Coyote, his little brother!


Pete Seeger lived a long life: In an odd fact, Pete Seeger and John F. Kennedy were classmates at Harvard, class of 1940.

(According to cable logic, that means they were “best friends in college,” perhaps even “childhood friends.”)

As it turns out, Seeger and Kennedy weren’t best friends in college. Seeger dropped out in his sophomore year. He was soon doing things like this:
BARNES (1/29/14): He worked briefly in the folklore archives of the Library of Congress, and for a time he traveled through the state of New York, painting watercolors of houses in exchange for room and board. But mostly he hitchhiked across the United States, mixing with like-minded political leftists, singing and picking up new tunes and techniques.

In the course of this odyssey, he once said, he learned "a little something from everybody," and along the way he acquired a vast repertoire of ballads, spirituals and blues songs. Guthrie and Lead Belly were among the many musicians the young Mr. Seeger met in this period.
Pete Seeger was a very unusual person.

Musically, he was never a favorite for us. We used to find his “Come on, let’s all sing together” approach annoying. In the end, he wore us down in the 1982 documentary, Wasn’t That A Time.

In that film, he was so overwhelmingly himself, and so overwhelmingly positive, that we saw we had to surrender. “Some things are just worth singin’ about,” he declares in that film, or something very much like that.

We’ve been looking at footage of Seeger this week, including some of the hour-long tapes of his little-watched 1965-66 TV series, Rainbow Quest.

We’ll save the best for last. We also watched these:

He joined a very young Donovan for a lovely rendition of Colours, the simplest song ever written.

He spoke with Elizabeth Cotten, who was “discovered” by his musicologist father and composer stepmother—but only after she had worked in their home several years.

(“I never could stand to see children cry,” Elizabeth Cotten tells him.)

In 1963, he joined the very young Dylan at Newport for a version of Ye Playboys and Playgirls. That’s him playing banjo at Newport in the mid-60s for The Blue Ridge Mountain Dancers.

The footage we’ll most strongly recommend comes from his hour with Johnny Cash and June Carter. About 32 minutes in, Seeger sings the Peter LaFarge song, Coyote, My Little Brother.

Wow. He sings it extremely well.

It was LaFarge who wrote the beautiful song and invented the way a person should sing it. That said, we were surprised to see how well Seeger sang it that day, with June Carter looking on.

Pete Seeger lived a long life as a very unusual person.

For extra credit: Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee did Rainbow Quest too. We’d have to say they received a bit of a cornball introduction.

With the rest of The New Lost City Ramblers, Mike Seeger joined his half-brother on Rainbow Quest for a version of Ragtime Annie.

Who knew Pete Seeger played mandolin? Once he managed to get out of school, Pete Seeger lived a long life.

The Times bears down on the Christie machine!


A look at that recent report: In Wednesday morning’s New York Times, Kate Zernike reported on the way the Christie political team—

In truth, we aren’t entirely sure what she did report. To read her report, click here.

In an earlier post, we chuckled at the way Zernike included detailed floor plans for the New Jersey State House. Beyond that, we’ll have to admit that her piece struck us a mouse that hadn’t roared.

Others saw it differently. Chris Matthews frothed on Hardball that night. In a much more serious vein, Kevin Drum saw more than we did in Zernike’s piece.

We don’t know what will turn out to be true about the lane closings in Fort Lee. We could imagine it flat or imagine it round. In our view, investigations exist to answer such questions.

Drum seemed to think that Zernike moved the ball forward. We pretty much didn’t. Here’s why:

In his headline, Drum contrasts the lack of a smoking gun with the presence of a tightening noose. Colorful imagery to the side, this was his basic nugget:

“The story doesn't contain even a speck of proof that Christie had anything to do with the bridge closure. But it sure paints a suggestive picture.”

We agree with that—but in our view, Drum is describing two problems with the report. Having followed these dopes for the past sixteen years, we’re opposed to “suggestive pictures.”

That said, let’s consider the part of Drum’s post where he states his basic reactions to the piece. This is the passage he quotes from Zernike. We include his deletions and highlights:
ZERNIKE (1/29/14): Staff members in the governor’s office created tabbed and color-coded dossiers on the mayors of each town—who their friends and enemies were, the policies and projects that were dear to them—that were bound in notebooks for the governor to review in his S.U.V. between events.

....Officially known as “intergovernmental affairs,” the operation was a key element of the permanent campaign that allowed Mr. Christie to win twice in a largely Democratic state. It was led by Bill Stepien, his two-time campaign manager and deputy chief of staff, and then by Bridget Anne Kelly, who succeeded him in his role in the governor’s office.

....By many accounts, the person in the front office who handled most of the politics was Mr. Stepien.....He mapped out the list of mini-Ohios and mini-Floridas where Mr. Christie might win what they called “persuadable voters.”....Those 100 or so towns would receive special attention—state aid, help from the Port Authority, a town-hall-style session with Mr. Christie —in hopes that by the time the governor ran for a second term, he would have friends there; even if local officials did not endorse him, they would not be working for his Democratic opponent.
In that passage, Zernike is describing some of the ways the Christie political team tried to win votes around the state in last year’s re-election campaign. These were Drum’s reactions to that passage, which we largely don’t share:
DRUM (continuing directly): The point of this piece is to demonstrate three things. First, winning votes in cities like Fort Lee really was important to the Christie team. Second, they were pretty ruthless about going after those votes. Third, Christie himself met regularly with his team to discuss their tactics in minute detail. The strong inference is that (a) Shutting down lanes on the George Washington Bridge to intimidate a mayor who wasn't playing ball was right up their alley, and (b) if they did this, Christie almost certainly knew about it.
We don’t know what the probes will uncover. But we don’t think those three points were demonstrated. Here’s why:

Ruthlessness: It’s hard to know how we get to “pretty ruthless” from the conduct described in that passage from Zernike’s report. The probes may well uncover behavior that’s worse than ruthless. But we don’t see it there.

Plainly, holding town hall meetings isn’t “ruthless.” In and of themselves, neither is “state aid” or “help from the Port Authority,” unless it’s shown that inappropriate conduct was involved.

Zernike has no such examples in her report. The probes may uncover horrible conduct. Zernike didn’t describe any.

Cities or towns like Fort Lee: As Kevin notes, Zernike describes the way the Christie team pursued support from (her term) “100 or so towns,” towns the campaign called “The Top 100.” According to Zernike, these were “the swing towns [Christie] wanted to win as he prepared for a re-election campaign.”

Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with seeking support in 100 “swing towns.” But just for the record, Zernike never actually says that Fort Lee was one of those towns.

That was a striking omission. Perhaps it was just an oversight, but Times reporters are often on the hustle. From years of reading the Post’s Ceci Connolly, we learned that you often have to look for the things that don’t get said.

At one point, Zernike says that Christie aide Matt Mowers “sought the endorsement of” Fort Lee’s Mayor Sokolich. In his second version of what happened, Sokolich seemed to say that he was approached only once. He says he didn’t say yes and he didn’t say no, and the Christie team never checked back.

Is it possible that Fort Lee wasn’t one of the targeted towns? We have no way of knowing. But surely, Zernike must have asked the question in her research. And in a lengthy, detailed-clogged report, she never said that it was.

Christie would have known what they did: According to Kevin, Zernike wants you to think that, if they shut down the lanes to intimidate Sokolich, “Christie almost certainly knew about it.”

There’s nothing in the passage quoted by Kevin which would create that impression. Elsewhere, this is some of the piddle with which Zernike tries to do so:
ZERNIKE: By many accounts, the person in the front office who handled most of the politics was Mr. Stepien. He cut an intimidating figure, occasionally raising his voice. He had met Mr. DuHaime at a hockey rink in Bridgewater where he played in high school. Both worked on Mr. Giuliani's presidential campaign, along with Ms. Comella, and ran campaigns for Bill Baroni, a former state senator whom Mr. Christie installed as deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in 2010.

One Republican campaign ally said of Mr. Stepien: ''Bill was the enforcer, both politically and legislatively.''

Mr. Stepien had come up with the strategy of holding the frequent town-hall-style meetings—more than 100 in four years—that helped to burnish Mr. Christie's reputation as a straight-talker.

He ran the political operation much the way he had run the campaign. He mapped out the list of mini-Ohios and mini-Floridas where Mr. Christie might win what they called ''persuadable voters.'' He obsessed over data on the towns, and outreach to local officials, typically Democrats. He shared with Mr. Christie the binders with information on the individual local officials' donors and projects.
In the course of many interviews, someone apparently used the term “enforcer,” so Zernike tossed it in. The word “intimidating” helps, although that word is hers.

Ditto for the claim that Stepien “obsessed over data.” That too is Zernike’s language.

Are we supposed to react to the fact that Stepien “occasionally rais[ed] his voice?” What follows, meanwhile, is pure unfettered bull:
ZERNIKE: ''With any governor, but especially with Chris Christie, it's impossible to separate politics from policy, but clearly Stepien was politics first, policy second,'' said David Pringle, the campaign director for New Jersey Environmental Federation, who served on the transition team after the organization endorsed Mr. Christie in 2009 but backed his Democratic opponent last year. The group has since accused Mr. Christie of abandoning his principles on the environment.

''There wasn't anything of significance that Stepien did without the governor being aware of it,'' Mr. Pringle said.
The “suggestive picture” painted there is obvious. But given the way Pringle is described, how could he possibly know that Stepien never did anything significant without Christie being aware?

