The Homer of the Yankees speaks!


An excellent time for Directive:
Has there ever been a better time to ponder Robert Frost's Directive?

It's generally taken to be one of his last major poems. He started up like this:
Back out of all this now too much for us,
Back in a time made simple by the loss
Of detail, burned, dissolved, and broken off
Like graveyard marble sculpture in the weather,
There is a house that is no more a house
Upon a farm that is no more a farm
And in a town that is no more a town.
The road there, if you'll let a guide direct you
Who only has at heart your getting lost,
May seem as if it should have been a quarry—
Great monolithic knees the former town
Long since gave up pretense of keeping covered.
For today, we'll focus on that opening line:

"Back out of all this now too much for us."

After decades of rapidly creeping nonsense, has "all this" finally become "too much for us?"

Are we a culture that is no more a culture? Are we in need of "a guide?"

Has "all this" become "too much?" We ask that question for a reason. We ask because a front-page report in today's New York Times actually starts as shown below, hard-copy headlines included:
GRYNBAUM (7/1/17): The Battle of ‘Morning Joe’: A Presidential Feud
A Spectacle Fit for TV Rages with Talk of Extortion

President Trump remained embroiled in a rumpus with two cable talk-show hosts on Friday, a surreal dispute featuring allegations of extortion, dueling tweets and low-rent insults that has little precedent in recent political history.

With major policy battles over health care and taxation looming, Mr. Trump has devoted several days to squabbling with the stars of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, who on Friday accused the White House of demanding they apologize to the president to keep a gossip magazine from unmasking their romantic relationship.

The spectacle might seem too outlandish even for the pages of a supermarket tabloid were The National Enquirer not the magazine in question.
Two "cable news" hosts, a gossip magazine—and the fellow who holds the nuclear codes. In a surreal dispute!

Last night, that surreal dispute dominated the small-bore world of cable news pseudo-discussion. "Major policy battles" over health care be damned!

We'll only add this: the dumbness of this episode is heightened by the presence of a new form of cultural assessment. As with James B. Comey (Comey the God), so too now with Mika and Joe:

They're judged to be major white-hatted stars because they stand opposed to Donald J. Trump. In effect, they're part of the class now known as NABATs:

Not As Bad As Trump.

Directive is a difficult poem. That said, we woke with that opening line in our heads. Fifty years after the arrival of our radio "shock jocks," we finally have our first "shock president." And let's be truthful:

Though he bumps a fifty-year trend to a new level, that trend predated his behavior. Our mainstream press corps was full of Trumps by the time of the Clinton/Gore years. Trump has simply accelerated a cultural trend which has been underway, largely unnoticed, for decades.

That said:

Our crack team of calendrical analysts came to us early this morning with the news that this is the start of a four-day holiday weekend. After carefully checking their work, we have endorsed their claim.

We still plan to return to this piece at the new Salon,
which captures the way our own liberal tribe has added to the decay in question. But this morning, Joe and Mika, and the Enquirer, are hogging page one of the Times.

"Drink and be whole again beyond confusion?" Easier said than done!

Trump before Trump: Below, you see a (very) small sample of Trump before Trump from December 1999.

This particular Trump before Trump was talking about Senate candidate Hillary Clinton with biographer Gail Sheehy. What follows is a tiny sample of his ranting that night and that month:
MATTHEWS (12/6/99): First of all, Hillary Clinton got the message wrong. The American people want to have health care for people who work for a living.

Working families should get a good wage and they should get health care as part of a living income. She said, "I'm going to give you universal coverage. I want to give every man who gets into this country, legally or illegally, free health care, and they're going to have to thank me for it, and bring flowers to me like I'm Evita." That's different than giving people workers' rights, or giving them what they go out and work for a living for, including health care.

She didn't want to sell it as a workers' benefit. She wanted to sell it as socialism, because then she could get credit for it. She and the government, like Eleanor Roosevelt, her hero.

