What might a "cornered" Donald Trump do?

TUESDAY, JANUARY 22, 2019

Krugman's point of concern:
Next week, the new year will finally start at this award-winning site. The year will be built around an exploration of the famous old bromide now being called "Aristotle's error" in all the major salons.

Man [sic] is the rational animal? Ladies and gentlemen, please!

Before the year is done, we'll even explore Professor Horwich's essay about the philosophy establishment in some detail. And not only that! We'll offer instruction in a useful type of analysis which emerges from the jumbled, difficult work of the later Wittgenstein.

Also, Professor Harari will star.

Starting next week, we'll be providing these services as we all await Mister Trump's Inevitable Dispositive War. For today, we'll restrict ourselves to Paul Krugman's point of concern.

Krugman states an important point of concern in his new column; just last week, we stated the same basic point. Here's what Krugman says about the way "a cornered Trump" might behave in the face of impending defeat:
KRUGMAN (1/22/19): Most of Reagan’s political success reflected not fundamental economic achievement but good luck with the timing of the business cycle. And Trump almost certainly won’t experience comparable luck.

Combine this lack of a strong economic upside over the next two years with Trump’s extreme current unpopularity, and his chances for re-election—if he even makes it to the end of his first term—don’t look too good. Which raises the question of what he and his party will do if defeat is staring them in the face.

I don’t know the answer to that question, and if you aren’t scared about how a cornered Trump might lash out, you haven’t been paying attention.
What might "a cornered Trump" decide to do? A Trump who's facing re-election defeat? A Trump who's facing indictment?

Krugman says we should be scared. Major wars being easy to start, we said the same thing last week.

That said, Donald J. Trump is the danger our press corps has chosen. They chose this danger through thirty years of earth tones, emails, low IQs and the need to be dumbly amused.

With whom did Trump have consensual sex back in 2006? In the end, it's the only thing these rationals want to explore!

Full disclosure: We could have turned to Bandy Lee for advice about a cornered Trump. But major elites shut down the discussion she had been trying to start.

Ruminations on Donald J. Trump!

MONDAY, JANUARY 21, 2019

Dr. King's outlook included:
Dr. King will be included to today's rumination. But we'll start with something George Will wrote concerning Donald J. Trump.

Will's column appeared in Sunday's Washington Post. At one point, he offered this:
WILL (1/20/19): Dislike of [Trump] should be tempered by this consideration: He is an almost inexpressibly sad specimen. It must be misery to awaken to another day of being Donald Trump. He seems to have as many friends as his pluperfect self-centeredness allows, and as he has earned in an entirely transactional life. His historical ignorance deprives him of the satisfaction of working in a house where much magnificent history has been made...

Which is why this fountain of self-refuting boasts (“I have a very good brain”) lies so much. He does so less to deceive anyone than to reassure himself.
"It must be misery to awaken to another day of being Donald Trump!" We think of Bob Dylan's prescient portrait of Trump, the one he wrote in 1968:
I pity the poor immigrant
Who wishes he would’ve stayed home
Who uses all his power to do evil
But in the end is always left so alone

That man whom with his fingers cheats
Who lies with every breath

Who passionately hates his life
And likewise fears his death

[...]

Who eats but is not satisfied
Who hears but does not see
Who falls in love with wealth itself
And turns his back on me.
"Poor immigrant" is metaphorical here. It seems to us that Dylan was describing a person who has journeyed far away from his own self, from his own soul, from his capacity for basic decency and goodness.

Dylan counseled pity for such unfortunate persons; Will comes close to doing the same. Dr. King was there to remind us of the greatness of the hundreds of millions of people whose names you'll never hear:
DR. KING (2/4/68): Everybody can be great. Because everybody can serve.
For the fuller quote, see below.

For the record, no one is required to be great, and few of us will ever reach any such level. But the world is full of good decent people who don't exist in the fallen state described in Dylan's song.

How did Trump become the way he is? We can't answer your question.

Through the ultimate accident, that of birth, he was saddled with a father who seems to have had terrible values. Who knows what else may have helped make him the person he is?

That said, we're all inclined to the imperfect state which Trump has clearly perfected. With that in mind, we're forced to suggest that Will may also be basically right in this earlier part of his column:
WILL: By his comportment, the president benefits his media detractors with serial vindications of their disparagements. They, however, have sunk to his level of insufferable self-satisfaction by preening about their superiority to someone they consider morally horrifying and intellectually cretinous. For most Americans, President Trump’s expostulations are audible wallpaper, always there but not really noticed. Still, the ubiquity of his outpourings in the media’s outpourings gives American life its current claustrophobic feel. This results from many journalists considering him an excuse for a four-year sabbatical from thinking about anything other than the shiny thing that mesmerizes them by dangling himself in front of them.
We think that's largely accurate. Our mainstream press and our liberal world are largely driven by the impulse to define oneself as morally superior to the fallen fellow known as Trump.

In this way, our journalists may start to resemble Donald J. Trump himself. There is one major difference, of course:

Donald J. Trump holds the nuclear codes. Our journalistic elites do not.

In the next few days, we'll be looking at some recent fails within our self-impressed liberal world. Next week, our new year will at last begin at this site, with the suggestion that we need a whole new gestalt or picture or paradigm as we think about the basic way our species tends to function.

Donald J. Trump is the poor immigrant we've chosen. We've been choosing him over the course of at least the past thirty years. During that time, our journalists have floundered and failed, with no help from our cosseted coterie of elite logicians.

(For personal reasons, we no longer say "from our professors." We always hated saying that. In the last year, we stopped.)

The world of Dr. King was full of good decent people. By way of contrast, our modern elites have by and large largely failed.

Might the functioning of these elites be described as a chastening example of the misperception called "Aristotle's error?" Our new year starts next week.

The fuller quotation: Few of us will ever rise to the level of being "great." Nor should we feel that greatness is required.

With that in mind, here is Dr. King's fuller quotation:
DR. KING (2/4/68): Everybody can be great. Because everybody can serve.

You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don't have to know Einstein's theory of relativity to serve. You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve.

You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.
For Dylan's full lyrics, click this.

"No people are uninteresting," Yevtushenko said in his poem, People. We will assume that includes Trump's voters, even the pitiable Trump himself.

"Whom we knew as faulty, the earth's creatures." For Yevtushenko's full text, click here.

Completing our Golden State public schools file!

FRIDAY, JANUARY 18, 2019

We have several topics to hit:
Did California have "great public schools" in the decades before 1978? So said Miriam Pawel, while offering zero evidence, in Tuesday's New York Times.

How about it? Did California have "great public schools" during that alleged golden age? More specifically, did the state's schools do a fabulous job serving low-income and "minority" kids?

We know of no reason to think so. As far as we know, there are no data which would lead us to such a belief. That said, our pseudo-journalistic elites simply adore fairy tales of that kind, and the Hamptons-based losers who run the Times never tire of selling the tales which constitute modern pseudo-liberal belief.

At present, California kids in all major demographic groups score roughly at the national average as compared to their peers nationwide. For an overview, see Kevin Drum's recent graphology

That said, good grief! As we noted on Wednesday, here's the way scores improved for two groups of "minority" kids over a recent span of 39 years, dating back to the golden age in question:
Average scores, Long-Term Trends study, Naep
13-year-old students nationwide, math

Black students:

1973: 228
2012: 264

Hispanic students:
1973: 239
2012: 271
Over those 39 years, black and Hispanic 13-year-olds apparently advanced roughly three years in math as compared to their predecessors. If we accept Naep data (and rules of thumb) as reliable, does anybody really think that California's Hispanic kids were scoring better, during that alleged golden age, than their counterparts are scoring today?

In Tuesday's New York Times, Miriam Pawel was selling that dream, though in the absence of evidence. The dream she was selling is very familiar, but it's a pipe dream—a con.

Test scores can't be the sole measure, of course. But helping kids learn how to read and how to do math are basic functions of public schools. If we assume that Naep data (and rules of thumb) are real, it's very, very hard to believe that Pawel's unsubstantiated bundle of claims was anything but the usual dreck served by the usual non-specialists.

