BREAKING: Three things we saw on cable last night!

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 2018

We'll save the worst for last:
Ever so quickly, we'll cite three things we saw last night on our flailing, floundering nation's pitiful "cable news" channels.

At one point, we saw the "opening monologue" on Sean Hannity's show. On this, the evening of the indictments, he offered his monologue beneath a large graphic proclaiming this:
URANIUM ONE
Readers, we sh*t you not!

No transcript has yet been posted. Beyond that, we expect to discuss Uranium One next week, within an award-winning report entitled Krugman Ignored, or something much like that.

For these reasons, we'll leave this particular bullshit right there, though we will offer two questions:
Which major American newspaper published a gigantic, 4400-word front-page report about Uranium One and the scary uranium deal?

Have you ever seen a single "career liberal" mention, challenge, question or name-call the stunning journalistic disgrace produced by that major newspaper?
Because we're saving the worst for last, we'll go to Maddow next.

Roughly ten minutes into her show, we heard the analysts in the next room emit their familiar keening wail:

"I I I I I I I," the youngsters familiarly said.

Maddow's transcript isn't up yet. We could transcribe what she said from our award-winning On Demand service. But, eschewing such self-degradation, we'll leave her words for another day.

(Full disclosure: Knowing how gong show leads on to clown car, we doubt if we should ever come back.)

The worst thing we saw last night came from Don Lemon and guests. His transcript isn't available either, so we'll patch and fill.

First, Lemon interviewed Ronan Farrow, who seems to have his nose in the underwater drawer at this time. We didn't see much of that interview, but then the guest pundits came on.

There followed a grotesque discussion between Lemon and Tara Setmayer about the reason why Melania Trump prefers a separate bedroom—reportedly, that is. Setmayer is brighter than the average "cable news" bear, but she and Lemon were appalling last night.

We regarded Farrow as a hero of journalist labor for his dogged, important reporting about Harvey Weinstein's criminal assaults and attacks. Doggedly, he told the story that all our New York Times "goddesses" and our all-around heroes had long chosen not to tell.

Now he has his nose in the drawer, busily reporting on Donald J. Trump's fully consensual conduct. He's also reporting on the six figures one woman took from a man named Pecker—a guide who only had at heart her story getting lost.

Our questions:

Could we erect a giant statue in honor of David Pecker? Also, could we establish a federal fund designed to keep all men and women from discussing their consensual affairs with major public figures?

As Lemon and Setmayer showed us last night, once you let us humans start discussing such matters, we'll want to discuss little else. This week featured 17 killings and 16 indictments, but Don and Tara were hard at work, snarking and scolding and proving to be "all too human."

When Lemon was still working weekend shifts, we praised him as kinder and gentler than the average cable host. He later got promoted to a demanding, two-hour nightly prime time slot.

On balance, the assignment hasn't gone well. The pressures of dealing with Donald J. Trump have dragged Lemon several miles out to sea, seemingly well past his depth.

By last night, he had descended to speculations about why a woman he doesn't know prefers a separate bedroom—reportedly, that is.

"That's it's for us," Lemon said as the segment ended. "That should be it for you, motherfrumper," one thoughtful young analyst said.

Extra-credit reading assignment: The power of paraphrase is on display in Christine Emba's new column in the Washington Post.

She paraphrases "many" people, quotes none. Dead strawmen frequently litter the countryside when such columns are done.

Emba didn't invent this approach. That said, why can't the youngsters come along and reject the mistakes of the ancients?

RACE TO THE PAST: "What difference does it make?"

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 2018

Part 5—Let's return to this topic:
Incomparably, we were called away from our desk this morning, interrupting our work on this topic.

That said, this topic is very important. It involves the destructive old skin game called "race."

We think it's a great advance that people who are defined as "white" have been able, in the past fifty year, to slip the chains of their "origins."

Ethnicity came to be optional. Nobody hugely cares any more. That isn't yet true about "race."

We all still get defined by "race," a taxonomy which comes to us live and direct from what Professor Genovese called "the world the slaveholders made." Plainly, race isn't hugely optional yet, but that's a type of additional liberation which should be the goal.

This brings us back to the wonderful question Professor Gates asked last year. He was speaking with Ava DuVernay about her genetic "origins," some of which led back to Europe, some of which led to people who lived "under African skies."

DuVernay displayed a rooting interest in how the balance of her "origins" would turn out. "What difference does it make?" the professor deftly asked.

What did Professor Gates mean by that? As the year proceeds, we'll offer our suppositions.

