THE YEAR OF THE LIBERAL: The way our liberal professors now "reason!"


Interlude—At the new Salon:
On the brighter side, your incomparable Daily Howler keeps pounding out those results. We refer to Ruth Marcus' column about Candidate Trump in today's Washington Post.

Marcus offers a mocking summary of Trump's standard, fluff-festooned stump speech. Then, in her penultimate paragraph, she offers the highlighted points:
MARCUS (1/6/16): Readers, this [summary] is no caricature—it’s Trump unfiltered, alighting briefly on a topic, complicated or trivial, before flitting to the next. And it’s not as if Trump bolsters his stump speech with policy depth in proposals or interviews. If Obamacare is a disaster, what’s Trump’s replacement? If Common Core is dead, what’s his alternative?

The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has estimated that Trump’s tax plan—one subject he barely mentions—would cost $9.5 trillion over the first decade, not including added interest. In 2000, when a surplus was forecast, George W. Bush proposed cuts costing $1.3 trillion. They were extensively debated—in the campaign.
Counting that "added interest," Trump's utterly crazy budget proposal would actually add $11.2 trillion to the federal debt over ten years, not the smaller, less relevant amount Marcus cites. Beyond that, Marcus never explains why her colleagues in the press corps have avoided discussing this crazy proposal in the way they have.

Still, this represents a start—and Marcus even offers George W. Bush's famously large tax cuts as a basic frame of reference! That said, Trump has offered an utterly crazy budget proposal. You'd think big newspapers like the Post would be discussing this matter on their front pages, not in the penultimate paragraph of a largely spot-on opinion column.

Marcus is a center-left columnist for a mainstream newspaper. In the main, we aren't reviewing the work of the Post in our current award-winning series, The Year of the Liberal.

Journalistically speaking, 2015 was The Year of the Liberal—the year when it became all too clear that the emerging liberal/progressive world had adopted the journalistic values and practices of the talk-show right.

We'll be discussing this point for the next few weeks. This morning, we're taking a bit of a break. We're enjoying a brief interlude.

Still, we thought we'd amplify yesterday's post about the dumbing down of the new Salon. As promised, we thought we'd show you how our liberal professors reason at that dumbed-down, once venerable site.

Has the new Salon been dumbed down in some significant way? Consider Professor McClennen's recent piece about Candidate Trump and his supporters.

McClennen is Professor of International Affairs and Comparative Literature at Penn State. Exciting headlines included, here's how her essay began:
MCCLENNEN (1/4/16): Donald Trump has made us all a**holes: How 2016 has coarsened us all into Fox News jerks/
Trump is polarizing, yes, but the real problem is that he's making us all obnoxious. Don't let the terrorist win

While U.S. politics has a long history of nasty elections and ugly fights, it is now fair to say that Donald Trump wins the award for the most polarizing and offensive top-ranked candidate in our nation’s history. Put simply, he’s an asshole. And so are his supporters. That story has been covered, so I won’t rehash it here. Instead the question that I want to ask is how his divisive bigotry is affecting the rest of us.
As you may know, the new Salon has become famous for its overwrought, inaccurate headlines. In their headlines, Salon's editors routinely misrepresent the contents of the report or essay in question. Routinely, editors include photos of high-interest public figures—high-interest figures who aren't mentioned in the actual report.

For the most part, that didn't happen with this piece. We don't know what the second headline means when it excitedly says, "Don't let the terrorist win;" Professor McClennen doesn't refer to anyone as a terrorist. But in this case, the overwrought tone of the new Salon's headlines are matched by the puzzling, overwrought essay itself, which starts with this pathetic, sad assessment:

"Put simply, he’s an asshole. And so are his supporters. That story has been covered, so I won’t rehash it here."

It's stunning to think that a university professor offered that sweeping assessment, which only gets dumber when you click the link she provides.

Is Candidate Trump "an asshole?" In our view, this candidate has earned the right to be judged in extremely negative ways. That said, we can't help wondering what Penn State thinks about this professor's categories of assessment.