With that, an obvious question arises. Should we regard Naep data (and rules of thumb) as reliable? Should we assume that black and Hispanic kids actually gained as much in math as those Long-Term Trend data suggest?

We can't exactly answer that question, in part because we read the New York Times. Simply put, that famous newspaper will never attempt to address such basic questions. It won't do so because, in actual point of fact, its club members don't care about basic questions like these, or about kids in general. Few things could be more clear.

We thought there were two more points to touch upon in Pawel's column. We'll start with the tiny "glimmers of hope" she managed to spot in the Golden State's ratty schools:
PAWEL (1/15/19): This [Los Angeles teachers] strike comes at a pivotal moment for California schools, amid recent glimmers of hope. Demographic shifts have realigned those who vote with those who rely on public services like schools. Voters approved state tax increases to support education in 2012, and again in 2016. In the most recent election, 95 of 112 school bond issues passed, a total of over $15 billion. The revised state formula drives more money into districts with more low-income students and English learners. Total state school aid increased by $23 billion over the past five years, and Governor Newsom has proposed another increase.
Pawel's "glimmers of hope" involve nothing but funding issues. Because she isn't an education specialist, we'll guess that she has never set eyes on "glimmers of hope" like these:
Average scores, Main Naep
California public schools, Grade 8 math


Black students, 1990: 231.46
Black students, 2017: 254.55

Hispanic students, 1990: 235.89
Hispanic students, 2017: 262.25
For all Naep data, start here.

Can you spot the glimmers of hope in those data? By apparent rule of law, you'll never be told about such glimmers in the Times or the Washington Post. As our nation slides toward the sea, its elites are too lazy to examine elementary data and too detached to care.

(Similar score gains have been recorded in the Los Angeles schools, though the Naep can only track that progress back to 2003. If you're a reader of the Times, you'll never be told about such matters. Instead, you'll be told that things were great in 1973.)

Our final point concerns the funding which has Pawel so concerned. In this passage, she says that California's schools have never recovered from the revenue losses following 1978's Proposition 13. She then compares California's spending to spending in the state of New York:
PAWEL: Public education in California has never recovered, nowhere with more devastating impact than in Los Angeles, where a district now mostly low-income and Latino has failed generations of children most in need of help....The underlying question is: Can California ever have great public schools again?

[...]

California still ranks low in average per-pupil spending, roughly half the amount spent in New York. California legislators have already filed bills proposing billions of dollars in additional aid, one of many competing pressures that face the new governor, Gavin Newsom, as he begins negotiations on his first state budget.
We state no view on the funding measures which are now being considered. But since Pawel compared California to New York, we decided to look at the two states' current Naep scores.

As best we can tell,
the state of New York does spend roughly twice as much as California per pupil. Below, you see one set of results:
Average scores, Main Naep
California and New York State
Grade 8 reading, 2017


Black students, California: 249.96
Black students, New York: 251.27

Hispanic students, California: 251.24
Hispanic students, New York: 252.81

White students, California: 278.11
White students, New York: 271.68
How much bang has the Empire State received for its bucks? We report, you decide. Comparative math scores are roughly similar.

Pawel isn't an education specialist. Uncaring newspapers like the Times don't worry themselves about that.

That said, might those data perhaps suggest that funding isn't a determining factor in public school performance? You'll never see such questions explored by uncaring rags like the Times!

Here's something else you'll never see. You'll never see a serious discussion of educational methods. What might help California's 6-year-old "minority" kids enjoy their lives in their public schools? What might heighten their love of the world? What might increase their various forms of learning?

The Times doesn't bother with bullshit like that. They serve you pleasing pseudo scripts, after which they light out for the Hamptons.

Our "elite" news orgs have behaved this way for decades. Why on earth should we be surprised to see a Trump in the White House?

Ellis also worked from script!

THURSDAY, JANUARY 17, 2019

"Tiny, desperate, unwell:"
Did California have "great public schools" back in the good old days?

That's what Miriam Pawel recently said. She said it in an op-ed column in Tuesday's New York Times.

(For details, see yesterday's post.)

Pawel said California's schools were "great" way back when, in the golden age which covered the decades before 1978. She seemed to say that California's fabulous schools lured people into the state.

She offered no evidence in support of her claims. But then, they never do, and their editors never complain!

The notion that public schools were great Back Then is a standard, know-nothing script of the many front-line reporters who parrot conventional press corps lines about our allegedly failing public schools and their ratty teachers.

The schools were always great Back Then. By rule of law, they must be said to be terrible/awful today.

NBC News, whose cable arm was born in consort with Bill Gates, was long inclined toward this billionaire-sponsored party line. Back in 2010, Rehema Ellis told Lester Holt what's shown below as NBC kicked off one of its pro-"reform," party-line weeks—events in which it then participated on an annual basis:
ELLIS (9/26/10): Good evening, Lester. It was an exciting event. For two hours today, the teachers who joined us were inspiring, some even emotional, about the job that many say is stressful and extremely demanding.

Right now, the teacher's job is under critical review because of what is and what is not happening in the classroom. America's public school students are in trouble. On nearly every major ranking, the results are disappointing.

Forty years ago, American students were first. Now, among 30 developed nations, our students rank 24th in math, 17th in science and 10th in reading. Sixty-eight percent of American eighth graders cannot read at grade level.
Ellis had been a decent, personable NBC reporter for sixteen years at that point. That said, she wasn't an education specialist. Nor must a person have specialized knowledge to get thrown on the air by network news orgs to tell us the stories about pubic schools they very much want us to hear.

Did Ellis understand the familiar basic claims found in that short report? Could she have supported her claims and insinuations?

In each case, we'll guess that the answer is no.

Some of Ellis' claims were misleading; others seem to be false. But you don't have to know any actual facts to go on the air and say things like that. You simply have to know the scripts about public schools, the ones preferred by major news orgs like NBC News and the New York Times.

"Forty years ago, American students were first" in the world? We know of no basis for that claim, pleasing though it may be. Indeed, it seems clear that that claim just isn't true. Meanwhile, Ellis was picking and choosing her international data in the requisite way these people always do.

She cited results from the Pisa, the major international testing program on which American kids perform less well. As is required by "billionaire boys club" law, she omitted results from the Timss, the second major international testing program, the one on which American kids perform better.

Ellis was picking and choosing her data in the way then required by law. Her claim about our kids once having been best seemed to come from thin air.

That said, how good were American public schools during the golden age Ellis recalled or invented? As we watched Ellis recite for Holt, we recalled a once-famous text.

(For our real-time reaction, click here.)


Ellis said our kids were best in the world back in 1970. Three years before that, in 1967, Jonathan Kozol had published a once-famous book, Death at an Early Age.

Kozol described the year he'd spent teaching fourth grade in a low-income Boston school. His once-famous book won a National Book Award during the golden age cited by Ellis. Chapter 2 started like this:
KOZOL (page 9): Many people in Boston are surprised, even to this day, to be told that children are beaten with thin bamboo whips within the cellars of our public schools and that they are whipped at times for no greater offence than for failing to show respect to the very same teachers who have been describing them as ni**ers.
Oh, that glorious era! Indeed, Kozol started his opening chapter with some of the most memorable persuasive writing of that or any day. This was his real-time account of an age when, according to NBC News, “American students were first:”
KOZOL (page 1): Stephen is eight years old. A picture of him standing in front of the bulletin board on Arab bedouine shows a little light-brown person staring with unusual concentration at a chosen spot upon the floor. Stephen is tiny, desperate, unwell. Sometimes he talks to himself. He moves his mouth as if he were talking. At other times he laughs out loud in class for no apparent reason. He is also an indescribably mild and unmalicious child. He cannot do any of his school work very well. His math and reading are poor. In Third Grade he was in a class that had substitute teachers much of the year. Most of the year before that, he had a row of substitute teachers too. He is in the Fourth Grade now but his work is barely at the level of the Second. Nobody has complained about the things that have happened to Stephen because he does not have any mother or father.
We know of no evidence that American students were ever "first in the world." As far as we know, the limited international testing conducted during that era never showed any such thing.

