BREAKING: Cable contributors scarf contributions!


We cut and paste, you decide:
CNN and MSNBC spill over with "contributors" from the major print press.

Two examples:

The New York Times' Maggie Haberman is a contributor at CNN. Her frequent writing partner, Michael Schmidt, helps out at MSNBC.

Yesterday, in that same New York Times,
Michael Grynbaum wrote an analysis piece about the role of journalists in this age of Trump. It included the brief passage we've highlighted concerning issues of pay:
GRYNBAUM (1/30/18): Since Mr. Trump took office a year ago, the political press has endured a sustained assault from a chief executive who has called journalists ''the enemy of the American people.'' Yet the news media has also driven decisions inside the West Wing to a degree perhaps unmatched since the scandal-ridden days of Richard Nixon. And White House aides and reporters alike say that political reality is being refracted by the media in an unprecedented way.

Some reporters, in unguarded moments, say that they fear for journalists' safety. Margaret Talev, the president of the White House Correspondents' Association, was moved to tears in an interview as she recounted the death threats that now routinely land in her colleagues' emails.

Other journalists—ironic, cynical or simply enterprising, depending on your point of view—have embraced the moment as the wildest ride of their lives, and a lucrative one, too: The number of Washington reporters with cable television contracts, some with salaries verging on six figures, has surged.
According to Grynbaum, some of those contributors are being paid second salaries "verging on six figures."

For ourselves, we don't know how high the salaries go. Concerning Grynbaum's "verging on sic figures" assessment, it that a lot, or is that a little? Could this arrangement possibly produce a conflict of interest?

We've reported, now you can decide. We may discuss that second question tomorrow.

BREAKING: Donald J. Trump shows gains in new poll!


Some lessons concerning predictions:
According to Ed Kilgore, Donald J. Trump has made some gains in one new poll.

Kilgore's post, for New York magazine, starts exactly like this:
KILGORE (1/31/18): It’s just one poll from one polling outlet (albeit one given an A+ rating for accuracy and sound methodology by FiveThirtyEight). But for Democrats already concerned about the love shown the president in snap polls following last night’s State of the Union Address, the first 2018 national survey from Monmouth University lands like a punch in the mouth.

Compared to its December poll, the new results (taken from interviews between January 28 and January 30) show big gains for both Trump and his party
among registered voters. His December job approval rating, at 32 percent, was his lowest since taking office according to Monmouth’s temperature readings. Now it has bounced up to 42 percent. Similarly, in December the GOP tax bill was notably unpopular, with 26 percent approving of it and 47 percent disapproving. Now opinions on the bill, after lots of hype about bonuses and cuts in tax withholding, are dead even at 44/44.

Worst of all for Dems, a 15-point advantage in the generic congressional ballot in December (51/36) is now down to two points (47/45). This equals the smallest Democratic advantage in any poll since the beginning of the current election cycle.
As Kilgore notes, "it's just one poll." This one new poll could always turn out to be a major outlier.

Then again, this one new poll could turn out to be a harbinger. Similar polls may follow. Below, we draw two quick award-winning lessons.

American pundits, including corporate liberal pundits, never tire of wasting time on polls:

On the cable channel which is designed to make us liberals feel good, we've been hearing about the Democratic advantage on that generic congressional poll for some time now.

So far out from November 2018, this has always been stupid. That said, Stupid is one of the basic products we are constantly sold.

Right through the weekend before the November 2016 election. we were given persistent bad advice about the Trump-Clinton polls. As soon as we were failed by those polls, we started wasting time pretending to analyze the polls for 2018.

Kornacki was placed before "the big board" again. This isn't Kornacki's doing.

This conduct is very, very dumb. But Dumb is our tribe's middle name.

(Remember the period in early 2013 when MSNBC pundits kept regaling us with news about Hillary Clinton's stunningly high approvals? We were encouraged to party and play. Many of those pundits are gone. They were very dumb.)

We need to learn how to talk to the public:

Kilgore refers to "lots of hype about bonuses and cuts in tax withholding." Donald J. Trump has also engaged in lots of hype about the fabulous economy he has brilliantly produced.

Some of that hype was recently reflected in the fifteen pro-Trump letters the New York Times chose to run two weeks back. One letter after another talked about the way the policies of Donald J. Trump had produced a booming economy.

The next day, the New York Times selected seven letters from Trump detractors which it ran in rebuttal. None of the letters addressed any issue of substance—and it's easy to show that the economy was making gains under Obama which match those made under Trump.

Obviously, one day worth of letters would make no difference concerning overall views of Trump. But the seven letters the Times chose to run told us something about that addled, ridiculous newspaper.

The New York Times has little idea what an actual "forum" looks like. It prefers to run insulting reports about Trump's wife, along with brain-dead, two-page lists of Trump's past year of insults.

We liberals think this is way cool. Everyone else thinks this proves what Trump says about the Times.

We're lazy and dumb and nobody likes us. Few things could be more clear.

BOMBSHELLS AWAY: Ashley Parker delivers buzzkill!


Part 3—What Josh Marshall read:
Can you believe the things you read on the New York Times' front page? Putting your question more precisely:

Can you believe what you think you've read on that famous front page?

You're asking a major question! In the modern political context, the question dates at least to 1996, when Gene Lyons published Fools for Scandal: How the Media Invented Whitewater.

Lyons' book first saw life in 1994 as this article in Harper's. He described the way the Whitewater pseudoscandal got its start in some suspiciously slippery front-page reports in that same New York Times.

The pseudoscandal the Times touched off ended up giving its name to a deeply destructive political era—an era which extended through Hillary Clinton's spin-drenched defeat by Donald J. Trump.

Can you believe what you read in the Times—what you think you've read in the Times? Let's continue our visit to the latest episode in this long-running, deeply consequential tale.

Our story starts last Thursday night, at roughly 8:20 PM Eastern. At that time, cable observers spotted the latest bombshell report on the Times' web site. On Friday morning's hard-copy front page, the alleged bombshell report ran beneath these headlines:
President Relented After the White House Counsel Threatened to Resign
On its face, the report was highly dramatic. One of its authors, Maggie Haberman, was rushed onto the air at CNN, where she's an (apparently paid) "CNN political analyst."

"This is really huge," Anderson Cooper instantly said. (Presumably, he hadn't had time to read the newly posted report.) Excitedly, he assembled the troops, who began praising their colleague:
COOPER (1/27/18): Maggie, if you can't just stay with us. I want to bring back Carl Bernstein, Gloria Borger and Kaitlan Collins.

Carl, I mean—pretty stunning.

BERNSTEIN: It's stunning. It's a huge story, and I'm going to assume that Maggie is as good a reporter as she always is, and that the fact that the White House counsel threatened to resign over this.
Haberman's report was stunning, Bernstein quickly said. He was "going to assume that Maggie is as good a reporter as she always is."

Gloria Borger soon added her own words of praise. "Maggie, this is your great story," she said. Jeffrey Toobin joined in too. "It's yet another remarkable scoop by Maggie and Mike Schmidt," he soon said.

(In fact, the endlessly fuzzy Michael Schmidt was the lead reporter for the bombshell report. Schmidt was being praised this night over at MSNBC, where he's a presumably paid "MSNBC contributor.")

Had these CNN observers actually read the "story?" Based on the apparent timing of the bombshell report's appearance, we would guess that, at best, they had been able to skim it.

(Note: "Story" is the childish term our journalists use in place of the more grown-up term, "news report.")

That said, the cable stars were leaping ahead with praise for Haberman's latest great story. A bit more cautiously and somewhat humorously, Bernstein was merely assuming her work was good.

Some of these people may have actually read the report. If so, should they have believed what they read, or what they thought they'd read?

We're going to say maybe not! Consider what happened to Josh Marshall roughly two days later.

Roughly two days later, Marshall read a news report in the Washington Post. The lengthy report, by Ashley Parker, appeared on the front page of Sunday's hard-copy editions. Marshall quoted and assessed what he read in this subsequent TPM post.

What did Marshall read in Sunday's Washington Post? Uh-oh! In paragraphs 31-33 of Parker's lengthy report, he encountered this buzzkill:
PARKER ET AL (1/28/18): By June [of 2017], Trump had so openly begun discussing firing Mueller that Bannon and Reince Priebus, who was then chief of staff, grew “incredibly concerned,” huddling to strategize about how to dissuade the president and enlisting others to intervene with him.

In mid-June, Christopher Ruddy, the chief executive of the conservative Newsmax Media and a longtime Trump confidant, voiced those concerns publicly, telling PBS “NewsHour,” “I think he’s perhaps terminating the special counsel.”

And that same month, Trump did, in fact, order McGahn to fire Mueller, a directive first reported Thursday by the New York Times. But McGahn told West Wing staff—though not the president—that he would quit before carrying out Trump’s directive, and the president ultimately backed down, people familiar with the events said.
Say what? McGahn didn't tell Donald J. Trump that he would quit?

That's what Parker explicitly wrote. He simply told "West Wing staff!"

Why do we call that report a buzzkill? Because that's what Marshall said. That isn't what he thought he had read in the original "bombshell report"—and he thought it mattered.

Marshall wrote a whole blog post concerning this apparent contradiction. It appeared under a striking headline: "This Is A Very Big Difference."

"This seems like a minor detail," Marshall wrote. "But at least based on my understanding it is a quite different version of the story than the one reported by the Times last week."

Marshall said that Parker's account of what had occurred was much less dramatic that the story he thought he'd read in the Times. He went on to offer this significant point of concern:
MARSHALL (1/28/18): If [McGahn] didn’t tell Trump [that he would quit], what happened exactly? It’s not clear. Perhaps McGahn separately gave Trump the ultimatum. But the story appears to say clearly that that did not happen. If I’m reading this passage correctly, they’re not simply saying they don’t have confirmation McGahn told the President but that they know McGahn did not. Big difference.

