ELECTION: "Mountain of evidence" awaits Trump jury!

MONDAY, APRIL 22, 2024

Our journalism, ourselves: The New York Times is a national paper of record.

Based upon a recent report, that's especially true for the jurors who begin their service today in Gotham's admittedly "lurid," hush money / porn star trial.

Last Friday, the newspaper offered this report about the eighteen jurors and alternates. The report concerned where they said they get their news on their pre-trial questionnaire. 

Jurors were allowed to cite more than one source.

According to the Times' compilation, thirteen of the eighteen jurors named the New York Times. Among all other news sources, Google finished second, with five mentions. The Wall Street Journal scored four.  

One juror copped to the New York Post; the Daily News went unmentioned. Fox News was cited by one juror. CNN was cited by two of the jurors, MSNBC by one. 

In Gotham, at least among these jurors, the New York Times seems to rule. In part for that reason, we came close to being gobsmacked yesterday afternoon when this dual headline appeared at the top of the newspaper's website:

Will a Mountain of Evidence Be Enough to Convict Trump?
Monday will see opening statements in the People of the State of New York v. Donald J. Trump. The state’s case seems strong, but a conviction is far from assured.

"Will a Mountain of Evidence Be Enough to Convict Trump?" That struck us as a fairly remarkable headline.

That principal headline leaped off the screen. Also, "the state's case seems strong," the sub-headline said. 

This morning, those same headlines sit atop the current Today's Paper site, where the bulk of the jurors may get their first bite of the apple.

That struck us as a strange pair of headlines. Leaving the principal headline in play, the news report started, and starts, like this:

Will a Mountain of Evidence Be Enough to Convict Trump?

In the official record, the case is known as the People of the State of New York v. Donald J. Trump, and, for now, the people have the stronger hand: They have insider witnesses, a favorable jury pool and a lurid set of facts about a presidential candidate, a payoff and a porn star.

On Monday, the prosecutors will formally introduce the case to 12 all-important jurors, embarking on the first prosecution of an American president. The trial, which could brand Mr. Trump a felon as he mounts another White House run, will reverberate throughout the nation and test the durability of the justice system that Mr. Trump is attacking in a way that no other defendant would be allowed to do.

Though the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, has assembled a mountain of evidence, a conviction is hardly assured. Over the next six weeks, Mr. Trump’s lawyers will seize on three apparent weak points: a key witness’s credibility, a president’s culpability and the case’s legal complexity.

Prosecutors will seek to maneuver around those vulnerabilities, dazzling the jury with a tale that mixes politics and sex, as they confront a shrewd defendant with a decades-long track record of skirting legal consequences. They will also seek to bolster the credibility of that key witness, Michael D. Cohen, a former fixer to Mr. Trump who previously pleaded guilty to federal crimes for paying the porn star, Stormy Daniels.

So the report began. The names of the editors have been withheld to protect the deeply entrenched. We're left with reporters Protess and Bromwich to assess and perhaps to blame.

We'll start by noting the lurid language on which the reporters settled. They delay use of the term "hush money" until midway through their lengthy report—but once they start, they employ the term six times.

Online, the lurid term appears six more times in asides composed by their editors.

(Should "hush money" be viewed as a lurid term? Notes on language follow.)

Protess and Bromwich delay "hush money," but otherwise they're all in. They refer to "a lurid set of facts" before their first sentence has been completed. They employ "porn star" in their opening paragraph, then again in paragraph 4.

Prosecutors will dazzle the jury with a tale with plenty of sex.

(On the Fox News Channel, the porn star is being described as an adult film actress. The "hush money" is sometimes called an NDA. You could also describe the star in question as "an adult woman not Donald Trump's wife." To our ear, Protess and Bromwich embraced the torpedoes as their news report sped ahead.)

We're speaking there of language selection. The reporters' decision to offer pre-judgment about the trial seems more remarkable still. 

Right there in the opening sentence of their news report, they present their subjective assessment of the case:

In the official record, the case is known as the People of the State of New York v. Donald J. Trump, and, for now, the people have the stronger hand. 

The people have the stronger hand! It's hard to know why these reporters think it's their job to deliver that verdict even before opening statements have been launched. But some editor or editors—their names have been withheld to protect the entrenched—believed that this made perfect sense.

Who knows? It may have been the editors themselves who stuck that assessment in!

That judgment sits at the top of the paper the jurors will be reading today. Somewhere spending more time with his family, NPR's Uri Berliner may be thinking that he brilliantly called this other news org's shot.

Is something "wrong" with today's news report? As with almost everything on earth, that's a matter of judgment, opinion, assessment.

In fairness, it isn't like Protess and Bromwich don't have amazingly sound reasons for prejudging the case right in their opening sentence. Consider:

As the reporters proceed from the passage we've posted, they instantly quote one (1) "veteran defense lawyer who previously worked in the Manhattan district attorney’s office prosecuting white-collar cases." (For the record, they quote him by name.)

They quote this individual again at the very end of their lengthy report. It seems to be this veteran's view that the case against the defendant is strong. 

No dissenting view is cited in the lengthy report. No other legal specialist is cited.

On the basis of this one assessment, one thing leads to another. Eventually, "mountains of evidence" appear at the top of the jurors' news feed today.

Citizens, can we talk?

The reporters say that the trial which starts today will "test the durability of the [American] justice system." 

That statement is almost certainly true. But is it possible that this trial is also testing the viability of our current journalistic system—of that system as it has evolved over the past chunk of time?

Increasingly, that journalistic culture is built around "segregation by viewpoint"—the arrangement Berliner described at NPR, the system which prevails in the increasingly clownish corridors of American "cable news."

That organizational structure had helped create our prevailing two Americas—Red America and Blue. And before that segregation took over in full, we had the turn toward snark and snide engineered at this same national newspaper, to a large extent by the highly influential work of Maureen Dowd.

It started when she was still a reporter, fashioning a famous opening sentence in an earlier front-page report. The report appeared on June 9, 1994, and the snark and the snide were obvious. 

Above the fold on the Times' page one, here's how that report began:

Oxford Journal
Whereas, He Is an Old Boy, If a Young Chief, Honor Him 
President Clinton returned today for a sentimental journey to the university where he didn't inhale, didn't get drafted and didn't get a degree.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Oh boy, that was good!

Reportedly, this sort of thing made august editors inside the Times decide that Dowd was the wave of the future. Within a few years, she was an extremely influential columnist—and on the weekend before the nation voted in November 2000, her self-indulgent Sunday column, under the headline "I Feel Pretty," featured Candidate Gore examining his bald spot in a mirror, singing Maria's famous song from West Side Story.

It was the seventh column in which Dowd had featured the girlie-man Gore and his bald spot. Even then, this is what journalism had become as the nation moved toward the vote which eventually sent the U.S. Army into Iraq.

Today, the reporters are climbing a different mountain. It seems to us that the hills are alive with the sounds of their prejudgment.

Will the trial which starts today test our journalistic system? Has that system already failed?

We'll be exploring such questions this week. We'll also be asking if this trial is testing our election system—and if it's testing us.

The cadres who service Blue America have said that our democracy, such as it is, is at stake in this year's election. That assessment may well be correct.

That said, elections are a key part of some such system, and the current trial gives us a chance to assess the way we approach such public endeavors.

As the reporters note, the legalities involved in this trial will be extremely complex. They're explained one way in Red America, another way in Blue.

Due to "segregation by viewpoint," the legal contributors from the two nations never meet in the field. Their dueling assessments are spared such tests. We're left with the thrill of the lurid hush money porn star trial, the trial with the dazzling tale about sex.

According to the Times report, the prosecutors in today's trial say that the porn star in question had "a story to tell." Setting legalities to the side, we Blues have gone all in for that formulation.

We believe she had a story to tell! Before the public could know how to vote, we needed that information.

We say we needed that information. Anthropologically speaking, what might that say about us?

Tomorrow: The late Bronze Age elect


SUNDAY: The inability to have nice things!

SUNDAY, APRIL 21, 2024

Philosophy tooth and nail: Every so often, the big newspapers can't help themselves. They decide to publish an essay like the one found at the end of this link.

It appeared on Wednesday, in the New York Times, under this dual headline:

Why the World Still Needs Immanuel Kant
Unlike in Europe, few in the United States will be celebrating the philosopher’s 300th birthday. But Kant’s writing shows that a free, just and moral life is possible—and that’s relevant everywhere.

Who knew that Kant was 300? Meanwhile, did Kant’s writing really show that a free, just and moral life is possible? And are you that you actually know what that claim might mean? 

Eagerly, we fell on the piece, looking ahead to Saturday as the occasion on which we'd let ourselves finally have a nice thing. We had no idea that the conduct on cable news this week would spill over in the way it did—with rows of howlers waiting to be addressed where the breakers crash and drag. 

