Brooks would vote for Candidate Warren!

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2019

But says she could actually lose:
Will our stumbling nation even have an election net year?

We aren't completely sure about that. And things are unraveling fast.

There are things a certain person could do, or could at least attempt to do, to avoid the possibility of losing such an election. We find it hard to believe that we won't experience some astounding events next year.

That said, let's suppose that Donald J. Trump is on the ballot next fall, opposed by Elizabeth Warren. After listing four objections to Warren, David Brooks says today that yes, he would vote for Warren:
BROOKS (10/18/19): [I]f it comes to Trump vs. Warren in a general election, the only plausible choice is to support Warren. Over the past month Donald Trump has given us fresh reminders of the unique and exceptional ways he corrupts American life. You’re either part of removing that corruption or you are not. When your nation’s political system is in danger, staying home and not voting is not a responsible option.
Brooks continues from there, beating up further on Trump. We're most concerned by one of the objections he lists with respect to Warren:
BROOKS: First, there are Warren’s policies. On trade, she’s a protectionist. Her 10-year, $34 trillion health care plan isn’t paid for. Her student debt cancellation plan is a handout to the upper middle class. Her campaign seems to not acknowledge the inevitable trade-off between economic growth and high spending, high taxes and high regulation.

Second, she’s one of the few Democrats who could actually lose. As Yascha Mounk notes in The Atlantic, Democrats won in 2018 because they won back a lot of nonpartisan suburban office park workers who found moderates they could vote for. When you remind independents of Democratic support for abolishing private health insurance and decriminalizing unauthorized border crossing—two key Warren policies—they become six percentage points less likely to vote for the Democrats. Trump will tell voters: You may despise me, but she’ll destroy the economy.
You can review objections three and four by reading Brooks' column.

That said, could Brooks be right? Could a Candidate Warren actually lose to a Candidate Trump next year, assuming that we actually have an election?

(For the Yascha Mounk essay, click here.)


We rarely make predictions. In the current circumstance, it seems to us that Trump's increasingly bizarre behavior has taken us beyond the place where anyone can sensibly make any predictions at all.

That said, could a Candidate Warren actually lose? Is it true that she's one of the only Democratic candidates who imaginably could?

It seems to us that liberals ought to be exploring such questions. From "everyone knows that Trump can't win" to "everyone knows that Mueller will save us," we've been living inside a succession of fantasy bubbles over the past four years.

Given the fact that we're all so bright, might it be time that we stop?

Also this: Brooks didn't even mention the Native American question.

Are we sure that topic can't come back? Given our usual way of functioning, are we sure it can't come back because we don't want it to? Because we've declared it racist?

We'd guess that no, it can't come back. But we can't really say that we're sure of that. Should we possibly try to puzzle this question out?

SNAPSHOTS OF A CULTURE: The time we followed Rep. Cummings!

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2019

Even respectful toward Trump:
In the wake of Elijah Cummings' death, we've thought about some of our experiences as a performer.

On one occasion, in August 1996, we opened for Johnny Cash. After we finished, changing our mind, we decided to to stick around to see what happened next.

Thirty seconds into the gentleman's set, we were very glad that we'd stayed. Immediately, it was strangely apparent that Johnny Cash was the real deal.

Around that same time, we performed at a convention luncheon event for a well-known corporate group whose name we can't recall. The speaker that day was Rep. David Bonior, the liberal Democrat who chaired the relevant committee in the House. We were struck by the chill in the air as he gentleman spoke.

On another occasion, we performed at the national convention of a construction industry group. The convention had a striking, somewhat menacing theme: "Balcony failure."

We've often thought that, if the world contained only people like us, there wouldn't be any balconies at all, let alone any balcony failure. In all likelihood, there wouldn't even be any walls for balconies to fall off.

In 1995, we had to follow President Clinton at the first official fund-raiser for the re-election campaign. The gentleman told an extremely good joke about the immediate surroundings. Making matters even worse, he delivered the joke very well.

(The punch line: "I always ask myself, Hey, which one of us got elected president, anyway?")

Then too, there was the time, probably in the late 1990s, when we had to follow, or attempt to follow, Rep. Cummings at a biannual AFL-CIO evening event.

Senator Sarbanes also spoke, as did Kweisi Mfume, who was the head of the national NAACP at the time. But it was Cummings, the relatively new congressman, who gave the most memorable speech.

Because the gentleman's political appeal was that of a "regular guy," we had no idea, until that night, that he was such an astonishing speaker. He spoke about the values he learned from his grandparents in South Carolina.

We can't remember a single specific thing he said. We only remember his remarkable moral depth and power.

In this morning's papers, we find two anecdotes about Rep. Cummings' respect for others. This attitude on Cummings' part has been discussed on several occasions in the past year or so.

In the Washington Post, Colbert King discusses Cummings' role in passing criminal-justice reform legislation in recent years.

"What a blessing he was," King writes. He continues with this:
KING (10/18/19): In April 2015, Cummings assembled at Howard [University] some key advocates of criminal-justice reform legislation that no one thought would see the light of day on Capitol Hill.

On the dais sat an unlikely alliance—liberal Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and libertarian Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), sharing a panel with now-former congressman and Freedom Caucus member Raúl R. Labrador (R-Idaho), in addition to a Koch Foundation representative—promoting an unprecedented progressive change in an unjust and corrosive justice system. Cummings, by all measures, helped steer that bill out of darkness into law.

Which galled some of us to see Trump shamelessly take credit
for an initiative that was underway and advanced months before he took office.

Some of us gagged.

But not Cummings.
Apparently, Cummings wasn't one to gag. Nor does he seem to have been a hater, or even a loather, of persons.

Did Rep. Cummings learn these values from his grandparents? We can't tell you that. But in this morning's New York Times, Sabrina Tavernise quotes an associate of Cummings who said that Cummings' "unflappable optimism sometimes frustrated him."

That estimable figure is Ralph Moore, "a veteran activist in Baltimore who teaches classes for adults getting their G.E.D." The world needs many people like Moore, who sometimes found Cummings frustrating:
TAVERNISE (10/18/19): “He was a moderating influence,” Mr. Moore said. “He wanted this system to work. He believed in it. I guess from the vantage point of a congressman that makes sense. But he was mindful that from our vantage point in a city like Baltimore, you have to keep wondering how is this going to work.”

One example was Mr. Cummings’s response to President Trump’s attack on Twitter this summer
in which the president called his district a “rodent infested mess.”

Mr. Cummings replied calmly: “Mr. President, I go home to my district daily. Each morning, I wake up, and I go and fight for my neighbors.”

“He was being nice to him,” Mr. Moore said, “and I didn’t agree with him being nice to him.”

But that spirit is what made Mr. Cummings unique, his friends in Baltimore said on Thursday.
Hey! We live in that district too!

At any rate, Cummings was being nice to Trump! Understandably enough, Moore wasn't inclined to agree with that approach.

There is no ultimate right or wrong concerning such matters. And Trump, of course, is the one person best equipped to occasion the loathing of those who oppose his behavior and his views, to the extent that he actually has any discernible views.

That said, Cummings was able to assemble various people to pass that criminal justice legislation. There was even a Koch person there!

In our own view, our liberal tribe has suffered greatly from the impulse to look down on others, not excluding millions of regular people who aren't Donald J. Trump. As a group, we're long tended to think that we're the good, smart, decent people, unlike the lesser folk offensively found Over There.

We're told that we human beings are wired to see things that way. It seems to us that, for our own hapless liberal tribe, this attitude has frequently been self-defeating over the past quite a few years.

Did Cummings mention respect for others when he spoke to that crowd that night?

We can't recall a single specific thing he said. But as many others seem to have found, he was very impressive, and we were impressed and surprised.

Tomorrow: No sympathy for the devils

Some numbers RE Medicare-for-all!

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 17, 2019

The discussions which have never occurred:
Should Candidate Warren (and even Candidate Sanders) be more forthcoming regarding the way they would fund a Medicare-for-all plan?

In this morning's post, we linked to Ron Brownstein's discussion of the projected cost of such a program—and Brownstein's discussion is daunting.

Brownstein's essay appears in The Atlantic. The first daunting chunk reads like this:
BROWNSTEIN (10/16/19): The Urban Institute, a center-left think tank highly respected among Democrats, is projecting that a plan similar to what Warren and Senator Bernie Sanders are pushing would require $34 trillion in additional federal spending over its first decade in operation. That’s more than the federal government’s total cost over the coming decade for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid combined, according to the most recent Congressional Budget Office projections.

In recent history, only during the height of World War II has the federal government tried to increase taxes, as a share of the economy, as fast as would be required to offset the cost of a single-payer plan, federal figures show.

[...]

The 10-year cost of $34 trillion that the study forecasts nearly matches the CBO’s estimate of how much money the federal government will spend over that period not only on all entitlement programs, but also on all federal income support, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Just for starters, Oof!

Almost surely, this will not be a normal political year. But even in an abnormal year, the kind of "heavy lift" described above would provide a giant target for the opposition, unless the heavy lift in question is somehow explained with a mesmerist's skill.

Could a Candidate Warren do that? We have no idea—and we can't stress strongly enough the fact that the coming year almost surely won't be normal in any way, and may well involve "the deluge."

