When Donald J. Trump accused Psycho Joe!

TUESDAY, MAY 28, 2024

What deep disorder looks like: Personally, we don't think that Donald J. Trump did anything wrong with respect to Stormy Daniels.

With respect to a totally different matter, New York magazine's Margaret Hartmann reminds us of how deeply disordered this disordered man actually is.

There are many such examples, but Hartmann goes back to 2020 to recall a largely forgotten case. Headline included, her account of the remarkable episode starts like this:

The Time Trump Baselessly Accused Joe Scarborough of Murder

[...]

Back in 2020, Trump took some time out of his [Memorial Day] holiday weekend to not-so-subtly suggest that Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough murdered a staffer during his time as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

"Trump was alluding to the tragic death of Lori Klausutis, who was found dead in Scarborough’s Fort Walton Beach, Florida, congressional office in 2001," Hartmann says as she continues. "Trump first insinuated that Scarborough had something to do with it in this 2017 tweet."

There follows one of many social media posts in which Trump kept suggesting, insinuating and essentially claiming that Scarborough—referred to throughout as "Psycho Joe"—had actually murdered Klausutis.

By then, it had long been perfectly clear that no one murdered Klausutis. In the following passage, Hartmann quotes an AP fact-check about the staffer's accidental death, then provides additional background information:

As the AP explained at the time, there was no “unsolved mystery”:

"An autopsy revealed that Klausutis had an undiagnosed heart condition and a coroner concluded she passed out and hit her head as she fell. The coroner said the head injury caused the death, but she wasn’t struck by another person.

"The death occurred a month after Scarborough announced he was leaving office. Scarborough was in Washington when Klausutis died."

Klausutis was 28, happily married, and working as a constituent services coordinator in Scarborough’s office when she died. Local officials said from the start that there was nothing suspicious about her death. But the story still sparked wild rumors and speculation, years before Trump entered politics.

That last point is worth noting:

Donald J. Trump didn't invent the ugly, unsupportable claim that Scarborough was involved in Klausutis' death. But by 2020, he had come to hate his former friend, "so it makes sense that he eventually became the story’s most high-profile promoter," Hartmann sensibly notes.

Hartmann includes Trump's various posts about the need to "open up a long overdue Florida Cold Case against Psycho Joe Scarborough." By any normal standard, a person has to be profoundly disordered to behave as this sitting president did with respect to this long-settled matter.

For ourselves, we've long assumed that Trump is (some version of) severely "mentally ill." For better or worse, the mainstream press corps has agreed that this obvious possibility must never be discussed—not by them, and also not by (carefully selected) medical specialists.

We don't think Trump did anything wrong in paying Daniels the money she sought, thereby stopping her from inserting herself into the 2020 election. Also, he wasn't the person who started the wild speculations about Klausutis' tragic death.

He wasn't the one who started it, but his subsequent conduct was astonishing. In other incidents, he has seemed to be profoundly disordered again and again and again.

One other point may be worth noting.  Hartmann notes a further fact about our nation's political culture as of the year 2001. We continue from the passage already posted: 

Local officials said from the start that there was nothing suspicious about [Klausutis'] death. But the story still sparked wild rumors and speculation, years before Trump entered politics. In 2020, the Washington Post attributed this to the political and media climate at the time of Klausutis’s death:

"But Klausutis’s death occurred while the nation was caught up in speculation about the disappearance of Bureau of Prisons intern Chandra Levy and her ties to Rep. Gary Condit (D-Calif). Soon the stories merged in the public’s mind, with some labeling Scarborough the Republican Condit (who was never charged with any crime).

"Posts on such sites as Truthout and the liberal Daily Kos all but accused Scarborough of murder. Filmmaker Michael Moore talked about registering the domain name 'Joe Scarborough KilledHisIntern.com.' Rumors claimed her death had something to do with the 2000 election or 9/11 or that it had prompted Scarborough to resign from Congress two months afterward—although Scarborough had announced his resignation before her death."

Oof! Some elements of our own Blue America initially rose to flog the latest intern death pseudo-scandal. 

Today, we're flogging the "porn star / hush money" scandal. Within our failing political culture, it's very, very, very hard to make matters of substance stick.


COMPLEXITY: "Always listen to others," he said!

TUESDAY, MAY 28, 2024

Also, "There's only one way you can vote:" We were perhaps a bit surprised by something we heard this morning.

Tomorrow, Judge Merchan will give his legal instruction to the jury in New York City. "It is expected to take about an hour," we heard Mika Brzezinski say.

