Maddow embellishes past embellishment!

FRIDAY, MARCH 31, 2017

The story keeps getting better:
At this point, no serious person will be surprised by Rachel Maddow's embellishments. Embellishment has become a basic feature of Maddowism.

Still, it's worth noting when the former Rhodes Scholar decides to embellish a prior embellishment, as she did last night.

Michael Flynn was the topic at hand. Soon, we liberals were thrilling to this report, in which Maddow embellished her prior embellishments with regard to Flynn and the Turkish government:
MADDOW (3/30/17): By the time Mike Flynn had come on board the Trump campaign, investigative reporters like Michael Isikoff were already at the Republican National Convention here asking about that trip to Russia, asking whether he'd been paid by the Russian government for making that appearance. It has since emerged, incidentally, that Mike Flynn was paid tens of thousands of dollars in addition to a free, all-expenses paid trip to Moscow for himself and his son in exchange for showing up at that gala and sitting next to Putin. In addition to that money from the Russian government media, government-supported media outlet RT, in addition to that money, he also received two other five-figure payments from two other Russian companies after he was fired from the Defense Intelligence Agency. But nevertheless, the Trump campaign brought him on board.

By Election Day, it was clear that General Flynn was on the payroll of another foreign government. He was on the payroll of the government of Turkey while he was advising the Trump campaign. Now, he was not registered as a foreign agent, but it was widely reported that he was, that he was, he was taking money from a foreign government—from Turkey—to advance that country's interests in the United States while he was simultaneously advising the Trump campaign.

I mean, one of the unexplained things, one of the things that the official announcement about him just makes no sense, right? One of the things that doesn't make sense about Mike Flynn is how on earth he made it through the vetting process in the first place to become national security adviser, right? After the trip to Russia with those undisclosed payments by RT and by Russian firms, with the then-undisclosed work as the agent of another government, he was taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from the government of Turkey and actively working to promote that government`s interest in the United States, while the administration was supposedly vetting him to be national security adviser?

He's an unregistered foreign agent, getting paid all that—I mean, they didn't pick that up in the vetting?

It wasn't hard to vet that about him. It was like lots of news stories about it. I mean, that didn't trip any wires from him? That has never made any sense. It's never made any sense.

Then he gets into the job, then he becomes national security adviser.
Previously on the Maddow Show, Maddow has routinely claimed that Flynn "was on the payroll of the government of Turkey" last fall. Last night, she embellished that prior inaccurate claim, saying this had been "widely reported" in "like lots of news stories about it" as of Election Day, or at least as of mid-November.

In fact, we know of no one other than Maddow who has ever claimed that Flynn "was on the payroll of the government of Turkey." Regarding Maddow's new claim, we find no sign that there were any "news stories" making that claim last November (or ever), let alone "lots of such news stories."

We've sometimes told you that Maddow reminds us of Donald J. Trump just a bit. We're generally thinking of her vast self-absorption when we say that.

Now, though, consider this:

Back in the day, Trump claimed there were dozens of news reports describing his opposition to the war in Iraq. No such news report was ever found.

Last night, Maddow played a similar game. She claimed there were "lots of news stories" as of last November reporting that Flynn was on the Turkish government payroll. We can find no such reports at all.

What makes Maddow want to embellish her past embellishments? And by the way, one final thought:

Ain't partisan corporate news grand?

Here's what was being said: What was being said about Flynn and Turkey last fall? Here's what the Post editorial board said when Trump named Flynn as his national security tsar:
WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL (11/19/16): Mr. Trump's choice of Mr. Flynn also raises questions of temperament and conflict of interest. The general was reportedly not renewed in his DIA post because of bad management; since then he has accepted payment from the Russian propaganda network RT, and his consulting firm has lobbied for a businessman close to Turkey's autocratic president. His arrival at the White House, and that of Mr. Pompeo at the CIA, could trigger the last thing the incoming president should want: an exodus of the seasoned and capable personnel needed to construct a workable foreign policy.
That's what was being said last fall. The editors chose to make an accurate statement. Maddow has taken the more thrilling road.

The editors didn't like the selection of Flynn. They also didn't make the inaccurate claim Maddow keeps bruiting around.

Last night, she embellished her previous inaccurate claim. She said it was being widely said back then, presumably by folk like the Washington Post.

It wasn't being said back then. Ain't corporate cable exciting?

WHO ARE THOSE PEOPLE: And what's wrong with Us?

FRIDAY, MARCH 31, 2017

Part 4—Kicking down, without feeling, at Them:
Was Donald J. Trump sometimes brilliant during his White House campaign?

We'd be inclined to go with "no." In Wednesday morning's New York Times, Eduardo Porter went with yes at the start of his weekly Economic Scene column:
PORTER (3/29/17): Donald J. Trump can be brilliant. On the campaign trail, his diagnosis of the raw anger and disillusionment among white working-class Americans bested the most sophisticated analyses from the professional political class.

His description of “American carnage” in his Inaugural Address—complete with “rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape,” impoverished mothers and children, crime, drugs that “robbed our country of so much unrealized potential”—struck a nerve with millions of voters who feel left behind by a country buffeted by demographic, technological and social change.
According to Porter, Trump was sometimes "brilliant" on the trail. Beyond that, Porter says Trump was brilliant in a significant part of his inaugural address.

In fairness to Porter, he seems to be saying that Trump was "brilliant" in the way his presentations appealed to a certain segment of the electorate—to "millions of voters who feel left behind by a country buffeted by demographic, technological and social change."

As he continued, Porter said that "something must have happened between then and now." He noted that the health care bill Trump recently pimped would have served those millions of voters quite poorly. He notes that Trump's large proposed budget cuts would hurt those voters too.

Indeed, by paragraph 6 in his column, Porter is raising "an uncomfortably raw question: Was [Candidate Trump's] appeal to the troubled working class a con?"

We wouldn't recommend starting with "brilliant" on your way to "con." (Porter's reference to Trump as "brilliant" appears on page one of the Times hard-copy Business section. You had to look inside the section to encounter the talk of the "con.")

We wouldn't say that Candidate Trump was brilliant on the trail. To us, his health care proposals always seemed like a transparent con.

His pledge to replace Obamacare with "something terrific" never seemed brilliant at all. It always seemed like a con—or, at best, like the know-nothing pledge of a world-class ignoramus.

Candidate Trump's absurd proposals always struck us as a con. That said, we wouldn't be inclined to slime those people who may have purchased this candidate's various cons.

We wouldn't slime the "millions of voters" who may not have grasped the implausibility of the candidate's claims. In this way, we stand apart from our tribe's contemporary, unattractive, pseudo-liberal elite.

Over Here in our liberal tents, kicking down at the great unwashed has become a dominant part of our pseudo-progressive culture. We simply love kicking down at Those People.

Tribal leaders and tribal followers play this card every day. Don't even try reading comments.

Is empathy dead, as one writer has asked? It frequently seems to be dead in our high liberal tents. This helps explain why we liberals aren't well liked. This helps explain the embarrassing tribal disaster which had ended with Trump in the White House.

We've been thinking about empathy in recent weeks. Let's pick and choose some examples:

In western culture, we have the image of the young woman forced to give birth in a stable. In 1499, a craftsman gave us The Pieta. That's a foreign word for "pity."

In 1939, Steinbeck gave us Rose of Sharon (Joad), a pregnant teenage girl.

According to the leading authority, Rose of Sharon "symbolizes regrowth when she helps the starving stranger [who she agrees to feed] (see also Roman Charity, works of art based on the legend of a daughter as wet nurse to her dying father)."

The Joads were a family of "Okies." They weren't "sophisticated" or "educated," though these terms are widely misused.

In Steinbeck's formulation, we were supposed to feel for the Joads. Despite their extremely funny accents and their embarrassing lack of degrees, we were supposed to imagine that the Joads were fully human.

We were supposed to imagine that the Joads were human. And then, along came Dr. King. Less than three months before his death, he piped up with this:
DR. KING (2/4/68): Everybody can be great. Because everybody can serve.

You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don't have to know Einstein's theory of relativity to serve. You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve.

You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.
You don't have to have a college degree? Where do they find these guys?

Back in December, Sarah Kliff profiled another person deserving of empathy, feeling, pity, respect. Her subject was a 59-year-old woman in Corbin, Kentucky—a member of the white working class, an Obamacare enrollee, and (apparently) a Trump voter:
KLIFF (12/13/16): Oller renewed a 59-year-old woman’s coverage (who asked her personal information be left out of this story) just after lunchtime on a Tuesday. She and her husband received a monthly tax credit that would cover most of their premium. But they would still need to contribute $244 each month—and face a $6,000 deductible.


The deductible left her exasperated. “I am totally afraid to be sick,” she says. “I don’t have [that money] to pay upfront if I go to the hospital tomorrow.”

Her plan did offer free preventive care, an Obamacare mandate. But she skips mammograms and colonoscopies because she doesn’t think she’d have the money to pay for any follow-up care if the doctors did detect something.
She's paying $3000 per year—and she can't go to the doctor. That woman is Rose of Sharon too—except to people like Us, to whom she's another "hillbilly."