We're a bit of a skeptic when it comes to claims about the great philosophic canon. We're inclined to hold with Professor Horwich's view of the later Wittgenstein's view, in which the classic philosophical ruminations are directed at "mere pseudo-problems, the misbegotten products of linguistic illusion and muddled thinking."

We're strongly inclined to hold to that view. Still, we're always eager to examine the latest attempt to examine one of the great questions. 

In this instance, the question—more accurately, the alleged or purported question—goes exactly like this:

Kant was driven by a question that still plagues us: Are ideas like freedom and justice utopian daydreams, or are they more substantial? Their reality can’t be proven like that of material objects, for those ideas make entirely different claims on us—and some people are completely impervious to their claims. Could philosophy show that acting morally, if not particularly common, is at least possible?

Our view? If you think you understand what that means, we suspect you're already lost. Still, let's plow ahead.

In the essay under review, we come next to "a stunning thought experiment" allegedly conducted by Kant. In all honesty, we can't say that we're stunned by what you see here:

...Could philosophy show that acting morally, if not particularly common, is at least possible?

A stunning thought experiment answers that question in...the “Critique of Practical Reason.” Kant asks us to imagine a man who says temptation overwhelms him whenever he passes “a certain house.” (The 18th century was discreet.) But if a gallows were constructed to ensure the fellow would be hanged upon exiting the brothel, he’d discover he can resist temptation very well. All mortal temptations fade in the face of threats to life itself.

Yet the same man would hesitate if asked to condemn an innocent man to death, even if a tyrant threatened to execute him instead. Kant always emphasized the limits of our knowledge, and none of us know if we would crumble when faced with death or torture. Most of us probably would. But all of us know what we should do in such a case, and we know that we could.

This experiment shows we are radically free. Not pleasure but justice can move human beings to deeds that overcome the deepest of animal desires, the love of life. We want to determine the world, not only to be determined by it. We are born and we die as part of nature, but we feel most alive when we go beyond it: To be human is to refuse to accept the world we are given.

When modern humans read such work, we're generally disinclined to suspect that it might be basic twaddle.  

The essay appears in the New York Times. According to the author's identity line, the essay was written by a European "philosopher" who's writing a major academic authority figure.

We tend to assume that it has to make sense. For the record, this:

A similar reaction tends to occur when we Americans watch the emanations from our biggest stars on the corporate form of war by another means now known as "cable news."

In the matter under review, did Kant somehow manage to prove "that we are radically free?" Are you sure you even know what that claim even means? 

Also, within the realm of normal observation, wasn't history already clogged with well-known examples of the desire for justice "moving human beings to deeds that overcome the deepest of animal desires?" Do we have to prove the possibility of a type of behavior we've all seen with our own eyes?

When we ourselves were juniors in college, we failed Kant—or did Kant fail us? We've never quite settled that question.

We also note this unfortunate report from yesterday's New York Times:

Daniel C. Dennett, Widely Read and Fiercely Debated Philosopher, 82, Dies
Espousing his ideas in best sellers, he insisted that religion was an illusion, free will was a fantasy and evolution could only be explained by natural selection.

As it turned out, we had one degree of separation, and that at a very young age.

Back in grades 3-5, Professor Dennett's younger sister was, along with her buddy Alice, one of our grade school pals at Winchester's now-defunct Mystic (Public) School. 

At some point, the ladies began making obscene gestures during the course of the long, boring day. At the time, we didn't know what their insinuative hand signals meant, but we sensed that they were drifting into forbidden arenas.

Incomparably, we rose above, focusing on our times tables and on other tools of the trade. Across the street lived [NAME WITHHELD], who went on to be the only two-time president of the Harvard Advocate.

Even Learned Hand only achieved that distinction once—and his name was Learned Hand! The future president was our older sister's age. We were two of five (5) Mystic kids who lived and played right there on that one short block.

Right up the hill behind our back yard, there sat Frankie Fontaine, whose place in the world we didn't understand at the time. After we moved to California, he hit it very big as Crazy Guggenheim on the Jackie Gleason show, with several albums as a singer thrown in.

He must have known our father from vaudeville and burlesque. His New York Times obituary, at age 58, included such background as this:

Although he grew upon in show business—his Fontaine grandfather was a Ringling Brothers circus strong man and his mother a trapeze artist, while his father Ray Fontaine and his mother Anna McCarthy had a vaudeville act—he himself was first and foremost a family man. He toured for two years with the Vaughn Monroe band and moved easily into radio comedy and a series of Hollywood films in the early 1950's.

Just before he turned 17, he married his childhood sweetheart Alma Clair Waltham and went right to work as an all‐purpose singer‐dancer‐comedian in Boston area supper clubs. After Pearl Harbor he spent three years in the Army, appearing in service shows and turning an occasional ‘penny in off‐post clubs to support the growing family.

He toured for two years with the Vaughn Monroe band and moved easily into radio comedy and a series of Hollywood films in the early 1950's...

It seems that our father would have known him, but we never heard about that.

Our father was 65 when we were born. As a young man, he apparently brought the Nightingales to the Old Howard.

One of the Nightingales later said, in the well-written memoir Harpo Speaks, that he got his first (unintentional) laugh right there on that "famous" stage.

It was the sacred and the profane in and around the Mystic School of that otherwise admittedly boring era! Professor Dennett was a good person who wrote a whole storeroom of books. His sister was our grade school pal until we moved across town right before sixth grade.

Cable news crowded philosophy out at the start of this glorious weekend. Maybe Paula was right all along. We simply can't have nice things!

That said, was Kant a ball of linguistic illusion? Assiduously, we've reported, and now you'll have to decide.

Also this rumination: We have one more post about Jesse Watters (Red) and Nicolle Wallace (Blue) and the original Juror #2. Our question:

Can you believe the things you get told, even by those in your clan?


SUNDAY: Something we read in (today's?) New York Times!

SUNDAY, APRIL 20, 2024

Donald Trump's Trial and American Journalism: Opening statements will be made tomorrow!

That said:

This very morning, we've been reading the Today's Paper site at the New York Times. As part of what we would regard as a comically tunnel-visioned Blue America Exclusive editorial, the editorial board—headline included—actually told us this:

Donald Trump and American Justice

[...]

[T]he opening days of the trial, devoted to jury selection, have already demonstrated the great care and respect with which everyone involved in the trial, except for Mr. Trump, has treated the process. Joshua Steinglass, a member of the office of the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, told potential jurors on Tuesday that the case “has nothing to do with personal politics.”

“We don’t suggest you need to have been living under a rock for the last eight years, or the last 30 years,” he said. “We don’t expect you not to have heard about this, or not to have discussed this case with friends. What we do need is for you to keep an open mind.”

Dozens of potential jurors took those instructions seriously and admitted they could not be impartial. One man was excused from service after telling the judge that it was “going to be hard for me to be impartial,” since many of his family members and friends were Republicans. Justice Juan Merchan, the judge overseeing the trial, excused him, as other potential jurors stepped up. So far, seven jurors have been seated. At least two potential jurors were dismissed by the judge because of social media posts.

"So far, seven jurors have been seated?"

Seriously though, folks! In a long editorial listed online, this very morning, as part of Today's Paper, that's what the editors said.

Now for the rest of the story:

A date on the editorial tracks it to last Wednesday—to April 17, 2024. Presumably, the editorial appeared online at that time.

At that time, the passage in question would have been accurate. Today, four days later, the passage in question is clownishly out of date.

Even fuller disclosure! According to the online presentation, "A version of this article appears in print on April 21, 2024, Section SR, Page 11 of the New York edition with the headline: Donald Trump And American Justice." 

That would be today. "A version of" that editorial appears in today's print editions.

We don't have today's print edition. Is that clownishly outdated material sitting in print even today? Can that passage possibly be sitting there in print?

We have no immediate way of knowing. A question does come to mind:

This trial will be an extremely important event. Everybody makes mistakes, but our anthropological question is this:

Does anything rattle the cages of these upper-class journalists in such a way as to force them, as upscale journalists, to make their way into the light?

Seven jurors have been selected. Opening statements tomorrow!


CLAN: Wallace, O'Donnell keep pouring it on!

SATURDAY, APRIL 20, 2024

Can you believe these clans? Can you believe the factual claims you hear from our warring clans?

You can if you love the "novelization of news." You can believe what you hear if you love soap operas or pro wrestling—if you love Storyline.

Yesterday afternoon, Nicolle Wallace kept pouring it on concerning the release of the original Juror #2 from jury duty in the Trump "hush money" trial.

On Tuesday, the person in question had been selected for duty. She was listed as Juror #2. 

On Thursday, she returned to court and asked to be excused from duty.

She said that her family and friends had discerned her identity from detailed news reports. She said this was creating a pressure which would affect her ability to serve.

