Supplemental: How black actors, and all Democrats, may end up losing votes!

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2016

Surprising notes on Jackie Robinson's self-emasculation:
Kevin Blackistone is smart, decent, well-informed, funny, decent and smart.

How do we know that Blackistone's smart? We watch him several days a week on our TV machine.

Who is Kevin Blackistone? He's a sports columnist for the Washington Post and a visiting professor at the University of Maryland. He appears several times per week on an ESPN discussion show, Around Cape Horn.

Blackistone is smart, well-informed and decent. That makes him a great example of an important fact--we the liberals can overstate in striking ways, much as The Others can.

In the process, we may end up harming ourselves at the polls. Or so we'll suggest today.

Where has Blackistone gone wrong, oh so wrong? In this morning's Washington Post, he offers a lengthy column in which he says Cam Newton's blackness is "a factor in negative perceptions about him."

Presumably, that's true, of course. Somewhere, people are thinking or saying negative things about Newton in a way that is tied to race.

On the other hand, Blackistone writes 1148 words on this theme while citing exactly one specific example of this alleged negative treatment. If you blink, you'll miss it:
BLACKISTONE (2/6/16): [W]hen Newton announced late this season that he and his longtime girlfriend were having their first child, the Charlotte Observer in the town he now calls home printed a letter to the editor that took Newton to task for having a child out of wedlock. When it was announced that New England Patriots superstar quarterback Tom Brady fathered a child with his ex-girlfriend Bridget Moynahan after moving on to Gisele Bundchen, sportswriter-turned-academic Ronald Bishop at Drexel found that much of the media explained the event as ". . . metrosexual trappings that come with [Brady's] global celebrity."
One newspaper published one letter! In a piece which runs almost 1200 words, that's the only specific example of the negative treatment Blackistone is writing about.

Has Newton received other negative treatment? We will assume that he has. But we the liberals can be very silly concerning topics we care about, in the same way Those People can. If you doubt that, consider this passage from today's column, which was written by a person who's smart, well-informed:
BLACKISTONE: I interrupt this essay out of obligation to so many of Newton's detractors to acknowledge that, yes, he was arrested while at the University of Florida on felony charges for stealing a fellow student's laptop. The state reduced the charges and deferred prosecution because the victim declined to join the prosecution. Newton was required to attend counseling, write an apology letter and do community service. He eventually transferred to a junior college to reboot his college career, which culminated at Auburn with a national championship and Heisman trophy.

Those of us in the media don't, however, feel so compelled to highlight the legal troubles of white athletes, like, for example, another former star Southeastern Conference quarterback now in the NFL, Zach Mettenberger. He was dismissed from Georgia after pleading guilty to two misdemeanor counts of sexual battery, grabbing the breasts and touching the buttocks of a woman at a bar. Mettenberger was sentenced to two concurrent 12-month periods of probation, ordered to pay $2,000 in fines and perform community service. Like Newton, he transferred to restart his career, and wound up at LSU, where he starred before being drafted by the Tennessee Titans, for whom he now plays.
Like almost everyone else on earth, Newton did something dumb when he was 19. (To this day, we're still amazed by three or four things we did at roughly that age.)

That said, are there actually people "in the media" (aside from Blackistone himself) who "feel compelled to highlight" this ancient legal problem? If so, Blackistone doesn't name any such people, or show us what they've said. Instead, he offers a silly comparison to Zach Mettenberger, who apparently did some highly inappropriate things early in his college years.

Without offering any examples, Blackistone says that his colleagues in the press feel "compelled to highlight" Newton's past problem while failing to mention Mettenberger's. To the extent that this may be true, there would be an obvious surface explanation:

No one's ever heard of Mettenberger. Newton's a giant star.

Leaving aside Blackistone's lack of examples, the comparison in that passage is just utterly silly. This thought will occur to many sports fans who read his column.

It will also occur to many sports fans that Johnny Manziel's legal problems are currently being discussed all over the country. So were the legal problems of Ben Roethlisberger just a few years ago. Each of those fellows is widely believed to be white.

Is Cam Newton being badly treated on a racial basis? Presumably yes, to some extent—but how widespread is this problem? Blackistone, who's very smart, writes a lengthy column which isn't.

His most outlandish remark concerns Jackie Robinson. Before that, though, he also offers this:
BLACKISTONE: In the hundred years or so between [boxer Jack] Johnson and Newton, there have been other black athletes similarly criticized, like the star NFL halfback Joe Lillard. Lillard was a standout in the league in the early 1930s and just as cantankerous as many white players then, but was castigated for being so...

There was Silvio Garci­a, an Afro-Cuban whom Branch Rickey originally tapped in 1945 as his guinea pig to trot out onto Major League Baseball's all-white diamonds. But Rickey, the president of the Brooklyn Dodgers, rejected Garci­a because he saw Garcia's tenacity, admired in others, as a detriment. So the story goes, Rickey met with Garcia in Havana and asked him, "What would you do if a white American slapped your face?" Garcia responded: "I kill him."

And then there is Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, even Barry Bonds, et al.
As described, the "rejection" of Garcia's "tenacity" (seventy years ago) makes fairly obvious sense.

