USING OUR WORDS: Wisely declining to "call lies 'lies!'"

THURSDAY, JULY 27, 2017

Part 4—Tales of tribal prejudgment:
We noticed an intriguing contretemps of a type in today's New York Times.

Atop hard-copy page A20, our eyes fell upon Linda Qiu's latest FACT CHECK. We spotted a disagreement of sorts between Qiu's first paragraph and the headline which topped her piece:
QIU (7/27/17): 7 Falsehoods at 3 Events In 1 Day

In just a few hours on Tuesday, President Trump made seven misleading statements: about Middle East politics, during a joint news conference with Prime Minister Saad Hariri of Lebanon; about veterans affairs reforms, in remarks to “American heroes”; and about jobs and health care, to supporters in Ohio. Here’s an assessment.
Uh-oh! The editor who wrote the headline advertised seven falsehoods. But in her text, Qiu had referred to seven "misleading statements."

Is a misleading statement a falsehood? Moses produced no tablet resolving this question, but in general we'd have to say no.

A communicator can thoroughly mislead an audience while making perfectly accurate statements. Generally speaking, words like "misleading" entered the language, long ago, to offer us an alternative to describing a statement as "false."

(Such distinctions are also widely observed in the world's several other languages, including the earlier languages out of which English emerged.)

Just for the record, what kinds of statements did Qiu actually cite? Were the statements misleading, or false?

That isn't our point of concern today. But she specifically describes one claim by Donald J. Trump as "false," another as a "stretch."

We'd say that Qiu may have stretched and misled a bit too, for example in her sixth boldfaced claim. In that sixth presentation, she also revived her wondrously confusing formulation in which "[l]egal permanent residents who haven’t worked in the United States for 10 years are not eligible for food assistance or Medicaid within the first five years of entering the country."

That statement is wonderfully confusing. Would you call it misleading? False?

Our language gives us many ways to describe statements which are false and/or misleading or otherwise somehow bogus. Before our week is through, we plan to visit immortal Austin, reviewing some of the ruminations in his masterful books (How to Do Things With Words; Sense and Sensibilia) and in some of his most famous lectures or essays (Three Ways of Spilling Ink; A Plea for Excuses).

In effect, Austin was Wittgenstein gifted with clarity, but that's not our topic today. Today, we want to review a recent statement which seemed to be blindingly obvious.

The statement drew applause from the world's brightest people at a recent high-end lecture. The estimable Masha Gessen delivered the statement as part of the Arthur Miller Lecture at the 2017 PEN World Voices Festival.

Her statement seemed to be blindingly obvious. Unable to restrain themselves, the crowd burst into applause:
GESSEN (5/7/17): ...we have to become guardians of our language. We have to keep it alive and working. That means being very intentional about using words.

That means, for example, calling lies "lies."

I am actually—

[AUDIENCE APPLAUSE]
For background, see yesterday's report.

Gessen said we should call lies "lies." The audience burst into applause.

It should be said that Gessen was specifically prescribing what journalists, including reporters, should do. As she continued, she specifically scolded National Public Radio for failing, indeed for refusing as a general matter of policy, to call lies "lies."

Should reporters call lies "lies?" The answer may seem obvious, but let's reason by way of analogy.

Presumably, reporters should call bank robberies "bank robberies." But before they do, they should probably ascertain that a bank has actually been robbed.

If they aren't yet sure of that fact, there are ways to report their uncertainty. They can refer to an alleged, apparent or reported bank robbery, after which they can describe the state of the evidence.

In the matters Gessen was discussing, should NPR have described Donald J. Trump's misstatements and apparent misstatements as "lies?"

Some of the misstatements in question seemed to be truly remarkable howlers. But did that mean that news reporters at NPR should have described them as "lies?"

The network had explained its reticence on several occasions, not always with perfect clarity. As Gessen continued, she hurried past NPR's explanation, then issued several semi-howlers of her own:
GESSEN (continuing directly): The NPR argument is that the definition of "lie," their argument for not using the word "lie" when describing what Donald Trump does, is that the definition of "lie" involves intent. A lie is a statement made with the intention to deceive. And NPR does not have conclusive information on Trump's intent.

The problem is that the euphemism "misstatement" clearly connotes a lack of intent, as though Trump simply took an accidental wrong step.

And the thing is that words exist in time, right? The word "misstatement" suggests a singular occurrence, thereby eliding Trump's history of lying. The word "misstatement" as applied to Trump is actually a lie.

