Will people be dying in Puerto Rico?


Also, a cable star's Trump-like song of herself:
Are people dying in Puerto Rico?

It seems to us that they probably are. It sounds to us like the situation may get a whole lot worse before it gets any better.

It sounds to us like the situation may get extremely bad. That said, a certain major cable news star decided to start her program last night by providing us with an 18-minute PEP—a Partisan Entertainment Product.

Her tribally pleasing PEP concerned the cost of those cabinet members' plane trips. At the start of last night's TV show, before saying a word about Puerto Rico, she spent more than eighteen minutes on this comparatively trivial topic.

Along the way, as she mugged and clowned and made us feel tribally good and pure, she made a trivial error, as you can see below:
MADDOW (9/29/17): But there's more. There's also Trump's Veterans Affairs chief and his wife, who taxpayers apparently just paid to send on a ten-day European vacation—sorry, "work trip"—that included a championship tennis match at Wimbledon.

And I do mean championship. It was the women's final. We're talking Serena Williams.

The trip also included a tour of Westminster Abbey and a river cruise down the Thames and a canal tour in Copenhagen, where they saw the Little Mermaid statue, and trips to four separate palaces. In the middle of this trip, Trump's V.A. secretary reportedly had four straight days with no daytime business whatsoever on the calendar.

They were very efficient though. Clearly, he and his wife made the most of it. Four palaces is a lot. The Washington Post points out tonight that Secretary Shulkin took this whole taxpayer-funded shebang less than two weeks after he signed a memo for other staff at the V.A., telling them to please review their plan to travel, to determine if it was really truly necessary.

Quote, "I expect this will result in decreased employee travel and generate savings with the department." Signed, Secretary Shulkin.

So he signs that, and then on his way out the door, "Bye, got to go, I've got—I'm going to four different palaces and I'm going to see Serena Williams. I'm going to Wimbledon. Now, you guys get these travel costs under control. I got to go. My wife's waiting."
According to that Post report, the VA Secretary had attended a multi-nation meeting his predecessors have attended in the past. Along the way, it does seem that he and his wife squeezed a bit of a taxpayer-funded vacation out of the deal, although the Post doesn't yet seem to know, in full, who actually paid for what.

(Concerning the four days "with no daytime business whatsoever," the cable star gave it to you that way because, according to the Post there was some night-time business on two of those four nights.)

This pleasing report about Secretary Shulkin was one small part of the longer PEP with which the cable star opened her TV program. That said, as you can see, the cable star had made a trivial error:

This year's Wimbledon women's final featured Venus Williams, not Serena. The cable star got that wrong!

This error was utterly trivial. There was no gigantic need to correct the error at all, but the cable star lovingly did so.

She corrected it after an interview with Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico's largest city. The cable star had interviewed Cruz for less than seven minutes, after playing tape of Cruz's anguished statements from earlier in the day.

"We are dying," Cruz had said. Interviewed live, she made the same statement to the cable star, saying that she was sending a literal SOS to the rest of the world.

For ourselves, we would have been interested in a more careful analysis of how bad the situation in Puerto Rico is likely to get. (We're thinking of disease, and the absence of water and food, and the inevitable crime which results from such deprivations.) Instead, the cable star returned from a commercial break to provide us consumers with an appalling, spectacularly stupid, highly typical song-of-herself.

As she staged her histrionic self-correction, the cable star continued a years-long con, in which she impresses us with her assiduous devotion to accurate facts. She also engaged in her favorite pastime—talking about herself.

This is where the cable star went after listening to the mayor's anguished SOS:
MADDOW: Sorry. I need to make a correction from the top of the show.

[Seeming to whine]

It's Friday. There was one whole night this week when I didn't get any sleep because my back hurt, and then I got like the knock-on effect, where you're not really tired the next day, but you're tired the day after.


So, that's my excuse. Here's what I screwed up:

I said at the top of the show that when the Veterans Affairs chief went to Wimbledon this year, Serena Williams was playing in the women's final. Here's what I have to correct:

The Veterans Affairs chief and his wife did take a taxpayer-funded, ten-day European trip that did include trips to four different palaces, and a tour of Westminster Abbey, and a river cruise and a canal cruise, and four straight days with no scheduled events in the middle of their European vacation, I mean "work trip."

And the Veterans secretary did, on this taxpayer-funded trip with his wife to Europe, he did go to Wimbledon, where he did see a championship match, and it was the ladies' final, and it was one of the Williams sisters in the final.

But it wasn't Serena. It was Venus. And I need to watch my tennis, clearly.