This makes it sound much more like McGahn just pocket vetoed Trump’s directive. It also raises the possibility that McGahn or his allies floated the Times version of the story and included a deceptively aggressive (and exculpating) version of events.
Uh-oh! In that highlighted statement, Marshall floated a naughty speculation. Schmidt and Haberman may have been played by self-dealing people inside the Trump White House! The star scribes may have been conned!

We'll give Marshall high marks for offering that speculation. That said, we're forced to give him a failing grade for his overall work over the course of this latest episode.

We're sorry, but Schmidt and Haberman's original report never did explicitly say that McGahn directly challenged Trump. Their front-page writing is quite often tactically fuzzy, and it was so again this time.

Marshall had misread their report if he thought they'd made some such declaration. More than twenty years after Fools For Scandal, one of our stars was getting fooled again!

In fact, last Thursday evening's "bombshell report" was strikingly fuzzy. And please understand this point:

Schmidt and Haberman are professional journalists, as is the editor who waved their report into print. They all know how to produce clear declarations of fact.

If sources had told them that McGahn directly confronted Donald J. Trump, they would have explicitly said so. Why didn't they make a clear declaration? Almost surely, it's because they don't know what actually happened, or because they wanted to make these events seem more dramatic than they actually were.

The pattern which played out last week is getting extremely old. Here's the shape of watery journalism:

First, suspiciously slippery writing appears on page one of the Times. The "story" seems to make dramatic claims, but explicit statements can't quite be found.

Despite the familiar shape of the fuzzyy work, everybody stampedes off to declare the report a bombshell. Cable stars praise the brilliant work before they've even read it.

The apparent claims, which don't really exist, drive some preapproved narrative. At home, a thrill is sent up our legs. We decide to tune in the very next night for more of this tribal excitement!

Back in 1992, the slippery claims involved the Whitewater investment. Last Thursday night, the slippery claims involved a dramatic West Wing "confrontation."

That said, what actually happened last June in the White House? In our view, there's little sign that Schmidt and Haberman know. Beyond that, we'd say that Marshall's speculation about the reporters getting played is quite possibly sound.

Tomorrow, we'll show you what another observer said. This observer didn't claim to know what had occurred, but on Friday night, speaking with Lawrence, he almost seemed to roll his eyes at the New York Times' bombshell report.

Lawrence's guest was Michael Wolff. Trump "fires Mueller" every day, the best-selling author now said!

Tomorrow: The skeptic's tale. Did Donald J. Trump "back down?"

BREAKING: Why the Others may dislike people like Us!


Pitiful terrible horrible slimy dishonest small:
We were struck by the snark, and by the endless bad judgment, in this morning's New York Times report on Melania Trump.

That said, yay yay yay yay yay! Katie Rogers got to this "salacious backdrop" early on. If we might borrow from Peaches 'n Herb, it just felt soooo good:
ROGERS (1/30/18): Aides to Mrs. Trump say that she is focusing on her role and her family. But her relative silence and independent travel in recent weeks is set against a salacious backdrop: A Wall Street Journal report that the porn star Stormy Daniels was paid $130,000 just before the 2016 election to keep quiet about an affair she had had a decade earlier with Mr. Trump—when the Trumps were newlyweds, and while Mrs. Trump was pregnant with their son, Barron.

Mrs. Trump and the president have had a tumultuous relationship at times over the years, but few episodes have roiled the peace as much as the news surrounding Ms. Daniels. The reports of a payoff blindsided the first lady, who was furious with her husband, according to two people close to the couple. She has kept a low profile since.
Melania was furious about Strormy. Yay yay yay yay yay yay yay! That just felt soooo good.

Slimeballs like to play in the slop. That said, we were amazed by Rogers' skill at going way out of her away to cast negative aspersions in any and all circumstances.

When Melania visited the Holocaust Museum, was it just because the museum was on the way to her plane? Who but a perfect slimeball could ever come up with that? Meanwhile, how much did it cost when Melania flew to Florida? Rogers typed that up too.

Rogers' skill at inserting the knife is little short of amazing. Soon, though, we came to the passage shown below. We didn't know that this piece of slop from Rogers had already been cleaned up:
ROGERS: A year into her husband’s presidency and her own tenure as first lady, Mrs. Trump finds herself in an unusual position—and perhaps at a disadvantage. There are few things Mrs. Trump can share about herself without it being dissected—often negatively. When she revealed the tidbit that her favorite TV show was “How to Get Away With Murder,” for example, the show’s star, Viola Davis, did not dispute a joke that the first lady was “a captive in her own home.”
Davis "didn't dispute the joke?" She also didn't affirm the joke! It's hard to believe that the New York Times would link to a garbage can blog post like this, as Rogers does at that point. But at the end of Rogers' slimeball report, we came upon this truly pathetic correction:
Correction: January 29, 2018
An earlier version of this article incorrectly quoted Viola Davis as saying that Melania Trump was “a captive in her own home.” It was the talk show host Jimmy Kimmel who made the remark, asking Ms. Davis, a guest on his show, if she was happy giving a woman who is “a captive in her own home” some “pleasure” once in a while from watching the television series she stars in, “How to Get Away With Murder.”
Of slimeballs like Rogers, we'll only say this—we humans love to loathe! It's always been one of our greatest joys, as Rogers' report helps us see.

Melania stopped at the Holocaust Museum because it was on the way to her plane! Meanwhile, there was Maddow, at the end of last night's show, playing her "they can't spell" card:
MADDOW (1/29/18): The State of the Uniom is tomorrow.

[sycophantic laughter off-camera]

This is what the tickets look like when they first put them out today. "Address to the Congress on the State of the Uniom!"

[sycophantic laughter off-camera]

I thought it was amazing when they couldn't spell Norway. Union?

[Pauses and sighs]

Even the Normegians will be tuning in to our State of the Union tomorrow night. I want you to know about the timing. Our coverage is going to starts at 8. I`ll be hosting here tomorrow night alongside my friend Brian Williams and Chris Matthews.

Our coverage starts here at 8. We're going to be live straight through the whole group right until midnight. Then there's a special midnight live edition of Hardball. There's going to be continuing live coverage after that with Steve Kornacki starting at 1 a.m. Eastern.

So, you know, round up the Normegians and join your uniom. We`ll all be together at least.

That does it for us tonight. We'll see you tomorrow. Now, it`s time for The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell.
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! "They" had done it again!

Everyone knew who the wonderfully stupid "they" were supposed to be. Those People in the White House can't even spell! If you've watched this bullshit in the past, you'll know that was Maddow's implication, though she was too clever to say it.

Unfortunately, the typo on the admission tickets didn't come from the White House. The typo came from the nonpartisan office of the nonpartisan House sergeant at arms.

Yesterday afternoon, every idiot ran to Twitter to joke about the typo. That said, everyone knew, early on, that the typo was a nonpartisan bungle by that nonpartisan office.

Here's New York magazine at 4:30 PM, explaining this well-understood point. But so what? More than five hours later, Rachel went out there and mugged and clowned for her ten million bucks.

She sent us to bed with our little dumb gift, helping us learn to adore her more fully. Though it's mainly her corporate bosses' fault, this is who and what Maddow has turned out to be. This is also who and what we humans actually are.

Pseudoistorian speaks: Seeking the elevation supplied by academic authority, Rogers offered this:
ROGERS: The polarizing nature of her husband’s presidency has also isolated Mrs. Trump from her predecessors. She is not part of a small group of first ladies, including Michelle Obama and Laura Bush, who have developed a bond based on knowing what it is like to be constantly scrutinized, with their popularity linked to their husbands’.

“First ladies from Jackie Kennedy to Hillary Clinton to Laura Bush have stood by their husbands at the lowest points in their presidency,” Kate Andersen Brower, an author of “First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies,” said in an interview. “We’re seeing a different example with Melania of a woman who has maybe had too much.”
Hiss! Hiss-spit! Meeeeeow!! Bullshit like this captures the soul of the "Creeping Dowdism" which long ago swallowed the Times.

BOMBSHELLS AWAY: A fuzzy, air-filled bombshell report!


Part 2—Not unlike a Hostess Twinkie:
College bookstores sell beer mugs and t-shirts. Health Valley sells Blue Corn Flakes.

Nova is currently selling the notion that Professor Levin can "explain" black holes in a way we rubes will be able to grasp. Meanwhile, cable news channels sell BREAKING NEWS—and occasionally, "bombshell reports."

Under current arrangements, the "bombshell report" is a highly important news product. Last Thursday night, a bombshell report was identified and christened on CNN, then on MSNBC. By Friday evening, almost everyone agreed that such a report had been delivered on target.

This particular bombshell report topped the front page of Friday morning's New York Times. Hard-copy headlines included, the bombshell had started like this:
President Relented After the White House Counsel Threatened to Resign

President Trump ordered the firing last June of Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation, according to four people told of the matter, but ultimately backed down after the White House counsel threatened to resign rather than carry out the directive.

The West Wing confrontation marks the first time Mr. Trump is known to have tried to fire the special counsel. Mr. Mueller learned about the episode in recent months as his investigators interviewed current and former senior White House officials in his inquiry into whether the president obstructed justice.
By Friday evening, Schmidt and Haberman's latest report had moved from the realm of BREAKING NEWS into the realm of the bombshell.

Almost everyone called it a bombshell, but was it even a sound report? On our own award-winning campus, inquiring minds wanted to know—and they felt vastly unsure.

