FLYNN FACTS: The New York Times slips and slides down a slope!

THURSDAY, MAY 25, 2017

Part 3—Puts Flynn "on the Turkish payroll:"
Just last evening, we were surprised by what we heard at the start of The Eleventh Hour.

Brian Williams, our dapper host, started his first panel discussion by throwing to Glenn Thrush of the New York Times. The fellows shared the type of towel-snapping banter which sends a warning to sensible people.

"Warning," such repartee says. "You may be getting played:"
WILLIAMS (5/24/17): Glenn, we'll start with you. Tell us about what your colleagues have written tonight on Russia, and why it's important, while I take a drink of water.

THRUSH: [Laughs] Well, I think the president needs to take a drink too, Brian.
Basically, that's how Brian's program began.

Williams had had until 11 PM to think up an opening question. Despite the long preparation time, his opening "question" was simply an invitation to talk, accompanied by a wonderfully ironical bit of business.

Thrush chuckled at the star's witty ways, then directed some snark at Donald J. Trump. This is what our upper-end "journalism" starts to look like when a chase is on.

We were less than impressed by that Brianesque first exchange. The last time Brian went down this road, he ended up getting fired and "going away" for a couple of years.

That said, we were actively surprised by what Thrush said next. He spoke of his newspaper's "revelations," then seemed to dream one up:
THRUSH (continuing directly): Look, you know we have just, day after day, had these revelations. Today's revelation is that the Russians discovered the possibility of being able, as you said before, to influence Michael Flynn, who was then an adviser to the campaign, who was also at the same time on the payroll of Turkey and was being paid by RT, Russian television...
Masterfully, Thrush continued from there. Already, though, we were puzzled.

Was Michael Flynn "on the payroll of Turkey" during the 2016 campaign? Also, had the New York Times ever made that assertion?

You're asking excellent questions! Regarding the work of the New York Times, let's take a look at the record. What has the newspaper said?

The New York Times hadn't done much reporting on this matter until this March. At that time, Flynn registered as a foreign agent under terms of the rarely-explained Foreign Agent Registration Act.

"Foreign agent!" It's a wonderfully scary term, though it's also perhaps a bit imprecise. But on the New York Times' front page, Baker and Rosenberg reported such facts as these:
BAKER AND ROSENBERG (3/11/17): Michael T. Flynn, who went from the campaign trail to the White House as President Trump's first national security adviser, filed papers this week acknowledging that he worked as a foreign agent last year representing the interests of the Turkish government in a dispute with the United States.

[...]

Mr. Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, registered as a lobbyist last year but did not file papers with the Justice Department registering as a foreign agent, providing a fuller understanding of his role, until Tuesday. While he did not work directly for the Turkish government, the firm that hired him, Inovo, is owned by a Turkish-American businessman with links to leaders in Ankara and asked him to work on an issue important to the government.

[...]

On behalf of his firm, the Flynn Intel Group, Mr. Flynn signed a contract on Aug. 9 with Inovo, a Dutch firm owned by Ekim Alptekin, the chairman of the Turkish-American Business Council. Mr. Flynn's firm was to receive $600,000 for 90 days of work.
In that report, Baker and Rosenberg did not assert that Flynn had been "on the payroll of Turkey." Indeed, they explicitly said that Flynn "did not work directly for the Turkish government."

You're right! The word "directly" is doing a lot of work in that sentence. (Baker and Rosenberg never quite explained what that somewhat slippery word meant.)

At any rate, Baker and Rosenberg didn't say that Flynn had been "on the payroll of Turkey." Without using the exact formulation, they said he'd been on the payroll of Inovo BV, a Dutch firm owned by a Turkish-American businessman who had "links to leaders in Ankara."

As far as we know, Ekim Alptekin, the owner of Inovo, isn't Turkish-American. As we noted yesterday, our biggest and laziest, most famous newspapers haven't quite puzzled that out.

But in this report, Flynn was "on the payroll" of a Dutch firm, not "on the payroll of Turkey." Flynn was said to have done lobbying work for that Dutch-based firm.

(That same day, the Washington Post reported that Flynn's firm had been "hired last year...by the Netherlands-based firm Inovo BV, which is owned by Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin...Flynn's firm was paid more than $500,000 by Inovo for public relations and research work." The Post believed that Alptekin was Turkish, not Turkish-American. But they too said that Flynn had been on the payroll of a Dutch-based firm.)

At times like these, when a chase is on, such facts aren't likely to stand. At times like these, reporters for newspapers like the Times may start massaging and shaving such facts, producing the stories they like.

Case in point:

The Times returned to this matter on April 2, one day after April Fools. In these passages, Mark Rosenberg's formulations had perhaps begun to slip and slide:
ROSENBERG (4/2/17): Mr. Flynn has faced fierce criticism for the Moscow speech and for his lobbying efforts for Turkey. But the work paid well, and the disclosure forms showed income of nearly $1.5 million, a sizable amount for a man who left the military less than three years ago.

[...]

The payments for lobbying work that Mr. Flynn did for the Turkish government—and did not disclose until March—were handled through the Flynn Intel Group, and are not listed separately on the disclosure forms. Mr. Flynn did not work directly for the Turkish government; the firm that hired him, Inovo, is owned by a Turkish-American businessman with links to leaders in Ankara and asked him to work on an issue important to the government.
In this report, the New York Times has headed down a slipshod slope.

Rosenberg was still willing to note the fact that "Flynn did not work directly for the Turkish government," whatever that was supposed to mean. But before he offered that disclaimer, he referred to Flynn's "lobbying efforts for Turkey," then to "the lobbying work that Mr. Flynn did for the Turkish government."

It had started to sound like Flynn had been "on the Turkish payroll!" Rosenberg hadn't said that in so many words. But he was humming the tune.

The New York Times returned to this topic last week. A prosecutor had issued subpoenas to Flynn, including a subpoena "for records about Ekim Alptekin, a Turkish businessman who is close to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and is chairman of the Turkish-American Business Council."

By now, the Times was saying that Alptekin is Turkish, not Turkish-American. Also, the basic facts had been massaged by the Times within an inch of their life.

Those basic facts had almost gone through a blender. By now, Rosenberg and Mazzetti were truly making it sound like a certain foreign agent had been on the Turkish payroll:
ROSENBERG AND MAZZETTI (5/18/17): Michael T. Flynn told President Trump's transition team weeks before the inauguration that he was under federal investigation for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey during the campaign, according to two people familiar with the case.

[...]

The investigation stems from the work Mr. Flynn did for Inovo BV, a Dutch company owned by Mr. Alptekin, the Turkish businessman. On Aug. 9, Mr. Flynn and the Flynn Intel Group signed a contract with Inovo for $600,000 over 90 days to run an influence campaign aimed at discrediting Fethullah Gulen, an reclusive cleric who lives in Pennsylvania and whom Mr. Erdogan has accused of orchestrating a failed coup in Turkey last summer.

When he was hired by Mr. Alptekin, Mr. Flynn did not register as a foreign agent, as required by law when an American represents the interests of a foreign government. Only in March did he file a retroactive registration with the Justice Department because his lawyer, Robert K. Kelner, said that ''the engagement could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey.''
In these latest formulations, Flynn had been "secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey during the campaign." He wasn't just a foreign agent. By now, he had become a secret agent too!

Inovo BV got mentioned again, but we were then told that Flynn had failed to "register as a foreign agent, as required by law when an American represents the interests of a foreign government." That's what Flynn had apparently done.

A few nights later, a wise-cracking journalist went on TV and made an inaccurate statement. In fairness, you almost can't blame Thrush for saying that Flynn had been "on the payroll of Turkey."

Who knows? Given the things his paper had published, Thrush may even have come to believe what he said!

In truth, nothing the New York Times has reported justifies the pleasing claim that Flynn was "on the payroll of Turkey." That isn't where his checks came from. His checks came from Inovo BV, a Dutch-based lobbying firm.

In truth, no one has ever shown that Flynn was "on the payroll of Turkey." But so what? At times like these, with a major chase on, such pleasing claims will emerge.

No, Petunia! As far as anyone has shown, Michael Flynn wasn't on the payroll of Turkey. He was on the payroll of a Dutch firm owned and operated by a man who is probably Turkish, though our big newspapers are too lazy and incompetent to find out.

Our mighty newspapers have never quite bothered to establish that basic fact. They've been too busy massaging and disappearing facts, the enterprises in which they tend to engage when a chase is on.

Was Flynn doing something "wrong" when he worked for Inovo? Not necessarily, no. He was advancing some unconventional views, but that is normally not a crime, and Flynn evinces many signs of being at least half-nuts.

The key to this conundrum may lie in the scary term, "foreign agent." The term is wonderfully scary, and that makes it potentially useful. It may seem to imply various things which it doesn't imply in the situation under review.

Tomorrow, we'll review the meaning of that term, which has of course gone unexplained by our most glorious newspapers. The reason for that lethargy is simple:

Michael Flynn had become so crazy a few years back that people began rolling their eyes about his unreliable claims. Those claims were referred to as "Flynn facts." There he goes again, his associates were wont to suggest.

We can't judge the various claims which got eye-rolled that way. But at times like this, when a chase is on, our upper-end press corps is strongly inclined to start inventing facts too.

They sand, massage, disappear and invent elementary facts. They fail to explore the most basic distinctions. They make no attempt to clarify even the most basic points.

In the process, they produce their pleasing group stories, the kinds of stories they very much like. They end up saying things like this:

Michael Flynn was on the Turkish payroll.

