Morning Joe's stars are merely players...


...upon our blue tribe's stage:  "All the world's a stage," the Shakespeare character famously said, "and all the men and women merely players."

Modern experts disagree with that famous assessment. 

According to these disconsolate scholars, all the world turns out to be a recitation of tribally pleasing scripts. And as we noted last week, our own blue tribe loves this pleasing pair of talking points:

Routinely, Donald J. Trump lost millions of dollars per year.
Routinely, Donald J. Trump paid little or no federal income tax.

Our highly unimpressive blue tribe loves each of those talking points. The first of these points is designed to show that Trump was a hapless businessman. The second point is intended to suggest that he wasn't paying an appropriate amount of federal income tax.

Because we love each talking point, we never note the contradictory aspect of these recitations. We never address this fairly obvious question:

If Trump was losing tens of millions of dollars each year, on what income was he supposed to be paying income tax?

This morning, it took the Morning Joe gang little time to return to this treasured recitation. As the Internet Archive lets you see, the segment began with Mika offering this:

BRZEZINSKI (1/2/23): The House Ways and Means Committee released six years of Donald Trump's taxes on Friday. The report reveals that Trump reported financial losses of over $30 million in 2015 and 2016. over $13 million in 2017, and losses close to $5 million in 2020.

Instantly, Mika offered this second report:

BRZEZINSKI: We also learned that Trump paid very little in federal taxes when he was president.

Graphics helped us enjoy these favorite points. For example, we saw that Trump reported an adjusted gross income of minus $12,819,400 in 2017, but paid only $750 in taxes that year. 


If Trump had no income in 2017—if he lost almost $13 million that year—then why would he be required to pay any income tax at all? It seems like the world's most obvious question, but within the tents of our childish blue tribe, this obvious question will never be raised at all.

Thanks to the Internet Archive, you can watch this morning's full "discussion" of this particular point. The New York Times' Susanne Craig appeared as Joe and Mika's expert guest, but no one ever asked or answered the obvious question:

Why would someone be paying income tax if he had no income that year?

The first point is pleasing for one reason. The second talking point is pleasing for a different treason.

The two talking points don't seem to go together real well. But according to contemporary experts, all the world's a recitation designed to drive Storyline.

In recent years, the red tribe has largely been driven by an array of crazy beliefs. By way of contrast, our own self-impressed blue tribe is a sad but reliable clown car.

Let us repeat our question:

If Trump was losing tens of millions of dollars each year, why would he be paying federal income taxes at all?

There may be an answer to that question, but as with most American systems, any such answer would be too complex to be explained in televised forums. As a result, our cable players strut and fret their time upon the stage. 

They repeat the points we love to hear. There's no requirement that the things they say have to make basic sense.

We like the stories that we like. Our tribunes like to recite them.

An exciting new year is underway. As of 7 o'clock this morning, it sounded a lot like the old one!


  1. Criticizing from ignorance can be so pleasant. I've been told that real estate law and accounting are very complicated. I don't know what to make of Trump's earnings or to make of his taxes. But, Morning Joe and his fans enjoy their ignorant prattle.

    BTW note also the usual cherry picking. Trump's taxes varied wildly from year to year, but in total he did pay a lot of income tax.

    1. Why assume that Morning Joe is ignorant. He has a staff and they have access to any number of experts. And if you yourself know little about such things, how do you know their prattle was ignorant? I wouldn't take Somerby's word for it. He was a standup comedian.

      I'm not sure you can call it cherry-picking when the returns released to the public are limited to those congress was able to obtain.

    2. shorter David in Cal: It's ok for Trump to cheat on most of his tax returns since in some years he did pay a lot of income tax.

      Go crawl back under your rock, David.

  2. No income, no income tax. But he’s a jerk, so he should pay a jerk tax. Unfortunately, there is no jerk tax.

  3. David is a better commenter than Cecelia.

    1. That's like saying that cyanide is better than arsenic.

    2. Cyanide is better than arsenic.

  4. So, since Bob has to squeeze as much
    juice out of the minor point he is going to
    make, he has to set up first third of the
    post straw manning said point into the
    be all and end all (also Shakespeare!)
    of everything you every wanted to know
    about the left.
    Then we have Bob’s question,
    perhaps somewhat valid, then you have
    the last fifth of the post where Bob
    explains to us how this conclusively
    proves how correct he is about the
    But, the question might have easily
    been … if Trump is such a great business
    man worth billions, why is he losing
    millions of dollars a year?
    Or perhaps, if “Trump is a billionaire
    why is he giving absolutely nothing to
    A couple of years into Trump’s term
    Joe and Mika had on Ken Starr. It
    was a gruesome exchange, with
    Starr being treated as a God and
    Joe repeating all the nonsense
    he had said back in Clinton time.
    About how poor Ken was Bill’s
    victim. The next week Starr was
    out supporting Bart’s sandbagging
    of Mueller. That was the last you heard
    of Starr on the show, even when he
    died. Remarkably, Bob had nothing
    to say about this “Morning Joe.”