In what way was that bombshell report perhaps not fully sound? This morning, we'll try to count the ways. Let's start with those four sources.

In fairness, this was an exciting report. It told a dramatic tale.

According to the Times report, Donald J. Trump had issued an "order." But then, after an underling "threatened to resign," the commander in chief had been forced to "back down."

This report was highly dramatic. Also, as bombshell reports typically do, it fit preferred story lines.

That said, how do we know that these events really occurred? How do we know that they occurred in the way implied and described?

Again, let's look at those four sources. Schmidt and Haberman sourced their report this way:

"according to four people told of the matter"

According to four people told of the matter! That's a rather murky description, but it seems to say that none of the sources had direct knowledge of what occurred.

They'd been told about what had occurred. Apparently, they hadn't seen what occurred with their own eyes. This seems to mean that Don McGahn, the White House counsel in question, actually wasn't a source.

That said, by whom whom had the four sources been told? Had they been told by people who did have direct knowledge? Had they been told by Don McGahn? Or was the sourcing even more attenuated than that?

The reporters didn't say. At best, Schmidt and Haberman were getting second-hand reports—someone's account of someone's account. As readers, that means that we're getting Schmidt and Haberman's account of someone's account of someone's account—and the The information chain could be even more strung out than that.

To what extent did Schmidt and Haberman feel that they actually knew what had happened? We don't know how to answer that, but their story seems like a Hostess Twinkie to us once we get over all the excitement—excitement which is pimped along by the fact that they're telling a story we like.

We've shown you the first two paragraphs of this bombshell report. Below, you see paragraphs 5 and 6, where the scribes' report, such as it is, is a bit more fully fleshed out:
SCHMIDT AND HABERMAN: After receiving the president’s order to fire Mr. Mueller, the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, refused to ask the Justice Department to dismiss the special counsel, saying he would quit instead, the people said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to be identified discussing a continuing investigation.

Mr. McGahn disagreed with the president’s case and told senior White House officials that firing Mr. Mueller would have a catastrophic effect on Mr. Trump’s presidency. Mr. McGahn also told White House officials that Mr. Trump would not follow through on the dismissal on his own. The president then backed off.
We can now tell this story in a bit more detail. Here's how the basic story goes:
President Trump "ordered" Don McGahn, the White House counsel, to fire Robert Mueller. But uh-oh!

In spite of this order, McGahn "refused to ask the Justice Department to dismiss the special counsel, saying he would quit instead."
Already, we note a bit of confusion. Did Donald J. Trump order McGahn to fire Mueller? Or did he order McGahn to tell the Justice Department to fire Mueller?

The reporters have stated it two different ways. Which of the two is accurate?

(Based on a roughly a million past reports, we're fairly sure that McGahn couldn't have fired Mueller himself. But so what! Weirdly, the bombshell report doesn't discuss this technical point. This helps the confusion mount.)

We've already noted one point of confusion. Now we'll note a point of uncertainty in this bombshell report:

To whom was Don McGahn actually speaking when he threatened to resign? Was he speaking to Donald J. Trump, or was he speaking to someone else?

To whom did McGahn issue his threat? Can you answer that basic question based on this murky report? It seems to us that you can't!

Already, there's lack of clarity and a bit of confusion, but whatever! Let's continue with the story as the story's been told:
After receiving his order from Trump, McGahn told unnamed "senior White House officials" that firing Mueller would be a lousy idea.

He also told unnamed "White House officials" that Trump "would not follow through on the dismissal on his own."
McGahn made that first statement to White House officials. Did he ever say it to Trump?

Meanwhile, what did McGahn mean by that second statement? Could he possibly have meant that Trump would forget all about his moment of pique?

Did he possibly mean instead that Trump would change his mind about firing Mueller upon reflection? Could that be what McGahn meant? The reporters don't seem real sure.

The reporters don't explain these points. Instead, they make this dramatic statement:
The president then backed off.
The president "backed off?" That doesn't sound like he changed his mind or simply forgot. But why do the reporters say that Trump "backed off?" That makes it sound like someone directly confronted him about his order.

Is that what actually happened? The reporters never say. Did Trump back down or back off in somebody's presence? In the face of McGahn's alleged threat? There's no sign that the scribes know!

We're sorry, but this is a very fuzzy, extremely air-filled report. Let's consider the possibilities:

Did Donald J. Trump lose his nerve concerning the firing of Mueller? Did he explicitly back down, or relent, in the face of direct opposition?

Or did he simply change his mind as the hours or days went by? Beyond that, is it possible that this highly erratic man simply forgot that he'd given McGahn this "order?"

The reporter show no sign of knowing the answers to these questions. In truth, there's little sign that Schmidt and Haberman know what happened at all.

In fairness, they do know how to tell a pleasing story. Let's return to this part of their bombshell report:

"The West Wing confrontation marks the first time Mr. Trump is known to have tried to fire the special counsel."

Starting on Thursday night, many pundits were confused by that reference to "the first time." Did that mean what it seemed to mean? Did it mean that Trump is known to have tried to fire Mueller on other occasions?

No, it didn't mean that, Schmidt and Haberman told several cable pundits. That said, their construction encouraged this exciting sense. Below, you see what they apparent meant to say:

"The West Wing confrontation marks the only time Mr. Trump is known to have tried to fire the special counsel."

Based on what the reporters said on the air, that looks like what they actually meant. Why didn't they simply state their point in that unambiguous way? Readers, please! Such specificity would have served as a big giant major buzzkill!

Let's assume that Donald J. Trump really did order McGahn to fire Mueller. From that point on, this bombshell report is almost completely murky.

To whom did the reporters speak? The point is unclear. Did their sources have any first-hand knowledge at all? The reporters never say.

Meanwhile, is it possible that something like this might have happened:

In a fit of rage, Donald J. Trump told McGahn to tell the Justice Department to fire Mueller. McGahn went to chief of staff Priebus and said, "I'm sorry, but for legal reasons I could never do that. Let's just ignore what this idiot said and he'll just forget all about it."

Assuming this story isn't completely bogus, what actually happened last June? We're sorry, but there's no clear sign that Schmidt and Haberman know.

Tomorrow, we'll show you what Michael Wolff said about this bombshell report. Meanwhile, the fuzzy prose of Schmnidt and Haberman is typical of their several years of crappy work for the Times.

Why does no one challenge their murky writing when these Timespersons appear on cable? Tomorrow, we'll start with that question. After that, we'll show you what Michael Wolff told Lawrence.

Meanwhile, one last sad story:

Josh Marshall read that bombshell report and didn't see that it was full of air. Twenty years later, our brightest stars still haven't learned that, in the realm of the New York Times, "no one will be true."

When the flip will Marshall wise up? By now, the answer seems clear.

Tomorrow: Michael Wolff rolls his eyes at the air-filled bombshell report

What manner of confrontation: Did someone directly tell Trump that his order wouldn't be followed? If so, who did that?

Early on in the bombshell report, the word "confrontation" gives the impression that someone actually did that. But who "confronted" Donald J. Trump? The reporters never directly say!

People, did any such thing occur? After reading a bombshell report, shouldn't you know the answer?

BREAKING: Mogul discovers no one will be true!


Josh Marshall ponders the Times:
We came upon Josh Marshall's post at roughly 5:45 this morning.

It was too painful to read the whole thing.
We set it aside until later.

Later has come! Josh seems to have gotten the wrong impression from the Schmidt/Haberman "bombshell report"—the report we first discussed last Saturday and began to review this morning.

In our view, Josh likely got the wrong impression because, in a perhaps maybe possibly typical way, Schmidt and Haberman (and their editor) may have wanted him to.

Quite plainly, the bombshell report by Schmidt and Haberman never said what Josh apparently thought (and still seems to think) it said. In particular, it never made the dramatic claims Josh describes in his post.

That bombshell report was full of air. But even after all these years, one of our tribe's once-smartest players still can't stop getting misled by the work they turn out at the Times.

As we noted this morning, that "bombshell report" was very fuzzy and was heavily filled with air. That said, it was also tribally pleasing, and so the stampede began.

AS of yesterday afternoon, a report in the Washington Post had Josh rethinking the story line he thought he'd read in the Times. Slippery work is meant to mislead. It seems to us that the New York Times may have done it again.

As Dylan once thoughtfully said: As Dylan once said, in Tears of Rage, version sung by The Band:
We pointed you the way to go
And scratched your name in sand
Though you just thought it was nothing more
Than a place for you to stand
I want you to know that while we watched
You discover no one would be true
That I myself was among the ones who thought
It was just a childish thing to do...
Work from the Times often seems less than true. How long does it take to grasp this?

BREAKING: Black men are moochers, vaunted film says!


The shape of tribal warfare:
The most remarkable moment in The Shape of Water occurs rather late in the film.

We refer to the scene in which Guillermo del Toro detonates his three millionth cultural stereotype, the one in which we get to see that black men are lazy moochers who shamelessly live off their wives.

In fairness, the black husband in question doesn't say "Yassuh, boss," as he betrays his wife in deference to The Man. But he comes amazingly close in this amazing film.

We went to see The Shape of Water for several reasons. We were stunned by the tribal messaging the heinous mess contains. Also, by the number of critics who managed to sit through the film without noticing this part of its brief.

Most mainstream critics did mention the heavy-handed stereotyping found all through the film. For the most part, they tended to review the film favorably anyway. (Fairly clearly, David Edelstein didn't.)

We think the stereotyping in this film almost defies belief. We'd say it offers a remarkable look at the way human brain cells die in times of "cultural revolution."

We expect to discuss the film in detail next week, but that scene with the black husband really took the cake. In fairness, he didn't say "Yassuh, boss." But he came amazingly close.

