Viebeck gets it (almost) right!

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 2017

Maddow keeps pouring it on:
We thought about reviewing the Maddow Shows of the past two nights, in which a certain cable news star extended the culture of embellishment which has long since swamped her program.

There's a bag of squirrels inside this particular cable star's head, and the squirrels inside that bag just won't let her go. That said, reports about Maddow's constant embellishments can take a long time to formulate on an otherwise promising Saturday.

Let's look at Elise Viebeck's news report instead.

Viebeck's report appeared in Thursday morning's Washington Post. She addressed a nagging question, a question cable pundits have spent the past week avoiding:

Why do Republicans have to pass the Cassidy-Graham "health reform" bill by next Friday or not pass it at all? What sort of magic occurs on that particular date?

We thought Viebeck did a good job addressing this widely-glossed question. Near the start of her report, she formulated the question as shown below:
VIEBECK (9/21/17): [Republican leaders] face the challenge of persuading 50 people in the Senate to support [the bill] before the end of the month, which would set the stage for Vice President Pence to cast the tiebreaking vote.

There are many questions surrounding this process. But the timing is perhaps the chief source of confusion among congressional observers. Why is it necessary to pass the health-care bill by Oct. 1? Why do Republicans say they have to act in the next 11 days?
What kind of carriage turns into a pumpkin on October 1? By what type of necromancy does it take fifty votes to pass the bill now, but sixty votes to pass the bill after that magical date?

We've seen this question glossed on cable about a million times. (Explanations are boring, and hard! Speculation is fun!) We thought Viebeck, in her news report, (almost) got it right.

What happens on October 1? How does a need for fifty votes turn into a need for sixty?

You're asking a very good question. Among other things, Viebecks blames the folderol on "arcane Senate procedure," on the Senate's "mind-bending rules," on a ruling by the parliamentarian and on "conventional Senate wisdom."

Here's the releveant text from Viebeck's report, which left us with a few unanswered questions:
VIEBECK: The answer lies in a combination of Republican legislative strategy, arcane Senate procedure and ordinary partisan divisions.

[...]

McConnell and other Republicans can thank themselves for the deadline, which arose from their effort to pass health-care legislation without Democratic votes.

This is where the arcane Senate procedure comes in.

The Sept. 30 deadline exists because of a process known as budget reconciliation, which allows some fiscal measures to pass without the usual 60 votes. Republicans set this process in motion at the beginning of the year, when they passed a budget bill that included instructions for two committees to begin work on health-care legislation with the goal of saving federal revenue. By giving the health-care effort a fiscal goal, GOP leaders qualified that legislation to be passed by a simple majority.

But those instructions expire at the end of the fiscal year that’s covered under the budget bill. Senators could always write new instructions into their next budget, but they were planning to use that opportunity to direct a different legislative priority—tax cuts. Conventional Senate wisdom dictates that the chamber may consider only one legislative priority at a time under reconciliation.

Republicans would prefer to face no deadline at all. But these hopes were dashed on Sept. 1, when the Senate parliamentarian, who helps interpret the chamber’s mind-bending rules, said the GOP’s “reconciliation instructions” would end Sept. 30, the last day of the fiscal year. That is what McConnell mean when he said the opportunity will “expire” at the end of the month.
We're not going to summarize that. You'll have to do so yourself.

That said, we were left with two questions. First:

If reconciliation instructions expire at the end of the fiscal year, why did the Senate parliamentarian have to rule on this matter back on September 1? More significantly:

To what extent can "conventional Senate wisdom" actually "dictate" anything? If there's no explicit, unchangeable rule limiting reconciliation procedures to one topic per fiscal year, why won't McConnell simply brush conventional wisdom aside in the upcoming fiscal year? Why won't he simply say that health reform and tax reform will run on reconciliation?

We were left with that nagging question after reading Viebeck's report. On about a million occasions, we'd been left with incomprehension after watching our cable news stars. (Information is hard!)

Meanwhile, there was Maddow the last two nights, submitting to the many imperatives which seem to emerge from that bag of squirrels.

No one escapes from cable unharmed. Maddow has been transformed into an agent of squirrelly, ongoing distortions, entertainments and cons. We'll plan to give details next week.

Who is Elise Viebeck: She's eight years out of Claremont McKenna. As such, she's a ray of light within an often worrisome group—those youngish high-end reporters.

WHERE THE DEPLORABLES ARE: The Man From Hope!

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2017

Interlude—The journey away from bountiful:
Long ago and far away, the first Candidate Clinton won the White House. Two times!

He did so when it had started to seem like Democrats would never get there again. In a letter in today's New York Times, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason recalls the documentary she shot as part of that first campaign.

The film appeared in 1992. It was called The Man From Hope.

In fairness, that first Candidate Clinton didn't have to run against Vladimir Putin. He didn't have to run against James B. Comey (Comey the God), who hadn't achieved godlike status yet and hadn't even served his term chasing around in search of the Whitewater pseudo-scandal.

He didn't have to run against Maureen Dowd, who didn't yet have a column. He didn't have to run against years of her previous broken-souled columns.

Alas! Along with everything else, the second Clinton had to run against twenty-four years of demonization and pseudo-scandal. She had to run in the face of the code of silence, according to which the career liberal world had never raised its voice, or really said boo, about all that demonization.

(Dearest darlings, use your heads! Careers had hung in the balance!)

All this being said, the first Candidate Clinton had to run against a pretty fair dose of The Major Dumb too. Much of its came from within the mainstream press, especially at the start of his primary campaign.

This included the invention, by the New York Times, of the Whitewater pseudo-scandal, the pseudo-scandal which gave its name to an entire era. It included a lot of silly stuff from a lot of silly people. (He said he didn't inhale!)

In the end, that first candidate prevailed. It's worth recalling some of the ways he managed to do so.

For starters, that film was called The Man From Hope, not Here Come Da Judge. As far as we know, he never offered an estimate of the number of fellow citizens who were deplorable, perhaps irredeemable, and thus on their way to Hell.

He adopted a more hopeful, welcoming tone, especially toward the tens of millions of people whose votes he hoped to attain:

He said we don't have a single person to waste. He said he wanted to work on behalf of people "who work hard and play by the rules."

His official campaign book bore this title: Putting People First. When those early attacks occurred in New Hampshire, he told Granite State voters that he would stand by them, in the face of the economic downturn, "until the last dog dies."

Years later, after two terms in the White House, he discussed his home state's white Pentecostals in his memoir, My Life. He discussed this particular home-state group long before quoting us on page 934, the climax of the book.

Long ago and far away,
we recommended that earlier portion of the first Clinton's book. As we said at the time, we think that portion of his book helps explain how the first Clinton managed to get to the White House.

It also helps us ponder the journey the liberal world has taken since then. It has been a natavistic journey—a trip away from bountiful.

Why was this ex-president talking about his home state's Pentecostals? His rumination started with his honeymoon trip to Haiti, where he and his wife observed voodoo ceremonies.

Why in the world did he bother with that? We'll let that first Clinton explain:
CLINTON (page 237): I describe my brief foray into the world of voodoo because I’ve always been fascinated by the way different cultures try to make sense of life, nature, and the virtually universal belief that there is a nonphysical spirit force at work in the world that existed before humanity and will be here when we all are gone. Haitians’ understanding of how God is manifested in our lives is very different from that of most Christians, Jews, or Muslims, but their documented experiences certainly prove the old adage that the Lord works in mysterious ways.
He said he was discussing that experience because he's always been fascinated by People Who Aren't Just Like Him!

Shortly after his honeymoo ended, this same first Clinton was campaigning all over Arkansas for the job of attorney general. He soon attended a black church event in which the Reverend Robert Jenkins was inaugurated as pastor of Morning Star Baptist:
CLINTON (page 249): As Robert got into his sermon, the temperature seemed to rise. All of a sudden an older lady sitting near me stood up, shaking and shouting, seized by the spirit of the Lord. A moment later a man got up in an even louder and more uncontrollable state. When he couldn’t calm down, a couple of the churchmen escorted him to a little room in the back of the church that held the church robes and closed the door. He continued to shout something unintelligible and bang against the walls. I turned around just in time to see him literally tear the door off its hinges, throw it down, and run out into the churchyard screaming. It reminded me of the scene at Max Beauvoir’s in Haiti, except that these people believed they had been moved by Jesus.
Already, our modern lizards are loudly complaining about this man's overt racism. In this deeply atavistic reaction, we modern liberals keep displaying our own prehistoric state. We modern liberals know very few things, but we know them amazingly well.

It's at this point in the first Clinton's book that he turns to the Pentecostals. “Not long afterward, I saw white Christians have similar experiences,” he writes, “when my finance officer...invited me to the annual summer camp meeting of the Pentecostals in Redfield, about thirty miles south of Little Rock.”

Clinton describes a life-long interest that grew from that first experience. “I made that summer camp meeting every summer but one between 1977 and 1992,” he writes. “Every year I witnessed some amazing new manifestations of the Pentecostals’ faith.”

For the record, we have no religious beliefs ourselves. Beyond that, this first Clinton isn't a Pentecostal.

Still and all, he took great interest in what he saw at those annual retreats. Did we mention the fact that this winning candidate was able to express affection and admiration for—was able to be fascinated by—People Who Weren't Just Like Him?

For Clinton, it wasn’t the ecstatic experiences of these white Pentecostals that mattered the most. In the following passage, we'd say this first Clinton reveals the breadth of spirit and curiosity that help explain how he got to the White House.

We'll highlight the main idea:
CLINTON (page 251): Far more important than what I saw the Pentecostals do were the friendships I made among them. I liked and admired them because they lived their faith. They are strictly anti-abortion, but unlike some others, they will make sure that any unwanted baby, regardless of race or disability, has a loving home. They disagreed with me on abortion and gay rights, but they still followed Christ’s admonition to love their neighbors.
They disagreed with that first Candidate Clinton on abortion and gay rights; they didn't vote for him much. But that first Clinton was able to "like and admire" Those People because of the ways he saw them living their faith.