    1. Turning to ChatGPT:

      "What is a tribally pleasing script?

      It is not clear to me what you are referring to when you mention a "tribally pleasing script." Could you provide more context or clarify your question?"

      If this were a real thing, bemoaned by disconsolate experts, wouldn't chatGPT be able to come up with a better answer?

  5. I asked Chat GPT to write an essay in Bob Somerby's style and this is what it came up with:

    "Dear readers of The Daily Howler,

    I come to you today to address a topic that has been on the minds of many Americans: the state of the media in our country. It seems that every day, we are bombarded with misinformation, biased reporting, and outright lies from the media outlets that are supposed to be informing us about the world around us.

    The problem is not limited to any one political ideology or news organization. Both liberal and conservative outlets have been guilty of pushing their own agendas and spreading false information. This is not to say that all media is bad, or that there are not many talented and honest journalists out there. But the fact remains that the media landscape is increasingly skewed and untrustworthy.

    One of the major factors contributing to this problem is the financial pressures facing the media industry. With the rise of the internet and the decline of traditional advertising revenue, many media outlets have turned to sensationalism and clickbait to drive traffic and make money. This often leads to a focus on the most sensational and controversial stories, rather than the most important and accurate ones.

    Another factor is the increasing polarization of our society. Many media outlets cater to a specific audience and feed into their preexisting beliefs, rather than presenting a balanced and fair portrayal of the issues. This creates echo chambers where people only hear one side of the story and become further entrenched in their views.

    So what can be done about this problem? First and foremost, it is important for all of us to be critical consumers of media. We should not blindly accept what we see and hear, but instead strive to fact check and seek out multiple sources of information. It is also important to support high-quality journalism by subscribing to reputable news outlets and holding them accountable for their reporting.

    At the same time, media organizations need to take responsibility for the impact they have on society and make an effort to present a fair and accurate portrayal of the issues. This means investing in fact checking and responsible journalism, rather than chasing clicks and ratings.

    Ultimately, the state of the media is a reflection of the state of our society. If we want a more informed and reasoned public discourse, it is up to all of us to demand better from the media and hold them accountable for the role they play in shaping our understanding of the world.


    1. Notice that it has not captured Somerby's repetitiveness, his rhetorical devices, his conservative memes, his chiding tone, his "anything is possible" and calling people "good, decent" or anything that makes his essays interesting much less idiosyncratic. Not a threat to the Howler at this point.

    2. And don’t forget that the woods are lovely, dark, and deep.

  6. Here is an essay from Chat GPT written in the style of anonymous commenters at The Daily Howler blog:

    "I can't believe what I'm reading on this blog today. The Daily Howler has completely lost touch with reality. How can they possibly defend the actions of this corrupt and incompetent administration? It's clear to anyone with a brain that they are only looking out for themselves and couldn't care less about the American people.

    The lies and propaganda being spewed by this administration are astounding. They have no regard for the truth and are only interested in advancing their own agendas. It's sickening to see them manipulate the media and the public in this way.

    And don't even get me started on the hypocrisy. They preach about family values and moral integrity, yet they engage in all sorts of unethical and downright illegal behavior. It's clear that they are only concerned with their own power and will stop at nothing to maintain it.

    The Daily Howler needs to wake up and start holding this administration accountable for their actions. They can't just blindly defend them no matter what they do. It's time for some honest journalism and for the American people to demand better from their leaders."

    1. Notice that this is nothing like what any of the anonymous commenters write. For one thing, no one has been attacking or defending the current administration in comments. For another, it has not noticed that many of the commenters are attacking Somerby himself and his blog. The AI does seem to think that blogs exist to defend or attack the administration and not for other political reasons, such as to attack The others, as Somerby so often decries. Or maybe we aren't actually doing what Somerby accuses us of doing?

