Democrats troubled by "sitting duck presidents!"

THURSDAY, JANUARY 21, 2021

CNN seems to make a mistake: In fairness, everybody makes mistakes, if that's what we're discussing here.

Mistakes are going to happen! That said, we turned on CNN during the 11 A.M. Eastern hour.  Nancy Pelosi was being interviewed—and the CNN chyron said this:

PELOSI: NOT TRYING TRUMP FOR INSURRECTION INCITEMENT WOULD AMOUNT TO "GET OUT OF JAIL FREE" CARD FOR SITTING DUCK PRESIDENTS

That's what the chyron said! 

We don't know what Pelosi had said—the interview was almost over. But we assume the chyron meant to refer to Donald J. Trump (remember him?) as a recent lame duck president.

In the subsequent discussion, pundits debated when Pelosi would send the recent impeachment of Trump over to the Senate. When she does, we Dems will begin conducting our trial of The Inka Who's No Longer There.  

Most likely, the Inka will end up being acquitted, creating a bad talking-point. That outcome seems especially likely because of our team's second plan—our plan to let fifty Democratic senators rule that the other party's most popular pol won't be allowed to run for the White House next time. 

National unity, here we come! That will make perfect sense to the others!

Was it a bad idea to impeach Trump again? Not necessarily, no. Once you let a crackpot like Trump get into the White House, there may be no sane way out.

That said, how did Trump ever get to the White House in the first place? Some members of the pundit guild are beginning to try to puzzle that question out.

Karen Attiah takes a shot in today's Washington Post. Her headline is promising but, in our view, it's all downhill from there:

The media had a role to play in the rise of Trump. It’s time to hold ourselves accountable.

The mainstream press corps' role in the rise of Trump goes back a great many years. That said, Attiah's reasoning strikes us as several steps past hopeless, with a few "links to nowhere" thrown in. 

In fairness, this guild has never been amazingly sharp. Also, they now have several favorite new toys, around which they shape all pronouncements.

People in the other towns believe the craziest things. Over here, in the streets of Our Town, we're victims to prevailing mandated scripts concerning gender and race.

In many instances, these scripts are the only tools or toys our upper-end pundits possess. At long last, we expect to begin discussing this daunting topic at the start of next week.

First, let's put all future "sitting ducks" on notice! That's what the CNN chyron said. In fairness, we all make mistakes.


CHILDREN OF FLINT: Semi-postponed, if just for one day!

THURSDAY, JANUARY 21, 2021

Joe Biden and Limbaugh instead: On this one somewhat happier day, we hate to return to the question under review:

How much harm has been done to the good, decent children of Flint?

We'll push our discussion back one day, For today, we'll focus briefly on Joe Biden and Rush Limbaugh instead.

Yesterday, a bit before noon, Biden became the American president. He then delivered his inaugural address. We'll note a few things he said.

We'll note this part of his speech as we start. The president's highlighted statement is accurate, but it's also remarkably limited:

BIDEN (1/20/21): Many centuries ago, Saint Augustine, a saint of my church, wrote that a people was a multitude defined by the common objects of their love. What are the common objects we love that define us as Americans? I think I know. Opportunity. Security. Liberty. Dignity. Respect. Honor. And, yes, the truth.

Recent weeks and months have taught us a painful lesson. There is truth and there are lies. Lies told for power and for profit. And each of us has a duty and responsibility, as citizens, as Americans, and especially as leaders—leaders who have pledged to honor our Constitution and protect our nation—to defend the truth and to defeat the lies.

"There is truth and there are lies," the new president said. 

Each part of that statement is accurate. But the overall statement is remarkably limited, and it invites us to fail in a daunting task, a task the new president urges.

Concerning the existence of truth, Boise is the capital of Idaho; two plus two does make four. These are clear examples of "truth." There's plenty of truth in the world.

There are also plenty of lies. But as people have understood until recently, there are also a wide array of misstatements which aren't, or may not be, lies.

There are false statements made in good faith. Such errors are made all the time.

There are also misleading statements which are technically accurate. There are ironic statements, perhaps even jokes, where the speaker's intention may be misunderstood. 

There are pleasing narratives, Storylines, which distort our wider vision. And, as people once understood, it's often very hard to know if some other person is lying.

In recent years, we liberals have loved to accuse the others of lies. In doing so, we create debates we can't hope to win. In the process, we tend to heighten the tribal divisions Biden has said we should end.

In truth, the new president's highlighted statement was strikingly simplistic. That said, it fits a simple-minded view of the world we have adopted, here in Our Town,very much as our own.

The new president went on to say that there are "lies told for power and for profit." Undoubtedly, that statement is true, and it leads us toward Rush Limbaugh.

In this morning's New York Times, Jeremy Peters reports some recent remarks by Limbaugh. In fact, the remarks were made yesterday afternoon. Here's part of Peters' report:

PETERS (1/21/21): Rush Limbaugh, broadcasting his weekday radio show a few miles from the Palm Beach retreat where Mr. Trump is spending the first days of his post-presidency, told his millions of listeners on Wednesday that the inauguration of Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris did not make them the rightful winners of the election.

“They have not legitimately won yet,” Mr. Limbaugh said, noting that he would be on “thin ice” for making such a claim. He then gave his listeners a false and inflated vote total for Mr. Trump and predicted the Democratic victories would be “fleeting.”

“I think they know, with 74 million, maybe 80 million people who didn’t vote for Joe Biden, there is no way they can honestly say to themselves that they represent the power base in the country,” Mr. Limbaugh said.

Biden and Harris "have not legitimately won yet,” Limbaugh is quoted saying. From there, Peters' account of what Limbaugh said gets a little bit fuzzy.

According to official totals, 74.2 million people voted for Trump. We're not sure why Peters says that Limbaugh gave "a false vote total for trump."

 According to the leading authority, almost three million additional votes went to candidates other than Biden. That moves the total who didn't vote for Biden closer to 89 million. 

That said, why hasn't Biden "legitimately won?" Did Limbaugh try to support his claim? 

Peters never attempts to explain. What follows was somewhat clearer:

PETERS (continuing directly): On One America News, viewers saw a lengthy documentary-style segment called “Trump: Legacy of a Patriot” instead of the inauguration. One of the network’s commentators, Pearson Sharp, provided the voice-over and offered only flattering words about the former president while he leveled false claims about voter fraud.

Mr. Sharp repeated many of the discredited excuses that have formed the alternate version of events that Mr. Trump and his followers are using to explain his loss. The host claimed, for instance, that Mr. Trump couldn’t have been defeated because he won the bellwether state of Ohio and carried so many more counties than Mr. Biden did. “And yet somehow we’re still expected to believe that Joe Biden got more votes than any president in history,” Mr. Sharp said.

Did OAN's Preston Sharp (actual name!) actually make those ridiculous (paraphrased) claims? Did he really say that Candidate Biden couldn't have won because Candidate Trump won Ohio?

Did he really say that Biden must have lost because Trump won more counties, presumably nationwide? Those would be transcendently stupid claims. Sadly, though, we know of no reason to doubt that Sharp (real name!) may have made them.

This sort of thing has been going on roughly forever. Utterly ridiculous claims have been broadcast for many years. Along the way, these ridiculous claims have been tied to oodles of profit. 

As has become abundantly clear, many people believe such absurd misstatements. For roughly the past twenty years, we've said this about that:

When people like Limbaugh and Hannity broadcast such claims, it should be treated as front-page news. Today, the New York Times placed Peters' report deep inside, on page B4. 

For the record, when people believe and repeat such claims, they're emitting absurd misstatements. But unless we've decided to change the English language, such people are not "telling lies."

In recent years, the children who live in the streets of Our Town have been eager to change the language. Because we're almost as dumb as the others, we seem to think that accusing people of "lies" is more effective and accurate, in some undisclosed way, than accusing them of having made "absurd / unsupported misstatements."

That's how childish we've turned out to be over here in Our Town! And since the L-bomb is a fairly obvious "fighting word," it seems to us that we harm our own interests when we play the tribal game in this pleasing way.

The statement by Biden posted above is, in a word, simple-minded. It's true that the world is full of "lies." But as Hamlet thoughtfully said, "There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

The world isn't just truth and lies. It's also damn-fool stupidity and gross self-regard, each of which is widely observed here in the streets of Our Town.

We end with a second statement about Biden's speech, and with a statement about Rachel Maddow and the children of Flint:

The president went on make these remarks. They shape the key message of his address. We agree with every word:

BIDEN: I understand that many Americans view the future with some fear and trepidation...

But the answer is not to turn inward, to retreat into competing factions, distrusting those who don’t look like you do, or worship the way you do, or don’t get their news from the same sources you do.

We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal. We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts. If we show a little tolerance and humility.

As my mom would say just for a moment, stand in their shoes. Because here’s the thing about life. There’s no accounting for what fate will deal you. Some days when you need a hand, there are other days when we’re called to lend a hand.

Biden suggested at several points that we must learn to stand in the others' shoes as we seek to rebuild our national unity. At each juncture, it seemed to us that those in Our Town might hear that as advice delivered to the others, not to us right here in Our Town.

In Their Town, many people believe the things they hear from Limbaugh and OAN. Over here, in the streets of Our Town, we seem to trust Rachel Maddow.

What happened to the "poisoned" children of Flint? We return to that question tomorrow.

Coming tomorrow:  Kevin Drum's statistics. Also, what The New Yorker said

 

An earlier, highly instructive inaugural address!

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 20, 2021

Lincoln, discussing both sides: This morning, we stumbled upon C-Span 3 as it re-aired the tape from February 2020 in which Harold Holzer discussed Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural address.

At one point, Holzer says this was "the powerhouse moment" in Lincoln's address, "the moment that Frederick Douglass would admire most:"

Yet if God wills that [the war] continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, still it must be said:

"The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."