“Besides being true to their faith, the Pentecostals I knew were good citizens,” he writes. “They thought it was a sin not to vote.” After describing a compromise he reached with Pentecostal ministers about the licensing of church-run child-care centers, Clinton concludes the rumination that began with that trip to Haiti:
CLINTON (page 252): Knowing the Pentecostals has enriched and changed my life. Whatever your religious views, or lack of them, seeing people live their faith in a spirit of love toward all people, not just your own, is beautiful to behold. If you ever get a chance to go to a Pentecostal service, don’t miss it.
Say what? This first Clinton was able to say that Those People enriched his life!

They didn't vote for this first Clinton much, but he said they'd enriched his life. He didn't tell us how they answered that GSS survey question.

Bill Clinton was portrayed as The Man From Hope. Whatever his shortcomings may have been, he knew how to see the good in Those People, The Others.

He said we didn't have a single one of Those People to waste. He didn't estimate the number of people who were on their way straight to Hell.

Not many years later, a markedly different attitude has seeped through the liberal world.

The second Candidate Clinton was forced to run against twenty-four years of demonization. Those demonizations had worked quite well, in large part because the Chaits, the Maddows, the Marshalls, the Dionnes had persistently let them stand.

She ran and hid in 2012, when they came after Susan Rice and invented the Benghazi narrative. She ran and hid in 2016, when Comey the God unsheathed his terrible swift sword and hardened the email narrative.

We're speaking here of Cable Star Maddow, not of Candidate Clinton. But along the way, the admiring attitude of that first Clinton had given way to the ugly strain in which our tribe turns to cable every night eager to gulp down the tribal gruel in which we're encouraged to dream—Yay yay yay yay!—that They'll all end up jail.

In which we're told that half of Them are headed for Hell. In which we're told it's been proven!

Bill Clinton was advertised as The Man from Hope. Seven years earlier, Geraldine Page had won an Oscar for taking The Trip to Bountiful.

In the years since 1992, we've been on a journey away from that place. We've been trained in a tribal mandate, in which we're required to loathe.

Tomorrow, we'll return to that damning question, the one on the GSS.

Tomorrow: Black and white together!

Another advice column hits the Times!

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2017

They at the Times want to serve us:
Somehow, we'd managed to miss the debut of the New York Times' latest advice column.

The Times has two such columns in the Sunday magazine—an ethics advice column by Professor Appiah, the Dear Abby of ethics advice, and a spoof advice column by "Dr. John Hodgman," who is either a comedian or a humorist, depending on what source you check.

(By general agreement, a "humorist" is a comedian whose audience isn't drunk.)

Well sir, the Times has also started a weekly advice column in the Thursday Styles section. The column is authored by Cheryl Strayed, "an American memoirist, novelist, essayist and podcast host," and by Steve Almond, "an American short-story writer, essayist and author of ten books." The column seems to have started in July.

The new advice column is called The Sweet Spot; Almond and Strayed are referred to as the Sugars. This begins to suggest a tie between the new advice column and the motto of the amazingly dumb new daily format the Times unveiled this summer for pages A2 and A3:
You are the dumbest people on earth.
We at the Times want to serve you.
Is the new advice column part of an overall dumbing-down, in which the Times is eager to show its willingness to meet us on our own level? We couldn't help wondering when we read the sexy-time letter which occasioned today's advice.

Yay yay yay yay yay yay yay! Be sure to note the dumber-than-dumb way the sexy-time letter is addressed:
I Love My Fiancé, but Am Totally Crushing on a Co-Worker

Dear Sugars,

I am a 26-year-old woman and recently engaged.
I struggle with anxiety and so I figure being anxious about my engagement is to be expected, right? My fiancé and I met at work. I'm a server at a restaurant, and he was the manager (he's since moved on to another job). We kept our relationship a secret at first. It was romantic, thrilling, passionate and hot. We'd stay up all night drinking whiskey and smoking cigarettes. Once we became a couple, we started prioritizing our goals. We eventually moved in together, and our life now revolves around saving money for a house and future family. I'm still in love with him, but there's definitely less sex. Though I couldn't bear to be without him, I also feel more platonic for him than I used to. Is that normal?

A new guy was hired at the restaurant recently, and I'm attracted to him and we flirt. He's the bad-boy type. He asked me to get a drink and I declined, but I told him I had a crush on him. He seemed shocked and thanked me for telling him. Now I'm embarrassed. If I pursued him and my fiancé found out, I'd deeply regret it. I fear I'm going to sabotage my relationship. I've realized this co-worker is a symbol of the lust and passion I don't have anymore. I know I have to move forward, but I miss the past. I'm scared of starting this part of my adult life.

Anxious Fiancée
Yum, but also yay! "Anxious Fiancee" wants to get it on with the new bad-boy type at work! She's asking the Sugars to help!

Is this new column a deliberate part of a general dumbing-down? We decided it was when we read the first sentence of each savant's initial reply to this seeker of good sound advice, who may or may not exist:
Steve Almond: You can do the math here, Anxious.

[...]

Cheryl Strayed: Steve's right that so much of answering this question has to do with figuring out how strongly you feel the sense of loss you describe, Anxious.
Each of the "Sugars" knew enough to nick-name the writer as "Anxious." We suspected that we were looking at a corporate pattern right there.

In theory, it shouldn't matter if a newspaper dumbs two of its first three pages down, then litters its various sections with further tributes to the time-honored gods of The Dumb.

In theory, it shouldn't matter. In practice, given our failing discourse, we feel fairly sure that it does.

WHERE THE DEPLORABLES ARE: All over!

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2017

Part 4—Now for the rest of the data:
Might Hillary Clinton have won the election last year if she hadn't made her ill-advised comment about (one segment of) the nation's many deplorables?

Everything is possible! Candidate Trump drew an inside straight in the electoral college, thanks to wins by narrow margins in three "Rust Belt" states. In an interview with Jane Pauley earlier this month, Clinton said she didn't think her "deplorables" statement flipped the election's outcome:
PAULEY (9/10/17) There were some memorable verbal gaffes, too.

CLINTON (videotape): You could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables.

PAULEY: Why do you think that word "deplorable" had been circulating in your mind?

CLINTON: Well, I thought Trump was behaving in a deplorable manner. I thought a lot of his appeals to voters were deplorable. I thought his behavior, as we saw on the Access Hollywood tape, was deplorable. And there were a large number of people who didn't care. It did not matter to them. And he turned out to be a very effective reality TV star in our presidential campaign.

PAULEY: When you said "basket of deplorables," you energized—

CLINTON: No, but they were already energized.

PAULEY: But you offended some people who who didn't personally feel deplorable at all.

CLINTON: Well, I don't—I don't buy that. I don't buy that. I`m sorry I gave him a political gift of any kind.

PAULEY: It was a gift.

CLINTON: But I don't think that was determinative.
Was Clinton's comment "determinative?" We'd guess it probably wasn't, though you can never be sure. But just for the record, Clinton's apparent chronology was a bit shaky in this interview with Pauley, in that her "deplorables" comment preceded the Access Hollywood tape by roughly a month.

(Conservatives have been widely informed about that apparent error in chronology. On conservative sites, this apparent error was characterized as Clinton's latest lie. Needless to say, this is how our brain-dead discourse now works.)

In this interview, Clinton acknowledged that her comment was a "political gift." It just wasn't a big enough gift to have moved a sufficient number of votes in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, she said.

Tomorrow, we'll compare the attitude behind her "deplorables" comment to the attitude behind some comments by her husband, who emerged as the winner of two White House elections. For today, though, we want to focus on her ongoing claim that her "deplorables" comment was actually right on the merits.

Was Clinton actually right when she said that half of Trump's voters were "deplorable/irredeemable?" She seems to make that remarkable claim in this part of her new book:
CLINTON (page 413): When I said, "You could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables," I was talking about well-documented reality. For example, the General Social Survey conducted by the University of Chicago found that in 2016, 55 percent of white Republicans believed that blacks are generally poorer than whites "because most just don't have the motivation or willpower to pull themselves up and out of poverty." In the same survey, 42 percent of white Republicans described blacks as lazier than whites and 26 percent said they were less intelligent. In all cases, the number of white Democrats who said the same thing was much lower (though still way too high).

Generalizing about a broad group of people is almost always unwise. And I regret handing Trump a political gift with my "deplorables" comment." I know that a lot of well-intentioned people were insulted because they misunderstood me to be criticizing all Trump voters. I'm sorry about that.

But too many of Trump's core supporters do hold views that I find—there's no other word for it—deplorable.
Were half of Trump's supporters "deplorable," possibly "irredeemable?" Remarkably, Clinton has doubled down on that sweeping assertion, absurdly saying that her judgment is a matter of "reality"—of well-documented reality, no less.

The documentation she cites mainly involves responses to an inkblot-style question on last year's General Social Survey (GSS). She cites the percentage of white Republicans who answered that question in the "deplorable" way, but gives the numbers for nobody else.

Today, we thought you ought to consider the way other demographic groups answered that GSS question. This brings us in contact with "well-documented" survey trends which generally get suppressed, at least Over Here in our self-satisfied tribe.

Once more, we'll show you the text of the GSS question at issue. In our view, it's a poorly composed, "inkblot"-style question. In our view, sensible people won't be inclined to answer such questions at all.

That said, the question has been asked as part of the GSS for at least forty years, and it's been widely answered. Here's the question which, according to Clinton, turns a sweeping "political gift" into a matter of "well-documented reality:"
Question from the General Social Survey:
"On the [sic] average (Negroes/Blacks/African-Americans) have worse jobs, income, and housing than white people. Do you think these differences are because most (Negroes/Blacks/African-Americans) just don't have the motivation or will power to pull themselves up out of poverty?"
That's the question the GSS asked. Now, let's take a look at the responses they garnred.

