Frankly, we're in an undisclosed portion of Maine!

MONDAY, JULY 29, 2019

No fish till the end of the week:
Frankly, we've decamped to an undisclosed location in an undisclosed portion of Maine.

There's still no Internet in Maine. For that reason, we don't expect to post again until the end of the week.

Misstatement as the cultural norm!


Nadler, misstating Mueller:
What happens to a society when gross, apparently willful misstatement becomes the cultural norm?

We've been moving in that direction for the past several decades. In fairness, the liberal and mainstream worlds only began to notice the problem when Donald J. Trump took this behavior to the point of apparent insanity.

(For a good part of that time, it was in fact the mainstream press which drove the incessant misstating.)

At present, the aforementioned Trump mixes incessant insult with constant wild misstatement. Yesterday, Jerrold Nadler seemed to decide that it was his turn to play the blatant misstatement game.

Ladies and gentlemen, sad! Nadler stepped to the microphone with his comrades arrayed behind him. Early in his heroic statement, he heroically offered this:
NADLER (7/26/19): ...Director Mueller's testimony removed all doubt. He told us that Donald Trump obstructed justice and abused his office by tampering with witnesses...He told us in a remarkable exchange with Mr. Lieu that, but for the Department of Justice policy prohibiting [him] from doing so, he would have indicted President Trump. Indeed, it is clear that any other citizen of this country who has behaved as this president has would have been charged with multiple crimes.
To view the full statement, click here.

Let's start with this. During Wednesday's testimony, did Mueller actually say that Trump obstructed justice?

In fact, Mueller has said, right from the start, that he and his team never attempted to form or state a judgment regarding that matter. Everybody knows that!

Nadler was already taking liberties at that point in his remarks. But assuming even modest competence on Nadler's part, his statement concerning that "remarkable exchange with Mr. Lieu" can only be seen as a (truly remarkable) willful gross misstatement.

As everyone knows, the "remarkable exchange" with Rep. Lieu took place during Wednesday's morning session. In the exchange, Mueller seemed to voice agreement with a provocative assertion by Lieu—an assertion which went beyond anything Mueller had previously said.

Especially at CNN, pundits got very excited. But as everyone knows, at the start of Wednesday's afternoon session, Mueller explicitly corrected the record concerning what Lieu had said.

As everyone knows, this is what Mueller said at the start of the afternoon session. Did we mention the fact that everyone knows that Mueller explicitly said this?
MUELLER (7/24/19): I want to add one correction to my testimony this morning. I want to go back to one thing that was said this morning by Mr. Lieu, who said, and I quote, "You didn’t charge the president because of the OLC opinion."

That is not the correct way to say it. As we say in the report, and as I said at the opening, we did not reach a determination as to whether the president committed a crime.
According to his own statement, Mueller had erred when he seemed to agree with Lieu's representation. At the very start of the afternoon session, he explicitly corrected the record, before proceeding to address the first question he'd been asked.

That's what Mueller explicitly said—and everyone knows that he said it! But Nadler apparently liked the misstatement more than the correction. In yesterday's statement, he went ahead and acted as if the correction had never occurred.

Trump has been a con man, a sleazeball and a grifter for his entire life. He's highly practiced at the skill of misstating facts. He has a fully developed understanding of the sorts of absurd misstatements he can get people to buy.

Yesterday, Nadler was playing Trump's game. He's likely to fail at this effort.

What happens to a society when deliberate misstatement becomes the norm? Just a guess: Practiced dissemblers—people like Trump—are likely to gain an advantage.

That said, the haplessness of our mainstream and liberal elites has been on vivid display for decades. Yesterday, Nadler was trying to play it tough. Almost surely, this will turn out to be the latest pathetic fail.

One final point, and it's sad:

Fox is explaining this matter today. As best we can tell at this point, no other "news org" is.

Apparently a team effort: Last evening, we watched Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA) as she spoke from the Situation Room during the 6 PM hour.

Dean is a member of the House Judiciary Committee. She told Wolf Blitzer this:
DEAN (7/26/19): Keep in mind what's going on here. We have an attorney general who has done the exact same thing that this president has done in plain sight and also behind doors, obstruct from the American people the truth of the report.

And know that what our investigation will include will be beyond the four corners of that document. What we will be—we will also be looking at, and other committees will be looking at, ongoing violations of the Emoluments Clause, ongoing and previous violations of campaign finance, paying off mistresses days before the election to bury stories. This is extraordinary wrongdoing.

And when I go back to Mr. Mueller, I just want to say something. What an extraordinary American hero, 50 years of service, a biography that is unmatched by anybody. And one of the things that he said that I think was particularly haunting is, what he said, if this were not a sitting president, would you have indicted? Yes.
Sad! After praising Mueller for his honesty, Dean proceeded to misstate what he actually said. Wolf just let it go.

(Also, "paying off mistresses to bury stories?" How hapless are our leadership groups? So hapless that they now pretend that this is what our elections should be about. Prepare for sexual grifter schemes every fourth November, assuming we still have elections.)

Donald J. Trump is good at this game. These well-practiced losers are not.

IN HOC SIGNO, WARFARE: Big stars pretend to find thrilling new claim!

FRIDAY, JULY 26, 2019

Being There, Mueller edition:
We're so old that we can remember when a major American tribe was marching off to war under the "R-T" sign.

The "R-T" stood for "racist tweet," a description of the latest astonishing public statements by the apparently deranged American president, Donald J. Trump. On cable, corporate hacks took numbers and stood in line, eager to display their tribal good faith by repeating the crucial term "racist."

These hacks had never shown the slightest sign of taking interest in any topic connected with racial justice. But humans have always behaved in this way. This take us back long before Constantine I's Chi-Rho sign:

According to major experts, the species has always been wired to divide itself into the tribal groups known as Us and Them. Tribal members identified themselves by their public adherence to tribal "fictions" or group beliefs. They often did so by the display of the appropriate tribal sign.

("Have we learned nothing from Professor Harari?" one disconsolate future expert glumly and recently said.)

We're so old that we can remember when our own tribe marched under the R-T sign. This takes us all the way back to last weekend, with emanations on The 11th Hour as recently as Wednesday night.

That said, that was then and this is now, and now we're hoping to march to war beneath the R-S-M sign. The letters stand for Robert S. Mueller, who appeared before Congress this week.

In the face of a truly awful performance by the "halting," routinely befuddled Mueller, cable stars were pretending, last night, that he had spoken in oracular fashion, perhaps a bit like Chance the Gardener in the 1979 film, Being There.

According to future anthropologists, human tribes always behaved in such ways when building toward war with The Others. In that admittedly high-brow sense, the performance on "cable news" last night was an anthropological event.

Corporate stars got busy persuading the legions that important new information and claims had emerged from Mueller's appearance. Nowhere was the tribal nonsense more thick than on The Last Word.