According to Holzer, Frederick Douglass "believed that was the greatest line he ever heard in an American speech." Holzer describes Douglass praising Lincoln for that passage at a White House reception later that day.

Almost everything in that address strikes us as other-worldly. We first read the text of the address on the wall of the Lincoln Memorial, on a day-long field trip to Washington sites with a group of Baltimore fifth-grade kids in the mid-1970s.

We well remember the shock we felt when we read what Lincoln had said. We were amazed to think that any person had ever said any such thing in public. 

Luckily, we have a photograph of ourselves with [NAME WITHHELD], then a mere fifth grader, as we posed before the Gettysburg Address on the opposite wall of the memorial. (We dug it out this morning.) 

Lincoln had been sent here from Mars, we remember thinking that day after we'd read the text of the second inaugural address. For the full text, click here.

We humans! In truth, we don't really know where we are or what we're doing there. Occasionally, one of the "great souls" may show up and make unusual statements.

President Lincoln was describing the size of the nation's offense. In the wider context of the address, he was explicitly saying this:

Our side did this too.

Later, he said he knew that, as a general rule, people don't like such assessments.

Anthropologists keep telling us that we humans aren't wired to see things that way. We were happy to stumble on the C-Span tape on this extremely new morning. 


CHILDREN OF FLINT: Novelizing the children of Flint!

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 20, 2021

Managers and misdemeanors: How badly have the children of Flint been harmed by their city's water crisis?

We'll try to assess that question tomorrow. For today, we'll start with a news report in last Thursday's New York Times.

The report was written by Julie Bosman. In print editions, it appeared on page A23. (The next day, the Times published a front-page report on the same topic.)

As of Thursday morning, the topic involved a set of indictments which were about to appear. Principal headline included, this first report started like this:

Ex-Governor of Michigan Charged With Neglect in Flint Water Crisis

Rick Snyder, the former governor of Michigan who oversaw the state when a water crisis devastated the city of Flint, has been charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty, according to court records.

The charges are misdemeanors punishable by imprisonment of up to one year or a maximum fine of $1,000.

Prosecutors in Michigan will report their findings in a wide-ranging investigation into the water crisis on Thursday, officials said, a long-awaited announcement that is also expected to include charges against several other officials and top advisers to Mr. Snyder.

The findings will be announced by Dana Nessel, the Michigan attorney general, Fadwa Hammoud, the state’s solicitor general, and Kym L. Worthy, Wayne County’s top prosecutor.

So began Thursday's report. On Friday morning, now on the front page, Gray and Bosman's fuller report started like this:

GRAY AND BOSMAN (1/15/21): After a criminal investigation that stretched close to two years, prosecutors in Michigan on Thursday announced 41 counts—34 felonies and seven misdemeanors—against nine officials who once worked in the highest echelons of state government. Along with the former governor were his trusted advisers, top medical officials and two emergency managers who had been tasked with guiding Flint out of financial distress.

Nine officials had been charged with a total of 41 counts. Included were 34 felony charges. 

As they continued, Gray and Bosman described the nature of the charges against the former governor. For whatever it may be worth, we were struck, as we'd been the previous day, by the relative leniency of those charges, which haven't yet been tried and haven't yet gone to a jury:

GRAY AND BOSMAN: Others said they were relieved to see that Mr. Snyder, a former businessman who left office in 2019, was among those who were criminally charged.

In an indictment, prosecutors said that Mr. Snyder, who was charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty, had failed to check the “performance, condition and administration” of his staff and neglected his duty to protect the public from harm. Brian Lennon, a lawyer for Mr. Snyder, said that the former governor was not guilty of the charges and called the investigation “an outrageous political persecution.” Mr. Snyder is a Republican; the investigation was led by the Michigan attorney general’s office, held by a Democrat.

If Mr. Snyder is convicted, the charges are punishable by imprisonment of up to one year or a maximum fine of $1,000.

Snyder has been charged with two misdemeanors. It sounds like he's been charged with failing to keep track of the behavior of staff.

If convicted, Snyder could face a fine of as much as $1,000, without any jail time. For whatever it may be worth, we were struck by the relative leniency of these historic charges.

Did Governor Snyder do something wrong during the water crisis? Should he have been charged? Should he have been charged in the way he was?

At this point, we can't answer your questions, for the reasons suggested above. 

That said, the analysts quickly steeled themselves for what was sure to come. And sure enough! Rachel Maddow opened her Thursday night TV show with a 26-minute monologue, the first twenty minutes of which were devoted to these new criminal charges.

By Saturday, we had steeled ourselves. Through the miracle of On Demand, we sat and watched the tape of Thursday evening's program.

Readers, sure enough! The word "misdemeanor" was never spoken as Maddow engaged in the practice we've long described as "the novelization of news."

Maddow led with the hard-hitting language we quoted in yesterday's report. We'll return to that language tomorrow when we ponder the most important question here:

        How much harm has been done to the good, decent children of Flint?

For today, we'll offer these notes concerning the novelization of news, a staple of corporate press culture:

When we liberals watched the Maddow show last Thursday night, we never heard the word "misdemeanor." During the twenty-minute soliloquy, we were never told that, if convicted, Snyder was facing a maximum fine of $1,000, with no prison time required.

When Maddow discusses criminal charges lodged against certain types of miscreants, she loves to detail the length of the possible prison terms. She does so even when everyone knows that no such penalties will ever be delivered.

That silly practice is part of the novelization of news. So too with Maddow's failure to mention the somewhat surprising leniency of the charges facing Snyder—a man who could face a $1,000 fine, though only of course "if convicted."

Good lord! Even if Snyder is convicted, we may not see him in chains!

During her twenty-minute presentation, Maddow failed to mention several other points. These points involve her wonderfully idealistic love of democracy and the democratic process, a love affair she stressed all through her performance.

The water crisis in Flint occurred when the city was laboring under control of an "emergency manager." Maddow's histrionics are at their water-logged best when she discusses this practice. 

As usual, the histrionics were general last Thursday night. She railed against the emergency manager laws during which the water crisis occurred.

Maddow stressed all aspects of such laws which could be laid on Snyder's head. She failed to mention the fact that emergency manager laws exist in something like twenty other states, and that emergency managers had been installed in various Michigan cities under two previous governors, including one well-known and highly capable Democrat.

Do such facts matter in any way with respect to the new criminal charges? Actually no, they don't.

Presumably, we will learn, perhaps at trial, whether those 34 felony charges are justified. If officials engaged in serious criminal conduct, there is no point in talking about what may have happened in other settings or in previous instances.

That said, Maddow staged one of her trademark high-minded rants during her program's first twenty minutes. Since a great deal of her ranting was directed against Republican use of emergency manager laws, it seems to us she she could have found time to offer a bit of perspective or context.

This is especially true since Maddow's novelization fashioned the use of these laws in Michigan as part of an obvious racist sweep by Republican officials. We waited in vain to hear the name of Jennifer Granholm, the two-term governor who preceded Snyder's two-term reign.

At this site, we regard Granholm as one of the brightest Democratic officials of the past generation. (We base this on her performance as an occasional TV analyst.)

At present, Granholm is poised to serve as President Biden's secretary of energy. Earlier in her career, she served one term as Michigan's attorney general, then served as governor of the state from 2003 through 2011.

During her two terms as governor, Granholm appointed emergency managers in six different locales. We list them for you here:

Emergency managers appointed by Granholm:
Highland Park, Michigan: March 2005, April 2009
Three Oaks Village, Michigan: December 2008
Detroit Public Schools: March 2009
Ecorse, Michigan: October 2009
Pontiac, Michigan: April 2010
Benton Harbor, Michigan: April 2010

As readers may recall, the situation in Benton Harbor was a special trigger for Maddow. She launched reports on Benton Harbor so crazily misleading that a Michigan columnist who stressed her family's love for Rachel published a stinging column chastising Maddow for her conduct.

In response, Rachel chuckled and clowned her way through an on-air semi-acknowledgement semi-correction. If memory serves, she never got around to explaining why someone as smart and sensible as  Governor Granholm would have taken so blatantly racist an action as to appoint an emergency manager there in the first place.

Such questions remained unexplained here in the streets of Our Town. We're left with our favorite pulp fiction.

What actually happened in the case of the Flint water crisis? Ideally, the prosecution of those 34 felony charges will give the world a fuller understanding.

Along the way, the good decent people who live in Our Town may be subjected to more of Maddow's novelizations. Tomorrow, we'll start to discuss the most important reason why this foolishness matters.

As we noted yesterday, last Thursday's novelization involved the use of thrilling language about the way the children of Flint have been "poisoned" by Flint's water crisis "in a way unlikely ever to be undone." (We're employing the famous language of the Brown decision.)

Actually, Maddow said the effects of the "mass poisoning" will never be undone. As we've noted in the past, Maddow loves to drop the P-bomb when her novels take us to Flint.

What happens to the children of Flint is the key issue here. That said, the decent people who live in Our Town are also harmed by these endless novelizations.

According to major anthropologists, novelization of this type is very much bred in the bone. We humans are wired to produce such tribal narrations, or so we've routinely been told.

That said, who has been harming the children of Flint? Could a certain (unwitting) cable news star be one such (unwitting) agent?

Tomorrow: Disappearing Drum


Discernment and its discontents!

TUESDAY, JANUARY 19, 2021

The lack of human discernment: Has the problem caused by the lack of human discernment ever been quite so clear, Pizzagate and QAnon-wise?

On today's front page, the New York Times reports some of this lack of discernment.  Sabrina Tavernise focuses on some regular people over there on the pro-Trump side:

TAVERNISE (1/18/21): Theda Kasner, 83, a retired medical worker from Marshfield, Wis., who was originally interviewed for a New York Times polling story before the election, has been in an R.V. park in Weslaco, Texas, near the border with Mexico, since December. She is spending the winter there with her husband...

