Young people full of promise and hope!


One dead, the others ignored: Nicholas Kristof wrote a type of good news column today.

Kristof discussed our national high school chess champion team. This is the way he started:
KRISTOF (1/31/13): You see America and its education system in all their glorious, exhilarating, crushing, infuriating contradictions in our national high school chess champion team.

Chess tends to be the domain of privileged schools whose star players have had their own personal chess coaches since elementary school. Yet the national champion team comes from a high-poverty, inner-city school, and four-fifths of its members are black or Hispanic.

More astounding, these aren’t even high school kids yet. In April, New York’s Intermediate School 318 in Brooklyn, where 70 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, became the first middle school team ever to defeat kids about four years older and win the national high school championship.
Black and Hispanic kids, playing national championship chess—and out of their age division! We wish more people got to see and hear about things like that.

In one way, that good news story was echoed in this morning's in this morning's horrible news report.

Last week, Hadiya Pendleton, 15 years old, performed at President Obama’s inaugural as part of the majorette team from Chicago's King College Prep. On Tuesday, she was shot and killed in a Chicago park at 2 in the afternoon. Her assailant was apparently shooting at rival gang members, or thought he was doing so.

This is the part of this news report which made us think of Kristof’s column:
YACCINO (1/31/13): Friends described Ms. Pendleton as a girl with an easy smile and generous nature. She loved Latin class and had worked hard on her overhand serve for the school volleyball team.

The inauguration trip was an inspiration, [Pendleton’s friend Klyn] Jones said. “He was an African-American from Chicago, and she is too,” Ms. Jones said. “It goes to show that as long as you put your mind to something, you can do it and affect the world.”
Hadiya Pendleton, 15 years old in Chicago, is said to have loved Latin class! We recommend that you click on that link—that you take a minute to consider the beautiful face of this child.

Our benighted ancestors devoted centuries to the attempt to make sure that there would never be someone like Peterson—that there would never be a chess team like the one Kristof describes.

Kristof announced today that he will be on leave for several months. We’ll beg him to do the following when he returns to his column:

Help the public hear more about kids like Pendleton! Let the public hear the truth about our nation’s rising test scores—more precisely, about the rising scores achieved by black and Hispanic students.

There’s still a serious achievement gap within the nation’s test scores. But black kids’ test scores just keep rising—and the Serious People in our press corps refuse to tell people about it.

What can make their hearts so cold that they would refuse to share this news—that they keep discussing achievement gaps without discussing the rise in test scores? What makes them refuse to give readers a chance to admire, appreciate and cheer for our black kids?

As a general matter, Kristof sticks to the scripts of Serious People concerning education reform. When he returns to his column, we’d like to see him tell the public the truth about the tens of thousands of kids like Peterson—about the many good decent kids who may even love Latin class.

In fourth grade, black kids now score higher in math than white kids did in the age of Clinton. That is an astonishing fact.

Serious People refuse to write it. It’s hard to know what makes such people so heartless, so cold.

On the bright side: On the bright side, Lawrence O’Donnell cares about kids in Malawi.

Kitty Genovese and continuing silence!


The “story” about her death: In this morning’s New York Times, Leslie Kaufman writes a fascinating piece about journalism and novels.

On its face, Kaufman discusses the brutal, once-famous murder of Kitty Genovese, a 24-year-old New York City woman who lost her life in 1964. But at its heart, this fascinating news report is about something quite different.

The Genovese murder became nationally famous because of what it supposedly showed about deteriorating civic culture. According to the standard story—a story which came from the New York Times—38 people saw or heard Genovese being murdered. But none of the 38 witnesses intervened, or even called the police.

At the time, we were in high school in California; this was a gigantic story out there. But uh-oh! As Kaufman explains, the original reporting by the Times seems to have been massively wrong. Here’s how Kaufman sketches it:
KAUFMAN (1/31/13): But over time the basic facts were called into question. As early as 1984 The Daily News published an article pointing to flaws in the reporting. In 2004 The Times did its own summation of the critical research, showing that since Ms. Genovese crawled around to the back of the building after she was stabbed the first time (her assailant fled and returned) very few people would have seen anything.

The article quoted among others Charles E. Skoller, the former Queens assistant district attorney who helped prosecute the case and who also has written a book on it. “I don’t think 38 people witnessed it,” said Mr. Skoller, who had retired by the time of the interview. “I don’t know where that came from, the 38. I didn’t count 38. We only found half a dozen that saw what was going on, that we could use.” There were other mitigating factors as well; it was a cold night, and most people had their windows closed.

“Maybe only five people were in the position to hear her calls, if even that,” said Kevin Cook, an author who is currently researching the case for a book of his own and trying to determine exactly who knew what.
Kaufman doesn’t say if any of those (maybe) five people actually did call police. But to appearances, the original report—38 silent witnesses!—seems to have been grossly wrong.

That’s the background. What’s interesting in today’s report is the way people in the publishing world view the reissue of the book which helped make the bogus claim famous.

That hurry-up 1964 book was called Thirty-Eight Witnesses: The Kitty Genovese Case. And uh-oh! The book written by A. M. Rosenthal, who went on to be a very big honcho at the New York Times.

Rosenthal’s book is being reissued in digital form by the publisher Melville House. In her report, Kaufman asks if Melville should have included some sort of notice about the questions which have arisen concerning the book’s basic claims.

It would have been easy to include an introductory essay. No such essay appears.

We were very much struck by the reactions Kaufman records. Let’s start with the reaction from Melville House itself, and from a second observer in the publishing world:
KAUFMAN: Dennis Johnson, the publisher of Melville House, said he knew about the controversy but decided to stand behind Mr. Rosenthal’s account. “There are, notably, works of fraud where revising or withdrawing the book is possible or even recommended, but this is not one of those cases,” he said. “This is a matter of historical record. This is a reprint of reporting done for The New York Times by one the great journalists of the 20th century. We understand there are people taking issue with it, but this is not something we think needs to be corrected.”

But others say there was a way to tip at the controversy without correcting the book. “If you are taking a piece of iconic journalism and reissuing it, it is probably in the interest of the reader of today to place it into a context that makes sense,” said Peter Osnos, the founder and editor at large of PublicAffairs Books, which handles numerous works by journalists. “That doesn’t change the value of the literature.”
In fairness, the various parties Kaufman quotes may still believe that Rosenthal’s work is basically accurate. But as is true with others who get quoted, Johnson takes a weirdly casual approach to the question of basic accuracy.

“This is a reprint of reporting done for The New York Times by one the great journalists of the 20th century,” Johnson says, failing to note that the great man’s reporting may have been grossly inaccurate.

Osnos adopts a much more sensible view. But we’ll admit that we were struck by his use of the term “literature,” for reasons which may become clearer below.

Later, as Kaufman speaks with others, they seem to have a very weak sense of the basic notions of accuracy, truth and fact. In all honesty, some of these parties speak as if they think they’re discussing a novel rather than a piece of journalism about a deeply serious subject.

In the following passage, Kaufman quotes the person who pushed to get the book digitized, and a contemporary New York Times journalist. To our ear, they seem to think they’re discussing a novel. And they seems to care more about Rosenthal’s reputation than about issues of truth:
KAUFMAN: Mr. Rosenthal’s book was digitized in large part because of a campaign by Andrew Blauner, a literary agent whose clients included Mr. Rosenthal and who has long had an interest in the Genovese case.

Mr. Blauner would not address the criticism of the book’s assertions but said he thought that, details aside, Mr. Rosenthal’s work was about humanity and thus more relevant than ever.

“I don’t think that there’s any question that the story of Kitty Genovese is iconic and important, timely and timeless and transcendent, on so many levels,” he said. “There is, in my view, great intrinsic value and virtue in Abe’s book being made available to as many people as possible, in as many formats as possible.”

Mr. Blauner argued that when Melville first brought the book back into print in 2008, it contained a new preface by Samuel G. Freedman, a journalism professor who also writes a religion column for The Times. The preface, Mr. Blauner said, acknowledged that “myths” had built up around the book. But that introduction talks only about myths about Mr. Rosenthal’s role in the story, not the story itself.

Mr. Freedman said that Mr. Rosenthal was a mentor and that he had been honored to be asked to write the introduction. “The post-facto controversy about Abe’s book is certainly available with a few simply online searches to anyone who wants to find it,” he said. “But I chose not to disparage the book in an introduction to it, and I live serenely with that decision.”
Blauner’s comments would make perfect sense—if Thirty-Eight Witnesses was a novel. He says the book “was about humanity and [is] thus more relevant than ever.” It sounds like he thinks he’s discussing The Bridge of San Luis Rey.

As presented, Blauner doesn’t ask if the book is factually accurate in what it says “about humanity.” As he continues, he says “the story of Kitty Genovese is iconic and important, timely and timeless and transcendent.”

He doesn’t seem to care if “the story,” however timeless, happens to be a true story.

Freedman adds to the general air of fantasy amd fawning. If readers wonder if the book’s claims are true, they can conduct online searches! And inevitably, when he wrote that earlier introduction, he protected the reputation of the great Times journalist.

Myths had developed, Freedman told readers, without acknowledging that the myths seem to begin right in the book’s title. He doesn't want to “disparage” a book which may have its facts grossly wrong.

All through this report, we see excessive deference to the reputation of a Big Famous Journalist. We also see a puzzling sense that the book is question is some sort of novel. It tells a timeless tale!

Stories came early in human history; the concept of accurate facts came much later. Jesus conveyed his ideas in parables. He didn’t use charts of graphs. His parables didn’t have footnotes.

“Tell me a story!” Children still say it. Journalists try to help out.

For fourteen years, we’ve discovered what follows:

Journalists often seem to live in a pre-factual realm, in the realm of the “story.” Five witnesses turn into thirty-eight. Slightly clumsy offhand remarks get transformed into damning “quotations” or paraphrases. All scribes agree to recite them.

