The Times is reminded of you-know-who!


Morning Joe bungles again:
Thanks to the magic of connectivity, we were able to read Gene Lyons' new column at The Daily Memo today.

When he read yesterday's New York Times, Lyons was struck by one particular passage. We were struck by that passage too. Here's what Lyons said:
LYONS (8/31/16): On TV in particular, the concept of “balance” requires solemnly equating the truly consequential with the utterly absurd...

Meanwhile, this just in! Huma Abedin’s crazy husband has been texting dirty pictures again. Try to believe the New York Times published this sentence: “Mr. Weiner’s extramarital behavior also threatens to remind voters about the troubles in the Clintons’ own marriage over the decades, including Mrs. Clinton’s much-debated decision to remain with then-President Bill Clinton after revelations of his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.”

Much debated by the voices in columnist Maureen Dowd’s head, perhaps. Most rationally consequent adults long ago decided that other people’s marriages are a foreign country where they don’t speak the language and got on with their lives. Weiner’s clearly mentally ill; journalists compulsively focused on Bill Clinton’s zipper twenty years after the fact appear similarly deranged.
"Try to believe that the New York Times published this sentence," Lyons said.

We had been struck by that sentence too—and by the sentence which followed it! In hard copy, the sentences appeared above the fold on the New York Times' front page, in a piece about Anthony Weiner's latest sexting episode.

This piece was written by Amy Chozick. Above the fold, on the paper's front page, this full passage appeared:
CHOZICK (8/30/16): Mr. Weiner’s extramarital behavior also threatens to remind voters about the troubles in the Clintons’ own marriage over the decades, including Mrs. Clinton’s much-debated decision to remain with then-President Bill Clinton after revelations of his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Ms. Abedin’s choice to separate from her husband evokes the debates that erupted over Mrs. Clinton’s handling of the Lewinsky affair, a scandal her campaign wants left in the past.
Does Weiner's behavior "threaten to remind voters" of Bill Clinton's affair with Miss Lewinsky? After the New York Times gets through, we'd have to say that it does!

Should Chozick have raised those connections in her news report? Please note—she didn't report that some political player had been making those connections. She simply made the connections herself, in paragraph 5 of a news report atop the front page of the Times.

Eighteen years later, your upper-end mainstream press corps still lives for that connection. They love to think about Miss Lewinsky; they're quick to suggest that you should follow suit.

She never seems to be far from their minds. Their ardor hasn't cooled.

Does Abedin's decision to separate from Weiner "evoke the debates that erupted over Mrs. Clinton’s handling of the Lewinsky affair, a scandal her campaign wants left in the past?" For Chozick and her unnamed editor, yes—quite plainly, it does!

Meanwhile, the factual bungling was general during the opening segment of today's Morning Joe. The segment re-aired at 8 AM Eastern. Here's how the segment went down:

Mika said she was reading a piece by "the New York Times editorial board." Moments later, a chyron appeared supporting that false attribution.

In fact, Mika was reading at length, and somewhat selectively, from this opinion column by Richard Painter, who's described in the Times as "the chief White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush."

The column Mika was reading hadn't been written by the board. It wasn't a New York Times editorial, as the chyron mistakenly said. That said, no one on the Morning Joe panel corrected the false attribution. Several seemed to follow Mika in making the bogus claim.

By the end of the segment in question, Mika was grossly misrepresenting her earlier, staff-written account of the claims in a recent Wall Street Journal report. For Kevin Drum's words of caution about that report, you can just click here.

This is the way such "cable news" programs now work. The multimillionaire cable hosts perform exactly zero prep. The staff equips them with bad information and faulty chyrons. When they proceed to make false statements, their panelists refuse to correct them.

To watch the Morning Joe segment, click here. If engineers built our bridges this way, our bridges would all fall down.

Ever so slowly our journalists turn!


Yglesias talks about narrative:
To answer the question we most frequently get:

Yes, we had a surge protector! As with the pocket protectors of old, it seems they don't always work.

Moving right along:

We've spent the past few weeks living in 1980 (or before). We still had a working radio and a daily hard-copy newspaper, but not a whole lot else.

In some ways, the experience could be seen as cleansing. This Monday night, we started watching cable news again. When we did, we were struck by its practiced foolishness even more than before.

That practiced foolishness isn't necessarily restricted to cable. As we start our labors again, we have a substantial list of topics we'd like to explore.

Let's start with a major policy area. That back-to-school piece in last Sunday's Washington Post was a (highly familiar) piece for the ages. For our previous post, click here.

As we've endlessly noted down through the years, data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) suggest major achievement gains by all major parts of our student population. Black and Hispanic students have persistently recorded score gains. White students have been recording score gains too.

On Monday, we posted the score gains recorded by black and Hispanic fourth graders in math since the 2000 testing. These score gains seem to be large, but very few people have ever heard about them, or about the larger set of score gains (dating to the 1970s) of which they're just one part.

Based on their repeated performance, the New York Times and the Washington Post would rather shut down operations than tell the public about those persistent score gains. Instead, we're persistently told that nothing is working in our schools—that our schools are an ungodly mess.

Down through the years, we've developed a counter-intuitive term to describe this type of journalistic behavior. Brace yourselves, because here it comes:

"Not recognizably human."

Not recognizably human! How can it be that our major news orgs refuse to report these persistent score gains? Cynics could postulate theories, of course. But we'd have to say that the basic journalistic behavior is not recognizably human.

Understandably, some people are put off by that characterization. We think their reaction is understandable. But in its essence, we think their reaction is wrong.

Not recognizably human! That characterization enters our head when we see such basic information persistently disappeared. And please understand: Everyone agrees that the NAEP is "the gold standard" of domestic educational testing. Our big newspapers cite NAEP data quite routinely. But they only cite the achievement gaps; they refuse to cite the persistent gains which have been recorded by all major demographic groups.

(When all major groups record score gains, the so-called achievement gaps remain, though at a higher level. For the record, the gaps are smaller today than they were in the past.)

They report the gaps, disappear the gains! At some point, we'd have to say that this journalistic conduct is not recognizably human.

A cynic would tell you that our news orgs are adhering to a certain "narrative," or preferred elite story-line, when they pick and choose their basic facts in this otherwise puzzling way. For many years, we've told you this:

Our mainstream journalism tends to be narrative all the way down. That's true in the coverage of public schools. It's also true in the coverage of candidates.

From 1999 on, we've begged the rest of the liberal world to challenge the way the mainstream press constructs controlling story-lines about presidential candidates. A cynic would tell you that career liberal journalists have refused to do this because their career paths run through the major newspapers and broadcast news orgs which have engaged in this conduct.

Have journalists refused to heed our cry in service to their own careers? Such behavior would be human, all too human! At any rate, ever so slowly, it seems to us that a few liberal journos have started to turn. Tomorrow, we'll start with a new piece by Matt Yglesias, a piece which appears beneath this headline at Vox:

"Colin Powell’s foundation and Hillary Clinton’s are treated very differently by the media"

Yglesias' piece concerns the type of journalistic narrative we've been discussing since 1999. We were struck by the salience of the piece, and by the high levels of courtesy it extends toward the unnamed journalists whose work it samples and cites.

Ever so slowly, have we started to turn? On the merits, that Yglesias piece is very important. It also arrives very late in the game, and it's just one highly salient drop in a very deep sea.

Tomorrow: More on the Yglesias piece

Coming this afternoon: Chozick recalls Lewinsky

The Washington Post takes us back to school!


The latest poisonous blast:
In theory, recovery from our thunderclap strike is proceeding apace.

Today, our cable provider's "dispatch team" is coming to get our cable team. Assuming that actually happens, connectivity to the Internet is next!

That said, Baltimore's children are walking back to school as we continue on hiatus. Despite the impressions you may get, this city is full of good, decent kids. Concerning the public schools they attend, you may sometimes be encouraged to gain misleading impressions.

Case in point: This remarkable back-to-school piece from yesterday's Washington Post Outlook section.

The piece was written by "education scholar" Shepard Barbash. It's full of poisonous claims and insinuations about American teachers and schools.

None of these claims is argued for, let alone established. We don't know if we've ever seen a journalistic offering which was less journalistic.

(On line, we note that the piece provides links which may produce evidence in support of some claims. At 35 cents per minute at Kinko's, we can't afford to click those links. The hard-copy version of the piece is argument- and evidence-free.)

What sorts of claims does Barbash advance in his enjoyable "pop quiz" format? He starts by asking these questions:
BARBASH (8/28/16): A new school year brings back all the old questions: What’s wrong with our schools? Why are they so hard to fix? Who is to blame for their failures? Take this test and find out. There are no wrong answers.
The implications are hard to miss. As he continues, Barbash poses questions like this:
BARBASH: 9. Why don't more educators do what works best?
A) They don't want to.
B) They don't have to.
C) They don't know how.
D) All of the above.
Because we've been told that "there are no wrong answers," those sweeping accusations are all presumed to be true.

To what extent is Barbash an "education scholar?" We don't know, and our current state of connectivity leaves us unable to perform a full search.

We will say this: In its identity line, the Post says that Barbash is "the author of five books, including Clear Teaching. We note that Clear Teaching seems to be his only book about education, and that it is a book of only 81 (81) pages which seems to advocate a certain teaching technique which has achieved a somewhat specialized, cultish following.

