BREAKING: Data from the Los Angeles schools!


Is there a need for reform:
A column in yesterday's New York Times seemed to call for "reform" in the Los Angeles public schools.

The author complained about the role played by charter schools in L.A. In his column, he said that Los Angeles (the Los Angeles Unified School District) has "abandoned integration as the chief mechanism of school reform and embraced charter schools instead."

A boxed headline said this:
Charter schools make it possible to avoid the hard work of integration
According to the puzzling column, 154,000 students attend charter schools in Los Angeles. Total enrollment in the district seems to stand at something resembling 620,000. For official figures, click here.

Based upon his remarks, the author seems to feel that "integration," whatever that is supposed to mean in this context, should stand as "the chief mechanism of school reform" in L.A. This is the kind of lofty piddle the New York Times loves to publish.

Such columns signal the moral greatness of the great folk at the New York Times. Such columns reinforce Times readers in the silly belief that we are the good, caring people.

We don't quite see it that way. In our view, yesterday's column seems to show how little attention the New York Times has ever p[aid to the realities of low-income/minority public school education. The Times is extremely good at the con. The newspaper is an uncaring mess when it comes to everything else.

Is there room for reform in L.A.? Presumably, yes there is. Much more than that, there's a crying need for reform at the New York Times, and all across our self-impressed liberal world.

Is there a need for reform in L.A.? Just for once, we thought it might be interesting to examine some basic data when this louse-ridden newspaper swells itself up and peddles swill of this type to the base. Tomorrow, we'll show you recent data from the Los Angeles public schools—scores in Grade 8 math.

We'll also revisit the demographic figures we showed you in yesterday's post. At some point, we'll ask a basic question:

Why should anyone pay any attention to anything which appears in the New York Times? Beyond that, why should anyone have an ounce of respect for our larger sad pitiful tribe?

Please excuse us for now. We want to catch the rest of this afternoon's Dateline: Corporate Chorale.

ROCKMAKERS: Anguished "Whitey" seeks help from "the Sugars!"


Part 4—When tribal dogma attacks:
The inanity of the New York Times provides a daily anthropology lesson, though only for those who are willing to know who and what we humans are

The "Harari heuristic" lights the way toward what we can expect to find when our species records its deathless insights. According to the professor's now-famous heuristic, we probably shouldn't look for "rational" conduct from our kind.

Instead, we should look for "gossip," and for evidence of the invention and adoption of sweeping group "fictions." So this heuristic now says.

The gossip is offered in today's Washington Post, whose web site pimps a hard-copy front-page report with this deathless grabber:
WASHINGTON POST SYNOPSIS: The Conways, like the rest of the country, have been jolted by the [sic] President Trump. They love each other, exasperate each other and talk behind each other’s backs. Take a look inside the marriage of one of Trump’s most loyal advisers and her husband, an increasingly outspoken critic of the president.
A look inside Kellyanne's marriage! So cool! Also, so in line with the potent Harari heuristic!

The Post is providing the gossip. But if it's sheer inanity you want, we'll recommend the New York Times' hard-copy page A3, which features Jason Zinoman's take on a recent claim by Jerry Seinfeld—a claim which "is more radical than it appears, worth mulling over and also, on some level, deeply true."


At some point, the New York Times made a fateful decision. It decided to treat stand-up comedy as an "art form."

Inevitably, this meant that the paper would have to treat practitioners of this art form as "artists."

Personally, we'd recommend avoiding the term "artist" altogether, except in its most literal traditional sense, in which a sculptor is referred to as a "sculptor" and a painter is perhaps called an "artist."

(Under this restrictive regimen, singers would be referred to as "singers." Actors would be referred to as "actors.")

That said, the Times' decision to extend the term "artist" to stand-up comedians has created a wealth of unintentional humor. Zinoman is the fellow they chose to advance this brave new regime.

If you don't have today's hard-copy Times, you can go to Zinoman's Twitter account to ponder Seinfeld's idea, which is more radical than people think and also deeply true. Prepare to think of Harari's heuristic, which tends to undercut the old misstatement about members of our species being "rational animals."

(Seinfeld's radical idea, as quoted by Zinoman: "People assume that when you say something that you believe it. It’s purely comedic invention. You know, I do this whole bit about Pop-Tarts and how much I love them. I don’t love Pop-Tarts. It’s just funny. It’s funny to say it, so I say it." Presumably, you can see what we mean about unintentional humor, and about the obvious relevance of the Harari heuristic.)

The sheer inanity of the Times is a daily anthropology lesson. This afternoon, we'll flesh out the data behind our post about yesterday's op-ed column, the column which advanced a key, if unintelligible, aspect of current tribal dogma, a latter-day form of group fiction.

As our nation slides toward the sea, we liberals have been inventing, and clinging to, new sets of tribal dogma. (They represent our floundering tribe's version of "guns and religion.")

The pain such dogma can produce is joined, in today's New York Times, to a stunning example of the newspaper's world-class, relentless inanity. The pain is found in an alleged letter from an alleged reader who allegedly wrote under the pseudonym "Whitey."

If this alleged person really exists, he or she—we'll go with "she"—didn't write her letter as a "letter to the editor." Instead, she sent her letter to one of the Times' three million advice columns. Specifically, we refer to the column called The Sweet Spot, a weekly column in Thursday Styles written by a pair of clowns who fashion themselves as "the Sugars."

In our view, the Sugars should be ashamed of themselves with every breath they take. For today, though, let's start with "Whitey," the letter writer, who may or may not exist.

If Whitey exists, she's a college student—and a possible victim of new and intense tribal dogmas. In the grip of genuine anguish, she decided to turn to "the Sugars" for help.

Hard-copy headline included, her letter starts like this:
Shedding the Cloak of White Guilt

Dear Sugars,

I’m riddled with shame. White shame. This isn’t helpful to me or to anyone, especially people of color.
I feel like there is no “me” outside of my white/upper middle class/cisgender identity. I feel like my literal existence hurts people, like I’m always taking up space that should belong to someone else.

I consider myself an ally. I research proper etiquette, read writers of color, vote in a way that will not harm P.O.C. (and other vulnerable people). I engage in conversations about privilege with other white people. I take courses that will further educate me. I donated to Black Lives Matter. Yet I fear that nothing is enough. Part of my fear comes from the fact that privilege is invisible to itself. What if I’m doing or saying insensitive things without realizing it?
"Dear Sugars!" That's what it actually says!

Did some actual person actually write that letter? If so, the writer is a young person—a college student—who needs and deserves some actual help from some actual person, not from a couple of con men like the Sugars.

Her letter continues as shown below. In best advice column style, it's actually signed that way—"Whitey:"
Another part of it is that I’m currently immersed in the whitest environment I’ve ever been in. My family has lived in the same apartment in East Harlem for four generations. Every school I attended, elementary through high school, was minority white, but I’m now attending an elite private college that is 75 percent white. I know who I am, but I realize how people perceive me and this perception feels unfair.

I don’t talk about my feelings because it’s hard to justify doing so while people of color are dying due to systemic racism and making this conversation about me would be again centering whiteness. Yet bottling it up makes me feel an existential anger that I have a hard time channeling since I don’t know my place. Instead of harnessing my privilege for greater good, I’m curled up in a ball of shame. How can I be more than my heritage?

If this alleged letter writer really exists, we'd say she deserves some actual help from someone who isn't a pseudo-journalistic clown.

Instead, she's handed large piles of steaming hot cant by the Sugars, who recite aspects of current tribal dogma, a form of "fiction" to which our liberal tribe currently clings.

(You can hear the dogmas recited all day all over anti-Trump cable. Quite routinely, this is done by people who never showed the slightest sign of racial involvement until it became a requirement starting a few years ago.)

If you can stomach their level of self-satisfaction and gross indifference, you can read the advice of the Sugars yourself. But this is a form of tribal cant which the New York Times currently traffics.

The op-ed column in yesterday's Times bowed low to one of our favorite tribal fictions—a fiction in which we pretend that we're invested in the search for racial justice. We've invented an amazing array of dogmas in this general area, which every establishment pundit has skillfully learned to recite.

Does Whitey really exist? If so, she seems to be one of the many people who are suffering under the strain of this sub-rational bit of performance art, in which people announce they belong to the tribe through their recitation of an array of mandated, facile group fictions.

This afternoon, we'll flesh out that topic a bit more fully. For now, you can read the appalling work of a shameless pair of Sugars. Is there anything we rational animals aren't willing to do to get hired by the glorious Times?

Tomorrow: Defending the professor

BREAKING: Rational animal strikes again!


Would "integrate" L.A.:
The rational animal has struck again at the New York Times. We refer to a puzzling op-ed column in today's hard-copy editions.

The piece appeared beneath this headline: "Choice Is the Enemy of Justice." The boxed sub-headline says this:
Charter schools make it possible to avoid the hard work of integration.
You're looking at the latest fuzzy declaration in favor of public school "integration." In this case, the author complains that charter schools in Los Angeles have undermined the power of integration:
KAPLAN (8/15/18): Today Los Angeles and California as a whole have abandoned integration as the chief mechanism of school reform and embraced charter schools instead.
Has the Los Angeles Unified Public School District "abandoned integration as the chief mechanism of school reform?" We don't know. More to the point, we aren't real sure what that claim even means.