That said, here's another daunting chunk from the Brownstein report:
BROWNSTEIN: The Urban Institute estimates that a single-payer plan would require $32 trillion in new tax revenue over the coming decade. That’s slightly less revenue than its projected cost, because it would generate some offsetting savings by eliminating certain tax benefits the government now provides, such as the exclusion for employer-provided health care.

How big a lift is it to raise $32 trillion? It’s almost 50 percent more than the total revenue the CBO projects Washington will collect from the personal income tax over the next decade (about $23.3 trillion). It’s more than double the amount the CBO projects Washington will collect over the next decade from the payroll tax that funds Social Security and part of Medicare (about $15.4 trillion). A $32 trillion tax increase would represent just over two-thirds of the revenue the CBO projects the federal government will collect from all sources over the next decade (just over $46 trillion.)

Taxes that can fill that big of a hole are not easy to identify. Even by Warren’s own estimates, which some liberal economists consider too optimistic, her proposed wealth tax on personal fortunes exceeding $50 million would raise just $2.75 trillion over the next decade. That’s less than what would be required to fund a single-payer plan for one year...
Oof! Such reporting suggests the possibility that our tribe's "resistance thinking" has inspired a type of political naivete and irrationality which may be hard to deal with when the numbers start hitting the fan in a general election—assuming that we even have such an election next year.

By normal standards, it sounds like Candidate Warren (and Candidate Sanders) are proposing an impossibility. This raises an obvious question:

If other countries can finance single-payer systems (or some near approximation), what makes the task so daunting for us? Once again, we're forced to offer these eye-popping data from the OECD as the basic start of an answer:
Per capita spending, health care, 2018
United States: $10,586
Canada: $4974
France: $4965
Japan: $4766
United Kingdom: $4070
The astounding per capita cost of American health care is a prime villain here. And given the spectacular dumbness of our political culture, we've never come close to having a discussion of where all that extra health care spending goes.

Candidates Sanders and Warren are proposing a massive, giant change in the way we manage health care. Generally speaking, a presidential campaign isn't the greatest place for conducting a massive, giant discussion.

Of course, given the astounding dumbness of our political culture, these big discussions never take place anywhere else. And needless to say, even as this cultural dumbness continues to sweep us toward perdition, we liberals keep assuring ourselves that we ourselves are The Very Smart People, with the unlettered rubes Over There cast as the hapless bumpkins.

We liberals! Our journalists and our academics have endlessly avoided such discussions as this. For decades, we ourselves have failed to notice this criminal dumbness, but we feel completely sure that the blame all rests Over There.

By the way, this is the oldest, dumbest and most tribal of all "human" stories. Or so the top anthropologists say, speaking to us from the future, where they're all huddled in caves.

By the way: Have you ever seen Our Own Rhodes Scholar discuss this matter, or anything like it? No, and you never will. She's too busy telling us about what Ed Meese once did. Also, Dick Nixon! So cool!

Still and all, make no mistake—by dint of eternal rule of law, we're the brightest of all known humans. The dumbness is all Over There!

SNAPSHOTS OF A CULTURE: Zingers, small samples, subjective appraisals!

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 17, 2019

Our culture works like this:
Frankly, we were surprised.

More specifically, we were surprised when we scanned page A3 in today's New York Times.

How strange! According to the daily feature, The Conversation, "Wednesday's most-read article" was this appraisal of Tuesday night's debate. The most-read article was written by Shane Goldmacher and Reid Epstein, a pair of Times reporters.

Why were we surprised to see that this piece was yesterday's most-read article from across the entire sweep of NYTimes.com? We were surprised because the appraisal of Tuesday night's debate hadn't appeared in our hard-copy Washington Edition of the Times—not in yesterday morning's edition, but also not in today's.

It never appeared in our hard-copy Times! And not only that:

Skillfully taking our business on-line, we scanned the listings for the past two days at the Times' "Today's Paper" site. Wednesday's most-read article isn't listed for yesterday, and it isn't listed today!

How strange! If a Times subscriber works from the on-line Today's Paper site, he or she won't be aware of yesterday's most-read article! In fairness, he or she might be better off, given the highly subjective nature of the highly subjective appraisals offered in that most-read, most-discussed piece.

In fairness, yesterday's most-read article actually does exist. You can peruse it here.

The article features six absurdly subjective "takeaways" offered by the pair of Times reporters. The first four takeaways appear beneath these sub-headlines:
Warren draws fire, for a change
Biden shrinks
Sanders calms concerns post-heart attack
Buttigieg’s biggest night yet
Did Candidate Sanders really "calm concerns" among Democratic voters about his age and his health? Was it really Candidate Buttagieg's "biggest night yet?"

The reporters offered no evidence in support of these claims beyond their own subjective assessments. With respect to Buttagieg, the reporters did offer this:
GOLDMACHER AND EPSTEIN (10/16/19): It was Mr. Buttigieg’s exchange with Ms. Warren over “Medicare for all” that was most memorable, pressing her as she declined to say, yet again, whether her plan would require a middle-class tax increase. (She says her plan would curb middle-class “costs.”)

“A yes-or-no question that did not get a yes-or-no answer,” Mr. Buttigieg said, adding, “Your signature, senator, is to have a plan for everything. Except this.” He rattled off how her plan would “obliterate” the private health insurance of 150 million Americans while pitching his “Medicare for all who want it” alternative.
The reporters made no attempt to elucidate the basic facts involved in this major policy question. To the clownishly limited extent that the Times was prepared to tackle this matter, it was left to a typically hapless, sometimes incoherent "Fact-Checking" piece, which made the feeblest possible attempt to discuss the funding question connected to Warren's proposal.

In this case, the Fact-Checking piece was included in Wednesday's "Today's Paper" listings. That said, it didn't appear in our hard-copy Times, not yesterday and not today. So it goes as the top-ranking paper within mainstream culture attempts to give subscribers the impression that they're being well served.

In fairness, let's say it again—subscribers may be better off if they aren't allowed to see these parodies of journalism. On the other hand, consider what did appear in yesterday's hard-copy "Washington Edition."

Alas! Washingtonians were subjected to this absurdly hackneyed report about the preparation of memorable "zingers" for presidential debates.

Inevitably, it featured President Reagan's 1984 joke about Candidate Mondale's youth and inexperience. Also, Candidate Bentsen's observation that Candidate Quayle was no Jack Kennedy.

Matched with an utterly vacuous quiz about this gruesome campaign to date ("Test Yourself On the Race/How closely have you been paying attention to the campaign so far?"), this utterly vacuous evergreen piece, fluffed out by a trio of cartoon-bubble enhanced photographs, consumed the whole of yesterday's page A14.

In today's Times, a letter writer complains about the vacuous content of this "zinger" feature. Most likely, he doesn't know how lucky he is to have been spared exposure to the paper's Fact-Checking piece.

The IQ of our mainstream political journalism is extremely low. As an example of what we mean, consider the way Monica Hesse opens her column about Tuesday's debate in this morning's Washington Post.

In fairness to Hesse, she's been saddled with the task of being the Post's "first gender columnist." Routinely, this leaves her with nothing to say and a contractual obligation to say it.

Below, you see the type of non-analysis analysis her editors were willing to publish today. It appeared beneath this hard-copy headline: Does Mayor Pete sound assertive or...shrill?
HESSE (10/17/19): Apparently Pete Buttigieg had a bang-up debate performance Tuesday, at least according to many political pundits. Meanwhile, as I was skimming a CNN recap that placed the South Bend, Ind., mayor atop a list of “winners,” I was also talking with an old friend who had this to say:

“Ugh. When did Mayor Pete become that dude who throws you under the bus
once you learn only one of you gets the Rotary scholarship?”

Some of his debate performance was inspired,
like his retort to Tulsi Gabbard: “You take away the honor of our soldiers, you might as well go after their body armor next.” That’s a heck of a line. But I’ve always admired Buttigieg’s generally thoughtful, calming manner—and Tuesday wasn’t that. “I don’t need lessons from you on courage,” he scornfully told Beto O’Rourke. His signature move was to sanctimoniously claim he was above all this scrapping, while actively participating in the scrapping.

My sample size is tiny and unscientific, but when I floated this irritation online, the people who agreed were mostly women. Men either hadn’t noticed Buttigieg’s tonal shift or they liked it: His newfound aggressiveness came across to them as smart debate strategy for a guy who needs to make a fast surge in the polls.
Her sample size was tiny. But within that tiny, unscientific sample, the people who agreed with her were "mostly" women!

Stating the obvious, this tiny sample tells us nothing—nothing at all—about the way women in general reacted, or about the extent to which women's reactions compared to those of men.

Did the candidate's approach on Tuesday night "come across to" men "as smart debate strategy?" Did it come across that way to more than a handful of men? To any men at all?

Did it "come across" that way to a smaller percentage of women? Stating the obvious, Monica Hesse's tiny sample can't answer any of these questions. Indeed, as she and her editor hopefully know, her tiny, unscientific sample can't tell us anything at all.

Her sample isn't simply tiny; as described, her "sample" is utterly useless. It isn't really a "sample" at all in any clear sense of the term. But so it goes as our ranking newspapers pretend to talk about politics.

