Werewolves of the Washington Post!

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 31, 2017

Podesta slimed again:
Tony Podesta runs a slippery, quadrillion dollar, international lobbying outfit.

His brother, John Podesta, was chairman of last year's Clinton campaign.

In an amazing report in the Washington Post, Marc Fisher and Carol Leonnig slime the two together. Try to believe this amazing example of moral equivalence:
FISHER AND LEONNIG (10/31/17): Tony’s Podesta Group is one of two firms described in Monday’s indictment as having been recruited by Manafort and Gates to lobby on behalf of Viktor Yanukovych, the former president of Ukraine who fled to Moscow in 2014, according to people familiar with the company’s involvement. Federal prosecutors have accused Manafort of creating a scheme to mislead the government about his secret work for a Ukrainian political leader.

Both the Podesta Group and the other firm, Mercury Public Affairs, have said they were hired to lobby for a European nonprofit based in Brussels trying to polish Ukraine’s image in the West. But behind the scenes, prosecutors allege, the real client was a political party led by the former Ukraine president, who was friendly with Russia.

John Podesta, a longtime Democratic adviser who led the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, has spent the past year coping with the publication by Wikileaks of tens of thousands of his emails, which were hacked by someone using a computer with an address in Ukraine. The release of those emails ensnared him in the ornate conspiracy theory known as Pizzagate, in which some anti-Clinton activists came to believe, without evidence, that sexually abused children were being hidden below a pizza place in Northwest Washington — and that John Podesta was involved with satanic rituals there, a notion that police said was bogus.
Were you able to follow that? Tony Podesta may be a substantial international crook. Similarly, John Podesta got his emails stolen and was crazily accused of running a child sex ring.

Why do we say "similarly?" Because that's the explicit framework of this bizarre report in the Post, starting with its crazy hard-copy headline:
Podesta brothers are drawn into orbit of scandals
Let's be clear. We don't know if Tony Podesta has done anything wrong.

That said, it's crazy to list these massively different cases under that one seamy-sounding heading—and that headline perfectly adapts the language of the Post's bizarre report.

Let's get clear on the logic of this appalling report. According to this weird report, John Podesta was "drawn into the orbit of scandal" by virtue of the fact that he got his emails stolen, then became the target of lunatic claims! What on earth is wrong with the life forms at the Washington Post?

Two points. We'll start with this:

Late last October, two weeks before Election Day, the Washington Post hit rock bottom with this ridiculously invasive trip through John Podesta's personal emails. Are Dan Zak and his editor human? We'd say it's hard to tell.

(Does the Post have some sort of vendetta against John Podesta? This morning's bizarre presentation made us wonder.)

Also this:

Way back when the nation's Crazy was young, Marc Fisher wrote one of the oddest attacks on Candidate Gore's outrageous wardrobe, which wasn't outrageous at all. It was also an ugly, gender-sliming attack on Naomi Wolf, a highly regarded author.

In fairness to Fisher, his piece came at the end of a month in which everyone in the whole mainstream press corps had taken a turn voicing these same attacks. So he had to jack his lunacy up, which he was able to do. His crazy Sunday magazine piece ended like this:
FISHER (11/28/99): So when Al Gore sneaks around and spends $15,000 a month to hire an oddball like Naomi Wolf, a controversialist who campaigns against the tyranny of the beauty culture and then plasters soft-lit glossies of herself and her perfectly teased hair all over the Internet and on her book jackets, we have two choices: We can say Gore's a good man who's been duped by over-eager aides, or we can say this is a man who does not know himself, a man who is unknowable, unreadable and therefore not fit to be president.

A person who makes her living by writing pop philosophy about sex tells a man who would be president of the United States
that he must be a different kind of man, that he must be more assertive, that he must wear a brown suit of a sort that is alien to virtually every American. And he says, "Okay."

To call him unreadable is to be charitable.
Aside from the heavily gendered sliming of Wolf, try to imagine Fisher's claim that Gore was "wearing a brown suit of a sort that is alien to virtually every American."

Crazily, Fisher suggested the possibility that Gore's completely unremarkable suit meant that he was "not fit to be president!" The Crazy was now well underway. As would be the case for the next many years, career liberals either stared into air or took part in the hanging.

Assuming Fisher is actually human, the piece he wrote that day was insane. Eighteen years later, this!

Go ahead; you explain it! For ourselves, we'll suggest that you learn to see the world through this lens, and no, we aren't kidding:

Werewolves of WaPo! Ah-hooooooo!

For the record: At the time, Wolf had long been famous for not posting her photos on her book jackets.

Did she instruct Gore to wear a brown suit? She said no, and he said no. No contrary evidence surfaced.

Nor did anyone ever explain what difference such a thing would have made. By now, The Crazy was well under way. Our tribe's heroes all stared into air, except for the many such people who took part in this ugly, death-dealing sliming of the she-witch Wolf and the "today's man-woman" Gore.

(We're quoting the cable grotesque, Chris Matthews.)

People are dead all over the world because people like Fisher stampeded this way. Werewolves of the alleged human race! How else would you explain it?

HUMAN, NONE TOO HUMAN: Werewolves of New Haven speak!

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 31, 2017

Part 2—Also, professors of London:
We kid you not! This morning, as we somnambulized in a Starbucks in an undisclosed location, Warren Zevon's great documentary found its way onto the play list.

It was likely a tribute to Halloween. We were reading the Washington Post when the hard-hitting song with the straight-talking lyrics came on the music box.

To hear the song, click here:
I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand
Walking through the streets of SoHo in the rain
He was looking for the place called Lee Ho Fooks
For to get a big dish of beef chow mein.

Ah-hooo, werewolves of London
Ah-hoooooooo
Ah-hooo, werewolves of London
Ah-hoooooooo

[...]

He's the hairy-handed gent who ran amuck in Kent
Lately he's been overheard in Mayfair
You better stay away from him, He'll rip your lungs out, Jim
Hunh! I'd like to meet his tailor.

So true! Zevon gave warning about the apparent humans who may be none too human, despite their access to world-class tailors. Halloween to the side, has there ever been a better morning to be greeted by this song's plainspoken, truth-telling lyrics?

When the song came on, we were reading the Washington Post's account of the adventures of George Papadopoulos, age 30, a little-known Trump campaign functionary who has pleaded guilty to "making a false statement to FBI investigators who asked about his contacts with foreigners claiming to have high-level Russian connections."

Papadopoulos was seven years out of DePaul (class of 2009) when his original misadventures occurred. Found humor was everywhere, we thought, as the Post offered its account of his activities, which may have included interactions with modern-day werewolves of London.

Ah-hoooooooo! Matt Zapotosky and a cast of thousands began their account like this:
ZAPOTOSKY ET AL (10/31/17): Papadopoulos admitted that he had lied to the FBI about his interactions with people he thought had connections with the Russian government—essentially understating the conversations and claiming falsely that they had occurred before he joined Trump’s campaign.

In a January 2017 interview with the FBI, Papadopoulos told agents that a London-based professor claimed to him that he had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, including “thousands of emails.” But Papadopoulos said that initially he viewed the professor as a “nothing.”

In reality, according to his plea, Papadopoulos understood that the professor had connections to Russian government officials, and he treated him seriously. An email quoted in court filings appears to match one described to The Washington Post in August in which Papadopoulos identified the professor with whom he met as Joseph Mifsud, the director of the London Academy of Diplomacy.
Allegedly, Professor Mifsud is or was the director of the London Academy of Diplomacy, an institution which may even exist. At first glance, it was hard not to think of Professor Harold Hill, who famously claimed to hail from the Gary Conservatory, class of 1905.

Whatever! Professor Hill ended up winning the heart, and the support, of Marian the Librarian. In the current case, young Papadopoulos was soon fixed up with no less a personage than Vladimir Putin's niece, or at least so he believed:
ZAPOTOSKY ET AL (continuing directly): After a March 2016 meeting with the professor, who was not identified in court records, Papadopoulos emailed a campaign supervisor and other members of the campaign’s foreign policy team. He claimed that the professor had introduced him to “Putin’s niece” and the Russian ambassador in London, and that the purpose was “to arrange a meeting between us and the Russian leadership to discuss U.S.-Russia ties under President Trump,” court documents say.

The government noted that the woman was not Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s niece, and while Papadopoulos expected the professor to introduce him to the Russian ambassador, that never happened. But in the months that followed, Papadopoulos continued to correspond with the woman and the professor about a meeting between the Trump campaign, possibly including Trump himself, and Russian officials.

“The Russian government has an open invitation by Putin for Mr. Trump to meet him when he is ready,” Papadopoulos wrote to a senior policy adviser for the campaign on April 25.
Darn it! She wasn't Putin's niece after all! Quoting further from Zevon's lyrics, "Werewolves of London again!"

At this point, we introduce you to werewolves of cable. Last night, during all the excitement, Jeremy Bash swallowed a snootful and insisted that the alleged professor—who may not be a professor, he seemed to suggest—is plainly a Russian agent.

Everything is possible, of course, but does Bash really know that? (In fairness, "his hair was perfect.")

Moving further along, we expose you now to a question you almost surely never saw raised last night in many hours of cable. Our question is a tough one:

Would there have been anything wrong with the behavior ascribed to young Papadopoulos?

