Does Greene believe the things she says?


The question(s) which won't be asked: This morning, the fascinating case of Donald McNeil in Peru has finally appeared in print editions of the Washington Post.

In our view, the case is instructive beyond all belief. In large part, it's instructive about modern upper-end journalism as practiced right here in Our Town. 

Just to be clear, we're speaking about the reporting of this absurdly fuzzy affair, not about whatever it is McNeil may have actually said. We'd especially point to the pitiful, gong-show reporting in The Daily Beast.

The case of McNeil and the Middle School Gaggle strikes us as highly instructive. That said, we'll deal with that matter next week, as we start to discuss Woke and Race. 

For today, the most instructive news report appears on the front page of the New York Times. The report involves a array of wildly improbable claims a certain congresswoman has made—claims she may even believe. 

The House member of whom we speak is Congresswoman QAnon—Marjorie Taylor Greene. Catie Edmondson wrote the front-page report. Her report begins as shown:

EDMONDSON (1/30/21): Marjorie Taylor Greene had just finished questioning whether a plane really flew into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, and flatly stating that President Barack Obama was secretly Muslim when she paused to offer an aside implicating another former president in a crime.

“That’s another one of those Clinton murders,” Ms. Greene said, referring to John F. Kennedy Jr.’s death in a 1999 plane crash, suggesting that he had been assassinated because he was a potential rival to Hillary Clinton for a New York Senate seat.

Ms. Greene casually unfurled the cascade of dangerous and patently untrue conspiracy theories in a previously unreported 40-minute video that was originally posted to YouTube in 2018... 

So begins today's report about Congresswoman Q. We decided to check Edmondson's claims—and by God, sure enough:

At the 25-minute mark of the tape, you can see Greene referring to "the so-called plane that crashed into the Pentagon," 

("It's odd, there's never any evidence shown for a plane in the Pentagon," she says as she continues. In fairness, she does seem to say that there actually was a "terrorist attack in New York" on 9/11.)

Other unsupported claims are made on that videotape. We wouldn't say that Greene "flatly declares" that Obama "was secretly Muslim." Still and all, at minute 30, she does say this: 

"Yes, I do believe that he is a Muslim, and Valerie Jarrett is too."

No evidence is offered in support of these claims. But Greene seems highly assured.

Meanwhile, was John F. Kennedy Jr.'s death "another one of those Clinton murders?"  You can see Greene making that suggestion at the 36-minute mark, as she (falsely) says that Kennedy had announced  he was going to run for Senate "just before he died."

Please note that key word: "falsely." Kennedy Jr. made no such announcement. There seems to be zero evidence that was planning to make such a run.

That said, according to Greene, John Kennedy Jr.'s death was "another one of those Clinton murders!"  In this way, we see the crazy claims of the future Congresswoman Q drawing on the earlier crazy claims of the 1990s.

As of 1999, Gennifer Flowers was making money off those  murder claims—but so what? In August of that year, she appeared for a full half-hour on the crazy cable program Hardball, where her crazy host insisted on telling her how smokin' hot she was.

As for Flowers herself,  her performance on Hardball was so absurd that she was invited to do a full hour on Hannity & Colmes the next week. This is the way the lunacy spread during that earlier age, when there was no social media.

By then, the lovesick boys of the mainstream press had declared Flowers to be the most honest person ever encountered on earth. The flaccid stars of the mainstream guild never challenged this ludicrous claim, this obvious propaganda.

By that time, the children were pimping their stupid claims all around the town. Years later, this type of crazy behavior would be perfected by President Donald J. Trump. 

In fairness, Trump didn't invent the crazy practice—the crazy practice which has now taken us to this crazy place. 

In the tape from 2018, you can see Greene reaching back to link that era's murder claims to the never-ending drive to slander Clinton and Clinton. 

On that same tape, you can see her saying that Seth Rich "was murdered by two MS-13 gang members." It's one of three million invented claims about that tragic killing.

At the end of the tape, you can see her toying with the puzzling claim that Hillary Clinton is married to George Soros' nephew. Also, with the claim that Adam Schiff is married to Soros' daughter. 

("I don't know about that one. I don't know," she says with respect to the latter claim. Variants of the Schiff/Soros nuptial claim have been shot down by various fact-check sites.)

Don't miss the suggestion that the Clinton Foundation was involved in a plot to smuggle children out of Haiti for the obvious purpose. It's all there in the videotape—but there's something else on that tape we think you ought to notice:

Watching the tape, we were surprised by the genial way Greene comes across. She makes one unsupported claim after another, but she seems to believe every word she says, and her thoroughly genial manner, in which she constantly dumbs it all down, would make it easy for others to climb aboard her train.

We were surprised to see how good she was at the practice known as "selling the car." She doesn't come across as crazy—until you consider her claims.

Later in Edmondson's report, other claims are mentioned. Whenever we read about such claims, a few questions pop into our minds:

EDMONDSON: Ms. Greene suggested in 2018 that a devastating wildfire that ravaged California was started by “a laser” beamed from space and controlled by a prominent Jewish banking family with connections to powerful Democrats. She endorsed executing Democratic lawmakers, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She served as a prolific writer for a now-defunct conspiracy blog called “American Truth Seekers,” writing posts with headlines including “MUST READ—Democratic Party Involved With Child Sex, Satanism, and The Occult.” And she argued that the 2018 midterm elections—in which the first two Muslim women were elected to the House—were part of “an Islamic invasion of our government.”

Say what? In 2018, did Greene really suggest that the devastating Camp Fire was deliberately started by a laser beam from space? 

So it seems! At Edmondson's link, you can see a screen shot of a long, rambling Facebook post to that effect. Meanwhile, there seems to have been a crazy train loaded with other claims and suggestions! The questions we're left with are these:

Does this congresswoman really believe the various things she says? (We'd say she very much seems to.) And if she does, does this possibly tell us something about some aspect of her "mental health?"

Beyond that, can this help us understand a newly dominant question? That significant question is this:

How can it be that so many people believe so many crazy claims? Remember, this epidemic of crackpot belief started in the Clinton/Gore years, often emanating from elite mainstream press sources.

Does Congresswoman QAnon really believe the various things she says? Watching that rather genial tape, we began to see her as a type of person to whom humorists sometimes refer—the type of person who's "always wrong but never in doubt." 

Is a screw loose in this person's head? Are we dealing here with some sort of psychiatric or cognitive problem? 

The press corps refused to ask such questions in the case of Trump. They're also refusing to raise such questions in the case of Greene.

In our view, we build such people up by assailing them as liars, rather than by suggesting that something seems to be wrong in their heads. Ignoring the question of political strategy, we're amazed by the lack of curiosity about such questions—by the lack of curiosity here in the streets of Our Town.

With respect to Greene, we were surprised by that genial tape—by the friendly way she was selling the car. We've seen that same smiling approach on cable. 

It's widely loved here in Our Town.

For extra credit only: Along the way, Greene says some things on that tape with which many liberals would be inclined agree.

She seems convincing at such junctures. See if you can find them.

The Times says goodbye to internal combustion!


What the Times said way back when: Several questions come to mind about our current state of rolling disintegration.

On the one hand, how can so many people believe in Pizzagate, in QAnon? How could so many people have believed in birtherism? In the long list of Clinton murders?

Those questions refer to the rise of the The Crazy which has occurred Over There. Concerning the sheer stupidity which has long been on display in Our Town, you have to consider the instant journalism which emerged about Whatever It Is That Donald McNeil May Actually Have Said.

We expect to look at that question early next week. For today, it's worth considering the stunning incompetence, mixed with devotion to Storyline, that has emerged at places like The Daily Beast.

Our team just isn't real sharp. If the nation plans to survive, we in Our Town badly need to come to terms with that fact.

We'll discuss McNeilGate next week. For today, we thought we'd venture back about twenty years, showing you where the lunacy was coming from at that time.

Our thoughts were trigged by a front-page report in today's New York Times. As far as we know, there's nothing wrong with today's report—but oh, the memories it triggered!

 Hard-copy headline included, this morning's front-page report starts like this:


The days of the internal combustion engine are numbered.

General Motors said Thursday that it would phase out petroleum-powered cars and trucks and sell only vehicles that have zero tailpipe emissions by 2035, a seismic shift by one of the world’s largest automakers...

"The days of the internal combustion engine are numbered!" As we read that opening sentence, memories lit the corners of our mind.

Were they misty watercolor memories of the way we were? Not exactly, no—they weren't. But in fairness, they came fairly close.

They were memories of one of the three hundred ways the New York Times, and other news orgs like it, conducted their punishment war against President Clinton in 1999 and 2000.

During the bulk of those two years, this punishment war was directed at Clinton's chosen successor, Candidate Al Gore. That's where our memories of the end of internal combustion come in.

The story goes something like this:

In 1992, Gore had published Earth in the Balance, a detailed book about climate change. As we've documented in some detail, the book was very favorably reviewed at the time. (Links are offered below.)

Now, though, it was 1999—and Gore was running for president as Bill Clinton's chosen successor. 

