FILLED FULL OF LEAD: Fundamental learnings emerge!


Credibility, cash money and threats:
Was Stephanie Clifford—TV's "Stormy Daniels"—physically threatened in 2011? Was she physically threatened, by a thug, on a parking lot out in Vegas?

So she alleged, last Sunday night, during a special guest appearance inside Anderson's Playpen. So Stephanie Clifford alleged—unless you work as an upper-end journalist, in which case she revealed that she'd been so threatened.

Was Stephanie Clifford physically threatened? All across the upper-end corporate press corps, "journalists" stampeded off to say or suggest that she had been.

Their principal sachem was the Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin. One night after Clifford's star turn, Rubin told Lawrence this:
LAWRENCE (3/26/18): Jennifer, I want to get your reaction to what you saw on 60 Minutes last night, and are you in the 62 percent who believe Stormy Daniels perhaps? And where do you think we are in this story now?

RUBIN: Yeah, I'm definitely in the 62 percent!

Listen, I admire her as a woman who made her life in film, but I don't think she's that good an actress. I think it's very hard to come across as she did, with the inflection, with the body language.

You know when someone is telling you something that's true, and I think that was evident to most everyone who was watching, with the exception of the real Kool-Aid drinkers of Donald Trump.
You know when someone is telling the truth! All over our upper-end news orgs, the children said and suggested that they really believe this.

This brought "the eternal note of sadness in," if we might borrow from Trump.

Warning! When a nation's upper-end "journalists" reason in the manner described, the nation which finds them entertaining may have tumbled all the way down to a state of idiocracy. After consulting with an array of anthropologists, we recommend this take-away from the performances our "journalists" have staged throughout the past week:

Our highly imperfect human brain simply may not be equipped to deal with the challenges of the current era.

This era started long before Trump; he's simply its latest effect. At any rate, we offer these fundamental learnings in the wake of the latest stampede by the upper-end corporate-paid press:

Again and again, we fallible humans really can't tell if someone is telling the truth.

Our journalists have proved this point again and again over the past thirty years. Their group assessments have been hopelessly wrong about major public figures and obscure story-tellers alike. In one especially embarrassing example, they were hopelessly wrong in their Instant Group Judgment concerning the obvious moral greatness of their darling sex accuser, Kathleen Willey.

Despite that embarrassing failure, they were eager to jump to the same conclusion when Clifford appeared in the Playpen. There's really no way to protect ourselves against the judgments of people like these.

Sometimes people invent false stories, sometimes in search of cash.

Again and again in the past thirty years, people have come forward with stories about love affairs, f**king and threats. In some cases, these stories seem to have been invented in the pursuit of cash.

Willey was trying to sell her story for $300,000. Her false accusations about one threat almost got somebody killed.

(Later, Ken Starr's successor said she had lied to investigators so much that they considered charging her with perjury. On first encounter, a wide range of upper-end pundits had sworn she was telling the truth.)

Gennifer Flowers sold her story, in various ways, for more than $500,000. There's almost no chance that her overall story was true or even made sense.

Clifford kept trying to sell her story—and finally did, for $130,000. Her current story only works if you believe the part about The Threat.

Sometimes, people invent bogus stories for cash. Sadly, our journalists seem completely unable to process this obvious fact.

Let's restate our basic learnings:

Sometimes, people invent false stories in the pursuit of big cash. Our corporate journalists, with their tiny small brains, seem to be completely unable to understand this fact.

When a pleasing claim comes along, they stampede off to assert that the claim is true. This is especially true if the claim involves smokin' hot sex, which they find insuperably dull and don't care about at all.

In these embarrassing cases, they plainly don't know if the claim is true. In Rubinesque fashion, they rarely show any signs of understanding this fact.

Did exposure to lead produce that statement by Rubin? Does such exposure explain why Lawrence treated her claim as if it was plausible, perhaps even true?

Or could it be that our human brain, even absent exposure to lead, wasn't built to handle the challenges of this modern era? This organ developed long ago, as we crawled from the swamp. Is it simply ill-equipped to handle the demands of a post-factual mass society?

We don't know to answer those questions. We do know this:

The world of Rubin and Lawrence is, in effect, a full-blown idiocracy. In our view, we've all been living in such a lapsed state since 1987.

Also this:

If we might borrow from Professor Kuhn, it's time to adopt this new paradigm about our human functioning. Our analyses will make more sense if we simply adopt, as a basic idea, the notion that our journalists are now, functionally, a pre- or post-human species.

Rubin told Lawrence that she can just tell. According to major anthropologists, the pair may even believe this!

Also this, and just to be clear: Was Stephanie Clifford physically threatened?

Like you, we don't know.

In line with this obvious fact, the anthropologists have suggested that we post one more key learning:

Given the way their flawed brain works, humans are strongly disinclined to acknowledge that they don't know.

They're strongly inclined to "finish the story." They start inventing pleasing facts—facts they can't possibly know.

They especially do this on corporate cable, top anthropologists suggest.

FILLED FULL OF LEAD: Top pundits just knew she was telling the truth!

FRIDAY, MARCH 30, 2018

Conclusion—The stampede we rode in on:
An incomparably clever observer might call it the press corps stampede we rode in on.

The events in question take us back to the spring of '98. In January of that year, reports had surfaced alleging that President Clinton had engaged in consensual sex with a "21-year-old intern."

The young woman in question had actually been a 22- to 24-year-old federal employee during the sporadic affair. Engaging in their favorite pastime, journalists kept improving the story in the manner described all through the resulting year of impeachment, which led to the war in Iraq and uncountable numbers of dead children in various parts of the world.

That said, whatever! It was a time of excitement and joy all through the upper-end press corps. Ever since 1987, when they finished Gary Hart, they had devoted themselves to a basic idea—journalists were principally charged with the task of catching major pols, but mainly just Dems, in the act of having a girl friend.

In the case of Hart, they'd accomplished this task by hiding in the bushes outside his Washington home. This new case was especially provident, since it let the journalists pretend that they were really concerned with some form of workplace harassment, or perhaps even with some type of assault.

In January of this year, the claim about Clinton and Monica Lewinsky had sent these people into a tizzy. Two months later, the story suddenly improved.

It was heaven! On March 15, Kathleen Willey, a fomer White House volunteer, "alleged on the TV news program 60 Minutes that Bill Clinton had sexually assaulted her on November 29, 1993, during his first term as President."

We're quoting the leading authority on this TV event. As noted, Willey's allegation was made on 60 Minutes, a TV show that never shies from boosting its ratings in such dramatic ways.

To state the obvious, Willey was making a highly consequential charge. She wasn't alleging some sort of consensual act, the type of behavior that had driven them wild in the case of Hart.

Willey was alleging a type of assault—and sure enough! The boys and girls of the mainstream press just knew she was telling the truth!

Try to understand! None of them had ever set eyes on Willey before this TV show aired. They had no apparent way to judge the truthfulness of her claims, or to judge her general honesty.

That said, Willey was conventionally attractive, and she plainly seemed to be upper-middle class. On this basis, a gang of lovesick boys mounted steeds to stampede off and swear that she was plainly telling the truth.

Already, a reader may perhaps be able see some similarities to a more recent TV event. That said, let's return to the great stampede of 98, the stampede we rode in on.

This site was about to launch when Willey made her appearance. By the previous fall, we had already decided that the lunacy of the upper-end press had become too vast to ignore.

We had no way of knowing how much crazier their conduct was about to become—no way of knowing how many tens of thousands of children would die around the world.

That said, their lunacy was vast when Willey appeared on 60 Minutes, as was their love for the conventionally attractive, well-dressed Clinton accuser.

Truth to tell, the lovesick boys had no way of assessing her general honesty. They also didn't know what lay ahead:

They didn't know that Willey's account would be challenged, under oath, by a White House co-worker who was helping lead the charge against Clinton in the Lewinsky matter.

They didn't know that a later accusation by Willey would be shown to be flatly false, though not before it came this close to getting a journalist killed.

They didn't know that Willey would end up earning her dough as a crackpot right-wing talk show host pimping the Clintons' many murders. Perhaps most strikingly, they didn't know that Ken Starr's successor in the pursuit of Bill Clinton would formally say, in his final report, that he and his office had considered charging Willey with perjury, she had lied to them so often.

Oof! The lovesick boys had no way of knowing how Willey would turn out. That said, they went off on one of their stampedes. They stood in line to tell the world how truthful their fair lady was.

They all just knew she was telling the truth! George Will started the clowning on March 17, telling readers this:
WILL (3/17/98): With Kathleen Willey's "60 Minutes" appearance, the crisis of Clinton's presidency reached an adult moment..What kind of person can continue the intellectual contortions necessary to sustain doubt about who is lying?...

Willey’s painful—for her, and for her civilized viewers—appearance drew dignity from her patent reluctance, and her grown-up’s incredulity about Clinton’s crudity at the time and his continued mendacity.
Will had never set eyes on Willey before—but he knew who was being mendacious! Who could doubt it, he asked.

Others scrambled to voice the same judgment. William Safire knew Willey had been truthful. “Here was no slick Willey,” he wittily said in his New York Times column on March 19.

Maureen Dowd endorsed Willey too, comparing her to Anita Hill. In the Washington Post, Michael Kelly penned a loud rant in which he affirmed every word Willey said, sarcastically pretending he didn't believe the new accuser.