[AUDIENCE APPLAUSE]
Again, the audience erupted in applause. But here on our own sprawling campus, we observed a different reaction:

Our youthful analysts were loudly wailing rattling the chains with which we help them resolve to stay seated, and fully attentive, at their spartan study carrels.

It should be noted that Gessen never quoted anything that had ever been said by anyone at NPR. As in her native Russia, so too here:

Our public discourse tends to die when major figures treat themselves to such unfortunate shortcuts.

That said, it it true as a general matter? As a general matter, does the word "misstatement" suggest that the misstatement in question was uttered in good faith, was just "an accidental wrong step?"

We have no idea why you'd say that. It's abundantly clear that NPR's Mary Louise Kelly was suggesting no such thing in the NPR report about Trump which launched a thousand semantic ships. But if a reporter is concerned about that possible connotation, she is of course free to say this:

She is free to refer to Donald J. Trump's "extreme misstatement, which flies in the face of apparently obvious photographic evidence."

In short, she can use her words!

How about that other claim? If someone refers to a "misstatement" by Trump, does that word "suggest a singular occurrence, thereby eliding Trump's history of lying?"

We don't know why you'd say that. If a reporter had that concern, she could simply say this:

She could refer to Donald J. Trump's "latest misstatement, one in a puzzling list of misstatements on this particular point."

Once again, she can use her words. There are many to choose from!

Gessen spoke to an audience of writers. Earlier, in an unfortunate moment, she'd made the ultimate tribal claim, saying that she and her fellow writers "invariably" act in good faith:
GESSEN: Now, we writers have often spent time, much of it in the late twentieth century, questioning the ability of words to reflect facts, and the existence of objective facts themselves.

There are those who have, whether with glee or with shame, observed a sort of relationship between those post-modern exercises and Trump’s post-truth, post-language ways. But I think this reflects a basic misunderstanding, or perhaps a willing conflation of intentions.

When writers and academics question the limits of language, it is invariably an exercise that grows from a desire to bring more light into the public sphere, to arrive at a shared reality that is more nuanced than it was yesterday. To focus ever more tightly on the shape, weight, and function of any thing that can be named, or to find names for things that have not, in the past, been observed.
Good grief! "When writers and academics question the limits of language, it is invariably an exercise that grows from a desire to bring more light into the public sphere?"

We writers "invariably" act in good faith, with good intentions? If we might borrow from Michael Corleone:

Who's being naive now, Kay? Simply put, we humans aren't like that.

Gessen told her audience of writers that they "invariably" act in good faith. This is the kind of tribal thinking which can betray the finest of minds and the best of souls, especially at a time like this, when tribal feeling runs high.

Should NPR have referred to Donald Trump's statements as "lies?" They had said they couldn't state, as a matter of fact, that the misstatements in question were lies. Gessen blew past this sensible analysis, then made some peculiar claims of her own.

For our money, old patterns should hold in this area. Reporters should be very reluctant about describing misstatements as "lies."

Meanwhile, in the case of Donald J. Trump, it seems to us there's an obvious basis for a special reluctance. When people seem to be mentally ill, do we normally say that they've lied?

Tomorrow: Regarding possible illness or dementia, Slate pair seem to observe two guilds' rules

We're pleased to give credit where credit is due!

WEDNESDAY, JULY 26, 2017

Observing some splendid behavior:
We're pleased to give credit where credit is due regarding President Donald J. Trump's latest spectacular brainstorm.

The Washington Post has published this instant dispatch. We were pleased to see these reactions by major Republican solons:
DEBONIS AND O'KEEFE (7/26/17): Lawmakers in both parties slammed President Trump’s decision on Wednesday to bar transgender Americans from serving in the military, while many of his allies on Capitol Hill remained largely perplexed or silent.

[...]

Rep. Thomas J. Rooney (R-Fla.), a former Army officer,
said “it throws us off” when Trump issues surprise tweets that distract from other GOP priorities. “Based on what we’re doing in here this week, I don’t know what the connection is,” he said.

Capitol Hill’s most prominent Republican voice on national security matters, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.), also criticized Trump’s announcement, calling it “unclear” and “yet another example of why major policy announcements should not be made via Twitter.”

McCain added, “There is no reason to force service members who are able to fight, train, and deploy to leave the military—regardless of their gender identity.” He said there should be no change in policy until the Pentagon completes an ongoing review of the issue.

