Trip Gabriel does a real report!

MONDAY, JULY 24, 2017

Star scribe does the New York Times proud:
On cable news, tonight's exciting sugar high will come via Jared Kushner.

If you want to read a news report, we'll recommend Trip Gabriel's report in today's New York Times.

Over the weekend, Gabriel went to a free health fair in southwestern Virginia. We think you should read every word.

A question lingers behind that report. It's based on these disappeared data, the data you never are shown:
Per capita spending, health care, 2015
United States: $9451
Canada: $4608
France: $4407
United Kingdom: $4003
People are suffering behind those strange numbers. People are suffering behind the strange numbers you simply, by law, can't be shown.

Rachel and Lawrence won't show you those numbers. Why won't these great big stars do that?

Did Sessions talk to the Russian ambassador?

MONDAY, JULY 24, 2017

What Entous told Anderson Cooper:
Last Friday, cable news got its nightly sugar high from this exciting report in the Washington Post.

The next morning, the report appeared atop the front page of the Post. It struck us as underwhelming work, drifting toward dishonest.

According to the Post report, Jeff Sessions discussed campaign-related matters with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in two encounters during the 2016 campaign. Well—the Post report didn't exactly make that assertion. The Post reported that Kislyak had said that to his superiors.

The Post report started like this:

ENTOUS, NAKASHIMA AND MILLER (7/22/17): Russia’s ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general, according to current and former U.S. officials.

Ambassador Sergey Kislyak’s accounts of two conversations with Sessions—then a top foreign policy adviser to Republican candidate Donald Trump—were intercepted by U.S. spy agencies,
which monitor the communications of senior Russian officials in the United States and in Russia. Sessions initially failed to disclose his contacts with Kislyak and then said that the meetings were not about the Trump campaign.
According to the Post report, Kislyak's communications with his superiors were intercepted by U.S. spy agencies. According to the Post report, he told his superiors that he had those discussions with Sessions, though his claims may not be true.

In our view, the Post's report was very shaky, in ways we noted on Saturday morning. Later that day, CNN posted its transcripts of Anderson Cooper's two-hour broadcast on Friday night.

Lead reporter Adam Entous appeared for the bulk or the whole of both hours with Cooper. In our view, the fuzziness of his report only grew more plain.

Did Sessions actually have those conversations with Kislyak? Even in its formal report, the Post explicitly offered a pair of caveats.

Kislyak could have been misleading his superiors, the Post explicitly said. Or he could have been spreading false information, in line with the Russkie attempts to create confusion and mistrust all through the American world.

Even after explicitly stating those possibilities, the Post still claimed certainty in the headlines it placed atop its report. This is what the headline says on-line today, even as we type:

"Sessions discussed Trump campaign-related matters with Russian ambassador, U.S. intelligence intercepts show"

The actual report claims less certainty. But so what? It was close enough for a front-page headline in the Washington Post, especially when a stampede is on!

Did Sessions have those discussions with Kislyak? We have no idea. That said, it seems to us that the Post's position is substantially worse than what we've discussed so far.

In our view, it isn't clear that the Post knows what was in those intercepted communications, assuming they even exist. Why do we say that? Let's run through the way this would have worked:

According to the Post report, U.S. intelligence agencies intercepted some communications. Presumably, this means there are tapes of Kislyak's conversations. (Entous seemed to say as much during Cooper's program, as you'll see below.)

People who heard those tapes would have first-hand knowledge of what Kislyak said. But uh-oh!

During Cooper's first hour,
he asked an obvious but very good question. He received got the explicit answer which, as we noted on Saturday, didn't appear in the Post's report:
COOPER (7/21/17): It is accurate to say you have not heard these intercepts?

ENTOUS: No, I have not heard these intercepts.

COOPER: Right, but you've talked to—

ENTOUS: We've talked to multiple current and former officials who described it, and I think we can all understand why we use anonymous sources.
As we noted on Saturday, the Post's report never explicitly said that the Post hadn't heard the intercepts. We think it should have done so.

You'll also note that, as Entous answers Cooper's question about his sources, his statements may perhaps seem a bit slippery or fuzzy. The Post talked to multiple current and former officials "who described it?"

If a chase were on with Entous as target, he'd get strung up, perhaps unjustly, for a slippery sideways non-answer answer of that type. At this point, he at least seems to have said that he has "multiple" sources (which could imaginably mean two). That said, Cooper never asked him how many sources he had, and he never said.

During Cooper's second hour, Cooper somehow managed to ask a second specific question. This time, the answer strikes us as rather strange:
COOPER: This is based on intercepts, U.S. intelligence intercepts.