In USA Today, Walter Shapiro accused the White House of “smears” for suggesting that Willey wasn’t being truthful—although Shapiro himself was only “95 percent convinced Willey’s charges are true.”

Shapiro's column took the form of an imaginary memo to a Democratic senator. We like Walter a lot, from the old days! But the column started like this:
SHAPIRO (3/18/98): It is time that a senior Democrat like yourself expressed publicly the repugnance that so many in the party privately feel about the president's conduct toward Kathleen Willey.


We all realize what the easy road is. Duck the questions whenever possible and, if cornered, mouth bland platitudes like, "These are serious allegations. But President Clinton has denied them. And until all the facts are in, I am in no position to make a judgment."

But we both know that Willey was a highly credible witness both in her reluctant deposition in the Paula Jones case and her appearance on 60 Minutes. This, of course, has not prevented the White House from trying to smear her as they practice their desperate scorched-earth tactics to survive another news cycle.
In Shapiro's column, Willey was "highly credible," the White House was engaging in "smears." His imagined senator shouldn't take "the easy road," in which he would say that he didn't yet know who was telling the truth.

Remember, these pundits were vouching for an accuser on whom they had never set eyes in their lives. Beyond that, they were endorsing a person whose odd financial and personal problems were already being described in some newspapers’ news pages.

Nonetheless, the swoon for the plainly truthful Willey swept all through the press. No one fell harder than Chuck Lane, then editor of the New Republic.

Lane may have copied off Safire's paper. His wonderfully witty column was headlined “Unslick Willey:”
LANE (4/6/98): Kathleen Willey is pretty clearly telling the truth about what happened between her and Bill Clinton on November 29, 1993. And the episode is pretty clearly a far more offensive matter than Clinton’s alleged dalliance with Monica Lewinsky. With Monica, it was consensual. The president’s advance toward Willey even included a modest measure of physical force...So the president is a groper and a liar. He must be held accountable.
Lane didn't even attempt to say how he knew that Willey was telling the truth, or how he knew that Clinton had used force, or how he knew that Clinton had been “a groper.” As he joined the stampede, he didn’t devote a single word to the task of defending the judgments he said were "pretty clear."

Lane's certainty was especially striking because he mentioned several factors which were already raising doubt about Willey's overall deportment.

Did the stampede these pundits performed perhaps resemble a current stampede? This fleeting passage from Lane's essay may seem familiar too:
LANE: Not to mention the fact that Willey’s lawyer tried to sell her story to a publisher for $300,000—because she’s still desperate for cash to make restitution to a client from whom her late husband had allegedly embezzled and whom Willey declined to pay from the proceeds of her husband’s $1 million life insurance policy.
Willey had been trying to sell her story before she told it on 60 Minutes! Please note:

Despite receiving a million dollar insurance payout, she had stiffed a creditor for some undisclosed amount! Still, the lovesick boys of the mainstream press stampeded off, yelling and hollering in support of her obvious truthfulness.

We're only showing you the words of a few of these stampeders. They'd never set eyes on Kathleen Willey, but they knew she was telling the truth!

The children behaved this very same way when Stephanie Clifford appeared on 60 Minutes two Sundays ago. Displaying the type of undisguised dumbness which can only exist in an idiocracy, they swore that the feminist hero Clifford was plainly telling the truth.

In a more rational world, these children would have learned from the earlier stampede, in which pundits rushed to stupidly swear that Willey just had to be truthful.

In our world, they didn't learn from that prior debacle because of what happened next:

Starting in the fall of 1998, Willey's exciting claims became subject to serious impeachment. First came the sworn testimony of Linda Tripp, who said that Willey had long plotted and primped, hoping to generate a love affair with Bill Clinton.

Tripp's sworn testimony reached the world as part of a very large, famous "document dump"—and the press corps hurried to cover it up. Very few people ever heard what Tripp had said, under oath, about her workmate and friend.

(For more detailed reporting, click here.)

The deranged boys and girls of our mainstream press corps basically shut this news down. A code of silence was in effect, protecting the accuser they loved.

More potential embarrassments followed. They too were disappeared.

In January 1999, Elizabeth Holtzman appeared on Hardball and mentioned the fact that Tripp had challenged Willey's claims. Chris Matthews, who pandered to Willey for years. landed on Holtzman like a ton of bricks, denying her accurate statements.

Holtzman’s accurate statements on Hardball disappeared down the memory hole. Pundits were able to keep pretending that Willey’s treasured claims were perfectly credible.

Then came the gruesome event in May 1999, when Willey accused journalist Cody Shearer of threatening her in the dark outside her home.

Finally! A frightening physical threat! Does this sound familiar too?

Willey's accusation was made on Hardball, thanks to Chris Matthews' disgraceful behavior. In the wake of this disgraceful cable event, Shearer was able to prove that he had been three thousand miles away on the evening of the alleged threat—but not before a mentally ill man with a gun had been arrested at his Washington home, where he had apparently gone in order to shoot him.

Willey and Matthews could have gotten Shearer killed. You've never heard about this disgraceful event 1) because discussions of gruesome press corps misconduct simply aren't allowed and 2) because the press corps [HEART] accusers.

Eventually, Robert Ray dropped his bomb on Willey's head. In March 2002, he released his final formal report on the Clinton investigations.

Oops! Ray’s report included a special appendix about Willey. In it, Ray noted that Willey “had given substantially different accounts in two sworn statements and had lied to the FBI about her relationship with a former boyfriend” (Ken Fireman, Newsday, 3/7/02).

In Nina Totenberg’s words, Ray “concluded that it was impossible to convict based on Willey’s words [because] she’d lied so many times, including to the prosecutors.”

To all appearances, Ray had even considered prosecuting the press corps’ dearly beloved. “Following Willey’s acknowledgment of the lie, the Independent Counsel agreed not to prosecute her for false statements in this regard," Ray strikingly wrote as part of his formal report.

Did the boys and girls of the mainstream press corps report this startling news? After years of sweating by Willey's words, did they have the decency to tell the public what Ray had said?

Surely you jest! A few news orgs offered fleeting reports about what Ray had written. Elsewhere, the code of silence held, leading to an astounding moment on CNN's Capital Gang, which was still a major program that that time.

As far as we know, no TV show ever reported what Robert Ray said. Not Brokaw; not Rather; not Jennings; not Lehrer. Loudmouth Chris Matthews—who pimped his darling Willey for years—never told his Hardball viewers that his most beloved, dearest accuser had been disowned by Ray.

As usual, though, CNN's "gang” made a grievous misjudgment. Their behavior was comical even by press corps standards.

Ten days after Ray’s report was released, the gang aired “a Capital Gang classic to mark another Clinton anniversary.” In a truly ludicrous moment, the gang played four-year old videotape in which several pundits told the world how credible Willey was!

Ten days earlier, Robert Ray had suggested that Willey lied so much they considered charging her with perjury. But people! When the mainstream "press corps" loves you, they love you all the way!

Even when the four-year-old videotape finished playing, praise for the wonderful Willey continued. Incredibly, Al Hunt once again said, in real time, how credible she'd always been:
HUNT (3/16/02): You know, I still think that Kathleen Willey was far more credible than Paula Jones or Juanita Broderick or any of those other people. And it was about sex, Bob, you’re right, and that’s why the American people said, "Don’t impeach him."
Ten days after Ray's report, he still believed in a place called Kathleen! If these life forms didn’t exist, you really couldn't invent them.

Willey went on to a career as a crackpot right-wing talk show host. At no point were you allowed to know that those lovesick pundits had made a foolish mistake in 1998 when they swore, on first sighting, that Kathleen Willey was the world's most truthful possible person.

Little children at Slate, and everywhere else, vouched for Stephanie Clifford last week in the exact same way. They vouchedfor her about The Sex; they vouched for her about The Threat.

They gazed away from her repeated efforts to sell her story for cash. In fairness, yes, they're idiocrats, but so was the generation of corporate pundits before them.

It was just like the spring of 98! They plainly had no way of knowing, but they swore that Clifford was telling the truth! According to every international expert, such foolishness signals an idiocracy. We've all been living in one for at least thirty years.

Were the children exposed to too much lead? How about pundits like Hunt and Lane and the others who came before them?

We don't know how to answer your question. As we wait for Mr. Trump's War, it may just be that this is the way the human brain turned out.

For extra credit only: For a bit more detail about some of this, you can just click here.

What about Gennifer Flowers, you say? Idiocracy sufferers, please! Please don't even ask!

BREAKING: The New York Times goes spanning the globe!


Interviews voters in Zona:
The headline grabbed our attention.

There it was, in this morning's hard-copy New York Times. The headline went exactly like this:
In Arizona, Voters Doubt Credibility Of Porn Star
Interesting! Since every known American pundit has sworn that Clifford is even more truthful than Comey once was, we decided to see what those nay-saying voters had said.

We encountered some Standard Times Work.

Julie Turkewitz penned the report.
Below, you see the fill list of voters she quotes:
Full roster of quoted voters:
Sandi Caskey, 78, a retired General Motors employee who on Tuesday was bowling with church friends

Kathe Wilson, 67, an accountant

Bob McGunagle, 75

Cheri McGunagle, 73

Greg Newman, 49, a retired 20-year military veteran Air Force officer
As you can see, it's a skillfully chosen sample. Based on hints in the report, it seems that two to four of these people were out that day bowling with friends.

