The Times presents its methodology!

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 21, 2019

Health spending, schools trumped by songs:
Dear God! We've just returned from attendance at an impossibly chic Wednesday luncheon.

At this event, an acquaintance called our attention to something we skipped in this morning's report. He read aloud the "methodology" employed by the New York Times.

The Times devised and employed this methodology in the course of its latest front-page report—the report which tells us about the songs being played at campaign rallies. And yes, the report appeared on the front page of this morning's Times, a fact we should have noted in our own award-winning report.

The New York Times has done it again! Here's how they gathered their info:
Methodology

The New York Times reached out to each candidate’s campaign team for his or her full playlist. For the ones who did not provide the playlist—President Trump, Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Bernie Sanders—Times reporters went to each candidates’ rallies to obtain the list of songs using an online application that helps instantly identify music.

The Times then analyzed a total of 306 songs on the candidates’ playlists.
The pop music editor determined the genre of the songs. For race and gender of an artist or band, The Times took into account only the lead singer. For gender analysis, if there was no lead performer and the group features both male and female members, a separate category was created. For the word frequency chart, The Times analyzed the lyrics in each song, leaving out filler words like “the,” “yeah,” and “bam.”

Walk-up songs can change, and the order of the songs on each playlist doesn’t reflect the actual sequence played at rallies.

Correction

An earlier version of this article misstated the number of female-led acts on Bernie Sanders’s playlist. The band Against Me! has a female lead singer on the song “Unconditional Love,” not a male one.

Credits

Video research by Noor Gill. Photos by Tony Cenicola and Todd Heisler. Additional photo production by Jessica White. Additional development by Alastair Coote.
Filler words like "bam" weren't included!

Let's start with one very basic point—these people are out of their minds. Humans rarely get this dumb unless they're employed by the Times.

Meanwhile, congratulations to Candidates Biden, Sanders and Trump for their failure and/or refusal to respond to the Times' requests. They were willing to make the New York Times use that online app!

The New York Times spared no expense, avoided no effort, in keeping us readers fully informed about the top candidates' songs. By way of contrast, the Times has never reported these remarkable OECD data, let alone tried to explain them:
Per capita spending, health care, 2018
United States: $10,586
Germany: $5986
Canada: $4974
France: $4965
Japan: $4766
United Kingdom: $4070
(South) Korea: $3192
Where's all that "missing money" going? To a very large extent, that missing money explains our stagnant wages, our federal deficits, and our failure to achieve universal health coverage. But so what? The Times has never reported the missing money's existence, let alone tried to explain it.

The paper has also never reported the size of our "racial" achievement gaps on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (Naep), the widely-praised gold standard of domestic educational testing. Instead, it sends a young reporter to NPR, where she makes the lunatic claim that the gaps are the result of test prep, full stop.

The Times has also never reported the size of the very large score gains all demographic groups have achieved on the Naep down through the years. Instead, Nikole Hannah-Jones hands us a grossly misleading account which suggests that these score gains haven't occurred. Since there are no scores from 1619, we can make no important comparisons!

Spending on heath care? Public school progress? The Times doesn't bother with piddle like that.

The silly newspaper does work hard to keep us abreast of the candidates' songs! This is a story of human incompetence. As experts keep telling us late at night, it's an anthropological problem.

Tomorrow: Campaign song gaffes from the past

TRIBAL DECLINE: The Times undertakes to "re-educate!"

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 21, 2019

But also, the candidates' songs:
Don Lemon tried to get there first. We stumbled upon the segment in question twice last night, groaning each time as we did.

That said, the project unfolds in fullest flower in today's New York Times. In print editions, it's thumb-nailed on the constantly fatuous page A3, with Astead Herndon and Patrick Healy "shar[ing] some background on the interactive article" in question.

Already, we were puzzled—and somewhat ashamed for our species. But then, we continued ahead in the paper, and we found three full pages—page A16 through page A18!—fully, completely and hopelessly devoted to this pitiful project:
What the Rally Playlists Say About the Candidates
Song playlists at campaign rallies tell you a lot about presidential candidates...
That's part of the way the sprawling project is headlined in hard copy. To see the way it's headlined on line, you can just click here.

Readers, is it true? Do "song playlists at campaign rallies tell you a lot about presidential candidates?" Well, actually, yes they do, especially if you're seven years old, or you have an I.Q. of 11.

We told our young analysts to avoid staring directly at the three full pages of this claptrap in today's hard-copy Times. They tell us that, for each of ten different candidates, the Times gives readers a lengthy list of the songs which are played at their campaign events; a capsule account of what each play-list secretly means; and a rambling, pointless analysis of each list from one of the Times' music critics.