[...]

When asked about the violence at the [Capitol building] riot, Ms. Kasner repeated the common conspiracy theory that antifa had infiltrated the crowd. These days, she is finding herself increasingly confused in a sea of information, much of it false.

She had heard on a video she was sent on Facebook that in the Biden administration, children could be taken away from their parents. “I am in a total state of, I don’t know what is happening,” Ms. Kasner said.

“I simply cannot fathom what my country is becoming,” she said, saying that she had been sitting in her home in tears.

In fairness, Kasner is 83. That said, Tavernise also quotes a 43-year-old man from Colorado: 

TAVERNISE: For Mr. Scheerer, the fuel truck driver in Colorado, the multiple catastrophes of the past year—the coronavirus, the economic disruption that came with it, the political fear across the country—all fused into a kind of looming threat. The lockdowns infuriated him. He sees mask mandates not as public health but public control. Both, he believed, were signs of a coming tyranny. 

[...]

“It’s way more than just being some kind of a Trump fanatic,” he said. He said he saw himself as “a guy up on the wall of a city seeing the enemy coming, and ringing the alarm bell.”

Force, he said, is only a last resort.

“Are you OK with internment camps if you refuse to wear a mask or take a vaccination?” he asked. “I believe in a world where force has to be used to stop evil or the wrong act.”

Scheerer has apparently heard, and apparently believes, that people who refuse to be vaccinated will end up in internment camps under a President Biden.

The rise of round-the-clock dis- and misinformation is eating away at our nation's unavoidable lack of human discernment. And no, this problem isn't limited to the "little people."

We recently had the misfortune to read this discouraging New York Times essay about Josh Hawley's kooky intellectual war with the deeply dangerous fourth-century theologian Pelagius. "Highly educated" graduates of Stanford and Yale Law School believe the most damn-fool things!

(To read Hawley's graduation address about Pelagius, you can just click here. Be prepared to come face-to-face with the endless supply of the lack of human discernment.)

Regular people don't know what to think; crackpots like Hawley don't seem to know how. But the vast breakdown in human discernment isn't limited to the people found Over There, be they humble or exalted.

These breakdowns are quite widespread right here in the streets of Our Town. For our money, the examples are more numerous, and more depressing, with each passing day.

For today, we'll send you to Vanessa Friedman's latest hiss-spitting attack on Melania Trump's wardrobe selections down through the past five years. 

Friedman wrote it, the New York Times ran it. We humans have to be out of our minds to traffic in bullshit like this. 

Then too, there are the unexplained flips among Our Town's intellectual leaders. Yesterday morning, on Morning Joe, Mika was bitterly attacking Sheryl Sandberg. Three years ago, Mika was among the masses who stood in line to recite the scripts about Facebook's feminist icon, praising her for her obvious spectacular human greatness.

We also read Peter Beinart's air-filled rumination in the New York Times concerning political courage. What follows makes perfect sense, except for the fact that it doesn't:

BEINART (1/16/21): Courage cannot be explained by a single variable. Politicians whose communities have suffered disproportionately from government tyranny may show disproportionate bravery in opposing it. Mr. Romney, like the Arizona Republican Jeff Flake—whose opposition to Mr. Trump likely ended his senatorial career—belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which was once persecuted on American soil. In the fevered days after Sept. 11, the only member of Congress to oppose authorizing the “war on terror” was a Black woman, Barbara Lee.

But during that era, too, ambition undermined political courage, and stature fortified it. John Kerry, John Edwards and Joe Lieberman, Democratic senators who went on to run for president in 2004, voted for the Iraq war.

By contrast, Mr. Kerry’s Massachusetts colleague, Ted Kennedy, who had been elected to the Senate in 1962, voted against it...

There's more, but we'd like to hold onto our lunch. Consider:

For starters, Beinart forgot to say that Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden also "voted for the war," to the extent that anyone did. 

(Senators voted on the so-called "war resolution," not on the war itself. The resolution was aggressively sold as the way to avoid a war. We described it as the worst vote in Senate history, but it wasn't "a vote on the war" in the traditional sense.) 

That said, the courageous Romney also supported the war, despite his Mormon difference! And while he was sharing his plu-pompous thoughts, Beinart forgot to mention another fact:

Peter Beinart actively supported the war in Iraq! Here's one of his tweets on the subject:

I supported the Iraq War. A mentor died in it. My sister-in-law left her toddler to serve in it. I wrote 2 books grappling w/ how I got it so wrong. I never thought people like Bolton + Netanyahu could pull off a campaign of lies like that again. They have...

Beinart supported the war himself! Presumably, he did so from the noblest of motives, unlike the cowardly pols whose motives he decries in an essay so faux and so absurd it could only have appeared in the routinely ridiculous Times.

Trust us! It gets worse—much, much worse—over here in the streets of Our Town. 

Over in the other towns, the little people are often extremely poorly informed. Here in Our Town, our elites are quite routinely full of the world's hottest and dumbest air, and the rest of us rarely notice.

Human discernment is widely AWOL. The state of play among us humans is horrible all the way down.


CHILDREN OF FLINT: "The mass poisoning of every kid in Flint!"

TUESDAY, JANUARY 19, 2021

"It's something you don't grow out of:" We'll start with something that doesn't matter, except to the extent that it does.

It appears on page A1 of this morning's New York Times. Essentially, it serves as a headline atop a highly significant news report. This is what it says:

       2,048 deaths were reported on Jan. 4 alone.

In print editions, that slightly peculiar statement is cast in the role of a virtual headline atop a highly visible front-page news report. 

The report, by Amy Harmon and three others, concerns an extremely significant topic—the rapidly increasing number of deaths in the United States from Covid-19.  

It's possible that the number of deaths will continue to grow until vaccination reins it in. The strange thing about the number in that virtual headline is the fact that the number's so small.

According to that semi-headline, 2,048 Covid deaths were reported "on Jan. 4 alone." Based on that construction, a reader might think that 2,048 was a strikingly large number of deaths for one single day.

In fact, the 7-day average on January 4 was-—according to the New York Times' daily data—2,656 reported deaths per day. In fact, the number of reported deaths on January 4 was substantially lower than the daily average which prevailed at that time.

The 7-day average has continued to climb, almost to this very day. Consider:

After yesterday's reporting was done, the 7-day average stood at a truly horrible 3,225 reported deaths per day. On the tiniest of bright sides, that average was actually lower than the average had been the day before.

In fact, within the Times data, the 7-day average reached its highest point on January 12, when it stood at 3,352 reported deaths per day. Since then, the average has been nosing down. This may represent a change for the better, or it may be a type of statistical glitch.

Reporting on the number of daily deaths has been all over the ballpark. We've noted the way major stars like Jake Tapper and Rachel Maddow seem to cherry-pick the numbers they report, always finding ways to present the largest possible number of deaths.

This morning, on page A1, the Times went in the other direction. At a glance, the paper seemed to suggest that 2,048 reported deaths would be a terrible number for a single day. 

In fact, our failing nation has a long way to go to get back down to any such number of daily deaths! Just over two thousand deaths per day? One can only wish!

Why did the Times choose to go with that particular number and with that particular date? Presumably, because the human interest stories they wanted to tell track to that particular date. With apologies to the family in question, today's report starts like this:

HARMON ET AL (1/19/21): It was 3 a.m. when Latraile Williams was startled from her sleep in her family’s Gainesville, Fla., home with a phone call. The voice on the other end, the doctor, sounded urgent, his words coming in slow bursts. Her husband of 23 years had very little time left. “Dear God,” she began to pray. “Dear God, give me strength.”

Ten minutes later, she received a second call. It was too late.

Her husband, Stacey Williams, a beloved youth football coach and father of five, had died from complications of Covid-19. All that was left was for her to replay the cellphone video that he had made from his hospital bed.

The late Stacey Williams, a good, decent person, lost his life on January 4. "On [that] one single day...Mr. Williams was among more than 2,000 Americans with the virus to die," the Times reports, making a statistical claim which is almost surely though not necessarily correct.

Across the country, how many people died on Covid-19 on January 4? We know of no way to answer that question. As with most other data sets, the New York Times data set reports that 2,048 Covid deaths were reported on that day, not that 2,048 Covid deaths actually occurred.

Such distinctions are routinely lost in the haze as the nation's major news orgs stress human interest Covid stories while underplaying the explanation of basic facts. 

This morning, the Times report doesn't explain the distinction between "reported" and "occurred." Beyond that, it leads with a daily number which actually seems to understate the number of Covid deaths now occurring on a daily basis—to the extent that we can know what that number actually is.

Nothing turns on the number the New York Times chose to feature. For the record, here are a few 7-day averages as the death rate has grown like Topsy over the past few months:

Reported Covid deaths per day, 7-day averages
November 1: 825
December 1: 1,541
January 1: 2,513
January 16: 3,319

We're using the New York Times data. Click here, scroll down to "New reported deaths per day."

The growth in those numbers has been obscene since November 1. In the past few days, the number has begun to nose down, although we don't know why. 

As a general matter, news orgs prefer to go with human interest first. Explanations and basic statistics will possibly tend to lag.

In the past several months, the rise in reported deaths per day has been obscene. We were struck by the (possibly somewhat) misleading number on page A1 today.

In a somewhat similar way, we were struck by several things Rachel Maddow said last Thursday night. Also, by quite a few things which didn't get said that night.

Maddow was talking about the past, and possibly current, water crisis in Flint. Since she was imagining some of the others going to jail, she was at her happiest.