  7. Here is a GPT Chat essay written in the style of Cecelia from the comment section of the Daily Howler blog:

    "As a lifelong reader of the Daily Howler, I have to say that I am completely fed up with the mainstream media's blatant bias and lack of journalistic integrity. It seems like every day, I turn on the news or pick up a newspaper, only to be confronted with yet another example of the media twisting the truth or outright ignoring important stories in order to push their own agenda.

    Take the recent election, for example. It was clear to anyone paying attention that the media was rooting for one candidate over the other, and they were more than willing to bend the truth in order to make their preferred candidate look good. From the way they covered the debates to the way they reported on the candidates' policies, it was obvious that they had a clear favorite.

    But it's not just the big, major events that are covered in this biased way. Even the smaller, local stories seem to be slanted in a certain direction. It's as if the media is more interested in pushing their own narrative than in actually informing the public.

    As a reader of the Daily Howler, I appreciate the blog's commitment to holding the media accountable and calling out their biases. It's so important to have a source that we can trust to give us the real story, rather than the spin that the mainstream media so often puts on things. Keep up the good work, Bob!"

    1. Notice that it has correctly identified her support for Somerby, but not her conservative political perspective. It has also missed her misuse of big words and inability to spell, and it has not recognized her quips and callous sense of humor, but perhaps that is because I asked for an essay instead of a brief comment.

    2. Exactly, anonymouse 7:55pm.

      Thank you.

  8. Here is a brief comment by ChatGPT written in the style of mh:

    "I have to say, I'm getting pretty tired of all the media bashing on the Daily Howler. Yes, there are certainly some outlets that have their own agendas and don't always present the full story, but to act like the entire media is corrupt and untrustworthy is just ridiculous. There are plenty of journalists out there who are dedicated to presenting the truth and informing the public, and to paint them all with the same brush is unfair. Let's try to have a little more balance and nuance in our discussions of the media, rather than just blindly attacking everything that comes out of their mouths."

    I think this one is pretty spot on. Note that ChatGPT does not have info past 2021, so these samples are based on what has appeared before then.

  9. Here is a brief comment written by ChatGPT in the style of Corby:

    "I have to say, I'm pretty disappointed in the Daily Howler's coverage lately. It seems like all you guys do is sit around bashing on the mainstream media and looking for ways to discredit them. How about trying to be a little more constructive and offering some solutions instead of just tearing everything down? I understand that there are problems with the media and that it's important to hold them accountable, but it feels like all you're doing is fanning the flames of mistrust and anger. Can't we try to be a little more positive and work towards finding solutions rather than just complaining all the time?"

    The AI seems to have recognized the position relative to what Somerby writes, but not the analysis of Somerby's motives and political slant, nor the criticism of his accuracy. It does seem to recognize that Corby and mh are on the same side in the political polarization.

    1. Nah. This is a sincere appeal for compromise and understanding.

      No discernible lecturing, cynicism, dislike of contrarians. Fail.

  10. Here is a brief comment written by ChatGPT in the style of David in Cal.

    "As someone who has been following the Daily Howler for years, I have to say that I'm getting pretty fed up with the constant media bashing. Yes, there are certainly some issues with the way that the mainstream media operates, but to act like every single outlet is biased and untrustworthy is just ridiculous. There are plenty of journalists out there who are dedicated to presenting the truth and informing the public, and it's unfair to paint them all with the same brush. I understand that it's important to hold the media accountable, but can we try to do it in a more measured and constructive way instead of just blindly attacking everything that comes out?"

    It has entirely missed David's main themes and his usual contribution content. The AI seems to be falling back on a standard comment for these repeated requests while missing what characterizes each unique commenter. It hasn't mention any of David's relatives, for example. I suspect it may have been similarly lazy in writing Corby's comment, but it has perhaps picked up on the way Somerby himself reuses previous text and repeats himself. If that is true, it is astute! (Note: this is a joke)

  11. Here is what I got when I asked for an essay about Somerby in the style of Corby:

    "As someone who has been following the work of Bob Somerby for a while now, I have to say that I am disappointed in his recent approach to media criticism. While I agree that it is important to hold the media accountable and to call out instances of bias and misinformation, it feels like Somerby is more interested in tearing down the mainstream media rather than offering constructive solutions or presenting alternative viewpoints.