Meanwhile, we would have thought that everyone knew that American schools often did very poorly, during that era, by kids who were low-income or perceived as "minorities." That said, Ellis recalled a golden age, as they always do.

In Tuesday's New York Times, Pawel described a similar golden age in California. Its public schools were "great" before 1978, she repeatedly said. She closed her piece by wondering if the Golden State will ever have such wonderful schools again.

Yesterday, we showed you data which might sensibly make you wonder about the claims Pawel unloosed. Tomorrow, and again next week, we'll offer additional data concerning various basic points.

Like Ellis, Pawel isn't an education specialist. That said, education reporting at our big news orgs is largely recitation of script. Alas! Our news orgs routinely work on "gossip" and "fiction," much as Professor Harari has said.

That's the way our journalistic elites typically work in this, the dumbest and most fictional of all possible worlds.

Are we really "the rational animal," as sacred Aristotle said? When the new year finally starts at this site, we'll be chasing that old chestnut down.

Might that claim perhaps be seen as "Aristotle's error?" When the new year finally begins, we'll make it our business to ask.

Tomorrow: Again with the actual data!

How good were California's schools?

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 16, 2019

Back in the good old days:
How good were California's schools back in the good old days?

According to Miriam Pawel, they were very good. Her op-ed column in yesterday's New York Times started off like this:
PAWEL (1/15/19): For decades, public schools were part of California’s lure, key to the promise of opportunity. Forty years ago, with the lightning speed characteristic of the Golden State, all of that changed.
According to Pawel, the public schools in California were very, very good as late as 1978. According to Pawel, "all of that changed" starting in June 1978 when voters passed Proposition 13, substantially reducing funding to those public schools.

There was more! According to Pawel, desegregation-based busing that fall led white parents to remove some 30,000 kids from the Los Angeles public schools. The decline in the schools proceeded from there.

The decline proceeded from there. A bit later in her piece, Pawel describes it thusly:
PAWEL: Public education in California has never recovered, nowhere with more devastating impact than in Los Angeles, where a district now mostly low-income and Latino has failed generations of children most in need of help. The decades of frustration and impotence have boiled over in a strike with no clear endgame and huge long-term implications. The underlying question is: Can California ever have great public schools again?
For decades before 1978, California actually had "great" public schools! Pawel proceeds to a question: Can the state have such great schools again?

Pawel ends her pieces on a gloomy note. That said, she returns to the idea that Cali had great schools Back Then:
PAWEL: [The current Los Angeles teachers] strike comes at a pivotal moment for California schools, amid recent glimmers of hope. Demographic shifts have realigned those who vote with those who rely on public services like schools. Voters approved state tax increases to support education in 2012, and again in 2016. In the most recent election, 95 of 112 school bond issues passed, a total of over $15 billion...

If Los Angeles teachers can build on those gains, the victory will embolden others to push for more, just as teachers on the rainy picket lines this week draw inspiration from the successful #RedforEd movements around the country. The high stakes have drawn support from so many quarters, from the Rev. James Lawson, the 90-year-old civil rights icon, to a “Tacos for Teachers” campaign to fund food on the picket lines.

If this fight for public education in Los Angeles fails, it will consign the luster of California schools to an ever more distant memory.
When Pawel cites "recent glimmers of hope," she refers to funding issues alone. As she closes, she reminds us again of "the luster" of California's public schools Way Back When, in the decades preceding 1978.

People who seem to know nothing about public schools routinely recite some version of this "past golden age" story. Routinely, such people are routinely asked to discuss public schools in the New York Times. (Pawel has no apparent background in public education reporting.)

Pawel keeps saying, early and often, that California's public schools were "great," "a lure," back in The Good Old Days. At no point does she offer any statistical evidence to this effect.

That said, script-readers love to recite such claims, especially when asked to peddle pleasing tales in the New York Times. Readers have heard these tales so often that they will almost surely assume that they are true.

How good were Cali's public schools in 1971? More specifically, how well did low-income kids do in those schools? How about black kids? How about Hispanic children?

How good were California's schools back then? Like you, we don't have the slightest idea, and Pawel doesn't offer a stitch of evidence in support of her familiar claim, the one the hacks always recite.

Nor did her editors ask or require her to produce actual evidence. But then, this is the way our upper-end mainstream press corps rolls in this, the best of all possible failing democracies.

How good were the Golden State's public schools back in this golden era? We know of no reliable state-by-state statistical evidence dating from the decades in question. But just for the record, here are some data from the Long-Term Trends study, one branch of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (the Naep), the federal program which is typically regarded as our one reliable source of education data:
Average scores, Long-Term Trends, Naep
13-year-old students nationwide, math

Black students:

1973: 228
2012: 264

White students:
1973: 274
2012: 293

Hispanic students:
1973: 239
2012: 271
In the area of math, 1973 was this federal testing program's inaugural year. Testing was last administered in 2012. For all available data, you can just click here.

How good were the nation's public schools in the era under discussion? Those scores from 1973 are nationwide average scores. The Naep can provide no data from individual states, including California, for those happy golden years.

That said, the nationwide scores from 1973 would be considered disastrous today. According to a very rough rule of thumb which is routinely applied to scores from the Naep, black and Hispanic 13-year-olds scored roughly three years lower in math in 1973 than their counterparts scored in 2012, the last time the Long-Term Trends assessment was administered.

Those nationwide scores from 1973 would be nightmares today. According to Pawel, it was totally different in California, though she and her editors present exactly zero evidence in support of this golden claim.

Tomorrow, we'll look at data from the past few decades for public school students in Los Angeles and California both. As we do, we'll return to Pawel's use of the phrase, "glimmers of hope."

For today, we'll only say this: We know of no reason to believe the familiar bedtime story with which Pawel put us to sleep in her column. Nor did she offer any evidence in support of her claim.

That said, Pawel's claims about Those Happy Golden Years are a familiar convention in the low-IQ world of know-nothing public school pseudo-reporting. If you wonder how it can possibly be that a person like Donald J. Trump currently sits in the White House, we'll suggest a related story:

Why is someone like Trump in the White House? In part, because people like Pawel have clogged our upper-end newsrooms for many decades now. Despite our species' comical status as Aristotle's "rational animal," we live inside a culture built on scripted tales and tribal dreams. Our culture runs on Chomsky's "manufactured consent," on Harari's "gossip" and "fiction."

That column was a tribal bedtime story in the form of journalistic exposition. It was also completely typical of New York Times public school work, and of the deeply disordered era which gave us our President Trump.

Please don't discuss his mental state. The Times has said we mustn't!

Krugman savages Mister Trump's team!

TUESDAY, JANUARY 15, 2019

Discussing California's schools, the Times is just as bad:
In this morning's New York Times, Paul Krugman savages the economic team assembled by President Trump.

He uses one word we ourselves would have skipped. That said, here's his basic assessment:
KRUGMAN (1/15/19): [N]o man is an island, although Trump comes closer than most. You can’t fully make sense of his policy pratfalls without acknowledging the extraordinary quality of the people with whom he has surrounded himself. And by “extraordinary,” of course, I mean extraordinarily low quality. Lincoln had a team of rivals; Trump has a team of morons.

If this sounds too harsh, consider recent economic pronouncements by two members of his administration.
Predictably, these pronouncements involve bad economics; that’s pretty much a given. What’s striking, instead, is the inability of either man to stay on script; they can’t even get their right-wing mendacity right.

First up is Kevin Hassett, chairman of Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers...
Krugman savages the intellectual quality of Trump's highest ranking advisers. Presumably, his assessments are correct. That said, we were struck by a certain irony as we read his column.

Right next to Krugman's piece on the Times op-ed page is this discussion of California's public schools, especially those in Los Angeles. The piece is written by Miriam Pawel. Her identity line says this:
Ms. Pawel, a contributing opinion writer, is the author of “The Browns of California: The Family Dynasty That Transformed a State and Shaped a Nation.”by Miriam Pawel.
Pawel may be a superb biographer. There is no sign, at any point, that she knows a single significant thing about our nation's public schools, no matter what city or state they're in.