Lawrence played excerpts of Mueller's testimony in alleged response to questions from Rep. Val Demings, a well-regarded former police chief. This occurred in the Wednesday afternoon hearing. This session was widely hailed, within the tribe, as the one where Mueller really cut loose after finally getting warmed up.

Below, you see the first exchange Lawrence aired last night. (To watch the full segment, click here.) As viewers, we were expected to ignore the long, peculiar pause during which Mueller seemed to seek help from the assistant beside him:
DEMINGS (7/24/19): Director Mueller, I too want to focus on the written responses that the president did provide and the continued efforts to lie and cover up what happened during the 2016 election. Were the president's answers submitted under oath?

MUELLER: [Long, peculiar pause as Mueller seems to seek assistance]

Yes. Yes.
It was one of about three million times that Mueller seemed befuddled that day by the most elementary facts at the heart of his report.

Despite this awkwardness, so what? Experts say that humans were wired to bluster past all possible doubt when they began to march themselves off to tribal war.

Before bringing Demings on as a guest, Lawrence played a few more excerpts from her five-minute "weekend with Mueller." This was the last exchange shown:
DEMINGS: Director Mueller, isn’t it fair to say that the president’s written answers were not only inadequate and incomplete because he didn’t answer many of your questions, but where he did, his answers show that he wasn’t always being truthful?

MUELLER: There—uh— I would say—uh [pause]

"Generally!" That was one of Mueller's standard one-word answers this day. It's hard to know what this attempt at an answer meant in this particular context, and Demings made no attempt to identify specific written statements which had been judged untruthful.

Instead, Demings went on to author a speech built around the tribal word "lie." According to future scholars, we humans always behaved this way during our short term on earth:
DEMINGS (continuing directly): “Generally.”

Director Mueller, it’s one thing for the president to lie to the American people about your investigation, falsely claiming that you found no collusion and no obstruction. But it's something else altogether for him to get away with not answering your questions and lying about them. And as a former law enforcement officer of almost 30 years, I find that a disgrace to our criminal justice system.
Where had Trump lied in his written answers? In fact, had Mueller actually made that charge? There was no attempt to nail such points down. Warfare unfolds in this manner.

We know of no reason to assume that Trump's written answers were actually truthful. Trump's persistent, lunatic misstatements are a key part of the dangerous pathology the press corps has agreed not to discuss or explore.

That said, Mueller's reaction to Demings' last question was halting, unsure, imprecise. No one tried to determine what he had meant by his own-word reply, or if he'd really meant anything at all.

Having noticed these problems, so what? Lawrence brought Demings on last night, hailing her as the type of person you want for your chief of police. To be honest, she struck us as perhaps the type of self-convinced true believer you may not always want in such a post.

Whatever the truth about that may be, the legions are now being told to believe that some new, important claim emerged from Demings' session with Mueller. "Humans always behaved this way," top experts advised us last night, speaking to us from the future and also in the past tense.

Our tribe is marching off to war under various signs. We especially love the "racist" sign, but we may love the "liar" sign even more.

As we prepare for a brief stay in Maine, we thought you might like to see the fuller transcript of Mueller's bold "statement" to Demings. Here as elsewhere, the witness actually said very little in the course of the five-minute exchange.

This part of the exchange could almost serve as a parody of meaningful human discourse. For the full transcript, click here:
DEMINGS: Let’s go through some of [Trump's written] answers to take a closer look at his credibility, because it seems to me, Director Mueller, that his answers were not credible at all.

Did some of President Trump’s incomplete answers relate to Trump Tower Moscow?


DEMINGS: For example, did you ask the president whether he had had at any time, directed or suggested that, that discussions about Trump Moscow project should cease?

MUELLER: Should what?


MUELLER: Do you have a citation?

DEMINGS: Yes. We’re still in Appendix C, Section 1, 7.

MUELLER: The first page?

DEMINGS: Yes. Because the president did not answer whether he had at any time directed or suggested that discussions about the Trump Moscow project should cease, but he has since made public comments about this topic.

MUELLER: OK. And the question was?

DEMINGS: Did the president— Well, let me go on to the next.

Did the president fully answer that question in his written statement to you about the Trump Moscow project ceasing? Again, in Appendix C.

MUELLER: No. And can you direct me to the particular paragraph you're referring to?

DEMINGS: It would be Appendix C-C1, but let me move forward.

Nine days after he submitted his written answers, didn’t the president say publicly that he, quote, “decided not to do the project,“ unquote. And that is in your report.

MUELLER: I am not— I’d ask you— I’d ask you if you would to point out the particular paragraph that you’re focused on.

DEMINGS: OK, we can move on.
Fighting to beat the five-minute rule, delayed by Mueller's general incomprehension, Demings had to keep "movin' on."

Soon she had to finish up. This is the way that rolled:
DEMINGS: Director Mueller, for example, the president is written as, or stated he did not recall having advanced knowledge of WikiLeaks releases, is that correct?

MUELLER: I think that’s what he said.

DEMINGS: But didn’t your investigation uncover evidence that the president did in fact have advanced knowledge of WikiLeaks public releases of e-mails damaging to his opponent?

MUELLER: And I can’t get in to that area.

DEMINGS: Did your investigation determine after very careful vetting or Rick Gates and Michael Cohen’s that you found them to be credible?

MUELLER: That we found the president to be credible?

DEMINGS: That you found Gates and Cohen to be credible in their statements about WikiLeaks—

MUELLER: Those are areas I’m not going to discuss.

DEMINGS: OK. Could you say Director Mueller that the president was credible?

MUELLER: I can’t answer that question.
With that, Demings posed her final question, the first question we posted above. She asked if Trump was always being truthful in the written answers he submitted.

To our eye, Mueller seemed confused and unsure on the way to "Generally." Can anyone really say they feel sure about what Mueller meant?

In our view, it's clear that something is badly wrong with the sitting president. That said, it's also clear that Director Mueller was struggling hard all through Wednesday's sessions.

Still and all, the tribe is currently eager for war, not unlike the Southern boys at the start of Gone With the Wind. On cable news, the endless promise that war is coming has proved to be very good business.

You hear about that and about little else! In the way which has always been standard among Homo sapiens, the stars were cutting corners last night, trying to rally the legions.

It seems to us that Donald Trump is in the grip of some version of "mental illness." Inevitably, our press corps decided, early last year, that this dangerous possibility must never be discussed.

Instead, we're being sold a product. The progression on cable news is easy to define:

After the Mueller probe began, we were told that the bravest, wisest person on earth was going to frog-march everyone out of the White House. This kept us liberals coming back to cable news for more.

When the Mueller report appeared and Mueller had done no such thing, we were told that Mueller would rock the world when he appeared before Congress. This kept hope alive.

When Mueller appeared before Congress this week, he was remarkably other than advertised. Result?