At any rate, so what? Saddled with her ongoing assignment, Hesse flounders forward from there, sampling the standard stereotypical claims which make up a great deal of modern political journalism.

Her analysis isn't any such critter. Like much that has appeared in the Times in the past two days, it's a parody of journalism.

Hesse's utterly useless piece appears on the front page of today's high-profile Style section. It shares the page with a column by Margaret Sullivan in which Warren is praised for failing to answer the obvious question about funding which she was asked, again and again, at Tuesday's debate.

The bulk of the page is consumed by this report about Candidate Booker's movie star apparent girl friend. The movie star in question has long been a bright and impressive person, but the sheer stupidity of all this journalism is its defining characteristic.

Within our tribe's mainstream culture, we've long claimed that we "educated" liberals are the very smart people, as opposed to all the bumpkins found in places like Clinton, Arkansas. Tomorrow, we'll turn to a letter in the New York Times which used that very word.

Concerning the question posed to Warren, we'll recommend Ronald Brownstein's sobering report in The Atlantic. For the record, Brownstein is reporting basic facts. He's only "doing President Trump’s work for him" (Sullivan) or "trafficking in Republican talking points" to the many people within our own tribe who have no apparent idea of the way reality tends to work.

(As a nominee, Warren will be pounded on this question whether it's raised now or not.)

As Micheal Tomasky has now acknowledged, our leading candidates are a scarily underwhelming bunch. Luckily, the nominee will likely be running against Donald J. Trump, who's increasingly visibly crazy.

This means that there remains a chance that our nominee will win. Of course, it also means that the other guy might yet blow up the whole world.

Sullivan praises Warren for refusing to answer the world's most obvious policy question. Yesterday, the New York Time offered an utterly useless "fact-check" of the matter at hand.

Our liberal tribe's culture is very dumb, destructively so, and it has been for a long time. It's a fact we prove, again and again, as we keep complaining about all the self-defeating bumpkins who can be found Over There.

Tomorrow: Four out of five annoyed subscribers simply can't be wrong

Tinier snapshots of a culture!

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2019

Things that make readers go oooohh:
It isn't like Slate never posts any articles which are substantive. But every so often, we agree to let the analysts enjoy a brief laugh at a wave of submissions like this:
Do I Have to Tell My Lying Ex I Have an STD?
What about his girlfriend?
By RICH JUZWIAK
OCT 16, 2019 5:55 AM

My Thrill-Seeking Husband Is Terrorizing Our Sensitive Son With Roller Coasters
This usually ends in tears.
By JAMILAH LEMIEUX
OCT 16, 2019 5:59 AM

Help! My Girlfriend Wants Me to Keep a Violent Dog to Prove My Commitment.

By DANIEL MALLORY ORTBERG
OCT 16, 2019 6:00 AM

My Sister Gets Dramatic Every Time I Try to Buy Gifts for Her Kids
By JAMILAH LEMIEUX
OCT 16, 2019 6:01 AM

The 14 Holiday Toys to Buy Now Before They Sell Out, According to Trend Forecasters
Sparkly eggs, tiny collectible pets, and rainbow unicorn poop made of slime.
By STRATEGIST EDITORS
OCT 16, 2019 6:30 AM
People, we're just saying! We're sure there's value in these lifestyle-based eyeball-grabbers from Slate.

Meanwhile, consider the items the New York Times lists on today's page A3 as "six of the most read, shared and discussed posts from across [yesterday's] NYTimes.com."

In fairness, "Tuesday's most read article" involved John Bolton's statement comparing Rudy Giuliani to a hand grenade. That said, among the day's other most-discussed posts were these:
an article about the return of Fortnite, "featuring a new map with lots of goodies for gamers to explore;"

an article called "Five Reasons the Diet Soda Myth Won't Die;"

an article called "Fly Fishing Is the New Bird-Watching;"

and an article called "10 Tips About Leaving Tracks Around the Internet."
On the same page A3, today's "Here to Help" feature instructs readers in "How to make time for a hobby." In the article, hobby time expert Tara Parker-Pope lists three bullet points, including this irrefutable bit of advice:
"Schedule your free time (but don't over-schedule it)."
For the record, page A3 was "reimagined" maybe two years ago. According to legend, the Times adopted a revealing motto for the helpful new page:
You are the dumbest people on earth.
We at the Times want to serve you.
In our view, these are additional tiny snapshots of a fatuous, failing culture. Admittedly, your mileage may differ.

This also happened today: In a momentary state of confusion, we clicked on a Heather Schwedel post. This was the invitation which drew us in:
HEATHER SCHWEDEL / OCT. 16, 2019 / 4:25 pm
Ronan Farrow’s Deranged Impressions on the Catch and Kill Audiobook, Reviewed
This is where our error took us. In our experience, clicking on a Schwedel post is the Internet's greatest mistake.

In these parts, it's known as "getting Schwedeled." Your experience may differ from ours.

SNAPSHOTS OF A CULTURE: Candidate Warren delivers the snark!

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2019

Ruth Marcus delivers a warning:
Over the past four-day weekend, we read Chanel Miller's new book, Know My Name: A Memoir.

Last Sunday, Jennifer Weiner's review of the book appeared in the New York Times' Book Review section. Weiner describes Know My Name as “a beautifully written, powerful, important story” which "marks the debut of a gifted young writer."

We aren't here to say that those judgments are wrong. Miller plainly is a writer, though we see remarkable flaws in her approach which Weiner and others move past.

In the larger sense, we also think that Miller's book, and Weiner's review, offer snapshots of a deeply disordered tribal culture—a tribal culture which helped allow Donald J. Trump to end up where he is.

Miller's book involves so many markers of that culture that a commentator will hardly know where to begin. Next week, we'll attempt to offer some reactions to the various things Miller says in her book, and to the various things she omits.

The culture on display in Miller's book is, in fact, a tribal culture which exists at a time of "cultural revolution." In our view, this tribal culture has been, and remains, deeply, destructively flawed.

We'll wrestle with the multitudes in Miller's book next week. In the next few days, we'll wrestle with a few other snapshots from our current tribal culture.

We start today with a warning from Ruth Marcus.

Marcus delivers her warning in a column in this morning's Washington Post. The column discusses a quip delivered by Candidate Warren at CNN’s forum on LGBTQ issues last week.

Uh-oh! Annie Linskey described the quip in this unusual front-page report in last Saturday's Washington Post. Below, Marcus offers her summary at the start of this morning's column:
MARCUS (10/16/19): Elizabeth Warren had a good line, a zinger, deftly delivered.

How would she respond, Warren was asked at CNN’s forum on LGBTQ issues, to a voter who told her, “I’m old-fashioned, and my faith teaches me that marriage is between one man and one woman”?

The Massachusetts senator and Democratic presidential candidate couldn’t resist the opportunity for a double dig.
“Well, I’m going to assume it’s a guy who said that,” she began, giving the audience the chance to snicker along about the evident cluelessness of the male gender. “And I’m going to say, ‘Then just marry one woman—I’m cool with that.’”

Warren shrugged, as if to say, no biggie, live and let live. The audience whooped with delight. Warren shrugged again
. Then she went in for the easy kill. “Assuming,” she said, “you can find one.” She turned, clapped along with the audience, nodded in evident satisfaction, put palms up as if to say, what is wrong with people who just don’t get it?
What's wrong with people who just don't get it? We used to ask that question ourselves! Then, a gang of anthropologists began to help us out.

At any rate, Marcus goes on to describe Warren's "double dig" as an example of "bad politics" reminiscent of past bungles by Candidates Obama and Clinton. But "it's something worse than that," Marcus writes. "It reflects an attitude of intolerance and disrespect toward people of faith."

For us, the apparent bad politics of Warren's presentation is bad enough all by itself. This presentation strikes us as the latest way our routinely unimpressive tribe goes about the business of alienating American voters and helping put Trump where he is.

In our view, Warren's presentation was dumb in various ways. For starters, it suggests that only men oppose marriage equality, an assumption which is ginormously bogus.

It ignores the fact that older people are most likely to oppose marriage equality—and older people are the group which is most likely to vote! Beyond that, it ignores the fact that African-Americans have been more likely to oppose marriage equality than other demographic groups—and neither Warren, nor any other Democrat, can afford to alienate black voters as next year's election draws on.

Donald J. Trump is behaving so crazily that he may make his own political survival impossible. But that possibility remains undetermined, and it sometimes seems that Warren will be doing everything she can to "keep hope alive" in this crazy man's camp.

Please understand—in mocking those who don't support marriage equality, Warren is mocking voters who hold the position our own infallible tribal stars held ten minutes ago.

As of Campaign 2012, President Obama opposed marriage equality, as did Secretary of State Clinton. Whether by plan or by happenstance, Vice President Biden broke the logjam surrounding the issue, and our infallible tribe's infallible leaders began to bring themselves in line with the new position.

That was then, and this is now. Just seven years later, people like Warren parade about, mocking the troglodytes who still hold the previous Obama/Clinton position.

Needless to say, Warren herself has always been morally pure. In her original news report, Linskey reported this further exchange:
LINSKEY (10/12/19): Warren’s staff argued that the comments will not hurt her standing. They pointed to the second, less viral portion of her answer.