At any rate, that was it! Only five voters stated something resembling a view about Clifford's credibility. Of the five, only two or three said they didn't much believe her, depending on how you score it.

Routinely, the Times presents peculiar journalistic work. Anthropologists tell us that, on a purely scientific basis, the current New York Times can best be seen as an example of upper-class idiocracy, Hamptons-style, at work.

On line, the headline is slightly different: On line, the headline is slightly different. At present, it reads like this:
In Arizona Race, Conservatives View Stormy Daniels as a ‘Little Hard to Believe’
In the actual report, one conservative is quoted saying that. The headline writer saw the remark in paragraph 3, apparently decided to go with it.

Turkewitz makes only one fuzzy claim about the views of "many conservatives" in the district. She says they haven't changed their minds about Trump based on Clifford's statements. She doesn't attempt to say whether they believe the survivor of the alleged (ten-minute) "affair."

BREAKING: Nobody cares about The Sex, continued!


With respect to the latest excuse:
Nobody cares about The Sex! Your favorite cable pundits aren't enjoying this!

Our pundits know they must say such things, even as they fight for the right to continue discussing The Sex.

In order to maintain their pose, they invent excuses for discussing The Sex. It's really about The Threat, they say. Recently, it's also really been about The Illegal Campaign Contribution.

That $130,000 payment to Stephanie Clifford might be an illegal campaign contribution! It might bring the Trump campaign down! Pundits have been saying and suggesting this over the past few weeks.

That's why they keep discussing Clifford! It's got absolutely nothing to with that boring old topic, The Sex!

This second phony excuse may be breaking down. Fighting to restore his reputation, Anderson Cooper delivered this buzzkill to Elizabeth Holtzman last night:
HOLTZMAN (3/28/18): There's a potential violation of campaign finance laws, and I think no one push that under the rug. The fact of the matter is, if the President intended to reimburse Michael Cohen, that's a violation. If Michael Cohen in fact took money out of the Trump organization in some way, shape, or form, then you have a corporate contribution, period.

COOPER: But those kinds of violations—I mean, first of all, the FEC, it takes a long time for them and it's also—right now, there's two Democrats, two Republicans. It has to, I believe, be unanimous. It's very unlikely. And if anything, they can refer it to criminal prosecution of the Department of Justice, but it's more than traditionally it's just a monetary fine.

HOLTZMAN: Correct. I'm not saying it's a major issue but it is part of it, willing just to violate the law.
(We apologize for the bungled CNN transcript, which we can't check against tape.)

Oof! The FEC tends to be toothless, Cooper said. As for criminal prosecution of illegal contributions, most often contributions like that merely result in a fine.

As far as we know, that was all accurate. Early this morning, Slate followed with a lengthy piece by Dave Levinthal, which ran beneath these headlines:
Donald Trump Has Little to Fear From the FEC
The election commission could take years to determine whether Stormy Daniels’ payoff was an illegal campaign contribution.
Levinthal is a senior political reporter for the Center for Public Integrity. He says this second excuse for discussing The Sex is pretty much pitiful bunk.

As far as we know, that's accurate. Let us add two points:

As cable pundits have pushed this excuse to let them keep discussing The Sex, you've often heard the prosecution of John Edwards cited as a precedent. Way back when, Edwards was criminally charged with "soliciting and secretly spending more than $925,000 to hide his mistress and their baby from the public at the height of his 2008 White House campaign."

According to the AP, "Prosecutors said the spending was illegal because the 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee should have reported it on public campaign finance filings and because it exceeded the $2,300 limit per person for campaign contributions."

That sounds like what Cohen and possibly Trump have done!Eager pundits have cited this much larger bit of "hush money" as the precedent for a future criminal charge against Donald J. Trump and/or Michael Cohen.

According to this second excuse, this is why they've had to bore themselves to death talking about The Sex. This also forces cable producers to keep flashing those photos of Clifford's eye-catching body parts.

Alas! Edwards spent eight times what Cohen spent; he was found not guilty on this count at trial. Many legal observers said the trial represented an egregious case of prosecutorial overreach.

(According to Jonathan Turley, "The Justice Department stretched the campaign finance laws to the breaking point on this case. It seems intent on satisfying the public anger toward Edwards for his adultery and betrayal.")

Judgments about campaign finance violations are reached every four years. Depending on the type of incident, individuals may be criminally charged, but more often, as Cooper noted, the campaigns are assessed fines.

(Beyond that, pundits will discuss or disappear campaign violations based on prevailing group narratives. In 1996, the Dole campaign was fined more heavily than the Clinton campaign. But due to the prevailing narrative—Dole is the world's most honest man, Clinton was grossly dishonest—you heard all about the Clinton campaign, nothing at all about Dole's.)

Why don't we just accept the truth? The truth shapes us like this:

First, our pundits love discussing The Sex. If these people had their way, they would discuss nothing else. That's why it's important to keep people like Gennifer Flowers and Stephanie Clifford from hijacking our elections.

Also, cable news, and many "liberal" orgs, love flashing the type of photos which used to be considered sexist. (These photos tell the world that women are just a bunch of sexual body parts, full and complete total stop.) This is done to appeal to our small tiny brains. Few things could be more clear.

In reality, they want to discuss who Clifford f**ked in 2006. They love to flash those photos. This is the dull-witted corporate world in which we all currently live.

FILLED FULL OF LEAD: When the mainstream press corps loves you...!


Part 4—It loves you all the way:
It's been years since we heard them singing their song late at night at the Manchester Holiday Inn, during the 2004 New Hampshire Granite State primary.

Later that evening, Susan Estrich would sidle over to the comedians' table to boast about the large amount she was being paid to serve as a "Fox News Democrat."

Earlier, though, their song had rung out. We can still hear their singing today. Was the ghost of Sinatra on hand?
When the mainstream press corps loves you
It's no good unless they love you
Al-l-l-l-l the way.


Through the good or lean years
And for all those in-between years
Come what may...
We were surprised that they were so bold as to sing their song in public. It was like the scene in Casablanca where everyone sings La Marseillaise ("The Marseillaise"), though also perhaps a bit different.

That said, the accuracy of their pundit anthem was clear.

So true! When the nation's pundits decide they love you, they love you all the way. And there's no one the pundits love as much as they [HEART] those sex accusers—depending on who's being accused, of course.

What do they do when they [HEART] an accuser? They swear that every story he or she tells has the ring of truth, if not a great deal more. And so it was when Willa Paskin gazed on Stephanie Clifford, who was visiting Anderson's Playpen this past Sunday night.

The headline on Paskin's report at Slate takes the form of a tribal command.

"Believe This Woman," the headline demands. Along with everyone else in the guild, Paskin had gulped every word:
PASKIN (3/26/18): According to Daniels, in 2006, the then 27-year-old adult film star had sex with Trump, who was 60 and host of the Apprentice at the time....

Told in detail in a highly anticipated 60 Minutes sit-down with Anderson Cooper, Daniels’ version of events had the ring of truth, and the laughter too. In relating her first encounter with Trump, Daniels laughed about how much he talked about himself, as if she still couldn’t believe it: “And he’s like—’Have you seen my new magazine?’ ” she told Cooper. But the story about how she disarmed him—first asking “does that normally work for you?” and then suggesting she spank him with a magazine with his face on the cover—revealed her to be astute and feisty. She took the measure of this ridiculous person and teased him in exactly such a way that he warmed to her. He gave up the pompous pose and became, briefly, human, asking Daniels about herself.
So great! We not only got to hear a story which had "the ring of truth." We got to enjoy some laughs too!

Leading idiocracy scholars say this combination—the desire to settle for the suggestion of truth as long as we get to enjoy a few laughs—is an unmistakable indicator that a society had been hurled all the way down to full-blown idiocracy.

That said, how about it? Did Daniels' version of those events bear "the ring of truth?" According to several "close enough" scholars, it all depends on what the meaning of "have the ring of truth" is!

In several recent late-night sessions which we may have imagined, these scholars have been rather hard on Paskin's analysis of Clifford's Playpen appearance. For example:

Did Daniels' version of events "reveal her to be astute and feisty?" These experts agree that Daniels' story did portray her as astute and feisty—indeed, as almost transplendently so.

But these experts then raised an obvious point. By normal standards of interpretations, stories like this will sometimes be seen as perhaps "too good to be true," when the story is told by the person who comes out looking so astute.

Unfortunately, in modern journalism, "too good to be true" has been replaced by a contradicory bromide. Stories once deemed "too good to be true" are now mirthfully deemed "too good to check."

No skepticism concerning Clifford's self-flattering story appears in Paskin's report. She simply accepts this "perfect squelch" story as accurate, enjoying the way this new leading lady has taken the measure of Trump.

Paskin never so much as mentions the possibility that Clifford's story, however pleasing, may in fact be untrue. Indeed, as her account of Clifford's appearance continues, so does the total belief:
PASKIN: This was Daniels’ mode throughout, not going harder on Trump than was necessary. From the opening moments she insisted she was not a part of #MeToo, that their sex was consensual, that she was not a “victim,” and that to say otherwise was to undermine real victims. She then proceeded to outline a bad sexual encounter, all tied up with ideas of what women “owe” to men. Daniels didn’t want to have sex with Trump. She wasn’t attracted to him. But when she came out of the bathroom of his hotel room to see him, in her words, “perched on the bed,” she told Cooper, “I realized exactly what I’d gotten myself into. And I was like, ‘Ugh, here we go.’ [Laugh.] And I just felt like maybe—[Laugh.] it was sort of—I had it coming for making a bad decision for going to someone’s room alone. And I just heard the voice in my head, ‘Well, you put yourself in a bad situation and bad things happen, so you deserve this.’ ” Daniels’ certainty that, in this situation, the only thing to do was just go ahead and have sex with this creepy old guy was kind of heartbreaking. She is also extremely unself-pitying. All I could think was: “Cat Person”!
The international experts with whom we spoke, or with whom we believe we may have spoken, found additional fault with this passage.