(We'll take a guess. Someone is thinking that the university should review its tenure procedures.)

Is Candidate Trump "an asshole?" The exciting term doesn't tell us much. That said, the real absurdity of that paragraph lies in the way the professor extends that judgment to millions of people in her very next sentence—and in the casual way she says this sweeping assessment has somehow already "been covered."

She links to a highly nuanced piece which doesn't assert or establish the claim that Trump's supporters are assholes, full stop. It's stunning to think that a person who reasons like this is a full professor at a major university—but Professor McClennen's a perfect fit at the new Salon.

In our emerging liberal/progressive world, how do our professors "reason?" Consider one pitiful passage in this endlessly punishing essay.

Having just denounced millions of people as assholes, the professor is now lamenting the way Tea Party members "wouldn’t listen to reason." She includes a few statistics to help establish her point:
MCCLENNEN: Then 9/11 happened and the George W. Bush administration ushered in the logic of “us vs. them.” It became impossible to question anything happening in his administration without being considered a traitor. If you disagreed with the invasion of Afghanistan, the Iraq War, the USA Patriot Act, or torturing detainees, you hated your country.

By the time the Tea Party was founded in response to the election of Barack Obama in 2009 we now had a significant and highly vocal segment of the population that wouldn’t listen to reason and that rejected any political compromise. A Pew Research Center study in 2014 found that 36 percent of Republicans considered Democrats to be a threat to the nation and 43 percent held negative views of the party.
The professor offers two statistics in support of her claim that Tea Party members "wouldn’t listen to reason and rejected any political compromise." Citing a study by Pew, she says that "36 percent of Republicans considered Democrats to be a threat to the nation and 43 percent held negative views of the party."

Does that 43 percent perhaps sound a bit low? Wouldn't you imagine that a larger percentage of Republicans might "have a negative view" of the Democratic Party?

That may be because the professor misstated the language of the Pew study, in which that 43 percent said they had a "very unfavorable" view of the Democratic Party. But let's put that minor point to the side. Consider instead the statistics from the study by Pew the professor forgot to cite.

How do our liberal professors reason at the new Salon? The professor included that figure—43 percent of Republicans—to help us see that Tea Party members "wouldn’t listen to reason and rejected any political compromise."

She failed to cite the corresponding statistic from Pew, in which 38 percent of Democrats said they had a very unfavorable view of the Republican Party!

In our world, 38 percent is rather close to 43 percent. But in the world of our new professors, the one statistic damns a whole group, while the other statistic will be disappeared. We will then seize on a minor statistic difference to establish a pleasing difference in kind:

We Dems and liberals are the good people. The Others "won't listen to reason."

(For the record, the same problem obtains with the first statistic the professor cites, in which 36 percent of Republicans said they "considered Democrats to be a threat to the nation." The professor fails to note the corresponding figure from Pew, in which 27 percent of Democrats offered that judgment about Republicans.)

Are Trump's supporters assholes, full stop? Had this claim somehow "been covered" in the essay to which the professor links?

Is it true that Tea Party members "wouldn't listen to reason," full stop? Is that sweeping claim somehow supported by the data the professor selectively cites?

McClennen's essay, like most of her work at the new Salon, is a remarkable pitiful mess. It's stunning to think that a full professor at a major university "reasons" the way she does.

That said, the new Salon routinely offers puzzling work by university professors. Routinely, their pieces run beneath headlines which are misleading or inaccurate, tricking us rubes into clicking on essays we otherwise would have skipped.

The new Salon is dishonest and dumb. In this past year, the site's relentlessly horrible work helped establish an unfortunate point:

To a large extent, the liberal/progressive world now plays by The Rush and Sean Rules. We'll be exploring this general state of affairs over the next several weeks.

Tomorrow, Part 3: The Year of Liberal Narrative


  1. Somerby says: "(We'll take a guess. Someone is thinking that the university should review its tenure procedures.)"

    Tenure exists to protect professors from those wishing to give or take away employment based on what professors do or don't say. It gives them freedom to explore their areas of expertise without public pressure, one way or the other.