These additional remarks came after CNN host Chris Cuomo pressed her on whether, in her earlier years as an Oklahoma Republican, she had ever opposed same-sex marriage. She said her position has been consistent, citing her religion.

“It is about the worth of every human being,” Warren said. “The hatefulness frankly always really shocked me, especially for people of faith, because I think the whole foundation is the worth of every single human being.”
Frankly, Warren was always really shocked by the hatefulness of people like President Obama. No doubt she grabbed herself a beer whenever he stated his view.

Just this once, we'll be honest. We like the overall arch of Warren's politics, are less impressed with many of her instincts as a politician.

At times of moral panic and cultural revolution, tribes like ours are strongly inclined to blow past all such matters of nuance. We're strongly inclined to create moral fables which separate the Good People, people like us, from the Very Bad. We're strongly inclined to dismiss The Others, propping up the moral self-assessments of Determined Losers Like Us.

For more than thirty years, our thoroughly unimpressive tribe has slumbered, slept, burbled and snored as our various interests and values were thrown under various buses. We aren't very smart and we aren't real alert. We've rarely missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity during those long, gong-show years.

Despite these facts, we're deeply invested in our belief in our unsurpassed brilliance and moral greatness. Trump is trying hard to lose. We often seem amazingly eager to deny him his shot at this pleasure.

Coming: The New York Times gets letters

HEART(S) OF DUMBNESS: The associate professor saw right through the ruse!

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 15, 2019

The dumbness of all human tribes:
On Sunday morning, October 6, the New York Times published Monica Potts' unflattering portrait of Clinton, Arkansas, the small rural town in which she was born and raised.

You could almost tell the profile would be unflattering by the headline the New York Times placed on the unflattering piece:

In the Land of Self-Defeat, the unflattering headline read. By paragraph 5, we were expressly told that people in Clinton, Arkansas are frequently driven by "an attitude that is against taxes, immigrants and government, but also against helping your neighbor."

The unflattering essay was given great prominence. It appeared on the front page of the Times' weekly Sunday Review.

One week later, on Sunday, October 13, the Times published nine letters about the Potts essay. Eight of the writers seemed to have noticed that her profile of her home town was, on balance, unflattering.

One dissenter had seen through the ruse! His letter was published at the top of the list. And even as he saw through the ruse, he sang a familiar old song:
To the Editor:

Ms. Potts’s article about her small town in Arkansas fits into a genre of reporting that has flourished since the 2016 election in which sympathetic writers, often raised in Trump country, attempt to explain why people in rural America vote against their interests. Often these are written by people who themselves left these places because they were too small, too conservative and too narrow-minded.

In her effort to elicit an empathetic response from readers, Ms. Potts focuses on her subjects’ belief in self-reliance, hostility toward the city and conviction that they have to rely on themselves. Yet she neglects a very important fact. The rural conservative white voters who support Mr. Trump and are so opposed to federal spending often live in states that receive far more than their share of federal funds, especially in relation to those states with larger urban populations.

They don’t really oppose federal spending. They oppose federal funding for black people and others in cities. Perhaps if they were serious in their belief in self-reliance, they would vote to reject the federal funds that come to their state, and it could be used better in states that want it.
So went this, the letter which sat atop the list of nine. According to the Times, "the writer is an associate professor of labor studies at Indiana University South Bend."

For what it's worth, the writer isn't one of these fiery young kids; he received his Ph.D. from Boston University in 1988. He taught at SUNY-Empire State and at UMass-Amherst before coming to Indiana in 2002.

We were surprised, yet not surprised, by the professor's letter. Somewhat amazingly, he apparently thought that he had read as essay by a "sympathetic writer" who was trying to elicit "an empathetic response from readers" concerning the values and motives of the people of her old home town.

The professor had seen right through this attempt to make us sympathize with these appalling yokels. He went on to explain the real reason for the fact that the people of Clinton, Arkansas had ended up paying their librarian $19 an hour, not the $25 Potts found more appropriate:

What really drives the roughly 2500 people of Clinton, Arkansas? According to the associate professor, it's really their opposition to black people in cities!

In fairness, Potts had played this card herself, starting in her third paragraph. She never presented any evidence or information regarding the racial views of these pitiful bumpkins, but she had floated the card, though apparently not as aggressively as the associate professor would have liked.

Let's back up at this point. This letter was written by a professor who apparently thought that Potts was trying to elicit sympathy for the people of Clinton, Arkansas, many of whom did indeed vote for Donald J. Trump.

None of the other letter writers seemed to think that they'd read such a piece. But in this case, as in so many others, Associate Professor Knows Best!

The associate professor let us know what actually motivates the people of Clinton, Arkansas. He didn't even have to go there to check! He pretty much knew just because!

We're prepared to suggest that this featured letter was rather ugly and remarkably dumb, tilting toward a word we rarely use here—just plain f*cking stupid. We're also prepared to suggest that the professor was playing a very familiar card, and that his somewhat ugly letter represents one of the ways our own self-defeating tribe helped elect Donald J. Trump.

Also this:

Why might some people in Clinton look down on academic credentials? Could it be because they've read letters and essays of this very type from this type of professor before?

The associate professor struck us as especially unpleasant and especially narrative driven. By the ongoing rules of the game, Those People simply have to be racist! It's the story our own tribe most dearly loves.

To what extent are Those People in Clinton actually racist? We can't tell you that. Potts made no attempt to puzzle that out, though she sprinkled the accusation through her piece, starting in her third paragraph. The professor's pique stemmed from the fact she hadn't played this card aggressively enough.

In a remarkably uncharitable moment, Potts did say that people in Clinton tend to be "against helping your neighbor." Later, she added this:
POTTS (10/6/19): [T]he fight over the library was rolled up into a bigger one about the library building, and an even bigger fight than that, about the county government, what it should pay for, and how and whether people should be taxed at all. The library fight was, itself, a fight over the future of rural America, what it meant to choose to live in a county like mine, what my neighbors were willing to do for one another, what they were willing to sacrifice to foster a sense of community here.

The answer was, for the most part, not very much.
Poor Potts! What were her neighbors willing to do for one another? "Not very much," she revealed, bemoaning the way they'd failed to agree with her view concerning librarian pay.

Just for the record, the knuckle-dragging people of Clinton had built the new library in question just a few years before. This fact wasn't allowed to get in the way of the strangely unflattering portrait Potts chose to paint—strange in that she was willing to base such an unflattering portrait on this one relatively trivial matter, with a couple of Facebook comments cherry-picked for color and the illusion of validation.

On the basis of this small-bore salary dispute, Potts painted a very unflattering portrait of people who won't "do for one another." By the way, are These People willing to do for one another through their local churches?

Like you, we have no idea, nor are we especially interested in seeing the question explored. That said, we'll guess that Potts may not be the leading authority on this matter. Right at the start of her essay, she semi-complained about the fact that people in Clinton are "very religious."

That's another Standard Complaint From Our Own Self-Defeating Tribe. Snide remarks of that type down through the years also helped elect Trump.

We read a lot of comments to the Potts essay. In fairness, a lot of the comments did strike us as extremely narrow-minded and judgmental, but we're referring to comments from our own self-impressed, self-defeating clam.

People are tribal all over the world. People are narrow-minded within all human tribes.

Anthropologists keep coming to us to remind us of such facts. They even say our own tribe is wire such ways—is wired for judgmental dumbness and for self-defeat.

It's hard to say that these credentialed future experts are wrong. Then again, we've been alive for the past thirty years, and we've watched our own spectacularly useless "heart of dumbness" in action.

The other tribe is so dumb and so vile! It's the oldest of all "human" stories!

The associate professor typed it up, and it went to the top of the pile.

In search of the deadbeat people and states: In terms of federal expenditures versus federal receipts, Arkansas is one of the major deadbeat states, though it certainly isn't the worst.

How much of that money goes to people in Clinton? To the people who wanted to pay $19 per hour rather than the plainly more appropriate 25? To the handful of people who made the cherry-picked comments on Facebook? To the disappeared citizens who agreed to build the new library in the first place?

Like the professor and the people of Clinton themselves, we have no idea. The professor was simply singing a song which one group of haters most loves.

We humans form tribes, then find ways to hate. This impulse is frequently self-defeating.

We've been told these things by top anthropologists. Admittedly, they speak to us, despondently, from a dystopian future.

An automobile, a bus and a train...

MONDAY, OCTOBER 14, 2019

...and then a bit of a walk:
We're returning today to our sprawling campus. Full services, such as they are, will resume tomorrow.

We'll start with the nine letters the New York Times published in yesterday's Sunday Review concerning that journey to Arkansas. We were especially struck by the first letter of the nine.

We've also been reading Chanel Miller's book, Know My Name. The review in yesterday's Book Review section appeared on line a few weeks back and can be accessed here.

A mission of indeterminate importance!

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 11, 2019

No fish today:
We're off on a mission of indeterminate importance.

As always, Future Anthropologists Huddled in Caves will know where they can find us over the weekend. But we won't be posting today.

HEART(S) OF DUMBNESS: Friend, do you hate dental floss?