Clinton is basically right in the number she cited, perhaps perfectly so. As we noted earlier in the week, this is the way Republican respondents answered that GSS question last year:
Responses by Republicans overall:
Yes: 53.3 percent
No: 42.8 percent
Don't know: 3.9 percent
In last year's GSS survey, 53.3 percent of Republicans answered that question in the affirmative. On the basis of those answers, Clinton has doubled down on the claim that those people are "deplorable," and she seemed to say, last fall, that they're "irredeemable" too.

In her book, she says that condemnation isn't a matter of (rather poisonous) opinion. She says it's simple "reality"—"well-documented" reality at that!

Personally, we find her statement astonishing—astoundingly dumb on the actual merits, amazingly dumb on the politics. We say that in part because we've looked at people's responses to many such questions down through the years, including the wider range of responses to that GSS question last year.

Fifty-three percent of Republicans gave the deplorable answer. Today, for whatever it may be worth, let's examine the way other demographic groups answered that ill-advised question.

Let's start with us the people as a whole. Here's the way three large groups of respondents answered:
Percentage giving the deplorable answer:
All respondents: 41.5 percent
U.S. citizens: 39.7 percent
Democrats: 34.4 percent
For now, let's take the most simple-minded analytical approach. If 53 percent of Republicans are deplorable, it looks like 34 percent of Democrats are deplorable too. So are 40 percent of citizens overall.

Such judgments can always be reached. But at this point, we've already encountered an important piece of "reality"—on the whole, Democrats and Republicans answered that question the same way. There was much more agreement than disagreement among respondents from the two light-v-dark groups.

It's certainly true that fewer Democrats turn out to be deplorable. But if half Trump's voters were deplorable, so were a third of Clinton's. It seems unwise to damn the half without even citing the third.

Certain eternal verities emerge in the fuller data set. As usual, women turn out to be less deplorable than men. Here are the relevant numbers:
Percentage giving the deplorable answer:
Women: 41.1 percent
Men: 41.9 percent
Adopting the most simple-minded interpretation, Clinton finds that 42 percent of men are deplorable, but only 41 percent of women!

Finally, we reach the part of the show which almost always get suppressed by the array of jugglers and clowns who serve as liberal sachems. How did respondents from our three largest "racial" groups answer that GSS question? If we adopt a simple-minded analysis, those heinous white Republicans may not look quite so bad:
Percentage giving the deplorable answer:
Whites: 39.8 percent
Blacks: 46.3 percent
Hispanics: 46.9 percent
As usual, white supremacy rules! Among our three largest "racial" groups, the smallest percentage of white respondents gave the deplorable answer. Just to put these numbers in context, let's sift the data like this:
Percentage giving the deplorable answer:
Republicans: 53.3 percent
Blacks: 46.3 percent
Hispanics: 46.9 percent
Hurray! Republicans are still the most deplorable group. But if we adopt the most straightforward analytical standard, blacks and Hispanics are almost as bad!

At this point, we confront a question which may seem puzzling. Why did almost fifty percent of black respondents answer that survey question in the deplorable manner?

Lizard brains across the country will quickly be able to answer that question in a way which preserves the manifest greatness of Clinton's denunciation of The Others. That said, the most honest answer to that question would be this:
Why did so many black respondents answer that survey question that way?
If you really want to find out, you'll pretty much have to ask them!
At any rate, 46 percent of black respondents gave the deplorable answer! So did 47 percent of Hispanics! Even men are better than that!

By the way:

What did all these people say when they were asked about the ability of other groups to overcome their manifest laziness and work their way out of poverty? As we noted at the start of the week, the GSS didn't ask! Who's deplorable now?

Why did all these people answer that inkblot question in the deplorable way? Tomorrow, we'll ponder that question awhile.

In the meantime, we'll only note this:

In her book, Clinton condemns half of Trump's supporters to Hell based on their response to that GSS question. Almost half of all black respondents answered the same darn way!

Tomorrow: Those Arkansas Pentecostals in an earlier day

Concerning the GSS data we've cited: For starters, you can click on this. After that, you should click on "Table."

From there, you're on your own. Note choices under "Breakdown."

BREAKING: Has it really been ten years?

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 20, 2017

Those memoirs continue to beckon:
Has it really been ten years?

Apparently, yes it has! Yesterday morning, Morning Joe celebrated ten years on the air. This brings us back to Mika Brzezinki's three (3) peculiar memoirs.

We tried to handle the books last week. As we said at the time, it would take several weeks to do justice to all the nonsense found in the books—to their serial weirdness.

In large part, this involves Mika's ruminations about the role of money in her career. As usual, her apparent self-contradictions provide a great deal of amusement, even as she offers us an unusual look inside this important part of mainstream press/pundit culture.

What do we mean by "her apparent self-contradictions?" Consider the early pages of her second memoir, Knowing Your Value: Women. Money. and Getting What You're Worth.

This book is built around Mika's quest to gain the million of dollars she's so plainly worth, given her array of professional skills and her astonishing thinness. The story starts in early 2008, when she says she discovered that Joe himself was being paid fourteen times what she was paid, and that other "male colleagues," including Willie Geist-Haskell, were being paid "much more" than she was.

These claims are rather fuzzy. It's never made clear how she came to know the things she says she knew. But soon, we seem to be told that Mika had been shortchanged all through her career. On page 4, we're made privy to this:
BRZEZINKSI (page 4): My meeting with Joe that February [2008] morning was the culmination of a problem that had been brewing for decades. I had spent my career moving from job to job, accepting pay that I knew wasn't competitive because I always felt lucky to be there. I figured if I just worked hard, took on more hours, more assignments, and more stories, I could prove myself, and eventually my bosses would reward me with a raise and promotion. Often while I was hustling and hoping for more money, I would discover that my male colleagues were making more than I was. I wouldn't get angry at the men for this—I'd be angry at myself for not earning more respect and compensation from management. Then I'd start feeling underappreciated, talk to other networks, and and then move on and repeat the pattern somewhere else. Clearly the pattern wasn't getting me anywhere.
It sounded like Mika had been a real vagabond, that she'd "spent [her] career moving from job to job, accepting pay that [she] knew wasn't competitive." That said, in her first memoir, she'd described her ten-year history at CBS News and MSNBC, and it didn't exactly seem to fit this description.

According to that first memoir, Brzezinksi started at CBS News on the day she turned 30. A few years later, she moved to MSNBC to host an afternoon show, giving her better hours. CBS News hired her back rather quickly. On the day she turned 39, CBS told her it wouldn't renew her contract when it expired, though she stayed on the job for several months after that.

It's true that she'd been "fired" at age 39, and for a year, she couldn't get anyone else to hire her. But had her career really been as peripatetic and penurious as she seemed to say on page 4 of that second memoir?

You be the judge! On page 12 of this same second book, Mika describes the poorly-paid, part-time job she took at MSNBC in 2007, after a year of stone-cold unemployment. It's the job which led to her discovery by Joe Scarborough, thus to her role on Morning Joe. Along the way, she tells us this:
BRZEZINSKI (page 12): If you looked at that MSNBC job, you'd see that it was a considerable step back from my high-profile correspondent job at CBS. It was even a big step back from my job at MSNBC, ten years earlier. I spent my fortieth birthday doing cut-ins, but it was fine. It was work, and I was proud of myself...There was as much value in this moment as the day I got a huge contract at CBS that included a 60 Minutes deal. I was going to be okay.
Say what? On page 4, we're told that she "had spent [her] career moving from job to job, accepting pay that [she] knew wasn't competitive" and never being recognized for her amazing array of skills. Eight pages later, she cites the "huge contract" she got at CBS News, the huge contract (for a "high-profile job") under which she even did spots on 60 Minutes.

What's the truth about Mika's pay through the years? How much was she paid in her ten years in network news before she landed her spot at Morning Joe? Was she being paid what she was "worth," as compared to male colleagues?

Based on Mika's memoirs, there's absolutely zero way to settle such basic questions. She only cites one specific salary she ever received. According to her first memoir, when she first went to CBS News, in 1997, on the day she turned 30, she was paid $150,000 per year for anchoring the network's little-watched, 2-5 AM overnight news show.

(Adjusting for inflation, that would be roughly $230,000 today.)

Was that a cheapskate salary? Was she being underpaid as compared to male colleagues? We have no idea. In our view, everything is possible.

But during her second stint at CBS News, she was rewarded with a "huge contract," or so we're told on page 12 of Knowing Your Value. A mere eight pages earlier, we were told that she had "spent [her] career moving from job to job, accepting pay that [she] knew wasn't competitive."

How do these stories fit together? We aren't sure, but just as there were a million stories in the naked city, there are a million apparent self-contradictions in Mika's trio of memoirs.

Mika's memoirs are full of amusing apparent self-contradictions. They're also full of anecdotes that seem so improbable that the puzzled reader is left to wonder if Mika could possibly mean what she seems to have said.

These books rarely fail to amuse the diligent reader. That said, one question arises all through these books, at least to us: How can it be that the author of these puzzling memoirs is a highly influential member of our celebrity pundit corps?

We can't answer that question. But as we watched Morning Joe's tenth birthday, our thoughts were drawn, again and again, to those entertaining but puzzling books.

For at least three decades, our American public discourse has been a dangerous joke. In this particular instance, Joe and Mika loved and fawned to Candidate Trump, then all of a sudden they flipped.

Brzezinksi's three memoirs offer an unusual look inside the world of our big major pundits. At one point, she says the book deal which led to these books was arranged to move her income to the big fat level she so plainly deserves.

Money plays a very large role within our upper-end press corps. It plays a large, very dangerous role, which is why it's so rarely discussed.

WHERE THE DEPLORABLES ARE: Over Here!

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 20, 2017

Part 3—Hillary Clinton's admission:
Some of the questions which get asked in our ubiquitous surveys and polls are extremely straightforward. One such question is this:

"If the election were held today, which candidate would you vote for?"

That question is straightforward to the point of being simple-minded. Everyone knows what's being asked. In part for that reason, responses to that question tend to yield useful data.