Is there some reason to believe that the teaching technique in question ought to be used more widely? The Post might have asked Barbash to write a column advancing that claim. Instead, the paper published the latest poisonous portrait of our allegedly hapless, ne'er do well, failing schools.

Are the nation's public schools an ungodly, failing mess? The claim is very popular among a class of "education reformers." The claim is also widely advanced within the mainstream press.

That said, we had occasion last week to review the latest NAEP scores. The National Assessment of Educational Progress is a federal testing program which dates to 1970. It is widely regarded as our most reliable domestic testing program, perhaps as our only reliable domestic testing program.

As we've noted a million times, NAEP data show rising test scores among all groups of American kids. As we had occasion to note last week, these are average scores in Grade 4 math for the years 2000 and 2015:
Average scores, Grade 4 math
NAEP, 2000 / 2015

Black students: 202.94 / 223.98
Hispanic students: 207.10 / 229.97
On their face, those are large score gains. We'll offer a very rough rule of thumb: ten points on the NAEP scale is often compared to one academic year. We regard rhat as a very rough rule of thumb, but NAEP data suggest significant gains by all demographic groups over the past four decades.

All in all, NAEP data are hard to square with the poison which pours from the pens of people like Barbash. That said, newspapers like the Washington Post and the New York Times virtually never tell their readers about the score gains recorded by American kids.

Regarding the Barbash piece, we have no idea why the Post would publish a back-to-school piece which was so non-journalistic. And no, there was no competing piece painting a different picture of American schools and the good, decent kids within them.

We know of no area where so much data is so systematically withheld from the public. In great detail, we've presented these data again and again. Nothing will ever persuade our mainstream journalists, or our liberal activists, to insist that these data be reported and explored.

We know of no area where so much data is so systematically withheld from the public. Making this pattern more astonishing, the information which is being withheld looks like good, encouraging news.

As Baltimore's kids went back to school, the Washington Post chose to do it again. Supporters of "reform" exchange high fives, but who will inform the public about the rising scores achieved by our good, decent kids?

We'll be on hiatus a few more days!


But first, these observations:
We'll be on hiatus a few more days as we resolve our post-thunderclap connectivity and equipment replacement problems. But first:

Yesterday, we spent three hours in a workshop with an array of federal managers. This led us to move about the parlous partisan state into which the nation has fallen.

To what extent has our basic functioning broken down? Let's run through the three branches of government:

Due to our current dysfunctional state, the Supreme Court is operating with only eight members. There is no way to break a tie in the event of a 4-4 vote. Nor is there any assurance that there will ever be a ninth member.

It's a very peculiar state of affairs. That said, consider the current state of the Congress, the body which is failing to act on the nomination of a possible ninth Justice:

The Congress is in such a divided partisan state that it's virtually impossible to pass any legislation. This didn't start in the Obama years. It dates at least to the government shutdowns of the first Clinton term and to the subsequent stream of temporary "continuing resolutions" which were need to keep the government functioning.

Presumably, someone will be elected president in November. That said, will that person be able to pass any legislation next year? Evidence suggests that our current state of partisan breakdown makes that an unlikely prospect.

Finally, consider the status of that new president. Alas! The current state of our partisan breakdown means that the two major party nominees carry the highest "unfavorable" ratings of any nominees in modern history.

Whoever ends up in the White House, that person will be widely loathed. For better or worse, all parts of our federal government seem to be in highly unusual states of breakdown.

What explains this state of affairs? Yesterday, we suggested two basic ways in which the press corps has helped fuel this breakdown.

First, the rise of partisan news orgs of the left and the right has flooded the discourse with disinformation and misinformation. Also, with steady streams of messaging designed to make liberals and conservatives fully loathe each other.

If we might borrow from CSNY: Loathe the others well!

This sort of behavior from partisan orgs has fueled the types of division mentioned above. Meanwhile, our big mainstream legacy news orgs have persistently failed to challenge the conduct of such partisan players and orgs. Misinformation and deliberate confusion are routinely ignored—ignored and permitted to stand.

For the last ten years, we've been begging our big mainstream orgs to accept a basic principle: When major players mislead or misinform millions of people, that is in itself a news event, a news event which should be addressed in front page news reporting.

Over the past several decades, our big news orgs have largely ducked this role. In just this past week, the New York Times has finally begun to break out of this mold, challenging some misinformation being sold by Sean Hannity.

Such action is long overdue. That said, we don't expect to see such work done on a regular basis. Meanwhile, the skill level of our big mainstream orgs is often extremely low.

More and more, we resemble a failing banana republic. Players of the left and the right have happily driven this downward cycle. When will big news orgs, and us the people, finally say that the joy of loathing The Other must be subjected to a full frontal challenge?

We offer those thoughts as we start to address our post-thunderclap issues. As a nation, we've managed to achieve a clownishly dysfunctional state of affairs. Gloomily, we offer these thoughts:

Our skills at addressing this problem are few. Beyond that, the spirit seems weak.

Our mainstreamers tend to play along with disinformation and confusion pretty much as they find it. They tend to avoid rocking powerful boats. If you doubt that, listen to any mainstream pundit discussion.

Go ahead! Start with discussions on NPR, as we just (depressingly) did. Then branch out from there!

One final point: We liberals may instinctively claim it's all being done by Them, Over There. In that instinctive claim, we'll be counterproductive and wrong.

Example: We think Paul Krugman is right today. After that, we think he goes wrong!

UPDATE: Miraculous landlord files!


Hard to believe, but (at least temporarily) true:
Miraculous landlord does it again!

(Important key and essential note: This was not posted at Kinko's.)

To whom it may concern!


All others may disregard:
As part of our connectivity circus, we're forced to resort to this communication regarding Thursday's top-secret Charlottesville event.

For those who have a need to know, these URLs will be involved:

The Washington Post: Kranish and Fisher, August 14

The New York Times: Chozick, August 11

The New York Times: Rich, April 26

No other URLs need apply. Eventually, this post will disappear.

Revenge of the powerful thunderclap!


It looks like we'll be on hiatus:
It looks like the thunder-clap which killed our TV has also killed our computer.

On Thursday night, our landlord solved our connectivity mess. On Saturday, it looks like the whole machine died.

The gods of powerful thunder-claps take their revenge in such ways. Meanwhile:

We have an event this Thursday on which the future functioning the federal work-force may well depend. The event will be held at an undisclosed location in Charlottesville, Virginia. We plan to spend the week preparing for that and avoiding more wrath from the gods.

It looks like we'll be on hiatus this week. That said, we think Jim Rutenberg has begun to do something in today's New York Times which we've been suggesting for years.

Bogus information strikes at the very heart of our culture. The presence of mis- and disinformation needs to be widely discussed.

At any rate, it looks like we'll be on hiatus this week. Stay away from the thunder-clap gods!

Rachel Maddow mugs and clowns!


We think you ought to see this:
Here at THE HOWLER, we're still recovering from this week's loss of connectivity.

We're also working on our posts about Amy Chozick's recent attempt at campaign bio.

Chozick's example of campaign bio concerned certain episodes in the life of Candidate Clinton. The piece ran 2600 words. It stretched through 58 paragraphs.

In our view, the piece was riddled with journalistic problems, shortcomings and errors. It illustrates some basic problems with the highly fraught, widely abused genre of campaign bio.

For these reasons, we want to review and refine our posts before we publish them. We'll proceed with part 2 in our series on Monday morning. For part 1, just click here.

For today, we really think that you should consider some recent mugging and clowning. We start with this short post by Caitlin MacNeal at TPM.

On Friday morning, MacNeal posted the video of a short segment on Thursday night's Rachel Maddow Show. The segment concerned a trivial point about the doctor who wrote a letter last December discussing Donald Trump's health.

The strangeness of the doctor's letter was widely discussed back in December, when the letter appeared. On Thursday, Maddow discussed a minor additional point, but her mugging and clowning were so extreme that we think you should give it a look.

Maddow's segment ran three minutes and 24 seconds. Video of the segment can be found at MacNeal's post.

The most remarkable mugging and clowning start at the 2:30 mark. Chuckling by the enablers can be heard in the background.

Increasingly, the nation's discourse lies in a heap. This mugging and clowning is part of the problem, which only continues to grow.

Thursday's segment grew from Maddow's discussion of fake medical claims about Caniddate Clinton, a topic she discussed Wednesday night. The spread of bogus information is a very important topic, a topic Maddow never pursues to the end.

Maddow touched on this topic on Wednesday night. By Thursday night, the mugging had won. (Maddow had teased the segment as her "Catch of the Day.")

One more point. MacNeal, a youngish TPM reporter, didn't seem to see anything strange about the video she posted. We think that's a very bad sign. Here's why:

When conservative sites spread bogus factual claims, they help destroy conservative brain cells. Rachel Maddow's mugging and clowning can have a similar effect Over Here. MacNeal saw nothing strange in that videotape. We think that's a very bad sign.

We really think you should watch that tape. What you see may be inevitable when corporate "news orgs" make stars like Maddow extremely wealthy and tribally famous, revered.

