Lawrence O'Donnell gets it right!

SATURDAY, AUGUST 24, 2019

Sullivan follows suit:
Wednesday evening, Lawrence O'Donnell got it right.

He got it right right on the air! Here's the way it went down:

Donald J. Trump had seemed to be behaving so oddly that even the children had noticed. For that reason, and to his credit, O'Donnell started his program as shown below, once he'd finished his standard cloying exchange with Rachel.

It's the highlighted part of O'Donnell's remarks to which we directly refer:
O'DONNELL (8/21/19): Well, Donald Trump is behaving like a man who sees his presidency slipping away. His re-election polls are consistently bad for him. And now, what he thought was his strongest claim to re-election, the performance of the economy, is no long area sure thing in the president`s mind and—or in reality.

And so, he is blasting out enraged tweets at the chairman of the Federal Reserve, who he appointed. He is admitting that the government might have to bail out one of the most successful companies in the history of American capitalism, Apple, because the Trump tariffs are hurting Apple so badly and the president knows that.

The global economy is beginning to stagger under the weight of the Trump tariffs, which could begin costing American voters $1,000 a year. More American voters are realizing every day they are paying the Trump tariffs and China does not pay one penny of the Trump tariffs.

The Trump White House is having panicked meetings about what to do about the economy, cutting payroll taxes, an idea the president has reportedly embraced and then rejected, and then embraced and then rejected. Some of those embraces and rejections have occurred in the same day.

But tax cuts can only be done by the Congress, and the House of Representatives will not cut payroll taxes without dramatically increasing taxes on the richest Americans. In other words, restoring the Obama tax rates on the rich to replace the Trump tax cut for the rich.

All of this is maddening to Donald Trump—and so he is behaving this week as a mad king. And that is not my phrase. That's the kind of comment about the president we are hearing and seeing everywhere now.

And so, it is one of those nights when we're going to have to take another professional look at the mental health of the president of the United States.
Say what? O'Donnell was going to "take a professional look" at Donald J. Trump's "mental health?" Is that sort of thing allowed?

On that morning's Morning Joe, three of the children had rather plainly refused to do so, apparently keeping themselves in line with company policy concerning this awkward matter. They've played it that way on Morning Joe roughly since forever.

O'Donnell was playing a different game. As he continued, he said this:
O'DONNELL (continuing directly): Former Harvard Medical School professor of psychiatry Lance Dodes joined us on this program one month into the Trump presidency, in 2017, to warn us about the president's mental health because he felt what psychiatrists call "a duty to warn."

He told us then that the president's mental condition was only going to get worse. Dr. Dodes is back with us tonight. We will hear from him later in this hour.
Dodes did appear that night. He was interviewed about Trump's mental health during one full solo segment.

You can read Dodes' remarks in Wednesday evening's transcript. In the segment which followed, you can see O'Donnell interviewing two MSNBC pundits about what Dodes said.

All too predictably, they dissembled, joked and generally talked around this important topic, which has been "incredibly taboo, and rightfully so. It's not an easy thing to talk about."

Or so one of the pundits said.

Actually, the question of Donald Trump's mental health is an extremely easy thing to discuss. You just have to avoid the careerist obedients who serve as pundits and entertainers on corporate "cable news."

You have to direct sensible, respectful questions at someone who may bring expertise to the table, while remembering that "expertise," of whatever type, is always imperfect and fallible.

That's what O'Donnell did when he spoke with Dodes. Yesterday, Andrew Sullivan followed suit. He did so in his weekly essay for New York magazine:
SULLIVAN (8/23/19): [Trump's] psychological disorder—the narcissism that guards against any hint of his own absurdity—is getting obviously worse. And it was always going to get worse. Someone with malignant narcissism has a familiar path, as Elizabeth Mika presciently wrote the week after his inauguration:

"It’s not only that he will never get better, but it is certain that he will get worse. There has never been a case of a malignant narcissist in power whose pathology improved, or even remained stable: They always deteriorate, and often rapidly, as they become drunk on (what they see as) now unlimited power and adulation."
Sullivan isn't a psychiatrist or a psychological specialist, and he knows he isn't.

Elizabeth Mika is! Like Dodes, she's one of the psychiatrists who contributed essays to The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, the 2017 book which a Yale psychiatrist compiled and the upper-end press disappeared.

The press corps has been working under the so-called Goldwater Rule. According to this ancient holding, psychiatric analysis should be banned from political journalism.

This rule dates to the 1964 presidential campaign. It's a very sound journalistic rule—until such time as a sitting president seems to be in the grip of a serious mental health problem.

On Thursday night's Hardball, a panel comprised of the usual pundits was still joking and laughing and enjoying themselves as they pretended to discuss the president's recent behavior. It's amazing to see how amusing such things can be, if you're being overpaid and you're getting TV-famous.

O'Donnell took a different approach; Sullivan followed suit. For Elizabeth Mika's fuller statement in 2017, you can (apparently) just click here.

We can't swear that she was right. But this is the saner discussion.

Rachel was clowning around last night, filling our heads with sugarplums about how great all our candidates are. Two nights earlier, Lawrence had gotten it right.

Yesterday, Sullivan followed suit. We'll leave you with this one last thought:

If Trump is suffering from some severe disorder, that's cause for pity, not loathing. We "pity the poor [metaphorical] immigrant" here. We're willing to guess that this approach would produce improved political outcomes.

We "pity the poor immigrant" here. You can try it too.

TRIBAL DECLINE: Gotham's kids outperform the rest of the state!

FRIDAY, AUGUST 23, 2019

"Entrenched segregation" to blame!:
What kinds of reporting do we liberals receive from our most revered tribal sachems?

Putting it a different way, to what extent are "elites" within our self-impressed tribe in a tragicomic state of decline?

Consider a remarkable news report in today's New York Times. It concerns the way New York City's public school students performed on this year's statewide reading and math tests.

At a glance, the news to which we refer is remarkably good. It's reported by Eliza Shapiro—and yes, we're quoting Shapiro directly. Here's what her report says:
SHAPIRO (8/23/19): The city performed slightly better than the rest of the state on English, and is now nearly even with the rest of the state on math. Some of New York’s other cities have extremely low achievement rates...
Say what? According to Shapiro's report, New York City's public school kids outscored their peers across the rest of the state in this year's English (reading) tests. Also according to Shapiro, Gotham's kids nearly matched the rest of the state in math.

We can't tell you a whole lot more about this state of affairs. Shapiro's report includes no links to statewide data from these tests. We'll assume that the statewide data aren't publicly available yet.

That said, consider how remarkable that news report seems to be! New York City's public school enrollment is roughly 70% black and Hispanic. The student enrollment in the rest of the state is roughly 65% white.

Given the norms of American public education, it would be a remarkable fact if the public school kids in New York City outperformed (or matched) their counterparts across the rest of the state! But the Times, and Shapiro, don't treat today's news as a remarkable fact.

Here's what they've done instead:

Shapiro's report wasn't placed on the front page of today's print editions. Instead, it's buried at the bottom of page A21. It didn't even make the first page of today's "New York" (local news) section!

Not only that:

Shapiro didn't begin her report with that dramatic news. Instead, she mentions it, very much in passing, in the fifth paragraph of her report.

Indeed, as you can see from the passage we've posted, Shapiro devotes exactly one sentence to this remarkable fact. Instantly, she then reports how low the passing rates were in Rochester's urban schools.

New York City's public school kids outperformed the rest of the state! If true, that seems like a bit of amazing good news. To us, it seems like the kind of news the public should get to hear.

That said, Shapiro's paper is virtually a cult when it comes to public school reporting—a cult of "entrenched segregation." That may explain why this amazing good news is quickly passed over in paragraph 5 of today's news report—a report which appears on page A21 beneath this pair of headlines:
City School Test Scores Inch Up, but Less Than Half of Students Pass
Gaps between black and Hispanic students and their white and Asian-American peers remain fixed, raising questions about school segregation.
Within the world of this crackpot cult, all roads must, by rule of law, lead us back to gloomy "questions about school segregation!" This rule has come from the tribal gods to whom these adepts bow.

According to Shapiro's report, Gotham's kids outperformed the rest of the state, but the report's main headline announces that the glass is less than half full. And how did Shapiro begin her report? Bowing low to the gods of the cult, she began her report like this:
SHAPIRO (8/23/19): Entrenched segregation, rising student homelessness and break downs in special education services: Mayor Bill de Blasio will face significant hurdles when it comes to improving the school system this fall.
Quite literally, her first two words were "entrenched segregation!" To which we'll only say, Go ahead! You're allowed to laugh this one time!

Her first two words were "entrenched segregation!" And not only that! Before too long, the New York Times' young adept was telling her readers this:
SHAPIRO: [T]he results also showed wide gaps between how black and Hispanic students have performed compared with their white and Asian-American peers: 28 percent of New York City’s black students passed this year’s math exam, compared with 74 percent of the city’s Asian-American students and 67 percent of white students.

Those disparities have remained fixed during Mr. de Blasio’s tenure, and this year’s numbers are likely to raise fresh questions about his reluctance to implement citywide integration measures.
Will this year's numbers "raise fresh questions about...citywide integration measures?" Dearest readers, of course they will! At the Times, this reaction is required by law!

Mercifully, Shapiro didn't try to link those large achievement gaps to "test prep, full stop," as she has done in the past. But even here, the takeaway has to be the need for "citywide integration."

In a system whose student enrollment is only 15% white, it isn't even especially clear what such measures might look like, or how much we might expect such measures to affect overall achievement. But all roads return to this imagined solution when Shapiro sits to type.