SHEEHY: Well, I don't think she wanted to sell it as socialism...
According to this particular Trump before Trump, first lady Hillary Clinton wanted to give health care to everyone, whether they were legal or illegal, so they would have to bring flowers to her like she was Evita.

She wanted to be a socialist, like her hero Eleanor Roosevelt.

This particular Trump before Trump was working for CEO Jack Welch at this time. This is a very tiny sample of his highly disordered behavior during the death-dealing era. For more of his madness, click here.

Candidate Gore? “He doesn’t look like one of us...He doesn’t seem very American, even,” this horrific Trump before Trump once told his shock jock pal, Don Imus. The name-calling, misstatements and craziness went on, unremarked, for years.

Our current president didn't invent the lunatic syndrome in which we're immersed. Through our laziness and our silence, we the ridiculous liberals did, in concert with other groups badly in need of a guide.


  1. The NY Times wrote, "With major policy battles over health care and taxation looming, Mr. Trump has devoted several days to squabbling with the stars of MSNBC’s 'Morning Joe...'" But, as far as I know, Trump only devoted a few minutes to this issue -- however long it took him to write that obnoxious tweet. It's the media who have devoted several days to this dumb issue.

    1. "As far as I know"

      You don't know anything about how much time Trump devotes to worrying about nonsense. According to staff reports, he obsesses over this stuff. It is hard to get him to focus on his real work. It is easy to find examples of Trump seeking revenge for petty offenses even years after they occurred. One of the signs of his unfitness for office is his inability to let this stuff go, these affronts to his ginormous ego. Ego is why he became president. His staff spends a great deal of their valuable time fluffing him with compliments and manufacturing situations where he can hear applause. He is not a normal person, so your assumption that he responds the way someone normal would is likely to be completely wrong.

    2. Anon 2:54 -- I do know that Trump is carrying on the normal functions of a President. E.g., his agenda for yesterday includes:
      -- In the morning, President Donald J. Trump will speak to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.
      -- The President will then welcome President Moon of the Republic of Korea.
      -- Later in the morning, the President will meet with President Moon.
      -- The President will then give joint statements with President Moon.
      -- In the afternoon, the President and First Lady Melania Trump will depart the White House for Joint Base Andrews, en route to Bedminster, New Jersey.

      That routine stuff isn't emphasized in the news coverage, so it's easy to not realized all the things Trump is doing each day.

    3. Why is he wasting his time tweeting about a little watched cable news tv show? Why would the president care about what Mika and Joe think about anything? Trump is seriously not normal, and a mortal danger to us all.

    4. David, a bunch of formal, scripted meetings could be carried out by a trained monkey. All he has to do is stick to his script. You realize that Bedminster is another resort, right?

      We all sincerely hope he doesn't try to impress any of these leaders with the depth of his classified info again. Joint Base Andrews (where he will perhaps switch to a helicopter) is just en route to play more golf. It sounds all military-like, but it is just a way to get to his New Jersey property.

    5. Yesterday Jonny Scrum-half requested a Turing test for David. I published a comment with a question, but David ignored it. Let's try again.

      Consider this sentence:

      Eagles that fly instinctively swim.

      It's ambiguous. Are they flying instinctively or swimming instinctively?

      Let's change the sentence a little:

      Instinctively, eagles that fly swim.

      Now we're unambiguously saying that they swim instinctively. But why doesn't "instinctively" go with "fly", which is closer? Why does it go with the farther verb, "swim"?

    6. impCaesar -- Being a human, rather than a machine, I will begin by critiquing the question. -- "Eagles that fly" makes no sense. There is not a race of flightless eagles.

      I do have an idea as to your question. In the second version, "swim" is the predicate (or the verb), while fly is merely a modifier of eagles. In that type of sentence structure, the adverb beginning the sentence ("instinctively") modifies the predicate.

