It's time to acknowledge our tribe's haplessness!

THURSDAY, AUGUST 13, 2020

Another groaning example:
How hapless is our mainstream/liberal pundit class? More specifically, to what extent are our liberal pundits robotically scripted—married to Storyline?

Your question is a good one! Sadly, the answer is painful.

Be sure to cover the children's eyes! Here's the way Molly Jong-Fast starts her new column at The Daily Beast:
JONG-FAST (8/13/20): No one was shocked by Joe Biden’s pick of California Senator Kamala Harris. For months people had guessed and assumed she would be Biden’s veep. The other names on the list didn’t seem to make much sense. Many of the women on it lacked the kind of visibility and excitement that Kamala innately possessed, not to mention Kamala’s digital army and heaps of charisma. But Kamala had been impressive, commanding, and serious in the debates. Some sexist pundits worried that she had been too commanding and impressive.
That assessment could hardly be dumber. It's also scripted all the way down. Consider:

Is it true that Harris was "impressive, commanding, and serious in the debates?" (She participated in five.) If so, it's hard to understand why her standing in the polls kept going lower and lower as long as she stayed in the race.

Harris got a lot of attention after the first debate for her attack on Biden—her absurd attack about mandated busing in 1974.

In time, people began to notice that Harris had attacked Biden for failing to support a policy, more than four decades earlier, which she herself doesn't support in the present day. The sheer absurdity of that stance began to dawn on various people as the days and weeks dragged by.

Today, it's hard to find am account of that attack which hasn't been carefully sanitized. Scripted pundits agree to present the attack in a more favorable light—to talk about the knockout blow Harris almost delivered.

Did Harris do well at subsequent debates? As time went on, not really. When she left the race in late 2019, she was polling at roughly 3 percent.

In short, Jong-Fast's claim about those debates comes straight outta Storyline. Even more ridiculous is Jong-Fast's scripted chaser:

"Some sexist pundits worried that she had been too commanding and impressive."

In fact, Harris has been so commanding and so impressive that her support in the polls fell from 17% after that first debate to 3% after five. But according to Jong-Fast, you had to be a "sexist pundit" to deny how great she had been.

For ourselves, we hope that Harris' performance is stellar from here on out. In real time, we were struck by how superb her kick-off rally was—and by how horrible, and occasionally dishonest, her performance was after that.

Back, though, to the question at hand:

Our liberal team is very dumb—very dumb and totally scripted. The fact is, we've been this way for a very long way.

The dumbness of this pseudo-elite helps explain how a nightmare like Trump ever reached the White House. It's long past time when we in our self-impressed liberal world need to ponder these facts.

PROPAGANDA, INCOMPETENCE, ERROR: Could Donald J. Trump win re-election?

THURSDAY, AUGUST 13, 2020

Is our tribe even dumber than theirs?:
Could Donald Trump get re-elected?

We've started to think that he actually could! Or at least, we've started to think that it might seem that he's been re-elected after the votes are finally counted, few as those votes may be.

In part, we say that because Trump seems to be (successfully?) shutting the post office down, a move which will make us a western province of Belarus. But we also say that because of the dumbness which now suffuses the culture, especially that afflicting our own failing anti-Trump tribe.

How dumb is the dumbness now afflicting our anti-Trump tribes? In truth, the cluelessness Over Here is vast, and it seems to be growing.

Our sachems wander about in a fog, often a fog of tribal correctness. For one tiny example—a tiny example affecting nothing—consider the first two paragraphs of a book review in today's New York Times:
SZALAI (8/13/20): There’s a curious new refrain on the right the repurposing of an old slogan from their opponents in the abortion fight to explain why people shouldn’t have to wear masks during a pandemic. “I thought it was my body, my choice!” the young Trump supporter Charlie Kirk recently declared on his podcast, a few days before an 80-year-old mentor of his died of complications from Covid-19.

Those making this defiant act of appropriation seem to believe that it’s rhetorically formidable, cleverly deploying mask-wearing feminists’ words against them. But if you think about it for even a millisecond, the whole gambit falls apart. The new champions of bodily autonomy aren’t saying that women have any right to the phrase in its original context—only that men worried about looking “unmanly” in masks do. The anti-maskers are clinging to an argument that they insist is bogus. It’s a half-witted attempt at a classic reductio ad absurdum that’s oblivious to its own absurdity.
It's hard to get dumber than that. In this case, we refer to the dumbness of the Times reviewer, not to the manifest dumbness of the young, super-dumb Charlie Kirk.

In fairness, Charlie Kirk, age 26, is dumb as a rock or a stone. He's the kind of roboticized true-believer widely found Over There, in tribal tents "on the right."

That said, it's easy enough to understand what dumbbells like Kirk are actually saying when they compare liberal views about mask-wearing to liberal views about abortion rights. What the youngster is saying is this:

He's saying that we pro-choice liberals are big hypocrites because we favor choice in the one area but not in the other. This is a blindingly stupid position, but in these increasingly stupid times, it scores big points Over There.

Kirk is so churlish, and so dumb, that he's willing to advance that position. Unfortunately, after decades of devolution in our nation's upper-end culture, the Times reviewer is so dumb that she doesn't understand that this is what Kirk is saying.

Monumentally over-thinking the matter, she turns Kirk's puerile charge of liberal hypocrisy into a claim of male privilege. In doing so, she's slavishly working from tribal script in a way which is every bit as robotic and dumb as Kirk's original gambit.

"How did things ever get so far?" Don Corleone once masterfully asked. When it comes to the growing dumbness in the anti-Trump world, top anthropologists insist that our tribal dumbness simply reflects the way our human brains have always been wired.

"Human functioning has always devolved, in exactly these ways, at times of high tribal conflict," these experts despondently say. "You can ignore that reviewer's degrees. This was simply the fate of the species."

Can it possibly be that our liberal sachems are now as dumb as theirs? Late last night, we saw top anthropologists making that claim:

"Follow the flap about Tucker Carlson," these despondent top experts now said.

The experts referred to Carlson's recent failure to pronounce Kamala Harris' first name correctly. This has become a major flap. Here's how the whole thing went down:

On Tuesday evening, Carlson opened his show with a 12-minute monologue in which he harshly criticized Harris, who Joe Biden had picked for VP. That said, he harshly criticized Biden too. Here's the way he started:
CARLSON (8/11/20): We will admit we did not see this coming. In fact, just last night on this show, we told you that Susan Rice was likely to get that job.

Rice is a hardened partisan, but she's not stupid. And more to the point, Rice has sincere beliefs, whether you like them or not, and we don't.

But Kamala Harris is the opposite of that.
Harris may be the single most transactional human being in America. There are time-share salesmen you would trust more than Kamala Harris. You can find payday lenders who are more sincere.

So it seemed inconceivable, given his current state, Joe Biden would choose someone so transparently one-dimensional as Kamala Harris, someone as empty as he is. It would be the first entirely hollow presidential ticket in American history, and we thought it could never happen.

But it is; they're doing it anyway. Biden-Harris, that's what they're going with. And the choice tells you a lot about the current state of the Democratic Party.
Carlson continued on from there, harshly criticizing Harris. Some of his claims struck us as flatly false, others as grossly misleading.

Was Carlson saying these things because Harris is a woman? In fairness, you can see that he said that Biden was just as bad as Harris. He also said that Rice is smart and sincere in her beliefs.

Meanwhile, his general claim—his claim about Harris' lack of sincere beliefs—isn't entirely crazy. She ran a woeful primary campaign, though our sachems will no longer speak with any clarity about her various acts of bad faith.

Carlson said Rice does have sincere beliefs, but that Harris doesn't. Beyond that, he had said that Harris was a favorite of Wall Street, and that she had been chosen for that very reason.

After a dozen minutes of this, he introduced Democratic veteran Richard Goodstein to offer rebuttal—and there was a lot to rebut. As an example of what we mean, Carlson brought Goodstein on with this question:
CARLSON: Richard, I always preface my questions to you by saying I don't want to be mean. But how can someone who said she believes that Joe Biden committed sexual assault against various women serve as his running mate? Sincere question.
The question may have been sincere, but its premise was bogus. As far as we know, Harris has never said that she believes that Biden committed sexual assault against any woman, let alone against several.

As far as we know, only Tara Reade has ever made that type of claim against Biden. In the past several months, our team has sidled away from Reade under cover of pandemic, with no one asking our tribal professors why they insisted, right off the bat, that Reade's claim should be believed.

There was a great deal for Goodstein to rebut that night. As we watched the program live, we wondered what he would say in response to that introduction.

By now, the whole world knows what Goodstein said. He proceeded to tell Carlson that he'd been mispronouncing Harris' first name all through his monologue.

For the record, Carlson had been pronouncing the nominee's name as if it rhymes with "Pamela." Just for the record, that's the way Biden pronounced it, quite a few times, at the next day's kick-off event.

That's the way a lot of people have been pronouncing Harris' name! Judging from the one paragraph Harris devotes to this topic in her 2019 memoir, people have pronounced her name that way all through the course of her life.