Other conservative senators offered criticism of the move. A spokeswoman for Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), an Army veteran and member of the Armed Services Committee, said that the senator believes “Americans who are qualified and can meet the standards to serve in the military should be afforded that opportunity,” though the military should not fund gender-reassignment surgery.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), a Trump ally on most issues, said he wanted “more information and clarity” on Trump’s policy. “I don’t think we should be discriminating against anyone,” he said, adding that transgender people “deserve the best we can do for them.”

And Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), a senior member of an Appropriations subcommittee that sets Pentagon spending levels, said he expected Congress to call hearings exploring Trump’s policy change.

“You ought to treat everybody fairly and give everybody a chance to serve,” he told CNN.
We'll quote Woodrow Call from Lonesome Dove:

"Splendid behavior," he said.

For the historical source of the phrase: For the historical source of the phrase, why not just click here?

Why does Mark Johnson believe those things?

WEDNESDAY, JULY 26, 2017

One last trip to the fair:
We want to make a final trip to the free health care clinic which was conducted at the Wise County Fairgrounds in rural southwestern Virginia.

More specifically, we want to ask you why Mark Johnson, age 56, believes the things he believes.

In Monday's New York Times,
Trip Gabriel published a valuable news report about the clinic, and about the suffering people who traveled hours to access its services. Let's start today with a person, a doctor, who plainly deserves our respect:
GABRIEL (7/26/17): Dr. Joseph F. Smiddy, 75, a lung specialist who has volunteered at every RAM clinic here since the first in 1999, said people’s health was getting worse, not better, as the regional economy shed well-paying jobs, primarily in coal, and diets and lifestyles deteriorated.

“We’re sicker here than in Central America,” said Dr. Smiddy, who has volunteered on charity health trips there. “In Central America, they’re eating beans and rice and walking everywhere. They’re not drinking Mountain Dew and eating candy. They’re not having an epidemic of obesity and diabetes and lung cancer.”

In a lead-lined truck he had modified to perform chest X-rays, Dr. Smiddy saw Sherman Devlin, 51, a heavyset former miner complaining of shortness of breath.

“I don’t have no income,” Mr. Devlin said, speaking with difficulty. “I’m a broke-down coal miner. I can’t do what I used to do.” Even though he received Medicaid, he said it did not cover much.
A significant point before moving on: Gabriel should have explained that comment about Medicaid.

That said, let's move on:

Dr. Smiddy is 75. Presumably, he doesn't have to volunteer for these clinics, nor did he have to volunteer for the service he provided in Central America. We'd have to say that Dr. Smiddy has earned the nation's respect.

Meanwhile, Devlin is 51. He's the kind of person our liberal tribe has long tended to disregard and demean. Do you remember the two weeks of dick jokes, back in 2009, from a certain unnamed cable host? How we laughed at all the "teabaggers"
before they started kicking our ascots at the ballot boxes!

This brings us to the question of Mark Johnson's beliefs. In this passage, Dr. Smiddy comments on the political beliefs of people in Virginia's depleted coal country:
GABRIEL: Dr. Smiddy grew up in Wise, a picturesque county seat on the Daniel Boone Heritage Trail. He said that the United Mine Workers of America had once operated one of the best hospitals in the state here, but that it had closed after mine owners drove out the union.

“The people of this area have been told by the politicians and President Trump that coal is coming back,” Dr. Smiddy said. “They believe that. They’ve been told that Obamacare is no good. They believe that. They believe that Trump’s going to bring them TrumpCare.”

“We all know when we take 32 million people out of the system”—an allusion to a Congressional Budget Office analysis of how many would lose coverage under one Republican plan—“that these people will be the first to go,” he said.

Mark Johnson, 56, a disabled truck driver from Coeburn who came to have 10 teeth pulled, said the president’s opponents had created distractions with charges about Russia. “They won’t leave him alone enough to do anything,” he said.
Dr. Smiddy grew up in Wise, the county seat of Wise County. He understands what happened to the local hospital after the bosses drove the union out.

He also seems to know what people in the area have been told, and what they believe. Mark Johnson, age 56, seems to provide an example.

Coeburn, Virginia is part of Wise County. Johnson seemed to tell Gabriel that Donald J. Trump's opponents are the ones who are causing the problems.

Our questions would be these:

Who told the people at that clinic that Obamacare is no good? Why did they believe them?