Last night, the cable stars were instructing us that we shouldn't believe our own lyin' eyes concerning what happened this week. They urged us to think that important new claims had emerged from Wednesday's events.

How much are they paid to tell you these things? Despite their vast love for transparency, you aren't allowed to know that! They just keep us keepin' on. No other topic matters.

According to leading future experts, our species repeatedly marched to war under various tribal signs. These wars routinely came at great cost, these scholars despondently tell us.

Night after night, they remind us of the realm from which they deliver the nocturnal transmissions the haters deride as mere dreams. They speak to us from the years which follow the global conflagration they refer to as Mister Trump's War.

The run-up to war was fun while it lasted, these top future experts have said. And with that, it's onward to next week's "debates!" Just think how much fun we'll all have!

SICK DAY: American systems, coming undone!


Along with American leadership:
Today, we'll struggle to recover from yesterday's gruesome example of "American carnage."

Tomorrow, we'll try to pull our award-winning series, In Hoc Signo Vinces, back together again. For today, we'll skim the surface of the demise of American systems and leaders.

Yesterday's hearings helped display the headlong demise of our American systems and our American leadership cadres. We'll start with the depressing passage shown below.

In this morning's print editions, this passage appears at the very top of the New York Times' front page. In our view, this passage is depressing and alarming:
LAFRANIERE ET AL (7/25/19): Soon after the special counsel’s office opened in 2017, some aides noticed that Robert S. Mueller III kept noticeably shorter hours than he had as F.B.I. director, when he showed up at the bureau daily at 6 a.m. and often worked nights.

He seemed to cede substantial responsibility to his top deputies, including Aaron Zebley, who managed day-to-day operations and often reported on the investigation’s progress up the chain in the Justice Department. As negotiations with President Trump’s lawyers about interviewing him dragged on, for example, Mr. Mueller took part less and less, according to people familiar with how the office worked.

That hands-off style was on display on Wednesday when Mr. Mueller testified for about seven hours before two House committees.
Once famous for his laserlike focus, Mr. Mueller, who will turn 75 next month, seemed hesitant about the facts in his own 448-page report. He struggled at one point to come up with the word “conspiracy.”

At one excruciatingly awkward moment, he stumbled over a poorly worded question about who was president when he served as a top federal prosecutor in 1986, apparently assuming the questioner meant his subsequent Justice Department post.
The reporters are possibly being too kind with that speculation about Mueller's painful response to that "poorly worded question." (The question seemed straightforward to us. It was presented by a Democrat who assumed it would be answered quickly and easily.)

Based upon that piece of reporting, the fact that Mueller was no longer himself has been known, behind the scenes, for at least the past two years.

Presumably, this unfortunate fact was also known to the congressional Democrats who had been promoting Mueller's appearance so heavily.

Implicitly, they'd been promising the latest magical defeat of Donald J. Trump without the need to find the way to defeat him at the polls. As for us the people, the unfortunate fact was sprung on us early in yesterday's hearings.

Mueller shouldn't have been there. Based upon his performance, he should no longer have been functioning at the top of our leadership cadres.

(In fairness, every pseudo-liberal insider hack would have been allowed to continue saying that Mueller is an ex-marine and "a patriot." But he himself should no longer have been cast in the "miracle savior" role our cable hacks have been pimping to us for the past two-plus years, driving up company profits as they goose us along.)

As for the Democratic leadership cadres who insisted on yesterday's appearance, we'll let you decide about them for yourselves. In fairness, there's no miracle cure for the eternal problems presented by human nature, but our basic thought about them would be this:

They don't know how to address the stranger. More on that theory tomorrow.

At any rate, American systems have been falling apart for the past decade or so. Consider a few examples:

The Electoral College: Our peculiar Electoral College system has plainly started to sputter and wheeze.

Respectable analysts have been suggesting for the past month that Donald J. Trump could imaginably lose the popular vote by more than 5 million votes next year, yet still win re-election.

That would mean that losing candidates would hold the White House for sixteen of the 24 years from 2001 through 2025 (we're counting both Bush terms). It's hard to believe that the public will continue to tolerate this.

The Supreme Court: Our Supreme Court system has already broken down, due to its politicization along with its life terms. As the Court has become a partisan political body, presidents have begun to select rigidly reliable Justices who are also youngish or young.

Mitch McConnell's decision to adjust the date of Justice Scalia's death only made this growing system failure more fully apparent.

Senate math: Our system of Senate math gives remarkably disproportionate power to voters in small rural states. With our smaller states increasingly adopting one particular partisan cast, this is creating another fairly obvious system failure.

On a much smaller scale, the congressional hearing system, in which every committee member gets to showboat for the cameras for his or her sacred five minutes, was on display again yesterday.

(In fairness, the Democrats had made the rare effort to get organized as a group. They also seemed to know that Mueller wouldn't be able to function well. Each member was prepared to read the text of particular portions of the Mueller report which the author couldn't seem to recall or discuss.)

Here as elsewhere, this 5-minute system failure reflects the grasping nature of our culture, in which each individual strives to maximize his or her financial and career gain, full stop, even on cable TV.

Does this reflect some sort of broad cultural change? Check the rise in CEO pay over the past seventy years.

Our American systems are falling apart, but so are our leadership cadres. That includes our journalistic leadership cadres. Even on "liberal" cable news, these ridiculous, bubble-wrapped guilds have become an unvarnished joke.

Everyone knows to criticize Fox, but liberal viewers are persistently conned by the multimillionaire TV stars on CNN and MSNBC. If you're a liberal who doesn't yet know that, so these things have always gone, all through the annals of time.

We started planning this site in 1997 because we thought this type of journalistic carnage could no longer be tolerated, even way back then. Even then, we were stunned by the press corps' lack of intellectual tools, but also by its members' desire to run in packs slandering targeted pols in the dumbest possible ways.

These types of moral and intellectual carnage now define "cable news" and our journalism as a whole. We have no idea where the off-ramp from this particular carnage lies, but in our view, the problem tracks back to a basic human deficiency, one we'll touch on tomorrow.

Are you your brother and sister's keeper? Are you inclined to respect the stranger—the "stranger in a far land?"

Are you inclined to respect the Other, even when the Other is so racist that he may say "colored," instead of "of color," when he's 82?

Future Anthropologists Huddled in Caves (TM) keep telling us, despondently, to consider these questions. They glumly insist that, based upon our inherited natures, the answer to these biological questions may turn out to be no.

Is it "all anthropology now?" So these experts ruefully told us, more than two years ago.

The ultimate example: Our president is visibly insane. Our press corps decided, two years ago, that they mustn't discuss that fact.

Every pundit plays along. Careers hang in the balance!

We watched Mueller for most of the day!


Astonishment and despair:
We wish we could have done a better job with today's main report. Instead, we spent the bulk of the day watching Mueller—and good God, what an awful performance!