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2019

The literature of self-defeat:
Which of our nation's mice is dumber—our highly erudite city mice, or their dimwitted country cousins?

This past Sunday, the New York Times gave the familiar mandated answer to this familiar old question. It seems that a small group of country mice decided to pay their town's librarian $19 an hour, even though a visiting, two-degree city mouse had told them to pay 25.

The city mouse denounced the dumbness of the rubes on the first page of the Sunday Review. She employed every hackneyed element of the familiar novelized genre, not excluding this shopworn groaner:
They won't even let us smarter people tell them what to do!
Also, the country mice were said to be "very religious." More on that to come.

The essay by this credentialed city mouse ran beneath a stinging headline. The headline explained where the country mice live:
In the Land of Self-Defeat
Those country mice are just so dumb that they don't even pursue their own interest! So it goes when our own dimwitted tribe shouts its own view of the world.

Is it really true that the rural white crowd is dumber than us Over Here? Is it really true that the country mice engineer self-defeat, while we city mice steam ahead, skillfully shaping our future?

We're not sure what planet that writer lives on—the writer who dreamed that contrast.

Concerning the erudition of the country mice, we'll assume that, as with everyone else, there's plenty of room for improvement. But good God! Has any tribal group been any dumber, or more self-defeating, than our own upper-class liberal tribe over the past thirty years?

We may be the dumbest tribe ever seen on the planet. That said, we're so dumb that our credentialed think tank scholars have no idea of this fact.

How spectacularly dumb has the liberal world been starting in, let's say, 1987? To what extent has the liberal world fashioned persistent defeat?

Liberal angst is currently focused on the reign of Donald J. Trump. For ourselves, we think the man is highly disordered and dangerous.

That said, our allegedly brilliant liberal team spent decades putting Donald J. Trump where he is. People like that think tank seer were too dumb—and not infrequently, too careerist—to blow the whistle concerning this gruesome process.

How did our dimwitted liberal team help elect Donald J. Trump? As an aside, standard jibes about the country mice being "very religious" probably didn't help.

For today, we'd mainly point to the decades of slander our city mice enabled and aimed at the candidate Trump beat, though only under our arcane electoral rules and only while losing the popular vote.

People like the New York Times' think tank expert sat on their ascots, year after year, while that other candidate was slimed and degraded as "Evita Peron" and "Nurse Ratched"—and we're speaking her about the gender-based sliming which came at her from the top end of the mainstream and "liberal" press.

Monica Potts sat on her aspic while Maureen Dowd had her deeply unfortunate way with the political world. On June 22, 2008, Clark Hoyt, then the Times' public editor, savaged Dowd for "the relentless nature of her gender-laden assault on [Candidate] Clinton." Among other things, the gentleman offered this:
HOYT (6/22/08): Dowd’s columns about Clinton’s campaign were so loaded with language painting her as a 50-foot woman with a suffocating embrace, a conniving film noir dame and a victim dependent on her husband that they could easily have been listed in that [previously cited Times article on sexism, right along with the comments of Chris Matthews, Mike Barnicle, Tucker Carlson or, for that matter, Kristol, who made the Hall of Shame for a comment on Fox News, not for his Times work.

...[T]he relentless nature of her gender-laden assault on Clinton—in 28 of 44 columns since Jan. 1—left many readers with the strong feeling that an impermissible line had been crossed.
Plainly, Hoyt also believed that a line had been crossed. That said, these inane assaults on Candidate Clinton had been going on for many years by the time Hoyt wrote his column. And not only that:

During Campaign 2000, Dowd had written seven columns focusing on Candidate Gore's bald spot, including the demented column which appeared in the New York Times on the Sunday before that election—an election in which Gore was defeated by roughly 11 votes.

Stating the obvious, those attacks on Candidate Gore were also attacks aimed at Clinton and Clinton. This was a seamless, 25-year campaign, built around ongoing themes.

Needless to say, Hoyt's complaint about the sexist attacks on Candidate Clinton produced exactly zero discussion within the upper-end press. Maureen Dowd was too big a player at the Times to permit such discussion among grasping careerists at the journals, or in the well-funded billionaire/corporate realm of the think tank left.

Did Sunday's city mouse ever complain, back in real time, about the endless gender-based sliming of Nurse Ratched? As best we can tell, she did not. But the self-defeat in which our world has engaged simply defies comprehension. We kept it up right through Election Day 2016, at which point we put our brilliance on display by deciding to form a "resistance."

On the Friday night before that election, one of our academic wizards (Princeton) went on TV with Lawrence and said it would take a major weather event along the East Coast to give Trump a chance to win. Our rank and file believed these credentialed sachems, leading to the waves of confusion experienced by city mice the following Tuesday night.

By and large, we'd believed the credentialed experts, the people who had been failing us for decades by November 2016. These are the geniuses people like Potts strongly prefer to the dumb country mice who simply refused to take her advice about how to conduct their affairs.

It would take an entire book to chronicle our dimwitted tribe's decades-long romance with self-defeat. For now, let's move on to our manifest, world-class dumbness.

To put that dumbness on display, let's consider the literature of the New York Times. We'll direct you to a revealing feature which ran in print editions last Thursday morning.

Your lizard brain is going to tell you that we're being unfair. Your lizard will say that we've simply selected one piece out of the many wonderful items the wonderful New York Times runs.

We see the logic, but we reject the conclusion. Sometimes, the sheer stupidity of a tribe is too vast to wish away. That holds with the crazy things Donald Trump says—and with the frequently ludicrous work which appears in our glorious Times.

We're going to list last Thursday's feature under this unflattering heading:
Self-satisfied self-involvement
Self-satisfied self-involvement? Plainly, it's a major part of our deeply stupid, self-defeating city mouse tribal culture at the present time.

This dumbness presented itself on page A3 of last Thursday print editions, in a daily feature which started like this:
Here to Help
FIVE OPTIONS TO TRY IF YOU HATE FLOSSING
In our view, a tribe which tolerate nonsense like this as part of its journalism is a tribe that's too dumb to survive. A tribe reveals itself through its literature. On this day, part of our self-revealing literature continued along like this:
Here to Help
FIVE OPTIONS TO TRY IF YOU HATE FLOSSING

The research is limited, and flossing is not a cure-all, but it is still one of the few things people can do—along with brushing, drinking fluoridated water, rinsing with mouthwash, eating well, and going to the dentist regularly—to stand a chance against severe, long-term oral-health problems.
That's the way one youngish Times journalist started her feature this day. To read her longer on-line piece, you can just click here.

The writer was only seven years out of college (Wisconsin, class of 2012), but already she had descended to this level. It's where some of our brightest young minds end up under the weight of our dimwitted city mouse culture.

How dumb is that opening paragraph? If you can't see how dumb it is, you may be part of the problem! But as she starts, this young person is already pandering hard to self-involved New York Times readers.

Panic is invading the suburbs! She tells the readers to whom she is pandering that, aside from flossing, there are only a few things they can do to so much as "stand a chance against severe, long-term oral-health problems."

There are only a few things they can do! Along the way, she lists five:
A few other things they can do:
1) They can brush their teeth.
2) They can drink fluoridated water.
3) They can rinse with mouthwash.
4) They can eat well.
5) They can go to the dentist.
Might we make an observation about this list, which was assembled by a panic-stricken young city mouse who writes for the New York Times?

We'll guess that many New York Times readers are already brushing their teeth and going to the dentist. Beyond that, the leading authority on the topic says that roughly two-thirds of the nation's population can only avoid option #2 by refusing to drink their tap water.

It's hard to account for the hint of panic found in that opening paragraph. But as she continues, this fallen young journalist pretty much gives us a good solid laugh:
HERE TO HELP (continuing directly): Thankfully, in addition to string floss, you can find other interdental cleaners—things designed to clean between teeth—that are safe and effective. The best way to know whether an interdental cleaner is right for you is by asking your dentist, said Dr. Michele Neuburger, a dental officer in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Oral Health.
"Thankfully," New York Times readers who hate to floss "can find other interdental cleaners...that are safe and effective!"

So the journalist tells us. In a parody of journalistic process, she then asks a certified national expert how her readers can know which such cleaner is best for them.

The expert tells the New York Times journalist that her readers should ask their dentist! So it goes as the Times tries to help!

As she continues, the writer lists and discusses five different interdental cleaners the reader might ask about. As you can see at the link we provided, the third such cleaner is "Toothpicks." From there, the writers moves ahead to "Floss picks," a variant of same.

Please approach this remarkable piece as literature! Work like this is so stunningly fatuous that it inevitably tells us something about the tribe from which it emerges. And such nonsense appears on a daily basis on the Times' "reimagined" page A3, for which the Times fashioned a stunning motto:
You are the dumbest, most self-involved people on earth.
We at the Times want to serve you.
In fairness, this silly essay about the few ways the reader might stand a chance against severe, long-term oral-health problems is no dumber than vast amounts of the political writing the Times has offered down through the years. That includes the work of Dowd, the paper's defining star during the era in question.

It's also no dumber than much of what happens on the Rachel Maddow Show, whose beloved host refused to challenge the development of the Benghazi narratives all through the fall of 2012, then refused to challenge Comey the God after he attacked Candidate Clinton on July 5, 2016.