How did this juror's family and friends know she'd been picked as a juror? In various news reports, she had been described as a highly specific type of nurse. The Manhattan neighborhood in which she lived had also been reported. 

On that basis, family and friends had called to ask if she was Juror #2. She told Judge Merchan that pressure from family and freidns would make it hard for her to perform as an unbaised juror, and she was released from duty.

Yesterday afternoon, Wallace continued to beat this drum on her two-hour daily program. Also, she kept maintaining that this problem had been caused by the Fox News Channel.

She offered no evidence in support of that claim. We know of zero reason to believe that the claim is accurate.

That was Wallace, on Day Two, continuing with a pleasing though unsupported claim. The previous evening, an eruption had happened on Lawrence O'Donnell's nightly program, The Last Word.

O'Donnell is experienced, and he's smart, at least by human standards. He also tends toward a bit of an anger problem. (No one is perfect.)

Beyond that, he has a bizarre attraction to the claim that the people with whom he disagrees are "lying" all the time. 

There are few misstatements, mistakes or speculations in O'Donnell's world. At the start of Thursday night's program, he offered an aggressive claim, one which has yet to be adjudicated:

He claimed that Defendant Trump had violated a prevailing gag order in the more egregious way possible, Along the way, he extended some of the claims which Wallace had pushed that afternoon. 

He made some factual claims which were accurate. He made other claims which were not.  Everyone was lying, of course. 

We'll join his screed in progress:

O'DONNELL (4/18/24): ...The Trump lawyers insisted that the gag order did not prevent, quote, "reposting statements that are already in public by others."

That is, of course, another lie told by a Trump lawyer in court directly to a judge. 

The gag order prevents Donald Trump from, quote, "making or directing others to make public statements about any prospective juror or any juror in this criminal proceeding."

Here is the lie that Jesse Watters told on Fox yesterday at 5:28 p.m., when Donald Trump was watching.

WATTERS (videotape): They are trying to rig this jury. They are catching undercover liberal activists lying to the judge.

O'DONNELL: Jesse Watters is the newest liar to occupy the 8:00 p.m. slot on Fox, the lying channel, a network that has been adjudicated to have told $787.5 million worth of lies in a defamation case. 

The previous occupant of the 8 p.m. slot had told so many of those lies, that even Fox decided they had to let him go.

[...]

Jesse Watters was taught how to lie on TV by his mentor, the now banished Bill O'Reilly.

Jesse Watters said they are trying to rig the jury. That is a lie. 

Jesse Watters said they are catching underground liberal activists. That is a lie. There has not been a single liberal activist or conservative activist revealed in the jury selection process, not one. 

And Jesse Watters said that they are lying to the judge, and that is a lie. That is a pure Bill O'Reilly, Jesse Watters-style lie, invented from absolutely nothing. 

And eighteen minutes after Jesse Watters extemporaneously delivered that lie on the Fox Lying Channel, Donald Trump wrote this lie:

"They are catching undercover liberal activists lying to the judge in order to get on the Trump jury." 

And Donald Trump assigned that lie, in quotation marks, to Jesse Watters.

You're getting the general idea. We return to our basic question:

Can you believe the factual claims you hear from our warring clans? We'll focus here on the claims by O'Donnell.

We'll start with an obvious misstatement:

Jesse Watters didn't make the statement in question at 5:28 on Wednesday afternoon. Nor did Donald Trump see him do so.

In fact, Watters made the statement in question at 5:06 that day, soon after the start of The Five. Someone tweeted the comment and the tape at 5:28 p.m., and it was soon retweeted by Trump, or by someone retweeting for him.

That was a minor misstatement of fact. Everybody makes such mistakes. We know of zero reason to regard it as a lie.

That said, O'Donnell's bombast became harder to defend as his screed went on. Let's move on to this:

Plainly, the gag order in question does involve several possible elements of ambiguity. 

In at least two different ways, it could have been written more clearly. It makes little sense to accuse the defendant's attorneys of lying to the judge in that matter when they're simply observing the obligation to provide their client with a vigorous defense. 

Beyond that, we soon reach the more comical part of what O'Donnell aggressively said.

Too funny! By the time of O'Donnell's screed, the original Juror #4 had been removed from the jury by Judge Merchan. To appearances, the juror had been removed because he'd been untruthful with the judge in filling out his original questionnaire.

What was the backstory here? Two reporters for Fox News seem to have asked one of the prosecutors. Headline included, this is what the pair reported early Thursday afternoon:

Trump juror previously arrested for ripping down right-leaning political ads dismissed from trial

A second juror was excused from the jury in former President Donald Trump’s criminal trial on Thursday after it was revealed the man was once arrested for tearing down right-leaning political advertisements. 

Juror #4, who was selected and sworn in on Tuesday, was excused by Judge Juan Merchan on Thursday morning. 

The man had been arrested in Westchester, New York, for tearing town political advertisements, according to a prosecutor from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office. 

"I actually believe the propaganda that was being ripped down was political posters that were on the right—the political right," prosecutor Joshua Steinglass said Thursday. 

Steinglass said that after additional research, it also appeared that the juror’s wife had been previously accused of, or involved in a "corruption inquiry" that needed a "deferred prosecution agreement with the district attorney’s office." 

Jurors are asked on a questionnaire to list whether they or someone close to them have ever been arrested.

Did Steinglass actually make those statements? It's very, very hard to believe that a pair of Fox reporters simply made that up.

(Did members of Blue America's clan ask about the backstory? Or did our own clan members somehow know that we'd rather hear Lawrence's declamations?)

To appearances, Juror #4 had been arrested at one time for destroying Republican campaign materials. He had failed to report this matter on his questionnaire, as had been required.

Did that mean that Juror #4 was "a liberal activist?" Did that mean he was "trying to get on the jury" in order to take Trump down?

We have no way of answering those questions—and neither did Watters or O'Donnell. But as O'Donnell ranted and railed about the way everybody else was lying, he was failing to offer his viewers a full and forthright account of that day's events.

He was selling an angry novelization to Blue America's voters. The night before, Watters had sold the latest of his speculative tales to their Red America counterparts.

In certain obvious ways, O'Donnell and Watters are different types. In another way, they're pretty much peas in a pod. You can't believe the things they say, unless you love Storyline. 

Meanwhile, back to Wallace: 

On Friday afternoon, she continued to claim that it was the Fox News Channel which had revealed so much information about Juror #2 that she had to be relieved from service on the jury.

Wallace had made that claim on Thursday's show, directly blaming Watters while offering zero evidence in support of her accusation. On Friday's show, she repeated her unsupported claim. This time, she restricted her accusation to unnamed players at Fox.

Given a day to rethink her case, Wallace still offered zero evidence in support of that claim. For ourselves, we know of zero reason to believe those claims are true.

Did Juror #2's family and friends see Watters describe this juror? Are they big viewers of Fox?

In fact, Watters did describe Juror #2 when he spoke with a jury consultant / "body language expert" on Wednesday evening's show.

On that occasion, he did describe Juror #4 as a nurse. He didn't cite the highly specific type of nursing which helped her family and friends suspect that she was the juror in question.

Also, Watters did name the Manhattan neighborhood in which Juror #2 resides. But as we noted yesterday, that sort of information had been reported by an array of major news orgs as jury selection began.

That was a fairly common type of move.  For example, the New York Times filed this report on Thursday afternoon, even after Jurors #2 and #4 had been relieved of duty:

What We Know About Why Two Trump Jurors Were Dismissed

A woman selected for the jury told the judge overseeing the case—the first criminal trial of a former president—that she had developed concerns about her identity being revealed. That, she said, might compromise her fairness and “decision-making in the courtroom.”

The other juror, a man from the Lower East Side, was excused after he arrived to court later Thursday morning. The precise reason for his dismissal was not immediately clear, but prosecutors had raised concerns early in the day about the credibility of answers he gave to questions about himself.

As late as Thursday afternoon, the Times was still reporting neighborhoods of residence. We know of no reason to believe that Jurur #2's family and friends heard her described by Watters—and in two straight days of accusation, Wallace presented zero reason to believe her tribally pleasing claim.

Clans have always behaved this way. They've always behaved like clans.

Our clans are behaving this way right now, Blue and Red alike.

Judged by standard journalistic norms, Jesse Watters is, on balance, a flyweight, dissembler and clown. But O'Donnell is a Vesuvius with a weirdly one-track mind and little skill at using his words. 

Wallace is long, long gone.

This is Babel by way of clan. These people are narrating soap operas and reality shows. 

On the brighter side, they're being paid millions of dollars per year for providing this prehuman work. Can you believe the things you hear? 

Survey says the obvious. No, you pretty much can't.


Kevin Drum lowers the boom on Fox!

FRIDAY, APRIL 19, 2024

With a great deal more to be said: The headline on the Kevin Drum post is surely overstated:

Fox News has destroyed American confidence in itself

Kevin's post contains a startling graphic concerning the loss of faith in American institutions.