Kliff's piece explained why many Obamacare enrollees in Corbin had decided to vote for Trump. They hadn't necessarily thought that his health care stance was a con. In that assessment, we'll guess that they were wrong.

That said, we don't find it disqualifying that they made that assessment. Assuming it turns out that we were right, we'll guess that we're working with certain tools, formerly known as "advantages," that they maybe perhaps don't have.

They may not know their thermodynamics. They may have put their trust in certain music men, as our own vastly self-impressed tribe constantly does Over Here.

Over Here in our self-impressed tribe, we like to roll our eyes at people like that woman. We think she should have understood the way health care policy works.

As we make their condescending claims, we persist with the constant dumbness which defines our own tribe's behavior in the health care arena. Our tribe has been dumb about health care for decades, but we're too clueless to know that.

In terms of thermodynamics and such, our mother paid our way to Harvard, quite a few years ago. The moral giant Frank Rich also went there. We overlapped by two years.

To us, a woman who can't afford to go to the doctor is Rose of Sharon. By way of contrast, Rich has explicitly dismissed that woman as a "hillbilly."

Rich recently wrote a lengthy essay urging Us to keep loathing that woman, and to keep loathing Those People.

"No Sympathy for the Hillbilly!" Literally, that's what he said!

The lack of feeling in Rich's piece is a familiar marker of our failing, ridiculous tribe—a tribe which has been so lazy and hapless for so long that we have now actually lost an election to a candidate as hopeless as Trump.

Even after losing to Trump, our tribe can't seem to brook the idea that there may be a problem with Us! Keep loathing the hillbillies, Rich advised in his piece.

Everyone knows that our tribe is like this. Everyone knows it but Us.

No people are uninteresting: No people are uninteresting? That was Yevtushenko:
In any man who dies there dies with him
his first snow and kiss and fight
it goes with him.

There are left books and bridges
and painted canvas and machinery
Whose fate is to survive.

But what has gone is also not nothing...
As noted, that was Yevtushenko. That very much isn't Us.

Obama aide asks if empathy's dead!


No, but clear thinking is:
In recent weeks, we've started to wonder about the quality of the help President Obama received.

It started with Alyssa Mastromonaco, the former Obama aide who, just to be totally fair, is already peddling a book. We blanched at one or two cable appearances, then gagged at the way she complained about Kellyanne Conway, who had dared to put her feet on an Oval Office couch.

To hear her bellyache, kvetch and complain, click here, then jump to 13:30. Color us less than impressed.

It started with Mastromonaco. Today, we were struck by a New York Magazine essay by Sarada Peri, who served Obama as a senior presidential speechwriter and as a special assistant. We were struck, as we often are, by Peri's problem navigating the logic of "some" versus "all."

Peri seems like a very nice person. That said, her essay appears beneath a gloomy headline:

"Empathy Is Dead in American Politics"

Is empathy dead in American politics? Maybe yes, almost certainly no. Plainly, though, cool clear reason is on its last legs, or at least so it can seem.

Like everyone else, Peri is wondering about those white working-class voters who voted for Donald J. Trump. Like Amanda Marcotte before her, she cites Nate Cohn's analysis in yesterday's New York Times.

Peri wonders if Democrats have shown enough empathy for these voters. Soon, though, a more troubling question appears:
PERI (3/30/17): To be persuasive, as a politician, you have to be persuadable—you have to put yourself in your audience’s shoes and demonstrate that, to paraphrase one gifted politician, you feel their pain. This is how a speaker meets people where they are, gains credibility, and, hopefully, builds support for his or her agenda. Even before November, there had been a growing interest in feeling the pain of folks in the quaintly named Heartland and Rust Belt, from sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild embedding herself in a Louisiana community for five years, to J.D. Vance’s best-selling Hillbilly Elegy about growing up in Kentucky.

But there is a more fundamental, discomfiting, question in all this: Does demonstrating empathy even work anymore for politicians? Or, to put a finer point on it, if you show empathy for everybody in your audience, does each person only hear that you care about someone else?
Does demonstrating empathy even work any more? We'll start with a basic suggestion:

If you want to show empathy for white working-class voters, you probably shouldn't start with a snarky remark about the "quaint" term "heartland." Some of those voters will think you're rolling your eyes at them, which of course you are.

(It's in our liberal DNA. We do it without even thinking.)

That's a minor point. As she continues, Peri explains why she thinks empathy no longer works. As a matter of basic political logic, this passage is visibly bonkers:
PERI (continuing directly): As one of President Obama’s speechwriters, I had the privilege of working for one of the most authentically compassionate leaders in recent history. He possesses a natural ability—and desire—to understand just about anyone. And as his speechwriters, we knew he didn’t just appreciate all sides of a story—he wanted to acknowledge those perspectives and reassure his audiences that he heard where they were coming from.

Yet, try as he did, message intended wasn’t always message received.

For example, whenever Obama addressed tensions between law enforcement and the communities they served, some critics would insist that he never had a nice thing to say about cops. After the horrific murder of two New York City cops, Rudy Giuliani was quick to blame Obama, saying, “The president has shown absolutely no respect for the police...All the president has done is see one side of this dispute.”
In that passage, Peri complains that Obama's compassion and empathy weren't always well received. For example, Rudy Giuliani once offered irrational criticism, this presidential assistant says.


In what world will a politician's compassionate gesture always be well received, even by political hatchet men in the other party? Peri has established an other-worldly standard, but she sticks to it right to the end.

In that passage, Peri complains about a partisan hatchet man. Within a few paragraphs, she's complaining about the way the public behaves, empathy-wise.

Forget about Giuliani! The public is unfair, impossibly so, she says. She's so convinced of her complaint that she ends up thinking that Trump's uncaring, us-versus-them approach works better than Obama's empathetic concern for all people and groups:
PERI: Yale psychologist Paul Bloom has written that, “When it comes to policy decisions...we are better off putting aside empathy and employing a combination of rational deliberation and a more distanced compassion.” I asked him what this means for political communication. He said that empathy, effectively, is a zero-sum game. Anyone who has to speak to multiple audiences at once faces a trade-off: A politician might tell you he cares about you—but if he also tells you that he cares about someone else, you no longer trust him. We demand of our leaders an unfair and impossible monogamy.

Trump implicitly understands this
—which is why his us-versus-them rhetoric, while so appalling to much of the country, appeals to the small group of people he has identified as “us.” They’re not interested in hearing that he also cares about others. They want him all to themselves.

And the sad truth is, it works. For all the noise about his low approval ratings, he’s actually doing fine among Republicans, including those who once balked at his ascendance. They now sheepishly applaud as he translates that us-versus-them rhetoric into the policy equivalent: Rather than call Mexicans drug dealers and rapists, for instance, he calmly weaponizes the bureaucracy and announces a new office to prosecute crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, an almost nonexistent problem. His supporters are satisfied with his plan. His opponents are impressed with his “restraint.” Thus does a con artist slither over the lowest of bars.
Plainly, that passage is bonkers. Obama left office in the mid-50s, approval-wise. Trump, who's in his "honeymoon" period, is now down to 35. And by the way:

(By the way: which of Donald J. Trump's opponents are "impressed with his restraint?" Can anyone locate such people?)

Donald J. Trump's approval rating stands at an historical low. Despite such facts, Peri has somehow come to believe that Trump's approach works better than Obama's. On this basis, we are told, at least in the headline, that empathy is dead, that empathy no longer works.

As she ends, Peri returns to the question at hand: how should Democrats relate to the white working-class? The following passage makes no sense at all. Combined with earlier passages, it seems to imply that major Democratic Party groups don't want to hear about the problems of people in the white working-class:
PERI: Which brings us back to the Democrats, still wondering how to listen to those who feel ignored. Should the party take a page out of the Trump playbook and focus on one group to the exclusion of others? Not only would doing so be impossible in a practical sense, it would also be an affront to everything this enormously diverse party stands for. Perhaps the lesson for Democrats is that empathy is not an electoral strategy. Now, it’s just a matter of convincing voters of that.
We don't understand those last two sentences. Combined with earlier passages, Peri makes it sound like major Democratic constituencies wouldn't like being told that their leaders care about the lesser among us, if such struggling people come from the white working-class.

Is that true? Let's talk about the party's most reliable group, black voters:

Within this country, people defined as black are among the most empathetic people in human history. Black America has produced moral and ethical traditions which are looked upon with awe all over the world.

(Have we forgotten the still-recent events in Charleston, and the world's reaction to them? Dr. King is revered around the world because he insisted on ethic of love and on the refusal to hate.)

Not long ago, Sarah Kliff described a 59-year-old, white working-class woman who can't afford to go to the doctor. Democratic constituencies would know how to react to news of this type.

Everyone won't react with pity, certainly not liberal elites. But large numbers of other people will know exactly how to react.

Rudy Giuliani would know what to feel. So would the vast majority of people in the Dem Party camp.

Empathy isn't dead in this world. The more we read the work of our liberal elites, we become more and more convinced that cool clear reason is.

WHO ARE THOSE PEOPLE: Amanda Marcotte spots the racists!


Part 3—They supported Obama last time:
Those People! Why did so many of Them, the ones Over There, vote for Candidate Trump?