Meanwhile, we've liked Christine Emba's work at the Washington Post. We think her instincts were slightly unhelpful on this particular matter, and yes, she's stuck with her youthiness, though that will transplendently fade.

That said, we like the cut of Emba's jib. She deserves to be freed from the chains which are under discussion, as does everyone else in your town and on your block. The concepts have come to us live and direct from people with gruesome ideas.

It's good that Marty slipped some of these chains. It wouldn't be smart to go back.

BREAKING: Where does information come from?

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 2018

Pretty much out of our asps:
We largely skipped the latest evening of reactions to the latest mass shooting.

Such evenings are pretty much all alike. But even though we didn't watch much, we did see Brian say this:
WILLIAMS (2/14/18): I read a stat tonight, there have been 18 school shootings elsewhere in the world over the last two decades. In our country alone, there have been 18 school shootings in the last 35 days. I know you're not a politician, but you were at the crux of this public issue today. And do you believe lawmakers failed you in that moment? Do you believe we can do better than this?
We saw him say that at 11 PM Eastern. As it turns out, in the previous hour, Lawrence had said this:
O'DONNELL (2/14/18): Police say a 19-year-old who was expelled from the high school last year was apprehended as the shooter and as he was leaving—trying to leave, trying to blend in with the crowd of students, rushing away from the high school after the shooting. This is the 45th day of 2018, and in this year, we have already had 18 school shootings.

[...]

In a moment, my first guest will be a student who stayed calm and helped other students survive this shooting because he was ready for it. Because he knew this was possible in his school or in any school in America. And so, this video you're about to see, if you choose to watch it, is a horrifying look at something that has already happened at 18 schools in America this year, in just the first six weeks of this year.
Lawrence said that at 10 PM Eastern. At 9 PM, Rachel had said this:
MADDOW: It is honestly hard to—obviously it's hard to watch that video. In terms of patterns, in terms of what kind of event this is, you know, it's hard to keep track. We alone in the world as a country are plagued by this problem as a multiple times per week occurrence.

But we think this latest assault is at least the 18th school shooting in this country this year, just since the start of 2018. We're not even halfway into February.
According to Rachel, events of this kind are "a multiple times per week occurrence." Did that sound right when you heard it?

At 8 PM, Chris said it was "at least the twelfth, twelfth school shooting this year here at February 14th." Only the twelfth?Where does he get his information?

Through the evening on MSNBC, this had been the 18th school shooting, or event of this type, this year! Did that seem to make sense at the time? In this morning's Washington Post, Cox and Rich do a good job discussing what's wrong with that claim.

The claim ran wild on The One True Channel. To their credit, CNN eschewed it.

By the way, how good was the work in the Washington Post? In hard-copy, the analysis piece ran beneath this headline:
Gun-control group's widely shared tally of 2018 school shootings misleads
Good for them! They managed to say that the claim was "misleading," not that it was a lie, or even that it was flatly wrong. These distinctions exist in language because they exist in real life.

In what way is that claim "misleading?" If you read the Post report, you'll be able to find out. Under the circumstances, we'd say the claim is highly misleading. That said, your lizard may want to tell you that the claim's technically accurate.

Where does our information come from? When we traffic in BREAKING NEWS, it sometimes comes, live and direct, right straight out of our asps!

What should we do about these recurrent disasters? If we stop licking our lips about Stormy Daniels and chasing $4000 plane rides around, we might imaginably be able to figure that out.

Our chances wouldn't be super-good. But they would be better.

BREAKING: The latest extremely strange news report!

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 2018

The Post frisks Sanders regarding the Porter affair:
This morning's Washington Post contains the latest extremely strange news report about the Rob Porter affair.

Why was Porter still at work until recent weeks without a security clearance? On Tuesday, Sarah Huckabee Sanders offered this explanation:

According to Sanders, the FBI had sent its various reports to the White House Security Personnel Office, an obscure office staffed by career personnel, not by Trump appointees. For background, see this report.

According to Sanders, that office was still conducting its investigation when the Daily Mail ran its recent report about Porter's apparent misconduct. The FBI's reports hadn't reached major players like McGahn and Kelly.

Were these claims by Sanders actually accurate? Rather than try to find out, cable news and major newspapers blew right past her claims. No one asked the staffers in the White House Security Personnel Office if her claims were accurate. No one asked the FBI where they sent their reports.

No one did this basic reporting. On cable news, our favorites simply began shouting "Lies."