Is this story still “too good to check?” A very, very peculiar world view emerges from Kaufman’s report.

BLANCO AND BALKANIZATION: Conservative teen-ager gets knocked up!


Part 4—Disdain for them the people: Might Richard Blanco’s poetic vision really be coming to pass?

At last week’s inauguration, Blanco imagined us as “one people.” He pictured us as “one country—all of us,” pursuing the future “together.”

Could such a vision be coming to pass? In this post, Kevin Drum asks if the fever is breaking within the modern Republican Party. If it is, we may be approaching the day when “all of us” can perhaps work together again.

That said, tribal forces stand in the way of any such resolution. Tribal forces urge us the people to see the other tribe as The Other.

And no, it isn’t just various flyweights and goons on Fox who promote this vision. Consider what Paul Waldman wrote at the American Prospect when Sarah Palin parted ways with Fox.

For the record, Palin has been one of the least constructive pols of the tribal era. But how odd! When her departure from Fox was announced, Chris Cillizza posted tape of an interview with Palin from the spring of 2008.

It’s startling to watch that tape—to see the Alaska pol who existed before she went round the blend. (Cillizza didn’t know how to pronounce her last name at that point.) We recommend watching that four-minute tape. To access it, just click here.

That said, Palin did go round the bend, becoming a highly visible part of a deeply irrational era in pseudo-conservative politics. Then too, you have the way we liberals reacted to Palin. We were especially struck by the part of Waldman's retrospective where he played a very unattractive old card:
WALDMAN (1/27/13): Palin's theme was always resentment, the acid bile of the culture war. If you ever felt that you were looked down on by Northeastern elitists, or people with too much education, or condescended to by people who think small towns are rather boring and not the only soil from which morality and patriotism can grow, or laughed at by people who find The Purpose-Driven Life to be a less than profound theological text, Sarah Palin spoke for you. She luxuriated in her grievances—against the establishment, against the media, against everyone from the mightiest politician to the lowliest teenager who happened to knock up her daughter...
Resentment was Palin’s tool, Waldman says—right after he refers to the way Palin’s teen-aged daughter “happened to get knocked up.”

We’ll leave it to each liberal to judge that particular turn of phrase. For ourselves, we’ll only say this:

We liberals are ardent feminists, self-proclaimed—at least among Our Own. When it comes to teen-aged daughters of The Other, our standards may start to slip. For ourselves, we’re always amazed when high-minded men of the liberal tribe talk about teen-aged girls or women that way. Remember when we would get our jollies smutting up Jenna Bush?

So it very much tends to go in times of high tribal vision.

That said, that posted paragraph betrays other aspects of Tribal Living. Quite correctly, Waldman says that Palin trafficked in “resentment, the acid bile of the culture war.” But to our ear, he rather quickly gives an idea of where some of the other tribe’s tribal resentment may come from.

Do conservatives sometimes feel that they’re “looked down on by Northeastern elitists, or by people with too much education?” Yes they do, and Waldman’s comment about Palin’s daughter may help you start to see why. We’d say the same thing about Waldman’s snark concerning The Purpose-Driven Life, a book we’ve never read. We have read the books about modern political journalism Waldman co-wrote with Kathleen hall Jamieson. This leads us to say that many books may not be fully perfect.

Are conservatives “condescended to” by those in our own liberal tribe? Of course they are, with great regularity! In many cases, they will see and hear this condescension where we the liberals, despite our great brilliance, may be less discerning.

We the liberals aren't not high on them the unwashed rubes. Earlier in his piece, Waldman snarks in fairly standard fashion at “the likes of the American Sod Federation.” (Good God, people! Those farmers!)

Having pleasured us with a good solid laugh, Waldman describes the joy we liberals derived from our “hatred” of Palin:
WALDMAN: [T]he sad fact is that the time when anyone cared what Sarah Palin thought about anything is passing. So let's take a moment to acknowledge what we'll be without when she's gone.

There are few political figures remotely as interesting as Palin, with her unmatched combination of crazy ideas, absolute confidence despite a level of understanding of public affairs that would embarrass an average seventh-grader, and a nearly inexplicable white-hot charisma. For liberals, she's been the embodiment of "hathos," the thing you find so repulsive that not only can't you look away, you derive pleasure from your hatred of it ("hathos" was apparently coined by Alex Heard in 1985, but it has more recently been popularized by Andrew Sullivan). Can you imagine encountering a politician again whom you will find even half as appalling?

Other politicians have been considered dolts—Dan Quayle and Rick Perry come immediately to mind—but none has reacted to the accusation like Palin, not only defiant but without the slightest hint of embarrassment for whatever new way she exposed herself, from not knowing what the Bush Doctrine was at the end of George W. Bush's term, to coining inane new terms ("refudiate"), to reacting to every new controversy by claiming that the real victim was Sarah Palin (remember "blood libel"?), to that extraordinary, rambling statement she gave upon quitting midway through her first term as governor, explaining that she was walking away because to stay and do the job that the voters elected her to do would be "the quitter's way out." There really should be a long German word referring to the feeling liberals got whenever Palin said something even more idiotic and offensive than she had before, that combination of shock, disgust, and satisfaction that comes from getting yet more evidence that one of the other side's leading figures is such an epic nincompoop. Every time, you could almost hear a thousand conservatives plant their faces in their hands.
For ourselves, we have no idea why someone like Waldman would say that “there are few political figures remotely as interesting as Palin.” We would say that Palin’s role has been tragically counter-constructive. But we can’t imagine why any liberal would describe her as Waldman does.

And by the way: Is condescension lurking again as Waldman recalls the way Quayle and Perry were also regarded as dolts? (He neglects to include George Bush.) For ourselves, we’ve always enjoyed the instructive tale about the way the Washington Post trashed Quayle as a dolt, right on its front page, over an error the Post itself had made (and had then corrected) several years before. (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/13/05.)

The Washington Post trashed Quayle as a dolt on its front page—on the very day he announced his White House campaign! And alas! Seven years earlier, Quayle had been right about the matter at hand—and the Washington Post had been wrong. But so what? Now, in its glory, on its front page, the Washington Post was wrong again as it mocked Quayle as “the human punch line.”

Conservatives tend to resent such conduct. Being so much brighter, we liberals tend not to notice.

That said, Waldman explains the joy he took from his hatred of Palin—and presumably from the doltishness of Quayle. As we have described many times, Palin provided us the liberals with the joy of sect.

Waldman not only hated Palin. He's happy to describe the pleasure he took from his hatred. To liberals, this may sound like good clean fun—but in the wider tribal wars, it represents part of our tribe’s contribution to the breakdown of “one people—us.” And by the way:

This very day, you can see Melissa Harris-Perry in a commercial on MSNBC. She’s telling us that we should remember Dr. King by asking ourselves what we think “the beloved community” should be in the modern world.

It isn’t Harris-Perry’s fault that other liberals say they take their pleasure from hatred. But when you hear favorites on The Channel discussing the other tribe’s great hypocrisy, recall the way we flatter ourselves with ads about Dr. King, even as take our real joy from our tribal loathing.

(Question: Are teen-agers who get “knocked up” part of the beloved community? To learn about Dr. King’s concept, click here.)

Next week, we’ll review the portrait of the nuanced, thoughtful liberal which suffuses Chris Mooney’s book, The Republican Brain. But how about it? Are we liberals really the nuanced, thoughtful, accepting creatures we persistently say we are? Or are we people who take pleasure from loathing—from hatred? Most directly, are we people who “get down” by mocking teen-agers for getting “knocked up”—as long as they’re from The Other Tribe, the tribe we love to hate?

A stench precedes our liberal hoard as we move into Blanco’s America, trailing self-flattering crap behind us. Often though, in best tribal fashion, we can’t discern this smell.

Tomorrow: Instruction in hating The Other

Lindsey Graham’s exciting new murder charge!


It’s time to denounce this misconduct: Hillary Clinton stands accused of murder all over again!

Monday night, speaking with Greta van Susteren, Lindsey Graham took the nation down a repulsive old road.

“I haven’t forgotten about Benghazi,” Senator Graham dimwittedly said. “Hillary Clinton got away with murder, in my view.”

What makes this a repulsive old road? At Salon, Joan Walsh remembers:
WALSH (1/30/13): Now, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he’s using “got away with murder” figuratively, rather than saying Clinton murdered Ambassador Chris Stevens or the three other Americans who died in Benghazi last fall.

You can never be sure, though, since wing-nuts have accused Clinton and her husband of murder before, from vicious theories disputing the suicide of Vince Foster to Rev. Jerry Falwell’s “Clinton Chronicles,” which accused the president of responsibility for “countless” murders. Even if Graham is just talking overexcitedly about last week’s hearings, he can count on the lunatic fringe of his target Tea Party base hearing the charge that the outgoing secretary of state “got away with murder” any way they like. And applauding.

It would seem that Graham’s short stint as one of eight “reasonable” senators had to be immediately followed by his return to crazy, in order to keep away the potential Tea Party primary challenge he fears most next year.
Obviously, Graham doesn’t mean that Clinton was in Benghazi that night firing the RPGs. But that doesn’t mean that we should give him the benefit of any doubt at all.

The nation has been down this ugly old road before, just as Walsh recalls. During the 2008 campaign and thereafter, many pseudo-liberal leaders acted like the crackpot insults aimed at Obama were some sort of new phenomenon. This let us delight as we played the race card, the only card our team knows.

As Walsh recalls, murder charges were remarkably common during the Clinton years. By the summer of 1999, the foolishness had reached its zenith. Gennifer Flowers was invited on Hardball and Hannity to advance these disgraceful claims in half-hour and hour-long appearances—and to tell us that Hillary Clinton was the world’s most gigantic known lesbo.

At that time, the mainstream press corps refused to speak up, and our liberal leaders hid in the woods. Go ahead! Search the world for one word of complaint which ever escaped Walsh’s lips.