Mueller seemed to have no idea what's in his report. It's very, very hard to believe that he was in charge of the effort.

Our American systems are breaking down. So is American leadership. That was a sobering, puzzling performance. Beyond that, we're sorry it caused us to do a D-plus job with our own main report.

IN HOC SIGNO, WARFARE: Jeremy Peters drops a bomb!


Spots 82-year-old racist:
According to the folk tradition, "God gave Noah the rainbow sign."

Much later, Constantine I marched to victory under the Chi-Rho sign—with the first two letters of Christ's name (in Greek) on his warriors' shields. See yesterday's report.

Constantine went on to be the first Christian Roman emperor. He left us with the inspiring cry:
In hoc signo vinces.
Under the Chi-Rho sign, Constantine actually conquered. Today, our liberal team is marching to war under a somewhat similar set of signs.

One difference:

Where Constantine's sign featured only two letters, we march to war under an array of single letters—under bombs with such names as R, B, X, I, H, M and S.

These letters stand for the various bombs which constitute the only approach we seem to have to the process of dealing with Others—with those who aren't quite perfect enough to be exactly like us.

Perhaps if our tribe stopped waging war, we'd get better results. But our species has always been war-inclined, and we liberals have been marching to war this week under the R-bomb sign.

We keep insisting The Others are racists. In a recent New York Times report, Cornell Belcher was quoted saying that we may be playing a losing game.

We'll re-post Belcher's statement below. That said, this name-calling game is the only one our pitiful tribe seems to know.

Is it possible that we lose votes by loving the R-bomb so? Over the weekend, the New York Times journeyed to deepest Michigan in search of people—in search of voters—who apparently think so.

Up in Michigan, Stephanie Saul and Jeremy Peters spoke to benighted voters who refused to agree that Donald J. Trump's recent racist tweets were actually racist! To see the way we may cost ourselves votes with our love of the R-B signs, consider the sheer absurdity of what happened next.

We'll start at the start of the front-page report which appeared in yesterday morning's Times. Saul and Peters started with one of the people—with one of the voterswho refuses to agree to the truth:
SAUL AND PETERS (7/23/19): As President Trump presses his attacks against four women of color in Congress, suggesting they are unpatriotic and should leave the country, many voters in this city on Lake Huron are embracing his “America—Love It or Leave It” message, saying they do not see it as racist.

And though they dismiss Mr. Trump’s Twitter broadsides as excessive or juvenile, they voiced strong support for his re-election and expressed their own misgivings about the four women.

“They happen to be black or colored,” Dennis Kovach, 82, said of the women, as he watered the lawn of his home near the lake this weekend. “But I don’t think that viewpoint is a racist viewpoint. I think it’s—quit the bitching, if you don’t like it, do something different about it.”
The report began with Dennis Kovach, who is 82 years old. As we learn at the end of the lengthy Times piece, Kovach "said he once worked in a factory in Romania where he had observed the Communist system."

Who in the world would water his lawn right by the shore of a very large lake? The 82-year-old Kovach would! And not only that, he wasn't prepared to acknowledge the fact that Trump's racist tweets were racist!

Later that evening, on cable news, an additional crime was laid to this voter's name:

Jeremy Peters appeared with Brian Williams on the 11th Hour. As their exchange began, Williams referred to Trump's recent claims that four Democratic congresswomen of color are the actual racists.

According to Brian, Trump was changing the definition of racism. For better or worse, Peters responded as shown—and yes, this actually happened:
WILLIAMS (7/23/19): So, Jeremy, as you well know, this has been the concurrent effort, this kind of dual "I'm not a racist but you are," and the moving of the goalpost, the attempt to change the definition of racism.

PETER: That's exactly right. And this is something you've heard, not just from the White House, but from conservative commentators up and down the board, from Ann Coulter to Sean Hannity.

And it is very resonant with a number of Americans. I mean, I think that it is something that works for Trump because these people who make comments like they need to–

The New York Times, over the weekend, when we reported the story from Michigan, just trying to see how well these remarks were playing of the president's—and one person referred to these women as "colored." And he didn't see that as racist. And so regardless of, you know, just political incorrectness and the prejudice behind some of these views that many Americans still hold, they don't see it that way.

And they see the president, when he is attacked and called a racist, as themselves, because they don't think they're racist and they don't think the president is either. So it has this certain reinforcing effect of all of the anger and the grievance that Trump has brought out in the American people.
Truly, that's a remarkable statement. Let's get clear on what Peters seems to have said, with Brian along for the ride:

Plainly, Peters seemed to be referring to the quoted statement by Kovach—the statement with which the Times' front-page report had begun. Just as plainly, Peters seemed to say that Kovach's use of the term "colored" was a racist statement and a marker of "prejudice."

Beyond that, he seemed to suggest that this usage marks Kovach as a racist even though Kovach may not think he is. To Peters, this explains why people like Kovach may side with Trump. Despite this type of obvious evidence, they don't think that they themselves are racists, and on that basis they don't think that the president is.

At any rate, yes—that actually happened! An 82-year-old Romanian immigrant used the term "colored" rather than "of color." Representing the New York Times, Peters seemed to say that this marked him as a racist. And others like him as well!

Williams accepted this without comment. Let's review what we've learned:

When he marched to war under the two letters of the Chi-Rho sign, Constantine I is said to have massively prospered. When we modern pseudo-progressives march to war under our promiscuous use of the R-bomb, it's not unlikely that we will generate substantially worse results.

We change our language every few years—the language with which all decent people are expected to talk about "race." When 82-year-old Romanian immigrants can't maintain our pace, we make the type of pitiful statement Peters unloosed last night.


Can we high-minded, self-impressed liberals learn to respect The Other? Borrowing from Willa Cather, will we ever able to show respect for the stranger in a far land?

Uh-oh! According to major anthropologists, we modern liberals are behaving as members of our highly tribal species always did, all through the annals of time. Our species always divided into tribes, these experts say, then began looking for ways to savage The Others.

We modern liberals love that game! We'll remind you of what Belcher said, as quoted in Monday's Times:
HERNDON AND MEDINA (7/22/19): Mr. Belcher, the [Democratic] pollster, was also skeptical of his party’s ability to meet Mr. Trump on his playing field.

“White progressives don’t understand race in this country and conservatives and Republicans do,” he said. “But they better learn, because Donald Trump is coming.”
Say what? Can Cornell Belcher say that?

For the record, Jeremy Peters seems like a perfectly decent person. That said, our vastly self-impressed liberal tribe is vastly eager to name-call and demonize our lessers. According to disconsolate future experts, this is the way our deeply parochial, war-inclined species has behaved since the dawn of time.

God gave Noah the rainbow sign. Constantine scored with the Chi-Rho sign.

We liberals signal contempt for the regular person with our modern array of signs. We're marching off to next year's war under these various signs.