It's always a good idea to know how to pronounce someone's name. Having made that obvious point, we'll also say this:

Listening to Carlson and Goodstein live, we were instantly amazed, yet not amazed, by how weak Goodstein's effort was. It sounded like he was scolding Carlson, "and your fellow hosts on Fox," for having pronounced the name wrong.

Carlson noted, several times, that his mispronunciation has been unintentional. As we watched, it seemed to us that Goodstein went on and on with this opening pose. As he did, we thought back to sacred Nietzsche.

Nietzsche said that this is the way the weak once managed to conquer the strong. In effect, he said that Christian ethics had just been a big guilt trip—a way to shame the powerful out of "glorying in the pride of their strength" and taking full advantage of their power.

That's what we heard Goodstein doing as he began to speak. He was dodging the bogus but very sharp claim with which he'd been confronted. He was playing the tired old race-and-sex guilt trip card instead.

We'll have to admit that there was some justice in the way Carlson responded. He'd already said, in his monologue, that any criticism of Harris would now be treated as an act of race/gender disrespect.

Carlson had already made that (fairly obvious) prediction. Now, here was Goodstein, possibly seeming to do just what Carlson had said.

We thought Goodstein's opening play was just amazingly weak. In the subsequent 36 hours, we were saddened to see the way our hapless tribe has gloried in this dispute.

Our pundits are working very hard to guilt trip Carlson for his pronunciation error. We're playing it as a race and sex thing because, just to be honest, this is the only play our dumb and utterly useless tribe seems to know at this point.

According to Nietzsche, this is what the weak will try to do to the strong. In this case, though, will it work?

In this case, the strong are shutting the post office down. They're closing down voting locations.

They're stressing, and sometimes misstating, the errors the bureaucracies make—and new errors seem to appear every day.

While the strong are doing that, we're talking about bullshit like this. Needless to say, we're sifting the facts of the case to make it seem like this was some sort of gender offense.

The strong are closing the post office down. Over Here, in our tents, the weak are doing this.

We've begun to think that the strong may win. The haplessness of our pitiful tribe has allowed such results again and again down through the past many years.

Tomorrow: Recalling Nagasaki?

We just watched a pair of events!

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 12, 2020

Also, does this seem like normal journalism?:
We just watched the Biden-Harris event. After that, we watched the entirety of Donald J. Trump's astounding press event.

Equally astounding was the press corps' reliable, astounding incompetence. Tomorrow, we'll show you some of the questions they asked.

For now, let's go with two peculiar behaviors:

At roughly 4:53 PM, right before Biden and Harris appeared, Maria Teresa Kumar made this comment on MSNBC. She was describing press corps behavior in the run-up to the selection of Harris:

"The press corps was trying to tell Kamala Harris that she was too ambitious."

As you can see from the many links in this morning's report, that's an astonishing statement. It does help illustrate one of our most basic findings, derived from twenty-two years at this task:
Almost everything said by upper-end pundits comes live and direct from Script.
From there, we turn to a simple question about this morning's New York Times:

Among this morning's letters to the editor, the Times included a very peculiar request.

In print editions, it was a boxed item. Hard-copy headline included, the boxed item read like this:
Your Advice for a No. 2

Former Vice President Joe Biden has finally announced his choice of running mate: Senator Kamala Harris of California. What advice would you give her for the campaign—and beyond, if the ticket is elected?

Please submit no more than 150 words. We plan to publish a sampling later.

Email: letters@nytimes.com


Include your name, city, state and contact information, and put “veep” in the subject line.
The New York Times is asking its readers to compose advice for Harris!

Does that seem like a normal journalistic request? To our ear, the answer is no.

PROPAGANDA, INCOMPETENCE, ERROR: No one criticized JFK!

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 12, 2020

Also, no one said Gore was a liar:
Finally, the New York Times published the latest analysis piece which basically writes itself.

One person after another had written the piece at the Washington Post. Our press corps runs on repetition and recitation—and over at the Washington Post, the scribes were reciting hard.

Finally, the New York Times got itself into the game. In print editions, the highly familiar analysis piece was the featured report in Monday's National section.

It said what everyone else had already said. But also, it started like this:
BENNETT (8/12/20): No one, it is safe to assume, told J.F.K. he was too ambitious.

In 1956, at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, he campaigned aggressively to be vice president
, said Keneshia Grant, an associate professor of political science at Howard University. His father, she noted, had even offered to pay for Lyndon B. Johnson’s run if he promised to choose his son as a running mate.

“That was no secret at all,” said Professor Grant, the author of “The Great Migration and the Democratic Party: Black Voters and the Realignment of American Politics in the 20th Century.” “And that was fine. People took him at his word.”
As presented, Professor Grant's last comment doesn't exactly make sense:

"People took [Kennedy] at his word?" They took him at his word about what? The Times report doesn't say.

Professor Grant may have explained what she meant, but no explanation appeared in the Times. This being the Times, some editor didn't notice.

So it goes at the New York Times. But also, so it goes when upper-end journalists all start writing copycat versions of some Essay Which Writes Itself.

Such essays emerge, live and direct, from the realm of Official Press Storyline. All of a sudden, everyone writes the exact same thing—and by the rules of this group game, their presentations don't have to make sense.

Monday's piece was written by Jessica Bennett. Back in October 2017, Bennett became the New York Times' first gender editor. Today, she's described as "a Times editor at large covering gender and culture."

On Monday, Bennett was writing an official "piece which writes itself." It was a piece about the sexism which was going to confront Joe Biden's VP pick.

A cast of thousands had already written this very same piece at the Washington Post. Rather belatedly, the Times was now playing the imitation game.

Having said that, let us also say this—it's entirely possible that Kamala Harris, who is now Biden's pick, will confront some sexist attacks as the campaign unfolds. We say that because Hillary Clinton was assailed by waves of name-calling misogyny for several decades, without so much as a peep of protest from the corporate career players at the Post and the Times and all over corporate cable.

Most of the sexist attacks against Clinton came from within the mainstream press corps itself. Today, the children within the guild are suddenly opposed to such conduct!

Starting in the 1990s, Clinton was called every name in the book; the stars of the firmament stared. She was slimed in openly misogynist ways by Chris Matthews on NBC cable. Also, by Maureen Dowd right there at the Times.

She was Evita Peron and she was Nurse Ratched; she was also Cruella da Vil. She reminded male journalists of their first wives. To Matthews, she was "witchy" and she was comparable to a "strip-teaser."

When Tucker Carlson was an MSNBC property, he admitted that he “involuntarily crosses his legs” whenever he sees the gal.

Career players across the press corps agreed to let this conduct go; Matthews and Dowd were big players. And then, sure enough:

When Keith Olbermann hit it big at MSNBC, he brought a noxious strain of undisguised misogyny along with him to the channel.

Olbermann would indulge his woman-hatred with his smutty friend, Michael Musto. For several years, we wondered if we could be the only liberal or progressive who was astounded by this repetitive, rancid behavior.

As it turned out, we weren't the only one; we were just the only one discussing it in public. Top progressives, including Rebecca Traister, were discussing Olbermann's "misogyny" in private discussions on JournoList.

They just weren't willing to speak up in public. Olbermann was a big star.

This is the way these life forms were playing the game until the past few years. In the past few years, a sudden flip occurred. Let's do a Before-and-After:
Before: Everyone agreed that they must never report, discuss or criticize any of this.

After:
Everybody now agrees that they must discuss nothing else.
This is the way our "press corps" (and our species) works. Please don't pretend that it isn't!

And of course, there's one other point. When the children all agree that they will all Say The Exact Same Things In Support of Some Group Position, they also agree that no one will be held to any standards of logic or fact.

So it was that Bennett began her essay in the Times with that absurd presentation about JFK's much-loved ambition. Surely, no one ever criticized him about that! That's only done to the girls!

This morning, the letter appears. It comes from David Greenberg, author of Republic of Spin: An Inside History of the American Presidency.

Greenberg makes a point of agreeing with Bennett in principle. He just doesn't agree with her facts:
To the Editor:

Re “The Political Headwinds for Forceful Women” (news article, Aug. 10):

While the article is correct about our society’s retrograde discomfort with women who seek power, the suggestion that no one told John F. Kennedy that he was too ambitious is untrue.

As a young senator of modest accomplishments, J.F.K. was constantly derided as overly ambitious when he sought the vice presidency in 1956 and the presidency in 1960, including by Eleanor Roosevelt, Harry Truman and other Democratic Party leaders.

Richard Rovere wrote in The New Yorker in 1960: “Early in his career … the number of his detractors probably equaled—and perhaps even surpassed—that of his admirers. His ambition was thought to be untempered by humor or charity.”

I agree that too many people today are made uneasy by politically hard-charging women, and that there is sexism behind many of the complaints. But the historical record shows that John F. Kennedy (and other men) have been subjected to similar criticisms as well.

David Greenberg
New York
The writer is a professor of history at Rutgers University.
Bennett's opening made no sense at all. In that way, it followed one basic rule of the guild:

Once they've agreed to all say the same thing, they're allowed to bend facts and logic to advance the group claim in any way they like.