As you may recall, Clinton had engaged in ten acts of oral sex without getting the press corps' permission. This wanton behavior on Clinton's part had triggered a mighty war. 

By now, with impeachment over and done, the war was being waged against Gore, the only target still available.

Back in 1992, Earth in the Balance had been very favorably reviewed. Now, though, a war was on—and a Great Revision took place.

We'll start with Michiko Kakutani, Maureen Dowd's good friend and the New York Times' principal book reviewer at that time. 

In November 1999, Kakutani published a front-page report about several books which had been written by that year's presidential candidates. She devoted about 800 words to Earth in the Balance. 

Astoundingly, inexcusably, her treatment started like this:

KAKUTANI (11/22/99): Vice President Al Gore emerges from "Earth in the Balance" (Plume), his 1992 book about the environment, as the quintessential A-student who has belatedly discovered New Age psychobabble. Like his speeches, his book veers between detailed policy assessments (predictably illustrated with lots of charts and graphs) and high-decibel outbursts of passion, between energetically researched historical disquisitions and loony asides about "inner ecology" and "spiritual triangulation"—asides that may help explain his curious affinity with his feminist consultant, Naomi Wolf.

Upon its release, Gore's book had been praised for its erudition. Now it was marked by psychobabble, high-decibel outbursts and loony asides—loony asides which might help explain the "curious affinity" he seemed to maintain for "his feminist consultant."

Just so you'll know, this month of November had become the mainstream press corps' lunatic "month of Wolf." From October 31 on, it was the month in which our punditry savaged Gore for his deeply troubling wardrobe, but especially for that one tan or olive suit—an earth toned-suit which the lunatics said had been selected by Wolf. 

Wolf, of course, had played no role in the writing of Earth in the Balance. Beyond that, no one ever presented any evidence that she had told Gore to wear a suit which wasn't blue. No one ever explained why anyone was supposed to care if she, or anyone else, actually had offered any such advice.

For whatever it may be worth, Wolf had written three books of her own by that time. Two of her books had been selected as New York Times Books of the Year.

All such things were forgotten now because she was inexcusably serving as an adviser to Gore. In the ugliest, stupidest possible ways, Wolf was also being portrayed as a loon—and Kakutani was now saying that Gore's loony asides may help explain the curious affinity he seemed to feel for her.

Gore was being widely savaged for taking advice from the silly girl author—and yes, that type of language was widely used. (Only Bill Kristol complained.) More specifically, it was being widely recited that the ridiculous "man-woman" Gore had "hired a woman to teach him how to be a man." 

Working from this noxious, moronic framework, Kakutani managed to work three separate references to Wolf into the 800 words she wrote about Gore's once-lauded book. As we've described elsewhere in much more detail, her overall treatment of Earth in the Balance came to us straight from the loony bin. But the lunatics were now in charge, especially at the New York Times, and every good liberal either raced to play along or knew to avert their gaze.

At any rate, the gist of Kakutani's review was right there in that paragraph. With its loony asides and its psychobabble, Earth in the Balance was so strange that it could best be taken as a road map to Gore's curious affinity with a feminist fool.

Kakutani's review was a scam, but it came straight from the playbook. In conducting their punishment war against Gore, the children frequently suggested that he was possibly battling some sort of mental health issues.

Five months later, the Times returned to Earth in the Balance on the occasion of Earth Day. Disgracefully, this is the way Robin Toner decided to thumbnail the book:

TONER (4/14/00): "Earth in the Balance" has a strikingly reflective tone and is widely considered to be Mr. Gore's midlife crisis book, written when Mr. Gore was trying to recover from his disastrous 1988 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, while coping with the serious injuries of his son, who had been hit by a car.

Once, the book had been impressive. Now, it was widely considered to be Gore's “midlife crisis book!” This assessment was designed to make Gore loonier still!

For what it's worth, Toner was merely borrowing language from Kakutani. After discussing Gore's "loony asides," Kakutani was the one who first said that Gore had discussed some sort of "midlife crisis" in his very strange earlier book. 

That too was inexcusable amateur shrink-wrap. But the Times had put it in print, and Toner was now piling on.

Why did we think of this today? Because Gore had said, in Earth in the Balance, that might be possible to eliminate the internal combustion engine within the next twenty-five years. 

In 1999 and 2000, this suggestion was widely hailed as a further side of just how loony Gore was. In truth, there was nothing these idiots wouldn't say, nothing they wouldn't throw out there.

In Earth in the Balance, Gore had looked ahead to the coming end of internal combustion. Seven years later, the boys and girls were using this to portray him as a loon and a fool.

We've written about this particular matter at various points along the way. Links will be offered below.

What Kakutani wrote in the Times that day came straight from the land of the loons. Over the past few years, the throne in our nation's Crazy Town was seized by Donald J. Trump. But at that time, it was the boys and the girls of our elite mainstream press who sat on that chair all day long.

In the end, Kakutani got Bush elected. People are dead all over Iraq because of what she and the others did.

Frank Rich actually kept it up right to the day when Gore was announced as the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. At that point, he did a 180.

That is who, and that is what, these idiots actually are. 

Has Donald J. Trump been even nuttier? We don't feel real sure about that. We'll offer you some links below. You can consider a bit more detail about what these earlier maniacs did.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but we all belong to a very strange species. In this particular instance, the guild maintained this disgraceful punishment war for years.

No one ever said a word. Dearest darlings, use your heads! It was careers in the balance!

Further reading: For more on Kakutani's front-page piece, you can just click here. You'll see excerpts from the reviews Earth in the Balance received in real time, before the war was on.

Here at The Howler, we discussed Kakutani's piece in real time. That was a total waste of time. Click here, and then click here.

For background on the end ofinternal combustion, just consider this:

Way back in January 1998, Rebecca Blumenstein had reported for the Wall Street Journal from the Detroit Auto Show. On page one, her opening sentence said this:

"Time is starting to run out for the internal combustion engine."

In her front-page report, Blumenstein quoted the chairman of GM. She said he "predicts a 'slow phase-off' of the internal-combustion engine in 20 to 30 years." 

Even then, the industry knew that Gore's prediction had basically been right.  Still, the bullshit rained on Gore's head. This was largely done here in Our Town, not among the various crazies who live Over There.

We recalled the Blumenstein piece today when we read the New York Times. For our utterly useless real-time report, you can just click here.

Our report appeared in April 1999. Their bullshit continued from there. The Times issued a correction concerning Wolf—in July 2007!

That's how it works in Our Town.

WHAT IS TRUTH?: President Biden emerges as LIAR!


A world where Storyline rules: It's harder and harder to see the way out of our nation's mess.

That doesn't mean that there isn't a route of escape. It's just hard to see what it is.

"Things are in the saddle and ride mankind," Emerson famously said. Today, it's The Crazy which sits in the saddle—The Crazy and Storyline.

On the cable news broadcasts which air in Our Town, The Crazy is currently capably represented by Congresswoman QAnon—Marjorie Taylor Greene. Based on perfectly respectable reporting, there's nothing too crazy for her to believe, nothing too violent to tilt toward.

That said, it isn't just Greene. We've continued to learn, in the past several decades, that there seems to be nothing that's too crazy for many people to believe.

People believed in Pizzagate. Before that, people believed in birtherism. 

Before that, people believed that the Clintons had murdered all those people, and people believed that Candidate Gore kept making those crazy misstatements. Our journalists were even asking if that string of crazy misstatements—those LIES—might reflect some sort of psychological impairment.

Many people believed these things, or at least pretended to do so. Many people advanced those various claims. 

Many such people were liberal elites from our high-powered professional guilds. At present, there's a huge amount of The Crazy in "deplorable" towns, but it isn't all found Over There!

On this very day, near-variants of The Crazy are being widely reported right here in Our Town. We see at least four such near-variants reported in today's New York Times alone. 

Locations: San Francisco, Atlanta, Seattle, Peru. In our view, The Crazy is hardly unknown Over Here, where Storylines about gender and race have routinely been used as our toys.

When we go crazy over here in Our Town, it almost always involves some matter of gender or race. Our long-postponed discussion of this depressing matter will be launched next week.

That said, is The Crazy really in the saddle? Along with its partner, Storyline, does The Crazy now rule mankind?

To a large extent, so it can seem. This signals the need for a journalistic meta-discussion—a meta-discussion which would be drawn from the realm of abnormal psychology.

For example:

Is "something wrong" with Congresswoman QAnon? Are we looking at a type of medical or psychiatric impairment?

Is "something wrong" with Congresswoman Q? We'll guess that something is! 

That said, our "highly educated" media elites agreed that we mustn't have that discussion about our former commander-in-chief.  They'll stick with that stance in this latest case, refusing to examine the underlying conditions which permit The Crazy to spread far and wide among the struggling populations of our war-inclined species.

Many people believe in QAnon! What allows that to happen?

Now for a moment of candor:

After Biden took the oath, we enjoyed a few days of repose at this site. The former commander-in-chief had left town. Blissfully, he'd even been silenced!