Surely, it can't all be the doing of Fox! That said, we agree with the general thrust of Kevin's remarks, as offered in these excerpts:

DRUM (4/19/24): Collapse of trust in government is a purely American phenomenon. Why? Because we have Fox News and the others don't. Oh, they have tabloids and conservative newspapers and so forth, but nothing like Fox News, which makes its living by spreading outrage over the way the country is run.

The power of Fox News is truly spectacular. Outrage sells, and the fact that one of the two major parties amplifies Fox uncritically means it has a surprisingly large influence in setting the agenda for the mainstream media too.

The truth is that US institutions mostly operate about as well as they ever have. But Fox pushes outrage over Dr. Fauci and trust in the CDC plummets. They push outrage over Donald Trump's loss in 2020 and trust in elections plummets. They go all in on CRT and DEI and trust in schools plummets. They push climate denialism and trust in science plummets. They insist that the rest of the news media are liberal pawns and trust in the very institution that explains reality plummets.

We agree with the general thrust of those remarks, though a great deal remains to be said.

As we've noted in recent months, we began watching Fox a lot more when we finally came to feel that MSNBC had become unwatchable. 

We've been stunned by the way the basic culture at Fox has changed. Other orgs say little or nothing about this remarkable change, and they say little or nothing about the monstrous stupidity which is so routine at Fox.

If nothing else, Fox News is a major anthropology lesson. In part, it's a lesson in what you can persuade people to do if you pay them enough, and if you group them in clans. 

(In "tribal affinity groups.")

Also, Fox News is a lesson in how ridiculous some such "cable news" culture can become if everyone at other major news orgs agrees that they should avert their gaze and pretend that nothing is happening. Judging from the sounds of silence, no one wants to fight with Fox.

(At the end of Kevin's post, he says this about Fox: "And we all just let it happen." That strikes us as a perfectly sensible summary of the way Blue America's overpaid journalistic stars just let Fox News go.)

A few months back, we quoted the poem Robert Frost read at President Kennedy's inauguration. It concerned the years leading up to the American Revolution (such as it was). 

Below, you see the chunk we had and have in mind:

The Gift Outright

[...]

Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)...

Something they were withholding made the colonials weak! In Frost's view, they finally realized that they were withholding themselves--that they'd been withholding themselves from a fight.

In Frost's formulation, they found out that they'd been withholding themselves! That has been the story of our own lazy, unintelligent modern-day tribe, dating back to the very first mainstream press war against Clinton, Clinton and Gore.

(We refer to the undeclared war which eventually brought us President Bush 43 and President Trump. Our feckless journalistic elites were the principal authors of that very long, very stupid war.)

Our pampered palominos are still withholding themselves from our land of living. In large part, that's how Fox News can engage in the ugliness and the sheer stupidity that it mass-produces each night.

That said, something else is very true, and this too needs to be said:

Our contemporary Blue elites are a sorry joke too. In large part for that reason, it's very hard to be totally wrong if you work for the Fox News Channel.

It's hard to be totally wrong at Fox! That's because of the sheer stupidity and the self-involved, indolent lifestyles maintained by "our favorite reporters and friends"—maintained by our own tribe's treasured though thoroughly useless elites.

It's hard because of how faux we are. Because of the fact that we can't see this fact about ourselves.

In our view, the DrumCat has it right in his post, with a great deal more to be said.

Tomorrow: More notes from the clan


CLAN: "What would you give in exchange for your soul?"

FRIDAY, APRIL 19, 2024

The Wreck of The Old #4: Friends, how well are you served by the works of your clan?

The issue arose yesterday at the start of Deadline: White House. 

Two of the original seven Trump jurors had now been dismissed by Judge Merchan. We speak of the original Jurors #2 and #4. As of the end of day Tuesday, they had both been placed on the original list of seven approved jurors.

No jury election occurred on Wednesday. As of 10 o'clock yesterday morning, Politico had laid out some new facts concerning the case of Juror #4: 

Headline included, this is the way matters stood a full six hours before Nicolle Wallace took her "favorite reporters and friends"—her clan—on the air at Deadline: White House:

Prosecutors looked into one of the jurors. A man with the same name was arrested in the ’90s for tearing down right-wing political posters.

Jury selection hit another snag this morning: Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass told the judge prosecutors conducted research that potentially calls into question the veracity of a number of juror No. 4’s responses to the questionnaire.

Prosecutors found information that a man with the same name as the juror, an IT consultant, had been arrested in the 1990s for tearing down right-wing political posters in Westchester County.

If it's the same person, his wife was also involved in a corruption inquiry and entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. The juror did not disclose either of these facts during the selection process.

The judge plans to question the juror today to determine if he should be excused.

That's where matters stood as of 10 a.m. To their credit, the prosecutors had brought this matter to Judge Merchan's attention. The judge said he planned to question the juror about what the prosecutors had found,

CBS News takes it from there. This report had been fully updated as of 12:40 p.m.:

What to know about the jurors in Trump's "hush money" trial in New York

[...]

Now dismissed, Juror #4 said he was from Puerto Rico and reads The New York Daily News and The New York Times. He cited "my family" as his hobby. An IT consultant, he described Trump as "fascinating and mysterious." 

In court on Thursday, prosecutors said they discovered information about someone sharing the person's name who was arrested and potentially involved in a corruption investigation in the 1990s. Juror #4 said he had never been accused or convicted of a crime under questioning earlier in the week.

The man was briefly questioned by attorneys in front of the judge, out of earshot from the court's microphones. Merchan ultimately decided to dismiss him, but ordered the details of the questioning sealed, saying the information discussed was personal in nature.

Juror #4 had been called into question by prosecutors, and then was dismissed by the judge. 

Was it true? Had this juror been "arrested in the ’90s for tearing down right-wing political posters?" Had he lied about this history during the original questioning which landed him on the jury?

As far as we know, those questions remain unanswered. As far as we know, Judge Merchan hasn't said what he came to believe when he questioned Juror 4.

That said, this was the fully understood state of play as of 1 o'clock yesterday afternoon. Three hours later, Nicolle Wallace went on the air and offered a highly selective clown show, pleasing members of Blue America's clan in the process.

Lisa Rubin played along, even though she had to be aware of the confusion the Wallace conflations had caused. Indeed, Rubin was the reporter of record on the first of these three posts about Juror #4 posted by NBC News:

Merchan raises concerns about "the veracity of Juror #4’s answers"

After discussion about the gag order, Merchan said he had concerns about one of the jurors and how truthfully the person had answered questions.

One of the questions on the juror questionnaire asks if the juror or any of their family members were accused of a crime.

Joshua Steinglass of the DA's office told Merchan that they discovered an article featuring a person with the same name who was arrested in Westchester in the 1990s for tearing down political advertisements. 

Juror 4 has arrived

The person previously seated on the jury has come into the courtroom. He is going to be asked about crimes he or his wife are alleged to have committed, after they were unearthed by the DA's office.

Merchan excuses Juror No. 4

After they had a conference with the juror, Merchan announced he's excusing juror No. 4, who had previously been seated and sworn him [sic]. His prior arrest was questioned by the DA.

Long story short:

The judge decided to dismiss Juror #4. It's possible that the juror had lied about his past behavior.

That's where these matters stood as of yesterday afternoon at 1 o'clock. Now for the rest of the story:

Two days earlier, on Tuesday afternoon's The Five, Jesse Watters had made this statement about the jury selection process. Later, he tweeted the statement, along with some videotape from The Five:

They are catching undercover Liberal Activists lying to the Judge in order to get on the Trump Jury

So tweeted Jesse Watters. At that point, Watters wasn't referring to Juror 2 or to Juror 4. But Donald J. Trump then retweeted the Watters tweet, an action which may have violated the gag order he is supposed to be obeying.

Yesterday afternoon, Wallace started with that tweet by Watters and with the Trump retweet. Already completely lost in the weeds, Wallace offered this at 4:02:

The ex-president also posted a quite from that guy--his name is Jesse Watters--calling jurors quote "undercover liberal activists." It is of course a blatant but strategic lie.

That's what she said at 4:02. It wasn't clear how she could know that there were no such liberal activists trying to worm their way onto the jury, but she also knew that the statement was a blatant lie.

By 4:06 p.m., her conflation was complete. According to Wallace's thoroughly bungled representation, Watters' tweet had been an attack on Juror #2, a claim which was plainly false.

By 4:15, Wallace was saying that Watters had "smeared" Juror #2, thus forcing the juror to ask to be removed from jury duty. This representation was factually bogus, a cri de coeur emanating from deep inside a clan.