Abundant learning results. For example, here's what Times readers are able to learn about Candidate Gillibrand:
OUR CRITIC SAYS

On the one hand, Ms. Gillibrand includes a track by Le Tigre, the underground feminist dance-punk band that Kathleen Hanna founded not long after the riot grrrl icons Bikini Kill split. On the other hand, a misstep: There are several hundred Lil Wayne songs that could have appeared on Ms. Gillibrand’s playlist to include contemporary hip-hop. But the selected song is from a “Spider-Man” movie soundtrack, and it features XXXTentacion, who, before he was killed last year, had been accused of assaulting his pregnant girlfriend. (The campaign says it removed the song in the spring.)

—JON CARAMANICA—
With this newspaper's patented brilliance, music critic Caramanica caught Gillibrand is a misstep! Early on, they played a song from a Spider-Man film, and...

Well, you can read it for yourself. Try not to linger. Don't stare.

This morning, the Times devotes three full pages to this rather typical claptrap. For what it's worth, this type of diversion has long been with us, often used as an adjunct to the press corps' beloved "gaffe culture."

This afternoon, we'll revisit a memorable example from October 1999. But this very morning, on page A3, Times politics editor Patrick Healy explains how the brainstorm hit him in this current year of our lord:
HEALY (8/21/19): Six months ago, I had a thought: What could we learn about the 2020 candidates through their rally playlists? About audience and intended message? So we got them from nine Dems (and Trump). And this interactive was born.
By Healy's admission, he had a thought "six months ago." That said:

With respect to Donald J. Trump's playlist, we learn that the songs played at his rallies "includ[e], surprisingly, gay swagger."

Checking the markings on the playlist, we learn that this refers to the fact that the campaign sometimes plays Y.M.C.A., by the Village People. In such ways, the Times helps us learn what rally playlists say about the candidates.

This may seem like the great newspaper's most pointless enterprise yet. Obviously, it isn't. As evidence, we return to the page A3 "Here to Help" feature from last Tuesday, August 13. In hard copy only, it started off like this
Here to Help
HOW TO BE A BETTER READER: CHOOSE THE RIGHT BOOK

If you want to be a better reader, you first need something to read.
Start by asking yourself some questions:

Do you want to read for enjoyment or for knowledge? Do you want to stretch yourself in some way? Are you looking for escapism? (There’s nothing wrong with that!) Do you want to be part of the cultural conversation around the current “it” book? Are you curious about a book that has been atop the best-seller list for months?
"If you want to be a better reader, you first need something to read." Yes, that's what it said.

"You don’t need to buy one," the Times' Tina Jordan said as she continued, behaving as if the paper's subscribers were the dumbest known people on earth.

As she continued in hard copy, Jordan listed many ways Times readers might pick out a book. The hard-copy feature was drawn from this truly astonishing on-line post. In hard copy, the different strategies Jordan discussed included such approaches as these:
Here to Help, continued:
If you're still not sure what you want to read, here are some other ways to figure it out:

Ask a friend.

Head to the library.
...

Find a bookstore....

Look at a "best book" list....
Interesting! If you can't decide what book to read, you can ask a friend!

In such ways, the New York Times rarely ceases to amaze. Within the academy, the famous newspaper's repetitive dumbness is a fairly obvious matter of anthropological interest.

It is within this ever-expanding context that we recently stumbled upon the newspaper's "1619 Project." We first saw it mentioned by executive editor Sean Baquet in the purloined transcript of a recent, fairly lengthy meeting he held with the Times' staff.

The project debuted in the Times magazine last Sunday. It still isn't entirely clear what the project will entail, but at one point, some editor decided it made good sense to use the term "re-education" in connection with what may turn out to be a thoroughly worthwhile project.

"A re-education is necessary," the overview material boldly declares at one point. Some editor thought it made good sense to employ that old Maoist term as this project was launched.

The 1619 Project may turn out brilliantly well—and then again, it may not. For ourselves, we thought we stumbled upon an unhelpful perspective in Sunday's lead essay by Nikole Hannah-Jones, who had nothing to do with that playlist piddle. We'll only suggest that you keep this provisional thought in mind:

This project is being brought to you by the people who think our public school achievement gaps are a matter of test prep, full stop; by the people who think it makes sense to burn three full pages on the various candidates' campaign song-lists; by the people who recently spent so much time telling readers how they might select a book, should they decide to read one.

By the people who ran with "Creeping Dowdism" in spite of Katherine Boo's warning; by the people who decided to partner with conservative hack Peter Schweizer in their coverage of the Trump/Clinton race (Uranium One!);

By the people who refused to challenge Trump on his birtherism garbage right on through their front-page report on the topic; by the people who resurrected and vouched for the ludicrous Gennifer Flowers late in the fall campaign.