Pleasing though the claim may be, no one has ever shown that it's true. When you see performers like Thrush clowning with Brian, then going on to make such claims, you are seeing the same old turkeys inventing their own "Flynn facts!"

Your lizard brain will tell you it's great. As always, your lizard is wrong.

Tomorrow: What is a "foreign agent?"

At the Washington Post, they're selling the car!

WEDNESDAY, MAY 24, 2017

Newest product yet:
Yesterday, John Brennan testified to the House Intelligence Committee.

In all honesty, he said virtually nothing that was new. Unless you read the front page of this morning's Washington Post, where Greg Miller, or his editor, were busily selling the car.

This was Miller's first paragraph. Warning! They're selling you the car!
MILLER (5/24/17): The CIA alerted the FBI to a troubling pattern of contacts between Russian officials and associates of the Trump campaign last year, former agency director John Brennan testified on Tuesday, shedding new light on the origin of a criminal probe that now reaches into the White House.
Did Brennan's testimony "shed new light on the origin of a criminal probe that now reaches into the White House?"

Not exactly, no. Everything Brennan said has been said several times before.

This isn't a criticism of what Brennan said. It's a comment on the process of selling the (daily) car.

Several hours later: Maddow offered a gong-show edit of something Brennan said. It tilted the tale in a way we like.

There was certainly nothing new there!

FLYNN FACTS: Who the heck is Ekim Alptekin?

WEDNESDAY, MAY 24, 2017

Part 2—At times like these, nobody cares:
For the record, Michael Flynn strikes us as a bit of a nut.

Last summer, he stood on stage at the Republican Convention, leading chants of "Lock her up." He retweeted a claim about the way Hillary Clinton was running a child sex ring out of the basement of a D.C. pizza joint.

At the business he founded, he chose his even-crazier son to be his chief of staff.

That said, Flynn had a distinguished military career—and he has geopolitical views. If we're willing to be honest just this once, most of us liberals aren't sufficiently knowledgeable to say, with any real authority, that his views are "wrong."

Along the way, Flynn's craziness and his geopolitical views made him the apple of Donald J. Trump's eye. These are the wages a society pays when its "elites" mug and clown their way through thirty years of gonzo pseudo-political history, as our "elites" have done.

Now we're engaged in a great newspaper war, with the ludicrous Flynn providing much of the excitement. This leads us to our question for the day:

Who is Ekim Alptekin?

Who the heck is Ekim Alptekin? For now, let's let the New York Times tell us!

Alptekin has been all over the news in the past six months. He's routinely featured in news reports which deal with Michael Flynn's international adventures.

Despite his ubiquity, Alptekin remains a bit of an international man of mystery. Let's let the Times clear things up:
ROSENBERG AND MAZZETTI (5/18/17): The subpoena also asks for similar records about Ekim Alptekin, a Turkish businessman who is close to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and is chairman of the Turkish-American Business Council. There is no indication that Mr. Alptekin is under investigation.

ROSENBERG (4/2/17): The payments for lobbying work that Mr. Flynn did for the Turkish government—and did not disclose until March—were handled through the Flynn Intel Group, and are not listed separately on the disclosure forms. Mr. Flynn did not work directly for the Turkish government; the firm that hired him, Inovo, is owned by a Turkish-American businessman with links to leaders in Ankara and [sic] asked him to work on an issue important to the government.

BAKER AND ROSENBERG (3/11/17): Mr. Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, registered as a lobbyist last year but did not file papers with the Justice Department registering as a foreign agent, providing a fuller understanding of his role, until Tuesday. While he did not work directly for the Turkish government, the firm that hired him, Inovo, is owned by a Turkish-American businessman with links to leaders in Ankara and [sic] asked him to work on an issue important to the government.

NORDLAND (11/19/17): General Flynn's article, as Politico reported, did not disclose that he was a paid lobbyist for a consultancy founded by a Turkish businessman, Ekim Alptekin, who is also the head of the Turkish-American Business Council.
You just can't beat the New York Times for cool clear consistent reporting! According to our smartest newspaper, Alptekin is either a Turkish businessman, a Turkish-American businessman, or a Turkish businessman who is the head of the Turkish-American Business Council.

In two recent attempt to identify Alptekin, Rosenberg and Mazzetti seemed to say that he's an American citizen. As far as we know, that's false. But even that elementary fact remains unresolved within our floundering "elite" press corps, which is currently on a chase.

(As we noted yesterday, the Washington Post keeps jumping around about Alptekin's citizenship too!)

Good God! Alptekin's employment of Flynn became a major topic last November. Even now, our big newspapers haven't managed to get clear about his citizenship, which would seem to be relevant to the matters at hand.

In fairness, everything else is murky too! Even after some recent searches, we don't think we've ever seen a statement about Alptekin's age, or about his place of residence.

How old is Alptekin? Where was he born, and where does he live? What is his citizenship? Because the corps is on a chase, details like these no longer matter. We're being sold an exciting tale, in which the most elementary facts seem to have no place.

Who the heck is Ekim Alptekin? We have no real idea—but over the weekend, as part of a search, we finally came upon a biographical profile from a non-journalistic source.

Because it comes from some sort of interest group, we can't swear for its perfect accuracy. But what the heck! Here it is:
RESEARCH TURKEY: Ekim Alptekin is a successful young businessman, specialised on transatlantic trade and the development and maintenance of commercial and political cooperation between Turkey and the US. He was born in Ankara in 1977. He completed his studies in law and economics in Utrecht University in 2001. He speaks Turkish, English, French, German, and Dutch. After completing his studies he moved to the USA and worked in the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) as well as other international organisations. Alptekin also carries important diplomatic missions. He is honorary consul of Turkey to Albania and member of the board of the USA Newroz Commission. In addition, he is member of European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) and Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSİAD).

Ekim Alptekin also carries out important activities in trading sector. He is the founder and a principal partner of Eclipse Aerospace Inc., a New Mexico-based company manufacturing aircrafts. He founded EA Aerospace in Turkey to buy American Eclipse Aerospace, which was re-founded in 2008. EA Aerospace is significant as it is the very first Turkish company that made aircraft industry investment in the USA. In addition to EA Aerospace, Ekim Alptekin owns EA Construction, ATH Defence and One Colony companies active in real estate, construction, defence, security, entertainment, and tourism industries. Alptekin agglomerated his companies under the name of AE Group, where he acts as the Chair of the Executive Board. He also worked as the President of the Turkish-American Business Association (TABA/AmCham) between 2012 and 2014, and he was elected as the Young Leader by the American-Turkish Society in 2012. He won the Commercial Leadership Award of American-Turkish Council thanks to the Eclipse Aerospace initiative in 2011. Alptekin’s EA Construction has been active in Istanbul’s construction sector through Beykonak Houses and Kartal Kule projects and his "Kartal Kule" project was awarded the "Best Architecture Single Office Europe by International Property Awards.

Since October 2015, Ekim Alptekin is acting as the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Turkish-American Business Council (TAİK), an organisation under the Foreign Economic Relations Board of Turkey (DEİK).
According to that account, Michael Flynn's recent employer is 39 or 40 years old. Especially considering his age, he seems to be a go-getter.

It sounds like he's Turkish, not Turkish-American. That said, he seems to have gone to college in the Netherlands. Could he maybe be Turkish-Dutch—a Dutch citizen of Turkish extraction?

Did Alptekin move to the USA after college, as that profile declares? Does he maybe possibly live on Imus' ranch in New Mexico, where he founded Eclipse Aerospace Inc.?

Rather plainly, no one knows or cares!

Who the freak is this guy? Incredibly, the New York Times and the Washington Post still haven't bothered nailing down the basic facts about his citizenship. But this is the way our "press corps" behaves when they engage in a chase.

A few key facts do seem to be known about Alptekin. At some point, he founded Inovo BV, the Dutch-based firm which hired Flynn on a short-term contract last year.

Having said that, let us also say this: "a Dutch-based firm" is not the same thing as "the Turkish government." For whom was Michael Flynn working last year? Let's review the masterful way Rosenberg dealt with this basic question:
ROSENBERG (4/2/17): The payments for lobbying work that Mr. Flynn did for the Turkish government—and did not disclose until March—were handled through the Flynn Intel Group, and are not listed separately on the disclosure forms. Mr. Flynn did not work directly for the Turkish government; the firm that hired him, Inovo, is owned by a Turkish-American businessman with links to leaders in Ankara and [sic] asked him to work on an issue important to the government.
According to that paragraph, Flynn "did lobbying work for the Turkish government" without "working directly for the Turkish government."

It's possible this could be explained, though no one has really bothered.

(Through early March, Our Own Rhodes Scholar kept exciting and delighting us liberals by telling us that Flynn had been "on the Turkish government payroll." On its face, this exciting claim always seemed to be false.

(Our Own Rhodes Scholar no longer makes this claim, though she still sometimes implies it. On alternate weeks, she tells us that the money for Flynn's work came from Putin-connected Russian oligarchs, without seeming to notice that this second exciting story doesn't directly jibe with her first.

(Even as she dropped her thrilling earlier account, Our Own Rhodes Scholar never fired up her gong-show based DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS to explain the change in her story. She was assuming, quite correctly, that we liberals are too dumb to notice the change in her account, and/or too addicted to narrative to care.)

Did Michael Flynn do something wrong when he worked for Alptekin and Inovo BV, which is either 1) the Turkish government or 2) an arm of Putin's oligarchs? We can't answer that question.