Under the rubric of "What Is Truth?" we actually thought that we could discuss the role of truth in the ways we react to Hollywood films. We imagined and said that we'd do so this week.

So silly! We expect to skim that topic tomorrow. For today, let's bring the note of sadness in.

At The Atlantic, it's already happened. One of the youngsters has already learned that Joe Biden is a big LIAR—that "no one w[ill] be true."

In fairness, that isn't quite what the relative youngster said. But it comes fairly close. 

His piece appears under the headlines shown below. As many Hollywood films have chronicled, the younger, vastly more "privileged" generations will often feel quite badly used:

Biden Will Lie to You
All presidents do.

The Atlantic lists that "story" under IDEAS. Perhaps they're just being ironic.

The crazy misstatements of Donald J. Trump have defined this political era. In Our Town, we've preferred to refer to these lunatic statements as "lies," even though we have no way of knowing if the lunatic is so crazy that he really believes them.

To spread this theme to Biden so quickly is a sign of a vast though familiar disorder. It takes us back to the previous generation, which kept inventing ways to claim that Candidate Gore was spreading his own perverse LIES.

With regard to The Atlantic, the "story" in question is basically daft. As an example of journalism, it's a fuzzy and hapless non-starter.

That said, the lovely shall be choosers and the privileged love to complain! According to major experts, this is bred very deep in the bone, and it's found among every "race."

Despite thousands of years of silly self-flattery, we humans just aren't super-sharp. We love Storyline and we love to complain, though always about Them, Over There.

Tomorrow: What is truth in film? To what extent are we humans wired to care about matters of truth?

Starting next week: Gender and race Over Here

Tears of Storyline: As always, Dylan managed to write about it before it appeared. In this case, he did so in Tears of Rage (1968), with lyrics which offered us this:
I want you to know that while we watched you discover
That no one would be true
We were among the ones who thought
It was just a childish thing to do
No one will be true! Not even big liar Biden! Meanwhile, concerning the toys which are now widely enjoyed in Our Town, that same song offered us this:
It was all very painless
When you went out to receive
All that false instruction
Which we never could believe.
And now the heart is filled with gold
As if it was a purse
But, oh, what kind of love is this
Which goes from bad to worse?
Performative gender and race in Our Town! Our dreamscapes get started next week!

Repellent con man gets arrested!


What Tucker's viewers were told: Yesterday, an allegedly repellent con man got arrested in Florida on federal charges. 

At the start of this news report, the New York Times explains the nature of the charges:

HONG (1/28/21): A man who was known as a far-right Twitter troll was arrested on Wednesday and charged with spreading disinformation online that tricked Democratic voters in 2016 into trying to cast their ballots by phone instead of going to the polls.

Federal prosecutors accused Douglass Mackey, 31, of coordinating with co-conspirators to spread memes on Twitter falsely claiming that Hillary Clinton’s supporters could vote by sending a text message to a specific phone number.

The co-conspirators were not named in the complaint, but one of them was Anthime Gionet, a far-right media personality known as “Baked Alaska,” who was arrested after participating in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, according to a person briefed on the investigation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

As a result of the misinformation campaign, prosecutors said, at least 4,900 unique phone numbers texted the number in a futile effort to cast votes for Mrs. Clinton.

According to federal prosecutors, Mackie tricked thousands of people into thinking that they could vote by phone. In this way, thousands of people were apparently led to believe that they'd voted for Hillary Clinton when, in fact, they'd cast no vote at all.

Stating the obvious, it would be better if people didn't fall for scams of this type. That said, we have all kinds of consumer protection laws because people do fall for scams. 

(Example: In Meredith Willson's Music Man, the entire town of River City ends up believing in a bunch of magic trombones.)

We humans do fall for scams. We have many laws to punish the people who take advantage of this state of affairs, whether the scam involves the peddling of silly elixir remedies or the attempt to defraud targeted groups out of their right to vote.

According to the Times report, Mackey was working the voter fraud scam. (Attempts to fool people about how to vote are as old as time itself.) Also according to the Times, he's facing an unusual charge:

HONG: Mr. Mackey, who was released from custody on Wednesday on a $50,000 bond, faces an unusual charge: conspiracy to violate rights, which makes it illegal for people to conspire to “oppress” or “intimidate” anyone from exercising a constitutional right, such as voting. The charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

The case will test the novel use of federal civil rights laws as a tool to hold people accountable for misinformation campaigns intended to interfere with elections, a problem that has recently become an urgent priority for social media platforms and law enforcement officials to stop.

We don't know if Mackey is guilty of a well-formed charge, but he's charged with heinous behavior. We mention this because of something we saw on cable last night. 

We refer to the way Tucker Carlson began his Fox News program, Tucker Carlson Tonight. Carlson began by discussing Mackey's arrest. Rather, he began with a stunningly edited, halls-of-mirrors version of Mackey's arrest.

In Carlson's rendition, Mackey was described as "a 31-year-old conservative journalist in Florida." According to Carlson's overview, "It looks like this is the part of the revolution where they start throwing their political opponents in jail."

Long story short—Carlson began his show with a trip down a hall of mirrors.  We can't tell you whether Mackie is guilty of the conduct with which he's been charged, but viewers of Carlson's program have no earthly idea what the charges are.

We mention this second con for a reason:

In this morning's print editions, the New York Times includes a fascinating profile of  Ashley Klein, a 32-year-old Minnesota woman who believes a lot of things which almost surely aren't true. 

Ashley Klein is new to politics. It sounds like she's completely sincere, but here's where she gets her ideas and her "information:"

SEARCEY (1/28/21): [I]n 2019, Democrats began talking about impeaching Mr. Trump on charges that he had unlawfully solicited Ukrainian authorities to influence the 2020 U.S. presidential election. To [Klein], it sounded absurd.

Ms. Klein joined a Facebook group called The People Against Impeachment. Posts railed against the process, calling it “a political weapon” and insisting that a plan to impeach Mr. Trump had been in place even before he had reached the White House. Ms. Klein tuned into the conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, the Fox News personalities Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity, and Newsmax, a conservative news network.

Ashley Klein believes the things she hears on Carlson's program. If she was watching Carlson last night, she was treated to an angry diatribe about Mackie's arrest—a diatribe which omitted and distorted all the basic facts about the crimes with which Mackie has been charged.

For almost twenty years, we've been saying this about that:

When people like Carlson misinform millions of people, their conduct should be treated as front-page news. We don't think we've ever seen the basic facts of a news event massacred in quite the way Carlson clowned with the facts last night.

In the next day or two, we hope to show you what Carlson said in more detail. That said, Fox News is like MSNBC—perhaps for fairly obvious reasons, it rarely publishes transcripts of the things its TV stars say. This makes it harder to comment on Fox News programs. 

The New York Times should report what Carlson said at the start of last night's show. As we've suggested for twenty years, the Times should perform this public service right there on its front page.

You can possibly watch the segment: You may be able to watch last night's Carlson program. 

Click here, then click on "Full Episodes." Try to proceed from there. 

The report on Mackey opened the show. When it comes to staging a scam, Mackey has nothing on Carlson!

(Where does such fraudulent programming come from? On all three of our "cable news" channels, the rewards are too damn high!)

WHAT IS TRUTH?: Lawrence O'Donnell tries it again!


Elsewhere, incoherence: Last night, indefatigably, Lawrence tried it again.

In an earlier life, Lawrence was a high-level Senate staffer. He understands that body's arcane procedures. He understands its peculiar language. 

Lawrence understands such matters. As our journalists keep proving this week, almost no one else does.

Right at the start of last night's show, Lawrence tried it again! He tried to explain Tuesday's Senate vote, in which 55 senators voted one way while 45 voted the other.

The vote has been regarded as very important, but what were the senators actually voting on? Like silly Sisyphus pushing his rock, Lawrence decided to try it again, right at the start of his program:

O'DONNELL (1/27/21): Well yesterday, the Senate voted to proceed to the impeachment trial of Donald Trump without first debating whether it is constitutional to have an impeachment trial of a president who has already left office.

That is actually what they voted on. They did not vote on whether to have a trial at all. It never came to that point in the voting, never got even close to that.

The Senate is going to have that debate about the constitutionality of impeaching a president after the president's left office, or having the impeachment trial. But yesterday, 55 senators, including five Republicans, voted to have that debate during the trial, not before the trial. 

That's all that happened yesterday—the question of the timing of when to have that debate.

It has been reported as something bigger than that, but that's not what happened. It's simply about do we debate this now, or do we debate this later.

Lawrence simplified his remarks from Tuesday night as he tried it again. Specifically, he dropped his discussion about the Senate lingo in which a debate or discussion is said to have been "tabled."

To some extent, Lawrence dumbed his discussion down. But once again, he tried to explain what the Senate had actually voted on when it held that Tuesday vote. 

According to Lawrence, the 45 were voting to debate the question of constitutionality right now, as opposed to later. Because the 55 voted the other way, that debate will now be held as part of the actual trial.

"It has been reported as something bigger than that," Lawrence said, "but that's not what happened."