(In the previous hour, we had heard Jonathan Lemire say the same thing.)

It's expected to take an hour? Just to explain the law under which Donald J. Trump is supposed to be judged? 

There's a lot of complexity in our world. Sometimes, we cast it aside.

We're going to spend some time this week attempting to explain the offense with which Donald J. Trump stands charged. A certain degree of complexity has been involved in those charges.

We're even going to show you the text of some of the New York state laws which are involved in this matter! Complexity can breed confusion, even concerning a case which has been heavily reported and endlessly pseudo-discussed.

For ourselves, we're sorry that charges were brought in this particular case. As a societal matter—in the interest of "our democracy"—we don't think there was anything wrong in paying Stormy Daniels to basically shut the heck up.

We don't think voters needed to hear her "tell her story." We've been stunned—occasionally, perhaps a bit embarrassed—to see so many of Blue America's high-end pundits parrot the opposite line.

A fair degree of complexity is involved in the legal charges against Donald J. Trump. We'll try to explore a few possible sources of confusion as the week proceeds.

First, though, we wanted to share something else we heard this morning. We want to share some basic excerpts from Ken Burn's commencement address.

Ken Burns is a good, decent person. He's also highly accomplished. Plainly, he knows a lot.

Yesterday, he delivered Brandeis University's undergraduate commencement address. Excerpts from his remarks were played in the 6 o'clock hour on today's Morning Joe.

We agreed very strongly with some of the earlier excepts. You can read the full text here, but this is the first chunk we heard:

BURNS (5/27/24): For nearly 50 years now, I have diligently practiced and rigorously tried to maintain a conscious neutrality in my work, avoiding advocacy if I could, trying to speak to all of my fellow citizens. 

Over those many decades I've come to understand a significant fact, that we are not condemned to repeat, as the saying goes, what we don't remember.  That is a beautiful, even poetic phrase, but not true. Nor are there cycles of history, as the academic community periodically promotes. 

The Old Testament, Ecclesiastes to be specific, got it right, I think. "What has been will be again. What has been done will be done again. There is nothing new under the sun."

What those lines suggest is that human nature never changes, or almost never changes. We continually superimpose that complex and contradictory human nature over the seemingly random chaos of events, all of our inherent strengths and weaknesses, our greed and generosity, our puritanism and our prurience, our virtue and our venality parade before our eyes, generation after generation after generation. 

This often gives us the impression that history repeats itself. It does not. "No event has ever happened twice, it just rhymes," Mark Twain is supposed to have said. I have spent all of my professional life on the lookout for those rhymes, drawn inexorably to that power of history. 

Human nature never changes, he said—or if it does, it changes slowly. In the excerpts offered on Morning Joe, we then heard a part of the speech with which we strongly agreed:

BURNS: "The best arguments in the world," [the novelist Richard Powers recently] said, "Won't change a single person's point of view. The only thing that can do that is a good story." 

I've been struggling for most of my life to do that, to try to tell good, complex, sometimes contradictory stories, appreciating nuance and subtlety and undertow, sharing the confusion and consternation of unreconciled opposites.

But it's clear, as individuals and as a nation, we are dialectically preoccupied.  Everything is either right or wrong, red state or blue state, young or old, gay or straight, rich or poor, Palestinian or Israeli, my way or the highway. 

Everywhere, we are trapped by these old, tired, binary reactions, assumptions, and certainties. For filmmakers and faculty, students and citizens, that preoccupation is imprisoning. 

Still, we know and we hear and we express only arguments, and by so doing, we forget the inconvenient complexities of history and of human nature. 

We strongly agreed with what we thought we heard him say. We would have thought we heard him saying that there is always more than one side to every story.

As citizens, we shouldn't get trapped—"imprisoned"—by tired old certainties, we thought we heard him say. We can't ignore the inconvenient complexities with which we're all surrounded.

That's what we thought we heard him say. And then, the excerpts jumped ahead, and we saw Burns saying this:

BURNS: If I have learned anything over those years, it's that there's only "us." There is no "them." And whenever someone suggests to you, whomever it may be in your life, that there's a "them," run away. 

Othering is the simplistic, binary way to make and identify enemies, but it is also the surest way to your own self imprisonment. Which brings me to a moment I've dreaded and forces me to suspend my longstanding attempt at neutrality.

There is no real choice this November. There is only the perpetuation, however flawed and feeble you might perceive it, of our fragile 249-year-old experiment or the entropy that will engulf and destroy us if we take the other route. 