This is the way our mainstream press works. It works this way when it's advancing a message with which a liberal may disagree. It also works this way when advancing a message which makes liberal hearts glad.

These group efforts come to us from the land of Propaganda and Error. More specifically, they come from the highly populous region of Group Repetition, a region in which Everyone Says The Same Things.

At the Post, Michele Norris wrote the column, then Monica Hesse wrote it too. Margaret Sullivan also wrote it. Yesterday, Paul Waldman did too.

The joy of Group Recitation is this—no one will ever challenge your work as long as you stick to the Standard Group Narrative. Example:

When Annie Linskey wrote the Post's front-page news report on this newly mandated theme, she started out by pretending that the Biden campaign didn't want the word to get out about all this coming sexism.

Presumably, that was pure nonsense. Soon, she was writing this:
LINSKEY (8/9/20): Kelsey Suter, a disinformation researcher with Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, a Democratic firm, is helping women’s groups identify sexist memes that begin in private or semiprivate social media groups, so they can point to the origins if they become mainstream.

When Biden makes his announcement, Suter said, she expects “a flood of content playing on common sexist tropes:
portraying her as crazy, untrustworthy, unqualified, dumb, or sexual—claiming she is angry, or extreme, or perhaps that she ‘slept her way to the top.’ ”

Suter said if past patterns hold, social media users will be bombarded with content saying the nominee is a liar or will say anything to get ahead. Images will be manipulated, showing her with crazy-looking eyes or in sexualized poses, said Suter, who added she has already seen such content in difficult-to-access corners of the Internet.

Viewers will “see these images across social media platforms, over and over, until they begin to look normal,” Suter said.
It may well be that Candidate Harris will encounter "sexist memes" and/or "sexist tropes." Under current arrangements, it's fairly clear that any criticism she encounters will be interpreted as such.

Once our journalists agree that they'll all say the same things, they say them in ludicrous ways. Consider these warnings from Suter:

"Social media users will be bombarded with content saying the [female] nominee is a liar or will say anything to get ahead?"

Those are precisely the two major themes the mainstream press corps pushed for two years in their successful war against Candidate Gore. They said it and said it and said it again. When he wouldn't utter lies, they simply made up his lies for him.

The female nominee will encounter “a flood of content playing on common sexist tropes," including the claim that she is unqualified, dumb, angry, extreme?

Did Nominee Quayle perhaps encounter such tropes? How about the very angry Candidate Howard Dean?

Sexism is real. Indeed, anyone watching the press corps in action will understand it has been real for a good many years.

Sexism is real, but so is stupidity, along with the ways of Group Action. Propaganda and error are very real too. More and more, in these tribalized times, these behaviors run all through the press.

JFK was assailed for being too young and ambitious? So was Candidate Gore, first in 1987, then in 1999 and 2000.

Meanwhile, did one (1) Democratic funder complain that Harris might be so ambitious that she would start seeking the presidency, at Biden's expense, as soon as she became VP?

Yes, that's right, one actually did! But this very concern was part of the basis on which Biden himself was picked to be Obama's VP!

You can read about it in the Times. Here are a couple of excerpts:
THRUSH (8/16/19): Mr. Obama, standard-bearer of change but conscious of the racial dynamics of his candidacy, was wary of asking voters to digest too much at once. In Mr. Biden, he found a running mate who would conjure the comforting past and provide experience he did not possess, but would not maneuver for the presidency from the No. 2 slot.

[...]

At some point, Mr. Biden also told Obama aides that “Barack would never have to worry” about him positioning himself for another presidential run. He was too old, he told them, and he viewed his new job as a capstone, not a catapult. But while both sides assumed that vow covered the duration of Mr. Obama’s presidency, what might happen after that was never explicitly stated.

Mr. Biden was the only one of the finalists to make such a promise. “That was helpful,” Mr. Plouffe said.

[...]

The next eight years are the stuff of buddy-movie lore—“a shotgun marriage that gradually turned into a love story,” in Mr. Axelrod’s telling.

Still, Mr. Biden’s simmering ambition was a source of unease for both men. Mr. Plouffe shut down an early move made by Mr. Biden as vice president to assemble a presidential team-in-waiting, blocking Mr. Biden’s attempts to court the party’s West Coast fund-raising elite...
There's nothing new about this, and it isn't just hauled out for women. Sexism is a real thing, but it isn't the only thing. It has just become the only thing now that the clowns have decided to tell the story that way.

It's very, very hard to see the truth about our upper-end press corps. These people just aren't impressive at all. They aren't "the rational animal."

Simply put, we aren't wired that way, despondent top experts have said.

Tomorrow: Nagasaki?

Donald J. Trump beats Leonhardt on points!

TUESDAY, AUGUST 11, 2020

The near-total absence of skill:
In fairness, it's important to note a basic point. At this point, information and facts barely matter at all.

Basically, everyone believes their own tribe's StoryLines. There's very little real attempt to figure out what's true.

That said, Donald Trump authored a very sad moment during yesterday's press event.

First, Trump shot a man on the White House lawn just to see him die. After he returned to the press room, he launched one of his standard rambling monologues about how amazingly well we're doing with the coronavirus.

Many statements didn't make sense. But at one point, the commander in chief said this:
TRUMP (8/10/20): The United States faces a unique range of challenges that requires our constant vigilance. America has the largest at-risk population of any developed country by far, 1.5 million residents of nursing homes, about five times that of the United Kingdom and other European countries. Our country also has a higher prevalence of underlying conditions that this virus targets.

Yet we have fewer deaths per capita than the United Kingdom and most other peer nations in Western Europe. So that’s an important—we have fewer deaths per capita than the United Kingdom and most other nations in Western Europe, and heading for even stronger numbers.
"One person is too much as far as I'm concerned," the deeply humane commander in chief immediately said.

But sad! The statement we've highlighted could be scored as correct! Let's consider that statement again:

"We have fewer deaths per capita than the United Kingdom and most other peer nations in Western Europe."

We have fewer deaths per capita? Could that statement be true? Actually, yes, it could be true. It all depends on who you're willing to count as a "peer nation."

Plainly, Trump was considering total deaths from the virus to date. Here are some relevant numbers, adjusted for population:
Total deaths from coronavirus per million population, as of August 11:
Belgium: 852
United Kingdom: 685
Spain: 611
Italy: 583
Sweden: 571
United States: 504
France: 465
Germany: 111
It all depends on who you want to count as a "peer nation!" Among the obvious, larger "peer
nations"—skip Belgium, Sweden and the like—we still have ferer deaths per million population than the U.K., Spain and Italy.

We have more deaths per capita than France and Germany. If those are the nations you count as peer nations, that makes Trump's statement correct.

Sad! We're still better off than the U.K., Spain and Italy when it comes to total deaths. But if you use a different, more current, more relevant measure, we're the screaming basket case of the developed world.

We showed you these pitiful data last week. In you consider current deaths, we're the basket case of the world:
Deaths from coronavirus in the last seven days, as of August 11:
United States: 8,058
United Kingdom: 316
Spain: 104
France: 46
Germany: 45
Italy: 43
Canada: 40
Japan: 35
South Korea: 4
Those numbers aren't adjusted for population. But even if you make the adjustment, we're the basket case of the developed world when it comes to current deaths.

(The U.K. is about one-fifth our population. Germany is about one-fourth, Japan a bit more than one-third. None of these countries comes close to us, not even the U.K., when it comes to current deaths adjusted for population. At present, we're the undisputed train wreck of the developed world, by far.)

Other countries were hit very hard by the virus at first. That's when their total deaths piled up.

Since then, they've gotten matters under control. Our leaderless country of Trumpistan hasn't been able to do that.

We mention this because it matters which statistic you choose. The people who prepared Trump's remarks chose a statistic which makes us look pretty good.

If you use the more current statistic, we're the basket case of the world. But no reporter in that press room will ever challenge Donald J. Trump with that more current statistic.

Simply put, they don't have the chops. As life forms, they lack the skills.

We mention this because of what David Leonhardt did last week. On the front page of the New York Times, he tried to show what a train wreck we are when it comes to the virus.

As we explained last Friday, he chose the wrong statistic to do that! Simply put, our major journalists possess almost no analytical skills.

They're Potemkin journalists in Donald Trump's world. Cam anybody there play this game? The answer is basically no.

Yesterday, after shooting some guy on the lawn, Trump made a defensible yet grossly misleading statement. The overpaid children just sat there and stared.

According to a wide range of experts, it was the best they could do.

It's hard to have sufficient contempt...

TUESDAY, AUGUST 11, 2020

...for the way elite humans behave:
Ever so slowly, we've come to see that the experts may truly have a small point.

We refer to the major top anthropologists with whom we've been consulting over the past several years. When we saw this report in this morning's Washington Post, we knew what those experts would say:
SCHERER AND JOHNSON (8/11/20): Supporters favoring a Black woman as the running mate of presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden made a final public push Monday, as he continued to consult with advisers in private with less than a week to go before the start of his nominating convention.

[...]