Would there have been anything wrong with what Papadopoulos is said to have done? More specifically:

Would there have been anything legally or morally wrong with a foolish young man who was then 29 trying to "arrange a meeting between [the Trump campaign] and the Russian leadership to discuss U.S.-Russia ties under President Trump?"

Let's go further! Would there have been anything legally or morally wrong with this foolish young person corresponding with Putin's putative niece, and also with an apparent professor, "about a meeting between the Trump campaign, possibly including Trump himself, and Russian officials?"

In and of itself, would there have been anything "wrong" with such behavior, or even with such a meeting? We're going to say that the answer is no, which may help explain why this young man has pleaded guilty to lying, not to the attempt to commit some sort of crime.

Ah-hoooooooo! The werewolves of cable won't slow their howling long enough to let you consider such things! Instead, they'll tell you the story in the way you will most thoroughly like. Quoting Zevon further:
You hear [them] howling around your kitchen door
Better not let [them] in.
As we continue, we meet an ambiguity we didn't see mentioned last night. Eventually, the youngster was told that Donald J. Trump wouldn't be making any such trips, whether to meet with Putin himself or with his smokin' hot niece:
ZAPOTOSKY ET AL (continuing directly): At one point, a campaign official forwarded one of Papadopoulos’s emails to another campaign official, saying: “We need someone to communicate that DT is not doing these trips. It should be someone low level in the campaign so as not to send any signal.” “DT” would appear to be a reference to Donald Trump.

Papadopoulos’s effort continued into the summer of 2016, and in August 2016, a campaign supervisor told Papadopoulos and another foreign policy adviser that they should meet with Russian officials. That ultimately did not take place, according to the plea.
Last night, that highlighted email was widely quoted. But hold on! Did it mean that "someone low level in the campaign" should take those trips to meet with the Russkies? Or did it mean that "someone low level in the campaign" should communicate the fact that "DT" himself wouldn't be doing such trips?

We'd have to say that isn't clear. Werewolves of cable all voiced the former interpretation, the one which serves the more exciting, much preferred story-line.

We have no idea how this story will end, but werewolves of cable are serving you tribal product. Then too, we heard the werewolves of New Haven this morning as they embarrassed their alma mater over at Slate.

In fairness, Katy Waldman's sentences were perfect! Pathetically, though, she described her trip to yesterday's arraignment of Manafort/Gates in the following silly manner:
WALDMAN (10/30/17): Given the almost total absence of story elements to latch on to, we were left to divine some trace of character from the tone of the men’s voices. Manafort’s “I do” when the judge asked him whether he understood his instructions—to report to pretrial services for orientation the next morning; to remain in his home except for court appearances, religious services, medical appointments, and attorney meetings; to surrender his passport; to post a $10 million bond—was low, mild, and gravelly, effortfully purged of what must have been his deep humiliation. Gates, whose bail was set at $5 million, sounded clipped and professional, as though we were all wasting his time. But for the most part, the themes at Monday’s hearing were logistical, rather than novelistic, and were easily resolved...

It fell to us, the audience, to supply suspense and melodrama.
Pathetically, Waldman imagined what the two men's voices conveyed as each uttered his handful of words. Skillfully, we recalled the day when Chris Matthews, then a hero of disguised right-wing corporate cable labor, brought the body language expert on the air to explain what the three buttons on Gore's suit jackets were intended to convey to female voters. At any rate:

In the absence of novelistic elements, it fell to the werewolves of The Net to supply the day's melodrama!

Waldman is Yale 2010. Aaron Mak, who seems to be Yale 2016, is a much more recent denizen of New Haven and of the professional Net.

Mak's headline at Slate reads as follows, and it concerns Manafort:
I Spent My Day Trying to Figure Out How to Spend Nearly $1 Million on Rugs
How could Paul Manafort have spent $1 million on rugs, as was described in yesterday's 31-page indictment? The youngster, or perhaps his editor, decided that inquiring minds ought to know. What follows is the kind of shoe-leather work which frequently comes from today's werewolves of Ivy League class advantage:
MAK (10/30/17): I started calling Alexandria rug stores and interior decorators once the news broke, contacting anyone who could help me understand where Manafort might have shopped and how easy it would be run up a seven-figure bill. I knew extremely rare rugs could go for millions of dollars. But the pattern described in the indictment was different: The purchases were made over the course of eight visits. I wanted to understand how someone could build such a collection.
We want to know how four years at Yale can produce piddle so rich. Stating the obvious, Waldman and Mak are providing a type of entertainment product. Might they possibly be regarded as werewolves of our upper-end corporate press?

The werewolves of cable were happy last night. We take a different view of yesterday's events.

Based on actual history and knowledge of people, we don't assume that a string of indictments, convictions and guilty pleas will translate into electoral success for us werewolves of Liberalsylvania.

We know that our candidate was loathed last year too. We know that our own spiraling tribe provides zero inspiration.

Beyond that, we don't assume that Donald J. Trump would peacefully accept defeat, as Richard M. Nixon once did. Just as easily, we can picture him deciding to use the nuclear codes, because what else are they there for? This is the way the modern world ends! Not with a bang, but a werewolf!

Our liberal team doesn't know how to win votes or talk to people. Last night, we kept thinking of the one recent event where we saw people from our team speaking with consummate skill:

We thought of Chris Hayes, but mainly of Bernie Sanders, speaking to those coal miners down in West Virginia. It's very, very, very rare to see contemporary liberals who know how to talk to actual people. (Before too long, we plan to discuss the way HRC talked to "black" voters last year.)

Zevon issued his warning in 1978. According to the leading authority on such matters, it went to #15 on the charts in New Zealand.

Even way back then, Zevon had spotted a problem. Many around us, he tried to say, may be human, none too human.

Silly, fatuous, tribal, unloving? Zevon pictured all these traits! And he warned us not to be fooled by the mere appearance of apparent humans, even when well-groomed on cable:
I saw a werewolf drinking a pina colada at Trader Vic's
His hair was perfect.

Ah-hoooooo! Werewolves of London.
Coming next: Remarkable! Werewolves of the Washington Post slime (John) Podesta again

Reid bungles the scary uranium deal!

MONDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2017

Gets liberally showered with praise:
Donald J. Trump is pushing hard on Hillary Clinton's alleged misconduct in the scary uranium deal. In recent weeks, this has also become a standard topic at Fox.

This weekend, Joy Reid challenged a reporter from the Washington Examiner about this hot new topic. Her work is praised today at Slate, under this cheerleader headline:
Watch MSNBC’s Joy Reid Expertly Debunk Lies Around Uranium-Clinton Story
So it goes when a failing society turns almost totally tribal.

In fact, Reid's "expert debunking of the lies" was a great deal less than expert. She spoke with the Examiner's Jennifer Kerns, who was even more fuzzy than Reid about certain parts of the story.

Over at Slate, Daniel Politi was convinced by Reid's performance. He offers two minutes of videotape, along with the transcript of several chunks of Reid's interaction with Kerns.

Reid was far from expert, but she blustered with skill. All across the Internet, the tribe let up a cheer.

How "expert" was Reid's actual performance? Consider the part where she began grilling Kerns about contributions to the Clinton Foundation—contributions which supposedly helped secure Clinton's alleged support for the scary uranium deal.

(Reminder: There is no evidence that Clinton played any role in the deal's approval by the State Department. Beyond that, the deal was approved by eight other federal agencies, a statutory requirement, and was presumably approved by President Obama as well. This wasn't a Hillary Clinton deal, although that's the claim the New York Times endorsed in April 2015 in a gigantic sprawling report, as part of their bizarre "journalistic" deal with a Steve Bannon-funded hack.)

How "expert" was Reid this day? Below, you see one part of the transcript Politi provided. Kern is vague on various facts; Reid seems unaware of others. We've reinserted a few of Politi's deletions:
REID (10/29/17): Who is the person who donated to Hillary Clinton who is related to, and had an investment in, Uranium One? What is that person's name? Do you remember their name?

KERNS: They are board members of Uranium One, donated up to, I think it's $143 million, I think—

REID: Tom Giustra.

KERN: —to the Clinton Foundation.

REID: And when did Tom Giustra— Did he own any assets in Uranium One at the time that Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State?

KERNS: You know, I don't know that—

REID: Did not. Sold them.

KERNS: But here's what I would like to know—

REID: He sold them years before. So what you're talking about is a deal that nine members of CFIUS approved unanimously. None of them was Hillary Clinton. You have a donor who separately gave Hillary Clinton donations at a time when she was not Secretary of State. The two things cross in the night, they have no relation to each other.
Kerns didn't seem to be hugely current on this topic, but then she hasn't been reporting this topic for The Examiner. (We don't know where she got the $143 million figure.)

That said, Reid didn't seem real clear on her basic facts, even as she interrupted Kerns and lectured her about those facts, much like a scolding parent.

For starters, no one named "Tom Giustra" was involved in this matter. The person to whom Reid referred is actually named "Frank Giustra." In semi-parodic fashion, Reid misstated Giustra's name even as she seemed to scold Kerns for not knowing it.

Reid seemed to know the basic back-story concerning Giustra's donations. On the other hand, Kerns knew that other donations occurred, not just those of Giustra.

Reid framed this matter, from the start, as a matter of one donor (Giustra) with "an investment in Uranium One." That said, other donors, and other donations, were in fact involved. These donations did in fact come from "board members of Uranium One," a fact Reid blew right past and seemed unaware of.