We do know what the student population is like in this giant district, the nation's second largest. Live and direct from the LAUSD site, the district's demographics look like this:
Student population, Los Angeles public schools
Latino students: 74.0%
White students: 9.8%
Black students: 8.4%
Asian-American students: 6.0%
Given that student population, how could the district use "integration" as "the chief mechanism of school reform" in L.A.? Maybe you understand how that would work. We'll admit that we pretty much don't.

We pseudo-liberals love the sound of "integration" when we discuss pubic schools. In some ways, it seems to be part of our tribal love of the general idea that, in terms of "race relations," it's still 1955.

At any rate, our love of this sound has led to years of heartfelt opinion pieces which make no apparent sense. The New York Times has a special fondness for such puzzling efforts.

We humans! Long ago and far away, we developed the ability to gossip and the ability to invent and affirm group fictions. However irrational or unfounded the group fictions may have been, affirmation of the fictions conferred membership in the group.

Professor Harari made those claims. Those claims don't come from us!

ROCKMAKERS: The Nazis liked to call people dogs!


Part 3—Hitler, Trump and us:
Lawrence opened Monday night's show with an admonition from an intelligent viewer.

His viewer has seen through the "cable news" game. Here's the way Lawrence started:
LAWRENCE (8/13/18): Well today, one of the people who follows me on Twitter, Patricia McClary, tweeted, "If you talk about Omarosa tonight, when there are still 700 children separated from their parents. then I will turn you off."
McClary wanted Lawrence to talk about a matter of substance. She wanted him to attend to suffering children, victims of an astonishing crime by Donald J. Trump and them.

Lawrence proceeded to explain why he was going to talk and talk, then talk and talk, about Omarosa instead.

Needless to say, Lawrence's judgment has prevailed all over anti-Trump cable. Last night, the analysts groaned as we forced them to watch Erin Burnett at 7 PM Eastern, then Anderson Cooper at 8.

These clowning clowns of cable news clowned and clowned about Omarosa. At 9, the biggest clowning clown of them all finally appeared on our screen.

She barely mentioned Omarosa. Instead, the biggest narcissist on cable mugged and clowned through her whole hour, not just about the Manafort trial, but about silly piddle like this:
MADDOW (8/14/18): Prosecutors submitted this item into evidence, document number 452, in which the bank's CEO, Steve Calk, gave Manafort what amounted to his job application to join the Trump organization. It was his statement of qualifications. It was his full list of all the jobs he wanted to be considered for in the Trump administration.

The list of jobs he wanted to be considered for was titled, by Steve Calk, quote, "perspective rolls" in the Trump administration. Not "prospective" but "perspective." Not "roles," r-o-l-e-s, as in jobs, but "rolls," r-o-l-l-s, like dinner rolls or somersaults. "Perspective rolls."
Maddow went on and on, then on and on, about this highly amusing trivia—about Steve Calk's entertaining and tribally pleasing but highly pointless misspellings. She mooned the wretched of the earth as she entertained, amused and fluffed her narcissistic self.

Calk, of course, is not on trial, nor is he a particularly important figure in the Manafort trial. He's a shlub who was somehow dumb enough to believe that he might be named Secretary of the Army if he loaned money to Manafort.

Calk, like Maddow, is one of those people who makes a sane person shake his or her head. Over the course of the past three weeks, Maddow has very much enjoyed herself, and entertained us, by ridiculing this insignificant figure.

Last night, lost in her self-involvement, she went on and on, then on and on, ignoring the wretched of the earth as she stroked herself about Calk's amusing misspellings. Suffering children rarely appear on the Maddow Show.

Millions of liberal viewers can't seem to see who Maddow is. That said, the occasional liberal—the Patricia McClary's of the earth—are apparently able to see through the "cable news" game.

McClary wanted Lawrence to talk about those suffering children, not about the latest entertaining circus clown. Needless to say, they won't be doing that on cable. Maddow takes us deepest into the circus, thus garnering the highest ratings from our own Homo sapiens band.

Has the so-called "Harari heuristic" ever been more valuable than it has been this week? According to the internationally-acclaimed heuristic, chance mutations long ago made us who we are.

That said, these chance mutations didn't make us more "rational," per Aristotle's dying assumption, or even more intelligent. According to the Harari heuristic, these chance mutations left us just as dumb as before, but they gave us two new abilities—the ability to engage in "gossip," and the ability to invent and affirm extremely potent group "fictions."

These new abilities let our ancestors cooperate in larger groups, driving other human populations to extinction. But they left us just as dumb as before. This explains why Brian's viewers saw the Washington Post's Philip Rucker talk about Hitler's dogs last night.

Brian brought Rucker on late in his show. Incredibly, Rucker and Williams said these things about Donald Trump, Hitler and dogs:
WILLIAMS (8/14/18): We launched an extensive web search that took us at least a few minutes and we could only find one photo extent in all the land of Donald Trump with a dog...Phil, the fact is, he's been a germaphobe a lot of his life. There was a period of time people here in New York, remember when he did not bring himself to shake hands when he met people. So maybe this is all of a piece. I don't know.

RUCKER: Well, clearly he's not comfortable living with animals in the house. He doesn't have any pets. And he uses "dog" as if it's a sort of like a negative thing.

In American culture, you know, a lot of Americans love dogs. They're loyal. They will love you back. A lot of people have dogs as pets in other cultures.

In the Middle East, for example, dogs are seen as dirty. It's a more effective attack line. But Trump clearly doesn't seem to care much for dogs as animals in the house.

WILLIAMS: Full disclosure, dogs are easily 80% of our family text thread...

I guess [Trump] will continue to use it as kind of the ultimate put-down. It was bracing for Americans to read that word in relation to this woman we've come to know on television and who was until recently a White House aide.

RUCKER: Yes, I that's right, Brian, and we've been making light, a little bit, of the president not wanting to have a dog in the house. But it's deadly serious what he does with that word, using it as an attack.

He's dehumanizing his enemies. That's the goal there. And there's a long history actually of authoritarian leaders who have used animalistic slurs as insults to dehumanize individuals or groups of people. We remember in—during the Holocaust, the Nazis would call Jews "rats."

I interviewed a philosophy professor who explained the history and how it's become—it's a very useful image for leaders to use to try to stir up resentments between Us and Them in a society. So there's a pattern here through history. I think Donald Trump is smart enough and strategic enough to know what he's doing by repeatedly using the dog, the imagery of a dog, as a slur to attack his perceived political enemies.
Given the role played by "Aristotle's assumption" in our basic cultural frameworks—he cast us as the rational animal!—it's very, very hard to believe that the stars of cable news can really be this dumb. But these people actually are this dumb, as they've been proving for at least thirty years.

In turn, we liberal masses are so dumb that we've been unable to see who and what these people are, and what they've been doing along the way.

The occasional Patricia McClary complains. The rest of us swallow the product we're served and cheer these idiots on.

Like Trump, Adolf Hitler didn't care for dogs! Plus, the Nazis would call the Jews "rats!" Completely seriously, Rucker explained that he'd spoken to a philosophy professor, from whom he'd learned the way this sort of thing works.

According to the newly enlightened Rucker, there's a long history of authoritarian leaders who have used animalistic slurs as insults to dehumanize individuals or groups of people! Incredibly, this silly piddle was served on cable last night.

Before we offer a blast from the past, let's review that heuristic:

According to Professor Harari, our ancestors came by some chance mutations 70,000 years ago. These chance mutations didn't make us smarter or wiser. Indeed, it could be argued that they made us that much more dumb.

According to the widely acclaimed Harari, these chance mutations gave us two new abilities—the ability to gossip and the ability to invent and affirm sweeping tribal group "fictions."

These new abilities, which didn't make us smarter, gave us the ability to cooperate in much larger groups. Our ancestors used these new skills to commit the first "ethnic cleansing," driving all other human species into extinction.

We didn't get any smarter. Instead, we learned to gossip and to affirm group fictions. So it was that the New York Times' slippery new columnist jumped on the Omarosa gossip train yesterday morning:
GOLDBERG (8/14/18): Of course, just because Manigault Newman is telling the truth about some things doesn’t prove that she’s telling the truth about everything, including the alleged existence of outtakes from “The Apprentice” in which Trump uses racial slurs. “Unhinged” has lots of evidence-free gossip, including speculation that Trump was sleeping with Paula White, the pretty blond prosperity-gospel preacher who gave the invocation at his inauguration. My opinion of Trump could scarcely be lower, but I won’t be convinced that he floated the idea of being sworn in on “The Art of the Deal” instead of the Bible, as Manigault Newman claims, until I hear it myself. (Lordy, I hope there are tapes.)
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Mainly, though, the slippery climber couldn't wait to pass on the "evidence-free gossip" about Trump's delicious alleged affair with the pretty blond preacher.

Needless to say, the New York Times was only too happy to put this gossip about the pretty preacher in print. Elsewhere, waves of liberal cable stars pretended to be offended by the fact that Trump had called someone "lovely."

Deliciously, Goldberg passed on the gossip. This is the way these idiots think. This is what they are.

As we close this morning's report, let's return to Rucker, writhing about what he learned from the philosophy professor.

Had Trump called Omarosa a dog? "There's a long history actually of authoritarian leaders who have used animalistic slurs as insults to dehumanize individuals or groups of people," the thoughtful scribe had learned. Indeed, "it's a very useful image for leaders to use to try to stir up resentments between Us and Them in a society."

Inside our spartan Cable Viewing Chamber, the youthful analysts roared. They remembered one of the most heavily plagiarized posts in the history of the Net, Jacob Weisberg's memorable post from the 2000 White House campaign.