Once again, Lawrence tried. As he continued, he even seemed to suggest that there still might be 17 Republican votes for conviction during the actual trial. 

That strikes us as extremely unlikely. But Wednesday's vote doesn't rule it out.

Given his knowledge of Senate procedure and Senate lingo, Lawrence once again tried to explain what had been voted on. According to Lawrence, the Senate had voted to delay the debate about constitutionality—to make it part of the actual Senate trial.

"It has been reported as something bigger than that," Lawrence said. When he did, mordant chuckles were heard across the rolling landscape of our sprawling campus. 

Tuesday's vote "has been reported as something bigger than that?" Indeed, the vote has been described as something bigger than that all over MSNBC, the corporate clubhouse from which Lawrence's broadcast airs on weekday nights. 

It even happened last night! One hour after Lawrence offered his second explanation, the vote was "reported as something bigger than that" by Brian Williams. 

Three minutes into his own program, Williams offered this account of Tuesday's Senate vote:

WILLIAMS (1/27/21): Yesterday, most Republican senators voted against moving ahead with the trial. A narrow majority voted to move forward...Minority leader Mitch McConnell remains publicly noncommittal on conviction although he did vote to toss out the House impeachment case.

"That's not what happened," Lawrence had said, exactly one hour earlier. 

According to Williams, McConnell had voted "to toss out the case," but he still might vote for conviction! No, that doesn't quite seem to make sense. In fairness, his hair was perfect.

Early this morning, the vote was "reported as something bigger than that" by Morning Joe's Mika Brzezinski. "Only five Republicans voted to move forward with the impeachment trial," Mika excitingly said at 6:54 A.M. Eastern.

Also, the vote is "reported as something bigger than that" all over this morning's New York Times and Washington Post, Our Town's most beloved newspapers.

We in Our Town are inclined to believe the things we read in those papers. But alas! Here's the way the vote is described in this morning New York Times, in a News Analysis piece by Fandos and Martin:

FANDOS AND MARTIN (1/28/21):  Three times in recent weeks, as Republicans grappled with a deadly attack on the Capitol and their new minority status in Washington, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky carefully nudged open the door for his party to kick Donald J. Trump to the curb, only to find it slammed shut.

So his decision on Tuesday to join all but five Republican senators in voting to toss out the House’s impeachment case against Mr. Trump as unconstitutional seemed to be less a reversal than a recognition that the critical mass of his party was not ready to join him in cutting loose the former president...

Like Brian, Fandos and Martin said that McConnell (and the 44 others) had been "voting to toss out the House’s impeachment case against Mr. Trump."

Lawrence keeps explaining that no, "that's not what happened." Inevitably, though, that's what it says in the New York Times analysis piece, and in the only letter the Times chose to run on this topic today.

(The letter starts by referring to "the vote by Republican senators against holding an impeachment trial." To read  it, just click here.)

Over at the Washington Post, we find at least three different attempts to explain what the senators voted on. All three accounts strike us as rather murky. All three tend to make Tuesday's vote sound like "something bigger" than Lawrence keeps saying it was.

McConnell voted to toss out the impeachment case, but he might still vote for conviction! Such puzzlements tend to go right down when they're offered on the corporate channel where the stars and the contributors both are among our own favorite friends.

That said, the incoherence of these accounts is nothing unusual. It's the modern-day journalistic norm, even over here in Our Town, where we denizens tend to feel that we actually are "the rational animal."

This incoherence has long been the reliable journalistic norm as our nation slides toward the sea. In the current instance, the only break from the norm is being offered by Lawrence:

It very unusual to see someone say that everyone else has it wrong! Dearest darlings, it just isn't done! It hasn't been done for decades.

For our money, it's very unlikely that Donald J. Trump will be convicted at his impeachment trial. For better or worse, that will leave the former commander "acquitted" and equipped with a new talking-point.

Some Republicans may vote to convict, but we'll guess that very few will. In part, that's because of the constant talk about finding ways to disqualify Trump from running in 2024, the peculiar part of the ongoing deal which never gets discussed.

We began planning this site in 1997. One trigger was the endless, incoherent debate about Newt Gingrich's Medicare proposal.

Was Gingrich proposing "cuts" to the Medicare program? Or was he simply "slowing the rate at which the program would grow?"

Night after night, then month after month, our upper-end scribes tried to puzzle it out. They kept debating the topic on Crossfire, creating gigantic amounts of confusion as they stumbled along.

No one could say what the truth really was. When it came to a search for the truth, that just wasn't one of their skills.

Our upper-end cadre just isn't real sharp. If we hope to stop our slide toward the sea, we need to acknowledge, and come to terms with, this very basic anthropological point.

Tomorrow: Biden cast as a liar

Still coming: What is truth in film?

Next week: At long last, truth in race

From the annals of grim milestones!


The U.K. passes one more: As you know, statistics are hard. But within the world of taxing data, there's one statistic our journalists tend to love:

We refer to the classic "grim milestone." 

In this morning's New York Times, a headline announced that yet another such milestone has been passed. Headline included, the news report started like this:

Britain Passes a Grim Milestone of 100,000 Coronavirus Deaths

LONDON—Britain on Tuesday surpassed 100,000 deaths from the coronavirus, a tragic milestone that laid bare the missteps in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s handling of the pandemic, as well as the tough choices he now faces in trying to keep lethal new variants of the virus out of the country.

Britain’s death toll has long been the worst in Europe, but a fast-spreading variant of the virus has propelled the country’s daily fatality rates to levels not seen since the peak of the pandemic’s first wave in April, despite a national lockdown. Per capita, Britain’s death rate has been the worst in the world over the last week.

This milestone wasn't simply grim. It was also tragic. 

As a statistic, the milestone in question—100,00 Covid deaths to date—doesn't really tell us much. We decided to fill you in on Britain's current death rate.

Below, you see some relevant numbers. These numbers come from the Covid data site at the Financial Times:

Current daily deaths from Covid-19 per million population
7-day average, as of January 25/26
Portugal: 23.6
United Kingdom: 18.6
United States: 10
European Union: 7.7

The Times seems to mean the U.K. when it refers to Britain. Here are the constituent parts of that fabled realm:

Current daily deaths from Covid-19 per million population
7-day average, as of January 25/26
England: 20
Wales: 11.7
Scotland: 11.0
Northern Ireland: 8.6

Adjusted for population, England's current daily death rate is double our own. The U.K.'s death rate is almost that bad. According to the FT's data, Portugal's rate is worse. 

What's happening elsewhere? Below, you see corresponding numbers from some peer nations. 

Current daily deaths from Covid-19 per million population
7-day average, as of January 25/26
Germany: 9.2
Italy: 7.9
France: 6.0
Canada: 4.2

Finally, those puzzling Pacific nations:

Current daily deaths from Covid-19 per million population
7-day average, as of January 25/26
Japan: 0.7
South Korea: 0.2
Australia: 0
Taiwan: 0

We remain amazed by the lack of journalistic interest in those extremely low Pacific statistics. That said, just let the latest "grim milestone" pass. They'll headline it every time!

Total deaths to date: Adjusted for population, Belgium has suffered many more total deaths than the U.K. has. 

Adjusted for population, the Czech Republic and Italy aren't real far behind. Adjusted for population, our own total deaths to date are roughly 10-11 percent lower than the U.K.'s.

All we know are the statistics contained within the two linked sites.


WHAT IS TRUTH?: Red-faced shouting returns to TV!


The Crazy Train battles the Clown Car: This morning, at 6:18 Eastern, the red-faced shouting returned.

If anything, the shouting was even more red-faced than it was last week. Needless to say, the standard echo-providers were on hand to support and enable the shouting. 

The cast included Willie Geist Jr., the human echo who's increasingly known as "Joe Scarborough's Mike Pence." That said, Jonathan Lemire and even Kasie Hunt aren't far behind in the modern "journalistic" skill known as echo provision. 

As a group, these players are increasingly known as "The Pips." It's a nod to the back-up singers who  would instantly repeat whatever Gladys Knight just said. 

(Hat tip: comedian Richard Paul, circa 1983.)

As a general matter, this morning's red-faced shouting concerned yesterday's Senate vote. For those who would explore the anthropology of the moment—for those who would explore the ancient claim that we humans are "the rational animal—insight and amusement can be drawn from the press corps' failed attempts, this very day, to describe that Senate vote.

In the Senate vote in question, 50 Democrats and five Republicans voted one way; 45 Republicans voted the other. But what these solons voting on?

Go ahead! Try to find out!

Last night, Lawrence O'Donnell explained what they had voted on. (He was once a high-ranking Senate staffer.) In the process, Lawrence contradicted everything everyone else would say on The One True Channel last night. 

This morning, major newspapers show no skill at defining the provenance of yesterday's vote. When the hundred senators cast their votes, what were they voting on?