Meanwhile, Ali became one of the most beloved sports figures in American history. If he and the widely-admired Abdul-Jabbar are the best examples of mistreatment we can cite from the past hundred years, then we're reading a column which doesn't exactly make fabulous sense—and quite a few readers will think this.

That said, we the liberals are capable of making little sense, much like Those People, The Others. In the following passage, we'd have to say that Blackistone moves beyond the realm of flawed argument into the realm of complete absurdity bordering on ugliness:
BLACKISTONE: Newton is, as he declared, a black quarterback who unsettles some onlookers. He doesn't cloak himself in the self-emasculation of black athletes so celebrated in this country from the first half of the last century, like Joe Louis, Jackie Robinson or Olympic star Jesse Owens, who is further immortalized this month in the new movie "Race."
Jackie Robinson is widely regarded as an American secular saint. But when we liberals get a snootful, it turns out he actually "cloaked himself in self-emasculation." So did Jesse Owens!

Many people who read that passage will regard it as ugly, absurd, offensive. It would be hard to argue that those people were wrong.

We the liberals love to criticize the craziness of the "low-information voters" who we enjoy otherizing. Without any doubt, conservatives say the darnedest things—but so do we the liberals.

Do we harm ourselves this way? Consider something Cara Buckley wrote in Thursday's New York Times. As you do, try to picture it through the eyes of those who are being rebuked.

Buckley was writing about the Oscars, his current beat at the Times. More specifically, she was predicting this year's Oscar winners.

Along the way, she made a now-standard reference to a fine British actor. In fairness, she didn't say "snubbed:"
BUCKLEY (2/4/16): Last but not least, for supporting actor, it's looking very, very good for Sylvester Stallone, the ''Creed'' co-star. Idris Elba, whose Oscar shutout helped ignite this year's #OscarsSoWhite outcry, nabbed the Screen Actors Guild Award ahead of Mr. Stallone's Oscar competition. (Mr. Stallone was not nominated for an SAG.) Mr. Stallone, meanwhile, is being buoyed by a ton of sentimental good will, to wit the standing ovation that followed for his Golden Globe win.
Everything Buckley says there is accurate. But again, she pokes at the Academy for failing to nominate Elba, while failing to note that none of her own newspaper's three film critics included him on their own nomination ballots.

Let's say that again. The New York Times has three film critics. With regard to Elba's performance, they engineered a unanimous "Oscar shutout" too!

Just a guess! There are people in Hollywood who notice this sort of thing and think it's fake and dishonest. Here's another guess:

Next year, some black actors and actresses will lose some nomination votes because of this sort of thing. Another guess: some black actors and actresses lost nomination votes this year because of the way this theme played out after last year's nominations.

Are actors and actresses losing votes in this manner? If so, that's unfortunate and unjust. That said, we'll guess that it's actually happening. And in truth, many people have been overstating, faking and posing in their criticisms of the Academy with regard to this pleasurable theme.

In the real world, overstating actually can create resentment and backlash. Actors may be losing nomination votes as a result of overstatement, faking and posing concerning the Oscars and race.

Could Democrats lose votes the same way? We liberals have accomplished this outcome in the past through our various overstatements. Trust us:

We the liberals are entirely capable of making this happen again!

Blackistone's column is poorly reasoned today. We're going to guess that it struck many sports fans, citizens and voters in a negative way.

We're going to take one final guess. When we the liberals play it this way, progressive interests can be harmed.

Dear lord, those columns can feel so good! Is the tribal pleasure we feel worth the price we may pay?


Supplemental: Extremely bad reporting on Flint!

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2016

Where else? In today's New York Times:
What does extremely bad news reporting look like?

Consider the news report in today's New York Times about events in Flint.

Julie Bosman's report about Flint runs almost 1300 words. Under a piteous headline, the scribe begins like this:
BOSMAN (2/5/16): Desperate to Leave Flint, but Seeing No Way to Escape

Charles White, a carpenter, sat on the couch in the living room of his small bungalow,
his gaze fixed on his 5-month-old, Vaughn, nestled in a bouncy chair at his feet.

Mr. White, who has lived in Flint most of his life, said that he was at his job the day before when his girlfriend, Tia, called in a panic after coming from the pediatrician. Both of their children have lead poisoning.

''She spent all day crying, trying to figure out how we're going to get out of here,'' he said softly. ''I'm prepared to sell everything I own to get out and save my children.''

Yet Mr. White, like many people here, says he is as good as trapped in this poisoned city.
Charles White says he's trapped in a "poisoned city." A bit later on, he expresses his desperation:

''At this point, I'd be willing to move anywhere,'' he is quoted saying.

Warning! He'd better not move to a bunch of cities in Pennsylvania and New Jersey! Bosman never says so in her novelized news report, but a range of cities in those states have rates of childhood lead exposure which dwarf the current rate in Flint.

Example:

Charles White probably shouldn't move to Allentown, Pennsylvania! According to this Vox report by Sarah Frostenson, 23.1% of Allentown's kids have elevated blood lead levels (more than 5 micrograms per deciliter). That's almost seven times the current rate in Flint.