Maddow tends to cherry-pick and embellish the nation's Covid death counts. Last Thursday night, in the first twenty minutes of a 26-minute opening monologue, she chose to make exciting remarks about the children of Flint.

She started by referring to "Flint, Michigan's lead poisoning disaster—that man-made disaster when Rick Snyder's state government poisoned an entire city with lead." 

"An entire city" had been poisoned, Maddow excitingly said. As for Snyder, he was "the man who ran the government that flipped the switch that pushed the button to poison Flint."

(We can't give you a link. Perhaps for obvious reasons, MSNBC no longer prepares public transcripts.)

Earlier that day, Snyder had been charged with two misdemeanors for his alleged role in the water crisis. In twenty minutes, the word "misdemeanor" never crossed Maddow's lips. Nor did she ever mention the penalty Snyder could face.

Along the way, she did make the statements shown below. Statements like these affect the future of the children of Flint:

MADDOW (1/14/21): That disastrous water switch, and the refusal to listen to the people of Flint about its consequences, led to the mass poisoning of every kid in the city of Flint—the mass poisoning of the people of that city. Thousands of kids who will live for the rest of their lives with the consequences of having been poisoned by lead early in their life—having lead exposure in their drinking water when they're kids.

It's something you don't grow out of. It's something for which there is no magic antidote.

The mass poisoning was now specific to "every kid in the city of Flint," the grand inquisitor said. Flint's kids will never grow out of what happened, they and their parents were told.

We aren't fans of Maddow's work at this particular site. We regard her as a victim of celebrity and corporate wealth—as an example of what can easily happen when the rewards are too damn high at profit-based, corporate "news orgs."

As a general matter, the children of Flint won't have to deal with the problems of wealth and fame. But what about Maddow's excited claims on this particular night?

How accurate were her claims about the mass "poisoning" of the children of Flint? How accurate were her gloomy suggestions about their ruined futures?

Beyond that, how many elementary facts had the cable star failed to state? How many statistics were swept down the drain as she went with her thrilling oration?

Who has been harming the children of Flint? On the assumption that such children matter, we'll discuss that key question all week.

Tomorrow:  The disappeared


One of our reasons for watching John Wick!

MONDAY, JANUARY 18, 2021

Monetizing the blood of a martyr: At the present time, our long-term friend, NAME WITHHELD, is living in his car somewhere near the Berkeley-Oakland line.

We've known WITHHELD since 1982 or 1983. We met him within the comedy world, although he's no longer performing.

WITHHELD is one of the reasons why we recently watched the xx murder film, John Wick. First, though, let's discussing the monetization of the late Dr. King.

We're going back now to a comedy show which probably would have occurred in 1985 or1986. The show was held at Charm City Comedy Club, the place where patrons were invited to "see next year's stars last week." 

(In fairness, we booked Roseanne Barr and Rosie O'Donnell, Bill Maher and Paul Reiser, along with a long list of others. The most skillful performance we ever saw was done by the very good person Paula Poundstone, late show Friday night, late in April 1985. We'd booked her with one of her friends—Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist.)

Back now to the comedy show which probably would have occurred in 1985 or 1986: 

We were performing at that show; WITHHELD was in attendance. We offered our observations about what were then the widespread furniture sales over the three-day holiday weekend which commemorated Dr. King's birth.

These observations got a good laugh, as they usually did. When we came off, WITHHELD said this about that: 

That's what people think they're going to see when they go to a comedy club.

We don't know what such people thought, but we recalled WITHHELD's remark when we saw this highly illustrative announcement late last week:

On MLK Day the league will have a five-game slate of nationally televised games on TNT and NBA TV, beginning at Noon EST. During those games and throughout the weekend, teams will wear custom Nike MLK Day warm-up t-shirts designed in collaboration with the NBPA, MLK Foundation, and Martin Luther King III. 

That's what it actually said! Using Google, you can find plenty of NBA announcements showing that this pathetic claim was 100% for real.

All day today, NBA teams will be wearing commemorative MLK warm-up gear! These selfless acts of commemoration are being performed in connection with Nike and other corporate partners.  

Back then, it was "storewide reductions on sofas and love seats." (Our full panoply of remarks would typically get a laugh.)

Today, it's league-wide T-shirts and sweatpants. Some behaviors never end.

A few months back, WITHHELD told us that he was going to see John Wick 2 at a drive-in theater that night. Neither one of us knew what the John Wick films were about. 

Skillfully, we Googled. We shared a brittle laugh with WITHHELD at the absurdity of the description which appeared at the top of the list. 

The John Wick films are often shown on basic cable. Recently, the original film appeared for free through our On Demand service. Mainly because of the New York Times, we decided to give it a look.

The New York Times came into play because of this ridiculous feature. In the feature, its two film critics, Dargis and Scott, presented a silly, time-waste compendium which appeared beneath these headlines:

The 25 Greatest Actors of the 21st Century (So Far)
Chameleons or beauties, star turns or character roles—these are the performers who have outshone all others on the big screen in the last 20 years.

We were surprised to see Keanu Reeves listed as the fourth best actor of the century (so far). When we read A. O. Scott's explanation, we were surprised to see the Wick movies cited twice as key examples of the brilliance of the great actor's oeuvre:

SCOTT (11/25/20): Is the melancholy, uxorious, dog-loving assassin in the “John Wick” movies a genre put-on, a paycheck gig, a midlife action workout? Probably. Of course. With (let’s say) Gerard Butler in the title role they would be slick, nasty throwaways. What Reeves does is give the franchise more gravity than it deserves, more humor than it needs, and the soul that it otherwise comprehensively lacks.

Only Reeves could have done it! At the end of the short precis, the Times included a third cite, in the form of a commercial tie-in:

"Stream or rent the 'John Wick' movies and other Reeves titles on major platforms," the uxorious paper advised.

Scott and Dargis seemed to know that they'd made a daring pick. Here's the way Scott began his sadly instructive homage to the century's fourth best actor:

SCOTT: Maybe you’re surprised to find Keanu Reeves so high on this list. But ask yourself: have you ever been disappointed when he showed up in a movie? Can you name one film that has not been improved by his presence? We’re talking about Ted Logan here. About Neo. John Wick. 

"Have you ever been disappointed" by a Reeves performance? When the original John Wick appeared for free in our On Demand, we decided to take The Scott and Dargis Challenge.

We weren't exactly "disappointed" in what we saw; it's more like we were appalled. We were appalled by what we saw in that film, but also by Dargis and Scott.

A few weeks back, we tried to do a series on BABEL AND GOMORRAH. We never got to the "Gomorrah" part, which would have involved the back-story of the way these two corporate stars are now framing the John Wick films.

When we watched the John Wick film, a few fleeting thoughts flitted through our heads. No country whose leading upper-end newspaper agrees to peddle fare like this can ever really hope to survive, we thoughtfully mused in part.

In real time, those films had been regarded with such disdain at the Times that neither Dargis nor Scott had reviewed them. The task had been shunted off to one of the hands, who had rated the films very poorly. 

The unparalleled greatness of John Wick 3 had been captured thusly:

‘John Wick: Chapter 3’ Review: Keanu Reeves Is Back for Another Brutal Round

In “John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum,” guns have more dialogue than its hero and more capacity than seems technically possible, the spraying of bullets interrupted mainly to showcase another lethal weapon. Even more than its predecessors, this third installment in the reluctant-assassin franchise is, like most modern action movies, perfectly attuned to the needs of the foreign markets where most of its money will be made. Bangs and grunts and body slams do not require subtitles.

John himself (still embodied, to mechanistic perfection, by Keanu Reeves) is a man of so few words that he seems less the movie’s star than its wrecking ball—a human Cuisinart pulverizing an unending supply of foes...

Dumb as dirt and twice as filling, “Chapter 3” is a symphony of dazzlingly sterile, cartoonish abuse... 

Even though they're dumb as dirt, the John Wick films are now recommended for streaming. 

Also, Reeves is the century's fourth best actor. While you're at it, don't forget to admire the Nike warm-up gear which will be on display all day long.

This is the way our upper-end culture works. For a very long time, the various rewards have been too damn high, and the leading lights here in Our Town have been playing along. 


STARTING TOMORROW: The children of Flint!

MONDAY, JANUARY 18, 2021

Anthropology lesson rolls on: The anthropology lesson rolls on, and on and on and on.

Consider the first half of this morning's essay by Ben Smith—the part of the essay in which Smith says "the mainstream media loves to beat itself up." If we might borrow from the late Fulton Oursler, it strikes us as the latest example of The Dumbest Story Ever Told.

We hope to run through this matter later this week. That said, so many dumbest stories, so few pixels and so little time!

Indeed, the ongoing lesson in our species' instinct for dumbness rolls on and on and on. For today, we'll start where we left you on Saturday.

We'll start with the corporate partners at TNT, the NBA and Nike celebrating the legacy of the late Dr. King. And no, we aren't dreaming this up:

On MLK Day the league will have a five-game slate of nationally televised games on TNT and NBA TV, beginning at Noon EST. During those games and throughout the weekend, teams will wear custom Nike MLK Day warm-up t-shirts designed in collaboration with the NBPA, MLK Foundation, and Martin Luther King III. 

As you can see, the King family is involved in this gong-show too. Being just as human as everyone else, they've tended that way all along.

We humans! "The rents are too damn high," one sidewalk poet once said. 

The rents were too damn high, but so too with the financial rewards! What inevitably follows, top scholars now say, results from our species' imperfect wiring.

Please remember Dr. King as you gaze on those Nike warm-ups beginning at noon EST! In passing, though, we'll mention two other examples of current human logic.

President Donald J. Trump pardons himself: We start with the possibility that Donald J. Trump will issue a pardon of or to himself at some point in the next two days.

