism—useful at one time—we'll probably drive ourselves to extinction one way or another—fire or ice.
Gallant says Democrats can, and should, champion issues involving race and class.

Goofus takes a different tack. Right away, he issues sweeping generalizations about what Those People think, even about the way They all go to church. "Them" and "they" are his favorite words.

After issuing these denunciations, he says we need to stop being so tribal! In his familiar way of thinking, the propaganda-prone tribal types are all of course Them, Over There!

George Washington couldn't tell a lie!


Some others can't tell the truth:
Rather famously, George Washington, the nation's first president, couldn't tell a lie.

We know that because he said so—more precisely, because he was said to have said so. At any rate, Washington's reported statement defined a powerful norm. It was long believed to be a virtue—public figures should tell the truth.

"I will never lie to you?" In 1976, Candidate Carter actually did say that, or at least we think he did. Indeed, as recently as 1999 and 2000, reporters were so committed to the concept of telling the truth that they invented a series of lies by Candidate Gore, then complained about the mere idea that he had actually told them!

In those days, telling the truth was a powerful press corps norm. Now, we have Donald J. Trump, whose behavior lies so far outside traditional norms that it's hard to know how to describe it.

At New York magazine, Eric Levitz noticed something we noticed too. He noticed Trump's latest strange account of the size of his win over Candidate Clinton.

Trump's latest alleged strange account was allegedly made this Monday. This is The Hill's account of what Trump said after Monday's vote by the electoral college, a satellite campus of the better-known Trump University:
HELLMAN (12/19/16): President-elect Donald Trump touted his Electoral College victory Monday as a "historic electoral landslide" and a next step toward a brighter future.

"I thank the American people for their overwhelming vote to elect me as their next President of the United States," Trump said in a statement.

"The official votes cast by the Electoral College exceeded the 270 required to secure the presidency by a very large margin, far greater than ever anticipated by the media."
According to The Hill's Jessie Hellmann, Trump said that in a statement! She's in her second year out.

Hellmann didn't provide a link to Trump's alleged statement. Having said that, she's hardly alone. In the past few days, we haven't been able to find anyone who did provide such a link.

That includes MSNBC's Steve Benen, who attributed the "written statement" to "Trump's transition team," not to Trump himself. That said, Benen recorded the start of the statement like this:

“Today marks a historic electoral landslide victory in our nation’s democracy. I thank the American people for their overwhelming vote to elect me as their next President of the United States. The official votes cast by the Electoral College exceeded the 270 required to secure the presidency by a very large margin, far greater than ever anticipated by the media...”

We'll assume that someone actually made and distributed that statement. That said, we don't exactly know who exactly it was. Beyond that, we don't know why no one has produced a link. Was this "written statement" written in crayon? Was it written by hand on an index card, then stealthily passed all around?

We have no idea where that statement came from. That said, the statement is crazily wrong in several respects.

If we're all still speaking English, Trump's victory over Candidate Clinton wasn't "an historic electoral landslide" in any recognizable respect.

If we're all speaking standard English, he didn't receive an "overwhelming vote" from the American people. By normal standards, it's a stretch to say that he exceeded the required 270 electoral votes "by a very large margin."

By normal standards, that statement by Trump, or by his team, is hard to square with elementary facts. That said, it lies within an unfortunate context. It follows decades of strange behavior by the press corps itself.

George Washington couldn't tell a lie. It often seems that Donald Trump is unable to tell the truth. But then, the weird behavior of the press has set the stage for this strange aspect of Trumpism. Again:

In 1999 and 2000, they invented lies by Candidate Gore, then pretended to be outraged by the invented lies. In 2015 and 2016, they went a million miles out of their way to avoid confronting obvious misstatements by Candidate Trump.

Donald J. Trump seems to be redefining the concept or practice of truth. That said, the press corps almost beat him to it. Would you say the behaviors of Trump and the mainstream press are more alike or more different? Weirdly enough, we'd have to say the answer's not perfectly clear.

In the next few days, we'll continue exploring this theme with reference to yesterday's indictments in Flint. On last night's Maddow Show, a cable star picked and chose her facts in her usual cavalier manner. Beyond that, an obvious question arose once again:

Is the word "allegedly" even part of this star's lexicon? Is Maddow aware of the basic concepts which lie behind the word's use?