Altoona, Scranton and Johnstown aren't far behind Allentown. In Easton, Pa., 15.8% of the kids have an elevated blood lead reading. That compares to Flint's current rate, 3.6%.

When Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha released her now-famous study of children in Flint, it showed that the percentage of kids with elevated lead levels had risen from 2.1% to 4.0%. That reading led the nation's cable TV stars to declare Flint an AMERICAN DISASTER.

Presumably, many people like White have ingested that doomsday messaging. In this morning's report in the Times, they are told little else about their situation.

According to Frostenson, twenty cities in Pennsylvania exceed Flint's current rate of elevated lead levels. That includes Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, two large cities which are quite well-known.

In Philadelphia, 10.2% of the kids are listed with elevated blood lead levels. In Pittsburgh, the number is 8.3%.

Should someone possibly tell Charles White that he might not want to move to those cities? It won't be Bosman! She's still giving readers the impression that blood lead problems exist in Flint and in Flint alone.

Frostenson's report concerns cities in Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, in this post, Kevin Drum discusses a report about cities in New Jersey with exposure rates higher than that in Flint.

According to Drum's report, eleven cities and two counties in New Jersey have higher rates of exposure than Flint. Have you ever heard of Atlantic City? In that city, 10.2% of the kids have elevated blood lead levels, almost three times the rate found in Flint.

Not a word about these matters appears in Bosman's report. As with Rachel Maddow's highly selective pseudo-reporting, Bosman features excitement, pathos, human interest and script while downplaying information.

Other types of information are AWOL from Bosman's report. Consider what she does, and fails to do, in this early passage:
BOSMAN: People in poor and crime-ridden pockets of cities like Detroit and Baltimore often share the sense of being trapped because of market forces and limited resources. But the people of Flint have a special urgency about leaving.

Because of the health crisis stemming from their tainted water, they spend their days dealing with the consequences.

They use bottled water for drinking, washing their hands and preparing food.
In between, they shuttle children to pediatricians for blood tests, lug bottled water home from firehouses and install and change water filters on their home faucets. (Even so, city and state officials have warned that lead levels were still so high in some homes that the filters might not be strong enough to be effective.)
Obviously, the people of Flint experienced a gross breakdown in a key public service over the past two years. But even as Bosman invites us to feel their pain, she fails to explain or examine the ways the situation has improved.

Has Charles White had a recent test of his home's water supply? Is he using a water filter on his faucet?

If so, is it possible that his water is currently safe for drinking? Note the slippery way Bosman avoids this basic discussion:

"Even so, city and state officials have warned that lead levels were still so high in some homes that the filters might not be strong enough to be effective." (Our italics)

According to Bosman, the filters might not be effective in some homes. That's a very intriguing statement. How many homes is "some?"

In that passage, Bosman plays a game Rachel Maddow has been playing in the past week. Instead of using the actual numbers—numbers which seem to suggest that the vast majority of homes in Flint are now receiving drinkable water—Bosman keeps matters highly murky by using the fuzzy word "some."

This keeps her readers from understanding the current state of play in Flint, which, according to Professor Marc Edwards and others, seems to involve widespread improvement in the quality of the water.

What's the current state of play in Flint? Bosman makes no real attempt to say. (For recent numbers, see below.)

Meanwhile, what's the actual state of play in the home of Charles White? Has he had his water tested? Does he have filters on his faucets? If so, is the water in his home currently drinkable?

Especially for a person like White, who seems to be in such despair, these must be the most obvious questions on the face of the earth. But Bosman doesn't let them intrude on her tale, which is designed to let us enjoy the pathos, anger and despair of the situation.

(Bosman also doesn't make any attempt to discuss what the health effects might be for White's kids. The term "lead poisoning" sounds very scary. She makes exactly zero attempt to flesh that scary term out.)

"Some" is not a number! That said, actual numbers do exist for reporters who want to report them. Meanwhile, many residents of Flint may not understand the basic facts about the current state of the city's water supply. It seems that people like Bosman and Maddow don't want the Charles Whites to know.

Presumably, the water may be OK by now inside Charles White's home. Beyond that, if he decides to move away, he could easily end up in a city with a much higher rate of lead exposure.

Maddow has been suppressing these basic facts. This morning, Bosman follows suit. Many residents of Flint may be relatively unsophisticated and extremely upset. Maddow and Bosman seem to be working to keep them barefoot and frightened—and to keep their viewers and readers grossly under-informed.

When we read this awful report, a famous old question popped into our heads. "Who is Julie Bosman?" we found ourselves thoughtfully asking.

We googled a bit, then came to despair. According to this official bio, she joined the Times in 2002 as a clerk in the Washington bureau, "where she worked for three years as an assistant to the columnist Maureen Dowd."

Three years working under Dowd! What hope was there for Bosman's work after such an experience?

Beware of "Creeping Dowdism!" Presciently, Katherine Boo issued that warning in 1992.

"Some" is the fuzziest number: Nine days ago, the Washington Post reported some recent data concerning the state of Flint's water.