As his role is described, Pringle couldn’t know that. Why include such an assertion, except for “suggestive” purposes?

The investigation of Fort Lee may yield heinous results. But Zernike had nothing new when she wrote her lengthy report.

She didn’t even say that Fort Lee was one of the 100 swing towns. Surely, she must have asked.

Citizens ought to be very wary of politicians like Christie. They should also be wary of the slippery conduct which often occurs at the Times.

The probes have only just begun. Especially on cable, some of us liberals seem to want our pleasing results right now.



Part 4—A celebrified Planet Bullshit: “My fellow Americans, the state of the union is fatuous—celebrified, sad!”

The president didn’t say it.

It certainly would have been true if he had! Consider a rarely discussed historical fact:

As many others have reported, John Kennedy was elected president in November 1960. In his iconic book about that campaign, Theodore White described the scene as Kennedy announced that he would be running.

You can read the description on page 58. Senator Kennedy announced he was running on January 2—January 2 of 1960, the same year as the election!

In those days, we managed to run a full election in the space of ten months. Eight cycles later, Bill Clinton announced his candidacy in October 1991. There were just thirteen months left.

This brings us to the state of the culture as Obama delivered this week’s address.

The year was 2014, though just barely. The next presidential election was 34 months away.

Despite these facts, the Washington Post would lead its front page two days later with a poll about that future election. And the hopeless New York Times had already published its magazine story, Planet Hillary, with its pitiful magazine cover.

The piece was based on a startling new theme—the Clintons know quite a few people. It was the issue of a peculiar decision—the decision to assign a reporter to a Candidate Clinton beat long before there actually was such a candidate.

Amy Chozick’s endless report actually ran 5600 words, not counting its many celestial charts. Essentially, those charts included the names of everyone the Clintons have ever known, plus a few more they probably haven’t.

Our big newspapers still haven’t adopted the practice of printing names in bold, at least the first time they’re mentioned. But Chozick’s piece represented a cross between the roll of names in Genesis and the celebrificated culture of People magazine.

Name after name spilled forth from the piece, a piece about someone who isn’t yet running. From Huma back to Adam and Eve, everyone was there.

How inane was this endless piece? If you were able to stay awake, we’re told you could even read the two-paragraph passage offered below.

It concerned the writing of thank-you notes and the practice of icing out people who get charged with 51 crimes:
CHOZICK (1/26/14): [O]ne theory about why they have amassed such a wide network over the years is that, unlike political dynasties such as the Bushes or the Kennedys, they did not come from money. They learned how to keep aides loyal the old-fashioned way, by doing the kinds of thoughtful things that anyone who has worked with the Clintons for any amount of time will tell you about: countless handwritten thank-you notes, remembering staff-member birthdays and letting them bask in their reflected glory...

Still, even back in the Arkansas days, the Clintons knew how to ice out some of their more complicated friends. One recent Thursday morning, I stopped by the Little Rock apartment of Betsey Wright, just across the Interstate from the Clinton library on a leafy street lined with well-kept clapboard houses with wide porches and upholstered furniture out front. Around the corner is a Holiday Inn with a restaurant called Camp David (“a hidden treasure with a culinary style surely fit for both presidents and first ladies”; kids eat free). Wright, considered a mastermind behind Clinton’s rise in Arkansas, was among the first in a long line of surrogate family members. She headed rapid response (or what she called “bimbo eruptions”) in the 1992 election and was immortalized by Kathy Bates in the film adaptation of “Primary Colors.” After not joining Clinton’s White House staff, Wright became a lobbyist and eventually returned home and began advocating for prisoners’ rights. In 2009, though, she was arrested on 51 charges of smuggling contraband, including a box cutter and a knife and tattoo needles that were hidden in a bag of Doritos, on a visit to death row. She pleaded not guilty (and, later, no contest to lesser charges) and was released on probation. She did not respond to my many attempts to contact her, including in-person pleas to friends and a note left on her front porch.

People who have known the Clintons the longest have all sorts of theories about how one of the country’s most brilliant political minds could have ended up arrested with a bag of Doritos...
If we’re reading that passage correctly, Chozick reports that the Clintons tend to “ice out” former aides who get indicted on 51 counts of smuggling contraband, including a box cutter and a knife, into state and/or federal prisons.

Or something—the point never quite comes clear. And by the way:

George Bush the elder, who did come from money, has always been famous for his own “countless handwritten thank-you notes.” This practice by Bush was so well-known that it even made Fashion & Style in the Times in 2007.

“According to many, George H. W. Bush’s career was advanced by his strong habit of sending thank-you notes—an act ingrained by his mother, no doubt,” the Times writer mused that day. Bush “personified good sportsmanship and drizzled thank-you notes,” Jacob Weisberg wrote the next year. He described the writing of those notes as one of Bush’s “preppie folkways.”

So it goes in these pastures of plenty. When the Clintons write thank-you notes, it’s because they didn’t come from money. When George Bush Senior writes such notes, it’s because he did.

(You could spend an entire day reading about Bush’s thank-you notes. Just click here, then continue clicking. At Amazon, you can buy one such handwritten note for $460.)

The fatuity of Chozick’s jump-the-gun piece is captured in those minor points, just two of a million such offerings. That said, fatuous celebrification is the marker of the way we now discuss, or fail to discuss, national policy and politics.

The children love this piddle, or at least they pretend. After Chozick’s piece appeared, we saw MSNBC’s Alex Wagner gushing about its high interest level. And in the wake of that new Post poll, Chris Matthews continued the cable practice he has invented, in which an hour is killed every day pretending to discuss the likely outcome of elections which can barely be seen over the curve of the earth.

How worthless is this faux journalistic culture? Starting in the fall of 2010, Lawrence O’Donnell burned many hours assuring viewers that Tim Pawlenty was sure to become the Republican nominee in 2012.

Due to various insuperable problems, no other Republican could be nominated, O’Donnell repeatedly said. Here's Lawrence in March 2011, though a million such statements exist: “The official position of the show is that Tim Pawlenty is the only viable candidate...My prediction is he will get the nomination and he will lose.”

Lawrence kept this up for months. Having stirred exactly no interest, Pawlenty quit the race in mid-August, long before the first GOP primary. But then, sic semper pseudo-discussion, with which our seven-figure stars now kill our valuable time.

The fact that Chozick’s piece ever appeared is an unfortunate sign of the times. The magazine cover wrought by the Times is one more unfortunate marker.

The cover art for the worthless piece was absurdly unflattering. To our eye, it made Clinton look like a bloated, hairless person undergoing chemotherapy, a deeply difficult process.

Others had other reactions, which they voiced in comments at various places. We had to agree with thrust found here:
COMMENTER FROM NEW YORK CITY: For heaven's sake, please remove the distasteful, poorly executed graphic. It's cruel to Hillary (cruel to the readers!) and vaguely misogynistic. How could this have been approved all the way to publication? What is happening with the Times? The Friday crossword is now easy, there's snark everywhere, and now this. To top it off, the article seems like gossipy fluff to me—there's no there there. Is it me? I'm worried.
Some of those points could perhaps be disputed. But it’s certainly true that the snark won’t quit and that there’s no there there.

So many people denounced the cover art that the public editor waded in before the newspaper hit the streets. Most sadly, she linked to an earlier post, noting that “the magazine’s Sixth Floor blog has already responded with how the cover came to be.”

How did the cover come to be? Design director Arem Duplesis started his expo like this:
DUPLESSIS (1/23/14): When we created the cover of this Sunday’s magazine to accompany Amy Chozick’s article about Hillary Rodham Clinton’s influence on the various people within her political universe, the immediate idea that came to mind was Clinton’s face embedded on a planet, similar to the man-in-the-moon image from the 1902 silent film “Le Voyage Dans la Lune.”

It just so happened that the illustrator Jesse Lenz visited the office to show us his portfolio a few weeks earlier. His depiction of Donald Trump in Golf Digest was memorable and made us think that Lenz might be the perfect choice to do an illustration for this article.
Precisely! Who wouldn’t have thought of Le Voyage Dans la Lune? As it turned out, the depiction of Trump in Golf Digest ended up winning the day.

(In that depiction, which appears as part of Duplessis’ post, Trump’s hair is portrayed in the form of a sand trap. Somehow, this inspired the Times to portray Clinton without any hair at all!)

Duplessis’ post inspired its own comments. “This is a good study into how a merely bad idea turns into full-blown idiocy,” one judgmental reader opined.

The New York Times, a social club, is spilling with fatuous people. They’re overpaid and under-aware. No matter what the civics books say, they aren’t super-honest or smart.

They want to talk about famous people, preferably for years at a time. If Marie Antoinette could be with us today, the New York Times would likely serve as her more royal version of Us.

When People magazine appeared on the scene, it was widely regarded as fatuous. Today, overpaid swells at the Times and on cable live by its very dim lights.

“The state of the union is low-IQ, sad.” There was no way Obama could say it!

Had he said it, would he not have been right? We refer to the state of the union among the folk who fashion our lack of a discourse.

Davis flap hits Times front page!


Complete with lack of reporting: Did Wendy Davis ever misrepresent her widely-discussed life story?