Ever since the shocking November day when Professor Wang turned out to be wrong, we liberals have pretended to try to answer that question.

We say "pretended" for a reason. Over Here, within our liberal tents, our analyses tend to adhere to a simplistic story-line:

According to this preferred tribal view, Those People, the ones in the white working-class, voted for Trump because they're slobbering racists. We pseudo-liberals can't quit this tale. We tell it all the time.

This story attributes decisions by millions of voters to a single, unflattering motive. This morning, Amanda Marcotte became the latest fiery liberal to tell this preferred tribal tale, in a piece at the new Salon.

Marcotte works from an analysis by Nate Cohn in yesterday's New York Times. As she starts, she quotes a remarkable statement by Cohn:
MARCOTTE (3/30/17): After much contentious debate about how it is that Donald Trump won three crucial states—Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan—that were expected to be easy wins for Hillary Clinton in 2016, Nate Cohn of The New York Times has what feels like a definitive analysis. It wasn’t, as Cohn argued, that turnout was especially low. It’s that white voters turned out at higher rates than usual and critically a small but significant number of white working-class voters who had supported Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 didn’t show up for Hillary Clinton this time around.

“Over all, almost one in four of President Obama’s 2012 white working-class supporters defected from the Democrats in 2016,” Cohn wrote, “either supporting Mr. Trump or voting for a third-party candidate.”
Already, Marcotte seems to have misstated Cohn's analysis in several ways. That said, she quotes him accurately—and his claim is startling:

“Over all, almost one in four of President Obama’s 2012 white working-class supporters defected from the Democrats in 2016, either supporting Mr. Trump or voting for a third-party candidate.”

That's what Cohn actually said—and his statement seems to be based on detailed statistical analysis.

At any rate, dang Those People, the ones in the white working-class! According to Cohn, one in four of Obama's white working-class voters "defected from Democrats in 2016!"

You'll note, of course, that Cohn's statement doesn't quite seem to make sense. If one in four of Obama's white working-class voters voted for Candidate Trump or voted for a third-party candidate, this would imply that more than one-fourth of Obama's WWC voters defected from Candidate Clinton.

Surely, some of Obama's WWC voters simply stayed home this time. Adding them to the two groups Cohn mentions, it would seem that more than one in four defected from Candidate Clinton.

As presented, Cohn's statement doesn't exactly make sense. Whatever! According to Cohn, an amazing percentage of Obama's white working-class voters failed to vote for Candidate Clinton last year. The eternal note of sadness comes in when Marcotte goes on to say why.

Attention tribals! Within many of our liberal tents, there can only be one explanation when Those People, the rubes Over There, refuse to behave in the manner we've been nice enough to prescribe. In this passage, Marcotte discerns that motive:
MARCOTTE: At first blush, these numbers might seem to justify a narrative that’s grown up since Clinton’s electoral defeat: Economic insecurity is driving these working-class voters away from the Democrats into the welcoming arms of Trump, who has wooed them to the dark side by blaming immigrants and people of color for their economic woes.

It’s a nice story because, if true, it suggests a simple solution: If Democrats pushed for a more robust social safety net and strong jobs programs, then these voters would be lured back by their better angels to vote for greater economic security and would reject the racist agenda offered by Trump. It’s a narrative that allows people to believe that this country’s racism problem isn’t that bad, allows urban liberal journalists to romanticize the white-working class a bit and offers the reassuring fantasy that there’s a straightforward solution to the Democratic Party’s woes.

Unfortunately, there’s no reason to believe that this is true. If anything, the 2016 elections disprove this theory. As troubling as this may be to accept, I would argue that the 2016 election results suggest that a recovering economy allowed this small but significant number of voters to indulge their racism and sexism because they didn’t have to worry as much about their economic futures. These numbers may indicate that Democrats don’t lose because of economic insecurity—but because economic security creates complacency, which can lead to a Republican victory.
In that final highlighted passage, Marcotte explains all those white working-class defections, full and complete freaking stop.

Marcotte starts in semi-comical fashion. She says her explanation for those defections is "troubling to accept." She proceeds to offer the explanation we liberals tend to adore:

Those People voted for Candidate Trump because they "indulged their racism and sexism," she says. Within our tribe, this claim isn't "troubling" at all. It's the claim which brings tribal joy!

Before we note the unintentional comedy built into that statement, let's note a more basic point. In that passage, Marcotte offers a single explanation for a very large number of votes.

It can't be that some of those voters "indulged their racism" while others "worried about their economic futures." People like Marcotte, in whatever tribe, will rarely reason like that.

Instead, they'll lump all Those People together. A single motive will explain millions of votes. Inevitably, it will seem that The Others are all just alike.

Those People—they're are just all alike! It's the eternal cry of the tribe, delivered from deep in prehistory.

The humor comes when we stop to consider what Marcotte has actually said. She considers a large number of people who voted for Barack Obama, our first black president—and she concludes that their subsequent votes were driven by their racism!

Dearest darlings, please understand! Within our pseudo-liberal hive, no other explanation is available! Under edicts of hard tribal law, no other motive exists.

In fairness, we must also say this:

It wasn't just their racism which led Those People to cast their votes last year. Their sexism came into play as well! Let's not leave that out!

What makes Marcotte's analysis so hopelessly poor? Let's recall the two basic points we made on Tuesday, in Part 2 of this award-winning report:

We said that, when our tribe considers Those People, we'll tend to seek some single explanation for their millions of votes.
That's precisely what Marcotte has done.

We also told you this:

When we divine that uniform motive, it will be the least flattering motive available. Those people will be demonized—and this is precisely what Marcotte has done as she explains all those votes.

We're forced to state an unflattering point about people who reason this way. Throughout human history, people who have loathed The Others haven't been able to think of Them as being fully human.

A few weeks back, Sarah Kliff wrote about a 59-year-old WWC woman in Kentucky who has insurance through Obamacare but, because of her high premium and her high deductible, can't afford, as her age advances, to seek a doctor's care.

To the Marcottes of this world, the suffering of a person like that has to be erased. Her difficulty can't be acknowledged. A woman like that, being one of Those People, must be demonized.

So too with the West Virginia coal miner to whom Bernie Sanders and Chris Hayes spoke a few weeks back. By rule of law, his economic pain can't be acknowledged.

By law, he must be demonized. He can only be racist and sexist.

When it comes to matters like this, people like Marcotte are prehistoric. That said, they're widely found in our self-impressed tribe.

Everybody knows this but Us. In part for this fairly obvious reason, our tribe just isn't well liked.

Tomorrow: Will the real hillbillies please stand up?

Major professor crashes and burns!


Gitlin emulates Trump:
Almost surely, Donald J. Trump is our least articulate modern president—and you can start the "modern" era pretty much wherever you please.

Briefly, let's be fair. In part, the problem stems from the fact that Donald J. Trump rarely knows what he's talking about. During the campaign, he promised "something terrific" in health care, full stop.

Almost surely, Donald J. Trump was holding back no details. Donald J. Trump rarely seems to know what he's talking about.

For whatever reason, Donald J. Trump is highly inarticulate. At Bill Moyers and Company, and then again at Salon, Professor Gitlin has now pretended to discuss this state of affairs.

We say "pretended" for a reason. Professor Gitlin's critique of Trump is almost as weirdly incompetent as a typical Trump remark. When it comes to incompetence and disingenuinity, Professor Gitlin seems to be emulating President Trump.

We've often said that the liberal world has been failed by our professors. Professor Gitlin, a major professor, has now established us as a major seer.

Professor Gitlin starts his critique is a sensible way. The bulk of what's said here is accurate:
GITLIN (3/27/17): Once upon a time, there were presidents for whom English seemed their native language. Barack Obama most recently. He deliberated. At a press conference or in an interview—just about whenever he wasn’t speaking from a text—his pauses were as common as other people’s “uh’s.” He was not pausing because his vocabulary was impoverished. He was pausing to put words into sequence. He was putting phrases together with care, word by word, trying out words before uttering them, checking to feel out what they would sound like once uttered. It was important to him because he did not want to be misunderstood. President Obama valued precision, in no small part because he knew he lived in a world where every last presidential word was a speech act, a declaration with consequence, so that the very statement that the sky was blue, say, would be scoured for evidence that the president was declaring a policy on the nature of nature.

That was then. Now we have a president who, when he speaks, spatters the air with unfinished chunks, many of which do not qualify as sentences, and which do not follow from previous chunks. He does not release words into a stream of consciousness but into a heap. He heaps words on top of words, to overwhelm meaning with vague gestures. He does not think, he lurches.
The fawning about Obama's speech acts is overdone, but it's followed by an accurate assessment of the verbal lurches of Donald J. Trump. That said:

From this point on, Gitlin offers one of the most incompetent essays we've ever seen from a major professor. This guild has failed us persistently, but never in a more embarrassing manner than this.

From this point on, the professor undertakes to offer examples from Donald J. Trump's recent interview with Time magazine's Michael Scherer. These examples are meant to show how incoherent our president is.

