BEHIND THE CURTAIN CONTINUED: Lifestyles of the best and brightest!

FRIDAY, MAY 5, 2017

Epilogue—The three faces of TV:
Uh-oh! On this morning, the mental stylings of pages A2 and A3 spilled onto page A1.

On A3, the nonsense continued. These were two of the day's "noteworthy facts," though we could include more:
Of Interest

"For his current exhibition, David Alrmejd sculpted disfigured heads, including one of Abraham Lincoln with giant golden ears and half his face missing."

"Most equine fatalities in 2016 were the result of euthanasia after a broken limb, according to The Jockey Club's Equine Injury Database."
In Spotlight, the "additional reportage and repartee from our journalists" concerned the retirement of Prince Philip, which had "journalists around the world on the edge of frenzy" yesterday, and no we aren't making that up.

These presentations result from strange editorial judgment. That said, let's remember the ad campaign which would fit these reimagined pages:

"You are the dumbest people on earth. We at the Times want to serve you."

So it continues on the the reimagined A2 and A3. This morning, though, the dumbnification also appears atop the fold on page A1, the New York Times' front page. We refer to the hard-copy headline which sits atop the paper's Upshot report, a report about the health care bill which has now passed the House.

(On the One True Corporate Channel, Lawrence O'Donnell has spent the past month assuring us that Trump-and-them were just "pretending" to be pursuing another health care bill. On the Friday before last November's election, Lawrence joined Professor Wang in assuring us that, barring some "major weather event," Candidate Clinton couldn't possibly lose. People, we're just saying!)

Back to page A1:

Upshot reports carry the luster of the Times' brainiest brand. But good God! Atop the fold, on page A1, the hard-copy headline says this:
Wealthy People Benefit, the Poor Much Less So
Needless to say, that isn't what the front-page report actually says. The front-page report actually says that wealthy people win with this plan, while poor people actively lose.

Inside the addled New York Times, some editor failed to see that the headline says that everyone benefits under the GOP plan. And just in case a lazy reader failed to ingest that message on A1, this headline sits atop the report's continuation on page A19:

"Wealthy and Healthy Benefit, the Poor Not So Much"

That's isn't what the report really says. Inside our upper-class press corps' low-IQ zone, some editor didn't quite know that.

(The Times has changed those headlines on-line. To read the report, click here.)

Consider today's New York Times. What would make a Timesperson think that those were "noteworthy facts?" That the "frenzy" surrounding Prince Philip was a major event calling for more repartee?

What would make a Timesperson think that those headlines capture that Upshot report? That the paper should keep publishing Gail Collins' ten-minute quizzes?

Alas! Dowdism crept, then largely conquered, quite a long time ago. Some people still do real work at the Times. Quite a few others do not.

How did we reach this ridiculous place? Consider this possibility:

Our upper-end press corps is a guild which includes many high strivers. In the world of the modern upper-end press, rewards in cash and fame can be vast. This rarely produces good outcomes.

How did our elite press corps become a low-IQ guild devoted to earth tones, hairdos, Official Group Stories and gruesomely incompetent bombshell reports about scary uranium deals? Why was the Times trying to rehabilitate sex accusers who no one believed in the 1990s on its front page just last fall?

How did our liberal journalistic guild become infested with the Drums, the Chaits, the Dionnes, the Maddows—with people determined to avert their gaze, and yours, from the decades of Creeping Dementia, even when its persistent gong-shows were aimed directly at the nation's more liberal candidates?

Maddow took a pass on Benghazi in 2012, then took a pass on Comey last year. How did we reach the point where this had become the accepted norm within the "liberal" world?

We'll suggest you consider the following. We'll suggest you consider the possibility that those very large (corporate) rewards attract the wrong people for the wrong reasons, and then proceed to fry their brains once they've arrived on the scene. Just consider two of the best and the brightest among them:

When David Leonhardt arrived at the Times, he was sold to us as One of The Truly Bright Ones. (For the record, he's Yale 1994—in applied math! He prepped at Horace Mann.)

Dad was the PLP's Comrade Bob, but the acorn rolled down the hill from the tree. Leonhardt rose through the ranks at the Times. Today, he's a weekly columnist.

A few weeks back, he wrote a column which struck us as sadly instructive. It concerned the way the brightest and best deal with the inevitable stress as they fight their way to the top, raking in all those prizes.

Leonhardt seemed to be following David Brooks down the mid-life crisis trail. (We'd say that Brooks has recovered.) As he started his column, he recalled the way George Shultz insisted on a daily hour of solitude when he was secretary of state.