Indeed, the guest host on this TV star's program spent two nights endorsing Comey's point of view immediately after that July attack. These are a few of the ways the careerist sachems of our own ridiculous tribe engineered self-defeat.

How in the world did Candidate Trump squeeze by Candidate Clinton? Three of the prime-time hosts on our top tribal channel—Matthews, Williams and O'Donnell—played leading or significant roles in the decades of sliming aimed at Clinton, Clinton and Gore. This softened her up for the kill.

The biggest star on the channel, Maddow, will never tell you any such thing; she'll discuss Ed Meese instead. And because no one else will tell rank-and-file liberals such things, liberals out in San Francisco bow to cardboard cutouts of Maddow, their doula, much as many country mice defer to the claims of Sean Hannity.

Our tribe's behavior has been very dumb, almost wholly because of our "leaders." But at the Times, such a claim can only be made about our ridiculous cousins, the country mice! Good God, how dumb they are!

Our leadership has spent at least three decades fashioning self-defeat. Thanks to careerists at city mouse think tanks, good decent people within our tribe have never been told about this.

Still coming: Inside Arky churches

Does Donald J. Trump possess unmatched wisdom?

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 9, 2019

Never mind—please look Over There!:
Does Donald J. Trump have "great and unmatched wisdom," as he himself at last admitted in a recent tweet?

Is Trump's self-assessment accurate? Here is the fuller text of what he unmatchedly said:
TRUMP (10/7/19): As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!). They must, with Europe and others, watch over...

....the captured ISIS fighters and families. The U.S. has done far more than anyone could have ever expected, including the capture of 100% of the ISIS Caliphate. It is time now for others in the region, some of great wealth, to protect their own territory. THE USA IS GREAT!
So the beloved president said. Indeed, he had stated part of that strongly before!

Turkey's economy could be totally destroyed and obliterated! And of course, as Trump himself has acknowledged, many people consider him to be "a highly stable genius."

For ourselves, we're going to guess that Donald J. Trump doesn't possess "great and unmatched wisdom." We'd offer his highly peculiar claims as evidence to that effect.

Is something "wrong" with Donald J. Trump? We've been asking that question since March 2015. We think the question's important.

As it turns out, we may not be alone. Based on a front-page report in today's New York Times, the White House official who spoke to the first Trump whistle-blower also seems to think that something may be wrong with the commander. At the start of his report, Nicholas Fandos writes this:
FANDOS (10/9/19): A White House official who listened to President Trump’s July phone call with Ukraine’s leader described it as “crazy,” “frightening” and “completely lacking in substance related to national security,” according to a memo written by the whistle-blower at the center of the Ukraine scandal, a C.I.A. officer who spoke to the White House official.

The official was “visibly shaken by what had transpired,” the C.I.A. officer wrote in his memo, one day after Mr. Trump pressured President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine in a July 25 phone call to open investigations that would benefit him politically.
If the whistle-blower's account is accurate, the White House official thought Trump's conduct was "crazy" and "frightening." When we read this account, we thought of Trump's extremely strange behavior last week in two separate press events with the visiting Finnish president—public rantings which recalled many reports of the president's unhinged private conduct.

On Monday afternoon's Deadline: White House, Frank Figliuzzi specifically cited Trump's strange claim to unmatched wisdom, going on to say this:
FIGLIUZZI (10/7/19): He is increasingly showing signs not just of narcissism, but now of a messianic complex, a messiah-like wisdom and knowledge. "I’m right, everyone else is wrong"—even those who are experts on Turkish, Kurdish, and Syrian matters.

So we’ve reached the point here where someone can’t have a conversation with our president. He doesn’t trust anyone around him. He makes the call all by himself, and he makes the wrong call. And if this keeps happening we are going to find troops involved. We are going to find missiles involved. He is going to make a horrible call all by himself.
Figliuzzi described the general situation as "perilously dangerous." We've heard the same suggestion, many times, from a despondent group of future anthropologists who regret their own disastrous failure to speak up in real time.

Trump's recent tweet was extremely strange, even by his own peculiar standards. The source to the whistle-blower apparently described Trump's phone call in July as "crazy" and "frightening."

Despite all this, the national press corps still agrees that it mustn't consider the possibility that some serious mental health issue is involved in this weird behavior. More importantly, a bunch of Arkies are so dumb that they're paying their librarian $19 an hour when an East Coast think tank veteran thinks they should be paying her 25!

How dumb are people in Arkansas? It's our view that the New York Times, once again, is asking the wrong freaking question.

HEART(S) OF DUMBNESS: Who cares if a hospital has to close?

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 9, 2019

Inside Clinton's churches:
How dumb, and how venal, are the roughly 2500 people who live in Clinton, Arkansas?

If we were forced to take a guess, we'd guess that they aren't especially dumb as compared to everyone else, and that they aren't massively venal.

That said, like Rod Steiger's sheriff, "We ain't no experts." For that reason, the New York Times enacted an ancient human tradition:

They let a credentialed East Coast expert settle these questions for us.

The expert in question is Monica Potts, a former and possibly current Fellow at New America, a major Washington think tank. Potts holds a bachelor's degree in anthropology from Bryn Mawr (class of 2002), plus a master's degree in magazine writing from the Columbia School of Journalism.

In the view of the Times, this equipped Potts to settle a burning question: How much should the people of Clinton, Arkansas be paying their head librarian?

How dumb are the people of Clinton, Arkansas? We have no idea!

For ourselves, we're more inclined to wonder how dumb you have to be to build the front-page essay in the Sunday Review around so pointless a question. But that's what the brainiac New York Times did in last Sunday's editions.

How much should Clinton have paid its librarian? Potts says $25 per hour, but the town bumped that initial budget proposal down to only 19.

As Potts notes, the leading candidate for the job accepted that rate of pay. Some would say this means that the town avoided over-paying for the position—made a sound budget decision.

At any rate, what's the answer? Should Clinton's librarian get $19 per hour? Or should she get 25?

On Monday,
Kevin Drum critiqued the Potts essay. He suggested that, in a low-wage rural town with significant budget problems, it's entirely possible that the town's resolution of this quandary may have made actual sense!

Drum didn't raise the larger point, concerning why the New York Times would ridicule this small town's residents over so minuscule a matter. In comments, Drum's readers quickly began insisting that Potts was surely right in her assessment concerning the appropriate wage.

As they did, they brought the eternal note of sadness in. They also put an ancient fact on display:

Within our highly tribal species, urban elites will always ridicule the mental hygiene of the rubes who live in the provinces. Our species has always functioned this way, and until we decide to be less dumb, our species always will.

At any rate, Potts was pretty dadgummed hard on the people of Clinton, among whom she grew up and among whom she once again lives. Basically, she said two things:

The people of Clinton are too dumb to let us credentialed elites tell them how much to pay their librarian. And in their dumbness, they're letting us see how venal they are.

You can see these themes expressed in the passage shown below, but they pop up elsewhere in Potts' piece:
POTTS (10/6/19) Since coming back, I’ve realized that it is true that people here think life here has taken a turn for the worse. What’s also true, though, is that many here seem determined to get rid of the last institutions trying to help them, to keep people with educations out, and to retreat from community life and concentrate on taking care of themselves and their own families. It’s an attitude that is against taxes, immigrants and government, but also against helping your neighbor.
In that passage, Potts discovers that the people of Clinton "seem determined to" turn their backs on the brighter people who are trying to help them!

Beyond that, they even stand opposed to "helping [their] neighbor!" Similar condemnation is voiced in this longer passage, in which our evangelist makes a journalistic error:
POTTS: There was general agreement among the Facebook commenters that no one in the area was paid that much—the librarian’s wages would have worked out to be about $42,200 a year—and the people who do actually earn incomes that are similar—teachers and many county officials—largely remained quiet. (Clinton has a median income of $34,764 and a poverty rate of 22.6 percent.) When a few of us, including me, pointed out that the candidate for the library job had a master’s degree, more people commented on the uselessness of education. “Call me narrow-minded but I’ve never understood why a librarian needs a four-year degree,” someone wrote. “We were taught Dewey decimal system in grade school. Never sounded like anything too tough.”

I watched the fight unfold with a sense of sadness, anger and frustration. I started arguing. It didn’t work.
The pay request was pulled from the Quorum Court’s agenda.

I didn’t realize it at first, but the fight over the library was rolled up into a bigger one about the library building, and an even bigger fight than that, about the county government, what it should pay for, and how and whether people should be taxed at all. The library fight was, itself, a fight over the future of rural America, what it meant to choose to live in a county like mine, what my neighbors were willing to do for one another, what they were willing to sacrifice to foster a sense of community here.

The answer was, for the most part, not very much.
For the record, Potts makes a journalistic error in that passage. She compares the proposed personal income for the librarian—initially, $42,000 per year—to the average household income for residents of the town—$34,764.

This tilts the discussion in Potts' favor. But so it can go when unlettered masses turn their backs on helpful credentialed elites.

At any rate, what are Those People willing to do for each other? As they turn their back on Potts, the journalist comes up with the answer—not very much!

Potts goes on to offer examples of how venal and dumb her neighbors actually are. In that very passage, she quotes a random person on Facebook offering The Dumbest Possible Thought of All Time concerning the need for a librarian to have a college degree.