Here's how Gitlin limns it:
GITLIN (continuing directly): Here are some examples from Time’s transcript of their cover story made out of their phone interview with the president of the United States. I have italicized the non sequiturs, incomplete propositions, indefinite pronouns and other obscurities that amount to verbal mud.
The professor says he has italicized the various parts of Trump's remarks which amount to verbal mud. Unfortunately, Gitlin's analytical effort is more incompetent than the bulk of what Trump is said to have said during his interview.

Why do we say "said to have said?" Let's mention some facts our ranking professor doesn't seem to know:

You can't automatically trust a news org's transcript! The contemporary journalistic transcript is frequently riddled with errors. Anyone who has ever tried to be fair about public figures' spoken remarks will, of course, already understand this.

In what ways can a transcript fail? Let us count the ways, reaching the number two:

First, news org transcripts frequently misstate the actual words which were said. The only way to guard against this possibility is to check the transcript against a videotape of the spoken remarks.

We routinely engage in that basic type of fact-checking at this site. It's time-consuming and annoying, but it's also important. News orgs frequently misrecord the words which were actually said.

In this instance, Time has provided no videotape of the interview. There is no way to know that the words which appear in Time's transcript are the words Trump actually said.

It may well be that Time transcribed Trump's words with special care, but there's no way to be sure about that. Such conduct isn't the norm.

In this instance, a second problem is transparently clear. Quite plainly, Time has made little attempt to punctuate the various things Trump said.

In this omission, Time flirts with journalistic malpractice. Especially with a herky-jerky speaker like Trump, you have to try to be fair in punctuating the stops and starts which are common in extemporaneous speech.

Plainly, Time made virtually no attempt to do that. For that reason, the muddiness of Time's transcript falls on Time itself, as well as on Donald J. Trump. And again:

There is no way to feel sure that you're reading the words Donald J. Trump really said.

Professor Gitlin shows no sign of knowing any of this. He proceeds to author his own remarkable howlers—howlers he generates by pulling bits of Trump's (reported) remarks completely out of context.

(This resembles the slippery practice, familiar to cable viewers, known as "the Maddow edit.")

In a rational world, Gitlin's work would earn any college undergraduate a failing grade. (Just for the record: He doesn't just italicize chunks of Trump's remarks. He publishes two separate words in bold type without ever explaining why.)

In puzzling fashion, Gitlin offers slivers of the transcript, including two slivers by Scherer. He doesn't show where he has made omissions in the transcript, a transcript for whose accuracy he can't vouch in the first place.

Having engaged in these schoolboy errors, our laziest, least competent major professor then proceeds to tell the world that he has let us see the incoherence of Trump!

Trump is often barely coherent. In this embarrassing essay, Professor Gitlin is worse.

We'll limit ourselves to one example. Below, you see Gitlin's first example of Trump's alleged incoherence. Italicization by Gitlin:
SCHERER: So you don’t feel like Comey’s testimony in any way takes away from the credibility of the tweets you put out, even with the quotes?

TRUMP: No, I have, look. I have articles saying it happened. But you have to take a look at what they, they just went out at a news conference.
There you see the professor's full example. And sure enough! From that sliver of text, it's hard to tell what Donald J. Trump was talking about in the italicized passage.

Below, you see the fuller chunk from Time magazine's transcript (bold emphases by us; bracketed insertion by Time). Just like that, Trump's allegedly murky meaning becomes remarkably clear:
TRUMP: And today, [House Intelligence Committee Chairman] Devin Nunes just had a news conference. Now probably got obliterated by what’s happened in London. But just had a news conference, and here it is one of those things. The other one, election, I said we are going to win, we won. And many other things. And I think this is going to be very interesting.

SCHERER: So you don’t feel like Comey’s testimony in any way takes away from the credibility of the tweets you put out, even with the quotes?

TRUMP: No, I have, look. I have articles saying it happened. But you have to take a look at what they, they just went out at a news conference. Devin Nunes had a news conference. I mean I don’t know, I was unable to see it, because I am at meetings, but they just had a news conference talking about surveillance.
We've asked our analysts, and several agree. It's possible that even Maddow herself wouldn't doctor a statement that badly!

(For the record, Time's printed text would probably be more clear with a stronger attempt at punctuation.)

Amazing, isn't it? The meaning of Trump's reference was made perfectly clear, right before and immediately after the sliver of text Gitlin offered. To help us gape at Trump's incoherence, Gitlin simply omitted the words which made his reference clear.

As presented, Trump's remarks are still choppy and grammatically imperfect. But that's routinely true of the extemporaneous speech of politicians and journalists—and there's no way to know how that transcript would look if it could be edited against the actual videotape.

The liberal world tends to run on fuel presented by major professors. For years, we've tried to tell you that you've been failed by these major professors.

Few professors have misbehaved as badly as Gitlin now has. That first example was an outright con. Similar nonsense followed.

Our culture suffers under the regime of these overpraised, overpaid professors. Our culture is being destroyed by the Trumps, but by the Gitlins as well.

The professor's typos: Many of Gitlin's examples gain by this type of editing. If an undergraduate performed such work, it would merit a failing grade.

Then too, we have the professor's typos. After his doctored examples are done, he launches into the passage shown below. We have inserted two [sic]s:
GITLIN: So it goes.

Now, TIME’s cover headline for this mishmash is pointed as well as clever: “Is Truth Dead?”—clever, at any rate, in the eyes of readers old enough to remember the 1966 prototype: “Is God Dead?” A still more pointed treatment is that of Ellie Shechet at Jezebel—a redaction, or what be [sic] called reporting by subtraction. In the words of headline [sic], “We Redacted Everything That’s Not a Verifiably True Statement From Trump’s Time Interview About Truth.” Unsurprisingly, Jezebel ended up having to edit the transcript so that the passages blacked out were lengthier than the words left in.
Everyone makes typos, of course. That said, Professor Gitlin's typos remain in print, at the Bill Moyers site and at the new Salon.

Given his doctored claims about Trump's vast incoherence, the professor's uncorrected bungles may carry a special weight.

Long ago and far away: In November 1999, Cal Thomas "quoted" Naomi Wolf in a similar way. In his nationally syndicated column, he removed all punctuation from one of her spoken remarks, inviting readers in hundreds of newspapers to marvel at her incoherence.

Wolf was being viciously, misogynistically slimed at the time, all across the American "press corps." We can't name a single professor who ever returned from the south of France to issue a word of complaint.

The sliming of Wolf sent Bush you-know-where. The sliming itself was an oozing disgrace. Did any professor complain?

A report about public school "segregation!"


The way our team writes about race:
Within the American experience, race was invented a long time ago by people with a brutal agenda.

Today, no one has embraces the concept of race quite the way We do Over Here. We liberals love the idea that different kinds of people live in this country—that everybody has a "race," and that We get to say what it is.

Over Here in the liberal world, we tend to have a very hard time reasoning about this topic. Our brutal history may make this tendency understandable. It doesn't make it helpful.

To what extent does reason flee when we write about "race?" Consider the latest application of the concept of public school "segregation" as it appears in a lengthy report in the Baltimore Sun.

Long story short:

Liz Bowie and Erica Green have been writing a series for the Sun, Bridging the Divide. Bowie is a veteran education reporter for the Sun. Green, who had been at the Sun seven years, recently decamped to the New York Times.

The first report in the series appeared on March 19. Running some 5600 words, it dealt with a recent attempt to "redraw boundary lines for 11 schools in the Catonsville (Maryland) relieve overcrowding."

These eleven schools are part of the Baltimore County Public Schools. (Baltimore County is a large suburban county encircling the bulk of Baltimore City.)

According to Bowie and Green, the redistricting provided an opportunity to achieve greater racial balance in some of the affected schools. But parent groups were unable to agree on any such plan. In the end, a modest plan emerged, with modest effects on the overcrowding.

To read the whole report, you can just click here. We'd have to say the report, which is very long, is rather poorly written.

Information about the eleven schools is scant. As best we can tell, only six of the schools are even named. Enrollment data are provided for only a few of the schools.

That said, we were struck by the report's familiar application of the concept of "segregation." The term appears throughout the report, though it's never precisely defined.

It's never entirely clear what Bowie and Green mean by that highly fraught term, which trails a great deal of ugly history behind it. But in the passage shown below, we learn an important fact about Baltimore County—and we see the term "segregation" being applied in a familiar, remarkable way:
BOWIE AND GREEN (3/19/17): Changing demographics

Parents were debating school boundary lines as the county population was not only growing, but becoming more diverse. Twenty-five years ago, Baltimore County was 77 percent white. Today it's 43 percent white.

Still, segregation persists. In 1990, only one in 10 county schools had a student body that was more than half minority. The proportion has tripled to about one in three today,
according to the Maryland Equity Project analysis.

The typical white student in Baltimore County attends a school that is mostly white. The typical black student attends a school that is mostly black.

Students from low-income families are similarly segregated from students from wealthy families.
For starters, note the significant change in Baltimore County's population. In 1992, the county was 77 percent white. Today, the white population stands at 43 percent.

(This seems to be the overall population. Numbers for the county's student population might have been more relevant.)

Presumably, something like 43 percent of Baltimore County's students are white. "Still, segregation persists," the reporters murkily say, instantly firing our pseudo-liberal juices.