Imagine! Gotham kids outperform the rest of the state, and what we learn is this: the mayor needs to hurry up with "citywide integration!" No attempt is made to explain what such measures might look like. But a remarkable lede gets thrown away in service to this jealous god.

Did New York City's public school kids really outperform the rest of the state on this year's statewide tests? As best we can tell from a quick review, nothing like that has ever happened on the National Assessment of Education Progress (Naep), whose most recent available data come from the 2017 testing.

(Results from the 2019 Naep aren't available yet.)

That said, Shapiro reports that this occurred, and then she does the obvious. She shows no sign of understanding what a remarkable statement she's made.

She barely mentions this remarkable fact. Instead, she bows again to "desegregation" gods.

This is the way the world is sifted for you by this frequently crackpot newspaper. So the world continues to turn at this time of tribal decline.

Just for the record, there are several technical problems with Shapiro's report, aside from her inability to link to the actual data:

An interpretive problem lurks in the fact that 16% of students statewide refused to take the statewide tests this year. Beyond that, all such data are subject to doubt given the waves of cheating which have occurred on statewide testing programs in recent years—waves of cheating our major newspapers all avoid mentioning in their ongoing reports.

(It's generally assumed that the Naep is immune from such administrative misconduct.)

It's also true that "proficiency" levels are always subjective on tests of this type and so, therefore, are "passing rates." This doesn't mean that those achievement gaps aren't both large and real. It means that "less than half the students passed" is a gloomy-sounding statement derived from a subjective measure.

Eliza Shapiro is 28 or 29 years old. She shows few signs of technical expertise or first-hand understanding of public schools. Her editor has no background in education reporting at all.

She does show signs of membership in a journalistic cult. But this is the way our elites have often behaved in these years of tribal decline.

We'd planned to spend the day discussing executive editor Dean Baquet's recent staff meeting at the Times. We'd planned to discuss the things he said about the journalistic status of two significant word clusters: "lie/liar" and "racism/racist."

We'd planned to discuss one staffer's question about the latter term. We'd also planned to discuss the political status of the word "murder"—a topic conservatives are hearing about at the current time, while our tribe is kept in the dark.

We'll try to get to those topics some other day. For today, we decided to go with our tribe's most current propaganda load, hot off this morning's press:

According to the New York Times, Gotham's mainly black and Hispanic kids outperformed their mainly white peers from across the rest of the state! How much does a tribe have to hate black kids, and love tribal lore, to bury so striking a fact?

One other basic point: At one juncture, Shapiro says this:
SHAPIRO: The latest batch of scores, while largely encouraging, do not say much about how students have improved over time. A decade of changes to the state’s testing system have rendered years of results all but meaningless, and the new results can only be compared to last year’s, not to results from previous years.
Sad! Because the state keeps changing its tests, year-to-year comparisons can't reach past last year.

That said, it would be possible to see how well New York City students performed, compared to the rest of the state, in all past years of testing.

Did they ever outperform the rest of the state? Gotham's progress could be tracked as compared to the rest of the state.

When campaign songs were tied to gaffe culture!

THURSDAY, AUGUST 22, 2019

Anthropology Then:
Last night, Lawrence O'Donnell got something right.

Needless to say, his slacker network hasn't yet gotten around to creating a transcript of his program. So we'll have to wait another day to show you what he did.

In the meantime, we told you that the New York Times' exegesis of the various candidates' campaign songs is part of a long, dumb history. Let's recall a pitiful time when one candidate's choice of songs was tied to the press corps' beloved "gaffe culture."

During Campaign 2000, the songs one major candidate used became, inevitably, a part of this pitiful culture. Almost surely you can guess who the candidate was.

It was late October 1999. As a journalistic war picked up steam, Time magazine's Eric Pooley actually handed us this:
POOLEY (10/31/99): Except for his name and party affiliation, Al Gore has now changed just about everything a struggling candidate can change: clothes, consultants, message, manner. But his campaign theme song—the cheesy tune that blares at every Gore 2000 event—still needs work.

He started with Shania Twain's Rock This Country, but it only reminded people that the country isn't rocking for him.
Since shelving Shania, Gore has used the soul anthem Love Train—a call to unity that rings hollow with Democrats still divided about the nomination. But there's hope. At the New Hampshire "town hall" forum with Gore and Bill Bradley last week, it was obvious what song captures Gore's new mood: the old Motown hit Ain't Too Proud to Beg.

Stalking the stage of Dartmouth College's Moore Theater, grinning fiercely and sweating like the hardest-working man in show business, Gore seemed stoked enough to belt the words himself: "I know you wanna leave me,/ but I refuse to let you go." He wanted to tell voters who have dumped him for Bradley that he'll do anything to win them back.

Of course, since this was Al Gore talking, the words came out a bit differently: "I would like to have your support for me," and "Fighting for all the people—that's what I want to do," and finally, "I would like to work hard; if you elect me President, I will work hard." Which is just the Vice President's way of saying, "Please, baby, please, baby, please, baby, please."
For the record, Time magazine was still a major big deal at that time.

By rule of law within the guild, Everything This Candidate Did Was Laughably Wrong at This Time. "Rock This Country" had been wrong, oh so wrong—but so, of course, was "Love Train." Pooley went on to ridicule Gore through his creative use of the lyrics of yet another old song.

Pooley was having his fun this day in the wake of the first Gore-Bradley debate—the Dartmouth event at which the mainstream press corps, isolated in a separate press room, were reported to have hissed, jeered and booed every word Gore said.

In his mocking "news report," Pooley became the first of three establishment journalists to describe what happened inside that press room that night. In fairness, Pooley seemed to be so dumb he didn't seem to understand that what he was describing here was vast journalistic misconduct:
POOLEY: Last week the ache was unmistakable—and even touching—but the 300 media types watching in the press room at Dartmouth were, to use the appropriate technical term, totally grossed out by it. Whenever Gore came on too strong, the room erupted in a collective jeer, like a gang of 15-year-old Heathers cutting down some hapless nerd.
According to Pooley, the 300 media types only erupted in their collective jeer "whenever Gore came on too strong." Here at this site, we'd heard a somewhat different story from a mainstream scribe who called us from Dartmouth minutes after the debate was done.

Two other reports did surface. On Monday, November 1, the Hotline's Howard Mortman stated to us, on a cable news show, that "the media groaned, howled and laughed almost every time Al Gore said something" that night.

In mid-December, Jake Tapper, then of Slate, made it three. Tapper said this on C-Span's Washington Journal:
TAPPER (12/13/99): Well, I can tell you that the only media bias I have detected in terms of a group media bias was, at the first debate between Bill Bradley and Al Gore, there was hissing for Gore in the media room up at Dartmouth College. The reporters were hissing Gore, and that's the only time I've ever heard the press room boo or hiss any candidate of any party at any event.
Plainly, this was an astounding event. No one ever heard about it because of the stifling code of silence under which this pathetic guild works.

Pooley's mocking discussion of Gore's campaign songs extended the media's jeering. The ridiculous fellow went on to say this in his report for Time:
POOLEY (continuing directly): Poor Gore. For months the press has been hammering him for taking the nomination for granted and not showing emotion. Now it's hammering him for trying too hard and showing too much. Of course he was sometimes overbearing at Dartmouth—asking faux-Clintonian personal questions ("How old is your child, Corey?") and then, after the event, sitting on the lip of the stage for 90 minutes to expound—impressively, by the way—on policy until everyone was exhausted, and Tipper said, "Al, I'm going to have to go." But the interesting question isn't whether Gore's exhibitionism is a tactic (it is) but whether groveling works any better in politics than it does in love.
Today, pundits praise Candidate Warren for staying late at campaign events until everyone get to take a selfie. Back then, scribes took turns ridiculing Gore for staying late at campaign events until everyone got his or her question answered.

(Until everyone got his question answered? By rule of law, this had to be reframed this way: "until everyone was exhausted.")

Twenty years later, the New York Times decided to analyze ten candidates' campaign songs. They filled three pages of yesterday's paper with their thoroughly typical low-IQ pabulum and piddle.

During the press corps' twenty-month war against Gore, this sort of thing was directly tied to their famous, dim-witted "gaffe culture." By the rules of the game, Gore was wrong when he played Shania Twain, wrong when he played something else.

Final point: Gore asked that "faux-Clintonian personal question" when a young woman at the Dartmouth "town hall" event stood and asked him this question:
QUESTION (10/26/9): Hi, my name is Corey Martin and I live in Hanover. There's been talk tonight about health care reform and I'm the parent of a child who has diabetes and I spend a lot of time dealing with the insurance companies and what's covered and what's not covered and it eats up a lot of time and effort. So I'm wondering, if you were to implement health care reform, who would be the decision-makers? Who decides what's covered?
Gore asked how old the child was (five). He asked if Martin had good insurance (she did). He then proceeded to answer her policy question, and a gaggle of zombified "journalists" mocked him for trying to be just like Bill Clinton, always without providing the context within which his questions were asked.

From that day right through to this, we've asked if these life-forms are human. We've most commonly asked that question about the people, like Gail Collins, who ridiculed Gore for having had the decency to ask Martin that simple question about her daughter. But the same question must be asked about the long lines of careerist types who have agreed, to this very day, to pretend that none of this ever occurred.

Martin's daughter was five years old at that time. Children that age were soon dying all over Iraq because of what these zombified idiots did, as a group, from March 1999 on.

Today, future experts keep telling us, quite late at night, that this is an anthropological question. It goes to the heart of what we "rational animals" are actually like—to the intellectual and moral limits within which our self-impressed species functions, especially among its elites.