By 4:16, it was Susanne Criag to the attempted rescue! Wallace had been emoting all day. The New York Times had already offered this accurate thumbnail concerning Juror #2

The woman excused from the jury said she had been concerned about public reports about her. She is an oncology nurse and her employer had been widely reported. Her friends, colleagues and family told her she had been identified as a potential juror, an alarming development that she said prompted her to reconsider whether she could serve.

Why had Juror #2 asked to be relieved of duty? "She is an oncology nurse and her employer had been widely reported," the Times had accurately said. 

In fact, Watters hadn't done either of those things, though many others had. Craig tried to calm the discussion down, but Wallace kept conflating.

For once in his life, Watters hadn't done the inappropriate things, but so what? Wallace continued with her targeted, inaccurate bombast, deeply in thrall to the clan.

Long story short:

When Wallace went on the air yesterday, she emoted about Juror 2, who had been released from duty at her own request—a matter which didn't seem to have anything to do with anything Watters of Trump had done.

Emoting hard, Wallace said that this is why our democracy is in danger. She reported that two (2) jurors had been released, but she never mentioned the shaky circumstances surrounding the release of Juror 4—and when Rubin arrived to comment around 5:30, she offered no clarification.

Readers, let us ask you a question:

"What would you give in exchange for your soul?"

That was the opening lyric of the first hit record by Bill and Charlie Monroe. It was a bit hit in the Carolinas in 1935. You can hear Bill Monroe provide the background just by clicking here.

What would you give in exchange for your soul? The song began this way:

Brother you're far from the savior today
Risking your soul for the things that decay...

Back in 2004, Wallace started risking her soul in the attempt to outlaw same-sex marriage. 

By now, she's been NeverTrump for a long time. But in her pursuit of that wholly sensible agenda, she began to lose control over her fairness and balance a very long time ago. 

We agree with her general view of the ongoing Trump years. Along the way, assuming minimal competence, she seems to have abandoned the requirement that conflations, distortions and pleasing misstatements shouldn't be thrown on the air.

The original statement by Watters was a typical bit of silly-boy horseplay by the slithery new Fox star. When Trump retweeted what Watters had said, he may have violated the terms of the prevailing gag order.

That will be decided next week. Yesterday, Wallace rushed on the air and—assuming minimal competence—began to dissemble and conflate. 

She emoted about Juror 2, never mentioned Juror 4. 

She pretended that the plight of Juror 2 had somehow been caused by Watters and Trump. Simply put, we know of no evidence that that's the case.

Along the way, the persistently slippery Watters had possibly called his shot! Judge Merchan had decided to release Juror #4—a juror who actually may have lied to the judge in order to get on the jury!

That would possibly make him a type of anti-Trump "stealth juror." By the rules of the clan, none of this could be allowed to go on Blue American air.

Within our clan, we're shielded from ever hearing such things. Within our clan, we hear about potential stealth jurors from Red America, not about their possible opposite number from Blue.

Bill and Charlie Monroe recorded that first hit in the throes of the Great Depression. It was a big hit in the Carolinas, where money was rather scarce.

Today, Wallace is paid millions of dollars to drive Blue America's narratives. The Monroe Brothers' hit ended like this:

More than all silver and gold of this Earth
More than all jewels the spirit is worth
God the creator has given it birth
What would you give in exchange for your soul?

Wallace is paid millions of dollars. Eagerly, she joins Watters in pursuit of this ancient assignment:

Keep clan alive!

This afternoon:  Has any human being ever made a dumber statement? (Tim O'Brien Deadline watch)

Also, Acyn rides again! A look at who we secretly are, here inside our clan


Charlie Sykes has been using his words!

THURSDAY, APRIL 18, 2024

What humans are able to do: He started out as a Democrat, then became a high-level conservative talk radio host.

At this point, he's been NeverTrump for years. By human standards, he's very bright. That helps creates the current striking example of What These Humans Today Are Still Plainly Wired To Do.

The person in question is Charlie Sykes, a major MSNBC regular. Yesterday, The Atlantic was featuring his new essay. It appeared beneath these headlines:

The New Rules of Political Journalism
In this election, the reporting strategies of the past will not be enough.

We wondered what new rules he might prescribe. Soon, though, we were reading this:

SYKES (4/18/24): And when Trump called for the execution of General Mark Milley, it didn’t have nearly the explosive effect it should have. “I had expected every website and all the cable news shows to lead with a story about Trump demanding the execution of the highest military officer in the country,” this magazine’s editor in chief, Jeffrey Goldberg, told The Washington Post. “If Barack Obama or George W. Bush had done so, I’m sure [the news media] would have been all over it.”

Say what? Had Donald J. Trump actually "called for the execution of General Milley?"

We were pretty sure that the answer was no. When we clicked the link to Charlie's initial source, we found a much softer formulation from Brian Klaas, who seems to be a more advanced human.

After actually quoting the deeply stupid, irresponsible thing Donald J. Trump had actually said, Klaas offered this reaction:

KLAAS (9/25/23): And yet, none of the nation’s front pages blared “Trump Suggests That Top General Deserves Execution” or “Former President Accuses General of Treason.” Instead, the post barely made the news. Most Americans who don’t follow Trump on social media probably don’t even know it happened.

Has Donald Trump "called for" Milley's execution? In Klaas' formulation, the disordered candidate had "suggested" that Milley might deserve execution.

(Presumably, Klaas didn't compose the headline which sat atop his piece.)

Trump's actual statement was completely stupid and well outside the boundaries of good sense. That said:

As you can see in the original passage from Sykes, the editor of the Atlantic had said that Trump had "demanded" Milley's execution. That went one step beyond what the excitable Sykes had said.

At this site, we've finally reached an anthropological conclusion:

This is who and what we humans are. This is all we know how to do.

We're extremely good at using our words, though mainly in the service of spinning up new wars. Under current arrangements, people like Sykes spin culture wars, then put paychecks in their pants.

At Fox, they increasingly rush tape of these clan dwellers onto Red America's air. They seem to believe that these undisciplined, under-skilled people are actually helping Candidate Trump! We can't swear that they're wrong.

Charlie Sykes was using his words! In fact, he was employing an extremely old rule about the way this game is played.

Al Gore said he invented the Internet? Actually no, he never did, unless you were off on a jihad. 

People are dead all over the world because, over the course of more than two years, these mother frumpers wouldn't stop using their words to say that he did. With plenty of jokes thrown in!

This is who and what we are. Aside from flying to the moon, this is the shape of our skills.

There's a great deal more where this comes from. This is the actual shape of our current actual clan.


Claire McCaskill's song sung Blue!

THURSDAY, APRIL 18, 2024

Crystal Blue persuasion: On Tuesday, seven jurors were selected to serve on the "hush money" trial.

As of an hour ago, the number had been bumped back to five. Yesterday morning, the New York Times reported a widely discussed incident from Tuesday's selection session:

PROTESS ET AL (4/17/24): While of different ages and ethnicities, the chosen seven had one thing in common: They vowed to give Mr. Trump a fair shake.

[...]

Other potential jurors presented red flags for the former president. Mr. Trump’s lead lawyer, Todd Blanche, quickly sought the dismissal of several for their online activity. One woman, he noted, had heralded a court decision overturning a travel ban Mr. Trump enacted as president and had at one point written “Get him out, and lock him up.” The juror was excused.

When another potential juror was being interviewed about her old Facebook posts, Mr. Trump began to mutter and gesture, drawing a rebuke from the judge, Juan M. Merchan.

“I won’t tolerate that,” the judge said, raising his voice once the potential juror had left the room. “I will not have any jurors intimidated in this courtroom.”

According to the Times report, the defendant began to mutter and gesture when one potential juror was being interviewed. After the potential juror had left the room, Judge Merchan told the defendant and his attorneys that such conduct wouldn't be tolerated.

The timing of the admonishment had been widely reported and discussed. For a more detailed confirmation of the timing from CNBC, you can just click here

(“I will not tolerate that,” the judge said after that would-be juror left the courtroom. “I will not have any jurors intimidated in this courtroom. I want to make this crystal clear.”)

On Morning Joe, Willie had already described the timing, with this report from Politico offered as the source

("After Trump attorney Todd Blanche questioned a prospective juror and she left the room, the judge admonished Trump for muttering.")

It had been discussed a million times, but one expert had apparently skipped prep. 

There she was, on yesterday's Morning Joe, with her apparent sense of entitlement hanging out. She had a picture in her head, and that was close enough.

First, Willie embellished the reported facts about what the defendant had done. Then, he threw to his expert guest, and his expert guest said this:

EXPERT GUEST (4/17/24): Interestingly, he cautioned Trump in front of jurors [plural], instead of having the jurors leave the room and then talking to him about it. I don't think this judge is dumb enough to put Trump in jail for acting out in court because, frankly, I think that's what Donad Trump wants... 