What kind of effort did liberals and progressives make to tell them that they were being misled? To tell them they've been misled about may things, for many years?

Presumably, the people to whom Dr. Smiddy refers have been misled by the usual suspects. Our closing questions would be these:

To what extent has our liberal contempt led them into Rush Limbaugh's hands, then into the hands of Fox? We refer to liberal contempt extending back a very large number of years.

Last fall, in Vox, Sarah Kliff wrote about middle-aged women in rural Kentucky with insurance under Obamacare who couldn't afford to go to the doctor. We liberals reacted with contempt and incomprehension.

Why do we behave that way? How long has this been going on? Is it possible that we are part of the problem here, along with the gruesome Donald J. Trump, lord of all he surveys?

USING OUR WORDS: On the importance of calling lies "lies!"

WEDNESDAY, JULY 26, 2017

Part 3—Sometimes a less-than-great notion:
On January 21, 2017, the newly-inaugurated president, Donald J. Trump, journeyed south to CIA headquarters, where he made deathless remarks.

As sometimes happens, Trump seems to have made some inaccurate statements. In this part of a broadcast on NPR's Morning Edition program, national security correspondent Mary Louise Kelly cited two such remarks:
KELLY (1/23/17): In that same speech out of the CIA this weekend, Trump also falsely inflated the size of the crowd at his inauguration.

In talking about the weather, he described that when he began to speak at his inauguration, the rain stopped immediately. And in fact, you could see water beating on the lapel of his coat.
Kelly offered no direct quotes from Trump concerning these peculiar topics. That said, his comments about the size of the crowd and the heaven-sent weather still rank among the strangest and most obvious misstatements he has uttered to date.

One might even say that they rank among his craziest statements to date, correspondence to reality-wise.

At this point, a problem arose. In her report, Kelly described an array of statements by Trump as "false," as "provably not true," and as "untrue claims." She compared what Trump had said to what you could see "in fact."

That said, Kelly didn't say that Donald J. Trump had "lied" in maiing these deathless remarks. Within days, NPR was under attack from portions of the liberal world, which had just started its noble resistance, twenty-five years too late.

On January 26,
NPR ombudsman Elizabeth Jensen posted a column concerning the controversy. Jensen described the waves of complaints and summarized NPR policy:
JENSEN (1/26/17): This column will attempt to address the several hundred emails (and an untold number of social media posts) to my office and NPR's Audience Services department that were harshly critical of NPR's policy. I've included a representative sampling of listener letters below. They and others used words like "shocked," "appalled," "horrified," "cowardice," "sanctimonious," "timid" and "complicit." ...

The policy, in brief, is to largely avoid using the word "lie." As NPR's national security correspondent Mary Louise Kelly said Wednesday, the Oxford English Dictionary defines a "lie" as "'a false statement made with intent to deceive.' Intent being the key word there—without the ability to peer into Donald Trump's head, I can't tell you what his intent was. I can tell you what he said and how that squares—or doesn't—with fact..."

Michael Oreskes, NPR's head of news, added this: "Our job as journalists is to report—to find facts, establish their authenticity and share them with everybody. And I think that when you use words like lie, it gets in the way of that."
Should Kelly have referred to Trump's statements as "lies?" For unknown reasons, she had looked up the word in a dictionary after the complaints rolled in.

On the basis of what Kelly found, she stood behind her original choice of words. She said she didn't feel she could say, as a matter of fact, that the groaners in question were lies.

In several venues, Oreskes had offered a second reason for "largely avoiding" the use of that word. In response, the emails poured in, using other evocative words like "appalled," "horrified" and "complicit."

Our language gives us many ways to express our horror and shock. It also gives us many ways to describe inaccurate statements.

We'll discuss the development of our English language before the week is through. For today, let's consider what happened last May, when Masha Gessen, a highly respected journalist who has actually walked the walk, weighed in on this perhaps underwhelming subject.

In our view, Gessen has earned the respect she's afforded. On May 7, she delivered the Arthur Miller Lecture at the 2017 PEN World Voice Festival.

(To watch the lecture, just click here. For a lightly edited version of Gessen's remarks, you can just click this.)

Gessen spoke to a liberalish audience known, at least among itself, for its obvious maximal brilliance. As she started, she discussed the ways the public discourse in her native Russia had been compromised, undermined, damaged, undone by the end of the Soviet era.