In this recent report by the Examiner, some of those other donations were cited. The chairman of Uranium One, to whom the report refers, was a man named Ian Telfer. The various donations he made and bundled came through his Canadian family charity, the Fernwood Foundation. Unlike with Giustra, these contributions were made when Clinton was Secretary of State.

Kerns seemed vaguely aware of these facts. Reid simply blustered past them.

In her discussion with Kerns, Reid acted like she very much knew what she was talking about. It doesn't seem that she actually did, but so what? When a society devolves into a state of tribal war, true believers from all tribal sides will robotically praise the "expertise" of other hacks on their side.

One final note on this gong show:

People like Reid are attacking this topic now because it's being pushed by Trump. When it came from the New York Times in the spring of 2015, the overpaid stars at MSNBC and their like were silent.

That's because people of their ilk will never challenge the Times or its stars. The rank and file aren't in a position to know that they're being conned by this code of silence.

The 4400-word Times report on the scary uranium deal was a parody of a news report. It put a stupid attack on Clinton into play, and it went uncontradicted by the boys and girls who draw their large pay checks from corporate minders at MSNBC.

It went uncontradicted because boys and girls of this type have their hands in career and corporate troughs. Career paths run through the New York Times. For that reason, the New York Times gets an eternal pass.

This started in 1992 with the Times' weirdly bungled front-page reports on Whitewater, the pseudoscandal which gave its name to an era. It continued in Campaign 2016 through the scary uranium deal, and through other attacks on Candidate Clinton by the eternally puzzling Times.

By now, the children are willing to go on the attack because they get to attack Donald J. Trump rather than the New York Times, whole role in this mess has been disappeared. Reid didn't even seem to know Giustra's name. But she's been praised all over the liberal web for her expertise in debunking the lies.

This is the way the Fox crowd rolls. As the nation's downward spiral continues, it's also the way We play. "Cable news" is largely Potemkin. It's largely tribal entertainment plus morality play.

For extra credit only: Have you ever heard anyone on MSNBC mention the role the New York Times played in pimping this ridiculous script?

We're just asking. Why do you think you haven't?

HUMAN, NONE TOO HUMAN: Professor Gates asks an excellent question!

MONDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2017

Part 1—In search of a human reply:
Last week, we had the pleasure of watching a major public figure asking an excellent question.

The public figure to whom we refer is Professor Gates. He spoke with director Ava Du Vernay as part of his PBS program, Finding Your Roots.

To watch the full program, click here.

Three cheers for Professor Gates! He not only asked an excellent question, he did so in jocular fashion. For the record, there was nothing "wrong" with DuVernay's answer to Gates' question, to the extent that she gave one. She too behaved in a jovial way.

At any rate, the question Professor Gates asked was this, and we think it was wickedly great:

"What difference does it make?"

What difference does it make! If we might borrow from Groucho Marx, it's a familiar question, a question you hear every day! But within the context of Gates' discussion, we thought the question was so strong that it deserved recording.

During the program, Gates had acquainted DuVernay with the personal histories of (a handful of) her ancestors. When he asked his excellent question, he'd just finished the second part of his presentation, in which he reported the contents of DuVernay's DNA.

Briefly, we interrupt our discussion to note a tiny semi-McGuffin:

Professor Gates, a bit of a showman, may work the tiniest sleight of hand in the part of his presentations which deal with "surprising ancestral stories."

In the current instance, Gates devoted roughly half his presentation to DuVernay's "fourth great grandfather," a man named Henry Glaudin, whose colorful history took him from Saint-Domingue (today's Haiti) to Cuba, and then on to New Orleans, where he met and married Du Vernay's "fourth great grandmother," Magdeleine Glaudin.

For the record, Henry Glaudin was socially defined as "white." Indeed, his father, also named Henry Glaudin—one of DuVermay's fifth great grandfathers—had owned slaves in Saint-Domingue, Gates' research had found. According to historical records, he had even branded these people, searing their flesh with his name.

Please note: Barring an instance of "pedigree collapse," DuVernay, and everyone else, has sixteen different "fourth great grandfathers" (great great great great grandfathers), along with 32 fifth great grandfathers. In his presentations, Gates sometimes gives the impression that he is tracing the sole family line of his subjects, when he is actually telling a few of the many stories which constitute the sprawling history of any person's ancestors.

There's nothing (necessarily) wrong with that, though we think Gates could, and ideally should, make this point more clear. But when the professor asked his excellent question, he'd moved on from the personal histories to a less selective matter:

He was reporting the makeup of DuVernay's own DNA. A small drum roll was supplied!

As Professor Gates built the suspense about what he had learned, DuVernay voiced concern that her DNA might turn out to be "more than fifty percent" European. When she finally received the actual results of her DNA test, this exchange included the professor's excellent question:
GATES: Can you read those percentages?

DUVERNAY: 57.3 percent African. (Pretending to take a bow and exult) Thank you! 41.5 percent European.

This makes me so happy.

GATES: (Chuckling) I can tell.

DUVERNAY: This makes me sooo happy.

GATES: Wait a minute! What difference does it make?
"What difference does it make?" That's the question Professor Gates asked, chuckling as he went.

We thought his question, and his attitude, were both transplendently wise.

We're not suggesting there was or wasn't anything "wrong" with DuVernay's initial reaction. We're not suggesting there was anything wrong with her brief response to Gates' question, which you can see for yourself at the 51-minute mark of the program's tape.

We're saying that Gates asked an excellent question, especially so in the context of modern progressive "identity politics." His question leads to other good questions, questions about what it means to have, or belong to, a "race."

What does it mean to belong to a "race?" If we might adapt the language of Professor Genovese, is this one of the concepts the slaveholders made?

Why do we liberals seem to believe so strongly in the concept of "race?" We'll ponder these questions all week long. They flow from the genial wisdom lodged in Gates' question.

We'll ponder such questions all this week. As we do, we'll think about the way we liberals and progressives are sometimes seen by The Others. We'll also consider the longstanding, self-flattering claim in which we residents of the west like to insist that we're "the rational animal."

Tain't necessarily so! Or at least, that what some of our idealistic young analysts have thoughtfully said.

Professor Gates asked a very good question. We'll ponder its logic all week.

Tomorrow: "What difference does it make?" We look at what DuVernay said

Bees will only attack when provoked!

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 28, 2017

We liberals are even more docile:
This morning's Washington Post contains a slightly overwrought letter concerning the habits of bees.

Bees should not be confused with hornets! Whimsical heading included, the letter went something like this:
This really stung

As a professional beekeeper and former Montgomery County high school teacher, I was upset by recent reporting regarding “bees” in The Post.

The culprits in the incident described in the Oct. 13 Local Digest item “Bees sting dozens at Montgomery school” were undoubtedly yellow jackets or hornets. It is terrible that so many students were stung, but the public deserved a better assessment of which stinging insects were responsible. Please don’t give bees a bad rap because it makes a better headline than “yellow jackets.” Bees are typically very docile and will attack only if their queen is threatened.

Misleading headlines and reports are detrimental to beekeepers and to the future of agriculture. Incorrect reports can make the public believe that bees are dangerous, when they are not.

Many people tend to call anything that stings a “bee,” but bees and yellow jackets are like apples and oranges: They ain’t the same.
We blame this on Muhammad Ali. He should have said, "Float like a butterfly, sting like a yellow jacket."

Saturday is the day the Post reserves for letters of this general type. We assume the writer is correct on every point, though perhaps is a bit overwrought.

We were struck by one line in the letter. It's the line where the writer attacks us liberals for being more docile than bees:
"Bees are typically very docile and will attack only if their queen is threatened."
Bees are very docile? Starting in 1992, our liberal team's queen, Hillary Clinton, was attacked for twenty-five years, routinely in ludicrous and insulting ways. Also, misogynistic.

We liberals just sat there and took it. Last November, we learned a lesson about the wages of docile behavior.

No matter what sort of crap was said, we liberals just stared into air. We swallowed years of misogynistic insults from Chris Matthews. We swallowed that Bannon-funded crap in the Times about the uranium deal. 4400 words!

No matter what was said, we took it, following Rachel's lead. We don't blame the rank and file, but where were our "corporate liberal" leaders down through all those years?

Donald J. Trump rode that crap to the White House. Are we happy with our cable stars? Are we happy with the way our docility finally turned out?

Our leaders clowned like butterflies, stung like docile insiders.

BREAKING: Concern about "information campaign!"

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 27, 2017

The madness of tribal living:
We haven't read the New York Times' report about the now-famous meeting with the now-famous Russian lawyer. We've only read Kevin Drum's short, snarky treatment of same.

Drum is treating the report as some sort of vindication for our tribe. That said, here is the excerpt he posts:
Interviews and records show that in the months before the meeting, Ms. Veselnitskaya had discussed the allegations with one of Russia’s most powerful officials, the prosecutor general, Yuri Y. Chaika. And the memo she brought with her closely followed a document that Mr. Chaika’s office had given to an American congressman two months earlier, incorporating some paragraphs verbatim.

….In the past week, Ms. Veselnitskaya’s allegations—that major Democratic donors were guilty of financial fraud and tax evasion—have been embraced at the highest levels of the Russian government. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia repeated her charges at length last week at an annual conference of Western academics. A state-run television network recently made them the subject of two special reports, featuring interviews with Ms. Veselnitskaya and Mr. Chaika.