Hannah-Jones didn't do those things. But others around her did!

The woods are lovely, dark and deep—and despite the things you constantly hear, our species is deeply flawed. Tomorrow, we'll look at several things Baquet told his staff—and at something one Times staffer said.

Candidate Gillibrand made a misstep; Trump is involved in gay swagger. If you want to select a book, you can ask a friend.

This is the way our species works, even at its most "elite," Hamptons-based levels. Top anthropologists tell us that this is a large, ongoing problem.

Tomorrow: What's in a trio of words?

Meaningless D.C. test results!

TUESDAY, AUGUST 20, 2019

Meaningless promises made:
Annual test scores have been released for the D.C. public schools. This seems to mean all `D.C. public schools, traditional public and charter.

If you read the Washington Post's hard-copy report today, the headlines were mainly upbeat:

"District students improve on exam," the largest, boldest headline said. Perry Stein's news report topped the front page of the Metro section, beneath this triple headline:
District students improve on exams
PARCC SCORES SHOW GRADUAL GROWTH
Hurdles remain in efforts to close achievement gap
That third headline was the kicker. You had to read to paragraph 10 before you got any actual data. But when you finally got there, you encountered these passing rates:
Passing rates, DC public school students
PARCC tests, 2019

Math tests, all grades combined:

White kids: 78.8%
Black kids: 21.1%

Reading tests, all grades combined:
White kids: 85.0%
Black kids: 27.8%
District students may have "improved." But those gaps seem remarkably large.

That said, those giant gaps may not be massively meaningful. D.C.'s public schools tend to serve a standard population of urban black kids, offset by a smaller, vastly more advantaged population of upper-end white kids.

The black kids often come from low-income homes. The white kids typically come from wealthier homes, not uncommonly from double-PhD families.

For that reason, we may not have a lot to learn from those large achievement gaps. That said, the black kids' passing rates do seem extremely low.

With that in mind, we'll take a guess. These remarks from today's report may not be real meaningful either:
STEIN (8/20/19): D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Lewis D. Ferebee said that after seeing the math scores, he plans to rethink math teaching strategies and will increase access to interventions for struggling students.

Ferebee said that fewer students scored a 1 or 2 on the exam—the lowest scores on the test—an encouraging development not captured in passing rates.
Taking nothing away from Ferebee, is he really going to "rethink math teaching strategies," given results of this year's math tests?

Last year, an even smaller percentage of D.C.'s black kids passed these same math tests. Ferebee is new to the D.C. schools, so he wasn't present to rethink strategies in the wake of those passing rates.

That said, what sorts of changes in strategy might he have in mind? The Washington Post doesn't seem to have asked. Nor can we say that we really expect much of a follow-up.

Then again, we have the way "city leaders" responded to these "improved" results. Starting right there in paragraph 1, Stein tells us this:
STEIN: The percentage of public school students passing a critical standardized exam in the District is gradually growing, according to results released Monday showing that students across all demographic groups improved on the English portion of the test. Progress in math proved more modest.

[...]

In announcing the results, city leaders celebrated the progress while acknowledging that further improvements are needed, particularly in the way the District approaches math. They stressed that achievement gaps are not closed overnight and that the goal is steady growth each year.

“For the fourth year, we are seeing continued, steady improvements, which means more students are performing at higher levels,” Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said at a news conference at Whittier Education Campus, which registered double-digit gains in the English and math portions of the exam.

“The achievement gap is still too wide,” Bowser said. “We can build a fairer and more equitable city when we know that our African American and Latino students are achieving at the same levels as their white peers.”
How "gradually" are those passing rates growing? Last year, 20.7% of D.C.'s black kids passed their grade's math test. This year, the rate climbed all the way to 21.1%!

That is extremely gradual "progress." With apologies, Mayor Bowser is speaking the way a person speaks about things which simply don't matter.

We'll say this for former chancellor Rhee. She said this sort of thing isn't good enough every single time. In our view, she never seemed to have real ideas about the way to make things better. But in her favor, she never pretended that "continued, steady improvement" like this was anything like good enough.

You won't hear about this on "cable news." Of one thing you can feel quite certain:

On "cable news," nobody cares. They don't waste your time with this. They talk about Donald J. Trump.

Growth on the reading tests: Last year, 24.7% of D.C.'s black kids passed their grade's reading test. This year, the passing rate rose to 27.8%.

"City leaders celebrated the progress." As recorded above, 85.0% percent of the system's white kids passed.

TRIBAL DECLINE: What should kids be taught in school?

TUESDAY, AUGUST 20, 2019

Our tribe gets out over its skis:
What should American public school kids learn about American history?