"Some" is not a number! Below, you'll see what happens when a reporter offers real statistics:
BERNSTEIN (1/27/16): Keith Creagh, director of the state Department of Environmental Quality, said the state was continuing to sample Flint water for lead and that "things are trending better." Of 2,577 samples analyzed, 93.7 percent had less than 15 parts per billion of lead and 85 percent had less than 5 parts per billion.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency recommends that homeowners and municipalities move to reduce any lead level higher than 15 parts per billion, but some health researchers say there actually may be no safe level for lead in drinking water.
Are those numbers reliable? Professor Marc Edwards has seemed to say they are.

Do those numbers mean that the water in most Flint homes is now safe to drink? As with Maddow, so with the Times—no attempt is being made to examine this obvious question.

It's excitement and narrative all the way down! Information can go hang. So, of course, can people like White. They serve as toys of the gods.

THE YEAR OF THE LIBERAL: "PLAIN TALK," the New York Times headline says!

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2016

That's always a dangerous sign:
We're postponing our discussion of the pair of Trump voters who appeared, via videotape, on the December 10 Maddow program.

What are Trump voters actually like? We're postponing that discussion again!

Was 2015 really "the year of liberal loathing," as so many scholars are now claiming? Does that tendency toward tribal hatred tend to surface in liberal discussions of people who may vote for Trump?

Let's stop the clowning around! We think our world is full of liberal loathing, and we think it's ugly, unhelpful and stupid.

But good God! The items we've seen in the press just today! Let's discuss a bit of the context within which that loathing occurs.

The worst journalism we've read today is this lengthy New York Times news report about the situation in Flint. We'll discuss that report this afternoon. For now, let's discuss some other bobbles from the nation's discourse.

Fred Kaplan returns from Neptune

Our first click today produced this piece by Fred Kaplan at Slate. Kaplan is a 61-year-old Pulitzer-winning journalist. He also seems to be newly returned from a long sojourn on Mars.

In his piece, Kaplan describes the context surrounding Hillary Clinton's vote in October 2002 on the Iraq war resolution. Incredibly, this is Kaplan's explanation for his new report:
KAPLAN (2/4/16): Listening to her rationale Wednesday night, I didn’t know whether she was telling the truth. I had written many Slate columns about the Iraq debate and the ensuing war, but I couldn’t remember the details of then-Sen. Clinton’s position. Looking up those details now, I have come to a conclusion about the rationale she recited at the New Hampshire town hall: Hillary was telling the truth.
Whatever one thinks of Kaplan's conclusions about Clinton's past motivations and current accuracy, his report is full of actual information. That said, it's stunning to think that he actually had to research this matter—that he "couldn't remember the details" he's reporting today.

Down through the years, we've been stunned by the clueless way we liberals describe and discuss that war resolution vote. It's astounding to think that a journalist of Kaplan's standing "couldn't remember" the discussion and debate which surrounded that fateful vote.

That said, Kaplan's report includes this correction: "This article originally misidentified Rep. Richard Gephardt as a senator and the Democratic majority leader. He was the House minority leader."

Everybody makes mistakes. But people, really! Good God!

The New York Times headlines PLAIN TALK

It's never a good sign when a major news org thinks it has spotted "plain talk."

During the Clinton/Gore/Clinton years, straight talk, straight-shooting and plain talk have formed the basis for an endless, ongoing press corps narrative. Our journalists have constantly spotted this type of straight talk, always from pols who are opposing the fake, phony Clintons-and-Gore.

This morning, the New York Times headlined "plain talk" right at the top of our hard-copy front page. Traditionally, warning lights begin to flash when the Times offers headlines like this:

"PLAIN TALK PULLS YOUNGER VOTERS TO SANDERS RUN"

We're so old that we can remember when "straight talk" was allegedly pulling voters to Bill Bradley's run, even as Bradley was lying his ascot off about an array of topics. (Al Gore invented Willie Horton!)

Saint McCain, the king of alleged "straight talk," was exhibiting similar problems. The press kept averting its gaze.

We warned you then as we'll warn you today—when the press corps bestows this benediction on pols, such pols will often be inclined to take advantage. That doesn't mean that Candidate Sanders is doing this. But it also doesn't mean that he isn't, or that he won't.

This morning's front-page PLAIN TALK report
was written by Amy Chozick. She quickly quotes an 18-year-old college freshman. This youngster recites the narrative the Times has peddled concerning the Clintons and Gore for an extremely long time.

Journalistic claims of PLAIN TALK should serve as a warning sign. This is a very old press corps script, one that's been badly abused.

Top savant tells Playboy all

Is Bernie Sanders a viable candidate? How about Hillary Clinton?

We don't know how to answer those questions. Inevitably, though, we felt ourselves forced to click on this Politico proffer:

"Maddow: Hard to see Sanders winning"

As it turned out, Maddow had been sharing her insights with Playboy. And she meant it was hard to see Sanders winning the Democratic nomination, not the general election. ("My prediction for Bernie: populist hero forever but hard to imagine him still being there at the convention.")