As they continue, they seem to suggest that a student is attending a "segregated" school if the school's student body is "more than half minority." Similar definitions of "segregation" have been floating around in liberal circles for some time, largely emerging from work at UCLA—work which Bowie and Green cite at one point.

Presumably, we all can see the oddness of this (apparent) definition. Please note:

If someone waved a magic wand and made all Baltimore County schools match the county-wide demographic, then every school in the whole school system would be "segregated" under this apparent definition.

Every school would have a student body which was 43 percent white! Every school would be "more than half minority"—and this seems to be the reporters' definition of public school "segregation."

You might note another oddness about that puzzling passage. Bowie and Green seem surprised by the fact that the number of schools which are more than half minority has increased over the years.

All things being equal, this was plainly likely to happen as the county's population becomes more heavily non-white. Their puzzlement seems to stem from their peculiar definition of "segregation."

Presumably, you're thinking this can't be right; that can't be what they meant. We'll only say that such peculiar definitions of "segregation" have been common in contemporary pseudo-liberal writing about this topic.

Fairly clearly, Bowie and Green lament the fact that the redistricting of the eleven schools didn't produce a greater degree of racial balance. We don't denigrate that sentiment in any way.

All things being equal, we like to see kids who have been told that they're black attending school with kids who have been that they're white. We'd also like to see the culture stop telling kids, at every turn, that they belong to, or "have," a "race."

Until that happens, all things being equal, we'd prefer to see student bodies that "look [as much] like America" as possible. That said, we're asking you to notice how often our reason flees the scene when we try to discuss so-called race.

This report's apparent definition of segregation produces a lot of tribal excitement among us pseudo-liberals. It also makes little sense.

Behavior like this, which is quite widespread, tends to make The Others believe that we're basically nuts Over Here. Is it clear that The Others are wrong in that belief?

It isn't clear at all.

One of the mostly white schools: As noted above, Bowie and Green provide enrollment data for only a couple of schools. In the passage below, they refer to one of the schools which was said to be "made up of predominantly white families" in this somewhat peculiar report:
BOWIE AND GREEN: On the south side of Route 40 in Catonsville were four aging, crowded schools made up of predominantly white families whose PTAs had come together for years to fight for renovations and more space.

These parents from Westchester, Hillcrest, Westowne and Catonsville elementaries had in many cases paid a premium for their houses so they could ensure that their children were in some of the best schools in the county.


The parents' worries were not baseless. The highest-performing schools are usually those with the wealthiest families. The percentage of Hillcrest fifth-graders who passed state standardized tests in 2016 in English and math was double that at Johnnycake. And the Hillcrest families were wealthier.

Parents at Westowne said in interviews that their school was a model for integration. About half of its students were black and Latino, and 46 percent qualified for a free or reduced-price meal. But when the idea of moving half of Westowne's students out was floated as an option, parents fought back.
Parents at Westowne said their school was a model for integration? This whole passage strikes us as strange.

Earlier in the report, Westowne was described as a school "made up of predominantly white families." In this (substantially) later passage, we seem to learn that "about half" the kids at the school are either black or Hispanic.

Despite this unchallenged claim, the reporters still float language suggesting that the school may not be "integrated." This sort of thing routinely occurs when we liberals try or pretend to talk about so-called race.

Overall, despite its length, this was a murky report. That said, its puzzling use of the concept of "segregation" is quite common in modern pseudo-liberal writing about the public schools.

Over here in our liberal tents, we have a very hard time with the concept of race. We tend to reason very poorly where our favorite topic is involved.

Our histrionics aren't real helpful. We'd say the opposite is true.

WHO ARE THOSE PEOPLE: Those People are a lot like Us!


Part 2—Clueless oh so clueless:
This Sunday morning, Sean Hannity was speaking well of us, the American people.

Hannity spoke with Ted Koppel on the CBS show, Sunday Morning. In this, their key exchange, Hannity said that we the people are "somewhat intelligent."

Koppel may not have been sure:
HANNITY (3/26/17): We have to give some credit to the American people, that they're somewhat intelligent and that they know the difference between an opinion show and a news show.

KOPPEL: Yeahhh.

HANNITY: You're not—you're cynical. Look at you!

KOPPEL: I am cynical, because I, you know—

HANNITY: You think we're bad for America? You think I'm bad for America?


HANNITY: You do?

KOPPEL: In the long haul, I think you and all these opinion shows—

HANNITY: Really? That's sad, Ted. That's sad.

KOPPEL: No, you know why? Because you're very good at what you do, and because you have, you have attracted...You have attracted people who are determined that ideology is more important than facts.
Uh-oh! In that exchange, Koppel almost took a bit of a shot at Those People, the 63 million Trump voters! To watch that exchange, click here.

In a fairly sweeping statement, Koppel seemed to say that Hannity has attracted viewers who "are determined that ideology is more important than facts." We'd be slow to offer that assessment.

On the other hand, Koppel may have been sliming Us, the folk Over Here, as well! In that one highlighted statement, he said that Hannity is bad for America—Hannity "and all these opinion shows."

Apparently, those other opinion shows are bad for America too!

Was that a shot at liberal cable shows, and at Us, the people who watch them? We can't speak for Koppel, who we thought was a bit dismissive of Hannity's many viewers. That said:

In our view, we liberals are developing cognitive habits which begin to resemble the habits we've always mocked in Those People. In Sunday's New York Times, Masha Gessen wrote an op-ed piece which specifically warned about this developing liberal culture.

"Fraudulent news stories, which used to be largely a right-wing phenomenon, are becoming increasingly popular among those who oppose the president," Gessen, a native Russkie, opined. Gessen, a recent Maddow Show guest, then cited a type of "fraudulent story" which made us think of exciting work we've seen in recent weeks on that tribally pleasing program.

Are viewers of Sean Hannity's program "determined that ideology is more important than facts?" In our view, that judgment seems a bit harsh, but we're happy to say this:

We the people have never been major intellectual giants. In our view, even our major intellectual giants rarely turn out to be giants. But we the people very rarely qualify for that status.

When it comes to the substance of policy matter, we the people rarely know what we're talking about. Consider one recent example, involving an evergreen howler:

In January, the Kaiser Foundation released a survey examining Americans' views on foreign aid. For Kevin Drum's capsule, click here.

Puckishly, Kaiser had asked the question on which we the people always fail:

"Just your best guess, what percentage of the federal budget is spent on foreign aid?" We always get tripped up on that one!

According to Kaiser, the correct answer would have been this: "one percent or less of the federal budget is spent on foreign aid." We the people didn't come close!

Only three percent of respondents gave some version of that correct answer. Meanwhile, the average answer by us the people was a walloping 31 percent! Thirteen percent of respondents had enough sense to say that they just didn't know.

We the people had no clue about this fairly basic question. We were way off, about a topic which is frequently discussed as a way to show how clueless we American citizens are.

In this case, respondents were so massively misinformed that we can assume a basic point. It wasn't just Them who had no clue. Also lacking the first freaking clue clue were the brainiacs known as Us!

We cite this survey to illustrate a very important point. When it comes to basic policy questions, we the people rarely have the slightest idea what we're talking about.

Over Here in our liberal tents, observing this fact is a key part of our culture—but we're only allowed to observe this fact when discussing Those People, the putative dimwits Over There.

Within our self-impressed liberal culture, we like to pretend that we're very bright, unlike the rubes in the other camp. We're sorry, but that just isn't the case. Our liberal culture today brims with misstatements, gong-shows and groaners. We just aren't super-bright Over here.

Our groaners are often different from Theirs. But they're groaners all the same.

Our modern liberal culture swims in silly misstatements. Our favorite silly misstatements tend to involve matters of gender and race—but they're silly misstatements all the same, and we have about a million of them.

Everyone knows this but Us.

We the people, Us and Them, are not a race of giants. We rarely know what we're talking about, but good lord, how we do love to talk!

When Hannity spoke with Koppel this weekend, he went straight to the pundit corps' favorite play, in which multimillionaire music men (and politicians) tell us how sharp we are.

Simply put, we the people aren't especially sharp. We've always fallen for music men, all through our American history.

Hannity made a familiar old play. We thought Koppel was a bit cynical in what he said in reply. As we liberals tend to do, he seemed to make a sweeping statement about Those People, the Hannity viewers—and we thought his sweeping statement was a bit unkind.

Has Hannity attracted viewers "who are determined that ideology is more important than facts?" We wouldn't be inclined to say that. We would say this:

His viewers may often fail to see that they're getting conned on the facts. But we'd say the same is true Over Here, within our self-impressed liberal tribe. That said, we liberals have long tended to believe that We are smarter and better than Them.

We think that's a dangerous, self-defeating belief. Almost surely, it helps explain why so many of Those People ended up casting votes against our advice for his highness, Donald J. Trump, and his "terrific" plans.

Tomorrow: Our familiar contempt for Them

Preibus tells Wallace the answer is no!

MONDAY, MARCH 27, 2017

Plainly, gorilla dust works:
Yesterday morning, on Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace asked Reince Priebus a question. Wallace seemed surprised by the initial answer:
WALLACE (3/26/17): Quick questions, quick answers. I promise, these are going to be very easy.