These scholars said they had no idea when Clifford "insisted...that to say otherwise was to undermine real victims" of sexual misconduct.

"That simply wasn't part of Clifford Playpen narrative," one thought leader sadly noted, adding that it mainly serves, in this Slate piece, to make Clifford seem more feminist-friendly.

That said, the scholars were far more critical of Paskin's rush to accept Clifford's story on its face—her story about why she ended up f**king Donald J. Trump in the first place.

Daniels' story could be true, these scholars generously said. Any story could be! That said, why isn't this story equally plausible, one straight-talking academic star asked:
Daniels didn’t want to have sex with Trump. She wasn’t attracted to him. But she had gone to his bungalow with career advancement in mind. When he told her he might be able to use her on his brainless network TV show, she decided to urge the old coot along in a traditional fashion.
Why isn't that account as plausible as the story Clifford told? That's what this well-known authority figureasked, while noting that Paskin had adopted a more modern traditional stance:

She had decided to [HEART] the accuser! The mainstream press corps has reflexively adopted that stance for decades now, this leading authority said.

The scholars took special note of the last remark in the passage we've posted.

"All she could think was Cat Person?" According to this consortium, the inability of upper-end journalists to think of more than one possibility is a leading indicator of a society's decline to idiocracy.

We thought these scholars, who we may have imagined, were extremely convincing. Clifford's story could be essentially true, they said—but it could be total bullshit! Did she later receive a physical threat? Stating what is blindingly obvious, that helpful claim could also be totally false!

Thoughts like these will rarely occur to the modern American pundit. The modern pundit is principally known for his or her love for sex accusers, for the tendency to [HEART] those accusers the whole dang freaking way.

"Believe this woman," these modern pundits will quickly declare. In Manchester, it was the liquor speaking. More often, expert now allege, it may just be the lead!

We choked on the conclusions these lauded experts reached. The stampede to believe what Clifford said is a standard sign of idiocracy, these laureates sadly said.

We didn't want to believe the scholars, and yet that song rang out in our heads. In truth, they've behaved exactly this way with the sex accusers for more than twenty years.

In one profoundly embarrassing episode, they stampeded off to believe NAME WITHHELD in the spring of '98. That embarrassing pundit stampede also followed a 60 Minutes appearance!

It ended in a remarkable way. You weren't encouraged to know that.

Tomorrow: You gotta believe! The Great Stampede of The Lovesick Boys in March 1998

BREAKING: From the land of tabloid cable!


Lovebirds almost reunite:
Do we live in an idiocracy?

Yesterday, in her lengthy first segment, Nicolle Wallace informed us that Melania Trump "doesn't look happily married."

"We aren't enjoying this," she actually said at one point.

At 4:19, she took her first commercial break. "When we come back, politics and the porn star," she excitingly said.

That was the only topic she and her panel had discussed to that point.

Meanwhile, on today's Morning Joe, the lovebirds began to reunite. For the first time since March 16, they were on the show together, though not in the same physical space.

Major surprise! Joe has tended to see Avenatti as a clown from the start. Back on March 16, we got the impression that this approach offended Mika, who had entered "totally stricken" mode over the fellow's claims.

This morning, Mika threw Avenatti under the bus, thereby adopting Joe's stance. Apparently, all his yelling on Monday night's Anderson Cooper pushed her over the edge.

Do we live in an idiocracy? All in all, it's hard to see why an observer would ask.

BREAKING: The lovely shall be choosers, Frost said!


Vladimir Putin interfered, as did Clifford and Flowers:
All the talk about the "silencing" of Stephanie Clifford has had us thinking about The Lovely Shall Be Choosers.

It's one of Frost's most unusual poems. Frost apparently acknowledged, along the way, that the poem was about the difficult, disappointing life of his mother, Isabelle Moodie Frost, who hailed from Lawrence, Mass.

We believe we first got that idea, long ago, from a major book about Frost by Lawrance Thompson. Diane Hulett explained it like this:
HULETT: The melancholy poem questions whether the stages or "joys" in women's lives may really be nothing more than punishment for loving and serving others...

The poem depicts control of a woman's life by the superior Voice and attendant Voices, who devise a series of seven "joys" that "let her choose" but eventually result in the Voices' triumph at the expense of the woman's self-definition. The seven "joys" coincide roughly with the traditional events in a woman's life. Each "joy" is actually a secret sorrow because the woman must sublimate her desires to fulfill her role as wife and mother. At each stage, the woman "almost speaks," but time and fate prevent communication. The conspiracy between the Voice and the Voices to silence women might be read as any of a variety of forces that affect women...
The actual poem is here. Way back in 1955, Nitchie and Werner elaborated on some of the "joys" the mournful poem describes:
NITCHIE AND WERNER: Her first joy is an unalloyed one in a marriage she believes to be something special, not an ordinary wedding. But she soon finds that her husband is unworthy. Her second joy is that for a time she can conceal her disillusionment and grief from others. Her third joy is that when she can no longer do so—probably the man deserts her—she has so lost touch with her former friends that they barely notice her grief...
And so on, moving on from there.

Frost was born in 1874. This would have been the life of a woman who lived a long time ago.

Concerning the "silencing," we generally wish that someone had paid Stephanie Clifford plenty of money and had successfully "silenced" her about her exciting past alleged f**king.

As of 2011, there was no conceivable reason for her to try to sell her story about allegedly f**king Donald J. Trump. At that time, before any alleged physical threat had allegedly occurred, she was willing to bring a lot of embarrassment and pain to others, including to a 5-year-old child, for the asking price of $15,000.

This is the person we're now being asked to lionize, to see as a feminist hero. We'd be inclined to see her as someone who might need some help, as so many of us the humans do.

By the fall of 2016, Clifford was trying to inject herself into—you might even say "interfere with"—a presidential election. Back in 1992, Gennifer Flowers had done the same thing, hijacking the 1992 primary race with a thrilling, dramatic story about her torrid love affair with Bill Clinton, a thrilling story which was almost surely invented, bogus, false.

Flowers scored well over $500,000 for the thrilling story she told, almost knocking Clinton out of the race in the process. By 1999, she was selling brain-damaged stories about all the people the Clintons had murdered, having written about what an ugly scut the big fat first lady was.

This is who Flowers was. Along the way, idiocrats like Frank Rich had decided to lionize her for her amazing truthfulness. By 1998, almost all the upper-end children were reciting this pitiful line.

Do we live in an idiocracy? When we lionize hustlers like Flowers and Clifford, it's hard to see why a person would ask.

Putin actively interfered. So did Flowers, then Clifford.

FILLED FULL OF LEAD: Was Clifford threatened with physical violence?


Part 3—Idiocrats always believe they can tell:
In line with Plato's iconic analysis, have we tumbled through five levels of the world? Have we been hurled all the way down to life in an idiocracy?

To an idiocracy triggered, perhaps, by elite exposure to lead?

The evidence continues to mount! In this morning's New York Times, we seem to be told that the most read "story" across yesterday's was an opinion column in which a 97-year-old man argued that we should try to do something we all know can't possibly be done.

That seems to have the most read "story." Our sense of horror only deepened as we then encountered this:
The Conversation


2. How Stormy Daniels Out-Trumped Trump
The day's second most-read story came from the Culture desk, where the television critic James Poniewozik assessed the "60 Minutes" interview given by the porn actress. Three of the top five reads on Tuesday concerned Ms. Daniels.
To its credit, the Times continues to post embarrassing reports about its own subscribers. To wit:

The deranged suggestion from the 97-year-old man seems to have been the "story" Times subscribers doted on most. After that, it was pretty much all Stephanie Clifford. It was The Sex, but also The Chase, pretty much all the way down!

To its credit, the Times keeps printing these exposes about its flailing subscribers. On the other hand, the Times comes out quite poorly itself in this latest report.

Good lord! Poniewozik's "story" about Clifford's interview came from the Times' "Culture desk!" According to an array of international experts, this bears the scent of idiocracy, perhaps resulting from lead.

Now we'll make an admission. Yesterday morning, an almost Sartrean nausea kept us from reading Poniewozik's "Culture desk" "story."

We first became nauseous on Monday night as we flipped through the "cable news" dial.

Rather quickly, we felt we had to turn cable off. We kept encountering displays like the one shown below, live from Anderson's Playpen.

We may have endured fifteen seconds of this. We'll highlight remarks from the brilliant barister who's now being hailed as a genius:
AVENATTI (3/26/18): Let's talk about Michael Cohen, what kind of man this is. This is the kind of guy who claimed in connection with that story that there's no such thing as spousal rape. This is a legal genius.


AVENATTI: Right. Completely false. The guy doesn't even know the law. He's a thug.

SCHWARTZ: Right, right.

AVENATTI: Your friend is a thug.

SCHWARTZ: Well, thank you. That's a million dollars, a million dollars, a million dollars.

AVENATTI: Thug. Thug.