This morning, the Post published a rather lengthy report about this very matter. But how weird! Reporters Gearan and Wagner interviewed all sorts of former officials from past administrations, seeking their views of the plausibility of Sanders' claims. But there is no sign—zero; none—that they attempted to speak to anyone who would have direct knowledge of what actually happened.

Specifically, there is no sign that Gearan and Wagner asked anyone in the actual White House Security Personnel Office about the accuracy of Sanders' claims. There is no sign that they have asked anyone at the FBI if Sanders' claims could be true.

To whom did the FBI deliver its reports? Did those people pass the information along to the major players who are getting trashed about Porter' retention—to Don McGahn or John Kelly?

The Post devotes 1243 words to this specific topic today. But there is no sign that Gearan and Wagner attempted to speak to anyone who would have direct knowledge of what actually occurred.

Watching our major news orgs perform creates an endless puzzle. This morning's lengthy report in the Post is as odd as reporting can be.

That said, we now advance, for the second time, one hypothesis about what might have happened. What makes us think that this isn't the way things went down?
Don McGahn told Donald J. Trump that Porter had apparently engaged in domestic violence. Trump said he didn't care.

"Go pound sand," Trump specifically said. Porter remained at the White House.
That isn't what Sanders has said, of course, but she only know what she's told. Is there any obvious reason to doubt that that could be what happened?

Is that why Porter stayed on the job? Like you, we have no way of knowing. But we've seen no one on cable news ponder this possibility. They're having big fun with Kelly/McGahn. Who cares what really occurred?

Who cares what really occurred? Based on this morning's peculiar report, not the Washington Post!

ROSEBUD: Kristof discovers the sky is blue!

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2018

The human stain jumps, then spreads:
To his credit, Nicholas Kristof has discovered the sky is blue.

More specifically, he has discovered a moral stain spreading from Donald J. Trump.

In the case of Trump himself, this stain has been evident for a great many years. With this morning's column, Kristof joins the collection of cable entertainers who are willing to be shocked, shocked each morning and night by the latest manifestation of this blindingly obvious fact.

Every morning and evening they're just shocked, shocked. Note to Kristof and cable entertainers:

Donald J. Trump is highly disordered. He has visibly been so throughout his life. It isn't going to change.

He's going to be highly disordered tomorrow. He's going to be highly disorderd next week. His judgments and actions won't seem to make sense. His values will seem very poor.

There's really no need to keep discovering the fact that Donald J. Trump is disordered. Reading Kristof's column today, we'll admit we began to wonder about the columnist's values too.

Kristof says a moral stain tends to spread out from a disordered person like Trump. It's also true that a moral stain may jump to those who become too deeply invested in the chase:
KRISTOF (2/15/18): Lack of integrity may also be the best way to capture the morphing scandal of the pre-election $130,000 payoff to a porn star to apparently keep quiet about an affair with Trump. It’s bad enough that Trump appears to have been cheating on Melania right after she had their baby (“Oh, don’t worry about her,” he is said to have told the actress). But with the payoff and reported cover-up, Trump is betraying all of us.
God helps us. The chivalrous Kristof stands to announce that Trump shouldn't have cheated on his wife. She had recently given birth! With that paragraph, Kristof serves notice:

The desire to stick the nose in the underwear drawer never deserts These People. Isn't this precisely where this busybody journalistic era got its highly destructive start?

Yes, this is where this nonsense all started. But with everything going on in the world, this is where Kristof lands.

We had a series of oddball thoughts as we read Kristof this morning. With Oscar night approaching, we found our thoughts drifting off to Citizen Kane, and to its "Rosebud" reveal.

Why is Donald J. Trump so profoundly disordered? He has been disordered for a very long time, perhaps since childhood, when he was sent away to military school, apparently to get himself together.

How did he ever get this way? We wonder if the underwear-sniffer-in-chief has ever wondered about these possibilities:

Could Trump have been abused as a child? What makes us discount such thoughts?

We know he suffered the great misfortune of being raised by a miserable father. By way of contrast, and by all accounts, Kristof was raised by a very great man.

Has it ever entered the sniffer's head that Trump's disorders, like those of President Kennedy, may perhaps stem from the strange ways he was raised by a disordered father?

None of this would change the fact that Trump is deeply disordered, and that his presence in the Oval Office is potentially destructive and dangerous. But Kristof may be a tad disordered too, as are the people who stage our pleasing true crime drama each night on our misnamed "cable news" channels, never ceasing to be shocked shocked by whatever is said to have happened that day.

Every morning, the Morning Joe gang pretend to be shocked, shocked by the latest disorder. They kvetch and cry and compare their ratings to those of CNN.