WALLACE: Does the president accept the conclusion, from all sides, that President Obama did not wiretap Trump Tower during the campaign, and is he ready to apologize?

PRIEBUS: OK. Well, first of all—well, the answer is no.
Wallace seemed surprised. "No, and I don't accept it," Priebus quickly added.

Wallace seemed surprised. At this point, Priebus began to wander the countryside, offering the various redefinitions which are familiar to anyone who has watched Anderson Cooper pretend to debate Jeffrey Lord about this three-week-old, gong-show affair.

According to Priebus, when Trump said that "Obama" wiretapped Trump's phones, he really meant "the Obama administration." And when he said that Obama wiretapped Trump's phones, he really meant that someone had subjected someone to some sort of surveillance or something.

Eventually, the discussion ended up as shown below. By now, Wallace has completely rolled over and died in the face of the standard obfuscation:
PRIEBUS: The fact is, reports have come out, for many, many months now, that people on the Trump campaign transition team were surveillanced by potentially some intelligence group, whether they were inadvertently swept up, whether the names were unmasked. Chris, you don't know the full answer to that question, and I don't either.

WALLACE: That's a fine answer, but—

PRIEBUS: But if, but if the people in the Trump transition were unknowingly surveillanced and illegally unmasked on documents, which is what is being alleged out there, I think it's a big problem, and I think ultimately President Trump is going to be proven correct, that this wasn't—

WALLACE: OK, let me—

PRIEBUS: —this wasn't right.

WALLACE: Now, my second question...
To watch this entire Potemkin exchange, you can just click here.

In his first question, Wallace asked if Trump accepts the conclusion that Obama didn't wiretap Trump Tower during the campaign. Priebus said Trump doesn't accept that conclusion, because it is "being alleged out there" that people in the Trump transition were unknowingly surveillanced, perhaps inadvertently, and illegally unmasked on documents.

In short, Trump doesn't accept that Statement A was wrong because a different statement, Statement B, could possibly turn out to be right. Or not! We don't even know yet!

This was pure gorilla dust. Wallace just sputtered and watched.

"Is truth dead?" Time magazine asked. Wallace, a college classmate of ours, gave the world a partial answer as he rolled over and died.

STILL BREAKING: In search of The USA 9400!

MONDAY, MARCH 27, 2017

Bernie schools Anderson Cooper:
Now that Ivankacare has crashed and burned, we thought we'd revisit a question we posed two week ago:

What explains the disappearance of the group known as The USA 9400? You saw health care discussed many times in the past few weeks. Did you see this important group mentioned even once?

For ourselves, we never saw the group explicitly cited. The closest we came involved Bernie Sanders' appearance with Anderson Cooper last Friday night.

Who are The USA 9400? They're the amazingly large number of dollars spent in this country, per person, on health care every year. Rather, in the recent year 2015, when the OECD's very strange, disappeared numbers looked, in part, like this:
Per capita spending, health care, 2015
United States: $9451
Canada: $4608
France: $4407
United Kingdom: $4003
In his new column today, Paul Krugman discusses the problem caused by the "high deductibles" sometimes found in Obamacare insurance policies. Obviously, the background to all such problems with our American health care is lodged in that remarkable spending figure for the United States.

For unknown reasons, it costs $9451 to provide health care to the average American. This is massively more than what it costs in comparable nations.

This explains why premiums and deductibles are so high—why it's so hard to provide universal coverage and care in this, our exceptional country. And yet, The USA 9400 are essentially never mentioned, even when the problems of health care and coverage are holding center stage.

Did you see The USA 9400 mentioned at all last week? Frank Richly, we did not! The closest we came involved that chat between Sanders and Cooper.

You can read the whole interview here. In answers to three of Cooper's six questions, Sanders cited the need to lower the bloated prices we pay for prescription drugs in this country. In response to Cooper's second question, he even offered this:
SANDERS (3/24/17): Anderson, I am talking to you tonight 50 miles away from the Canadian border. We can get there in an hour. They manage to provide health care for every man, woman, and child in their country at half the cost per person than we do.

The cost of prescription drugs in Canada significantly lower than it is in the United States. So the question is why are we not moving forward with a "Medicare for all," single-payer program guaranteeing health care to all people which will be much more cost effective than what we presently have?
On its own, a "Medicare for all," single-payer program wouldn't lower our health care spending to the level of Canada. But Sanders made an accurate statement about this remarkable state of affairs:

Canada provides health care for every man, woman, and child in their country at (slightly less than) half the cost per person than we do.

Sanders said it; Cooper heard it. The transmission ended right there. Here's our guarantee to you, the misused American citizen:

You will never see Anderson Cooper do an actual "news report" in which he dumps his cast-of-thousands panel and simply informs his viewers about the apparently crazy level of American health care spending.

You will never see Cooper present the numbers we have presented above. You'll never see him ask actual experts—not Jeffrey Lord!—to explain the craziness of those numbers, the craziness of that U.S. figure as compared to all the others in the developed world.

You'll never see Cooper do that! You will see him pretend to debate Lord night after night. But you'll never see Cooper tell Lord to scram so he can discuss those remarkable numbers.

You'll never see Cooper do that! And not only that:

You will never see Rachel Maddow present those remarkable data. You'll see her mug and clown and embellish and entertain, night after night after night.

But you'll never see her present those astonishing figures! The USA 9400 are among the missing, the disappeared, on her entertaining, corporate-fueled TV show.

Why don't you ever see those data on these cable "news" shows? We can't answer that question, but we can tell you this:

You haven't seen The USA 9400 in the New York Times either!

Two Sundays ago, you did see Anu Partanen, a Finnish journalist, write a long essay about the wonders of Finnish health care. (Plainly, the Finns are among the world's leaders in relentless self-affirmation.) Along the way, in paragraph 16, you even saw her write this:
PARTANEN (3/19/17): Overall, Americans spend far more of their hard-earned money on health care than citizens of any other country, by a very wide margin. This means that it is in fact Americans who are getting a raw deal. Americans pay much more than people in other countries but do not get significantly better results.
If you read all the way to graf 16, you got to read that sentence. Even then, you see the actual numbers, which would have looked like this:
Per capita spending, health care, 2015
United States: $9451
Finland: $3984
Ow ow ow ow ow ow ow! Subtracting, that's almost 5500 missing dollars per person per year! No wonder insurance is dear!

In those numbers, you see the basic mystery of American health care. But, for reasons we can't explain, you will never see such numbers in the New York Times—and certainly not on the paper's front page, where those remarkable numbers belong.

Why won't Rachel tell you these things? We can't answer that.

That said, she's being paid maybe $10 million per year. (You aren't encouraged to know that.) Evidence suggest that corporate groups maybe don't, for whatever reason, want you to worry your little heads about The USA 9400, an important disappeared group.

No one can solve our health care problem! Also, no one is permitted to tell you about that important group!

Final point: Chomsky had a term for this. It was called "manufactured consent."

For that reason, he was disappeared! Do you ever hear him mentioned by your favorite entertainers?


MONDAY, MARCH 27, 2017

Part 1—The road to a recent disaster:
A funny thing happened to liberal greatness on the way to November's election.

Sixty-three million American citizens decided to vote for Donald F. Trump. As a result, the hopeful pulled an inside straight and ended up in the White House.

Embarrassing! Four nights before Election Day, Professor Wang had told Lawrence O'Donnell that it couldn't possibly happen. Only a "giant weather event" could send Donald J. Trump to the White House, the hapless Princeton professor said.

No such weather event took place, but Trump end up in the White House. Ever since Election Day, liberal and mainstream elites have pretended to examine why Those People, the 63 million, decided to vote for Trump.

Except to people as clueless as Us, November's outcome really shouldn't have been all that startling. Because we're almost completely clueless, We were shocked by Trump's win, basically out of our socks.

Ever since that startling day, we've been trying to explain the behavior of those Trump voters. Being perhaps a bit tribally scripted, we've tended to explain their behavior in the way the editorial board of the Washington Post has now done.

On the whole, yesterday's editorial was informative and sensible; the piece is well worth reading. That said, the editors apparently felt obliged to start their effort like this:
WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL (3/25/17): It is a political cliche that President Trump owes his electoral victory to the extraordinary support he received from white voters without a college degree, two-thirds of whom voted for the Republican. Much less settled is the question of why these largely low-income voters, once reliable Democrats, cast their lot with a brash billionaire from New York.

The precise source of the discontent that produced this outburst of reactionary populism is hotly debated; some of Mr. Trump’s support reflects motives, such as xenophobia or racism, that can be neither comprehended nor respected...
We invite you to note two basic points. Let's start with this:

Last November, Candidate Trump received support from tens of millions of "white voters without a college degree." Despite this fact, the editors seem to be seeking "the precise source of the discontent" that produced these tens of millions of votes.

The precise source—singular. That seems to suggest that there is some single explanation for those tens of millions of votes.

Expressed in a less flattering way, that seems to suggest that the editors think what tribal elites have always thought. That almost seems to suggest that the editors think Those People are all alike.

Presumably, that isn't what the editors would say they think. For whatever reason, it is what the editors said.