We have no way to know how the Supreme Court would rule on the constitutional validity of such an action, but we ask you to ponder the logic of such an act:

If a commander-in-chief can pardon himself for federal crimes, then any such president could commit a federal crime each morning and pardon himself that night. Groundhog Day could prevail the next morning—and yet, in fairness, the Constitution doesn't explicitly forbid the commander from such a ludicrous action.

Senate bars Donald J. Trump from running again: The logic behind an act of self-pardon seems ludicrous on its face. But how far behind it is the logic of this other proposed action?

Can the Senate, by a simple majority vote, bar the current commander-in-chief from running for president again? We don't know how the Supreme Court would rule on the constitutional validity of such an action, but consider the logic of such an act:

In the current context, we're imagining that fifty Democratic senators, assisted by the tie-breaking vote of a Democratic vice president, could make it impossible for the most popular Republican pol to run for president the next time around! 

In our view, this action isn't quite as dumb as a self-pardon would be, but it comes strikingly close. For the record, constitutional language concerning any such action strikes us as remarkably vague, and the matter has never been tested in court.

Does it make sense to regard these two proposals as something like "dumb and dumber?" We can't tell you how the Supreme Court would rule on the constitutionality of these proposed actions. But it's easy to see the way these two proposals join hands as our nation slides toward the sea of all-out tribal warfare.

(For the record: Could the possibility of that second action convince Republican senators to vote against impeachment itself? Do we really have to ask? Of course it maybe and possibly could!)

At any rate, major experts have persistently warned us about three anthropological points:

Our species just isn't especially "rational," these despondent scholars have said. Also, our species is inclined to split into tribes and to launch tribal war against the other.

Third point: When the tribal war begins, top experts all say, enlightenment values—our rationality, fairness and common sense—will typically be the first victim. 

Our fabled rationality goes out the door! So we thought, this past Saturday, when we finally steeled ourselves to sit down and watch Thursday night's Maddow Show. 

The host was discussing the children of Flint, and so we steeled our souls.

In our view, what we saw was anthropologically instructive. The children of Flint deserve our best work, so we'll start with that topic tomorrow.

Tomorrow: Misdemeanors and poison

Later today: Dr. King, plus John Wick, plus storewide reductions on love seats


Attempting a census of the great souls!

SATURDAY, JANUARY 16, 2021

Pity versus punishment: Again today, we're recommending pity over punishment. 

Given our current state of development, punishment is still needed as a part of human society. That said, we're recommending pity over punishment as a fundamental moral approach. 

We decided to go with this recommendation today when we clicked to the Washington Post's web site. At the very top of the site's front page, a synopsis of a news report said this:

Democrats wrestle with length of Trump trial
Democrats are eager to punish President Trump for inciting the attack on the U.S. Capitol, but wary of a Senate trial dragging on too long and slowing President-elect Joe Biden’s agenda.

"Democrats are eager to punish Trump." In our view, it's the eagerness to punish which represents the shortcoming here. 

At this site, we've long regarded Donald J. Trump as "some version of mentally ill." We've gone with that somewhat convoluted language because mental illness is a somewhat amorphous concept, and because psychiatry involves a poorly understood technical language.

On a technical basis, should someone afflicted with antisocial personality disorder be described as "mentally ill?" While we're at it, does it make sense to describe such a person as being "afflicted" at all?

Are such people "afflicted" with an "illness," or are they simply bad people?  It has seemed to us that such questions arise in the context of Donald J. Trump's extremely strange behavior over at least the past ten years—in the context of what seems to be the gentleman's vast disorder.

We would have liked to see (carefully selected) medical experts asked a wide array of such questions. Instead, our upper-end press corps agreed, as a group, that such questions, and such possibilities, must never be discussed.

So it goes, in this year of the lord, when "educated" members of our species attempt to conduct, or pretend to conduct, our version of "public discourse."

We'd recommend pity for Donald J. Trump, in line with Bob Dylan's past teachings, but also with a rosebud-scented assist from Citizen Kane. (First, of course, you try to remove such a person's ability to cause harm.) 

For what it's worth, we suspect that a pity-based discourse would produce better political outcomes. With that in mind, we note another headline in today's Post:

Poll: Majority wants Trump banned from future office
One of the analysts reacted by posing an ironic question. If a majority feels that way, why do we need to engineer a ban?

According to major experts, we humans are strongly inclined to leave no punishment behind. When we stumbled upon this morning's "eager to punish" synopsis, we'd already been thinking about the four books we mentioned in yesterday's report, and with them the great souls.

We said that Charles Mann's 1491:  New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus  was one of the two most interesting books we've read in our two decades at this site. We said we'd pair those two books with two other books—the two books we've read in that time which were most instructively wrong in some way.

That makes four books in all! One of those books leads toward a question—in our own lifetime, which people have perhaps emerged as our planet's "great souls?" 

Who are the modern world's great souls? Even as the NBA celebrates and commemorates Dr. King with ten (10) games this Monday, we may start our week by listing the four books to which we refer, then moving toward that census..

In theory, Dr. King will be remembered and commemorated on Monday. In practice, TNT and NBA-TV  will be televising five of those games, starting promptly at noon Eastern. One synopsis of this commemoration goes exactly like this:

On MLK Day the league will have a five-game slate of nationally televised games on TNT and NBA TV, beginning at Noon EST. During those games and throughout the weekend, teams will wear custom Nike MLK Day warm-up t-shirts designed in collaboration with the NBPA, MLK Foundation, and Martin Luther King III. 

As per official NBA posts, the teams will be warming Nike warm-ups. Always remember that central fact! Also, never forget!

According to anthropologists, this is the way we humans are inclined to think, behave, react. Our species has always been wired in such ways,  leading top experts now tell us.

Some experts say the great souls can help. At this point, we aren't prepared to judge that particular claim.


THINGS HAVING FALLEN APART: We humans believe the darnedest things!

FRIDAY, JANUARY 15, 2021

Making the rubble bounce: Today, we perform a confession.

In the past eight or nine days, we've often thought of Charles Mann's widely-acclaimed book, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. 

Mann's book appeared in 2005. His sequel bears a related title. 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created.

(According to the leading authority on that second volume, Mann "argues that Columbus paved the way to the homogenocene, a particular feature of the anthropocene that is marked by a global homogenization of (agricultural) species, diseases, and tools brought about by the migration and transport that set in with the discovery of the new world." People, we're just saying.)

Mann's initial volume is one of the two books we've most admired in our 23 years on this campus. We'd pair those books with the two we've most enjoyed because of the ways they went instructively wrong. 

We may build next week's reports around those four seminal volumes.

Back to Mann's initial book, his 1491. We can think of no other book which has the power to amaze with each and every rereading. 

Mann's "revelations" are no longer new, but they always seem new to us. We'll confess that the passage we've been thinking about involves the death of the Inka, and its aftermath.

We humans! All through our long and war-inclined history, we humans have been able to believe the darnedest things. 

The Inka was the ruler of the Inca empire. According to the leading authority (and to Mann), it was "the largest empire in pre-Columbian America" and one of the largest and most advanced administrative states in the world at that time. 

The Inca empire was a masterwork of human organization. That said, the Inka was held in such high regard that his advice would still be sought even after his death.

They couldn't let the Inka go. We'll give you a tiny glimpse:

MANN (page 98): Because the royal mummies were not considered dead, their successors obviously could not inherit their wealth. Each Inka’s panaqa [royal lineage] retained all of his possessions forever, including his palaces, residences and shrines...The mummies spoke through female mediums who represented the panaqa’s surviving courtiers or their descendants.

[...]

Soon after arriving in Qosqo, Pizarro’s companion Miguel de Estete saw a parade of defunct emperors. They were brought out on litters, "seated on their thrones and surrounded by women with flywhisks in their hands, who ministered to them with as much respect as if they had been alive."

The royal mummies were paraded about and consulted as if they were alive. 

Throughout his book, Mann stresses the fact that Europeans of the era could match their American counterparts, crazy belief and cruel practice for crazy belief and practice. This helps establish the point we wish to advance:

We humans! Wherever we've been found, we've been inclined to believe the darnedest things!

Why have we been thinking about the death of the Inka this week? We offer that new revelation below. For now, just consider the range of crazy beliefs which have driven American politics over the past thirty years.

At present, a not insubstantial number of people believe that world government is dominated by a cabal of cannibalistic child abusers. This belief, or something like it, is or was the foundation of the so-called QAnon "theory."

All the way back in 2016, people believed that Hillary Clinton was trafficking children for sexual purposes out of the basement of a D.C. pizza joint. For whatever it may be worth, Michael Flynn's son and business partner seemed to be part of that true-believing vanguard.

Many people have believed, and still do believe, various things of this type. Decades earlier, Rush Limbaugh strongly suggested that Hillary Clinton had been involved in the (suggested) murder of Vince Foster, a long-time friend and associate of the Clintons who had taken his own life. 

Many people believed that insinuation. At this same time, one of the nation's holiest men—the extremely holy Reverend Falwell—was peddling the Clinton Chronicles videotape, an attempt to further the widespread claim that Clinton and Clinton had been involved in a wide range of murders.

Plus the drug-running, of course! 

As of 1999, Gennifer Flowers was running a for-profit web site which was strongly promoting the long-standing claim about the many murders. Being human, it's possible that she even believed it. 

During this period, a wide range of upper-end mainstream liberal pundits had anointed Flowers as the most credible person on Earth. (Frank Rich was one such seer.)  Chris Matthews proceeded to give her a half-hour on Hardball, during which time he made a large point of telling her how incredibly hot she was. 

This was shortly after Matthews almost got the Washington journalist killed. All the other humans pretended that this crazy behavior made sense.

(You never hear about these things because of the code of silence which obtains among our massively self-impressed tribe's "favorite reporters and friends." If you simply repeat what the host/hostess said, you will never go wrong.)