On the merits, our conduct is often just massively stupid. On the politics, our conduct is often deeply ugly and may be self-defeating.

Dearest darlings, use your heads. The Others can see who we are!

Tomorrow: Divide and get yourself conquered

The age-old conning of the tribe!

TUESDAY, JULY 23, 2019

It's time for Katyal to go:
From the cable news pseudo-liberal perspective, the Mueller report was a deeply disastrous dud.

We'd been promised so many indictments that we'd get tired of all the indictments! But Mueller announced no further indictments. Most disastrously, the Mueller report said this, early on:
MUELLER REPORT (Volume I, page 9): Among other things, the evidence was not sufficient to charge any Campaign official as an unregistered agent of the Russian government or other Russian principal. And our evidence about the June 9, 2016 meeting and WikiLeaks’s releases of hacked materials was not sufficient to charge a criminal campaign-finance violation. Further, the evidence was not sufficient to charge that any member of the Trump Campaign conspired with representatives of the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election.
Oof. The corporate clowns who con us each night had promised us something much better. When it finally appeared, the Mueller report was a ginormous dud.

From that time to this, those same corporate clowns have been conning us liberals all over again. No one is more ridiculous than MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace, who emits a selective account of the contents of the Mueller report on a daily basis.

Last Friday, Wallace was at it again. Below, you see her slithery, slick account of what "the normal person" can "take from" the Mueller report.

She spoke with Neal Katyal, a former high official, but one who has also decided to function as a propagandist:
WALLACE (7/19/19): You're the rule of law guy. I spent more of my time of the political side...Just from your perspective on the rule of law side of the ledger, is it clear to you that when Robert Mueller stood up before God and country, which actually means something to Robert Mueller—we're so conditioned to someone who doesn't mean what they say or say what they mean—

KATYAL: I have no idea what you're talking about—

WALLACE (Laughing, as always): Donald J. Trump, for one.

When Robert Mueller says, "If I could have found that the president didn't commit crimes, I would have said so," what the normal person can take from that is that Donald Trump did commit crimes?
Wallace has been running that version of three-card monte for weeks. It was ironic to see her run this con after praising Mueller for his honesty, but people like Wallace have behaved this way all through the annals of time.

Needless to say, "a normal person" can "take from" the Mueller report whatever he or chooses. But the Mueller report doesn't say that Trump committed the crime of obstruction of justice. It says that Mueller and his team made no attempt to settle the matter one way or the other.

Mueller did say, in his report, that he can't exonerate Trump. He also said that he hasn't judged that Trump did commit obstruction. Wallace keeps reporting one part of that multi-part statement, then urging her viewers to draw the pleasing conclusion she persistently describes.

This is who and what Wallace is. It's what she was when she pimped the war in Iraq. It's what she was in 2004 when she pimped all those same-sex marriage ballot measures, trying to drive up turnout to keep George Bush in office.

Wallace is a partisan propagandist; that's who and what she is. In a more rational world, it would fall to a former public official like Katyal to correct the misleading statements these impulses cause her to issue.

That said, Katyal has taken the tribal dive too. This is the remarkable way he responded to Wallace:
KATYAL (continuing directly): Absolutely. And I mean it was remarkable, because the president, right after the Barr summary of the Mueller report came out, said the report found no obstruction, no collusion, totally exonerates the president. And Barr's summary suggested that was all right.

But now that we actually have the report, it says the reverse.
On just the first couple of pages, Mueller says, "Look, if I could have cleared the president of obstruction of justice, I would have." That is devastating, the implication lies in the air, and that's what we should be talking about Wednesday.
To watch the full hustle, click here. Regarding Katyal's response:

The Mueller report says no such thing "on just the first couple of pages." More significantly, the Barr letter didn't suggest that the Mueller report "totally exonerates the president."

Also, the Mueller report doesn't "say the reverse" of that. That's just plainly inaccurate.

Should the normal person take away the idea that Mueller did find that Trump committed the crime of obstruction? Below, you see what the report actually says, early in Volume II:
MUELLER REPORT (Volume 2, page 2): Fourth, if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment. The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.
Partisans can describe the hidden meanings of that full passage in whatever way they choose. They can then convey their selective, novelized pictures to "normal people" who don't know that they're being conned.

But Katyal follows Wallace down the drain, citing one part of what was said while completely omitting the other. The conduct is especially egregious coming from a person who has worked "on "the rule of law side," not as a partisan hack.

One other point should be made. There was at least one obvious problem with the Barr letter's summary of the Mueller report.

But in his letter, Barr quoted the very sentence in which Mueller says that he didn't exonerate Trump. By now, people like Katyal have made it sound like Barr disappeared that part of what Mueller said. This false impression is routinely conveyed on MSNBC programs.

Rereading the Barr letter today, it's hard to say that Barr was more disingenuous then than Katyal is today. But then, we humans weren't wired for Enlightenment values, top high-ranking anthropologists have quite frequently said.

We were and are wired for tribal war—for constructing, then repeating, our preferred tribal narratives. Wallace has always behaved in such ways. Katyal now follows suit.

Wallace has been sent to us live and direct from service to President Bush and his wars. Of Katyal, we'll repeat what glum future experts have said:

Because he's human, all too human, it's time to get him off the air!

IN HOC SIGNO, WARFARE: Constantine I saw a mighty sign!

TUESDAY, JULY 23, 2019

His legions triumphed beneath it:
Constantine I, the first Roman emperor who was a Christian, was engaged in a great holy war.

According to major anthropologists who report to us from the future, our rather imperfect human brains were always wired for that.

Let's be more precise! Constantine I wasn't emperor yet at the start of our story. That's what his holy war was about. Nor was he yet a Christian.

We're apparently speaking of The Battle of the Milvian Bridge, which occurred on March 28 in the year 312 and doesn't get taught in the schools any more. The leading authority on the battle sets the scene like this:
The Battle of the Milvian Bridge took place between the Roman Emperors Constantine I and Maxentius on 28 October 312. It takes its name from the Milvian Bridge, an important route over the Tiber. Constantine won the battle and started on the path that led him to end the Tetrarchy and become the sole ruler of the Roman Empire. Maxentius drowned in the Tiber during the battle; his body was later taken from the river and decapitated, and his head was paraded through the streets of Rome on the day following the battle.
As every child would have known at one time, it was "Tetrarchy, goodbye!"

According to oral tradition, Maxentius, who had already drowned, was decapitated "just in case." According to disconsolate experts, our human brains were always wired for overkill at such glorious times.