More than 100 prominent Black men released a strongly worded open letter Monday, warning Biden that not picking a Black woman would cost him the election.
The signatories of the letter included rapper Sean “Diddy” Combs, radio show host Lenard McKelvey (a.k.a. Charlamagne tha God), actor Cedric Kyles (a.k.a. Cedric the Entertainer), commentator Van Jones, Bishop William J. Barber and civil rights attorney Ben Crump, among others.

“For too long Black women have been asked to do everything from rally the troops to risk their lives for the Democratic Party with no acknowledgment, no respect, no visibility, and certainly not enough support,” the letter stated. “Failing to select a Black woman in 2020 means you will lose the election. We don’t want to choose between the lesser of two evils and we don’t want to vote the devil we know versus the devil we don’t because we are tired of voting for devils—period.”
We wouldn't be inclined to disagree with one part of that letter.

We assume that Biden will pick a black woman as his running-mate. We assume that he recently allowed himself to be caught meeting with Gretchen Whitmer as a way to convey the impression that he actually didn't restrict his list to women of just one "race."

Biden said, long ago, that he would only consider woman for the VP pick. We assume that picking a woman who is "white" could very well drive away enough black votes to cost him the race.

That said, we know what the experts will tell us when they appear to us, late this evening, reporting to us through the nocturnal submissions the haters refer to as dreams. We feel sure that the experts will point to this part of that statement:
"We don’t want to choose between the lesser of two evils and we don’t want to vote the devil we know versus the devil we don’t because we are tired of voting for devils—period.”
Truly, we pity people like Barber and Jones. In recent years, they've been forced to vote for such devils as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Before that, the voted for the lesser of two evils named Kerry. The devil before that was Gore.

Think about someone like Jones. What can lead a person who's so bright and so accomplished to lend his name to a statement like that?

We're not entirely sure what the experts are going to tell us. For now, though, we'll offer an impression all our own:

When people of the left agree to behave that way, they've accepted the rules of the game as defined by Donald J. Trump.

Under those rules, no statement has to make any sense. Every statement has to be a self-pitying, crazed over-statement.

Jones has agreed to pretend that he's crazy. And, as the old saying goes:

When someone pretending to be crazy challenges someone who truly is crazy, the crazy guy wins every time. Jones has agreed to get down in the slop. The hog wins that fight every time.

Obama, Kerry and Gore were all devils. Both Clintons were devils too. Fellas, why not go all the way and say that Hillary, AKA Evita Peron/Cruella de Vil, reminded you of your first wives?

That statement comes from the crazy world that Donald J. Trump has successfully built. When others enter that crazy world, the crazy guy wins every time.

Boo hoo hoo hoo hoo! Barack Obama was a devil. Al Gore was a devil too!

Final point: This letter will make Biden look very bad. It will be trumpeted all over Fox.

You might even say that the letter, which is "strongly worded," could help You-Know-Who win. We suspect the experts will be extra despondent when they glumly appear tonight.

PROPAGANDA, INCOMPETENCE, ERROR: Fashions in which we can re-elect Trump!

TUESDAY, AUGUST 11, 2020

Propaganda comes for the Post:
At this very late stage in the nation's dissection, can you believe the various things you read in the Washington Post?

We're sorry to say that you're asking a very good question! Consider something we read in this morning's Post.

The item comes from a front-page report about the scene in Portland. The city's mayor has seen enough, or so three scribes report:
GUARINO, SHEPHERD AND WITTE (8/11/20): The welcome absence of federal police has refocused a core group of protesters on long-standing tensions with local police that pit them against the Democratic city leaders who previously stood with them in opposing the federal interference, including Mayor Ted Wheeler, who also serves as police commissioner.

Wheeler was outspoken in demanding that the Trump administration withdraw federal agents from his city but has grown increasingly exasperated by violent protester tactics.

“When you commit arson with an accelerant in an attempt to burn down a building that is occupied by people who you have intentionally trapped inside, you are not demonstrating, you are attempting to commit murder,” Wheeler said after the fire at the police union headquarters Saturday night.

Such behavior, he said, creates “the B-roll film that will be used in ads nationally to help Donald Trump during his campaign.”
We'll admit that we ourselves are concerned about the last part of Wheeler's statement. Yesterday afternoon, for the very first time, we began to think there's a very good chance that Trump will get re-elected, assuming we have anything like an actual election this fall.

So we suddenly thought yesterday. We thought it for the first time.

In our view, the chaos in Portland and Chicago could conceivably help deliver that outcome. Rightly or wrongly, that's what the Portland mayor said, as he accused a "core group" of "violent protesters" of "attempting to commit murder" in at least one recent instance.

That's a very serious charge. According to this morning's report, Wheeler made the charge in response to conduct by that one group of protesters on this past Saturday night.

That's when Wheeler made his charge! Unless you read yesterday's Washington Post, in which a news report told you this, hard-copy headline included:
SHEPHERD (8/10/20): Portland protesters set fire to police union headquarters

[...]

As anger has been bubbling back up among demonstrators, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, who also serves as the city’s police commissioner, held a news conference on Thursday in which he likened some of the protesters’ actions to attempted murder. He pointed to a Wednesday night incident in which he said protesters barricaded exits to the Portland Police Bureau’s East Precinct building using cars and wooden planks and disabled security cameras, starting a fire that “was intended to cause serious injury or death, and it very well could have.”

“When you commit arson with an accelerant in an attempt to burn down a building that is occupied by people who you have intentionally trapped inside, you are not demonstrating, you are attempting to commit murder,” Wheeler said, according to video posted by news station KPTV. “You are creating the B-roll film that will be used in ads nationally to help Donald Trump during his campaign. If you don’t want to be part of that, then don’t show up.”
How strange! Yesterday morning, we read that Wheeler had made that serious charge. But yesterday morning, we were told that he had made his striking remarks on Thursday. The "attempted murder" he alleged had happened on Wednesday night!

Yesterday, we were puzzled. It seemed strange to think that Wheeler's striking remarks were only being reported a full four days later. Even stranger, in our view, was the way Katie Shepherd opened this news report, whose banner headline stretched across the top of page A7.

We thought Shepherd's opening passage was strange. We'll show you that passage below. But which report contained a mistake? Did Wheeler make his charge as a Thursday presser? Or is this morning's report correct?

AS it turns out, it seems that yesterday's report was right—that today's report is mistaken. Below, we'll show you what we learned when we checked with the New York Times.

In fairness, everyone makes mistakes. That said, we were especially struck by Monday's report because of a remarkable, sprawling fashion profile which had appeared the day before, in Sunday's Washington Post.

Readers, can we talk? We almost never use the word "stupid" at this site. As a matter of policy, we use the kinder word "dumb."

That said, the sprawling piece in Sunday's Post was just plain flat-out stupid. We'd also call it rank propaganda, though that didn't distinguish it from other work in Sunday's Washington Post.

Rather plainly, our nation is disintegrating under the weight of Trumpism. In the process, have newspapers like the Washington Post surrendered to a trio of jealous press corps gods—Incompetence, Propaganda and Error?

Again, you're asking an excellent question. Consider that Sunday profile from the fashion and protest front in Oregon's own "River City."

The Sunday profile to which we refer may have been the dumbest we've ever seen. In hard copy, it consumed two full pages of the Post—pages A12 and A13.

On balance, we'd call it a study in Portland protest fashions. If you want to know why we'd use the term "stupid," at one point the sprawling profile of Portland's protest scene admiringly tells us this:
LANG (8/9/20): About 30 years ago, when President George H.W. Bush was in office, the administration was greeted with explosive protests every time he or a member of his Cabinet stepped foot in the City of Roses. Vice President Dan Quayle arrived in Portland for a fundraiser amid a demonstration of hundreds who had gathered outside, burning flags and desecrating photos of the vice president. A handful of university students from Reed College, a liberal arts school in town, swallowed colored food dye and vomited red, white and blue on the hotel’s front steps.

Presidential staffers had soon come up with a nickname for the riverside city: “Little Beirut.”


Residents embraced the nickname, emblazoning it on T-shirts, bumper stickers, music albums and businesses. A local group of peace activists even named their organization B.E.I.R.U.T. or “Boisterous Extremists for Insurrection against Republicans and other Unprincipled Thugs.”
Yes, you read that correctly. Way back when, hundred of protesters gathered outside Dan Quayle's hotel, "burning flags and desecrating photos of the vice president."

You may wonder, as we did, how a person can "desecrate" such a photo. This enjoyable point goes unexplained in this sprawling, deeply stupid report.

That said, the enjoyable claim added to the sense of fun which drove the Sunday Post's sprawling profile. And yes, that's what it actually said:

At that time, a handful of university students had even "swallowed colored food dye and vomited red, white and blue on the...front steps" of Quayle's hotel! From such amazingly cool behaviors, Portland gained the very cool nickname which may seem a bit unfeeling today, given a recent explosion.

Is that sad stupid anecdote really part of an "admiring" profile of Portland protest culture? You'll have to read Lang's full profile to judge our assessment.
did
We will say this—the amazingly cool tricolor vomiting really happen, though not, perhaps, on the Quayle hotel's front steps.