Even at her own web site, we find no sign that Pawel has any expertise about public schools or any background in reporting about them. Within the culture of the Times, this makes her the perfect person to opine about low-income schools.

The Times' reporting on public schools has been a disgrace forever. Do Trump's advisers display a disdain for average people in the ways Krugman's column claims?

Presumably, yes! But then again, so does the New York Times in the way it discusses the schools.

In this morning's column, Pawel works from a predictable array of know-nothing scripts about the state of the schools:

She tells us that California's schools were "great," a "lure," in the good old days, without offering the slightest bit of evidence to that effect.

She criticizes California because it "ranks low in average per-pupil spending, [spending] roughly half the amount spent in New York." She fails to note that test scores from the two states can barely be distinguished from each other.

Most absurdly, she offers the passage shown below, the type of passage which will always appear from the know-nothing pseudo-liberal who knows nothing about public schools but wants to opine about them.

This is terrible work. It's typical of the scripted work about public schools constantly churned by the Times:
PAWEL (1/15/19): For 20 years, Katie Safford has taught at Ivanhoe Elementary, a school so atypical and so desirable that it drives up real estate prices in the upscale Silver Lake neighborhood. Ivanhoe parents raise almost a half million a year so that their children can have sports, arts, music and supplies. But parents cannot buy smaller classes or a school nurse. Mrs. Safford’s second-grade classroom is a rickety bungalow slated for demolition. When the floor rotted, the district put carpet over the holes. When leaks caused mold on the walls, Mrs. Safford hung student art to cover stains. The clock always reads 4:20.
To her credit, Pawel doesn't say that Ivanhoe is one of the "best" schools in Los Angeles. She merely says that it is "atypical" and "desirable," so desirable that it drives up real estate prices.

That said, everyone knows why a school like Ivanhoe is so "desirable." It's full of kids from "upscale" families who are good students coming in. They go on to produce the high test scores which will very rarely emerge from our low-income schools.

The school itself has little to do with this. As everyone but a Times writer knows, it's this demographic factor which makes schools like this so high-scoring and so desirable. Pawel shows no sign of ever having given a thought to the basic question here—how can we create a world where kids from low-income schools can have the kind of academic success "upscale" children routinely achieve?

In Krugman's profile, the president is surrounded by a failed "elite"—by a team of incompetent hacks. That's precisely the kind of know-nothing pseudo-elite which has been writing about our public schools in upper-end newspapers like the Times for the past million years.

Tomorrow, we'll show you some basic data about the direction of the public schools in California and in Los Angeles over the past several decades. From Pawel, you get the standard old happy talk about how good things were in the good old days when California's schools were just so amazingly good.

We know of no data which suggest any such thing about Cali's schools in the good old days. Nor does Pawel provide any.

Trump is served by a hapless pseudo-elite, but so are subscribers to the Times. That said, our upper-end journalistic elites have functioned this way for decades now. As a result, Donald J. Trump is in the White House and little is right with the world.

The New York Times almost seems to hold low-income kids in contempt. In its lazy, scripted, incompetent work, the paper has suggested this possibility again and again through the years.

We humans are "the rational animal," a famous logician once said. Did that famous Greek get it right, or should his famous assessment perhaps be listed as "Aristotle's error?"

Tomorrow: The word on those happy golden years, the ones which didn't exist

Nine or ten presidents did the right thing!

MONDAY, JANUARY 14, 2019

Would Donald J. Trump follow suit?
For better or worse, it will be (at least) another week before the new year starts at this site.

Our new year will focus on "Aristotle's error." But for at least one additional week, the excitement will have to wait.

For today, we'll direct your attention to Michael Tomasky's column in today's New York Times. He lists the downsides to impeachment. On balance, we agree with his point of view.

We met Tomasky once or twice many moons ago; we liked the cut of his jib. That said, we think he skips an important point today. The problem is lurking here:
TOMASKY (1/14/19): While impeachment is clearly a valid exercise of power, so is another method of removal, also prescribed by the Constitution: an election. This is how Americans like to ditch presidents and parties they don’t like—presidential power has changed hands 44 times in this country’s history.

In addition, nine incumbent presidents have lost re-election, including three in the last half-century, and all have peacefully (if not always gracefully) yielded power. In contrast, only two presidents, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, have been impeached by the House, though both were acquitted in the Senate. Richard Nixon, facing certain and imminent impeachment, resigned.

That’s a historical record that suggests that an electoral outcome will be much more widely accepted.
Mr. Trump’s partisans will whine about the unfairness of it all in either case—they’ll blame “voter fraud,” or George Soros, or the “fake news media.” But if the voters have rebuffed the president, the whining will sound to most Americans like just that.
We strongly agree with Tomasky's main point. Absent some devastating finding by Mueller—we refer to a demonstrated finding, not to a sensible allegation—impeachment would be deeply divisive, whether it was followed by removal from office or not.

A Trump defeat in 2020 would be a whole different barrel of worms. But here's the point we thought we saw Tomasky skip past:
Nine incumbent presidents have lost re-election and all have peacefully yielded power...Richard Nixon, facing certain and imminent impeachment, resigned.
Just for the record, Nixon was also facing likely removal.

Nine or ten presidents did the right thing. That said, do you feel certain that Donald J. Trump would follow suit?

We don't feel sure about that at all! Whistling past the question of possible mental illness/disorder, Tomasky fails to wonder or ask.

If Trump is facing electoral defeat next September, what might he choose to do? What if he's facing electoral defeat in a situation where leaving office might subject him to prosecution?

What could a president do, you might ask. A president with mental illness problems could do many things! Most obviously, he could start a war, then attempt to postpone the election.

You might say that the second part wouldn't work. That leaves the president starting a war—in the vernacular, wagging the dog. Meanwhile, how about if he starts a war next June to avoid falling behind in the polls? It might not work, but everyone knows that the country has tended to rally behind a president at the onset of war.

In Donald J. Trump crazy enough to do these things? We have no idea. If you feel sure that he isn't that bad, we'd like to take a big long gulp of the artichoke milk shake you're on.

We like the cut of Tomasky's jib. That said, as we read his column today, it almost seemed that he started to raise this point, then decided to hurry on past it.

How disordered is Donald J. Trump? In a very serious pinch, what sorts of things might he do?

This time last year, the Times said we mustn't discuss Trump's mental health. The rest of the press fell in line.

During 2017, Yale psychiatrist Bandy Lee had tried to raise these points of concern. Just like that, she got disappeared.

A note concerning our sources: We've consulted on these questions with the gloomy group we've long described as "future anthropologists huddled in caves." They communicate via a strange "time travel" technology born in the blasts of the conflagration they describe as Mister Trump's War.

The analysts report that Cassandra keeps raising these same points with them, always quite late at night. It sounds us like these earnest young people have simply been having bad dreams.

"I have long written about tie color!"

FRIDAY, JANUARY 11, 2019

Our highest elites at work:
Because it deserves to live forever, we're going to give you David Leonhardt's statement to Rachel again. Here's what the Timesman actually said on Monday night's Maddow Show:
LEONHARDT (1/7/19): And, look, I'm not the biggest fan of George W. Bush's presidency, but George W. Bush remained a competent president to the end and he had none of the ethical issues that Trump does. And if you think about what Bush did in his last two years, he managed the disaster in Iraq responsibly, and he managed the financial crisis extremely responsibly.

I'm not saying he doesn't deserve blame for what happened before. But imagine Donald Trump trying to manage a natural disaster or a war or a financial crisis. I find it frightening and I worry we would look back and say, "How did we not get rid of him beforehand?"
Bush remained competent to the end! After all, he managed the disaster in Iraq responsibly—the disaster he himself caused!

Leonhardt said it, and Rachel just smiled. So it goes on the highest platforms maintained by our fallen elites.

Leonhardt is typically sold as one of the brightest players at the New York Times. What else gets said at the New York Times? This very morning, on page A2, Vanessa Friedman says this:
"I have long written about tie color, especially during debates..."
She has long written about tie color! Out of this manifest inanity, the possibility of Trump was born.

Just for the record, Friedman has been the fashion director and chief fashion critic for the New York Times since March 2014. Sadly, she "received her undergraduate degree from Princeton," her company bio reports.