On the front page of the Washington Post, the attempt to answer that questions starts like this. For now, ignore the headline. According to Lawrence, it's wrong:

DEBONIS AND KIM (1/27/21): Nearly all GOP senators vote against impeachment trial for Trump, signaling likely acquittal

All but five Republican senators backed former president Donald Trump on Tuesday in a key test vote ahead of his impeachment trial, signaling that the proceedings are likely to end with Trump’s acquittal on the charge that he incited the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

The vote also demonstrated the continued sway Trump holds over GOP officeholders, even after his exit from the White House under a historic cloud caused by his refusal to concede the November election and his unprecedented efforts to challenge the result.

For now, ignore the headline! (If we go by what Lawrence said, that headline is simply wrong.) Instead, let's turn to the text of the Post's front-page report.

According to DeBonis and Kim, yesterday's Senate vote was "a key test vote." But sad! Before they tried to explain what the vote concerned, the scribes began explaining the motives behind the vote:

According to DeBonis and Kim, the vote showed the sway Trump holds over the 45 GOP senators who voted that one way. It doesn't show the sway his legacy holds over the 50 Democratic senators who voted the other.

Ignore that motive-based quibble! When the hundred senators cast their votes, what the heck were they voting on? For our money, DeBonis and Kim never explain that point. For our money, this is the closest they come:

DEBONIS AND KIM (continuing directly): Trump’s trial is not scheduled to begin until Feb. 9, but senators were sworn in for the proceedings Tuesday, and they immediately voted on an objection raised by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) questioning the constitutional basis for the impeachment and removal of a former president.

The highlighted statement isn't wrong. It's just that it's very fuzzy!

It's true! Senator Paul did voice an objection to something on the Senate floor. In the course of voicing his objection, he did question the constitutional basis for the impeachment and removal of a former president. 

That still doesn't explain what The Hundred ended up voting on. According to Lawrence, they didn't "vote against an impeachment trial," no matter what that Post headline says. That isn't what they were voti9ng on, Lawrence quite plainly said.

For our money, DeBonis and Kim never explain what The Hundred were voting on. In fairness, neither does Nicholas Fandos, in his corresponding front-page report in today's New York Times.

Eventually, DeBonis and Kim cite subsequent remarks by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), one of the 45. In saying he may still vote to convict, Portman helps us understand that yesterday's vote actually wasn't a vote against holding a trial, the understanding some headline writer took from the Post's report.

Whatever! You can go to Lawrence's site to see if videotape of his explanation exists. We can't link you to a transcript of what he said.  Over the summer, MSNBC joined hands with Fox News. The channel stopped providing transcripts of its shows, even disappearing years of past transcripts in the process!

This morning, we get to see the basics of our nation's modern discourse. We had red-faced shouting on cable TV, linked to incoherent front-page reports in our most famous newspapers

Along the way, the Post's report brought the eternal note of sadness in. Once again, readers were exposed to a bit of baffling logic: 

DEBONIS AND KIM: Democrats and many legal scholars have balked at the argument that a former president—or any former official—cannot be convicted in an impeachment trial.

“The theory that the Senate can’t try former officials would amount to a constitutional get-out-of-jail-free card for any president who commits an impeachable offense,” Schumer said.

“It makes no sense whatsoever that a president, or any official, could commit a heinous crime against our country and then defeat Congress’s impeachment powers by simply resigning, so as to avoid accountability and a vote to disqualify them from future office.”

Once again, there was Schumer's baffling logic. According to Schumer, a president could "avoid accountability" for "a heinous crime" simply by resigning from office before impeachment in the House and conviction in the Senate.

Stating what is blindingly obvious, such a former president could be criminally charged, then criminally tried and convicted, for the "heinous crime" he'd committed! Whatever the merits of a Senate trial of Trump might be, such trials don't send a person to "jail." 

In the case of a heinous crime, criminal prosecution can. 

Schumer's logic is lacking, but such is the cosmos we live in. Trust us! No one will ever explore the peculiar logic of disqualification, in which fifty Democrats could decree, all by themselves, that the Republicans can't nominate a Candidate Trump again in 2024.

That strikes us as an amazing idea on its face. Our journalists blow right past it.

The former commander-in-chief strikes us as badly disordered. We're forced to admit that other elites aren't necessarily that far behind.

How silly are our cable elites? In a brief aside, consider the way Lawrence began last night's show:

O'DONNELL (1/26/21): Well, when you Charles Blow the last word, get out of the way and let him talk! And that's what I plan to do at the end of this hour when my friend Charles Blow returns to The Last Word to discuss what the Georgia election results for president and the Senate tells us about the power of the black vote in the 21st century.

How close is the friendship between Lawrence and Blow? We'll take a wild guess—not close!

That said, in the realm of The One True Channel, corporate branding requires the stars to say that the other stars are their friends. In CNN's version of this clown show, Cuomo and Lemon started last night's 10 o'clock hour in the familiar scripted way, telling us rubes how much they love one another.

The boys staged one of  their trademark dumber-than-dumb opening chats. It began and ended as shown:

CUOMO (1/26/21): I want to bring in the big show, CNN Tonight, with D. Lemon, its big star right now. [My daughter] Carolina said to me, "You are too negative, and you always tell me what you think is wrong, but you never asked me what I think is wrong."

LEMON: I love her.

CUOMO: I thought—I thought, "You know what, she's right." First of all, about me as a lousy parent.

LEMON: You're not a lousy parent.

CUOMO: Guilty. But as people, let other people tell you how they feel and what hurts and just listen. It can hurt you to listen. Great instruction from that kid.


LEMON: I mean, look, every night, every night, my pain, the cross I have to bear, is having to talk to you. So I know there are some discomforts there.

CUOMO: I feel for you. I feel for you. I do.

LEMON: I love you.

CUOMO: There but for the grace, D. Lemon. There but for the grace.

LEMON: I'll see you later.

CUOMO: I love you, D. Lemon.

LEMON: More than you know. Thank you, brother. I'll see you soon.

These hucksters stage this branding ritual night after night after night. It's their way of letting us know how dumb their bosses think we are.

At MSNBC, everyone is everyone's friend, like in the Mickey Mouse Club. At CNN? As it once was Blume in Love, now it's Cuomo and Lemon!

In the part of the hand-off we've deleted, Cuomo and Lemon performed one of the dumbest discussions of race and racism we have ever seen. You can read the transcript here. CNN still produces them!

Along the way, does anyone care about the facts concerning yesterday's Senate vote? What was the truth about that vote, and where would you go to find it?

To see the way Lawrence explained the vote, you can to his program's site and see if some tape is provided. That said, accuracy and truth just aren't the fuels our national discourse runs on.

In this new post, Ed Kilgore describes the "crazy train" one GOP House member rode in on. Over at The One True Channel, we're exposed to the corresponding Clown Car which runs through the streets of Our Town.

This morning, the red-faced shouting was on again; The Pips were all reciting. A Crazy Train runs through their towns. In Our Town, we have our Clown Cars.

Anthropologically, this is all extremely instructive. But is there an avenue we can take out of this mess?

Tomorrow: Over here, in Our Town, Biden is called a liar!

Slate on the logic of impeachment!


Best attempt we've seen: In its modern incarnation, Slate is perhaps best known for its examination of nagging life-style issues.

In just the past two days, the site has responded to "Help! I’ve Been Bitten by a Bat and Charged With Soliciting a Prostitute," but also to "Help! My Wife Spent Our Entire Life Savings in the Last Three Months." And that wasn't all! There's been more!

Readers are invited to guess if the inquiries come from actual people. Sometimes, the people who write these Slate advice columns allege that they aren't sure.

Today, Slate has augmented its "real world" fare with the best attempt we've seen so far at discussing the constitutional authority involved in the upcoming impeachment trial of the exiled commander. The author of the piece is Neil Kinkopf, a law professor at Georgia State.

Kinkopf cites legislative and legal history as he defends the claim that the Senate is authorized to try a former president. We can't judge his account of that history, but his logic is clearly in place.

Kinkopf pays less attention to that possible second Senate vote—the vote to disqualify Trump from seeking office again. You can see his analysis here: 

KINKOPF (1/26/21): The Constitution’s structure also confirms the original understanding that former officers may be impeached. If the only punishment for impeachment and conviction were removal from office, that would strongly indicate that the power applies only to current officers, since it would be futile to convict someone who holds no office from which to be removed. But removal is not the only constitutionally sanctioned punishment. The Constitution also authorizes the Senate to disqualify a person convicted from ever holding federal office. An officer who is convicted of accepting bribes could avoid this disqualification by the simple expedient of resignation. The impeachment of Trump vividly illustrates the point. He stands impeached for inciting sedition and waging war on our democracy. Disqualifying him from ever holding office again would be anything but futile.

Again, Kinkopf's logic is firmly in place. He doesn't attempt to parse the fuzzy constitutional language concerning the alleged authorization "to disqualify a person convicted from ever holding federal office." He also doesn't discuss the alleged authorization to levy this penalty by a simple majority vote.

For our money, the largest problem remains the way these two Senate votes intersect. If fifty Democrats, all by themselves, can bar the popular Republican Trump from running again, this would seem to cement the likelihood that very few Republican senators are ever going to vote for conviction in the first place.