ENTOUS: Correct.

COOPER: You haven't heard the intercepts. but you have spoken to people who have?

ENTOUS: Correct. I don't know if they listened to the intercepts or read intelligence reports that are based on those intercepts.
Say what?

Once again, Entous seems to say that he had more than one source. But in two hours on the air, Cooper never asked him how many sources he had, and Entous never said.

In our view, that was lousy work on Cooper's part. But beyond that, good God!

Adam Entous doesn't know if his source(s) heard the intercepts? He doesn't know if his source or sources heard the intercepts, or if they just read (second-hand) reports?

Cooper seemed surprised by that statement. But he never asked Entous why he doesn't know this basic fact about his source or sources.

(Dearest darlings, this is a courtesy within the guild. You simply don't ask a fellow guild member—a "CNN contributor," no less—an awkward questions like that.)

That said, Adam Entous doesn't know if his source or source heard the intercepts! Aside from the suggestion of journalistic incompetence, let's get clear on why this matters:

A person who heard the intercepts has first-hand information about what Kislyak said. A person who only read the intelligence report is starting out with second-hand information.

He is relying on someone else's account of what Kislyak said. That account may be perfectly accurate, of course. But then too, it may not be.

We're now back to a problem Entous has struggled with in the past—the problem of playing "Telephone." If his source or sources didn't hear the intercepts, then Entous is relying on his source's account of someone else's account of what Kislyak said.

By the time we read the Post's report, we are relying on Entous' account of his source's account of somebody else's account. Someone else's account of a conversation in which, according to the Post, Kislyak may be lying!

In other words, we Post readers are receiving fourth-hand information. We're receiving a fourth-hand account of a conversation in which, according to the Post, may have been a Russkie con.

Does it sound to you like Adam Entous had a "bombshell report?" We use that term because that's the way Cooper described the Post's exciting report at the start of Friday's 8 PM hour.

But uh-oh! In his bombshell report, Entous never said how many sources he had. In speaking to Cooper, it turned out that he didn't even know if his source, or sources, had heard the intercepts!

Then too, there was something else. Shortly after 8:30 Eastern, Cooper addressed the idea that Donald J. Trump may have leaked this material because he wants to get rid of Sessions.

Entous threw cold water on that idea. We thought his overall statement was striking. Here's why:

According to Entous, the Post had been sitting on this "bombshell report" for six or seven weeks. They's only decided to publish it now because they feared the New York Times might scoop them:
COOPER: You and I were talking during the break, and I just want to have everyone else hear what you said. Because I think it's important because there is—

I've seen it online, a lot of people sort of have a, I don't know if it's a conspiracy theory to grant the term, but the idea that perhaps given what President Trump said about his anger toward Attorney General Sessions and then the story breaks that it gives him a reason to get rid of Sessions.

You've actually been working on this story for quite some time.

ENTOUS: Yes, I mean, we had the initial story back in March, which was that Sessions had two encounters with Kislyak. And basically ever since then, we were trying to figure out what was the nature of those discussions, what were the contents of those communications, right?

And so we've been working on it for weeks, you know, before this,
and when the New York Times had that excellent interview with Trump in which Trump commented about Sessions in particularly, you know, talked about specifically how he didn't appreciate the way he answered the questions in the confirmation hearing, we realized that we may not have as much time as we thought and we should basically try to push the story out as soon as we could.

COOPER: May not have as much time because other reporters are going to be hunting it down?

ENTOUS: Correct, correct. Yes. It's a competitive environment and, you know, obviously something—sometimes we can work on stories for months and not worry about the competition. But when we saw The New York Times story, we realized, you know, we really need to finish up that.

COOPER: I don't want the program the areas (INAUDIBLE) too much but then, you know better than anybody what to say or not to say, but the information about what Kislyak said to his boss is, is that information you had had for—

ENTOUS: That's information we had since basically early June.



COOPER: So you've had it for a while.


COOPER: So for those who believe that this only fell into your lap 24 hours ago, that is not the case. This is something you've been working out.

ENTOUS: That's correct.
Again, Cooper seemed surprised. According to Entous, the Post had been sitting on this "bombshell report" (Cooper's term) since early June. They only published it now because they were afraid they might get scooped in the ongoing newspaper war.

Simply put, this means the Post never thought they had a "bombshell report" at all. They had been trying, for almost two months, "to figure out what was the nature of those discussions, what were the contents of those communications."

They knew their information was murky. Sensibly, they didn't want to publish until they had something more.

On Saturday, we inquired into the honesty of Adam Entous. Today, we're letting our question stand.