In today's essay, Friedman is defending her recent articles about Nancy Pelosi's clothes. On line, her fiery piece appears beneath these pugnacious, street-fightin' headlines:
Why Covering Nancy Pelosi’s Hot Pink Dress Isn’t Sexist
Our chief fashion critic says not to cover the speaker’s style choices would be irresponsible.
You see, Friedman has been criticized for frisking Pelosi's clothes. This morning, her act of self-defense starts off like this:
FRIEDMAN (1/11/19): Last month, when Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, first met with President Trump about funding for a border wall, I wrote an article about the burnt orange MaxMara coat Ms. Pelosi wore when she exited the White House, which had set social media aflame.

The story reached a huge audience, but not everyone was happy. One irritated reader tweeted, “Would a man’s suit get this much ink?”

Given that I have written about President Trump’s suits, Jeb Bush’s shirtsleeves and Marco Rubio’s shoes, my answer is yes.
As she continues, Friedman defends herself against charges of sexism by noting the fact that she also wastes everyone's time with endless, brain-damaged ruminations about male politicians' clothes. That brings us to her defining claim:

"I have long written about tie color." Also, about various male politicians' shirtsleeves, suits and shoes!

She's written about tie color for years! According to that pair of headlines, it would be "irresponsible" not to.

In fairness to Friedman, let's start with a comment about the readers who charged her with sexism. Simply put, it isn't true that writers like Friedman restrict themselves to the wardrobe selections of our female pols.

No one's wardrobe ever got frisked more extensively than that of Candidate Gore. His boots, his suits, his polo shirts; the height at which he hemmed his pants; the fact that one of his suits was "earth toned;" the number of buttons on his suit jackets; the obvious fact that three-button suits constituted a sick approach to female voters—all these ridiculous claims, and more, were advanced by the criminal minds who sent George W. Bush to the White House, where he performed so well.

How sick are these prehuman stars, who run on the fuel of Professor Harari's gossip and fiction? Below, you see a Washington Post Pulitzer winner after Gore and Bradley staged their first Democratic debate in October 1999.

The candidates focused on health care. Children are dead all over the world because our nation's highest elites function in this puzzling way:
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.
The debate had focused on health care, including the nation's sick children. The slugs who pose as the nation's journalists could only respond like that.

(How had they behaved in the press room at Dartmouth? Thanks in part to a phone call from Hanover immediately after the debate, we were able to tell you! To acquaint yourselves with the soul of the beast, you can just click here.)

Readers swore that writers like Friedman only discuss the clothing of female pols. That's because they themselves are pre-rational beings. They work live and direct from tribal narrative (Harari's "fictions"), not from observation of real life as actually lived here on Earth.

Meanwhile, our meritocratic elites live and die with their ultimate piffle. Bush was competent to the end! Meanwhile, the Friedmans will be writing like this until the advent of Mister Trump's War, the war they created in thirty years of utter drivel and meritocratic failure.

This is who our elites actually are. When our new year starts at this site, we'll be examining this phenomenon from a wide array of angles.

"I have long written about tie color!" Friedman's statement should go on the tombstone, the one our disordered president is fashioning for our failed western world.

Also this: Was it the best sex you ever had?

That was multimillionaire Diane Sawyer, asking Marla Maples, long ago, about getting it on with The Donald.

This is who and what they are. This is what they care about. We leave you today with the coming year's question:

Are they "rational animals?" Or is that Aristotle's error, committed long ago?

The skill levels of our highest elites!

THURSDAY, JANUARY 10, 2019

The meritocracy's ongoing fail:
No one loves "Einstein made easy" pseudo-discussion quite the way Nova does.

The PBS series loves to pretend that it knows how to make Einstein easy! This week, it's back with its latest hour-long effort, Einstein's Quantum Riddle.

The people at Nova have gone there again! At Nova's site, the new program is promoed like this:
Einstein's Quantum Riddle
Join scientists as they grab light from across the universe to prove quantum entanglement is real.
In effect, this program tries to make quantum mechanics and "entanglement" easy. We haven't watched the whole program yet, but today we'll give you a taste.

Fairly early in the program, the narrator introduces the famous 1927 Solvay Conference, "an amazing week-long series of discussions on, really, what the world was made of, on the nature of matter and the new quantum theory."

That said, what the heck was quantum theory? As the exposition starts, confusion quickly appears:
NARRATOR (1/9/19): This was one of the greatest meetings of minds in history. More than half were or would become Nobel Prize winners. Their experiments were showing that deep inside matter, tiny particles, like atoms and their orbiting electrons were not solid little spheres. They seemed fuzzy and undefined.

DAVID KAISER: So this, this group here, these, these were the folks who had just been plumbing deeper and deeper and deeper to find what they hoped would be a bedrock of what the world is made of. And, to their surprise, they found things less and less solid as they dug in.

This world was not tiny little bricks that got smaller and smaller. At some point, the bricks gave way to this "moosh" and what looked like solidity, solidness, in fact became very confusing and, kind of, a whole new way of thinking about nature.
To his credit, Kaiser notes that the early findings had been "very confusing." That said. almost one hundred years later, confusion seems to remain in what the narrator offers.

To wit:

If the "tiny particles" deep inside matter aren't "solid little spheres" after all—if they seem "fuzzy and undefined" in some rather undefined way—then why exactly are we still calling them "particles?"

Presumably, someone can answer that question. But as the discussion continues, we'd say the confusion only grows, though viewers are encouraged to believe that everything's being made amazingly clear.

(To peruse the whole transcript or watch the whole program, you can just click here.)

In our view, there's no bad explanation quite like an Einstein-made-easy bad explanation. Nova churns them out on an annual basis, and we the highly educated PBS viewers apparently keep tuning in.

No one at Nova, and no one at home, ever seems to realize that the easy-to-understand explanations are almost wholly impenetrable. It'a a bit like the old joke offered by an apocryphal worker in the old Soviet Union:

"We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us."

So it goes with these Nova programs. We pretend to understand and they pretend to explain things! (Or so a wry viewer might say.)

Nova has never made Einstein easy in its whole institutional life! Despite this fact, the jumbled "explanations" keep coming, and we viewers keep tuning in.

So it goes in other precincts among our meritocratic elites. Most especially, so it has been, for many years, within our political discourse, which has been built around wardrobe and hair issues, routinely embellished pseudo-quotations, and the always important question of who's been zoomin' who, perhaps ten years ago.

In this post, Josh Marshall describes the New York Times' latest front-page howler. Everybody makes mistakes, but this one's a groaner, Josh says.

Then too, there's what the Times' David Leonhardt told us rubes this week. He's promoted as one of the Times' brightest players, but on Monday evening's Maddow Show, the gentleman actually said this:
LEONHARDT (1/7/19): And, look, I'm not the biggest fan of George W. Bush's presidency, but George W. Bush remained a competent president to the end and he had none of the ethical issues that Trump does. And if you think about what Bush did in his last two years, he managed the disaster in Iraq responsibly, and he managed the financial crisis extremely responsibly.

I'm not saying he doesn't deserve blame for what happened before. But imagine Donald Trump trying to manage a natural disaster or a war or a financial crisis. I find it frightening and I worry we would look back and say, "How did we not get rid of him beforehand?"
Leonhardt isn't a fan of Bush, but Bush was competent to the end! He managed the disaster in Iraq responsibly—the disaster he himself caused!

Leonhardt said it; Rachel didn't challenge it. After three or four decades of similar clowning, work like this from our empty elites gave us the president who is eventually going to start Mister Trump's Inevitable War. Or so Cassandra has told the analysts, in a series of late-night visits.

Tomorrow, we'll look at Leonhardt's column from last Sunday about the sins of Trump. Not to be gloomy, but the hapless work of our meritocratic elites have taken us from the valley of the shadow of earth toned suits all the way to our current sick ugly dumb deeply dangerous brain-dead mess.

Ain't meritocracy grand? And where are our greatest logicians?

A reading lesson from today's Times!