The matching messages point to a synchronized information campaign. Like some other Russian experts, Stephen Blank, a senior fellow with the nonprofit American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, said they indicate that Ms. Veselnitskaya’s actions “were coordinated from the very top.”
That's the excerpt from the Times. Our question goes something like this:

How lunatic has the world become when we liberals, along with the Times itself, seem to be shrieking and moaning about an alleged "information campaign?"

An information campaign! That's literally what the Times said!

Small-d democrats used to worry about disinformation campaigns. Now we're worried about an alleged campaign to produce information!

Tribal living destroys the brain. Perhaps the full report in the Times will seem different.

Award-winning further note: Based upon that excerpt, it sounds like our long-standing hypothesis is coming to pass.

Putin is making speeches in which he reveals some alleged information. Should we cover our ears and go "la-la-la-la" so we can't hear what he says?

Meanwhile, warning to the tribes: A troubling "information campaign" may be coming to pass!

We've said it any number of times. It sometimes seems that modern journalists no longer have a clear idea of what "information" is. They've trafficked in novelized stories so long that they no longer seem to understand the basic concept of "facts."

We started saying that when this whole Russian lawyer fandango surfaced. Today, the Times has issued a red alert:

A troubling "information campaign" may be taking shape!

(No, really—an information campaign! Honest to god, that's rich.)

Two snapshots of the current age!

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 27, 2017

Alzheimer's, wealth and fame:
This morning's New York Times contains two snapshots of the age.

One comes from David Brooks' latest column. Without citing a source, Brooks describes what some Republican senators thought they saw this week:
"The Republican senators went to the White House and saw a president so repetitive and rambling, some thought he might be suffering from early Alzheimer’s."
That's a snapshot from a potentially dangerous time.

The other snapshot concerns Mark Halperin's journalistic career. The values of our modern press corps litter this passage:
KOBLIN AND GRYNBAUM (10/27/17): His pioneering newsletter “The Note,” a political tipsheet that he started at ABC News, established him as an influential figure in the power circles of Washington and New York; who he quoted, and what stories he cited, mattered.

But it was his 2010 book “Game Change,” written with John Heilemann, that cemented the Halperin style. A juicy, melodramatic account of the 2008 presidential race, the book was adapted into an Emmy Award-winning HBO movie starring Ed Harris and Julianne Moore.

The book’s success—and the authors’ ability to infuse politics with reality show-like drama—led to contracts with Bloomberg News said to be in the $1 million range. The show Mr. Halperin and Mr. Heilemann developed for Bloomberg, “With All Due Respect,” was a dishy and sometimes whimsical political talk show that failed to attract a wide viewership; it ended after Mr. Trump’s victory.
Those are Koblin's opinions, of course. But according to that portrait, Halperin's work was dishy, juicy and melodramatic. It suffused our politics with drama, like in a reality show.

This led to million dollar contracts and access to power circles. Movie stars appear.

These values have suffused our "journalism" for a good many years, including our "liberal" versions of same. This has helped create a world where Alzheimer's, or the like, might go largely unnoticed during a juicy campaign. Its fruits might be hard to distinguish from the inanity the press corps produced down through the many long years.

As so many "journalists" told us, Al Gore hired a woman to teach him to be a man! Plus, why was he wearing those earth tones?

Did you hear Howard Dean's blood-curdling scream? And good lord! Mitt Romney strapped his Irish setter, Seamus, to the roof of his car! Fifty times!

Remember when Lawrence challenged Mitt's son to s fight? Talking his Dorchester accent? The same accent he brought out last week?

These have been entertainment values. Can you run a large nation this way?

By the way, have you caught Rachel this week? We've found her to be entertaining at times, if perhaps a bit less than precise.

AS SEEN BY OTHERS: Imperfect messengers/the earth's creatures!

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 27, 2017

Part 4—Who were Johnson (and others):
On Wednesday morning, the New York Times presented a fascinating profile of the late La David Johnson, who died this month in Niger.

Are Miami Gardens and Carol City full of great kids? This profile helps us see that Johnson was very much one of those kids—indeed, that he seems to have been a remarkable person.

Somewhat ironically, the profile starts with a lament. "[M]any who knew the slain soldier now lament that Sergeant Johnson’s story has gotten lost amid the flurry of criticism and accusations" concerning a famous condolence call, the profile says early on. In hard-copy, the profile appeared beneath this headline, which has an ironic strain:

"A Phone Call's Overlooked Subject: A Sergeant Who'd Found His Way"

As it turns out, this particular overlooked subject had brilliantly found his way out of a challenging personal background. He seems to have done so thanks to a lot of help from his elders, and thanks to his own attributes.

Who the heck was La David Johnson? We think you're asking an excellent question! Once they started addressing that question, two Times writers started with this:
ALCINDOR AND PHILIPPS (10/25/17): The bitter back and forth [about that phone call] is a marked contrast to his life, which family, friends and fellow soldiers say was characterized by kindness and an optimism that allowed him to rise above a tough upbringing, when so much around him seemed set on keeping him down.

Sergeant Johnson, who was 25 when he died, grew up in a gritty suburb with some of the highest crime and poverty levels in Florida—one of its few distinctions was having one of the highest police “stop and frisk” rates in the country. He watched his mother suffer for years with tuberculosis before she died when he was 5 years old. His father was mostly absent. His sister said that while many of his peers dropped out of school and drifted into crime, Sergeant Johnson remained focused and upbeat...
Johnson's mother died when he was 5. His father was largely absent.

Despite these circumstances, was Johnson focused, upbeat, optimistic? More on that to follow! For now, let's examine the "kindness" found in this striking story, much of which came from Johnson's elders:
ALCINDOR AND PHILIPPS: Sergeant Johnson lived with an aunt and then an uncle after his mother’s death and joined a mentoring program for young neighborhood boys, called the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project. Ms. Wilson, the founder of the program, remained close to the Johnson family and had accompanied his widow to greet his body when Mr. Trump called.

Frequent Facebook posts from 2010, the year he graduated from Miami Carol City Senior High School, and later show Sergeant Johnson’s life then largely consisted of shifts at Walmart, working out at the gym, going to church, cooking for his family and tricking out his green 1995 Toyota Corolla, adding neon lights and bone-shaking 15-inch speakers. “Small resume bout me,” he wrote on Facebook in 2012. “I don’t drink nor smoke, never got arrested, gotta job, got my own crib, got my own car, got my own music business, I love music.” He met his wife when he was 6 years old and later had her name tattooed across his chest.

“He always loved to have fun, laugh and joke around, and help others,” said Isaac Hodgeson, who was also in the mentoring program, and on the wrestling team with Sergeant Johnson.
His mother died when he was 5. But he was raised by an aunt and an uncle. Also, by a grandmother who "used to buy him" cars and trucks which he'd take apart and reassemble, according to his sister.

He was also served by the mentoring program established by Rep. Frederica Wilson. We might think of that mentoring program as a version of Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Little League, 4-H—the kinds of programs that exist, all over the country, to serve boys from various backgrounds, with similar programs for girls.

To her eternal credit, Rep. Wilson made it a point to see that boys like La David Johnson were served in the way they deserved to be served. That said, it sounds this particular child brought a lot to the table:
ALCINDOR AND PHILIPPS (continuing directly): Posts from his life in Carol City also show he was stopped by the police repeatedly for little reason, but he never seemed to let it get him down. “Think Big. Think Positive. Think Smart. Think Beautiful,” he posted in 2012. That year he first tried to join the Army, but failed the language section aptitude test by a few points, according to a post. He studied and eventually passed.
“Think Big. Think Positive. Think Smart. Think Beautiful?” Through some blend of temperament and helpful upbringing by good people, Johnson was recommending this approach in 2012, when he was 20 years old.

Because Sgt. Johnson's wife has been a central part of this story, it might be worth sampling the Times' portrait of Johnson's family life. Presumably, the help he received along the way contributed to this:
ALCINDOR AND PHILIPPS: Soon after [joining the army, Johnson] met Sergeant [Dennis] Bohler and both men and their wives became friends. Sergeant Bohler, who now lives in Fort Lee in Virginia, remembers driving around for hours in 2014 as Sergeant Johnson looked for a home before he finally decided to live on base. Their families often ate Sunday dinners together, with both Sergeant Johnson and his wife cooking Thanksgiving-style meals of ham, macaroni and cheese, and pies.

The couples celebrated when both wives found out they were pregnant with girls and due a few days apart. Sergeant Johnson and his wife, due in January, quickly began planning for the new baby and for life with their other two children, a young girl and boy.

“When he found out they were having a girl, he was very excited. He had already named the baby,” Angiline Bohler said, adding that Sergeant Johnson didn’t see the mission in Niger as dangerous because his first deployment went smoothly.
Sgt. Johnson was excited to learn he and his wife would be having a girl! In the larger sense, how much of his upbeat approach to life came out of that mentoring program?

There's no real way to know that, of course, in part because no one cares. If you've spent as much as ten minutes observing the work of our upper-end press, you may have noticed that these organizations don't care about people like Johnson, except to the extent that their lives can be used to reinforce prevailing, preferred tribal narratives, as has happened here.

Across the country, the wider population isn't told about children like the child this upbeat person once was. In our lofty liberal warrens, you haven't read a word about that profile of Johnson, and you never will.