Under current arrangements, there may be no way to avoid such corporate-sponsored mugging and clowning. But mugging and clowning can kill brain cells, and the death of our American brain cells has tremendously harmful effects.

The spread of bogus information is extremely harmful. In the end, so is our own tribe's mugging and clowning, with chortling from the hacks.

We think you ought to watch that tape. In our view, that embarrassing tape ought to be cause for concern.

BREAKING: Discourse on method!


Pelted by the storm:
We've started posting the reports we've written in the past week. Due to a Monday night thunderclap, connectivity fled the scene, and we weren't able to post.

We'll be posting a four-part report about Amy Chozick's recent attempt at campaign bio. For reasons we can't fully explain, we're going to back-date the posts, using the dates on which they would have appeared.

Thunderclap, be gone!

Part 1 in the series appears below. In accord with our storm-tossed method, we'll post Wednesday's report tomorrow!

BUNGLING BIO: Stop them before they report bio more!


Part 1—Chozick bungles again:
If we were asked to pick the Most Problematic New Journalist of the past few years, one possible winner would leap to mind:

We'd be forced to consider the New York Times' Amy Chozick.

For all we know, Chozick may be the world's nicest person. As a journalist, though, we'd have to call her a puzzle inside a "Creeping Dowdist" enigma.

Let's start withe the ridiculous piece which brought Chozick to fame. Two campaigns back, in 2008, Chozick was working for the Wall Street Journal. That August, she penned a remarkable, lengthy assessment of a pressing problem:

Was Candidate Barack Obama too skinny, too fit, to be president?

We know—you think we're joking! Sadly enough, we aren't. Chozick wrote the nonsensical piece—and the Journal published it under these headlines:

"Too Fit to Be President? Facing an Overweight Electorate, Barack Obama Might Find Low Body Fat a Drawback."

You can peruse the piece here.

Later, evidence suggested that Chozick had perhaps played a bit fast and loose with her "man on the Web" evidence—alleged evidence which seemed to fuel her speculations about the way voters reacted to Obama's too-trim-by-half physique.

Ignore that possible second problem! Remembering that her editors permitted and enabled her piece, let's marvel at the sheer inanity of the essay Chozick wrote. Then, let's ponder this:

When work that foolish appears in print, it seems to send a signal to the New York Times. At the Times, the movers and shakers will quickly agree. They need to go out and hire the person who wrote that ridiculous piece!

Sure enough! In 2011, Chozick was hired by the Times "to write about corporate media." In 2013, she was somewhat weirdly assigned to a somewhat premature Hillary Clinton beat.

Last August, Chozick did it again. Her front-page report in the Sunday Times seemed to tell the world what Joe Biden's dying son, Beau Biden, had more or less said about Hillary Clinton, more or less on his deathbed, perhaps more or less with his dying words.

Yesterday, that same Joe Biden was telling the world how much he admires Hillary Clinton! Back in August, what was Chozick's source for her report about Beau Biden's highly unflattering, apparently dying words? Incredibly, Chozick sourced her front-page report to a Maureen Dowd column—a Maureen Dowd column which had offered no sourcing at all!

Has there ever been a stranger example of front-page non-sourced sourcing? Whatever the answer to that question may be, this is the type of work Chozick routinely creates at the Times.

In fairness, an editor purblished that front-page report—a news report sourced to a column which offered no sourcing at all. Also in fairness, the Times' ginormous "news report" from last April—its 4400-word report about the scary Russian uranium deal—was the worst news report of 2015, outdistancing even Chozick's front-page gonger.

Still, Chozick's work is routinely poor, in the manner warned about long ago, when Katherine Boo described the "Creeping Dowdism" which, she said, was threatening our national discourse. Boo offered her prescient warning in 1993. Today, our discourse lies in a gruesome slag heap—and Chozick has offered a lengthy attempt at the genre called campaign bio.

Chozick's attempt at campaign bio concerns—who else?—you-know-who! In hard copy, the lengthy report appeared last Thursday, beneath these suggestive headlines:
Strained Finances Left Clinton Juggling Necessity and Ideals
Accused of Defying Her Principles As She Shouldered Family's Burden
Leave it to Candidate Clinton! There she went again, defying her principles and juggling her ideals!

At any rate, now that we've seen the hard-copy headlines, let's turn to the claims-in-themselves, as they appear in Chozick's 2600-word piece of campaign bio.

The "strained finances" to which that headline refers allegedly occurred in the aftermath of November 1980, when Governor Bill Clinton, then 34 years of age, lost his bid for re-election. Those alleged "strained finances," which allegedly occurred at that time, form the heart of Chozick's attempt at campaign bio.

Unfortunately, Chozick's attempt was poor. Down through the decades, we've read a lot of bad campaign bio. Chozick's bungled attempt goes to the "bad bio" Top Ten list.

Let's start with our own choice of words: In what we've written above, we've used the terms "alleged" and "allegedly" for an obvious reason. In fact, there is no sign in Chozick's report that the Clintons suffered "strained finances" in any serious way in the aftermath of that failed 1980 election.

Truth to tell, there's no apparent sign of "strained finances" in Chozick's report at all. In comments to the report, readers of both the left and the right noted this obvious fact.

Tomorrow, we'll start to review the obvious problems with Chozick's attempts at reporting. This will include one gigantic, obvious journalistic fail—an obvious problem which was noted in comments from both the right and the left.

For today, a quick overview:

Uh-oh! There is no evidence of any "strained finances" in Chozick's lengthy report. Beyond that, there is no sign in Chozick's report that anyone "accused [Hillary Clinton] of defying her principles as she shouldered her family's [financial] burden" at the time in question.

There is no sign that Hillary Clinton shouldered that burden, or that any such burden existed. There's no sign that anyone proceeded to "accuse" Clinton in the manner the headlines describe.

As such, the basic premises of Chozick's report seem to have emerged from thin air—or perhaps from twenty-four years of Standardized Mainstream Narrative. Even perhaps from some sort of journalistic "bias" of some kind!

Is there a "bias" at the heart of Chozick's report? Such questions are always hard to settle. But in the case of Chozick's report, that question yields an intriguing answer.

For us, the most striking "bias" in Chozick's report seems to appear at the start of the piece, right in her first three paragraphs. In those paragraphs, Chozick paints a familiar, highly unflattering picture of Hillary Clinton's supposed conduct on the day after her husband lost his bid for re-election.

The portrait Chozick paints as she opens fits a current Standard Picture of Clinton. Chozick's lengthy campaign bio opens with that portrayal.

Tomorrow, we'll consider those opening paragraphs—and we'll note an unsettling fact. Though Chozick paints an unflattering picture of Hillary Clinton's conduct that day, she provides exactly zero evidence, in the rest of her lengthy report, that Clinton engaged in the conduct described!

Did Hillary Clinton behave as described? No specific examples are provided at any point in Chozick's report. In the larger sense, Chozick provides no evidence in support of her allegations about the way Clinton reacted to her family's financial strain—a "financial strain" for whose existence Chozick provides no apparent evidence.

Was Chozick really writing a novel when she penned this campaign bio? So it has gone, for twenty-four years, when scribes like Chozick tackle this genre. In fairness, let's say this:

The most significant aspect of Chozick's report isn't its possible bias. Indeed, conservative readers saw her report as an attempt to cultivate sympathy for Candidate Clinton.

Those readers spotted a pro-Clinton bias in Chozick's campaign bio! Our sense of a possible anti-Clinton bias emerges from those opening grafs. But other readers spotted a bias which ran in the other direction!

We true believers will often see the bias which matches our preconception. But readers of the left and right could see something else in Chozick's report. Readers of the left and the right could see Chozick's journalistic incompetence.

For readers of Chozick's lengthy report, that incompetence was easy to see. In our view, Chozick's journalistic incompetence, not her possible bias, is the most striking aspect of Thursday's report.

In our view, Chozick flirts with a possible bias or two in this piece—but her basic journalistic incompetence is the more significant tale. Meanwhile, in Sunday's Washington Post, Fisher and Kranish presented this astonishing overview of their own forthcoming campaign bio.

Their campaign bio concerns Candidate Trump. It's a book called Trump Revealed.

On Monday, we quoted upper-end mainstream reviewers as they praised the lucidity of a comically incoherent new book. Tomorrow, we'll continue to explore the intellectual competence of our modern journalistic elites, especially that at the Times.

Can we talk? At the New York Times, incompetence is now the reliable norm, especially in the paper's political reporting.

Basic incompetence is the norm. Perceptions of bias will follow.

Tomorrow: Providing zero examples

BREAKING: The Thunderclap That Was!


Landlord saves the day:
On Monday evening, a thunderclap blew out our connectivity and our TV set.

This morning, ComCast couldn't solve the connectivity problem. Our landlord just came by and did, though even he couldn't save the TV.

In many ways, denial of access to cable news has been a bit of a treat. Suddenly, it was 1980 again. What was wrong with that?

At any rate:

Over the past few days, we've worked on a series of posts about Amy Chozick's recent campaign bio of Hillary Clinton.

The piece appeared in last Thursday's New York Times. Assuming the landlord's solution holds, we'll start posting tomorrow.

On the other fairly obvious hand, none of this makes any difference. You have time to realize things like that when you're thrown back to 1980.