    Somerby seems to think tenure is earned by making statements of one type or another. It is not. Neither can it be lost by making controversial or even stupid public statements. Nor should it be. The point is that research cannot occur in an atmosphere of fear that what a person proposes might cost them their job. That fear would impose a chilling effect on all inquiry. So we tolerant the idiotic things said by a professor here or there because it is necessary to be wrong sometimes in the course of figuring out how our world works.

    Somerby likes taking potshots at professors. He inflates expectations for what they should do and has little understanding that they are people and thus fallible. Mostly he is ignorant about what their job consists of and how academia works. That doesn't keep him from attacking others. I wish he'd educate himself.

    1. Somerby is smarter than almost everybody else.

    2. Perhaps Somerby is saying that some people, other than himself, are "thinking that the university should review its tenure procedures."

    3. Perhaps he is not.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Well, as the Star Trek episodes of my youth philosophized, everything has it's dark and light side. Se here we learn that a liberal had FINALLY pointed out that Trump's budget is the work of an asshole, and that B) it is horrible to call Trump an asshole, and it just doesn't tell Bob much when you do it.

    I agree, the captious use of obscenity has come to belittle us; a fact as true for Daily Howler readers as anybody else. This would seem a battle long ago lost.

    Is there some subject, we must ask, where Trump has NOT distinguished himself along these lines? I know he's flip flopped, but are there issues he's been GOOD on? His comments on The Central Park Five case indicated that he is a racist, irresponsible, sore losing idiot and quite dangerous. But neither Bob or the MSM has ever paid much attention.

    1. Of course Trump is an asshole. More importantly, he is completely unqualified to hold public office. He would be a fringe or vanity candidate if so many voters weren't saying they support him in the polls. Since there have always been crackpot candidates, I blame the prospective voters. If theirs is a protest, it is irresponsible. If they are serious about him, we have reached the idiocracy. If our democracy can be bought by someone without qualifications because his is a billionaire, we have become a banana republic. None of those alternatives say anything good about our country.

      There is no reason why Bob or the MSM should have ever paid any attention to Trump. I am seriously thinking about emigrating to Mexico.

    2. Bob's focus, once again, as stated in the header, is on the "mainstream press corps."

    3. So, why is the MSM paying any attention to Trump at all?

  4. Bob and the Professor are both examples of what Harvard and the study of philosophy produce.

    1. Dr. McClennen is the associate director of the School of International Affairs and the founding director of Penn State's Center for Global Studies, a Title VI National Resource Center, and has ties to the departments of Comparative Literature, Spanish, and Women's Studies.

      Ignoring a woman's entire graduate education in order to compare her with a man with no advanced education is pretty sexist, in my opinion. She is an academic with an impressive resume. Somerby taught grade school. They are not the same.

    2. Argument from authority (credentialism) is not sound.

      Ignoring McClennen's quoted statements to focus on her credentials and gender is sexism, for certain.

    3. If argument from authority is unsound, so is argument to authority.

  5. Marcus asks, " If Obamacare is a disaster, what’s Trump’s replacement? If Common Core is dead, what’s his alternative?" She's not the only one making this argument.

    Yet, these federalized approaches were both optional. States, localities and private organizations were providing education, health care and health insurance before Common Core and ObamaCare, albeit imperfectly. Still, if these two programs are making things worse, then wouldn't we be better off simply dropping them?

    1. Marcus's questions are not an "argument." They are legitimate questions about Trump's proposals, which he has not answered in any detail.

      These "federalized approaches" provide services different in kind that previous ones (in the case of Common Core) and they provide services NOT previously provided to many citizens (in the case of Obamacare). Obamacare is optional for states but not individuals. It is not really "federalized" since those services are delivered by existing health care and insurance organizations. It is regulatory.