I do think it hurts Trump, in front of the jury, to have the judge doing that. So if he keeps cautioning him in front of the jury, that might be enough to get him to stop because I know his lawyers are telling him, "This hurts you with the jury. Inside this court room, you don't want those jurors to see you as the big jerk you kind of are. 

[Chuckles]

Do you ever get tired of these lazy, privileged mother-frumpers walking through their citizenship this way? Speaking quite frankly, we do.

One hour earlier, Willie had reported the timing correctly. Knowing the basic laws of the clan, he didn't correct what his expert guest now said. 

Jonathan Lemire hurried past the misstatement too. His nickname is "The Echo." 

These expert guests today! On Tuesday afternoon, one of Nicolle Wallace's first guests didn't seem clear about the fact that Trump is required to attend this "porn star" trial. 

On that occasion, Wallace asked her expert to clarify what he'd said. When his statement was still weirdly unclear, an awkward pause occurred, and then Susanne Craig stepped in.

Do you ever get tired of the lazy, super-privileged members of this lazy, upper-class clan? Do you ever wonder if there's a chance their laziness and sense of entitlement might end up helping Trump win?

They've behaved this way for the past thirty years. At one point, they frequently tilted toward the Red. 

The ascension of Donald J. Trump has made them crystal Blue. But it hasn't changed who these democracy-frumpers are or what they're inclined to do.


CLAN: George Conway also nodded off!

THURSDAY, APRIL 18, 2024

Chris Hayes and the children's hours: At some point, George T. Conway III decided to switch his clan.

In 2001, he married Kellyanne FitzPatrick, who we'd once known the tiniest tad. Roughly seventeen years after that, the gentleman switched his clan. 

Back in the 1990s, he had started out with Ann Coulter as one of the "the elves." The secretive group was struggling to bring Bill Clinton down, largely on the basis of unverifiable sexual claims.

To read the Lyons / Conason account of the elves, you can just click here. Concerning Conway, to clip one passage:

"In his early thirties, he had made partner at New York's Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, one of the biggest and richest litigation shops in the country. His primary occupation was defending the major tobacco companies, and he reportedly made as much as $1 million a year doing it."

These are some of the ways Conway started out. But in 2018, as a somewhat belated reaction to the works of President Donald J. Trump, the Harvard College / Yale Law School graduate signed on with one of the higher-profile clans in Blue America.

This November, he's going to vote the same way we're going to vote! Yesterday afternoon, he was numbered in the first panel of guests on Deadline: White House.

At 4:07, he started to speak. Eventually, he authored a claim which the cowardly lions of Blue America have begun to sneak in the back door:

CONWAY (4/17/24): [Trump] hate-watches this network, right?

WALLACE: [Laughter]

CONWAY: He might be watching right now. And he'd probably be throwing something at the television. I don't know.

I mean, he can't—he can’t help himself but emotionally react to things. And one of the things—

He’s a narcissistic sociopath, and that’s the thing everyone has to kind of get used to. It’s the reason why you cannot normalize him. 

You cannot treat him like a normal human being because he’s not. He is unwell. And that's why he can’t follow, he’s not going to be able to follow his lawyers’ directions.

Is Trump "a narcissistic sociopath?" Is he in fact "unwell?"

We've been advancing that presumption for years. In Dr. Bandy X. Lee's best-selling but thoroughly disappeared book, thirty-seven medical specialists argued some form of that claim.

Later, Conway restated his psychiatric assessment for a delighted Wallace. In fairness, she's light-years over her head at this point in time. 

She was in her element in Campaign 2004, when she was spokesperson for George W Bush, helping him sell the war in Iraq and helping him win the state of Ohio though the ballot measure which would have banned gay marriage and thereby brought many more voters out.

(According to the leading authority: "Many political experts credit the amendment with bolstering turnout in rural Ohio, leading to many religious supporters of President George W. Bush to turnout to the polls, helping him win the state of Ohio by a narrow two-point margin.")

Since those glorious gay-trashing days, Wallace has switched her clan and Conway has switched clans too. 

At present, he alone is out there attributing Trump's ongoing behavior to a severe psychiatric disorder. For ourselves, we're inclined to assume that Conway's general assessment is correct. 

That said, people like Wallace don't have the integrity to bring medical specialists onto her show to discuss such possibilities in the cool, clear open air. In fairness, she's paid millions to do things the way she does. She does it for two hours each weekday afternoon

Back to Conway:

He's been expressly ascribing a severe psychiatric element to Trump at least since this lengthy article appeared in the Atlantic in October 2019.

Our other "journalists" and news orgs simply aren't willing to consider such possibilities. Their guild retains rules against seeking the truth. We're living in primitive times.

To our eye, Conway remains a fairly obvious lifelong nerd who has finally achieved a spot at the cool kids' table. Yesterday, speaking with Wallace and seeming to bask in his role in the fray, he offered a personal aside even before he offered his psychiatric assessment of Trump.

In doing so, he was repeating himself. He had already offered that same aside right at the start of his new essay for The Atlantic. 

To his credit, the former elf is working in the bright lights now. Dual headlines included, his new essay starts like this:

The Trump Trial’s Extraordinary Opening
The first days of the criminal case against the former president have been mundane, even boring—and that’s remarkable.

By George T. Conway III

The defendant nodded off a couple of times on Monday. And I have to confess, as a spectator in an overflow courtroom watching on closed-circuit television, so did I.

Legal proceedings can be like that. Mundane, even boring. That’s how the first couple of days of the trial in new People of the State of New York v. Donald J. Trump, Indictment No. 71543–2023, felt much of the time. 

Did Donald J. Trump nod off in court? Apparently, George Conway nodded off too!

We can't swear that he actually did. But it made for an amusing open, and he instantly made the same claim when he spoke with Wallace.

In his essay and also with Wallace, Conway went on to offer some underwhelming thoughts about what the "mundane" court session suggests. He said it means that our nation's much-maligned court system is actually working.

Astoundingly, it seemed to us that Judge Jeanine Pirro had a much stronger point of view at the start of yesterday's broadcast of The Five. She argued that the trial should have been moved to a jurisdiction where voter sentiment is roughly 50/50 Red America versus Blue, as opposed to the massive Democratic / Blue America majority sentiment which will likely prevail among the jurors selected for the "hush money" trial.

All day yesterday, then last night, we thought we saw our own tribe's journalistic elite finally crash and burn. It culminated with the first 18 minutes of All In With Chris Hayes, an embarrassing spectacle presided over by someone who once seemed too smart to us for us to believe he's all in.

How much is Hayes paid to do with he currently does? We aren't allowed to know such things, but we'll once again tell you this:

As a political matter, we don't have the slightest idea how this will work in November. We regard this as an election in which, by normal standards, each candidate is unelectable.

That said, we pray that very few undecided voters are watching Wallace and Hayes and their dear friends as they chuckle and clown and play the fool for their millions of viewers and dollars.

Even yesterday—two full days later!—the corporate children who feed our tribe were still opening their broadcasts with jokes about Donald J. Trump nodding off in court. We've finally drawn a deep conclusion:

This is actually all they have. Believe it or not, this is the best they can do!

 They really aren't capable of anything more. Our best guess would be this:

These children have no freaking idea how they look to the people who aren't members of our own clan. They have no idea how much sympathy they may engender for the hotly pursued Orange Man.

(Will they engender such sympathy? We have no idea. But we recall the way Bill Clinton gained in the polls when Kenneth Starr emerged from the realm of the elves and overplayed his hand. Also, there's Pretty Boy Floyd.)

"Man [sic] is the rational animal," Aristotle is said to have said.

As that statement is understood, it's surely true up to a point. But to a much larger extent, we humans are, as a matter of basic fact "the deeply immature animal which tends to run in clans."

Blue America is now being serviced by a gang of corporate hirelings who are tasked with keep ratings and profits up.

At present, they're devoted to wasting your time with jokes about Trump nodding off. 

George Conway now says that he nodded off too! In our view, nodding off amid the tedium of that court session may be a sign of high intelligence, especially right after lunch.

The analysts sat and watched the clowning as Hayes and his guests simpered through last evening's first segment.

The segment ran a full eighteen minutes. In our view, Hayes is basically faking it now, even if his guests are not.

We began to see the sheer futility of the search for an American public discourse. When the commercial break finally came, one of the analysts rose and declaimed:

"People are dying all over the world, and that's what these *ssholes are doing?"

One irate analyst stood and declaimed. We didn't quite know what to tell her.

Tomorrow: We still hope to discuss that $93 million

This afternoon: Acyn rides again, or possibly Charlie Sykes


Alicia doesn't agree with Uri!

 WEDNESDAY, APRIL 17, 2024

Except when she constantly does: Uri Berliner has been suspended, for a week, from his job at NPR.

There's no obvious reason why he shouldn't have been. It sounds like he broke some basic rules when he wrote a widely discussed critique of his long-time employer for The Free Press.