SCHWARTZ: You know what? You're a thug.

AVENATTI: Thug, thug. He's a thug. If he was here, I would tell it to his face.

SCHWARTZ: By the way, by the way you're doctored—you doctored your lie detector test, OK? No galvanic skin response. No, I got to say this, no galvanic skin response—


SCHWARTZ: —no arm band. By the way, the photo's doctored.

There's little doubt that Michael Cohen may perhaps seem like a bit of a "thug," or may sometimes seem to be perhaps somewhat thug-like.

That said, in which of Professor Turley's classes did his student acquire those skills? So one of our analysts sadly asked, as our panel of experts soberly told us this:

"That has the plain look of idiocracy. Idiocracy all the way down."

Nauseated by these widespread behaviors, we took a pass, the following morning, on Poniewozik's "Culture desk" story. With the help of our Starbucks barista/therapist, we felt strong enough to read it today.

Same old story, we thoughtfully said. Let's break this foolishness down.

Way back in 2006, Donald J. Trump and Stephanie Clifford did, or possibly even did not, have sex, on at most one occasion.

We don't have the slightest idea why anyone would care about that at this point. Indeed, the idiocrats, to a person, seem to say that they don't care about that.

Who cares about that? they thoughtfully say. They don't care about The Sex. They care about The Threat.

The Threat, of course, bears a special status; it's only an alleged threat. That means we don't know if it happened.

No one knows if this alleged threat actually occurred. But all across the current dial, the children are doing exactly what their counterparts have done in the past:

The children very much want to keep discussing The Sex! For that reason, the children keep finding ways to let them believe the accuser.

In the current circumstance, they get to talk about The Sex because of the claim about The Threat. For this reason, the children have set off on their latest stampede, in which they work to obscure a blindingly obvious fact:

Stephanie Clifford may be lying about The Threat!

Is she lying about The Threat? We have no way of knowing. But it's The Threat which currently keeps her thrilling story alive, helping the children maintain The Chase. And to state the blindingly obvious, yes—yes, she could be lying.

Yes, she actually could be lying! Consider some points you were barely permitted to ponder in yesterday's Washington Post.

Berman and Sellers produced a bottom-of-page 4 news report in the wake of Sunday evening's session in Anderson's Playpen. Early on, they described Clifford's claim that she was physically threatened as a "revelation," idiocratically failing to see that an allegation only becomes a "revelation" if it's known to be true.

Within an idiocracy, journalism functions that way. The simplest distinctions known to the race are beyond the reach of the journalists.

The scribes had stumbled right out of the gate. For the record, the headline said this:
After Daniels's TV interview, Trump associate denies account of threats
That was "threats," in the plural. Don't ask. At any rate:

Michael Cohen's attorney had said there had been no threats. Making a long, stupid story short, we come to paragraphs 15-17, where a close associate of Daniels finally says this:
BERMAN AND SELLERS (3/27/18): Randy Spears, an old friend of Daniels’s who performed with her in many Wicked Pictures productions and helped her sell her story to Bauer Publishing, InTouch’s owner, in 2011, said she never told him about the Las Vegas threat described on “60 Minutes.”

“It could have happened and I just wasn’t privy to it,” said Spears, whose real name is Greg Deuschle.

Spears said he doubts Daniels has more evidence to produce, recalling how eager they were to substantiate the interview when it was quashed in 2011. “That would have been the perfect time to say ‘I have some texts, photos’,” Spears recalled. “She would have produced it.”
Spears could be wrong about all of that, of course. That said, there's no sign that Clifford mentioned the alleged physical threat to anyone back in the day, when it's alleged to have happened.

That doesn't mean that that it didn't occur. It helps us understand that it might not have happened, unless we [HEART] those accusers so much that nothing will ever let us see that this treasured claim might be invented.

Was Stephanie Clifford physically threatened? Like you, like all the children, we have no way of knowing. We do know that, in print editions, the Berman-Sellers news report closed with a wonderful irony.

The children don't want heroic Clifford "silenced." That said, who's zoomin' who?:
BERMAN AND SELLERS: After the Wall Street Journal broke the news of the $130,000 payment and agreement in a January 2018 report, Cohen released a statement bearing Daniels’s signature that denied the affair and the settlement report. Another signed statement was released before Daniels appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”

Daniels said on “60 Minutes” that these denials were untrue but that she signed them “because they made it sound like I had no choice.” However, she did not elaborate on whether the “they” meant Cohen or her own representatives at the time. When the second statement was released, a representative for Daniels, Gina Rodriguez, told The Washington Post that it was signed in front of her and Keith Davidson, Daniels’s then-attorney.

Davidson, now Daniels’s former attorney, said in a statement that he could not speak publicly until Daniels waived attorney-client privilege, but that he looked forward to correcting the record soon.

“I am not at liberty at this time to respond in a point-by-point fashion,” he said. “Suffice to say, I do not believe that the assertions in Ms. Daniels’ ‘60 Minutes’ interview represents a fair and accurate description of the situation.”
Wonderful clownistry! Even as the children moan about the "silencing" of Clifford, Clifford continues to silence her former attorney! She won't let him say that some of what she's currently saying is—what's the word—untrue!

He isn't asking for any money. He just wants the right to speak.

Was Stephanie Clifford physically threatened in 2011? Has she ever been threatened at all?

(If she was so frightened in 2011, why was she trying to sell her story again, this time to Slate, in 2016? These are the types of question Anderson forgot to ask!)

Like you, like all the stampeding children, we have no way of knowing the answers to these basic questions. Unlike our stampeding journalists, we don't believe patheticisms like this:
LAWRENCE (3/26/18): Jennifer, I want to get your reaction to what you saw on 60 Minutes last night, and are you in the 62 percent who believe Stormy Daniels perhaps? And where do you think we are in this story now?

RUBIN: Yeah, I'm definitely in the 62 percent!

Listen, I admire her as a woman who made her life in film, but I don't think she's that good an actress.

I think it's very hard to come across as she did, with the inflection, with the body language. You know when someone is telling you something that's true, and I think that was evident to most everyone who was watching, with the exception of the real Kool-Aid drinkers of Donald Trump.
Was it evident to everyone that Clifford was telling the truth? We think Trump is deeply disordered and profoundly dangerous, and it wasn't evident to us at all!

According to Rubin, "You know when someone is telling you something that's true!" Essentially, everyone from Poniewozik and Paskin on down has been sifting and selecting the facts and the logic to advance that basic impression:

Heroically, Clifford is telling the truth! The children are able to tell!

Clifford may be telling the truth, but she could also be lying. Having made this obvious statement, we'll add this:

We're so old that we can remember an earlier time, when an idiocratic stampede much like this one took off.

The press corps [HEART] accusers! Way back then, they all could tell that the new accuser, NAME WITHHELD, was wonderfully telling them things that were true!

They stood in line to swear on Bibles that this new well-dressed accuser was being masterfully truthful. They stood in line to say they could tell. Rubin joined that same line on Monday night, speaking to glorious Lawrence.

Way back when, with that other accuser, the children got burned very badly. That's why this early sign of idiocracy has been thoroughly disappeared.

You aren't allowed to know it happened. Tomorrow, we plan to refresh you.

Tomorrow: NAME WITHHELD was telling the truth. To a person, the children could tell!

BREAKING: An attempt to discuss graduation rates!


More bungled work at the Times:
The boxed sub-headline on the column had a gloomy feel. Specifically, here's what it said:
More poor students are going to college, but the number of graduates falls.
Frankly, it sounded bad. It sounded like the column in question concerned the nation's "poor students." It sounded like the number of college graduates among that group has been in decline.

In fact, the column wasn't about "poor" students at all. If you read some extremely tiny print beneath a graphic the column contained, you could see that the column was actually about students from "the lowest wealth group," defined as students from "the bottom 40 percent of households."

Is forty percent of the country "poor?" Increasingly, everything is possible, but the official poverty rate in 2016 was 12.6 percent.

In fact, the column in question wasn't about students who are poor; it was about kids from the lower 40 percent of the income distribution. That said, it isn't true that fewer kids from that income group are graduating from college. If you simply look at the graphic we've mentioned, it's clear that the number of college graduates in that income group has gone up, to the extent that the study in question could determine such matters.

As such, the boxed sub-headline on the New York Times column was flatly wrong, in two different ways. In fairness, the author of the column, David Leonhardt, didn't exactly make either such claim in his actual column, although he came darn close.

That isn't to say that the column stated its findings clearly. Possibly somewhat idiocratically, here's how Leonhardt began:
LEONHARDT (3/25/18): First, some good news: In recent decades, students from modest backgrounds have flooded onto college campuses. At many high schools where going to college was once exotic, it’s now normal. When I visit these high schools, I see college pennants all over the hallways, intended to send a message: College is for you, too.

And thank goodness for that message. As regular readers of this column have heard before, college can bring enormous benefits, including less unemployment, higher wages, better long-term health and higher life satisfaction.

Now for the bad news: The college-graduation rate for these poorer students is abysmal. It’s abysmal even though many of them are talented teenagers capable of graduating. Yet they often attend colleges with few resources or colleges that simply do a bad job of shepherding students through a course of study.

The result is both counterintuitive and alarming. Even as the college-attendance gap between rich and poor has shrunk, the gap in the number of rich and poor college graduates has grown. That shouldn’t be happening.
We'll call that a New York Times classic:

In his opening paragraph, Leonhardt says he's discussing "students from modest backgrounds." He never explains what that means.