When, as Mercy Otis Warren would say, "The checks of conscience are thrown aside and a deformed picture of the soul is revealed." 

The presumptive Republican nominee is the opioid of all opioids, an easy cure for what some believe is the solution to our myriad pains and problems. When in fact with him, you end up re-enslaved with an even bigger problem, a worse affliction and addiction, "a bigger delusion," James Baldwin would say, the author and finisher of our national existence, our national suicide as Mr. Lincoln prophesies. 

Do not be seduced by easy equalization. There is nothing equal about this equation. We are at an existential crossroads in our political and civic lives. This is a choice that could not be clearer.

Everywhere, we're trapped by tired old certainties, we thought we'd heard Burns say. We mustn't forget the inconvenient complexities of history and of human nature. 

There is no such thing as us and them, we plainly did hear him say. Suddenly, though, we saw him say this:

There's only one way to vote this year. It's my way or the highway!

We'll be voting the same way Burns will. But so it goes with human nature, which doesn't much change over time.

For the record, we don't understand the logic of the turn he suddenly seemed to make. That doesn't mean that the turn he seemed to make was "wrong," although it theoretically could be.

Ken Burns is a good, decent person. At first, he had us cheering along. A bit later, all of a sudden, what he said surprised us.

Burns was largely discussing moral complexities in his address. There are also reams of legal complexities in the law and in the various ways it works.

We'll try to address a few of those complexities this week. That said:

In our view, most of us people are people people. We're inclined to behave in ways which are old and very familiar.

Before the week is done: "I'll let you be in my dream if I can be in yours," we once heard someone say.


MONDAY: Gotham's schools are worst in the nation again!

MONDAY, MAY 27, 2024

Except for the fact that they aren't: As usual, the headline was highly dramatic.

Indeed, so was the opening paragraph! We refer to the recent piece by Errol Louis for New York Magazine, which made the same old (bungled) claim about the New York City Public Schools. 

It's the nation's largest school system! Dramatic headline included, Louis' report started like this:

Why Are New York City Schools Still So Segregated?

The 70th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision, which outlawed racial segregation in public schools, came and went in New York with little official notice. Perhaps our leaders were embarrassed by the fact that our city has been cited for more than a decade as having the nation’s most racially segregated schools and has done little or nothing to implement dozens of reasonable proposals to move in the direction of integration.

“We have the outline, we have the blueprint. Integration is feasible. It’s within our reach,” says Nyah Berg, the executive director of New York Appleseed, a nonprofit organization that advocates for integrated schools around the state. I recently sat down with Berg and Matt Gonzales, who works at the Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools, a division of NYU’s graduate school of education. They are part of a growing movement of young researchers and advocates who are fed up with New York’s delays and dissembling on diversity.

In one way, the highlighted claim is accurate. 

It's true! For more than a decade, journalists have been advancing the dramatic claim that New York City is guilty of "having the nation’s most racially segregated schools."

Just as Louis does in his recent piece, these journalists have supported this eye-catching claim by linking to lengthy reports about "New York" from UCLA's Civil Rights Project. 

(In his opening paragraph, Louis links to the most recent of these lengthy reports, a report which appeared in 2021. That lengthy report was an update of UCLA's earlier effort, which appeared in 2014.)

These lengthy reports from UCLA have been relentlessly bungled in a remarkable number of ways. But just for the record, here's the first thing a reader saw if she clicked the link Louis provided—the link he provided in his opening paragraph in support of his dramatic claim:

Report Shows School Segregation in New York Remains Worst in Nation

A new report from the Civil Rights Project finds that New York retains its place as the most segregated state for black students, and second most segregated for Latino students, trailing only California. ...

Sad! Quite literally, that's the first thing a reader (or an editor) saw if she clicked the link Louis provided in support of his dramatic representation. Let's spell this problem out in the simplest way possible:

As everyone presumably knows, two different jurisdictions go by the name "New York." On the one hand, there's New York City—but there's also New York State. 

Right from the first sentence in the source to which Louis links, we see that the Civil Right Project is specifically referring to New York State when it clumsily says that school segregation in "New York" remains the "worst in the nation."

Specifically, the source report says that New York is "the most segregated state for black students." It then says that New York is "second most segregated for Latino students, trailing only California."