Over the course of half an hour, Maddow picked and chose her facts as she discussed, or perhaps as she seemed to discuss, the indictments in Flint. As always, she treated accusation as fact.

This morning, we were struck by the underwhelming level of skill with which the New York Times reported the facts about these indictments. They reported more facts that Maddow did, but we thought their overall performance was strikingly poor. (More on this to come.)

George Washington couldn't tell a lie. Donald J. Trump can't tell the truth. Where does the press corps lie on this scale? At this point in their devolution, which of these famous American figures do they more closely resemble?

YEAR(S) IN REVIEW: Most Consequential Narrative of the Year(s)!


Part 3—From Whitewater through to the emails:
On August 3, 2004, the New York Times' Paul Krugman was right on target, as he routinely has been.

He was explored a striking new concept, a striking new concept called "script." Headline included:
KRUGMAN (8/3/04): Reading the Script

A message to my fellow journalists: check out media watch sites like, and It's good to see ourselves as others see us. I've been finding The Daily Howler's concept of a media ''script,'' a story line that shapes coverage, often in the teeth of the evidence, particularly helpful in understanding cable news.

For example, last summer, when growth briefly broke into a gallop, cable news decided that the economy was booming. The gallop soon slowed to a trot, and then to a walk. But judging from the mail I recently got after writing about the slowing economy, the script never changed; many readers angrily insisted that my numbers disagreed with everything they had seen on TV.

If you really want to see cable news scripts in action, look at the coverage of the Democratic convention...
Krugman continued from there. All in all, the liberal world has ignored the good sound advice he offered that day.

"Script," of course, is a specialized offshoot of "narrative." The mainstream press corps may adopt specialized scripts in service to some ongoing "narrative"—in service to some story line to which they will cling in the face of the facts, or even in the face of onrushing cultural death.

One such narrative dominated the coverage of the year's presidential campaign. Our judges have named it the most consequential narrative of the year(s).

We pluralize the word "year(s)" for an obvious reason. In the beginning was the end!

The potent media narrative to which we refer was hatched in 1992. From that day to this, the mainstream press corps has run with this poisonous story line, while pseudo-liberal corporate quislings have agreed to avert their gaze from this narrative and the many scripts it has spawned.

Almost surely, this combination of behaviors has now sent Donald J. Trump to the White House. This outcome has made "Candidate Clinton is corrupt" the most consequential narrative of the year(s).

"Candidate Clinton is corrupt!" Our judges have named it the most consequential narrative of the year(s). In the course of their exposition, our judges have linked this award to several others:

Their annual "Narrative Which Didn't Bark" prize goes to the absence of a controlling narrative about Candidate Donald J. Trump.

Also, the judges' annual award for "Most Favored Player Status" goes to FBI Director James B. Comey, the latest Republican figure extolled, all through the press, for his obvious moral rectitude.

Let's walk through the interplay of these narratives, including that absence-of-narrative.

The narrative about Clinton's corruption was hatched on the front page of the New York Times in 1992. Through a set of bungled news reports, the Times invented the Whitewater pseudo-scandal—the pseudo-scandal which gave its name to an entire era.

In 1995, Gene Lyons and the editors of Harper's magazine published Fools for Scandal: How the Media Invented Whitewater.

Harper's was one of the nation's oldest and most respected journals. That said, the notion that "the media" had done something wrong made Lyons' book unsuitable for serious review or even for discussion.

Lyons' book, and its claims, were quickly disappeared. Almost all career liberals understood that such notions could not be discussed.

Practices spiraled from there. Starting in March 1999, the mainstream press corps began extending its narrative about corruption to President Clinton's chosen successor, Candidate Gore. Gore was defined by his many lies and by his troubling clothes.

From Week One, one award-winning web site discussed this unfolding narrative and the many scripts it spawned. From that day to this, almost all career liberals knew they mustn't ever discuss what occurred in those next two years.

The narrative about Clinton corruption thus lived to fight another day. In the past two years, it was principally tied to a series of scripts about Candidate Clinton's past email practices. Corporate liberals like Rachel Maddow understood that they must never examine the claims and the deceptions involved in this new set of scripts.