Last night, Lawrence got something right. If his lazy, self-impressed corporate network ever get around to creating a transcript, we'll show you what it was.

But way back when, one major candidate's choice of songs was quickly put to a use. When Candidate Gore played Shania Twain, it was peddled to us rubes as his latest ridiculous gaffe!

Visit our incomparable archives: As done in real time, with links.

TRIBAL DECLINE: Liar, racist, murder, slur?

THURSDAY, AUGUST 22, 2019

What's in a handful of words?:
On page A2 of this morning's hard-copy New York Times, senior news assistant Hannah Wulkan describes a meeting which was held this past spring.

A few years back, the New York Times' pages A2 and A3 were officially "reimagined." Page A2 became the page on which the Times attempts to persuade Times readers to be impressed with the Times.

Despite her title as senior assistant, Wulkan's a bit of a youngster. She prepped at Deerfield, then graduated from Brandeis in 2016.

On line, Wulkan's page A2 report appears at the Times Insider site. The report begins like this:
WULKAN (8/22/19): This spring, a group of editors sat in a white-walled conference room at The New York Times, throwing out ideas.
A group of Times editors threw out ideas? History tells us that nothing good can come from such an event.

In yesterday morning's report, we reviewed the three pages of blather which resulted when politics editor Patrick Healy got an idea last spring. According to Wulkan, some Times insiders gathered at roughly the same time and began throwing out ideas!

What emerged from the editors' meeting? After all the ideas had been discarded, they ended up with this:
WULKAN (continuing directly): The 60th anniversary of the day that Hawaii became a state was coming up. The editors, part of a team that tells stories through The Times’s vast photo archive in a project called Past Tense, wanted to highlight images from across America.

They also wanted to find an interesting way to tell the story.

If they ran a slide show, readers might lose interest
after clicking through a few photographs. A long article with a running list of photos could lose readers well before they made it to Wyoming. They wanted it to be engaging.
For reasons which go unexplained, the editors "wanted to find an interesting way" to tell a basically pointless anniversary story.

Hawaii had been a state for almost sixty years? Stating the obvious, there was no reason to think that any reader would take much interest in this basically pointless fact.

Apparently understanding this point, the editors reportedly scrambled for ways keep readers from "losing interest."

Wulkan never explains why these Times insiders wanted to bother with this project at all. Eventually, though, they forged a plan, and the field hands fell to their labors:
WULKAN (continuing directly): The final idea, published this week, is a quiz that presents photos pulled from The Times’s archives from all 50 states and invites readers to identify each location. The project would take several months to complete and involve more than 20 people from around the newsroom.

Each page of the quiz shows the photo alongside a question with clues, such as “A fleet of blimps rises over the Goodyear Airdock in this Midwestern state.” If readers spend a long time on the page, another hint, like “The state is also the birthplace of seven U.S. presidents and home to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame,” flies into frame. Once the quiz-taker makes a guess, a paragraph with information about the photo and state appears.

“I wanted this to be a moment where readers in every single state can have a look back at their own history,” said Lauren Reddy, the audience director for special projects, who first suggested the quiz.
Finally, a New York Times "audience director" came up with a plan!

More than twenty hands from around the newsroom fell to work on the project; it took several months to complete. Here on our own spartan campus, idealistic young analysts roared as Reddy's plan was described.

Yay yay yay yay yay yay yay! Times subscribers would get to enjoy the massive great fun of a quiz! And so cool! If a reader spent too long on any one question, a hint would appear to help him or her out, supplementing some initial clues!

Audience, let's review:

According to Wulkan, more than twenty Times staffers worked on this photo quiz project. The project took months to complete.

As a result of those months of effort, the audience can now enjoy a quiz which features a photo from each of the fifty states. Having noted this fact, might we take a moment to discuss a project the New York Times hasn't yet undertaken?

Below, you see the remarkable OECD data we showed you yesterday afternoon. To date, editors haven't sat in a white-walled conference room, discussing ways to present and explore the remarkable state of affairs defined by these puzzling statistics:
Per capita spending, health care, 2018
United States: $10,586
Germany: $5986
Canada: $4974
France: $4965
Japan: $4766
United Kingdom: $4070
(South) Korea: $3192
One of those numbers is not like the others. Where the heck is all that missing money going?

That missing money lies at the heart of our stagnant wages, our federal deficits and our failure to provide universal coverage. So where the heck is that money going? Is money being looted?

At the endlessly fatuous New York Times, editors and "audience directors" don't seem to care about that.

Editors sit in mahoganied rooms trying to devise amusing Hawaii-based photo quiz games. They assign their droogs to spend several months laboring on the project.

They fill three pages of the paper with analyses of the songs the top ten candidates play at their campaign events. They even create an astounding site where they help readers figure out how to select a book if the readers have decided that they want to read one.

This has been the culture of the New York Times forever. Years ago, on the Sunday before a White House election, editors even let their highest-profile columnist start a column like this, headline included:
DOWD (11/5/00): I Feel Pretty

I feel stunning
And entrancing,
Feel like running and dancing for joy . . .


O.K., enough gloating. Behave, Albert. Just look in the mirror now and put on your serious I only-care-about-the-issues face.

If I rub in a tad more of this mahogany-colored industrial mousse, the Spot will disappear under my Reagan pompadour.
It was the seventh column Dowd had built around Candidate Gore's imagined obsession with his troubling bald spot. This is the type of work which has come from the fatuous world of the Times.

The fact that these events can take place in plain sight is an anthropological matter. It's a fact about the moral and intellectual horizons of our floundering, self-impressed species and our own self-impressed tribe.

On Monday, August 11, executive editor Dean Baquet held a New York Times staff meeting. As far as we know, Baquet is a thoroughly decent person. We'll quickly say that, in our view, he expressed some sound ideas at this meeting.

A transcript of this meeting leaked; you can review it here. During that meeting with his staff, Baquet discussed the appropriate journalistic use of certain familiar key words.

Setting aside the weighty yet amusing topic we'd originally planned to pursue, we'll review that discussion tomorrow.

Liar, racist, murder, slur? What's in a handful of words?

Tomorrow: What's in a handful of words?

The Times presents its methodology!

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 21, 2019

Health spending, schools trumped by songs:
Dear God! We've just returned from attendance at an impossibly chic Wednesday luncheon.

At this event, an acquaintance called our attention to something we skipped in this morning's report. He read aloud the "methodology" employed by the New York Times.

The Times devised and employed this methodology in the course of its latest front-page report—the report which tells us about the songs being played at campaign rallies. And yes, the report appeared on the front page of this morning's Times, a fact we should have noted in our own award-winning report.

The New York Times has done it again! Here's how they gathered their info:
Methodology

The New York Times reached out to each candidate’s campaign team for his or her full playlist. For the ones who did not provide the playlist—President Trump, Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Bernie Sanders—Times reporters went to each candidates’ rallies to obtain the list of songs using an online application that helps instantly identify music.

The Times then analyzed a total of 306 songs on the candidates’ playlists.
The pop music editor determined the genre of the songs. For race and gender of an artist or band, The Times took into account only the lead singer. For gender analysis, if there was no lead performer and the group features both male and female members, a separate category was created. For the word frequency chart, The Times analyzed the lyrics in each song, leaving out filler words like “the,” “yeah,” and “bam.”

Walk-up songs can change, and the order of the songs on each playlist doesn’t reflect the actual sequence played at rallies.

Correction

An earlier version of this article misstated the number of female-led acts on Bernie Sanders’s playlist. The band Against Me! has a female lead singer on the song “Unconditional Love,” not a male one.

Credits

Video research by Noor Gill. Photos by Tony Cenicola and Todd Heisler. Additional photo production by Jessica White. Additional development by Alastair Coote.
Filler words like "bam" weren't included!

Let's start with one very basic point—these people are out of their minds. Humans rarely get this dumb unless they're employed by the Times.

Meanwhile, congratulations to Candidates Biden, Sanders and Trump for their failure and/or refusal to respond to the Times' requests. They were willing to make the New York Times use that online app!

The New York Times spared no expense, avoided no effort, in keeping us readers fully informed about the top candidates' songs. By way of contrast, the Times has never reported these remarkable OECD data, let alone tried to explain them:
Per capita spending, health care, 2018
United States: $10,586
Germany: $5986
Canada: $4974
France: $4965
Japan: $4766
United Kingdom: $4070
(South) Korea: $3192
Where's all that "missing money" going? To a very large extent, that missing money explains our stagnant wages, our federal deficits, and our failure to achieve universal health coverage. But so what? The Times has never reported the missing money's existence, let alone tried to explain it.

The paper has also never reported the size of our "racial" achievement gaps on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (Naep), the widely-praised gold standard of domestic educational testing. Instead, it sends a young reporter to NPR, where she makes the lunatic claim that the gaps are the result of test prep, full stop.

The Times has also never reported the size of the very large score gains all demographic groups have achieved on the Naep down through the years. Instead, Nikole Hannah-Jones hands us a grossly misleading account which suggests that these score gains haven't occurred. Since there are no scores from 1619, we can make no important comparisons!

Spending on heath care? Public school progress? The Times doesn't bother with piddle like that.

The silly newspaper does work hard to keep us abreast of the candidates' songs! This is a story of human incompetence. As experts keep telling us late at night, it's an anthropological problem.

Tomorrow: Campaign song gaffes from the past

TRIBAL DECLINE: The Times undertakes to "re-educate!"

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 21, 2019

But also, the candidates' songs:
Don Lemon tried to get there first. We stumbled upon the segment in question twice last night, groaning each time as we did.