Maureen Dowd doesn't [HEART] Hillary Clinton!


Husband of the Goldwater Girl repealed Glass-Steagall, scribe says:
Maureen Dowd doesn't [HEART] Candidate Hillary Clinton.

In 2008, public editor Clark Hoyt said that was a problem. He said complaints about the Times' perceived misogyny had almost always turned out to be complaints about Maureen Dowd.

Given Dowd's status in the guild, this was a very unusual column:
HOYT (6/22/08): Dowd's columns about Clinton's campaign were so loaded with language painting her as a 50-foot woman with a suffocating embrace, a conniving film noir dame and a victim dependent on her husband that they could easily have been listed in that Times article on sexism, right along with the comments of Chris Matthews, Mike Barnicle, Tucker Carlson or, for that matter, Kristol, who made the Hall of Shame for a comment on Fox News, not for his Times work.

''I've been twisting gender stereotypes around for 24 years,'' Dowd responded. She said nobody had objected to her use of similar images about men over seven presidential campaigns. She often refers to Barack Obama as ''Obambi'' and has said he has a ''feminine'' management style. But the relentless nature of her gender-laden assault on Clinton—in 28 of 44 columns since Jan. 1—left many readers with the strong feeling that an impermissible line had been crossed, even though, as Dowd noted, she is a columnist who is paid not to be objective.

Over the course of the campaign, I received complaints that Times coverage of Clinton included too much emphasis on her appearance, too many stereotypical words that appeared to put her down and dismiss a woman's potential for leadership and too many snide references to her as cold or unlikable. When I pressed for details, the subject often boiled down to Dowd.


Politically correct is never a term one would apply to Dowd's commentary. Her columns this year said Clinton's ''message is unapologetically emasculating,'' and that she ''needed to prove her masculinity'' but in the end ''had to fend off calamity by playing the female victim.'' In one column Dowd wrote, ''She may want to take a cue from the Miss America contest: make a graceful, magnanimous exit and wait in the wings.''


Aulisio, the reader who wanted a review of Times coverage, asked if a man could have gotten away with writing what Dowd wrote. Rosenthal said that if the man had written everything Dowd had written over the years and established himself as a sardonic commentator on the sexes, ''I'd say the answer is yes.''

Of course, there is no such man, and I do not think another one could have used Dowd's language. Even she, I think, by assailing Clinton in gender-heavy terms in column after column, went over the top this election season.
Just for the record, many people had complained about Dowd's ill-advised language about "Obambi," the "diffident debutante." Also about her inevitable attacks on his big loud appalling wife.

Eight years later, Dowd's loathing of Candidate Clinton seems to be stronger than ever. It also tends toward blind rage, and toward the incoherence attendant to blindness and rage. Consider a pair of complaints in yesterday's sarcastic loathe-fest:
DOWD (8/14/16): The erstwhile Goldwater Girl and Goldman Sachs busker can be counted on to do the normal political things, not the abnormal haywire things. Trump’s propounding could drag us into war, plunge us into a recession and shatter Washington into a thousand tiny bits.

Hillary will keep the establishment safe. Who is more of an establishment figure, after all? Her husband was president, and he repealed Glass-Steagall, signed the Defense of Marriage Act and got rid of those pesky welfare queens.
Just so you'll know, Dowd doesn't care about welfare, or about welfare recipients, or about welfare practices. She doesn't have the slightest idea what Bill Clinton did, or didn't do, to change welfare procedures. It's just a useful ball of mud for her to use in these columns.

But how about those other complaints? Do they even make sense?

Hillary Clinton is a (former) Goldwater Girl? (That's what "erstwhile" means though helpfully nobody knows that.) Her husband repealed Glass-Steagall? Do those mud-balls even make sense?

Clinton was a Goldwater Girl when she was in high school. (She was 15 when Goldwater won the GOP nomination at the Cow Palace.) It takes a special kind of dimwit hater to go back so far in a candidate's life, back to their high school years, occasionally into their childhood, to come up with stinging complaints.

Dowd is that kind of hater. Regarding Glass-Steagall, might it be worth recalling the congressional vote on repeal?

Bill Clinton didn't exactly strong-arm repeal through the Congress. For whatever reason, the vote in favor of repeal was 90-8 in the Senate. Among Senate Democrats, the vote was 38-7 in favor of repeal.

Up in Massachusetts, Senator Kerry voted for repeal—and so did Senator Kennedy. So did Senator Biden, who functions, in Dowd's twisted mind, as her favorite East Coast Irish Catholic uncle.

Dowd loves lurves loaves her Uncle Joe. She simply can't stand the appalling Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton repealed Glass-Steagall!

Biden voted for repeal. So did Senator Durbin, Obambi's top Senate supporter. In the House, so did four future Democratic senators, including flaming liberal Sherrod Brown. Last month, Clinton's failure to pick him for the VP spot proved that she's still that same old Goldwater Girl.

For whatever reason or reasons, House Democrats supported repeal, 155-51. We're not saying that they were right or wrong in their votes. We're just saying that, however the measure was understood at the time, Dictator Bill Clinton-Peron didn't ram it through the Congress, supported by Evita.

The vote for 38-7 in the Senate. Seventeen years later, Dowd is cramming Glass-Steagall up her ascot as she screams about the evil of you-know-who.

Whatever you think of Candidate Clinton, Columnist Dowd has been crazy for years. Only Hoyt has ever been willing to say this.

Her craziness fits in at the Times, an amazingly subcompetent newspaper. Yesterday, her cries reached back to 1999, and on to the sins of high school.

Starting tomorrow: The houses of Chozick County

Past thoughts on welfare reform: Back in 1999, Gay Jervey wrote a profile of Dowd for the soon-to-be-defunct Brill's Content. She included this wonderful anecdote from Joe Klein:
JERVEY (6/99): "Maureen is very talented," observes Joe Klein of The New Yorker. "But she is ground zero of what the press has come to be about in the nineties....I remember having a discussion with her in which I said, 'Maureen, why don't you go out and report about something significant, go out and see poor people, do something real?' And she said, 'You mean I should write about welfare reform?’ ”
No one had to wonder what Klein's anecdote meant. Dowd had rolled her eyes at his suggestion that she consider the lives of Those People.

Today, she feels differently, of course. She hates what Bill Clinton did!

ONE DAY ONLY: To the apricot cocktails-in-themselves!


The critics agree to agree:
What did we read on our summer vacation? When did this vacation occur?

We'll grant you, the vacation in question was short. It happened last weekend—and, to answer your first question, we enjoyed another bout with Sarah Bakewell's unintentionally amusing and instructive new book, which bears this instructive title:

"At the Existentialist Cafe: Freedom, Being and Apricot Cocktails with Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, Martin Heidegger, Karl Jaspers, Edmund Husserl, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and others"

What makes the title instructive? Just this—everyone know what existentialism is, or at least what it is alleged to be. Existentialism is alleged to be, or to have been, a deeply instructive branch of philosophy, one which was most commonly discussed in parodies and satires.

As compared to the satirists, Bakewell treads the lonelier road. She treats existentialism and its forerunner, phenomenology, as significant schools of thought devised by important thinkers. That's what makes the title of her widely-praised book so instructive.

Bakewell has written a book designed for non-specialist readers. As such, she must pretend to discuss the allegedly great ideas while keeping us entertained.

Hence the apricot cocktails! They aren't just found in Bakewell's title. They appear, for the first time, right in her book's second paragraph.

This is the way the book begins. Just this quickly, the cocktails arrive. For fuller excerpt, click here:
BAKEWELL (page 1): It is sometimes said that existentialism is more of a mood than a philosophy, and that it can be traced back to anguished novelists of the 19th century, and beyond that to Blaise Pascal, who was terrified by the silence of infinite spaces, and beyond that to the soul-searching St. Augustine, and beyond that to the Old Testament’s weary Ecclesiastes and to Job, the man who dared to question the game God was playing with him and was intimidated into submission. To anyone, in short, who has ever felt disgruntled, rebellious or alienated about anything.

But one can go the other way, and narrow the birth of modern existentialism down to a moment near the turn of 1932-33, when three young philosophers were sitting in the Bec-de-Gaz bar on the rue du Montparnasse in Paris, catching up on gossip and drinking the house specialty, apricot cocktails.
To keep our gazes from wandering off, Bakewell makes a quick allusion to gossip, then cites the apricot cocktails. (Had such distractions existed in Old Testament times, would we have an Old Testament at all?
No one can answer that question.)

Just to correct the record, there were no "philosophers" at that table drinking those apricot cocktails that day. More correctly, three graduate students were catching up on gossip and specializing in the manner described. Two would go on to be famous.

In fact, two became extremely well known. Bakewell keeps us reading:
BAKEWELL (continuing directly): The one who later told the story in most detail was Simone de Beauvoir, then around 25 years old and given to watching the world closely through her elegant hooded eyes. She was there with her boyfriend, Jean-Paul Sartre, a round-shouldered 27-year-old with downturned grouper lips, a dented complexion, prominent ears, and eyes that pointed in different directions, for his almost-blind right eye tended to wander outwards in a severe exotropia or misalignment of the gaze. Talking to him could be disorienting for the unwary, but if you forced yourself to stick with the left eye, you would invariably find it watching you with warm intelligence: the eye of a man interested in everything you could tell him.