That's because, unlike people like Rep. Wilson, we liberals don't care about kids like Johnson. Think of the things you've never heard on our liberal entertainment channel, MSNBC:

According to our only reliable data, kids like Johnson have made remarkable academic gains in the past few decades. But so what? Across the country, people have never heard that encouraging, admirable fact, in large part because the people who run our upper-class news orgs completely, manifestly don't care.

(Also, because certain powerful elites prefer a contrary narrative, in which "nothing has worked" in our public schools thanks to our ratty public school teachers and principals with their fiendish unions. Rep. Wilson, who founded that mentoring program, was one of those public school principals before she ran for office.)

It's a blindingly obvious fact; our upper-end journalistic elites don't care about children like La David Johnson, age 10. That doesn't mean that these elites are bad people. It means that, like everyone else, they're limited people, "whom we knew as faulty, the earth's creatures."

We can think of three other people those elites don't care about. Their names are Black, Wright and (Jeremiah) Johnson. They're the three American soldiers who died with Johnson in Niger.

The Times says Johnson has been overlooked in all the hubbub of the past week. That said, a lot of attention has gone to Johnson; very little attention has gone to those who died with him. Can you imagine one of The Others, out in the country, being annoyed by that?

We can imagine that. We can also imagine criticism of Rep. Wilson, who, to her eternal credit, founded the mentoring program which presumably helped La David Johnson become the person he was.

We can imagine someone thinking that Rep. Wilson was tonally inappropriate at times when she gave that speech in 2015. We can imagine General Kelly thinking that, especially when we remember that his son had died in Iraq in 2010.

An FBI building was being dedicated that day to two FBI agents who had lost their lives years before. Relatives of one agent was present. We can imagine Kelly thinking that Rep. Wilson was perhaps out over her skis in some parts of her speech that day. We can imagine him thinking that she was a bit self-aggrandizing.

General Kelly's insulting behavior toward Rep. Kelly last week was extremely poorly considered. It would be a batter world if he had corrected and apologized his faulty factual statements. But we can imagine his general reaction to Rep. Wilson's speech.

We say these things because no one is perfect. There are no perfect messengers; that includes Rep. Wilson, who, to her eternal credit, founded and ran the mentoring program which gave Sgt. Wilson some of the help he deserved when he was a child who had lost his mother.

We'd love for The Ghost of Mentoring Programs Past to take General Kelly, and President Trump, to view the upbeat family dinners served by the upbeat young man Rep. Wilson was decent enough to help. We also would have liked it if Rep. Wilson had reminded us, last week, that three other lives were lost in Niger, and that those lives, which were perhaps being overlooked, were just as important, and just as valuable, as the life of their comrade, who Rep. Wilson had helped.

Large continental nations are well served when leaders possess the wisdom to do such things. Instead, Rep. Wilson got a bit hot at times last week. That was perfectly understandable, but it says she isn't a perfect messenger, as indeed no one is.

("Whom we knew as faulty.")

How are we in the liberal world seen by The Others, by the very bad, extremely racist people found Over There? Let's consider some cases:

In the immediate aftermath of Trayvon Martin's death, Rep. Wilson referred to it as a "murder." In our view, that wasn't necessarily the wisest thing to do. Can you imagine the way that might have looked, not necessarily incorrectly, to some of The Others?

In our view, it was less than perfect when Rep. Wilson voiced that instant prejudgment. That said, by historical norms, it was outrageous when Hillary Clinton used that same term to describe Martin's death in her new book, What Happened.

A duly constituted jury had long since ruled that Trayvon Martin's death wasn't a murder. Can you imagine how it may look to some of The Others, not necessarily incorrectly, when they see Clinton say things like that?

In a recent column, Paul Krugman—he's long been the liberal world's journalistic MVP—offered this assessment of Rep. Wilson's remarks in 2015:

"Video of the dedication shows...that Representative Wilson's remarks at the ceremony were entirely appropriate."

In our view, he overstated a bit. We can imagine how that overstatement might look to some of The Others. Can you imagine how that might look? Can you imagine that such a reaction isn't necessarily evil, racist or wrong?

Can you imagine how we're seen by Others? We're not asking if you agree with these Others, who we know to be very bad. We're asking if you can imagine the possibility that the way we're seen in these instances isn't necessarily wrong.

Just for the record, our tribe has created inaccurate narratives about an array of high-profile cases in recent years. We've invented facts, disappeared facts, and stressed completely irrelevant facts, all so we can tell our stories in the ways we like.

We've done this again and again and again; we've memorized our misstatements. Can you imagine how this might look to some of the people Over There? Can you imagine that The Others aren't necessarily wrong when they see us this way?

Trust us! None of our upper-end liberal stars care about Sgt. Johnson, or about the many other superb young people who have come up as he did. They tell you this by their constant silence. They also don't care about the three people who died along with him that day.

We've proved these things over and over and over again. On this basis, The Others imagine that they can see what we're actually like.

The Others imagine they can see what we're like. BREAKING: All too often, the way we're seen by Others isn't exactly "wrong."

The New York Times has profiled Johnson, an upbeat, optimistic young man who was lucky enough, as a child, to be helped by Rep. Wilson. What about The Others, though? Should they have been left behind?

Dossier pondered by Weisberg and Pesca!

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2017

Ruminations on oppo research:
We're sometimes puzzled by the things we hear major journalists say.

Early this morning, we were puzzled by a conversation between Mike Pesca and Jacob Weisberg, both of Slate. You can listen to their conversation in this new episode of The Gist. The relevant discussion starts around minute 10.

The gents can be heard discussing the fact that the Clinton campaign helped pay for the Steele dossier. Soon, they're comparing what Candidate Clinton did in that instance to what Donald Trump Jr. did at his now-famous secret meeting with the Russian lawyer.

Along the way, the gentlemen say that opposition research is sleazy, dirty and disappointing. We don't see why they think that, but eventually Pesca takes us where the rubber meets the road.

At its heart, this presentation involves a very good question:
PESCA (10/25/17): So here's what Trump's going to say...He's going to say something like, "What is so different between one of the candidates in a presidential election hiring a foreigner to put together damaging information on the other candidate, versus what my son Don Jr. is being accused of, which is meeting with a foreigner who offered to supply damaging information to the other candidate?"
In Pesca's slightly puzzing formulation, Clinton hired a foreigner (Steele) to gather negative information about Trump. Somewhat similarly, Trump Junior was willing to let a foreigner (the Russian lawyer) give him negative information about Clinton.

"What's the difference?" Pesca asks, saying that Trump will say this. Although his formulation seems a bit strange, we think that's an excellent question.

Let's start with Clinton. In principle, there's nothing wrong with hiring someone to develop damaging information on your opponent. You can always gather such information by nefarious or illegal means. But in principle, there's nothing wrong with gathering negative information.

Having said that about Candidate Clinton, we remain inclined to say the same thing about Trump Junior. In principle, we still don't see what would have been wrong with accepting negative information about Candidate Clinton, whoever he got it from.

It isn't clear that Trump Junior ever received any such information from the now-famous Russian lawyer. But if the Russian lawyer had some actual information about Clinton, we don't see what would be wrong with accepting that info if you're the Trump campaign.

Speaking through Trump's imagined voice, Pesca was asking a very good question. Around the 12-minute mark, he put it to Weisberg again, and he got Weisberg's reply:
PESCA: So again, I'll go back to the question. When Donald Trump makes that point, "What's the huge difference?" what's the answer?

WEISBERG: Conspiring with an enemy power. Russia's an enemy power...You shouldn't be doing business with them, at all, about anything, around an American election.
Weisberg goes on, at some length, about how wrong this would be. Basically, though, his answer is this:

"Just because."

We still have no idea why Weisberg says what he says. Let's go back in time and do a bit of imagining:

Suppose some official of this enemy power knew something bad about Trump and wanted to share it. Let's even suppose that we're talking about Putin himself.

We're supposing that Putin's claim about Trump is true, and that it could be proven. Putin knows something bad about Trump, and he wants to pass it on.

Weisberg is saying that the Clinton campaign, in this case, shouldn't listen to Putin, or to some Russian lawyer. Now let's suppose something else:

Let's suppose that Putin decides to give a public speech in which he reveals the provable, unflattering information about Clinton or Trump. Weisberg makes it sound like we should put our hands over our ears and say "La la la la la la" so that we won't be able to hear what Putin says.

Go ahead! Listen to what Weisberg says, and tell us this doesn't follow.

Our point is simple:

Information is information, no matter who supplies it. It's information if a Brit named Christopher Steele presents it in a dossier as part of a paid research mission. It's information if it comes from a Russian lawyer, or even from a Russkie named Putin, whether he's making a public speech or speaking to you on the phone.

An accurate fact remains a fact no matter who reveals it! There's nothing wrong with receiving true facts from an "oppo research" project. But also, we can't see why there would be something wrong with receiving actual info, some accurate fact, from a Russian lawyer.

Information is information, no matter where it comes from! As we walk through this vale of tears, we sometimes wonder if major journalists retain a clear idea of what information is!

We recommend the discussion at Slate. We also find it puzzling.

These journalists today: In best eye-catching fashion, the dossier is described in Slate's headline as "the pee tape."

We understand the reference to pee all too well. The pee tape? You tell us!

AS SEEN BY OTHERS: Gods reveal Catalonian plan!