    Rather than simply pointing out the flaws in the media's coverage, it would be more productive if Somerby offered suggestions for how to improve the way that news is reported. It's easy to criticize and point fingers, but it takes a lot more effort to actually come up with solutions and try to make a positive change.

    Additionally, Somerby's constant bashing of the media can be tiring and alienating to readers. It's important to be critical of the media, but it's also important to recognize that there are many journalists out there who are working hard to inform the public and do their jobs with integrity. Blindly attacking the entire industry does a disservice to these individuals and does nothing to further the conversation about media reform.

    Overall, I think that Somerby's work has the potential to be valuable and informative, but his one-sided approach to media criticism leaves a lot to be desired. I hope that in the future, he will take a more balanced and nuanced approach to the issues facing the media today."

    I am disappointed that it said nothing about Rachel Maddow, the Lady with the Lapdog, or Vertigo. I wonder whether Somerby would recognize his own opinions in what has been created by the AI.

  12. I asked ChatGPT what Somerby writes about Rachel Maddow and it wouldn't tell me, so I think that all it really knows about Somerby is what Wikipedia says and it doesn't actually access the comments or the blog itself to answer queries.

    But here is a sequence for Cecelia:

    "What is an anonymice comment on Daily Howler blog?

    It is not clear to me what you are referring to when you mention "anonymice" comments on the Daily Howler blog. It is possible that you are misspelling "anonymous," in which case an anonymous comment on the Daily Howler blog would be a comment that is posted without the user revealing their identity."

  13. Somerby is a total idiot. He says:

    "If Trump was losing tens of millions of dollars each year, on what income was he supposed to be paying income tax?"

    If Trump was losing tens of millions of dollars each year, on what income was he living? He wasn't starving or homeless, was he?

    Obviously, these tax forms are games with numbers on paper and not actual dollars. Trump was committing fraud in the way he reported income and expenses and losses. How do we know that? (1) It was described in the court case against the Trump Organization. (2) It was described by Mary Trump in her book about the Trump family. (3) Trump is a crook and has been audited for his casino losses in 2009. He was the only casino operator to lose money during a time when other casinos were making money hand over fist. (4) Trump paid more money in taxes outside the US than to the US itself, because other countries do a better job of collection and have less flexible laws, fewer ways to hide income. (5) Trump himself has said that evading taxes makes him smart. (6) Trump's extreme efforts to conceal his returns suggests guilt. (7) Trump is an obvious grifter -- look at the nature of his failed enterprises, such as Trump University. He creates businesses, loots them, declares bankruptcy and then moves on. (8) Trump's mode of doing business has involved not paying creditors, suppliers and contractors. Why would he be any different with his debts to the IRS? (9) Trump also deals in money laundering and black money, infusions of cash from oligarchs and shady dealers. None of that appears on any of his financial documents. Why would we assume any of his forms are accurate, given that he didn't follow FEC or PAC reporting requirements either, and cash floated around freely without controls throughout his presidency and campaign dealings?

    That makes Somerby's objections to Mika and Joe so disingenuous that I have to ask whether Somerby has a mental disability. Nothing the Democrats have said is contradictory and Somerby's objection is as silly as it gets.

    This is a horrible start to the New Year. Who does Somerby think he is fooling with this crap?

  14. I've got the brand new doo-doo, guaranteed like Yoo-hoo
    I'm on like Dr. John, yeah, Mr. Zu Zu
    I'm a newlywed, not a divorcee (yeah)
    And everything I do is funky like Lee Dorsey
    Well it's the taking of the Pelham 1, 2, 3
    If you want a doo-doo rhyme, then come see me
    I've got the savoir faire with the unique rhymin'
    I keep it on and on, it's never quitting time, and
    Strictly handheld is the style I go
    Never rock the mic with the pantyhose
    I strap on my ear goggles, and I'm ready to go
    ‘Cause at the boards is the man they call the Mario
    You pull up at the function, and you know I Kojak
    To all the party people that are on my Bozac
    I've got more action than my man, John Woo
    And I've got mad hits like I was Rod Carew (yeah)

  15. This blog in very informative for us

  16. Well, it has taken the Republican Majority Congress exactly zero days to prove once again for those who haven't learned yet, Republicans are incapable of governing. I extend my congratulations to the lurking magats.

  17. In Trump's defense, he's a Republican so he doesn't know anything about how Capitalism works (or simple arithmetic, obviously).

  18. Mao Cheng Ji is a novel.