Around that same time, the usual suspects moved on; they began inventing ridiculous shit about Candidate Gore. Our “leaders” ran and hid from that too. Even today, they refuse to discuss what happened.

Now, the cry of murder rings out again. This time, our multimillionaire pseudo-journalists and their handmaidens need to stand like the big boys and girls they aren’t to denounce this repulsive conduct.

They also need to remind the public that this shit has happened before.

Presumably, Walsh’s speculation is correct. Graham is one of the Republican senators who is willing to negotiate and (gasp!) compromise concerning immigration. This makes him especially vulnerable to a primary challenge.

Presumably, his screaming and yelling about Benghazi has always been a way to demonstrate his crackpot good faith to those who might challenge him from the right. If we have one brain cell in all our heads, this can’t be accepted as an excuse for the return of this sort of language.

There’s only one problem here, of course. Last fall, Graham and his walkin’ boss, John McCain, aimed their ugly Benghazi campaign at Ambassador Susan Rice. When they did, the mainstream press and the liberal world ran off and hid all over again! They behaved exactly as they had during the Clinton-Gore years.

Even the fiery children at The One Liberal Channel all knew they must keep their traps shut. Careers hung in the balance!

These are very, very bad people. It’s time for these horrible people to stand and denounce the return of this language.

Unfortunately, most of our fiery cable leaders have made fools of themselves in recent years. No one pays them any mind, except as sources of derision.

They will complain on cable tonight. Except for others who think as they do, nobody—no one—will care.

One of the most worthless Times columns ever!


Public-spirited pair run low on guidelines for guns: In this morning’s New York Times, a bipartisan pair offer one of the silliest op-ed columns ever.

The famous centrists offer their thoughts about possible ways to curb gun violence. As they start, they declare their good intentions:
BAKER AND DINGELL (1/30/13): We are as different as North and South. One of us, John Dingell, is a liberal Michigan Democrat and the other, Jim Baker, is a conservative Texas Republican. We met during the Reagan administration and have often found ourselves on opposite sides of political battles. We have the bruises to show for them.
In Serious circles, Dingell and Baker are famous players—and despite belonging to different parties, they say they're hunting pals! Having displayed their good intentions, they eventually state the goal of their column:

“With the Senate Judiciary Committee scheduled today to hold the first congressional hearings on gun violence since the Newtown tragedy, we offer four general guidelines for a national dialogue on sensible solutions to this deadly malady.”

Finally! Someone is going to offer some guidelines for our national dialogue!

The bipartisan pair said they'd offer four guidelines. But they seemed to struggle as they attempted to meet their goal.

Four guidelines doesn’t sound like a lot! But this was their third general guideline:

“Third, common sense should prevail.”

It’s about time somebody said that! And this was their fourth and final guideline: “Finally, each of us should look into our own heart to consider what type of nation we want to be.”

Who else would ever have thought of a general guideline like that!

In our view, the bipartisan pair ran out of guidelines rather quickly. But the real fatuity of this piece lay elsewhere, along with its reason for being.

As the pals discussed their general guidelines, they listed a wide array of topics which might be part of our common-sense dialogue. Truth to tell, they basically listed every proposal you’ve already heard a thousand times by now.

Except for one proposal: Nowhere do the pals discuss the possibility of a ban on so-called assault rifles! Whatever you think of that proposal, it doesn’t seem to be present in this column. Nor do we get any explanation for its absence.

Go ahead—read the column. The boys say we should “consider strengthening background checks.” They also say we should “assess whether armor-piercing bullets should be legal.”

Using stronger language, they say we “must examine the long-term effects on our children of violent movies, television shows and video games.” Beyond that, we “must address gaps in our mental health system.”

We also “must strive to make our schools and public gathering places safer, perhaps through federal financing so local police forces can hire additional officers.”

But nowhere do these hunters say that we should even consider banning those so-called assault rifles. And they aren’t especially strong on the subject of ammunition clips or drums. They only say we should “determin[e] if there is any reason for weapons to have magazines that hold 30 rounds or more.”

Within the context of recent discussions, thirty rounds is a lot.

We’re always amazed when major newspapers publish worthless twaddle like this because its authors are famous and powerful. The list of guidelines is utterly fatuous—and one high-profile proposal is AWOL.

There’s no explanation for why it’s not there. As we begin our common-sense dialogue, the Times didn’t notice or care.

BLANCO AND BALKANIZATION: We liberals get to hear silly dumb stupid shit too!


Part 3—Maddow imitates Hannity: At the start of the week, Americans were treated to a very rare sight:

Senators from the two major parties seemed to have reached a general agreement about a major policy matter!

It has been a long time since the two parties seemed to be able to perform such a task. We almost thought we could hear the end of Richard Blanco’s inaugural poem, the one he delivered just last week, in which we the people engage in collective action, just like Obama said:
We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight
of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always—home,
always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon
like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop
and every window, of one country—all of us—
facing the stars
hope—a new constellation
waiting for us to map it,
waiting for us to name it—together.
"One country, all of us." Waiting to take action—"together!"

In a sprawling continental nation, that’s a difficult standard to meet. In recent decades, the polarization has grown, driven by various forces.

Yesterday, we said that, for our money, the current polarization trend begins with the invention of pseudo-conservative news orgs. Those entities have spread disinformation, confusion and discord all through our “one land.”

That said, we liberals get to hear silly stupid shit on a near-nightly basis now too. This kind of dishonest stupid conduct makes it harder for us to function as one people—us.

In an age when plutocrats rule, this makes it harder for progressives to advance progressive ideas. Divide and conquer! It’s the way the world’s plutocrats have always amassed and held power!

What kind of dumb stupid shit do we liberals get to hear? For starters, consider the opening segment of Monday night’s Maddow Show.

That’s right—this Monday’s program! The program from two nights ago!

Over the years, we’ve noted the occasional strange behavior of this program’s apparently capable host. More specifically, we refer to her occasional, very strange divergences from the truth.

Usually, these strange inventions involve some public figure Maddow seems to feel license to loathe. Monday night, the figure in question was Jan Brewer, Arizona’s Republican governor.

Eventually, Monday’s opening segment concerned the immigration proposal released that day by those senators. Maddow’s assessment of that proposal would be extremely strange on its own terms, as we’ll discuss below.

But Maddow began with a tribally pleasing presentation about the much-maligned Brewer. She played videotape which let us recall Brewer’s most embarrassing public lapses. She then suggested that Brewer wants to ignore her state’s constitution by running for a third term.

In her familiar way, Maddow made this sound like a thoroughly crazy idea. To sell her mocking portrait of Brewer, she avoided telling her viewers what lies behind the possibility that Brewer might seek re-election.

Simply put, Maddow treated her viewers like real Grade A fools. Sean Hannity has treated his viewers this way for the past too-many years.

What lies behind the possibility that Brewer might seek re-election next year? Duh:

Brewer has only been elected to one term as governor. Before her election in 2010, she served the last two years of Janet Napolitano’s gubernatorial term. (Napolitano had resigned to become Secretary of Homeland Security.)

Consider a similar situation. In 1968, Lyndon Johnson was finishing his first full term as president, though he had also served part of the previous term after Jack Kennedy was murdered. On March 31 of that year, Johnson shocked the world when he announced that he wouldn’t seek re-election.

No one doubted that Johnson could have run again, even though he would already have served one full term and a chunk of another.

Brewer faces a similar situation, though her ability to run again would be governed by the Arizona state constitution. Given the lack of precedent, there seems to be a lack of clarity about what that document might permit.

At any rate, a United States president in her position would be able to run.

This is amazingly simple stuff. But as Maddow ridiculed Brewer, she never explained these blindingly basic facts. Instead, she pretended that the other tribe’s Crazy Lady was engaged in The Crazy again.

This is the way we liberals get dumb—and “one nation” gets turned into tribes.

As she started her segment, Maddow offered a long discussion of the “strangeness” of Arizona’s last nine governors. One such governor was strange because he had only one eye! (Maddow didn’t say so, but this governor’s eye had been removed because of a cancerous tumor.)

Finally, Maddow gong-showed her viewers with this manifest pile of crap, just as Hannity has always done:
MADDOW (1/27/13): Business Week wrote about the strangeness of the history of Arizona governorships recently when the current governor, Jan Brewer, started making noises that she should stay for a third term.

Now, Arizona governors are term-limited to two terms. But the person who is in the job now, Jan Brewer, decided that she should maybe get a third term anyway.

Her long-time attorney started making the case, in an op-ed, that Jan Brewer essentially should refuse to leave office. He explained it's his reasoning that, quote, "It comes down to what does a term mean?"

He is right in a way. What is time? Look, George W. P. Hunt is still there at the Capital Museum!
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Brewer should simply refuse to leave office! After all, what is time?

Sadly, you’ll have to watch the entire segment to learn about the strangeness of Hunt. But Maddow made no attempt to explain the bone-simple facts behind this unremarkable matter. Instead, she proceeded to play her tape of Brewer’s public lapses. She then reinforced our tribal disdain with this sardonic, eye-rolling remark:

“Governor Jan Brewer, Republican of Arizona, always worth watching, wants a third term.”

By now, we the rubes had been grossly misled. On the bright side, we’d also been pleasingly reinforced in our belief that the other tribe is Just Plain Stupid and Crazy. If anything, Maddow’s presentation got even dumber—one might say crazier—as she attempted to or pretended to discuss the immigration proposal.

Here too, Maddow used her portrait of Crazy Brewer as the centerpiece of her case. She focused on one element of the immigration proposal, an element she quickly misconstrued.

Maddow focused on a somewhat clumsy part of the proposal—its call for “a commission of governors, attorneys general and community leaders living along the southwest border” who would “monitor the progress of securing our border and make a recommendation regarding when the bill’s security measures outlined in the legislation are completed.”

That’s a fairly hazy proposal—though we'll suggest that you note the word "recommendation." But among Maddow’s claims and suggestions, none of which were substantiated, she offered these presentations:

She seemed to assume that this commission would have veto power over the move toward conferring citizenship.