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 9, 2019

Manafort versus "the Trump campaign:"
It's a reading lesson from above the fold on the front page—on page A1—of today's New York Times.

On line, the Times begins with a bungled headline.
Three reporters take over from there:
LAFRANIERE, VOGEL AND HABERMAN (1/9/19): Manafort Accused of Sharing Trump Polling Data With Russian Associate

As a top official in President Trump’s campaign, Paul Manafort shared political polling data with a business associate tied to Russian intelligence, according to a court filing unsealed on Tuesday. The document provided the clearest evidence to date that the Trump campaign may have tried to coordinate with Russians during the 2016 presidential race.

Mr. Manafort’s lawyers made the disclosure by accident, through a formatting error in a document filed to respond to charges that he had lied to prosecutors working for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, after agreeing to cooperate with their investigation into Russian interference in the election.
Regarding that headline, sad! The front-page report doesn't say that Manafort has been accused of sharing polling data with a Russian associate. It says he did share polling data, according to a "disclosure" in a document filed by his own legal team.

Presumably, some editor composed a slapdash, inaccurate headline, one which moved from a "disclosure" to someone being "accused." That said, our lesson concerns the second sentence in paragraph one, a sentence which goes like this:

"The document provided the clearest evidence to date that the Trump campaign may have tried to coordinate with Russians during the 2016 presidential race."

That sentence is highly equivocal—needlessly so, in fact. That said, does the document in question provide any evidence that the Trump campaign coordinated with Russians? Or does it simply show that Manafort did? (Along with Rick Gates, his right-hand man.)

We ask for an obvious reason. As everybody knows, and as the reporters later note, it's widely understood that Manafort was "deeply in debt" to Oleg Deripaska, an (allegedly dangerous) Russian oligarch for whom the polling data seems to have been intended.

For many months, it has been widely reported and suggested that Manafort was trying to use his role in the Trump campaign as a way to make himself whole with Deripaska. This suggests an obvious possibility, one the Times reporters mention in paragraphs 5 and 6:
LAFRANIERE, VOGEL AND HABERMAN: “This is the closest thing we have seen to collusion,” Clint Watts, a senior fellow with the Foreign Policy Research Institute, said of the data-sharing. “The question now is, did the president know about it?”

The document gave no indication of whether Mr. Trump was aware of the data transfer
or how Mr. Kilimnik might have used the information. But from March to August 2016, when Mr. Manafort worked for the Trump campaign, Russia was engaged in a full-fledged operation using social media, stolen emails and other tactics to boost Mr. Trump, attack Mrs. Clinton and play on divisive issues such as race and guns. Polling data could conceivably have helped Russia hone those messages and target audiences to help swing votes to Mr. Trump.
Is it possible that Manafort was playing this game as a one-man operation? Of course it is! If that's the case, how wise was it to start this report by talking about possibility that "the Trump campaign" had been "trying to coordinate with Russians?" Were the reporters possibly moving beyond what they actually knew?

We cast ourselves in the buzzkill role for an obvious reason. The liberal world is deeply in love with trying to lock "the Trump campaign" up. On liberal corporate cable, tribal entertainers havebecome expert at overstating every suggestion or indication, all in service to the desire to say or suggest that they've finally been caught.

We love to get out over our skis; we hate the idea of waiting for full information. It seemed to us that the Times reporters were playing that game in their opening paragraph, the paragraph which appears beneath the headline which some editor blew.

As Professor Harari has noted, we humans love to move beyond what we actually know! We thought of that fact when we read this later passage:
LAFRANIERE, VOGEL AND HABERMAN: Both Mr. Manafort and Rick Gates, the deputy campaign manager, transferred the data to Mr. Kilimnik in the spring of 2016 as Mr. Trump clinched the Republican presidential nomination, according to a person knowledgeable about the situation. Most of the data was public, but some of it was developed by a private polling firm working for the campaign, according to the person.
Say what? Most of the polling data in question was drawn from public sources?

If true, that suggests that Manafort, an inveterate scammer, was possibly trying to scam his Russian associates with publicly available data. More to the point, we've already seen at least one major cable pundit say the data in question "must have been" private, proprietary data because there would be no need to pass on public data.

We're sorry to say that the miscreant was Frank Figliuzzi. He spoke to Brian Williams:
FIGLIUZZI (1/8/19): I always like it when we accidentally learn things, Brian. Sometimes it's the best kind of learning when knowledge falls into your lap and we get a little bit smarter about what's up with the Trump campaign.

So today, we're faced with a question. Why would the campaign chairman for President Trump be providing what must have been internal poll data? Why do I say "must have been?" The Russians don't need to get public poll data from Manafort. They can read that in the newspapers.

So here is this kind of proprietary poll data going to a Russian that everyone believes is at least connected to the GRU. But in looking at his bio, I think he might have been a GRU officer at one time. And what would the expectation be? He's not going to go home and stick the polling data on his refrigerator. He`s going to do something with it.
The Times report had been on line for hours. Figliuzzi blew past what it actually said, and Brian didn't correct him. So much for the lofty goal of "getting a little bit smarter!"

This is the service corporate cable provides. In similar ways, these entities defeated Candidate Gore and Candidate Hillary Clinton, back when anger about Bill Clinton's sex acts was the biggest thing in their world. It's how we got Bush, then Trump, though you'll never be told that.

Above the fold on page A1, should the Times have jumped from "Manafort" to "the Trump campaign?" We'd say an editor should have worked with that. That said, to assess the caliber of one editor's work, take a look at that misstated headline.

On balance, our upper-end political press corps just isn't especially sharp. This has been a major problem for decades, but our upper-end mainstream guild doesn't discuss itself.

Trump may have known about this matter, of course. That said, there's still no way to know. Rather than wait for the facts to emerge, some will improve the tale.

Leonhardt warns of external events!

TUESDAY, JANUARY 8, 2019

Top children imagine no evil:
This may be the night when Donald J. Trump will unveil his national emergency.

That said, why not look on the bright side just once? Almost surely, the president isn't ready, at least not yet, to declare his dispositive war.

Future anthropologists, huddled in caves, have told us that war is approaching. They tell us this in nightly visits which remind some cynics of dreams.

That said, this won't be the night when the apparently crazy president unveils his inevitable war. But alas! Last night, on the Maddow Show, the New York Times' David Leonhardt made it clear that he isn't yet ready to imagine such a thing.

Leonhardt spoke with the liberal world's biggest corporate fraud. As they pictured what Trump might someday do, here's what he and the fraudster said:
MADDOW (1/7/19): Do you think that some of the danger that you're describing there, some of the increased danger, is because of the president's increased liability in terms of the investigations that surround him?

LEONHARDT: Yes.

MADDOW: Because they lead him into a more desperate situation.

LEONHARDT: Yes. And I think there was this fiction that existed for awhile. It was sort of—it was unprovable, there was a fiction, until the midterms, that he was politically invulnerable, that somehow he had a magic sauce, right, and he would defy the polls. And then we saw the midterms and he got trounced.

I mean, the Senate is tricky to look at, because so many of the races were on Republican soil. But in the House, the Democrats won the national House by 9 percentage points. He got trounced.

And so, I think what you're starting to see is he realizes he has some vulnerability. Republicans realize he has some vulnerability. And Mueller seems to be, to one degree or another, closing in. And so, what I worry about are one, as Mueller continues to close in, or as he fights for his re-election, he could do many worse things.

I also think we are not paying attention to the possibility that something terrible external happens—a war, a financial crisis, a terrorist attack,
a terrible national—

MADDOW: A non-self-inflicted externality.

LEONHARDT: Yes....
To watch the whole segment, click here.

In that exchange, you're observing the blinkered work of the meritocratic dreck the sea keeps dragging in.

Just look what these schoolchildren said! First, with Mueller closing in, Trump might do something terrible.

Trump might do something terrible! Then too, there's always this:

At some point, he might have to confront "a non-self-inflicted externality," for example an external war!

Neither of these major stars was willing to say the obvious. Neither would say that Donald J. Trump might decide to start a war to create a distraction or an emergency if Mueller's hordes start closing in. They simply weren't willing to think about that. They're well-behaved boys and girls!