There is no perfect answer. When we were kids, the K-6 American history curriculum began and ended with this:
"In fourteen hundred and ninety-two,
Columbus sailed the ocean blue."
We had to memorize that. And let's face it—we turned out fine!

In theory, it would be better if kids were given access to a wider view of the world. That said, the progressive wing of our liberal tribe may have a slight instinct for overreach, a matter which seems to have come to a head—where else?—in California.

Needless to say, we humans tend to show an instinct for overreach within all our tribes. It's certainly nothing unique to us liberals if we show this slight tendency too.

That said, our brothers and sisters in California have been fashioning a public school ethnic studies curriculum. The assistant, associate and adjunct professors have been deeply involved in the effort, and let's be completely frank at this time:

When the New York Times starts its front-page report on our project this way, our brothers and sisters in sunny Cal may have managed to get themselves out over their skies just a bit:
GOLDSTEIN (8/16/19): Discuss a recent instance of police brutality in your community. Read op-eds arguing for and against legal status for unauthorized immigrants. Compare and contrast border conditions in the Palestinian territories and Mexico.

Those are some of the lesson plans suggested in a draft of California’s newly proposed ethnic studies curriculum for K-12 public schools. The documents have led to bitter debate in recent weeks over whether they veer into left-wing propaganda, and whether they are inclusive enough of Jews and other ethnic groups. Now, amid a growing outcry, even progressive policymakers in the state are promising significant revisions.

The materials are unapologetically activist—and jargony. They ask students to “critique empire and its relationship to white supremacy, racism, patriarchy, cisheteropatriarchy, capitalism, ableism, anthropocentrism and other forms of power and oppression.” A goal, the draft states, is to “connect ourselves to past and contemporary resistance movements that struggle for social justice.”
Depending on the grade level in question, there's nothing obviously wrong with those basic assignments in paragraph 1. But by paragraph 3, Dana Goldstein was saying that the proposed curriculum was "unapologetically activist"—and even that it was "jargony."

When the heavily woke New York Times is saying such things in paragraph 3, Rancho Cucamonga, we may have a problem! Some of the curriculum's "jargony" instincts were on display in that third paragraph, and Goldstein soon came back for more:
GOLDSTEIN: It did not help that some of the terms used throughout the more than 300 pages of documents—“hxrstory, “cisheteropatriarchy,” “accompliceship”—were inscrutable to many in Sacramento and beyond.

[...]

According to a glossary included with the documents, “hxrstory,” pronounced “herstory,” is history written from a gender-inclusive perspective. “Cisheteropatriarchy” is a system of power based on the dominance of straight men who are not transgender. “Accompliceship” is the process of building relationships grounded in trust and accountability with marginalized people and groups.
According to oral tradition, you can't tell the players without a scorecard. Even at the fully woke Times, you won't know how to pronounce “hxrstory" without consulting that glossary!

Does this proposed curriculum make good sense overall? We can't tell you that. In her own eye-rolling critique for the Washington Post, liberal education writer Valerie Strauss reports that the state's new education director has sent the proposed vehicle back to the shop for "major," "substantial" repairs:
STRAUSS (8/19/19): Linda Darling-Hammond, who was appointed president of the state Board of Education by Brown’s successor, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), said in an interview that the draft would undergo major changes. The board has not officially been given the draft from the state’s Instructional Quality Commission, which received it a few months ago, made some changes and posted it on the state Education Department’s website for public comment through Aug. 15.

Darling-Hammond issued a statement with Ilene Straus, vice president of the Board of Education, and board member Feliza I. Ortiz-Licon, saying, “A model curriculum should be accurate, free of bias, appropriate for all learners in our diverse state, and align with Governor Newsom’s vision of a California for all. The current draft model curriculum falls short and needs to be substantially redesigned.”
Strauss notes the problem with jargon too. Before we move on a larger complaint, let's note an irony in the proposed curriculum's use of so many new words.

In her report for the Times, Goldstein quotes a co-chair of the ethnic studies commission defending the proposed curriculum. We were struck by one phrase he repeatedly used:
GOLDSTEIN: Drafters of the proposed curriculum and their supporters say it is important for students to view the world in a way not promoted by the powerful.

The Cal Matters website quoted R. Tolteka Cuauhtin, a member of the advisory committee that worked on the draft, as saying, “Sometimes people want to approach ethnic studies as just a superficial diversity class and that’s it. Ethnic studies is an academic field of over 50 years that has its own frameworks, its own academic language, its own understandings of how it approaches subjects and our world.”
As an academic field, does ethnic studies have "its own academic language?" For better or worse, we'll assume that it very much does. All in all, Cuauhtin seems to think that the new curriculum should proceed in a whole set of ways which are very much "its own."