You can see videotape of that group of idiot vomiting children as part of this 2018 retrospective by Williamette Week. You can see them vomiting in the street, though perhaps not on the hotel's steps.

(The retrospective was Williamette Week'sway of remembering George H. W. Bush, who had just died. In this way, the game is played within part of Portland protest culture.)

You can see the idiot children vomiting on that videotape. Idiot children of their type have been getting Republican presidents elected and re-elected dating back to Richard M. Nixon. Everybody understands this, including Mayor Ted.

Correction! Almost everyone understands the role these pseudo-progressive idiot children have played in modern political history. It may be that Lang, and the occasional Portland protester, do not understand this part of the way our world has been made:
LANG (continuing directly) In the fourth week of what Portland officials described [this year] as a federal occupation of the city, Ryver Hankins, 30, stood on a grassy knoll just beyond the federal courthouse with a hand-drawn homage to Portland history.

“Little Beirut lives!” the poster strapped to his back exclaimed.
So cool! Ryver Hankins, chronological age 30, may be one of the possible Trump-enablers Mayor Wheeler has warned us about.

To assess Lang's homage to the Portland protest scene, you'll have to review it yourself. We regard it as monumentally stupid, but also as tilting rather hard toward a type of propaganda in which there's nothing but good, well-intentioned folk Over Here, with the "extremists" all found Over There.

At one point, Lang even wrote this. Can you trust anything you now read in the Washington Post?
LANG: For weeks, demonstrators directed their anger at the federal courthouse, where they broke windows and tagged the building with bright paint. The vandalism drew the attention of Trump, who sent in federal agents.

But he didn’t account for the stamina and creativity of Portland protesters. By the time federal agents packed into the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse in early July, the crowds were ready with helmets, respirators and goggles to mitigate the worst effects of crowd-control munitions. Many donned the all-black uniform known as “black bloc” meant to anonymize its wearers. An elaborate network of aid stations and volunteers provided free food, water, gear and medical help.

Federal agents and police officers say they have been attacked with rocks, bottles, ball bearings and balloons filled with paint and feces. Small groups set fires at Portland police stations, police union offices and the Justice Center, which houses the Multnomah County jail.

In Portland, it’s not just the usual suspects who take to the streets. Moms in yellow shirts and bike helmets folded sunflowers into the iron fence around the federal courthouse. Teachers made signs likening Trump to tyrants and dictators of the past. Military veterans waved flags hung upside down to signal distress and strapped on gas masks and respirators to stare down the front line of federal troops.
So cool! According to Lang, Portland's protesters have "broken windows and tagged the [federal courthouse] with bright paint," full stop.

These minor actions angered Trump, but "he didn’t account for the stamina and creativity of Portland protesters." Or so Lang has said.

Two paragraphs later, Lang deigns to report what federal agents and police officers say protesters have done. In passing, she mentions the fact that "small groups" of protesters seem to have been setting fires pretty much all over the place.

Even there, she disappears the use of commercial-grade fireworks and lazers which has been widely reported. She disappears the injuries an AP reporter says he saw when he spent a night inside the federal courthouse.

From her sanitized account, Lang bounces right along to a playful description of "the usual suspects." There's a word for pseudo-journalistic garbage like this this:

This is propaganda.

This is propaganda! Instead of giving readers a full account of the various actions which have occurred from various groups of protesters (and others), Lang substitutes a mindless culture-and-fashion profile of these creative and colorful souls.

We get photos of their protest gear; we hear their self-impressed comments. The sheer stupidity of this treatment echoes the Post's endless use of fashion writer Robin Givhan to comment on alleged wardrobe issues in the political context.

Playfully, Lang gives us the usual suspects along with quite a few slippery remarks from protest-friendly office holders. This is also propaganda, of the type which has long helped get people like Trump elected.

Monday's report in the Washington Post struck us as especially strange in the wake of this sprawling, dimwitted fashion-cum culture profile.

How strange! According to Monday's headline, a group of protesters had "set fire to police union headquarters." This had prompte the mayor to accuse them of attempted murder.

According to Monday's report, the mayor had made this accusation on Thursday. But how strange!

Three days later, the Post was offering a mindless fashion profile, assuring us that Portland's protesters are just a group of grand-dads, sisters and moms. Their creativity had led them to maybe tag the federal courthouse. As you can see in Lang's ridiculous prose, the "extremists" are all Over There.

Lang's fashion profile was rank propaganda; then came Monday's report. On Thursday, the mayor had accused some protesters of attempted murder, but it took the Post four days to say so.

Before that, readers would be entertained by Lang's ridiculous protestwear profile. Also, though, understand this about Monday's news report:
:
As noted, Monday's report appeared beneath this startling banner headline:
Portland protesters set fire to police union headquarters
Allegedly, it was that behavior which triggered the mayor's remarkable charge.

But how strange! Before she reported the mayor's charge; before she described the actual fire; before she got to any of that, Katie Shepherd started Monday's news report with this profile of a Portland resident with a satisfied mind:
SHEPHERD: Robert Dorris leaned against the door frame of his ground-floor apartment in Portland, Ore., on the same block as the police union’s headquarters, and watched silently as a crowd of black-clad protesters set fire to plywood in the street.

His neighbors watched from their balconies as the smoke billowed into the night sky. Some protesters below roasted marshmallows while others added fuel to the flames. More than 100 people were in the street, holding Black Lives Matter signs, dancing to music and singing protest chants. At the police union building on the corner, a small group of people hacked away at the plywood blocking the door.

“You can’t control people’s anger,” Dorris said, as the fire flickered in front of him. “Black voices have been silenced. We’ve been screaming for years and years about police violence.”

The 63-year-old Black man gazed out at the largely White crowd of protesters and smiled
, even as the smoke drifted into his home.

“Every other week it seems like they’re here,” he said. “I love it. Our voices were ignored. They’re being heard.”
Intriguing! Four days earlier, the mayor had accused some protesters of attempted murder. But before Shepherd told us that, she primed us with a five-paragraph profile of a local resident who seemed to think the whole thing was A-OK.

We'd say that leans strongly towards propaganda. We'll also tell you this:

Just how dangerous was that fire? We have no idea.

Banner headline to the side, it didn't sound very dangerous by the time Shepherd got around to describing it.

Meanwhile, her report had featured a local resident who thought the fire was OK. One day before, the Post had published a sprawling fashion profile of Portland's highly creative protesters, whose forerunners had once vomited in red, white and blue on the front steps of a spiffy hotel!

It was all so very cool! But in the course of her deeply stupid report, Lang didn't ponder this:

Through some strange array of events, Portland's creative protest krewe has now been at it for thirty years. But they somehow have a police force which they say is out of control, and they have a villainous mayor.

Is it possible that vomiting in red, white and blue is just the silly, stupid behavior of a bunch of dopes? Im the larger sense, is it possible that Portland's protesters may not be all that effective? That the heroes profiled in Lang's report may not be all that sharp?

Could it be that this gang of jerk-offs could end up getting Trump re-elected? That's what Mayor Ted has said. Could it be that he's right?

We offer a final point:

When did Wheeler make his charge about the attempted murder? We decided to turn to the New York Times to get the actual facts.

How strange! It seems that Wheeler made his remarks last Thursday. That said, we can find no sign that the New York Times has ever reported what Wheeler said at all.

There is, of course, no perfect way to report these events. But are the Washington Post and the New York Times still functioning as real newspapers? Or as the nation devolves into tiny small tribes, are the mighty gods, Propaganda and Incompetence, perhaps devouring the Post?

Beyond that, is it possible that Portland's self-impressed fashion krewe will turn out to be skilled at only one task—getting Trump re-elected?

That's what Mayor Ted has warned. As merciless gods lay waste to the land, could Portland's mayor be right?

Tomorrow: All together now! Sullivan, Hesse, Linskey and Norris can (finally) see it coming!

We don't normally do this but...

MONDAY, AUGUST 10, 2020

...we're doing this today:
We've just skimmed George Packer's piece from the June Atlantic. It appeared beneath these headlines:
We Are Living in a Failed State
The coronavirus didn’t break America. It revealed what was already broken.
The essay ends with these paragraphs. They may not be worth reading:
PACKER (6/20): The fight to overcome the pandemic must also be a fight to recover the health of our country, and build it anew, or the hardship and grief we’re now enduring will never be redeemed. Under our current leadership, nothing will change. If 9/11 and 2008 wore out trust in the old political establishment, 2020 should kill off the idea that anti-politics is our salvation. But putting an end to this regime, so necessary and deserved, is only the beginning.

We’re faced with a choice that the crisis makes inescapably clear. We can stay hunkered down in self-isolation, fearing and shunning one another, letting our common bond wear away to nothing. Or we can use this pause in our normal lives to pay attention to the hospital workers holding up cellphones so their patients can say goodbye to loved ones; the planeload of medical workers flying from Atlanta to help in New York; the aerospace workers in Massachusetts demanding that their factory be converted to ventilator production; the Floridians standing in long lines because they couldn’t get through by phone to the skeletal unemployment office; the residents of Milwaukee braving endless waits, hail, and contagion to vote in an election forced on them by partisan justices. We can learn from these dreadful days that stupidity and injustice are lethal; that, in a democracy, being a citizen is essential work; that the alternative to solidarity is death. After we’ve come out of hiding and taken off our masks, we should not forget what it was like to be alone.
That's the way the essay ends. Our take?