We’d have to say we aren’t really sure, though she perhaps maybe might have. We’d also say that some of the backlash has been standard-issue disgraceful, including the venomous statements by Fox’s predictably horrible Erick Erickson, formerly of CNN.

This morning, the flap hit the front page of the New York Times, complete with the famous newspaper’s famous lack of reporting.

Too perfect:

In part, the Times is assessing the claim that Davis has misrepresented her own life story. But in a 1232-word front page report, Manny Fernandez never quotes a single thing Davis has ever said on the subject.

Who except the New York Times “reports” in this manner? The unfortunate Bristol Palin is quoted at some length. Davis’ disputed statements aren’t quoted even once!

This flap began with Wayne Slater’s report in the Dallas Morning News. Slater didn’t exactly flood the zone with quotes, but he did provide these:
SLATER (1/19/14): The candidate’s compelling life story begins with 14-year-old Wendy Russell working to help support her single mother in Tarrant County. While still a teenager, Davis married, had a child and divorced, she has said.

“I had a baby. I got divorced by the time I was 19 years old,” she testified in a recent federal lawsuit over redistricting. “After I got divorced, I lived in a mobile home park in southeast Fort Worth.”

As a working mother raising a daughter, Davis enrolled in Tarrant County Community College.

“With the help of academic scholarships and student loans, Wendy not only became the first person in her family to earn a bachelor’s degree but graduated first in her class and was accepted to Harvard Law School,” her website says.
The age of her divorce turned out to be wrong. As presented, the website’s account omits the role of her second husband, a person of substantial means, in paying for her education at TCU (first in her class) and at Harvard Law School.

That account from the website isn’t wrong. You could say it was incomplete, in a way which tended to make the story more amazing—and Davis has tended to offer her life story as a major part of her appeal.

Back to the Times: In today’s report, Fernandez never quotes any past statements by Davis, written or verbal. He does describe the errors and omissions, noting that the Davis campaign has acknowledged the problems. But no quotes are provided.

Whatever! For the most part, we don’t recommend voting for someone on the basis of her life story. But Fernandez certainly ought to know that certain parts of Davis’ story have sometimes gotten lost in the shuffle as a more remarkable narrative appeared.

Davis rose to national prominence last year after her filibuster in Texas. In his reporting of that event, Fernandez told Davis’ story this way:
FERNANDEZ (6/27/13): Ms. Davis, 50, has known long odds and, for Democrats, was the perfect symbol in a fight over what a woman can do. She was a teenager when her first child was born, but managed as a single mother to pull herself from a trailer park to Harvard Law School to a hard-fought seat in the Texas Senate, a rare liberal representing conservative Tarrant County. According to Mark P. Jones, a political science professor at Rice University in Houston, she had the second-most liberal voting record in the Senate in 2011.


As a lawmaker elected to the Senate in 2008, Ms. Davis has shown charisma and guts, and her life story has moved voters. At the age of 14, she worked after-school jobs to help support her mother and three siblings.

“My mother only had a sixth-grade education, and it was really a struggle for us,” she said in a 2011 video for Generation TX. She said she fell through the cracks in high school, and shortly after she graduated, she got married and divorced, and was a single mother by age 19.

“I was living in a mobile home in southeast Fort Worth, and I was destined to live the life that I watched my mother live,” she said in the video. A co-worker showed her a brochure for Tarrant County College, and she took classes to become a paralegal, working two jobs at the same time. From there she received a scholarship to attend Texas Christian University in Fort Worth—becoming the first person in her family to earn a bachelor's degree—and then went on to Harvard. “When I was accepted into Harvard Law School, I remember thinking about who I am, and where I came from, and where I had been only a few years before,” she said.

These days, she said, her life outside the Capitol is nice and boring...
As it turns out, that was a rather selective account of the way Davis’ story unfolded. (The first highlighted passage is basically wrong. She didn’t go to Harvard Law School as a single mother.)

Unless he bungled his own reporting, we’d have to say that Fernandez may have gotten underinformed a tad along the way. That said, none of the actual errors appear in the Davis quotations.

Whatever! That was then, and this is now, and the Times rarely looks back.

We’d vote for Davis if we were a Texan. If we ran the New York Times, we’d skip this topic altogether, or we’d throw in a few quotes.

Do male hopefuls get treated these ways: John Kerry was turned inside out concerning his second marriage to the wealthy Teresa Heinz.

That story was different in major ways, of course. Davis is being criticized in ways which didn’t obtain with Kerry. But some of the general themes were the same.

The hissing and spitting were general over the Washington press at that time. Often, we forget such episodes when we declare that only female candidates get assessed in some of these ways.

We learn a great many false facts from elites!


Maddow does it again: As we noted in our last post, we get a lot of the things we “know” from our ruling elites.

Our elites settle on a “fact.” We all get told that it’s true.

It’s a bad way to proceed. Often, our elites agree to tell us facts which simply aren’t true. One example:

In the fall of 2012, the nation was told a bunch of crap about the things Susan Rice supposedly said.

Plainly, the things we were told weren’t true. But so what? Everyone agreed to say them, or at least not to challenge the script. Example:

For two solid months, Rachel Maddow’s Debunktion Junction was taken off the rails. Rachel didn’t repeat the false claims about Rice. But she agreed to let the bogus claims go, as did the other TV stars on her cable “news” channel.

There would be no debunking those claims; Rachel agreed to keep her trap shut. To this day, the Obama administration, and Hillary Clinton, have paid a large price for this silence.

Why did the TV stars play clam? You tell us! But last night, Maddow went out of her way to peddle a bogus fact.

This time, the bogus claim is one we liberals enjoy. Beyond that, Maddow almost surely knows that the bogus claim is false.

In last night’s second segment, Maddow discussed two presentations by Obama which got huge applause Tuesday night. One was his tribute to Cory Remsburg, the Army Ranger who was badly wounded in Afghanistan during his tenth deployment.

The other explosive reaction, Maddow said, greeted Obama’s presentation about equal pay for women. Maddow played tape of the wondrous moment, knowing that what Obama said was grossly misleading—basically just untrue:
MADDOW (1/29/14): The other huge applause line, which happened during the domestic policy part of the speech...It was just sort of a reaction from the assembled lawmakers in that room which wasn’t like all of the others. It was this moment right here:

OBAMA (videotape): Now today, women make up about half our workforce, but they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong. And in 2014, it's an embarrassment. Women deserve equal pay for equal work.


It is time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a Mad Men episode. This year, let's all come together— Congress, the White House, businesses from Wall Street to Main Street—to give every woman the opportunity she deserves, because I believe, when women succeed, America succeeds.


MADDOW: Roaring, standing ovation! High fives! Fist pumps from the audience! That applause line right there sort of had it all.

And it was apparently not just women inside the Capitol who responded to that particular section of the speech in a way that was just slightly overwhelming. President Obama’s emphasis on equal pay for women last night, the Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg did a dial testing survey in Denver during the speech? He found that, with his focus group, when the president hit that particular line about equal pay, Stan Greenberg says that was met by his focus group with, quote, near universal approval from Democratic and Republican women, sending the approval specifically of unmarried women, quote, off the charts of the dial meter.
Please note two key facts:

As we noted yesterday, Obama didn’t say that women get paid 77 cents on the dollar “for equal work.” He rather plainly implied it. But he didn’t actually say it.

We will assume that’s because he knows that claim is false.

Also note this: Maddow never said that Obama called for “equal pay for equal work.” She merely said, two separate times, that he had called for “equal pay for women.”

We’ll assume that’s because Maddow understands that famous statistic. After her misadventures in April 2012, it’s very, very hard to believe that she doesn’t understand.

In that passage, the public is being misled by both Obama and Maddow. Almost surely, they both know that the public is being misled.

Just a guess: Because the implied claim is so wildly popular, each of these “music persons” agrees to advance it. But they know the implied claim isn’t true—that the public is being conned.

What is wrong with the famous old claim about the 77 cents? It isn’t a measure of discrimination, as Obama and Maddow both know. It isn’t a measure of “equal pay for equal work.”

Back in April 2012, Maddow may not have understood that. She went on Meet the Press and asserted the hoary old claim—and found herself contradicted by a Republican strategist.

Thirty-six hours later, on her own show, Maddow was pretending that she still didn’t understand why she had been challenged. Incredibly, she even said she had spent a lot of time that day trying to puzzle it out.

What a giant pile of crap! Even the expert she brought on the show explained that the actual measure of discrimination is much smaller than 23 cents. “Of course, these numbers from BLS and Census Bureau are not really talking about discrimination,” the expert instantly said, right at the start of her segment.

(Thankfully, the expert explained this in such disguised language that most people watching the show wouldn’t know what they had heard. Elites cover for elites in these ways.)

Yesterday, Glenn Kessler fact-checked that claim from Obama’s address. As he concluded, he cited “one survey, prepared for the Labor Department, which concluded that” the actual measure of discrimination in the hourly wage amounts to “about 5 cents on the dollar.”

It’s hard to measure the amount of the gap which results from discrimination, but no expert in the field thinks it’s 23 cents. As far as we know, no one thinks it’s anywhere near that much. But people stand and applaud when you say it is, so elites will stand up and mislead you.

Sadly, it makes us liberals love Rachel more when she hands us this well-crafted crap.

In our view, Maddow’s rather large impulse toward deception is the most fascinating part of her makeup. After what happened two years ago, she surely know what’s wrong with that famous old claim—the claim that women get paid 77 cents on the dollar “for the same or equal work.”