    7. David:

      Newly hatched eagles don't fly. And when they start to fly, is it instinctive or learned behavior? Yes, "Eagles that fly instinctively" makes sense.

      When "Instinctively" is the first word, why doesn't it go with the first verb? Why does it undertake the more difficult task of finding the main verb?

      And now please answer my question from Friday, under "They were great pals with the Birther King."

    8. impCaesarAvg - I am not sure I understand your question. It seems to me that if you put the verb "wonder" in its natural spot right after the subject, then both statements are pretty straightforward.

      He wondered how many mechanics fixed the cars.
      He wondered how many cars the mechanics fixed.

      P.S. Good point on the baby eagles.

    9. imp seems to be making the point that computers cannot handle transformational grammar the way people do naturally. it is a Turing test to see whether you've read any of Chomsky's linguistics.

    10. David:

      Remember, the first sentence is:

      He wondered if the mechanics fixed the cars.

      Your two sentences assume that the mechanics fixed some of the cars. But that's just what the guy in the first sentence doesn't know -- it's what he's wondering about.

      And now we ask how many he's wondering about. How many cars? No problem:

      How many cars did he wonder if the mechanics fixed?

      But how many mechanics? Problem.

      * How many mechanics did he wonder if fixed the cars?

  2. There have always been Trumps. Some have made it into high office before. Students of history know this. It is relatively new to see them as visibly as now, courtesy of the media and the internet. It was easier to pretend in the past.

    Frost refers to the loss of detail provided by memory. That seems the most applicable part of a lengthy poem that otherwise has little to do with our current predicament. It seems wrong to borrow a line or two and apply them for your own purposes in an essay while ignoring the main gist of the poem.

  3. Here is something else important that is being ignored by the media:

    1. Sy Hersh is pretty iffy reporter. There's a reason he doesn't write for the New Yorker these days.

    2. I still would believe him over Donald Trump.

      The possibility that Assad didn't use chemical warfare on his own people has been floating around a lot of the conspiracy blogs. Some consider it a false flag rather than an accident as Hersh reports. No one thinks Trump saw any activity suggesting another attack last week. His own military advisors didn't know what he was talking about in that tweet.

      There is real danger that Trump may involve us in another Iraq-type war with Syria over chemical weapons that never quite materialized. It is hard to see any benefit to this in terms of relations with Russia or in the Middle East, but it would provide the kind of Klein-type crisis that would allow Trump to assert more domestic control. Call me paranoid, but it happened under Bush. It isn't as if Trump would have to invent much in terms of methods. It seems like the handiest excuse for war.

    3. Try this:

    4. Hersh continues to outlet shop for his stories: the New Yorker won't publish him, so he goes to LRB, the LRB won't publish him, so he goes to this German outfit. Bad sign...

    5. That isn't how you evaluate the truth of a story. Drum doesn't raise any real arguments pro or con. He says he feels safer staying with the majority on this one.

      Last week when Trump tweeted that there were signs of preparation for another chemical attack and Trump tweeted a threat to retaliate, his own Pentagon and military appointees were caught off guard and didn't know where Trump's intelligence was coming from. THAT supports Hersh's story. But everyone suddenly decides Trump is no longer a liar because they have agreed to treat Hersh as flaky. That should bother you. That is a bad sign too. Especially when our country has a history of manufacturing the evidence of wrongdoing to justify its desire to go to war.

      Richard Clarke has been talking about Cassandras. Hersh may be another Cassandra and political reasons are dictating that he be ignored. Your reasoning is that if no one wants to listen but a German "outfit" he cannot be saying anything worth listening to.

      You have a choice between believing Trump and our mainstream media or our nation's best investigative journalist who did an excellent job on the Iraq war. Who do you pick? Hmmmm, that's a tough one.

    6. The New Yorker and the LRB passed on this story. Hersh' story relies on a single, seemingly omniscient unnamed source to support his claims. Color me skeptical.