She seemed to assume that the commission would have to makes its recommendation unanimously.

She kept suggesting that this meant that Governor Brewer herself would or could have veto power over the move toward citizenship.

None of this made any sense. In fairness, Maddow was copying off Greg Sargent’s work from earlier in the day—and Sargent had jumped to some false conclusions about the commission’s supposed veto power.

As the day proceeded, Sargent semi-corrected himself. Maddow simply jacked up the alleged crazy. Eventually, she offered the following weird presentation, ending with a bogus claim about another Devious Person from the other tribe:
MADDOW (1/28/13): Elected representatives, governors, and other people from southwest border states, they would be put in a position of holding up all of the other advancements in the bill, keeping people from doing all of the other things that are in this policy, from getting in line for citizenship, stopping all the other reforms if this southwestern commission did not certify that the border had been secured, that all efforts to secure the border were complete.

The border security measures would have to be done first. This group has to say they are completed, that everything is secure on the border, and then and only then can the reforms that were unveiled today go forward.

That is the implication of the language that was put out today by this group of eight bipartisan senators, which translated into politicalese means nothing happens until somebody like Jan Brewer says, “Everything OK, everything is OK.”

Maybe Jan Brewer specifically.

Jan Brewer is never going to say everything is OK! Things are not OK for Jan Brewer! Whether it is making stuff up about headless bodies in the desert that don’t exist or trying to market to the nation how excited we should be that she wagged her finger in the president’s face when talking to him about border security.

If it all rests in her hands? She gets veto power? Or any other local official’s hands—to give thumbs-up or thumbs-down as to whether or not the country can go ahead with something that we agree we need as a whole country? That seems like a weakness in the plan.

When asked about this one laugh-out-loud provision in what seems like otherwise a very reasonable proposal, senators and staffers who are on the Democratic side of these negotiations for this bipartisan group said essentially, don’t worry about it. This southwesterners commission will be able to make recommendations, but they won’t be given veto power over what happens for the whole country and millions of Americans counting on reform.

Marco Rubio’s office on the Republican side has given a much more evasive answer, implying that maybe he thinks that Jan Brewer would have veto power. So clearly, that matter is going to have to be settled.
None of that actually is "the implication of the language that was put out today," but Maddow is right in one minor way: Clearly, the way that commission would function “is going to have to be settled.” But Maddow had invented a long strong of crazy suppositions about the way the commission would work, culminating in the picture of Brewer with veto power over the whole immigration proposal. And that highlighted claim about Rubio is just another invention, as you can see if you review the source to which Maddow’s web site linked.

Maddow had invented one last piece of bullshit about the other tribe's Slippery People.

Maddow went to on to excoriate the part of the plan involving that commission. “This one clause frankly does seem to stand out as being too stupid to live,” she declared, having just delivered a long segment whose stupidity was its central principle.

But the whole segment started with that gong-show about Brewer’s alleged desire to serve “a third term.” In the finest tradition of Hannity, Maddow kept her viewers from knowing the elementary facts about that situation. This allowed her to offer a pleasing rant about the other’s tribe’s Terminal Crazy.

To see the histrionics involved in this nonsense, we recommend that you watch this 16-minute segment. It’s a study in the ongoing spread of the tribal divide.

For years, the other tribe has been fed this type of stupid shit—this pleasing, fact-challenged demonstration of the other tribe’s Crazy. Today, we liberals get fed this stupid shit too.

Blanco’s picture of one nation working together struggles under the weight of such presentations.

Cable stars get rich and famous this way. We the people get dumb and divided.

Tomorrow: Our tribe’s rather plain high disdain

Krugman enters the sandbox on Morning Joe!


It’s hard for the gang to stay calm: Yesterday morning, Paul Krugman did a 21-minute segment on Morning Joe. To watch the full segment, click this.

There were no commercial breaks. Eight hours later, Joe Scarborough offered his thoughts in Politico under this headline: “Paul Krugman vs. the world.”

It may have seemed that way to someone watching the lengthy segment. Former governor Ed Rendell took a fairly balanced view. But by the end, it became quite clear—the rest of the Morning Joe gang weren’t buying Paul Krugman’s crazy outlook.

How thoroughly was Krugman rejected? According to Scarborough, several pundits found it hard to stay calm in the face of Krugman's wild views!

As he started his column, Scarborough burlesqued Krugman’s stance:
SCARBOROUGH (1/28/13): Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman came on “Morning Joe” Monday to discuss his latest book and the state of affairs in Washington. Mr. Krugman's view is that Americans would be better off if its government ran deeper deficits and ignored its long-term debt. That, of course, runs counter to conventional wisdom across the Western world, which is exactly why the New York Times columnist believes Spain and Great Britain are suffering through endless recessions.
Does Krugman actually think we should “ignore our long-term debt?” We’ve seen him say very different things in more civilized surroundings—on Charlie Rose, for example. Soon, Scarborough explained how hard it was for the gang to stay calm as Krugman voiced his views:
SCARBOROUGH (continuing directly): His argument also runs counter to what I have been saying in Congress and in the media since 1994...But most of our viewers did not tune in to hear me talk over the Nobel Prize winner. They tuned in to hear Paul Krugman. So I did my best to give him space.

But maintaining calm was not as easy for Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haass, who agrees with former Joint Chief chairman Michael Mullen, that long-term debt poses the greatest threat to America 's national security. Richard took exception to the suggestion that deficits don't matter and that long-term debt can be pushed to the side for years to come. Mr. Haass, Admiral Mullen and former Clinton chief of staff Erskine Bowles all believe that entitlements and debt are the most pressing challenges we face as a country over the next few decades.

You can add my liberal co-host, Mika Brzezinski, to that group. Mika let out a gasp when Mr. Krugman suggested Medicare and Medicaid shortfalls should be ignored. She compared Krugman's "head-in-the-sand" approach to the one taken by climate change deniers.
In fairness, Brzezinski didn’t actually use the term “head in the sand” and her alleged gasp wasn’t audible. But on this gender throwback program, Brzezinski has always been willing to serve as a foil for her dominant male co-host.

In this case, he jacked her reaction beyond what it was, without explaining why we should think that Mika is equipped to gasp at, and thereby refute, a Nobel-winning economist. (We certainly wouldn’t be.) In fairness, Brzezinski's interjection near the end of the segment was foolish on its own terms, without her co-host's embellishments.

Let’s return to Joe’s picture:

It wasn’t easy for the gang to stay calm when Krugman began to expound—and Mika even let out a gasp! Add to this childish crayon drawing the following words from an angry Steve Rattner and it’s time for the children to take their picture home to Mommy.

Ignore the initial sentence structure. We added some punctuation:
SCARBOROUGH: [Krugman’s] response drew a spirited email from former Treasury official and “Morning Joe” regular Steve Rattner in defense of Mika's analogy, who wrote the following:

“We are putting millions of tons of carbon in the air every day; we are also adding billions of dollars to our future entitlement obligations every day. We are borrowing (stealing?) from our children to pay far more in benefits to seniors than we are paying into the system.

“We have something like $60 trillion in unfunded liabilities to Medicare and Social Security. Paul Krugman would like us to just wait until those programs run out of money, at which point those unfunded liabilities would be just that much larger."
We're sorry, but Social Security is never going to “run out of money,” at least not in the way the term implies to the average person. But so what? As early as 1994, such presentations had famously convinced the bulk of younger Americans that they were more likely to see a UFO than to draw Social Security benefits. People like Rattner have been hustling such people every single day since.

Scarborough’s drawing is wondrously childish—and even after all these years, Rattner won’t restrict himself to language which doesn’t mislead. Meanwhile, very few people who watched that segment really understood what the combatants were claiming.

In short, Scarborough failed to create a coherent discussion, then fed Politico this.

(For Greg Sargent’s reaction, click here.)

Bill Keller breaks all the guild rules!


Why isn’t this on the front page: Did we ever mention that we and Bill Keller share the old home town tie?

In 1965, we graduated from San Mateo’s Aragon High. One mile down the Alameda, Keller was warehoused at Serra.

We mention this because Keller got something very right in his op-ed column in yesterday’s New York Times. This makes us think we must have influenced him somehow back in the home town days.

Good lord! Next thing you know, Keller will be spilling the beans about the nation’s rapidly improving NAEP scores! Right from his opening paragraph, Keller discussed a verboten topic, cited verboten facts:
KELLER (1/28/13): With its ambitious proposal to pay doctors in public hospitals based on the quality of their work—not the number of tests they order, pills they prescribe or procedures they perform—New York City has hopped aboard the biggest bandwagon in health care. Pay for performance, or P4P in the jargon, is embraced by right and left. It has long been the favorite egghead prescription for our absurdly overpriced, underperforming health care system.


The first problem with P4P is that it does not address the biggest problem. Americans spend more than twice as much per capita as other developed countries on health care—a crippling 18 percent of the country’s economic output, and growing.
Good grief! Keller didn’t even say that we spend twice as much per person as other developed countries. Correctly, he said it’s worse than that—we spend more than twice as much!

(That’s one of our pet peeves.)

In fact, this is a giant societal problem. But journalists almost never report, discuss or attempt to explain it. To judge from the way they husband these facts, you’d almost think there was some sort of guild agreement that these facts must not be broadcast.

Keller shattered that peculiar pact, then proceeded to discuss a possible way to reduce this massive spending.

We can’t really judge Keller's assessments. We did have these reactions:

First, a question: Why isn’t that highlighted information on this paper’s front page? Why hasn’t the Times ever done a Pulitzer-seeking front-page series about this astonishing state of affairs? Very few people understand the way this massive overspending affects our federal budget problems, the problems which seem to highlight all our political worrying.

Why hasn’t the New York Times ever treated this topic as major front-page news?