Second point:

After setting out in search of the source of all those votes, the editors end up discussing various possible sources of those votes. (Various sources—plural). But uh-oh:

As the editors start their search, they feel obliged to say this:

"Some of Mr. Trump’s support reflects motives, such as xenophobia or racism, that can be neither comprehended nor respected."

Among the various high-minded groups who constitute Us, the group Over Here, it's almost required by Hard Tribal Law. If you plan to discuss Trump voters, you're required to start with a murky statement about their bigotry, xenophobia, racism and all-around horrible motives.

People as fine as Us, the group Over Here, can't even comprehend such motives, we may feel inclined to say.

Please note: the editors make no attempt to say how many of those millions of voters are racists. In a similar way, Candidate Trump made no attempt, in his formal announcement speech, to say how many unauthorized Mexican immigrants are actually rapists.

A certain type of personality tends to slime large groups of people in such slithery ways. Donald J. Trump is one such person. Yesterday, so were the editors.

People as fine as Us can't even comprehend Trump voters' horrible motives! From that point on, the Post's editorial is informative and intelligent, indeed quite sympathetic.

That said: when you see Us, the good people Over Here, explaining those 63 million votes, you'll persistently see the two script points we've described.

You'll likely see a peculiar tic in which we evoke the peculiar idea that there is some single explanation for those millions of votes. Soon after, you'll see a punishing throw-away line about the racism, bigotry and xenophobia on display among Those People, the lesser breed Over There.

When you read that throw-away line, you're seeing tens of millions of people getting slimed by their betters. You're seeing them slimed in a suggestive rhetorical manner, a play straight outta Trump's remark about those Mexican rapists.

We make these observations for a particular reason. They lead us toward a brutal irony from last year's campaign:

From the liberal perspective, Donald J. Trump was the most god-awful candidate ever nominated for president. In a wide array of ways, his performance as a candidate was in fact utterly clownish.

In the realm of health care alone, the statements of Candidate Trump were the statements of a clown. (He was going to give us "something terrific.") Over Here in our liberal tribe, we had a wide array of well-informed people who knew how to explain that.

And yet, destructive and sad! Over here in our liberal tribe, We can no longer get Those People to listen to anything much We say! Candidate Trump was a world-class clown, but the people Over There refused to listen to Us.

Who was the better candidate, Candidate Clinton or Candidate Trump? In the end, needless to say, that's always a matter of judgment.

That said, to most observers in our tents, Candidate Trump was the most god-awful candidate ever let loose on the land. This should possibly maybe perhaps leave us asking this question:

Why was it so hard for Us to convince The Others of that?

Why couldn't We, the liberal giants, convince a few more of the folk Over There? What produced the horrible breakdown which led to Trump's narrow win?

Intellectual giants that we are, why couldn't We persuade The Others? We'll explore that puzzle all week. This puzzle leads us to ask two questions:

Who are Those People, the ones Over There? At the same time, Who are We?

What are we like, Over Here?

Tomorrow: A sad fact about Them and Us

As we wait for You-Know-Who's war...


In our tribe, it's mirth all around:
Michael Gerson asked an excellent question in yesterday's Washington Post.

He also wrote an interesting column. His question came at the start of the column, which carried this headline:

"Tribal truths and the lies that bind."

In the heart of his column, Gerson explored the way two warring tribes—one of the right, one of the left—sift all factual claims through rigid tribal filters. He's harder on the tribe of the right than he is on the tribe of the left.

Gerson's whole column is well worth reading. But as he started, he asked a good question about Donald J. Trump's latest ridiculous bundle of claims:
GERSON (3/24/17): It must be confusing to President Trump that the political system, the media and a majority of voters have suddenly called him on a deception, on a lie. It has seldom, if ever, happened before.

It did not seem to matter when he claimed to have evidence that President Barack Obama was born abroad; or when he insisted that crowds of American Muslims celebrated 9/11 in the streets; or when he said that the murder rate was the highest in half a century; or when he claimed the largest electoral-vote victory since President Ronald Reagan; or when he asserted that massive voter fraud cost him a popular-vote win; or when his press secretary claimed the largest inaugural crowd in history.

What about this particular accusation—that Obama ordered the bugging of Trump Tower—was finally too difficult for the body politic to swallow? How was this different from the maggoty meals that preceded it?
Gerson referred to "deceptions" and "lies." For ourselves, we'd be inclined to stick with "ridiculous falsehoods" (or "claims").

That said, Gerson was asking an excellent question:

At least since this time in 2011, Donald J. Trump has emitted a long string of "maggoty" claims. Why was this latest claim "finally too difficult for the body politic to swallow?"

Why were all those earlier groaners tolerated in the way they were? Why did this latest absurdity "finally" produce this degree of rebuttal?

That was an excellent question! In exploring the answer, Gerson considers American history dating back eight years. For ourselves, we'd extend that pitiful history back a great deal farther, at least to 1992.

We liberals! We've been tolerating manifest bullshit for at least the past twenty-five years. Last November, an astonishing price was "finally" paid for our many long naps in the woods.

In the wake of last November's election, our hapless, pitiful, slumbering tribe finally began its heroic "resistance." That's the term we now apply to ourselves in settings like the Maddow Show, where we're applauded each night for our heroic push-back.

KA-CHING! Tribal pandering of that type tends to produce strong ratings.

In the meantime, sad! We're being lionized by a self-adoring corporate stooge who mugged her way through the last election, avoiding every difficult topic, failing to challenge our journalistic elites, failing to spread a loud alarm about what might be happening.

Maddow mugged and clowned and played and self-adored and avoided. Members of our current "resistance" continued to nap in the woods.

Truly, our pitiful tribe has been remarkably hapless over a long stretch of time. We've tolerated decades of bullshit, dating back to the tales about the Clintons' many murders and Candidate Gore's endless lies.

In 2012, we tolerated all that shit about what Susan Rice supposedly said, thereby producing Benghazi. "Finally," we've begun to fight back, now that it may be too late.

Has our "resistance" started too late? This morning, the snark is general over the liberal world about yesterday's health care failure.

At one site, we've found a major blogger enjoying some LOLOLOLOL. Elsewhere, we found a compilation of the snarky tweets which were issued yesterday by some of our dumber members of Congress.

Why do we get to snark today? Because Donald J. Trump's "health plan" went down. Also, of course, for a second reason:

Because our president, Donald J. Trump, hasn't yet started his war.

For today, we'll leave it at that. But Gerson asked a very good question, even if his historical range was slight.

We liberals! We've tolerated "flights of fancy" for the past twenty-give years. No accusation has been so poisonous or so dumb that our self-impressed liberal tribe was willing to rise and fight back.

As Gerson notes, Donald J. Trump's latest flight—his ridiculous blizzard of wiretap claims—has occasioned extended push-back. Why has this flight been different from all other flights? Gerson asked a very good question, even if his historical range was limited.

Next week, we'll examine the way our hapless tribe helped pave the way for Donald J. Trump's upcoming war, the one he hasn't yet started.

Today, we liberals are happily laughing it up. We're laughing it up because, in the wake of our ultimate meltdown last year, Donald J. Trump, our American president, hasn't yet started his war.

It's LOL all over our world. As in so many earlier days, we're perhaps failing to look ahead to where this highly dangerous gong show may in fact be going.

Liberals, let's laugh it up and enjoy this day. This has been our tribal custom for the past twenty-five years!

Coming next week: Who the Sam Hill are Those People? Also, Who are We?

TIME FOR A CHANGE: Columnist Krugman, meet essayist Rich!

FRIDAY, MARCH 24, 2017

Part 4—Our own music men, Over Here:
Last Friday night, Carl Bernstein said it was time for a change in the way cable news covers Trump.

It's hard to argue with that! Could it also be time for a change Over Here, in our own liberal world?

We actually think it is! In our view, the liberal world hit rock bottom last year when Donald J. Trump pulled an inside straight and ended up in the White House. When you lose to a ludicrous candidate like that, it's almost surely time for a change in your own tribe's pitiful practices.

In what way should our liberal world change? For one suggestion, let's return to Paul Krugman's column this Monday.

Krugman's column ended as shown below, with a question about Trump voters. For background, see Part 2 in this award-winning series.

Krugman ended as shown below. To us, this passage seemed illustrative, and it seemed somewhat peculiar:
KRUGMAN (3/20/17): [W]hy did so many Americans vote for Mr. Trump, whose character flaws should have been obvious long before the election?

Catastrophic media failure and F.B.I. malfeasance played crucial roles. But my sense is that there’s also something going on in our society: Many Americans no longer seem to understand what a leader is supposed to sound like, mistaking bombast and belligerence for real toughness.

Why? Is it celebrity culture? Is it working-class despair, channeled into a desire for people who spout easy slogans?

The truth is that I don’t know. But we can at least hope that watching Mr. Trump in action will be a learning experience—not for him, because he never learns anything, but for the body politic...
Krugman has long been the journalistic MVP of our liberal world. We were saddened by that passage.

In part, we were saddened because Krugman almost seemed to be searching for "the reason" which would explain 63 million different votes, cast by 63 million different people.

That would be an extremely dumb thing to do. Technically, Krugman doesn't do it in that passage. But he almost seemed to drifting in that deeply tribal direction.