That means that Trump will be "acquitted." That's a bad talking point.

At any rate, Kinkopf has performed the most unusual modern journalistic service. He has lit the way toward a genuine discussion and debate, one which isn't mainly about being bitten by a bat. 

On the down side, that discussion avoids the main question—how do we draw political support away from Galloping Trumpism? 

In Our Town, we tend to focus on locking miscreants up (or in this case, out) in lieu of persuading the others. We don't know how to speak to others, and so we dream of locking their favorites out.

WHAT IS TRUTH?: Can Trump be barred from running again?


We humans just wanna have fun: Can you remember Donald J. Trump?

In a way we find comical and relaxing, he hasn't just been removed from office by the tyranny of the passage of time. Thanks to actions by Facebook and Twitter, he's been effectively muzzled!

We've found that state of affairs relaxing and wonderfully comical. But, as has been widely reported, nothing gold can stay! 

We can't seem to leave well enough alone! In this morning's New York Times, a letter writer complains about the former commander's upcoming Senate trial:

LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (1/26/21): Once again, my beloved Democratic Party is snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Instead of focusing on the important issues, like Covid and the economy, it chose to allow Donald Trump the chance to again gain the spotlight. For him, all publicity, good or bad, is good. He should have been able to slink away into an ignominious night, and the country could have had the great pleasure of no longer hearing his name in every newscast and publication.

The Democrats should have chosen to censure him in a bipartisan vote. Then he would have left his term in shame and President Biden would have had a less divided Congress to work with him on his appointments and proposals. Instead Mr. Trump will probably be acquitted by the Senate, and will claim a great victory, which could relaunch his political career, or at least further endear him to his base. What were the Democrats thinking?

We're inclined to agree with the letter writer. That said, what were (and are) the Democrats thinking? In this morning's Washington Post, a front-page report helps us know:

KIM ET AL (1/26/21): Democrats and some Republicans, such as Romney, have said they believe a former president can be impeached. But other GOP senators who were infuriated by Trump’s conduct but nonetheless do not feel compelled to convict a president who is no longer in office have suggested the move may not be constitutional.

“It makes no sense whatsoever that a president or any official could commit a heinous crime against our country and then defeat Congress’s impeachment powers by simply resigning so as to avoid accountability and a vote to disqualify them from future office,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said.

Absent the part about disqualification, Schumer's logic may be lacking. Here's why we say that:

If a president "commits a heinous crime," he can be prosecuted for that crime after resigning from office. The criminal penalties he would face for his heinous crime would carry a great deal more "accountability" than a toothless conviction in the Senate after he's already left office.

At that point, up jumps the second part of Schumer's vision:

He pictures Trump being convicted by the Senate, then being disqualified from ever holding federal office again. For current denizens of Our Town, tis an imagined consummation devoutly to be wished.

Almost surely, no such votes will ever occur. There will be no Senate conviction in the upcoming trial, in part because of the possibility of that subsequent disqualification vote. 

Still, we beat on against the current here in Our Town, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

The letter writer is clearly right in one way. The former commander has largely been silenced—but we propel him back into cable discussion by Our Town's current desire to make the rubble bounce.

It's also true that an "acquittal" in the impeachment trial will create a useful talking-point for the former commander. Today, though, we focus on a few basic questions:

How do we know that the Senate has the constitutional right to "disqualify" Trump from holding future office? Where's the evidence for that assertion?

As always, the story is being told in a thoroughly standard way. The Senate can, by a two-thirds vote, convict a president who's been impeached and thereby remove him from office. (In this case, from an office he no longer holds.)

According to the standard narration, the Senate can then vote, by a simple majority, to disqualify a convicted president from holding any federal office ever again. This morning we ask a simple question:

Where is the constitutional language which asserts any of that? And how clear is any such language?

Trust us—we've tried to find that language. By standard agreement, the searcher will be directed first to Article 1, Section 3, which murkily says this:

The Senate shall have sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.

Judgement in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States; but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgement and Punishment, according to Law.

That passage is always cited, As you can see, it includes an extremely murky clause.

Plainly, the Senate rules on all impeachments. Plainly, conviction in such a trial requires a two-thirds vote.

Plainly, if the president is being tried, the Chief Justice must preside. That said, people who hold other offices can also be impeached and tried. In part, that's where the apparent murk comes in.

Our questions:

Where does that passage say anything about holding a second vote? Where does it say that this unmentioned second vote would require only a simple majority?

Also, why doesn't the murky, highlighted language mean that a convicted official will automatically be disqualified from holding future office? Why do we think that a second vote would be required at all?

(Also, is it clear that the murky language refers to holding future office? How do we know it doesn't clumsily mean that the convicted party will be disqualified from holding whatever office he held at the time of conviction?)

The highlighted language is strikingly murky. Within the longer passage, the vote to convict is clearly defined, but there's no mention—none at all—of any second vote. 

As best we ca tell, the concept of a second vote has largely been drawn from thin air, starting with something "the Senate determined" in 1862. The Senate made this determination at the height of the Civil War, when it was removing a Johnny Reb from office.

For now, consider the ridiculous modern-day consequence of that ancient determination. In Schumer's portrait, fifty Democratic senators will soon be able to pass a vote to keep the most popular Republican pol from running for president in 2024. 

Our view? If the sheer absurdity of that prospect doesn't grab you, perhaps the murky constitutional language will.

Schumer imagines a glorious action. Dreams of this glorious action are widespread here in Our Town. 

What we haven't yet seen is this. We haven't seen anyone try to explain how we know that some such second vote would be constitutionally permissible. We also haven't seen anyone note that the general prospect, in which one party can disqualify the other party's most popular pol, doesn't quite exactly sense.

For today, we link you to Ian Millhiser's attempt to explain this matter at Vox. 

According to Vox, Millhiser got his law degree in 2006 from Duke Law School, "where he served as senior note editor on the Duke Law Journal and was elected to the Order of the Coif."  Two weeks ago, he authored a lengthy attempt to explain the possible vote for disqualification.

Millhiser writes at length. But in the end, this is the best he can do concerning our central questions:

MILLHISER (1/13/21): The Constitution is silent on whether, after an official has already been impeached and removed from office, imposing the additional sanction of disqualification requires a supermajority vote. In the past, however, the Senate determined that a simple majority vote is sufficient for disqualification. Judge Archibald was disqualified by a vote of 39-35 after he was removed from office.


The Supreme Court has not ruled on whether simple majority vote is sufficient to disqualify someone from public office after they’ve already been removed. Humphreys and Porteous were both disqualified in supermajority votes, and Archibald never brought a case before the Court that could have allowed the justices to rule on how many votes are required to disqualify a public official.

Nevertheless, there is a strong constitutional argument that the Senate should be allowed to disqualify an individual by a simple majority vote, after that individual has already been convicted by a two-thirds majority.

According to Millhiser, "The Supreme Court has not ruled on whether simple majority vote is sufficient." As best we can tell, the Supreme Court also hasn't ruled on whether this type of disqualification is permitted at all. 

The "strong argument" cited by Milhiser seems rather weak to us. He never explains how he knows that the murky language in question should be taken as directing some type of second vote.

As Millhiser notes, only three officials in American history have ever faced this second vote. None of the three ever challenged his disqualification in court.

The former commander surely would; this would visit him on us further. Still, we beat on ceaselessly. Another letter in today's Times explains why:

LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (1/26/21): Since the Republican defense team certainly won’t call Donald Trump as a witness at the Senate impeachment trial, the Democratic prosecutors should subpoena him. Now lacking presidential privilege, he could assert his Fifth Amendment rights and refuse to testify. Or he might follow his instincts and try to defend himself. That should be fun!

So cool! We could subpoena the former commander—bring him forward in chains! The excitement would animate cable news. Like some denizens of Our Town, cable news mainly wants to have fun!

We've seen no one address the points we've offered. According to various experts and scholars, at times when tribes are drifting toward war, our minds aren't wired for that.

What is truth, a great jurist once asked. Anthropologically speaking, to what extent are we the humans wired to care about that?

Tomorrow: Ebert and Gibson, three stars

Kessler delivers the final count!


Rachel and Joy in the clown car: High up on the Washington Post's web site, the final count was being announced this morning.

Glenn Kessler's tabulation was done. High up on the Post's web site, the headline linking to the report said this:

Trump made 30,573 false or misleading claims as president. Nearly half came in his final year.

Kessler has made his final count. At the Post's Fact Checker site, his final report starts like this:

KESSLER (1/23/21): He overstated the “carnage” he was inheriting, then later exaggerated his “massive” crowd and claimed, despite clear evidence to the contrary, that it had not rained during his address. He repeated the rain claim the next day, along with the fabricated notion that he held the “all-time record” for appearing on the cover of Time magazine.

And so it went, day after day, week after week, claim after claim, from the most mundane of topics to the most pressing issues.