Although we have no idea if he will, we don't find it hard to imagine Sanders winning the nomination. By traditional norms, he couldn't win the general election—but traditional norms are losing their hold, and the GOP may nominate a candidate who "can't win the general" either.

In fairness, Maddow is rarely wrong in these matters. On several occasions last summer and fall, she correctly noted that Rick Santorum was "the best communicator" in the large GOP field. She followed the lead of Lawrence O'Donnell, who insisted for months in 2011 that Tim Pawlenty was going to be the Republican Party's 2012 nominee.

Concerning the possible death of plain talk

People get crazy during campaigns, crazy and scripted and tribal. We're all inclined to be this way. This morning, Paul Krugman complains:
KRUGMAN (2/5/16): And speaking of demonization: One unpleasant, ugly side of this debate has been the tendency of some Sanders supporters, and sometimes the campaign itself, to suggest that anyone raising questions about the senator’s proposals must be a corrupt tool of vested interests.

Recently Kenneth Thorpe, a respected health policy expert and a longtime supporter of reform, tried to put numbers on the Sanders plan, and concluded that it would cost substantially more than the campaign says. He may or may not be right, although most of the health wonks I know have reached similar conclusions.

But the campaign’s policy director immediately attacked Mr. Thorpe’s integrity: “It’s coming from a gentleman that worked for Blue Cross Blue Shield. It’s exactly what you would expect somebody who worked for B.C.B.S. to come up with.” Oh, boy.
For the record, the same thing happened in 1999 when the very same Kenneth Thorpe "tried to put numbers" on the Gore and Bradley health plans. His motives were attacked by Bradley folk, until Bradley's top health care adviser acknowledged that the campaign had screwed up its number-crunching.

(Or perhaps they made their numbers up. When pols are granted the PLAIN TALK tag, they tend to start taking advantage.)

That health care aide was never heard from again. Needless to say, the narrative about Straight Talker Bradley and Big Liar Gore continued without interruption.

"Insulted the entire gay community"

In many ways, we think Bernie Sanders is a phenomenal pol. That said, we aren't sure what would happen once the attack machine started on him. You can be sure that 18-year-olds on page one of the Times haven't examined this question.

In many ways, we think Sanders is phenomenal. That said, we're going to revisit that ancient warning about pols who get praised for PLAIN TALK. As a warm-up, let's start with this passage from Krugman's column:
KRUGMAN (2/5/16): We saw something similar back in 2008, when some Obama supporters temporarily became bitter opponents of the individual mandate—the requirement that everyone buy insurance—which Hillary Clinton supported but Mr. Obama opposed. (Once in office, he in effect conceded that she had been right, and included the mandate in his initiative.)
Krugman is being polite. The individual mandate always polled poorly. Despite that fact, Candidate Clinton went ahead and proposed it. Candidate Obama said he opposed the mandate, then flipped once he'd been elected.

Who engaged in PLAIN TALK there? By the dictates of Hard Pundit Law concerning the Clintons and Gore, you weren't allowed to imagine that Candidate Clinton had been forthcoming while the other fellow had possibly worked a small con.

Last evening, Candidate Sanders "misremembered" another such moment from that campaign. It involved Obama's pledge "to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries."

Erring, Candidate Obama said he would do that; Candidate Clinton said she would not. Last night, Candidate Sanders "misremembered" what this dispute had actually been about. Candidate Clinton tried to correct him.

When he made this small mistake, was Candidate Sanders taking advantage of an ancient narrative? Last week, we were surprised when we saw the videotape of this peculiar remark on the cable show Hardball:
SANDERS (1/29/16): It is great to be against the war after you vote for the war. It is great to be for gay rights after you insult the entire gay community by supporting DOMA. It is great to finally kicking and screaming, come out against the TPP, but where were you on all of the other trade agreements.
Did Hillary Clinton "insult the entire gay community by supporting DOMA?" Did Bill Clinton do that? That's what 18-year-olds are now being told, and the thought is stirring their souls.

For the record:

DOMA was authored by Bob Barr, a Republican congressman. It passed both houses of Congress by overwhelming, veto-proof majorities.

The vote was 85-14 in the Senate and 342-67 in the House, with many famous liberal Dems voting in favor of passage. That was the politics of same-sex marriage at the time, before today's journalistically useful 18-year-olds had so much as been born.

Bill Clinton called the bill "unnecessary and divisive." Press secretary Mike McCurry called it "gay baiting, plain and simple." After it passed by those overwhelming margins in the fall of 1996, Clinton decided to sign it, but he refused to hold a signing ceremony. Among other things, it seems to have been a defense against defeat in November's general election.

Did President Clinton "insult the entire gay community" by doing what he did? If he did, so did the bulk of Democrats in both the House and the Senate. That includes the late Senator Wellstone, as Candidate Clinton noted last night.

Did Hillary Clinton "insult the entire gay community" at that time? We'd be inclined to call that a stretch, even a bit of an ugly stretch.

Is it possible that 18-year-olds are being misled by yet another official PLAIN TALKER? Our national discourse is scripted, brainless, empty, dumb. For that reason, you will never see any such question raised on page one of the Times.