That said, the project unfolds in fullest flower in today's New York Times. In print editions, it's thumb-nailed on the constantly fatuous page A3, with Astead Herndon and Patrick Healy "shar[ing] some background on the interactive article" in question.

Already, we were puzzled—and somewhat ashamed for our species. But then, we continued ahead in the paper, and we found three full pages—page A16 through page A18!—fully, completely and hopelessly devoted to this pitiful project:
What the Rally Playlists Say About the Candidates
Song playlists at campaign rallies tell you a lot about presidential candidates...
That's part of the way the sprawling project is headlined in hard copy. To see the way it's headlined on line, you can just click here.

Readers, is it true? Do "song playlists at campaign rallies tell you a lot about presidential candidates?" Well, actually, yes they do, especially if you're seven years old, or you have an I.Q. of 11.

We told our young analysts to avoid staring directly at the three full pages of this claptrap in today's hard-copy Times. They tell us that, for each of ten different candidates, the Times gives readers a lengthy list of the songs which are played at their campaign events; a capsule account of what each play-list secretly means; and a rambling, pointless analysis of each list from one of the Times' music critics.

Abundant learning results. For example, here's what Times readers are able to learn about Candidate Gillibrand:
OUR CRITIC SAYS

On the one hand, Ms. Gillibrand includes a track by Le Tigre, the underground feminist dance-punk band that Kathleen Hanna founded not long after the riot grrrl icons Bikini Kill split. On the other hand, a misstep: There are several hundred Lil Wayne songs that could have appeared on Ms. Gillibrand’s playlist to include contemporary hip-hop. But the selected song is from a “Spider-Man” movie soundtrack, and it features XXXTentacion, who, before he was killed last year, had been accused of assaulting his pregnant girlfriend. (The campaign says it removed the song in the spring.)

—JON CARAMANICA—
With this newspaper's patented brilliance, music critic Caramanica caught Gillibrand is a misstep! Early on, they played a song from a Spider-Man film, and...

Well, you can read it for yourself. Try not to linger. Don't stare.

This morning, the Times devotes three full pages to this rather typical claptrap. For what it's worth, this type of diversion has long been with us, often used as an adjunct to the press corps' beloved "gaffe culture."

This afternoon, we'll revisit a memorable example from October 1999. But this very morning, on page A3, Times politics editor Patrick Healy explains how the brainstorm hit him in this current year of our lord:
HEALY (8/21/19): Six months ago, I had a thought: What could we learn about the 2020 candidates through their rally playlists? About audience and intended message? So we got them from nine Dems (and Trump). And this interactive was born.
By Healy's admission, he had a thought "six months ago." That said:

With respect to Donald J. Trump's playlist, we learn that the songs played at his rallies "includ[e], surprisingly, gay swagger."

Checking the markings on the playlist, we learn that this refers to the fact that the campaign sometimes plays Y.M.C.A., by the Village People. In such ways, the Times helps us learn what rally playlists say about the candidates.

This may seem like the great newspaper's most pointless enterprise yet. Obviously, it isn't. As evidence, we return to the page A3 "Here to Help" feature from last Tuesday, August 13. In hard copy only, it started off like this
Here to Help
HOW TO BE A BETTER READER: CHOOSE THE RIGHT BOOK

If you want to be a better reader, you first need something to read.
Start by asking yourself some questions:

Do you want to read for enjoyment or for knowledge? Do you want to stretch yourself in some way? Are you looking for escapism? (There’s nothing wrong with that!) Do you want to be part of the cultural conversation around the current “it” book? Are you curious about a book that has been atop the best-seller list for months?
"If you want to be a better reader, you first need something to read." Yes, that's what it said.

"You don’t need to buy one," the Times' Tina Jordan said as she continued, behaving as if the paper's subscribers were the dumbest known people on earth.

As she continued in hard copy, Jordan listed many ways Times readers might pick out a book. The hard-copy feature was drawn from this truly astonishing on-line post. In hard copy, the different strategies Jordan discussed included such approaches as these:
Here to Help, continued:
If you're still not sure what you want to read, here are some other ways to figure it out:

Ask a friend.

Head to the library.
...

Find a bookstore....

Look at a "best book" list....
Interesting! If you can't decide what book to read, you can ask a friend!

In such ways, the New York Times rarely ceases to amaze. Within the academy, the famous newspaper's repetitive dumbness is a fairly obvious matter of anthropological interest.

It is within this ever-expanding context that we recently stumbled upon the newspaper's "1619 Project." We first saw it mentioned by executive editor Sean Baquet in the purloined transcript of a recent, fairly lengthy meeting he held with the Times' staff.

The project debuted in the Times magazine last Sunday. It still isn't entirely clear what the project will entail, but at one point, some editor decided it made good sense to use the term "re-education" in connection with what may turn out to be a thoroughly worthwhile project.

"A re-education is necessary," the overview material boldly declares at one point. Some editor thought it made good sense to employ that old Maoist term as this project was launched.

The 1619 Project may turn out brilliantly well—and then again, it may not. For ourselves, we thought we stumbled upon an unhelpful perspective in Sunday's lead essay by Nikole Hannah-Jones, who had nothing to do with that playlist piddle. We'll only suggest that you keep this provisional thought in mind:

This project is being brought to you by the people who think our public school achievement gaps are a matter of test prep, full stop; by the people who think it makes sense to burn three full pages on the various candidates' campaign song-lists; by the people who recently spent so much time telling readers how they might select a book, should they decide to read one.

By the people who ran with "Creeping Dowdism" in spite of Katherine Boo's warning; by the people who decided to partner with conservative hack Peter Schweizer in their coverage of the Trump/Clinton race (Uranium One!);

By the people who refused to challenge Trump on his birtherism garbage right on through their front-page report on the topic; by the people who resurrected and vouched for the ludicrous Gennifer Flowers late in the fall campaign.

Hannah-Jones didn't do those things. But others around her did!

The woods are lovely, dark and deep—and despite the things you constantly hear, our species is deeply flawed. Tomorrow, we'll look at several things Baquet told his staff—and at something one Times staffer said.

Candidate Gillibrand made a misstep; Trump is involved in gay swagger. If you want to select a book, you can ask a friend.

This is the way our species works, even at its most "elite," Hamptons-based levels. Top anthropologists tell us that this is a large, ongoing problem.

Tomorrow: What's in a trio of words?

Meaningless D.C. test results!

TUESDAY, AUGUST 20, 2019

Meaningless promises made:
Annual test scores have been released for the D.C. public schools. This seems to mean all `D.C. public schools, traditional public and charter.

If you read the Washington Post's hard-copy report today, the headlines were mainly upbeat:

"District students improve on exam," the largest, boldest headline said. Perry Stein's news report topped the front page of the Metro section, beneath this triple headline:
District students improve on exams
PARCC SCORES SHOW GRADUAL GROWTH
Hurdles remain in efforts to close achievement gap
That third headline was the kicker. You had to read to paragraph 10 before you got any actual data. But when you finally got there, you encountered these passing rates:
Passing rates, DC public school students
PARCC tests, 2019

Math tests, all grades combined:

White kids: 78.8%
Black kids: 21.1%

Reading tests, all grades combined:
White kids: 85.0%
Black kids: 27.8%
District students may have "improved." But those gaps seem remarkably large.

That said, those giant gaps may not be massively meaningful. D.C.'s public schools tend to serve a standard population of urban black kids, offset by a smaller, vastly more advantaged population of upper-end white kids.

The black kids often come from low-income homes. The white kids typically come from wealthier homes, not uncommonly from double-PhD families.

For that reason, we may not have a lot to learn from those large achievement gaps. That said, the black kids' passing rates do seem extremely low.

With that in mind, we'll take a guess. These remarks from today's report may not be real meaningful either:
STEIN (8/20/19): D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Lewis D. Ferebee said that after seeing the math scores, he plans to rethink math teaching strategies and will increase access to interventions for struggling students.

Ferebee said that fewer students scored a 1 or 2 on the exam—the lowest scores on the test—an encouraging development not captured in passing rates.
Taking nothing away from Ferebee, is he really going to "rethink math teaching strategies," given results of this year's math tests?

Last year, an even smaller percentage of D.C.'s black kids passed these same math tests. Ferebee is new to the D.C. schools, so he wasn't present to rethink strategies in the wake of those passing rates.

That said, what sorts of changes in strategy might he have in mind? The Washington Post doesn't seem to have asked. Nor can we say that we really expect much of a follow-up.

Then again, we have the way "city leaders" responded to these "improved" results. Starting right there in paragraph 1, Stein tells us this:
STEIN: The percentage of public school students passing a critical standardized exam in the District is gradually growing, according to results released Monday showing that students across all demographic groups improved on the English portion of the test. Progress in math proved more modest.

[...]

In announcing the results, city leaders celebrated the progress while acknowledging that further improvements are needed, particularly in the way the District approaches math. They stressed that achievement gaps are not closed overnight and that the goal is steady growth each year.

“For the fourth year, we are seeing continued, steady improvements, which means more students are performing at higher levels,” Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said at a news conference at Whittier Education Campus, which registered double-digit gains in the English and math portions of the exam.

“The achievement gap is still too wide,” Bowser said. “We can build a fairer and more equitable city when we know that our African American and Latino students are achieving at the same levels as their white peers.”
How "gradually" are those passing rates growing? Last year, 20.7% of D.C.'s black kids passed their grade's math test. This year, the rate climbed all the way to 21.1%!