      Simply dropping education standards is not possible unless you also repeal NCLB and other programs that assign resources federally to schools. Further local districts have incorporated them into their practices. They MUST be replaced by something else. Trump and the other candidates need to specify what that should be. Academic anarchy is not an option. Replacing Obamacare with nothing will not only leave a whole bunch of people uninsured and without affordable healthcare but it will leave the insurers themselves and health care providers high and dry. It will create chaos.

      It astonishes me that you, other Republicans, and the candidates themselves don't understand this. Common core replaced something. Something must replace it.

      The irresponsibility of people like Cruz who cavalierly suggest doing away with whole Cabinet departments (other than by absorbing them into other bureaucracies or renaming them) boggles the mind. Thousands of people who have arranged their businesses and lives around federal guidelines, regulations and programs will be disrupted. The cost of adjusting would be enormous. And nothing productive would result beside change for no purpose other than to change. I wouldn't be surprised if it brought on another recession due to the costs businesses would be expected to absorb.

    2. You have a good point, 3:09. Yes, removing a Cabinet department would be a big adjustment for people and businesses. OTOH adding federal regulations and programs can require an even bigger adjustment by people and businesses.

      In particular, Common Core and ObamaCare were and are enormous umheavals. Still, it these programs make things better, it's worth the upheaval. Similarly, if abolishing the Dept. of Education would make education better (as I think it would), that step would be worth the upheaval.

      (I must confess that I'm particularly down on ObamaCare today, because of my daughter. MediCal gives poor coverage and has includes only a limited set of medical care providers. My daughter wanted to sign up for a better program. However, under the rules, because she qualifies for MediCal, she's not allowed to sign up for a better program, even though she's willing to pay the higher premium.)

    3. Are you aware that most liberals involved in education have opposed the education reform movement, including the reforms promoted by Obama and culminating in Common Core? It was one of the key differences between Obama and Clinton in 2008 and it is why the teacher's unions supported Clinton.

      There is no way on earth abolishing the Department of Education would improve education. We would go back to the days when a child couldn't move to a different state without having to be put back in school because of differences in curriculum. There would be no support for rural schools, no financial aid to schools, no collection of statistics, no clearing house for education research and practice (so it could be shared), no enforcement of anti-discrimination legislation. The latter is perhaps why conservatives use this as a key platform talking point -- the South still yearns for the days when they could enact segregation with impunity, resenting the need to set up private schools as a subterfuge against equal opportunity in education. Do they realize how ugly and racist they appear to liberals when they talk about eliminating the Department of Education?

      I hope you are helping your daughter with her financial problems in other ways besides complaining about Medical.

    4. David in Cal writes:

      [QUOTE] My daughter wanted to sign up for a better program. However, under the rules, because she qualifies for Medi-Cal, she's not allowed to sign up for a better program, even though she's willing to pay the higher premium. [END QUOTE]

      Great news David. Your daughter is eligible for the best-est most platinum-ee plan on offer in California. Because of the community rating aspect, people with pre-existing conditions are the big, big winners with Obamacare.

      Here's exactly what it says on the FAQ page at the California Department of Health Care Services website [LINK]:

      [QUOTE] 9. Can I decline Medi-Cal and enroll in a Covered California health plan and receive the federal premium assistance?

      Under federal law, if you are currently enrolled in or are eligible for Medi-Cal, you are ineligible to purchase subsidized coverage through Covered California. If you are eligible for Medi-Cal, you can still purchase a health coverage plan through Covered California, but you cannot receive premium assistance to reduce its cost and will have to pay the full cost of the Covered California health care plan’s premium.
      [END QUOTE]

      No need to thank me for delivering this news, I'm just the messenger. All praise and glory for your family's windfall from this new state of affairs in health care is owed to Barack Hussein Obama. My gosh, what huge sum of money was your family paying out of pocket to provide your adult daughter the top notch private health insurance and care you were so happy with, before Obamacare?

    5. Dear Anon 4:31 -- You have a point about coordinated curricula being helpful to students who move.

      Bob Somerby, bless him, has often critized casual accusations of racism against conservatives and Southerners. Your allegations that Southerners yearn for segregated schools and that conservatives support this endeavor are unsupported. It's ugly to make such accusations without support.