Sartre and Beauvoir were certainly interested now, because the third person at the table had news for them. This was Sartre’s debonair old school friend Raymond Aron, a fellow graduate of the École normale supérieure. Like the other two, Aron was in Paris for his winter break. But whereas Sartre and Beauvoir had been teaching in the French provinces—Sartre in Le Havre, Beauvoir in Rouen—Aron had been studying in Berlin. He was now telling his friends about a philosophy he had discovered there with the sinuous name of phenomenology—a word so long yet elegantly balanced that, in French as in English, it can make a line of iambic trimeter all by itself.
Beauvoir had the hooded eyes, Sartre the grouper lips. Aron, of course, was debonair. Did we mention the setting was Paris?

There's nothing wrong with telling stories, of course. Depending on the situation, it may be the best way to introduce a collection of allegedly important alleged ideas.

On the other hand, in the context of modern publishing, journalism and academics, instant recourse to apricot cocktails should perhaps be viewed with suspicion. Those apricot cocktails may turn out to be a dose of gorilla dust!

Is dust being thrown in this opening passage? That is a matter of judgment. A bit later, though, Bakewell provides the background to the apricot-flavored excitement. Here's part of what the debonair Aron explained:
BAKEWELL (pages 2-3): The phenomenologists’ leading thinker, Edmund Husserl, provided a rallying cry, “To the things themselves!” It meant: don’t waste time on the interpretations that accrue upon things, and especially don’t waste time wondering whether the things are real. Just look at this that’s presenting itself to you, whatever this may be, and describe it as precisely as possible.

Another phenomenologist, Martin Heidegger, added a different spin. Philosophers all through history have wasted their time on secondary questions, he said, while forgetting to ask the one that matters most, the question of Being. What is it for a thing to be? What does it mean to say that you yourself are? Until you ask this, he maintained, you will never get anywhere. Again, he recommended the phenomenological method: disregard intellectual clutter, pay attention to things and let them reveal themselves to you.

“You see, mon petit camarade,” said Aron to Sartre—“my little comrade,” his pet name for him since their school days—“if you are a phenomenologist, you can talk about this cocktail and make philosophy out of it!”
But why would someone want to make "philosophy out of" an apricot cocktail? For our money, Bakewell never quite handles that point. But by page 5, she's telling us that that's what Sartre did!

"[Sartre] did indeed turn phenomenology into a philosophy of apricot cocktails," Bakewell writes at that point. Citing a later account by Beauvoir—an account Bakewell says was embellished—she also says that "Sartre turned pale" at the Paris cafe when his debonair friend said such a thing could be done.

Does any of this ever make sense at any point in this well-received book? In fairness, Bakewell's book turns into a breezy, page-turning set of biographies once she stops discussing the allegedly great alleged ideas at the heart of her exploration.

We learn that the gnomish Sartre got women in bed through use of his Donald Duck imitation. We learn that the original existentialist fashion in Paris didn't involve the long, straight hair, black turtlenecks and the "drowning victim look."

Originally, right after the war, "there was a particular craze for plaid shirts and jackets," we learn from this book. If you could return to a Parisian jazz club of that era, "you would not find yourself in a sea of existentialist black," Bakewell instructively writes. "You would be more likely to think you'd walked into a lumberjacks' hoedown."

Insights like these may keep us reading, but what happens when we're forced to confront the important-ideas-in-themselves? Despite what you'll read in mainstream reviews, such confrontations go badly.

For our money, they produce reams of unintentional entertainment. Parsimoniously, we'll offer just one example.

Bakewell's second chapter, To the Things Themselves, is an account of the aforementioned Husserl's work.

(For ourselves, we prefer the alternate translation of Husserl's defining cry, "to the things-in-themselves," because it sounds more cumbersome and silly. In Chapter 3, The Magician from Messkirch, Bakewell chides Heidegger for using such locutions as "Sich-vorweg-schon-sein-in-(der Welt) als Sein-bet (innerweltlich begegnen-dem Seienden), or 'ahead-of-itself-already-being-in-(the-world) as being-together-with (beings encountered within the world).' ” But these are matters of taste.)

In Chapter 2, Bakewell falls to the task of explaining HusserlThink. On pages 44 and 45, she introduces the concept of "intentionality," saying Husserl made this concept "central to his whole philosophy."

Sartre to the rescue! According to Bakewell, no one ever explained Husserl's concept any better than Sartre did. On pages 46 and 47, she quotes from a "short essay" by Sartre in which he nailed this key concept.

Sartre's essay appeared in 1939. Below, you see the passage in question, exactly as Bakewell quotes it in her well-received book. The italicized material is the quotation from Sartre:
BAKEWELL (pages 44-45): The philosophers of the past, [Sartre] wrote, had been stuck in a "digestive" model of consciousness: they thought that to perceive something was to draw it into our own substance, as a spider coats an insect in its own spittle to semi-dissolve it. Instead, with Husserl's intentionality, to be conscious of something is to burst out—

to wrest oneself from moist, gastric intimacy and fly out over there, beyond oneself, to what is not oneself. To fly over there, to the tree, and yet outside the tree, because it eludes and repels me, and I can no more lose myself in it than it can dissolve itself into me: outside it, outside myself...And, in this same process, consciousness is purified and becomes clear as a great gust of wind. There is nothing in it any more, except an impulse to flee itself, a sliding outside itself. If, impossibly, you were to "enter" a consciousness, you would be picked up by a whirlwind and thrown back outside to where the tree is and all the dust, for consciousness has no “inside.” It is merely the exterior of itself and it is this absolute flight, this refusal to be substance, that constitute it as a consciousness. Imagine now a linked series of bursts that wrest us from ourselves, that do not even leave an “ourself” the time to form behind them, but rather hurl us out beyond them into the dry dust of the world, on to the rough earth, among things. Imagine we are thrown out in this way, abandoned by our very natures in an indifferent, hostile, resistant world. If you do so, you will have grasped the profound meaning of the discovery that Husserl expresses in this famous phrase: “All consciousness is consciousness of something.”
Bakewell's deletion. The italicized material is the quotation from Sartre's 1939 essay.

Wonderfully, Bakewell then writes that Sartre's essay is "the most readable introduction to phenomenology ever written."

It's also "one of the shortest," she writes. "It is certainly a better read than anything Husserl wrote."

We won't attempt to explain or justify our reaction to that remarkable passage, in which Bakewell presents that impenetrable quotation from Sartre, calling it part of "the most readable introduction to phenomenology ever written." We're willing to gamble that some foolishness speaks for itself.

We will assert that amusement of this unintentional type suffuses Bakewell's book—at least, those parts of the book in which Bakewell takes us to the alleged ideas-in-themselves. We'll say that this book is wonderfully incoherent—until one reads its reviews.

In terms of the allegedly important alleged ideas-in-themselves, this book is a very large mess. Until one reads the book's reviews, in which case it's "a bracingly fresh look at once-antiquated ideas and the milieu in which they flourished" (Maslin, New York Times), involving "impressively lucid descriptions of what these thinkers thought and what they said in their writings" (Mendelson, New York Times).

According to McAlpin in the Washington Post, "Bakewell lucidly breaks down dense philosophical texts while avoiding the pitfalls of over-simplification." According to Simpson in Newsday, "her intellectually sharp and fluent narrative" "combines confident handling of difficult philosophical concepts with a highly enjoyable writing style. I can’t think of a better introduction to modern intellectual history."

Praise for Bakewell's astounding lucidity pretty much spans the globe. According to the Guardian, "Bakewell is a skilful and nuanced teacher. Her explanation of the mysteries of phenomenology, clear and succinct, is as brilliant as any I’ve heard in a French university classroom."

(No, that doesn't seem to be an attempt at damning the book with faint praise.)

"She had me at apricot cocktails," Suzi Feay sadly says in the Independent. But also this: "Bakewell has a wonderful skill in expressing complex ideas."

Even our neighbors to the north joined this international parade. According to the National Post, "Bakewell offers a light but extremely lucid guide to their philosophies, which are not always coherent or easy to untangle." According to the Globe and Mail, "Bakewell is well-informed and great at conveying difficult ideas."

As one reads this book's reviews, one senses that the occasional reviewer is trying to avoid remarking on its constant incoherence. Bakewell had already written a well-received book on Montesquieu, who no one knows or cares about. It would be our impression that word was out on the street, and in the salons, that this new book should be well treated. This is a familiar occurrence in book and film reviews.

Baffling group assessments dominate much modern journalism. This culture suggests that man (sic) is actually the script-reading animal, rather than the "rational" creature of Aristotle's earlier mistaken view.

The script-reading animal is willing to say all sorts of things as long as he knows that whatever he's saying is being said in a group. This desire to recite approved standard scripts has dominated this nation's political journalism over the past twenty years.

Those modern high-end elites! It seems the word was out on the street concerning Bakewell's follow-up book. Reviewers may have gotten the word at cocktail hour, as poor Sartre once did.

Unintentional amusement is constant in Bakewell's new book—until one reads the reviews. Then we drink from the script-in-itself, the poisonous brew which has made a joke of our modern discourse.