We offer that as our first reaction. In our second reaction, we will ask you why major liberal journalists don’t pursue and highlight this question. Dean Baker howls at the moon in his cave, explaining the way this massive over-spending figures into our budget problems. But we know of no major liberal pundit or journal which has ever really tackled this general question, aside from Paul Krugman’s series of columns about this matter back in 2005.

We also hail Michael Moore’s brilliant introductory film, Sicko.

Moore was ridiculed for his film; serious journalists agreed that the film had been made by someone who was too fat. Have you seen any other major liberal or org attempt to raise this question?

We liberals get fed a steady diet of attacks on Sarah Palin (and her “knocked-up” teen-age daughter). The New York Times always keeps us posted on racist behavior by white people in Georgia in the 1880s, especially if their behavior concerned such products as Pepsi and Coke.

But very few people have ever tried to raise the question Keller raised. Look over there, they keep saying.

Jay Mathews was another mile down the road from from Serra, languishing at Hillsdale High. Maybe he can explain the way our liberal and mainstream news orgs keep walking away from this topic—the topic Bill Keller, with our past help, has now so surprisingly raised.

Then too, there’s always Bazell: Then too, there’s Bob Bazell, who was with us at Aragon, though he was much, much older. Today, our fellow Don is NBC’s science reporter!

Here at THE HOWLER, we love Bob Bazell. When will Bob Bazell act?

BLANCO AND BALKANIZATION: Hannity speaks—and his mainstream enablers don't!


Part 2—One source of the nation's division: Richard Blanco’s inaugural poem may be seen as aspirational.

(For part 1 in this award-winning report, just click here.)

In a sprawling continental nation, it’s hard to maintain a sense of unified national purpose, a sense that we're really one people. Blanco’s poem may be seen as an encouragement—as a suggestion that we see ourselves as one national people under our “one sky.”

That said, the nation has been deeply divided in recent years. In truth, “we the people” don’t all believe the same things, as Obama’s inaugural address seemed to claim.

In fact, we the people believe all kinds of crazy shit, although we don’t all believe the same crazy things. In fact, it has never been easier to believe crazy things—and this makes it very hard to function as one people.

Why are we the people so divided? Sean Hannity—and his mainstream enablers—help us understand why.

Consider one of Hannity’s ongoing jihads—the ugly claim he just keeps making about the Benghazi attack. Last Thursday, Media Matters’ Simon Malloy reported on this disinformation, offering a strong tip of the cap to the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple. As he started, Maloy defined Hannity’s bogus claim:
MALLOY (1/24/13): Washington Post media writer Erik Wemple has been working doggedly to correct one of Sean Hannity's favorite false claims about the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi: that State Department officials watched "real-time" video of the assault from an office in Washington, DC. Wemple's efforts got an assist from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who testified before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on January 23: "There was no monitor, there was no real time." As Wemple's debunking of the falsehood makes clear, Hannity has been the primary driver of this claim by repeating on a near-daily basis.
That's an especially ugly claim. It attributes deeply callous behavior to State Department officials.

According to Hannity’s presentations, Obama officials watched the Benghazi attacks by video feed as they unfolded in real time. But so what? According to Hannity, officials kept making false statements about these attacks, despite their privileged access to the real-time events—and as they sat and watched the carnage, they callously refused to call in military assistance.

That's an especially ugly claim. At his Post blog, Wemple has been debunking the charge since last October, when it got its start. It has long been clear that there was no real-time video feed—that Obama officials were not able to watch the unfolding events in Benghazi. But Hannity keeps telling his viewers that this viewing party occurred.

Presumably, many viewers believe this claim. It’s the type of claim which creates deep fissures among us the people.

Hannity’s viewers have no obvious way of knowing that this inflammatory claim is untrue. This brings us to the culpability of Hannity’s many mainstream enablers.

As Malloy notes, Wemple has done several posts in the past few months about this piece of disinformation. But Wemple’s blog is not hugely well-known—and higher-profile fact-checkers and media critics have given Sean his usual pass.

As we have noted for the past decade, many major mainstream news orgs run in fear from the dissembling of powerful players like Rush and Sean. For major mainstream players, life is far more pleasant when they don’t call attention to Rush and Sean’s misconduct.

In the process, their viewers and listeners get misled—and we the people start getting cut into segments.

Wemple has challenged Hannity concerning this ongoing bogus claim. Better-known players have not. Consider:

In recent weeks and months, Glenn Kessler, the Post’s official Fact-Checker, has been turning into a rather unbalanced scolder of Obama and Clinton. That said, how many times has Kessler ever corrected the many misstatements of Hannity?

According to the Nexis archives, the answer tends toward none. In his highest profile fact-checks—the fact-checks which appear in the hard-copy Sunday Post—Kessler has never fact-checked Hannity.

In recent weeks, his Sunday fact-checks have piddled around with slightly odd criticisms of Obama and Bill Clinton. Hannity keeps making an ugly charge. Kessler keeps skipping past it.

We don’t mean to single out Kessler. After reading Malloy’s report, we checked to see whether Politifact has fact-checked Hannity’s repeated charge about that non-existent video feed.

As best we can tell, the answer is no. That said, we were struck by how very rarely Politifact has ever challenged Hannity’s statements. Let’s take a look at the record:

Last Friday, a very unusual event occurred—Politifact fact-checked something Hannity said and declared his statement “False.” Even there, the site seemed rather kind to Sean. In its front-page synopsis, it described Hannity’s false statement to be “a valid concern, incorrectly described.”

In fact, Hannity’s statement was grossly inaccurate. In our view, Politifact devoted a great deal of time and effort to the defense of those soothing words about his rather large howler.

That said, Politifact did declare Hannity’s statement “False.” This is an extremely rare event at the famous fact-checking site. As best we can tell from the site’s search engine, the story breaks down like this:

Before last Friday, Politifact hadn’t fact-checked any statement by Hannity since November 30, 2011. At that time, it declared one of his statements to be “Half true.”

Politifact had also fact-checked Hannity on September 15 of that year. In that instance, Hannity’s statement was judged to be flat-out “True.”

Indeed, Hannity’s string of truthful statements dates back several more years, to judge from Politifact’s work. Before those two fact-checks in the fall of 2011, the site hadn’t fact-checked any of Hannity's statements since November 11, 2009.

On that date, Politifact fact-checked two different statements by Hannity. Each statement was judged to be “True.” Politifact had also fact-checked two different Hannity statements in September 2009. One of those statements was rated “Half true;” the other was “Mostly true.”

Does Hannity ever make a false statement? Here is his exemplary record, as best we can limn it from Politifact’s whirring search engine:
Record of Sean Hannity’s statements at Politifact:
January 25, 2013: False
November 30, 2011: Half true
September 15, 2011: True
November 11, 2009: True
November 11, 2009: True
September 25, 2009: Half true
September 23, 2009: Mostly true
Does this man ever slip up?

Working our way back through the years, Hannity’s remarkable string of truthful statements finally comes to an end in June 2009. On June 22 of that year, Politifact declared one of his statements to be “False.” Hannity didn’t make another false statement until last Friday, when he expressed “a valid concern, incorrectly described.”

According to Politifact, this was Hannity’s first false statement in well-nigh onto four years. But then, Limbaugh also makes very few false statements! Judging from the Politifact search engine, the famous truth-teller made no false or half-true statements in 2011. In 2012, though, he made two. According to Politifact, this is Rush Limbaugh’s most recent inaccurate statement—one of only two he has made in the past two years:
July 18, 2012:
Rush Limbaugh: Says it's not "accidental" that the villain in the Batman movie is named Bane.
The site is keeping a close eye on Rush! Click here, scroll down to that date.

How have we the people become so polarized? There are many answers to that question, but for ourselves, this is where we would start. We’d start with the creation of fire-breathing pseudo-conservative institutions—and with the timid compliance of major mainstream news orgs, which persistently look away from the disinformation and discord these institutions sow.

For decades, we the people have heard all kinds of stupid and/or ugly shit from various hacks of the pseudo-right. Many of us have believed these claims.

Our big mainstream news orgs have kept quiet. We the people tend to splinter and break apart when our “leaders” behave in such ways.

Tomorrow: Moving right along

Krugman discusses the Jindal moves!


And Ryan’s shifting statistic: Bobby Jindal has been scolding his own GOP, calling it “the stupid party.”

In today’s column, Paul Krugman quotes Jindal making another bold-sounding statement: “We must not be the party that simply protects the well-off so they can keep their toys. We have to be the party that shows all Americans how they can thrive.”

As Krugman notes, Jindal’s snark about “the well-off” is new to the GOP. But uh-oh! Krugman notes what Jindal has now proposed for Louisiana—shifts in taxes which will benefit the well-off and penalize the poor and the middle class.

As Krugman notes, “similar plans are being pushed by a number of other Republican governors.” Why are they doing this, he asks, “just after an election in which the G.O.P. paid a price for its anti-populist stand?”

Krugman says he doesn’t know—and we don’t know either. But to us, some of Krugman’s speculations in this passage seem wrong or unfounded:
KRUGMAN (1/28/13): Well, I don’t have a full answer, but I think it’s important to understand the extent to which leading Republicans live in an intellectual bubble. They get their news from Fox and other captive media, they get their policy analysis from billionaire-financed right-wing think tanks, and they’re often blissfully unaware both of contrary evidence and of how their positions sound to outsiders.

So when Mr. Romney made his infamous “47 percent” remarks, he wasn’t, in his own mind, saying anything outrageous or even controversial. He was just repeating a view that has become increasingly dominant inside the right-wing bubble, namely that a large and ever-growing proportion of Americans won’t take responsibility for their own lives and are mooching off the hard-working wealthy.
That first statement is certainly true of many Republican voters. Many such voters do “get their news from Fox” and from similar outlets.

But Bobby Jindal plainly isn’t the average Republican voter. According to the leading authority on his life, Jindal graduated from Brown at age 20 with honors in both parts of a double major—biology and public policy. Eschewing Harvard Med School and Yale Law, at both of which he'd been accepted, he then went to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.