During that same period, mainstream pundits invented and pushed the claim that Al Gore had a major, psychiatric-level "problem with the truth." They promoted this confected claim for years, sending George Bush to the White House. 

They invented a series of wacky claims Gore was said to have said. Virtually no one ever pushed back against this astounding group behavior. Inevitably, many people believed the things they heard about Gore.

Starting in 2011, Donald J. Trump invented himself as the king of the birthers. He kept it up until circumstance forced him to issue a "hostage video"-style recantation at some point in 2016.  

Many people believed that claim! 

When Trump announced his campaign in June 2015, he'd already been pimping the claim for four years, but Rachel Maddow made a point of saying that she had no personal objection to Mister Trump. Her drinking buddy, Greta van Susteren, had been Trump's "birther caddy" on Fox News during those long, slimy years.

We humans! There's nothing so stupid that we won't believe it, or at least avert our gaze from those who are making the claim. As a matter of anthropology, our astonishing lack of basic discernment is a very large part of our species' profile. Or so major experts have said.

It's also true that we're strongly inclined to construe the world in a highly simplistic tribal manner. More specifically, we're strongly inclined to create and demonize the other, observing such rules as these:

Rules for fashioning others:

1) Never speak or listen to others. Never ask others to explain what they think or believe. When journalists do so, complain!

2) Heighten the grievances of the elect. Spend no time trying to think of the best ways to win over (some of the) others.

3) Always turn to punishment-based approaches and ideation. Always look for ways to criminalize the conduct of others. 

4) Always heighten fear of others. Assume that the others are all just alike. More specifically, assume that the others are all just like the most heinous individuals among them.

5) Invent a handful of highly simplistic tribal Storylines. Cling to those Storylines as if to life itself. 

These rules are very widely observed in the streets of Our Town. They dominate life on the "cable news" channels most frequently heard in our homes.

We humans believe the darnedest things! We're also inclined to construe the world in the darnedest, most simplistic ways.

In our reports this week, we've stressed one bit of simple-mindedness which has been widely observed in Our Town. We've noted the fact that we don't seem to believe in the basics of psychology / psychiatry. 

More precisely, we don't seem to believe in the existence of "mental illness."

Is the ruling commander-in-chief in the grip of powerful "psychopathologies?" If so, should we pity him for his disorder, the approach Bob Dylan once suggested?

(Removing his ability to cause harm would come first, of course.)

Should we pity the commander-in-chief for his apparent disorder? Here in Our Town, we look through a moral lens only. We seek to criminalize and to punish. As with Michael Flynn, so with us:

We are very strongly inclined to want to "lock them up."

This is why we've been recalling the death of the Inka this week. By instinct, we can't seem to let our own Inka go, any more than those earlier humans could.

Only a people as fearful as we could miss the humor in our current approach, in which we want to remove the president from office even after he's left office. Even after our Inka is gone, we'll be looking for a way to make the rubble bounce.

We're not saying this approach is wrong. We're just saying it's humorous.

We want to lock our Inka up. With respect to impeachment, we want to keep making the rubble bounce, even after he's left office!

Beyond that, we want to bar him from ever seeking office again. 

The constitutional authority for such a move is extremely unclear.  (For the rare explainer, click here.) Even we humans can probably see how this action would heighten the perceived martyrdom of the disordered former commander-in-chief.

That said, our tribunes keep telling us that it only takes a simple majority vote. We're that sure that we couldn't win a future debate about so plainly disordered a person!

For ourselves, we're not saying that this week's impeachment was the wrong thing to do. It may even have been the best approach to a disastrous situation which offered no good approach.

We are saying that our vast desire to punish, and to keep punishing, is "human, all-too human." In the present circumstance, it's an addition to the atavistic way we've refused to imagine the possibility that the absurdly disordered person in question is some version of mentally ill.

Long ago and far away, Dylan seemed to suggest that we should "pity" such a person. He described the commander to a T:

That man who with his fingers cheats,
Who lies with every breath.

Who passionately hates his life
And likewise fears his death.

[...]

Who eats but is not satisfied;
Who hears but does not see.
Who falls in love with wealth itself
And turns his back on me.
Should we pity such a person—a person who suffered the sociopathic upbringing Mary Trump describes in her best-selling book? 

Instead, we're so atavistic, so recognizably human, that we want to make the rubble bounce. We want to chase this apparent sociopath all the way to the gates of Hell.

At this site, we've polled the youthful analysts. They all feel sorry for the child who was raised by the deeply disordered Fred Trump.

These youngsters have all seen Citizen Kane. They all understand the concept of Rosebud—possibly the most famous single word in Hollywood history.

The Inka is dead, these youngsters say. Long live our pitiful Inka, who was mistreated as a child and seems to be mentally ill.

These youthful analysts know how to feel. They face a hard time in a town without pity, in a town very much like our own.

Full disclosure: Our Inka could still start a nuclear war. (We've also spent years avoiding this fact.) Active pity for the Inka only begins after he's been disarmed.

In our view, our Inka seems to be very badly disordered. In Our Town, we've spent four or five years refusing to discuss and explore that apparent fact.

We humans! We sent Cordelia (Bandy Lee) away. But we'll be keeping the Inka around. We'll cart him around on his litter!


The docile police let the white trash in!

THURSDAY, JANUARY 14, 2021

Frank Rich, loud and clear: What happened at the Capitol building last Wednesday? More precisely, what was the instant experience of officers with the Capitol Police?

This morning, at Buzzfeed News, we found another account. In this excerpt, Emmanuel Felton is interviewing one officer:

FELTON (1/13/21): [Officers] are still grappling with the toll that last week’s siege exacted on them and their colleagues. The third officer described how close they had been to opening fire on the mob: After nearly two decades on the force, the officer said, “I’ve never, ever, ever had physically or mentally been in a place where I’ve felt the need to use my weapon, and I was about five seconds from doing it on that day. I felt legitimate concern for my safety and the safety of the other few officers that were around me because to say we were outnumbered is a gross understatement.”

[...]

The veteran officer said they were so outnumbered and unprepared that at times he had to stand by helpless as colleagues were viciously attacked. “We came to this door and they were like five or six officers on the other side,” they said. “And it was very heart-wrenching for me because there was nothing that we could do for them. There were literally hundreds, thousands of people on the other side of this door and [the officers are] literally [pinned] against the wall, but we can’t open the door because if we opened the door, they’re going to get crushed and these people are going to pretty much take over.”

These reports go on and on. They contrast with many instant claims which were heard in the streets of Our Town.

On Tuesday, we noted Roxane Gay's instant account in the New York Times. According to Gay, Capitol Police were "basically ushering these terrorists into the building and letting them have the run of the place for a ridiculous amount of time."

Gay was not a first-person observer. Despite her lack of first-hand knowledge, she quickly offered an account which closely mirrors the preferred narratives of many who live in Our Town.

Were Capitol Police ushering the rioters into the Capitol building and letting them have the run of the place? Later reporting has made it sound like Gay's account may be less than perfectly fair and balanced.

That said, many of Our Town's experienced pundits quickly produced such claims. At times like these, information develops slowly, Storyline flames up quite fast.

Anywhere Storyline exists, can Frank Rich be far behind? Here's what the one-time "butcher of Broadway" said at New York magazine: 

RICH (1/8/21): Let’s not resort to euphemisms about what happened. There were no “very fine people” among these rioters. They are trash. They trashed the people’s house so they could feel right at home...

Another thing about them, by the way: They were almost exclusively white.

Also largely white: the docile police who facilitated their entry into the Capitol, who failed to curb their criminal behavior until way too much damage had been done, and who, in some cases, fraternized with the insurrectionists as if they were all members of the same secret society. Maybe, with time and investigation, we’ll learn that in fact they were.

Maybe, with time, we'll learn that—and then again, maybe we won't! Stir in one dose of racial invective and you have the secret sauce which is frequently ladled by the upper-end stars of Our Town.

According to Rich, it wasn't just that the docile police let the white trash in. The problem was even worse than that—the police were largely white too! 

Rich, of course, is a Harvard man; we'll assume he's an OK guy. He isn't as bad as a violent rioter, but in our view, his attitude has made him a part of the problem for a rather long time.

Others slimed the docile cops who let the white trash in. Reports of the injuries, and the one or two deaths, began to filter in later.

We'll leave this here, but we'll restate two key points:

First, Storyline travels much faster than info. Also, you can't necessarily trust or affirm the things you hear from those who align on your side.


THINGS HAVING FALLEN APART: Do we even believe in mental illness?

THURSDAY, JANUARY 14, 2021

Lithwick quotes Bandy X. Lee: At times like these—at times when things have fallen apart—there is simply nothing so stupid that tribal sachems won't say it.

Today, we'll stay in the streets of Our Town. Last night, shortly after 9 P.M. Eastern, a highly-rated former Rhodes scholar actually told Our Town this:

UNNAMED CABLE STAR (1/13/20): Tonight's vote to impeach President Donald Trump was the largest vote ever for a presidential impeachment. There were 232 votes for his impeachment, 197 votes against.

No article of impeachment against a president has ever had that many votes for it before. And there have never been anywhere near ten members of the president's own party who have voted with the opposition party to impeach a president, like there were ten Republicans who voted yesterday.

So you know, mazel tov! Records falling everywhere!

No, it doesn't exactly matter. But just for the record, could anything possibly be any dumber than those pleasing tribal statements by this top cable star?

What was wrong with the cable star's statements? Let us count most of the ways:

As she started, the unnamed star said this was "the largest vote ever for a presidential impeachment." We'd be inclined to disagree with that statement, but this heralded star forgot to mention the rather small size of her N:

Before yesterday's vote, there have only been three such impeachments in all of American history. In other words, the cable star's N, not unlike her IQ, was perhaps rather small.