Al Gore said he invented the Internet. Also, Sarah Bakewell is wonderfully lucid in her insightful new book!

Post readers refuse to listen to mollusks!


The sound of our own hate speech:
From Monday through Friday, the New York Times is the more interesting paper.

On the weekends, though, the Washington Post rules. The foppishness of the weekend Times tends to be overpowering. The Post stays where the rubber meets the road, as in this pair of letters in today's editions.

(In what does the Times' foppishness consist? Who but the Times would hire an upper-end "philosophy" professor to write a Dear Abby-style "ethics" column in which he advises a reader about whether to have his dog put to sleep? Routinely, the Sunday Times includes foppishness gone wild.)

In today's letters, two readers respond to a column in whiCh E. J. Dionne said that we liberals should get over our elitist selves and try to understand the views, concerns and experiences of Those People, the nation's (many) Trump voters.

"Those of us who are horrified by Trump’s hideous lack of empathy need empathy ourselves," Dionne offensively wrote. Also this: "As a moral matter, writing off Trump voters as unenlightened and backward-looking is to engage in the very same kind of bigoted behavior that we condemn in other spheres."

Dionne stated it a bit more strongly that we would have done; we think people should try to avoid the dropping of B-bombs in general. That said, we'd say Dionne was in the general ball park with his inflammatory piece.

Unfortunately, some of our tribal members see Trump voters as "mollusks crawling over the landscape," as we noted this week. This morning, the Post published two responses to Dionne's offensive suggestions.

The first letter is the milder of the two. For our money, it still carries the hint of a tone:
LETTER TO THE WASHINGTON POST (8/13/16): Like E.J. Dionne Jr., I am interested in understanding and engaging the segment of the electorate wooed by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s rhetoric and promises. I am reluctant, however, to put their pain on a pedestal. Rightly, the research paper that Mr. Dionne cited characterizes Mr. Trump’s backers, in part, as “ethnic majorities,” as well as male and less educated. At some point, we need to stop coddling this demographic and point out that the economic hardship and competition that working-class white men now face have plagued American women and racial and ethnic minorities for years.

Yes, it is elitist to belittle Mr. Trump’s supporters, but it is also cowardly and politically expedient to not ask them to consider those Americans who have never experienced the privileges and protections from which much of white male America still benefits.
The writer says he wants to engage Trump voters. But does he want to listen to Trump voters, or does he want Trump voters to listen to him?

It sounds to us like his engagement will mainly consist in asking them to listen to him as he "points things out." What he's "pointing out" may even be right—but what might Trump voters point out to him? We detect no serious interest in that part of the engagement.

The second letter comes out of the world in which we liberals see The Others as mollusks, a politer term for cockroaches. Instantly, Trump voters are compared to Hitler supporters. A rather startling will to power mightily rolls on from there:
LETTER TO THE WASHINGTON POST (8/13/16): E.J. Dionne Jr. encouraged those who are more educated and thoughtful than supporters of Donald Trump to act and think as if they were not. In the times of pseudo-populist demagogues such as Hitler, Mussolini and Mr. Trump, the parallels to be drawn are not among the principals but among their supporters. It is high time for those who think more clearly, analytically and morally than the supporters of a demagogue, and his myths, to act as such.

I am an educated person who has a knowledge of history (gained from a lifetime of reading), is a rigorous critical thinker (honed by a formal scientific education and a lifetime of biological research) and has moral judgment informed by the facts, not the myths, of life. As such an “elite,” which means little more than “literate,” I oppose the supporters of Mr. Trump as ill-informed about economics, prone to be fooled by goofy-speak and itching out of ignorance to spew the hatred that has been in their hearts for far longer than the recent Republican-created recession. No, Mr. Dionne, “elites” should stand up and say what we have learned. “Elite” is not a dirty word, and there is a world of difference between being knowledgeable and being condescending. The “elite” is a category of people on whom we all depend for our modern way of life. The rejection of expertise and clear thinking is not a proper response to demagoguery.
Rather clearly, the writer belongs to the master race. The Others are not unlike mollusks. They seem to be fit for the camps.

That second letter strongly resembles hate speech. So of course did the Andrew O'Hehir piece at Salon in which The Others were revealed to be mollusks this week.

For better or worse, O'Hehir and this second writer eschewed the familiar dog whistles through which we liberals often express our loathing for Those People. We'd say their general attitude is widespread, though it more typically appears in brilliant disguise.

Friend, are you a hater? With respect to hatred of Trump voters, we'd suggest you consider some questions:

Are you able to understand that Those People won't all be exactly alike? It's amazing to see the ease with which our liberal haters sidestep this basic point. (Reread that second letter.)

When you imagine confronting Those People, can you imagine the possibility of listening to what The Others have to say? Can you imagine the possibility that you might learn something at some point in such an unpleasant process?

If you hear one of The Others state a bogus point, against whom do you rail? Do you rail against the powerful multimillionaires who have been aggressively misleading the public for decades? Or do you prefer to kick down, at regular people who, like you, may not realize that they're often deceived by the people they trust?

Last weekend, thanks to TCM, we got watch On The Waterfront. As always, we loved the famous "dropped glove" scene, in which Edie Dugan tells Terry Malloy how the sisters should have treated him back in parochial school:
TERRY: The way those sisters used to whack me, I don't know what. They thought they was going to beat an education into me, but I foxed them.

EDIE: Maybe they just didn't know how to handle you.

TERRY: How would you have done it?

EDIE: With a little more patience and kindness. That's what makes people mean and difficult. People don't care enough about them.
According to Edie, the sisters should have shown more kindness. In his offensive op-ed piece, Dionne said much the same thing.

Where do Trump supporters come from? Careful—they aren't all alike! But in Thursday's New York Times, Jennifer Senior continued her excellent work as a Times book reviewer.

(We may be a tiny bit biased. We knew Senior a tiny tad back in the first Clinton years.)

Senior wrote about Hillbilly Elegy, J. D. Vance's new book about white Appalachian culture and its discontents and dysfunctions. Vance is plainly very smart; he writes about the horrible, unfortunate way so many young people are forced to come up.

Senior is very smart too. Eventually, at just the right moment, she uses the key word: "despair."

Other people write about mollusks. They show us that we all can succumb to familiar types of loathing, unless we decide to tell each other how unhelpful such remedies are.

Trumpism was dominant long before Trump!


Betsy McCaughey's return:
Trumpism was dominant long before Candidate Trump came along. Today's youngish reporters may not always know this.

Each point is illustrated by this new report at TPM. The report appears beneath this headline:

"Meet The Anti-Obamacare Myth-Maker Trump Just Named To His Economic Team"

The report is about Betsy McCaughey, the "anti-Obamacare myth-maker" in question. That headline is rather striking, though, because McCaughey most consequentially made her stripes by taking down Hillarycare in 1993 and 1994, long before Obama or Obamacare came along.

TPM's Tierney Sneed explains that fact in her report. McCaughey was part of the culture of Trumpism long before anyone had dreamed of a Candidate Trump:
SNEED (8/12/16): McCaughey's biggest success was her role in the defeat of the health care reform initiative led by then-First Lady Hillary Clinton, an achievement that makes her entry into this current electoral cycle all the more fitting. In what started as a Wall Street Journal op-ed, McCaughey pushed the inaccurate assertion that the Clinton legislation would ban health care consumers from paying doctors for services outside their government plans.

Her "no exit" claim landed her a cover story at The New Republic that won a National Magazine Award,
even though the bill itself clearly stated that "Nothing in this Act shall be construed as prohibiting the following: (1) An individual from purchasing any health care services" (an editor of the magazine would later recant that story). McCaughey's allegation nonetheless provided Republicans an easy talking point as the legislation stalled in Congress, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called her writings the "the first decisive breakpoint.”
McCaughey's essay for the New Republic was (take your pick) grossly misleading or just plain wrong. Still, it was aggressively pushed by editor Andrew Sullivan at the supposedly liberal journal, and it joined the torrent of anti-Clintonism then emerging within the organs of the allegedly mainstream press.

Little pushback occurred in real time. TPM's headline remembers McCaughey's attacks on Obamacare. But long before that, McCaughey's incompetent piece in the New Republic was a very important part of the Trumpist culture then seizing the mainstream press.

Trumpism was the mainstream press corps' dominant culture long before Candidate Trump came along. Consider a pair of high-profile claims:
August 2016: "Barack Obama was the founder of ISIS."
March 1999 through November 2000: "Al Gore said he invented the Internet."
Neither statement was true. Each statement involved a dramatic false claim aimed at a public figure.

This week, the claim about Barack Obama met with a wave of pushback. In 1999 and 2000, the mainstream press kept repeating the claim about Candidate Gore until Candidate Bush had squeaked his way into the White House.

Did Al Gore say he invented the Internet? Well actually no, he did not. But timorous children like Josh Marshall all ran off and hid in the woods in the face of the long-running wars against both Clintons and Gore.

The claim was repeated again and again, for almost two years, by a Trumpist mainstream press corps. Almost no pushback occurred.

Trumpism was running rampant in the press long before Candidate Trump came along. We're talking about the mainstream press, including its biggest stars.

You'll never hear this history discussed on MSNBC. Several of its biggest stars played key roles in those long-running wars. Younger stars on the corporate channel know they mustn't tell.