That is extremely gradual "progress." With apologies, Mayor Bowser is speaking the way a person speaks about things which simply don't matter.

We'll say this for former chancellor Rhee. She said this sort of thing isn't good enough every single time. In our view, she never seemed to have real ideas about the way to make things better. But in her favor, she never pretended that "continued, steady improvement" like this was anything like good enough.

You won't hear about this on "cable news." Of one thing you can feel quite certain:

On "cable news," nobody cares. They don't waste your time with this. They talk about Donald J. Trump.

Growth on the reading tests: Last year, 24.7% of D.C.'s black kids passed their grade's reading test. This year, the passing rate rose to 27.8%.

"City leaders celebrated the progress." As recorded above, 85.0% percent of the system's white kids passed.

TRIBAL DECLINE: What should kids be taught in school?

TUESDAY, AUGUST 20, 2019

Our tribe gets out over its skis:
What should American public school kids learn about American history?

There is no perfect answer. When we were kids, the K-6 American history curriculum began and ended with this:
"In fourteen hundred and ninety-two,
Columbus sailed the ocean blue."
We had to memorize that. And let's face it—we turned out fine!

In theory, it would be better if kids were given access to a wider view of the world. That said, the progressive wing of our liberal tribe may have a slight instinct for overreach, a matter which seems to have come to a head—where else?—in California.

Needless to say, we humans tend to show an instinct for overreach within all our tribes. It's certainly nothing unique to us liberals if we show this slight tendency too.

That said, our brothers and sisters in California have been fashioning a public school ethnic studies curriculum. The assistant, associate and adjunct professors have been deeply involved in the effort, and let's be completely frank at this time:

When the New York Times starts its front-page report on our project this way, our brothers and sisters in sunny Cal may have managed to get themselves out over their skies just a bit:
GOLDSTEIN (8/16/19): Discuss a recent instance of police brutality in your community. Read op-eds arguing for and against legal status for unauthorized immigrants. Compare and contrast border conditions in the Palestinian territories and Mexico.

Those are some of the lesson plans suggested in a draft of California’s newly proposed ethnic studies curriculum for K-12 public schools. The documents have led to bitter debate in recent weeks over whether they veer into left-wing propaganda, and whether they are inclusive enough of Jews and other ethnic groups. Now, amid a growing outcry, even progressive policymakers in the state are promising significant revisions.

The materials are unapologetically activist—and jargony. They ask students to “critique empire and its relationship to white supremacy, racism, patriarchy, cisheteropatriarchy, capitalism, ableism, anthropocentrism and other forms of power and oppression.” A goal, the draft states, is to “connect ourselves to past and contemporary resistance movements that struggle for social justice.”
Depending on the grade level in question, there's nothing obviously wrong with those basic assignments in paragraph 1. But by paragraph 3, Dana Goldstein was saying that the proposed curriculum was "unapologetically activist"—and even that it was "jargony."

When the heavily woke New York Times is saying such things in paragraph 3, Rancho Cucamonga, we may have a problem! Some of the curriculum's "jargony" instincts were on display in that third paragraph, and Goldstein soon came back for more:
GOLDSTEIN: It did not help that some of the terms used throughout the more than 300 pages of documents—“hxrstory, “cisheteropatriarchy,” “accompliceship”—were inscrutable to many in Sacramento and beyond.

[...]

According to a glossary included with the documents, “hxrstory,” pronounced “herstory,” is history written from a gender-inclusive perspective. “Cisheteropatriarchy” is a system of power based on the dominance of straight men who are not transgender. “Accompliceship” is the process of building relationships grounded in trust and accountability with marginalized people and groups.
According to oral tradition, you can't tell the players without a scorecard. Even at the fully woke Times, you won't know how to pronounce “hxrstory" without consulting that glossary!

Does this proposed curriculum make good sense overall? We can't tell you that. In her own eye-rolling critique for the Washington Post, liberal education writer Valerie Strauss reports that the state's new education director has sent the proposed vehicle back to the shop for "major," "substantial" repairs:
STRAUSS (8/19/19): Linda Darling-Hammond, who was appointed president of the state Board of Education by Brown’s successor, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), said in an interview that the draft would undergo major changes. The board has not officially been given the draft from the state’s Instructional Quality Commission, which received it a few months ago, made some changes and posted it on the state Education Department’s website for public comment through Aug. 15.

Darling-Hammond issued a statement with Ilene Straus, vice president of the Board of Education, and board member Feliza I. Ortiz-Licon, saying, “A model curriculum should be accurate, free of bias, appropriate for all learners in our diverse state, and align with Governor Newsom’s vision of a California for all. The current draft model curriculum falls short and needs to be substantially redesigned.”
Strauss notes the problem with jargon too. Before we move on a larger complaint, let's note an irony in the proposed curriculum's use of so many new words.

In her report for the Times, Goldstein quotes a co-chair of the ethnic studies commission defending the proposed curriculum. We were struck by one phrase he repeatedly used:
GOLDSTEIN: Drafters of the proposed curriculum and their supporters say it is important for students to view the world in a way not promoted by the powerful.

The Cal Matters website quoted R. Tolteka Cuauhtin, a member of the advisory committee that worked on the draft, as saying, “Sometimes people want to approach ethnic studies as just a superficial diversity class and that’s it. Ethnic studies is an academic field of over 50 years that has its own frameworks, its own academic language, its own understandings of how it approaches subjects and our world.”
As an academic field, does ethnic studies have "its own academic language?" For better or worse, we'll assume that it very much does. All in all, Cuauhtin seems to think that the new curriculum should proceed in a whole set of ways which are very much "its own."

We'll assume that may be a problem. As is true with people all over the world, our more progressive sisters and brothers have long displayed a powerful tendency to keep changing the language in ways which are ever more stunningly woke.

This tends to create and promote a type of tribal bond among those who speak the new language. For better or worse, it tends to make everyone else feel that a revolution is happening of which they may not be a part.

Having said that, alas! According to Darling-Hammond, this curriculum is meant to "align with Governor Newsom’s vision of a California for all" (our emphasis). It's meant to be "appropriate [and presumably welcoming] for all learners in our diverse state" (our emphasis).

All that jargony folderol may fly in the face of those ideals. And according to both Goldstein and Strauss, the proposed curriculum is being widely challenged for its alleged lack of inclusion in ways which are even more basic.

Alas! We liberals today are strongly inclined to slice and dice the population into identity groups. At our least sensitive, we believe your "identity" is your race and your gender, full stop, and that we are the ones empowered to tell you what your "identity" is.

A certain Maoist feeling may seem to intrude at such junctures. And in the current case in Cali, our tribe may be learning a tragic fact—once you start slicing and dicing the world, it's hard to know how to stop:
GOLDSTEIN: The California course materials focus on people of color, such as African-Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asian-Americans, Arab-Americans, Central American immigrants and Pacific Islanders. Much of the material is uncontroversial...

But after California released the draft of the materials for public comment in June, some Jewish legislators and organizations complained that anti-Semitism was not an area of emphasis, while the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel came up repeatedly. Armenian, Greek, Hindu and Korean organizations later joined the Jewish groups in calling for revisions.

Shereen Bhalla
, director of education for the Hindu American Foundation, said the curriculum should include information on the contributions Indian-Americans have made to the United States, and on the discrimination they have faced through immigration restrictions and hate crimes.
Uh-oh! We need to add units dealing with mistreatment of Armenians, Greeks, Hindus, Koreans and Indian-Americans. Cali's kids may be sitting in school all summer long trying to finish their work!

What should American public school kids be taught about all these matters? That question isn't easy to answer, as this current episode shows.

Arguably, the episode also teaches the occasional tendency of our vastly self-assured tribe to lapse into forms of self-parody. At one point, Goldstein quotes a Republican legislator making that claim with respect to this curriculum, and that claim will strike many as accurate. Here again, Tucker Carlson is being provided with segments in which he won't clearly be wrong.

In our view, it's important to help kids learn about the real ways our history works. That said, it's also important to remember that California's kids are just kids; that their parents are actual people who may not agree with our deeply woke views; and that all residents of the state count, not just those who have achieved a state of accompliceship with our deeply woke version of hxrstory. Those on the verge of abandoning Trump may decide to hang on after all.

Might we close with two thoughts which popped into our heads as we read Goldstein's report? We'll start with the first of these thoughts:

Might a California curriculum include the historical experience of the so-called Okies? One of California's greatest writers wrote a very great book about the way they were treated in California during the Dust Bowl years.

It was made into a beautiful film in 1940. Mightn't the (fictional) experiences of Ma Joad's boy add to the ability of Cali kids to empathize with the mistreated? In some cases, to empathize with someone who (allegedly and supposedy) doesn't "look like them?"

Here's our second suggestion. Might someone tell California kids than this isn't just an American thing?

When our brothers and sisters get out over their skis, they tend to say or suggest that persecution was invented by the Amerikan people. But this isn't an exclusively Amerikkan phenomenon. It's part of our deeply flawed human inheritance. It exists, and has always existed, all around the world.

In that very famous California-based book. Tom Joad speaks it like this:
"Wherever they’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever they’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there... I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad an’—I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry n’ they know supper’s ready. An’ when our folks eat the stuff they raise an’ live in the houses they build—why, I’ll be there."
Presumably, Cesar Chavez will be there too, and so will Dr. King. Mandela will also be present, saying that he and his imprisoned comrades "identified with" a frail Euro girl, Anne Frank.

Kids need to be told that things of the type under review haven't just happened here in Amerikkka. They happened where Hitler went after the Jews; where the Khmer Rouge cleansed the countryside; where Mao sent folk off for re-education; where the Hutus decided to take out the Tutsis—or was it the other way around?—and the world largely stood by and watched.