      I recall in my youth when Republicans, including Eisenhower, casually accused liberals of being soft on or sympathetic to Communism -- "Commsymps" they were called. Those accusations worked. They helped Republicans win elections, but a cost to the country.

    6. As usual, David, your memory fails you.

      "Ike" was the moderate compromise candidate that won the election on his promise to end the Korean conflict and to rid the federal government oF corruption. Joseph McCarthy wasn't even a presidential candidate and "I Like Ike", having nearly lost the GOP nomination by not repudiating McCarthy outright, kept him at arms length throughout the campaign.

      As for unsupported allegations, you are the the king, queen, and the royal court. And that's really ugly.

    7. Maybe it isn't about race. It could be conservatives object to being told their schools must provide sports teams for girls as well as boys. The Dept of Education enforces discrimination laws. Conservatives want to abolish it. You connect the dots, David.

    8. their schools must provide sports teams for girls as well as boys.

      This is a common misunderstanding. Title IX doesn't require any sports teams for girls at all. It requires an equalization of sports opportunities by sex. The easiest way to comply is to drop various men's sports. The loss of various minor sports oportunities has been an unfortunate result of Title IX.

    9. Soapy I once saw a film from the 1952 Republican Convention. It shocked me. The red-baiting was pervasive. It wasn't just Joseph McCarthy.

    10. No, the result of Title IX has been that American women dominate world soccer.

    11. @ 2:08 AM - proven time and time again:

      As for unsupported allegations, you are the the king, queen, and the royal court. And that's really ugly.

  6. As was revealed in the testimony at the trial, Zimmerman's head was not smashed against concrete. Also the evidence for the guy in WI suggests he may be innocent. Progressives do not support violence.

  7. CMike -- thanks for clarifying the law. This is the world of arbitrary benefits and rules. If my daughter had a higher income, the government would subidize her health insurance premium in a better health insurance plan. But, because she's too poor, they won't give her the same exact subsidy they give to people with a higher income. They'll subidize her only if goes into the sh*tty MediCal plan.

    Was this intentional discrimination against poor people?Does this rule make sense? Does this rule serve a social purpose? Would it cost the government more to subsidize my daughter in a better plan than to subsidize her in MediCal? Did the person who wrote the rule simply assume that someone with my daughter's income couldn't possible buy the better plan? Was there a desire to push a lot of people into MediCal for some unknown reason?

    We will never know the answers. Rules are written by faceless bureaucrats.

    1. A successful actuary's daughter is poor. That is sad.

    2. David in Cal writes:

      We will never know the answers. Rules are written by faceless bureaucrats.

      Don't let him fool you, DiC knows the answers to his questions quite well which means he knows "faceless [government] bureaucrats" had absolutely nothing to do with coming up with any of the significant components of the ObamaCare system. Rather this system was an ideologically inspired one and came out of a private sector think tank.

      To review, after the for profit health insurance industry sabotaged HillaryCare in 1994 the Heritage Foundation came up with an even more favorable plan for the rent seeking private sector than what the then First Lady had offered.

      The proposed conservative solution floated in the late 90s was first adopted in Massachusetts where it was called RomneyCare, and was signed into law as the national plan in March, 2010 and is now invariably referred to as ObamaCare. The system purports to maximize market based solutions for the health care crisis, a crisis caused by a the market failure when the private sector so gouged its customers that the only people who could justify signing up for a non-group insurance policy were those with a pre-existing condition whom the private insurance industry did not want to cover at all.

      This state of affairs required one of those socialism for the rich solutions that the corporate class is forever proposing and putting into place. Under Heritage/Romney/Obama Care, just about everyone who is earning income is required to buy a health care policy if they aren't covered by an employer plan all ready and don't want to pay a sizable fine. For lower wage workers the government subsidizes the insurance companies who sell policies with high deductibles to workers with the most modest incomes.