Candidates Gore and Bradley had staged their first debate, an erudite affair which focused on the nation's health care. That said, an ugly war was on, so when Weisberg posted his instant review, other major "journalists" began to copy-and-paste.

Candidate Gore wasn't simply an animal. He had been "feral" this night!
WEISBERG (10/28/99): Al Gore performed this evening on a stage at Dartmouth College. He told jokes, blasted his rival's proposed health-care reform proposal as too costly, expressed disappointment and anger at President Clinton, and kissed up shamelessly to members of the audience. Bill Bradley was also present at the event.

Gore arrived on stage like some sort of feral animal who had been locked in a small cage and fed on nothing but focus groups for several days. Upon release, he began to scamper furiously in every direction at once. Assuming his stool 20 minutes before showtime, he volunteered to take extra questions from the audience. At the end of the hour-long non-debate, he promised to stay and answer even more. As of this writing (10:30 p.m.) he's still at it, sitting on the edge of the stage with his wife,talking about human rights in Africa and offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico with a few dozen New Hampshirites.

Gore came across as a kind of manic political vaudevillian. He oozed empathy from every pore, getting all over every questioner like a cheap suit...
Candidate Gore wasn't just an animal; he was a "feral" animal. Upon release from his cage, he had begun to scamper furiously in every direction at once. He oozed from every pore!

(Note the way Gore was criticized for answering citizens' questions. This is what our highly "rational" species is actually like.)

Rucker seems to have been a sophomore in high school at this time. Astonishingly, he graduated from Yale in 2006, after prepping at St. Andrew's (Savannah).

Rucker didn't plagiarize Weisberg's animalistic script, but many big pundits did. It was all part of the ugly, ongoing gossip war which eventually sent George W. Bush to the White House, sending large numbers of people all over the world to their deaths.

Were children separated at the border this year? It has probably occurred to Patricia McClary that thousands of children were "separated from their parents" by all those deaths in Iraq—the deaths for which our tribe's new favorite, the star of Dateline: Cocktail Hour, served as President Bush's large-toothed "pin-up girl." That's what Rucker's predecessors accomplished with their twenty-month war, which included this remarkable instance of "animalistic imagery." Just like the professor said!

Rucker seems like the nicest guy in the world. That said, a pair of genuine idiots were on cable last night, discussing Hitler, Trump and dogs.

Williams' past lunacies are legion; they take several forms. But because, like Burnett, he's highly telegenic, no amount of idiocy could keep him off the air.

Insult was dded to injury as Brian signed off. Believe it or not, this is what the "Harari hunk" said as he ended last evening's entertainment:
WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go here tonight, a couple of numbers in the news tonight that come from two different ongoing stories, neither of which will be judged by history as our proudest moment as a country.

First number is 328. That's the number of days some people in Puerto Rico went without power since Hurricane Maria. 328 days until today when the last customer was put back online.

We've said this before. While Puerto Ricans are American citizens, it's difficult to imagine storm victims in Miami or Virginia Beach or Nantucket living in the dark without power to their home for 328 days.

Our second number is 559. That's the number of children who remain separated from their families as a result of the administration's so-called zero tolerance policy...
In other words, Williams ended by citing the kinds of topics he and his "cable news" colleagues have been almost completely ignoring for the past millions of weeks.

McClary begged Lawrence to cover such serious topics. Lawrence said thank, but no thanks. That's the way cable works with lovers of gossip in charge.

For the past two decades, we've searched for ways to describe these puzzling life forms. It seems to us that Harari's heuristic starts to explain the weird behavior these life forms dearly love.

Way back in 1968, Bally tried to warn us about this gang with its highly prophetic RockMakers pinball machine. They showed us an extremely limited humanoid species:

As it turns out, Bally's rock-makers were us!

Tomorrow: On to the professors

Caging the feral animal: Gore and Bradley discussed health care for the bulk of that debate. Here's what the repellent Mary McGrory had to say in the Washington Post about their discussion:
MCGRORY (10/31/99): Vice President Albert Gore came to his fateful encounter with newly menacing challenger Bill Bradley carrying heavy baggage. He was wearing an outfit that added to his problems when he stepped onstage at Dartmouth College: a brown suit, a gunmetal blue shirt, a red tie—and black boots.

Was it part of his reinvention strategy? Perhaps it was meant to be a ground-leveling statement—"I am not a well-dressed man." It is hard to imagine that he thought to ingratiate himself with the nation's earliest primary voters by trying to look like someone seeking employment at a country music radio station. Maybe it was the first step in shedding his Prince Albert image.
That's how Mary McGrory's poisonous column began. That standard gossip about Gore's clothing was all she had to offer.

By that time, Williams had spent the better part of a month lodging bizarre nightly complaints about Gore's unremarkable wardrobe and the nefarious motives behind it. This is the way these idiots acted for a solid two years.

This was the debate, by the way, where the press corps, locked in a press room at Dartmouth, hissed, booed, hooted and jeered at everything Gore said. (On-the-record sources: Tapper, Mortman and Pooley.)

Rucker seems like a very nice person. We'll guess he's never heard about that. What happens in those brain-dead press rooms quickly gets disappeared.

ROCKMAKERS: Aristotelian assumption destroyed!


Part 2—These professors today:
At tribalized times like these, can you believe a thing you hear, even from tribal leaders?

Plainly, the answer is no. At times like these, the "Aristotelian assumption"—the assumption that we the humans will tend to behave in rational ways—gives way to the "Harari heuristic," which suggests that gossip, and affirmation of fictions, will more likely characterize the conduct in the town square.

A heuristic is a mental shortcut, a provisional rule of thumb. It tells us where we can most sensibly start in assessing, characterizing or explaining a given state of affairs.

A heuristic may turn out to be wrong in some given case. But alas! At tribalized times like these, the Harari heuristic is likely to serve us quite well:

Just consider the new Fact Checker post by the Washington Post's Glenn Kessler.

Oof! Kessler awards a full four Pinocchios at the end of his new fact check. These "Nokes" are awarded to Nancy Pelsoi, on the basis of a recent statement which, in one form or another, we've all heard a million times.

Pelosi made her statement to guest host Jonathan Capehart on Sunday's Morning Joy. As transcribed by Kessler, here's what Pelosi said:
Let me re­mind you that when the Re­pub­lic­ans took pow­er when President Obama was president of the United States, what Mitch McConnell said is, "The most im­port­ant thing we can do is to make sure he does not suc­ceed." If that wasn’t a rac­ist state­ment. That is un­think­a­ble.
We must make sure he doesn't succeed! Every liberal has heard that statement attributed to McConnell about a million times.

On Sunday, Pelosi seemed to say or suggest that the alleged statement had carried a racist motive. Suggestions of racism to the side, Pelosi's basic assertion here is extremely familiar. Here's a fuller transcript of Sunday's Q-and-A:
CAPEHART (8/12/18): I’m going to ask you the same question that I asked my previous panel in terms of, we focus a lot on President Trump and his culpability in sort of worsening race relations. But you’ve been on Capitol Hill for a long time. You’ve worked with Speaker Ryan, you know Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. Why haven’t they spoken up as leaders in the United States against something as pernicious as white supremacy and racism?

PELOSI: Let me remind you that when the Republicans took power when President Obama was president of the United States, what Mitch McConnell said is, the most important thing we can do is to make sure he does not succeed. If that wasn’t a racist statement—that is unthinkable.

We worked with President Bush, although we had our differences. You don’t make a statement, "make sure the president doesn’t succeed."

Why did he say that? Why did he say that?
So I think that when you ask that question, you’re attributing a higher set of values to the speaker and to leader McConnell than is worthy of their actions.
They had to make sure that he didn't succeed! Why did McConnell say that?

Almost surely, you've heard that statement attributed to McConnell a million times by now. Today, we're setting Pelosi's attribution of motive aside. We'll focus instead on the basic statement Pelosi attributed to McConnell.

We were struck by Kessler's fact-check of that alleged statement by McConnell, in large part because we've heard the attribution from tribal tribunes about a million times.

We offer a brief aside. We've cautioned liberals, again and again, against believing everything we hear from our own tribal leaders. We've offered that basic warning for years. That said, even we were surprised by what we read in today's fact-check.

Put aside Pelosi's suggestion concerning McConnell's alleged racist motives. Focus instead on Kessler's review of what McConnell actually said, back in the old by-and-by.

Like you, we've heard McConnell's famous statement paraphrased, described and assailed again and again and again. Despite our awareness of the fact that our own tribal leaders will sometimes misstate, it had never occurred to us to go back and review what he actually said.

Go ahead—read the Kessler fact-check!
We'll admit that we were surprised by the actual chronology, and by the actual content, of McConnell's actual statement. As a matter of fact, we were so surprised that we bumped today's planned post, which would have concerned These Professors Today.

Tomorrow, we'll plan to start with the frightening headline on Ed Kilgore's recent post for New York magazine. The headline was already wrong when it was posted last Friday, but so what—these are parlous times! At any rate, neither the headline nor the article has ever been corrected:
A Study Says That 24 Million Americans Have Alt-Right Beliefs. What Does that Number Mean?
That headline was already wrong when it was posted last Friday. As of today, it remainss uncorrected. Why do you think that is?

At times like these, the errors and hustles comes thick and fast, even from those within our own flawless tribe. In our view, the op-ed page in today's New York Times contains a couple of absolute dillies.