Krugman did something else in that passage. He said that "many Americans no longer seem to understand what a leader is supposed to sound like." He seemed to offer that as a major explanation for all those votes for Trump.

As he cast this aspersion, Krugman seemed to say that the "many Americans" to whom he referred can all be found Over There.
The dumbbells were all Over There, in the tents of Those People, The Others.

He said he doesn't know how they got so dumb, but the dumb ones are all Over There.

We would very strongly dispute each of Krugman's points. We don't think it's gigantically hard to understand why people would vote for Trump. More significantly, the specific dumbness Krugman describes has also been on wide display Over Here, within our liberal tribe.

In our view, it's true! In our view, many conservative-leaning voters have, in fact, unwisely trusted a succession of con men over the past thirty years.

They've trusted Rush Limbaugh; they've trusted Trump. In our view, these assessments were unwise.

That said, we the people have always been inclined to fall for the blandishments of con men. And uh-oh:

Over the course of the past thirty years, we liberals have repeatedly been conned by such types Over Here. In the process, we've tolerated the rise of a world which inexorably led us to Trump.

We failed to see through our own music men, and own music men have been many. We in the liberal rank-and-file have tolerated horrendous leadership.

These leaders have routinely sold our interests away. Just as it has ever been, we haven't been able to see this.

What types of music men have we accepted? Let's start with the behavior of mainstream and liberal journalism during the Clinton-Gore years.

During that period, the crazy claims which constituted "Trump-before-Trump" sometimes came from the right. Jerry Falwell paraded around selling a film about the Clintons' many murders.

The mainstream press corps gave Falwell a pass. As this sick arrangement developed, we in the liberal rank-and-file peacefully napped in the woods.

Jerry Falwell was selling his ludicrous film in the mid-1990s. By that time, the more consequential wars against the Clintons and Gore had taken shape within the upper-end mainstream press.

We've recited this history a million times. Nothing will ever make career liberal con men discuss it.

Whatever! For reasons which are rarely discussed, the most consequential wars against both Clintons and Gore largely came from the elite mainstream press, not from the hard right. These wars were driven and enabled by figures admired by Us.

"Many Americans" couldn't see through Trump? We liberals couldn't see through the figures to whom we refer!

The great turning-point in modern political history came when Candidate Bush nosed past Candidate Gore. People are dead all over the world, though it has become blindingly obvious that we liberals don't actually care.

The war which permitted Bush to squeak past Gore was conducted by mainstream and liberal figures. Unfortunately, "many Americans" in our own liberal tends were unable to see what was being done by the high-profile figures to whom we refer, including those who were being made rich by the near-billionaire Jack Welch, conservative CEO of NBC News and its cable arms.

Even when told, we liberals weren't able to see what was happening. To make a fascinating story short, consider two astonishing facts:

To this very day, no one has ever written a profile of Chris Matthews' astonishing conduct during Campaign 2000, in which he waged war against Candidate Gore and against Candidate Clinton, and in the years which followed, during which time he continued his misogynistic attacks on Candidate Clinton.

Equally astonishing:

To this very day, no one has ever written a serious profile of Maureen Dowd's astonishing journalism—no one except Clark Hoyt, her own newspaper's public editor, whose blistering profile of Dowd's treatment of Candidate Clinton was widely ignored back in 2008.

Simple story: Within the guild, Matthews and Dowd were each too powerful to be discussed by their unprincipled colleagues. In these ways, we liberals were sold down the river by a full battalion of mainstream journalists, many of whom we foolishly regard as our liberal leaders.

"Many Americans" couldn't see through Candidate Trump? As a general matter, we would be inclined to agree with that judgment.

But "many Americans" Over Here have been unable to see through the vast assortment of gong-show artists who have been loosed upon us by various corporate suits. We can't even see through the clowning of Maddow! Why should The Others see through the nonsense of Candidate Trump?

Krugman's lament about Those People's blindness came at a propitious time. In this very same week, one of our dumbest music men would peddle his latest trombone.

We refer to head buffoon Frank Rich, who is known as "the great Frank Rich" when he's dragged out for musical purposes on the Maddow Show. Consider this blowhard's track record:

Start with the headlong chase after Bill Clinton's ten blow jobs. During that period, Rich authored the definitive dumbest remark in support of the greatness of Gennifer Flowers, a disordered person whose credibility ought to rated at zero.

Jump ahead to Campaign 2000. Once the primaries were over, Rich spent the whole of 2000 insisting that Bush and Gore were two peas in a pod. From a very high platform, he kept telling the liberal world that there was no difference between them.

Let's move to September 2002. As war with Iraq was being sold, Al Gore delivered a major speech warning against this move. (Almost no one else did.)

Rather than hail the most prominent liberal to make such a speech, Rich savaged Gore's for his unsightly motives, which Rich had somehow divined.

As for Rich himself, he never made a clear declaration concerning the proposed war; he then went on sabbatical as decision day drew nearer. A few years later, after the war had gone bad, Rich ran around to the front of the line. He wrote a best-selling book about the war which made him a larger lib hero.

In 2006, Gore starred in the film about climate change which went on to win an Oscar. Speaking to his brilliant friend Don Imus, Rich trashed Gore's motives all over again. He compared the Oscar-winning documentary to a high school instructional film.

Even the film's commercial success, and the eventual Oscar, didn't alter Rich's perspective. Finally, when Gore was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Rich executed an instant 180. Overnight, he went from unrelenting ridicule to silly ridiculous fawning, as is the way of his ridiculous kind.

Frankly, "many Americans" in our own liberal tents haven't been able to see through ridiculous figures like Rich. Perhaps we ought to consider such facts before we puzzle over the failure of Those People, Over There, to see through a figure like Trump.

This week, of course, our biggest buffoon continued to give us liberals his trademark bad advice.

In a pitiful essay for New York magazine, Rich implored the liberal world to continue loathing and trashing Those People. This is terrible, ugly, stupid advice, advice which comes to us live and direct from the man who started out as the famous "Butcher of Broadway."

Rich went to Harvard, of course. Given that opportunity, he seems to have learned little except the best ways to kick down. Our Harvard man's pitiful headline is this:

"No Sympathy for the Hillbilly"

Sad! Over Here in our liberal tents, we haven't been able to see him for the false prophet he is.

Alas! We live in a time when a vast array of corporate entities teach us to loathe The Others. In case you haven't noticed, this is a very good way to make money on line, or in cable.

Rush Limbaugh has long been one such major corporate entity. Over Here, we're now creating our own.

It's true! Regular good and decent people will frequently be influenced, in harmful ways, by persuasive music men with prehistoric tribal pleadings.

That said, our tents are full of such music men Over Here. Krugman's column notwithstanding, this phenomenon isn't restricted to the judgments reached Over There, by Those People, The Others, hillbillies.

Krugman's new column moves in a much wiser direction today. He correctly describes the flow of this destructive game, noting the way "the media" have misled the wider world about the works of Paul Ryan.

Regular people, decent and good, have always believed music men. This morning, Krugman's aim is true. On Monday, he was kicking down—and forgetting to kick Over There.

Christopher Matthews was Trump before Trump. He got very rich in the process. He was working for Jack Welch at that time. This couldn't be mentioned because the rest of our liberal heroes wanted those Welch paydays too.

No one has ever told the liberal rank-and-file about that noxious history. On the leadership level, our own moral squalor is rank, epidemic—our own squalor, that of our own music men, the ones who got rich Over Here.

Next week: Who are Those People?

Savaging Donald J. Trump for his claims!


The Journal uses its words:
The Wall Street Journal hit Trump so hard the New York Times took notice.

In this morning's editions, Sydney Ember reported what the Journal said. We were struck by the way the Journal used its words:
EMBER (3/23/17): The editorial page of The Wall Street Journal is known for its conservative tone, but an editorial the newspaper published online Tuesday night would stand out even in the pages of its left-leaning peers.

The editorial was an extraordinarily harsh rebuke of President Trump, calling him “his own worst political enemy” and asserting that he was damaging his presidency “with his seemingly endless stream of exaggerations, evidence-free accusations, implausible denials and other falsehoods.”

In particular, the editorial board pointed to Mr. Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that former President Barack Obama had tapped his phones. “The President clings to his assertion like a drunk to an empty gin bottle,” the editorial said...
For ourselves, we would have added one word to the Journal's list of crimes. Below, you see what the Journal said, and you can see our one-word addition:
THE JOURNAL: Trump is damaging his presidency “with his seemingly endless stream of exaggerations, evidence-free accusations, implausible denials and other falsehoods.”

THE JOURNAL EDITED: Trump is damaging his presidency “with his seemingly endless stream of exaggerations, evidence-free accusations, implausible denials and other ridiculous falsehoods.”
We would have stuck "ridiculous" in. That said, did you notice the word the Journal eschewed?

The Journal didn't say "lies!"

You can hammer Donald J. Trump without alleging "lies." The Journal, using its many words, did so rather capably.

Why shouldn't the Journal have used the word "lies?" Unless you're seven years old, there are various reasons.

In certain contexts, the word is perfectly sensible. In many others, it creates a pointless distraction—and an instant secondary debate the accuser is likely to lose.

Second-graders can't understand that. Is that the source of our problem?