California is a state! Plainly, we're being told, accurately or otherwise, that school segregation is worst, among the fifty states, in the state of New York—in the large jurisdiction known as New York State

At this early point, we'll offer an obvious bit of advice to the academics at UCLA's Civil Rights Project. Our advice would be this:

If you're going to make dramatic claims about "New York," you need to be clear about which "New York" you mean! For our money, an editor at the Civil Rights Project should have amended the headline we've posted, making the headline say something like this:

Report Shows School Segregation in New York State Remains Worst in Nation

That might seem like an improbable claim. But at least that headline would have said which "New York" was under discussion.

Don't worry! Our journalists, being human, could almost surely find a way to misparaphrase that headline too! But one of the astonishing problems with UCLA's reports involves the persistent way the reports make references to "New York" without clearly stating which "New York" they mean.

Do they mean New York City, or are they referring to New York State? It's amazing to see the way these academics have helped create that sort of confusion through at least their last two giant reports.

Having said that, riddle us this:

Is it really true that New York State is the worst state in the nation when it comes to "school segregation?" That claim may seem surprising.

The claim turns on the extremely peculiar way the Civil Rights Project defines "school segregation." We'll try to explain that matter below. For now, we'll only tell you this:

If your fifth grader attends a school with the student population shown below, UCLA would tell you that your child was attending a "segregated school:"

Hypothetical Public School A:
White kids: 25%
Black kids: 25%
Hispanic kids: 25%
Asian-American kids: 25%

Actually, no—we aren't making that up! Under UCLA's definition of "school segregation," a child consigned to a hellhole like that is attending a "segregated school!"

Below, we'll run you through the way that works. For now, let's briefly be fair.

Briefly, let's be fair! The first paragraph at the source to which Louis links mentions New York City too. 

That said, can anyone here play this game? Here you see that overview paragraph, now presented in full:

Report Shows School Segregation in New York Remains Worst in Nation

A new report from the Civil Rights Project finds that New York retains its place as the most segregated state for black students, and second most segregated for Latino students, trailing only California. The report also makes clear that New York is experiencing an acceleration of demographic changes outlined in the earlier 2014 report. White students are no longer the state’s majority group as they were in 2010. the proportion of Asian students increasing sharply to more than 17% in 2018, and Latino students becoming the largest racial/ethnic group, from 35% in 1990 to 41% in 2018. Conversely, there has been a significant decline in the black student population. The new research also examines the expansion of school choice and charter schools and how they may have contributed to the continued segregation of the city’s schools. The research underscores that many in New York City are engaged in important efforts to integrate schools and there are a significant number of schools showing signs of reduced segregation.

How odd! In his dramatic opening paragraph, Louis says that New York City "has done little or nothing to implement dozens of reasonable proposals to move in the direction of integration." 

As you can see in the highlighted passage, the overview paragraph to which he links seems to say something quite different. 

In our view, that looks like a journalistic bungle. Meanwhile, note the peculiar way UCLA's overview paragraph suddenly stops talking about New York State. Suddenly, it refers instead to "the city," without actually naming the city in question.

In a very high-level report about a very important subject, that is astoundingly bad academic writing. In fairness, everybody makes mistakes, but can anyone here play this game?

In reality, Louis is linking to a report about "New York," city and state, which was released by UCLA in 2021. As noted above, it was the sequel to an earlier report about "New York," city and state, released by UCLA back in 2014.

The full report from 2021 is 92 pages long. All in all, we'd call it bewildering and profoundly unhelpful.

It presents such a wealth of statistical claims that, in the end, it's hard to get clear on what it's actually claiming. What it does plainly do is this:

It keeps repeating such treasured old terms as "segregation" and "segregated schools." It keeps us living in the world of the pre-1954 Deep South, even though it's now the year 2024 and the world, though still highly imperfect, is no longer that world.

Presumably, there are still many things we could improve about our public schools (and about the wider culture zones within which they operate). That may include the way these schools produce, or fail to produce, constructive interaction among their different demographic groups.

That said, we no longer have "segregated schools" in the way we had such schools in that earlier era. Keeping that basic thought in mind, what does UCLA mean when it says that New York State is worst, among the fifty states, in this highly fraught area?

Sadly, the Civil Rights Project means this:

As in the 2014 report, so too in 2021. The writing was less explicit this time around, but again and again the 2021 report seems to say and/or suggest that any school which is "more than 50% percent nonwhite" is a "segregated school."

In the 2014 report, UCLA explicitly stated that definition of "school segregation." The scholars seem to have responded to past criticism of that peculiar definition by fudging their language a bit in the 2021 report.