In these ways, we see the way the stain can jump as well as spread—the way the stain can jump from the disordered man to the TV Javerts who are pretending to chase him.

Sensible people would have seen, long ago, that Trump was a deeply disordered man. We have wondered, many times, how he got that way. We're able, on this or that occasion, to step back and contemplate pity.

Whatever the answer, the current obvious question should be, What the heck should we do next? For instance, how do we make this problem apparent to those who don't see it yet?

Kristof doesn't bother with that. His nose is back in the underwear drawer. Trump was raised by a horrible person. What is the pundit's excuse?

Look what jumped out of the drawer: Kristof's column is perhaps a bit slimy in several places. For one example, consider the phrase we will highlight:
KRISTOF (2/15/18): Lack of integrity may also be the best way to capture the morphing scandal of the pre-election $130,000 payoff to a porn star to apparently keep quiet about an affair with Trump. It’s bad enough that Trump appears to have been cheating on Melania right after she had their baby (“Oh, don’t worry about her,” he is said to have told the actress). But with the payoff and reported cover-up, Trump is betraying all of us.
Trump is said to have said that to Daniels? He's said to have said that by whom?

Might we say that Stormy Daniels seems like a bit of a lost soul too? She's the one who has said that our disoerdered president said that?

Kristof has no idea if it's true. So why does the sniffer retype it?

Our world is a deeply dangerous place. Invested in the stain of the chase, Kristof ignores all that to spend three paragraphs talking about Stormy Daniels!

Dearest darlings, it feels so good! In this way, the stain can jump from tribe to tribe before it continues to spread.

RACE TO THE PAST: Marty cuffs "origins" to the curb!

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2018

Part 4—An important, humane advance:
What kind of data would likely result from the Census Bureau's proposed new question, the infamous Question 9?

"Extremely messy," Christine Emba said. We think she got that right.

Just to refresh you, the proposed Question 9 would ask folk about their "origins." To help folk guess what they're talking about, the Census Bureau's gang of savants would offer several examples:
9. What is Person 1's race?
Mark one or more boxes AND print origins.

White—Print, for example, German, Irish, English, Italian, Lebanese, Egyptian, etc.
That's the part of Question 9 for people who say they do belong to a "race" and that the "race" to which they belong is "white."

As part of the proposed question, other examples are provided for people who say they belong to a "race" and that their "race" is "black." We'll look at that part of the proposed Question 9 tomorrow. Also, we'll return to Professor Gates.

Emba wrote a column about this matter in the February 3 Washington Post. In the understatement of the millennium, she said the data which would emerge from that proposed question are "likely to be extremely messy."

Forgiving her for a massive understatement, we'll say she got that right! How messy would the data be? Let us count the ways:

The data would be very messy. Many people who say they belong to a "race," and that their race is "white," will have no idea which example to print in the sixteen letter spaces provided. They'll feel they don't know their "origins."

On the other hand, some will believe they have so many "origins" that the sixteen letter spaces provided won't even begin to suffice. Others will have a well-formed idea about their "origins" which will be totally wrong.

How mistaken can some people be about their all-important "origins?" Once again, for the humor if nothing else, let's turn to the formerly grossly mistaken fellow who is now a satisfied (if credulous) customer of Ancestry.com:
"So I traded in my lederhosen for a kilt.”

Growing up, Kyle’s family was German, no doubt about it. He even grew up wearing lederhosen in a German dance troupe. But when Kyle began building his family tree, he couldn’t actually find any German ancestors.

“So I decided to have my DNA tested, and the big surprise was we're not German at all,” he says. And soon enough, Ancestry Hints led him to generations of Scottish ancestors.

What surprises are hiding in your family tree?
For many years, Kyle was seen prancing about in his lederhosen. He now admits that he was never German at all! In TV ads, he even lets us see him stepping about in his kilts!

Kyle is the type of person from whom the Census Bureau will be acquiring their important new data. (We refer to the pre-enlightenment Kyle, the one who hadn't sent his $69 to the grammatically challenged technicians at Ancestry.com.)

As with that earlier version of Kyle, so with a great many others. The country is full of people who say they belong to a "race," and that their "race" is "white," who have, at best, only the fuzziest understanding of their "origins."

As for the Kyles of this world, they will mistakenly print the word "German." Garbage in, new census data out!

Assuming this is what she meant, Christine Emba got it right about those messy data. We think she got quite a few other things wrong in her column that day.