We'll assume that may be a problem. As is true with people all over the world, our more progressive sisters and brothers have long displayed a powerful tendency to keep changing the language in ways which are ever more stunningly woke.

This tends to create and promote a type of tribal bond among those who speak the new language. For better or worse, it tends to make everyone else feel that a revolution is happening of which they may not be a part.

Having said that, alas! According to Darling-Hammond, this curriculum is meant to "align with Governor Newsom’s vision of a California for all" (our emphasis). It's meant to be "appropriate [and presumably welcoming] for all learners in our diverse state" (our emphasis).

All that jargony folderol may fly in the face of those ideals. And according to both Goldstein and Strauss, the proposed curriculum is being widely challenged for its alleged lack of inclusion in ways which are even more basic.

Alas! We liberals today are strongly inclined to slice and dice the population into identity groups. At our least sensitive, we believe your "identity" is your race and your gender, full stop, and that we are the ones empowered to tell you what your "identity" is.

A certain Maoist feeling may seem to intrude at such junctures. And in the current case in Cali, our tribe may be learning a tragic fact—once you start slicing and dicing the world, it's hard to know how to stop:
GOLDSTEIN: The California course materials focus on people of color, such as African-Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asian-Americans, Arab-Americans, Central American immigrants and Pacific Islanders. Much of the material is uncontroversial...

But after California released the draft of the materials for public comment in June, some Jewish legislators and organizations complained that anti-Semitism was not an area of emphasis, while the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel came up repeatedly. Armenian, Greek, Hindu and Korean organizations later joined the Jewish groups in calling for revisions.

Shereen Bhalla
, director of education for the Hindu American Foundation, said the curriculum should include information on the contributions Indian-Americans have made to the United States, and on the discrimination they have faced through immigration restrictions and hate crimes.
Uh-oh! We need to add units dealing with mistreatment of Armenians, Greeks, Hindus, Koreans and Indian-Americans. Cali's kids may be sitting in school all summer long trying to finish their work!

What should American public school kids be taught about all these matters? That question isn't easy to answer, as this current episode shows.

Arguably, the episode also teaches the occasional tendency of our vastly self-assured tribe to lapse into forms of self-parody. At one point, Goldstein quotes a Republican legislator making that claim with respect to this curriculum, and that claim will strike many as accurate. Here again, Tucker Carlson is being provided with segments in which he won't clearly be wrong.

In our view, it's important to help kids learn about the real ways our history works. That said, it's also important to remember that California's kids are just kids; that their parents are actual people who may not agree with our deeply woke views; and that all residents of the state count, not just those who have achieved a state of accompliceship with our deeply woke version of hxrstory. Those on the verge of abandoning Trump may decide to hang on after all.

Might we close with two thoughts which popped into our heads as we read Goldstein's report? We'll start with the first of these thoughts:

Might a California curriculum include the historical experience of the so-called Okies? One of California's greatest writers wrote a very great book about the way they were treated in California during the Dust Bowl years.

It was made into a beautiful film in 1940. Mightn't the (fictional) experiences of Ma Joad's boy add to the ability of Cali kids to empathize with the mistreated? In some cases, to empathize with someone who (allegedly and supposedy) doesn't "look like them?"

Here's our second suggestion. Might someone tell California kids than this isn't just an American thing?

When our brothers and sisters get out over their skis, they tend to say or suggest that persecution was invented by the Amerikan people. But this isn't an exclusively Amerikkan phenomenon. It's part of our deeply flawed human inheritance. It exists, and has always existed, all around the world.

In that very famous California-based book. Tom Joad speaks it like this:
"Wherever they’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever they’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there... I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad an’—I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry n’ they know supper’s ready. An’ when our folks eat the stuff they raise an’ live in the houses they build—why, I’ll be there."
Presumably, Cesar Chavez will be there too, and so will Dr. King. Mandela will also be present, saying that he and his imprisoned comrades "identified with" a frail Euro girl, Anne Frank.

Kids need to be told that things of the type under review haven't just happened here in Amerikkka. They happened where Hitler went after the Jews; where the Khmer Rouge cleansed the countryside; where Mao sent folk off for re-education; where the Hutus decided to take out the Tutsis—or was it the other way around?—and the world largely stood by and watched.

Lincoln said we all did this; children deserve the chance to think about that statement too. Over here, in our floundering tribe, our jargon, and our sense of certainty, may sometimes suggest that we are almost capable of loathing The Others too.

Children should get the chance to think widely. Also, in a system like ours, the views of their parents must count!

Tomorrow: What's in a couple of words?

Kilgore explores a counterfactual!