That question is extremely straightforward. Other times, our academicians and researchers may perhaps get a bit "creative" in formulating their survey questions.

This may not be a great idea. For one thing, academicians' less-than-fully admirable values may even start shining through.

Consider this murky, perhaps unfortunate survey question. It has been asked as part of the General Social Survey dating at least to 1977:
Question from the General Social Survey:
"On the [sic] average (Negroes/Blacks/African-Americans) have worse jobs, income, and housing than white people. Do you think these differences are because most (Negroes/Blacks/African-Americans) just don't have the motivation or will power to pull themselves up out of poverty?"
Yesterday, we discussed some of the problems with that venerable survey question. Before we examine the way different groups responded to that question last year, might we consider one of the ways the values of our upper-class researchers may perhaps be announcing themselves in that question's wording?

GSS researchers ask that question about "most Negroes/Blacks/African-Americans" and about no other group. In truth, few groups have ever shown more mettle in emerging from abject economic subjugation, but the academicians continue to ask a question which seems to suggest that most most Negroes/Blacks/African-Americans remain in poverty today, which is of course untrue.

Beyond that, note the unfortunate wording. Along the way, many African-Americans worked at the types of jobs at which they were permitted to work. For example, they may have worked as railroad porters and as maids, not as academicians.

To the people who run the GSS, those were "worse jobs" than the lofty positions they themselves hold today. The researchers couldn't even bother themselves to use a term like "lower-paying jobs" as they formulated the question they've asked for the past forty years.

In short, this less straightforward, "creative" question may perhaps let us ponder the less-than-fully attractive values which may sometimes be found at the top of our liberal world. Such questions may also be full of "triggers" which help direct the types of responses the questions will receive.

The most ridiculous question of this type is another "creative" question which has been asked for decades in the "social science" game. We refer to the question in which respondents are asked if blacks deserve "special favors" to help redress the effects of past discrimination.

"Special favors!" What could possibly be the right way to answer that loaded question? Since no conservative would ever be likely to say that anyone deserves "special favors," the question almost seems designed to create an exaggerated sense of tribal division.

The wording of that common question is transplendently clueless. However one imagines its provenance, the question about those "special favors" has been routinely asked for decades.

Today, we liberals cite responses to that question as a marker of The Others' "racial resentment." That's a newfangled (and meaningless) academic term which seems to have been created so professors and partisans can claim that they really aren't trying to measure The Others' "racism."

At any rate, that GSS question about These Unmotivated Blacks Today strikes us as a very poor survey question. In effect, it's an "inkblot" question, one which seeks an instant reaction to a rather peculiar, counterfactual scenario which the researcher has proposed.

In her new book, What Happened, Hillary Clinton cites responses to that question as evidence of the fact that half The Others are "deplorable / irredeemable," just as she said last year. In fairness, she does make passing mention of the way We Flawless Liberals responded to that same question.

On Monday, we showed you Dan Merica's (accurate) account of what Clinton says in her book. Below, you see the fuller passage from her book, in which she says she was right on the substance, if not on the politics, when she trashed Those Trump Voters last year:
CLINTON (page 413): I'm not saying that all Trump voters are racist or xenophobic. There are plenty of good-hearted people who are uncomfortable about perceived antipolice rhetoric, undocumented immigrants, and fast-changing norms around gender and sexual orientation. But you had to be deaf to miss the coded language and racially charged resentment powering Trump's campaign.

When I said, "You could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables," I was talking about well-documented reality. For example, the General Social Survey conducted by the University of Chicago found that in 2016, 55 percent of white Republicans believed that blacks are generally poorer than whites "because most just don't have the motivation or willpower to pull themselves up and out of poverty." In the same survey, 42 percent of white Republicans described blacks as lazier than whites and 26 percent said they were less intelligent. In all cases, the number of white Democrats who said the same thing was much lower (though still way too high).

Generalizing about a broad group of people is almost always unwise. And I regret handing Trump a political gift with my "deplorables" comment." I know that a lot of well-intentioned people were insulted because they misunderstood me to be criticizing all Trump voters. I'm sorry about that.

But too many of Trump's core supporters do hold views that I find—there's no other word for it—deplorable.
Clinton can find no other word for it! We regard that as a major problem, of politics, morals and substance.

In fairness, Clinton's first statement is perfectly accurate, even in retrospect. She never said that all Trump supporters were deplorable / irredeemable. Even in real time, she only said that half his voters should be consigned to the regions of Hell, where they could roast in eternity.

That said, she didn't explain, in real time, how to separate the deplorables from the redeemables. And in the real world, when a candidate makes a sweeping condemnatory claim about half her opponent's supporters, all her opponent's supporters will likely feel that they've been condemned, along with their favorite aunts, who may be named Myrtle, and their sainted mothers.

Every candidate says something unwise or even dumb in the course of a long campaign. Clinton acknowledges that her statement was politically unwise. What's surprising is the fact that she continues to defend her claim on the merits. Also surprising, and unimpressive, is the way she does so.

Clinton still seems to be saying that 55 percent of white Republicans gave the "deplorable / irredeemable" answer to that inkblot GSS question about These Blacks Today. Their answer to that inkblot question burned the scarlet D onto their breasts.

That said, uh-oh! As Clinton pens this defense of her past remarks, she makes a fleeting admission. Some members of Our Own Master Tribe gave the deplorable answer too! This raises a troubling question:

How many deplorables do we have, Over Here, within our own liberal tents? Clinton admits that the number is "way too high." (She never says what the desirable number would be.) But she also seems to say that Our deplorables are "much fewer" than Theirs.

Tomorrow, we'll show you the actual numbers. We'll ponder what those numbers might mean. For today, we'll only say this:

To our eye, the numbers from our two warring tribes are much closer than Clinton's passage might make you suspect. Does she even know what the full set of numbers looks like?

We have no earthly idea. Our discourse is narrative all the way down. We rarely have time for full facts.

Tomorrow: And the most deplorable is...

WHERE THE DEPLORABLES ARE: Over There!

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 2017

Part 2—The problem with inkblot questions:
Last year, respondents were asked an unfortunate question as part of the General Social Survey (GSS), "a sociological survey created and regularly collected since 1972 by the research institute NORC at the University of Chicago."

NORC has been asking this particular question for decades. With apologies, the question goes like this:
Question from the General Social Survey:
"On the [sic] average (Negroes/Blacks/African-Americans) have worse jobs, income, and housing than white people. Do you think these differences are because most (Negroes/Blacks/African-Americans) just don't have the motivation or will power to pull themselves up out of poverty?"
That strikes us as perhaps an unfortunate question. A few of our reasons are these:

For starters, the GSS asks this question about African-Americans and about no one else (as best we can tell). Respondents aren't asked to answer a similar question about Hispanics, or about Appalachian whites, or about lower-income people in general.

Rather plainly, the question plays to a stereotype about that one group of people. That said, NORC's researchers have been asking that question for a great many years.

Arguably, there's another obvious problem with that loaded question. Stating the obvious, most African-Americans have already "pulled themselves up out of poverty," or were never there to begin with.

The large majority of African-Americans aren't currently living in poverty. It may be that these individuals have already pulled themselves out of that state, or it may be that their forbears did; or it maybe that their families have no history of poverty at all.

As such, this question seems to imply a fact which isn't in evidence. Then too, the question is groaningly imprecise, in the following sense:

Respondents are asked if most African-Americans have what it takes "to pull themselves out of poverty." Stating the obvious, that would depend, in a given case, on the depth of poverty in which a given person was mired, and on the state of the economy at some point in time.

When times are flush, it's relatively easy for a person to pull himself out of poverty. In other circumstances, whether in this country or around the world, it may be very difficult to do so, perhaps essentially impossible.

For ourselves, we wouldn't answer a question like that if were taking an survey like the GSS. It's the type of question we call an "inkblot question"—a question which mainly serves to record a respondent's flash reaction to a question which doesn't exactly make sense.

Ignoring the way that question is built upon an insulting stereotype, the question is highly imprecise. It stands in contrast with the simpler types of question which are used in highly coherent surveys. One such question would be this:

"If the election were held today, would you vote for Hillary Clinton, or would you vote for Donald J. Trump?"

That's a clear, straightforward, highly familiar type of survey question. Everyone understands what it means. It will generate zero confusion.

By way of contrast, the question about those lazy blacks is built upon, and meant to trigger, an ugly stereotype. Beyond that, it's so full of fuzzy logic that the only clear-thinking answer would be this:

"I don't understand your question."

Or, a bit less perfectly, the most frequent correct answer of all:

"I don't know."

For ourselves, we don't have the slightest idea whether "most blacks," or most whites, have what it takes to pull themselves out of some definable level of poverty in some definable circumstance. Neither does anyone who went ahead and answered that question last year.

We don't have the slightest idea how to answer a question like that! We also don't know why a competent researcher acting in good faith would want to ask that question.

We don't have a ton of respect for "researchers" who dream up such questions. We think it reflects a bit poorly on the NORC brainiacs that this question has remained in their famous national survey down through all these years.

We've mentioned several problems with an "inkblot" question like that, in which we're asked for a snap reaction to an extremely imprecise imagined state of affairs. Now, we'll mention another problem:

Respondents' answers to questions like that will almost always generate much more heat than light! Routinely, their answers will end up being used by partisan players of some type to present some picture of the world which serves some tribal narrative.

So it is when Hillary Clinton cites respondents' answers to that question in her new book, What Happened. Rather, when she cites the answers given by one lone group of respondents, even as she omits the answers given by everyone else.

In her book, Clinton gives an accurate account of the way one group of respondents answered that inkblot question. Once again, here is CNN's Dan Merica, recording what Clinton says:
MERICA (9/12/17): Clinton writes that she handed Trump a "political gift" in September when she told an audience of supporters that "you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables."

Her admission of a mistake isn't without equivocation, though.