It's a very important topic. She then began suggesting that a similar process is underway here, driven, in large part, by the weird and constant groaning misstatements of ruler-for-life Donald Trump.

Gessen is a serious, admirable journalist. She was discussing a very serious topic. That doesn't mean that her judgments were sound, or even that she was fully prepared to discuss the materials at hand, especially perhaps at a time like this, when tribal feeling is high.

Doggone it! Gessen introduced the transcript of an interview Donald J. Trump had recently conducted with Julie Pace of the Associated Pace. As she did, it seemed fairly clear that she hadn't fully familiarized herself with the transcript in question.

(For background information, see last Thursday's report.)

Anyone can make a mistake! In this case, the big, admittedly brilliant crowd laughed and applauded as Gessen was making hers.

Gessen was perhaps a bit unfair in her remarks about the Associated Press. From there, she quoted something Hannah Arendt once said about the way the world reveals itself to us limited individuals.

"Only in the freedom of our speaking with one another does the world, as that about which we speak, emerge in its objectivity and visibility from all sides," Arendt apparently said, part of a longer statement quoted by Gessen.

At this point, Gessen repeated one phrase from Arendt's remark. She then entered the fray concerning NPR:
GESSEN (5/7/17): “Only in the freedom of our speaking with one another.”

And to preserve that freedom, we have to become guardians of our language. We have to keep it alive and working. That means being very intentional about using words.

That means, for example, calling lies "lies."

I am actually—

[AUDIENCE APPLAUSE]

I am addressing specifically National Public Radio, home to the word "misstatement," among others.

The NPR argument is that the definition of "lie," their argument for not using the word "lie" when describing what Donald Trump does, is that the definition of "lie" involves intent. A lie is a statement made with the intention to deceive. And NPR does not have conclusive information on Trump's intent.

The problem is that the euphemism "misstatement" clearly connotes a lack of intent, as though Trump simply took an accidental wrong step.

And the thing is that words exist in time, right? The word "misstatement" suggests a singular occurrence, thereby eliding Trump's history of lying. The word "misstatement" as applied to Trump is actually a lie.

[AUDIENCE APPLAUSE]

It is actually a lie to think, or to claim, that there are neutral words. Words exist in time, words reflect a history, words reflect an understanding. And using words to lie destroys language.
Four months after Kelly's report, Gessen still felt that NPR was wrong, in a significant way. In the passage presented above, she made several claims about the way we need to protect our language, and through it our pubic discourse.

Gessen made these claims:

She said that, to keep our language alive, we need to call lies "lies."

She said that the term "misstatement" clearly implies that the person who made the misstatement did so in good faith.

She said the term "misstatement" suggests that only one misstatement has been made. She said the term "misstatement," applied to Trump, is itself a lie!

The audience applauded that statement. She then said there are no "neutral words," though we don't really know what she meant.

Gessen is an admirable figure. We won't vouch for her audience, limited individuals all.

That said, her statements that day made little real sense. Tomorrow, we'll issue a heartfelt plea to Gessen and others:

Gessen and others, please! Let's start using our words!

Tomorrow: "That means, for example, calling lies 'lies?' "

Who the Sam, Joe or Lauren Hill could disagree with that?

Did Sessions discuss "campaign-related matters" with Kislyak?

TUESDAY, JULY 25, 2017

Let's start with what Kushner has said:
Did Jeff Sessions get it on with his buddy, Sergey Kislyak, at the Mayflower Hotel?

Let's be more specific. We refer to the April 2016 event at which Candidate Donald J. Trump read a glorious foreign policy speech at the famous hotel.

(Full disclosure: Many of Trump's enemies have said it was the greatest such speech ever given.)

Kislyak was in attendance, presumably vacuuming canapes from the refreshment tables. Sessions was present as well.

According to last Saturday's Washington Post, Kislyak later "told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions" that day.

Was that an accurate statement on the part of the Post? In other words, did Kislyak actually say that to his superiors?

We can't answer that question. We think the Post did a miserable job sourcing its exciting claim in Saturday's news report. We don't know if Kislyak actually said that to his Russkie bosses. More importantly, we also don't know if some such discussion with Session really took place at the famous hotel.

Yesterday, we mentioned a problem with the Post report—the possibility that the Post got caught in a game of Telephone, as has happened before. To start to flesh out this possible problem, let's start with Jared Kushner's written statement about that same event at the Mayflower.