Jindal is plenty smart. He doesn’t “get his news from Fox.” Whatever he has decided to propose, he knows how to gather information.

Meanwhile, is Jindal “blissfully unaware” of the way his positions will sound to outsiders? We have no idea. Nor are we entirely sure that the electorate has arrived at the liberal position on these matters—or that mainstream journalists and pundits, Krugman excepted, will push the Republican governors about these regressive proposals.

So too with Romney. When he made his famous remark about the 47 percent, did he really believe his statement, as Krugman seems to assume? We have no idea. How do we know he wasn’t pandering to a roomful of donors—to people who do "get their news from Fox," people who presumably do believe that unpleasant twaddle?

We constantly say that Romney is fake. Then we assume he's sincere when he makes ridiculous comments.

One last comment, this time about Krugman’s views concerning Paul Ryan:

In the following passage, Krugman claims that Ryan is renouncing a previous position about the 60 percent. But does anyone know what Ryan’s statement ever meant in the first place?
KRUGMAN: Now, national politicians learned last year that this kind of talk plays badly with the public, so they’re trying to obscure their positions. Paul Ryan, for example, has lately made a transparently dishonest attempt to claim that when he spoke about “takers” living off the efforts of the “makers”—at one point he assigned 60 percent of Americans to the taker category—he wasn’t talking about people receiving Social Security and Medicare. (He was.)
Ryan made that claim about the 60 percent back in 2010 (see text below). When he did, was he talking about recipients of Medicare and Social Security? We don’t know, and we don’t know why Krugman thinks he does.

In the 2012 campaign, did any interviewer ever ask Ryan what this earlier statement meant? If so, we haven’t seen the transcript of the exchange.

With that in mind, this is our question: Given the way our discourse works, what reason is there to think that Ryan ever “meant” anything at all? How do we know he wasn't just tossing out numbers—spouting?

Yesterday morning, we saw what happened on Meet the Press when Ryan made the world’s most ridiculous statement (see our previous post). David Gregory didn’t even bother to ask him about that ludicrous statement.

Did anybody ever ask him what he meant by that claim about the 60 percent? Did anyone ever try to find out if he meant anything at all?

Krugman has constantly said that Ryan’s a fake. What makes us think that this consummate fake “meant” anything at all?

The statement to which Krugman refers: Here’s the statement to which Krugman refers, based on this link from his column:
RYAN (6/7/10): Right now about 60 percent of the American people get more benefits in dollar value from the federal government than they pay back in taxes. So we're going to a majority of takers versus makers.
That’s what Ryan said in June 2010—and he on;ly said that we're "going to" a majority of takers! But uh-oh! In November 2011, Ryan put the number of takers at only 30 percent! (Or something—just click here.)

Did Ryan “mean” anything either time? Or was he simply spouting? And of course, the ultimate question:

Given the way our press corps works, did anyone ever ask?

We hear America failing: David Gregory fails to perform!


Rolls over and dies for Paul Ryan: Yesterday morning, David Gregory thoroughly failed to perform.

As he did, the latest completely ridiculous claim was broadcast to the nation.

The author of this ridiculous claim was Rep. Paul Ryan, Republican head of the House budget committee. Here’s how the nonsense went down:

Gregory played tape of Ryan saying the following: “According to the Tax Foundation, between 60 percent and 70 percent of Americans get more benefits from the federal government than they pay back in taxes. So we're getting toward a society where we have a net majority of takers versus makers.”

Gregory said that Ryan must be including programs like Medicare when he makes such a claim. He quoted Jonathan Chait, accusing Ryan of proposing “savage cuts to food stamps, children's health insurance, and other mitigations of suffering for the least fortunate.”

Ryan said that these claim are absurd—“straw men.”

Eventually, Gregory asked a thoroughlyly sensible question. When he did, he got an utterly ludicrous answer:
GREGORY: So which part of the safety net culture is sapping America's opportunity right now?

RYAN: So this is the point we keep making with benefits—take food stamps, for example. The benefits that [Obama] talks about, the changes we made, all we're saying is you have to actually be eligible for this program to receive this program. We need to target these things to the people who actually need them. And if our reforms on food stamps went through, they would have grown by 260 percent over the last decade instead of 270 percent. So when you call such reforms "savage," that, I think, does a disservice to the quality of debate we need to have.
Has anyone ever made a more ridiculous statement on TV? (We're not counting Pee Wee Herman.) According to Ryan, all the sound and fury in recent years has involved budget proposals so tiny as to be barely noticeable.

What kinds of adjustments to federal spending has Ryan proposed? According to Ryan, his famous proposals amount to this: Under one of his proposals, spending on food assistance (“food stamps”) would have risen by 260 percent, not by the 270 percent which obtained under Obama!

That tiny sliver of difference in spending represents the Ryan revolution! Under Obama, federal food assistance has exploded. Under Ryan, federal spending would have exploded, but by a tiny bit less.

Surely, no one has ever made a more ridiculous statement on American television. Below, you see Ryan’s full statement—and the reaction from Gregory:
RYAN: So this is the point we keep making with benefits—take food stamps, for example. The benefits that he talks about, the changes we made, all we're saying is you have to actually be eligible for this program to receive this program. We need to target these things to the people who actually need them. And if our reforms on food stamps went through, they would have grown by 260 percent over the last decade instead of 270 percent. So when you call such reforms "savage," that, I think, does a disservice to the quality of debate we need to have. And what we're trying to achieve here is a system where you have that safety net to help people who cannot help themselves, but you have an opportunity society, education reform, economic growth, so that people can get on their feet and make the most of their lives and reach their potential, and that is what we're worried about losing in this country.

GREGORY: One more on the budget, then I want to talk about a couple of other things. Do you feel like there's just a failure to get to know each other in Washington? To really understand each other? You haven't had much contact with the president over the last couple of years...
Ryan made the world’s most ridiculous statement. In response, Gregory asked a fatuous question about the need for Washington pols to socialize together more.

That wasn’t Gregory’s only failure to challenge strange statements by Ryan. But that particular statement was so absurd that it borders on bald-faced insanity.

How could anyone believe that Ryan’s proposals really amount to a marginal difference in runaway federal spending growth? Whatever you think of Ryan's proposals, his proposals have not looked like that!

You couldn’t make a more ridiculous statement. Gregory just let it pass.

Gregory gave Ryan a pass—and the career liberal world will give the same pass to Gregory. You won’t see him criticized tonight on liberal cable—and you wouldn’t have seen Bob Schieffer criticized had he accepted that same absurd statement from Ryan.

Our journalistic culture lies in ruins, and there you see one of the ways this has happened:

Multimillion-dollar journalists won’t challenge even the craziest statements. And when they compliantly fail to perform, their multimillion-dollar colleagues won’t say a word about that!



Part 1—What one poet said: When Democratic presidents get sworn in, they normally throw in a poem.

In 1961, Robert Frost was the first such poet, at one of the coldest inaugurals ever. Last Monday, it was Richard Blanco, bringing a blast of warm air from Miami—and a vision of the nation that doesn’t quite seem to be so.

Somewhat oddly, Blanco’s poem seemed to have been written-to-order for this particular president in this particular year. In his address, Obama spoke of our need for collective action. As Blanco began, he began to picture a strongly unified national people—a nation which doesn’t exist.

On Saturday, several letters to the Washington Post complained about the Post’s failure to review Blanco’s poem. One letter included the poem’s full text.

Blanco began like this:
One Today

One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,
peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces
of the Great Lakes,
spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.
One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story
told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.

My face, your face, millions of faces in morning’s mirrors,
each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day...
Without any doubt, that was “one sun” which rose on the eastern shore, then charged across the Great Plains. But as he continued, Blanco kept describing a great unitary American people—a people which doesn’t exist:
One ground. Our ground, rooting us to every stalk
of corn,
every head of wheat sown by sweat
and hands, hands gleaning coal or planting windmills
in deserts and hilltops that keep us warm, hands
digging trenches, routing pipes and cables, hands
as worn as my father’s cutting sugarcane
so my brother and I could have books and shoes.

The dust of farms and deserts, cities and plains
mingled by one wind—our breath...
Andrew Sullivan noted the echo of Whitman, who famously heard American singing. But Sullivan failed to state the obvious—when Blanco pictures our nation in the manner which follows, he is picturing an American nation which doesn’t exactly exist:
Hear: the doors we open
for each other all day, saying: hello, shalom,
buon giorno, howdy,
namaste or buenos días
in the language my mother taught me—in every language
spoken into one wind carrying our lives
without prejudice, as these words break from my lips.


We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight
of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always—home,
always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon
like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop
and every window, of one country—all of us—
facing the stars
hope—a new constellation
waiting for us to map it,
waiting for us to name it—together.
It’s true—there’s only one sky, and in that sense, that one sky is “our sky.” It’s true that the one ground is “our ground." In the literal sense, we are “one country.”

It’s certainly true, and it's a good thing, that we hold doors for each other all day. It’s true that a new constellation of hope is waiting for us to create it—together.

But the America which really exists produces a whole different set of sounds, as compared to the various sounds Blanco describes in one part of his poem. Every day, as part of “our day,” our various tribes insult and condemn one another, often in highly ridiculous ways. This keeps our various tribes very much apart—not together.

We were struck by the oddness of Obama’s address, in which he kept asserting that “we the people” hold various beliefs, even though large portions of we the people plainly don’t hold those beliefs. We were struck by the way the Blanco poem seemed designed to echo Obama’s address.

But we were hugely struck by the way the Blanco poem seemed to picture a sprawling unified nation—a nation which so plainly doesn’t exist at this juncture. As everyone knows, America is singing a great many highly discordant tunes at this particular time.

Why are we the people so polarized at this juncture? We’ll pursue that question all week. We'll start with some of the ways pseudo-conservative leaders have spread disinformation through the land—with the express permission of other tribal leaders.