MONDAY, AUGUST 19, 2019

Just imagine if Clinton had won:
As a general matter, we never discuss past booking discussions with representatives of Bryant Gumbel.

In this case, we'll make an exception. On Tuesday, November 7, 2000, we accepted a provisional booking to appear the next day, as a very-special guest star, on the CBS Early Show, co-hosted at that time by Gumbel and Jane Clayson.

The provision in question was this—we'd only appear if Candidate Gore won that day's election. If he won, we'd appear with a few friends from the good old days to describe the youthful Gore.

By Wednesday morning, the election was tied; the appearance never occurred. On Tuesday afternoon, it had been our sense that Gore was likely to win (as he probably actually did), and our thought about that went like this:

We were prepared to laugh our keisters off for maybe twenty-four hours. After that, we expected to settle in for a long-haul nightmare as the press corps' backlash occurred.

That backlash never would have stopped. It would have been full-blown AL GORE, LIAR until Gore lost re-election. Surely, everyone understands that, though everyone knows not to tell.

Within that context, we authored the deathless joke which Bill Clinton quoted in My Life—the joke Roger Simon quotes Clinton repeating on the very night it was authored, on the night in December 2000 when Candidate Gore finally conceded. The deathless joke, performed that evening at the D.C. Improv, went almost exactly like this:

"I think Gore really got the best of both worlds. Everyone knows he won the election, plus he doesn't have to serve!"

We believe you can see that evening's performance on-line, but we won't tell you where.

We were surprised, but also pleased, when the joke got a laugh that night. We repeated it later that night to the candidate who had conceded. Called from the room to take a phone call, the candidate repeated it by trans-Atlantic phone to Bill Clinton. At the end of his book about the 2000 campaign, Simon quotes Clinton repeating the joke that same night as he emerges from his private quarters on Air Force One, heading home from Europe.

"There's a great deal of truth to that joke," Gore said that evening in December 2000. A week or so later, Clinton said the exact same thing as we crawled through the reception line at a cattle-call White House Christmas party.

He repeated the joke word for word. It seemed to have rung a bell—and there it is in his book!

If Gore had been the winner in November 2000, four nightmare years would have followed. The same can be said about where we'd be if Candidate Clinton had beaten Trump by more than just the popular vote in November 2016.

In large part, these nightmares would have resulted from the screaming incompetence of our deeply self-impressed pseudo-liberal tribe. To wit:

Today, on Bill Clinton's 73rd birthday, Ed Kilgore asks how the world would be treating "first gentleman" Clinton if Hillary Clinton had won in 2016. In the relevant part of his essay, Kilgore quotes Todd Purdum writing this:
PURDUM (8/19/19): By the end of Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 campaign—in which Donald Trump went so far as to bring three women who’d accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct to a debate—the bloom was well off the rose. The following year’s revelations about sexual allegations against powerful men from Harvey Weinstein to Matt Lauer cast Clinton’s history with Paula Jones, Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey, and, above all, Monica Lewinsky in a stark new light. It is a perverse reality that Trump is given a ho-hum pass by the public for repeated allegations of sexual misconduct and comments that would have convulsed the country in Clinton’s day—and that indeed did so—while Clinton’s reputation has been retroactively punished further.
Thus spake Purdum—and Kilgore. In the (important) light of the #MeToo movement, Bill Clinton's "history with" those women looks quite different now.

In truth, we'd have been involved in a rolling nightmare from election day forward had Hillary Clinton won. It would have been all Benghazi, all-Emailgate all the freaking time.

Surely everyone knows this. Everybody would have played, with the GOP in the lead role. Impeachment might have happened already; there might not have been enough hours in the day to get to Bill Clinton's history, #MeToo movement or not.

That said, riddle us this—what exactly is Bill Clinton's "history with Paula Jones, Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey, and, above all, Monica Lewinsky?" The history with Lewinsky is well known, thanks to the labors of Independent Counsel Javert. It involves ten acts of oral sex, plus late-night phone calls, spread out over several years.

That said, the history with the other three women is, in fact, largely unknown—and almost surely unknowable. Meanwhile, you'll note that Purdum and Kilgore have disappeared Gennifer Flowers, by whom the silly bills of the press corps swore when it helped keep tumescence alive.

Robert Ray was Kenneth Starr's successor as independent counsel. When he wrote the final report on the "Whitewater probe," he said his team had considered charging Willey with perjury, she'd lied to them much.

Such facts were aggressively kept from public view during the endless chase after Clinton and Clinton. Flowers has been disappeared several times, with no one explaining to the public why this had to be done.

(Amazingly, the New York Times brought Flowers back to life in this front-page gong-show report in October 2016. They even went with Connie Hamzy! No one in our hapless tribe stood up to say boo.)