Kushner released his written statement prior to yesterday's meeting with Senate investigators. In this report from today's Washington Post, you see Kushner's account of his own experience at that same exciting event:
BARRET, RUCKER AND DEMIRJIAN (7/25/17): Kushner wrote that his first meeting with a Russian official was in April 2016 at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, where Trump delivered a major foreign policy speech, the execution of which Kushner said he oversaw. Kushner wrote that he attended a reception to thank the event’s host, Dimitri Simes, publisher of the National Interest, a foreign policy magazine. Simes introduced Kushner to four ambassadors at the reception, including Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, Kushner said.

“With all the ambassadors, including Mr. Kislyak, we shook hands, exchanged brief pleasantries and I thanked them for attending the event and said I hoped they would like candidate Trump’s speech and his ideas for a fresh approach to America’s foreign policy,” he wrote. “The ambassadors also expressed interest in creating a positive relationship should we win the election. Each exchange lasted less than a minute; some gave me their business cards and invited me to lunch at their embassies. I never took them up on any of these invitations and that was the extent of the interactions.”
According to Kushner, he shook hands with the now-famous Russkie, then exchanged a handful of meaningless words.

Is that what actually happened? We have no way of knowing. But just for the sake of illustration, let's assume or imagine that Sessions also did something like that.

After that, let's imagine how Kislyak might have reported this perfunctory encounter back to his Russkie bosses. For purposes of illustration, we'll assume he was playing it straight.

Finally, let's imagine how Kislyak's report might have seemed after it had gone through two or three layers of "Telephone" on its way to the front page of the Washington Post.

We'll continue this rumination tomorrow. We won't be trying to tell you what actually happened, since we have no way of knowing.

Instead, we'll be trying to show you what could possibly be wrong with the work of the Washington Post. They've lost at "Telephone" before, as we'll remind you tomorrow.

Why those suffering people lack health care!

TUESDAY, JULY 25, 2017

One reason, via Drum:
As we noted yesterday, Trip Gabriel's report from that free health fair in southwestern Virginia is very much worth reading.

That part of Virginia is low-income coal country. People traveled long distances from other states to access the free health care. Gabriel's accounts of their medical needs is a savage indictment of our nation's failed health care arrangements.

As we mentioned yesterday, the peculiar data shown below lie behind this ugly story. If health care didn't cost so crazily much in this country, we presumably wouldn't have so much trouble seeing that everyone got it.

These numbers lie behind our savage health care dysfunction. They lie at the heart of every health care report you've read or seen this year. Oddly enough, you're virtually never permitted to see them:
Per capita spending, health care, 2015
United States: $9451
Canada: $4608
France: $4407
United Kingdom: $4003
Very few people attending that fair have ever seen those crazy data. Very few people of any description have ever seen a major liberal report and attempt to explain those data—explain where that crazy level of American health care spending comes from.

Why does a year of health care cost so much in this country? Today, Kevin Drum offers one explanation.

Drum has just finished Elisabeth Rosenthal's book, American Sickness. Right at the start of her book, on page 3, Rosenthal asks the key question:

"Where is all that money going?"

In this horrific passage at the start of his post, Drum provides part of the answer. This is one of the reasons why those suffering people at that health fair have been consigned to suffer:
DRUM (7/25/17): I finished reading Elisabeth Rosenthal’s An American Sickness a few days ago, so the depradations of the American health care system are even fresher on my mind than usual right now. Unsurprisingly, one of the things she talks about is the surge in hospitals surreptitiously employing doctors who are out-of-network and therefore not covered by a patient’s insurance. The result is gigantic bills for people who thought—quite reasonably—that if they went to an in-network hospital they had nothing to worry about.

It turns out this scam is especially common in emergency rooms, precisely the place where patients are least likely to be thinking clearly.
Quite correctly, Drum uses the term "scam" to describe this form of medical looting. The other key word is "surreptitious."

As he continues, Drum quotes from a new report on this practice:
CRESWELL, ABELSON AND SANGER-KATZ (7/25/17): Early last year, executives at a small hospital an hour north of Spokane, Wash., started using a company called EmCare to staff and run their emergency room….Although the hospital had negotiated rates for its fees with many major health insurers, the EmCare physicians were not part of those networks and were sending high bills directly to the patients.