We're frequently stunned by the know-nothing way the politics of the 1990s get discussed. In the first click we clicked today, Kaplan extended the problem into 2002.

This is the know-nothing, dumbnified context within which we the liberals assess the nation's Trump voters. The truth is, we liberals just aren't especially sharp, though you'll never get us the liberals to believe such a ludicrous claim.

Still coming: Assessing that pair of Trump voters

Supplemental: Marc Edwards testifies about Flint!

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 2016

You'll never hear this from Maddow:
On last evening's Maddow Show, we got to see our hilarious host "poof" two Republican headshots, those of Candidates Paul and Santorum.

(Remember how Maddow kept announcing last year that Santorum was the best communicator in the field? Remember how she wasted all that time doing interviews with Santorum? By this week, she was rolling her eyes and snarking at the dumb stupid offensive guy. It's very much the way this flyweight conducts her TV star business.)

Last night, Maddow made those headshots go "poof." To us the Maddowsketeers, it was enormous fun! We also got to see Rachel snark, at pointless length, about the travails of Candidate Bush.

Plus, we got to enjoy her telling us about the newest poll! It was a new, exciting national poll, to which the cable world's biggest clown had exclusive rights. We'll edit out some of the time-waste:
MADDOW (2/3/16): I do actually have legit breaking news hot off the presses. What I have in my hot little hand here is the first, the first new national poll in the presidential race since the Iowa caucuses. This is a poll on the Republican side. It was done by PPP.

Again, first national poll of the race for the Republican nomination since Iowa. And we've got this poll exclusively tonight. Nobody else has this. I am breaking this news right now.

What this new poll says is that Donald Trump is still winning. But he is winning by a lot less than he was winning before.

[...]

Again, this is breaking news. This poll is going to be officially released tomorrow, again, the first new national poll on the Republican side since Ted Cruz won Iowa. We got this exclusive first look at these numbers tonight.

Basically what this poll is telling us, if this is an accurate snapshot of the race right now, what this is telling us is that Donald Trump is still in the lead but that momentum is going the wrong direction. That trajectory is downward. He's dropping like a stone. A nine-point drop in a month is a big drop.
According to PPP, Trump is still ahead nationwide. But in the wake of Iowa, he's ahead by only four points over Cruz and Rubio.

Here's the lesson a serious person might draw from such a new poll. Night after night after night after night, Maddow has wasted everyone's time for the past six months as she has pored over every new poll, of which there have been a real shipload.

In truth, of course, Maddow has been selling us entertainment in the form of a horse race, a product she continued to peddle last night. And when you waste tons of time that way, you can't discuss actual news.

That explains why Maddow didn't discuss Barack Obama's visit to the Baltimore mosque. It also explains why she did so little reporting about what Marc Edwards told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform about events in Flint.

Edwards is the Virginia Tech professor who has played a key role in bringing events in Flint to public awareness. Yesterday, he testified to that House committee about those events, appearing along with a half dozen other witnesses.

By all accounts, Edwards is one of the most important players in the whole Flint story. As we'll show you tomorrow, he's one of the cartoon heroes of Maddow's account of Flint.

Edwards knows a great deal about what happened in Flint. Yesterday, he discussed those events with the House. Today, we're going to show you the Q-and-As which seem to lay out his basic view of this case.

Professor Edwards may not be right in all his assessments, of course. But despite his role as a cartoonized hero, you've barely heard his assessments on the Maddow show.

We'd say the reason for that is increasingly obvious.

Maddow loves to tell a cartoonized story in which her cartoonized villain is the villainous Governor Snyder full and complete total stop. Edwards—unlike Maddow, he's an adult—tells a more complex story.

We're going to show you two Q-and-As. Each exchange came near the end of yesterday's hearing.

In the first exchange, Rep. Cummings (D-MD) asks Professor Edwards why he seems to blame the EPA to such an extent for what happened in Flint. In his reply, Edwards says where he thinks "the primary blame" for Flint lies:
CUMMINGS (2/3/16): As a trial lawyer, I'm kind of used to kind of really, really listening carefully. It seems like you spent a lot of time on the EPA.

And I want you to be clear, and I'll say it 50 million times and I mean it. I want the EPA to be held responsible for addressing the things that they're supposed to address.

But it seems—help me with this, OK, because I'm just listening to you. You don't seem to put too much blame on the state. Why is that? Or am I missing something?...

EDWARDS: My perspective on this is the fact that these are the agencies paid to protect us, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and Susan Hedman at EPA is the top environmental cop in the region.

I have said repeatedly that the primary blame for this rests with a few people at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, without question. But in terms of other people in the state, those core professionals misled them throughout this whole thing. [Former mayor] Walling in Flint, for example, reached out after reading Miguel's memo, as a considerate mayor would, to Susan Hedman. Said, "Is this something I should take seriously?"

And she told him, the top environmental policeman in the region told him, "I am sorry this memo ever took place and I'll get back to you after I edit and vet it."