(In the fall of 2012, Maddow had averted her gaze as Susan Rice was thrown under the bus in the wake of the Benghazi attacks. In these ways, the two stories which most undermined Candidate Clinton were invented partly thanks to Maddow's relentless silence. On the brighter side, Maddow continued receiving millions of dollars per year from her corporate owners. Soon, she was splashing about in an Epsom salt enhanced pool as she enjoyed her favorite TV shows. To admire the layout, click here.)

Starting in March of 2015, the mainstream press corps wailed away concerning the Clinton emails. Almost without exception, corporate liberals made no attempt to analyze, explain, critique or challenge the varied assertions and claims.

On July 5 of this year, James B. Comey took advantage of his Most Favored Player Status, making his first intrusion on the White House campaign. The very next day, Slate's Fred Kaplan issued a challenge to Comey's assertions and claims.

As with Rice in 2012, Kaplan went unmentioned on MSNBC all through the rest of the year. The children continued to gambol and play, serving us nightly tribal porridge, with "the great Steve Kornacki" assuring us that the polls looked extremely good.

In these ways, a 25-year-old narrative exacted tremendous damage. Meanwhile, Candidate Trump was helped along by The Narrative(s) Which Didn't Bark.

In the face of a blizzard of weird behavior, the mainstream press corps never created a controlling narrative about the former non-reality star. Concerning this overall absence of narrative, a few key points must be stated:

It isn't clear that a sprawling entity like the mainstream press corps should create a controlling narrative for a White House contender. The larger problem here was the existence of a controlling narrative concerning Clinton, not the absence of same in the case of Trump.

That said, even as they pounded Candidate Clinton, the mainstream press showed an amazing ability to avoid challenges to Candidate Trump's most gruesome behaviors. Their refusal to question his birtherism was perhaps the most glaring and repulsive example, but other behaviors stood out.

On several occasions, Anderson Cooper played pool boy to Trump concerning his relentless bogus claims about his alleged opposition to the war in Iraq. Starting in June 2015, Maddow stood out for her weird, presumably self-dealing deference to the Birther King.

In these brief remarks, we've tracked the confluence of narrative, and absence of same, which decided this year's election. To see how slavishly these imperatives will be followed by the press, consider a news report from this morning's New York Times.

The news report is suitably buried inside the paper, on page A19. All too suitably, it shares space on the page with three other obituaries. The four headlines in question are these:
New York Times headlines, page A19:
Esther Wilkins, Dental Hygiene Pioneer, Dies at 100
Fran Jeffries, 79, Singer, Dancer and Film Actress
Garrett Gomey, 44, Leading Jockey Who Battled Addiction

Filing Reveals Reasoning of F.B.I. in Clinton Case
Photographs accompany the reports about Wilkins, Jeffries and Garrett, with Jeffries looking remarkably "hot." (Boxed sub-headline: "A career celebrated for a sexy samba in The Pink Panther.")

No photograph accompanies the fourth report. Decorously, editors kept the name of Comey the God out of their remarkably anodyne headline.

Does anyone know why that fourth news report was buried next to Jeffries? The report concerns the conduct of Comey the God late in the White House campaign.

If you read to paragraph 7, you'll be exposed to a startling charge. Well-known mandates of mainstream scripting decreed that this had to be buried:
WEISER AND GOLDMAN (12/21/16): David E. Kendall, Mrs. Clinton’s lawyer, said in a statement Tuesday that the unsealed affidavit “highlights the extraordinary impropriety of Director Comey’s Oct. 28 letter, publicized two days before the affidavit, which produced devastating but predictable damage politically and which was both legally unauthorized and factually unnecessary.”

He added that what is “unassailably clear” is that “as the sole basis for this warrant, the F.B.I. put forward the same evidence the bureau concluded in July was not sufficient to bring a case—the affidavit offered no additional evidence to support any different conclusion.”
Say what? The high-profile lawyer for Candidate Clinton said that Director James B. Comey engaged in "extraordinary impropriety?"

Is David E. Kendall allowed to say that? Apparently not, based on the placement this news report received in this morning's Times.