...“Fiona Scott Morton, a professor at the Yale School of Management and a co-author of the paper, described the strategy as a “kind of ambushing of patients.” A patient who goes to the emergency room can look for a hospital that takes her insurance, but she almost never gets to choose the doctor who treats her.

...When emergency room doctors work for a company that has not made a deal with an insurer, they are free to bill whatever they want, insurers say. “The more they bill, the more they get paid,” said Shara McClure, an executive with Blue Cross of Texas.
Creswell's 1900-word report appears on the front page of today's New York Times. Like yesterday's report by Gabriel, it will go almost completely undiscussed and unnoticed.

For a fuller picture of the scam, read the rest of Drum's post. As you do, remember this:

Drum's post explores only one of the scams which lie behind the suffering of the people Gabriel met at the fair. That said, you will never hear a word of any of this on your favorite "corporate liberal" TV shows.

Rachel will continue to give us the thrill of the hyperbolized tribal chase. She will fail to tell you a word about the suffering of those who aren't paid $10 million per year to please their corporate owners.

According to Nexis, Rosenthal hasn't appeared, not even once, on MSNBC or CNN. The Buddha was cosseted this same way—until he left the palace.

USING OUR WORDS: NPR reported "misstatements!"

TUESDAY, JULY 25, 2017

Part 2—We liberals insisted on "lies:"
Way back when, early last fall, presidential candidate Donald J. Trump authored one of his many moments.

It all began on Wednesday, September 14, 2016. Candidate Trump journeyed to Flint, where he delivered a heartfelt address to a reported 50 people in a local church.

At one point, he began trashing Candidate Clinton. The local minister interrupted, saying this: "Mr. Trump, I invited you here to thank us for what we've done for Flint, not to give a political speech."

Trump accepted the minster's direction and pulled himself back in line.

The next morning, Candidate Trump appeared on Fox & Friends, perhaps the most god-awful program in the history of "cable news." During this appearance, he described his experience at the church, offering an account which was perhaps less than completely accurate.

At this point, National Public Radio stepped into the fray.

NPR's Scott Detrow had been in the church in Flint, serving as the press corps' pool reporter. In response to Trump's remarks on Fox & Friends, Detrow published this account of what had actually happened.

NPR published Detrow's report under this offensive headline:

"Trump Criticizes Flint Pastor—But Misstates Key Facts About Their Encounter"

What made the headline offensive? According to some in our liberal tents, NPR shouldn't have said that Trump had "misstated key facts." NPR should have said that Donald J. Trump had "lied."

Should Detrow, or Detrow's editors, have said that Trump had "lied?" Just for the record, Deytrow cited only two alleged misstatements by Trump, and one of the two involved a highly subjective matter of judgment.

(Did the minster really "seem nervous" at the start of the event?)

Regarding the second alleged misstatement, should NPR have said that Trump lied? In response to such assertions, NPR's public editor, Michael Oreskes, offered this instant defense of Detrow's report, and of NPR's headline.

Oreskes offered a somewhat limited case for eschewing the L-word in this instance. He didn't state the most obvious reason: in all likelihood, NPR didn't know whether Donald J. Trump had lied.

You can read Oreskes' short piece for yourself. For our money, the skill level displayed in the piece wasn't gigantically high.

A few months later, Donald J. Trump had been sworn in as president-for-life, lord of all he surveyed. Sure enough, this issue invaded NPR's tents again.

In this instance, Trump visited the CIA, where he made a short heartfelt address announcing his love for the intelligence community. On Wednesday morning, January 23, NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly discussed Trump's remarks and attendant issues on NPR's Morning Edition.

Kelly's interview with Steve Inskeep ran 869 words. She said that some of Trump's recent statements had been "false," even "provably not true."

Below, you see the bulk of the passage where these critiques were offered. Rather plainly, this was not a Trump-friendly report:
INSKEEP (1/23/17): NPR national security correspondent Mary Louise Kelly is in our studio. She's been speaking with members of the intelligence community, past and present.

Good morning, Mary Louise.

KELLY: Good morning.

INSKEEP: OK, so he's not saying, "I'm making up with the intelligence agencies." He's saying, "I never had a problem with you to begin with."

KELLY: That's what he said. And that is false. President Trump is on record in statements, in tweets, in that news conference you just mentioned that he held as president-elect. And he is on the record ridiculing and attacking U.S. intelligence officials. So to suggest that the media made up this feud—

INSKEEP: His own statements.