To this day, Entous has fudged the number of his sources for this murky report. As it turned out, he doesn't even know if his source or sources heard the intercepts.

Meanwhile, the Post had been sitting on its report for six or seven weeks before last week's excitement. That means it wasn't a bombshell at all. It seems to mean that it was a murky, poorly sourced, underdeveloped report.

Are you sure there actually were intercepts? Absent stronger information, we don't think you should feel sure.

At the present time, a chase is on. In truth, the chase is a stampede.

Sessions is one of its targets. Over here in our liberal tents, we very badly want him to be a liar. Meanwhile, "cable news" wants a sugar high every night, as do we cable news stooges.

If we want to be children our whole lives, we can maintain our true belief in the giants who are conducting the chase. If we want to be rational animals, we might consider starting a chase against the slippery people who parade around on cable TV, giving us our nightly excitement.

Does Entous know what he's talking about? We can't say we're sure that he does.

USING OUR WORDS: And other key skills!

MONDAY, JULY 24, 2017

Part 1—The world of Ridiculous Us:
Decades ago, Aristotle is widely said to have said it.

"Man [sic] is the rational animal," he is said to have said. Depending on what he actually meant, he may have been right in some way.

Years later, sacred Thoreau expressed a somewhat different view. "Men [sic] labor under a mistake," he unpleasantly said.

Wittgenstein might have tilted toward Thoreau a tiny tad. In his later work, he said that people are inclined to make certain types of mistakes, especially when "doing philosophy," though not exclusively so.

(According to Professor Horwich, the professors threw Wittgenstein under the bus so they could keep teaching their Kant course. This too would have been a mistake.)

Are we humans "the rational animal," or are we perhaps profitably viewed as a bunch of misfiring machines? The question occurred to us this morning as we started reading Olivia Nuzzi's portrait of Mika and Joe.

Nuzzi is 24. According to the leading authority, she "rose to prominence" in 2013 when she outed herself as a 20-year-old intern to Anthony Weiner, who had risen to prominence through a series of photo he sent of himself.

Nuzzi's lengthy profile of Joe and Mika appears in New York Magazine. It seems to be the cover piece for the current issue.

Because Mika and Joe are influential, the world could use a well-researched report on their behavior over the past ten years. Nuzzi's somewhat confusing first two paragraphs concern a pet rabbit which was bestowed as a birthday gift, complete with a rabbit-shaped birthday cake.

Those were paragraphs 1 and 2. In paragraph 3, we finally got to the hair:
NUZZI (7/24/17): At six-foot-three, or eight-foot-nine including the hair, Scarborough looks like Jimmy Neutron in his Lizard King phase or Tucker Carlson after someone put him through a taffy-pulling machine. No matter the shoe, he never wears socks, displaying a pair of glistening ankles at all times. Brzezinski is five-foot-six and the unusually even color of a vizsla puppy, her blinding hair a cross between Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy’s and Polly Pocket’s. Together, they achieve a kind of strange aesthetic perfection—the decorative figurines topping the bunny cake that is political media in Trump’s America.
In fairness, we ourselves have noticed the growing height of Joe's big pile of hair. It's also true that Nuzzi is journalistically witty, despite her tender years.

Still and all, Nuzzi's profile devotes a large amount of attention to "hair, long beautiful hair, Shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waven," as the Broadway cast used to sing it. Sometimes when we machines misfire, we do so by being inane.

Last Wednesday, on the front page of Style, the Washington Post's Robin Givhan explained the meaning of Callista Gingrich's hair. As Nuzzi's profile continued, we got photos of Joe's massive hair with Mika's fingers running through it, and a comment from sidekick Willie Geist Jr. about the way Joe and Mika's hairstyles have changed down through the years.

(And even his own! “Other than the size of my and Joe’s hair and maybe Mika’s haircut, not much has changed” on the Morning Joe program in the past ten years, Geist is quoted saying.)

At its upper end, our political press corps spends a fair amount of time on hair. Major stars at the New York Times have focused on Mayor Giuliani's comb-over, then on Candidate Gore's bald spot. (Seven "bald spot" columns in all, including one on the final Sunday.) The press has obsessed on the cost of haircuts obtained by Bill Clinton and John Edwards.

In November 2011, the New York Times ran a full-length front-page profile of Mitt Romney's stylist. In the face of all this ridiculousness, the standard professors emerge to complain about the way the mainstream press corps plucks at the hair and clothing of female candidates alone. On what planet are these standard professors kept?