A great deal of our polarization has come from Rush and Sean, and from those who enable their conduxct. But before the week is done, we will return to some of the ways our own tribe has been spreading the discord around.

It’s easy to hear the other guy singing off-key. It can be harder to hear the bad notes when they're produced by your own.

Say what you will about Blanco’s poem, it isn’t exactly a poem about the current state of the nation. How have we gotten so Balkanized?

Tomorrow, the latest from Sean.

Tomorrow: Garbage enabled

Frost and unification: Reciting a poem from memory, Frost described the process by which we mythically became one American people:
The Gift Outright

The land was ours before we were the land's.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia,
But we were England's, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender...
“Until we found out that it was ourselves/We were withholding...”

The tribes are withholding themselves today! We’ll examine the process all week.

Breaking: Carrico just the latest of many!


In Virginia, our side did it first: In Virginia, the drive to give the most electoral votes to the loser seems to be losing steam.

As Laura Vozzella reports in the Washington Post, Virginia’s Republican governor came out against the scheme yesterday. So did “two GOP senators who sit on the committee that will decide the bill’s fate next week.”

In the end, Virginia may not be for fixers! But uh-oh! As Vozzella described the apparent death of the coup, we were struck by this piece of Virginia history:
VOZZELLA (1/25/13): In Virginia, as in most states, the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote receives all of that state’s electoral votes. A bill proposed Sen. Charles W. Carrico Sr. (R-Grayson County) would instead apportion electoral votes by congressional district. Had Carrico’s bill been in place for the 2012 elections, Obama would have claimed four of the state’s electoral votes instead of all 13.

Obama’s 2008 win snapped a 40-year losing streak for Democrats in Virginia. During that long drought, some Democrats thought tinkering with the electoral college might be in order. They filed more than a dozen bills to that effect between 2001 and 2012.

All of those bills died in committee, the same fate Carrico’s measure is expected to meet next week before the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee.
Say what? According to Vozzella, Democrats had tried to change Virginia’s electoral vote procedure during the years when the state seemed incurably red. If true, this means that Carrico is just the latest in a long line of statesmen recommending such a plan.

If Vozzella’s report is correct, Carrico can correctly voice those deathless words:

They started it! They did it first!

Searching Nexis files for the Washington Post, we couldn’t find a record of these past Democratic proposals. But then, we switched to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, home town paper for the Virginia state government.

Sure enough! In January 2001, Tyler Whitley reported the first of these Democratic schemes. And according to Whitley, the proposal was a reprise of an even earlier effort:
WHITLEY (1/15/01): Del. James M. Scott of Fairfax County and state Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple of Arlington County, both Democrats, have introduced bills that would make Virginia's Electoral College representation proportional rather than winner-take-all.

Even though a proportional system nationwide would have increased Texas Gov. George W. Bush's Electoral College margin, both Democrats said they feel a change in the Virginia law would make the voters feel more involved in the presidential election.

Under the current law, all 13 Virginia electoral votes—one for each of the 11 congressional districts and one for each of the state's two U.S. senators—went to Bush because he carried Virginia. Under the bills, introduced Thursday in the General Assembly, Democrat Al Gore would have earned three electoral college votes in Virginia. He won the 3rd, 8th and 11th congressional districts. Whipple lives in the 8th District and Scott the 11th.

Scott introduced similar legislation in 1992, but it got nowhere. He thinks Gore's popular vote margin and the narrow electoral vote margin by Bush—he received 271 to Gore's 266—might help the legislation's prospects.
Because Democratic votes are heavily concentrated in certain Virginia congressional districts, Democrats had less to gain from this proposal than Republicans do today—though only in one sense:

In Campaign 2000, Candidate Gore would have gained only three electoral votes from Virginia, not the nine which would have gone to Romney via Carrico's proposal. But good lord! Those three votes would have changed the outcome of that famous election! With those three votes, Gore would have won the Electoral College, 269-268.

If Vozzella’s reporting is correct, Democrats continued to offer such proposals during Virginia’s endless red years. That ended this year, when Carrico’s proposal briefly turned the tables.

Certain distinctions should be noted. Whatever its provenance or intention, Carrico’s proposal was part of a wider set of Republican efforts, encompassing half a dozen states. And because of voter distribution in Virginia, it would have proposed a truly absurd result in 2012, with Obama—the winner of Virginia’s popular vote—getting only four of the state’s 13 electoral votes.

Under Carrico's gonzo proposal, similar absurd results could obtain in future years, any time a Democrat won Virginia's popular vote.

But we were eager to speak up today in defense of the much maligned Carrico. Is Carrico a snarling racist trying to disenfranchise “those people?” Or is he simply a servant to Coal—and the latest in a long line of political tit-for-tatters?

Race watch: Now they’ve even got Kevin Drum!


Why can’t our favorite simply come out and say whatever he’s saying: Now they’ve even got Kevin Drum, sanest guy on the planet or even on the plantation!

In this post, Drum discusses the ludicrous complaint from Virginia—the complaint about smaller communities in the state getting outvoted by larger communities. Refusing to say what he has on his mind, Kevin instead offers this:
DRUM (1/25/13): Ah, yes. All of Virginia's "more densely populated areas" are outvoting them. I wonder who they could possibly be talking about? That's a real chin scratcher.
Every good pseudo-liberal knows what Drum’s saying. He’s saying this is all about race!

As it certainly could be, of course—in whole or in part. But how odd! It’s now us liberals who skulk around, winking and mincing and speaking in code where race is concerned—refusing to come out and say whatever it is we mean.

The race men used to talk this way. Now the race men are us!

Why can’t Kevin speak more directly? We’ll take a guess:

Drum can’t make a direct accusation because it’s very hard to make an assertion about Virginia state senator Charles Carrico, the little-known pol whose silly comment is being widely quoted. (Kevin seems to think his name is Bill Carrico. For our earlier post on this topic, just click here.)

Is Carrico a racist? A race man? Is he mad because his district’s white voters are getting outvoted by minority voters? We’ll take a (very easy) guess:

Our favorite analyst doesn’t know! We’ll guess that Kevin never heard Carrico’s name (first or last) name until about ten minutes ago. He has no way of knowing how much Carrico may or may not be a race man—unless we assert, as an article of pseudo-liberal faith, that “those people” are all like that!

Is Carrico a race man? We have no idea. But we’ve now consulted his leading biographer, where we came up with this:
WIKIPEDIA: Charles William "Bill" Carrico, Sr. (born November 6, 1961, in Marion, Virginia) is an American politician in the Republican Party. He is currently a member of the Senate of Virginia, representing the 40th District. Carrico's campaign for Senate was heavily financed by coal mining interests such as Alpha Natural Resources, Consol Energy and Richard Baxter Gilliam.
Is Carrico a race man? Why can’t we say that he’s a stooge who’s in the employ of Big Coal? Why can’t we write our novel like this:

Big Coal is looking for a way to stop losing the state of Virginia!

That might not explain the clowning either. But why do we hint and mince about a motive when we so plainly don’t know?

We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: It often seems like the race card is the only political play our team knows. It’s cheap, it’s dumb and it’s very stupid. And did we mention how cheap it is, especially in the face of the racial martyrs who played the game on such a transcendent moral plane? Who played it that way and won?

It’s also the face of the pseudo-lib world. It helps explain why we’ve been so hapless for so long out in the political world.

What explains the clowning in Virginia? Inquiring minds don’t seem to want to know! It's so easy to drop the bomb, to run the ball off-tackle.

Final note: Turning this into an unwinnable fight about racial motives is an excellent way to lose.

Virginia watch: Looks like the season of the putsch!


How will the Post react: In this morning’s Washington Post, Nia-Malika Henderson reports on the wave of electoral scams being planned by the GOP in certain states.

How absurd are these proposals? This absurd:

Last year, Obama won the state of Virginia with 51 percent of the vote. Romney got 47 percent. As a result, Obama won Virginia’s 13 electoral votes.

Under the new rules being proposed for Virginia, Obama would have received only four of the state’s electoral votes. Despite losing the state’s popular vote by a solid margin, Romney would have gotten nine!

What is proposed is a ludicrous scam. At one point, Henderson reports the official “thinking” behind it:
HENDERSON (1/25/13): The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Charles W. Carrico Sr. (R-Grayson County), said he wants to give smaller communities a bigger voice. “The last election, constituents were concerned that it didn’t matter what they did, that more densely populated areas were going to outvote them,” he said.

“This is coming to me from not just my Republican constituents,” added Carrico, whose district voted overwhelmingly for Republican Mitt Romney in last year’s presidential election. “I want to be a voice for a region that feels they have no reason to come to the polls.”
Were you able to follow that? Carrico is concerned that small communities in his district will be outvoted by larger communities elsewhere. As a general matter, that’s how elections work!

Unless you institute a system where the losing candidate wins.

This scheme may be voted on next week. On a journalistic basis, we’re curious to see how the Washington Post will react.

The Post is a major Virginia newspaper. When a preliminary bit of GOP flim-flam was executed in Virginia this Monday, the Post reacted with a blistering editorial calling the action a “putsch.” See THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/23/13.

The proposed insult to our electoral college system would be a much more serious matter. We’ll be interested to see what the Post has to say this weekend.

Regarding Henderson, let us say this about that:

In her news report, she gives a very tame account of this remarkable proposal. Will readers fully understand the strangeness of what is being proposed? Will readers understand how this proposed system would have worked last year—with Obama getting only 4 of 13 electoral votes despite having won the state?

Henderson presents a very tame, understated account of this matter. Her description slips by so quickly that readers may not understand.

Beyond that, Henderson says that Maine and Nebraska currently operate with the same system. In fact, one aspect of the Virginia proposal is different from the system in use in those states.

This difference adds to the absurdity of the Virginia proposal. Despite writing a full-length news report, Henderson doesn't explain.

Nia-Malika Henderson: Fiery liberal when reciting on Hardball, unfaithful servant in print?