What was Bill Clinton's actual history with Jones, Broaddrick and Willey? Did he have any history worth talking about with the ridiculous Flowers at all?

Regarding Flowers, the answer is almost surely no; she posited a torrid twelve-year love affair, but never claimed that her torrid affair with "my Bill" had been anything but consensual. (Bill Clinton copped to one brief interaction way back when, not involving intercourse.)

Regarding the three other women, we have no idea what did or didn't occur, though it seems fairly clear that nothing of any consequence happened with the truth-challenged Willey. (She too became a major hero of the lovesick boys of the mainstream press, right through the astonishing evening when a false accusation she made on Hardball almost got a journalist killed. You've never heard about that astonishing incident because the Kilgores and Purdums of the world have never wanted to break ranks with the guild. At that time, Hardball's Chris Matthews was a much more powerful player.)

At any rate, the children kept refusing to tell you such things, and our self-impressed liberal tribe is so deeply incompetent that we let their behavior go unchecked. Starting in March 1999, we even let their anger be redirected against Candidate Gore. For that treason, Candidate Bush squeaked into the White House, and was soon engaged in war against the children of Iraq. At one time, our pitiful tribe was even willing to pretend that we deeply cared about that!

The woods are lovely, dark and deep. Our liberal tribe is deeply pathetic—self-impressed, hapless, empty, sepulchral, wholly inept. Our joke appears on the last page of Simon's deathless book, "Divided We Stand: How Al Gore Beat George Bush and Lost the Presidency." It traveled from our lips to Gore's ears, and then, moments later, to Clinton's.

From there, it went to the boys and girls, doin' hard travelin' on Air Force One. If Hillary Clinton had reached the Oval, she would have been eaten alive by now.

TRIBAL DECLINE: "Wild speculation is warranted!"

MONDAY, AUGUST 19, 2019

The New York Times signs on:
The first reports of Jeffrey Epstein's death appeared on Saturday, August 10.

Instantly, the nation was confronted with the idiocy of Donald J. Trump.

In the absence of any evidence, Donald J. Trump encouraged the rubes to believe that certain events had occurred. That was typical, destructive conduct by Trump.

That was a typical gong-show coming from Trump. That said, Walter Kirn had actually beaten him to it!

According to the leading authority on his life, Kirn is a 57-year-old Princeton grad. Beyond that, he's "an American novelist, literary critic, and essayist.

"He is the author of eight books, most notably Up in the Air, which was made into a film of the same name starring George Clooney."

Kirn is also a bit of go-to guy at the New York Times. Next Sunday (August 25), this double review by Kirn is scheduled to appear on the front page of the high-profile Book Review section.

Yesterday (August 18), this intriguing essay by Kirn appeared in the high-profile Sunday Review.

The essay is intriguing because of what it says about the Times, our liberal tribe's paper of record. In Kirn's essay, he rants and raves about Epstein's death. The Times ran the unintelligent and thus illustrative piece beneath this unusual headline:
Why I Dabble in Jeffrey Epstein Conspiracy Theories
A person could imagine an intelligent essay appearing beneath a headline like that. That didn't happen in this case—but then, Kirn had beaten Trump to the punch in the matter of Epstein blather.

In yesterday's essay, Kirn says he does believe that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. Beyond that, he describes himself as "a lifelong journalist who believes in waiting for the facts before reaching grand conclusions."

We're not sure why he describes himself that way. Way back on Friday, August 9, one day before we were told that Epstein had died, Kirn had managed to tweet this out, offering no source for his statement:
KIRN (8/9/19): So Jeffrey Epstein, among his many lucky breaks, “won” a 29 million dollar Powerball lottery. Nice. Someone has to, I guess. May as well be the billionaire providing you the politician/CEO with children to have have sex with. I mean, favors cut both ways.
As we said, Kirn provided no source for this exciting factual claim. By the next day, the world had been told that Epstein was dead. Apparently in response to this report, Kirn thrill-tweeted this:
KIRN (8/10/19): My only problem with ‘conspiracy theories’ is that they don’t go far enough.
The next day, Kirn retweeted his wife, Amanda Fortini. As retweeted by Kirn, Fortini had offered this:
FORTINI (8/11/19): Today is maybe a good day to remind people that the first officer who breached Paddock’s room after the Las Vegas shooting neglected to activate his body camera. We are always missing the key footage.
The key word there is "always." In reality, we're always missing the key footage, except in the million and one cases where, alas, we aren't.

As Trump began to toy with the gullible, Kirn complained that conspiracy theories don't go far enough. In some cases, this will turn out to be true.