Meanwhile, look where Leonhardt went next. Where in the world—where do earth—do they find these "well-educated" pearls?
MADDOW (continuing from above): A non-self-inflicted externality.

LEONHARDT: Yes. And, look, I'm not the biggest fan of George W. Bush's presidency, but George W. Bush remained a competent president to the end and he had none of the ethical issues that Trump does. And if you think about what Bush did in his last two years, he managed the disaster in Iraq responsibly, and he managed the financial crisis extremely responsibly.

I'm not saying he doesn't deserve blame for what happened before. But imagine Donald Trump trying to manage a natural disaster or a war or a financial crisis. I find it frightening and I worry we would look back and say, "How did we not get rid of him beforehand?"
Where do they find these broken toys, these children who step forth to say that George W. Bush—the man their guild propelled into office—"managed the Iraq disaster competently," the disaster which he himself caused?

Where do they find these broken toys, these skillful singers of self? In the case of Leonhardt, Maddow found him on the front page of last weekend's Sunday Review, where he'd penned this lengthy column about the problems with Trump.

Tomorrow, we'll turn to that column. Work like this, from our brightest boys, helps us know how Donald J. Trump ended up in the Oval Office, not unlike Bush before him.

Tomorrow: Leonhardt's column

Von Drehle flirts with the ultimate question!

MONDAY, JANUARY 7, 2019

Flirts, then rushes off:
We'll still be on part-time duty this week. As it now turns out, the new year at this award-winning site won't be starting until Monday, January 14.

We're looking forward to a new focus for the new year. But that new year won't start till next week.

For today, we want to direct your attention to yesterday's column by David Von Drehle, he of the Washington Post.

Good God! As he started, it seemed that Von Drehle was actually pulling the trigger! From his headline right through his opening paragraphs, it seemed that he was going to ask The Question The Press Corps Won't Ask.

Here's the way the column started, eye-catching headline included:
VON DREHLE (1/7/19): Let's talk to Trump's psychiatrist

The customary tsk-tsks and vapors erupted when President Trump opined on the state of mind of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) during a New Year's Eve interview on Fox News. Asked whether Warren thinks she can beat him in 2020, Trump replied, "You'd have to ask her psychiatrist."

Trump's critics are so reflexively critical at this point that they can't recognize a great idea when they hear it. By all means, let's ask Warren's psychiatrist—but let's not stop with Warren. To the couch, Mr. President!
Playing off Donald J. Trump's ten millionth recent dumb remark, Von Drehle almost seemed to be heading toward a rumination on the state of the president's mental health!

Granted, he'd adopted a somewhat comical tone. But as he continued, he actually offered this:
VON DREHLE (continuing directly): Love or hate him (or anything in between), no reasonable person can deny that Trump is a textbook example of narcissistic personality disorder. Reading the list of symptoms on the Mayo Clinic's website is like scrolling through the president's Twitter: "Require constant, excessive admiration," "exaggerate achievements and talents," "be preoccupied with . . . brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate," "monopolize conversations and belittle . . . people," "expect special favors and unquestioning compliance," "have an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others."
"Trump is a textbook example of narcissistic personality disorder?" To appearances, Von Drehle was throwing the so-called "Goldwater rule" under a refurbished version of the bus which once was known as the old Straight Talk Express.

It sounded like Von Drehle was prepared to address the possibility that Trump is "mentally ill" in some way! That would be a tricky and difficult conversation, but it almost seemed that Von Drehle was going there.

Sorry! As his column proceeds, Von Drehle pivots toward some straight-up funnin'. Soon, he's using such clinical terms as "cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs," and he's offering the tired old saw according to which anyone who reaches the White House has to be basically nuts. After all, look out for those daddy issues!
VON DREHLE: I've long believed that most presidents could keep a shrink working overtime. Imagine trying to heal Thomas Jefferson's bifurcated personality: half slavekeeper, half apostle of freedom. Did James Madison's tiny stature have anything to do with his blustering and blundering into war? Might Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan have avoided the Civil War if the first had been sober and the second free to express his apparent homosexuality?

And the daddy issues. Oh, my. Andrew Jackson never knew his father. Abraham Lincoln disdained his, coolly refusing to attend Thomas Lincoln's funeral. Franklin D. Roosevelt was a teenager when his invalid father died, and his domineering mother kept him on an allowance even in the White House. John F. Kennedy was, like his brothers, a product of his father's inexhaustible ambitions. Lyndon B. Johnson was haunted by his father's failures; Richard M. Nixon by his father's abusiveness; Ronald Reagan by his father's alcoholism. Bill Clinton never met his father, and Barack Obama's was almost entirely absent after the boy's toddler years.

And would any president other than George W. Bush have been as eager to turn 9/11 into a crusade to oust Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi dictator left in power by Bush's more cautious father?

By all accounts, Trump was the apple of his father's eye, and yet the president has spent his career trying to escape his Outer Borough roots and deny his debts to dad.

At this point, I wonder whether anyone who's not a bit off-kilter has what it takes to win and inhabit the awesome, awful office of the presidency...
Bill Clinton never met his father. Indeed, even Obama is nuts!

In fact, you have to be nuts just to win the job! So Von Drehle says as he runs off and hides in the fringe of the woods.

The Goldwater rule always seemed like a good journalistic idea. Then, we got a president who, based on appearances, actually does seem to be some version of "mentally ill."

Von Drehle started by noting this fact, then turned straight to the funnin'. So it goes as our upper-end press corps averts its gaze from our roll toward the conflagration known to future anthropologists huddled in caves as "Mister Trump's Dispositive War."

Could it be that Donald J. Trump really is some version of "mentally ill?" Given such indications as those Von Drehle lists, we think that's the main question the modern "press" must confront.

Tomorrow, we'll visit the featured column on the front page of yesterday's New York Times' Sunday Review. As we do, we'll be exploring another way to avoid this ultimate question.

This is how bad our corporate side gets!

SATURDAY, JANUARY 5, 2019

Carlson gets to be right:
We liberals! Our corporate cable side gets dumber and uglier by the day. Below, you see the sort of behavior in which Don Lemon and CNN now traffic.

Rick Wilson did the honors. For the record, Wilson gets booked on tribal cable to do precisely this sort of thing:
LEMON (1/3/19): So, is [Nancy Pelosi] right, Rick, about the president's motives here? This wall is just to keep his base's attention of everything else.

WILSON: Sure. Of course. But Don, the wall has always been a con for Donald Trump's credulous rube ten-tooth base. The wall has always been a scam. It has always been a lie. Nothing about the wall has ever been real. And Donald Trump knows it.
Wilson gets booked to provide such pleasures to our base—to make us laugh about "Donald Trump's ten-tooth base." This is the soul now of Lemon.

How bad does it get on our own cable side? So bad that, one night later, Tucker Carlson got to be right concerning this tribal garbage.

He started with these accurate statements about Wilson:
CARLSON (1/4/19): Now, Wilson is a semi-obscure consultant who has held just enough low-level political jobs that cable television producers can bill him as a "Republican strategist."

Wilson seems to spend most of his life opining in one of those six-guest shout-fests in boxes that the other channels specialize in. He's often shouting the loudest. What makes Wilson notable is—like so many on the left—he moved on from hating Trump to hating the people who voted for Trump, which is to say a lot of the country.”
Those were accurate comments about Wilson, a low-level slug who is now adored by our own tribe's cable bookers. After playing the tape of the "ten-tooth" remark, Carlson went on to say this:
CARLSON: "His ten-tooth base!" Imagine mocking people who can’t afford to fix their rotting teeth. There are a lot of people like that in this country still, and many of them did vote for Donald Trump in the hope he would care about them or not rub their faces in their own poverty. What a cruel and awful thing to say.

Did it ever occur to Rick Wilson that people are losing their teeth might benefit from cheaper dental care? Maybe Washington could help with that? But no, it’s easier to make fun of them and get rich doing it, something that Wilson specializes in.
For the record, no one on any cable channel talks about cheaper dental or medical care outside the (very limited) context of some particular two-party fight. To all intents and purposes, discussion of such topics is essentially forbidden even at the New York Times. For reasons our corporate stars won't discuss, such discussions have long been verboten.