Clinton writes that she was "talking about well-documented reality," citing a 2016 study by the General Social Survey that found 55% of white Republicans "believed that blacks are generally poorer than whites 'because most just don't have the motivation or willpower to pull themselves up and out of poverty.' "
According to Merica, Clinton discusses the way one group of respondents answered that inkblot question:

Clinton discusses the way "white Republicans" answered that question. Beyond that, she says their answers show she was right when she said that half of Donald J. Trump's supporters can be listed as "deplorable" (and perhaps as "irredeemable") because they're "racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic—you name it."

Presumably, those white Republicans displayed their racism when they answered that inkblot question. So it seems Clinton has said.

For today, we'll only say this. Clinton's basic account of their responses seems to be basically accurate. Yesterday, we showed you the fuller set of responses to that question by "non-black Republicans," and by Republicans in general. Once again, their responses broke down like this:
Responses to particular question, 2016 GSS
"On the average (Negroes/Blacks/African-Americans) have worse jobs, income, and housing than white people. Do you think these differences are because most (Negroes/Blacks/African-Americans) just don't have the motivation or will power to pull themselves up out of poverty?"

Responses by non-black Republicans:
Yes: 53.1 percent
No: 43.1 percent
Don't know: 3.7 percent

Responses by Republicans overall:
Yes: 53.3 percent
No: 42.8 percent
Don't know: 3.9 percent
That's the way Republicans responded to that question. On the basis of those responses, Cliton dropped one of our liberal tribe's favorite bombs on tens of millions of heads.

We can't tell you why those people answered that question the way they did. Unlike Clinton, we can't peer into their souls and assure you that the 53.3 percent of those respondents were "deplorable/irredeemable."

We can do this:

We can show you the way respondents from other groups answered that inkblot question. We can show you how Democrats answered that question. We can show you how Hispanics answered. We can even show you the numbers for respondents who were"black!"

Clinton has told us how one group responded to that inklblot question. Tomorrow, we'll show you what other groups of people said.

As we do, we'll get a chance to marvel at how widely deplorable we the people actually are. On Thursday, we'll take a look at some of the data William Saletan skipped.

Tomorrow: Blacks and Hispanics and Democrats oh my!

Partisan pandering out of control!

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 2017

Maddow Show, last Friday night:
Last Friday morning, the New York Times offered a front-page news report under this headline:

"Trump Humiliated Jeff Sessions After Mueller Appointment"

According to the Times report, Donald J. Trump went ballistic when he learned that a special counsel, Robert Mueller, had been appoimted to investigate possible links between his campaign and the Russkies.

According to the Times report, Trump blamed Attorney General Sessions for the unwanted appointment. Furiously, he called Sessions an "idiot," then demanded, and received, a letter of resignation.

Why is Sessions still on the job? Here's what the Times reported:
SCHMIDT AND HABERMAN (9/15/18): Mr. Trump ended up rejecting Mr. Sessions’s May resignation letter after senior members of his administration argued that dismissing the attorney general would only create more problems for a president who had already fired an F.B.I. director and a national security adviser. Mr. Trump once again, in July, told aides he wanted to remove Mr. Sessions, but for a second time didn’t take action.
According to the Times report, aides talked Trump out of dismissing Sessions. Trump had just fired James B. Comey ("Comey the God"), the FBI director. It would create a world of hurt, aides are said to have said, if he proceeded to can his attorney general as well.

Is that what actually happened? We have no way of knowing, but it seems to make perfect sense. Unless you watched the Maddow Show last Friday night, in which case you saw a certain well-known cable news host angrily insist that this report made no sense, given the many White House officials who have resigned, or have been fired, over the past eight months.

We thought the cable star's tirade made little apparent sense. We also thought that Friday's show was strikingly disingenuous, even by this cable star's extremely modest standards.

The star in question is Rachel Maddow. In large part, she insisted that the Times report made no sense through a set of silly claims in which she conflated unknown figures with major officials and resignations with firings.

(To watch this whole segment, click here. Warning: 17 minutes!)

How silly were Maddow's examples? In July, "they lost" Tera Dahl, we were told in one of her examples. Dahl is so little known that Nexis seems to have thought that Maddow was talking about Tara Dowdell, a progressive Democrat. In typical fashion, MSNBC hasn't yet posted its own transcripts for Maddow's programs last week.

In July, the Trump administration "lost Tera Dahl!" According to Maddow, this shows that they wouldn't have worried about blowback from letting Sessions "resign," in an obvious firing, right after Comey got fired.

This was very, very dumb, but Maddow was weirdly insistent about the alleged absurdity of the Times report.

We have no idea why Maddow was so exercised about that particular report. But from there, she proceeded a remarkable string of cherry-picked and distorted reports.

She offered a familiar old recitation about the many lies of Vice President Pence—a familiar old recitation which features a chain of embellished accounts of murky events.

In a later report, she told us that "we also now know that the State Department is not responding to the Cuban government when they have been offering to bilaterally investigate what`s happening" with respect to the apparent "sonic attacks" at the U.S. embassy in Havana.

How do we know that the State Department is laying down on the job in this fashion? How do we know that "the State Department [is] apparently blanking Cuba when Cuba offers to help with this investigation?"

According to Maddow, this is how we know that:
MADDOW (9/15/18): Cuban sources also tell NBC News that the Cuban government allegedly sent a diplomatic note on this issue to the State Department, offering that they themselves would help investigate the incident. They offered to be part of a bilateral investigation with the United States into this matter. Cuban sources tell NBC News that they sent this note to the U.S. State Department, never got a response back.

I understand they're having some staffing issues at the State Department. They didn't get a response?
Needless to say, Maddow is always eager to say that the current State Department is failing to function. That said, how do we know that the State Department is laying down on the job in the case of the sonic attacks?

According to Maddow, we know that because that's what "Cuban sources" have said! Full stop!

For the record, we can find no sign of NBC News reporting any such thing. But so what? According to Maddow, we know the State Department is laying down on the job because "Cuban sources" have said so!

In an earlier segment, Maddow offered a highly slanted account of those nursing home deaths in Florida. We were surprised to see her raising this topic at all, until she slanted the story in such a way as to make it sound like it was all the fault of another favorite political target, Florida governor Rick Scott.

Over the years, we've warned you that Maddow often seems to be "less than obsessively honest." In Friday's performance, she seemed to have slipped over the edge into a type of serial dissembling which bore the feel of pathology.

We don't know when we've seen so many topics tilted so dumbly in such a blatantly partisan fashion. Our conclusion?

Wealth and fame can cause real harm, not unlike sonic attacks.

WHERE THE DEPLORABLES ARE: Data are hard!

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 2017

Part 1—Under every bed:
Should Hillary Clinton have said what she said about our many deplorables?

You may recall the incident! In early September 2016, while running for president, Clinton made an unusual comment about the people supporting her opponent, Donald J. Trump.

She about that half of Trump's supporters belonged in a "basket of deplorables." They deserved that designation because they were "racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic—you name it," she rather expansively said.

"Some of those folks—they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America," she said as part of this same comment. From Clinton's full remarks, it wasn't clear if all the deplorables were irredeemable, or if only some of them were.

This was a highly unusual statement from someone running for president. Her opponent, Candidate Trump, said that Candidate Clinton's statement showed "her true contempt for everyday Americans." The statement became a rallying-point for Trump's supporters.

(For the record, 63 million people ended up voting for Candidate Trump. [66 million voted for Clinton.] As such, Clinton had placed well over 30 million people in her now-famous basket.)

Clinton has now released a book, What Happened, in which she offers her account of last year'as campaign. In a somewhat surprising passage, she defends the substance of her remarks about the deplorables, if not the political wisdom of making such a remark.

On the substance, Clinton says that her sweeping assessment was right. In this essay, CNN's Dan Merica quotes from Clinton's book:
MERICA (9/12/17): Clinton writes that she handed Trump a "political gift" in September when she told an audience of supporters that "you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables."

Her admission of a mistake isn't without equivocation, though.

Clinton writes that she was "talking about well-documented reality," citing a 2016 study by the General Social Survey that found 55% of white Republicans "believed that blacks are generally poorer than whites 'because most just don't have the motivation or willpower to pull themselves up and out of poverty.'"

"Generalizing about a broad group of people is almost always unwise. And I regret handing Trump a political gift with my deplorables comments," Clinton writes. "I know that a lot of well-intentioned people were insulted because they misunderstood me to be criticizing all Trump voters. I'm sorry about that."
Quite correctly, Clinton says she didn't condemn all of Donald J. Trump supporters to the agonies of Hell. She's sorry that people misread her remarks—remarks whose accuracy she has now reaffirmed.

It's very unusual for a political figure to make such comments about such a wide swath of the public. It's amazing to see Clinton double down on the accuracy of her assessment, in a book for which she presumably conducted full measures of research.

Having said that, let us also say this:

What Clinton says about last year's General Social Survey is basically accurate, perhaps perfectly so—at least as far as she went.

What is the General Social Survey? The GSS is a giant survey of social and political attitudes. According to the leading authority on the project, it's "a sociological survey created and regularly collected since 1972 by the research institute NORC at the University of Chicago. It is funded by the National Science Foundation."

As such, the GSS is conducted by some of the nation's top brainiacs in the general field of social science. Last year, as in prior years, this is one of the questions respondents were asked. We apologize for reprinting the question:
Question from the General Social Survey:
"On the [sic] average (Negroes/Blacks/African-Americans) have worse jobs, income, and housing than white people. Do you think these differences are because most (Negroes/Blacks/African-Americans) just don't have the motivation or will power to pull themselves up out of poverty?"
That's a stereotype-laden question. As best we can tell, the brainiacs at NORC ask this question about no other group. Arguably, its inclusion in the GSS helps draw back the curtain on the hearts and minds of Those Top Researchers Today.

We'll discuss the judgment of those NORC researchers before the week is through. That said, that unfortunate question was indeed asked and answered as part of last year's GSS, and Clinton's statistic is basically accurate, perhaps even perfectly so.