Yesterday afternoon, Alicia Montgomery wrote a second critique for Slate—a critique of Berliner's critique. Montgomery is a former, long-time NPT staffer. Her fascinating essay appears beneath these headlines:

The Real Story Behind NPR’s Current Problems
Yes, the broadcaster is a mess. But “wokeness” isn’t the issue. 

Montgomery agrees that NPR is a mess. She disagrees with Berliner in that one key respect.

"Wokeness" isn't the issue, she says, paraphrasing Berliner's critique. That said, the problem is this:

When Montgomery offers her own account of what she's seen happen at NPR, she seems to be agreeing with Berliner on point after point after point.

She attributes the many specific failures she describes to a slightly more complex set of motivations. But on issue after issue, topic after topic, her detailed account of behavior at NPR seems to align with Berliner's account.

In Montgomery's account, the woods at NPR are unlovely, dark and deep. Oddly though, and by our method of reckoning, she and Berliner pretty much seem to be on the same darn page.

We'll offer examples tomorrow. For today, we'll offer this:

In our principal reports for this week, we're focusing on the concept of the (self-contained) clan. Once again, we'll repeat the part of Berliner's original essay which was most specific, and which pretty much leaped off the page:

BERLINER (4/9/24): Concerned by the lack of viewpoint diversity, I looked at voter registration for our newsroom. In D.C., where NPR is headquartered and many of us live, I found 87 registered Democrats working in editorial positions and zero Republicans. None. 

So on May 3, 2021, I presented the findings at an all-hands editorial staff meeting. When I suggested we had a diversity problem with a score of 87 Democrats and zero Republicans, the response wasn’t hostile. It was worse. It was met with profound indifference. I got a few messages from surprised, curious colleagues. But the messages were of the “oh wow, that’s weird” variety, as if the lopsided tally was a random anomaly rather than a critical failure of our diversity North Star. 

We can't vouch for the accuracy of those numbers, but they do leap off the page. There could always be "innocent" explanations—today's Republicans don't want to work for NPR, to offer one obvious possibility—but they do suggest the possibility of a problem at a major news org which has the word "national" right there in its name.

Eighty-seven Democrats, compared to zero Rs! That would almost start to define the concept of a clan. 

That said:

Montgomery doesn't mention those statistics in her essay for Slate. Also this:

To date, Kevin Drum's sensible post about Berliner's essay has drawn 111 comments from readers. None of the commenters mentioned those numbers. Neither did Kevin himself.

We're living in two Americas now. We live and love within our clans. No one seems surprised by this fact. No one seems to be concerned. 

We're living in two (self-contained) Americas now. As an intriguing matter of fact, nobody seems to notice!

Montgomery has written a detailed, intriguing piece. Excerpts on the morrow.


CLAN: Two legal clans have taken the field!

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 17, 2024

These two clans never meet: In yesterday's time-altered report, we mentioned Pretty Boy Floyd.

The leading authority on his short career thumbnails him as shown:

Pretty Boy Floyd

Charles Arthur Floyd (1904–1934), nicknamed Pretty Boy Floyd, was an American bank robber. He operated in the West and Central states, and his criminal exploits gained widespread press coverage in the 1930s. He was seen positively by the public because it was believed that during robberies he burned mortgage documents, freeing many people from their debts. He was pursued and killed by a group of Bureau of Investigation (BOI, later renamed FBI) agents...

Floyd has continued to be a familiar figure in American popular culture, sometimes seen as notorious, other times portrayed as a tragic figure, even a victim of the hard times of the Great Depression in the United States.

According to Woody Guthrie, "Oklahoma knew him well." We've thought of this lyric from Guthrie's famous song about Floyd as we've watched Donald J. Trump frog-marched into a Gotham courtroom in chains:

Yes, he took to the trees and timber
To live a life of shame;
Every crime in Oklahoma
Was added to his name.

Every crime in Oklahoma was added to his name! Within Red America's legal clans, so it's said about Donald J. Trump with respect to his Gotham trial.

Needless to say, a clan is not "the Klan." That said, two such legal clans are now active in the field, discussing the "hush money" which was paid to a woman who wasn't Trump's wife.

These legal clans are now describing the trial on a daily basis. Below, we'll call a partial roll on the gathering of these armies:

Fox News Channel (Red America)
Gregg Jarrett
Alan Dershowitz
Jonathan Turley
MSNBC (Blue America)
Andrew Weissmann
Neil Katyal
Joyce Vance
Barbara McQuade
Lisa Rubin
Chuck Rosenberg
Glenn Kirschner
Kristy Greenberg

One of these legal armies may be slightly larger, though we're leaving out names on each side.

Disagreement almost never occurs within these rival clans. Also though, the pair of rival clans almost never agree with each other about the current trial. 

The one clan tends to describe the charges against Trump in this particular case as a scam. The other clan does its best to explain the charges, though a great deal of complexity seems to be involved. 

Within the larger realm of Blue America, non-legal personnel may seem to struggle with the content at times. Full disclosure: 

The fact that a criminal charge is complex doesn't necessarily mean that the charge is bogus or wrong.

Can we learn to see ourselves more clearly through the works of the western literary canon? The clan is a long-established part of human history. Back at the dawn of the west, Nestor, the seasoned charioteer, advised Agamemnon in the manner shown, right in Book Two of the Iliad:

But you, my King, be on your guard yourself. Come,
listen well to another man. Here's some advice,
not to be tossed aside, and I will tell it clearly.
Range your men by tribes, even by clans, Agamemnon,
so clan fights by the side of clan,
tribe by tribe.
Fight this way, if the Argives still obey you...

Various clans were laying siege to Troy. Nestor advised Agamemnon to arrange them side by side.

As part of basic human nature, few people want to be "lost to the clan." For ourselves, we always vote in November in the way the Blue clan votes. That doesn't mean that we automatically believe everything our Blue tribe's votaries tell us.

Good grief! Yesterday afternoon, it seemed to us that Nicolle Wallace was having a very hard time explaining the nature of the felony with which Donald J. Trump stands charged. But when she threw to a new legal adept named Tristan Snell, a bit of weirdness occurred.

Snell offered the requisite remarks about Trump allegedly dozing off in court. He described the way Judge Merchan had admonished trump at one point during that day's court session.

So far, it was fairly standard stuff. A slightly awkward moment arose when Snell offered this:

SNELL (4/16/24): If I'm his team, I'm just sitting there being like, "Oh god, like how can we get him through this without him making a mess of everything?" 

But why is he there?  He's there because he wants to show that he's being persecuted. It's a way for him to raise money off his base. That's why he comes to all of these trials in New York. There is no good reason for him to be at most of these.

Say what? On the one hand, the statement seemed to parse. On the other hand, it almost sounded like it didn't.

Apparently speaking about the current trial, Snell seemed to be asking why Trump was showing up. 

"He's there because he wants to show that he's being persecuted," the adept said. "It's a way for him to raise money."

That first part of what Snell said sounded just a bit odd.  Wallace quickly sought clarification, receiving the answer shown:

WALLACE (continuing directly): Doesn't he have to be in this one?

SNELL: He has to be in some of these things, but like he keeps coming, though, He was there for the civil trial. He was there for the trial with E. Jean Carroll. Like, he doesn't need to be here for every single moment of these things, and he keeps coming because he's trying to raise money off of it.

With respect to the current trial, it still sounded weirdly imprecise. After an awkward pause, Susanne Craig stepped in:

CRAIG (continuing directly): He has to be there, and the judge warned him the other day, if he fails to appear, a warrant will be issued for his arrest...He has to be there every day.

In real time, Snell's statements sounded odd to us—but also to Wallace and Craig. On this morning's Morning Joe, this phenomenon became a bit worse.

We can't link you at this point, but Claire McCaskill went on, at some length, about the surprising way Judge Merchan had chastised Trump, right in front of the jurors (plural), about his conduct during yesterday's session.

By that time, we'd seen it reported a million times that Merchan had only chastised Trump after the (one) juror in question had left the room. McCaskill was advancing the clan's preferred line, but it seemed that she possibly hadn't been following the basic facts of this case in a fully assiduous manner.

Yesterday afternoon, Wallace and Craig questioned Snell, then clarified what he said. No one seemed to have the heart to perform that task this morning.

McCaskill's error was obvious and a bit startling; it was also perfectly obvious. That said, few people seek war within the clan, and that's especially true in present day cable news.

Willie and Lemire were conducting the interview with McCaskill. They just let her misstatements go.  

Snell has come on as a legal expert. McCaskill, a former prosecutor and United States senator, is operating more broadly as a political commentator. 

Their apparent errors—conducted as experts—were relatively trivial. That said, the two legal clans we've listed above typically offer vastly different analyses of this "historic" trial. 