Postponing assessment of such slanders, let's return to our story. As the leading authority on the topic continues, we learn about the way Constantine I was given a mighty sign:
According to chroniclers such as Eusebius of Caesarea and Lactantius, the battle marked the beginning of Constantine's conversion to Christianity. Eusebius of Caesarea recounts that Constantine and his soldiers had a vision sent by the Christian God. This was interpreted as a promise of victory if the sign of the Chi-Rho, the first two letters of Christ's name in Greek, was painted on the soldiers' shields. The Arch of Constantine, erected in celebration of the victory, certainly attributes Constantine's success to divine intervention; however, the monument does not display any overtly Christian symbolism.
Constantine, and his soldiers, were provided a mighty vision, apparently by the Christian God. They realized that they must march to war under a mighty sign:

The first two letters of Christ's name, in Greek, should adorn their shields.

In a separate rendering, the leading authority provides a bit more detail. This passage describes the fuller emergence of that mighty sign:
The historian bishop Eusebius of Caesaria states that Constantine was marching with his army...when he looked up to the sun and saw a cross of light above it, and with it the Greek words "(ἐν) τούτῳ νίκα" ("In this, conquer"), a phrase often rendered into Latin as in hoc signo vinces ("in this sign, you will conquer").

At first, Constantine did not know the meaning of the apparition, but on the following night, he had a dream in which Christ explained to him that he should use the sign of the cross against his enemies. Eusebius then continues to describe the Labarum, the military standard used by Constantine in his later wars against Licinius, showing the Chi-Rho sign.
In a move which might seem out of character, Christ "explained to [Constantine] that he should use the sign of the cross against his enemies." Christ was explaining Constantine's vision from the day before, in which he'd seen the Greek words meaning, "In this, conquer."

Eventually, the various messagings fell into place. Constantine realized that he should march his soldiers to battle under the so-called Chi-Rho sign.

When he did, Maxentius expired. Thus arose a great, famous battle cry:
"In hoc signo vinces!"
Top anthropologists, late at night, have raised an intriguing point about this story. They've noted that this famous story tends to evoke the meaning of the word "fiction" as used by Professor Harari in his gigantic best-seller, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.

According to Harari, our species, through some chance mutations, developed the ability to march into war in very large groups, thanks to our ability to display group allegiance to some mighty "myth," story or sign.

This gave our species the ability to cooperate in large numbers. Other human species lacked this ability. They were driven into extinction by our vastly more numerous legions.

The future anthropologists to whom we refer cite The Battle of the Milvian Bridge for a typically gloomy reason. At present, they despairingly say, our own American liberal tribe is gathering forces to march to war under our own mighty sign.

Just yesterday morning, Professor Glaude explicitly called for such a war, saying this of Donald J. Trump:

"He wants to have this fight, Joe. We need to have it. We need to have it once and for all!"

We soon experienced Mister's Trump War, these future experts despondently say, displaying the confusion of tenses natural to communications from the future. For the record, they communicate with us through the peculiar nocturnal transmissions the haters deride as mere dreams.

Under which particular sign is our tribe preparing to march off to war? Most important, just because this approach worked for Constantine I, will it work for us?

That second question is being ignored, as is normal at junctures like this. "Did you learn nothing from Gone With the Wind?" several top experts have asked us.

Tomorrow: The emerging shape of our sign

Stephens recommends trip to Nebraska!

MONDAY, JULY 22, 2019

We recommend it too:
In Saturday morning's New York Times, Bret Stephens recommended a trip to Nebraska—more specifically, to the Nebraska of the 1880s, the initial setting for Willa Cather's autobiographical novel, My Antonia.

We'll recommend it too. We aren't sufficiently well-read to have a serious claim to a favorite novel. But if we did have a favorite novel, it would be the book Stephens calls "the perfect antidote to our [current] president."

For ourselves, we'd also call it the perfect antidote to our current cable news. That said, here's a taste of Stephens' viewpoint:
STEPHENS (7/20/19): Cather’s novel is a story of a country that can overcome prejudice. The narrator’s grandfather offers succor to the destitute Shimerdas, forgives them their debts, puts petty quarrels aside, and consoles them in their grief. After Ántonia’s father commits suicide, he prays “that if any man there had been remiss toward the stranger come to a far country, God would forgive him and soften his heart.”

It’s in such moments that “My Ántonia” becomes an education in what it means to be American:
to have come from elsewhere, with very little; to be mindful, amid every trapping of prosperity, of how little we once had, and were; to protect and nurture those newly arrived, wherever from, as if they were our own immigrant ancestors—equally scared, equally humble, and equally determined.
We'd substitute "human" for "American," then agree with every word.

An any rate, trust us! You wouldn't want to have lived in the unforgiving Nebraska of the 1880s as a Czech ("Bohemian") immigrant. The suicide to which Stephens refers is only one of the proofs.

First above all, we love My Antonia for the ardor of its advocacy on behalf of those immigrants, but especially for the "immigrant girls" Cather respects and admires—for "the Danish girls," for Antonia herself, for "the three Bohemian Marys."

In fact, My Antonia is so profoundly autobiographical that its fidelity to actual events takes it beyond the realm of memoir into the land of journalism. The Antonia Shimerda of the book was, in reality, Antonie Sadilkova, later Antonie Sadilkova Pavelkova, with whom Cather shared part of a childhood "in a far country," in a vast empty land.

There are several things we love about the book in question. Chief among them, as already noted, is the ardor of Cather's advocacy for the immigrant families among whom she grew up, but most especially for the "immigrant girls," whose vibrant physical beauty she describes without embarrassment, leering or shame.

Also, their personal and moral greatness and goodness. Cather once wrote, of Antonie Sadilkova: "She was one of the truest artists I ever knew in the keenness and sensitiveness of her enjoyment, in her love of people and in her willingness to take pains."

Cather went on to be classified as a literal (world renowned) "artist." Antonie Sadilkova remained on the Nebraska farm, where she raised ten children. Cather's book is an antidote in the way it can instruct us about the possibility of the deepest respect for The Other—for the stranger in a far land, for the person who isn't exactly like one's own self.

My Antonia is a deeply ardent testimony concerning those who weren't exactly like Cather. David Murphy discussed Cather's "empathy" in a fascinating 1994 essay for The Great Plains Quarterly:
MURPHY (Spring 1994): Just as their farm was the setting, Jan Pavelka and Antonie Sadilkova Pavelkova were prototypes for the Czech immigrants in [My Antonia]...Cather's empathy with Czech culture was broad and deep; her allusion to it was informed, not merely exotic. As a result, many Czechs and Czech Americans ultimately saw Antonia as jejich Antonie, or "their Antonia."


Cather's accuracy seems to have come not from familial or cultural predilection but instead from keen observation. Born in 1873 in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, Cather came west with her family at the age of nine in 1883. They lived initially on the "Divide," the high plain between the Big Blue and Republican Rivers in northern Webster County, near her uncle and grandparents...