KELLY: It's provably not true. In that same speech out of the CIA this weekend, Trump also falsely inflated the size of the crowd at his inauguration. In talking about the weather, he described that when he began to speak at his inauguration, the rain stopped immediately. And in fact, you could see water beating on the lapel of his coat.

Now, does it matter whether it rained or not?

INSKEEP: No.

KELLY: Who cares? But it does matter to the CIA veterans, who I was reaching out to this weekend. It rankles because he made these untrue claims and of where he made them, in the lobby of the CIA.

INSKEEP: And not just any lobby—there's a wall of stars behind him as he was speaking. And those stars represent something.

KELLY: They represent CIA officers who have died in the line of duty. And it's interesting. One of the former intelligence officers who I reached this weekend said there's the stars. And those are sacred if you work at CIA. But this person said, remember what's on the opposite wall, what Trump was looking at as he spoke.

And I have crossed that lobby, Steve, many times on my way to interview officials who work there. And carved in the marble on the opposite wall is this. It's a quotation from the Bible. And it reads, "and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
In our view, Kelly may have been ahead of her skies a bit in a few of her assessments. Example:

Trump may have attacked certain "U.S. intelligence officials." But did that mean that he was angry with "the intelligence agencies" in general?

Not necessarily, no. That said, when a chase is on, it can be easy for journalists to slip past such distinctions. We'd say Kelly was over her skies a tiny bit that day.

At any rate, and rather plainly, this was not a Trump-friendly report. Kelly had asserted all sorts of false statements by Trump. But once again, an NPR reporter had failed to use the word "lie."

When NPR listeners complained, Kelly returned for a second session in which she explained her decision.

On January 25, Kelly took part in a four-way discussion with Inskeep, Oreskes and host David Greene. What hadn't she said that Donald Trump lied? As part of her explanation, Kelly somewhat oddly said this:
KELLY (1/25/17): So this has prompted me to go actually look up the word "lie" in the Oxford English Dictionary. And here's the definition. I'll read it:

"A false statement made with intent to deceive."

"Intent" being the key word there. Without the ability to peer into Donald Trump's head, I can't tell you what his intent was. I can tell you what he said and how that squares—or doesn't—with facts, with publicly available facts.

INSKEEP: And leave you, leave the listener to make their own conclusions.

Mike Oreskes, how much discussion has there been about this word, lie?

ORESKES: There's been quite a bit. And of course, it began during the campaign. And we at NPR have decided not to use the word lie in most situations. And there's really two reasons...
Especially since she's a reporter, we agree with Kelly's decision. But did she really have to look up "lie" in the dictionary to know what the word has long meant? To understand the word's standard usage?

Perhaps that was just performance art, designed to suggest that NPR was making the fullest possible effort to puzzle out this dispute. Surely, though, everyone knows the general meaning of the word "lie." Everyone knows that a lie, as a general matter, is an intentional false statement—a false statement made by a person who knows his statement is false.

Not long ago, we would have assumed that everyone was familiar with this simple-minded concept. We would have assumed that everyone knew that many or most misstatements, untruths and/or falsehoods actually aren't lies.

We would have assumed that everyone knew something else. We would have assumed that everyone knew that many misstatements which really are lies can't be reliably identified as such by external parties, for example by reporters. Here's the way that age-old problem goes:

Person A's statement was "provably untrue." Was Person A lying when he said it? If you're Person B or Reporter C, there's every chance that you won't be able to say for sure.

We would have thought that everyone was familiar with these basic points. But this is a highly partisan time, and a tribal chase is on.

When times are tribal, our basic skills and understandings may tend to head out the window. We may forget, ignore or fail to consider the most basic things we know.

In the high feeling of the moment, we may step around the things we know in search of the judgment we long to render.

We live in such a time right now. Over here in our liberal tents, our basic skills often seem to be AWOL.

Early in May, Masha Gessen stepped into the ring with NPR. Gessen is an admirable figure, but her basic skills seemed to be missing in action this day.

Her audience was laughing and applauding. But we'd have to say that the admirable Gessen wasn't quite using her words.

Tomorrow: Gessen scolds NPR

Also over at Slate: Last Friday, a similar discussion occurred at Slate, in this new Trumpcast.

Are Trump's speeches a tissue of lies? Our tribe is strongly inclined to say so.

Other explanations are possible—explanations which ought to be deeply troubling. We long to use our L-word so much, it seems that we never quite go there.