Apparently, we readers are supposed to see how dumb this particular comment is, and with it how dumb the whole freaking county must be.

For ourselves, we don't think the comment in question is necessarily super-dumb. But as to the obvious generalization we were supposed to draw, we'll only say that, in the same edition of the Times, we read this account of the brilliant way we highly credentialed liberal elites behave on the upper-end coasts:
HESS (10/6/19): Molly Jong-Fast, a former novelist who once described her pre-Trump self as “completely selfish and disinterested in politics” and who is now a liberal Twitter influencer and columnist for the Never Trump site The Bulwark, told me that Maddow “made wonkiness cool.”

Recently, I went to dinner at the home of [Name Withheld], a preschool principal in San Francisco
who turned to Maddow in her depression and confusion over the 2016 election. I brought a bottle of rosé, and she poured it into glasses decorated with charms that featured Russia-investigation figures on one side and characters from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” on the other. I sipped from the Hope Hicks/Beverly Crusher glass, and we watched Maddow’s show over veggie enchiladas. “I think of her as a news doula: You know the news is going to be painful no matter what, so we might as well have someone who helps us survive it,” [Name Withheld] told me. Last year, [she] had a Maddow-themed birthday party, at which her friends and her two young sons put on big black glasses and slicked their hair to the side. Also in attendance was a life-size cardboard cutout of Maddow, which is now in storage so as not to startle guests.

[...]

After [Name Withheld] bought her Maddow cardboard cutout, she got a Robert Mueller one, too. For a time she would sit him in her front window, posing him near speech bubbles that she wrote herself. But after the real Mueller filed his report and failed to step into the role she had imagined for him, she tucked him away in the closet with Maddow. Now her car is decorated with Elizabeth Warren bumper stickers.
We're going to guess that the people in Arkansas' heart of dumbness would roll their eyes over conduct like that. But so it goes when we stereotype large groups, and insult individuals, over random behaviors and comments.

For ourselves, we thought Potts quoted several Arkies making dumb remarks which didn't seem all that dumb to us. At one point, she quotes a resident citing the concern she felt when she said "she’d witnessed, in Texas, a hospital being practically bankrupted by the cost of caring for immigrants."

As Potts continues, she seems to fashion this concern in an extremely unflattering way. But what was that woman supposed to think when she saw this hospital approaching bankruptcy?

Potts doesn't exactly say. Meanwhile, is it possible that people in Clinton help each other in venues Potts may have missed?

For ourselves, we have no idea. But tomorrow, we'll visit a comment by a resident about life inside Clinton's churches.

As a general matter, we think it's very unwise to condescend to large groups of people in the way Potts seems to do in her high-profile piece. Indeed, right at the start of her essay, Potts alleges a general view among these rough-hewn rural folk—an alleged view which strikes us as rather apt.

Below, you see a chunk of Potts' third paragraph. She's quoting a Wisconsin professor who wrote an intriguing essay in Vox:
POTTS: In 2016, shortly after Mr. Trump’s victory, Katherine J. Cramer, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, summed up the attitudes she observed after years of studying rural Americans: “The way these folks described the world to me, their basic concern was that people like them, in places like theirs, were overlooked and disrespected,” she wrote in Vox, explaining that her subjects considered “racial minorities on welfare” as well as “lazy urban professionals” working desk jobs to be undeserving of state and federal dollars.
Right there in paragraph 3, Potts establishes the idea that people in Clinton stand opposed to "racial minorities on welfare." In the course of her essay, she makes no attempt to justify this implicit claim, but this claim lets Times readers know that we're about to be favored with one of our favorite stories.

Professor Cramer also said that rural folk have a certain lack of respect for "lazy urban professionals." As quoted by Potts, the term "urban" may seem like a second racial whistle.

In fact, in Cramer's actual article, the reference seemed more intriguing to us. Cramer said these rural folk were underwhelmed by folk like herself:
CRAMER (11/16/16): They also thought that they didn’t get their fair share of tax money. To them, too much of it went to the cities, to “undeserving” people. The undeserving included racial minorities on welfare but it also included lazy urban professionals like me working desk jobs and producing nothing more than ideas.
In Cramer's essay, rural Wisconsinites were said to resent such "lazy urban professionals" as professors and possibly journalists. If people in Clinton hold such resentments, we'd have to say that their general view isn't necessarily wrong.

Potts emerged from a well-funded think tank to tell the people in her home town how much to pay their librarian. She wrote an essay in which it was clear that she found their general view of the world to be dumb and self-defeating.

Indeed, the headline on her New York Times piece said that these drooling rustics live "in the land of self-defeat." That may well be true about them, but it's certainly true about us!

Tomorrow, we'll wonder what is going on inside Clinton's churches. Beyond that, we'll examine the human dumbness occasionally found on the nation's coasts.

As a general matter, let the word go forth to the nations—our vastly self-impressed species routinely lives in the heart of dumbness. Part of that folly lies is this fact:

As a general matter, we're only wired to spot the dumbness when it's found Over There.

Tomorrow: Friend, do you hate flossing? In that case, listen to us...

Susan Rice, misparaphrased still!

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 8, 2019

Ways that Donald Trump got there:
Without Benghazi, would Donald J. Trump ever have reached the White House?

There is no way to tell. The attack occurred on September 11, 2012. The bogus stories about what occurred got started the following Sunday, and they continued, aimed at Hillary Clinton, over the next four years.

Initially, the bogus stories concerned Susan Rice—more specifically, what she said on the Sunday programs that following weekend. We mention this because in this morning's Washington Post, Rice was misparaphrased again, with the stress on the damage done to Rice, rather than to Clinton:
HELLER (10/8/19): Susan Rice was then the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, equipped with a gold-standard Washington résumé—Stanford, Rhodes scholar, Oxford doctorate, former assistant secretary of state for African affairs. She explained that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was “wiped after a brutal week.” The Obama White House asked Rice to appear “in her stead” on all five Sunday news programs.

It was days after attacks in Libya killed four Americans.

“I smell a rat,” said her mother, a lauded education policy expert. “This is not a good idea. Can’t you get out of it?”

“Mom, don’t be ridiculous,” Rice said. “I’ve done the shows. It will be fine.”

Well, no, it was not.

Benghazi became the millstone in Rice’s stellar career. It stopped her from succeeding Clinton.

Criticism of Rice was relentless after the intelligence talking points she was given proved incorrect and inadequate. She said the attacks were a spontaneous protest, but the government inquiry was still evolving, and later determined that some individuals were affiliated with terrorist groups. The scrutiny lasted through multiple congressional investigations.
"She said the attacks were a spontaneous protest?"

Actually, that isn't what Susan Rice said on the Sunday shows that day. But as soon as she finished speaking on Face the Nation, Bob Schieffer and John McCain got busy misparaphrasing what she'd just said.

Needless to say, their bogus paraphrase was quickly adopted as gospel. We discussed what Rice had actually said at great length in the days and weeks which followed, but at times of Major Insider Consensus, you might as well talk to Trump's wall.

Rice was attacked all through the fall, with timorous stars like Rachel Maddow running for cover. (Four years later, she did the same thing from July 5 on with respect to Comey the God's attack on Candidate Clinton.) The Benghazi narratives were born in this way, and they were relentlessly used to attack Candidate Clinton, right on through until Emailgate was deemed more damaging still.

Rice was instantly misparaphrased; the process continues today. In real time, cable stars all ran and hid. After all, John McCain was a certified saint and straight-talker, and Schieffer was a highly respected dean of the upper-end press corps. Insider careerists simply don't challenge establishment stars of that stripe.

Beyond that, basic paraphrase is a skill our intellectual leaders have never quite mastered. Luckily, we liberals still have rural Arkansans we can mock for their pitiful lack of smarts.

According to major anthropologists, our own liberal team just isn't real sharp. That said, how did you think that Donald Trump got there? Have you spent all your time blaming Them?

HEART(S) OF DUMBNESS: Hess observes liberal fans in the wild!

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 8, 2019

Our own heart of dumbness:
We have no doubt that Monica Potts is a good, decent person.

Potts graduated from Bryn Mawr in the class of 2002. That said, she grew up in Van Buren County, Arkansas, and she didn't grow up as one of the swells.

A decade ago, she described her upbringing in a post at Tapped, the group blog of the American Prospect. Youngsters were discussing the question of who gets favored in elite college admissions. As part of a thoughtful longer statement, Potts offered this profile of her rural Arkansas youth:
POTTS (7/21/10): My family was fairly poor when I was young but by the time I was applying to college, had worked its way to tenuous working-class status. I was raised in a town of 2,000 in rural Arkansas, and though I wasn't a member of [Future Farmers of America], I took an agriculture and shop class in middle school, learned how to shoot a rifle (though not very well), and was vice president of Future Homemakers of America (hey, everyone should learn to cook). I had decided at a very young age that I wanted to go to Harvard, but by the time my feminism was ignited as a high schooler, I was applying to the former Seven Sisters schools instead. I admit I identified as liberal, but I'm not sure how that would have come out in the application process, while I can tell you for sure that the fact that I started and ran a church youth group did...
In our view, that sounds like part of a fascinating American and human story. In a nation of 330 million souls, there are quite a few such stories, all of which should perhaps be treated with something resembling respect.