Lincoln said we all did this; children deserve the chance to think about that statement too. Over here, in our floundering tribe, our jargon, and our sense of certainty, may sometimes suggest that we are almost capable of loathing The Others too.

Children should get the chance to think widely. Also, in a system like ours, the views of their parents must count!

Tomorrow: What's in a couple of words?

Kilgore explores a counterfactual!

MONDAY, AUGUST 19, 2019

Just imagine if Clinton had won:
As a general matter, we never discuss past booking discussions with representatives of Bryant Gumbel.

In this case, we'll make an exception. On Tuesday, November 7, 2000, we accepted a provisional booking to appear the next day, as a very-special guest star, on the CBS Early Show, co-hosted at that time by Gumbel and Jane Clayson.

The provision in question was this—we'd only appear if Candidate Gore won that day's election. If he won, we'd appear with a few friends from the good old days to describe the youthful Gore.

By Wednesday morning, the election was tied; the appearance never occurred. On Tuesday afternoon, it had been our sense that Gore was likely to win (as he probably actually did), and our thought about that went like this:

We were prepared to laugh our keisters off for maybe twenty-four hours. After that, we expected to settle in for a long-haul nightmare as the press corps' backlash occurred.

That backlash never would have stopped. It would have been full-blown AL GORE, LIAR until Gore lost re-election. Surely, everyone understands that, though everyone knows not to tell.

Within that context, we authored the deathless joke which Bill Clinton quoted in My Life—the joke Roger Simon quotes Clinton repeating on the very night it was authored, on the night in December 2000 when Candidate Gore finally conceded. The deathless joke, performed that evening at the D.C. Improv, went almost exactly like this:

"I think Gore really got the best of both worlds. Everyone knows he won the election, plus he doesn't have to serve!"

We believe you can see that evening's performance on-line, but we won't tell you where.

We were surprised, but also pleased, when the joke got a laugh that night. We repeated it later that night to the candidate who had conceded. Called from the room to take a phone call, the candidate repeated it by trans-Atlantic phone to Bill Clinton. At the end of his book about the 2000 campaign, Simon quotes Clinton repeating the joke that same night as he emerges from his private quarters on Air Force One, heading home from Europe.

"There's a great deal of truth to that joke," Gore said that evening in December 2000. A week or so later, Clinton said the exact same thing as we crawled through the reception line at a cattle-call White House Christmas party.

He repeated the joke word for word. It seemed to have rung a bell—and there it is in his book!

If Gore had been the winner in November 2000, four nightmare years would have followed. The same can be said about where we'd be if Candidate Clinton had beaten Trump by more than just the popular vote in November 2016.

In large part, these nightmares would have resulted from the screaming incompetence of our deeply self-impressed pseudo-liberal tribe. To wit:

Today, on Bill Clinton's 73rd birthday, Ed Kilgore asks how the world would be treating "first gentleman" Clinton if Hillary Clinton had won in 2016. In the relevant part of his essay, Kilgore quotes Todd Purdum writing this:
PURDUM (8/19/19): By the end of Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 campaign—in which Donald Trump went so far as to bring three women who’d accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct to a debate—the bloom was well off the rose. The following year’s revelations about sexual allegations against powerful men from Harvey Weinstein to Matt Lauer cast Clinton’s history with Paula Jones, Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey, and, above all, Monica Lewinsky in a stark new light. It is a perverse reality that Trump is given a ho-hum pass by the public for repeated allegations of sexual misconduct and comments that would have convulsed the country in Clinton’s day—and that indeed did so—while Clinton’s reputation has been retroactively punished further.
Thus spake Purdum—and Kilgore. In the (important) light of the #MeToo movement, Bill Clinton's "history with" those women looks quite different now.

In truth, we'd have been involved in a rolling nightmare from election day forward had Hillary Clinton won. It would have been all Benghazi, all-Emailgate all the freaking time.

Surely everyone knows this. Everybody would have played, with the GOP in the lead role. Impeachment might have happened already; there might not have been enough hours in the day to get to Bill Clinton's history, #MeToo movement or not.

That said, riddle us this—what exactly is Bill Clinton's "history with Paula Jones, Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey, and, above all, Monica Lewinsky?" The history with Lewinsky is well known, thanks to the labors of Independent Counsel Javert. It involves ten acts of oral sex, plus late-night phone calls, spread out over several years.

That said, the history with the other three women is, in fact, largely unknown—and almost surely unknowable. Meanwhile, you'll note that Purdum and Kilgore have disappeared Gennifer Flowers, by whom the silly bills of the press corps swore when it helped keep tumescence alive.

Robert Ray was Kenneth Starr's successor as independent counsel. When he wrote the final report on the "Whitewater probe," he said his team had considered charging Willey with perjury, she'd lied to them much.

Such facts were aggressively kept from public view during the endless chase after Clinton and Clinton. Flowers has been disappeared several times, with no one explaining to the public why this had to be done.

(Amazingly, the New York Times brought Flowers back to life in this front-page gong-show report in October 2016. They even went with Connie Hamzy! No one in our hapless tribe stood up to say boo.)

What was Bill Clinton's actual history with Jones, Broaddrick and Willey? Did he have any history worth talking about with the ridiculous Flowers at all?

Regarding Flowers, the answer is almost surely no; she posited a torrid twelve-year love affair, but never claimed that her torrid affair with "my Bill" had been anything but consensual. (Bill Clinton copped to one brief interaction way back when, not involving intercourse.)

Regarding the three other women, we have no idea what did or didn't occur, though it seems fairly clear that nothing of any consequence happened with the truth-challenged Willey. (She too became a major hero of the lovesick boys of the mainstream press, right through the astonishing evening when a false accusation she made on Hardball almost got a journalist killed. You've never heard about that astonishing incident because the Kilgores and Purdums of the world have never wanted to break ranks with the guild. At that time, Hardball's Chris Matthews was a much more powerful player.)

At any rate, the children kept refusing to tell you such things, and our self-impressed liberal tribe is so deeply incompetent that we let their behavior go unchecked. Starting in March 1999, we even let their anger be redirected against Candidate Gore. For that treason, Candidate Bush squeaked into the White House, and was soon engaged in war against the children of Iraq. At one time, our pitiful tribe was even willing to pretend that we deeply cared about that!

The woods are lovely, dark and deep. Our liberal tribe is deeply pathetic—self-impressed, hapless, empty, sepulchral, wholly inept. Our joke appears on the last page of Simon's deathless book, "Divided We Stand: How Al Gore Beat George Bush and Lost the Presidency." It traveled from our lips to Gore's ears, and then, moments later, to Clinton's.

From there, it went to the boys and girls, doin' hard travelin' on Air Force One. If Hillary Clinton had reached the Oval, she would have been eaten alive by now.

TRIBAL DECLINE: "Wild speculation is warranted!"

MONDAY, AUGUST 19, 2019

The New York Times signs on:
The first reports of Jeffrey Epstein's death appeared on Saturday, August 10.

Instantly, the nation was confronted with the idiocy of Donald J. Trump.

In the absence of any evidence, Donald J. Trump encouraged the rubes to believe that certain events had occurred. That was typical, destructive conduct by Trump.

That was a typical gong-show coming from Trump. That said, Walter Kirn had actually beaten him to it!

According to the leading authority on his life, Kirn is a 57-year-old Princeton grad. Beyond that, he's "an American novelist, literary critic, and essayist.

"He is the author of eight books, most notably Up in the Air, which was made into a film of the same name starring George Clooney."

Kirn is also a bit of go-to guy at the New York Times. Next Sunday (August 25), this double review by Kirn is scheduled to appear on the front page of the high-profile Book Review section.

Yesterday (August 18), this intriguing essay by Kirn appeared in the high-profile Sunday Review.

The essay is intriguing because of what it says about the Times, our liberal tribe's paper of record. In Kirn's essay, he rants and raves about Epstein's death. The Times ran the unintelligent and thus illustrative piece beneath this unusual headline:
Why I Dabble in Jeffrey Epstein Conspiracy Theories
A person could imagine an intelligent essay appearing beneath a headline like that. That didn't happen in this case—but then, Kirn had beaten Trump to the punch in the matter of Epstein blather.

In yesterday's essay, Kirn says he does believe that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. Beyond that, he describes himself as "a lifelong journalist who believes in waiting for the facts before reaching grand conclusions."

We're not sure why he describes himself that way. Way back on Friday, August 9, one day before we were told that Epstein had died, Kirn had managed to tweet this out, offering no source for his statement:
KIRN (8/9/19): So Jeffrey Epstein, among his many lucky breaks, “won” a 29 million dollar Powerball lottery. Nice. Someone has to, I guess. May as well be the billionaire providing you the politician/CEO with children to have have sex with. I mean, favors cut both ways.
As we said, Kirn provided no source for this exciting factual claim. By the next day, the world had been told that Epstein was dead. Apparently in response to this report, Kirn thrill-tweeted this:
KIRN (8/10/19): My only problem with ‘conspiracy theories’ is that they don’t go far enough.
The next day, Kirn retweeted his wife, Amanda Fortini. As retweeted by Kirn, Fortini had offered this:
FORTINI (8/11/19): Today is maybe a good day to remind people that the first officer who breached Paddock’s room after the Las Vegas shooting neglected to activate his body camera. We are always missing the key footage.
The key word there is "always." In reality, we're always missing the key footage, except in the million and one cases where, alas, we aren't.