To understand the world in which you live, you have to understand the interplay of narratives, from which scripts emerge. In the case of that underplayed news report, you must understand these points:

James B. Comey had long been defined as a figure of unquestioned rectitude. Hillary Clinton had long been defined as a figure who was corrupt.

Donald J. Trump was never defined by a controlling press narrative. To the extent that cable news "defined" him in a uniform way, he was defined as the amusing former reality star at whose ridiculous statements our pundit stars never stopped chuckling.

Liberals must understand one last point about this destructive interplay. Throughout this campaign, their favorite corporate TV stars made little attempt to fight these mandated narratives.

Rachel Maddow is often called The Nun; her friend Chris Hayes is sometimes called The Puppy. Together, they're often described as "the children."

Along with Maddow's consultant-invented, incessant weird grin, these nicknames have helped establish these stars as trusted liberal figures—as the liberal viewer's imaginary cable friends. This makes it hard for liberals to see what these corporate stars haven't done for them lately, all through the past brutal year(s).

Starting in early July, Comey the God got a pass from these stars. Back in 2012, they'd agreed to throw Susan Rice under the bus as an array of scripts about Benghazi were being invented. These silences enabled the invention of the powerful scripts which sent Donald Trump to the White House.

This year, the stars agreed to ignore what Comey the God had done; they never breathed a serious word about the existence of that 25-year-old Clinton narrative. By the time Maddow appeared with "the great Tom Brokaw" on November 1 of this year, our analysts were actually posing a question to us:

Is it possible that Maddow supported her beloved "Poppy Bush" in 1992? We didn't know how to answer their question, but Maddow's weird remarks, through the years, about both Clintons and about "Poppy Bush" had finally made this a sadly reasonable question.

Alas! In this recent post, Kevin Drum showed the front page of the New York Times in late October, the morning after Comey the God struck again.

Drum scorned the New York Times in his post. On cable, our corporate liberals would jump off a bridge before they'd engage in such conduct.

Their silence, and that of their peers through the year(s), helped create this year's interplay of narratives. Those narratives have now sent you-know-who you-know-where.

On the brighter side, these cable stars spoon-feed us our porridge each night. We learn how foolish Rick Lazio was! We go to bed happy and warmed.

Tomorrow: An array of awards

Friday: Reality need not appear

Kelly describes "corrupt" coverage of Trump!


Mika belts out a warning:
The Washington Post's Eric Wemple has posted an interesting interview with Megyn Kelly. At one point, Kelly describes the thinking behind some of the coverage of Candidate Trump.

Why did people air those uninterrupted Trump rallies? Kelly explains it thusly:
KELLY (12/19/16): I think that in particular in the primary season, very few people were offering any critical Trump coverage, virtually anywhere...And in particular, some of these folks who put on his campaign rallies, Erik. His campaign rallies, not a policy speech, just rallies. Which we never would have done to Scott Walker or Hillary Clinton. Ever. And to me that seemed unfair to the other candidates and wrongheaded journalistically.

WEMPLE: That analysis applies to colleagues at your own network, correct?

KELLY: Well, listen, Fox was not without sin in that department either. I can say that on “The Kelly File,” we did not do that. And listen, it was not the easiest thing to do because Trump rates. You pop up that campaign rally, you could let it roll for an hour and your ratings would shoot through the roof. Easy, done. Huge number. [inaudible] your average for the month.
If you aired an uninterrupted Trump rally, it goosed your ratings for the month. We'll only note that MSNBC did a lot of that too.

In a second part of the interview, Kelly says that certain anchors engaged in a type of "corruption" with respect to the questions they asked Trump. This part of the interview isn't especially clear:
WEMPLE: You mention in the book, and this is an interesting part . . . you say that there were anchors who did this game-out sort of thing with Trump [wherein they rehearse questions for an interview in advance of the interview]. But you don’t name them; who are they?

KELLY: Obviously I’m not going to name them now because I chose not to do so in my book.


I think people are smart enough to figure out who the likely candidates are. And in any event, this is not a nightly news report on “The Kelly File.” It’s a book, I mean there’s a lot in there that—it’s not something I would report at night on Fox News, but it’s my take on a situation. And I think, again, this is something that people should know took place and you don’t need the names to know that there was corruption in the coverage of this race. That was deeply problematic.