There's little question that Joe's pile of hair has been rising, apparently reflecting the lift of a driving dream. Because attention must be paid, Nuzzi's profile of Mika and Joe ends with this embarrassing passage:
NUZZI: Joe and Mika were engaged in the south of France in May, and she wears her large diamond solitaire, even though she said it gets in the way of caring for their petting zoo. “I’m not sure where we begin and the other ends. We’re just really connected,” she told me. Scarborough added, “You don’t know where I start, where she ends … We … she … understands me—” She cut him off: “Makes you better.”

“She does make me a lot better.” Including paying particular attention to the height of his hair, which she has her own stylist cut at the Carlyle Hotel and is often fixing herself with her fingers.

“You know,” Scarborough said, “it’s actually funny that Mika, she loves—stop that,” he laughed, as her hand disappeared into the mane.

“I’m just trying to get it to be tall.”

“She loves—she will grab it.”

“I suggest you don’t talk too long about this,” Brzezinski cautioned him.

“She’ll yank it up high and spray it. And I’m like, ‘What are you doing? It’s going straight up!’ ” He laughed. “It just keeps hitting you that it’s forever. It’s forever. It’s forever. And you do realize immediately what matters, what doesn’t matter. It makes you treat people around you differently, people that you love.”
Hair, brain-damaging hair!

With that, the profile ends. You the reader get to decide whose inanity you are observing. Joe and Mika's? Olivia Nuzzi's? That of the press as a whole?

In Nuzzi's closing paragraph, we readers are given some options. As we think about the way Joe and Mika treat the people that they love, we get to think about the way our journalists treat us, the consumers of these attempts at "news," the rubes Out Here in a failing land.

Given their level of influence, a serious profile of Joe and Mika could be important. That said, just consider:

You've never seen a serious profile of the past work of Maureen Dowd or Chris Matthews, influential players who shaped the way Candidate Clinton was viewed by the public last year.

Matthews and Dowd were influential back in the day. Joe and Mika are influential now. In even a slightly more rational world, you might expect to see a serious profile of the way they behaved toward Candidate Trump, and about the way they now behave toward President Trump.

Nuzzi's profile is interesting when she touches on the latter point. But her chronology from the campaign is wrong, and her research seems very slight. She doesn't attempt to describe, or explain, the fawning behavior this ridiculous pair directed at Candidate Trump until they flipped, early last year.

There is no sign that Nuzzi has done the laborious background work here. She hasn't reviewed the tapes which would record all the fawning behavior which helped put Candidate Trump on the political map.

On the brighter side, we do get wonderfully entertained with talk of that mile-high hair. This is a trade-off we've been accepting down through these many dumb years.

All this week, we're going to explore the basic skills, and the basic values, of the American press corps. We'll also be exploring the basic skills and values of us Over Here in our liberal tents—the basic skills of Ridiculous Us.

Tomorrow, we'll return to Masha Gessen's recent lecture at the PEN World Voices Festival. In particular, we'll look at one heartfelt plea, in which Gessen said that NPR should describe Donald Trump's lies as "lies."

Gessen is one of our brightest and best. As a journalist, she has actually walked the walk. In our view, she has earned our respect.

That said, her liberal audience burst into applause when she made a remarkably simple-minded plea. So it goes, given the level of basic skills attained by Ridiculous Us.

As our culture collapses around us, are we really rational animals, or are we perhaps more profitably seen as a gang of misfiring machines? Tomorrow, we'll turn to the basic plea made in Gessen's lecture. Eventually, we'll look in on Michael Oreskes, public editor at NPR, as he responded to complaints about the way NPR was using some of its words.

We'll review what Professor Rosen said about NPR's use of its words. Professor Rosen is fully sincere. But when it comes to using our words, is he man or machine?

We'll also review this new Trumpcast at Slate, in which Professor Nyhan and Virginia Heffernan talk about the ultimate meaning of Donald J. Trump's many peculiar lies. Before we're done, we'll think about the history of the English language itself, even recalling what Austin said about the origin of the many words we have at our disposal, available for our use.

We like to tell our 5-year-olds that they should "use their words." Within our so-called meritocracy, at this time of vast division, how skillfully do our journalists and professors seem to be using theirs?

Tomorrow: "Our common stock of words embodies all the distinctions men [sic] have found worth drawing..."

Is Adam Entous an honest reporter?


Once again, with the obvious need to use our number words:
Again today, like yesterday, today we have counting of sources.

Once again, we have the need to use our number words!

Once again, our desire to use our number words originates on the front page of the glorious Washington Post. The news report to which we refer drove the excitement on cable last night. In hard copy editions today, it tops the Post's front page.

The news report starts as shown below. Again, we have counting of sources:
ENTOUS, NAKASHIMA AND MILLER (7/22/17): Russia’s ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general, according to current and former U.S. officials.