She knows that hoary old claim isn’t true, but she wants you to believe it. They all stood and cheered when Obama said it. We’ll also stand and cheer her!

Maddow failed to challenge the lies about Rice in the fall of 2012. Last night, she misled us rubes in an affirmative way. This is a familiar process:

Most of the things we know we learned in kindergarten. Beyond that, a lot of our “facts” are handed to us by elites.

For various reasons, our elites agree to tell us various things which are bogus. These claims are constantly pimped by dumb or dishonest hosts.

This is not a good way to proceed. In this case, the bogus claim for which everyone cheered is the marker of a progressive elite that doesn’t know how to make its case about real issues affecting women.

Maddow is the last person on earth who will ever be able to move the dials in “middle America” about the issues in which she believes. Instead, she went on TV last night and conned us rubes.


THE STATE OF THE UNION IS: Heavily scripted!


Interlude—Preschool’s one brief shining moment: Something unusual happened this morning.

For that reason, we’ll postpone, until our next post, the topic we had planned to discuss here.

Something unusual happened today! On the New York Times op-ed page, three different columns discussed the explosive, hot new trend toward preschool education.

Attention to a public school issue? This sort of thing just isn’t done! We thought we’d give you an overview.

Two of the pieces were written by regular columnists—Gail Collins and Nicholas Kristof. By way of contrast, the third column was written by Willingham and Grissmer, a pair of professors who seem to know what they’re talking about.

Does that mean that Collins and Kristof don’t know? These were our reactions as we perused today’s columns:

We started with Collins, who wasn’t writing about how funny Butch Otter’s name really is.

To our surprise, Collins made an important point. She also presented an interesting set of facts about preschool proposals for the state and city of New York:
COLLINS (1/30/14): Early education is one of the best tools for breaking the poverty-to-poverty trap. Unfortunately, it only works if it’s high quality, and high quality is expensive. Yet very little of this newfound enthusiasm comes with serious money attached.


[Governor] Cuomo’s estimate of how much it would cost to do preschool for the entire state is lower than [Mayor] de Blasio’s estimate for just New York City. Which is, on a per-pupil basis, much lower than the amount New Jersey spends on a much-praised prekindergarten program. (Cheers to New Jersey for your effort to provide quality early education to the state’s poorest children. We are so impressed that we will leap right over the fact that you only did it because a judge made you.)
In fairness, Collins managed to work in some snark about the great state of New Christie. That said:

In that first paragraph, Collins states an important (logical) point in the form of a truism: “Preschool only works if it’s high quality.”

However circular that may sound, we think it’s important to keep it in mind. Presumably, you could institute a form of early education which didn’t help low-income kids succeed in school and in later life.

For better or worse, Collins also suggests that early education “works” as long as it’s sufficiently expensive. Almost surely, she has no idea what she’s talking about at that point.

Across the page, down the left-hand margin, Kristof took a more earnest approach.

When Kristof discusses public school issues, he tends to take dictation from ruling “educational expert” elites. Given the weakness of those elites, he often wanders onto the shoals.

Today, for example, Kristof is still singing the praises of miraculous Shanghai, “one of the top-performing school systems in the world,” where “nearly all preschoolers participate in early education programs.”

Those lyrics are straight from the PISA hymn book. But uh-oh! As Tom Loveless recently seemed to show, Shanghai only looks like the world’s top system because a large percentage of its 15-year-old students aren’t allowed to attend its schools and take those PISA tests.

(The PISA bureaucracy, which increasingly looks politicized, hasn’t accepted Loveless’ work. Therefore, neither does Kristof.)

Obviously, this doesn’t mean that preschool is a bad thing. It’s just a warning about the things you may read in Kristof’s education columns.

As is his wont, Kristof is much more detailed today than Collins. That said, he begins with a standard bromide—an official current script:
KRISTOF (1/30/14): President Obama called again in his State of the Union address for Congress to support high-quality preschool for all, noting that 30 states are already moving ahead on this front (including New York).

“Research shows that one of the best investments we can make in a child’s life is high-quality early education,” Obama said. The House speaker, John Boehner, who sat stonily through most of Obama’s speech, applauded that line. Congress also unexpectedly increased financing this year for early education.

Aside from apple pie, preschool may also be the only issue on which voters agree. A poll last year found that 60 percent of Republicans and 84 percent of Democrats support expansion of prekindergarten. Republican-led states like Oklahoma have been leaders in early education for a simple reason: It works.
In that passage, Kristof flatly says it: “preschool works.” At present, this is a standard script. As evidence, he cites the Republican-led state of Oklahoma.

That’s another standard official point.

Has preschool “worked” in Oklahoma? As we noted the last time Kristof went there, Oklahoma has had expansive preschool for fifteen years—and its test scores on the NAEP are still extremely low. Kristof blows past such information because the educational experts don’t tell him to say things like that.

Collins lards her columns with jokes; Kristof favors scholarly cites. Helpfully, we’ll offer a warning about pundit claims of this type:
KRISTOF: [E]arly education has always had an impact not through cognitive gains but through long-term improvements in life outcomes. With Perry, Abecedarian and other programs, educational gains fade, yet, mysteriously, there are often long-term improvements on things that matter even more, such as arrest rates and high school graduation rates. The Head Start Impact Study couldn’t examine those outcomes.

Other researchers have, and their findings are almost unanimous. One rigorous study led by Eliana Garces, then of U.C.L.A., found that Head Start graduates were more likely to graduate from high school and attend college than their peers. David Deming of Harvard found that children who attended Head Start were more likely to graduate from high school and less likely as young adults to be “idle”—out of a job and out of school.

Jens Ludwig of University of Chicago found that Head Start reduced child mortality in elementary years, apparently because of screening and treatment referrals.

Beyond Head Start, a series of randomized trials of other early education initiatives repeatedly found the same result: Long-term outcomes improve.
We don’t know the answers to the following questions, but we know we should ask them:

How much improvement is observed in those life outcomes? How much more likely are Head Start kids to graduate from high school?

By how much is child mortality reduced? How much do arrest rates decline?

We don’t know the answer to these questions; we don’t assume that Kristof does. For our money, it’s maddening when pundits blow past such obvious questions, as they routinely do in support of preferred conclusions.

Kristof also skips past this question: why doesn't preschool lead to later academic achievement? Why do early gains get lost? Why can’t this loss be challenged and defeated?

According to Kristof, preschool works, like Obama said. According to Collins, preschool works as long as it’s expensive.

This brings us to today’s third column, the column by the certified experts.

Uh-oh! The specialists don’t want to rush ahead into pundit world happy talk. Right in their opening paragraph, they challenge Obama’s statement:
WILLINGHAM AND GRISSMER (1/30/14): When New York City’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, went to Albany earlier this week to talk about his program for universal preschool, the discussion reportedly focused on funding, not on whether or how preschool would actually help children. President Obama seemed equally confident when he introduced his plan for universal preschool last year, flatly stating, “We know this works.” But the state of research is actually much murkier...
Collins and Kristof brandished a bumper sticker. One of them even told us, again, about the greatness of Shanghai—and of Oklahoma, one of our lowest-performing states.

Hold on a minute, the specialists said. Even if Obama has said it, it isn’t clear that the happy talk du jour is actually correct.

The scholars go on to explain themselves in abundant detail. They make sensible-sounding proposals about where we should go from here.

Meanwhile, Collins and Kristof are largely repeating memorized scripts. This is the process through which we receive vast amounts of our “news” and our “knowledge.”

(Susan Rice said it wasn’t al Qaeda! Our public schools are in decline! Al Gore said he invented the Internet! The Social Security trust fund is just an accounting fiction!)

Friend, do you care about the interests of our low-income kids? If so, before you listen to Collins, we suggest you review her astounding mistakes about the Texas schools. Before you listen to Kristof, you ought to review Oklahoma’s test scores and Loveless’ work about Shanghai.

When he writes about education, Kristof tends to work from elite expert scripts—the ones which had Bill Keller proclaiming that we have experienced “decades of embarrassing decline in our K-12 schools.”

That statement by Keller was crazily wrong. But elite pundits endlessly push that script and well-intentioned people come to believe it.

“My fellow Americans, the state of the union is heavily scripted!” In fairness, you couldn’t expect Obama to say that the other night. Over the course of the past six years, he has voiced a wide array of standard nostrums himself.

It feels good to say it: “Preschool works!” If you care about low-income kids, you’ll insist on a fuller discussion. We might even ask our TV stars to talk about low-income kids!

It’s fun to talk about Governor Christie, and it’s a serious topic. But what about Jersey's low-income kids, about whom Collins has snarked?

Zernike keeps saying the case has been solved!


Nobody else seems to care: In yesterday’s New York Times, Michael Powell published an intriguing column about Kim Guadagno, New Jersey’s embattled lieutenant governor.

The piece involves an attack Guadagno launched against a New Jersey artist, an attack which turned out to be unfounded. As Powell began, this is the way he framed the story:
POWELL (1/28/14): In her first year in office, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno opened a frontal attack on an unlikely target, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.

Its contracting was “inexcusably” flawed, she said. Its practices were “unethical” and too cozy. Its director had to go.