Meanwhile, people watching the other channel get to see our own cable stars behaving as Wilson did. Then they see Carlson making perfectly accurate statements about the manifest ugliness to which corporate creeps like Lemon have now descended.

Carlson went on to critique Wilson's mandated remarks about the racism of Trump's voters. Being a man of taste and class, Wilson tweeted a thoughtful reply:
Spare me the phony drama. This is just one more example of how the MAGA tough guy crowd are the most delicate, whiny, punk-ass PC snowflakes ever created. They trash talk everyone else, and love Trump’s constant insults, vulgarities, and divisiveness but the minute the heat gets turned up they run to Mommy.
Within the garbage-strewn mind of Wilson, he's simply "turning up the heat" when he starts counting the teeth of the other tribe's voters. This is the person our side now loves, at least on the corporate side.

How much does Lemon get paid to peddle this dreck? You aren't allowed to know that.

For extra credit only: Three weeks back, in the Sunday Outlook section, the Washington Post's Carlos Lozada reviewed some recent books by Wilson and his kind. Here are some of his comments on Wilson:
LOZADA (12/16/18): Wilson, a veteran Republican campaign strategist, cops to "a stirring bit of guilt" for his role in creating the "Frankenstein monster" that became the Republican base in the Obama years...[But] he spends nearly all 300-plus pages of his book blaming everyone else for the outcome of his experiment.

And he does so in the crudest terms.
First there is Trump, whom Wilson never ceases to insult...He also trashes the Trump fans within the base he helped shape: "I know you're in an oxy stupor much of the time, so I'll try to move slowly and not use big words." Wilson attacks Reince Priebus, Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz and Mike Pence, and he says Newt Gingrich "started twerking [for Trump] faster than a five-buck stripper." Such sexualized put-downs abound in Wilson's book. White House adviser Stephen Miller "needs to spend a week getting laid." Wilson finds Trump campaign adviser Carter Page "reeking of late-stage virginity." And the white-nationalist alt-right movement is a bunch of "pudgy white boys from lower-middle-class suburbs who couldn't find a woman's clitoris with a GPS and a magnifying glass."
This is the slimy fellow our tribe's corporate bookers now seem to adore. This is the shape of the sexual politics Over Here, within our own tents, on our own self-impressed side.

(Wilson performed for Lemon on Wednesday and Thursday nights. On Thursday night, he performed for Lemon at 10 PM, for Brian Williams at 11. Last night he performed for Anderson Cooper. His is the garbage our corporate bookers very much seem to like.)

A book which conveys a powerful point!

FRIDAY, JANUARY 4, 2019

In search of a bed just so:
We don't expect to have any fish today. That said, we expect to start our long-awaited, award-winning new year at the start of next week.

As we wait for Mister Trump's War, our framework for the year will be "Aristotle's error." Eventually, we'll be discussing the low-tech techniques of clarification which emerged from the later Wittgenstein's work.

For today, we'll recommend a children's book which came to mind in recent weeks. It's one of the most instructive books we encountered during our years as a grade school teacher.

It's Jeanne Hardendorff's short picture book, The Bed Just So. The book is no longer in print, but thanks to the wonders of YouTube, you can listen as a young person reads the whole thing, letting you look at the pictures.

(Reading time: a bit over four minutes.)

What happens in The Bed Just So? Google Books limns it thusly:
"A tailor gets no sleep until he finds a comfortable bed for a hudgin that has come to live with him."
A hudgin seems to be a very small, highly querulous type of gremlin. The story teaches a valuable lesson about the difference between the things we think will serve our needs, as opposed to the surprising things which may actually make us happy.

The hudgin's in search of a bed just so! In related news:

You can buy all the storebought cat beds you like. Your cat will still sleep on your socks.

Lawrence O'Donnell on Donald J. Trump!

THURSDAY, JANUARY 3, 2019

Again, the road not taken:
In his first segment on last night's Last Word, Lawrence O'Donnell ambled down 2018's most important road not taken.

He was discussing Donald J. Trump. This is what he said:
O'DONNELL (1/2/19): Well, in his first public speaking of the new year, today the president of the United States revealed that the 27 psychiatrists and mental health professionals who call out in the book The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump are right, that Donald Trump's condition is obviously getting worse.

Now, all of us in middle age and above find ourselves spending more and more time looking for our keys. There's some neurological decline that's absolutely inevitable over time, can't escape it. But Donald Trump's is dramatic. If you thought that his pathological lying could not become more pathological or that he could not become more delusional, you were wrong and the mental health professionals who told us he would are right.

Here is a sample of President Trump's 2019 mental process...
To watch the whole segment, click here.

Lawrence went on to offer some unconvincing, poorly conceived examples of Trump's "mental process," which is allegedly "more pathological" this year. After presenting his slipshod examples, the cable star offered this:
O'DONNELL: And so, the president's delusion is getting worse, much worse. Or at least his willingness to publicly display his delusion is getting even worse now as he ages and as we enter a New Year.
Is the president's "mental process," "delusion" or "condition" actually getting worse? In his lazy opening burst, Lawrence illustrated some of the potential problems with the most important road the mainstream press corps chose not to take last year.

For starters, what's The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, the book to which Lawrence refers? Due to the mainstream press corps' road not taken, it's very possible you've never heard about this book on cable news.

What's the book to which Lawrence refers? The leading authority on the book describes it thusly:
The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump is a 2017 book, edited by Dr. Bandy X. Lee, a forensic psychiatrist, containing essays from 27 psychologists, psychiatrists, and mental health professionals on the "clear and present danger" that U.S. President Donald Trump's mental health poses to the "nation and individual well being." They argued that the president's mental health was affecting the mental health of the people of the United States and that he places the country at grave risk of involving it in a war and of undermining democracy itself because of his pathological narcissism and sociopathy. Consequently, Trump's presidency represents an emergency not only allowing, but perhaps also requiring, psychiatrists to deviate from the American Psychiatric Association's Goldwater rule, which holds that it is unethical for psychiatrists to give professional opinions about public figures without examining them in person.
Bandy Lee is a Yale psychiatrist. She tried to start a public discussion through the publication of this book, which has been widely ignored.

Lee actually knows what she's talking about. But as we've told you in the past, the New York Times editorial board decided that mainstream journalists mustn't discuss these topics, except of course at cocktail parties speaking among themselves. In January 2018, they wrote an editorial to that effect, and everyone rushed into line.

Is Donald Trump's "mental health" a danger to the nation and the world? Is it possible that he's actually suffering from such conditions as "pathological narcissism" and "sociopathy?"

It seems to us that those are very obvious pressing questions. But the Times said the topic must be ignored, and everyone fell into line.

On its face, that seems like a bad journalistic decision. That said, Lawrence shows us what would have happened if a different approach had obtained.

His examples last night were silly and unconvincing, except by the grading standards of cable entertainment. Beyond that, he wandered the countryside, trying and failing to define what he was talking about.

Was he talking about type of cognitive impairment? Was he talking about "mental illness" of some type? It was very unclear from his presentation. But such is the way of partisan cable.

The press decided to take a pass on the emperor's new mental condition. Had they decided to tackle the topic, they almost surely would have done so sloppily, lazily, poorly.

In large part, we got to our current dangerous place through the lazy work of these feckless types over the past thirty years. There's no sign the quality of their work will improve in this entertaining new year.

Segregated schools in New York City!

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 2, 2019

Our new year begins next week:
With apologies, we'll be extending our holiday break through the start of next week. We're attending to some personal matters. And when have you seen us do that?

For today, you might want to peruse this recent report from New York Magazine concerning the desire to reduce "segregation" in New York City's "specialized" (academically high-powered) public high schools. We were struck by a fairly obvious possible step the author doesn't seem to consider. We expect to discuss this report next week, but can you see what the possible missing step is?

We expect to return full time next Monday. We'll propose a new focus for a new year:

You've heard of Alexander's ragtime band, but have you heard of "Aristotle's error?" As we wait for the trump to hit the fan, we expect to start our new year with that framework next week.