So I— 100 percent of the responsibility lies with these employees at MDEQ, there's no question. But the EPA had the chance, because of Miguel Del Toro, to be the hero here and Ms. Hedman snatched defeat for EPA from the jaws of victory by discrediting his memo and standing by silently as she knew that federal law was not protecting Flint's children.
Professor Edwards' assessment isn't necessarily accurate. But almost surely, Edwards knows more about these events than any other outside player.

In that answer, Edwards places "the primary blame/100 percent of the responsibility" on "a few people at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality." He says those people at MDEQ tended to mislead everyone else. He also severely blames the EPA's Susan Hedman for her conduct after the fact.

In that answer, Edwards cited Mayor Walling, the former Flint mayor, as someone who was misled by those MDEQ staffers. In a pair of follow-up questions, Rep. Chaffetz (R-UT) asked Edwards to elaborate on the deception to which he referred. He specifically asked if Governor Snyder had been misled by the MDEQ staffers.

At the start of the exchange which follows, you see Edwards state his general theory of the case. Eventually, you also see his statement regarding Snyder.

Trust us! You will never hear what follows on Maddow's horrible program. Simply put, this doesn't follow the cartoonized script the horrible Maddow is peddling:
CHAFFETZ: I just to follow up on what Mr. Cummings was talking about, Mr. Edwards. These people at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, do you feel that they were misleading people? Were they providing false information? What were they doing? And who were they doing it to?

EDWARDS: I think it probably started innocently. I think someone forgot to follow the law [about corrosion control], but they ignored warning sign after warning sign...And gradually, step by step, they just felt like they were covering this up. There's no question about it.

You read the e-mails. They were—they lied in writing to the EPA, and it was only after [Flint parent Lee-Anne Walters] figured out that they were not using corrosion control that they started this new story that we don't know if we have to have corrosion control. So I think the written record is quite clear on this.

CHAFFETZ: They were telling that to the EPA. What about to the governor's office and other state officials?

EDWARDS: It's very clear to me that they misled the epidemiologists who were looking at that. The very first thing that they did was to reach out to these MDEQ employees and say, "Is there something wrong with the water?" And the talking points, the notes from that memo used by the epidemiologists, basically repeated one lie after another after another about the actual situation in Flint.

And when you're a scientist and you have been misled so fundamentally by someone in a position of trust, that skews your interpretation. So I have criticized what the Health Department did, and the fact that they never told the governor about the spike in elevated lead that was occurring. And I have, I have talked about their unethical behavior in the month of September, when they refused to share data with me and Dr. Mona about the lead poisoned children.

But you have to— When you look at the ethics of this, you have to look at what they were told and put yourself in their position and I fault them, but the blame lies with these three or four employees who were actively misleading everyone. And I go back to Mr. Walling, who took a lot of criticism, and some of it very justifiable. But if you're a mayor of a town in Flint and you reach out to Susan Hedman, the top cop in the region, and she tells you nothing is wrong, and a few days later you go on television drinking the water to tell everyone it's safe, who's to blame for that?

Certainly, Mayor Walling has taken his share of the blame for being overly trusting of the top EPA cop in the region, for apologizing for this memo and not telling that there's anything wrong going on in Flint. But the bulk of the blame for that particular episode has to lie with Susan Hedman.
Edwards' assessments and impressions could turn out to be wrong. That said, what is his basic assessment?

He said he thinks the failure to provide corrosion control started as a mistake. He seems to say that the MDEQ staffers who made this mistake gradually created a cover-up as they realized what they had done.

That basic assessment could turn out to be wrong, of course. But Edwards says these three or four state employees then began "actively misleading everyone." He expressly says that they misled the former Flint mayor, and he seems to say that "they never told the governor about the spike in elevated lead that was occurring."

Is that accurate? We can't say. But trust us! You will never, ever hear those views expressed on the Maddow program. Maddow has cartoonized Professor Edwards as a major hero of these events. But Professor Edwards' view of the case is light-years from the Preferred Maddow Script, which can be summarized in this way:

"Snyder Snyder Snyder Snyder Snyder Snyder mass poison."

Bad water came out of the taps in Flint. Scripted portraits leach out of Maddow's program every night of the week.

The mugging, clowning, corrosive Maddow should be removed from the air. She simply isn't stable enough to hold her current position.

Tomorrow: Maddow's cartoon portrait of Edwards. Plus, basic unanswered questions

THE YEAR OF THE LIBERAL: On first looking into a set of Trump voters!

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 2016

Part 9—Incomprehension and Us:
Throughout the course of human history, tribal hatred and loathing have played a destructive role.

This has been true all over the world. Increasingly, experts and scholars have been making a surprising claim about this age-old phenomenon.

According to these academics, we the liberals have increasingly adopted a culture of hatred and loathing. Some of these scholars are even referring to 2015 as "the year of liberal loathing," a claim which must surely be wrong.

It gets worse! These scholars are tying this alleged liberal loathing to the process of liberal dumbnification, a process no one now really denies. If these experts can be believed, the dumbnification of us the liberals has spurred our growing desire to engage in stereotypical loathing of The Others—of the nation's many Trump voters, let's say.