We can tell you this:

A chase is on in the mainstream press. At such times, elementary facts and logic tend to disappear.

What matters is preferred talking points, which get repeated again and again. In the current instance, the greatest such point is this:

Michael Flynn registered as a "foreign agent!" That is a very exciting point. But does anyone know what it means?

Michael Flynn worked as a foreign agent! It sounds wonderfully vile. But what the heck does that term really mean? And to what has Michael Flynn copped?

Tomorrow, we'll start to sift those questions. In the meantime, Ekim Alptekin, Flynn's fresh-faced employer, is either Turkish or American or possibly Dutch. Flynn was on the Turkish government payroll. Or he worked for Putin's oligarchs!

As with New England weather, so too with elementary facts when a chase is on. If you don't like the most recent account, you can just wait a while!

Michael Flynn strikes us as a bit of a nut, but so do large swaths of the elite press. Thirty years of their low-IQ clowning got us all into this mess.

Tomorrow: What is a foreign agent?

POSTSCRIPT: Did Andrew McCabe sell out to Trump?

TUESDAY, MAY 23, 2017

The Post's peculiar reporting:
On Wednesday evening, May 10, Rachel Maddow made an angry allegation about acting FBI director Andrew McCabe, her program's latest villain.

Back in February, Maddow angrily said, McCabe became part of "the Trump disinformation campaign!" We discussed this topic all last week.

Did McCabe really do that? If so, someone should tell Dianne Feinstein! On Sunday's Face the Nation, she recommended that McCabe become the FBI's permanent director. Apparently, Feinstein hasn't been watching the Maddow Show!

Full disclosure! In our view, Maddow's May 10 report was her latest weirdly researched, embellished "villain tale." During her twenty-minute performance, she offered exactly one journalistic source for her fiery claim about McCabe—an analysis piece in Time magazine whose author had simply seemed to accept the truthfulness of a set of accusation by Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer, the nation's least famous truth-tellers.

Priebus and Spicer made their claims during the period when Donald J. Trump was thrashing about, trying to shoot down reports about possible collusion with Russia. Absent evidence, why should anyone have believed the claims by Priebus and Spicer?

Maddow never addressed that point during her May 10 report. Very few viewers would have realized that her attack on McCabe was based on claims by Priebus and Spicer, claims they made last February during a highly fraught time.

Maddow simply launched her attacks. In fairness, her diatribe was exciting.

As a postscript to last week's reports, we thought we'd note the peculiar way the Washington Post reported these accusations by Priebus and Spicer.

The paper's sole report on this topic appeared on Saturday, February 25. In the passage shown below, Miller and Entous reported the accusations by Priebus and "administration sources."

In the process, they simply seemed to accept the accuracy of these claims. No further evidence needed!
MILLER (2/25/17): The administration's push against the Russia coverage intensified Sunday [February 19] when White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said in television interviews that he had been authorized "by the top levels of the intelligence community" to denounce reports on Trump campaign contacts with Russia as false.

Priebus's denunciations ranged from calling the articles "overstated" to saying they were "complete garbage."

Administration officials said that Priebus's comments had been cleared by FBI Director James B. Comey and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. In doing so, the FBI's leadership would appear to have been drawing a distinction between authorizing comments by a White House official and addressing the matter themselves.
"In doing so, the FBI's leadership would appear to have been drawing a distinction between authorizing comments by a White House official and addressing the matter themselves?"

In that statement, Miller and Entous seemed to assume that the administration's accusations were accurate. They offered no evidence in support of this assumption.

Later, they quoted former CIA director Michael Hayden casting doubt on what Priebus had said. But in that earlier passage, they seemed to accept the accuracy of the administration accounts.

It gets worse. On that same day, a Post editorial did the same thing. For unknown reasons, the editors even referred to the accusations by Priebus and Spicer as "the week's revelations."

In its own report on this topic, the New York Times didn't seem to accept the accuracy of the administration's claims in the way the Post did. Still, we'd have edited one part of the Times report to make this fact more clear.

Let's review:

Back in February, Priebus and Spicer delivered a set of accusations against McCabe and Comey both.

According to Priebus and Spicer, McCabe and Comey had both said that a New York Times report about collusion was inaccurate. For reason which went unexplained, the Washington Post seemed to accept these accusations as accurate.

At that time, Rachel Maddow did two reports which cast McCabe as the hero of the piece. (As we noted last week, those reports appeared on February 23 and 24.) On May 10, without explanation, she launched her attack on McCabe, apparently accepting the accuracy of what Priebus and Spicer had said.

Just like that, McCabe went from hero to goat! Priebus' attacks on Comey went completely unmentioned. Maddow's earlier reports, which cast McCabe as the hero of the piece, also went unmentioned. No explanations required!

Maddow often plays this way. In fairness, accusations of this type are exciting and tribally pleasing.

Beyond that, it's fun when she mugs and clowns! It helps Our Own Channel beat Fox!

Rachel Maddow is very good at giving us liberals our villains. Someone should tell Senator Feinstein about what Our Scholar has said.

Synopsis is all!

TUESDAY, MAY 23, 2017

Visiting King Lear again:
Upon our return to our sprawling campus, we found ourselves surrendering, once again, to curiosity concerning King Lear.

Once again, we found ourselves turning to the leading authority. At the start of their savantic report, our top unnamed sources said this:
King Lear is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare. It depicts the gradual descent into madness of the title character, after he disposes of his kingdom giving bequests to two of his three daughters based on their flattery of him, bringing tragic consequences for all.
Needless to say, "gradual descents into madness" are tragedies for all. Thank goodness that's not happening here, "based on their flattery"-wise!

Descents into madness can have tragic consequences? Shakespeare, of course, who didn't exist, simple adored "fake news."

Yet to come: Eventually, we plan to record the way number-one Lear daughter Ivanka recently "quoted" Maya Angelou. But only if liberals are good!

FLYNN FACTS: And the lack of same!

TUESDAY, MAY 23, 2017

Part 1—The way the press corps functions:
Midway through last night's 7 o'clock hour, cable news went "all-Manchester all-the-time."

Before that happened, we were struck by several aspects of Erin Burnett's journalistic performance on CNN.

First, Burnett discussed the newest report from the Washington Post, a report which appears on this morning's front page.

The Post reports that Donald J. Trump "asked two of the nation’s top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government, according to current and former officials."

Before events in Manchester took precedence, this report was destined to be the focus of last night's cable excitement.

Did Donald J. Trump really do the things described in the Post report? We were surprised to see Burnett treat the report as established fact. Whatever the facts may turn out to be, that wasn't the world's greatest journalism.

Soon after, we were surprised by Burnett's treatment of a new report concerning Michael Flynn. She seemed unfamiliar with a ludicrous claim Flynn first made last summer.

The ludicrous claim concerns the money Flynn was paid for a speaking engagement in Russia—a December 2015 engagement which is now quite famous. According to a congresional committee, Flynn received roughly $45,000 for the engagement. But by whom was he paid?

At least as early as last summer, Flynn was answering that question in a ridiculous way.

In a widely-discussed interview with Michael Isikoff of Yahoo News, Flynn offered an absurd explanation. He wasn't paid for the Russians, he said. He was paid by his speakers' bureau!
ISIKOFF (7/18/16): Were you paid for that event?

FLYNN: You’d have to ask my—the folks that I went over there on behalf of.

ISIKOFF: Well, I’m asking you. You’d know if you were paid.

FLYNN: Yeah, I mean I went over there as a speaking event. It was a speaking event. What difference does that make? Did somebody go "Oh, he’s paid by the Russians?"

ISIKOFF: Well, Donald Trump has made a lot of the fact that Hillary Clinton has taken money from Wall Street, Goldman Sachs.

FLYNN: I didn’t take any money from Russia, if that’s what you’re asking me.

ISIKOFF: Well then, who paid you?

FLYNN: My speakers’ bureau. Ask them.
He wasn't paid by the Russkies, Flynn said. He was paid by his speakers bureau! To watch that exchange, click here.

Periodically, that silly distinction has bubbled up over the past ten months. Yesterday, it seemed to bubble up again in a letter by Rep. Elijah Cummings—but Burnett seemed to think the silly distinction was new.

Burnett's apparent cluelessnes regarding this point struck us as unimpressive. That said, there's been a lot of journalistic heat surrounding Flynn's behavior on the international stage, not always a whole lot of journalistic light.

How competent have our news orgs been in their discussions of Flynn-in-the-world? Not gigantically competent! Consider something we read in Saturday's Washington Post.

The report concerned Flynn's work for Inovo BV, a Netherlands based lobbying firm. In this passage, two Post reporters described Ekim Alptekin, the founder of the firm:
BARRETT AND ZAPOTOSKY (5/20/17): A grand jury in Alexandria, Va., recently issued a subpoena for records related to Flynn's business, the Flynn Intel Group, which was paid more than $500,000 by a company owned by a Turkish American businessman close to top Turkish officials, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Flynn Intel Group was paid for research on Fethullah Gulen, a cleric who Turkey's current president believes was responsible for a coup attempt last summer. Flynn retroactively registered with the Justice Department in March as a paid foreign agent for Turkish interests.
Alptekin wasn't named, but he was described as "a Turkish American businessman." Two weeks earlier, Matea Gold had described him the same way in this front-page report in the Post:
GOLD (5/5/17): [Flynn's] research was financed by a company owned by Ekim Alptekin, a Turkish American businessman close to top officials in Turkey, the documents show. Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accuses Gulen for fomenting a coup attempt last summer and wants him extradited from the United States.