Still, a wide array of graphics in the 2021 report seem to include such "predominantly nonwhite" schools within the broad rubric of "segregated schools." Meanwhile, on page 52 of the endlessly complex report, this explicit passage occurs, subheading included:

Segregation in NYC Schools
New York City schools have extreme levels of segregation by race/ethnicity. Almost all of the public schools are predominantly nonwhite (94%), and most are intensely segregated (70%), although this percentage has fallen slightly since 2010. The percent of apartheid schools (those with less than 1% white student enrollment) has been declining for the past 30 years, and in the  time frame from 2010 to 2018 has declined more than 10 points to 17%. Nonetheless, the fact remains that 1 in 6 schools in NYC are apartheid schools.

Below that passage, the report includes one of the many graphics which seem to list "predominantly nonwhite" schools as one of the three basic types of "segregated schools."

In the 2021 report, UCLA seems to define three types of "segregated schools." As you can see in the passage we've posted, there are "apartheid schools;" there are "intensely segregated schools;" and there are "predominantly nonwhite schools."

In 2014, predominantly nonwhite schools were explicitly described as being "segregated." In 2021, someone may have forgotten to clean up the language we've posted above, language in which that rubric still seems to be in operation.

That said, directly below that passage from page 52, the reader sees one of the many graphics in which "predominantly nonwhite schools" still seem to be listed as one of the three basic types of "segregated schools." For better or worse, this is the way the academics at UCLA seem to think about this (very important) state of affairs.

Does it make sense to say that a school which is predominantly nonwhite is thereby "segregated?" By that reckoning, Hypothetical Public School A (see above) would in fact be a "segregated school." 

By UCLA's apparent reckoning, this second hypothetical school would also be a "segregated school:"

Hypothetical Public School B:
White kids: 48%
Black kids: 30%
Hispanic kids: 20%
Asian-American kids: 2%

By UCLA's apparent reckoning, that school would be "segregated" too. Its student population is predominantly nonwhite!

What sorts of problems actually afflict our nation's public schools? In a rational world, that would seem to be an important question.

That would be in a rational world. In our world, our journalists and our academics frequently seem to lack the tools—or the level of actual interest—which would be required to let us address that important question.

In his recent report, Louis became the latest journalist to think that UCLA was talking about New York City when the report to which he linked was plainly referring to New York State

Can anyone here play this game? Plainy, our journalists frequently can't.

(For the record, UCLA has never claimed that New York City is "worst in the nation" in this area. Given the peculiar frameworks with which it operates, no such claim would be possible.)

For its part, UCLA produced its latest bewildering report in 2021. By our lights, the academics at the Civil Rights Project seem to be living in the past. They seem to want to say that we're still living in Mississippi in the year 1935.

They seem to love the sound of the word "segregation." They seem to thrill to the surprising claim that the state of New York is maintaining a large volume of "segregated schools." 

They seem capable of noticing or caring about little else. The basic problems of American schooling, including possible problems of racial distribution, go unaddressed as they continue to pump their old-world presentations to waves of hapless journalists.

Final points:

First, why does the state of New York have so many "segregated schools?"

The answer is fairly simple. The state's nonwhite population is heavily concentrated downstate, in New York City and its metropolitan area. Upstate, the rest of New York State is much more heavily white.

In a large state whose large population is distributed that way, there's no obvious way to produce schools which exhibit some perfect form of "racial balance." Inevitably, the downstate schools will be heavily nonwhite. The upstate schools will be the opposite.

That's why New York State is worst among the fifty states, as judged by UCLA's cockeyed reckoning. As for the New York City Public Schools, this was the breakdown of its massive student population, as reported on page 52 of the 2021 UCLA report:

Student population, New York City Public Schools
Hispanic kids: 40.6%
Black kids: 25.1% 
Asian-American kids 16.6%
White kids: 15.1%

At that time, 85% of New York City's public school students were "nonwhite." Given that student population, it will be hard to create a lot of schools which aren't "predominantly nonwhite," even if you feel, for whatever reason, that some such distributive nirvana is necessary.

In our view, these reports from UCLA's Civil Rights Project rank among the most incompetent academic reports we've ever seen. Through their statistical complexity and their peculiar taxonomies, they create maddening amounts of confusion, even as they carelessly trumpet deeply important, deeply fraught terms from the nation's past.

In the present day, no one's schools are "segregated" in the way the public schools of many states once were. At UCLA, they seem to cling to that deeply fraught but pleasing term, creating waves of confusion and misdirection as they do.

As for New York Magazine, there seems to be an endless supply of journalists and news orgs who are prepared to misinterpret the dramatic (and ambiguous) claim found in the ambiguous headlines which routinely top UCLA's reports. The whole thing starts with UCLA's persistent, ridiculous failure to say which "New York" it's talking about—city or state.