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2017

Part 3—How Donald J. Trump is able to stay at 38 percent:
We'd have to blame to our public school teachers with their fiendish teachers unions.

Largely thanks to our public school teachers, "the 1659 Treaty of the Pyrenees, which settled a more-than-two-decade round of fighting between Spain and France," is rarely taught to American children, as it was once taught to us.

(For background from yesterday's New York Times, you can just click here.)

Our children are kept in the dark! Despite this fact, we were visited last night, as if in a dream, by the entire population of the France-encircled Spanish town of Llivia, which "was considered a town, not a village," under terms of the treaty.

Breaking: The townfolk (not to say village people) were accompanied by several clearly identifiable Olympian gods.

Breaking! The roughly 1,589 townfolk said the current Catalan contretemps has been sent to earth by the gods to serve our interests over here in the States! And sure enough! In this morning's New York Times, we found a report by Raphael Minder which ran beneath this headline:

"Catalonia Crisis Divides Spanish Media, Even if Spain Is Still Whole"

While Minder seemed to be describing events in Spain, he was plainly describing us over here in the States. Indeed, we saw the hand of the gods right from the start of the thinly-disguised report about—wink, wink—a destructive split in Spanish media:
MINDER (10/26/17): If Spain has not split in two, its media almost has. There, the struggle over the restive region of Catalonia plays out in parallel universes.

From Madrid, the region’s secessionist drive is portrayed as an act of sedition deserving to be put down. In Catalonia, the narrative is more about aspirations for self-determination by a people with a distinct identity.

“We’ve got parallel story lines led by extremist representations that are filled with clichés,” said Enric Hernàndez, the editor of the Barcelona-based newspaper El Periódico.

[...]

The divergent story lines have sown bitterness all around, and extraordinarily harsh characterizations and criticism from each side.
Extraordinarily harsh characterizations from each side? That did indeed sound a great deal like us! Unless you believe, as we self-impressed liberals do, that the problems are all Over There, among the unspeakable Others.

Back to Spain! Just how harsh are the characterizations flowing from each side? As Minder continued, he offered an ugly example:
MINDER (continuing directly): Last month, a group of far-right protesters stood outside the studio of Catalunya Radio during the morning show of Mònica Terribas, the station’s most famous presenter.

They shouted insults and displayed a banner that accused her of leading Catalans toward independence just as a Rwandan radio station persuaded Hutus to kill Tutsis before the 1994 genocide.

“Somebody who compares us to the radio in Rwanda clearly hasn’t thought properly about what that means,” said Ms. Terribas in an interview on Tuesday. “It breaks my heart to hear people talk about us like monsters who manipulate brains.”
Leave it to the New York Times to start with "far-right" protesters saying such horrible things! At least, that's what The Others are likely to say, reading this morning's report over here in the States.

On balance, we'd have to say that Minder's examples do seem to tilt against the so-called "far right," who are anti-secession. He never identified a "far left," or provided examples of pro-secession media figures launching similar attacks portraying The Others as monsters.

The best he managed was this:
MINDER (continuing directly): But perhaps the outlet with the most at stake for Catalans is TV3, which was begun in 1983 as an ambitious regional television project that Catalonia’s leader at the time, Jordi Pujol, used to reinstall the Catalan language, which was banned under Franco’s dictatorship.

[...]

“The [separatist] ideology has been sold in every clever way possible, including on TV3’s children and food shows,” Mr. García Ferreras claimed.
“I think the independence movement is perhaps now a victim of its communications success, having made people really believe that independence could soon become a reality.”

In Madrid, on the other hand, he added, “we’re now seeing a large part of the media respond in a way that is forceful but also disrespectful, building up an audience that seems happy to hear denigrating views about Catalonia.”

As the standoff has reached a boiling point, some columnists and pundits have resigned or been pushed aside, while warning against mounting extremism in the news media.

This month, Joan López Alegre, a Catalan university professor of communications, left alongside another regular pundit on TV3, signing off with an opinion article in El País headlined “Farewell to the circus of hatred.”
Alegre offered a farewell to hatred and arms. Just for the record, that "disrespectful" media in Madrid would have been, once again, on the anti-secession side.

Given his role on TV3, Professor Alegre's rejection of the "circus of hatred" may have suggested that both sides have contributed to the "mounting extremism in the media" and the "circus of hatred." But just for the record, Minder only gave examples of hateful speech from the anti-secession side.

Whatever! Thinking back on last night's visit, we saw this report for what it so clearly is. We saw it as a message sent to us by the gods concerning our own ongoing slide over here, in the States.

Having said that, let us also ask this: Is it possible that this was also sent as a message to Us, the good and decent, brilliant people here in our own liberal tribe? Let's think what Minder has said:

As Spanish media split in two, one group of tribals launched an especially ugly attack against their version of The Others. Let's recall what these excitable tribals said:
Last month, a group of...protesters stood outside the studio of Catalunya Radio during the morning show of Mònica Terribas, the station’s most famous presenter.

They shouted insults and displayed a banner that accused her of leading Catalans toward independence just as a Rwandan radio station persuaded Hutus to kill Tutsis before the 1994 genocide.
That was pretty ugly stuff. Meanwhile, over here in the States, one of our own excitable tribals, who shall go unnamed, just got through publishing this in our loftiest newspaper:
[Megyn] Kelly spent more than a dozen years as part of the Fox News machine...

Kelly happily trafficked in racist tropes for profit—black communities have a “thug mentality,” asking repeatedly whether the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown were necessarily related to race.
Wow! After Eric Holder explicitly ruled that Brown's death had resulted from a justifiable shooting, she dared to ask if it was necessarily "related to race?" She dared to ask more than once?

Because she'd behaved in this horrible way, our own unnamed tribal figure was willing to say that Kelly had been "happily trafficking in racist tropes for profit?" How different is this from the conduct described in the streets of Madrid, where tribals are building audiences "that seems happy to hear denigrating views about" local Others?

"Happy to hear denigrating views?" Isn't that what We're now like, Over Here in Our tribe? Was Dr. King ever like that? Would that have described Mandela? Lincoln? The Buddha?

(Further warning: That reference to Kelly's one-time citation of the term "thug mentality" strikes us as hateful, misleading, tribally pleasing but wrong.)

The humble people of Llivia town proudly support separation. But they offered us a warning last night as several Olympian gods gravely nodded assent:

"Ugly, stupid bullshit like that helps explain the way your tribe is frequently seen by Others." So said the people of Llivia, Spain, almost as if in a dream.

Earlier last night, we heard that Donald J. Trump's new approval rating stands at 38 percent. "How can it possibly still be that high?" we quickly and skillfully asked.

A few hours later, one of the gods answered our question with several of his or her own. Those questions went something like this:

"In part, could his rating be that high because of the way your tribe is seen? Could it be that The Others aren't necessarily 'wrong' in the way they perceive your behavior?"

Tomorrow: Murder, they said and wrote. Also, as promised, Paul Krugman!

We the humans, faced with The Others!

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 25, 2017

The Rohingya, Anne Frank and Us:
We humans have always had trouble dealing with The Others—that is to say, with perceptions of difference.

It seems to be part of our human wiring. It's happened down through the annals of time—and it's happening today.

We recommend this New York Times report about the "ethnic cleansing and loathing" directed at the Rohingya, and about local explanations of same.

That's occurring in Myanmar. In Italy, "Anne Frank’s diary will be read aloud at all soccer matches in Italy this week, the Italian soccer federation announced Tuesday, after shocking displays of anti-Semitism by fans of the Rome club Lazio."

So says this news report.

We'll guess that's unlikely to help. At any rate, the New York Times ran that report today under this hard-copy headline:

"We Are All Anne Frank"

(For an example of moral greatness, treat yourself to this videotape of Nelson Mandela saying that he and his comrades "identified" with Anne Frank when they read her book while in prison. Mandela, a powerful African man, drew inspiration from, and saw himself in, a 14-year-old European girl.)

We tend to respond to The Others with fear and loathing. In our minds, we're strongly inclined to invent The Other.

This seems to be part of our human makeup. Question:

Are we liberals inventing The Other in some of the things We do?

AS SEEN BY OTHERS: Skill levels of our upper-end scribes!

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 25, 2017

Interlude—Huckabee Sanders enabled:
We were surprised by something that happened at yesterday's briefing by the newly acerbic Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Someone asked a sensible question; it concerned General Kelly's recent statements about Rep. Frederica Wilson. In response to that sensible question, Sanders gave a truly striking reply.

Here's the exchange, as it appears in the official transcript. The statement by the newly acerbic Sanders comes from a very strange world:
QUESTION (10/24/17): One of the aspects of civil discourse is for people in the discussion to acknowledge when they've made misstatements. And there's a pattern, in this White House and with the president, that, when they make misstatements, those are not corrected.

For example, the chief of staff came out here at this podium and mischaracterized a speech by a congresswoman given at an FBI building dedication. Why won't the chief of staff, or you right now, acknowledge that that was a mischaracterization and correct the record?

SANDERS: I don't believe that General Kelly mischaracterized. He gave his account of what took place. General Kelly and his family have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. I think he's led with honor and integrity. I think he's doing a great job of chief of staff and I don't think he has anything to correct or apologize for.

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: Hallie.
If we live in a rational world, that was a startling statement by Sanders.