It seemed to us that Sally Hawkins really was extremely good, just as everyone says. It seems to us that Guillermo del Toro needs a lot of help, as does our deranged, drowning tribe, which increasingly seems to be maybe half human, half monster.

BOMBSHELLS AWAY: Invention of the latest blockbuster!


Part 1—Watching a bombshell be born:
The New York Times' latest "bombshell report" entered the world as a case of BREAKING NEWS.

Guillermo del Toro could hardly have done it better! The journalistic Gill-man swam to the surface last Thursday night, on CNN, at 8:21 PM Eastern.

Anderson Cooper sat in the anchor chair when the monster swam into view. Let's review the chronology:

At 8:18 PM, Cooper returned from break. At home, on your TV screen, a chyron announced the segment's first BREAKING NEWS:
Sunlen Serfaty reported this first bit of breaking news. To review the transcript, click here.

At 8:21, the chyron changed, as did the reporter. The new chyron announced a second piece of "breaking news:"
Gloria Borger came on to report this second piece of "breaking news."

And then, good lord! At 8:22 PM, the Gill-man swam into view.

Suddenly, Borger's report was old hat. A new chyron reported a third piece of breaking news:
That's what the third chyron said. Shoving Borger to the curb, Cooper turned to this newer breaking news. He started by telling us this:
COOPER (1/25/18): Right, Gloria. There's actually more breaking news happening right now. I believe we have Maggie Haberman on the phone. Do we have Maggie?


COOPER: Maggie Haberman for the New York Times is on the phone. Maggie, what's this breaking story that's just breaking now?
There was actually more breaking news! This breaking news was a breaking story that was just breaking now!

If we might borrow from our Homer, such was the birth of the New York Times' latest "bombshell report." Recalling Moses in the rushes, it came to life last Thursday night as a humble piece of BREAKING NEWS.

At this point, we offer a small observation. Almost everything on cable news is now called "breaking news."

Under this industry rubruc, a news report isn't really important if it's just breaking news. A news report becomes important if it's called a "bombshell report," or perhaps if it's called "explosive."

At 8:22 last Thursday night, the new report by the New York Times was moving toward that status, but the status had not yet been conferred.

It wasn't yet a bombshell report. Already, though, in Cooper's assessment, it was "really huge:"
HABERMAN (continuing directly): Sure. My colleague Mike Schmidt and I—and thanks for having me—just reported that the president last June ordered the White House counsel Don McGahn to fire the special counsel Robert Mueller. McGahn protested and threatened to quit if he was ordered to go through with this. The president ultimately backed down.

This is the first time that we know of, Anderson, of the president actually engaging in this and doing what has been seen as an option he was keeping open, and he was very consciously keeping it open last July in an interview at The Times in the Oval Office. He has since said, "No, I'm not thinking of firing Robert Mueller." Obviously, it would have created a massive earthquake had he done so.

COOPER: So, I mean, let's just repeat this, because this is, this is really huge.
Haberman told the air-filled story almost exactly as it was told in the newly-posted news report at the New York Times site. But it was still just BREAKING NEWS. No one had called it a bombshell yet, though Cooper was leaning that way by calling it "really huge."

Long story short! The BREAKING NEWS wasn't deemed a "bombshell" until Thursday's 10 PM hour. During the rest of Cooper's hour, he brought forth a panel of pundits to discuss the report, which no one had really had time to read, digest or analyze.

That may explain a pair of illogical comments by Cooper's fearless panel—first by the highly experienced Carl Bernstein, then by the 25-year-old Kaitlan Collins, whose youth and good looks (by conventional norms) have nothing to with the fact that she is CNN's White House correspondent, despite her fairly remarkable lack of experience. (Five months as The Daily Caller's White House correspondent, or so the leading authority says.)

When exactly will "time be up" on this fairly obvious, exploitative "cable news" practice? We can't answer your question! Let's return to our tick-tock on the invention of the latest bombshell:

People, whenever BREAKING NEWS occurs, pundits rush to their battle stations to start to blather about it. They haven't had a chance to read, think or analyze the new report. But so what? Quickly, they start to assess it.

Called upon for an instant reaction, here's what the young, inexperienced Collins said. In fairness, it was very much like a peculiar assessment the grizzled old Bernstein had already given:
COOPER: It was interesting though, Kaitlan. Yesterday, in that 15-minute off-camera discussion the president had, answering questions to reporters, he described all the actions, which others might describe as attempts at obstruction, he described it as "fighting back."

COLLINS: Exactly. That's how he saw it, not as tampering or obstruction of justice, but he he saw it as "fighting back." But it's interesting to look at what the president has said privately about Robert Mueller, according to Maggie's reporting, and what he's said publicly, because he's said publicly many times that he was not going to fire him, he had no plans to fire him. His spokesman have also echoed that. And just last night, during that briefing with reporters, he said he was looking forward to sitting down with him, he was happy to testify under oath to wrap all of this up. So it's very interesting to see that publicly he's saying of course he's cooperating, he's happy to sit down, but in private he's threatening to fire him.
You're right! That highlighted assessment doesn't make sense, except as pleasing narrative.

Uh-oh! Collins was comparing things Trump and his lawyers have said in recent months about his intentions to something he (reportedly) did on one occasion last June. She made it sound like what he (reportedly) did last June is something he's repeatedly doing in private right now.

"It's very interesting to see private he's threatening to fire him?" Collins used that obvious misstatement to drew an invidious comparison, relying on an account that isn't what "Maggie's reporting" had said.

Perhaps it was Collins' stunning inexperience which led her to make this groaning error. In fairness, though, Bernstein had already said something quite similar and, on one or two points, it wasn't clear that Haberman knew what her own report said. So it routinely goes in cable news breaking discussions.

When Cooper went off the air at 9 PM, the report still wasn't a bombshell. During the 9 PM hour, Rachel Maddow called it a "blockbuster new report," but it fell to Don Lemon to detonate the industry's most exalted phrase.

At 10 PM sharp, Chris Cuomo threw to Lemon. Bombshell status was quickly conferred:
CUOMO (1/25/18): Our coverage continues right now. CNN Tonight with Don Lemon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news!

LEMON: And it is bombshell breaking news on the Russia investigation. Really!

This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.

And this is hugely significant. The president, President Trump ordered Robert Mueller, the special counsel heading up the Russia investigation, fired this past June and the only thing that stopped him was when his own White House counsel Don McGahn threatened to quit rather than carry out the order.

This story was first reported by the New York Times, which also reports that Mueller learned about his near firing only in the past few months as his investigators interviewed current and former senior White House officials.

It has now been confirmed by at least two other news organizations. We have all of the breaking news for you. But I want to get right to the New York Times Maggie Haberman and CNN as well. And she joins me by phone. Maggie, thank you so much for joining us.

As I said, this is bombshell breaking news.
It was no longer merely "breaking," nor was it merely "hugely significant."

It was now "bombshell breaking news." Status had been conferred.

One hour later, Brian Williams called the report a bombshell on MSNBC. By the next morning, everyone agreed.

At 4 AM, CNN's Early Start came on the air; Christine Rimans called it a bombshell. Two hours later, CNN New Day began like this:
CAMEROTA (1/26/18): This is New Day. It is Friday, January 26, 6 a.m. here in New York. Chris is off. John Berman joins me. Another day, another bombshell.

BERMAN: Yes. We've got new developments just in.

CAMEROTA: We sure do! So we begin with breaking news for you. President Trump is denying the bombshell reports that he tried to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller last June.
"Another day, another bombshell." An industry secret may lurk in that remark.

Can we talk? Our cable news channels are in the business of selling us BREAKING NEWS. They're also in the business of selling us "bombshell reports," especially where BREAKING NEWS may seem to support preferred scripts, story-lines and claims.

In this case, they rushed to affirm an air-filled news report, the latest of the many Hostess Twinkies Schmidt and Haberman have baked in recent years.

Alas! For analysts who are able to read, the news report in Friday's Times was very fuzzy and highly imprecise. On Friday night, a major player would speak with Lawrence. This player would offer a whole new take on this fuzzy, air-filled report.

No matter! By Friday night, all other pundits and cable stars agreed. The Times report wasn't just "breaking news," it was a bombshell report! On CNN, they said it all day. On Friday night, at least three MSNBC hosts repeated the characterization.

All over cable, the stars agreed. This was a bombshell report.

No one said the report was fuzzy. No one said it was full of air. Tomorrow, though, we're going to show you what Michael Wolff said to Lawrence last Friday night. On Wednesday, we'll turn to the New York Times' text-in-itself to show you what front-page reporting looks like when it actually isn't real sound.

Meanwhile, is it possible that older, more experienced, more capable women are being kept off the air so CNN can provide us with youthful players like Collins? Have cable bosses decided that, if they're selling us bombshell reports, they should also maybe perhaps have a few "bombshell reporters?"

Collins offered a weak assessment that night, but then again, so did Bernstein before her. It's all a part of the corporate strategy which they sell us BREAKING NEWS, in which pundits go on the air and invent the latest bombshell.

They hadn't had time to read the report. They hadn't had time to think about it, whatever good that might have done.

The report itself was full of air. That said, what else is new?

Tomorrow: Michael Wolff speaks with Lawrence

COMING: Did the Times deliver a bombshell report?


Everyone certainly said so:
On Thursday night, did the New York Times deliver its latest "bombshell"—its latest "bombshell report?"

We refer to the news report which topped the paper's front page the next morning.

To read that news report, click here. In hard copy, the report appeared beneath these front-page headlines:
President Relented After the White House Counsel Threatened to Resign
That news report, by Schmidt and Haberman, appeared online Thursday night. By now, it has been described as a "bombshell" at least three million times.