This front-page news report in the Times also helps us see that Aristotle, at least as quoted, may perhaps have been wrong.

Long ago and far away, the far-seeing people at Bally produced Wittgenstein's pinball machine. Its iconography portrayed a humanoid species which did only one thing:

The humanoids pictured on Bally's RockMakers spent their whole day making rocks. That was their form of life!

As those humanoids banged out rocks, our species tends to bang out gossip and group fictions. Or at least, so the Harari heuristic now says. Is it clear, in any serious way, that this heuristic is wrong?

At times like these, the Harari heuristic helps explain the intellectual chaos around us. The Kilgore headline, and the Kilgore post, involve an avalanche of embellishments and errors.

It all began with a youngish professor. It's much as the later Wittgenstein said:

These professors today!

Tomorrow: One thing after another

ROCKMAKERS: A new arrival upon the front!


Part 1—Wittgenstein's pinball machine:
Long ago and far away, "the appearance on the front of a new arrival...became the topic of general conversation."

So said glorious Chekhov, though only, of course, in translation. In Chekhov's account, the new arrival was "a lady with a lapdog." The events in question would have occurred in or around the 1890s.

(Some background, from the leading authority: "The Lady with the Dog is a short story by Anton Chekhov. First published in 1899, it describes an adulterous affair between Dmitri Dmitritch Gurov, an unhappily married Moscow banker, and Anna Sergeyevna Von Diderits, a young married woman, an affair which begins while both are vacationing alone in the Crimean sea resort of Yalta...This is one of Chekhov's most famous pieces of short fiction. Vladimir Nabokov, for instance, considers it as one of the greatest short stories ever written.")

By way of contrast, the new arrival of which we speak was a pinball machine—Bally's 1967 "RockMakers" entry. It appeared in the basement of Harvard's Dunster House at some point during the 1968-69 academic year, producing general interest.

By happenstance, that was our senior year in college. Thanks to the Vietnam war and the ever-expanding draft, it was a relatively undesirable time to be a senior in college—if you were, in the words of Luca Brasi, "a masculine child."

On the bright side, it was a time of nearly full employment—but only because 500,000 American men were "fully employed" in Vietnam. Placing that number in perspective, the nation's total population was roughly 200 million that year.

Service in Vietnam didn't necessarily seem like a fabulous deal. There were no Skype calls to the folks back home of the type we'd later see from Iraq. It was basically eleven months in a jungle, with the outside chance of being asked to engage in the occasional village massacre.

Today, the courage of various progressive pundits—we think of MSNBC's Joy Reid—has helped us see how eager these people would have been to serve in Vietnam.

Despite their lack of military service, these pundits are quick to suggest that they would have been the first to sign up for Vietnam. For ourselves, we'll only guess that they might have felt somewhat differently had they come along at a time when their bold declarations would have flown in the face of that relentless, widely-feared draft.

At any rate, it was in that year that the new arrival of whom we speak appeared in the Dunster House basement. As you can only start to see in this evocative video clip, it was a pinball machine whose iconography concerned a race of people on some planet where their sole occupation seemed to involve the making of rocks.

As pinball machines of the era went, RockMakers was wickedly great. The player could win extra games by racking up a very high score—but also by achieving an appropriate number of "Rock-A-Rocks," whose provenance we won't attempt to describe. If memory serves, the tilt mechanism was, or became, especially forgiving in the Dunster House machine.

We spent occasional thoughtful minutes lingering over RockMakers. Today, its rock-making denizens may seem to suggest the leading players in the 1968 film, Planet of the Apes (with perhaps a hint of The Flintstones), as you can see in this unfortunate image, but we're fairly sure that we hadn't seen that satirical film at that time.

For us, the rock-makers inevitably suggested the tableau painted by Ludwig Wittgenstein in the second short section, or "aphorism," of his puzzling magnum opus, Philosophical Investigations, a very hot book at the time.

What does one meet in that second short section? After an apologetic Preface, Wittgenstein starts the Investigations with a quotation from Augustine. Quickly, he moves on to this:
2. ...Let us imagine a language for which the description given by Augustine is right. The language is meant to serve for communication between a builder A and an assistant B. A is building with building-stones: there are blocks, pillars, slabs and beams. B has to pass the stones, and that in the order in which A needs them. For this purpose they use a language consisting of the words "block", "pillar","slab", "beam". A calls them out;—B brings the stone which he has learnt to bring at such-and-such a call.——Conceive this as a complete primitive language.
"Conceive this as a complete primitive language?"

Wittgenstein's denizens weren't making rocks—but who could have read this passage without thinking of Bally's rock-makers and their limited "form of life?" Indeed, the term "form of life" first appears in passage or aphorism 19, after Wittgenstein has expanded his picture of this primitive language:
19. It is easy to imagine a language consisting only of orders and reports in battle.—Or a language consisting only of questions and expressions for answering yes and no. And innumerable others.——And to imagine a language means to imagine a form of life.
"To imagine a language means to imagine a form of life?"

As Wittgenstein acknowledges in his Preface, Philosophical Investigations is a highly obscure text. Despite this fact, its overlap with Bally's RockMakers was rather hard to ignore at that highly fraught point in time.

(Wittgenstein: "I should have liked to produce a good book. That has not come to pass, but the time is past in which I could improve it.")

RockMakers portrayed a set of humanoids whose entire world seemed to consist in the making of rocks. We've thought of those rock-makers in recent weeks as we've continued to think about the so-called "Harari heuristic."

In his widely-acclaimed best-selling book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Professor Harari advances a pregnant picture of our own self-impressed species, Homo sapiens. We took control of the planet, Harari says, when chance mutations allowed us to develop two important new abilities—the ability to "gossip," and the ability to invent, promote and believe highly potent group "fictions."

Bill Gates has blurbed Harari's book; so has Bararck Obama. When readers ponder that Harari heuristic, they're being asked to toss aside the ancient paradigm according to which our glorious, war-making species is different from all others in that we're the planet's "rational" critters.

When we ponder the Harari heuristic, we're being told that our species is different 1) because we're able to gossip, and 2) because we're able to invent and believe certain types of irrational nonsense. This makes us think of Bally's extremely limited rock-makers; of Wittgenstein's obscure text; and of the men and women of our own corporate mainstream press corps.

Are we really a "rational" species? Or are we really a bunch of rock-makers—a life form highly susceptible to error once we venture outside certain limited pathways? In Philosophical Investigation. Wittgenstein tilted rather heavily in the latter direction.

He thought our capacity for inventing and asserting nonsense was especially strong at the higher ends of the intellectual scale. The types of nonsense he especially favored occurred, he sometimes said, "only when doing philosophy." At this site, by way of contrast, we've focused on the kinds of error which have larded our modern journalism, helping bring Trump to power.

Starting after Labor Day, we expect to spend our time discussing various aspects of Wittgenstein's heady ideas. This week, we'll tick off some of the RockMaker-redolent gossip and fiction we've seen, in just the past week, all through our rock-making press.

We surviving humans have developed a thoroughly decent technology. In fairness, we've managed to move well beyond the mere making of rocks.

Our skill levels drop after that. When we venture outside the technological realm, we do tend toward gossip and fictions, and to disastrous types of error.

Wittgenstein especially thought that our "philosophers" are inclined to traffic in nonsense. Due to his date of birth, he didn't live to see the rock-like impulses and productions of our modern-day press.

Wittgenstein rolled his eyes at the philosophers, including the one who had produced his own widely-praised early work. By his own assessment, he was never able to present his later views in a coherent package.

The past twenty years have convinced us that it's pointless to discuss the incessant rock-making of our most famous journalists. We modern rock-makers are good, decent people, but what a strange world our incessant tribal rock-making has incessantly helped to create!

Tomorrow: One of last week's rock-a-rocks

Yalta today: According to the leading authority:
"In the 19th century, the town became a fashionable resort for the Russian aristocracy and gentry. Leo Tolstoy spent summers there and Anton Chekhov in 1898 bought a house (the White Dacha) here, where he lived till 1902; Yalta is the setting for Chekhov's short story, "The Lady with the Dog", and such prominent plays as The Three Sisters were written in Yalta. The town was also closely associated with royalty.


[Modern-day] Yalta has a beautiful seafront promenade along the Black Sea. People can be seen strolling there all seasons of the year, and it also serves as a place to gather and talk, to see and be seen."
Presumably, that's "the front" upon which Chekhov's "new arrival," a lady, appeared, quickly inspiring talk.

BREAKING: Avenatti lays down with golden calf!


Dumbnification complete:
For perhaps the past dozen years, we've been writing about the dumbnification of our own liberal world.

Understandably, some liberals don't like this. On any given day, they've read three million sound-alike posts about the dumbnification of Them. They'd like to read the three million-and-first post on the this topic, rather than a single post about the dumbnification of Us.

This is understandable, right and good. It's the way the American public discourse really ought to work.

That said, we've viewed the growing dumbnification of Us as the most interesting media event of the past dozen years. This morning, we're finally able to make the announcement:

At long last, this dumbnification—the dumbnification of Us—may at long last be complete!

We base that on a news report in today's Washington Post. In the report, Sommez and Weigel describe the appearance of Michael Avenatti among the Hawkeyes.

In the hard-copy Post, the news report begins as shown below. Hard-copy headline included:
SOMMEZ AND WEIGEL (8/11/18): Stormy Daniels’s lawyer says he can be the ‘fighter’ Democrats need in 2020

Michael Avenatti, the attorney for adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, told Iowa Democrats on Friday that Democrats are seeking a “fighter” who will take on President Trump—and that they should look no further than him.