The questioner seemed to want to ask a follow-up, as other questioners had been doing. But in the midst of all that CROSSTALK, Sanders threw to Hallie Jackson. Jackson seemed to think she was "following up on that:"
QUESTION: Just to follow up on that, why wouldn't when—even if President Trump meant to console the widow of Sergeant Johnson, why hasn't he or anyone from the White House apologized for how she took his call, if she took his call as insensitive?

SANDERS: Well, the president was making the point that his call was meant to be respectful, sympathetic, and the purpose was to offer condolences on behalf of the nation.
The briefing continued from there No one actually "followed up" on what Sanders has said about General Kelly's statememts.
None of the journalists so much as said boo. They let Sanders' remarkable statement stand.

What was so remarkable about what Sanders said? Plainly, Kelly did "mischaracterize" Rep. Wilson's 2015 speech in several basic ways. He made several obvious misstatements about what Wilson had actually said. This is a blindingly obvious fact, to which Sanders responded in this remarkable way:

"I don't believe that General Kelly mischaracterized. He gave his account of what took place."

Kelly didn't mischaracterize Wilson's speech. Instead, he simply "gave his account" of what Wilson had said!

That statement by Sanders takes us straight down the rabbit hole. There's no such thing as true or false. We each have "our own account!"

We're living in a lunatic world when blustering, swaggering figures like Sanders feel free to make such remarkable statements. But no one at that pitiful presser chose to follow up on Sanders' bizarre and remarkable claim.

It rolled right off the press corps' backs. The children just sat there and took it.

We've often asked a basic question about our the capacity and the skills of our upper-end journalists. We've often asked if they're actually human, or if they might instead possibly be space invaders, or cyborgs, or maybe even "pod people."

We've sometimes spoken in jest at such times, but yesterday's presser brought that question back home. Kidding aside, it's really a question about the mental capacity of us humans—of our floundering, deeply flawed kind.

In western lore, we humans have long been described as "the rational animal." More locally, we often hear that people like those journalists are "educated," perhaps even "highly" so.

We hear such things all the time! Then we see these life forms in action, and we see how much wishful thinking has gone into our characterization of our own kind, at least here in the west.

All too often, our upper-end journalists seem to be deeply unskilled. Yesterday, they went on to lob a succession of softballs at Sanders, who knocked them out of the park. No one bothered to question or challenge the remarkable answer she gave to that perfectly sensible question about what Kelly said.

We humans have propagandized ourselves for several millennia now. We've told ourselves that we're the rational species, that all other creatures are not.

This propagandization blinds us to the ways our elites actually function. With respect to the work of our upper-end journalists, we find ourselves struck by their lack of capacity every day of the week.

This includes people who work on behalf of our own liberal team. Let's consider a few examples from this morning's press:

Kathleen Parker characterizes that condolence call:

There is no tape of Donald J. Trump's now-famous condolence call to Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson. There is no transcript of the words he said.

Except in highly general ways, none of us know what he actually said. None of us know how his words and his tone would have sounded to us had we heard an audiotape before the current dispute arose.

There's little reason to think that Donald J. Trump would display much skill at making such difficult calls. Beyond that, General Kelly probably showed absurdly poor judgment in suggesting that Trump employ a framework which seemed appropriate when Kelly received a condolence call from his best friend, another general, about his own son's death.

It was dumb to suggest that Donald J. Trump work from that template in making his phone call to Johnson. That said, none of us know what Trump actually said, or how he actually sounded. It seems clear that his tone seemed wrong to Johnson herself, but she was suffering the worst day of her life, and in fact we know little else.

In a column in today's Washington Post,
Kathleen Parker seems completely unaware of these basic facts. She writes as if 1) she heard the telephone call in real time and 2) has been poring over an audiotape of the call in the days since.

In particular, she writes as if she knows that Donald J. Trump didn't know La David Johnson's name. Kathleen Parker doesn't know that. More strikingly, she doesn't seem to realize that she doesn't know.

This doesn't make Parker a bad person; we feel certain she isn't. It does mean that she is human, and as such substantially less than "rational." Or, as Yevtusheno put it:

"Whom we knew as faulty, the earth's creatures."

The Washington Post on the schooling of immigrant kids:

For decades, we've been struck by the technical incompetence found in news reports about public education. A new report on the "hardships" faced by children of immigrants is the latest case in point.

As she describes a recent study, Michael Alison Chandler reports a significant achievement gap between children of immigrants and children of non-immigrants. What explains this substantial gap? At one point, Chandler actually offers this:
CHANDLER (10/25/17): Nonso Umunna, research director at Advocates for Children and Youth, based in Maryland, said language and cultural barriers in public schools could be contributing to the disparities in academic performance.

He also noted the relatively low number of children who are attending preschool, an indicator of future academic success.

In Maryland, 63 percent of children of U.S.-born parents attend early education programs. For immigrant children the rate is slightly lower at 60 percent.
According to Chandler, Umunna noted "the relatively low number of children [of immigrant parents] who are attending preschool. That relatively low number turns out to be 60 percent, as compared to 63 percent of children of non-immigrant parents.

Similar statistical nonsense is found elsewhere in Chandler's report. That said, blindingly obvious statistical bungling has long characterized education reporting in both the Post and the New York Times.

Chandler, an experienced journalist, has an impressive personal resume. What explains such work?

Lindy West inflames the tribe:

A larger groaner comes from Lindy West, in a New York Times op-ed column entitled "The Megyn Kelly Problem."

Presumably, there's a lot to criticize in Megyn Kelly's work—but the same is true of West's. In today's column, she quickly gets busy defining the tribe. At one point, she makes a blistering charge, sustained by two examples:
WEST(10/25/17): Kelly spent more than a dozen years as part of the Fox News machine, churning out the same brand of soft propaganda that helped lead to the Iraq war, the Tea Party and, eventually, “fake news” and President Trump.

Kelly happily trafficked in racist tropes for profit—black communities have a “thug mentality,” asking repeatedly whether the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown were necessarily related to race—until her own dehumanization at the hands of Roger Ailes, O’Reilly and others became untenable.
Has Kelly "happily trafficked in racist tropes for profit?" That's an extremely aggressive charge, but is it actually true? Is it reasonable?

West's examples are extremely weak. According to Nexis, Kelly has uttered the phrase "thug mentality" exactly once, during an hour-long special about the Black Lives Matter movement. The special featured many activists who favor the BLM movement—and we're sorry, but Kelly didn't use the term in the way West suggests.

West's other example is even sadder. Has Kelly "asked whether the death of Michael Brown was necessarily related to race?" If so, was she "happily trafficking in a racist trope" when she did?

It's an ugly, extremely vague charge, but it's one which serves the tribal imperative. For what it's worth, Attorney General Eric Holder said the unfortunate shooting of Brown was fully justified, right down to every shot fired. Presumably, he was trafficking racist tropes too when he voiced that judgment.

Should newspapers like the New York Times publish such casual claims? Actually no, they shouldn't, and neither should anyone else. But over here in our liberal tents, we love the newly ubiquitous fire of the transplendently tough-taking West. Surely, we all can understand how this looks to The Others.

At every juncture, down through all the many years, people like West have always come forward, making their incendiary claims and urging us on to war. They tell us that The Others are evil. Foppish bureaucrats publish their words on their way out the door to the Hamptons.

We all can understand the way The Others see such work. It's hard to say that The Others are wrong in their perceptions of such tribal renderings.

That said, these examples all display the frail skill levels of our upper-end press. In the end, how rational are we rational animals? How "educated" are we?

At times of tribal war, we tend to be far from rational. Death and destruction tend to follow. This has now happened for thousands of years, all around the world.

Are we liberals able to see the way our words might sensibly seem to The Others? Tomorrow, we'll start with something Paul Krugman recently wrote.

For today, we'll leave you at yesterday's presser. The newly acerbic Huckabee Sanders made a truly remarkable statement. A room full of our brightest, upper-end journalists all stared off into air.

No one followed up! They just sat there and took it, exactly as they've been doing for a good many years.

These people, and their predecessors, helped bring us Donald J. Trump. They did it through their unskilled, ridiculous, slacker conduct over the past thirty years.

Tomorrow: How might Krugman's statement look, as seen by The Others?

What did Graham and Schumer know?

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2017

What kinds of people are we:
Immediately after lunch, we started watching the videotape of last night's Maddow broadcast.

All things considered, we were doing well—until the star offered this pleasing claim, early in her show:
MADDOW (10/23/17): The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, made himself available to the Pentagon press corps today to actually deliver some information about what happened to these four soldiers in Niger. Between his prepared remarks and the very lengthy list of questions he took from the sharp Pentagon press corps today, General Dunford spoke to the press about this matter today for nearly an hour, and he did advance our understanding about what happened.

At a time when even senior U.S. senators from both parties are admitting that they had no idea that the U.S. had troops in Niger, General Dunford clarified today that not only are there something like 800 U.S. troops serving in Niger right now, there are more U.S. troops serving in Niger right now than in any other country in Western Africa.

If senior U.S. senators with national security responsibilities like Lindsey Graham and Chuck Schumer didn't know that we had any troops in Niger, let alone more than any other country in that part of the world, you could guess that the American public had no idea of that either. But General Dunford made that clear today.
Did Graham and Schumer actually say that?

Their statements were made on Meet the Press. Did they actually say they didn't know we had any troops in Niger?

Actually no, they didn't. Everything is possible, of course, but that isn't what they actually said, and Chuck Todd made no attempt to clarify what they meant.