INAUGURATE THIS: Are we a people or are we just tribes!


Part 4—We name-call, the other tribe wins: Do “we the people” really believe the various things in Obama's address? (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/22/13.)

And not only that:

If we the people believe all those things, why have we the liberals had so much trouble getting legislation passed? Why do prospects for Feinstein’s gun bill look shaky, to cite one example?

Answers: Actually, very large portions of we the people don’t believe the various things Obama listed in his address. Nor do they the people pay much attention to us the liberals.

Can you completely blame them? In Monday’s address, Obama asked for all the “name-calling” to stop. We the liberals quickly assumed that he was describing the other team’s name-calling.

But what about our own name-calling—name-calling through which we tend to promote the other tribe’s view of the world?

Yes, we liberals do name-call! One day after Obama’s address, Adele Stan offered a comical review of the speech. By rather obvious implication, she dropped our favorite weapon, the R-bomb, on every Republican’s head.

We liberals love this card. It often seems like the only political play we know. Routinely, we aren’t very subtle—or even real smart—when we please ourselves with it.

But then, we love to name-call the other tribe—and even the American people! For an example of what we mean, consider Chris Mooney’s recent book, The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science—and Reality.

In his book, Mooney explains how the other tribe’s brains make them deny reality! That makes us the smart, nuanced tribe, in case you hadn't noticed.

A bit of background:

Back in November, we awoke one morning to find the analysts badly shaken. Their favorite, Paul Krugman, had written this post, in which he belatedly praised Mooney’s book. This was part of the overblown episode in which we liberals acted like Marco Rubio had made the world’s dumbest statement concerning the age of the earth.

In fact, Rubio’s statement wasn’t especially dumb, although the reaction of some liberals was. Now Krugman was praising Mooney’s book—a book we thought was quite poorly argued when we made the analysts read it earlier in the year.

Due to Krugman’s post, we reread Mooney’s book over Christmas. For today, let’s consider one small part of the book—Mooney’s discussion of the large percentage of we the people who are “authoritarian.”

Modern history makes the A-word a rather unflattering term. Sensible people might be cautious about putting it to widespread use. (Some of the social scientists Mooney cites specifically refer to this problem.) But after spending many pages praising us liberals for being so smart, Mooney devotes a chunk of his book to the widespread incidence of authoritarianism among them the American people.

Mooney’s discussion strikes us as weak on the merits—and it’s politically clueless. On the other hand, it does provide a fair amount of unintentional comedy. By the time the discussion begins, Mooney has established that we liberals “like to think, in an effortful and self-challenging way, and take great pride is doing a good job of it.” We liberals are marked by “intellectual flexibility, curiosity, a willingness to entertain new ideas, and a toleration of different perspectives and values.”

(We invite you to try to locate such traits in Stan’s review of that speech.)

Meanwhile, Mooney has established that conservatives have their own corresponding virtues; conservatives like to be on time and they keep their offices clean! It’s hard not to laugh at such a taxonomy, especially if you’ve ever watched Roots or Planet of the Apes, in which the dominant tribes are constantly constructing such one-sided maps of the world. (BET aired Roots last week. We watched.)

Yes, we know—according to Mooney, this comically overblown tribal taxonomy is backed by sound social science. People who take pride in their effortful, nuanced thinking will perhaps be skeptical of such familiar claims.

In November, the analysts were shocked to see Krugman endorsing this book. He has been their hero for more than a decade. They think he's sharper than that.

In those earlier semi-comical passages, Mooney describes the mental and moral superiority of his own political tribe, while sprinkling in persistent claims that he’s doing no such thing. But when Mooney starts dropping his A-bombs around, they get dropped in more general fashion.

In the following passage, Mooney attributes a very unpleasant-sounding trait to almost half the American people. We think it's a strange thing to do:
MOONEY (page 71): [W]ithin the conservative fold, there is one group that exhibits the traits just discussed—closed-mindedness, low integrative complexity, very low Openness—to an extent that is hard to say anything good about: so-called authoritarians. They’re not all conservatives, but they’re surprisingly prevalent in the United States. Based on one recent study, nearly half of the public scores a .75 or higher on a 0 to 1 scale...
What a remarkable statement! According to Mooney’s somewhat murky prose, nearly half of we the people score high on a scale of authoritarianism! This seems to make them part of a group "that is hard to say anything good about." (These high scorers aren’t all conservatives, Mooney charitably notes.)

Authoritarian! Given the ugly provenance of that term, a sensible person might want to be careful about making such an implausible statement. But as he continues, consider the basis upon which Mooney says he is making this claim:
MOONEY: Based on one recent study, nearly half of the public scores a .75 or higher on a 0 to 1 scale (which is typically measured by asking whether one would prefer to have obedient and well-mannered children rather than independent and curious children).
Nearly half the county is authoritarian! Mooney knows this based on a rather fatuous question about the traits them the people prefer to see in their children.

Presumably, there’s more to the clinical study of “authoritarianism” than that. But Mooney cites no other basis for his remarkable claim. According to Mooney, nearly half the country is authoritarian—became they want their children to be well-mannered! We think that’s a very strange thing to say. But then, we love complex thinking.

In our view, this is second cousin to a type of Very Bad Liberal Politics—a type of bad politics which has dogged progressive interests over the past fifty years.

Soon, of course, Mooney is telling us that the other tribe is full of authoritarians. Our tribe favors “complex deliberations.” Sadly, their tribe doesn't.

To see how he knows this, read on:
MOONEY (page 73): In another work, Markus Kemmelmeier, a social psychologist at the University of Nevada-Reno, tested whether right-wing authoritarians were more inclined to process information based on “quick and dirty” heuristics or intuitive cues (System 1, in other words) rather than more complex deliberations (System 2). As a result, Kemmelmeier found that authoritarians performed worse on two classic tests designed to trip up intuitive and emotional reasoners. Consider, for instance, a test in which you’re told that out of all the families in a city that have six children, 72 of them had a boy-girl birth order of GBGBBG. When then asked how many families had an order of BGBBBB, heuristic processors are more likely to jump to the conclusion that the second sequence is less likely to occur than the first, though it isn’t. Right-wing authoritarians performed worse in Kemmelmeier’s study, suggesting that they were more reliant on System 1 reasoning.

...The authoritarians are inclined to give this ‘reasoning light,’” says Kemmelmeier. “They don’t reason it through. The implication of his study, therefore, is that authoritarians may “jump at superficial information and not really understand what’s behind it.”
Those right-wing authoritarians! They’re more likely to get that question about birth order wrong! (How much more likely? We aren’t told. Apparently, we liberals aren’t inclined to ask, despite our love of complex reasoning.) And when they get that question wrong, it shows that they jump at superficial information without really understanding what’s behind it! They don’t engage in “more complex deliberations,” the way we liberals do!

(For the record, the second “classic test” of “emotional reasoners” is never described.)

On the basis of this gong show, Mooney encourages liberal readers to glory in the power of their tribe’s mental strength. Goofus jumps at superficial information without really understand what’s behind it! Gallant loves complex thinking and different perspectives! Of course, we liberals are jumping at superficial information when we swallow this presentation just because Mooney hands it to us. The analysts moped after Krugman affirmed this weakly reasoned book.

Tribal groups have formed such portraits of The Other since the dawn of time. In modern times, they've often boasted that they have the backing of science—science which is superficially presented and understood.

It’s comical to see the ways Mooney praises the wonder of his own tribe while denouncing the faults of the other. From this next passage, the reader can perhaps derive a small mordant laugh:
MOONEY (page 72): Authoritarians are very intolerant of ambiguity, and very inclined toward group-think and distrustful of outsiders (often including racial outsiders). They extol traditional values, are very conventional, submit to established leaders, and don’t seem to care much about dissent or civil liberties. They are known for their closed-mindedness, and, indeed, their Manichean view of the world—good and evil, right and wrong, saved and damned, white and black. They have a need for order. Conversely, they can’t tolerate uncertainty. In America, they are often religiously conservative fundamentalists who believe the Bible is the unedited word of God.
Authoritarians are known for “their Manichean view of the world?” Authoritarians are “very inclined toward group-think”—are “distrustful of outsiders?” Fair enough—but couldn’t that also be a description of Stan’s recent piece in Salon? If you can find an ounce of nuance there, let us know where it is.

We liberals slept in the woods for a very long time. Ever since we emerged from our slumber, we have been inclined to engage in a fair amount of name-calling. We drop R-bombs on the other tribe; in his book, Mooney drops the A-bomb on half the American people! Behind this instinct, there often lies a vast disdain—and an instinct for engineering endless political defeat.

In this piece in The Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky presented his own review of Obama’s address. In the following passage, he defines one of the basic divides of our failing political culture:
TOMASKY (1/21/13): Obama set some very high goals for himself in this speech. He wants to end once and for all the era of what I call default conservatism, so that average Americans, people in the middle who aren’t strongly committed one way or the other, think “better together” as their first instinct instead of “leave me alone.”
Indeed. Obama praised the power of collective action, in which we perceive ourselves as a national people and proceed accordingly.

As Tomasky notes, the current “default conservative” world is built around a different vision. In this vision, we happen to be a bunch of individuals and smaller tribes stuck together on a massive continent.

In this era of “default conservatism,” many members of we the people simply want to be left alone. They don’t see themselves as part of a collective enterprise, as part of a national people.

Does Obama want to end that? We don’t exactly know. But every time our Manichean leaders drop their bombs on them the people, they make it harder to advance the idea that we’re really One National People. Persistently, we keep telling them the people that they’re viewed with substantial disdain.

Stan’s piece came straight from a fever swamp; it’s very poorly reasoned. And yet, we pseudo-liberals love this game. We pseudo-liberals simply love to toss our bombs around.

The people described in this front-page report hear us doing it every time. It stiffens their spines, increases the odds that Feinstein’s bill won’t pass.

Next: A comical epilogue—Mooney praises our tribe