The prairie and its startling contrast to the Valley of Virginia exerted tremendous influence on Cather. By her own account the country "was mostly wild pasture and as naked as the back of your hand .... So the country and I had it out together and by the end of the first autumn, that shaggy grass country had gripped me with a passion I have never been able to shake." The experiences gained her the two most important themes in her writing, identity with the land and empathy with the foreign immigrants.
"Empathy with the foreign immigrants"—with the strangers who had to struggle so hard, to the point of self-inflicted death, in a new, unforgiving land.

We most love the contempt Cather's narrator expresses at one point for Nebraska's native-born boys of that time, who all saw the beauty of the immigrant girls but couldn't bring themselves to defy convention and marry them. This brings us to the "murder mystery" element of the book:

Jim Burden, Cather's narrator, is plainly Cather herself, but he is a boy and then a man, while Cather was a girl and then a woman. It seems that Cather was a girl and then a woman who loved girls and women, not boys and men. This apparently produced a gender switch in her narrator which introduces an element of complication and confusion to the book.

At any rate, Cather apparently loved the stranger more than the more familiar. Murphy discusses this further:
MURPHY: For Cather, the literary theme moved beyond empathy. Ultimately she favored foreign over Anglo-American ways, and developed a strong distaste for Anglo-centrism. In a 1921 interview she attacked the prevailing xenophobic mood:

"They have come here to live in the sense that they lived in the Old World, and if they were let alone their lives might turn into the beautiful ways of their homeland. But they are not let alone ....

"It wasn't so years ago. When I was a child, all our neighbors were foreigners .... We let them alone. . . . They finished their houses as they had in the countries from which they came. Beauty was there and charm ... nobody interfered with them."

She lamented the loss of creativity, observing that the "Americanization worker who persuades an old Bohemian housewife that it is better for her to feed her family out of tin cans instead of cooking them a steaming goose for dinner is committing a crime against art."
Cather saw art in that woman's steaming goose. In the keenness and sensitiveness of her enjoyment, in her love of people and in her willingness to take pains, she saw in Antonie Sadilkova Pavelkova—a farm woman and a mother of ten—"one of the truest artists [she] ever knew."

Cather saw the beauty of the stranger who had journeyed to a far land. Will we liberals ever learn to respect the stranger too?

Stephens is thinking of current immigrants, as of course he should. That said, there are others to empathize with in our land. On cable, does anyone try?

The beauty of the stranger: It's Book II, Chapter IX that we love the most. That short chapter starts like this:
There was a curious social situation in Black Hawk. All the young men felt the attraction of the fine, well-set-up country girls who had come to town to earn a living, and, in nearly every case, to help the father struggle out of debt, or to make it possible for the younger children of the family to go to school.

Those girls had grown up in the first bitter-hard times, and had got little schooling themselves. But the younger brothers and sisters, for whom they made such sacrifices and who have had ‘advantages,’ never seem to me, when I meet them now, half as interesting or as well educated. The older girls, who helped to break up the wild sod, learned so much from life, from poverty, from their mothers and grandmothers; they had all, like Antonia, been early awakened and made observant by coming at a tender age from an old country to a new.

I can remember a score of these country girls who were in service in Black Hawk during the few years I lived there, and I can remember something unusual and engaging about each of them. Physically they were almost a race apart, and out-of-door work had given them a vigor which, when they got over their first shyness on coming to town, developed into a positive carriage and freedom of movement, and made them conspicuous among Black Hawk women.
Cather continues her account of these vibrant young women, who "physically were almost a race apart" and were thereby "considered a threat to the social order."

The native-born boys all saw their vibrancy and their beauty, but they were afraid to act. Has anyone ever advocated for anyone with so much zeal?

IN HOC SIGNO, WARFARE: Silly Southern boys wanted their war!

MONDAY, JULY 22, 2019

But so does Professor Glaude:
Because it was free on our On Demand—and on the advice of several top experts—we decided to rewatch a pair of scenes from the famous film, Gone With the Wind.

We started with the famous film's famous opening scene:

On the front steps of Tara, two silly Southern boys are trying to woo the admittedly fetching Miss Scarlett—and they're excitedly looking ahead to an onrushing war.

Brent and Stew are hot to trot. The movie starts like this:
BRENT: What do we care if we were expelled from college, Scarlett? The war is going to start any day now, so we would have left college anyhow.

STEW: Oh, isn't it exciting, Scarlett? You know those poor Yankees actually want a war?

BRENT: We'll show 'em!
In fairness to Brent and Stew, they were very young. Also, though, "Consider the species!" Or so a disconsolate phalanx of future anthropologists have repeatedly gloomily said.

Brent and Stew were eager for war. As the famous script proceeds, this annoys Miss Scarlett:
SCARLETT: Fiddle-dee-dee. "War, war, war." This war talk is spoiling all the fun at every party this spring. I get so bored I could scream. Besides, there isn't going to be any war.

BRENT: Not going to be any war?

STEW: Ah, buddy, of course there's going to be a war!

SCARLETT: If either of you boys says "war" just once again, I'll go in the house and slam the door.

BRENT: But Scarlett honey—

STEW: Don't you want us to have a war?
"Don't you want to have a war?" According to leading anthropologists, our species has been wired for such self-destructive musings ever since the dawn of time, possibly even before that.

Scarlett prepares to go in the house, and the silly boys change the subject. But they were right, and Scarlett was wrong. As President Lincoln would later say:

"And the war came."

And the war came, Lincoln said—as it so frequently has! At any rate, a mere 68 minutes later in that famous film, we're shown a famous portrait of Atlanta lying in ruins.

We see acres of the dead and the dying. They're stretched beneath a torn Confederate flag.

Now we're engaged in a great tribal war. In our view, it isn't clear that the corporate giants within our own liberal tribe are any wiser than the silly Southern boys at the start of that famous film.

Did Brent and Stew make it back from their war? We can't answer that question. But just this morning, on Morning Joe, the TV stars were calling for another war, one all our own.

It fell to Professor Glaude to make the explicit suggestion. Starting at 6:11 Am Eastern on this Morning Joe videotape, you can see him acting out that ancient human impulse:
GLAUDE (7/22/19): The problem isn't just Donald Trump. The problem is, involves at least, those who are silent, who are complicit in their silence, those who are complacent in their criticism.

There are a host of factors that allow for this moment that we are in...

Donald Trump wants to have this fight. And it seems to me that we ought to have it. We have to finally, Joe—and I've been saying this over and over again—we have to finally rid ourselves of this undertone, right? Of of this undercurrent in our politics.

He wants to have this fight, Joe. We need to have it. We need to have it once and for all.
"We need to have it once and for all!" "We have to finally rid ourselves of this undertone!" As the professor floated these notions, we thought of the opening scene of that famous film.

Joe and Mika had started the day in the manner now required. Every sentence must now be a noun and a verb plus racist and xenophobe.

(As part of the morning's undercard, Joe and Jonathan bantered about the Red Sox. This lets everybody know that this is all done in good fun.)