WEMPLE: But everybody’s corrupt now [since Kelly won't name the malefactors].

KELLY: I think any reasonable person knows which reporters to eliminate.
We don't agree with that last statement; overall, the discussion here is pretty fuzzy. Still, it's interesting that Kelly was willing to describe this as "corruption."

Let's throw in a final passage from a recent interview with Mika Brzezinksi. Ben Terris profiled Mika and Joe for the Washington Post. At one point, Mika offered this:
TERRIS (12/13/16): [Brzezinksi] maintains that just because they build sources and conduct interviews with newsmakers doesn’t mean they should be held to the rigid standards of journalism. “If you're going to call us journalists,” said Brzezinski, who came up through the ranks as a CBS reporter before joining the pundit class, “you can take every tenet of journalism and show that we’re breaking it.”
It's hard to know just what that means, but it certainly does feel right. If we might borrow from Norman Chad:

Pay the woman, Shirley!

Josh Marshall speaks out on the white working class!


May not care much for Those People:
Based on last month's election disaster, is it possible that Democrats should pay more attention to the circumstances, needs and experiences of white working class voters?

Would that make sense from a political perspective? Would it make sense as a matter of basic fairness, humanity, decency?

It seems to us that the answers are yes. That said, we're amazed by the hostility that seems to pour forth in some quarters when such bland suggestions are advanced. Consider yesterday's post by the irate Josh Marshall.

In fairness, Josh seems to have scribbled the post in such haste that its meaning isn't entirely clear. That can happen when very smart people decide to become business moguls.

That said, Josh had watched a (very) short segment on CNN; it seemed to leave him disgusted. As he started his post, he gave this basic account of what he had seen:
MARSHALL (12/19/16): I was just watching a brief segment on CNN about, among other things, the future of the Democratic party. The Daily Beast's Patricia Murphy was one of the two panelists. And it was, frankly, embarrassing.

Murphy said in so many words that Democrats aren't able to move forward because they have no theory of why they lost
and in many cases think they actually won (because of the popular vote). "So when you have that kind of an attitude going forward there's very little soul searching, very little effort to look inside and say what do we need to say and do differently in order to get more people to win? They're writing off a large portion of the electorate as a group of people they don't even want."
Links to the actual CNN transcripts are offered below.

So far, we're not sure why Murphy's statement would be "embarrassing," at least not in the way Marshall meant. Some people have perhaps been a bit cavalier about the import of Clinton's win in the popular vote. Beyond that, we think some liberals and progressives are perhaps a bit inclined to "write off a large portion of the electorate"—that is, the white working class—"as a group of people they don't even want."

We thought that attitude seemed to be present in Professor Dyson's piece in this weekend's Sunday Review. So far, we don't see what's so hideously wrong about what Murphy is said to have said.

That said, Murphy's remarks seemed to have Marshall upset. As he continued, he produced a great deal of thunder, though perhaps not a great deal of light:
MARSHALL (continuing directly): I listen pretty closely to what Democrats say and if anything I hear more "throw the baby out with the bathwater" talk in terms of targeting working class white voters in the industrial Midwest than writing off whole portions of the electorate. This whole riff was, I think, a good example of why Democrats generally should do as much as they possibly can to ignore this kind of gilded DC-centric pablum. It also points our attention to why how the Democrats move forward is actually more complicated than a lot of people really get, a lot more complicated than a lot of commentators want to get.
We're still not entirely sure what that means. Would Democrats be "throwing the baby out with the bathwater" if they decide to "target working class white voters in the industrial Midwest?" Is that what Marshall was saying?

The name-calling there is unmistakable; the analysis is still unclear. In fairness, we'll assume Marshall had important balance sheets to return to. But later in his post, his meaning seemed a bit more clear—and to us, a good deal more puzzling:
MARSHALL: The fact that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by almost 3 million votes makes it very hard to see the 2016 election as a referendum on the Democratic party or Democratic governance or a rejection of either. This isn't just a matter of salving hurt feelings or looking on the bright side. The import is more concrete and unforgiving. All politics involves trade-offs. One bundle of issues gets you one coalition of voters. If you toss that bundle overboard you'll probably lose some or possibly a lot of the voters you have. That's difficult when you're still pretty close to winning majorities of votes. It's especially tough when you're actually already winning majorities, at least of the two party vote. (This does not even get into the infinitely consequential issue of the political morality of potentially abandoning your most vulnerable and political loyal supporters.)
To us, that's just very strange. It sounds like Marshall is assuming that Democrats will "lose a lot of the voters they have"—will even be tweaking "the political morality of potentially abandoning their most vulnerable and political loyal supporters"—if they decide to care about industrial workers in coal country and the Rust Belt who have seen their jobs and their communities going up in smoke.