My mistake. My apologies. Very sorry.

We'll be right back.
As you can see, before we got our pointless correction, we got our PEP all over again. We also got the usual dose of consultant-instructed hand jive and all-around silly-bill mugging. And we got to learn that the cable star had suffered a sleepless night because her back hurt!

If you want to see the mugging and clowning which accompanied this song-of-self, you can do so here, though you'll be forced to watch a lot of corporate commercials. You should click ahead to the short segment around the 32-minute mark.

That said, we had several reactions to this presentation:

Many people have said that Donald J. Trump seems unable to demonstrate concern about the specter of death all over Puerto Rico.

We had a similar thought about this cable star as we watched her performance. Her interview with the mayor had been deeply sobering. She moved directly into her trademark mugging, clowning and messaging, with her standard talk about her favorite topic, herself.

This cable star has been playing these games for a very long time now. Mercifully, she no longer posts her DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS sign when she stages her trivial self-corrections. But she continues the general practice, which seems designed to make us (mistakenly) think that she's a stickler for accurate facts.

She continues to love discussing herself. Next to playing videotape of herself, we'd call it her favorite pastime.

Beyond that, we were struck by the callousness of the juxtaposition of segments. The mayor's (literal) SOS had been deeply sobering. The cable star moved directly into this silly sponge bath inflicted upon herself, with us invited to watch.

Massive wealth and massive fame have often been highly destructive. In our view, this cable star often seems a bit like Donald J. Trump. Is our increasingly tribalized band simply too starstruck to see this?


  1. Yeah, hate-mongering goebelsonian establishment media are committing a slow suicide. Painful to watch, at times. I sympathize with you, Bob.

    As for unfortunate Puerto Rico, hopefully we all understand that this is just the culmination of a long process, initiated during the Clinton administration. Who will address/analyze all that? Not the establishment media, obviously.

  2. Maddow has been vindicated for all this. I too, Greg, seek Gordon Jump and it is Bob the idiot who remains unbalanced and under my skin and blood whether it hurts or helps.

    1. You ceased to be satirical long ago,

  3. "a Partisan Entertainment Product"?
    "comparatively trivial"?
    The "trivial" topic just brought down the HHS Secretary, whose hypocrisy was laid bare...jetsetting at taxpayer expense while destroying the ACA.
    Puerto Rico is indeed a tragedy in the making, but strangely enough, I didn't hear the mayor of San Juan or anyone else blaming Rachel Maddow or anyone else in the media for the problems there. They are blaming the government generally and Trump specifically. It is Trump's job to oversee the relief efforts...and so far he's been an ASS about it. ("They're so mean to me" says the giant crybaby.) If anything, it's been the media forcing Trump to do his goddamned job.
    Well, on second thought, no one is criticizing the media about this, that is, except for Trump, ...and Bob Somerby.

  4. Funny how when she corrects her trivial Serena/Venus mistake, she makes a new consequential one. She says "four straight days with no scheduled events in the middle of their European vacation", dropping the "no daytime business" reference of her initial report. That suggests she is an evil genius - albeit more evil than genius.

    1. That is pure Hannity. She IS our Hannity

    2. Money changes people, or, magnifies flaws that were there all along.

  5. When watching a TV show, you don't know when each segment was actually filmed and a producer may decide the order in which bits appear. So Maddow's apology may have been film anytime and used as filler.

    1. Apology? You think that was an apology? It was barely even a correction, if that.

  6. "Massive wealth and massive fame have often been highly destructive. In our view, this cable star often seems a bit like Donald J. Trump. Is our increasingly tribalized band simply too starstruck to see this?"

    Presuming I'm in the tribalized band you're trying to inspire to action, what would you have us do? Start a letter writing campaign demanding that execs at multi-billion dollar media cartels fire Maddow and replace her with Noam Chomsky?

    1. Stop watching? Write “progressives” who appear on the show and tell them not to go on? Ask progressives in the media to criticize her awful show? Support real progressive media and journalists with your hard-earned money?

    2. On the outside chance that you might be serious, why not consider this advice:

      6. The Democratic base should move to start a new party since the party elite shows no signs that they will give up power. This can be done quickly and cheaply as a result of the internet and databases of peoples' political preferences. This reality is proven in practice with the rapid construction of the Macron, Sanders and Trump campaigns from nothing. The existing Democratic party may well have negative reputational capital, stimulating a Macron-style clean slate approach. Regardless, in the face of such a threat, the Democratic establishment will either concede control or, as in the case of Macron, be eliminated by the new structure.