Few things could be more obvious. Few codes of silence are stronger.

DISTURBING EXAMPLES: Newell fingers the cable ETs!


Part 4—Playing squash ten stories down:

Haberman's programming does include a self-correction mode. Deep inside this morning's New York Times, she revisits her bungled Wednesday front-page report, in which she and her rarely-seen "writing partner" kept repeating a bogus charge:
HABERMAN AND CORASANITI (8/12/16): Instead of saying that her policies as secretary of state helped contribute to the group’s rise—a claim many Republicans have made—Mr. Trump said she should be named the Islamic State’s “most valuable player” for having done so.

At the same time, Mr. Trump is accusing Mrs. Clinton, without evidence, of intending to abolish the Second Amendment—something that she denies and would be constitutionally unable to do as president.
Wednesday, on the Times front page, Haberman kept repeating a bogus claim: Hillary Clinton wants to abolish the Second Amendment! Today, in paragraph 12 on page 14, she almost says that Candidate Clinton has proposed no such thing.

Early last week, we spoke with federal experts about such "journalistic" behavior. Our interviews were conducted ten stories beneath the fabled Greenbrier resort hotel, where workers from the federal JIU (Journalist Infestation Unit) have been sent in anticipation of a possible nuclear war started by President Trump, most likely in his first few days in office.

(For background on The Greenbrier, click here.)

We'll briefly describe those interviews below. But experts have long believed that the "extras," as they're routinely called, may possess this self-correction ability. Haberman's halting, buried self-correction is being reviewed as we speak.

Within the JIU, there is little dispute about the presence of these "extras" within the mainstream press corps. Yesterday, a piece at Slate suggested that awareness of this long-standing problem has begun to surface within the press corps itself.

According to the leading authority, Slate's Jim Newell "established his career at Wonkette." Within the world of the JIU, this unfortunate history makes Newell officially "suspect."

That said, Newell's piece at Slate can only be read as an "outing" of a wide range of cable performers. His piece concerned a set of sub-human discussions widely observed on cable this week. It ran beneath these headlines:
Who Cares Who Sits Behind Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump?
“Optics”: the flimsiest basis for a media-driven scandal.
Who cares who sits behind Hillary Clinton? Newell's answer seemed fairly obvious:

Certainly, no one human! No one who's human would care!

That said, a wide range of cable performers wasted inordinate chunks of time discussing this question this week. Inevitably, it started with an attempt by CNN to keep its discussions "fair and balanced." Here's the way it went down:

The channel invented a ridiculous concern about Candidate Clinton's campaign. This let its weirdly oversized pundit panels rail about an SOTT—about Something Other Than Trump.

CNN's panels were pounding away at Clinton. But just like that, the silly invented non-problem problem also popped up in the Trump campaign! Now, CNN's panels were dogging both hopefuls about an invented concern.

At the start of Newell's piece, he described this manifest cable nonsense. Quite correctly, he described the foolishness as a "nonstory" built from a "nongaffe:"
NEWELL (8/11/16): America owes a debt of gratitude on this day to disgraced former Rep. Mark Foley, the diddler. By showing his face at Donald Trump’s Florida rally Wednesday night and sitting in the same camera shot as the candidate, he canceled out the story about Seddique Mateen, father of Orlando shooter Omar Mateen, who on Monday appeared just above Hillary Clinton’s left shoulder during the broadcast of a rally. Now that both Trump and Clinton have had unsavories sitting behind them at recent rallies, they’re both tainted by the same nonstory, and both might now be loath to weaponize the other’s nontransgression. It would be a minor victory in this intensely stupid election if we were at least to rid ourselves of the “controversial person is in the same camera shot as a candidate, shame on the candidate” genre of nongaffe.
That's right, humans! On Monday, Seddique Mateen attended a Clinton rally. He was even seen on camera, sitting in the seats behind Clinton.

Mateen seems to be goofy, but he didn't shoot anyone or commit any other offense. But so what? On CNN, the "extras" burned inordinate time pretending that his attendance at the rally showed some sort of alarming breakdown within the Clinton campaign.

The conversations didn't make much sense; increasingly, though, cable "discussions" aren't intended to do so. That said, these endless discussions did serve two corporate purposes:

The conversations let CNN seem to be fair-and-balanced. Also, they let CNN avoid discussing matters of substance, the number one goal in this age of corporate cable news.

On CNN, highly suspect cable pundits ranted and railed about Mateen's presence at Clinton's rally. Candidate Trump then picked up the cry, staging an especially stupid treatment of the theme at his own Florida rally on Wednesday night.

Perhaps the gods on Olympus chose to intercede that night. As Candidate Trump clownishly railed about Mateen's presence at the Clinton rally, the disgraced former congressman Foley was clearly visible, seated right behind Trump, at his own rally that night!

CNN pundits were now forced to rail about the troubling failures of both campaigns. In Newell's terms, each campaign had committed a nongaffe, thus feeding the cable nonstory.

An obvious question seemed to lurk in Newell's report for Slate. Would actual humans ever engage in cable discussions this stupid?

Granted, CNN pundits are paid good smack to sit there with guest host John Berman and pretend to conduct discussions. (As we learned last week, JIU agents increasingly ask if Berman's voice "seems right.")

Still, it's hard to believe that any real human would engage in behavior this dumb. Was Newell suggesting an extraterrestrial source for this puzzling "cable news" problem?

Our analysts offered a warning. As he continued his screed, Newell himself quickly displayed some troubling signs. These passages worried the analysts:
NEWELL (continuing directly): There are stories to be had regarding Mateen at Clinton’s rally or Foley at Trump’s. After his son’s shooting rampage, Seddique Mateen—who did not countenance his son’s shooting, for the record!—earned a measure of notoriety with some controversial statements about gay people and the Taliban. Why does he support Hillary Clinton, one wonders. And Foley, of course, is the Republican who resigned in 2006, after it emerged he’d sent sexual emails and messages to teenage congressional pages. Why does he support Donald Trump, one wonders.


Then there are the second-order stories. Should Mateen, with feelings still raw over what his son did and how people responded to some of his own controversial comments, show his face at such public events, this soon after the shooting? Is Foley trying to ride the Trump Train as some sort of comeback into politics? Those are interesting stories.
Careful, Newell! the analysts cried. Plainly, the topics you cite aren't "interesting stories"—unless you belong to The Cult of Distraction and Misdirection, the cult which now controls "cable news" and much of our mainstream "reporting."

Ten stories beneath The Greenbrier, we played squash with federal experts as our interviews proceeded. Among these experts, there is no longer any real dispute:

According to these federal experts, some degree of infestation has compromised our "mainstream press." The only remaining disputes involve the degree of infestation, and the goals of the extraterrestrial agency presumed to be managing this ongoing effort.

Why is this infestation occurring? When exactly did it begin? Was Sam Donaldson human? Apparently, the Humean compatibilists within the JIU are making it hard to reach consensus on these and other key points.

"You know how the compatibilists can be," one frustrated agent told us. Effortlessly, he rolled his eyes as he delivered a winning shot.

Needless to say, the breakdown within our upper-end press is often seen in pundit reactions to the nation's professors. This became clear when the Washington Post published a recent piece in praise of Professor Frankfurt's insights—and when reviewers praised Sarah Bakewell's new book about Sartre and his apricot cocktails.

To what extent has our journalistic elite been hollowed out by the space invasion? Bakewell's book, and its upbeat reviews, provide a great deal of comic relief. But according to several federal experts, they also strongly suggest a troubling post-rational future.

Still coming: Husserl made easy! The reviewers agree!

Josh Marshall says we're off the rails!


Rip Van Winkle awakes:
Yesterday afternoon, Josh Marshall issued the following statement. He may have been wrong on his underlying facts, but he was certainly right on his basic assessment.

Headline included:
MARSHALL (8/10/16): We're Off The Rails, Folks

It's a logical development based on what happened yesterday. But when the Secret Service has to talk to one presidential candidate about hinting at the assassination of the other candidate ... folks, we've gone seriously off the rails as a country.
Marshall linked to this report about a report—to a report by Esme Cribb about a report which said that the Secret Service had spoken to the Trump campaign about its candidate's latest garbled but highly insinuative statement.

Cribb may have been wrong on the basic facts—she graduated from college in June—but Marshall is certainly right in his basic assessment:

"We're seriously off the rails."

The analysts rolled their eyes at Marshall's declaration. ("We wonder when he noticed," one of them yawningly said.) As a matter of fact, we've been "off the rails" in major ways for at least the past twenty years. In the opinion of our own youngsters, Josh has worked hard to avoid calling attention to this long-standing problem.

We've been seriously off the rails for a very long time in several major ways. Donald Trump didn't invent the lunacy known as Trumpism.

Trumpism defined the practices of the mainstream press long before Candidate Trump came along. The career liberal world has accepted, enabled and advanced this disorder for the past twenty-plus years.

People like Marshall looked away when Trumpism rolled through the New York Times. They even tended to look away from the work of purveyors like Limbaugh and Hannity, whose destructive behavior the mainstream press has persistently failed to address.