In his first steps toward a potential 2020 presidential bid, Avenatti toured the Iowa State Fair
, met with voters and did interview after interview to explain how serious he is.

“I’ve been very humbled by the positive reception I’ve received in Iowa,” he said in an interview.
“It’s actually surpassed my expectations. There’s been a number of conversations where people tell me I should keep doing what I’m doing, and that I should run.”
The Iowa State Fair is best known for its famous butter cow, a version of the traditional golden calf. The leading authority on such buttery idol worship reminds us of its provenance:
According to the Bible, the golden calf was an idol (a cult image) made by the Israelites during Moses' absence, when he went up to Mount Sinai...

Bull worship was common in many cultures. In Egypt, whence according to the Exodus narrative the Hebrews had recently come, the Apis Bull was a comparable object of worship, which some believe the Hebrews were reviving in the wilderness; alternatively, some believe the God of Israel was associated with or pictured as a calf/bull deity through the process of religious assimilation and syncretism. Among the Egyptians' and Hebrews' neighbors in the ancient Near East and in the Aegean, the aurochs, the wild bull, was widely worshipped, often as the Lunar Bull and as the creature of El.
Modern versions of this "bull worship" tend to make themselves manifest at this particular fair.

This is especially true when full-blown icons of dumbnification—such hood ornaments as Donald J. Trump—spring full-blown from the Iowa soil, or descend directly from the sky, the arrival ritual accomplished by Trump in August 2015.

Avenatti is a rather obvious alternate version of Trump. As we've noted in the past, his ability to sound exactly like Trump is frequently uncanny:
SOMMEZ AND WEIGEL: Avenatti told the paper that he is testing the presidential waters and that he decided to visit Iowa to listen to voters and to “do my homework” on the issues they care about most. In an interview with The Washington Post, he said he is a “strong supporter of universal Medicare for all,” but that he will be studying up on some of the other policies that are coming up on the trail, such as last year’s tax cut legislation and the president’s tariffs on foreign goods.

“Over the years, I’ve developed the ability to digest a lot of information over a short period of time,” Avenatti said. “I’m reading up on a number of issues. I’m meeting up with people who have far more experience with them than I have or will ever have. Rather than telling people what they want to hear, I’m asking them what they need.”
Donald J. Trump is quick to praise his own exceptional mental abilities. Avenatti, a manifest clown, is quick to sound like Trump.

Journalists tend to defer to such bluster-rich figures. This is the way the Post reporters describe Avenatti's rise to moral greatness this year:
SOMMEZ AND WEIGEL: Avenatti is representing Daniels, whose given name is Stephanie Clifford, in her lawsuit to void a nondisclosure agreement she signed in exchange for $130,000 in 2016 that prevented her from speaking about an affair she allegedly had with Trump. Daniels argues that the deal is invalid because Trump, who denies the affair, never signed it. The legal battle has made Avenatti a celebrity on Twitter and cable news.
The reporters seem to have been cowed by the latest manifestations of this ancient bull worship. In fact, the story of Avenatti's client goes exactly like this:

Clifford says she had sex with Donald K. Trump on one occasion in 2006. She says she did so because she felt she had to. Evidence suggests that some of us liberals even believed this claim.

If Clifford had sex with Donald J. Trump, she did so in hopes of getting herself on television. When it turned out that this wasn't going to happen, she began trying to sell her story about having had sex with Trump on one occasion.

Her first attempt to sell this story occurred in 2011. In 2016, she succeeded is selling her story about having had sex on one occasion for the $130,000 to which the reporters refer.

By traditional norms, this would have been seen as a possible version of blackmail. Given our ongoing dumbnification, this has instead been widely seen as a case in which a misused feminist was "trying to tell her story," even "trying to tell her truth."

(Stating the obvious, Clifford could have "told her story" about having sex at any point in the past dozen years. The problem was, she wanted a big sack of cash. Given the ongoing dumbnification, we liberals now tend to accept tribally pleasing claims no matter how little sense they actually make.)

Earlier this year, Avenatti came up with the cable-friendly claim that Clifford had been threatened with bodily harm by a Trump associate in 2011. Evidence suggests that some liberals believed the barrister's claim.

After consulting soothsayers of various stripes, Avenatti seemed to announce that he was on the verge of identifying this "thug." No identification ensued. Due to Avenatti's entertainment value in the corporate medium called "cable news," everyone has agreed to forget all about the various things he has said.

Today, this ludicrous figure is on display in the Hawkeye State. According to the Post's reporters, he was scheduled to speak at last night's Democratic Party Wing Ding fundraiser.

This fact alone strongly suggests that the dumbnification of our once-proud tribe is, at long last, complete. As international experts have said, it's hard to imagine another way to interpret this chain of events.

Our warlike species is said to run on gossip and group fictions. We believe Abraham Lincoln said that along with Professor Harari.

What the heck is an aurochs: What the heck is an aurochs (see above), plural aurochs? The leading authority explains:
The aurochs, also known as urus or ure (Bos primigenius), is an extinct species of large wild cattle that inhabited Europe, Asia, and North Africa. It is the ancestor of domestic cattle and has been suggested to be a genetic component of the modern European bison, crossbred with steppe bison. The species survived in Europe until the last recorded aurochs died in the Jaktorów Forest, Poland, in 1627.
According to several Jaktorów Forest experts, the emergence of Candidate Avenatti suggests that the aurochs may not be extinct after all.

These experts say that, within the academy, "Avenatti" is emerging as the answer to a new Hee Haw-style question, to wit:

"We crossbred Donald Trump with a steppe bison. What did we get?"

THE CREDULOUS APE: Did Trump Junior commit a crime?


Part 5—They sought information:
Did Donald Trump Junior commit a crime in connection with that now-famous meeting?

Based upon what little we know, it seems to us he didn't. That said, we know very little about relevant law, and there's a good reason for that:

Why don't we know more about relevant law? It's because we read the New York Times and watch "cable news!"

Major news orgs have made little attempt to analyze that basic question, which is widely gossiped about. Any such attempt would involve information, and contemporary journalistic culture is highly "information averse."

It seems to us that Donald Trump Junior probably didn't commit a crime. Nor are we willing to be shocked, shocked by the fact that he sought information about his father's opponent.

It seems to us that he didn't commit a crime. Below, we'll visit Rohrschach Test 30121 to tell you why we say that.

First, though, let's answer a different question. Should the behavior of Donald Trump Junior be forbidden by U. S. law?

To us, it isn't clear that the answer is yes even here. In part, that's because we're at least dimly aware of what "information" is.

Let's start today with our basic question: Did Junior commit a crime? When journalists pretend to discuss that question, they usually seem to refer to "52 U.S. Code 30121," the provision of federal law to which Brian Williams explicitly referred Monday night.

Yesterday, we did the forbidden—we actually showed you the actual text of that actual statute. Admit it—you'd never seen that language before.

Our "journalists" rarely engage in such conduct. This is the relevant text:
52 U.S. Code § 30121—Contributions and donations by foreign nationals

(a) PROHIBITION It shall be unlawful for—

(1) a foreign national, directly or indirectly, to make—

(A) a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value, or to make an express or implied promise to make a contribution or donation, in connection with a Federal, State, or local election;

(B) a contribution or donation to a committee of a political party; or

(C) an expenditure, independent expenditure, or disbursement for an electioneering communication (within the meaning of section 30104(f)(3) of this title); or

(2) a person to solicit, accept, or receive a contribution or donation described in subparagraph (A) or (B) of paragraph (1) from a foreign national.
As this key inkblot continues, it defines the term "foreign national." Basically, the term seems to include citizens of foreign countries; governments of foreign countries; and foreign political parties. No such critters can make the types of "contributions and donations" described in 30121.

(Please note: These provisions of federal law draw no distinction between hostile and friendly foreign governments. When cable stars insert colorful language about hostile powers into their feigned explanations, they're scripting the thrilling TV show, Beverly Hills 30121. They do this to excite tribal viewers.)

When Trump Junior conducted that meeting, he was meeting with a "foreign national"—the Russkie lawyer. Did she make or offer a "contribution or donation" under terms of that federal law?

On its face, Inkblot 30121 expressly forbade the Russkie lawyer from handing Trump Junior a big sack of cash—but no one suggests that she did that. When cable stars tell you that Trump Junior broke the law, that isn't what they're suggesting.

When cable stars make that claim, they're saying or suggesting that information—in this case, typically referred to as "dirt"—is in fact a "thing of value" under terms of Inkblot 30121. This account of the unquoted federal law advances our tribal pleasure. For this reason, the unquoted 30121 is constantly interpreted like that.

How childish can the paraphrasing get? It gets so bad that the New York Times has twice—two times!—published this pitiful claim:
"It is illegal for a campaign to accept help from a foreign individual or government."
It's illegal to accept "help" from a foreign individual! That version of 52 U.S. Code 30121 is written on second-grade level. In such ways, our journalists construct easy-readers.

The Times created a silly paraphrase of relevant federal law. They quote no language; they link to no text. But by and large, the Times' credulous readers will swallow this childish account.

Does 52 U.S. Code 30121 say that a campaign can't accept information from a foreign individual or from a foreign government? On its face, no, it doesn't say that—and in at least one basic way, that seems to be good for our tribe.