    3. Winter is coming Russian troll.

    4. Mao Cheng Ji,

      If the base can't take over the Democratic party, there's little chance it can take over the country.

    5. Shorter CMike: Voting. How does it work?

    6. the DNC email scandal

      "Reality control," they called it: in Newspeak, "doublethink." (1.3.18)

    7. This comment has been removed by the author.

    8. Mao Cheng Ji,

      "The 'party' is a bureaucratic apparatus," you say. So what do you think each of the election systems built by party partisans and run by the fifty state governments (and the District of Columbia) are? You're assuming "the people who control" the two right-wings of the "property 'party'" have overlooked those apparatuses- so much for the depth of your cynicism. (And that's ignoring the institutional forces directing the corporate infotainment media.)

    9. Shorter mm: You can tell from election results, the wealthy and the working class are endlessly in agreement on all matters imperial and economic.

    10. What of it? It's a big bureaucracy, yes, but bureaucracy is not destiny.

      Before the last year's election I was reading everywhere how Trump had no chance because he's got "no ground game" (the Republican apparatus wasn't helping him much). And how Clinton had all that incredibly powerful "get out the vote" machine, and that's why she definitely was going to win. And yet she lost.

    11. Even shorter CMike: It's all rigged!!!! Rigged I tells ya'!!!

    12. Mao Cheng Ji asks:

      "What of it?"

      Well obviously as for where a movement should start, it has to choose between something along the lines of reinventing the wheel or pulling off a hostile takeover of a tire store chain.

    13. Mm,

      Give it up, Pee-wee Herman getting busted ruined it for all of you who use his style of argument.

    14. Trump did it last year. With little money, no support (or, rather, fierce opposition) from the elites, and "no ground game" he won the most important election.

      It's true (now it's obvious) that winning presidency alone doesn't really achieve anything, but surely this was a very meaningful exercise.

      Before 2016, I felt certain that nothing will ever change until segments of the population become violent, but now - who knows...

    15. "With little money, no support (or, rather, fierce opposition) from the elites, .."

      Minorities and the poor didn't suppress their own votes.

    16. Mao Cheng Ji,

      You do realize Trump did win as a major party candidate, of course. Trump's election, therefore, does not argue for someone taking the third party route.

      Trump proved both in the primaries and the general election that having a ground game was not essential for success, at least not if your general election opponent has an incompetently run ground game. What Trump's path to power shows is the potential advantages an outsider can gain by their running in a major party's presidential primaries, winning out in that stage of the process, and then running as a major party's nominee in the general election

    17. Still, it demonstrates that the system is not infallible. If it can be beat this way (and that was pretty amazing), it might be vulnerable in all kinds of different ways.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. The disaster in Puerto Rico did not happen so that Somerby could take shots at Maddow. Have some respect!

    1. Al Gore's loss did not happen so that Somerby coukld take shots at everybody. He just does.
      Because it did.

  9. Will people be dying? I heard one first hand acoount that every single patient in one of the hospital ICUs died. This is serious.

  10. Bob’s not out to change the world. He just wants get our multi-billion $ media cartels to fire certain cable stars and inept reporters and to focus on such things as caring about the education of poor black children or the fact that we have a health care industry that makes enormous profits by killing thousands of Americans and is by far the worst in the industrialized world. How any sane person could believe that billionaire owned entities whose lives have been dedicated to building, strengthening, and profiting by the establishment American plutocracy would do any of the things Bob wants is beyond me.

    1. "He just wants get our multi-billion $ media cartels to fire certain cable stars and inept reporters and to focus on such things as caring about the education of poor black children or the fact that we have a health care industry that makes enormous profits by killing thousands of Americans and is by far the worst in the industrialized world. "
      Oh, OK. But other than that he doesn't want to change the world. LOL. Why doesn't Somerby advocate for those things, instead of carping about others' reporting of them? It's certainly easier to criticize than to write well-thought-out opinion/advocacy pieces.
      Who would replace the "inept" media stars? Somerby? His ratings share would be abysmal, he would be fired, and replaced by someone more popular. Sorry, that's the way the world works.
      And why only go after liberal msm orgs? If you're a "media critic", you can't be an honest one without criticizing the massive fraud that is the right-wing media.
      Now, I'm not defending the media...far from it. But equating Maddow with Trump? Utter bullshit.

  11. "Massive wealth and massive fame have often been highly destructive."

    Massive wealth and massive fame have always been highly destructive. Especially when the wealth is concentrated into mass media cartels which propagandize that massive private wealth and fame are good things when in reality they are the worst things for any society.

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