As Trump began to toy with the gullible, Kirn complained that conspiracy theories don't go far enough. In some cases, this will turn out to be true.

In other cases, though, it won't. Consider that Powerball haul by Epstein, the score you'd never heard about right to this very day.

Did Epstein win a Powerball lottery, as Kirn excitedly tweeted? If so, what might it all mean?

As noted, Kirn gave no source for the thrilling claim—so yesterday, we turned to the Google machine. The few links for "JEFFREY EPSTEIN POWERBALL" tended to go to sites like Free Republic and The Daily Stormer, but one link went to Bloomberg News, where we found Joe Nocera, back in July, chuckling and rolling his eyes in the manner shown below.

In a lengthy report, Nocera had tried to determine where Epstein got all his money. He wrote his piece in a Q-and-A format. Chuckling, he ended with this:
NOCERA (7/17/19): Did Epstein win the Powerball lottery while he was in prison?

It’s not a completely crazy question. In August 2008, shortly after Epstein began his 13-month prison sentence in Florida, an entity called the Zorro Trust submitted the winning ticket for an $85 million jackpot. The ticket had been bought at a convenience store in Altus, Oklahoma. (The trust took the money as a lump sum, which came to $29.3 million after taxes.)

As it happens, Epstein had an entity called the Zorro Trust; he used it to make donations to politicians in New Mexico, where he had a ranch called—yep—the Zorro Ranch...

A few years ago, a lawyer representing some alleged victims took the prospect of Epstein winning the lottery seriously enough that he brought it up during a deposition with Epstein’s former pilot. But the Oklahoma City newspaper, the Oklahoman, did a little more digging and discovered that the anonymous winner worked in a grocery store across the street from the convenience store where the winning ticket was sold. Apparently, she decided to use the same name for her trust as Epstein did for his.

Not everything’s a mystery. Sometimes, it’s just a coincidence.
Nocera said the claim was bunk. Did Epstein suspiciously score all that lottery dough? Nocera says he did not.

That doesn't mean that Nocera is right, of course; he could always turn out to be wrong. It could even turn out that Nocera is part of a widespread plot to keep us from knowing the truth of these matters. It's possible that Ivanka Trump was holding a gun to Nocera's head as he typed that passage out!

Alternately, Joe Nocera could turn out to be in charge of the world! As Descartes showed us long ago, everything you've always thought about the world could turn out to be totally wrong, except for the undeniable fact that you're thinking about it.

Walter Kirn's essay in yesterday's Times is highly unintelligent. Perhaps for that reason, the essay carried high appeal for the people who select the articles for the Sunday Review.

This doesn't mean that we know the truth about what happened to Epstein. As Descartes tells us, it could be that Hillary Clinton navigated various drainage pipes to enter Epstein's cell and strangle him as he slept. Then too, he could be somewhere in Argentina, living with Hitler's great-grandkids, or even with Hitler himself!

If you can dream it, it could be true, as with that Powerball score. That doesn't mean that intelligent people are supposed to flip out and start typing confessions like this:
KIRN (8/18/19): I should say here, for the record, that I believe that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. I believe that Qaeda terrorists carried out the Sept. 11 attacks. And yet I count myself as the next thing to a conspiracy theorist on Mr. Epstein, who himself appears to have been mixed up in mind-bending perversions that even I have trouble fathoming, including one to seed the world with many thousands of his genetic progeny. It seems I’ve been mugged by unreality.

[...]

On the internet, where this story is being arbitrated in lieu of our court system, which lost control of it, I’ve ventured a few distrusting comments recently about Mr. Epstein’s befuddling demise. Under the circumstances—someday I hope we’ll know what, exactly, they are—I feel that some wild speculation is warranted, if only to preserve one’s mental health by releasing built-up intellectual pressure.
In that second passage, "mental health" enters our story again, just as it ever was. This time, it's the mental health of Kirn himself, who says he's engaging in "wild speculation" to release the "intellectual pressure" he's been feeling of late.

Simply put, this isn't intelligent stuff. We don't say that as a way to prejudge what may turn out to be true in this case. We say that because it doesn't make sense to engage in wild speculation, in a high-profile public forum no less, every time a person like Kirn finds himself under stress.

Kirn was tweeting the idiocy even before Trump got started! But this isn't a story about Walter Kirn. It's a story about the Times.

The New York Times is aggressively marketed to our tribe as our nation's most intelligent newspaper. But how typical! When it found Kirn "dabbling in conspiracy theories," the Times decided to rush his thoughts into print, on one of its highest platforms.

"Man [sic] is the rational animal," Aristotle is said to have said. The tribal decline found all around us helps us see that, at least in this case, the gentleman got it quite wrong.

We'll examine that tribal decline all week. If you're willing to let yourself see, the examples are all around.

Tomorrow: "Jargony" chaos in Cali!

Beto O'Rourke joins the Widow Steavens!

SATURDAY, AUGUST 17, 2019

Those People are all just alike:
In our view, the current field of Democratic candidates is extremely weak.

Consider the current top five. Two are so old that, by any traditional norm, they shouldn't be in the mix for so demanding a (four-year) job. A third is way too young.

Of the two top contenders who remain, one inaccurately "list[ed] herself on various forms as Native American over two decades as a law professor"—and this is a point which Donald J. Trump says he would revisit, early and often, during a White House campaign.

(We're quoting from today's Washington Post. The New York Times seems to avoid producing such specific accounts of this hopeful's peculiar past claims.)

We're so underwhelmed by the fifth top contender that, at this point, we'll move on. But below the top five, a person could claim that matters get even worse. One candidate, a senator, recently made this ridiculous claim:

“We have Democratic candidates running for president right now who do not believe necessarily that it’s a good idea that women work outside the home. No joke.”

This candidate seems to have based that ludicrous claim upon an antique op-ed column written by one of the aged contenders—a decades-old column she had rather plainly misconstrued.

So it goes as the more liberal party tries to unseat Mister Trump. Then too, we have Beto O'Rourke, who strikes us as under-qualified, but who recently made a good statement.

O'Rourke guested with Lawrence on Thursday night's The Last Word. He was speaking from Jackson, Mississippi, where he'd gone in the aftermath of the arrests of unauthorized residents in several meat-packing plants, with their children left in tears.

Lawrence slimed the bad people found Over There, the very bad Trump voters. O'Rourke responded as shown:
O'ROURKE (8/15/19): You know what, I was just talking to somebody here in Jackson, and they were telling me about going to church in a conservative community, yes, that most of the congregation are Republicans, and the pastor there pointed out what you just did, and said, "This is not right, this cannot be us, this is not America. And instead of hating on these people or judging those parents or leaving these kids to their own devices, defenseless in the wealthiest, the most powerful country on the face of the planet, what if we came together and provided for these kids?"

And this person told me, almost to a person, that congregation erupted in applause and then gave of themselves and of their wealth to make sure that those kids and those families are OK.

I believe in America. I believe in Republicans and Democrats and independents alike. Yes, there are some hateful people in this country, and yes, we've seen a rise in white supremacy, in white nationalism and white nationalist terrorism brought home to El Paso, Texas, on August 3rd.

But I'm confident that, if we tell that full story of that child and their parents, we're going to call on the hearts of our fellow Americans, we're going to galvanize the conscience of a country that needs to act.

And if we don't, we're going to see more attacks like those in El Paso, more raids like we saw just outside of Jackson, Mississippi. We will lose the genius of America, this foundational idea that we are all created equal and that the people of the planet can find a home here in the United States of America and make us better and make us great for the fact that they chose us and are here.

I said today in this speech, if we do not wake up to this challenge, to this threat, then we as Americans, as this idea of America, will die in our sleep. And we cannot allow that to happen.
So said Candidate O'Rourke. To watch the exchange, click here.

"I believe in America," the candidate said, repeating the opening words of The Godfather. But then, he made a very unusual statement:

"I believe in Republicans and Democrats and independents alike." So said this relatively under-qualified candidate, making the type of statement you won't often hear these days.

We live in highly partisan times—and, in highly partisan or tribal times, we humans are hard-wired to loathe The Others en masse.

We're hard-wired to loathe such bad people tens of millions at a time. We're wired to lump them all together as we offer the least attractive possible account of their action, beliefs and motives.

We're hard-wired to believe that They're All Just Alike! Our species is wired to see things that way, or so say the top leading experts.

O'Rourke took a different approach. Some of the others are "hateful," he said. But he almost seemed to be saying that some of the others are not!

According to major professional experts, our species ain't wired to see things that way. We're hard-wired to think, and say, that Those People are all just alike.

Some will say such things about members of "racial" or ethnic groups. Some, like the Washington Post's Colbert King, will aggressively make such claims about large political groups.

In this morning's Post, King denounces Those People, The Others. He does so in the sweeping, time-honored way.

King lists an array of bad acts by Trump, then wonders why his supporters refuse to disown him. As he tries to puzzle this out, he moves directly from an imperial wizard of the Klan to Trump's "loyal base of supporters."

This is the way it's always been done. It's always been done this way:
KING (8/17/19): What about those acts, you might ask? Shouldn’t they prompt folks in Trump’s camp to start striking their tents?

The answer might be found in an interview that NBC affiliate WWBT in Richmond conducted during the 2016 presidential campaign with a man identified only as the “Imperial Wizard of the Rebel Brigade of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.” Declaring his support for Republican candidate Trump, the imperial wizard said: “The reason a lot of Klan members like Donald Trump is because a lot of what he believes, we believe in.”

What he believes in, they believe in. Trump’s loyal base of supporters rejects or ignores any charge of bias.
They stay locked in, because they see things his way; he is speaking for them.