By paragraph 3, a change has occurred. Now we're told that he is discussing "poorer students." Though this description is remarkably vague, it still isn't exactly wrong.

In paragraph 4, he goes all the way. We're now told that we're discussing "rich and poor," more specifically that we're discussing "the number of rich and poor college graduates."

In fact, we aren't discussing "poor college graduates." We're never told who we're really discussing—students who come from homes in the bottom 40 percent.

In fairness, none of this actually matters. It doesn't matter because nothing of substance actually turns on anything that's ever said in New York Times opinion columns, or anywhere else in the paper.

The paper exists to fill us with sop, and to convey a good upper-class impression. Plainly, no one seems to care if the newspaper's work is even marginally accurate.

Presumably, it would be good to create a world in which more kids from modest or even poverty backgrounds could succeed in public school and then go on to succeed in college. That said, let's be real. Nothing you read in the New York Times will ever serve that end.

The paper's education reporting has been a joke for as long as we've been reading the paper. They finally reassigned Motoko Rich away from the education beat, where she made so many astonishing errors. But nothing you read in the Times about public schools is likely to ever make sense.

Also this—no one who reads the New York Times gives a flying fig or felafel about kids "from modest backgrounds." If you can't see that from reading the paper, there's a chance that you, like Donald J. Trump, don't know how to read at all.

Leonhardt is supposed to be one of the Times' bright ones. That said, the boxed sub-headline on his column is bogus in two major ways.

On the brighter side, it seems to make a gloomy claim about the state of education today. That's all the Times has ever asked of work in this general field.

Late in his column, Leonhardt says the college graduation gap "makes the United States a less fair country." We'd say that employing scribes like Leonhardt makes the country less fair.

Leonhardt says he'll be writing columns about ways to address the problem he so murkily describes. Will he have some good ideas? Given the track record of his paper, would any person who was sane actually take that bet?

Suggestions from the assignment desk: Where did Stormy go to high school? Who was she blanking back then?

BREAKING: Robert Samuelson, rank spoilsport!


Why can't these losers calm down:
We're so old that we can remember when people were deeply afraid because Donald J. Trump had hired the crackpot war-monger John Bolton.

Actually, that fear was widespread last week.

"John Bolton's extremism could lead the country to catastrophe?" So said the Washington Post's editorial board. By Sunday, even George Will was tagging Bolton as "the country's second most dangerous man."

Quite a few people said things like that toward the end of last week. Then along came Stormy's visit to Anderson's Playpen. All our fears faded away.

We got to simper and play and enjoy ourselves, in our accustomed manner. Entertainment ruled again, as did The Sex and The Chase.

What, us worry? Stormy and her reptilian lawyer were chasing our blues away.

After that, how sad! Along came Robert Samuelson with yesterday's worrywart column in the Washington Post. He began by quoting a joint Homeland Security/FBI memorandum from March 15:

"This alert provides information on Russian government actions targeting U.S. Government entities as well as organizations in the energy, nuclear, commercial facilities, water, aviation and critical manufacturing sectors."

You're right! Unpleasant words like "energy" and "nuclear" were plainly included there!

The evening of that joint release, Rachel Maddow interviewed a New York Times reporter, Nicole Perlroth, about the new memorandum. Yesterday, Samuelson started his column like this:
SAMUELSON (3/26/18): One curiosity of the cyber-age is that the American public seems relatively unconcerned by what, arguably, is the biggest threat from the Internet: attacks on the nation's "critical infrastructure"—the electric grid, payment networks and water systems, among others.

The reaction to the recent DHS-FBI "alert" is a case in point. The report received middling media attention the day it was issued—and then coverage virtually vanished. Americans and their news outlets seem more preoccupied with President Trump's endless political crises and Russia's interference with the 2016 election.

No one—well, no one except the president and his most ardent supporters—denies that these matters are important. But they may ultimately be less important than the disorder or chaos inflicted by a full-scale cyber-assault on the institutions and networks that sustain everyday life.
It sounds like this might be important. That said, we were struck by Samuelson's remark about "Americans and their news outlets" and about "the American public."

According to Samuelson, we Americans—and our news outlets—are too preoccupied with The Chase to pay attention to matters which may well be more significant. Similarly, fear about the Bolton appointment flared extremely large last week, then quickly faded away.

For our money, Samuelson is behind the times when he points to The Chase—to "President Trump's endless political crises and Russia's interference with the 2016 election"—as the source of our distraction. At present, our news outlets—especially on "cable news"—are much more preoccupied with The Sex, and with Stephanie Clifford's amazingly large body parts.

We just put on cable TV. CNN was discussing a serious bit of breaking news from Louisiana. On MSNBC, we were being entertained and deeply pleasured by wholly gratuitous video of Stephanie Clifford's body parts—body parts which signal a deeply retrograde sexual politics on the part of the horrible people who run that corporate concern.

As Clifford vamped and pimped her parts on videotape, Katie Phang and Chris Jansing were excitedly discussing—what else?—The Chase. We live in a time of idiocracy, but also in a time when everyone, even Jansing, is being dragged all the way down by the endlessly retrograde people in charge of MSNBC.

Samuelson ended his column as shown below. He didn't mention The Sex:
SAMUELSON: The Internet represents a permanent change in the international order. It has created new avenues for conflict and social breakdown, both at home and abroad. It has altered the nature of warfare in constantly evolving ways. We need to prepare national defenses just as we would for a conventional attack. We can't pretend this is a bad dream that will vaporize when we awake.

I admit that I thought the DHS/FBI memo would be the catalyst that crystallized public opinion.
People would recognize that our adversaries are messing not only with our political ideals but also with fresh water, reliable electricity and accurate medical records. Public opinion would shift from indifference to outrage, making possible a more aggressive response.

It hasn't happened. What is certain is this: If we fail to act, we will have only ourselves to blame for the consequences.
He didn't mention The Sex. But the slimy people within our news orgs are actively chasing and selling The Sex. When we die in Mr. Bolton's War, they'll die with their [BLEEPS] in their hands.

They'll be airing retrograde video of their favorite tool flashing her oversized body parts. Even Jansing is willing to front such undisguised bullshit now.

FILLED FULL OF LEAD: Key sign of idiocracy!


Part 2—Stampede to avow true belief:
Sacred Plato wrote about a wide array of polities. According to a handful of experts, it's possible that he may have overthought the subject a bit.

At any rate, he claimed that "a state made up of different kinds of souls will, overall, decline from an aristocracy (rule by the best) to a timocracy (rule by the honorable), then to an oligarchy (rule by the few), then to a democracy (rule by the people), and finally to tyranny (rule by one person, rule by a tyrant)," at least according to the leading authority on his thinking.

(Other scholars have reached similar conclusions. See, for example, Lee, Translator's Introduction.)

Plato may have been right about some or much of what's presented above. Experts say he may have been wrong about the shadows on the wall of the cave, which hasn't yet been discovered.

Most strikingly, he never wrote about idiocracy (rule by elites once exposed to lead), the form of government in which we may now be trapped.

Are we moderns living in an idiocracy, as Judge has suggested? According to international experts, the signs are all around us.

Yesterday, we cited one trivial but unmistakable sign from Saturday's New York Times. This afternoon, we'll puzzle about the puzzling presentation the newspaper built around David Leonhardt's newest column.

These, of course, are minor signs. They're the daily markers of idiocracy which no subscribers seem to notice, especially once they've swallowed the floundering newspaper's daily list of that day's "Noteworthy Facts."

These are all minor signs of widespread mental calamity. In the wake of Stephanie Clifford's Sunday appearance on Anderson [Cooper]'s Playpen, we're met by a more definitive marker of idiocracy:

We're met by a stampede to assert total belief in claims which may be false.

What does a full-blown idiocracy look like? In part, it looks like the second of these CNN survey questions, on which "cable news" fed last night:
Q23. As you may have heard, two women are currently pursuing lawsuits seeking to nullify agreements they made which prevent them from talking about any relationships they may have had with Donald [J.] Trump. Both women received monetary compensation as part of the agreement. Do you think those women should be free to talk about any relationships with Donald Trump, or do you think the agreements should remain in place?

Q24. In reports before the agreements were put into place, both women have said that they had relationships with Donald [J.] Trump which were sexual and occurred during Trump’s marriage to Melania Trump. Donald Trump has denied any sexual relationship with these two women. In general, do you believe the women, or do you believe Trump?
"In general," 62 percent of respondents said they believe the women; a smaller number, 21 percent, said they believe Trump.

Sixteen percent said they had no opinion, at least no opinion in general.

The survey was taken before Stephanie Cliffotrd alleged that she was physically threatened in a parking lot in 2011, an allegation she hadn't made in the past. Respondents weren't asked if they believed that new pleasing claim in particular.

According to various experts, in nations which aren't yet idiocracies, 100 percent of respondents would respond to that possible question 1) by saying they have no freaking idea if she was threatened, and 2) by asking why you'd ask them such a dumb question.

In an idiocracy, these same experts say, an elite stampede will occur. More specifically, journalistic elites will attempt to top each other in their avowals of total belief in everything that's ever been said by the new favored personage. According to these academics, such perfervid avowals of belief may soon look something like this.

(Page one headline: "Daniels' Interview Makes It Easy To Believe Everything She Said About Trump." Precisely, one expert said.)