The cable star was very excited in spite of her very small N. She went on to say this: 

"No article of impeachment against a president has ever had that many votes for it before." And yes, that's technically accurate—but only because there were so many fewer members of the House in the first of those three impeachments.

According to at least several experts, President Andrew Johnson was impeached in 1868. At that time, there were 190 members of the House. 

Today, there are 435 members. Hence the grossly misleading technical accuracy of this particular cable star's skillfully nuanced claim.

It's true! Never before have as many as 235 House members voted in favor of a presidential impeachment. That said, this was the initial vote when Johnson was impeached:

Initial vote on Johnson's impeachment:
Yay: 126
Nay: 47
Not voting: 17

In the final voting, several articles of impeachment were approved by margins of 127-42. Those 127 votes were more than 75% of the members who voted, roughly 70% of the total House. That dwarfs the percentage of the House who voted yesterday for the impeachment of Trump.

Stating the obvious, none of this makes the slightest bit of difference. This topic only arose last night because the corporate star is paid her multimillions by her corporate owners to make her viewers feel good.

If we get to feel good in the streets of Our Town, we're more likely to tune in tomorrow! This may explain why the cable star presented such manifest nonsense last night, as she so frequently does.

It's true that such foolishness doesn't matter—that nothing will turn on this bullshit. But this stupid behavior, however insignificant, helps us see how our species is strongly inclined to function after things have fallen apart.

According to experts, our species is inclined to panic at such times and turn to tribal soothing. Sometimes, though, we'll see flickers of emergent sanity. Consider what Lithwick did.

As a general matter, we're not fans of Dahlia Lithwick's work, though we're sure she's a very good person. Yesterday we were surprised by her work. 

In this essay for Slate, she acknowledged a very important fact. At present, there are no obvious "remedies" for the dangerous state we're all in.

That danger comes from violent Trump supporters, but also from Trump himself. Along the way, Lithwick did something very unusual—she quoted Bandy X. Lee:

LITHWICK (1/12/21): Trump has been a danger to himself and others since election day 2016, but enablers all around have worked to obscure and erase the signs of his unfitness for so long that it’s almost hard to track if he’s become more dangerous in recent days or if we underestimated the damage all along.  Republicans peeling away from him at this eleventh hour do so either for fear of personal legal liability, or because they can’t cover up for him anymore. Checks and balances with a sell-by date. Which is precisely how we got into this current, volatile situation in which the president is profoundly impaired and decompensating under the pressure.

Yale’s Bandy Lee, the forensic psychiatrist who has never stopped trying to warn us about Trump, put it this way in an interview in Politico before Christmas:

"The probability of something very bad happening is very high, unacceptably high, and the fact that we don’t have guardrails in place, the fact that we are allowing a mentally incapacitated president to continue in the job, in such an important job, for a single day longer, is a truly unacceptable reality … We’re talking about his access to the most powerful military on the planet and his access to technology that’s capable of destroying human civilization many times over."

Last Wednesday we witnessed what can happen when, despite widespread claims of readiness and detailed knowledge of what was coming, nobody was adequately prepared for something catastrophic to happen.

Remarkably, Politico had spoken to Lee in December. Amazingly, Lithwick now decided to report what Lee had said.

The upper-end press corps, Slate included, has been disappearing Lee for years. Now, Lithwick mentioned the way Lee "has never stopped trying to warn us about Trump."

Lithwick also noted the way "enablers all around have worked to obscure and erase the signs of [Trump's] unfitness." But as she listed the various parties who have refused to address Trump's apparent psychiatric disorder, she failed to mention her own guild—the mainstream, upper-end press corps.

According to major anthropologists, we humans just aren't very sharp. The years-long flight from this discussion constitutes a strong recent example. We'll even ask this award-winning question:

Do we self-impressed burghers here in Our Town actually believe in mental illness / mental health / psychiatry / psychology at all? Given the way we've behaved in the past several years, we'd say the answer to that question isn't real clear at all.

Do we believe what Lee has said bout the dangerous state of the president's psyche? Did we believe Mary L. Trump when she assembled a daunting list of her uncle's "psychopathologies?"

To this day, and on the highest levels, the answer isn't clear. Consider what Kristof has said.

No journalist has better values than Nicholas Kristof; also, he's thoroughly bright. But look what Kristof, a very bright person, is saying this very morning:

KRISTOF (12/14/21): People often believe that it’s poverty and illiteracy that drive terrorism, but that’s too simplistic. The 9/11 plot was orchestrated by university-educated elites. Last week’s Capitol rampage was obviously entirely different and not comparable, but it was galvanized by a trio with Ivy League degrees. And yes, I’m talking about Donald Trump, Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz. They all know better, and they should be held responsible.

Plainly, Hawley and Cruz can be numbered among our "university-educated elites." Beyond that, it's hard to doubt that they "knew better." 

Hawley and Crus were extremely successful students at Yale and Harvard Law Schools. It seems obvious that they knew that "stopping the steal" was a ridiculous, unfounded gong-show.

Plainly, Hawley and Cruz just had to "know better." That said, did the deeply disordered fellow known as Donald J. Trump?

For ourselves, we don't have the slightest idea whether Trump believed his own crazy claims. We have little experience in the realm of abnormal psychology, but the commander's psychology seems to be about as abnormal as it gets.

His niece says that Donald J. Trump was raised by a sociopath. She says that he's a stew of "psychopathologies." She says  he satisfies diagnostic criteria for (clinical) malignant narcissism, and most likely for sociopathy too.

Lee has been walking that same road for the past four years. In January 2018, the sachems at the New York Times ruled that she must disappear—but the question we're left with is this:

Given his stew of psychopathologies, does anyone know if Donald J. Trump believes his own crazy claims? This morning, Kristof says that Donald J. Trump "knows better." Absent discussion with medical experts, what makes him so sure about that?

For the past however many years, Our Town's unimpressive top media stars have traveled in their usual pack. They're refused to discuss the possibility that the commander-in-chief is some version of mentally ill, in a way which is dangerous.

(For the record, Trump could decide his goose is cooked and start World Wat III today.)

By joint agreement within the guild, people like Lee were disappeared. Mary Trump's astounding description of her uncle's psychopathologies was largely disappeared as well. On cable, Mary Trump has long since agreed to perform like a regular pundit.

Our "journalists" luxuriated in a familiar and easy moral discussion; they have enjoyed discussing Trump as a competent moral agent. But is that agent dangerously disordered? Is he severely mentally ill, and if so, what does that mean?

Such questions were never answered or asked.  Behaving as they always do, the pundits kept it simple.

Final point—Donald J. Trump is in no way way a member of our "university-educated elites." Yes, he has an Ivy League degree—but it's one his father bought him.

When even Kristof can't see these things, the anthropology lesson becomes amazingly clear. By the way, Kristof was a Rhodes scholar too. 

Does that make our problem more clear?

Tomorrow: Rules of the [human] road

Fuller disclosure: No one has better values than Kristof. We thought we should mention that fact.


What happened at the Capitol Building?

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 13, 2021

Carol Leonnig tells Brian: What happened at the Capitol Building last Wednesday afternoon? How many people got inside? Why were they able to do so?

As we've frequently noted in the past week, information develops slowly, Storyline spreads very fast. We're looking forward to learning more about what happened that day.

How were people able to gain entry? Last night, the Washington Post's Carol Leonnig told Brian Williams this:

LEONNIG (1/12/21): As one former Secret Service official said to me, who'd been involved in a lot of inaugural planning, those people made it look so easy to trounce an iconic building, the symbol of our democracy, and walk right in.

Of course, they were eight thousand people strong against fourteen hundred police officers. They were wearing riot gear and helmets and gas masks and had pipes and bats, and many of the officers had none of that.

Why were Capitol Police so outnumbered? We look forward to learning more about that. If they were inadequately equipped, we hope to hear more about the planning which went into that.

Meanwhile, Leonnig went on to describe what reinforcements from Metropolitan Police saw when they arrived at the Capitol:

"Metropolitan Police Department officers who rushed to this complex, to protect it, to help their colleagues the Capitol Police" saw those colleagues "getting their heads bashed in, with pipes, with bike racks." Or at least, so Leonnig said.

Yesterday, we linked to a Washington Post report about injuries sustained by those outnumbered police. Meanwhile, for what it's worth, it seems that some of the people invading the Capitol didn't have quite so easy a time "walking right in." 

Lots of videotape seems to show the invaders struggling to gain entry by breaking external windows or by scaling exterior walls. This morning, in The Daily Beast, we read this account of the way one of these disordered people managed to gain entry, Pilar Melendez reporting:

MELENDEZ (1/13/21): A 36-year-old West Texas florist and one-time mayoral candidate, Jenny Cudd, was also arrested on Wednesday. She allegedly bragged online that “we” scaled a wall and charged down the doors to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office.

“We had to scale a wall to get there and we just pushed and pushed and pushed, and yelled, ‘Go’ and yelled, ‘Charge’, and we just pushed and pushed and pushed and we got in. There was a door that was open, we went through the door and we were inside,” Cudd said during a Facebook Live.

"We had to scale a wall to get there," this newly-arrested miscreant had allegedly said. For whatever it may be worth, plenty of videotape seems to show plenty of those 8,000 people seeming to have a difficult time "walking right in."

According to Leonnig, Capitol Police were badly outnumbered, and they may have been under-equipped. We look forward to learning more about how this breakdown may have occurred.

Tomorrow, though, we'll show you more of the claims which were instantly made over here in the streets of Our Town. 

With lightning speed, the New York Times published a bit of script by Roxane Gay, as we noted in Tuesday's report. According to Gay, Capitol Police "basically usher[ed] these terrorists into the building and let them have the run of the place for a ridiculous amount of time."