Ms. Guadagno went on like this for months in 2010, and no one knew what to make of it. She wanted more control over the Arts Council, which distributed $16 million a year all over the state and was broadly respected.

In spring 2011, she began a new offensive. She went before legislative committees and pilloried a man doing work on an Arts Council contract, building a 9/11 timeline at Liberty State Park in Jersey City. His contract was no-bid, she said, the money unclear.
The story gets ugly from there. The charges against the man with the contract turned out to be unfounded. But the man was badly harassed in the process.

Why did Guadagno stage these jihads? The highlighted passage makes it sound like she wanted more control over New Jersey state money. This would be a familiar type of motive, though it could of course never excuse the conduct Powell describes.

Later in the piece, though, Powell seems to say that Guadagno had had control of the money all along. This leaves us somewhat puzzled about that opening framework:
POWELL: The Star-Ledger of Newark, which did a fine job of scratching at this tale, examined the state’s claims: that the Arts Council had “engaged in an inexcusable breach of the public trust” and that the three contracts had been improperly awarded to Mr. Aubrey.

“None of it was true,” the newspaper noted in a December 2011 editorial. “The state could find no evidence of wrongdoing.”

It was, in fact, worse than that. The lieutenant governor and Department of State, it turns out, had control of the Arts Council’s spending all along. Her divisions signed off on every payment.
Whatever! New Jersey scandals have come center stage, and there will be lots of reporting.

Next example:

This morning, Kate Zernike reports in detail, and perhaps in nothing but detail, about the way the Christie regime pursued endorsements and votes across the state in his bid for re-election.

In the realm of gonzo detail, the Times includes floor plans for the governor’s suite in the New Jersey State House. By the time Zernike gets through with this case, the story line for Oceans 14 may get pulled off there.

On the other hand, there isn’t much in this report that directly relates to the question at hand: What explains the traffic lane closings which occurred in Fort Lee?

The drift of the piece seems somewhat clear—of course Christie would have known about that kind of conduct! Meanwhile, we were struck by the way Zernike continues to claim that the basic riddle surrounding this case has been solved:
ZERNIKE: Officially known as “intergovernmental affairs,” the operation was a key element of the permanent campaign that allowed Mr. Christie to win twice in a largely Democratic state. It was led by Bill Stepien, his two-time campaign manager and deputy chief of staff, and then by Bridget Anne Kelly, who succeeded him in his role in the governor’s office.

They were part of what one high-ranking Republican called “the crew” around Mr. Christie: friends who strategized at Mr. Christie’s kitchen table in Mendham and socialized with him in the governor’s box at MetLife Stadium.

Now this operation is at the heart of the growing scandal over the closing of lanes at the George Washington Bridge in an act of political retribution against the mayor of Fort Lee, N.J.
Zernike persists with her claim, which she first made on January 9. According to Zernike, it has been “revealed” that the lane closings were “an act of political retribution” against the Fort Lee mayor.

No one else seems to believe that the question of motive has been established. In a rare break with normal practice, Rachel Maddow has correctly noted that none of the documents released in this case establish the motive for the lane closings.

No one except the perpetrators know why they did it, Maddow has said.

Unless you read the New York Times! According to the Times, the motive became clear on January 8, with the release of just the first 22 pages of emails. Again today, Zernike has reported the motive as an established fact.

Please note the silence which obtains about the work of the Times.

No one else seems to think that the motive has been established. For that reason, Maddow has advanced a second theory concerning Christie’s supposed fury about Democratic opposition to a New Jersey Supreme Court Justice.

Steve Kornacki has floated a third speculation—a billion dollar development in Fort Lee may have been the real target of the lane closings, he has suggested, for reasons which haven’t been fully developed.

Meanwhile, the New York Times just keeps reporting that the motive has been established—“revealed.”

No one else seems to think that's true, and the Times has never detailed its reasoning. But so what? It’s the New York Times! We’ve seen no one say a word about Zernike’s repeated assertion.

If you’re planning a heist at New Jersey’s State House, Zernike’s the person with the floor plans. Aside from that, she keeps asserting a basic claim which no one else thinks is true.

The Times keeps making this unproven claim to its poorly served readers. No one else seems to notice or care.



Part 3—Cornerback fails to respond: Everyone except Richard Sherman responded to last night’s address.

Perhaps in response to a plea from Coach Carroll, Sherman focused on bringing his teammate, Marshawn Lynch, out of his shell.

The trio of former Pacific-10 greats are poised to win Sunday’s New Jersey Bowl, which will occur at 6:30 P.M., barring access lane closings. In the long history of the event, no team coached by a former Pac-10 great has ever lost to a team forced to start a former SEC quarterback.

Whatever his motive may have been, Sherman has so far failed to respond to Obama’s address. We were struck by some of the people who did respond, and by some who responded to those who had responded.

Locked in a green room with Newt Gingrich, Paul Krugman responded in real time. Early this morning, we were surprised to read this:
KRUGMAN (1/28/14): 9:25 Son of a barkeeper? I didn’t know that.
Interesting! How many million times has it been said that John Boehner comes from such humble stock? Krugman, who actually knows real things, had apparently never heard it!

That said, we were puzzled, and provisionally disappointed, by this earlier reaction:
KRUGMAN: 9:13 We have the text of the speech. It says “More than nine million Americans have signed up for private health insurance or Medicaid coverage.” It’s that big already? Even I’m surprised. Obama is going to cite at least one example of a person for whom the ACA was literally a saving grace.
Krugman said he was surprised by the large number of sign-ups. Somewhat oddly, it didn’t seem to occur to him that his surprise might stem from the fact that the number in question could perhaps maybe be wrong.

Is the number wrong? We aren’t real sure about that, but we did know where to look. As part of a somewhat peculiar set of “fact checks,” Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post Fact Checker, offered this assessment, as we figured he would:
KESSLER (1/28/14): “More than nine million Americans have signed up for private health insurance or Medicaid coverage.”

Obama carefully does not say these numbers are the result of the Affordable Care Act, but he certainly leaves that impression. But the Medicaid part of this number—6.3 million from October through December—is very fuzzy and once earned a rating of Three Pinocchios.

The ACA expanded Medicaid to those who earn less than 133 percent of the poverty line—about $15,000 for an individual — to 26 states (and the District) that decided to embrace that element of the law. But no one really knows how many of the 6.3 million are in this expansion pool—or whether they are simply renewing or would have qualified for Medicaid before the new law. Indeed, the number also includes people joining Medicaid in states that choose not accept the expansion [sic].

The private insurance numbers—about 3 million—are also open to question. The troubled federal exchange counts people as enrolled if an individual has selected a plan, but does not know if a person enrolled and paid a premium because that part of the system has yet to be built.
We’ve read Kessler’s previous fact checks of those numbers, so we figured he’d fact-check last night’s statement. Somewhat disappointingly, Krugman seemed to assume the number had to be right, even though he found it surprisingly large.

People! Obama had said it!

Proximity to Newt can have that effect on some people. But just because Obama says it, that doesn’t mean it’s accurate, true, on-point or correct. In his own review of the speech, the analysts’ favorite captured a groaner, although he played it way down:
DRUM (1/28/14): On the fact check front, the only thing that jumped out at me was Obama's reference to women making 77 cents for every dollar that men make. It's not precisely wrong, but it will certainly open him up to nitpicking about whether it's fair to use that number. For the record, I think it is fair, though I'll grant that a little bit of explanation is called for.
Drum provides a link to a previous post which only makes matters worse. In each case, he took the same approach: having flagged an obvious groaner, he played down the size of the offence.

Kessler fact-checked that statement too. Like Drum, he failed to give a full account of what Obama actually said—or rather, what he implied.

If we might borrow from Kessler’s earlier language, “Obama carefully did not say” that women are paid 77 cents on the dollar for equal work.

Carefully, he didn’t say that. But plainly, that’s what he implied:
OBAMA (1/28/14): The bottom line is, Michelle and I want every child to have the same chance this country gave us. But we know our opportunity agenda won't be complete, and too many young people entering the workforce today will see the American Dream as an empty promise, unless we also do more to make sure our economy honors the dignity of work, and hard work pays off for every single American.

You know, today, women make up about half our workforce, but they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it's an embarrassment.

Women deserve equal pay for equal work.

(Cheers, applause.)
In a way, a politician’s desire to mislead seems more clear when he implies something that isn’t true, but seems to avoid flatly saying it. It becomes harder to believe that the person just doesn’t know that the statement in question is bogus.

Drum and Kessler both slid past the obvious thrust of Obama’s statement, which is pleasing, and highly familiar to liberals, but also grossly misleading.

Question: Why does someone like Obama feel the need to do that? In all such instances, from any pol, our first guess would be the obvious:

He or she chose to make the misleading statement because he or she knew it would lead to “Cheers, applause.” Also, because he or she doesn’t have truthful things to say about the topic in question which would produce that reaction.

If we apply that interpretation, here’s why Obama said that:

Obama is seeking support of women as a large part of his current thrust. If he has to toy with some basic facts, well by god, the times require it!

In that moment, you see a major politician whose party lacks things to say to the wide range of voters. For the fullest expression of this very large problem, we’ll direct you to a fiery response which appeared in Salon.

Joan Walsh wrote the fiery piece; we’ll assume she didn’t write the headline. In Salon’s new gong-show headline style, the headline shouted this from the top of Salon’s front page early this morning:
The president's speech was a conciliatory, modest affair. But with enemies like these, it's hard not to be a winner
Sad! Sad, and “demented” in its own right, in modern atomized style.