Needless to say, the fact that international experts adopt this position doesn't necessarily mean that their expert assessment is accurate. Troublingly, though, this type of stampede has plainly taken place in the wake of Clifford's Playpen appearance.

(Anderson's Playpen is a licensed, "evening hours" successor to the earlier Pee-wee's Playhouse.)

Children from the very best schools have stampeded to assert their belief in the new preferred personage. In one comical but troubling highlight, new liberal hero Jennifer Rubin seemed happy to tell Lawrence this on last evening's Last Word TV program:
LAWRENCE (3/26/18): Let's get Jennifer in here for a second.

Jennifer, I want to get your reaction to what you saw on 60 Minutes last night, and are you in the 62 percent who believe Stormy Daniels perhaps? And where do you think we are in this story now?

RUBIN: Yeah, I'm definitely in the 62 percent!


RUBIN: Listen, I admire her as a woman who made her life in film, but I don't think she's that good an actress.


I think it's very hard to come across as she did, with the inflection, with the body language.

You know when someone is telling you something that's true, and I think that was evident to most everyone who was watching, with the exception of the real Kool-Aid drinkers of Donald Trump.
Click here, move to 8:45. Trigger warning: appearance by Avenatti, complete with remarks about chess!

According to an array of experts, all the signs of idiocracy were present in last night's exchange.

We start with the participants' failure to draw distinctions between various claims by Clifford. In an idiocracy, elites believe everything a preferred party says. No attempt will be made to distinguish between different statements.

According to our international consortium, the chuckling sense that this is an entertainment is another troubling sign.

That said, the experts focused on Rubin's confident assertion that "you know when someone is telling you [the truth]." That assertion makes idiocracy hard to deny, leading scholars morosely said.

The experts mentioned other worrisome factors. The insistence that everyone else is a Kool-Aid drinker is said to be an obvious sign of idiocracy. Then too, the experts cited some troubling aspects of Rubin's very identity.

Here's what the experts said:

Not long ago, Rubin was regarded by liberals as one of the craziest Others. She was a stone-cold conservative crank, until Donald Trump came along.

Now, Rubin is one of the many conservative figures behind whom the liberal world marches, huddles and cowers. According to these leading authorities, these conservative figures provide the intellectual leadership the liberal world knows it can't produce from within.

"These are all clear signs of idiocracy," one full professor assured us. "Plato never used the term, but without any question, he should have."

We found this analysis sobering. That said, a stampede of avowed belief was taking place all over the pundit corps last night. And we're so old that we can remember other times when our elites staged such ardent stampedes.

Have their brains been destroyed by exposure to lead, as Kevin Drum has been saying in private? Or is the explanation for their behavior perhaps a bit simpler?

Could it be that the limited human brain just wasn't designed for an era like this? Tomorrow, we'll continue our exploration, looking at additional samples of the current idiocratic stampede.

Tomorrow: Inevitably, some facts which have been disappeared

Thursday: A previous pathetic stampede

BREAKING: Clifford didn't want to do it!

MONDAY, MARCH 26, 2018

Plus more of her "wildest new claims:"
During the disastrous 2016 campaign, Anderson Cooper played pool boy to Donald J. Trump on several striking occasions.

It was good for ratings, then Trump got elected. Now he's playing pool boy to Donald J. Trump's sex accusers. That includes Stephanie Clifford, who didn't want to have sex with Trump, but felt she had pretty much had to:
CLIFFORD (3/25/18): I asked him if I could use his restroom and he said, "Yes, you know, it's through those—through the bedroom, you'll see it." So I—I excused myself and I went to the, the restroom. You know, I was in there for a little bit and came out and he was sitting, you know, on the edge of the bed when I walked out, perched.

COOPER: And when you saw that, what went through your mind?

CLIFFORD: I realized exactly what I'd gotten myself into. And I was like, "Ugh, here we go." (LAUGHS) And I just felt like maybe— (LAUGHS) it was sort of—I had it coming for making a bad decision for going to someone's room alone and I just heard the voice in my head, "Well, you put yourself in a bad situation and bad things happen, so you deserve this."
"I realized exactly what I'd gotten myself into?" Gullible customers, please!

According to Clifford's exciting story, she managed to leave without having sex the second time she went to Trump's room. ("I just took my purse and left.") Assuming any of this is true, she could have done so the first time as well.

If she did have sex that first time, it was because she wanted to, or because she wanted something else. Or at least, so it would perhaps maybe possibly seem.

Cooper challenged no statements by Clifford, asked no real questions. She didn't want to tell the story for money? Then why did she try to sell the story in 2011 for $15,000, then try to sell the story again in 2016, this time to Slate?

Perhaps there would have been a good answer. As when he interviewed Trump in 2016, the pool boy didn't ask.

(In fairness, we agree. He's likable and conventionally good-looking.)

Clifford and Cooper got along well; sometimes it's like that with grifters. For today, let's close our discussion by thinking about a basic, bone-simple distinction, a distinction you meet every day.

At New York magazine, Margaret Hartmann was apparently following the interview in real time. This is the way her piece is headlined on the magazine's Daily Intelligencer site:
What We Learned From the Stormy Daniels 60 Minutes Interview
Did we "learn" anything from the interview? Only if Clifford's statements are true—and at present, there's no particular way to make such assessments.

It may be that most of her claims are true. But at present, there's no real way to know that her statements aren't false.

Hartmann, a professional journalist, shows few signs of understanding any of that. Here's the way her lengthy, rollicking piece begins:
HARTMANN (3/25/18): The Stormy Daniels 60 Minutes interview provided just what you’d expect from a woman who knows how to handle the media as well as she does: a few revelations to fuel the scandal surrounding her alleged 2006 affair with Donald Trump, and a promise that there’s more to come.

Trump probably wouldn’t have been able to block CBS from airing the interview (though he reportedly considered trying), and it seems Daniels is confident that her nondisclosure agreement will be voided—though Trump’s attorneys claim she already owes him at least $20 million. She told Anderson Cooper that she’s willing to accept the legal risks to clear up the rumors that have been circulating since the story broke in January. “I was perfectly fine saying nothing at all, but I’m not okay with being made out to be a liar, or people thinking that I did this for money,” she said.

The interview’s biggest revelation was Daniels’s claim that after sharing her story with In Touch Weekly magazine in 2011, a man approached her and made what she interpreted as a physical threat, telling her to “leave Trump alone,” then looking at her infant daughter and saying, “It’d be a shame if something happened to her mom.”
That "revelation" about the physical threat? Stating the obvious, it's only a "revelation" if the alleged threat actually did occur.

Did the alleged threat really occur? Stating the obvious, there's zero way of knowing that, and Clifford's a fairly obvious possible semi-grifter. But Hartmann blusters straight ahead, showing few signs of knowing such things. When the children type up "stories" like this, "claims" tend to meld with "revelations," full entertaining stop.

As Hartmann continued, so did her childish work, marked by her childish inability to draw even the simplest distinctions. Why is your nation currently sliding into the sea? In part, because children like Hartmann have been behaving this way for at least the past thirty-one years:
HARTMANN (continuing directly): If true, there could be serious legal consequences for Trump and his lawyer, Michael Cohen. And while Cooper later revealed that there are “many, many tawdry details which we did not include in the story because it’s just, you know, that’s not our interest,” there were a few more tidbits about the president’s alleged sexual proclivities. Here are the wildest new claims:
"Here are the wildest new claims!" The childish behavior of people like Hartmann strikes us as a major new anthropological mystery. What explains the tendency of journalistic elites to behave in such childish ways?

(In Hartmann's piece, the first of the "wildest new claims" is this: "Spanking Trump With His Own Magazine Cover Wasn’t His Idea." The presentation, in bold headline form, seems to assume that this alleged spanking really did occur. Hartmann doesn't know if the spanking occurred, but keeps obscuring this fact.)

Mother and Father sent Hartmann to Wellesley in the class of 2006. After that, they sent her to BU, where got a master's degree in journalism, emerging in 2008.

You might say she'e "been to the finest schools." Ten years later, this has led to a list of "the wildest new claims," which get presented, in large bold headlines, as if they're established facts.

How do people with every advantage end up performing like this? Could it be the lead exposure? As an alternate possibility, was our human brain simply not designed for social conditions like the ones which now obtain?

We can't answer your thoughtful questions! But on the morrow, we'll move from Hartmann to Lawrence O'Donnell. One of the links within her "wildest new claims" led us to one of his favorite recent points of excitement, an exciting suggestion he didn't bother to correct when it turned out to be wrong.

They've been doing this for the past thirty years. After they finished off Gary Hart, they did this sort of thing first to Clinton, then to Gore, then to the other Clinton. As a result of this decades-long breakdown, Mother and Father are very proud and Donald J. Trump's in the White House.

More tomorrow on Lawrence's claim. Also, what Samuelson said.

BREAKING: "Dripping with decadence and corruption!"

MONDAY, MARCH 26, 2018

Plato gets it right:
For starters, we have to compliment Joe Scarborough for some of his reactions this morning.

At the start of Morning Joe, Scarborough noted that Anderson Cooper did a miserable job last night on Anderson's Playpen. He also noted the fact that Stephanie Clifford's reptilian lawyer had vastly over-promised regarding this TV event.

For what it's worth, this was the sixth straight morning that Joe and Mika have failed to appear on the morning program together. The break-up dates to Friday, March 16, when Joe seemed to offend Mika by his mocking comments about the reptilian's lawyer slithery appearance on their TV show.