Christopher Steele is a foreign individual! So, presumably, were his Russian sources. If it's against the law to accept help from a foreign individual, that could almost seem to mean that principals of the Clinton campaign would be on their way "to the clink," to borrow Gail Collins' language.

"But but but," the tribe will sputter. "But that's totally different!"

Within the past week, we've finally seen a first attempt to explain why the Clinton campaign was in the right in this enterprise, while the Trump campaign was in the wrong. Watching the stars of cable news, you'll never have your time wasted in this manner. Cable exists to tell you stories, full stop—to tell you the stories you like.

The stars of cable don't waste our time with information or analysis. They mug and clown and let us enjoy the moments we get to share with our very best "cable news" friends.

As you probably know, the anti-Trump story-line goes like this. The information the Russkie lawyer conveyed, or tried to convey, was a "thing of value" under terms of 30121.

In theory, it cost someone money to assemble the information. The most aggressive cable apes will even note that it cost money for the Russkie lawyer to fly to New York!

That means that she was conveying "a thing of value," these gods of narrative cry. At the Times, they'll dumb it down to the point where she was supplying "help."

For ourselves, we'll only say this:

On its face, we don't think the inkblot in question is talking about information. It clearly forbids a foreign national from donating money to a campaign. Under the term "thing of value," it would presumably forbid a foreign national from donating a brand new 767 for a candidate's use. Or a big fleet of cars and vans!

Does it also mean that a foreign national can't telephone a candidate and "donate" information? It starts to take a bit of a stretch to believe that's what 30121 forbids—and under basic principles of fairness, you aren't supposed to go around stretching laws just so you can find a way to throw Certain People in jail:
"The rule of lenity (also called the rule of strict construction) is a principle of criminal statutory interpretation that requires a court to apply any unclear or ambiguous law in the manner most favorable to the defendant. It has a long history in the law..."
Does 30121 really mean that a Canadian citizen can't telephone a candidate with accurate information about his or her opponent? Is that what that federal law says?

We're going to call that a bit of a stretch. That said, should new laws be passed to make some such prohibition explicit?

Very possibly, yes! But even there, we're running right into our failing culture's curious "information aversion."

Imagine the shoe on the other foot. Imagine that someone "with ties to" the Canadian government telephoned the Clinton campaign with accurate information about some act of vast misconduct by Candidate Donald J. Trump. Under terms of 30121, does anyone think that the Clinton campaign would have to slam down the phone, pretending they hadn't heard?

(If the Russkie lawyer had written an op-ed column, would we have been required to ignore what she said? If she had rented the National Press Club to give a speech, would we have had to hold our hands over our ears, going "la la la la la la la" until she stopped making her claims? This is the road we're starting down when we start banning information—though we'll grant you, information barely exists within our discourse as it is.)

Alas! Our modern journalistic discourse largely turns on gossip and narrative. With something approaching ubiquity, our discourse very rarely turns on information and facts. This is true in major policy areas. It's also true when the gossiping apes of the corporate press pretend to discuss our campaigns.

("Al Gore said he invented the Internet" was an invented "group fiction." People are dead all over the world because our mainstream corporate gossips adopted the claim as one of their favorites and pimped it about for two years.)

Presumably, you don't want governments—Canadian or Russian—conducting "opposition research" on American political candidates. The Congress might want to pass laws forbidding receipt of such information from such sources.

Even there, we're putting ourselves in the slightly odd position of rejecting information. In terms of foreign citizens, some wealthy Canadian can't give Candidate X a jet. But why shouldn't he be able to give him or her an accurate fact?

In the case of the famous meeting, a British music promoter called Trump Junior and said he had a Russkie lawyer with some negative information about Hillary Clinton. (For the record, the news orgs which are outraged about this had been inventing and peddling "dirt" about Clinton for twenty-four years at that point.)

According to the standard account of what occurred at that meeting, the negative information turned out to be a dud within the American context. (Putin rattled the same useless claims in the public session in Helsinki.)

According to the standard account, the information was judged to be useless. But is that sort of thing what Congress meant when it passed 30121? When Congress forbade a foreign national from making "a contribution or donation of a thing of value," did it mean that a foreign citizen couldn't "donate information" or "donate some accurate fact?"

That strikes us as a serious stretch, but our tribe is happy to go there. Our haplessness over the past thirty years has left us in a very bad place. Today, we're willing to avoid serious analysis when our corporate TV stars fill us with dreams about throwing The Others in jail.

Final question:

What federal law did Trump Junior break? Even after all this time, do we really know? Do we have any idea? What does this say about the quality of our own tribal discourse?

We're lazy and useless and nobody likes us. These basic facts remain unknown Over Here.

Steele yes, Russkie lawyer no: We agree! It was perfectly OK for the Clinton campaign to seek information from Christopher Steele and from his Russkie sources.

It still isn't clear if the claims in Steele's dossier were accurate. But there was nothing wrong with soliciting and receiving this alleged information.

Under terms of American law, what makes receipt of Steele's information OK, while receipt of the Russkie lawyer's information constitutes the type of crime we yammer about every night? According to this recent analysis by the Washington Post's Philip Bump, Steele's information was OK because he was paid to compile it!

This almost seems to mean that Trump Tower meeting would have been OK if they'd simply paid the Russkie lawyer. Is that what 30121 says or means? Can anyone really believe that?

Please note:

Bump quotes only two legal experts; each agrees with the tribal position. Bob Bauer is a long-time Democratic Party insider. Note the way he searches about for ways to charge the Trump Tower participants, rather than quoting any clear, explicit legal prohibitions.

"Lock her up," Trump's tinpot said. Our own utterly hapless tribe is now drawn in the same direction.

"People, no fair," we ardently cry. They sought information!

BREAKING: Her teenaged son endured "policed speech!"


The criminalization of everything:
At The Atlantic, Caitlin Flanagan offers a fascinating piece about the alleged decline, and vulnerability, of "leftism."

It's built around the experiences and world view of her (now) twenty-something son.

According to Flanagan, her son, and all his friends, were "progressive Democrats, with the full range of social positions you would expect of adolescents growing up in liberal households in blue-bubble Los Angeles." Here's what happened next:
FLANAGAN (8/9/18): The boys graduated from high school and went off to colleges where they were exposed to the kind of policed discourse that dominates American campuses. They did not make waves; they did not confront the students who were raging about cultural appropriation and violent speech; in fact, they forged close friendships with many of them. They studied and wrote essays and—in their dorm rooms, on the bus to away games, while they were working out—began listening to more and more podcasts and lectures by this man, Jordan Peterson.
We recommend Flanagan's essay. Before she's done, she discusses the flap surrounding 30-year-old Sarah Jeong, who was recently named to the New York Times editorial board.

We'll probably discuss the hiring of Jeong at some future date. For today, we'll only say this:

The "policed speech" to which Flanagan refers may be part of the "criminalization of everything" to which we referred this morning. We have no particular knowledge or experience concerning what is currently happening on campuses, but we'll note that while many people discussed Jeong's alleged racism, no one has discussed her possible dumbness, and no one has asked why the relentlessly brain-dead New York Times seems to be assembling such a youthful and inexperienced editorial board.

Could "policed speech" really be part of "the criminalization of everything?" Our liberal tribe has been exceedingly dumb over the past (let's say) thirty years. Sadly but inevitably, we may be too self-impressed as a group to be able to see this.

THE CREDULOUS APE: The criminalization of everything!


Part 4—The text of Inkblot 30121:
Did Donald Trump Junior commit a crime when he held that now-famous meeting?

As part of the criminalization of everything, tis a glory devoutly to be wished! In this morning's New York Times, Gail Collins expresses the mindset in question as she starts her column:
COLLINS (8/9/18): This is not the very best week for political sons.

First we have Cameron Collins, the 25-year-old offspring of Representative Chris Collins of New York, indicted with Dad on an insider-trading scheme. It is possible that they’re the first pair ever to be accused of conspiring during a congressional picnic.

Meanwhile Donald Trump Jr. is twisting slowly in the wind while the president denies he’s worried that his kid will wind up in the clink.
Yay yay yay yay yay! It isn't just Rep. Collins (presumably no relation); it's also his son! So too with President Trump's son, who may "wind up in the clink," with a Watergate reference thrown in.

Our reflexively martial, warlike species has always played it this way. When we invaded The Others' cities, we would impale their offspring too. We would carry the women away, to cook and to clean and do such.

This same mindset obtains today. Anthropologically speaking, do you think we're getting out over our skis? Who's being naive now, Kay?

Let's return to our question. But before we try to puzzle it out, let's note one minor point:

Trump Junior and his associates didn't seem to think they were engaged in a crime when they conducted that meeting.
The meeting was held in broad daylight, right there in Trump Tower. Half the Russian diaspora was allowed to attend the affair, along with a goofy British music promoter—and three major figures from the Trump campaign.

As a general matter, this isn't the way you conduct a meeting if you think you're committing a crime. That doesn't mean that Trump Junior wasn't committing some sort of crime. It does go to "consciousness of guilt," which cable pundits are eager to cite when it tilts a tale in their favor.

Back to our basic question—was Trump Junior committing a crime? Again today, the New York Times writes on second grade level as it helps us believe—Yay yay yay!—that the answer is yes.

The low-IQ piece by Buchanan and Yourish is bannered across the top of page A11 in our hard-copy Times. For reasons we can't explain, it doesn't appear in the list of reports at the Times' "Today's Paper" site.