For ourselves, we can't easily find the series of clicks which tells us what "white Republicans" said in response to that question. But according to the somewhat unwieldy GSS site, these were the responses to that question from "non-black Republicans," and from Republicans overall. Once again, we apologize for posting the question:
Responses to particular question, 2016 GSS
"On the average (Negroes/Blacks/African-Americans) have worse jobs, income, and housing than white people. Do you think these differences are because most (Negroes/Blacks/African-Americans) just don't have the motivation or will power to pull themselves up out of poverty?"

Responses by non-black Republicans:
Yes: 53.1 percent
No: 43.1 percent
Don't know: 3.7 percent

Responses by Republicans overall:
Yes: 53.3 percent
No: 42.8 percent
Don't know: 3.9 percent
On the basis of that survey question, Clinton continues to say that half the people who supprted Trump belong in the "basket of deplorables" and may even be irredeemable. She was dumb to say it, but right on the substance, Clinton has said in her book.

Let's ignore the possible lack of political wisdom in Candidate Clinton's original remark. Every candidate says something unwise at some point in a long campaign. There's no reason why Candidate Clinton should have been the exception.

Forget the possible lack of political wisdom in Clinton's extemporaneous comment. Over the next few days, we're going to review her defense of the accuracy of her assessment.

Having said that, we offer this trigger warning:

We've reviewed the full data set from the GSS. We've seen how Democrats responded to that question as well as Republicans.

We've seen how our different "racial" groups responded—whites, Hispanics and blacks.

A full year later, Candidate Clinton is still upset about the way Trump's supporters answered that unfortunate question. Tomorrow, we're going to show you how her own supporters answered that question. We may even try to figure out what the full set of data might mean, perhaps about the usefulness of including such questions in social science research.

This probably isn't the most significant part of Clinton's new book. That said, we think this episode has much to tell us about the way our broken American discourse currently works.

We think the episode tells us some things about Candidate Clinton herself. We think it tells us some things about the American press corps.

We think the episode tells us some things about the nation's liberal social scientists. As a general matter, we think it tells us somethings about the "hive mind" of our own liberal world, which has misfired very badly over the past several decades.

More than anything else, we think this episode helps us ponder our liberal tribe's desire to loathe The Others. To a substantially lesser extent, we'd say the same thing about this recent piece at Slate, in which William Saletan examines five recent surveys in an attempt to examine (we're quoting a headline) "the president’s racist base, by the numbers."

We'll review that piece later on in the week. Tomorrow, we'll look at the wider set of responses to that stereotype-laden question from last year's GSS.

All through the annals of time, tribal groups have looked for ways to loathe, despise and negatively characterize The Others. This deeply entrenched human desire has given rise to the endless succession of wars we've conducted down through the annals of time.

We humans are always able to see how bad The Others are. AS our horror grows, we usually manage to find such demons under every bed.

In the modern context, as we pleasure ourselves with our exquisite loathing, we rarely bother to take the time to review full data sets. We're much more likely to pick and choose our data, selectively feeding the beast of our exquisite loathing.

In the world of us rational animals, loathing The Others has always felt good. Checking the data is hard.

Tomorrow: "White" and "black" responses

Can't get past the headline on that!

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2017

At Slate, Name Withheld sounds off:
We'll file it under the colorful heading, "Can't get past the headline."

The headline(s) in question say this:
Why Isn’t Hillary Clinton Even Angrier?
In What Happened, Clinton takes on the obsessive demand that she assume responsibility for the 2016 election. But we can’t move on.
Name Withheld is very angry—today. Back then, she was the person who joined Chris Hayes in saying the New York Times' report about the scary uranium deal was a "bombshell."

(The gigantic report was a world-class journalistic fraud. It had literally been funded by Bannon! But so what? The report had appeared in the New York Times! Deference had to be paid!)

It's hard to get past the headline on that. That said, our discourse is silly, incompetent, pitiful, faux pretty much all the way down.

The children have never been willing to fight. This helped put you-know-who where he is. On the brighter side, they have good jobs. Mother and father are proud!

Why isn't Clinton even angrier? We'll substitute a different question:

Why wasn't Name Withheld angry back then at all?

POSTCARDS FROM THE LEDGE: This whole discourse is out of order!

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2017

Part 4—Crazy all the way down:
The American people owe Sally Quinn a major debt of thanks.

Actually, two! First, we owe Quinn a debt of thanks for her lengthy report, in November 1998, about Establishment Washington's loathing for President Clinton.

Due to her standing within Establishment Washington, Quinn was able to report, live and direct, from the belly of the beast. She wrote about the loathing for Clinton which existed among political players—but also among major members of the upper-end mainstream press.

If anyone ever wants to write about the press corps' long war against Clinton and Clinton—the evidence strongly suggests that no one ever will—Quinn's 3700-word report will be an invaluable document.

Four months after her piece appeared, Al Gore began his run for the White House. That same Establishment Press Corps landed on Clinton's chosen successor like a ton of bricks.

If anyone ever wants to write about what happened in that campaign—several name-brand historians have already shown that no one is ever going to do that—Quinn's report offers a way to explain the otherwise puzzling hostility, and open dissembling, with which Candidate Gore was met for the next twenty months.

No one is ever going to write about those topics. In the past two nights, hustlers like Cooper and Maddow have steered away from the parts of Hillary Clinton's new book in which she assails the upper-end national press.

Matt Lauer is assailed by name in Clinton's book, but he's part of Maddow's ownership group. We should thank Quinn for that lengthy report, even though the hustlers who live inside that guild will never go back and review it.

We the people should thanks Sally Quinn for that lengthy report. We should also thank her for her recent book, in which she helps us see how deeply entrenched The Crazy is within that upper-end press corps.

Good grief! Unless Connie Schultz was hallucinating when she read Quinn's new book, Quinn confesses to committing three deaths-by-hex, following two deaths-by-hex committed by her mother.

No one is ever going to discuss the apparent craziness of Quinn's book. But we the people should compliment her for making the role of The Crazy within our upper-end press corps so plain.

Please understand! We're speaking here of the mainstream press, not of the right-wing machine. We're speaking of the crazy Mittyesque tales churned by Brian Williams. We're speaking of a decade of blatantly crazy behavior by Chris Matthews. starting in 1999.

During those years, the role of The Crazy was expanding at Fox, including The Sexual Crazy. But the stink of The Crazy is also found all across the mainstream press, enabled by a gang of hustlers who refuse to discuss the crazy behavior of the very high people holding the reins.

Mika Brzezinski's three (3) memoirs also take us to the place where The Crazy, or perhaps the semi-crazy, intersect with our ability to engage in a sane public discourse. It would take weeks to do credit to the sheer weirdness of Brzezinski's three memoirs—to the litany of bizarre anecdotes, mixed with the endless, amusing self-contradictions, found within those tomes.

That said:

Behind these tales is a 13-year-old girl, still just an unhappy child, who began exhibiting symptoms of a major emotional disorder. But the person who is telling these tales is 46 years old by the time the third memoir appears, and her three memoirs are so bizarre that a sensible person can only ask this:

In a nation of 330 million people, how can the person who wrote those strange books possibly be a high-ranking, major analyst—a highly influential architect of the national discourse? Despite her admittedly smokin' hot looks, how can an adult as strange as this possibly hold that position?

How is it possible that Mika Brzezinski is an influential national pundit and analyst? In her books, she repeatedly describes behavior on her own part which seems impossibly weird, though she herself never quite seems to see how weird her anecdotes are.

In her third memoir, she finally describes the effects of an "addiction," an "obsession," which has dogged her since she was that 13-year-old child. The next time you see Brzezinki spouting off on cable TV or passive-aggressively forcing Joe to drag her opinions from her, please remember this account, from Memoir III, of where her mind really is when she sits in the public square:
BRZEZINSKI (page 136): I am in awe of successful women who manage to be free of the tyranny of food. The ones who connect with everyone in a room, while I'm busy thinking about how I can connect with another platter of food...

There I am, in conversation with Walter Isaacson or Colin Powell, but my mind is so focused on those appetizers that I barely hear what they’re saying. Instead I find myself wondering, "Where is that waiter with the mini hot dogs?” My eyes are on Powell and I am nodding with fervent interest, but with my peripheral vision I'm looking for the waiter, and with my brain I'm wondering when he might show up. I keep on discussing the conflict in Syria as best I can, but by now I'm thinking that I just might walk back into the kitchen and get those damn mini hot dogs myself!
Inevitably, a reader thinks of Sandburg's Lincoln, whose beloved stepmother, Sally Bush, knew that "even when he rode in an open carriage in New York or Washington with soldiers, flags or cheering thousands along the streets, he might just as like be thinking of her in the old log farmhouse out in Coles County, Illinois."

So too with Brzezinski! Even when she pretends to be talking about Syria with some important political figure, she might just as like be thinking about the mini hot dogs elsewhere on the set.

Let's state the obvious. If we believe what Brzezinski writes in that passage, she's describing a deeply unfortunate affliction. As readers, we may feel we're finally getting a window into the endless weird behavior she has already described in her two previous memoirs.

That affliction apparently got its start with a 13-year-old child. But by the time of Memoir III, that afflicted child who apparently got no help is 46 years old, and she's a major American political pundit and analyst! Once again, we ask our question:

How can a person so deeply afflicted possibly be assigned a key role in shaping America's discourse? Are we possibly seeing, once again, the endless, ridiculous role of The Crazy within our upper-end press?

The craziness of our public discourse is visible all the way down. It's visible in the bullshit we get told, and in the many basic facts which get withheld from our view.

We liberals are skilled at seeing this phenomenon Over There, among The Others. We've proven to be completely unskilled at seeing The Crazy within the major mainstream and "liberal" players who play an even larger role in shaping our misshapen discourse.

Brzezinski is one such player. Of all the crazy actors, from Trump on down, who have crazily shaped our ludicrous discourse, we may find it hardest to be sympathetic to her. That's because of the role she played in electing the current president, who is one of the experts to whom she turned in writing her second memoir, the one about earning the millions of dollars she so richly deserves.