    7. Here is some support for Hersh. Why is Trump meeting yet again with Erdogan? Look at Flynn's ties to Turkey. Then look again at Trump's threats over the past week, based on unsubstantiated charges of activity to bomb using chemical weapons. Remember that last time Trump bombed the Syrian airfield, no evidence of previous chemical weapon use was discovered. The areas where such weapons were supposedly kept yielded nothing. This is all support for Hersh's claims.

      It is also interesting that Hersh lost favor when he started writing things that were critical of Obama. Perhaps you need to be less enthuasiastic about Obama to read Hersh's recent work. As a genuine investigative reporter, he goes where the story takes him, whether it embarrasses Obama or any other liberal icon. Try reading Hersh with a willingness to consider Obama under a different lens. Apply that skepticism to your preconceptions.

      I find myself wondering why Obama did nothing to address the Russian interference before the election, when it might have yielded a Clinton presidency. It makes me willing to believe Obama was as complicit in the schemes of the military and intelligence community as previous presidents, especially since he left Bush's appointees intact and didn't replace them when he became president.

      Ask yourself whether Hersh's story fits with anything else you know about the situation.

    8. The claim that Assad propagated the chemical attack has always seemed suspicious, regardless of the accuracy of Hersh's report.

      Assad was a young doctor studying in London with no political ambitions, when his brother died, pulling him back to Syria to take over for his father.

      Syria has been a relatively secular country that has opposed Israel due to Israeli treatment of Palestinians. This has caused tensions with fundamentalist countries like Saudi Arabia, and pro Israel countries like the US. Addtitionally, there has long been an interest in running an oil/gas pipeline through Syria to feed Europe and rely less on Russia.

      The current conflict in Syria, it's supposed "civil war", apparently has largely been due to efforts of the George W Bush administration. This was revealed in cables released by Wikileaks. This is a rather stunning bombshell, not reported much.

  4. I've never accepted the idea that anyone who works for plutocrat owned media could possibly be in my tribe. My tribe works for the end of plutocracy. What does your tribe work for?

  5. “own liberal tribe has added to the decay”

    Right, so you might as well just join the other pro-plutocracy tribe that believes in complete decay.

  6. Today Maureen Dowd is arguing that if someone like Trump insults both men and women, he cannot be sexist, as if saying bad things about women were what sexism is all about.

    Trump is a sexist because he doesn't believe that women are human beings with the same rights and opportunities as men. He treats women as sex objects (not simply people to be denigrated) and he does not include them in positions of power and responsibility in his government. The nature of the insults he uses against women is qualitatively different than that used against men.

    Dowd assiduously ignores the "blood" comments Trump has made. She ignores his history of sexual assaults against them. She ignores the sex imbalance in his government. She suggests that Trump applies looksism to both men and women but there is no evidence of that beyond nasty remarks made about men's looks -- no firing of men because of how they look, no leaving them out of jobs or off his show because they have gained weight, etc. Men seem to be judged by their money, not their looks, in his cabinet.

    It is unclear to me why Maureen Dowd needs to argue that Trump is no sexist, as if that clears him of all wrongdoing. There is a strong flavor of victimhood for poor Trump in today's column. His branding of women as "hormonal" is dismissed as germophobia, not the deep-seated psychological problem it so obviously is. Does Dowd think germophobia is any better, any more natural, any less deserving of psychotherapy? This is a disabled man who considers women especially unclean. When does Melania get to use the bathroom? Why doesn't Dowd recognize the sexism inherent in that level of control of his own wife's bodily functions?

  7. Here is what sexism looks like:

    "Besides Aldrin, three other astronauts also joined the president in the Oval Office for the ceremony. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, however, only introduced the men — Aldrin, former astronaut David Wolf and current astronaut Benjamin Alvin Drew— and failed to mention the lone female astronaut on the scene, Sandy Magnus, The Washington Post reported. Magnus is currently the executive director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics."

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