More cautious pundits have called it "explosive." That said, we have two questions:

Was that front-page report in the New York Times a genuine bombshell report? Was it even a sound news report?

Starting Monday, we plan to examine those questions. For now, we'll recommend the opening segment of last evening's Last Word.

Lawrence's guest was Michael Wolff. He's the somewhat slippery, unreliable author of Fire and Fury, the current bombshell best-seller.

For the first twelve minutes of Lawrence's program, Wolff offered his take on the Times' bombshell report. In our view, Wolff's statements are well worth considering. You can watch the Last Word interview here.

Was Schmidt's report a bombshell report? Was it even a competent, sound news report?

We think each question is well worth exploring. Monday morning, we'll start.

Some bombshells may be unreliable: For the last four minutes of Lawrence's interview, he questioned Wolff about the claim that Donald J. Trump has been getting it on with his U.N. ambassador.

Wolff triggered that exciting rumor one week ago, in a pair of public forums. We will assume that his slippery remarks also triggered additional sales of his best-selling book.

BREAKING: We need a name for our latest non-group!


The bunk of the new kind of tribe:
For what it's worth, we played high school basketball against the late Bill Strauss, or at least we think we did.

Years later, he and co-author Neil Howe coined the term "millenials." (Bill also co-founded Capitol Steps.) This fact was mentioned yesterday in the New York Times, as Jonah Bromwich desperately searched for a name for the next big non-entity.

Uh-oh! The generation after millennials doesn't yet have a name. Bromwich defined the imaginary problem about the imaginary group at the start of his report:
BROMWICH (1/25/18): Millennials are getting older.

Not that much older, of course. We're a roughly defined generational cohort, but arguably the oldest members of our demographic set are just beginning to reach the age of 40.

Meanwhile, the American generation behind millennials has started to move into the workplace. And while some have proposed names for this group born in 1995 and after—Generation Z, Post-Millennials, The Homeland Generation, iGeneration—all of these names are bad. The first two don't even strive for originality! Come on.

Then again, it's hard to know what makes a generational name stick.
The essay moved along in that vein. In the end, Bromwich asked for possible names for this alleged new cohort.

Why do we call this new cohort "alleged?" For the obvious reason! Bromwich announced that this new alleged generation starts with births in 1995. But he never answered an obvious question:

Who says that people born after 1994 constitute a new generation? While we're at it, who says there's any such thing as a "generation" of this type at all?

The thinking isn't always top-notch when this topic arises. For one example, note the way Bromwich defined the last three alleged generations:
BROMWICH: One stumbling block is a lack of agreement about the birth years for each generation. People on the fringes can feel as if they've got almost nothing in common with the rest of the group. A few years' difference can determine if you could have been drafted for Vietnam, watched the first MTV videos, or were born into a world of instant messaging.

In 2015, the Census Bureau said that there were 83.1 million American millennials (born between 1982 and 2000), exceeding the 75.4 million baby boomers (between 1946 and 1964), and the 65 million that Pew Research said belong in Generation X (between 1965 and 1980).

But the generation after millennials is still so ill-defined (probably because of the whole name issue) that an accurate count has not yet been established.
Hmmm. It's one thing to say there's a lack of agreement about each cohort's birth dates. It's another thing to define the matter as Bromwich does:
Baby boomers: Born between 1946 and 1964
Generation X: Born between 1965 and 1980
Millennials: Born between 1982 and 2000
It's fun to belong to a generation! But if you were born in 1981, it looks like you're [BLEEP] out of luck!

It was already bad enough that we had racial, ethnic and gender "identities" mercilessly assigned to everybody by the commissars. But at some point, we got it into our tiny heads that we all had to belong to a "generation" too.

This notion makes no obvious sense. Nor does anyone ever seem to feel the need to answer some basic questions:

Who gets to set the boundaries for each alleged group? On what basis do they decide where "generations" start and end?

Those questions go unaddressed. The only thing that matters is this—we now have another, very dumb idea to play with. We have another "identity," one no one can really explain!

Without question, people born at different times have different types of experience. People born in the 1780s had never heard of Chutes and Ladders, to cite one familiar example.

People who came of age in the late 1960s did so at an unusual time. Facts like this are fairly obvious. Inevitably, they gave way to an industry of incoherent group assignment.

The idea that we belong to different generations has created a mountain of blather, especially in comment threads. Now, Bromwich seeks a name for a new non-existent group.

How about "The Overdefineds?" After that, let's come up with a name for folk from 1981 ("The Roanokes?"), with one more name for the journalists who are prepared to forget them.

We thought Bromwich blathered a bit. Then again, it's just so typical of his g-g-generation!

POSSIBLY WIRED FOR LACK OF SOUND: Who in the world wants to talk to Them?


Part 5—Also, Trump eats cheeseburgers:
Should the editors of the New York Times have published those fifteen letters?

Not necessarily, no. We refer to the fifteen letters from Trump supporters the editors published last Thursday morning. You can read those letters here.

In hard copy, the fifteen letters filled the entire editorial page. Why would the editors publish such dreck? In Thursday's hard-copy Times, they explained their motive thusly:
The Times editorial board has been sharply critical of the Trump presidency, on grounds of policy and personal conduct. Not all readers have been persuaded. In the spirit of open debate, and in hopes of helping readers who agree with us better understand the views of those who don’t, we wanted to let Mr. Trump’s supporters make their best case for him as the first year of his presidency approaches its close. Tomorrow we'll present some letters from readers who voted for Mr. Trump but are now disillusioned, and from those reacting to these letters and our decision to provide Trump voters this platform.
The editors had published the letters "in the spirit of open debate." Also, the editors hoped the fifteen letters would help the newspaper's brighter readers "better understand the views of" people who still support Trump.

That was the project the Times undertook. How did the project work out? Perhaps not especially well!

The next day, the editors published seven rebuttal letters from our own liberal tribe. In truth, we've seen brighter forums. The fifteen letters from Trump supporters had claimed a wide array of policy accomplishments for Trump. The next day, the second letter of rebuttal zeroed in on something different.

It turned to the cheeseburger problem:
To the Editor:

How depressing. These Trump supporters have had a year to assess a man who has spent his presidency—when he isn’t reclining in bed watching cable TV while wolfing down cheeseburgers and tweeting mean nicknames—lying, bullying and obstructing to cover up possible crimes against our democracy. Despite this, they’ve yet to wise up.

B— J—
Many of the fifteen letters had criticized Trump for his tweeting. None had mentioned his love of cheeseburgers. But because of an editorial judgment, that's where this letter from our tribe went.

Should the editors of the Times have chosen to publish that letter?

Should the editors have published that letter? It seems to us that an explanation was due. It may well be that the New York Times got many rebuttal letters like that. That said, the editors probably should have explained how they selected these seven letters, the bulk of which portrayed our tribe in a less than flattering light.

In truth, the fiery fellow from Kalamazoo had nothing specific to offer, public discussion-wise. Beyond that, the seven letters of rebuttal were, on the whole, marked by an insulting tone.

For ourselves, we'd have to say the letters were also marked by a fairly obvious dumbness. The letter about the cheeseburgers was the second rebuttal the editors published. The third letter started like this:
To the Editor:

Perhaps The Times should devote an entire editorial page to flat earthers.
For dialogue and understanding, of course. That is how ridiculous it is to waste vital newspaper space, in these perilous times, to people who aid and abet a president, and his congressional lackeys, who are destroying all that is noble and just about America.

Trump supporters are not open to dialogue. They feel aggrieved. They refuse to see the litany of lies, ongoing corruption and totalitarian predispositions of the person they voted for and continue to laud.


L— R—
This letter was built on an insult. Wonderfully, the writer complained that Trump supporters aren't "open to dialogue." Right before that, he himself had aggressively scalded the Times for trying to establish a forum!

The Portland letter seemed to say that it was pointless to talk to Trump supporters. The fifth rebuttal, from liberal hub Austin, stated the point more directly:
To the Editor:

Why do you keep asking questions of Trump voters? Who cares what they think?
The Trump administration has been a complete failure and the world knows it, yet you insist on talking to people who, no matter what, think that President Trump is the messiah!

Start talking to people who have their heads in reality, who understand the problems of the world, who understand the harm an inept administration can do.

This writer was offended by the Times' insistence on speaking to people like these. "Who cares what [subhumans] think?" the fiery progressive asked.

The seventh letter put a capper on this general theme, though perhaps a bit whimsically. Please don't publish Trump voters agaun, this thoughtful writer begged:
To the Editor:

Dear New York Times,

Please don’t ever do that again.

Dear New York Times, this woman said. Please don't ever ask us to listen to Those People again!

As we read these letters, we thought of the late Gene Brabender. Way back when, the big righthander became the poster boy for the eternal, prehuman desire to undertake no public discussions—to avoid the annoyance of ever hearing the views of The Others at all.

"Where I come from, we just talk for a little while," the big right-hander memorably said in a widely-praised book. "After that we start to hit."

We just talk for a little while. After that, we start to brawl! So it went in most of the letters from our own liberal tribe in Day 2 of the Times forum.

Essence of Brabender was on display in the letters the Times chose to publish. This raised a basic question:

Why did the editors publish those letters? We think they should have explained. That said, anyone who reads comment threads at liberal sites knows that those letters' dismissive attitude is widespread within our liberal tribe. Nor should anyone be surprised to see Times editors failing badly in their purported attempt to create a meaningful forum.

Should the editors have published those seven letters? Absent some sort of explanation, we'd say the answer is no. On the whole, the letters brought plenty of heat to the forum, with no attempt at providing light in any particular area.