In other cases, though, it won't. Consider that Powerball haul by Epstein, the score you'd never heard about right to this very day.

Did Epstein win a Powerball lottery, as Kirn excitedly tweeted? If so, what might it all mean?

As noted, Kirn gave no source for the thrilling claim—so yesterday, we turned to the Google machine. The few links for "JEFFREY EPSTEIN POWERBALL" tended to go to sites like Free Republic and The Daily Stormer, but one link went to Bloomberg News, where we found Joe Nocera, back in July, chuckling and rolling his eyes in the manner shown below.

In a lengthy report, Nocera had tried to determine where Epstein got all his money. He wrote his piece in a Q-and-A format. Chuckling, he ended with this:
NOCERA (7/17/19): Did Epstein win the Powerball lottery while he was in prison?

It’s not a completely crazy question. In August 2008, shortly after Epstein began his 13-month prison sentence in Florida, an entity called the Zorro Trust submitted the winning ticket for an $85 million jackpot. The ticket had been bought at a convenience store in Altus, Oklahoma. (The trust took the money as a lump sum, which came to $29.3 million after taxes.)

As it happens, Epstein had an entity called the Zorro Trust; he used it to make donations to politicians in New Mexico, where he had a ranch called—yep—the Zorro Ranch...

A few years ago, a lawyer representing some alleged victims took the prospect of Epstein winning the lottery seriously enough that he brought it up during a deposition with Epstein’s former pilot. But the Oklahoma City newspaper, the Oklahoman, did a little more digging and discovered that the anonymous winner worked in a grocery store across the street from the convenience store where the winning ticket was sold. Apparently, she decided to use the same name for her trust as Epstein did for his.

Not everything’s a mystery. Sometimes, it’s just a coincidence.
Nocera said the claim was bunk. Did Epstein suspiciously score all that lottery dough? Nocera says he did not.

That doesn't mean that Nocera is right, of course; he could always turn out to be wrong. It could even turn out that Nocera is part of a widespread plot to keep us from knowing the truth of these matters. It's possible that Ivanka Trump was holding a gun to Nocera's head as he typed that passage out!

Alternately, Joe Nocera could turn out to be in charge of the world! As Descartes showed us long ago, everything you've always thought about the world could turn out to be totally wrong, except for the undeniable fact that you're thinking about it.

Walter Kirn's essay in yesterday's Times is highly unintelligent. Perhaps for that reason, the essay carried high appeal for the people who select the articles for the Sunday Review.

This doesn't mean that we know the truth about what happened to Epstein. As Descartes tells us, it could be that Hillary Clinton navigated various drainage pipes to enter Epstein's cell and strangle him as he slept. Then too, he could be somewhere in Argentina, living with Hitler's great-grandkids, or even with Hitler himself!

If you can dream it, it could be true, as with that Powerball score. That doesn't mean that intelligent people are supposed to flip out and start typing confessions like this:
KIRN (8/18/19): I should say here, for the record, that I believe that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. I believe that Qaeda terrorists carried out the Sept. 11 attacks. And yet I count myself as the next thing to a conspiracy theorist on Mr. Epstein, who himself appears to have been mixed up in mind-bending perversions that even I have trouble fathoming, including one to seed the world with many thousands of his genetic progeny. It seems I’ve been mugged by unreality.

[...]

On the internet, where this story is being arbitrated in lieu of our court system, which lost control of it, I’ve ventured a few distrusting comments recently about Mr. Epstein’s befuddling demise. Under the circumstances—someday I hope we’ll know what, exactly, they are—I feel that some wild speculation is warranted, if only to preserve one’s mental health by releasing built-up intellectual pressure.
In that second passage, "mental health" enters our story again, just as it ever was. This time, it's the mental health of Kirn himself, who says he's engaging in "wild speculation" to release the "intellectual pressure" he's been feeling of late.

Simply put, this isn't intelligent stuff. We don't say that as a way to prejudge what may turn out to be true in this case. We say that because it doesn't make sense to engage in wild speculation, in a high-profile public forum no less, every time a person like Kirn finds himself under stress.

Kirn was tweeting the idiocy even before Trump got started! But this isn't a story about Walter Kirn. It's a story about the Times.

The New York Times is aggressively marketed to our tribe as our nation's most intelligent newspaper. But how typical! When it found Kirn "dabbling in conspiracy theories," the Times decided to rush his thoughts into print, on one of its highest platforms.

"Man [sic] is the rational animal," Aristotle is said to have said. The tribal decline found all around us helps us see that, at least in this case, the gentleman got it quite wrong.

We'll examine that tribal decline all week. If you're willing to let yourself see, the examples are all around.

Tomorrow: "Jargony" chaos in Cali!