We can't recover the health of our country because we no longer live in a country.

In a similar vein, we can't emerge from our self-isolation to pay attention to hospital workers, aerospace workers and Floridians standing in long lines (and the like) because there are no hospital workers, aerospace workers or Floridians standing in long lines (and the like) to pay attention to.

We can't pay attention to such people because there no such people exist. In fact, there are no people at all at this point. There are only members of various tiny self-impressed tribes, with the number of (self-isolated) tribes constantly being increased by the logic of us self-impressed dimwits Over Here in our tents on the left.

There's a constantly growing number of tribes, each proudly separate from each. You simply can't run a continental nation this way. When you're committed to the ultimate beauty of ten million tiny small self-impressed tribes, you've ceased to believe in the possibility of having a nation at all.

This article in Sunday's Washington Post strikes us as jaw-droppingly stupid. On the other hand, in a world built of nothing but the propaganda of small groups, it's a portrait of an age.

That age is perfect for those who want to end the very idea of having a nation. We associate that desire with Ron Paul, and we'd say that he's getting his way.

Protest propaganda (and fashion looks) from out Portland way! So it went at the Washington Post. At Slate, meanwhile, Daniel Politi says we should be excited because Biden is up by 6 points in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Under the devolving circumstances, those margins strike us as amazingly slender. Slate treats those margins like they're good news. Can't anyone here play this game?

Fashion looks for the days of rage! It's Clueless for a new generation and for a remarkable age.

CompStat confounds the New York Times!

MONDAY, AUGUST 10, 2020

From the realm of misstatement and error:
After posting our previous report, we began perusing this front-page report in the New York Times about opposition to defunding New York City's police.

Some black pols, and many black citizens, oppose the cry to defund police. This is an intriguing report. Eventually, though, we hit this puzzling passage:
MAYS (8/10/20): Figuring out how to handle violence is one of the most complicated parts of the effort to defund the police. Overall, serious crime in New York City has not jumped this year, but murders and shootings have: The city is on pace to to surpass 800 shootings for the first time in three years.

There have been 793 shootings as of Aug. 2, compared with 450 over the same period last year.
The shootings have fueled a 31 percent increase in homicides: As of Aug. 2, 237 people had been killed, compared with 181 people by the same time in 2019.
Say what? Let's run through that again.

According to TimesThink, there were 793 shootings in New York City through the first seven months of the year (plus two days in August). According to the Times, this puts the city on pace to surpass 800 shootings for the entire year!

We have no idea why this deeply incompetent newspaper keeps setting 800 shootings as its benchmark for the year. We're fairly sure that we marveled at another such report about a month ago.

As you can see, the Times seems to be working from the data in this recent CompStat report. But nothing in that report explains where that benchmark would have come from.

By our own reckoning, New York City's 793 shootings through August 2 actually put the city on a pace to experience 1250 shootings this year. That is quite a few more than 800. But for some reason, the Times keep offering this weird approach to this shooting statistic.

Is New York City "on pace" to exceed 800 shootings this year? Almost surely, a whole week later, it has already done so! But so it goes as our brightest newspaper attempts to deal with a simple statistic.

No anthropologist pointed this out. Who except a New York Times editor would have failed to notice the oddness?

PROPAGANDA, INCOMPETENCE, ERROR: Maureen Dowd made a mistake!

MONDAY, AUGUST 10, 2020

And that was the weekend's good news:
Maureen Dowd made a mistake at the start of yesterday's column in the New York Times.

Uh-oh! As originally published, her column started like this:
DOWD (8/9/20): On the cusp of Joe Biden teaming up with a woman, I am casting back to my time covering the first woman who was a serious contender for veep.

The feminist fairy tale—which began with women crying and popping champagne on the convention floor in San Francisco in 1984—had a sad ending. Cinderella with ashes in her mouth.

It’s hard to fathom, but it has been 36 years since a man and a woman ran together on a Democratic Party ticket. To use Geraldine Ferraro's favorite expression, "Gimme a break!"
In fact, it's been four years since a man and a woman ran together on a Democratic Party ticket. In 2016, the Democratic ticket featured Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine—one boy and one girl.

Many people noticed Dowd's mistake, not excluding Hillary Clinton. But the clown show didn't end there:

In standard fashion, the New York Times Opinion section made yet another misstatement in a tweet announcing the fact that it has corrected Dowd's initial mistake.

The Opinion section then proceeded to correct its own misstatement. As of today, all is well, at least in a factual sense, with the version of Dowd's column which appears online.

Briefly, let's be fair. Everybody makes mistakes. Also, it's easy to see what Dowd was thinking about when she made her mistake.

You could almost imagine that an editor at the Times might have spotted that original mistake. You could also imagine that the Opinion section might have been more careful in announcing its correction of the mistake—but did we mention the fact that this was the New York Times?

Dowd's mistake was the kind of mistake which doesn't actually matter. That distinguishes it from many of the three million other mistakes, misstatements, gong shows and errors fashioned by the New York Times over the past thirty years.

These various gong shows and propaganda campaigns have sometimes done terrible harm.

To cite two examples, the newspaper's gong shows and propaganda campaigns helped elect George W, Bush and Donald J. Trump. The outcomes of those gonged-up elections spread death all through Iraq and now all through our own world.

(Remember when the Times published this 4400-word pseudo-report about the way Secretary of State Clinton supposedly transferred all our uranium to the Russkies? Amazingly, the astounding Times pseudo-report had been prepared in concert with a major Republican hack.

(Playing by established rules, Chris Hayes and Michelle Goldberg failed to challenge the report that night. On the bright side, Goldberg is now a columnist for the Times. Silence really does have its rewards, as it always has!)

That gigantic, 4400-word report was a gong-show all the way down. By way of contrast, Dowd's mistake this week didn't matter. That utterly phony pseudo-report wholly and massively did.

Dowd's mistake was unimportant; everyone crowed all the same. At this site, it served as an innocent counterpoint to the onslaught of incompetence, error and propaganda which flowed from the upper-end mainstream press over the past few days.

We'll focus on that onslaught all this week, with an emphasis on the propaganda—on the slavish adherence to Storyline. This will lead us back to the larger report we want to resume—our report about the way shooting deaths at the hands of police have been reported and discussed since early 2012.

Shooting deaths at the hands of police is an important topic. In theory, it, like other important topics, should be reported and discussed with great journalistic care.

In fact, reporting of that important topic has largely been driven by Storyline. But so it has been with almost all major topics over the past thirty-plus years.

Hillary Clinton was a crook; Al Gore was the world's biggest liar. The children kept retyping these pre-approved novels. Eventually, a pair of Doomsdays arrived.

Those behaviors actually mattered; yesterday, Dowd's mistake basically didn't. Meanwhile, her mistake appeared in the midst of a wave of dim-witted mainstream propaganda in support of a raft of current approved Storylines.

As in the past, so too today. Presentation of these Storylines comes to us from the land of Dumbness, Misstatement and Error.

It comes to us from the realm of upper-end press recitation. It comes to us from a childish realm in which journalists keep revealing a basic truth about the remarkably limited capabilities of our war-inclined, floundering species.

Tomorrow, we may briefly return to David Leonhardt to start these gloomy reports.

On Friday afternoon, we mentioned Leonhardt's recent front-page report in the Times. In retrospect, the striking thing about that recent report is this:

Leonhardt was trying to tell the truth about the current state of the pandemic within these United States! But even as he tried to describe the extent of our Trump-driven national train wreck, he instinctively turned to the wrong statistic—and he's sold as one of the smart ones!

In short, even when they try to tell the truth, they lack the skill to do so. This is a problem which comes to us from the land of Misstatement and Error.

As we've tried to acknowledge, our reporting on this matter comes to us through extensive consultation with an array of top anthropologists. It's their insights on which we've drawn, much less so on our own.

The despondent scholars to whom we refer offer a very surprising analysis:

Our upper-end scribes possess almost no skills at all!

These scholars say it's just the way our floundering species was made. We've begin to believe that they may have a point.

We may start with Leonhardt tomorrow.

Tomorrow: Fashions from the Portland frontier, plus wave after wave of Pure Script

This afternoon: Long ago at The Hub

What some saw at the peaceful protests!

SATURDAY, AUGUST 8, 2020

At the Times, Nellie Bowles gets it right:
If you read only one news report today, we'll suggest that you read the front-page report by the New York Times' Nellie Bowles.

Bowles reports on the recent peaceful protests, mainly those in Seattle. Her report also touches on the nature of the peaceful protests in Portland and Minneapolis.

To her credit, and to the credit of the Times, her report starts to suggest the possibility that these protests, which were in fact largely peaceful, may not have been as thoroughly peaceful as we've maybe been led to believe.