Inovo, a Netherlands-based company owned by Alptekin, paid Flynn Intel Group $530,000 to activate an "investigative laboratory" made up of former top security and intelligence officials to research Gulen, according to documents Flynn filed under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
Alptekin is "a Turkish American businessman," Gold also reported. That would be fine, except back in March and April, the Post was describing Alptekin as "a Turkish businessman," which isn't the same thing.

The New York Times has also toggled back and forth in its descriptions. Sometimes Alptekin has been "Turkish-American," sometimes he's been "Turkish."

Does this distinction matter? Given the charges and claims involved here, it probably pretty much could!

That said, we'd make a different basic point. Given the amount of attention paid to Flynn's work for Inovo BV, it's amazing that our biggest newspapers can't be bothered to establish even the simplest facts about the man for whom he worked.

Is Ekim Alptekin a Turkish citizen? Is he "Turkish American," a designation which seems to imply that he's an American citizen?

Might he be a dual citizen? Does anyone at these major newspapers know or care?

The Post and the Times have both toggled about between these dueling descriptions of Alptekin. Given the amount of focus directed on this matter, this is lazy, incompetent front-page pseudo-reporting as its ridiculous worst.

In fact, reporting on Flynn's work for Inovo has been riddled with incompetence and error. This extends beyond the work of the Post and the Times, extending up the slopes of Olympus to the aerie which houses Rachel Maddow, whose accounts of this much-beloved matter change on a daily basis.

In the next few day, we'll try to nail down a few basic facts about Flynn, Alptekin and Inovo, the Dutch-based form Alptekin founded and still runs. But our focus won't be on Flynn or Alptekin. As always, our principal focus will be on the work of the press, which is currently staging a chase.

A headlong chase is currently on; excitement fills the air. When such episodes occur, our journalists sometimes send their standards and skills on holiday. On partisan cable, you may get severely conned.

Flynn, who strikes us as a nut, has been widely ridiculed for his unreliable "Flynn facts." That said, the press corps has produced its own array of puzzling, murky "Flynn facts" as it has pretended to cover this high-profile topic.

Who the heck is Ekim Alptekin? As we attempt to fumble through the press corps' array of "Flynn facts," that will just be our initial question.

We'll end with the most exciting question of all. What is a "foreign agent?"

Tomorrow: Who is Ekim Alptekin?

We're on our way back to our sprawling campus!

MONDAY, MAY 22, 2017

In the meantime, do trees exist?:
Last Friday, we found Paul Krugman's column semi-discouraging. He ended the piece like this:
KRUGMAN (5/19/17): In a perverse way, we should count ourselves lucky that Trump is as terrible as he is. Think of what it has taken to get us to this point—his Twitter addiction, his bizarre loyalty to Flynn and affection for Putin, the raw exploitation of his office to enrich his family, the business dealings, whatever they were, he's evidently trying to cover up by refusing to release his taxes.

The point is that given the character of the Republican Party, we'd be well on the way to autocracy if the man in the White House had even slightly more self-control. Trump may have done himself in; but it can still happen here.
"Think of what it has taken to get us to this point," Krugman said. His chronology took us all the way back to maybe last week.

It has taken a lot more than Trumpistry and its discontents to get us to this point. For one example of what we mean, consider this timely news report from the next day's Times.

The Times was reporting a recent firestorm within the realm of academic philosophy. The firestorm surrounds a little-read paper about a touchy topic by Assistant Professor Tuvel.

The basic question raised by Tuvel was poorly explained by the Times. That said, our idealistic young analysts all howled in pain at this point:
SCHUESSLER (5/20/17): [U]nderneath the hyper-charged war of words lies a wonkier but no less significant battle over philosophical method.

''In terms of quality, it's a very normal paper,'' Justin Weinberg, an associate professor at the University of South Carolina and the editor of Daily Nous, a philosophy news website, said in an interview. ''But some people will say that's part of the problem.''

[...]

Ms. Tuvel's paper is squarely in the tradition of analytic philosophy, an approach that focuses on clarifying concepts and that relies on blunt logical analysis and sometimes outlandish-seeming hypotheticals and analogies. (Do justifications for eating meat also support cannibalism? Are unwanted fetuses akin to rapists?) But it's an approach, some of her detractors say, that is unsuited to the subject at hand.

''That's fine when you are looking at abstract metaphysical questions,'' like ''whether trees exist, or things that exist in the past exist in the present,'' said one of the signers of the open letter, Talia Mae Bettcher, a professor of philosophy at California State University, Los Angeles. ''But when you start philosophizing about racial oppression or trans oppression or other contemporary social issues, different methodologies need to be employed.''
According to Professor Bettcher, normal procedure is fine when you consider normal philosophical questions. But not for something like this!

Sad. According to Professor Bettcher, a normal philosophical question might go something like this:
Normal philosophical questions:
1) Do trees exist?
2) Do things that exist [sic] in the past exist in the present?
Maybe Professor Bettcher was kidding. More probably, she wasn't. Assistant Professor Tuvel's approach would be fine when examining questions like that!

Readers, do trees exist? As our academic elites have been pondering such questions, the society which hands them their sacks of money each month has spent the past thirty years slouching toward Trumplehem.

The intellectual/journalistic descent started long before Trump. As this headlong descent occurred, the professors were asking if trees exist.

Krugman wrote as if our current situation started with Trump. Increasingly, our long-time unquestioned MVP has been sliding toward the only dumbness large enough to match the dumbness of Trumpism itself. We refer to the disabling dumbness of Trump hate, which is the latest way we liberals, and our failed elites, have arranged to malfunction.

We're on our way back to our sprawling campus. Full services resume tomorrow. At some point, we expect to return to this topic, and to Jim Holt's book from 2012, one of that year's ten best.

Meanwhile, do trees exist? Three decades after Rush went national, the professors still aren't sure.

For that reason, they haven't moved on. Such roads have all led to Trump.

Just for the record: "Things that exist in the past?" We're assuming that wasn't a typo.

It happens during newspapers wars!

SATURDAY, MAY 20, 2017

And when a chase is on:
It's a fascinating time to be a press corps watcher.

Also, a time of frustration. A great deal of conduct is occurring all at once. We'll return to full services at the start of the week.

Today, we'll note a few trends:

1) A chase is on: Within the mainstream press, there's hasn't been such a uniform chase since the two years of Campaign 2000.

At that time, the mainstream press was chasing the vile Candidate Gore. Today, they're chasing Donald J. Trump.

In terms of the press corps' selection of targets, we note a slight imbalance.

2) Judgment may disappear: When the mainstream press corps stages a chase, all judgment disappears. Every claim will be credited and bruited, no matter how silly or far-fetched.

Next week, we'll review the way major figures and major news orgs ran with the Washington Post's thrilling report about the way the House majority leader said that Donald J. Trump was in the pay of the Russians. For today, we'll only say this:

Sad.

(Sad, but typical during a chase. During a chase, all negative-sounding reports are created equal. Normal journalistic practices can be completely ignored.)

3) A "newspaper war" is on: Many pundits are applauding the fact that a "newspaper war" is under way between the Post and the New York Times. In theory, a newspaper war can have beneficial results. In practice, such wars can also lead newspapers to run with exciting pseudo-reports whose contents have been vastly embellished or constitute sheer speculation.

At this time, there's an enormous amount of filler going around.

4) Reinstatement of Comey the God: At exciting times like these, group novels will be adopted, filled with clear-cut character portraits. At present, we invite you to note one major example: the rehabilitation of James B. Comey—Comey the God—as the latest iteration of a press corps perennial, The World's Most Upright Person.

In recent decades, The World's Most Upright Person has almost always been a Republican. "Judge Starr" got his start as The World's Most Upright Person; Paul Ryan is still widely cast in that role. People who get cast in this role almost always take advantage.

Truth to tell, James B. Comey probably isn't The World's Most Upright Person. (Very few people are.) That said, he's very good at selling the car, and he has a lot of friends. Beyond that, he's now being defined in opposition to Donald J. Trump, against whom a chase is on.

For this reason, his godlike status is being restored. This represents our modern "press corps" at its least impressive.

Summarizing, other people focus on Trump. Our focus here is on the press corps.

In itself, Donald J. Trump's apparent craziness tells us nothing about the press. The corps' behavior must speak for itself. Right now, a great deal of that behavior strikes us as underwhelming.

Coming next week: What is a "foreign agent?"

It happens during stampedes: Shortly before he was fired, did Comey ask Rod Rosenstein for additional resources for the FBI's Russia probe?

Not long ago, this "revelation" drove a banner headline atop the front page of the Washington Post. Over the next two days, the Post seemed to walk its revelation back.

Today, the Post says this, at the very end of a news report:
HORWITZ, DEMIRJIAN AND VIEBECK (5/20/17): Rosenstein also told the lawmakers that he is “not aware” of any request by the FBI for additional resources for the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

“Moreover,” he said, “I consulted my staff and acting FBI director Andrew McCabe, and none of them recalls such a request.”
The fact that Rosenstein said this doesn't prove that it's true. That said, the Post's initial "revelation" was based on third- and fourth-hand sources.

Did the Post ever know its "revelation" was true? Quite possibly not.

On the brighter side, the Post's "revelation" met that day's excitement quota. Cable pundits yakked about it for hours the night before.

This sort of thing occurs at times of newspaper wars, and when a great chase is on.

A mission of national import!