By the way, those industrial workers have children. Is there some reason why liberals and progressives shouldn't care about them?

We have no idea why sympathy for some struggling group would represent the abandonment of some other group. Is Marshall perhaps expressing the very attitude Murphy was talking about? If not, we don't know an emerging lefty mogul when we bow to one.

Marshall is making the money now, so let us help him here. There are children all through the Midwest who see their family incomes going away. There is no reason why a progressive party, or a decent person, shouldn't care about that.

What is Marshall talking about here? Is he imagining that black voters will be lost to Democrats if Democrats show concern for these white voters too? It sounds like that may be what he's talking about. If so, we'll suggest he may not understand the moral depth of this country's "black" population.

We have no clear idea what Marshall was saying in this post. By the time he'd finished, he had returned to the name-calling—and he seemed to be throwing those children away again:
MARSHALL: There is a huge amount of work for Democrats to do. But a key part of that work is resisting the demand from the supercilious center that Democrats don sackcloth and ashes and repent of their ideals and even of themselves. Demography and ideology are critical. But require a politics and relentless organizing to give them force. That is where Democrats should be focusing their attention.
Marshall has perhaps grown too great to understand these matters. Speaking very slowly, let us try to explain:

Progressives aren't donning sackcloth and ashes, let alone repenting of their ideals, if they look for ways to take the side of children whose families are in trouble.

Josh sounds a bit like the mine owner here, not much like the coal miner's daughter. Or is that too crude a reference for our emerging high tech upper class?

Tomorrow: Professor Dyson tackles race and class

To peruse the CNN transcripts: Murphy's brief segment with Carol Costello starts at the end of this CNN transcript.

Their brief conversation continued from there. For the supercilious remarks which inflamed Marshall so, you can just click here.

YEAR(S) IN REVIEW: Worst Journalist, News Org of 2016!


Part 2—Their horrible work stood out:
In the end, the decisions were fairly easy.

In the beginning, a sensible person could have seen this year's horrible end.

Our award-winning "Year(s) in Review" panel of judges has named Rachel Maddow as the worst journalist of 2016. They've also selected the New York Times as the worst news org.

In the end, routinely horrible work led to these decisions. In each case, though, the worst journalistic work of 2016 may have occurred last year!

Let's start with Maddow, a unanimous choice for Worst Journalist of 2016.

The judges awarded Maddow for a long list of offenses. For starters, they noted her constant mugging and clowning, mixed with her potent self-adoration. "Only Trump matches her absurd self-regard," one of the judges said.

The judges noted Maddow's willingness to politicize important substantive matters. Most of all, they hailed her as a skillful dodger. They cited her skill at presenting herself as a fiery liberal while taking a dive on the issues which decided the 2016 presidential campaign—and while cashing large corporate checks.

In the judges' formal citation, Maddow was hailed for "a skillful, persistent con." Still, in the beginning was the end! Paradoxically, the judges cited some of Maddow's work from 2015 as some of the current year's worst.

Regarding her work from 2015, the judges cited her ludicrous "thirteen weeks," the period she devoted to nightly ranting about the way the Fox News Channel was planning to stage the first Republican debate. Here's how that went down:

Confronted with seventeen certified Republican candidates, Fox News announced that it would include only ten candidates in its first debate. CNN announced a similar plan for the second debate.

Confronted with these unremarkable decisions, Maddow swung into action. With an 18-month pseudo-campaign beginning, MSNBC was rebranding itself as "the place for politics." Maddow jumped in with a substantively ludicrous, tribally pleasing, 13-week attack on Fox News.