Have we received an accurate picture of the extent of the peacefulness? In the past few weeks, we've started asking that question. This morning, with a Seattle dateline, Bowles' report starts like this:
BOWLES (8/8/20): Faizel Khan was being told by the news media and his own mayor that the protests in his hometown were peaceful, with “a block party atmosphere.”

But that was not what he saw through the windows of his Seattle coffee shop. He saw encampments overtaking the sidewalks. He saw roving bands of masked protesters smashing windows and looting.

Young white men wielding guns would harangue customers as well as Mr. Khan, a gay man of Middle Eastern descent who moved here from Texas so he could more comfortably be out. To get into his coffee shop, he sometimes had to seek the permission of self-appointed armed guards to cross a border they had erected.

“They barricaded us all in here,” Mr. Khan said. “And they were sitting in lawn chairs with guns.”
Is that anything like the picture you received from your favorite news orgs?

We're going to guess that it possibly isn't. Therein a problem may lie.

We aren't suggesting that the peaceful protests weren't, on the whole, mainly peaceful. We aren't even asking whether they should have been peaceful.

We're asking a different question. We're asking if CNN and MSNBC gave you an accurate picture of what was occurring in those locales.

While we're at it, we'll ask the same question about news reporting in the Washington Post. And in Bowles' own New York Times.

In today's report, Bowles offers a startling portrait of violent conduct inside and around the largely peaceful protests. At one point, she describes some of what allegedly happened in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood, the part of Seattle which was abandoned by police at one point:
BOWLES: Matthew Ploszaj, a Capitol Hill resident, is one of the complainants. He said his apartment building, blocks from Mr. Khan’s shop, was broken into four times during the occupation. The Seattle Police were called each time and never came to his apartment, according to Mr. Ploszaj...

The employees of Bergman’s Lock and Key say they were followed by demonstrators with baseball bats. Cure Cocktail, a local bar and charcuterie, said its workers were asked by protesters to pledge loyalty to the movement: “Are you for the CHOP or are you for the police?” they were asked, according to the lawsuit.

The business owners also found that trying to get help from the Seattle Police, who declined to comment for this article, made them targets of activists.

Across from Cafe Argento is a funky old auto repair shop called Car Tender run by John McDermott, a big soft-spoken man. On June 14, Mr. McDermott was driving his wife home from their anniversary dinner when he received a call from a neighbor who saw someone trying to break into his shop.

Mr. McDermott and his 27-year-old son, Mason, raced over. A man who was inside the shop, Mr. McDermott said, had emptied the cash drawer and was in the midst of setting the building on fire. Mr. McDermott said he and his son wrestled the man down and planned to hold him until the police arrived. But officers never showed up. A group of several hundred protesters did, according to Mr. McDermott, breaking down the chain-link fence around his shop and claiming that Mr. McDermott had kidnapped the man.

“They started coming across the fence—you see all these beautiful kids, a mob but kids—and they have guns and are pointing them at you and telling you they’re going to kill you,” Mr. McDermott said. “Telling me I’m the K.K.K. I’m not the K.K.K.”

[...]

Later, Mr. McDermott’s photo and shop address appeared on a website called Cop Blaster
, whose stated aim is to track police brutality but also has galleries of what it calls “Snitches” and “Cop Callers.” The McDermotts were categorized as both of those things on the website, which warned they should “keep their mouths shut.”
Remember—we aren't asking if the alleged conduct would be necessary, justifiable or even possibly good. We should also restate the fact that this alleged conduct occurred with the part of Seattle which the police had abandoned.

That said, the kind of conduct being described is well worth describing and pondering. We're asking if you think you've been given a reasonably accurate picture of this sort of behavior over the past several months.

What actually happened in Seattle, Portland and Minneapolis? At one point, Bowles speaks with an armed man named Rick Hearns, who now patrols that Seattle neighborhood as "a Black Lives Matter community guard."

What did Hearns think he saw during the peaceful protests? Hearns, and others, say this:
BOWLES: [Hearns] blamed the destruction and looting on “opportunists,” but also said that much of the damage on Capitol Hill came from a distinct contingent of violent, armed white activists. “It’s antifa,” he said. “They don’t want to see the progress we’ve made. They want chaos.”

Many of the business owners on Capitol Hill agreed: Much of the violence they saw and the intimidation of their patrons came from a group these business owners identified as antifa
, which they distinguished from the Black Lives Matter movement.

“The idea of taking up the Black movement and turning it into a white occupation, it’s white privilege in its finest definition,” Mr. Khan said. “And that’s what they did.”
Hearns and others are saying it was antifa who engaged in that non-peaceful conduct. As McDermott put it, you would see "all these beautiful kids, a mob but kids—and they have guns and are pointing them at you and telling you they’re going to kill you.”

We can't vouch for the accuracy of these accounts. We'll note again that much of Bowles' report in centered in Seattle, though she also cites "interviews with shop owners in cities like Portland and Minneapolis."

How accurate are these reports? We can't tell you that, but we can tell you this:

As we've noted in recent weeks, we've seen harbingers of this report on Tucker Carlson's routinely crazy Fox News Channel program.

Warning! Carlson stages gruesome personal meltdowns on a nightly basis. He tosses off insults with lots of name-calling, along with crazily sweeping ascriptions of motive.

Carlson routinely behaves in these ways. Most of the time, it seems like he actually means it.

That said, we've also seen reporting on Carlson's program from people who don't seem to be crazy. Often augmented with video footage, some of this reporting has led us to wonder if the news was perhaps being sanitized in other regions of the modern upper-end "press."

This morning, Bowles' front-page report describes various types of conduct we've seen described in recent weeks on Carlson's program. On several occasions, these reports have come from local people who didn't seem to be crazy, insane, disordered, deranged or even basically nuts.

We'll now mention someone else who is echoed in today's report. We refer to William Barr, who was ridiculed in our own tribal regions for suggesting that antifa was somehow playing a role in destructive, non-peaceful protest conduct.

This morning, Bowles describes a range of players in Seattle making a related claim. That includes Hearns, the armed security guard who is, or then again possibly isn't, connected to BLM.

Where does the truth lie here? We can't tell you that. All along, our view has been this:

It's hard to see a good way out of this ongoing mess.

That said, we'll link you to two other reports you might want to ponder. We'll start with Roger Cohen's op-ed column in today's New York Times.

Cohen compares our own disintegrating society to Lebanon's fully failed state. Hezbollah flags are widely seen there. Along the way, he also describes a recent ride through the American South:
COHEN (8/8/20): In June, after months confined in New York, I drove south toward Dixieland. I was reminded of American vastness. I crisscrossed rural Georgia and saw a different flag, the Confederate flag, here and there; and I drove on a stretch of highway named for Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States of America; and I saw Confederate monuments that spoke of states’ rights, but never of slavery, and claimed the lost cause was somehow not lost; and I listened to Americans whose language and values suggested a culture war so intense as to shred any shared national lexicon.
"Lebanese fracture is not American fracture," Cohen instantly says. But as he drove across the South, he saw, if only "here and there," the flag of a different polity.

That also may be true, here and there, across the Pacific Northwest. In this case, the flag would be that of antifa as our less than perfect union dissolves into a Balkanized array of furious small warring tribes.

For the record, that has long been the dream of a certain group on the fringe which we associate with Ron Paul. The dream is of a continental nation separating up into three thousand tiny small localized states.

We regard that as a crackpot dream, but now we may have one of our own. In our own tribe's crackpot dream, there will be no more police. Things will be peaceful all the way down, with social workers and adjunct professors at long last fully in charge.

Cooper and Cuomo and quite a few others may be helping us dream that dumb dream. As they kept insisting that the protests were peaceful, were they possibly hiding that antifa flag?

It seems to us that we've reached a point where the propaganda is general. As anthropologists keep telling us, it's easy to spot the propaganda when it comes from the other tribe. It's harder to spot the propaganda when it comes from corporate-paid multimillionaires who are constantly assuring us that they're totally on our side.

For our money, Cooper and Cuomo have become unwatchable; Carlson is or pretends to be nuts. To review the work of the man of the left Carlson interviewed last Tuesday night, we'll recommend the transcript of this interview from the National Review.

Michael Tracy recently drove across the country reviewing the scope of the damage from all the peaceful behavior. We can see no good way out of this mess, but we'd say that Tracy's findings are well worth considering.

We can see no good way out of this mess. It's propaganda all the way down, along with threats that, if people like the McDermotts talk, those peaceful kids with all their guns are going to burn their world down.

We aren't asking if you think that such conduct is necessary. We're asking you if you think that such conduct is being described in the upper-end, anti-Trump press.

We'd say that Bowles got it right today by challenging a simplified story. Sadly, the most significant part of her report may be this highlighted sentence:
BOWLES: Many are nervous about speaking out lest they lend ammunition to a conservative critique of the Black Lives Matter movement. In Portland, Elizabeth Snow McDougall, the owner of Stevens-Ness legal printers, emphasized her support for the cause before describing the damage done to her business.
People don't want to tell the truth because of the tribal imperative. If they say that Barr might be right about something, idiots kids with their verbal guns will say that they're on Barr's side.

That's the way it always ends, despondent anthropologists kept saying. We ants split up into red and black ants and at some point there's no turning back.