FRIDAY, MAY 19, 2017

Lack of fish today:
We're off on a mission of national import. We'll have no fish today.

Flynn's "underlying conduct" defined!

THURSDAY, MAY 18, 2017

Yates' meaning seems to come clear:
What the heck did Sally Yates mean when she spoke to that Senate subcommittee?

Back on May 8, she told the committee that her DOJ team believed Michael Flynn might be subject to blackmail due to the administration's false statements about his conversations with Ambassador Kislyak.

In those false statements, various people denied that Flynn had spoken to Kislyak about the Obama Administration's sanctions on the Russkies.

When she appeared before the committee, Yates also said the Justice Department had been concerned about Flynn's "underlying conduct." This raised a bit of an interpretive problem:

To what "underlying conduct" did Yates mean to refer?

As we noted on Tuesday, David Ignatius thought she was referring to Flynn's conversations with Kislyak about sanctions—conversations which supposedly could be a violation of the Logan Act. Other more excitable figures thought she meant something more thrilling.

One example:

Last Tuesday evening, May 9, a certain major cable star gave us liberals a thrill. She suggested that Yates must be referring to some other type of misconduct by Flynn—that Yates must have been concerned about some other "underlying conduct," of which we were still unaware.

We almost always get some thrills when we watch that cable star's show. Tuesday, on Anderson Cooper's show, Yates seemed to settle the question what she actually meant.

Cooper never directly asked Yates what she meant in her remarks about Flynn's "underlying conduct." But in these passages, it's fairly clear—the "underlying conduct" to which Yates referred was simply Flynn's discussions of sanctions, not some other offense:
COOPER (5/16/17): When were you first made aware that General Flynn was lying about his interactions with the Russian ambassador?

YATES: Well, first, let me say—and I know that this may seem kind of artificial to folks. I can't really talk about what General Flynn's underlying conduct was, because that's based on classified information.

COOPER: Can you say when you were made aware about an issue with his underlying conduct?

YATES: It was in the early part of January where we first got some indication about what he had been involved in. And then, sort of the middle part of January, when there were false statements that started coming out of the White House based on misrepresentations he had made to people there.

[...]

YATES: We were really concerned about the underlying conduct in and of itself, even before there were misrepresentations about it. Then there were misrepresentations coming out of the White House again where they were saying it was based specifically on what General Flynn had told them.

And they were getting more and more specific. And it became clear they weren't going to stop.

[...]

YATES: It was the misrepresentations, that didn't really start until mid-January, that aggravated the situation.

COOPER: Because misrepresentations to the vice president and others in the White House, that you believed took it to another level?

YATES: It did. It certainly aggravated the situation in terms of the ability for that information to be used for compromise with the Russians.

COOPER: Explain the idea of compromise, how that works.

YATES: Sure. Now this has been a tried and true tradecraft of the Russians for decades now. And the gist of it is pretty simple. It's that if they have information that they can use to—as leverage over someone, then they will use that.

They even have a word for it, "kompromat." And in this situation, we had both the underlying conduct that was problematic for General Flynn. But then, the public misrepresentations about it, that were based on lies that General Flynn had told the vice president and others.
On several occasions, Yates referred to the many "public misrepresentations" about Flynn's "underlying conduct." That seems to mean that the "underlying conduct" to which she referred was Flynn's discussion of sanctions.

For ourselves, we thought a great deal of Yates' analysis seemed a bit overwrought. On its face, we don't see what would be so awful about an incoming administration speaking to a foreign government about possible policy changes, perhaps involving sanctions.

The notion that Flynn could have been subject to blackmail seems a bit overheated as well. Beyond that, we don't know why Yates, like everyone else, assumes Pence didn't know the truth about Flynn's discussion of sanctions.

Maybe he did, maybe he didn't. No one has shown how we know. Instead, a group novel has formed.

With that in mind, we'll offer this tiny warning:

By now, the chase is very much on against President Donald J. Trump.

As usual, we liberals have proven unable to win political fights on the merits. Instead, we hope and pray that we can catch our victorious opponents in some illegal or immoral behavior, giving us our only chance to emerge with a win.

At any rate, the chase is currently very much on, and you're going to see a million thumbs on a million scales. Cable news discussions last night were pretty much thumbs on the scales all the way down.

Last Tuesday night, May 9, a certain major cable news star gave us our nightly fix. Excitingly, she said Yates must be referring to some additional misbehavior by Flynn.

She never mentioned an obvious possibility—the possibility that Yates had simply been referring to Flynn's discussion of sanctions. The following night, she gave us a thrill about Andrew McCabe. This is the way this self-adoring corporate-paid child plays the cable news game.

We liberals get dumber and weaker this way. When will we rise up on our hind legs and make these childish games stop?

In fairness: In fairness, excitement is good for cable ratings and profits.

We'll guess the unnamed cable star is being paid $10 million per year. It takes a lot of excitement and fun to underwrite wages like that.

VILLAINS AND US: Was Reince Priebus telling the truth?

THURSDAY, MAY 18, 2017

Part 4—Maddow forgets to ask:
Is Andrew McCabe a villain? More specifically:

Back in February, did McCabe, then the deputy FBI head, "become part of the Trump disinformation campaign?"

Last Wednesday night, on the Maddow Show, we were told that he did. Rachel Maddow delivered that claim in a dramatic, twenty-minute rant.

She told us liberals that McCabe's conduct had been "a scandal." To watch that whole segment, click here.

In this way, we liberals got our nightly dollop of high paranoia porridge. In fairness to Maddow, whose salary is likely $10 million per year, these highly dramatic claims are good for ratings and profits.

Having said that, let us ask this: Was Maddow's claim actually true? Or had Our Own Rhodes Scholar managed to do it again?

Spoiler alert: we know of no particular reason to believe what Maddow said. She certainly didn't provide any.

Maddow cited one journalistic source in support of her dramatic claims about McCabe. And uh-oh! That source had simply accepted a claim by Reince Priebus, without making any attempt to show that the claim was true.

On this basis, we liberals were given our nightly porridge and we were sent off to bed. We were sent off to bed with a smile on our faces. We had our latest villain!

On what basis did Maddow make her claim? Below, we'll examine that point. But first, let's construct a basic chronology. Here's how the whole thing went down:

Wednesday morning, February 15: The New York Times published a front-page report about the Trump campaign. (The report had appeared on-line the night before.)

According to this widely-discussed report, "members of [the] campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials."

Sunday, February 19: That Sunday, Reince Priebus appeared on three Sunday morning shows to dispute this report. "I've talked to the top levels of the intelligence community," he said on Meet the Press. "And they have assured me that that New York Times story was grossly overstated and inaccurate and totally wrong."

Saturday morning, February 25: By the end of that week, Priebus' claim had become more specific. On Saturday morning, February 25, the New York Times offered this account of a briefing by Sean Spicer:
DAVIS (2/25/17): Mr. Spicer said that it was top F.B.I. officials—first Andrew G. McCabe, the deputy director, and later James B. Comey, the director—who approached Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, the day after the [original New York Times] article appeared to say that it was false.

Mr. Priebus then asked the two F.B.I. officials what they could do to rebut it publicly. They apologized and said they were unable to issue a statement or otherwise comment on the matter, Mr. Spicer said.

''They came to us and said the story is not true. We said, 'Great, could you tell people that?''' Mr. Spicer said, describing the discussions between Mr. Priebus and F.B.I. officials.
Spicer was speaking for Priebus. According to Priebus, McCabe had approached him on February 15 and said the original Times report was false.

(In the February 25 Washington Post, the claim from within the administration was slightly more colorful. The Post quoted "administration officials" saying that McCabe told Priebus, "I want you to know" that the New York Times story "is BS.")

Was McCabe guilty as charged? Last Wednesday night, Maddow spent twenty minutes asserting that he was. (She didn't mention the claim that James B. Comey had been accused of disputing the Times report too.)

Were Priebus' claims really true? Did McCabe (and Comey) really behave as described? For ourselves, we have no way of knowing. On what basis did Maddow support this exciting claim?

In the course of last Wednesday's report, Maddow cited exactly one news source in support of her fiery assertions. She quoted a piece by Time magazine's Massimo Calabresi.

Calabresi's piece appeared on Time's site on February 24. It represents the only news source Maddow cited in support of her claims.

Here's the part where Calabresi described what happened. Can you spot a small problem here?
CALABRESI (2/24/17): The first questionable contact came when McCabe spoke with Priebus for five minutes after a 7:30 a.m. meeting at the White House on Feb. 15 on an unrelated intelligence issue. The day before, the New York Times had reported that Trump’s campaign and other Trump associates had multiple contacts with known agents of Russian intelligence in the year before the election.

At the [February 15] White House meeting, McCabe told Priebus, ‘I want you to know story in NYT is BS," according to senior Administration officials who briefed reporters on Feb. 24.

Priebus asked McCabe what could be done to push back, saying the White House was “getting crushed” on the story. McCabe demurred, and then later called back to say, “We'd love to help but we can't get into the position of making statements on every story.”

FBI Director James Comey later called Priebus himself and repeated McCabe’s statements about the New York Times story. Comey also said he was unwilling to speak publicly about the piece but agreed to let Priebus cite senior intelligence officials in his pushback, the officials said.
For starters, whoop—there it is! McCabe told Priebus that the New York Times report was BS! Later, Comey called Priebus and said the same darn thing!

Maddow quoted from this report during her May 10 rant. She repeated these claims as if they were established facts.