That said, you can read the report here. At one point, they return to the amazingly childish formulation of Shear and Schmidt:
BUCHANAN AND YOURISH (8/9/18): It is illegal for a campaign to accept help from a foreign individual or government.
Borrowing from their superiors, the pair of reporters offer that childish account. Along the way, they also absurdly pretend that a Trump Senior tweet in July 2017 differs from a recent Trump Senior tweet about what happened at the meeting.

In that instance, the scribes are playing the Anderson Cooper game. We'll show you their work below.

It's illegal to accept help from a foreign individual? That's second-grade work by the Times. But this is what our species does when we start "killing the pig," as you can see, on any night, for hours on "cable news."

Second-graders of the tribe, unite! Is it really illegal for a campaign "to accept help from a foreign individual?"

Presumably, the reporters are referring to "52 U.S. Code 30121," the statute about which Brian Williams inquired, by name, earlier in the week. Cable stars have spent the week pretending to interpret its provisions, rarely saying the same thing twice as they stage their latest cable charade.

At any rate, how about it? Do the provisions of 30121 render the Trump Tower meeting illegal? When Brian inquired, Joyce Vance seemed to say that opinions differ. In his full-length analysis piece for that very same New York Times, Charlie Savage seemed to say the same thing.

If cable news was actually news, you would have seen this matter discussed a thousand times by now. More precisely, you would have seen the matter discussed in a serious manner.

Alas! "Cable news" is tribal porridge designed to entertain and affirm the prejudices of some particular target audience. For that reason, you've never seen any such discussion of Ink Blot 30121, which every pundit describes his own way but which basically tells us this:
52 U.S. Code § 30121—Contributions and donations by foreign nationals

(a) PROHIBITION It shall be unlawful for—

(1) a foreign national, directly or indirectly, to make—
(A) a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value, or to make an express or implied promise to make a contribution or donation, in connection with a Federal, State, or local election;

(B) a contribution or donation to a committee of a political party; or

(C) an expenditure, independent expenditure, or disbursement for an electioneering communication (within the meaning of section 30104(f)(3) of this title); or
(2) a person to solicit, accept, or receive a contribution or donation described in subparagraph (A) or (B) of paragraph (1) from a foreign national.
As the inkblot continues, it defines the term "foreign national," directing us to consult the language of 22 U.S. Code § 611, which you can peruse right here.

Question: Does Inkblot 30121 say that Trump Junior committed a crime in connection with that meeting? Tribally speaking, tis a conclusion devoutly to be wished. But does the inkblot say that?

All through our liberal enclaves, we're being told that it does. Under terms of this inkblot, information is "a thing of value"—or so our historically martial species' latest lynch mob says.

Tomorrow: Qu'est-ce que c'est "thing of value?"

Working on second-grade level: What's it like when major reporters work on second grade level? Consider the way Buchanan and Yourish quote Trump Senior concerning the Trump Tower meeting.

First, they quote this tweet from July 17, 2017: “Most politicians would have gone to a meeting like the one Don jr attended in order to get info on an opponent. That's politics!”

Then they quote Trump Senior again, this time from August 5, 2018. In this recent tweet, Trump Senior said that Trump Junior went to the meeting "to get information on an opponent which is totally legal and done all the time in politics."

As any third-grader can see, those two tweets, separated by 13 months, say precisely the same thing. Except in this morning's New York Times, where the reporters make it sound like the second tweet represents some sort of shift in position on the part of Trump Senior.

As we noted yesterday, Anderson Cooper played this same game on his silly sardonic broadcast this past Monday night.
According to major anthropologists, this is what our species is like when we're killing the pig.

BREAKING: The most significant fact of the day!


The Washington Post breaks the news:
The headline appeared atop page one of today's hard-copy Washington Post.

It appeared in the top right hand corner of the page. It announced the top news of the day:
Gates admits to cheating on wife, bilking Manafort
Rick Gates admitted to cheating on his wife! At the Washington Post, it was the most important fact of the day, apparently on a worldwide basis.

The Post's news report began like this. It took four reporters to do this:
WEINER, ZAPOTOSKY, HELDERMAN AND BARRETT (8/8/18): The courtroom showdown between Paul Manafort and his former right-hand man, Rick Gates, grew painfully personal Tuesday as a defense lawyer forced Gates, the prosecution’s star witness, to admit he had a transatlantic extramarital affair and embezzled money to live beyond his means.

During his second day on the witness stand, Gates detailed the lies, phony documents and fake profits he claims to have engineered at Manafort’s direction. Manafort, seated at the defense table, at times stared intently at his former protege and business partner, who has assiduously avoided Manafort’s gaze despite their proximity inside the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Va.
Just so you'll know, these are the topics which actually matter:
Paragraph 1: Did he have a sexy-time affair?
Paragraph 2: What sort of body language obtained inside the courtroom?
These are the topics which actually matter to members of our war-ridden species. Indeed, these were Nicolle Wallace's only three questions about the trial, as delivered to Josh Gerstein on Monday night, her final night of guest-hosting for Rachel Maddow:
WALLACE (6/6/18): Josh, take us through these dramatic points that are coming out in press accounts about Rick Gates, about the dynamic between Gates and Manafort, and about the larger picture that's being filled in through press accounts about Gates is an eyewitness to much more than Manafort`s crimes.

WALLACE: Take us through some of the emotions that went through this room. Was Gates—and did the jury pick up on any of that—was Gates acting fearful of what he was testifying to? Did Manafort seem angry? Were there any family members with any outbursts or emotions that they displayed in the courtroom?

WALLACE: Let me ask you how they deal with explaining to a jury that someone is a cooperating witness, that they`ve already pleaded guilty to committing some crimes. Does that change, or could you detect any change in any of the body language from the jury? Did they seem to, to listen less intently or did they—did they lean in as this was someone who had traded something?
Drama, emotions and body language—these are the issues which matter. Were there any outbursts from any family members?

Atop page one in this morning's Post, the fact that Gates had an affair was today's most important fact from all around the world. Meanwhile:

On page A3 of today's New York Times, we were handed yesterday's "Quote of the Day" (hard-copy editions only). Here it is—and no, we aren't making this up:
Quote of the Day
"Pound for pound, Stan Mikita was one of the greatest players of all time."

BOBBY HULL, the Hall of Fame hockey star, describing his teammate who was just 5-foot-9 and 150 pounds when he joined the Chicago Black Hawks.
On page A3 of the New York Times, that was yesterday's most important statement, also apparently on a worldwide basis.

According to Professor Harari, our smaller-brained Homo sapiens species eliminated the larger-brained Neanderthals thanks to our ability to "gossip" and to adopt group "fictions." According to Kevin Drum, people of a certain age were all exposed to much more lead than the children of modern-day Flint.

We offer those possible explanations for the strange state of our discourse. But when a nation's journalistic and academic elites behave in the way this nation's have done, can anyone really be surprised when we end up, after thirty-one years of girl friend chasing, with a President Donald J. Trump?

(We date that to the mainstream press corps' chase after Gary Hart, who had engaged in sexual acts without prior press corps permission.)

Our major elites have been deeply disordered for decades. We take this to be an obvious fact.

We've reported, you can explain. In our view, there's no obvious way to go back.

THE CREDULOUS APE: Beverly Hills 30121!


Part 3—Soap opera tackles the law:
Did Donald Trump Junior break the law through his now-famous Trump Tower meeting?

Tis a conclusion devoutly to be wished! On Monday evening's Last Word TV show, excitable host Lawrence O'Donnell told us credulous liberal viewers what we most want to hear:
LAWRENCE (8/6/18): The legal implications of the president's tweet are gravely threatening to the president's son. [Quoting recent Trump tweet:] "This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics." But it's not done all the time in politics, and it's totally, totally illegal, if it is a meeting with foreign citizens trying to help the Trump campaign.
The conduct in question wasn't simply illegal, Lawrence said. It was "totally, totally illegal."

From there, Lawrence proceeded to pretend that he knew what he was talking about:
LAWRENCE (continuing directly): Federal law makes it a crime for a foreign national to, quote, directly or indirectly help an American campaign with financial contributions or, quote, an other thing of value. Federal election law recognizes opposition research as, quote, a thing of value. Federal election law makes it a crime to, quote, solicit, accept or receive a thing of value to a campaign from foreign nationals.
Etcetera, and so forth and so on. Do additional penalties obtain if the conduct in question is very, very illegal?

Lawrence, who isn't a legal expert, didn't presume to say.

Was Lawrence right in what he said? We can't tell you that. We can tell you that another non-expert gad sounded off over on CNN just two hours earlier.

In this case, the non-expert was Gloria Borger. She was speaking with Anderson Cooper, who has become a clowning, sardonic propagandist in these years of Trump:
COOPER (8/6/18): Gloria, I mean the fact the president is now admitting, in very clear terms, that this was all about getting dirt on Hillary Clinton. How big a deal do you think that really is?

BORGER: ...There is a legal issue here. If this dirt or so-called dirt on Hillary Clinton was exchanged, it's illegal from a foreign country.
Does Borger know what she's talking about? We know of no reason to assume that she does, but she spoke with total conviction.

Meanwhile, for whatever it's worth, Borger's proclamation differed from that offered by Lawrence:

Lawrence decried the high illegality of "getting information" from a foreign national. Using a pleasing term of choice, Borger said it's illegal to receive "dirt" from a foreign country.