Except as a way to please or express the views of the tribe, Walsh’s piece strikes us as profoundly clueless. She lodges the various standard complaints, including some that make little sense.

She name-calls the “hundreds of kooks” who oppose Obama. She closes with an extremely dumb remark, a type of assessment our own kooks have been inclined to repeat since the Clinton years:

“Once again, though, as throughout his career, the president is blessed by having lame enemies.”

They used to say that President Clinton was lucky in his enemies. So lucky!

All that happened is he got impeached by his enemies. After that, his chosen successor was kept from the White House, with people like Walsh repeating their moronic claims about the way he hired Naomi Wolf to make him an alpha male.

Our tribe is run by hopeless kooks too! This is what Walsh was writing, at massive length, one day before that historic election:
WALSH (11/6/00): But first, let's state the obvious: Al Gore is a flawed candidate who has presided over a troubled campaign. For me, the indelible image from the Democratic National Convention wasn't Al kissing Tipper, it was a photo Tipper shared of her Halloween-loving husband (Is it the costumes he loves? The infinite changeability?) dressed up like Frankenstein. I cringed: The image of Gore as Frankenstein captured his blockheaded otherworldly essence, the way he sometimes looks like a guy who's been torn apart and stitched back together, unnaturally...

Maybe the best assessment of Gore's personality problem comes from our own Jake Tapper, who sums it up in two words: "Dingell-Norwood." That's the HMO reform bill Gore wasted time trying to explain in the last debate...
Joan, who was building her career, joined Jake in echoing Sam and Cokie there, as hustlers and users of her type were required to do at that time. With hustlers and/or fools like this working within our own pitiful tribe, we hardly need to blame our failings on the hundreds of kooks over there.

Earth to pitiful people like Walsh: President Clinton wasn’t lucky in his enemies. And, to state what is blindingly obvious, President Obama hasn’t been lucky in his enemies either.

They have made a rolling joke of his presidency. They have an absolute mess of American life. In large part, they have been able to do this because our own pitiful, atomized tribe is willing to tag along behind know-nothings like Walsh. Consider this know-nothing reaction to last night’s address:
WALSH (1/29/14): Another SOTU leak revealed an internal split over whether Obama should stress “income inequality” or “opportunity,” and revealed that “opportunity” won because apparently income inequality is a big downer and sounds like class warfare. In the end, the president did mention income inequality while stressing “ladders of opportunity,” but the preliminary hype made me more sensitive to his disappointing storytelling: Obama blamed the decline of opportunity and the rise of inequality on “massive shifts in technology and global competition,” but left out the deliberate shift of wealth and power from the majority to the top 1 percent, and the deliberate dismantling of “ladders of opportunity” that began under Ronald Reagan and continue through today.
Last night, David Corn expressed disappointment in that choice too. That said, why do Democratic presidents tend to shy away from the basically accurate statements Walsh would like to hear?

Why is it that “income inequality is a big downer and sounds like class warfare?”

There may be many reasons. But one reason is clear—hapless, know-nothing leaders like Walsh haven’t created a world in which income inequality isn’t a big downer and doesn’t sounds like class warfare. There are about ten million points on which the liberal world has failed to make the sale to the nation. The stumblebum conduct of people like Walsh helps explain this ongoing failure.

Obama preached to the choir last night with his statement about that 77 cents. Presumably, he went with a grossly misleading statement because he had nothing accurate to offer.

Similarly, Walsh is content to tell the tribe that we’re lucky in our enemies. That said, Walsh herself has been our long-time enemy, both on that ancient November 6 and in the ridiculpous way her magazine has begun to fashion itself as a landlocked, atomized enterprise which preaches to a very small liberal choir.

Millenials preferred!

Atomization was everywhere we looked last night. The nation is breaking apart into duchies. This process serves the stated interest of the most extreme members of the other tribe.

Walsh is clowning around and making money, just as she has always done. As part of the deal, Salon has become the cutting edge of the atomization.

Atomization is the goal of the other tribe, the one that wants nothing but local action. Walsh, who claims she wants somethign eklse, drives the disintegration along with her studied gong-ringing.

The nation is being sliced into slender segments. This dim-witted atomization makes money for quite a few media entities, but it serves the other side's interest.

Our side needs to learn how to talk to the broad swath of the public. Have you read Salon lately?

You can’t get dumber, or perhaps more dishonest: Walsh wrote 3600 words on the day before the 2000 election. As she puzzled and pondered, she never managed to mention the press corps’ relentless attacks against Candidate Gore.

Had she been alive on this planet during the previous two years? Somehow, she even wrote this:
WALSH (11/6/00): It should be clear, for so many political reasons, that this race couldn't have been anything other than close—unless it was a Bush landslide. The "Gore blew it" explanation underestimates both Bush's strengths as a politician and the media's flaws in dissecting the Texas governor's weaknesses and taking them seriously. It ignores the dynamic of American partisan politics...
Really? Had Walsh been alive on the planet?

After the Democratic Convention in mid-August 2000, Gore shot into a large lead in the polls—and the lead held. By mid-September, he was ahead by ten points and holding.

“Undeniable panic is gripping partisan Republicans,” Robert Novak wrote in the Washington Post, “from rank-and-file voters to seasoned political operatives.” Trust us: insider Washington had largely decided that the election was over.

At that point, in mid to late September, the press corps invented two more lies by Candidate Gore—those involving the doggy pills and the union lullaby. In the course of this latest onslaught, that large, month-long lead disappeared.

Howard Fineman explained what had happened to Brian Williams:
FINEMAN (9/21/00): I don’t think the media was going to allow, just by its nature, the next seven weeks, the last seven or eight weeks of the campaign, to be all about Al Gore’s relentless, triumphant march to the presidency. We want a race, I suppose. If we have a bias of any kind, it’s that we like to see a contest and we like to see it down to the end if we can.
Other lies were ginned up after the first debate, which Candidate Gore had won by large margins—until the press corps struck.

Somehow, Joan had missed all this! Today, she’s a “made woman” on cable news. She sits at the right hand of the man who did the most to create that historic debacle.

Was Walsh a fool on November 6 of that year, or was she simply dissembling? She will never be asked to explain, so pitiful is our tribe.

Also, women are paid 77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work! Obama said it. Our side cheered and applauded.

The claim isn’t true, as everyone knows. But that’s what you get when you live in a tribe which doesn’t know how to make accurate claims the electorate will respond to.

It’s time for someone to take Rachel Maddow...!


...and lead her away from her desk: Rachel Maddow has become an undisguised clown. She’s now a nightly parodic version of her own lost self.

Money and fame can do that to people. We’ve seen this fact put on display from Judy Garland and Elvis Presley forward.

That said, it’s time for someone to take Maddow by the arm and lead her away from her desk.

If you want to see what it means to be lost, we recommend that you watch the tape of Maddow’s opening segment last night. (Click here. You might want to turn down the volume.) Get ready for the extreme histrionics with which this lost cable soul sells her undeveloped eggs to her pitiful viewers each night.

Pretending to enlighten those viewers about the strange events in Fort Lee, Maddow started last evening’s program with an absurd declaration. Lost souls devise ideas like this:
MADDOW (1/27/14): On Friday, we learned that David Wildstein, the guy at the center of the "time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee “bridgegate” shut down scandal...we learned that the Port Authority had cut off David Wildstein. They notified him on Friday that he would have to be paying for his own defense in the Chris Christie bridgegate scandal in New Jersey.


Port Authority says there’s no answer yet on whether Bill Baroni is also going to be on the hook for paying for his own legal defense.

That question of whether or not Bill Baroni is going to be cast aside by the Port Authority the way the Port Authority has cast aside David Wildstein turns out to be a super interesting question and a super interesting problem overall for everybody else implicated not just in what happened on that bridge, but implicated in covering it up afterwards.
Will the Port Authority pay for Baroni’s legal expenses? We’re sorry, but that just isn’t a “super interesting question.”

The question of what happened in Fort Lee is extremely interesting, in part because these unexplained events seem remarkably strange.

But who will pay Baroni’s fees? That is pretty far down the list of super interesting questions. Except to Maddow, who has a nightly show to peddle, and wants viewers to think she knows much more than she does about these strange events.

Earth to Maddow: An incoherent claim doesn’t come clear if you repeat it many times and say it even more loudly. That was the approach Maddow took when she screeched to the skies last night about the Fort Lee cover-up/cover story.

Warning! The key words in this defiantly stupid passage are these: “as far as we know:”
MADDOW: Bill Baroni, as far as we know, did not arrange the shutting down of those lanes on that bridge and the grid-locking of Fort Lee, New Jersey, as far as we can tell. He’s not the one who put that plan into motion the way David Wildstein did. He`s not the one who apparently called for it the way that somebody in Chris Christie`s office did.

Bill Baroni, though, is the one who tried to cover it up. In an almost impressively elaborate way, it was Bill Baroni who spun this whole elaborate tale to the New Jersey legislature back in November, before we had seen that "time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee" e-mail. It was Bill Baroni who showed up at the legislature with photographs and charts. He brought big photos that he drew on, expounding in great detail, spinning this ornate tale about the traffic study. He testified for more than two hours about that traffic study that we now know did not exist.
In this deeply stupid way, Maddow continued to rage on the moors, telling her gullible, misused viewers about that traffic study—the one “we now know did not exist.”