Psychiatrists continue to debate a basic question: Could Maddow possibly have been sincere in her nightly keening and wailing about the way the lineup for the first debate would be chosen? Or was this simply a con?

It's hard to know how to answer that question. But Maddow shrieked about Fox for a full thirteen weeks, rarely mentioning the fact that CNN was going to limit participation in the same way. In this manner, the judges have found, Maddow signaled that her election coverage would be fake, faux and phony throughout.

(The judges also called attention to Maddow's reactions when Donald J. Trump announced his decision to seek the White House in June 2015. She said she had no personal beef with the self-made Birther King; chuckled and clowned in the immediate wake of his announcement; and barely mentioned his "rapist" announcement speech until several weeks had passed and tribal opinion was clear. In this beginning, the judges found markers of the end; Maddow's coverage of Campaign 2016 would be a con throughout.)

As for Maddow's work in this calendar year, the judges were unanimous. Her refusal to discuss the "emailgate" matter turned out to be the defining mark of her year. The strategic silence she maintained echoed her silence in 2012, when the Benghazi scripts were being invented. The judges were unanimous in their assessment of these twin refusals to speak:

Maddow was protecting her career through lengthy, elaborate silence. Here's how it happened this year:

On July 5, 2016, FBI kingpin James B. Comey interjected himself into the White House campaign. Comey is widely known as Comey the God; he's a very powerful insider establishment figure.

Presumably for that reason, Maddow never mentioned Comey's name until late in October, when he struck again. But then, back in the beginning, the judges had seen this end. All through the fall of 2012, Maddow never mentioned the name of Susan Rice as she was pilloried and left for dead in the wake of the Benghazi attacks.

First Benghazi, then the emails! In each case, Maddow maintained total silence as the scripts which would defeat Candidate Clinton hardened, then turned to stone.

Clinton was pilloried for her email practices over the last twenty months of the 2016 campaign. Maddow was scrupulous about maintaining a self-protective silence. The judges were especially amused by her report on May 25 of this year, when she pretended to respond to a damaging State Department report.

Adopting her typical "here look me over" approach, Maddow mugged and clowned with large stacks of paper, complaining about the way the State Department's emails are archived. As she clowned in these familiar ways, she transplendently failed to address that actual claims at issue, while giving gullible viewers the impression that she had.

(Is it possible that Maddow is really that dumb? The judges have ruled that she isn't.)

On a corporate branding basis, Maddow was sold to the liberal public as "their own Rhodes Scholar." The judges were unanimous—she stood out in the past several years for her refusal to put her intellectual skills to actual use.

In an appendix to their report, the judges noted another beginning which suggested this end. This too involved Maddow's relentless branding.

The judges recalled the way Maddow originally defined herself as "the TV star who didn't own a TV (not that she was saying that she was smarter than you are)." This branding was everywhere when Maddow burst upon the scene. It aligned her with other branded NBC stars, such as the kid from New Jersey who loves Nascar and the working-class kid from Buffalo whose Dad rode a garbage truck.

A few years later, the news finally broke—Maddow had bought a TV set! She earned "special demerit" in the judges' eyes for a ridiculous story she told at least one profile writer—her claim that she and Susan had purchased the TV set on-line when they were drunk one night. She claimed they were surprised to wake up the next day and find evidence of their on-line purchase scattered about in the bed.

In this bizarre beginning, we should all have seen this year's gruesome end, the judges have now reported. (To see Maddow's current TV room, you can just click here.)

Maddow was an easy pick for Worst Journalist of 2016. Similarly, the New York Times was a runaway winner of the Worst News Org award.

Here too, the judges ruled that the Times' worst work of 2016 was done in earlier years. In the case of the Times, the horrible work extended all the way back to the paper's bungled Whitewater reports—work which began in 1992!

In that horrible beginning, we had this year's end! Within the past two years, the judges pointed to a string of front-page reports by what they called "this most foppish of all major American news orgs."

They cited last year's hapless, sprawling front-page report about the scary uranium deal. They cited this year's Sunday front-page report about Beau Biden's use of his last few nouns.

They cited the newspaper's refusal to challenge Donald J. Trump's ugly birtherism, even in a Sunday morning front-page report on the topic in July of this year. They cited the front-page report in early October which sought to rehabilitate the credibility of three truth-challenged Clinton sex accusers from the distant past.