She employed her million-and-one performance tics to help us marvel at the way McCabe "became part of the Trump disinformation campaign." For whatever reason, she didn't say that Comey had also been charged.

Maddow ranted; we liberals were thrilled. That said, can you spot a minor problem with Calabresi's report, the only source she cited?

That's right! Calabresi sources these claims to "senior Administration officials!" He then simply seems to assume that these claims are true.

He presents no reason for believing these claims. Trump officials made these claims. On that basis, Calabresi seems to regard them as fact.

From reports the next day in the Times and the Post, it seems fairly clear that these "senior officials" were in fact Spicer and Priebus. This leaves us with our basic question:

Were these claims actually true?

Like you, we have no way of answering that question. We do know this: Spicer and Priebus are not the world's most reliable sources. And this excitement started during the week when Donald J. Trump apparently took Comey aside and asked him to pretty please stop investigating Michael Flynn.

Priebus was the direct witness here. Were his claims about McCabe true?

We have no way of knowing! Last Wednesday night, in a typical rant, Our Own Rhodes Scholar seemed to assume they were true.

She never said that she was simply accepting the word of Priebus and Spicer. Instead, she staged one of her patented rants, filling our heads with scary thoughts about our latest villain.

Let's close with a bit of good news. Everyone else isn't as ridiculous as Maddow frequently is.

Back on February 24, William Saletan was a bit less trusting. At Slate, he asked an obvious question, captured in this headline:

"Is Reince Priebus Lying About the FBI?"

In his analysis piece, Saletan ran though Priebus' claims, but he didn't simply assume they were true. Eventually, he asked the obvious question:
SALETAN (2/24/17): Is that true? Did Comey and McCabe authorize Priebus to dismiss the Times story? Or is Priebus misrepresenting what they said?
Unless we're simply writing novels, those are obvious questions. Saletan didn't solve that riddle, but he cited the administration's bad track record in matters of this type.

Three months later, Rachel Maddow went on TV and seemed to assume that Preibus was telling the truth. As we noted on Tuesday, she hurried past Calabresi's attribution of these claims to "senior Administration officials."

She read that part, but she read it quite fast. Trust us—nobody noticed.

Why does Maddow do these things? We can't say, but she does this sort of thing with remarkable frequency. She routinely does horrible work on her TV program. Because she's so good at selling the car, we liberals aren't able to see this.

That said, it wasn't just Calabresi. Our major newspapers did some strange work reporting this matter too.

We'll close this series by reviewing the work which appeared in the Post and the Times. As Casey Stengel asked long ago, can't anyone here play this game?

Next: The Post and the Times

Now they tell us!

WEDNESDAY, MAY 17, 2017

Courtesy message received:
We just received our courtesy message from Baltimore Gas & Electric. Sent at 8:15 this morning, it let us know that our electricity would be out at 9. For six hours!

We're glad we didn't get it. It was only out for maybe two hours, but this certainly helped create a jumbled Part 3 today.

Did Andrew McCabe do what Rachel said? Between the Post, the Times, and Rachel herself, what webs we life-forms weave!

Three key points!

WEDNESDAY, MAY 17, 2017

Plus a bonus:
This morning, at the coffee joint, a person we know from the coffee joint asked us a thoughtful question.

"Tell us, rabbi," she said. "Is this enough to get him impeached?"

We assumed she must mean Donald J. Trump. Thoughtfully, we answered:

"You have two choices," we thoughtfully said. "He'll get impeached, or he'll start a nuclear war. This can't go on forever."

As we left, we reassured her. "It won't be today," we said.

Could Donald J. Trump start a nuclear war? Actually, yes, he could. We aren't saying that he will. We're just saying that no one can seriously assure the world that he won't.

That's our first key point. Our second key point is this:

We hear the sound of cultural and tribal triumph in the air. The system is starting to work! The resistance [sic] is succeeding!

Carbon-based life-forms, please! The fact that Trump is where he is shows that the system has failed. Stating the obvious, the system has grotesquely failed over the past twenty-five years. This brings us to our third key point, and to our bonus point:

Over here in the liberal world, we're unable to conceive of the fact that we have massively failed. We think the error must all be Over There. In this way, we continue to fail.

Bonus point:

Can we really hope to survive a world of partisan media? A world in which every tribe gets to hear its own twaddle? Gets to believe the myth of its own tribal brilliance? The arrow keeps pointing to no.

Could Donald J. Trump start a nuclear war? In our view, he seems to be highly disordered, which of course is always a loss for the world. For that reason:

In our view, yes, he plainly could—which isn't to say that he will.

Full disclosure: We like that person at the coffee joint. At some point, we all have to decide:

Do we like people, or not?

VILLAINS AND US: A villain today, a hero back then!

WEDNESDAY, MAY 17, 2017

Part 3—Andrew McCabe transformed:
The villain's conduct was "a scandal," Rachel Maddow told millions of viewers last week.

In this way, the cable star handed us liberals our latest villain. It happened in the dramatic opening segment of last Wednesday night's Maddow Show.

The villain in question was Andrew McCabe, acting director of the FBI. In a wonderfully dramatic monologue, Rachel Maddow angrily told us what he did last winter.

Plainly, it sounded bad! Back in February, McCabe "improperly discussed the investigation into the Trump camp's ties to Russia with Reince Priebus." In this way, he "became part of the Trump disinformation campaign."

We're quoting from the official synopsis, at Maddow's site, of what McCabe allegedly did. Plainly, it sounded very bad, pleasingly so.

Maddow told a dramatic story in a twenty-minute opening segment. Here's the problem:

Back in February, in real time, Maddow told this same story in an "alternative" way. Back then, McCabe was the hero of the tale! Reince Priebus was cast as the villain.

Back in February, did Andrew McCabe really become part of the Trump disinformation campaign? We know of no reason to say so.

We don't know what McCabe may have done. We do know how Maddow originally told this tale.

Did McCabe do something villainous last winter? We have no idea! Back in real time, reporting on the alleged incident was limited, murky, unprofessional, puzzling, in highly familiar old ways.

We also know this. Last Wednesday night, Maddow's new story was wholly based on accepting a set of unproven accusations by Priebus! On that remarkably shaky basis, we liberals were handed our latest villain tale.

Yesterday, we showed you the dramatic story Maddow told last week—the dramatic story in which McCabe was defined as a villain. For today, let's review the way she told this story in February, with McCabe in the hero role.

We're talking about the same events. Only the casting is different.

It all began with a fiery report on Thursday evening, February 23. As she often does, Maddow started her show this night with one of her interminable historical digressions. After almost eleven minutes of prologue, the rubber at last met the road.

In the passage shown below, Maddow begins to tell a dramatic story. Priebus tried to lean on the FBI—but Andrew McCabe said no!

To watch the whole segment, click here:
MADDOW (2/23/17): CNN reports tonight that White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, earlier this month, leaned on the FBI, leaned on the FBI personally and specifically, about FBI investigations into contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia.

CNN was first to report this. NBC News has now confirmed it from NBC News justice correspondent Pete Williams.

The story is that a White House official—CNN says specifically it is Reince Priebus—a White House official contacted the deputy director of the FBI and told that deputy director that the FBI should make public statements about their ongoing investigation, about this ongoing question of Trump staffers communicating with Russian government or intelligence officials during the presidential campaign while Russia was working to influence the outcome of our presidential election campaign.

The question of those contacts, of course, between the Trump campaign and Russian government, those contacts are the subject of multiple ongoing FBI investigations.

According to the reporting this evening, the White House told the FBI they should publicly knock down press reports about contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia. Again, the FBI is currently investigating contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia. You want us to do what now?

The FBI deputy director—and this is confirmed by both CNN and NBC—the FBI deputy director refused that request from the White House. Said no. We're not going to do what you want on this investigation.

And now, of course, unnamed officials are telling reporters at multiple news organizations about the White House leaning on the FBI with regard to this incredibly important, incredibly sensitive investigation.
The story was quite basic. Priebus had tried to tell the FBI to shoot down certain reports. The deputy director of the FBI had refused to comply with these demands. On-screen, we saw the CNN headline:

"FBI refused White House request to knock down recent Trump-Russia stories"

That deputy director was Andrew McCabe. This is the same incident Maddow described on her program last week.

Last Wednesday night, Maddow savaged McCabe as the villain of the piece. The way she told the story last winter, Priebus was the villainous figure. McCabe had pushed him away.

Andrew McCabe had refused to submit! As she continued telling the story last winter, Maddow helped us see how villainous Priebus had been:
MADDOW (continuing directly): You can't do that! I mean, one—take a civics class, right?

I mean, like as a matter of principle, right? When there is an ongoing serious criminal investigation that affects the president, you can't have people close to the president, you can't have the president's chief of staff meddling in that investigation or giving directives to the people conducting that investigation. Just as a matter of basic principle. Ask a fifth grader.

As a matter of the rules, though, it would appear somebody like Reince Priebus is not cleared in any circumstance to be talking to the FBI about any of their investigations—unless Jeff Sessions changed the rules without telling anybody.

[...]

The White House leaning on the FBI about these investigations overtly, I mean, that's as serious as a heart attack, right?
Priebus had "leaned on the FBI," telling them to knock down press reports about Trump campaign contacts with Russia. That was as serious as a heart attack, we were told.

At that point, pure cable joy—we got have some fun! Maddow engaged in some of the wonderful clowning which makes us love her so much:
MADDOW (continuing directly): That said, maybe it's not a heart attack, maybe it's gas. Sometimes a gas pain can feel like a heart attack. You think it's the most serious thing in the world but it's just a little body burp.
"Oops, how did that happen?"