What does Maddow mean when she tells viewers that the study “did not exist?” We still have no clear idea. Meanwhile, she ought to be fired for saying those things because, despite wasting hours of time on this ranting, she has never told her viewers the following basic facts:
Basic facts Maddow hasn't reported:
*Traffic data were collected each day during that peculiar week.
*The traffic data were then analyzed by Pott Authority traffic engineers.
*Starting on August 21, bridge officials had been told about the impending study or test.
*A very clear (if inane) rationale had been presented to the officials. In the testimony of bridge director Cedrick Fulton, Wildstein was posing a question “which neither of us could answer.”
Summary conclusions were prepared about the results of the traffic lane closings. These data were reported in the Bergen Record.

Was this entire process a hoax? That’s certainly one of the possibilities. But on a journalistic basis, Maddow is misbehaving very badly. Despite the hours she has burned on this topic, she is withholding basic facts from her misused viewers.

You might say she’s pulling a Wildstein! Except it still isn’t clear what Wildstein did.

Maddow knows about the facts we've listed, but she has never shared them with viewers. Instead, she rages on the moors, clowning, snarking and rolling her eyes as she begs for the “ruin” of the people she apparently must believe to be bad so she can believe herself to be good.

Which she currently isn’t. Maddow needs to be led away from her desk, very gently, by friends, if she has any.

As she continued last night's testifying, Maddow kept restating her incoherent point. After playing tape of Baroni at a November 25 hearing, she snarked the following at her viewers, pretending to be speaking in Baroni’s voice:
MADDOW: [Speaking as Baroni] “We at the Port Authority are super sensitive to the effect of traffic on our cities. We have nothing to be embarrassed about with this traffic study. Fort Lee has been getting more than their fair share of access to that bridge for years now. So yes, we had a traffic study to show how selfish Fort Lee is and how much they are hurting everybody else.”

That was totally made up. There was no traffic study. The whole thing was concocted as a cover-up to disguise what we now know they were actually up to. Now, that is known and we know that Bill Baroni was in on it. He knew exactly what happened, down to the fact that emergency services were having trouble reaching someone who was having a heart attack, because of that traffic on the first morning of the shutdown.
“There was no traffic study?” To this day, we have no idea what Maddow means when she makes that statement.

Traffic data were collected, and those data were analyzed. What exactly does Maddow mean when she says we know there was no study? Isn’t it time she explained?

As we’ve noted many times, that attempt to conduct a “traffic study” or a “test” may have been a hoax. It may be that The Wildstein Gang just wanted to shut Fort Lee down for some reason which is still unknown.

In that sense, it may turn out that there was no good-faith attempt at a traffic study or test—that the whole thing was a sham. But on a journalistic basis, that hasn’t been demonstrated yet.

Meanwhile, Maddow keeps refusing to report some very basic facts.

To our physician’s eye, Maddow is morally ill. Her weird bouts of dishonesty have suggested this state of affairs for some time. But last night’s raging on the moors make this point fairly obvious.

What does Maddow mean when she says Baroni’s testimony “was totally made up?” When she says, “There was no traffic study?”

We don’t know, but we do know this:

Traffic data were collected that week. Maddow needs to report that.

Those traffic data were analyzed. She needs to report that too.

Preliminary conclusions were reached—conclusions which were quite underwhelming. That too is part of the basic sworn record. Maddow’s viewers have never been told.

Instead, a morally sick person keeps waving her arms, raising her voice, rolling her eyes and pimping her snark.

Maddow has become a parody. She’s acting out Network, The Sequel.

If Bill Wolff were a journalist, he would know what to do about this. But Bill Wolff has no background in news. In effect, he is the hoaxster in charge at The One True Channel.

Because Wolff is himself a hoax, he doesn't know what to do with his star. Let us help this unqualified person:

He needs to take his Judy, his Elvis, and walk her away from her desk.

The sort of thing a lost soul says: At one point, Bill Wolff’s lost soul made this presentation last night:
MADDOW: At one point, Assemblyman John Wisniewski asked Bill Baroni if the legislature could please see this traffic study that he seemed to know so much about. Bill Baroni told him no. He said the legislature couldn`t see it. He couldn`t provide data or numbers about the traffic study because the study was cut short. The traffic study was ruined.
In fact, Wisniewski asked if there had been a “report.” This is the start of the exchange to which Maddow referred:
ASSEMBLYMAN WISNIEWSKI (11/25/13): So there is a report that exists?
BARONI: No. Because the week was cut short and it was never completed. So that’s why I said in my opening remarks these numbers are—
WISNIEWSKI: No, no I understand your opening remarks. But my question is: Somebody compiled data to give you, right?
BARONI: Well, the data— It wasn’t created, it was not created to give to me.
WISNIEWSKI: No, not created; compiled.
BARONI: Compiled—yes.
WISNIEWSKI: Somebody printed out something from readers, and assembled the statistics—
The boys went on and on from there, with Wisniewski asking if the data could be provided to the committee.

The data were provided. Last night, Maddow played it cute. To this day, she has never told her viewers that those data were ever compiled and analyzed at all. Instead, she keeps suggesting that no such conduct ever occurred.

Everyone in the New Jersey legislature knows these basic facts. Due to her ridiculous conduct, Maddow's viewers, night after night, are being kept in the dark.

Maddow should report the basic facts to her viewers. Better yet, the task should fall to the person who take her place as she tries to recover her health.

Maybe Bill could ask Ronan to do it. If only Judy and Elvis had taken a little time off!

Rand Paul gets challenged on his facts!


Discovering the 25-year-old intern: According to Rand Paul, women are doing extremely well in certain areas. On Meet the Press, he cited a set of statistics in support of this general point:
PAUL (1/26/14): You know, I think we have a lot of debates in Washington that get dumbed down and are used for political purposes. This whole sort of war on women thing, I'm scratching my head because if there was a war on women, I think they won.

You know, the women in my family are incredibly successful. I have a niece at Cornell vet school, and 85 percent of the young people there are women. In law school, 60 percent are women. In med school, 55 percent. My younger sister is an OB-GYN with six kids and doing great. You know, I don't see so much that women are downtrodden; I see women rising up and doing great things. And in fact, I worry about our young men sometimes because I think that women really are out-competing the men in our world.

GREGORY: But my question about whether you think it's appropriate for the party, key figures in the party, to be talking about women, women's health, women's bodies and the role of federal government related to those things.

SEN. PAUL: I try never to have questions of anatomy unless I'm at a medical conference. But what I would say is that we didn't start this sort of I think glossy and sometimes dumbed-down debate about, you know, there being a “war on women.” I think the facts show that women are doing very well, have come a long way.
In certain basic ways, Paul echoed an ongoing discussion about the relative lack of success of boys and young men in school.

Paul rattled a set of statistics about women’s predominance in certain graduate schools. Not long ago, Paul swore that he would be footnoting all his facts.

But oh-oh! Last night, on Special Report, Charles Lane said his statistics were wrong:
BAIER (1/27/14): Chuck, your thoughts?

LANE: I thought Rand Paul was kind of rambling there, not only in the sense that Charles talks about, but another point which you didn't show, he starts saying the whole war on women is a myth. Women are winning. And then he states a whole bunch of statistics, you know, that 60 percent of the people in law school are women. That isn't true. It's 48 percent according to the American Bar Association.

He says 55 percent of the people in medical school are women. That isn't true. It's 47 percent, according to the American Association of Medical Colleges.

He said Monica Lewinsky was only 20 years old when all this happened. No, she was 25.

In other words, I watched that interview, and I said to myself, “Does Rand Paul even know what he's talking about?” Yet, he began by saying we have a dumbed down debate about the war on women where people ignore the facts. And then proceeded to launch into a string of erroneous factual mistakes.
Look who’s talking! Where did Lane ever get the idea that Monica Lewinsky was 25 "when all this happened?"

We can’t nail down the law school and med school statistics, although it looks like Paul was wrong. But we never cease to marvel about these all-star pundits.

Lane has had many years to get straight on Lewinsky’s age. In fact, she was 22—almost 22 and a half!—when her affair with The Big He started.

She was not a 21-year-old intern, as so many hacks agreed to say for so long. But eighteen years later, Lane suddenly says she was 25!

As we’ve asked so many times:

Where do these puzzling life forms come from? Can they truly be human?



Part 2—Watching two tribes get dumbed down: “My fellow Americans, the state of the union is dumb.”

We don’t expect Obama to say that tonight! If he did, he could add this:

“Powerful industries now exist to make us tribally dumb.”

To see one tribe being dumbed way down, we strongly recommend this post by the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple.

The Fox News Channel’s Jon Scott has always been quite hackish. At some length, Wemple quotes Scott reciting the Fox party line as he hosted a recent segment.

You can hear conservative brain cells dying as you read that post. That said, we also thought we heard brain cells dying as we watched MSNBC last night.


Rachel Maddow’s treatment of Fort Lee journeyed to a new level of dumb-and-maybe-dishonest. In our view, it’s time that someone gently led this tribal hustler away.

(For details, see our next post.)

Chris Hayes was a schoolboy embarrassment in his two-segment interview with Richard Sherman, the former Pacific-10 great. “It was really a joy to sit down with Richard Sherman today,” the schoolboy said at one point.