Ambassador Sergey Kislyak’s accounts of two conversations with Sessions—then a top foreign policy adviser to Republican candidate Donald Trump—were intercepted by U.S. spy agencies, which monitor the communications of senior Russian officials both in the United States and in Russia. Sessions initially failed to disclose his contacts with Kislyak and then said that the meetings were not about the Trump campaign.

One U.S. official said that Sessions—who testified that he has no recollection of an April encounter—has provided “misleading” statements that are “contradicted by other evidence.” A former official said that the intelligence indicates that Sessions and Kislyak had “substantive” discussions on matters including Trump’s positions on Russia-related issues and prospects for U.S.-Russia relations in a Trump administration.

Sessions has said repeatedly that he never discussed campaign-related issues with Russian officials and that it was only in his capacity as a U.S. senator that he met with Kislyak.
The full report runs 29 paragraphs in hard copy, 33 grafs on line. If you wonder how many sources Entous had, his text provides no information beyond what you see in those first four paragraphs.

Let's engage in the counting of sources! First, an obvious point:

This news report is an attack on the honesty of Jeff Sessions. The mainstream press is involved in a chase, and Sessions is one of their targets.

In this new report—it drove much cable excitement last night—Entous claims to be relaying information he garnered from sources. But he never uses his number words! He never explicitly says how many sources he had!

No doubt, this was an honest omission on the part of Entous and his anonymous editors. That said, let's try to count the Post's sources:

In paragraph 1, Entous says his report is based on alleged information allegedly gained from "current and former U.S. officials."

The word "officials" is plural. By any reckoning, this means that Entous is claiming at least two sources.

In paragraph 3, Entous describes one of these sources. According to Entous, one of his sources was a "U.S. official."

In that same paragraph, Entous describes a second source. According to Entous, he had a second source, who he describes as "a former official."

(Inferentially, this seems to be "a former U.S. official.")

Sadly, there you have it! In his remaining 29 paragraphs, Entous refers again and again, in plural form, to his sources. But he never gives us any reason to believe that his roster of sources extends beyond this rather meager list:
Roster of alleged sources:
"One U.S. official"
"A former official"
Is that it? Is that his full roster of sources? Nowhere in his lengthy report does Entous explicitly describe any additional source.

Let's use our number words! This would mean that Entous had "two" sources for the rather murky report which drove "cable news" last night.

That wouldn't be a large number of sources!

That wouldn't necessarily mean that the claims made by these sources were inaccurate, bogus or wrong. But is is true? Is this front-page report based on claims from only two sources?

Nowhere in his lengthy report does Entous use his number words to establish the number of sources on whom he is drawing. That strikes us as slippery journalistic behavior. That said, we're left with some additional questions and observations.

Quickly, let's rattle them off. We'll start with a question of language:

If Entous had just two sources, was it perhaps misleading to refer to them in this way:

"According to current and former U.S. officials."

Doesn't that make it sound like he is referring to plural current officials and plural former officials? Doesn't that description possibly make it sound like he's referring to a whole bunch of officials?

We'd have to say it does! It would have been easy for Entous to use his number words to make a precise statement, like this:

"According to one U.S. official and one former U.S. official."

Whatever the actual truth may be, it would have been amazingly easy for Entous to use his number words to tell us how many sources he had. Why didn't the brilliant reporter do that? Is it possible that Entous, and his anonymous editors, were being less than obsessively honest regarding these basic facts?

Here comes a second question:

How many of Entous' sources have read the transcripts of Kislyak's alleged intercepted communications, or have seen the intelligence reports relating to same?

Based upon those first four paragraphs, it seems that "a former official" has allegedly seen the intelligence in question. But how odd! We find no claim, in this whole report, that any other source has!

In paragraph 18, we read a slightly more specific account. In this passage, Entous explicitly says that one of his sources has read the intelligence reports:
ENTOUS: A former U.S. official who read the Kislyak reports said that the Russian ambassador reported speaking with Sessions about issues that were central to the campaign, including Trump’s positions on key policy matters of significance to Moscow.
A trusting reader may assume that we're now hearing about a second "former official" who has see the intelligence reports. But Entous makes no such explicit claim. It would have been easy to make that claim, but Entous never does.

Is this "former U.S. official" the same "former official" cited in paragraph 3? If so, Entous is relying on a single (anonymous) source to describe the intelligence in question.

That doesn't mean that his source's account is wrong. It does mean that Entous seems to be trying to keep us from knowing that he's relying on a single source.

Now for a very simple, very basic question:

Has the Washington Post actually seen the intelligence reports it is discussing?