David Leonhardt fumbles about!

FRIDAY, AUGUST 7, 2020

The skills of the upper-end press corps:
His analysis is the featured front-page report in today's New York Times.

It sits at the top of page A1. In print editions, the headline says this:
U.S. Is Alone Among Peers In Failing to Contain Virus
That's a wholly accurate statement. Early on in his report, David Leonhardt says this:
LEONHARDT (8/7/20): Nearly every country has struggled to contain the coronavirus and made mistakes along the way.

[...]

Yet even with all of these problems, one country stands alone, as the only affluent nation to have suffered a severe, sustained outbreak for more than four months: the United States.

Over the past month, about 1.9 million Americans have tested positive for the virus. That’s more than five times as many as in all of Europe, Canada, Japan, South Korea and Australia, combined.

Even though some of these countries saw worrying new outbreaks over the past month, including 50,000 new cases in Spain, the outbreaks still pale in comparison to those in the United States.
Leonhardt's basic premise is plainly true. The United States has handled the virus much more poorly than every comparable nation. Plainly, we're the train wreck of the developed world when it comes to the virus.

We agree with Leonhardt's basic claim. We don't agree with the way he argues in support of his claim.

How does Leonhardt struggle and fail? We think there are two basic problems:

He emphasizes "cases," not deaths: Right from the start, Leonhardt focuses on "cases" rather than deaths. For many doubters, this will play right into Trump's strong hand—the wide array of phony claims he has made about "cases" and testing.

Many people believe Trump's central claim—his claim that we have more "cases" because we do much more testing. "Cases" is a nebulous statistic to begin with, but it's also the statistic many people will be reluctant to believe.

When he discusses deaths, he uses the less instructive statistic: Eventually, Leonhardt does talk about deaths.

When he does, he uses the less significant measure of deaths—and his presentation is selective and misleading:
LEONHARDT: Already, the American death toll is of a different order of magnitude than in most other countries. With only 4 percent of the world’s population, the United States has accounted for 22 percent of coronavirus deaths. Canada, a rich country that neighbors the United States, has a per capita death rate about half as large. And these gaps may worsen in coming weeks, given the lag between new cases and deaths.
Finally, in that passage, Leonhardt discusses our "per capita death rate." But he doesn't do so until that passage, which is paragraph 18.

When he does discuss deaths instead of cases, he discusses total deaths to date (per capita). He skips the more seminal statistic—current daily or weekly deaths (per capita).

Leonhardt wants to show that were the train wreck of the developed world, but he chooses the wrong way to do it. Even now, the United States isn't the worst in the developed world at the measure Leonhardt discusses.

We may be substantially worse than Canada, but five other developed nations are still substantially worse than we are. Below, you see the data:
Total deaths to date, per million population:
Belgium: 850
United Kingdom: 685
Spain: 610
Italy: 582
Sweden: 570
United States: 493
Canada: 237
Even now, we aren't the worst among developed nations at total deaths to date (per capita). Canada is doing better than we are, but five European countries are still doing worse. In short, the U.S. is not "alone among peers" if that's the measure you're using.

That said, we're the god-awful worst, by far, at current daily or weekly deaths. Here you see the god-awful way we compare, in our current stumblebum state, to the countries listed above:
Deaths in the past seven days, as of August 7:
United States: 8,034
United Kingdom: 414
Spain: 57
Italy: 55
Canada: 37
Sweden: 27
Belgium: 20
Those numbers haven't been adjusted for population. But even if you do adjust, our current daily/weekly death rate dwarfs those of all comparable nations.

When it comes to current deaths, we're a god-awful joke. We're the current train wreck of the developed world, by far.

Leonhardt's (accurate) point is that we are the train wreck of the developed world. Plainly, a person can't establish that point with the "death rate" statistic he chose.

Our gruesome status only becomes clear when you talk about current, ongoing death rates. But when Leonhardt stops talking "cases" and starts talking deaths, he uses the statistic which doesn't show what a pitiful train wreck we are.

Can we talk? Our major journalists are amazingly bad at almost all professional tasks. (Leonhardt, who went to Yale, has long been sold as one of the smart ones.)

In this morning's front-page report, Leonhardt started with "cases," a nebulous statistic which plays into Trump's hands. And when he finally started discussing deaths, he used the statistic which doesn't show how bad our current state is.

One last point:

Online, the Times has added a graphic right under paragraph 18. The graphic shows a version of (current) "Daily deaths per million."

That's the statistic Leonhardt didn't use in paragraph 18. In order to show what a train wreck we are, it's the statistic he should have used. Online at the Times, no explanation is offered.

People reading the Times online will just have to figure the whole thing out for themselves. That graphic didn't appear in that location in this morning's sprawling report in the hard-copy Times. So it goes as our brightest journalists try to explain the world.

Our journalists are masters of very few skills. Memorization of Storyline may be their only real skill.

Our journalists are masters of very few skills. This fact is highly counterintuitve, but it's plainly true.

Yamiche Alcindor tees Trump up!

FRIDAY, AUGUST 7, 2020

The skills of the upper-end press corps:
How unskilled is our upper-end press corps? Consider what happened on Tuesday.

Commander-in-chief Donald J. Trump was raking question from the press. He called on The NewsHour's Yamiche Alcindor.

As if devoted to self-defeat, Alcindor rose and said this:
ALCINDOR (8/4/20): Thank you, Mr. President. I have two quick questions, one on the virus and one on policing.

On the virus, you said recently that there can be too much testing. Can you explain what the downside would be from testing too many Americans for the virus and why you haven't provided a date by which all Americans might have the same kind of testing that we have here at the White House?
First, let's summarize:

Alcindor started by saying she had two quick questions. One quick question would concern the virus. The other quick question would be about policing.

She then proceeded to ask two (2) questions, each of which was about the virus. When she did, every one of the analysts screamed.

Every one of the analysts wailed. They knew that Trump would do this:
TRUMP (continuing directly): We do more testing than anybody in the world, as I explained. And I don't mean just a little bit. If you look at India, they're at about 11 million. We're at 61 million. And, there comes a point when you just, you want to focus your testing in a different way, and we'll be announcing stuff.

What we've done is incredible with the testing. Not only the testing, not only the number of tests, but also very importantly, the quality of the test and the machinery itself to do the test. Nobody thought it would be possible to get a 5-minute and a 15-minute result. That's a very accurate result, and we do with Abbott. Abbott Laboratories has done a great job. Many of these companies have done an incredible job.

So we're looking at that very strongly.
And we're looking at doing something that if we do it--

Look, right now, what the testing is doing is helpful, but we're spending massive amounts of money and we want to have it channeled very accurately. We want to be able to help the most people we can. But we are testing at a level that no country in the world, and I've spoken to the leaders of the world and they'll ask me about it. No country in the world thought it would be, it's even believable that we're able to test so much.

Sixty-one million versus, you know, most countries don't even test. You know when they test? When somebody is feeling badly. If somebody is feeling badly, they're symptomatic, that's when they test. And that's a big difference.

With us we go around and looking because if we find spots, we find hotspots. One problem is from the standpoint of the media, we end up with far more cases than we would normally show. So it's, you know, as I called it the other day in a statement I said, "It's called media gold." You know, for the media, it's gold. But the truth is it's--we've done an incredible job in testing. Nobody in the world has done the job. Other leaders have told me the same thing. They can't believe we're able to do it. And we will continue, but we want to really be able to test very specifically the people that are in most danger, most in need.
Why did all the analysts scream when Alcindor asked her questions? They screamed because they knew that Trump would simply recite his standard speech of self-praise.

Alcindor's two questions were fuzzy enough to guarantee that outcome. She had doomed herself right from the start.

(As you can see from Trump's monologue, he had already "explained" this once. But so what? After Alcindor teed him up, he simply "explained" it again!)

What might Alcindor have done instead? She should have restricted herself to this one (1) question:
"When will you provide a date by which all Americans might have the same kind of testing that we have here at the White House?"
That question is fairly precise. As Trump began to wander afield, Alcindor could have broken in and stressed the fact that her question wasn't being answered.

Instead, she muddied the waters by asking two (2) different questions. And the first of her questions was so fuzzy that everyone knew what would happen:

Trump would simply deliver his filibuster about how brilliant our testing has been. His monologue went on for two minutes.

After he finished his filibuster, he proceeded to call on someone else. Alcindor never got the chance to as her "quick question on policing."

Alcindor represents a program which is viewed as our brightest TV news show. That said, anyone would have known where her pair of questions would lead.

Correction! Anyone but a top-level scribe would have known what was going to happen. Again and again, our upper-end press corps reveals itself as the gang which can't ask questions straight.

Let's be clear: Nothing Trump ever says on this topic will ever make any sense. To the extent that Q-and-A's matter at all, the journalist has to ask a question which is so precise that it's clear that it hasn't been answered.

At this point, that's basically pointless too. But as soon as Alcindor said what she said, the analysts all started to howl.

They could have given Trump's "answer" themselves! Everyone knew what Trump would say—everyone but The NewsHour's top scribe!

Later today: Leonhardt just can't get it done