Potts has done good work as a journalist in the past. We thought she displayed shaky but highly familiar judgment in her high-profile essay in last weekend's Sunday Review, an essay in which she described her return to her rural home town to write a book about low-income women.

In the course of her essay, Potts smacked the minions of her old hometown—Clinton, Arkansas—pretty dadblamed good. In a novelized form as old as humanity, she seemed to say that the yokels in question are just amazingly dumb, and dad-gummed venal too.

As she noted in her essay, Potts has now spent twenty years living on the East Coast. Most recently, she said she's been living in Washington, where she's been a kept person of the multimillion-dollar think tank, New America.

Right from the start of Sunday's essay, Potts battered her former and once-again neighbors real good. Essentially, she said they're too dumb to come in out of the rain—and that they even oppose the idea of helping others:
POTTS (10/6/19): Since coming back, I’ve realized that it is true that people here think life here has taken a turn for the worse. What’s also true, though, is that many here seem determined to get rid of the last institutions trying to help them, to keep people with educations out, and to retreat from community life and concentrate on taking care of themselves and their own families. It’s an attitude that is against taxes, immigrants and government, but also against helping your neighbors.
These Arkies today! They won't even let us brighter people tell them what to think and do!

They're against immigrants, Potts explained, citing no particular evidence. But they're also "against helping your neighbors!" Yes, they're really that bad!

Are Potts' neighbors really that dumb and that venal? For ourselves, we've never been to Clinton, but we'll examine the strength of Potts' claims before the week is through.

For ourselves, we don't think the evidence Potts provides supports the "Them So Dumb, Us So Smart" line of pseudo-analysis which has long ruled our human world. But that isn't the question we're going to track down today.

Are Arkies too dumb to come out of the rain? We'll guess that, on balance, they aren't. That said, we thought Potts' portrait of Those Hopeless Rubes was especially striking in Sunday's Times, given the portrait Amanda Hess drew of some of Us Geniuses Here on The Coasts in that same Sunday edition.

Potts' portrait of today's rural Arky was the featured, front-page piece in the high-profile Sunday Review. Hess wrote the featured essay in that same day's Sunday Magazine.

Hess wrote a profile of Rachel Maddow, concerning whom, we're forced to to say, Hess seemed to have little to say. But good lord! After reading Potts go after the pitiful dumbness of the Arkies, we couldn't help noting the portrait Hess drew of a certain class of bicoastal Maddow supporters.

These fans don't hail from the heart of dumbness known as Van Buren County. Rather plainly, they reside in the finer, smarter locales—in our well-educated cities, or on one of our two major coasts.

These are the giants of perception in whose midst Potts had lived for twenty years. But how strange! Hess' portrait of these "typical fans" started off like this:
HESS (10/6/19): Maddow’s typical fan has been branded (by Kat Stoeffel in The New York Times) as the “MSNBC Mom,” a woman who feels that the election has radicalized her; even if she has not moved to the left politically, her liberal sympathies and news consumption have swelled into a suddenly central part of her identity. (The network has monetized this lightly condescending label with a set of MSNBC Mom tote bags and latte mugs.) Molly Jong-Fast, a former novelist who once described her pre-Trump self as “completely selfish and disinterested in politics” and who is now a liberal Twitter influencer and columnist for the Never Trump site The Bulwark, told me that Maddow “made wonkiness cool.”
Stating the obvious, there's nothing wrong with being an "MSNBC Mom." To read Kat Stoeffel's portrait of such people, you can just click here.

There's nothing wrong with being an "MSNBC Mom" or a Maddow fan. We do return to the concept of condescension as Hess describes the network's attempt to sell these people latte mugs and the occasional tote bag.

In fairness, the network has to find some way to pay Maddow's giant salary, whose size goes unreported by Hess. In a typical part of upper-end culture, we learn the salary of Clinton's librarian in the course of reading Sunday's essays, but we don't learn how much Maddow is paid to assemble a long list of fans, or how much Potts is being paid by her billionaire-funded think tank.

To purchase one of those tote bags, you can just click here. As for Jong-Fast, who Hess describes as a "liberal influencer," she grew up with every coastal advantage—she's the daughter of novelist Erica Jong—but she says she was “completely selfish and disinterested in politics” until Donald J. Trump came to power in 2016!

We'll assume that Jong-Fast is being too hard on herself, if in a hackneyed way. That said, the lazy disinterest and lack of perception of such upper-end players has long been a distinguishing characteristic of the superficial, unintelligent liberal cult which clowned and snored and stared into space until our dumbness and disinterest ended with Trump in the White House.

Our most erudite "liberal influencers" had told us that Donald J. Trump couldn't possibly win that election, and we tended to believe these tribal sachems. Today, we send our agents into the wild to let us know how amazingly stupid Those Other People are!

Is Jong-Fast a "liberal Twitter influencer" in any significant way? For ourselves, we have no idea, but we clicked the link provided by Hess to check on her liberal tweets.

Having done so, we'll only say this—having little or nothing to say on some subject isn't a moral shortcoming. But in her recent tweets, Jong-Fast seems to have little to say about opposition to Trump which isn't completely conventional. She's largely reciting tribal dogma, much as Potts could be said to have done in her familiar account of How Dumb The Others Are.

Are people in Clinton unusually dumb? We feel certain there's room for improvement! That said, our own tribe has been marked by spectacular dumbness over the course of the past thirty-odd years, a point we'll explore in more detail before the week is done.

Today, people like Potts take foundation swag to journey to a heart of dumbness and tell us about the pitiful dumbness of Others. But what are we liberals actually like, Over Here in Genius Land?

Below, you see the way Hess continued as she described that "typical fan." We're withholding the name of the good, decent person in question, though not of the high-IQ liberal realm within which she brilliantly dwells:
HESS (continuing directly): Recently, I went to dinner at the home of [Name Withheld], a preschool principal in San Francisco who turned to Maddow in her depression and confusion over the 2016 election. I brought a bottle of rosé, and she poured it into glasses decorated with charms that featured Russia-investigation figures on one side and characters from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” on the other. I sipped from the Hope Hicks/Beverly Crusher glass, and we watched Maddow’s show over veggie enchiladas. “I think of her as a news doula: You know the news is going to be painful no matter what, so we might as well have someone who helps us survive it,” [Name Withheld] told me. Last year, [she] had a Maddow-themed birthday party, at which her friends and her two young sons put on big black glasses and slicked their hair to the side. Also in attendance was a life-size cardboard cutout of Maddow, which is now in storage so as not to startle guests.
We'll admit that we had to look "doula" up. But why can't those numbnuts in Clinton, Arkansas be more like this typical fan?

Later, Hess returned to this particular fan, who or may not be "typical" of our admittedly brilliant tribe:
HESS: After [Name Withheld] bought her Maddow cardboard cutout, she got a Robert Mueller one, too. For a time she would sit him in her front window, posing him near speech bubbles that she wrote herself. But after the real Mueller filed his report and failed to step into the role she had imagined for him, she tucked him away in the closet with Maddow. Now her car is decorated with Elizabeth Warren bumper stickers.
Is this the typical Maddow/Warren fan? The typical modern liberal?

It would be our thought that, in a vast nation, it's hard to come up with a "typical" person. That would be our thought about Maddow fans, and about the pitiful hayseeds described in the Potts travelogue.

Having said that, we'll also say this:

As with Jong-Fast, so too here. Like Jong-Fast, this San Franciscan was shocked, just shocked, when Donald Trump won that election. Our geniuses told her it couldn't happen, and she believed what she heard.

In the next day or two, we'll run through some of the episodes we liberals slept through in the decades leading to that election defeat.

Our persistent indolence and our lack of perception didn't necessarily make us "dumb." But these traits did and do make us human, like the people whose candidate won. There's room for improvement in Van Buren County, but also perhaps Over Here.

Is Name Withheld a typical fan? Not necessarily, no.

Is Jong-Fast a typical liberal? We'll suggest there's no such thing.

That said, while Name Withheld is a regular person, Jong-Fast is now an influencer, and she says that she was lazy and dumb right through 2016! Meanwhile, at the top of the heap, the New Yorker once published a crazy profile of Maddow by Janet Malcolm, who is often hailed as the greatest magazine writer of the past several decades.

Malcolm hails from the top of the coastal elite. Her account of her own devotion to Maddow came straight from the loony-tunes bin.

In Sunday morning's New York Times, readers were told about a typical liberal fan. She'd had a Mueller cutout in her window, and she'd posted speech bubbles of what the great man was saying.

We wouldn't call that person typical, nor would we call her dumb. But sure enough! In that same edition, subscribers got to read about how venal and stupid The Others are. They won't even let giants like us tell them how much they should pay the local librarian!

According to major anthropologists, the tendency to function this way is as old as the human brain. The human brain is wired for tribe, or so the top experts say.

That said, how strong was the logic of Potts' assessments? Not enormously strong, we'd suggest.

We're sure there's room for vast improvement among the burghers of Van Buren County. But have you ever looked around within our own upper-end liberal tents?

Tomorrow: "And turns his back on me..."