There are many problems with our public schools and with the overall "education" of American kids. In our view, UCLA's peculiar reports do nothing to help us focus on areas where improvement could be sought. That includes the general area of (constructive attempts at creating) racial interaction.

Welcome to The Planet of the Humans! We humans are good at building tall buildings (and the like). We're much less skilled at virtually everything else. 

It's maddening to try to fight your way through the reports about "New York" from the Civil Rights Project. We think of what the later Wittgenstein said, in a different context:

It's like you have to repair a broken spider's web using your bare hands. 

Such matters seem to outstrip our fundamental skill levels. Welcome to the planet of the present-day upper-end humans, modern public school style!


SATURDAY: She apparently thought she could be Nancy Drew!

SATURDAY, MAY 25, 2024

Perhaps not the world's worst idea: In this morning's New York Times, we find a fascinating portrait of Justice Sotomayor—more specifically, of the way she grew up.

Her father died when she was nine. In her portrait for the Times, Abbie VonSickle takes it from there:

VANSICKLE (5/25/24): She spoke with great warmth about her mother, who raised her as a single parent after Justice Sotomayor’s father died when she was 9. She said her mother initially wanted her to become a journalist, to travel and interview people. As a young girl, the justice recalled, her mother was unable to afford books or newspapers, leaving her to pluck papers from trash cans, eager to understand more of the world.

As a high school student, Justice Sotomayor said, she watched her mother return to school to become a registered nurse, a move that showed great determination.

“If I’m half the woman my mother was, then I’m satisfied because she was amazing,” Justice Sotomayor said.

The world contains a lot of great people, some of whom aren't famous. Justice Sotomayor's mother was one such person. 

As this morning's profile continues, so does Justice Sotomayor's portrait of her mother:

VANSICKLE (continuing directly): She also credited a series of mentors with helping her find her way as she rose from a young lawyer to a district judge, moving to the appeals court and finally the Supreme Court.

When she was asked to join the Supreme Court, she said, she hesitated because her mother had been diagnosed with memory loss, and she worried about whether she would have enough time to spend with her.

Her mother’s reaction was swift and clear: “She stopped me, and she said, ‘Don’t you dare not do this because of me. You would take away the dream I spent my life building for you. I wanted you to be the very best you can.’”

The world contains many such people. That said, we were most struck by something else the Justice told Vansickle about her childhood:

VANSICKLE: On a sunny spring day, hundreds gathered under an outdoor tent to hear Justice Sotomayor, including young children carrying Puerto Rican flags, a nod to her roots. The justice, whose parents are Puerto Rican, is the first Latina to serve on the Supreme Court.

The justice said that she had first planned on a career as a detective, prompted not by her interactions with law enforcement in the public housing that formed her world as a child in the Bronx but because of the fictional girl detective Nancy Drew.

“I think Nancy Drew became sort of a role model,” Justice Sotomayor said.

That led to a fascination with helping others, seeking justice and, eventually, a more sophisticated understanding of the legal system and the power of judges...

As a child, she apparently thought she could be Nancy Drew. It wasn't the world's worst idea.

We'll guess that public libraries and public school libraries were involved in her ability to read the Nancy Drew Books. We read the Nancy Drew books too, along with the Hardy Boys counterparts.

Did it make sense for that girl in public housing in the Bronx to imagine herself as Nancy Drew? Nancy Drew was straight up suburban middle-class Anglo. As noted in the passage above, Sotomayor is a Latina. Both parents "were Puerto Rican."

Did it make sense for that kid to see herself in Nancy Drew? In part, we answer our question with a related question:

Is it possible that Donald J. Trump may get elected this fall because those of us in Blue America have sometimes possibly pushed too hard toward saying the answer is no?

To what extent have we in Blue America possibly helped advance the interests of Candidate Trump? There's no perfect way to answer such questions. That includes the question about Justice Sotomayor and Nancy Drew.

That said, we thought the profile of Sotomayor and her mother was worth noting. So too with the eternal need for villains, a need we found expressed, remarkably bluntly, at the start of a guest essay in today's same New York Times.

Has our own tribe's psychic need for villains helped advance the interests of Donald J. Trump? We'll probably explore that question all through next week's reports.

She apparently thought she could be Nancy Drew! In some ways, that belief may not have been totally accurate, 

That belief may not have been totally accurate. But seeing "how way [has led] on to way," it also may not have been the world's number-one worst idea.