Is it possible that these scholars could be right, if only to some minor degree? Increasingly, we're almost able to catch a fleeting glimpse of their point, thanks to an endless wave of presentations of the type we've sampled in the past few days.

According to these worried scholars, what happens with increasing frequency when we the liberals attempt to discuss and describe The Others? We "otherize" them, scholars say; we offer generalized denunciations of their alleged racism and their obvious bigotry.

Not to mention their xenophobia and of course their nativism!

On occasion, these scholars say, we even take things somewhat further. Increasingly, scholars point to the recent comments of Spike Lee, a smart and funny and decent person—except, that is, when perceptions of The Others are concerned.

Increasingly, worried scholars around the country are pointing to comments like these from Monday's New York Times:
BUCKLEY (2/1/16): There seems to be no common ground right now. Every time Obama talks about guns, sales spike.

LEE: Or there's a mass shooting. After San Bernardino, they went up.

It's called scare tactics. I don't think anything good comes out of people using fear, whether it be Mussolini or Hitler.

Trump too.
What's his motto? ''Make America great again''? Those are code words. It's like, all right, let's put the blacks back in their place where they used to be. You know what, why not go all the way? Let's bomb churches, let's bring back Bull Connor, let's have water cannons, let's have German shepherds. You might as well. They want to rewind the clock. It's not just black folks; women too. Let's rewind when white men were in control.
"There seems to be no common ground right now," the Times' Cara Buckley sadly said. Some scholars are saying that Lee's response came close to proving her point!

Who exactly is the "they" to whom Spike Lee referred? Who wants to bomb black churches again and bring back the German shepherds?

According to an array of scholars, this is a coded, perhaps unconscious, reference to the nation's Trump voters. Some analysts say that Lee was exhibiting his puckish humor, using a literal reference to German shepherds as part of a liberal "dog whistle."

Is it possible that these analysts are right? If we squint our eyes and tilt our heads, we can almost imagine that we have begun to catch a brief glimpse of their apparently crazy point!

Increasingly, we the liberals make sweeping generalizations about the motives and values of those who refuse to vote the way we helpfully tell them to vote. We rarely turn to what philosophers have sometimes described as the "things-in-themselves." On our "cable news" shows, we rarely speak to actual Trump voters to see what they're actually like!

On Tuesday night, Chris Hayes broke from the pack. On the "cable news" program he hosts, he ever-so-briefly played videotape of a Trump voter at Monday night's Iowa caucuses.

In liberal homes across the land, cable subscribers covered their ears and aimed the sign of the cross at their screens. But so what? As his viewers engaged in these acts of self-protection, Hayes bravely broadcast the words which are shown below.

Trigger warning—voter for Trump! Also, brief "credit" expressed:
HAYES (2/2/16): While it's true that Trump fell short of his standing in recent polls, the last dozen of which showed him leading in Iowa, we here at "All In" would like to take a step back, and give the Donald a little credit.

Bear with me for a second. Not only did he finish second in a state that rewards grassroots organizing and evangelical outreach, neither of which are his strong suit. But yesterday, for the first time, American citizens got into their cars and drove to their caucus sites and stood in line and actually voted for Donald J. Trump, real estate mogul cum ethno-nationalist reality star, for president of the United States.

In fact, with last night's high turn-out, he earned more votes from Iowa Republicans than any other candidate in all of history except for one. That's Ted Cruz, last night.

At a caucus in Des Moines, I talked to one of those voters, who was caucusing for the first time:

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (videotape): I like Donald Trump. He's not bought and paid for, you know? I look at politicians. I might be radical here, but they're like wh*res, you know? They go out there, they show—they tell people what they want. The donors basically hire them for services. They do what the donors want. I like Trump because he's his own man.
In fairness to Hayes, he cushioned the blow by referring to Trump as an "ethno-nationalist," even throwing in a degrading reference to "c*m."

But Hayes then presented an actual voter for Trump! He attributed his support for Trump to a non-racist motive—to a non-racist political motive which might even seem imaginably plausible, if only on the top of the surface and for the briefest of mini-moments.

At any rate, this Iowa voter attributed his support for Trump to a non-racist motive. According to the nation's increasingly worried scholars, many liberals now believe that such representations must be discarded on face. You can't believe the claims of these "vermin," the nation's liberal Hitler-haters will increasingly say.

Did the voter to whom Hayes that night spoke secretly want to bomb black churches? Tomorrow, in search of an answer, we'll expand our "N" by 200 percent! We'll look at two additional voters for Trump who spoke on cable by videotape, this time on the Maddow Show, all the way back on December 10.

Under prevailing tribal norms, we the liberals are rarely allowed to see what The Others are willing to say. For ourselves, we were struck by these voters in real time.

Tomorrow, we'll examine the rodent-like claims of these secret church bombers as our current award-winning series reaches its glorious end.

Was 2015 really the year of liberal dumbnification and loathing? Scholars and experts keep making this highly implausible claim.

Tomorrow, in a happy ending, we'll see that these scholars are just plain wrong. Historically, at times like these, such implausible claims by this effete class have always turned out to be wrong.

Tomorrow: On seeing through claims by The Others