[Enjoys a good solid laugh]

OK, to extract myself from this metaphor here, what I'm trying to say is this could be death of the republic.

This could also just be stupidity, right? Benefit of the doubt. You really don't know this is a problem? I mean, is it possible the White House, including the White House chief of staff, doesn't know you can't tell the FBI what to do about their ongoing investigation into the White House?

You can't give them directives about that. You can't nudge them on their investigation. You can't tell them what public comment to make about that investigation.

Could it be the White House, including the chief of staff, just doesn't get that that's a bad? "Oops, my bad, sorry, didn't mean to interfere. Am I not supposed to?"

I mean, that's the best case scenario here, presumably that will be their defense.
Was it a heart attack or a body burp? Wonderfully, Maddow wasn't sure—but it could be the death of the republic!

Priebus was the villain here—and McCabe, although he went unnamed, was the obvious hero. The next night—Friday, February 24—Maddow returned to this story, banging on Priebus again.

Yay yay yay yay yay yay yay! Priebus was such a villain now that he might be losing his job!
MADDOW (2/24/17): The second big story tonight is increasingly starting to feel like the open question of whether or not the White House chief of staff gets to keep his job.

When last we left White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, when we last left him in the news, he was being named as the White House official who contacted the FBI about the FBI's reported investigation into contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia while the Russian government was attacking our election last year.

Well, today, the White House got excited to push back on that reporting. We don't exactly know what they thought was the damaging thing about that reporting that they were pushing back on, but in their big, excited, hours-long pushback today, they also actually confirmed repeatedly and emphatically the worst part of it.

They confirmed today, in no uncertain terms, that, yes, Reince Priebus, yes, the White House chief of staff, they now confirm he did discuss with the deputy director of the FBI and the director of the FBI what the FBI knows about contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia.

The White House is confirming that the White House chief of staff contacted and pressured the FBI about that ongoing investigation.
This is the way the story was told in real time. Briefly, let's be fair.

Over the ensuing February 25 weekend, the New York Times and the Washington Post reported on this kerflubble. Meanwhile, Priebus went on Meet the Press and made accusations about McCabe and Comey both.

That said, Maddow didn't return to this topic on her February 27 show, or on any subsequent program. This is the way the matter was left—until last Wednesday, when we were suddenly told that McCabe joined the Trump disinformation campaign during this episode.

Did McCabe do some such thing? We know of no respectable basis for saying that. We can tell you this:

When Maddow launched last Wednesday's attack, she presented no serious basis for her very serious charges. Truthfully, she relied on a highly unreliable source as she made her screeching claims:

She relied on a set on three-month-old claims by Reince Priebus!

We know of no reason to assume that Priebus' claims were accurate. Needless to say, Maddow never told her viewers that she was relying on Priebus.

Why would Maddow base such aggressive charges on such an unreliable source? Is there any reasonable basis for her aggressive charges?

In our view, the answer is no. Still, we need to be fair.

Tomorrow we'll look at some shaky "reporting" on this incident from the Washington Post and the New York Times. We'll also look at the one journalistic source Maddow cited last week, an analysis piece from Time.

Maddow thundered hard last week. She made a very serious claim. As is often the case on her show, it's very, very, very hard to find a serious basis.

Tomorrow: Unsupported claims

Is something "wrong" with Donald J. Trump?

TUESDAY, MAY 16, 2017

Mainstreamers still don't want to ask:
Most mornings, we start by looking at certain news sites.

After last night's craziness, we found ourselves doing something different this morning. We reread the start of King Lear. You can accomplish that here!

Was the famous monarch "mentally ill" in some way? Was he suffering some form of "dementia?"

It seems to us that Shakespeare said yes. At any rate, Lear's behavior at the start of the play is not unlike Donald J. Trump's.

(Lear insisted on getting conned by the grifters Goneril and Regan. Trump is now said to surround himself with the gruesome Ivanka and her blame-shifting husband and with communications aide Hope Hicks, age 28. Two of his three favored sycophants are youngish former teen models.)

For whatever reason, Donald J. Trump has always had unattractive impulses and values. Now, it increasingly seems that he may be losing his basic acuity. It seems to us that many pundits still want to avoid this topic. This seems like a lousy idea.

We're also puzzled by two recent posts by Kevin Drum, whose work on lead exposure has been so instructive. In the first of these posts, Drum headlined Trump as an "idiot." In his very next post, he plainly suggested that Trump is dealing with dementia.

Trump has always had unattractive values and impulses. That said, dementia is a terrible disease, producing a loss to the individual and to the wider world.

When a person dies, "what has gone is not nothing?" We will remind you, once again, that (the late) Yevtushenko said that.

What was Flynn's "underlying conduct?"

TUESDAY, MAY 16, 2017

Cooper to interview Yates:
Anderson Cooper is going to air an interview Sally Yates tonight. The interview has already been taped. Let's hope he asked her a basic question concerning Michael Flynn.

In "Trump years," it seems like it happened long ago. In fact, it has only been eight days since Yates testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

She described the warnings she delivered to White House counsel Don McGahn—warnings concerning the mighty Flynn. She said she warned McGahn about an array of problems, including Flynn's "underlying conduct:"
YATES (5/8/17): The first thing we did was to explain to Mr. McGahn that the underlying conduct that General Flynn had engaged in was problematic in and of itself.

Secondly, we told him we felt like the vice president and others were entitled to know that the information that they were conveying to the American people wasn't true...

We told him the third reason was, is because we were concerned that the American people had been misled about the underlying conduct and what General Flynn had done, and additionally, that we weren't the only ones that knew all of this, that the Russians also knew about what General Flynn had done.

And the Russians also knew that General Flynn had misled the vice president and others, because in the media accounts, it was clear from the vice president and others that they were repeating what General Flynn had told them, and that this was a problem because not only did we believe that the Russians knew this, but that they likely had proof of this information.

And that created a compromise situation, a situation where the national security adviser essentially could be blackmailed by the Russians.
Oof! Yates told McGahn that Flynn could conceivably be blackmailed by the Russians. She told him that false statements were being made to the public.

But she also said she told McGahn that Flynn's "underlying conduct" was "problematic in and of itself." In fact, she said that was the first point she made.

In the past week, different people have understood that remark in different ways. What exactly did Yates mean when she referred to Flynn's "underlying conduct?"

Let's start with the Washington Post's David Ignatius. In a May 10 column, he seemed to say the "underlying conduct" to which Yates referred was simply Flynn's discussion of sanctions with Ambassador Kislyak:
IGNATIUS (5/10/17): The mystery at the center of the Flynn case is why Trump didn't react sooner to warnings about Flynn's involvement with Russia...

We don't have answers. But one obvious possibility is that Trump didn't take action because he already knew about Flynn's Dec. 29 discussion with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak about sanctions, and knew that Flynn had misrepresented the Kislyak call to Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

Flynn's discussion with the Russian ambassador at such a sensitive time, when the United States was punishing Russia for hacking the 2016 election, was arguably a violation of the Logan Act, which bars private meddling during a confrontation with another country. It was "problematic" behavior, as former acting attorney general Sally Yates said in her riveting testimony Monday.

But this wasn't a hanging offense, and it probably wasn't even a prosecutable one.
Ignatius seemed to think that Yates was simply referring to Flynn's "problematic" discussion of sanctions with Kislyak—a discussion which, or so many people suggested, could have been a violation of the Logan Act.

Ignatius has made similar statements on Morning Joe. Is that what Yates meant?

Last night, on The Eleventh Hour, Jeremy Bash had a different idea. He told Brian Williams this:
BASH (5/15/17): The "underlying conduct" of Mike Flynn, the underlying conduct Sally Yates complained to the White House about? That was probably disclosure of national security information to the Russians...
In Bash's view, Yates may have been referring to a whole second-order offense. Flynn may have flirted with a Logan offense by discussing the sanctions. But the "underlying conduct" to which Yates referred was probably a separate offense—a disclosure of national security information.

What did Yates mean by her statement? Will she tell Cooper if he asks? We don't know, but we hope he asks and she answers. Our reason is this:

Needless to say, a certain unnamed cable star drew a great deal of excitement from Yates' remark last week. On May 9, she went on, at some length, about this provocative question. Excitingly, she suggested that Flynn's "underlying conduct" must be some troubling new misbehavior of which we're still unaware. Several Democratic pols were pushing a similar-sounding line.

For ourselves, we were inclined to assume that Yates was simply referring to Flynn's discussion of sanctions. That unexciting interpretation seems to be supported by part of her statement above. ("We were concerned that the American people had been misled about the underlying conduct"—that is to say, they had been misled, by Pence and others, about Flynn's discussion of sanctions.)

We were inclined to think that was what Yates meant. That said, there's no way to know till she's asked.

Until that time, a certain drama-spewing host will be inclined to add to the excitement by imagining rich new offenses. It would be a good idea to find out what Yates meant.

Cooper's interview is in the can. If only for clarity's sake—remember that?—we very much hope he asked.

VILLAINS AND US: Unmasking McCabe!

TUESDAY, MAY 16, 2017

Part 2—Villainy revealed:
Is Andrew McCabe a villain? Like you, we have no idea.

Andrew McCabe, 49, is the FBI's acting director. He took on the role last week when Comey the God was fired.

McCabe was largely unknown at that time. Last Wednesday night, on the Maddow Show, his villainy was described by that program's excitable host.