Gay was hardly alone. Even here, in the streets of Our Town, the ancient gods Rumor and Slander were quickly allowed to rush in.

This is the way we "humans" are wired. Or so a raft of top anthropologists have despondently, quite sadly said.

With apologies: Like Fox News, MSNBC no longer prepares transcripts of the TV shows in which it take so much pride.


THINGS HAVING FALLEN APART: Our Town is shocked all over again!

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 13, 2021

Disappearing what Mary Trump said: Yesterday, we were struck by Greg Sargent's analysis at the Washington Post.

Sargent even used a key word. He seemed to say that he'd found the commander-in-chief's recent conduct "shocking:"

SARGENT (1/12/21): As shocking new revelations emerge about President Trump’s depraved and malevolent response to the violent siege of the Capitol, it’s becoming clear that this event will require a much bigger reckoning than we may have first thought.

Impeachment may be only the beginning of what’s truly required, if we are going to come to terms with the enormity of this occurrence and what led up to it—and parcel out appropriate accountability for it.

This is thrust upon us by an extraordinary new report in The Post that reconstructs Trump’s actions during the assault, and by renewed discussion of the 14th Amendment as a tool for barring officials who incited the mob from ever holding public office again.

The meta-revelation in the Post piece is that Trump appeared to take solipsistic, even sadistic pleasure in watching a mob lay siege to our seat of government in his name, and as a result, refused to call for calm, potentially further endangering lawmakers’ lives.

Greg Sargent is a good, decent person. He was referring to this news report on page A1 of yesterday's Washington Post.

The front-page news report in question has been widely discussed. Relying on unnamed sources, it describes the behavior of Donald J. Trump as various aides and advisers tried to get him to stop watching TV—to make an appropriate statement instead—during last week's Capitol riot.

Borrowing from the ancient spiritual, Donald Trump would not be moved. According to Sargent, the Post had produced an "extraordinary" report, built upon "revelations" Sargent said he found "shocking."

As noted above, Sargent's a good, decent person. He isn't dumb at all. In part for those reasons, we think his description constitutes a highly instructive anthropology lesson. More specifically, it offers an instructive lesson concerning recent press corps conduct.

In Sargent's account, the Post's report said that Trump "appeared to take solipsistic, even sadistic pleasure in watching a mob lay siege to our seat of government."  

We wouldn't use those exact same words to describe the contents of the report, but Sargent is giving a perfectly reasonable account of what the Post report said. Having said that, it seems to us that the obvious question is this:

Why would anyone find it "shocking" to hear that Donald J. Trump reacted that way? As a subset of our species, are we completely unable to process, remember and understand what Mary Trump has said?

As you may recall, Mary L. Trump is a clinical psychologist; she's also Donald Trump's niece. In her recent, number-one best-selling book, she described her uncle's upbringing along with his "psychopathologies."

No, she isn't the oracle at Delphi. That said, Mary L. Trump said this:

MARY TRUMP (pages 12-13): None of the Trump siblings emerged unscathed from my grandfather's sociopathy and my grandmother's illnesses, both physical and psychological, but my uncle Donald and my father, Freddy, suffered more than the rest. In order to get a complete picture of Donald, his psychopathologies, and the meaning of his dysfunctional behavior, we need a thorough family history.

In the last three years, I’ve watched as countless pundits, armchair psychologists and journalists have kept missing the mark, using phrases such as "malignant narcissism" and "narcissistic personality disorder" in an attempt to make sense of Donald’s often bizarre and self-defeating behavior. I have no problem calling Donald a narcissist—he meets all nine criteria as outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)—but the label only gets us so far.

[...]

[Clinical] experiences showed me time and again that diagnosis doesn't exist in a vacuum. Does Donald have other symptoms we aren't aware of? Are there other disorders that might have as much or more explanatory power? Maybe. A case could be made that he also meets the criteria for antisocial personality disorder, which in its most severe forms is generally considered sociopathy but can also refer to chronic criminality, arrogance, and disregard for the rights of others...

The fact is, Donald’s pathologies are so complex and his behaviors so often inexplicable that coming up with an accurate and comprehensive diagnosis would require a full battery of psychological and neuropsychological tests that he’ll never sit for. 

Elsewhere in her book, Mary Trump explicitly says that Donald Trump's father—her own grandfather—was "a high-functioning sociopath." In substantial detail, she describes the heinous way this sociopath raised his five unfortunate kids.

In Mary Trump's assessment, the greatest damage was done to the two youngest kids, one of whom is our commander-in-chief. The two youngest kids were still very young when their mother's physical ailments limited the role she could play in their upbringing. 

Donald J. Trump was very young when his mother's illnesses meant that he would be very heavily influenced by his sociopathic father. In that passage, you see Mary Trump's assessment of the commander's subsequent "psychopathologies," concerning which we'll only say this:

How quickly they forget!

After reading an account like that, why would anyone be surprised by the behavior described in the Washington Post's news report? Why would a journalist rush into print to call the behavior "shocking?"

To our ear, Mary Trump describes her uncle as a "sociopath plus." However you might want to describe it, the commander has been behaving exactly as a person with the described "psychopathologies" would. And, lest we further forget, let us also say this:

Way back in 2017, Yale psychiatrist Bandy X. Lee published an earlier best-selling book. That best-seller carried this rather explicit title:

The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President

In a later edition, the number of expert contributors jumped to thirty-seven. That said, our question is this:

More than three years after Dr. Lee's book; a full half-year after Mary Trump's book; why would anyone be shocked, let alone "shocked, shocked," by the commander's ongoing behavior?

We say "shocked, shocked" for this reason. Cable punditry concerning Trump has been a version of Groundhog Day cross-fertilized with Casablanca. 

Every morning, at 6 A.M. sharp, Joe and Mika are excitedly shocked all over again. They're shocked by whatever the commander-in-chief has said or done in the preceding ten minutes.

Joe and Mika set the tone, and their gang of sycophants follow. As the day proceeds, similar conduct will be seen all over the "cable news" press corps.

Each day, the monkeys agree to be shocked, shocked by the commander's latest insanity. In the course of this daily performance, they agree to pretend that the best-selling books of Mary Trump and Bandy X. Lee were never composed or published.

This press corps behavior is almost as strange as that of Trump himself. Ever so quickly, let's describe the history of this conduct, admittedly for the ten millionth time:

The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump was published on October 1, 2017. According to the leading authority on the subject, "The book was an instant New York Times Best Seller, and high demand led to a second edition."

In that second edition, thirty-seven "psychiatrists and mental health experts" attempted to warn the nation about Donald J. Trump's dangerous psychiatric condition. Inevitably, the mental giants at the New York Times editorial board swung into action at this point in time.

For many years, this board has been about as fatuous and foppish as such boards can get. In this instance, they swung into action with an editorial in January 2018.

In their editorial, the board said that journalists shouldn't discuss the president's psychiatric state. As the children always do, the children fell into line.

Exactly as they always do, the children fell into line. If Ralph Kramden had sent Bandy Lee to the moon, she and the book she compiled could not have been disappeared further.

Needless to say,  similar behavior occurred when Mary Trump's book appeared. Reviewers tended to make glancing mention of the rather severe diagnosis she offered of her uncle's "psychopathologies" and personality disorders. 

Instead, they tended to focus on human interest nuggets—The time he regifted those presents! The time he commented on Mary Trump's breasts!—and they tended to let the author's diagnosis go.

The children tend to think with one brain, and they tend to be highly obedient. In recent months, Mary Trump has been a frequent presence on "cable news," but she's been turned into a standard pundit, making the standard pundit assessments.

Her diagnosis is rarely mentioned. She's never asked to revisit the remarkable diagnosis we've posted above. With regret, we're forced to say that she's been complicit in this.

This leads to us yesterday's state of affairs. In Sargent's essay, a perfectly intelligent liberal pundit seemed to say that he'd been shocked by the kind of behavior reported in the Post. He found the behavior shocking!

That said, unless you've been living on Neptune, there was nothing surprising—nothing at all—about that reported behavior. 

Mary Trump had described her uncle as something like a "sociopath plus." Dr. Lee's contributors had issued similar warnings about his "dangerous" condition. (According to Lee, the commander's condition would only be getting worse.) 

These warnings had come in a pair of well-known, best-selling books. But within the culture of the upper-end press, if it weren't for all the disappeared topics—if it weren't for all the topics the children agree they won't discuss—it sometimes seems that there wouldn't be any topics at all.

We told you, several years ago, that "it's all anthropology now." In part, we meant to say there would be no useful solutions to the disasters in which we're all encased. The only subject worth pursuing was the question of the mental wiring through which we've arrived at this place.

For ourselves, we'd start with the psychiatric profile of the commander-in-chief. Also at issue is the psychiatric profile, or other possible motives, of many of his high-level supporters.

Also this: What's the nature of the group dynamic which can produce a "tulip craze" among large groups of people? 

Finally, how do we explain the conduct of this nation's upper-end press corps, whose relentless group conduct has played a large role in getting us where we are? And how about the conduct we see right here in the streets of Our Town, where our own version of a "tulip craze" can seem to be occurring?

At any rate, every morning, at 6 A.M., Groundhog Day starts on cable. Joe is shocked all over again. Mika keeps saying, "I don't get it." (Truer words have rarely been spoken).

The cluelessness extends all through the day, as the children of the "cable news" corn agree to be thoroughly shocked all over again. 

In Casablanca, the willingness to be "shocked, shocked" was turned into one of Hollywood's greatest jokes. For at least the past thirty years, it's been a route to great danger here as things have kept falling apart. 

By now, things have massively fallen apart. This simple fact is plainly true, and things have even fallen apart right here in the streets of Our Town.

Tomorrow: Even right here in Our Town