They came from the realm of personal insult. Consider the first rebuttal the Times chose to publish, the longest of the seven by far.

This first letter of rebuttal came from "a former newspaper editor." Did the letters from our tribe feature the spirit of insult and name-calling? This is the way this lengthiest letter began:
To the Editor:

As one who does think of President Trump’s supporters as among the “deplorables”—people who are racist and xenophobic,
people who fear the world, people who blame others for all their challenges and woes, people who hate the very idea of government as a force for good—I was fascinated to read the letters from Trump voters.
That was the way this first letter began. This opening struck us as strange.

In fairness, this former newspaper editor didn't compare the Trump supporters to a bunch of flat earthers. That said, he went straight to the famous insult which helped define the Trump-Clinton campaign and, perhaps, helped engineer Clinton's defeat.

As the former editor started his musings, he said he does think of Trump supporters as "deplorables"—as racists and xenophobes. This was the very first comment the Times chose to publish. This probably isn't the greatest way to structure a meaningful forum.

The former editor said he does think of Those People as racists! He went on to suggest that the fifteen letter writers are "more educated" than most Trump voters—and he authored a classic bit of time-honored TribalThink.

The former newspaper editor thanked the Times for giving him "a better understanding now of what these writers see happening under Mr. Trump." He then went on to tell us "what it is they’re really so happy about."

What are They really happy about? Without attempting to argue any particular case, the former editor went on to characterize The Others' views in the most unflattering way possible.

He didn't try to argue his case. Speaking with the voice of authority, he simply proceeded to say what's really happening out there. This is the way we less-than-humans have always behaved at such junctures, for the past ten trillion years.

Who could possibly care what They think? That was the essence of the seven rebuttals the editors published. None of the writers of these letters actually tried to argue a point. Instead, the letters wallowed in insult and asked the world's oldest question:

Who cares what The Other Tribe thinks? Why should we speak to Them?

The answer to that question is fairly obvious. Given the way our system operates, people who care about election outcomes should care what their neighbors think.

That said, the wiring of our flailing species was put in place long ago. No elections existed then. Our prehuman wiring evolved when we were huddled in small, frightened tribes, and it's still within a tribe that we self-impressed liberals dwell.

The editors tried to create a forum. Just as it ever was, just as it tends to be at the Times, the editors, on their way to the Hamptons, displayed little skill at this work.

Also, Donald J. Trump eats cheeseburgers! What kind of dope supports him?

BREAKING: Punishment culture and Salem Village!


Maybe some of our leading journalists could possibly step down too:
Here at THE HOWLER, we're not gigantic fans of punishment culture.

No doubt it's the influence of Cousin Elizabeth, who married the Reverend Hale in the wake of the Salem witch trials. According to academics and experts, they married in 1698, several years after Reverend Hale flipped on the wisdom of the trials.

Inspired by Professor Gates, we decided to check out the numbers. Cousin Elizabeth was the niece of Anthony Somerby, our seventh great-grandfather.

(We say he was "our seventh great-grandfather." In fact, the gentleman was only one of our 256 [sic] seventh great-grandfathers! So the picking-and-choosing works when we construct our genealogies. Professor Gates, take note!)

Back to our original point. We were struck by the pursuit of punishment displayed in today's New York Times editorial.

If we understood the work correctly, the editors feel that Dr. Larry Nassar was wrong in his decades of sexual assaults. Having drawn this bold conclusion, the editors decided to look for many additional people to punish. We were struck by this part of their editorial, Lou Anna Simon-wise:
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL (1/25/18): [Nassar] is not the only one who deserves to be called to account. An investigation commissioned by U.S.A. Gymnastics and released last year found that its board repeatedly turned a blind eye to Dr. Nassar’s abuses. An investigative series by The Indianapolis Star found that the organization had covered up accusations of abuses by many coaches, not just Dr. Nassar. Three key board members, including the chairman, Paul Parilla, resigned on Monday.

That’s a start, but it’s not enough.
The United States Olympic Committee said it is considering decertifying U.S.A. Gymnastics, but the Olympic committee was also slow to act in the Nassar case. What changes will it implement to ensure that such widespread harm to American athletes doesn’t happen under its watch again?

The resignation on Wednesday of Lou Anna Simon, the president of Michigan State, where Dr. Nassar’s medical practice was based, was overdue. Though Michigan State has denied covering up Dr. Nassar’s crimes, reporting by The Detroit News found that 14 university officials were told of Dr. Nassar’s sexual misconduct in the two decades before he was arrested, and that at least eight women had reported his actions. Michigan State continued to allow Dr. Nassar to see patients for 16 months while he was under criminal investigation after a 2014 allegation of sexual assault by a patient.
"That's a start, but it isn't enough!" That's what they told Reverend Hale!

We were struck by that reference to Lou Anna Simon. Her dumping was overdue, the editors say, noting that "14 university officials were told of Dr. Nassar’s sexual misconduct in the two decades before he was arrested."

We couldn't help noticing this—the editors forgot to say if Simon was one of those fourteen officials! At times like these, who really cares? Let the blood run in the streets!

Inevitably, the editors go on to recommend that even more people need to be punished—the guilty along with the innocent:
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL (continuing directly): The athletic trainers, assistant coaches, university police officers and other school officials who let Dr. Nassar’s abuse go on should also step down. The N.C.A.A., which is investigating the matter, should consider sanctions against Michigan State, including banning it from postseason play for some period, as it did Penn State’s football program after the former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted of molesting children over a period of 15 years.
Exactly! After we punish the people who took part in this matter, let's go on to punish those who didn't. Let's punish a bunch of undergraduate athletes, including undergraduate woman athletes, by depriving them of the right to take part in postseason play!

We humans love to stage stampedes. And dear God, how we love to punish!

The editors call for folk to step down. It seems to us that these editors could perhaps set a top-notch example!

One final point:

Earlier today, we saw loud voices on ESPN saying that journalists hadn't listened. What about journos at ESPN?

The question didn't come up!

BREAKING: How do voters get misled?


For one thing, they watch Tucker Carlson:
Our discourse has been in shambles for decades. For decades, voters have been fed all kinds of crap, depending on which news orgs they frequent.

How do voters get misled? Consider the outrageous behavior which occurred at the start of Tuesday night's Tucker Carlson program. To watch the excitement, click here.

Carlson's program airs at 8 PM Eastern on Fox. On Tuesday night, 3.3 million people were watching, almost twice as many as were watching Chris Hayes. Many more people watched the rebroadcast at midnight.

Millions of people were grossly misled by Carlson's program that night.

At the start of the program, Fox intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge aired a brief, bungled report about those missing text messages and that frightening "secret society."

The utter foolishness of these themes has become apparent since Tuesday night. But Carlson brought on Joe diGenova, and diGenova proceeded to stage an outrageous nervous and mental breakdown.

DiGenova was a major, hang-him-high pundit from the Clinton impeachment days; so was his wife, Victoria Toensing. When major figures behave the way diGenova did Tuesday night, it should be front-page news in the nation's newspapers.

After Herridge's short report, Carlson introduced diGenova. The Crazy started right away. This should be front-page news in and of itself:
CARLSON (1/23/18): Joe diGenova is a former US attorney in DC and he joins us tonight. Joe, thanks a lot for coming on.

DIGENOVA: My pleasure.

CARLSON: So on Special Report, a little over an hour ago, Ron Johnson, the senator who is head of the Homeland Security Committee, suggested that the "secret society" referenced in these texts may have been an actual thing and it may have met off-site away from the FBI secretly.

We don't know more than that. What does this suggest to you?

DIGENOVA: It suggests, as we have said from the beginning, that there was a brazen plot to illegally exonerate Hillary Clinton and if she didn't win the election, to then frame Donald Trump with a falsely-created crime.

Everything that we've seen from these texts and from all the facts developing shows that the FBI and senior DOJ officials conspired to violate the law and to deny Donald Trump his civil rights.
Just that quickly, diGenova moved from "suggests" to "shows." According to diGenova, it was just as he had always said:

"The FBI and senior DOJ officials conspired to violate the law and to deny Donald Trump his civil rights," diGenova said. More specifically, "there was a brazen frame Donald Trump with a falsely-created crime."

Carlson asked what the motive would be. Luckily, diGenova knew:
DIGENOVA: The motive would be that they didn't like Donald Trump. They didn't think he was fit to be president. And they were going to do everything within their power to exonerate Hillary Clinton and if she lost, to frame Donald Trump with a false crime because they didn't think he should be president.
Those are remarkable claims. Carlson took them in stride. As he continued, hr raised the question of the missing text messages, producing this exchange:
CARLSON (continuing directly): What do you make of the claim that five months of text messages between Strzok and Lisa Page have somehow disappeared, as Lois Lerner's emails did, as Hillary Clinton's emails did?

DIGENOVA: As an old United States attorney who has watched obstruction of justices over the years, that explanation from the bureau is ludicrous.

Those texts were either purposely destroyed—period. They were purposely destroyed. Moreover, they exist somewhere. I can assure you the NSA has them. Other companies have them. Verizon has them. AT&T.
As it turns out, it isn't just messages between Strzok and Page which seem to have been lost. As the Washington Post reports (again) this morning, a technical glitch caused messages to be lost from thousands of cellphones, not just from those embattled figures' phones, or so the Justice Department claims.

Carlson's viewers weren't alerted to this. Instead, they saw diGenova continue to rave. Soon, he stated the need for another special counsel and stated his key claim again:

"We have long since passed the time when we need to have just congressional investigations for this," he said. "Make no mistake about it. A group of FBI and DOJ people were trying to frame Donald Trump of a falsely-created crime."