Plainly, the answer seems to be no. We may have seen Entous say as much, when he was asked, on cable news last night. (Transcripts aren't posted yet.)

That said, Entous never explicitly states this fact in his lengthy front-page report. His full report runs 33 paragraphs. Apparently, he couldn't find room to establish this basic fact.

Assuming the Post hasn't seen the reports, we'd like to call your attention to paragraph 27. As we do, we'll ask one final question:

Is the highlighted passage shown below fully informative? At some point, should Entous have said something more?
ENTOUS: Kislyak was also a key figure in the departure of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was forced to leave that job after The Post revealed that he had discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with Kislyak even while telling others in the Trump administration that he had not done so.

In that case, however, Flynn’s phone conversations with Kislyak were intercepted by U.S. intelligence, providing irrefutable evidence. The intelligence on Sessions, by contrast, is based on Kislyak’s accounts and not corroborated by other sources.
The highlighted statement is accurate. The intelligence reports in question are based on Kislyak's accounts of his alleged encounters with Sessions.

That said, the Post's report seems to be based on one former official's account of the intelligence reports, which in turn are based on Kislyak's account. The Post is looking through a glass rather darkly. In 33 paragraphs, Entousn ever states this basic fact in a clear, reporterly way.

We aren't in love with folk like Entous. Here's why:

It's very easy for major reporters to use their number words. When they fail to do so, you should possibly check your wallets. They seem to be maybe perhaps engaged in a bit of a con.

In the current instance, they may be engaged in a bit of a con because they're deeply involved in a chase. They're also involved in a newspaper war, with very large sums on the line.

The Washington Post is involved in a chase. In this case, in chasing Donald J. Trump, they are very likely chasing a guilty party.

That said, we've seen these slimy bastards conduct their chases before. A 25-year chase after Hillary Clinton extended through last fall's election. In 1999 and 2000, they engaged in all these games, and more, to further their headlong chase against Candidate Gore.

Candidate Bush ended up in the White House. He then started an ill-advised war which has changed the shape of the world. People are dead all over the world because slippery bastards like Adam Entous played these games in the past.

But now, because we hate his target, we liberals are cheering him on. We liberals! Although we claim to be enormously bright and brilliantly moral, we feed on extremely thin gruel.

Entous is a big grown boy. He needs to use his number words the way other children do.

In the spirit of that suggestion, let's engage in the counting of cons regarding today's report:
Today we have counting of cons:
1) Entous never tells us how many sources he has.
2) He never tells us how many sources have seen the alleged intelligence reports.
3) He never tells us if he himself has seen those alleged reports.
It seems to us that Adam Entous is working a bit of a con. It's easy to use our number words, but people like Entous, Nakashima and Miller just keep forgetting to do so.

People are dead all over the world because of these very forgetful children. At this site, we've spent 19 years chasing their impressively rich array of slippery cons.

They behave these ways when engaged in a chase. Today, a chase is on.

Coming Monday: Maddow's latest apparent exciting mistake (we're awaiting the transcripts)

Mental horizons of the Times!

FRIDAY, JULY 21, 2017

As always, we kid you not:
We'll admit to a sick fascination with the intellectual horizons of the New York Times—more specifically, with the intellectual horizons of the people who populate its inner circles.

Let's be fair! At least the Times didn't publish this piece, a thoughtful report by Robin Givhan about the meaning of Callista Gingrich's hair.

(Hard-copy headline: "CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK: Her hair speaks volumes about mythic Washington.")

That piece appeared on the front page of Style, in Wednesday morning's Washington Post. If you're concerned about the cultural meaning of Gingrich's hair, we strongly recommend it. Also, if you're concerned about our nation's dying brain cells.

That wasn't the New York Times' work! On the other hand, this was the way yesterday's "Here to Help" feature started, on the reimagined page A3 of the brainiac Times:
Here to Help

The name of the game when it comes to cleaning the living room is tidying and straightening. Here are some tips for organizing the tasks involved, from the cleaning expert Jolie Kerr.
People, we kid you not. But then, remember the motto of page A3:
You are the dumbest people on Earth.
We at The Times want to serve you.
Kerr's expertise seems endless. In this, her initial tip, she seems to recommend removing dirty socks:
Remove that which does not belong
The nature of the living room being what it is, items that do not necessarily belong in the living room often make their way in there. Items such as dirty socks, wine glasses and even Krazy Glue eventually should be put in their rightful places (the hamper, dishwasher and tool box, respectively).
The insights advance from there. At one point, Kerr says this: "A quick pass of the feather duster over bookshelves and coffee tables will help get rid of dust with little fuss."