Over time, Trump unleashed his falsehoods with increasing frequency and ferocity, often by the scores in a single campaign speech or tweetstorm. What began as a relative trickle of misrepresentations, including 10 on his first day and five on the second, built into a torrent through Trump’s final days as he frenetically spread wild theories that the coronavirus pandemic would disappear “like a miracle” and that the presidential election had been stolen—the claim that inspired Trump supporters to attack Congress on Jan. 6 and prompted his second impeachment.

The final tally of Trump’s presidency: 30,573 false or misleading claims—with nearly half coming in his final year.

You'll note that nothing is said about "lies." Kessler has always trafficked in "falsehoods" and "misrepresentations"—in "false or misleading claims." Playing by the antique rules, he almost never refers to such statements as "lies."

In Saturday morning's Free for All, the Post published a pair of letters from readers demanding tougher language. We think that demand, widespread in Our Town, is unwise and self-defeating.

We may return to those letters some day. Today, let's go with this:

This morning, through a string of links, we ended up at Jack Shaffer's account of the way the Biden inauguration was played on CNN and MSNBC. Shaffer offered this account of Rachel and Joy, then backed it up with a link:

SHAFFER (1/21/21): CNN glowed almost as brightly about the event as a state media would have. It accentuated all of Biden’s leading attributes—his modesty; the length of his Capitol experience, where he outlasted some of the building’s marble columns; his Catholic faith; his bounce-back from personal tragedies; his love of country; and so on. Biden’s perfectly fine if pedestrian speech earned instant accolades from Wolf Blitzer, who jibbered that Biden had put “his soul into his first address.” Joe Average, rejected for president by primary voters in previous election years, the guy who said, “you ain’t black,” the fellow who plagiarized, suddenly became a seasoned Caesar and a potential savior.

MSNBC worked from the same script, going gaga for not just Lady Gaga but the whole schmear. At day’s end, Rachel Maddow confessed to having worked her way through an entire box of Kleenex during the festivities and Joy Reid gushed like a partisan about the event. “They gave us fashion. They gave us celebrity. They gave us hope,” Reid said of the “incredible” inauguration. Incredible it was not. In fact, it was very low-fi without the Mall-filling, cheering crowds, the parades and the balls that ordinarily pad the swearing-in.

In our view, Shaffer was pointlessly negative concerning Biden and the inauguration in general. Concerning Rachel and Joy, we thought he might be overstating a bit. 

Then we clicked his link.

What we saw was appalling, obscene, an offense against decent practice. In part, when we clicked that link, we encountered such garbage as this:

MADDOW (1/20/21): I'm with my friends Joy Reid and Lawrence O'Donnell. We've been watching this throughout. 

Joy, let me get your reaction first. I went through half a box of Kleenex, but I made sure I saved one in case you said anything that was also going to make me cry. Because at this point, I'm just a faucet I can't turn off.

The corporate multimillionaire salesperson held up her remaining Kleenex, doing a minor prop act. She never stops discussing herself, never stops selling the car.

(In fairness, all players on this channel are said to be each other's "friends." Rather plainly, this is a scripted part of corporate branding. It's a way of telling us viewers how dumb they think we are.) 

Joy proceeded to clown us rubes in much the way Shaffer described. She started off like this:

REID (continuing directly): No, I'll tell you, I was mostly dancing around and singing along to the extent that I could, that I could keep up with the lyrics...

Her analysis proceeded from there. On the tape, Lawrence politely sits by, pretending this all makes sense.

This is corporate clowning of an undisguised type. There is little serious hope for a nation whose liberals and progressives are willing to tolerate such manifest hustle as this.

What a rogue's gallery of grifters and hustlers this ludicrous channel has assembled! We avoided watching this garbage last Wednesday. Despite some pointlessly sour remarks, Shaffer's link was true.



And to what extent do we care?: Have we Americans possibly gotten lucky? Have we managed to avoid a predicted surge of Covid infections and deaths?

Yesterday, atop the front page in print editions, a news report in the Washington Post examined that question. Fenit Nirappil started his front-page report as shown:

NIRAPPIL (1/24/21): The United States appears to have avoided the worst-case coronavirus scenarios that officials feared would overwhelm hospitals in the aftermath of Christmas and New Year’s gatherings. But experts caution that the threat from the virus has not diminished and could intensify with the emergence of new variants.

Even as hospitalizations begin to stabilize, they do so from record heights. The country’s hospitals averaged more than 130,000 covid-19 patients a day over seven days this month, far exceeding summer and spring surges. The death toll from cases contracted before and after the holidays will stretch into February. Authorities reported nearly 4,500 deaths Wednesday, a new single-day record.

According to Nirappil, it seems we may have dodged a bullet, though things could still get worse.

A person could say that Nirappil was possibly hedging his bets. For ourselves, we were most struck by the last sentence we've highlighted, in which Nirappil told readers this:

"Authorities reported nearly 4,500 deaths Wednesday, a new single-day record."

Nirappil's statement can be defended as technically accurate. It could also be seen an example of cherry-picking of a familiar kind.

It's true! According to the Washington Post's data set, 4,440 deaths from Covid-19 were reported on Wednesday, January 20. That's almost "nearly 4,500 deaths," though it's closer to 4,400.

Something else in Nirappil's statement is true. Within the Post's data set, that was the highest number of Covid deaths reported for any single day since the pandemic began in March 2020. Inevitably, that may seem like a significant fact.

Then again, other things are true. Wednesday's reported number of deaths had been very high. But as we noted last Friday,  these were the numbers of Covid deaths reported on the three days before that:

Reported deaths from Covid-19:
Sunday, January 17: 2,068
Monday, January 18: 1,418
Tuesday, January 19: 2,166

Wednesday's number was very high. By way of comparison, Monday's number had been very low. And just for the record, these numbers—these numbers of "reported" deaths—followed a three-day holiday weekend, when the reporting anomalies which occur every week tend to be larger than usual.

As he started, Nirappil reported only one number from the previous week. Was that an example of solid reporting? Or was it "cherry-picking?"

There's no ultimate way to answer that question, but Nirappil omitted more information than he chose to include. Meanwhile, here's the way he and/or his editor chose to end his lengthy report:

NIRAPPIL: About 3,900 deaths were reported Friday in the United States, suggesting Wednesday’s peak may not be an anomaly. The seven-day average of deaths in the weeks after Thanksgiving hovered around 2,500.

“We are getting, in some way, numb to the numbers,” said John Brownstein, chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital. “The numbers of hospitalizations, cases and death are still incredibly high. Even if we see a pullback, those numbers are still incredibly scary.”

As he closed his lengthy report, Nirappil made a comparison. Plainly, it was a comparison of the apples-to-oranges kind:

Nirappil compared the number of deaths reported on Friday (about 3,900) to the smaller average number in the weeks after Thanksgiving (about 2,500 deaths per day). In doing so, he showed that he knows about the important statistic known as the 7-day rolling average.

What he didn't say was this: 

After Friday's reporting, the 7-day average for the preceding week stood at 3,101 deaths per day. After Saturday's reporting was done, the 7-day average had dropped to 3,084. In other words:

Where the 7-day average once stood at "about 2,500 deaths" per day, it now stands at just over 3,000. That's an apples-to-apples presentation, although it still has its flaws.

There is no perfect way to report the number of Covid deaths. That said, there are plenty of ways to misreport the number of such deaths.

One such way involves the cherry-picking of individual days. To wit:

Even after November's election, Trump spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany would report the (lower) number of deaths reported on some particular weekend day, thereby giving the impression that things just weren't so bad. 

By way of contrast, people like Maddow and Tapper would reliably report the (higher) number of deaths reported on some particular midweek day, thereby pushing viewers' perceptions in the other direction.

No one reported the 7- or 14-day averages, the only respectable way to report such deaths. No one bothered explaining the weekly reporting glitch which drives numbers higher on midweek days, much lower over the weekend.

Nirappil picked the highest number, simply ignored the others. Eventually, he reported the 7-day averages post-Thanksgiving but ignored the 7-day average which obtained as his report went to press.

At present, that average is down by roughly ten percent from where it stood just ten days ago. That may be a holiday-based statistical glitch, or it may suggest that some modest improvement is taking place. 

At any rate, the current average—3,070 Covid deaths per day—is higher than it was at any point during the year 2020. That's a basic statement of fact, with high and low numbers thrown in.

Atop page one, in paragraph 2, Nirappil cited one number—the highest one-day total ever. He didn't mention the lower numbers which had come in the days before.

He didn't work with 7-day averages until the very end of his report. At that time, he offered an apples-to-oranges comparison instead of saying something like this:

"The seven-day average of deaths in the weeks after Thanksgiving hovered around 2,500. Today, the seven-day average stands at just over 3,000 deaths per day, though it may be leveling off."

Even there, the recent holiday weekend may be introducing noise into the statistics. But that point could be mentioned too, and at least you'd now be comparing apples to apples, with a word of caution thrown in.

We were struck by the way Nirappil (and his editor) shot that largest number right to the top of the pile. Cable stars have done that for months, even as McEnany was cherry-picking the smallest single-day numbers.

Nirappil's choice brought a question to mind. It's an anthropological question, and we plan to regard it that way.