Those are very different claims. But as a general matter, such differences are close enough for cable news work—and each non-expert spoke with great certainty about his or her pleasing view.

Cooper, meanwhile, was clowning badly, as he now does every night. In the passage posted above, you see him saying that Donald Trump Senior is "now admiting" that the infamous meeting "was all about getting dirt on Hillary Clinton."

Throughout the evening's discussion, Cooper treated this as an exciting change of position on the part of Trump Senior. The problem is, Cooper had already played tape of Trump Senior making the same "admission" in July 2017, more than a year ago:
COOPER: So, now, soliciting government intelligence from a hostile foreign power to get elected president isn't a crime [according to Trump], which keeping them honest is far from clear. But it's the whole framing of it as a hypothetical that's really interesting, because the president actually flirted with admitting this meeting was about getting dirt on Hillary Clinton when the story first broke last year.

Listen to him on the 13th of July last year, standing next to the president of France...

TRUMP (videotape): I do think this. I think from a practical standpoint, most people would have taken that meeting. It's called opposition research, or even research into your opponent. Politics is not the nicest business in the world, but it's very standard where they have information and you take the information.
Duh. These was Trump, in July 2017, "admitting" that the meeting was designed to get information about Hillary Clinton.

But so what? This is cable news. Cooper played last weekend's tweet as a flip on Trump Senior's part all through Monday's discussion. On cable news, the gullible viewer is asked to ignore such glaring contradictions.

Beyond that, note what Cooper said about the legality of the infamous meeting:

According to Cooper, the legal issue involves the question of soliciting information from a hostile foreign power. For the record, Cooper didn't say that such behavior actually is a crime. To his credit, he merely said it "isn't clear" that it isn't a crime.

So it goes on the teen drama shows which pose as "cable news." According to Lawrence, Gloria and Anderson, it either is, or it may be, a crime to receive or solicit information from a foreign national—or possibly from a foreign nation, or from a hostile foreign power.

Lawrence and Gloria said it is a crime to do such a thing; Anderson said it may be. Meanwhile, there's no obvious reason to assume that any of them know what they're talking about. Knowing what you're talking about stopped being part of our national discourse long ago, except for the Hard Pundit Law which holds that you must know prevailing scripts.

Judged by traditional norms, the boys and girls of cable news behaved rather badly this night. Judged by contemporary corporate norms, they were serving the corporate goal; they were feeding their loyal viewers the tribal porridge they like.

Can we talk? The cable stars to whom we've referred were players this night in an exciting new scripted teen drama, "Beverly Hills 30121." That's the number of the federal statute which they were clownishly, perhaps fraudulently, pretending to understand.

What does the statute in question actually say? What does it say about the legality of receiving information, dirt or so-called dirt on a political opponent from a hostile foreign power, or perhaps just from a foreign citizen?

Dies the statute say that such behavior is "very, very illegal?" Does it say that such behavior would be illegal at all? Just for the record, here's what happened when Brian Williams inquired about that provision of federal law on that very same brain-damaged cable news night. He was speaking with Joyce Vance, an actual legal analyst:
WILLIAMS (8/6/18): Let me ask you question about 52 U.S. Code 30121, which you, I have no doubt, have committed to memory years ago.

VANCE: I've read it a time or two, yes.

WILLIAMS: Yes, I figured. "It shall be unlawful for a foreign national directly or indirectly to make a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value"—we`ll come back to those words—"or to make an express or implied promise to make a contribution or donation in connection with a federal, state, or local election."

Joyce, my question to you...has this notion been litigated? Do we know that advice on your opponent from Russians could be construed in federal court as "a thing of value?"

VANCE: It's an interesting question. And under this statute, where there's been relatively little litigation, not a lot of a case law, certainly people will have different opinions.
Say what? Did Vance actually say those things? Right there on cable news?

Unlike Lawrence, Vance is presented by MSNBC as a legal expert. In response to a very sound question from Brian, she said the statute in question—U.S. Code 30121—has led to relatively little litigation. There isn't a lot of case law.

As a result, "people have different opinions" about the legal question involved in the Trump Tower meeting, she said. One hour earlier, on the same channel, Lawrence—loudly blustering, as he's paid to do—said something very, very different.

This past Monday evening, cable presented a new spin-off drama—Beverly Hills 30121. The original program was silly enough.
The dumbness of the exciting new spin-off threatens life all over the planet.

Night after night, our cable stars behave like upper-class gossiping high school kids. According to a range of zoologists, if you're swallowing what you see on these programs, there's a substantial chance that you're the "credulous ape!"

Tomorrow: Let's take a look at the text!

BREAKING: The mental condition of Donald J. Trump!


McCaffrey gets it right:
Last evening, Lawrence O'Donnell started The Last Word in an unfortunate way.

He started by posing as an authority on federal election law, specifically with regard to "contributions" of "things of value" from "foreign nationals." As he pontificated, he said "it's totally, totally illegal" to hold a meeting "with foreign citizens" who are trying to help an American political campaign.

In this way, Lawrence was feeding us liberal viewers the porridge we've come to love. The problem, of course, is this:

Lawrence isn't an expert or an authority on federal election law. Nor did he bother to interview people who do possess professional experience or expertise.

This same game was played on Anderson Cooper's program last night, including by non-expert Gloria Borger. As for MSNBC, one hour after Lawrence assured the world that the Trump Tower meeting was "totally, totally illegal," Joyce Vance appeared on The 11th Hour and, in fairness, said the matter isn't as clear as all that.

More on that tomorrow. For today, let's leave the realm of the emergent "cable news apes" and turn to Lawrence's second segment, in which a highly intelligent guest very much got it right.

The guest in question was Barry McCaffrey, a highly experienced retired four-star general. McCaffrey made it clear that he isn't professionally qualified to opine on the mental condition of Donald J. Trump. But after stating that disclaimer, McCaffrey voiced important counsel:
O'DONNELL (8/6/18): Tonight, retired four-star army general Barry McCaffrey [tweeted], "President Trump behavior becoming more alarming and illogical. In 55 years of service in the armed service, civil government and business, I have never encountered this level of anger, insulting behavior and outright separation from the truth."

And joining us now, General McCaffrey...

General McCaffrey, I want to get more of your reaction to what you are seeing from the president. I know you have been alarmed for a long time about what you hear from Donald Trump. But is this a new level of alarm for you?

MCCAFFREY: Well, look. I'm not qualified to talk about the president's mental state. I'm just talking about his behavior.

You know, I have been decades-long levels serving at the highest levels of the armed forces, civil government, the business community. I personally have never encountered this kind of behavior, the insulting nature dealing with—his clients are us. I mean, the business community does that, the armed forces, we would sack a commander who dealt that way with his soldiers.

So I think it's a great concern. We have got a couple of more years, at least, with President Trump as the chief executive. And it's looking very worrisome the way he's dealing with his domestic audience, as well as the international community.


MCCAFFREY: What we are now seeing is a complete separation between the facts on the ground in national security and foreign policy and what the president is saying. His team makes a lot of sense dealing with alliances, dealing with the real threat in North Korea and Iran. But the president's utterances—for example, coming home from Singapore and saying the nuclear threat is gone. Where did he come up with that? It is just hard to fathom what is going on.
To watch the whole segment, click this.

Quite correctly, McCaffrey acknowledged that he isn't professionally qualified to diagnose President Trump. But he went on to say that Trump's general behavior should be "a great concern."

He said he has never encountered such behavior from any authority figure. He said the president's behavior is "very worrisome"—that "it's hard to fathom what's going on."

Let us translate. McCaffrey was saying that something seems to be "wrong" with President Trump. Last Friday, Mika Brzezinski offered a similar appraisal at the start of the day's Morning Joe.

She said that Trump is "completely unhinged and getting worse." As someone who has known Trump for a number of years, she offered this appraisal of his "mental state:"
BRZEZINKSI (8/2/18): He's not well, that’s the bottom line. There’s no way anyone who knows Donald Trump, but has not bought in in some way, could watch him last night and not come away with the feeling that the president of the United States is completely unhinged and getting worse by the day...

Try to find someone who's not politically invested, or too fearful of Donald Trump or the Republican Party, who knew the man a decade ago who will tell you that his mental state has not deteriorated radically over the past few years, or changed, or come out in some way...You will not find that person from Donald Trump's past if they're telling you the truth.
To watch the whole segment, click here.

McCaffrey isn't a psychiatrist; Brzezinski isn't a clinician. That said, each was suggesting that something is seriously wrong with Donald J. Trump.

McCaffrey seemed to be talking about conditions resembling "mental illness;" Brzezinski seemed to be suggesting that Trump has suffered some sort of cognitive impairment. But they each suggested that something is wrong with the commander in chief—something which goes beyond bad politics or bad values.

We maintain our own long-held view. It seems to us that President Trump may be suffering from some version of "mentally illness." It seems to us that he may be suffering from some version of early-onset dementia. And it seems to us that these possibilities should be under discussion—though it's crazy to think that our press/pundit corps would ever be able to conduct such a difficult discussion.

Lawrence isn't an expert on campaign finance law; McCaffrey and Brzezinski aren't experts on the relevant medical conditions. But McCaffrey and Brzezinski were suggesting the need for a conversation. We think they each got it right.

Regarding Lawrence, he was spouting, very loudly, about a matter with respect to which he carries no particular expertise. As he did, he was serving the pleasing porridge his corporate owners want him to serve every night.

We liberal viewers were gulping it down. Are we just credulous apes?