For their topper, the judges simply linked to this Kevin Drum post. It shows the front page of the New York Times on October 29, the morning after Comey the God intruded on the White House campaign again.

That intrusion was so blatant that even Maddow felt forced to respond! The New York Times chose to fill its front page with the latest collection of gorilla dust. According to the judges, that recent front page tracks to a distant beginning in 1992.

In the beginning was the end! This campaign was decided by a poisonous narrative which started on the Times' front page in early 1992. (More on that "Most Consequential Narrative" to come.) Right to the end, the Times emitted the requisite blather in support of that old story-line. Maddow kept avoiding related topics over the past several years.

In closing, the judges made one final point. The New York Times was awful this year, but liberals could be sure one thing. They could be sure that Rachel Maddow would never tell them that!

Maddow is part of an insider guild that's strongly built around self-interest and self-dealing. According to the panel of judges, speaking truth to and about this institutional power is simply never done.

Her mugging and clowning insult us all. As we liberals praise ourselves for our moral greatness and our intellectual brilliance, we make it clear, night after night, that we like being conned this way.

Tomorrow: Most Consequential Narrative and other related awards

Maddow never ends: Judges noted Maddow's skill at killing time while serving tribal porridge. Several judges noted a November 28 time-killer which started out like this:
MADDOW (11/28/16): Good evening, Chris [Hayes]. Thanks, my friend. And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

Sixteen years ago, 16 years ago, this man set a record. He ran for a seat in the United States Senate 16 years ago, and he lost that race, which is why you probably don't recognize him.

But in the course of losing that race that year, he did set a record. And this was the record that he set. He spent more money losing a U.S. Senate race than anyone had ever spent losing a U.S. Senate seat ever before. Whoo!

And his name was Rick Lazio. And the person he lost to in that Senate race in the year 2000 was somebody you will recognize, Hillary Clinton.

2000. That was the first year Hillary Clinton ran for the United States Senate from New York state. She beat Rick Lazio badly. She clobbered him by 12 points.

Over the course of that campaign, he spent himself into oblivion.
He outspent her by a mile. He outspent her by something like—she spent $29 million and he spent $40 million. He ended up millions of dollars in debt and he lost, and he lost by a lot, and he had to give up his day job for all that.

Rick Lazio had been a member of Congress but you can't hold on to a seat in the House while you run for the Senate. So he was like quintuply crushed in that Senate race in 2000.

Well, Hillary Clinton became the United States senator. And then at the end of her first term in the Senate, so six years later, Republicans went up against her again, but they had a hard time getting somebody to run against her...
The bullshit continued from there. This was Maddow's rambling, crowd-pleasing way of discussing one of Donald J. Trump's less consequential nominations to date, that of K. T. McFarland as deputy national security adviser.

Along the way, Maddow pleasured us liberals by ridiculing Lazio; by ridiculing the awful Jeannine Pirro; and by ridiculing a little-known Republican mayor of Yonkers. Eventually, she started ridiculing McFarland herself, in an overtly sexist manner, while placing thumbs on several scales.

That's our Rachel! Even after Hillary Clinton gets beaten by someone she vastly outspent, we get to hear how ridiculous Lazio was, and how badly the marvelous Clinton beat him.

Lazio was "quintuply crushed!" No, it doesn't get dumber than this, but it's like this all the time on this childish program.

(Please note: Maddow loves to show photographs of minor Republicans while chortling about the fact that no one can recognize them. It's a regular part of our porridge.)

By the way, did Clinton "clobber" Lazio "by twelve points" while he "spent himself into oblivion?" Yes, she did, but that wasn't an especially huge win in a blue state like New York. In that same 2000 election, Candidate Gore beat Candidate Bush by twenty-five points across that same state of New York.

There was exactly zero reason to waste time with this silly piddle last month. But that election might have been seen as a harbinger of Clinton's relative weakness as a vote-getter, not as a sign of her overpowering greatness.

Homey doesn't play it that way! Rachel Maddow serves tribal porridge as she jams corporate cash in her pants. For these reasons, she's been named Worst Journalist of the Year(s) by our panel of judges.