      These working class people still can't afford to go to the doctor except for the most serious of ailments because even after being compelled to pay a monthly premium they would still have to pay several thousand dollars out of pocket before the insurer would have to contribute much in the way of a benefit.

      The beauty of the system for insurance companies is that if a moderate income bread winner were to become seriously and chronically ill, often those insureds will then lose the ability to earn an income and end up dumped into Medicaid sparing the private sector the cost of paying benefits past the next enrollment period.

      The market based component of the plan supposedly is that is that the high deductibles for the cheaper plans will make the policy holder a more efficient health care consumer- i.e. they'll pay all they can afford for the insurance but they won't use the services.

      And that's the idea behind why this private health care component of the system wouldn't work for the unemployed, they would abuse the system because they have no money in the first place to pay a deductible. Therefore these people, people whom neo-liberal Heritage types and your basic libertarian think of as "looters and moochers" or "the 47%," have to be in a begrudgingly doled out government healthcare system.

      Compassionate Conservatives do agree it is vital is that the healthcare professional class and healthcare business class who provide health care services to the welfare recipient class should get paid enough to keep them living in the style to which they think they are entitled. At the same time Compassionate Conservatives don't think that the welfare recipients should actually get high quality healthcare services provided in a convenient fashion as, according to their values, that would be perverse.

    3. CMike -- Heritage Foundation's general concept didn't deal with the specific SNAFU that ensnared my daughter.

      You are correct that the idea of requiring people to buy health insurance, the way auto liability insurance is requqired, had been espoused by a conservative group. But, ObamaCare is so much more than this one idea.

      --There are 2,000+ pages of law. This law was pretty much written by special interest groups, such as lawyers and insurance companies.

      -- In 2013 there were 20,000+ pages of regulations. There are more today. On July 4, 2014, the Department of Health and Human Services released 1,296 pages of new regulations.

      -- In addition, there are all the state laws and regulations that affect each state's version of MediCare.

      I don't know whether the rule affecting my daughter is a California regulation or a federal rule or California implementation of a federal rule. Nor do I know how to research this question, were I so disposed.

    4. Earlier you said:

      "We will never know the answers. Rules are written by faceless bureaucrats."

      Now you say that the law was written by both the Heritage Foundation and special interest groups such as lawyers and insurance companies. What happened to the bureaucrats?

      If your daughter is not truly poor, what is she doing on MediCal? If she were truly poor would she be obsessing over not being able to buy a higher priced plan? More to the point, aren't conservatives the people who believe that family should be helping family, not relying on the state to shoulder personal responsibility? How dare you foist your daughter onto the people of California instead of helping her yourself!

      Your job isn't to research who wrote the law. Your job is to help your daughter get out of poverty so that she won't be a leech on society and a burden on other hardworking people. You have said so yourself but apparently when it is your daughter you make exceptions.

      The state's SNAFU hasn't ensnared your daughter. You apparently failed to teach her self-reliance. Complaining about the quality of charity in California sounds ridiculous coming from your mouth.

    5. Off topic. The change in David in Cal's tone the last couple of weeks has been odd. He's gone from having consistently expressed himself over the years as a wonk Republican in his party's libertarian-wing to now as a humble seeker of the truth whose affiliation seems to be with fellow befuddled independents. No reason this should offend my meteorological sense, lightning is as likely to have struck somewhere along Pacific Coast Highway this past December as it was to have struck in ancient days on the road to Damascus.

    6. CMike, one of the better and more amusing comments on the disconnect between A) conservative ideology and how conservatives actually behave and B) parent's sense of responsibility to their kids and their actual impact:

      "The state's SNAFU hasn't ensnared your daughter. You apparently failed to teach her self-reliance. Complaining about the quality of charity in California sounds ridiculous coming from your mouth."

  8. No evidence in WI suggests he might be innocent. Progs done gone off their rockers. When the new OJ docudrama is through with them they'll be tweeting je suis OJ.

  9. 12:09 isn't afraid to support a thug when the thug is on his team.