Who but the cleaning expert Kerr could have come up with that? Have we mentioned the fact that we wonder about the intellectual status of the people who populate this upper-end, Hamptons-tilting realm?

On this morning's page A3, the "Noteworthy Facts" have a gloomy feel. That said, we wondered about the first fact, which involves an important topic:
Of Interest
People awaiting bail account for 95 percent of the growth in the jail population from 2000 to 2014.
We noted the slippery nature of that particular type of statistic. In the particular case, that statistic could mean that the population awaiting bail rose by 19 people, out of a rise in the jail population of 20 people at all.

That's a slippery type of statistic, but the topic is very important. The source, it turned out, was this op-ed column by a pair of senators, Harris and Paul.

The column includes a lot of statistics. None of them are sourced or serviced by links.

Should the New York Times publish such columns without any sourcing or links? Actually, no, it shouldn't. We just burned about a half hour trying to Google the data.

Finally, we were struck by today's Spotlight feature on page A3. It involves "a wide-ranging TimesTalk" in which Carol Davenport interviewed Al Gore about his new climate film.

Gore cites some heartbreaking, horrible facts in this small tiny very small feature. Page A3 devoted more space to the tips about dirty socks.

That said, you may recall what the New York Times did when Gore's first climate film was released, the one which went on to win an Oscar. The brilliant liberal giant, Frank Rich, slagged the stupid ridiculous film from stem to stern.

He slagged the film in the New York Times. He slagged the film on MSNBC and national radio with his dimwitted buddy, Don Imus.

He said the film reminded him of one of those crummy instructional films they made you watch in high school. He didn't execute his 180 until Gore won the Nobel Prize, at which point he quickly began kissing ass.

Rich is plainly the world's dumbest person. But when he appears on the Maddow Show, he's still "the great Frank Rich." He remains a tribal hero Over Here in our liberal tents.

Our liberal world is extremely dumb. This is one of the ten million facts we liberals just can't seem to grasp.

We'd call it a highly noteworthy fact. Rather plainly, it helps explain how Donald J. Trump reached the Oval.

The Post should start using its number words!

FRIDAY, JULY 21, 2017

Today, we have counting of sources:
With apologies to Henry Reed, today we have counting of sources.

We refer to the front-page report in the Washington Post which drove cable news last night. Rather, it drove cable news after 9:15 Eastern, when the news report appeared on the Post web site.

Rachel explained how the posting had affected her personally. After that, she began to discuss what the Post report said.

This is now the established pattern in so-called cable news. Every night, something appears on the web site of the Post or the New York Times. After that, a gaggle of cable talkers offer instant analysis, usually in the form of undisguised speculation.

Last night, the news report by the Washington Post seized control of the apparent discourse. Today we have counting of sources.

Your assignment, if you should choose to accept it:

According to today's hard-copy headline in the Post, Donald J. Trump is "exploring [his] pardoning powers." Our question:

How many sources does the Post cite in this, the start of its front-page report?
LEONNIG, PARKER, HELDERMAN AND HAMILTON (7/21/17): Some of President Trump’s lawyers are exploring ways to limit or undercut special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation, building a case against what they allege are his conflicts of interest and discussing the president’s authority to grant pardons, according to people familiar with the effort.

Trump has asked his advisers about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself in connection with the probe, according to one of those people. A second person said Trump’s lawyers have been discussing the president’s pardoning powers among themselves.

One adviser said the president has simply expressed a curiosity in understanding the reach of his pardoning authority, as well as the limits of Mueller’s investigation.

“This is not in the context of, ‘I can’t wait to pardon myself,’ ” a close adviser said.
Those are the four paragraphs which launched a thousand cable news ships. Once again, we ask our question:

In that passage, how many sources does the Post cite?

We note that the Washington Post never answers that question in an explicit way. By our count, the number could be as high as four:
Possible roster of sources
1) "one of those people" who are "familiar with the effort"
2) "a second person"
3) "one adviser"
4) "a close adviser"
That could be four different sources! On the other hand, the Post never uses its full assortment of words. The reporters never explicitly type this phrase, which would have been easy to render:

"according to four people familiar with the effort."

The reporters never write that! Having noted that fact, we ask some horrible questions:

How do we know that "one adviser" and "a close adviser" aren't the same person?

That would strike us as dishonest too! But how do we know that the Post is describing two different people there?

How do we know that the "close adviser" isn't that "second person?"

We agree with you; that would be highly misleading. But that doesn't answer our question.