Brzezinski is cast on Morning Joe as the Democrat who balances Joe Scarborough. That said, sad!

Starting in June 2015, she relentlessly fawned over Donald J. Trump, during the time when Morning Joe was pimping him hard. And good God! Even after the program flipped on Trump in 2016, Brzezinski remained the world's most reluctant supposed supporter of Clinton.

Once a week or so, she would offer a "hostage tape" recitation, in which she would unconvincingly claim to be a Clinton supporter. During the rest of the week, she would push all the standard claims about Clinton's endless character issues.

Her endorsements of Clinton were so faux they served as endorsements of Trump. Mixed with the dumbness of her work, this was a hard stew to swallow.

Beyond that, Brzezinski is a terrible pundit and analyst, both by dint of her temperament and due to her general lack of political insight. Once again, we ask the obvious question:

How in the world can a person like this be in a position of such major influence?

With her new book, Sally Quinn has done us another favor. Unless Connie Schultz is hallucinating, Quinn's new memoir helps us ponder the remarkable reach of The Crazy through our upper-end press.

Every part of our national discourse is in the hands of The Crazy. "This whole discourse is out of order," as Al Pacino once said.

We liberals are too dumb to see this. We're too dumb to see the ways we've been played by the parts of the press corps we unwisely trust. But that press corps is riddled by The Crazy—and by the way our grasping stars reach for the wealth and the fame.

Brzezinski's books are a tribute to the crazy drive for the wealth and the fame. The books are full of crazy anecdotes about Brzezinski's crazy behavior. As a basic part of the package, Brzezinski rarely seems able to see how crazy her anecdote are.

Out of this mess, there emerged one of our nation's most influential pundits. Martin Luther once came along and nailed his theses to a door. If you watch this tape of Brzezinski in July 2015 angrily shouting down reporting on Trump, you will possibly ask this question:

How did such an unusual person ever attain the position she holds? And what can we the people do to evict the Crazy from our broken discourse?

The angry person on that tape helped send her one-time friend Trump to the White House. Yes, it's just one videotape; it may look A-OK to you. But in our view, we the people should be angry that a person as weird as Brzezinski could ever end up in the driver's seat, shaping our national discourse.

Brzezinski started as a child in need of help. That deserving child didn't get that help. All these years later, Donald J. Trump is in the White House, in part because of the grasping adult the troubled child became.

In Obsessed, Mika's best friend, Diane Smith, semi-jokingly says, "I have to be honest. She's a little nuts." Smith goes on to tell the childbirth story, one of the weirdest stories in the three books. (Brzezinski told the same weird story, though quite differently, in the first of these books.)

How "nuts" is Diane Smith's friend? You should read her memoirs and decide! Having said that, we'll close with this—and yes, we're skipping past a long array of crazy anecdotes from her peculiar books:

Brzezinski's second book is devoted to the proposition that upper-class women in high-paying fields should get paid what the're worth. Inevitably, women in lower-paying positions completely escape her interest.

She dedicates the book to her daughters, who were teens at the time. They play key roles in all three books, as in this peculiar passage from her first memoir, in which she describes the way she behaved after losing her job at CBS, during a year in which she was a stay-at-home mom:
BRZEZINSKI (page 190): Once I realized I wasn't about to land a new job anytime soon, I decided to dive right in to being there for my family. Home. Available. I thought I'd take advantage of the situation. Trouble was, I was a terrible cook. And as a housekeeper, I was even worse. I was terrible at folding laundry. I'd fold it, and it would look like someone could have done a better job crumbling it into a ball. I could use the washing machine without too much trouble, but once I took the clothes out of the dryer, they were on their own. I couldn't make a bed too well, either—and cleaning and dusting is never too high on my to-do list.

[...]

Oh my goodness, it's hard work being a full-time, stay-at-home mom! Ten times harder than doing a piece for the CBS Evening News. I just wasn't up to it, I'm afraid. I have enormous respect for women who can make a go of it at home—men too. My kids saw through me right away. But they humored me. All along, they'd been fairly autonomous, which is how it goes in a house where both parents work. I couldn't even get them to the dentist the first time I tried. I wanted to do all these things for them, even these mundane scheduling things, but Carlie set it up herself. She was about nine, and she was making an appointment on her cell phone because she didn't want to wait for Mommy to get around to scheduling a cleaning.
Every reader gets to decide what that highlighted passage actually describes, and how much of that overall passage he wants to believe. For the record, this is hardly the strangest set of stories in the Brzezinski oeuvre.

It's certainly true that these anecdotes can't tell us whether Brzezinski is a capable political analyst. In theory, a person who can't fold laundry or make a bed could be an excellent analyst.

That said, we were struck by the image of the 9-year-old child (more accurately, she was about nine) who had to get on the phone and schedule her own dental cleaning because Mommy couldn't do it.

The person who couldn't fold that laundry could be an excellent analyst. With Brzezinski, that isn't the case, as you can see if you watch the videotape in which she angrily defends the wonderfulness of Donald J. Trump against 1) his first wife's prior claim that he once raped her and 2) the claim by Trump's crazily aggressive, profane lawyer that a husband can't rape his wife.

Angrily, Brzezinski attacked a young journalist who was reporting these matters. How exactly did this person attain the position she holds?

That said, Sally Quinn has helped us ponder a very important question. In the rush of our greedy American pundits to attain the wealth and fame they deserve, to what extent has The Crazy come to play a dominant role in the shaping of our discourse?

Does The Crazy suffuse our upper-end press? We'll let Brzezinski speak for herself. Her second book is about the need for (upper-class) women to attain the level of pay they deserve. She urges (upper-class) women to "know their value," to understand their worth.

That's a perfectly valid concern. Brzezinski stresses the fact that she wants her daughters to know their worth, to respect themselves as women.

But here we go again! She dedicates the book to "my girls" but she signs it from "your crazy mommy." A reader may think of the troubled child she once was, the child who ate and ate and ate and ate and didn't get the help she needed and deserved.

Brzezinski is a terrible analyst. As such, she's perfect for our grasping, multimillionaire pundit corps, which, as Sally Quinn reminds us, is in the grip of The Crazy.

Our discourse is crazy all the way down. It's in the hands of grasping players. Where the heck are our Martin Luthers? Why can't we drain this swamp?

Sanders proposes Medicare for all!

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2017

Strong points, unanswered questions:
In yesterday's New York Times, Bernie Sanders wrote an op-ed column introducing his Medicare for all proposal.

We thought he made some excellent points. We were struck by some unanswered questions.

Sanders started as shown below. And yes, he named some actual names in the highlighted passage about the massive looting which defines our health care system:
SANDERS (9/13/17): This is a pivotal moment in American history. Do we, as a nation, join the rest of the industrialized world and guarantee comprehensive health care to every person as a human right? Or do we maintain a system that is enormously expensive, wasteful and bureaucratic, and is designed to maximize profits for big insurance companies, the pharmaceutical industry, Wall Street and medical equipment suppliers?

We remain the only major country on earth that allows chief executives and stockholders in the health care industry to get incredibly rich
, while tens of millions of people suffer because they can’t get the health care they need. This is not what the United States should be about.
Sanders named four miscreants, double the normal number. For future discussion, this recent post by Kevin Drum throws in several more.

Before too long, Sanders mentioned a widely-disappeared group, The USA 9400. We'll make a few points about this:
SANDERS: Even though 28 million Americans remain uninsured and even more are underinsured, we spend far more per capita on health care than any other industrialized nation. In 2015, the United States spent almost $10,000 per person for health care; the Canadians, Germans, French and British spent less than half of that, while guaranteeing health care to everyone. Further, these countries have higher life expectancy rates and lower infant mortality rates than we do.
In that passage, Sanders engages in some basic blocking and tackling. For the record, these are the more precise OECD figures to which his passage refers:
Per capita spending, health care, 2015
United States: $9451
Canada: $4608
France: $4407
United Kingdom: $4003

(Germany: $5267)
You'll note that Germany didn't spend less than half as much as we did. Acknowledging that minor apparent blip, we'll offer these award-winning questions:

Why have you never seen those numbers on the front page of the New York Times? Why have you never seen those numbers discussed by the major stars on MSNBC, our "corporate liberal" channel?

Sanders is starting a real discussion about a hugely important topic. That real discussion has never occurred because players like the Post, the Times and our corporate TV stars have always seemed to agree that it mustn't occur.

Last point—can you spot the possible semi-contradiction in this passage?
SANDERS: The reason that our health care system is so outrageously expensive is that it is not designed to provide quality care to all in a cost-effective way, but to provide huge profits to the medical-industrial complex. Layers of bureaucracy associated with the administration of hundreds of individual and complicated insurance plans is stunningly wasteful, costing us hundreds of billions of dollars a year. As the only major country not to negotiate drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry, we spend tens of billions more than we should.

The solution to this crisis is not hard to understand. A half-century ago, the United States established Medicare. Guaranteeing comprehensive health benefits to Americans over 65 has proved to be enormously successful, cost-effective and popular. Now is the time to expand and improve Medicare to cover all Americans.
Sanders praises the cost-effectiveness of Medicare. One paragraph earlier, he cites our failure to negotiate drug prices with the pharmaceutical cabal.

As everyone knows, Medicare is one principal place where we have failed to do that! Now for a question:

Have you ever seen data for American health care spending on people over 65, versus comparable spending in a nation like France? We've never seen that either!

We would assume that our Medicare program vastly overspends too, as compared to everyone else. Why has the pandering corporate clown Rachel Maddow never discussed such a topic?

Our health care system is defined by systematic looting. The Post, the Times, MSNBC all seem to like it that way.

That leads us to our final questions:

How much do players like Maddow get paid? Why do you think you aren't told?

POSTCARDS FROM THE LEDGE: Three ways of viewing top pundit's three books!

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2017

Part 3—Found humor, real life, The Crazy:
On the one hand, the opening to the pundit's third memoir can be viewed as found humor.