Maybe it's all a coincidence! But we got the impression that Mika was offended that day, and that Joe was backpedaling on his remarks in subsequent segments. At any rate, the lovebirds haven't been on the air together since that point in time.

(Mika hosted alone all last week, rarely mentioning Joe's absence. Because the program's called Morning Joe, this struck us as odd.)

So it goes as our failing nation's silly elites wait for Mr. Trump's War. Luckily, we have Anderson's Playpen to keep us amused as we await our fate here out here On the Beach, to borrow from Nevil Shute.

Scarborough reacted with skepticism today, as he did on March 16. Elsewhere, the children have reacted to last night's performance much as one might have expected.

Perhaps most strikingly, the children have almost wholly lost the ability to distinguish between an allegation and an established fact. (This became clear on Morning Joe as soon as Joe stopped speaking.)

Clifford has now said that she was once threatened, on one occasion in 2011, but she has offered no evidence or proof. She has advanced an allegation, an allegation which is widely being treated as an established fact.

An allegation isn't a fact! At one time, this was an easy distinction to make, one so simple that it could even be made by major American journalists.

Today, that distinction is so elusive that it's right up there with Sanskrit and whatever followed string theory, at least to judge from the childish work of our "journalist actors."

Needless to say, the children have failed to serve in another way. They haven't helped you remember the fact that false claims about physical threats have been made by other sex accusers in the not-too-distant past.

Back in May 1999, Kathleen Willey's false claim about being threatened came close to getting Cody Shearer killed. But this false claim was quickly hushed up at the time, and it's been disappeared ever since. Given their moral and intellectual disorder, our journalists [HEART] those sex accusers, and they always will.

We'll review reactions to last night's program over the next several days. For today, we thought you ought to consider last Friday's post at New York magazine by Andrew Sullivan.

Sullivan is no fan of our president, Donald J. Trump. Last Friday, his fear about our society's declining state of affairs took him back to his Plato.

As he started, he described our society to a T. Headline included, here's how Sully began:
SULLIVAN (3/22/18): America Takes the Next Step Toward Tyranny

Every now and again, when I find myself buried in the latest blizzard of invariably disturbing news emanating from the Trump White House, I go back and remind myself of the core narrative. I read Plato’s Republic again, the prism through which I first raised the alarm about Donald Trump’s emergence. The prism is essentially how a late-stage democracy, dripping with decadence and corruption, with elites dedicated primarily to enriching themselves, and a people well past any kind of civic virtue, morphs so easily into tyranny.
Sullivan got it right! We are indeed "a late-stage democracy, dripping with decadence and corruption."

Starting with people like Cooper and Avenatti, our elites are "dedicated primarily to enriching themselves" (and to increasing their fame).

Are we Americans, as a people, "well past any kind of civic virtue?"

We'd stay away from assessments like that, but that's certainly a decent description of large chunks of our own liberal elites, not to mention the belly-crawling, corrupted elites widely found Over There.

We do indeed live in a democracy which is "dripping with decadence and corruption!" Without any question, our elites do strongly tend to be "dedicated to enriching themselves."

You can see this any night of the week if you simply tune in to cable—and we refer to the cable you like!

As Sullivan's description continued, he continued getting it right. Debased elites are all around—but again and again, we can only spot the debased elites Over There, the ones on the other side.

Did Plato mention that blindness too? We throw it back to Sullivan, who may be writing from Provincetown, perhaps even On the Beach.

Where was Joe: We wondered about Joe's absence last week. For whatever it may be worth, this guy was wondering too.

FILLED FULL OF LEAD: Puzzling work in the New York Times!

MONDAY, MARCH 26, 2018

Part 1—Is it time for a new "paradigm?"
In Three Amigos, the Steve Martin character threatens to "fill [him] full of lead."

He issues this threat to El Guapo ("The Guapo"), the bad guy in the film. His statement was an adaptation of a familiar threat from decades of Hollywood westerns.

As far as we know, no one has ever filled anyone full of lead, at least not in real life. In all likelihood, it simply can't be done.

That said, the phrase threatens to adopt a new meaning thanks to a growing body of work on the effects of lead exposure—work which Kevin Drum has tried to popularize.

Needless to say, Drum has failed. Given the nature of modern American discourse, it's virtually impossible to burden our upper-end journalistic discussions with knowledge, information or facts.

(Paul Krugman proved this point a million times before Drum's attempt came along.)

That said, are modern American adults possibly "filled full of lead?" Could that explain the puzzlingly incompetent discourse our journalists have long conducted—the puzzlingly incompetent discourse which is helping to take us down?

In a recent post, Drum gave a brief synopsis of the damage lead exposure can do. He noted that contemporary teenagers are operating under a vastly reduced burden of lead exposure, as compared to their peers from the not-too-distant past.

That said, modern American adults grew up with large degrees of lead exposure. Could that explain the journalism which has burdened us all in recent decades? More specifically, could it explain a recent, puzzling journalistic effort from Saturday's New York Times?

In itself, the journalistic effort in question is insignificant. It was an analysis of Donald J. Trump's rambling, stumblebum remarks as he signed a $1.3 trillion spending bill last Friday afternoon.

The piece was written by Linda Qiu, the Times' official fact-checker. In our view, Qiu's work is often inexplicably poor, and it was once again in this instance.

As noted, Qiu is the official fact-checker for the most influential and famous newspaper in the world's most powerful nation. Presumably, her work is reviewed by experienced editors, or at least by someone believed to fit that description.

For these reasons, we find her constant bungles puzzling. Given her status and her position, how can her analytical work possibly be so remarkably poor?

This question entered our heads, for the ten millionth time, when we rad Qiu's first critique of Trump's rambling remarks from last Friday. Qiu fact-checked only three statements by Trump.

Here's how her first fact-check started:
QIU (3/24/18): ''This will be, actually, the largest pay increase for our incredible people in over a decade.''

This is imprecise and requires more context.

Mr. Trump's claim, referring to American military personnel, is slightly exaggerated. The spending bill provides a 2.4 percent pay increase for troops, the largest since the 3.4 percent pay increase that was enacted in 2010, according to the Congressional Research Service. That was eight years ago.
As far as we know, Qiu's report didn't appear in any hard-copy editions. That said, it was listed and linked on Saturday's "Today's Paper: The Times in Print for Saturday, March 24, 2018" page.

In the real world, nothing will change because of what Qiu wrote in the passage we've posted. The world will little note nor long remember this passing journalistic event.

Still, we found that piece of work existentially puzzling. Here's why:

Rather clearly, Qiu's research seems to have shown that the quoted statement by Donald J. Trump was "wrong," "incorrect" or "false." We say that for this reason:

In his quoted remark, Trump said the military pay increase in question is "the largest in over a decade." But according to Qiu, the military received a larger pay increase just eight years ago.

Assuming the accuracy of Qiu's research, Donald Trump's statement was false. Qiu said the remark was "imprecise." Why in the world would someone say that? More significantly, why would the official fact-checker for the New York Times make such a peculiar assessment?

Let's review! Based on Qiu's research, Trump's statement wasn't "imprecise." His statement was actually false.

Given that fact, why in the world would any fact-checker choose to describe it as "imprecise?" More puzzlingly, why would the fact-checker at this nation's most important newspaper make such an odd assessment?

There's more! Assuming Qiu has an experienced editor, why wasn't her statement corrected? Her assessment makes no obvious sense. Why didn't anyone notice?

Nothing will turn on Qiu's remark, but her remark is peculiar and puzzling. (Ironically, it displays nothing so much as an apparent aversion to linguistic precision.)

Qiu's assessment is strange. That said, this kind of work appears in the New York Times all day long, all through the paper, pretty much all the time.

Over the past thirty years, our wider journalistic discourse has virtually been defined by this kind of puzzling work. This repetitive type of work has transparently played a key role in bringing this nation down, to its current perilous state.

(In this current perilous state, our "journalists" are able to identify two categories of intellectual authorities—transparently disordered porn stars and teen-aged high school students!)

Way back in 2006, a feature film, Idiocracy, explored the prevalence of this kind of intellectual disorder in a comedy context. Less humorous is the nation's current downward spiral, which has resulted, in large part, from decades of puzzling journalistic assessments.

At some point, we may want to ask a basic question about ourselves and our failing culture. That stinging question goes something like this:

Have upper-end American adults perhaps been filled full of lead?

Have American elites been damaged by lead exposure? Has their functioning been affected to such an extent that our nation simply isn't up to the most basic tasks?

(For the record, there's an irony here concerning Qiu's age, one we'll mention tomorrow.)

Qiu's fact-check is inconsequential, but it's puzzling nonetheless. As we've noted in the past, Qiu's analyses are puzzling much of the time. It seems that her editors don't notice.

This leads to our meta-question:

How can it be that work of this type is routinely performed at the top of our nation's mainstream press corps? Given Drum's convincing work, could it be that major groups of American adults been filled full of lead, as Martin once tried to suggest?

Or should we consider another possibility? If we might borrow from Thomas Kuhn, is it time to adopt a new "paradigm?" We'll consider that point all week.

In the view of our many elite night visitors, it's all anthropology now! Is it time to adopt a new understanding of ourselves, indeed of our floundering species, as we dumbly await Mr. Trump's War, obsessing about Stormy Daniels and her enjoyable f**king?

Coming all week: Incompetent all the way down