By our own cynical count, the Post could be citing as few as two different sources here. Yes, that would be a bit dishonest. But we've been wondering about this sort of sourcing ever since November 1999, when the New Yorker published a long, amazingly scripted report about what a big giant mess the thoroughly pitiful Gore campaign was.

That same Gore campaign went on to win every Democratic primary, something which had never been done.

At any rate, in the New Yorker's report, a long string of (anonymous) people were lustily quoted, slagging dumb Candidate Gore. A reader got the clear impression that he was reading comments from a long string of different anonymous people.

That said, no number words were employed. Given the way the mainstream press coverage was already working, we wondered how many of the apparent sources might be the same person: [Name Withheld].

We don't know if the New Yorker played that game that day. We'll bet your grandmother's sprawling farm that, along the way, various journalists have.

Last night, cable exploded behind that Post report. The report launched a thousand analytical ships, most of which were speculations about Donald J. Trump's plan to pardon everyone in his family, not excluding himself.

Is Donald J. Trump hatching that plan? We have no doubt that he may be. But it seems to us that the Post report is a bit thin in its sourcing and its evidence. Did you notice that the third and fourth apparent sources seem to be pooh-poohing the claim at the heart of the Post's report?

The corporate gong-show called "cable news" now has an established rhythm. Cable stars wait for the latest "explosive" report to appear on-line. When it does, everyone starts to speculate, fulminate, recite and embellish.

That Post report was the trigger last night. We saw no one on cable news offer even a mild trigger warning!

It would have been easy to type the word "four." When will our biggest, most famous news orgs start using their number words?

THE RELIABLE ABSENCE OF BASIC SKILLS: Without any question, a clear mistake!

FRIDAY, JULY 21, 2017

Interlude—Following which, the fall:
Oof. Undeniably, without any question, Masha Gessen made a clear mistake.

This serves to remind us that everyone does. At any rate, Gessen's clear mistake came when she uttered these words:
GESSEN (5/7/17): And even the word "unintelligible," inserted by the journalist, means nothing, because how can something be unintelligible when uttered face to face in an interview?


Oof. As we noted yesterday, those words were part of Gessen's lecture to the 2017 PEN World Voices Festival. She was discussing the transcript of an AP interview with President Donald J. Trump.

In that remark, Gessen displayed an obvious lack of preparation with her source material. Also, a surprising lack of familiarity with the transcripts produced by news orgs, which routinely contain certain types of mistakes.

And that liberal audience! Good God!

Alas. Gessen's comment, which drew laughter and applause, was off base in several ways.

There is no reason to think that the journalist in question, Julie Pace, inserted the word "unintelligible" in the transcript of her interview with Donald J. Trump. We'll guess that was more likely done by unnamed AP editors.

(As Gessen continued, she referred to the journalist as a "he," again suggesting a lack of deep preparation. Pace is identified as the journalist in the AP document.)

Beyond that, the Associated Press, which prepared and published the transcript, had clearly and dutifully explained what the insertion of the word "unintelligible" was intended to mean.

The insertions didn't mean that Donald J. Trump's statements didn't make sense at those points. They simply meant that "the audio recording of the interview [was] unclear."

Oof! Gessen had made a clear mistake. Because her mistake aligned with audience preconceptions, the big, highly literate, very smart, highly learned and all-knowing audience proceeded to shower her with laughter and applause.

Unfortunately, this sort of thing occurs all the time within our liberal tents. You can't get us extremely bright liberals to acknowledge the obvious fact which follows, but this helps explain how Donald J. Trump ended up where he is.

Masha Gessen made a mistake, proving that everyone does. Basically, it was a mistake of preconception. Mistakes afflict us all.

That said, as Gessen continued, she made a succession of larger mistakes. These further mistakes raise a deeper issue:

They speak to the reliable absence of basic skills, especially during highly partisan tribal times.

Gessen is smarter than the average bear. During her journalistic career, she has also walked the walk.

She's highly regarded, and she should be. For that reason, her display of the absence of basic skills is especially worthy of note.

Gessen is one of our brightest and best. If her basic skills can be called into question, does our obviously brilliant, self-impressed tribe possess any such skills at all?

Your question is very important, but it's also quite hot here this week. Largely because the question's important, we're going to wait till Monday morning to finish this award-winning report.

We want to give you a good clear look at the reliable absence of basic skills within our admittedly brilliant tribe. Within the intellectual realm, does our self-impressed liberal tribe possess even the most basic skills?

(Wittgenstein might have leaned toward no. He would have had a decent point.)

What did Masha Gessen say next? How did her basic skills fail her?

On Monday, we'll make a suggestion for our tribe as we answer that basic question:

In the realm of basic intellect, it's time to start using our words.

Monday: Using our words