Oooh boy! By the time she reached the part about Hispanics "passing as white," the analysts were blanching, writhing and howling. For starters, though, we think she got her empathy speculation wrong. Early in her column, this is what she said:
EMBA (2/3/18): In 2020, perhaps for the first time, white Americans will be asked a question that has been lobbed innocently and invidiously at minorities for years: "So where are you really from?"

And it will be the government doing the asking.

[...]

The data obtained is likely to be extremely messy, and it is not immediately clear how it will be put to use. (What exactly does the Census Bureau plan to do for the emergent category of white Egyptians?) Still, this change is a good thing—especially for white Americans.

Why? On a basic level, it could be a welcome exercise in empathy.
You're offended? Confused? Welcome to the world of being a visible minority in America...
For what it's worth, we'd recommend avoiding casual jibes about "white Egyptians." In the larger sense, we think this passage is unwise, and probably wrong to boot.

Let's start with this. Will Americans who say they belong to a "race," and that their race is "white," really be offended or confused by this proposed new question?

Some may be offended/confused; many others won't be. For ourselves, we would regard the question as sad and we'd skip right past it.

Elsewhere, Kyle would print "Scottish" in the boxes provided. The assistant who fills out Lawrence's form would print "Irish," or possibly "Boston Irish," possibly citing Jack Welch as a reference.

Some will be annoyed by the question, possibly even offended. For what it's worth, we tend to advise against taking offense at every single thing which occurs, our new beloved national pastime.

That said, for those who are annoyed by the question, we'd have to say they're right. With Oscar evening drawing near, Emba's column has had us thinking of the 1956 Best Picture winner, the unusual film called Marty.

Marty was written by Paddy Chayefsky, whose most famous screenplay is the insanely prophetic Network. That film appeared in 1976. Chayefsky spent the 1950s making films about real people—films which thereby flew in the face of the other-worldly, ridiculous fare being created in Hollywood.

In Hollywood, Debbie Reynolds, playing 17, was falling in love with, then marrying old coot Dick Powell, age 50 in real life. (As the film ends, she's trying to drag him into his bedroom.) Leslie Caron, playing 18 at the start of the film, was falling in love with, then marrying, aging old coot Fred Astaire, age 56 in real life.

These were pathetic male fantasy films. Chayefsky's film was about a conventionally unattractive, 34-year-old butcher in Brooklyn who had begun to conclude that he was never going to get the girl.

Within the modern context, it's hard to believe that such a film could have won the Palme d'Or at Cannes and the Best Picture Oscar, but sure enough, Marty did. The butcher, played by Ernest Borgnine, meets a lonely, nearly mute woman at a dance, and he makes two important decisions.

When his male friends tell him she isn't pretty enough, he finally tells them to take their judgment and shove it. Late in the film, he makes an award-wining speech:
What am I hangin' around with you guys for?

You don't like her. My mother don't like her. She's a dog. And I'm a fat, ugly man!

Well, all I know is I had a good time last night. I'm gonna have a good time tonight. If we have enough good times together, I'm gonna get down on my knees. I'm gonna beg that girl to marry me.

If we make a party on New Year's, I got a date for that party. You don't like her? That's too bad.
That's what Marty tells his unhelpful friends. Earlier, he had told his mother something else which was very important:

What did Marty tell his mother? He was going to marry this kind, gentle woman even thought she didn't share his "origins"—even though she'd never be able to print "Italian" on a new, dumber census form.

Originally, Marty had been a 1953 TV drama. Chayefsky wrote it in an era when ethnicity for so-called white Americans wasn't exactly optional.

You might be "Italian," you might be "Irish," but you didn't much have a choice about opting out. You'd be dubbed with the standard stereotype for whatever "origins" you were stuck with. The resulting restrictive dumbness was something you couldn't avoid.

Something extremely constructive has happened in the ensuing years. For people socially defined as white, ethnicity has become largely optional.

You can identify as "Irish" if you like and if you do, nobody cares. Or you can ignore your "origins," make them no part of your "identity."

If you adopt that second approach, no one will really care about that either.

This represents a great liberation—a liberation from the moral and mental restrictions of scripted dumbness. Just a guess: "Empathy" is unlikely to result from schadenfreude-laced dreams of turning the clock back on this important, humane advance.

This type of important, humane advance hasn't come to everyone in our society yet. Some people are still stuck with the restrictive perceptions of others, as Emba notes in her column.

In our view, we should be striving to continue the liberation, not to conduct a race back toward a dumber, restrictive past. Tomorrow, we'll return to Emba's column—and to the wonderfully suggestive question Professor Gates recently posed.

Tomorrow: Best question ever asked