So, don’t waste time trying to convince them that Trump has a dark side.

They have heard what you heard; have seen what you’ve seen. The difference: They delight in the Trump thoughts, words and deeds that you denounce.
Don't waste your time speaking with Others. Those People are all just alike!

Those 63 million are all just alike—and they're like that Imperial Wizard! All around the world, since the dawn of time, our wars have been scripted this way.

The more hopeful O'Rourke seems to reject this ugly, hard-wired approach. So did "that good woman, the Widow Steavens," a memorable character from Willa Cather's My Antonia, an homage to immigrant families in the Nebraska of the 1880s.

"That good woman, the Widow Steavens" buys the farm of the narrator's grandparents when they decide that advancing age means they should start living in town. The narrator, who's 13 at this time, seems to have heard the description he quotes within his grandparents' home.

This purchase means that the Widow Steavens is now the nearest neighbor to the Shimerdas, a Bohemian immigrant family. Because she doesn't reflexively hate, she comes to admire the moral goodness of the book's title character.

Within the town, many native-born Nebraskans look down on the immigrant families. Out in the country, the Widow Steavens achieves a more nuanced outlook.

When Antonia Shimerda, then perhaps 24, returns to her family's farm after going away to be married, the Widow Steavens goes to ask her why she has returned. It turns out that she has been abandoned by the man who promised to marry her. She's returned home unmarried and pregnant.

Some time later, the Widow Steavens tells this story to the narrator, who's now 21. She describes the way she reacted when she heard Antonia's story. As she does, we see why she was called "that good woman" earlier in the book:
‘I asked her, of course, why she didn’t insist on a civil marriage at once—that would have given her some hold on him. She leaned her head on her hands, poor child, and said, “I just don’t know, Mrs. Steavens. I guess my patience was wore out, waiting so long. I thought if he saw how well I could do for him, he’d want to stay with me.”

‘Jimmy, I sat right down on that bank beside her and made lament. I cried like a young thing. I couldn’t help it. I was just about heart-broke. It was one of them lovely warm May days, and the wind was blowing and the colts jumping around in the pastures; but I felt bowed with despair. My Antonia, that had so much good in her, had come home disgraced...
"I was poor comfort to her," this good woman says. "I marveled at her calm." (We'll pause while the tragically woke explain that Antonia shouldn't have felt disgraced.)

In this passage, we see that a range of reactions obtained among the book's native-born Nebraskans. Some simply couldn't see the virtues of the immigrant families. Others very much could.

The Widow Steavens wasn't alone in this capacity. During Antonia's first year in this new, very difficult country, her despairing father takes his own life.

At the modest funeral, Mrs. Shimerda conveys, through a fellow Bohemian, that she would like a prayer to be spoken in English so the native-born could understand. The narrator's grandfather accedes to this request:
Grandmother looked anxiously at grandfather. He took off his hat, and the other men did likewise. I thought his prayer remarkable. I still remember it. He began, ‘Oh, great and just God, no man among us knows what the sleeper knows, nor is it for us to judge what lies between him and Thee.’ He prayed that if any man there had been remiss toward the stranger come to a far country, God would forgive him and soften his heart.
Top philosophers tell us that we're all "strangers come to a far country" in the most elementary sense. Beyond that, they say that we have all been remiss toward others at some point in time.

Within that context, like Lincoln before him, the narrator's grandfather urged his neighbors not to be quick to judge.

In his remarks to Lawrence, O'Rourke urged cable viewers to seek a constructive way forward. He said he's confident that people of all persuasions will be able to see the moral beauty of that crying child, and of that crying child's parents, if we tell their story in an appropriate way.

This morning, King takes a different approach. Briefly being remiss, he helps us learn to loathe en masse. This raises a basic question:

When we liberals loathe The Others en masse, does our tribe's high-minded loathing differ from the types of loathing we like to say we hate?

We're hard-wired to believe such tales, several top experts have said.

Does anyone care about "segregation?"

FRIDAY, AUGUST 16, 2019

Consider the last Dem debate:
For ourselves, we aren't real high on Candidate Harris at this point.

As we noted in real time, we thought her kick-off rally was extremely good. We liked the content of the speech. We thought her performance was excellent.

That said, we thought her initial attack on Candidate Biden seemed like bad faith in a can. Meanwhile, she keeps repeating her bogus claim about the gender wage gap, even after her staff told Politifact that she merely "misspoke" the first time she made the false statement.

That said, whatever! And by the way, does anybody actually care about "segregation" in public schools? Based on the second night of the last Democratic debate, the answer would seem to be no.

Good lord! Jake Tapper kicked a long discussion off with an excellent question. It referred to Harris' attack on Biden from the first Democratic debates, the ones which were held back in June.

Tapper recalled that high-profile attack. His question went exactly like this:
TAPPER (7/31/19): I want to bring in Senator Harris now.

Senator Harris, you have also been quite critical of Vice President Biden's policies on race, specifically on the issues of busing in the 1970s, having benefited from busing when you were a young child. Vice President Biden says that your current position on busing, you're opposed to federally mandated busing, that that position is the same as his position. Is he right?
That was an excellent, even obvious question. In the first Democratic debates, Harris pole-axed Biden for opposing mandated busing back in 1974. But does she support the practice today?

Harris says our current public schools are even more segregated than they were back then! So does she support mandated busing today? This is what she said:
HARRIS (continuing directly): That is simply false. And let's be very clear about this. When Vice President Biden was in the United States Senate, working with segregationists to oppose busing, which was the vehicle by which we would integrate America's public schools, had I been in the United States Senate at that time, I would have been completely on the other side of the aisle.

And let's be clear about this. Had those segregationists their way, I would not be a member of the United States Senate, Cory Booker would not be a member of the United States Senate, and Barack Obama would not have been in the position to nominate him to the title he now holds.

(APPLAUSE)

And so, on that issue, we could not be more apart, which is that the vice president has still failed to acknowledge that it was wrong to take the position that he took at that time.

Now, I would like to also talk about this conversation about Eric Garner, because I, too, met with his mother. And one of the things that we've got to be clear about is that this president of the United States, Donald Trump, while he has been in office, has quietly been allowing the United States Department of Justice to shut down consent decrees, to stop pattern and practice investigations.

On that case, we also know that the Civil Rights Division—

TAPPER: Thank you, Senator.

HARRIS: —This is important. The Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice said charges should have been filed, but this United States Department of Justice usurpedCivil Rights Division and I believe it is because that president did not want those charges to go forward. And they overrode a decision by the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice.

TAPPER: Thank you, Senator.

HARRIS: Under my administration, the Civil Rights Division—

TAPPER: Thank you, Senator.

HARRIS: —will rein and there will be independent investigations.
In the parlance of the modern debate, it was a "three 'Thank you, Senator' night!" You'll also note that Harris' lengthy ramble had nothing to do with the question she was asked:

Does she support large-scale mandated busing to attack "segregation" today?

Harris killed a lot of time, but she didn't answer that question. Tapper gave Biden a chance to respond. The first short part what Biden said almost took us back to the original topic:
TAPPER (continuing directly): Vice President Biden, Vice President Biden, I want to give you a chance to respond to what Senator Harris just said.

BIDEN: When Senator Harris was attorney general for eight years in the state of California, there were two of the most segregated school districts in the country, in Los Angeles and in San Francisco. And she did not—I didn't see a single solitary time she brought a case against them to desegregate them.

Secondly, she also was in a situation where she had a police department when she was there that in fact was abusing people's rights. And the fact was that she in fact was told by her own people that her own staff that she should do something about and disclose to defense attorney's like me that you in fact have been—the police officer did something that did not give you information of what (inaudible) your—your client. She didn't do that. She never did it. And so what happened?

Along came a federal judge and said "Enough, enough." And he freed 1,000 of these people. If you doubt me, google "1000 prisoners freed, Kamala Harris."
We'd now wandered far afield from the original question. When Tapper gave Harris a second chance to speak, he didn't seem to remember or care how this whole thing started:
TAPPER (continuing directly): Thank you, Vice President Biden. Senator Harris, your response.

HARRIS: That is—is simply not true. And as attorney general of California, where I ran the second largest Department of Justice in the United States, second only to the United States Department of Justice, I am proud of the work we did. Work that has received national recognition for what has been the important work of reforming a criminal justice system and cleaning up the consequences of the bills that you passed when you were in the United States Senate for decades.

It was the work of creating the—one of the first in the nation initiatives around reentering former offenders and getting them jobs and counseling.

TAPPER: Thank you, Senator.

HARRIS: I did the work as attorney general of putting body cameras on special agents in the state of California—

TAPPER: I want to bring in Congresswoman—

HARRIS: —and I'm proud of that work.
Tapper now threw to Candidate Gabbard, who hammered Harris hard. That said, Gabbard didn't mention busing either. The topic had disappeared.

This lengthy exchange had begun with a perfectly sensible question: Does Candidate Harris actually support large-scale, mandated busing to create racial balance today? If Biden was wrong to oppose it back then, does she support it today?

Harris quickly changed the subject, and the question was never raised again. In truth, no one actually seems to care about this, politicians and pundits alike. Or maybe we just live at a time when attention spans are quite limited.

Does anyone in the Democratic field support large-scale, mandated busing to address racial imbalance in our public schools? We would assume the answer is no. That's why we thought Harris's original complaint about Biden's stance back in '74 carried an air of bad faith.

Does anyone, including Tapper, care about, or support, mandated busing today? For whatever reason, it was the most high-profile moment from the first Dem debates. At that point it—Poof—disappeared!