There's little doubt that Maddow imputed villainy to McCabe. That said, we can't link you to the program's transcript. In its typical haphazard way, the "cable news" channel which pays Maddow's wage has posted no transcripts of her show since April 24.

That said, we can link you to the videotape of that evening's lengthy opening segment. During Maddow's monologue, we liberals were sold the latest villain found under Maddow's bed.

To watch that videotape, click here. At the Maddow Show site, the synopsis reads like this:
New FBI director McCabe compromised by serious conflict
Rachel Maddow reviews how new Acting Director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, improperly discussed the investigation into the Trump Camp's ties to Russia with Reince Priebus and became part of the Trump disinformation campaign.
Yay yay yay yay yay yay yay! McCabe improperly discussed the investigation! He became part of the Trump disinformation campaign!

In that lengthy opening segment, Maddow was telling her favorite type of story. It's a type of story we humans have relished since we first crawled from the swamp.

Over the past few years, Maddow has increasingly relished the kind of story in which villains lurk under every bed. She dramatically tells these stories in long-drawn-out, repetitive fashion. In the years since her worm has turned this way, her cable ratings have soared.

Here's the problem:

While Maddow tells a wonderfully scary tribal tale, she and/or her various staffers aren't always obsessively honest. In her scary villain tales, she tend to embellish basic facts, disappear certain others.

She's long been inclined to play it this way, even as she has peddled a story about how honest she is. We liberals have tended to swallow this whole, which isn't the greatest idea.

Today, let's review what Maddow said last Wednesday night about her newest villain. Before we do, we'll restate testerday's two warnings:

Last Wednesday night, Maddow described a villainous act performed by McCabe on February 15. But uh-oh! In real time, Maddow told the same story a different way.

Back in February, in real time, Maddow made McCabe the hero of the piece! Three months later, he was sold as the villain, without any sign that any new facts were part of the new improved tale.

There was a second, even larger problem with the story Maddow told us last Wednesday. Her accusation against McCabe seems to be based on accepting the word of two unreliable sources.

Below, we'll show you the slippery way she sidestepped letting us understand this fact. Would you buy a car from Priebus and Spicer? Most Maddow viewers would not!

Today, we'll look at what Maddow told us last Wednesday. Tomorrow, we'll review what she said in real time. We'll also look at the actual reporting of the incident in question, flimsy though it is. This may help you understand where scary stories, and high cable ratings, all too frequently come from.

What did Maddow say about McCabe last Wednesday night? As she started, she recalled the glorious days when Michael Flynn resigned or was fired.

We join her story in progress. To watch the whole segment, click here:
MADDOW (5/10/17): On February 13th, we only knew that Mike Flynn had just become the shortest serving national security adviser in U.S. history. On February 13th, we knew that this guy hadn't even lasted four weeks.

Before we could even start to absorb that information, though, before we could even start to figure out all the backstory on Mike Flynn that has proved to be so damning and so illuminating in the weeks and months since; before we could even absorb that; before we could even start digging into it, that story, that Mike Flynn just resigned as national security adviser, that story got its tail stepped on.

Because Mike Flynn resigned on February 13th, and then the very next day, February 14th, is when the New York Times dropped this:

"Trump campaign aides had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence."


And, you know, once you see that, like, "Oh, right, OK." At that point, yes, "Oh, it's interesting that the national security adviser had to resign yesterday. But, ho-lee, look at this!" I mean, this was remarkable, right?

"Phone records and intercepted calls showed that members of Donald Trump's presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election."
Long story short:

Michael Flynn resigned on February 13. The very next day, the New York Times published a lengthy report asserting "repeated contacts" between Trump associates and Russian intelligence officials.

Last Wednesday night, Maddow went over the details of this matter, as she's endlessly wont to do. Eventually, she dropped her bomb on McCabe, still without naming him yet:
MADDOW: But then something happened to that story. Remember, right?

February 13th, Flynn resigned. February 14th, New York Times posts this bombshell story, right?

What was the headline? [Pretends to fumble for information]

"Trump campaign aides had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence."

February 14th. Kuhhh! [makes sound of bomb exploding]

And February 15th, the next day, something very unusual happened. The deputy director of the FBI went to the White House for a 7:30 a.m. White House meeting on what was reportedly an unrelated intelligence matter. And at the end of that 7:30 a.m. meeting, the deputy director of the FBI had a private pull-aside, a little private pull-aside, one-on-one meeting with the White House chief of staff Reince Priebus.

The deputy director of the FBI, quote, "spoke with White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus for five minutes after a 7:30 a.m. meeting at the White House on February 15th." According to senior administration officials who briefed reporters on the matter, quote, "The deputy director of the FBI told Reince Priebus, I want you to know the story in the New York Times is BS."

Deputy director of the FBI, telling the White House, "Hey, that New York Times story about Trump campaign contacts with Russian officials? That's a bad story. That's BS."

That's really weird, right?
At this point, McCabe's name still hadn't been mentioned. We had been told that he had done something "really weird" on February 15. We'd been told that he went to Reince Priebus and told him that the New York Times "story" (report) about the Trump/Russia contacts was "a bad story—BS."

As Maddow told us this story last week, she clearly presented this claim as an established fact. As viewers could tell from a visual, she was quoting this analysis/opinion piece from Time magazine as she lodged this initial indictment of McCabe.

But she clearly seemed to be making a flat assertion. The deputy director of the FBI had in fact gone to Priebus and called that report BS!

As you may have noticed, some weasel words had already been voiced by Maddow. But those weasel words flashed by very quickly. We'll highlight those words below.

Meanwhile, did Andrew McCabe actually do the thimgs Maddow described? Did he actually go to Priebus and call that report BS? We have no idea! But as Maddow continued, she conferred villain status on McCabe. She had found another villain lurking under our beds!

If you choose to watch that tape, you'll find that Maddow's scary story goes on and on and on. Again and again, she goes over the "really weird" things McCabe is said to have said and done.

This opening segment ran twenty minutes. Eventually, after fourteen minutes, Maddow dramatically named our latest villain:
MADDOW: Why the heck was the deputy director of the FBI running to the White House and calling that apparently true story, that now-confirmed story, why was he calling that BS? Why was he giving the White House that ex parte advice on their bad press? Why was he talking to the White House ex parte about this investigation at all?

What the heck was the deputy director of the FBI doing? I don't know. I've never known. It's been one of the weirdest parts of this investigation all along.

But now, the deputy director of the FBI has been promoted. He's now the director of the FBI, the acting director of the FBI, which means he's now leading the FBI investigation into the Russian attack on our election and the Trump campaign's potential involvement in it.

His name is Andrew McCabe. He reportedly took a long, in-person meeting with the president yesterday at the White House, and now he has been put in charge at the FBI, including in charge of the Trump-Russia investigation.

Given his previous named individual role in communicating inappropriately with the White House about this investigation, given his extraordinary effort to ky-bosh damning reporting about this story, reporting that we now know is well-corroborated and multiply sourced and confirmed as true by the director of national intelligence, isn't there an issue here with Deputy Director Andrew McCabe taking over the lead in the FBI's Trump Russia investigation? Isn't there?

How can he specifically be the one who's leading this investigation now?
Our biggest, multimillionaire corporate star had named our latest tribal villain!

Throughout this lengthy segment, Maddow kept asserting that McCabe had pulled Priebus aside and called that report BS. She said McCabe's behavior was "a scandal in its own right, because the FBI deputy director shouldn't be talking about the FBI's investigation with the White House."

Maddow went on and on and on, frogmarching our latest villain before us. She told the tale in dramatic fashion, as is her crowd-pleasing wont.

You've seen the flavor of the indictment. For today, we'll only repeat those two warnings:

Back in February, Maddow reported these same events in a totally different way. Back then, she presented the unnamed McCabe as the hero of the piece. Last Wednesday, she made no attempt to explain why her assessment had flipped.

That said, there was a bigger problem with the new story she told. Uh-oh! As we re-post a key part of Maddow's tale, we'll highlight her slick weasel words:
MADDOW: The deputy director of the FBI, quote, "spoke with White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus for five minutes after a 7:30 a.m. meeting at the White House on February 15th." According to senior administration officials who briefed reporters on the matter, quote, "The deputy director of the FBI told Reince Priebus, I want you to know the story in the New York Times is BS."

Deputy director of the FBI, telling the White House, "Hey, that New York Times story about Trump campaign contacts with Russian officials? That's a bad story. That's BS."

That's really weird, right?
Uh-oh! "According to senior administration officials?" Those weasel words went flying by as Maddow told her tale.

Did Andrew McCabe really engage in the conduct described by those senior officials? We don't have the slightest idea, but the names of those senior administration officials are Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer! How do you like this tale now?

Maddow burned twenty minutes last Wednesday night handing us our latest villain. She handed us a scary story—a story which was told by two people her viewers despise and mistrust.

She never named those senior officials. Instead, a generic attribution went flying quickly by.

Did McCabe engage in the conduct Maddow described? We have no idea.

Tomorrow, we'll review the way Maddow told the story in real time. We'll also review the original, shaky reporting done by the Washington Post and the New York Times.

Maddow's work last Wednesday night was slippery and dumb, but highly pleasing. Could this be where good ratings come from? Also, what else is new?

Tomorrow: Strange work by the Post and the Times

Concerning the transcript: We'd love to link you to last Wednesday's transcript. As we mentioned above, MSNBC is three weeks behind on that score.

This is a very slipshod "news org." Despite the profits Trump has brought them, they function this way all the time.