Before this segment was done, diGenova had warned his host about the ongoing threat posed by Strzok and Page. The ongoing danger shaped up like this:
CARLSON: Would they be cleared to see classified information?

DIGENOVA: I certainly cannot imagine how they would still be cleared to see classified—

CARLSON: But they have access to former colleagues, of course—or their present colleagues in the building.

DIGENOVA: Yes. Members of the secret society, no doubt, continue to still talk to one other.
DiGenova didn't seem to be speaking ironically about "the secret society."

Eventually, diGenova's angry ranting was done. The segment ended like this:
CARLSON: And last question, since you've been here a long time and worked in this world for a long time. Are we right to have real questions about the integrity of our justice system watching this?

DIGENOVA: Regrettably, we're at a point now where the FBI has lost almost all of its credibility and, regrettably, its integrity as a result of the conduct of James Comey, who remains America's most dirty cop.

CARLSON: Terrifying. Joe diGenova, thank you very much for that.

DIGENOVA: Thank you.
The FBI has lost almost all integrity. Also, James B. Comey—Comey the God—is "America's most dirty cop."

The situation was "terrifying," Carlson said, He thanked his guest for sharing.

When major figures behave this way in major forums, it should be front-page news. We've said this for decades now, but the New York Times and the Washington Post choose to avert their gaze.

Our discourse has been in shambles for decades. How do voters get misled?

They get misled is these crazy ways. These deceptions are enabled by the silence of corporate lambs.

Full disclosure: We're so old that we can remember when Rachel Maddow was one of Carlson's sidekicks on his nightly MSNBC show.

People, we're just saying! Can you remember that?

POSSIBLY WIRED FOR LACK OF SOUND: Furor erupts in wake of forum!


Part 4—"Who cares what Trump voters think?"
Last Thursday morning—one week ago—the New York Times took a big chance.

The newspaper published fifteen letters from people who still support Donald J. Trump—letters the Times had solicited. These letters consumed the whole editorial page that day. In their letters, fifteen Times readers explained why they still support Trump.

In publishing those fifteen letters, the editors had taken a chance. And sure enough! According to the next day's Times, publication of those letters had touched off a furor!

What kind of furor had occurred? The editors didn't explain. But on this day, they published seven (7) letters in response to the Trump supporters. The seven letters appeared beneath this eye-catching heading:
The Furor Over a Forum for Trump Fans
What kind of "furor" had the forum touched off? The editors didn't say. They simply published seven letters which had emerged from the furor.

Let's repeat an earlier point. The seven letters which appeared that day can't be seen as a "scientific sample" of the letters the Times received as part of this uproar.

As far as anyone can tell, those seven letters are simply the letters the New York Times chose to print. There's no way to know what kinds of letters the editors threw down the drain.

Those seven letters can't speak for the liberal, progressive or anti-Trump world as a whole. That said, those letters may seem familiar to anyone who has read comment threads at online liberal "news sites."

All in all, those letters made us think of the late Gene Brabender, the former major league pitcher. Way back when, in a famous book, Brabender voiced his view of the world, especially his loathing of discourse.

Out in the bullpen on a long, lazy day, Brabender's teammates were trying to hold a discussion. Its abstruse nature made the ptcher's gorge rise. Finally, the rawboned righthander erupted, as quoted below, or so Jim Bouton said:

"Where I come from, we just talk for a little while. After that we start to hit."

The big guy could tolerate some discussion. But soon, it was time for a brawl!

We thought of Brabender's famous remark when we read the seven letters which emerged from the anti-Trump furor. In fairness, one of the letters, from distant Corvallis, reflected no "furor" at all:
To the Editor:

I wanted to express my appreciation for these letters, and in particular to the people who came forward to express their views.
I hope that these thoughtful voices can be the seed for real dialogue in what has too often become a vicious shouting match in which both sides fling invectives at each other.

J— G—
No fury or furor was visible there, just a great deal of sweetness and light.

This woman actually thanked the Times for printing the letters from Trump supporters. She claimed the Trump supporters were "thoughtful." She even suggested that we fling invective over here, on the left, just like they do on the right!

There's one in every crowd! On thia day, in fact, there may have been two. A second letter said this:
To the Editor:

I value your effort for fair discourse by printing letters from readers who do not agree with your viewpoint.
Though I could delineate a point-by-point rebuttal to each of these letters, I will simply sum up my takeaway: The majority of writers note the positive impact of President Trump’s policies on their lives. My question for them: Did you ever consider the impact of Mr. Trump’s policies on others’ lives?

J— M— T—
This letter writer, also a woman, also applauded the Times. Unlike a certain major league pitcher, she said she valued the Times' attempt to create "fair discourse"—though she also said she disagreed with the Trump supporters' views.

Disagreement is good! That said, might we express two skeptical points concerning this courteous letter?

This writer made a bold claim. She said she could "delineate a point-by-point rebuttal to each of these letters" from the previous day. We find that hard to believe.

The fifteen letters from Trump supporters praised Trump on all sorts of points. Could this writer really rebut the imprecise claim that Trump had done away with "wasteful regulations?" That Trump had removed this country from "bad international agreements?" That Trump has "reined in a number of out-of-control agencies?"

Could she knowledgeably discuss all those claims? Is she able to discuss the claim that Trump has instituted "policies and programs that are stimulating the private sector?" The claim that Trump had "destroyed ISIS" by "letting the generals crush" it?

Those fifteen letters had praised Donald J. Trump on a wide array of fronts. Could any one person really speak, with actual knowledge, to so wide an array of points? Self-confidence is often refreshing, but we think this courteous writer may perhaps have been getting a bit out over her skis.

In fact, none of the seven letters the Times chose to publish made an attempt to rebut any specific policy claim from the day before. Consider one claim by several Trump supporters:

Have Donald J. Trump's economic policies really produced a "roaring economy?" Or are the economic gains in question really a welcome extension of trends which existed under Obama?

We've seen several posts by Kevin Drum which seem to support the latter view. But no one in any of those seven letters tried to rebut any particular pro-Trump claim. This writer said she could lick every claim in the house, but none of the letters the Times chose to publish specifically addressed even one.

Our discourse tends to be like that. In last week's inherently limited, forum-to-furor format, the fault may lie with the New York Times more than with any of the people who submitted letters. That said, it would be extremely hard to delineate so many rebuttals! With the overweening self-confidence with may appear within either tribe, this courteous letter writer seemed to think she could do it.

She also may have directed a bit of unfair snark at to those Trump supporters. Is it true that "the majority of [the Trump supporters] noted the positive impact of President Trump’s policies on their lives," as opposed to Donald J. Trump's effects on anyone else?

We can't say that's really the case, though it does fit tribal stereotype.

We've focused today on the two letters which thanked the Times for printing letters from Trump supporters. Truth to tell, though, these courteous letters were the outliers this day.

The other five letters the Times chose to publish tended to drop payloads of bombs on Trump supporters. "Who cares what they think?" one writer directly asked, expressing a sentiment which is on wide display wherever liberal views are sold.

Did the Times get a lot of letters like that? Is that the "furor" to which what the editors referred? We aren't able to answer that. But given our many other furors, would anyone be surprised?

"Who cares what they think?" That sentiment struck us as amazingly dumb. It made us think of thelate Brabender, and of the instinct to hit.

Is our species wired for discourse, or are we wired for tribal war? Quite often, we liberals seem to be wired for lack of sound. We don't want to hear what The Others may think. Why should we care about them?

Brabender railed against all that discussin'. Are we perhaps wired like him?

Tomorrow: Deplorable flat-earthers

BREAKING: A statistical pet peeve!


Statewide congressional vote versus gerrymandering:
Gerrymandering can sometimes be in the eye of the beholder.

That pretty much isn't the case with Pennsylvania's current congressional districts. The 18 districts are so wildly irregular that they would look crazily gerrymandered to pretty much anyone's eye.

For one crazy-quilt example, see this Kevin Drum post. On the down side, Drum advances one of our favorite "pet peeve" statistical howlers at the start of that very same post:
DRUM (1/23/18): Yesterday the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declared the state’s congressional districts unconstitutional because they had been so badly gerrymandered. The result of the 2016 election bears out how effective the gerrymander was: Republicans won 54 percent of the congressional vote but received 72 percent of the congressional seats (13 out of 18).
Doggone it! That familiar construction suggests that a party which gets 54 percent of the statewide House vote should get something resembling 54 percent of the congressional seats. It certainly can work out that way, but it ain't necessarily so.

Imagine a state with 18 non-gerrymandered House districts. The imaginary state's congressional districts are as "regular" as can be.

This state's imaginary electorate is 54 percent Republican, 46 percent Democratic. But also imagine this:

That population is evenly spread across the state's 18 districts. In each of the 18 congressional districts, the electorate is 54 percent Republican.

In a state like that, the GOP would get 54 percent of the statewide vote, and it would win every single congressional seat! In principle, no gerrymandering is required to produce an outcome like that.

In the real world, Pennsylvania's districts plainly have been gerrymandered. No one seems to dispute this. But every time you see a gap between the statewide vote and the statewide allotment of districts, you aren't necessarily seeing evidence of foul play.

As has been widely observed, gerrymandering isn't the only force which can tilt the allotment of House against the Democratic (or Republican) party. As has been widely observed, Democratic voters tend to be heavily concentrated in large urban areas. In the absence of gerrymandering, this tends to produce urban House districts which are heavily Democratic.

In states which feature such concentrations, Democrats may win a smaller number of districts by huge margins. Republicans will thereby win a larger number of districts by smaller margins.

(Our own sprawling campus sits in one such urban district with lots of extra Democratic votes.)