Our questions goes like this:

To what extent are we humans wired to care about such entities as accuracy and truth? Enjoyably, we plan to discuss that question this week with respect to some well-known movies.

"What is truth?" Pontius Pilate once asked. Our own question will be somewhat different.

To what extent are we humans wired to care about such entities as accuracy and truth? This week, we'll examine the question with respect to the way major critics have reviewed certain films. Next week, we expect to move on to prevailing questions of gender and race.

Are we wired to care about truth? Or is it Storyline all the way down?

In our view, the answer to this is in no way clear, not even here in Our Town!

Tomorrow: Roger Ebert, Mel Gibson, three stars

Obama's suit, emails and Love Canal too!


Pepperidge Farm remembers: Margaret Sullivan's latest column for the Washington Post has been getting some play on Fox.

At present, Sullivan is the Washington Post's "media columnist." This follows her earlier stint as the New York Times' public editor.

Sullivan has conducted a long, substantial career. Here's the part of yesterday's piece which some have enjoyed on Fox:

SULLIVAN (1/22/21): The national press—battered by four years of abuse by the president, and by the incompetence and falsehoods of his spokespeople—is in a precarious position. We run the risk of being seduced by an administration that, in many cases, closely reflects our values: multiculturalism, a belief in the principles of liberal democracy, and a kind of wonky idealism. (Cue the “West Wing” theme.)

The commentary from TV broadcasters across the board, all day long, was at times embarrassingly complimentary. Maybe that’s fine for a day or two while everyone takes a few sighs of relief that democracy has survived its stress test.

Watching some of that embarrassing commentary, we were struck by the way TV "news" has almost totally given way to commentary, point of view and opinion, especially on cable.

The opinion in question is generally group opinion. At Fox, it was part of group opinion to cite Sullivan's reference to the embarrassing group opinion  being voiced everywhere else.

We agree with Sullivan on that point—at times, the work was embarrassing. As she continued, though, she brought us right out of our chairs:

SULLIVAN (continuing directly): But soon, I’d guess, another norm will return: the desire to appear combative and to blow things out of proportion to demonstrate toughness. Because journalists pride themselves on being tough and objective, they like to take an adversarial-seeming approach, especially to the party in power or the candidate with whom they most identify. (And, of course, actually holding power to account is the most important job that journalists have. It’s what we’re here for.)

But there’s a difference between truly holding power to account and grandstanding. It’s the latter that gave rise to ridiculous dust-ups like the one over President Barack Obama’s wearing of a tan suit—not to mention the vast and shameful overplaying of the Hillary Clinton email scandal during the 2016 campaign.

Will mainstream journalists soon be blowing things out of proportion at President Biden's expense? We'll guess that this won't happen soon—but we were especially struck by the past examples of mainstream misconduct Sullivan chose to mention.

Question: Did the ridiculous dust-up over Obama's tan suit last longer than an MSM minute? Briefly Googling, we were able to find Vanessa Friedman sadly saying that it was about time that the press corps examined the wardrobes of male politicians as well as the wardrobes of women.

In all candor, we don't recall that ridiculous dust-up amounting to much at the time. By way of contrast, the mainstream press corps spent many months in Campaign 2000 savaging Candidate Gore for his boots, his suits, his polo shirts and the heinous earth tones he wore—a lengthy, deeply ridiculous episode which has been thoroughly disappeared in line with the MSM's code of silence.

That earlier episode went on at great length; it was spectacularly stupid, deeply ugly and, in the end, quite destructive. The code of silence which sent it down the memory hole enabled another destructive mainstream gong-show—the focus on Hillary Clinton's allegedly disturbing emails, the "shameful" press conduct which helped send Donald J. Trump to the White House.

As with the warfare directed at the girly-man Gore's troubling three-button suits, so too with Clinton's emails. The episode was part of a decades-long war against Clinton and Clinton, a mainstream press corps war which played a key role in sending the last two Republican presidents to the White House.

Sullivan will never mention that war; the code of silence forbids it. Also, she herself played an insider role in the war against Gore, dating to her time as editor of her hometown Buffalo News.

We refer to what we'd view as the pivotal episode in the twenty-month War Against Gore. We refer to the invention of the claim, in December 1999, that "Al Gore said he discovered Love Canal."

The claim was invented by the Washington Post and the New York Times. This followed a solid month devoted to the candidate's wardrobe, but also to the ugly and stupid claim that Gore, described as "today's man-woman" (Chris Matthews),  had "hired a woman [Naomi Wolf] to teach him to be a man" (everyone in the press).

The month of November had been devoted to those stupid and ugly and shameful claims. Early in December, Love Canal turned the page. 

"Al Gore said he discovered Love Canal!" Deliciously, the invented claim got its start through a blatant misquotation of something Candidate Gore had said to a high school class in New Hampshire.

Even more deliciously, this blatant misquotation was then called to light by those same high schools kids. Deliciously, they had videotaped Gore's remarks to their class, and they made a point of calling attention to the Post/Times misquotation.

Thanks to the high school kids' videotape, everyone was soon able to see that the Post and the Times had flatly misquoted Gore. You'd almost think it would have been a great story:

New Hampshire high school kids take down the Post and the Times!

You'd almost think that would be a great story, but the code of silence within the guild doesn't permit such delights. Inevitably, the inevitable occurred:

Rather than admit their mistake, the Post and the Timed got busy inventing slippery new ways to claim that they'd been right all along. Everyone else agreed to avert their gaze and to play along.

"Al Gore said he discovered Love Canal!" This became the reviled candidate's third alleged lie. As such, it completed the rule of three, thus hardening the Storyline which drove the mainstream press corps campaign:

Candidate Gore is the world's biggest liar, just like his boss, Bill Clinton.

In fact, Gore had made the world's most innocuous set of remarks when he spoke to that high school class. His comments involved the discovery of the toxic waste site at Love Canal in upstate New York—a site for which the Buffalo News would have been the local paper of record.

At the time, Sullivan was editor of the Buffalo News, a post she'd held since August. Sadly, the newspaper never spoke up to challenge the deeply destructive, gong-show claims being made by the Post and the Times.

Al Gore had a problem with the truth! The press corps spent the next eleven months describing Gore as the person Donald J. Trump really was. Along with the rest of the guild, Sullivan and the Buffalo News came down on the side of the Post and the Times at the moment of truth. In the process, this invented Storyline hardened and turned to stone.

November of that deeply stupid year had been devoted almost wholly to the candidate's troubling wardrobe. (Brian William kept the lunacy going for several months after that.) Comically, the New York Times published its first correction concerning such matters in June 2012.

At any rate, that's what these idiots did in November 1999. In December, they invented the kill shot.

Sullivan was there on the scene. Today, she remembers Obama's tan suit and that puzzling email flap, forgets what went before. Just for the record, the war against Gore and the war against Hillary were all part of one long, unexplained "forever war" on the part of the upper-end press.

No one will ever ask Sullivan why the News didn't speak up. People are dead all over Iraq because of what the Post and the Times and her own newspaper did.

Why did Sullivan fail to speak? Today, she's a media columnist for the Post. That follows her stint at the Times, and no one will ever ask.

For a history of the Love Canal episode, please visit Chapter 6 at our award-winning companion site, the award-winning How He Got There. Long story short:

A group of principled high school kids embarrassed the Post and the Times. As required by laws of the guild, the students and their embarrassing tape were sent down the memory hole.

This is the way our world really works. In these ways, we're allowed to recall certain events. Everything else disappears.

From Nicolle's lips to Our Town's ears!


Feckless, incompetent, faux: We just saw Nicolle say it, in her most stage-managed manner, to Yamiche Alcindor, one of her favorite reporters and friends:

"More than four thousand people have died [from Covid-19] every day this week."

We checked the numbers at the Washington Post. No one reports the  number of people who died on any given day, but here are the numbers of reported (recorded) deaths so far this week:

Reported deaths from Covid-19
Sunday, January 17: 2,068
Monday, January 18: 1,418
Tuesday, January 19: 2,166
Wednesday, January 20: 4,440
Thursday, January 21: 3,898

Those are the numbers in the Post. Our question:

Does it look like "more than four thousand people have died [from Covid-19] every day this week?" Go ahead! Take a good look!

According to the Post, the 7-day average stood at 3,071 deaths per day after yesterday's tabulation. The numbers at the New York Times will be very similar.

The people you see on Our Town's cable channels are feckless, incompetent, faux. We now make an important point, recalling this morning's report:

Nothing turns on this standard misstatement by cable star Nicolle Wallace. Nothing turned on the similar chain of howlers emitted by her friend Rachel Maddow last night.

Something does turn on Maddow's relentless claims that the children of Flint were exposed to a "mass poisoning" from which they'll never recover. Something does turn on the way Maddow has always failed to discuss any actual data about the lead exposure in Flint and about the degree of harm it has apparently caused.

These are feckless, incompetent people. You aren't allowed to know how many millions of dollars they're paid to keep this up night after night.

Transcripts are no longer available.  It's the same game over at Fox.