Using Nexis, we find no sign that anyone has tried to clarify what they actually meant. There's an obvious possible reason for that. No one actually cares!

On liberal entertainment TV, the murky statements by Graham and Schumer became fuel for the type of embellishment we liberals tribally love. Hint:

Everything has to be totally wrong during this reign of Trump! Aside from tribal uses like that, no one actually cares about any of this, as has been clear for years.

Also, does anyone care about the deaths of American soldiers? When did anyone care about that, except as a way to invent Benghazi tales for use against Candidate Hillary Clinton or, now, Niger tales for use against Donald J. Trump?

(Our pitiful tribal voices in action: "This will be Donald J. Trump's Katrina! This will be his Benghazi!" Oh please, please, please let it be!)

You think it's tribal in western Niger? How about in the U.S.? Over here in the States, every utterance or event is used to serve the goal of tribal ululation, full and complete freaking stop.

Maddow embellishes pretty much nightly, but does so for a good cause. (Michael Flynn was on the payroll of the Turkish government!) As Willa Frej noted at The Huffington Post, these techniques produced ratings gold for Hannity and Jones before her.

That said, does anyone actually care about the deaths of American soldiers? Except for the opportunity to produce tribal lore, we see few signs of that.

We expect to extend this point with a post about the way CNN may have triggered the whole "condolence call" gong-show on the weekend before Donald J. Trump made his ridiculous claims about which presidents have actually called the families of the fallen. This takes us back to a type of gong-show we recall hearing when we were maybe nine years old, when Dwight D. Eisenhower was the president.

We refer to a CNN report about Donald J. Trump—what else?—playing too much golf.

Since we were maybe nine years old, those "too much golf" allegations have never stopped. (Ditto for the standardized "but he cheats at golf" brain cell-killers.) But then, on the level of our elites, we're silly and empty and not very smart and we like to stick with what works.

Modern nations can't function this way. But the stars can have lots of fun, and the tribes can get upset.

Graham and Schumer spoke on Meet the Press. To check the transcript, click here.

To watch the videotape, click this.
Go ahead—check one or the other out. See what they actually said.

Their statements to Todd were quite unclear. According to Nexis, no one has followed up.

AS SEEN BY OTHERS: Anderson Cooper seen!

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2017

Part 2—We Occitan speakers are best:
Are we all Catalonians now?

You're asking a very good question! Let's try to flesh out what you might possibly mean.

Not unlike Mr. T, we pity the poor Catalonians! Whatever their personal views might be, they're currently trapped in a growing secessionist movement, the type of tribal dispute which has routinely led to our thousands of years of human wars.

What is Catalonia, you ask? We'll let the leading authority on the subject explain:
Catalonia (Catalan: Catalunya, Occitan: Catalonha, Spanish: Cataluña) is an autonomous community of Spain located on the northeastern extremity of the Iberian Peninsula. It is designated as a nationality by its Statute of Autonomy. Catalonia consists of four provinces: Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona. The capital and largest city is Barcelona, the second-most populated municipality in Spain and the core of the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union. Catalonia comprises most of the territory of the former Principality of Catalonia (with the remainder Roussillon now part of France's Pyrénées-Orientales). It is bordered by France and Andorra to the north, the Mediterranean Sea to the east, and the Spanish autonomous communities of Aragon to the west and Valencia to the south. The official languages are Catalan, Spanish, and the Aranese dialect of Occitan.
People cursed with complex history are said to be doomed to repeat it. In this case, the modern-day successor to most of the territory of the former Principality of Catalonia is an autonomous community of Spain with a population of 7.5 million souls.

This population is able to sustain three official languages, including the Aranese dialect of Occitan. No matter their individual views, residents of this autonomous community are now locked in a growing dispute built out of long-running differences of culture and language.

These kinds of disputes have always fueled our glorious human wars. But are we all Catalonians now, even here in the States?

Alas! When such tribal disputes begin boiling up, we alleged humans tend to report to our tribal battle stations. We tend to see the brilliance and goodness of those on Our side, the evil and dumbness of Them.

For ourselves, we pity the poor Catalonians! But even as the speakers of Catalan and the Aranese dialect of Occitan square off against a modern nation's larger set of speakers of Spanish, is something like that happening here in the States, among us?

Are we Americans all Catalonians now? Our young analysts came to us with that question this morning after they read this early part of David Brooks' new column:
BROOKS (10/24/17): I’ve had a series of experiences over the past two weeks that leave the impression that everybody on earth is having the same conversation: How do you engage with fanatics?

First, I was at a Washington Nationals game when a Trump supporter in the row in front of me unleashed a 10-minute profanity-strewn tirade at me, my wife and son.

Then I went to the University at North Carolina at Asheville and watched some students engage in a heartfelt discussion over whether extremists should be allowed to speak on campus.

Then I went to Madrid, where a number of Spaniards told me that the leaders of the Catalan independence movement were so radical there was no way to reason with them.

Then I went to London where I was with pro-Brexit and anti-Brexit activists trying to have a civil conversation with one another.

Over the course of these experiences I’ve been rehearsing all the reasons to think that it’s useless to try to have a civil conversation with a zealot...
Brooks goes on to offer his thoughts about the right way to deal with a zealot. All in all, we favor his overall view.

Brooks favors the approach which Dr. King derived from what he called "the love ethic of Jesus." But is it possible that we're all zealots now—or at least, that we're all stuck with a world in which the zealots are taking control of the culture and of the public discourse?

Are we all stuck with the zealots now? With the Trump supporter spewing insults? With the college students trying to shut people up?

We note that Brooks, who has long been never-Trump, is harder on the Trump supporter than on those college students. Indeed, it sounds like that Trump supporter was completely and totally out of line. By way of contrast, Brooks says the college students were "engaged in a heartfelt discussion."

A danger lurks in that presentation, as it does in all tribal wars. The danger lies in our instinctive belief that the tribal derangement is all Over There, among The Others—that we speakers of the Aranese dialect of Occitan are playing no role in the growing destructiveness of the growing dispute.

Increasingly, we Americans are engaged in a great civil war, much as the Spaniards are. Our growing meltdown has roots in our nation's real Civil War, as does the growing meltdown in Spain, including in most of the territory of the former Principality of Catalonia, with the remainder Roussillon now part of France's Pyrénées-Orientales.

For us liberals, it's easy to see the way the Trump supporters are misbehaving in public—but how about Us, Over Here? Is it possible that our animal spirits are making it hard for Us to see our own tribe's flaws? Is it possible that The Others can see our own tribe's failures and flaws in ways which we ourselves can't?

We'd have to say that's very possible. For ourselves, we're struck by our own tribe's failures and flaws in this growing war every day of the week.

We often think how things might look to The Others. Consider last Tuesday night's Anderson Cooper performance, in the 9 PM Eastern hour.

Good God, that hour was horrible! What might The Others have seen in that program? Instead of trying to speak for The Others, we'll tell you what we saw:

The bulk of this hour was the now-typical CNN pigpile, in which an array of overwrought "empty barrels" all sounded off about Donald J. Trump.

There's plenty to criticize there, of course. For ourselves, we regard Donald J. Trump as profoundly dangerous and quite possibly as some form of "mentally ill."

Others don't see him that way, of course. Here's what they might have seen had they watched that hour:

They would have seen the typical CNN pigpile, in which six anti-Trump enthusiasts wailed away at one lone Trump supporter.

We include Cooper himself in our count of the six. He has long since abandoned the pose of moderator, trading it for the role of the undisguised partisan. Starting at 10 PM Eastern, Don Lemon is even worse.

There's plenty to criticize about Donald J. Trump, but Anderson Cooper's Gang of Six were running wild this night. There's no apparent reason to book six pundits for a panel if they're all going to say the same things, but CNN has long since adopted this stance, presumably for reasons of excitement and entertainment.

The complaints against Trump were all over the map; during this particular hour, there was nothing too dumb to include. Meanwhile, the lone Trump supporter was the egregious Ed Martin, whose incessant interruptions and persistent illogic are so infallibly awful that he makes a viewer pray that CNN will please bring Jeffrey Lord back.

This six-on-one gangbang pigpile ate the vast bulk of this hour. In spite of the ludicrous stacked alignment, the work of the anti-Trump Six was so disjointed and so trivia-based that Martin was fully able to hold them at bay through his constant interruptions and his world-class streams of illogic.

Cooper made no attempt, at any point, to create a discussion which wasn't inane. Presumably, this is all part of a corporate decision concerning what makes "good TV."

How might The Others have seen this gruesome display? You're asking a very good question! Our best guess would go something like this:

We'll guess that a Trump supporter might not have seen how awful Martin is. That said, Trump supporters would likely have seen this absurd presentation as the latest example of "fake news" and liberal bias—and it isn't even slightly clear that they would have been wrong.

Especially during the evening hours, CNN has abandoned any pretense of offering actual journalism. A wide range of our liberal stars are involved in this sad display.

The Others are fully able to see this. It often seems that we liberals cannot.

Are we all Catalonians now? Are we all doomed to be washed away by the rise in animal spirits? The very best within our own tribe are being washed down this destructive old drain.

Tomorrow, we'll discuss Rep. Wilson's 2015 speech. What have liberal stars said about it? What might The Others have seen had they sat next to General Kelly as he watched that speech??

Tomorrow: Our MVP goes all in