They cite different allegedly relevant facts. They cite different allegedly relevant statutes. And because the fighting is being conducted under rules in which these legal clans will never meet, a viewer will hear only one set of alleged facts and only one set of allegedly relevant statutes.

Under prevailing rules of the road, viewers never see the dueling claims of these dueling clans being tested in battle.

Assertions made by the Red legal clan will not be tested by the Blue legal clan. Assertions made by the Blue legal clan won't be tested by the Red.

In all candor, there have been times when we have wondered if relevant information is being withheld as we watch our Blue legal clan in action. We've wondered what would have happened if claims made by Dershowitz or Turley were encountered by Weissmann or Katyal.

In the Iliad, various clans from the Argive world fought side by side. With respect to the current legal war, members of the two legal clans—Red and Blue—only appear among their own, to whom they're inclined to be loyal.

In the process, voters who live in Red America are taught to see this trial one way. Voters who live in Blue America are schooled in a whole different set of views.

Does the felony charge against Donald J. Trump make sense? We can't exactly answer that question at this point in time.

Two legal clans are out in the field. They fight alongside their own flesh and blood, 

They're true to the views of their legal clan. Red voters see the Red legal clan and we Blue voters see our own. The clans are loyal to their ilk, but no interaction occurs.

As for Pretty Boy Floyd, every crime in Oklahoma was added to his name!

Has an ersatz crime been concocted for Trump? One group of voters is handed a yes. Over here in Blue America, we're exposed to a rather complex version of no.

Tomorrow: The $93 million question


CLAN: Did Maddow read the New York Times?

TUESDAY, APRIL 16, 2024

Pretty Boy Floyd nods off: We're guessing that Rachel Maddow read yesterday's New York Times, though then again possibly not. (She surely read this lengthy piece from the April 7 Sunday edition.)

We refer to one particular part of what had seemed to be a front-page report in yesterday's Today's Paper listing—a report about the now-active criminal trial of the leader of one of the clans.

The trial involves a 2016 "hush-money deal" with a woman who wasn't Trump's wife. In the New York Times report, the woman who still isn't his wife is identified as "a porn star, Stormy Daniels."

Below, you see the part of the New York Times report to which we have referred:

The Other Hush-Money Deals

Although the [criminal] charges relate to the payment to Ms. Daniels, [District Attorney] Bragg’s office is expected to highlight two other deals. Both involve the National Enquirer, which has longstanding ties to Mr. Trump.

In the first deal, the tabloid paid $30,000 to a former doorman employed by the Trump Organization who had heard that Mr. Trump had fathered a child out of wedlock, a rumor that turned out to be false. The publication later determined the claim to be untrue.

In the other deal, the National Enquirer paid Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who wanted to sell her story of an affair with Mr. Trump. She reached a $150,000 agreement with the tabloid, which bought the rights to her story in order to suppress it—a practice known as “catch and kill.”

Prosecutors say the hush-money deals show that Mr. Trump orchestrated a wide-ranging scheme to influence the 2016 presidential election by keeping damaging stories under wraps.

If we understand that last passage correctly, a corporate associate of the candidate tried to keep certain types of stories about the candidate out of public view. 

At this point, we'll quickly note that some such "stories" may turn out to be untrue.

That said, we direct your attention to the $30,000 paid to the former doorman. According to this New York Times report, the "rumor" he'd heard "turned out to be false."

In real time, he was threatening to spread it all about not knowing if it was true. According to D.A. Bragg's indictment, he went to the National Enquirer in the fall of 2015 seeking cash, and he was duly rewarded.

(Further note: This rumor dated to the 1980s! It concerned the candidate as a much younger person! Though also, the rumor was false.)

Presumably, the candidate would have known that the story was false—but everyone knows that now. Everyone, that is, except Rachel Maddow, whose instincts concerning such matters we've sometimes discussed in the past.

(For the record, no one's perfect.)

By now, everyone knows that the forty-year-old "story" is false. In a less imperfect world, that knowledge might serve as a journalistic reminder of this very key point:

Some things which get said may turn out to be untrue.

According to the New York Times, the 40-year-old rumor turned out to be false. Unless you were listening to an embarrassing hour on MSNBC last night, with Ari Melber serving as shepherd and host.

Melber is a legal analyst, except on the night of a trial. Last night, he assembled the rest of the clan and they spent the first many minutes of his (renamed) 6 o'clock program clucking about the claim that the defendant, one Donald J. Trump, may have dozed off briefly—right after lunch!—during yesterday's long and tedious session.

Melber's guests took turns clucking and chuckling about that perhaps unconfirmed report. First, though, Melber had thrown to Maddow on remote.

As you can see by clicking this link, Maddow fashioned skillful jibes about Trump being rocked-to-sleep. Via Yahoo News, The Daily Beast offers this summary:

Trump’s courtroom activities—or lack thereof—were the subject of several observations on MSNBC. Rachel Maddow, for instance, drew off of an ancient yet often quoted saying.

“We did finally get here. The wheels of justice grind slowly. I did not think they would grind so slowly that they would rock the defendant apparently to sleep at the defense table today,” she quipped, with the added implication of Trump resembling an infant.

“I was not there. I do not know if he was asleep. It was possible he was, you know, meditating,” she continued, drawing another laugh from her colleagues.

“But those headlines…that Trump appeared to fall asleep on the first day of his trial—those are going to stick,” she said, emphasizing the relevancy of Trump’s attacks on Biden for his age. Trump, she added, is “fundamentally buffoonish,” and said this trial—and what transpired Monday—are a reminder of that.

Maddow's colleagues—a type of clan—rewarded her with laughs. As to whether such headlines are going to stick, a different thought popped into our heads:

Be careful what you pimp for! Voter reaction to this kind of behavior by an upper-class clan might stick in a different direction.

Eventually, Maddow's comedy stylings were finished—and then the doorman appeared. This is what the cable star said. If we were in charge of her career, she'd be at home for a while:

MADDOW (4/15/24): I mean, it's insane. It's also a reminder of, however scary and somber and important this is, we're also dealing with a guy who is fundamentally buffoonish, and this will be as much a reminder of that as it is of all the more serious things here that are at stake. 

This is a guy—we have had mentions today of the one alleged mistress and the other alleged mistress, and the doorman who is making the allegations about the alleged love child with the third alleged mistress...I mean, this really is a fundamentally buffoonish person, and this will be in the minds of the American people.

Calchas could read the flight of birds Members of political and journalistic clans can read the minds of the people.

At any rate:

If we were in charge of Maddow's career, she would have been down the stairs and out the door right there. That said, in "her performance of the Rachel figure" (Janet Malcolm), she's tilted that way a long while.

Citizens, listen up:

At present, there is no allegation about a third alleged mistress. There is no allegation about an alleged love child.

More specifically, there is no doorman making such allegations. In point of fact, all that doorman ever said was that he would spread a rumor around unless he was handed some cash.

His rumor, which turned out to be false, dated all the way back to the 1980s. Maddow told her jokes and got her laughs, then created the present tense.

People may treat you poorly at times, even when they've been sold to you as someone you can trust. If we had been her supervisor, she would have been out the door.

Concerning what might stick with whom, we'll close today with the closing lyrics to Pretty Boy Floyd, as written by Woody Guthrie:

As through this world I've wandered
I've seen lots of funny men.
Some rob you with a six-gun,
Some with a fountain pen.
As through your life you travel,
As through your life you roam,
You'll never see an outlaw
Drive a family from their home.

In Guthrie's telling, Pretty Boy Floyd had gained the sympathy of many people as the laws tried to chase him down. As history shows us, such sympathy can be very strong all through the ranks of the people.

Final point:

When we switched briefly to Laura Ingraham last night, she was playing tape from that MSNBC show. She apparently thought our clan's clowning conduct might score points for Trump! 

Many people have mountains of empathy for the aggressively pursued. That may be especially true when a former Rhodes scholar, misstating elementary facts, calls a former president a buffoon.

(For ourselves, we've said that the candidate in question strikes us as fundamentally disordered. We've also noted that tens of millions of neighbors and friends disagree with that view.)

Could our own's clan's clowning behavior really score points for Trump? We have no earthly way of knowing, but if that's what Ingraham suspects, we can't really say that she's wrong.

The doorman quit a long time ago. Also, his "story" was false. 

Last night, though, the doorman was back! During the 8 o'clock hour, Jen Psaki was slippery with the doorman too. 

Journalistically, the doorman provides an important reminder:

Certain things which get bruited about are, in fact, untrue!

In the stirring language of Nestor, real journalists would want to "drive that matter home." It's very important to understand—you can't always believe the various things you're told!

That said, whose clan was perhaps more clannish last night? Tomorrow, we expect to venture back to the very start of this instructive if perhaps embarrassing journalistic affair. 

It's anthropology all the way down! It may even suggest what we humans are actually like.