These remarks have nothing to do with the claim that Pennsylvania is gerrymandered. They have to do with a statistical pet peeve, one which drives us wild.

Pictures from the leading authority: How screwy are the shapes of some Pennsylvania districts? The leading authority on the state shows you all the shapes here.

BREAKING: Woodruff wars with Trump Era 6!


What we have here is a failure:
Last night, we watched Judy Woodruff go to war with The Trump Era 6.

The discussion started nicely enough. On the PBS NewsHour, Woodruff introduced the dispiriting segment in the way shown below.

To watch the tape or read the transcript, you can just click here:
WOODRUFF (1/23/18): As we reflect on President Trump’s first year in office, we check back in with some familiar faces.

I sat down last night with a group of six voters in the swing state of Virginia, most of whom I had first talked to during the election year.

(Videotape begins)

Thank you all, again, for talking with us. We do appreciate it very much, a year-and-a-half later than the conversation we had with five of you in August of 2016.

So I’m going to start this evening with the host, the gentleman whose home we’re having this conversation in, Bill Lupinacci.

Thank you very much for having us here. Let’s just start with the basic question. How do you think things are going in this country right now?
Judy hoped to reflect on Trump's first year with some familiar faces. The whole thing started nicely enough. But by the time the segment was done, we hoped there were six separate ways out of her host's abode!

In the case of one participant, we were struck by an almost total lack of knowledge concerning the way to speak to others. If you watch the tape or read the transcript, you can try to guess who we mean. We'll give you one last hint:

This person voted for Candidate Clinton, the same darn way we did!

We thought last evening's brief discussion presented the very picture of an atomized society. We thought a few of the familiar faces weren't hugely skilled at the ancient task of speaking to other people. We also thought that Woodruff herself brought little to the table.

We'll offer a bit of background concerning one participant. Trump supporter Corey Solivan graduated from Penn State in 2004. He'd earned a degree in electrical engineering, a subject known to be hard.

Today, he's Director of National & Strategic Accounts for Consolidated Networks Corporation. He's also Managing Member of C2S LLC, which he describes thusly:

"C2S is my personal LLC that I plan to grow and develop beyond a sole proprietorship and successfully graduate as an 8a minority owned disadvantaged small business."

Solivan's LLC is a "minority-owned disadvantaged small business?" We're not real clear on what that means, but we were a bit surprised by some of that, given Solivan's role in last night's non-conversation conversation.

Is our society losing cohesion? Just watch the tape of last night's "discussion." You'll get a chance to find out!

Full disclosure: We went to several dances when we were in high school which ended up something like this.

POSSIBLY WIRED FOR LACK OF SOUND: "I am not a circus freak!"


Part 3—Or so one Trump voter says:
"I am not an animal!"

One Trump supporter has now made this claim. Down below, we'll review his more precise statement.

The Trump supporter who made this claim hails from Brooklyn, New York. He was one of fifteen people who got a chance to explain their support for Trump in last Thursday's New York Times.

On that day, the Times devoted its entire editorial page to letters from those fifteen Trump voters. The next day, the Times published seven letters of rebuttal. Those letters appeared beneath this striking headline:

"The Furor Over a Forum for Trump Fans"

Tomorrow, we'll consider "the furor" which resulted when the New York Times had the gall to publish the thoughts of Trump voters. For today, let's consider the letters those Trump supporters composed—the good, the bad and the otherwise.

Why do people still support Trump? The question strikes us as important. Given the way our system works, those Trump supporters pack plenty of clout. A sensible person might want to know why they support DJ Trump.

People don't have to tell the truth when they write such letters, of course. Beyond that, the fifteen letters the Times chose to publish don't constitute a scientific sample of Trump supporter sentiment.

Still, we found those letters intriguing. Let's tick off some basic points:

For starters, one Trump supporter after another said Trump has a lousy temperament. One such Trump supporter hails from Chatham, New Jersey. His letter includes this assessment:
LETTER FROM CHATHAM, NEW JERSEY: Opinion polls give Mr. Trump a low rating, and I would, too, for character, personality and temperament. But I would give him high marks for policies and programs that are stimulating the private sector...
Oof! This Trump supporter even assailed the character of the man he supports. But he gave the president high marks for policy, as most other writers did.

Yesterday, we posted the text of the first two letters from those Trump supporters. Those letters praised Trump's performance in a long list of policy areas.

In what areas do Trump supporters think he's performing well? In those letters to the Times, they praised him for "destroying ISIS" and for his support for Israel. They seem to like his "tax reform." They like the judges he's picked.

Again and again, the supporters say they like Trump's work in "stimulating the private sector," the phrase employed by the Chatham resident—in producing a "roaring economy." We'll admit that we wondered how much expertise the writers brought to this matter.

How much has the economy actually grown, or roared, under Trump, as opposed to under Obama? Could these writers actually say? More generally, how often do we voters, of whatever stripe, know what we're talking about?

We often wondered if these Trump supporters knew what they were talking about. Meanwhile, a few of the letters seemed basically absurd on their face. One such letter said this:
LETTER FROM CINCINNATI: A president like Donald Trump only appears every 100 years or so. He came to office with a solid Electoral College majority and a history of strong leadership of people from all walks of life. His positive agenda can be boiled down to national security and economic growth.

By any measure President Trump’s first year has shown prodigious progress. As a child of the ’60s I admire his iconoclastic nature, optimism and unapologetic humanity. When asked during the campaign about his truthfulness, he replied that maybe he is too truthful. He does ruffle feathers, but seems to end up being right about most important things. I think Mr. Trump is doing a terrific job against all odds, and is getting better. I am proud when I see the First Couple representing us on the world stage. Tens of millions of thoughtful, compassionate Americans agree with me.
That was the entire letter! It mixed a pointless, semi-hundred year claim about "a solid Electoral College majority" with the iconic comical claim in which a politician says that his greatest flaw is the fact that he's sometimes "too honest."

That letter struck us as absurd on its face. A letter from a professor in Greenwich struck us as pretty silly too—but other letters did not.

We often wondered to what extent the writers knew whereof they spoke. But various writers made various points we can't quite deride as bogus.

For one example, consider the letter from Jimmy Stewart's fictional Bedford Falls, by way of New York City.

Needless to say, the letter isn't actually from the fictional Bedford Falls—but it could have been. Today, the Trump supporter who wrote the letter lives in New York City. But here's what he wrote about where he grew up and why he still supports Trump:
LETTER FROM NEW YORK CITY: My hometown, Newton Falls, Ohio, was once a working-class Mayberry. Though not rich, the men and women of the town had pride and worked hard for their families and for their share of the American dream.

I am 28, and in the nearly three decades I’ve been alive, I’ve seen Newton Falls and its surrounding environs succumb to a despair reflected by the opioid crisis. I have seen Republicans and Democrats sell out through a false dogma of free trade. I have seen my friends sent abroad to foreign lands with ill-defined military missions, coming back mangled or not at all. I have seen a political class eager to replace a working class with an imported labor class, driving down wages.

One candidate sought to address this—Donald Trump. While admittedly a gamble, he promised to address the trifecta of poor trade deals, an end to needless foreign wars and a crackdown on immigration. On these three goals, he has done an excellent job so far and I support him wholeheartedly.
In Jimmy Stewart's dream of the future in the film It's A Wonderful Life, Bedford Falls has come to ruin because of a banker's greed. In this young person's letter, his own home town has fallen apart due to several causes.

According to the leading authority on Newton Falls, the small Ohio village "is known for its ZIP code (44444) and for its covered bridge, which is the second oldest in the state." In 2010, Newton Falls was 97.6% white. This lets us maintain our favorite stance in response to voters like this.

That said:

This young man attributes the demise of his home town to the opioid crisis; to "the false dogma of free trade;" to a set of foreign wars; and to the desire for cheap "imported labor."

Does he know what he's talking about? We have no idea. But very few Clinton voters would really know how to discuss those topics either—and have you ever seen Democrats shut down the government over anything that's negatively affecting places like Newton Falls?

We liberals don't see these topics discussed on our own corporate "cable news" news channel. Instead, we receive a nightly "true crime" drama, featuring the entertaining chase after Trump—full stop.

Remember when Chris Hayes and Bernie Sanders went to West Virginia and heard about opioid infestation? Have you seen followup on that discussion from our multimillionaire cable stars?

We also don't see discussions of Detroit's 48,000 public school kids, or of Baltimore's dead. Simply put, our stars don't care about people like them. For the most part, we liberals don't notice.

Have these Trump supporters been misled about the destruction of ISIS? About the roaring economy? About Trump's role in same?
Do they know what they're tallking about? Do their perceptions make sense?

By and large, we'll guess the answer is no—but we liked that young man's letter. We were also struck by this part of the last of the fifteen letters:
LETTER FROM BROOKLYN: Before I respond to your questions, I have a question of my own: Did you run similar surveys for Obama voters? Or, for that matter, Eisenhower voters? Trump voters are not circus freaks to be displayed or singled out.
Trump voters aren't circus freaks? Where in the world did this Trump supporter ever get that idea?

The Times published fifteen letters from these Trump supporters. Tomorrow, we'll review the seven letters of rebuttal which appeared the next day. Those letters were part of the "furor" the first fifteen letters caused.

Do liberals want to speak with Trump supporters, hoping to change their minds? The letters which emerged from that furor suggested that, in some cases, no, we pretty much don't.

In our view, the letters of rebuttal were perhaps unintentionally funny, but were also perhaps revealing. All in all, our species may be wired for (lack of) sound.

Are we wired to loathe The Others more than we're wired to listen? Could this be true of Us, Over Here, as much as it's true about Them?

Tomorrow: The Ghost of Gene Brabender Present