(We’ll review The Channel’s pitiful coverage of Sherman before the week is through. For ourselves, we strongly support all former Pacific-10 greats.)

We saw Chris Matthews rant and rail about Rand Paul’s remarks on Meet the Press concerning Miss Lewinsky. Accompanied by his faithful friend Tonto, Matthews tortured the facts of the case, just as he did for so many years as the leading cable hysteric—and mangler of facts—concerning the deeply vile conduct of Clinton, Clinton and Candidate Gore.

In real time, no one staged more breakdowns concerning Clinton’s sex life than the horrible Matthews did. Most consequentially, no one transferred the attack to Candidate Gore is a more reprehensible way.

“Powerful industries now exist to make us tribally dumb?” We don’t think Obama will say it.

That said, brain cells died as MSNBC aired an array of piddle last night. Let’s consider the way Chris Hayes treated Rand Paul’s remarks.

Hayes is supposed to be the young, smart, earnest host. His treatment of Paul’s remarks wasn’t especially smart—and it ended in a piece of piddle designed to please tribal palates.

Instead of discussing the Lewinsky nonsense, Hayes focused on Paul’s remarks concerning the “war on women.” The topic was widely discussed on MSNBC.

This is the way the Hayes show played it:

First, you edit what was said: Hayes started by selectively editing Paul’s remarks. Below, you see the tape of Paul’s remarks as Hayes aired it.

Below that, we’ll tell you what those selective edits left out:
PAUL’S REMARKS AS AIRED BY HAYES: This whole sort of war on women thing, I’m scratching my head. Because if there was a war on women, I think they won. You know, the women in my family are incredibly successful. I have a niece at Cornell vet school


My younger sister is an OB GYN with six kids and is doing great.


I have a lot of successful women in my family and I don’t hear them saying, “Woe is me in this terrible world.” The women in my family are doing great and that’s what I see in all the statistics coming out.
A great deal was edited out of Paul’s statement. (Actually, those were parts of two different statements by Paul.)

As was done all over MSNBC, Hayes dropped the parts of Paul’s statement where he cited general statistics about the general numbers of women in law school, med school and vet school. Having disappeared those general statements, Hayes proceeded to ridicule Paul for discussing his own family. Other hosts did the same thing.

(On Fox, viewers were told that Paul’s upbeat statistics about women’s successes were actually inaccurate. In this way, Fox viewers were being challenged, even as MSNBC was making its viewers a bit more dumb.)

Then, you play a familiar old card: As he mocked Paul for focusing on his own family, Hayes played a familiar old card.

To his credit, he avoided the familiar, bogus statistic to which we liberals are constantly exposed—the bogus statistic Rachel Maddow went to great lengths to defend in 2012. (Maddow’s absurd performance was almost surely dishonest.)

Still and all, this is what Hayes said:
HAYES (continuing directly): Rand Paul is right. Yes, over the past several decades there have been massive historical strides in women’s educational attainment. What Paul didn’t mention when talking about all the successful women in the Paul family is that at every single educational level, women still make less in real wages than men, by a lot.

This is the chart for real wages for men by different educational level. This is the same chart for women. As you can see, from a high school education to a graduate degree, all the way to Ph.D., women are making less than men.
A pair of charts flashed by on the screen, too quickly to be examined. They seemed to show large gaps in pay between women and men.

To his credit, Hayes didn’t repeat the familiar statistic about women allegedly being paid 77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men. That said, we liberals hear that claim so often we can recite it ourselves.

To Hayes’ credit, one of his guests was Kay Hymowitz, a conservative-leaning expert on the gender pay gap. In her first remark, she offered a fleeting critique of that familiar claim, and of Hayes’ pair of charts:
HYMOWITZ: Well, I think if you look at the wage gap—snd you just showed us an interesting chart there—you see the raw numbers are extremely misleading. So for instance, we hear all the time, we just heard from the president recently, that women only make 77 cents on the dollar.

Well, those are raw numbers. It’s gross averages that don’t take into account hours worked. They don’t take into account professions and occupations.

And when you take all of that into account, and also time off for having children, absolutely—then the numbers look very similar. And in fact, there’s a recent paper that was just released by Claudia Golden at Harvard saying that basically, “Yes, we have achieved a kind of parity.” But—when you take all that into account.
Hayes didn’t dispute what Hymowitz said about the familiar old claim. This raises the question of why he showed those charts and made that claim in the first place.

(It’s to Hayes’ credit that he had Hymowitz on the program at all.)

The ultimate tribal assertion: Ultimately, the segment turned into a defense of the claim that the GOP is conducting a “war on women” through its opposition to abortion rights.

Hymowitz made a fairly sensible point. According to Hymowitz, it’s hard to say that an anti-abortion rights stance constitutes a “war on women” when a very substantial percentage of women support that stance.

After a commercial break, Hayes returned to the point. He asked Irin Carmon to respond to what Hymowitz said.

Carmon is the perfect MSNBC contributor. She is youngish and conventionally attractive; she seems to be Hispanic. Beyond that, Forbes has described her thusly:

“Named by NY mag one of the faces of the new feminism. Confident and passionate polemicist. Harvard girl, natch.”

Carmon’s ardor is always apparent. Unfortunately for liberal brain cells, she often says things like this:
HAYES: We’re back...[Hymowitz] just made the point about the fact that in the polling, specifically in the polling on abortion, there is not a massive gender gap between men and women. And you were going to respond.

CARMON: OK, so the way that people vote is not necessarily what they tell pollsters, right? In the last few elections where abortion has been on the agenda, the 20-week abortion ban in Albuquerque; Virginia, the governor’s race? Women have broken either for the candidate or for the issue that did not involve restricting abortion.

Just because a majority of people say that they are pro-life, I think that’s mostly a public relations issue around the word “pro-life.”

When people, when it actually comes down to politicians talking in an extreme way about women’s bodies that starts to see abortion as an issue that’s about sex and about controlling women, that is when women start to go for the candidate that is not interested in doing that.
You can’t go by what people tell pollsters!

In some types of polling, that’s true, of course. That said, the Virginia governor’s race strongly supports the general point Hymowitz was making.

Ken Cuccinelli was a clownish, over-the-top opponent of abortion rights. But according to the exit polls, he received 42 percent of women’s votes, with an additional 7 percent going to a Republican-turned-libertarian candidate who was rather vague on the issue of choice.

Beyond that, Cuccinelli received a walloping 54 percent of the votes cast by white women. The pro-choice McAuliffe received only 38 percent.

To Hymowitz, these data mean that it’s a bit odd to describe a pro-life stance as part of a “war on women.” Citing the Virginia race, Carmon rejected that view.

She said the Virginia race shows that it doesn’t matter if women say they’re pro-life. When push comes to shove, they vote against people like Cuccinelli.

Except in the narrowest possible way, the Virginia race doesn’t support that claim. But so what? After slicing the Virginia data even more narrowly, Hayes seconded Carmon’s position.

This is one of the ways liberals get dumber:
HAYES: So here’s what is interesting. Public opinion on abortion is complex. It’s textured. It isn’t simple, right? And when you ask questions in different ways you get different responses. And there’s this constant battle between both sides in which they’re citing the different polls, right?

But I think Irin’s point here is really important, right? When the rubber hits the road, right? Which is like, this thing’s on the ballot. You’re gonna come out and this person is talking about it this way or that. The data’s pretty clear in that respect.
The data are pretty clear in that respect? Carmon had cited two examples. This is the way the women’s vote had gone in Virginia:
All women:
McAuliffe 51 percent, Cuccinelli 42 percent
White women:
Cuccinelli 54 percent, McAuliffe 38 percent
Viewers were never given those numbers. Instead, we were told that the data in that race strongly support what Carmon said.

In the process, we liberals got a bit dumber, even as we got stroked.

How did liberals get dumber in that discussion? We were told that women strongly oppose candidates like Cuccinelli. Forget what they say to pollsters, we were told! When the rubber hits the road, they vote the pro-choice position.

Except in the narrowest possible sense, that didn’t seem to be the case in the Virginia voting. But we weren’t encouraged to wonder why so many women voted for a candidate like Cuccinelli. We weren’t asked to consider how we might communicate better with those voters, persuading them to adopt the pro-choice stance.

We were told they already vote our way—that the data are pretty clear on that point! We were told it does represent a “war on women” when the GOP opposes abortion rights, even though a very substantial percentage of women vote in support of that war.

We were never told how those Virginia women actually voted. As so often happens on Fox, MSNBC viewers were led to believe something that’s tilts toward false.

It’s easy for liberals to see how dumb Fox News frequently is. Again, we recommend that post by Eric Wemple.

Wemple describes the familiar process by which conservative viewers get tribally dumber. It tends to be harder for liberals to see this process enacted within our own tribe.

We don’t expect Obama to mention this trend in his speech tonight. If he does choose to mention this trend, he certainly won’t be wrong.

Tomorrow: The state of the union is atomized? Focused on trivia?

Also last night: We saw Megyn Kelly conduct a skillful interview about Paul’s remarks concerning Lewinsky. Repeatedly, she challenged the notion that Hillary Clinton could be blamed for things her husband once did.

Fox viewers were being strongly challenged during that segment. At the same time, our own liberal tribe was perhaps being dumbed down a tad.