For the record, the pundit in question isn't just any pundit. This pundit is Mika Brzezinski, "co-host" of the influential show, Morning Joe, at least on the mornings when she actually shows up.

Yesterday, we listed the titles, and the secret subject matter, of the three memoirs in question. According to Brzezinski's second memoir, the books were written as part of a deal to provide her with the high income she so richly deserves.

As noted yesterday, Brzezinski's third memoir bears this title: Obsessed: America's Food Addiction—And My Own. In the book, Brzezinski says that she has been tormented by obsessive over-eating, and by a concomitant addiction to exercise, ever since she was 13 years old.

As such, this third memoir gives us a look at a deeply troubled bit of real life—at years of torment which began when the author was still a child.

Of all our pundits, we'll have to admit, we find it hardest to empathize with Brzezinski, for a list of reasons we may yet find time to discuss. But this story starts with a 13-year-old child who doesn't feel at home within her own high-achieving family—whose mother still ridicules her lack of smarts, in public settings, even now, when the unhappy child has become an adult.

(Page 28, Obsessed: "After two years at Georgetown I transferred to Williams College. My mother likes to tell people that I had the lowest SAT scores of anyone who ever got into that college.")

Decent people don't want children to suffer. That said, the opening to this third memoir almost insists on being seen as found humor, even after the reader knows the story of the lost child.

In this book, Brzezinski says she's finally going "to come clean" about her life-long struggle. That said, the book begins in a way which is so tone deaf, in so Brzezinski-esque a way, that it must be cataloged as a type of unintentional humor.

How can someone as skinny and hot as Brzezinski be writing a book about over-eating? That's the question with which the author struggles as she opens the Introduction to this third book. To set the scene, we'll start with the first three paragraphs of an unintentionally comical five-paragraph passage:
BRZEZINSKI (page 1): As I have moved through the process of writing this book—drafts, edits, revisions, etc.—I’ve sought the unvarnished opinions of friends, colleagues, and family members to answer a question that has troubled me from the beginning: How does a person who is not overweight write about her lifelong obsession with overeating without sounding like a narcissistic, woe-is-me skinny girl with an overinflated image of herself, particularly to those who share her obsession with food but happen to be overweight, or even obese?

I can report back to you that the answer to my question was almost unanimous: you can’t. No matter what you say or how you say it, you’re going to sound like a privileged skinny bitch with food issues. Oh yeah, and a TV show. And a woman who was born into a wonderful, prominent family and has a blessed life.

None of that suggests any kinship with the legion of suffering women whose debilitating relationship with food actually shows when they stand in front of the mirror in their closet. Yours doesn’t, so your opinion is not necessarily welcome here.
Poor Mika! She starts this book with the air of grievance which animates much of her punditry. People will call her a "privileged skinny bitch" for writing a book of this type! Her opinion won't be welcome! Given how hot and slender she is, there's nothing she could possibly do to get around this problem!

You'll note that we've already been told, two separate times, that Mika is very thin. As the opening passage continues, we're rewarded with the world-class unintentional humor:
BRZEZINSKI (continuing directly): So here’s the deal. I get it. I am acutely aware of the eye-rolling derision with which many may view my role in this book. I stipulate up front that a good degree of my success in life was gained through my appearance. I did not earn my genetic makeup, any more than I chose the family I was born into.

I am a lucky woman, and I know it.
Mika is just so freaking hot! To read the full passage, click here.

Due to her genetic makeup, Mika is so freaking hot—and so thin! That said, she understands how lucky she is to look the amazing way she does. It's all because of those fabulous genes, the genes that keep her thin.

She shouldn't get credit for being so thin and so hot. It's part of her "blessed life!"

We'll call that passage found humor. And just in case anyone thought the reference to those amazing genes was some sort of slip, she restates the point two paragraphs later, modestly saying that her low weight—115 pounds, she suggests—can be attributed to "fortunate genetics."

Mika is a lucky woman, and very thin, because of her wonderful genes!

If an American Museum of Tone Deafness is ever built on the National Mall, the opening passage to this book should be featured right there in the lobby. Even as she talks her tough talk about being viewed as a "skinny bitch," Mika seems to be working overtime to earn that (unfortunate) label.

The tone deafness here is remarkable. That said, Mika litters this book with testimonials to her own incredible hotness—testimonials from many others, and from Mika herself. Even though an unfortunate, real-life story is playing out beneath the surface, it's hard to read this tone deaf book without chuckling at the sheer persistence of the unintended humor.

Mika's incredible hotness is a persistent theme of this book. Sometimes Mika describes the hotness herself. Perhaps more often, she quotes other people doing it.

By page 14, she explains what happened when, in a remarkably ill-advised episode, she waits until she's in the middle of Long Island Sound, in a small boat with her cowering children, to tell her best friend, "co-author" Diane Smith, that Smith isn't just fat, she's obese.

Did we mention the fact that Mika dropped this bomb out in the middle of Long Island Sound? As the girls cower in the small boat with their father and with Smith's husband, Mika and Smith go at it. In this passage, Mika shares one part of what was said by her angry, embarrassed best friend:
BRZEZINSKI (page 14): "Oh please, Mika! You sit there in your Daisy Duke shorts looking incredible, and you tell me how hard your life is? Why don;t you try talking to me when you start wearing size XXL stretch pants—then you can complain. Any woman I know would kill to look like you. You really can't look me in the face and say that you struggle."
As any journalist would do, Mika is simply recording Smith's remarks on the day which eventually led to this book. At any rate, two paragraphs later, Smith's tribute to Mika's amazingness continues:
BRZEZINSKI: "Seriously, Mika, what would you know about being fat?" she continued. "You won the freaking lottery: great job, perfect body, and an amazing life. You walk into the room and every overweight woman dismisses you as a skinny bitch. Do you have any idea how how women who look like me feel about women who look like you?"
Did we mention the fact that these are best friends? At any rate, Mika is back to being an incredibly hot "skinny bitch" in this passage. (The b-bomb is part of the bracing "tough talk" at various points in this book.)

These testimonials to Mika's hotness are found throughout the book. On page 21, at the start of Chapter One, a United States senator is conscripted into service. Chapter One starts like this:
BRZEZINSKI (page 21): If you struggle with weight, I know what you're thinking.

Really? You, Mika? What can you possibly know about my problems?

That's what Diane thought, and it's what Senator Claire McCaskill thought, too. The Democrat from Missouri said that right to my face; blurted it out in front of a thpusand people on stage at the Annual Congressional Dinner of the Washington Press Foundation. "Mika, you look so beautiful sitting there in your size two dress. We have all noticed . . . your strong and consistent message of better eating and more exercise. And I would like to say, on behalf of all the middle-aged overweight women in America, JUST . . . SHUT . . . UP!"
Mika goes on to say that her "outspoken stance on obesity" has subjected her to tons of abuse on-line.

These testimonials to Mika's hotness continue all through the book. They're mixed with testimonials to her tremendous skills as a journalist, and to her "brains and ability" (Donny Deutsch), even to her "brilliance" (Margo Maine, a nationally known specialist in eating disorders).

Also mentioned is the very hot wardrobe for which Mika seems to believe she is known. ("I am known for wearing body-hugging sleeveless dresses with very high heels on TV," she writes at one point. In 2012, though, she says she was "not wearing my trademark sleeveless dresses as much" because she'd gained some weight. You can see this, Mika reports, if you watch the videotape from TV.)

The tone deaf quotient is so high that this third book could probably fill that museum all by itself. And yes—behind these tone-deaf songs of self, there lies the struggle of a 13-year-old child.

That said, it's impossible to read this book without being overwhelmed by the world-class, humorous cluelessness found in the endless string of comically tone deaf remarks. The child's story seems to be very sad. The adult's writing is unintentionally comic.

Whitman celebrated himself; Brzezinski does so too. Behind her song is the pain of a child, but the pain of that child has given issue to an incredibly tone deaf adult.

It seems to us that the adult is also blind to the shape of her own life. On page 1, we're told that Mika has "a blessed life." Instantly though, on page 3, though, a reader is also told this:
BRZEZINSKI (page 3): This is the book I have been afraid to write … terrified actually. It deals with an issue that is radioactive for me. How I eat, diet, and look has tied me up in knots my entire life, and I know I am not alone. I have been held hostage by food since I was thirteen years old. My body started filling out more than the figures of other girls in my class, and that set off what has become a thirty-year battle with my body image. Food has been my enemy. My determination to be thin has led me to extremes, and I’ve done damage to my body and my mind in the process.

It has taken me a very long time to find a way back to health and balance, both physically and emotionally. I’m not there yet, but I’ve come a long way,
and it’s time that I have the guts to talk about it...
By any normal standard, the person who wrote that passage hasn't exactly led "a blessed life." She's done damage to her own body and mind. At age 46, after thirty-three years, her battle still wasn't over.

Brzezinski's three memoirs are full of puzzling anecdotes, peculiar claims, and entertainingly instant self-contradictions. That said, the largest contradiction lies right there, in the opening pages of this third (3rd!) memoir.

Perhaps because of her apparent addiction to money, fame and external success, Brzezinski is able to think that the decades of torment she describes constitutes "a blessed life." This same peculiar calculation animated her first book, in which she instructs young women to do as she did, after several hundred pages which seem to describe a type of hell on earth.

For this reason, we'd say there are at least three ways these revealing books can be read. Yes, they come to us straight from real life, from a difficult life whose torments began when the author was 13 years old.

These books can also be read as Whitmanesque samplers of inintentional humor. In the end, the most sympathetic reader has to put these books down and laugh at the tone-deaf presentations and weird stories which appear throughout.

Here's a third possible reading:

Brzezinski seems to have a very hard time seeing the outline of her own life. Along with all the anecdotes which don't seem to make sense, there is this persistent failure to see the overall shape of these real-life events.

This leaves us with a question:

How can the person who wrote these books possibly be a major political analyst? It's almost like this is another part of The Major Crazy which lies behind our failing discourse, from Sally Quinn's hexes on down.

Tomorrow: Loving Trump, 2015