From there, Leonhardt seemed to head down the "I need a life coach" road. Needless to say, he gets his wisdom from Michael Lewis' best-selling books:
LEONHARDT (4/19/17): The psychologist Amos Tversky had his own version of this point. “The secret to doing good research is always to be a little underemployed,” Tversky said (as Michael Lewis describes in his latest book). “You waste years by not being able to waste hours."

Likewise, Richard Thaler, the great behavioral economist and a Tversky protégé, self-deprecatingly describes himself as lazy. But Thaler is not lazy, no matter how much he may insist otherwise. He is instead wise enough to know that constant activity isn’t an enjoyable or productive way to live.

These days, however, it is a very tempting way to live. It can be hard to live any other way, in fact.
We carry supercomputers in our pockets and place them next to us as we sleep. They’re always there, with a new status update to be read, a new photograph to be taken, a new sports score or Trump outrage to be checked.

Even before smartphones, this country’s professional culture had come to venerate freneticism. How often do you hear somebody humble-brag about how busy they are? The saddest version, and I’ve heard it more than once, is the story of people who send work emails on their wedding day or from the hospital room where their child is born—and are proud of it.
"How often do you hear [people] humble-brag about how busy they are?" We don't think we've ever heard anybody do that.

Well, inside the business Leonhardt has chosen, it seems to happen a lot! The saddest version involves "the people who send work emails on their wedding day or from the hospital room where their child is born—and are proud of it."

Inside the business he has chosen, Leonhardt has heard that more than once! To his credit, it has occurred to him that this may not be healthy.

So far, Leonhardt's column would be a perfect fit for A3's Here to Help feature! The note of sadness came in when he offered his resolution.

How does Leonhardt plan to keep himself centered and sane? Believe it or not, one of the upper-end press corps' brightest and best actually wrote what follows:
LEONHARDT: My goal with this column is to persuade you to add a Shultz Hour, or something like it, to your week.

I’ve just begun to do so. I have committed to carving out an hour each week with no meetings, no phone calls, no email, no Twitter, no Facebook, no mobile alerts and no podcasts. Sometimes, I plan to spend the hour sitting down, as Shultz did, and other times taking a stroll. I keep a pen and paper with me and have set my phone to ring only if my wife calls. (My boss can’t start a war, so I’m willing to ignore him for an hour.)

The fact it felt hard to commit to a full hour was a sign of my need to do so.
Like many people, I’m overly connected. I have confused the availability of new information with the importance of it. If you spend all your time collecting new information, you won’t leave enough time to make sense of it.
Good God! Leonhardt has vowed to spend one hour per week out of the reach of his owners. (Repeat: one hour per week.) We offer this as an obvious sign that the business Leonhardt has chosen has been turning his brain to mush.

Like Donald J. Trump in recent weeks, Leonhardt doesn't even seem to realize how weird his confession will sound. Because we assume that Leonhardt's a good decent person, this represents a loss to the world.

Unfortunately, Leonhardt has chosen a world of extremely high rewards. This is the brain of the brightest and best on those particular drugs:
LEONHARDT: Whether you decide a Shultz Hour makes sense for you, I’d encourage you not to fool yourself into thinking that you can easily change your habits in little ways here and there. The ubiquity of smartphones, together with our culture of celebrating busyness, makes ad hoc approaches difficult. You are much more likely to carve out time for strategic thinking by making concrete changes to your habits.

Wake up to an alarm clock rather than a phone, to collect your thoughts at the start of each day. While you’re driving, put your phone out of reach, mostly for safety, but also to let your mind wander at red lights.

Around the house, hide your phone—in a backpack, a drawer or another room—for set periods of time, as Sherry Turkle of M.I.T. recommends.
Or carve out a few hours each week when no one in your house can check a phone. The filmmaker Tiffany Shlain and her family do so for an entire day—a “technology shabbat.”

If you remember my recent column on sugar, this advice may sound familiar. Like sugar, technology makes life more enjoyable. But it’s better in moderation, and modern life pushes us toward excess.
Good God. Leonhardt plans to get some time for himself when he's stopped at red lights. When he's home, he plans to hide his phone somewhere so he can't consult it.

He suggests that you hide your phone too. Even as she gives this advice, he can't stop name-dropping the insidery people from whom he's drawn his wisdom.

Also, stop eating that sugar! The Here to Help feature is low-IQ. This column was actually sad.

Leonhardt's column reads like a cry for help. We'd call it a record of the brain loss among the brightest and best at the top of the upper-end press corps.

In many ways, the New York Times has led the culture's drift toward dementia. As we peek behind the curtain, we're left with with one more of the brightest and best to go.

We want to revisit a comical tale-the most comical tale of the modern press era.

No, it isn't the summer homes of Nantucket. We refer to the three faces of Rachel Maddow's TV.

Coming: The three faces of TV


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