People of a conservative bent have been assailed by Trumpism for a great many years. Our mainstream press corps persistently looked away as this public disaster occurred. A new report by NBC News gives us one tiny glimpse of where such craziness has taken us.

In our view, NBC is imperfectly stating the actual results of a recent survey. But in a familiar yet bizarre finding, NBC reports this:
CLINTON AND ROUSH (8/10/16): One way that Donald Trump launched onto the political stage five years ago was through his fervent claims that President Barack Obama was not a U.S. citizen...

Seventy-two percent of registered Republican voters still doubt President Obama's citizenship, according to a recent NBC News|SurveyMonkey poll conducted in late June and early July of more than 1,700 registered voters. And this skepticism even exists among Republicans high in political knowledge.


A first look reveals significant and surprising differences between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to their beliefs about Obama's birthplace.

While more than eight in 10 Democrats agreed with the claim [that Obama was born in the U.S.], far more Republicans disagreed with the statement (41 percent) than agreed with it (27 percent). An additional 31 percent of Republicans expressed some doubts about whether Obama is a native U.S. citizen (i.e. indicating that they neither agreed nor disagreed with the statement). Only slightly more than one in four Republican voters agreed that the president was born in the United States.
We have no idea why Clinton and Roush think those differences between Democrats and Republicans are "surprising." Can anyone play this game?

We'll also note that respondents weren't asked if they think Obama is a citizen. They were only asked if they think he was born in the United States.

That said, the results of this survey are little short of astounding. They represent the highly dramatic, confounding tip of a highly destructive iceberg.

Voters of a conservative bent have been fed bullroar for decades. They've been fed endless demonological tales about both Clintons and about Candidate Gore. They've been fed crazy mis- and disinformation about various policy matters.

People like Marshall politely looked away while their powerful mainstream colleagues took part in the wars against both Clintons and Gore. Josh then created a vehicle in which we liberals are fed a highly selective diet of information and "stories."

This week, Josh has discovered that the country is off the rails. The country was badly off the rails from March 1999 through November 2000, when the mainstream press corps conducted its war against Gore. Politely, Josh didn't say so.

The latest results about Obama's birth represent an astounding state of affairs. That said, such survey results have persistently been ignored by our big mainstream news orgs.

Presumably, such orgs don't want to offend the many readers and viewers who share the lunatic factual belief explored in such survey questions. Presumably, our big news orgs take a pass on this matter to feather their corporate nests. (Have you ever seen a big news org interview people about this?)

In the liberal world, we've started creating our own corporate news orgs, orgs which are devoted to misleading Us in the way the Limbaughs and Hannitys have long misled Them. We liberals are already developing disordered beliefs about an array of favorite topics. If you think We could never end up like Them, we'll suggest you shouldn't feel certain.

Josh has played the careful game every step of the way. It's been a long, crazy game, one which has routinely worked through the organs of the mainstream press corps.

People like Josh have never told you. It's never been good for careers.

Josh has built a money machine at his current home. This week, he discovered that our country is off the rails.

The reporter he hired right out of college may have had her basic facts wrong. But her salary is likely quite low, and we'll guess that her report was "close enough for on-line 'liberal' work."

NBC's report is familiar yet astounding. After a quarter century of mainstream-approved Trumpism, we the people are more than just "off the rails."

DISTURBING EXAMPLES: The views of Humean compatibilists!


Part 3—When pundit professors opine:
When Men in Black was released in 1991, it was widely viewed as a mere entertainment.

That said, experts wondered if the film might not have been intended as a disguised documentary—as a warning about extraterrestrial infestation of our home planet, the earth.

Signs of this possibility were widely observed. For starters, the film featured two actors improbably (said to be) named Smith and Jones.

One couldn't seem to decide where he was from—Philadelphia or Bel Air. According to published reports, the other had been chided as being perhaps a bit post-human as early as his (alleged) freshman year in college!

Was this film intended as a warning? There's no way to settle that question. But starting the very next year, coverage of the Clinton campaign began to suggest that this nation's political "press corps" perhaps seemed a tiny bit extraterrestrial. Rumors about this possible problem have only grown since then.

Occasionally, indications suggest a remaining human presence within the upper-end press. Just this morning, for example, the Washington Post editorial board presents the rare observation, noting that Candidate Clinton doesn't propose "abolishing the Second Amendment," despite what you know who says.

In recent days, waves of pundits spent many hours discussing Candidate Trump's insistent claim to the contrary. But even as the putative humans battered Trump's perceived call to arms in response to Clinton's desire, they kept failing to state the attendant point:

Candidate Clinton doesn't favor abolishing the Second Amendment! Waves of pundits, speaking for hours, kept skipping this basic fact.

Would humans really behave that way? Endlessly, all over cable, pundits avoided this second key point. As a result of their strangely strange conduct, voters received a double message:

It's wrong to murder a candidate or a president. Also, Candidate Clinton wants to grab your guns!

Would actual humans behave that way? The point was skipped by Corasaniti and Haberman in their front-page news report in the New York Times. They cited several figures making the claim about gun-grabbing Clinton. It didn't seem to enter their heads that they were actively spreading a false claim all around.

Would actual humans reason that way? Experts say it's unlikely.

(This morning, our analysts watched Haberman attempting to discuss the latest alleged Clinton scandal on CNN. "They got the modulation of her voice wrong," one of the youngsters wearily charged. Watching Morning Joe, they also fingered Donnie Deutsch. "He's much too genial to be a real pundit," they said. "And they gave him way too much hair.")

Bob Dylan may have had it right. "Time passed, and now it seems everybody's having that dream!"

So the thoughtful poet wrote—and by now, sure enough! More and more, people have started to see that our upper-end press corps seems to be just a bit "off" in its presentations.

For today, we'll restrict ourselves to two recent examples. For starters, consider Andrew O'Hehir's recent "hate letter" at the new Salon.

O'Hehir has been designed to represent the "progressive" voice. But could any progressive really display such loathing for average people?

Let's be fair. If O'Hehir was designed by extraterrestrials, they may have a sense of humor. He recently spent a week "on a personal visit to Florida," he wrote in his recent piece. In his reflections on this punishment, he seem like a parody of classic condescending elitist, a well-known figure of decades of RNC wet dreams.

Ignore O'Hehir's statistical bungles in which, among other things, he discovers a "suicide epidemic." It's his undisguised loathing for average people which so strongly suggests extra-human origins.

His loathing seems to center on Wendy's, a well-known fast food chain. In this passage, he makes the first of three separate references to the chain's Baconator Fries:
O'HEHIR (8/6/16): America is experiencing a health crisis on an enormous scale—a crisis that is simultaneously physical, psychological and spiritual and is hardly ever understood in holistic terms. If Trump is the most prominent symptom of this systemic disorder at the moment, he is not its cause or even its leading indicator. For starters, this crisis encompasses epidemic rates of obesity and epidemic rates of suicide, dramatic evidence of a wealthy country that is literally killing itself. It’s about a nation of worsening social isolation and individualized info-bubbles and pathological delusion, a nation that spends more per capita on healthcare than any other major Western power to achieve worse outcomes, and where Baconator Fries are $1.99 at Wendy’s.
Those Baconator Fries rob O'Hehir of sleep.

O'Hehir's loathing for average people is undisguised and highly dysfunctional—a possible programming error. In this unpleasant passage, the Fries are back and the loathing achieves full flower:
O'HEHIR: I’m saying that the state of borderline psychosis produced by electronic consumer society leads to OxyContin addiction and Baconator Fries and a suicide epidemic and Donald Trump. Those things are not all the same, but they are interconnected. I’m saying that the landscape I just saw in west central Florida, whose inhabitants crawl mollusk-like from fast-food outlets to convenience stores to healthcare providers to office parks, in their SUVs and pickup trucks with tinted windows, is a landscape of cognitive dissonance and collective delusion.
To this possible extraterrestrial, inhabitants of Florida "crawl mollusk-like" around "the landscape" of their state. As we learn all through the piece, they're unbelievably fat.

Everywhere Dylan looked, he saw his dream being realized. We have a similar reaction when we observe our upper-end "press corps" in action.

We'll quit today by linking to a piece in the Washington Post which made the analysts cry. In fairness, the teaser on the front page of the Post's web site provided the greatest offense.

It almost forced a person to click. Here's what the teaser said:

"Hillary Clinton is a bigger liar than Donald Trump. Here's why."

A human would almost be forced to click! If she did, she'd find a peculiar piece by one professor, Professor Drezner, channeling the work of another.

Who is Professor Frankfurt? she would be forced to say. The world's leading authority explains:
Frankfurt is probably the leading living Humean compatibilist, developing Hume's view that to be free is to do what one wants to do. (Others who develop this view are David Velleman, Gary Watson and John Martin Fischer.) Frankfurt's version of compatibilism is the subject of a substantial literature by other philosophy professors. More recently, he has written on love and caring.
Among four living Humean compatibilists, Professor Frankfurt is likely the leading one!

Meanwhile, Clinton's a bigger liar than Trump? So says the leading living Humean compatibilist? Can anyone think that work of this type boasts actual human origin?

It seems clear that infestation exists. Just how deeply has it proceeded?

Tomorrow, apricot cocktails and Donald Duck, along with the wonders of Sartre.

Tomorrow: The province of high-brow reviews