Forgotten were the many years when Joe and Mika were buddies with Trump. He was already pimping his birther claims. They were along for the ride.

Now these well-paid professional giants have flipped to the current corporate position. Leading professors will even suggest that a fight of the type he seeks can be settled "once and for all!"

"Consider the species," top future experts have repeatedly told us. This very morning, Cornell Belcher has told us something more.

He's quoted in the New York Times. We suspect that he may be getting it right:
HERNDON AND MEDINA (7/22/19): Ryan Enos, a political scientist at Harvard University who has studied voters’ attitudes toward race, said that to the extent the president’s racial divisiveness is a political strategy, it could be an effective one.

“There are a lot of people who are uncomfortable with someone who covers her hair in Congress,” Mr. Enos said, referring to Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. “It is really an ethical and electoral issue, and if it works, that earns Trump another four years in the White House.”

Mr. Belcher, the [Democratic] pollster, was also skeptical of his party’s ability to meet Mr. Trump on his playing field.

“White progressives don’t understand race in this country and conservatives and Republicans do,”
he said. “But they better learn, because Donald Trump is coming.”
Belcher was casting himself in the Rhett Butler role. Our side is going to lose this fight, Butler tells a roomful of true-believing planters in that famous film.

We'll ponder this problem all week long. For today, we'll ask that question again: Did Brent and Stew come home?

In hoc signo vinces! So Constantine's battle cry is famously said to have said. But does anyone ever win these fights? Or are they just versions of the warfare toward which our tribal race is inclined?

Tomorrow: Our own congressman, Elijah Cummings, explains his own approach

Trump says he's going to win Minnesota!


We can't guarantee that he's wrong:
Thursday night, the analysts cheered when Barbara McQuade got it right.

Rachel had been feeding us droogs our standard tribal gruel, in which The Others are all going to get locked up in jail. On this particular occasion, she was helping us think that Donald J. Trump will eventually get locked up for paying Stephanie Clifford to keep her big trap shut.

Then, Maddow threw to Barbara McQuade—and Barbara McQuade said this:
MCQUADE (7/18/19): It seems to me [that there is] very strong circumstantial evidence that President Trump was aware of this [payment to Clifford] and was directing it, just as Michael Cohen said.

I think one other thing, though, that's important is, I don't know that that means it's criminal. Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to this, but an essential element of this crime is willfulness and that means that you know it is a crime, you know that it is illegal. And it could be the case that they did not have evidence that President Trump knew that this was illegal...

[Intent] is a very high legal standard and it is one that has stopped many cases in their tracks.
Oof! Just like that, McQuade undermined the pretty dream Maddow was selling us rubes. This sort of thing is virtually never done on MSNBC, which largely functions as a propaganda channel.

How the analysts cheered! For her part, Maddow displayed one of her many performance skills as she signed off with McQuade:

She betrayed no sign of understanding that complication and doubt had just entered her sillybill world.

As Maddow continues to sell us our dreams, Donald J. Trump continues to launch his ugly attacks. In this morning's New York Times, his misconduct was richly enabled.

Trump had launched an ugly attack. The New York Times rushed to repeat it:
KARNI (7/20/19): “No, you know what I’m unhappy with—the fact that a congresswoman can hate our country,” Mr. Trump said on Friday, referring to Ms. Omar, when he was asked about the chant condemned by Republicans as well as Democrats. “I’m unhappy with the fact that a congresswoman can say anti-Semitic things. I’m unhappy with the fact that a congresswoman, in this case a different congresswoman, can call our country and our people ‘garbage.’ That’s what I’m unhappy with.”

Mr. Trump defended the crowd as “incredible patriots” and said that Ms. Omar, who was elected last November, was “lucky to be where she is.”
Has some congresswoman "called our country and our people 'garbage?' " In a news report in this morning's Times, Annie Karni quotes Trump making that claim—and she makes no attempt to question, challenge or deny the duce's inflammatory statement.

Which congresswoman has called our people garbage? When did she make that ugly remark? What was her actual statement?

That was no sign that Karni had asked. She simply repeated Trump's slander.

Later, Karni returned to Trump's remarkable statement, offering only this:
KARNI: Mr. Trump continued his condemnation of Ms. Omar on Friday, claiming that she had “called our country and our people garbage.” It was not clear what remarks she made that he was referring to.

That attack continued his racially charged fight with Ms. Omar and three of her fellow Democratic congresswomen of color—Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan—into a sixth day.

Was Donald Trump saying that Omar has called our people garbage? By now, Karni was explicitly making that assumption, although there was again no sign that she had actually asked.

Citizens, can we talk? Based on the first set of remarks Karni quoted, it actually seemed that Trump had been saying that some other congresswoman had called our people garbage. But Karni (and/or her editor) didn't seem to notice this fact. This is the Times, after all.

In fact, other sources have widely agreed that Trump was accusing Rep. Ocasio-Cortez of making this ugly remark. By early yesterday evening, various fact-checkers had worked from that assumption. To review Jeremy Stahl's rejection of Trump's claim at Slate, you can just click here.

At the Times, none of this mattered! Karni and/or her unnamed editor simply repeated Trump's ugly claim without betraying the slightest concern as to whether his claim was accurate.

The duce's claims are rarely accurate, but so what? The Times simply repeated this claim, exactly as it was made.

In effect, the Times told millions of readers today that one of the four congresswomen under assault may have called our people garbage. There is no sign that they bothered to ask which of the congresswomen did that, or what it is that she literally said.

Top anthropologists tell us that this is the best we humans were ever equipped to do. Through an ongoing set of highly unusual nocturnal submissions, they communicate with us from the years which follow the global conflagration they refer to as Mister Trump's War.

They say our brains were never wired to deal with quotations or facts. As always, the speak to us in the past tense when discussing our self-impressed species.

The greatest love of all: On the front page of the Washington Post, Wagner and Itkowitz report that Trump was claiming that Rep. Ocasio-Cortez had called our people garbage. Also this:

They quickly indicate that the duce's accusation is false.

For our money, their debunking of Trump's claim wasn't strong enough. But they didn't simply repeat his statement then throw up their hands, in the manner of the Times.

Alas! Wagner and Itkowitz also repeat various less than fully temperate remarks Omar has actually made. (For the record, Omar and Ocasio-Cortez have each employed the easily-exploited term "garbage.")

Omar was still puffing herself yesterday, repeating the blustery claim that she is "the president's nightmare." Earlier in the week, the Post reporters note, she'd also authored this groaner:

“I probably love this country more than anyone that is naturally born.”

No one born in Minnesota loves the U.S. as much as Omar does! We think of Homer's headstrong young Diomedes, instantly chastised by the seasoned Nestor, "who always gave the best advice."

That happened outside the walls of Troy. But where is our Nestor today?

Possibly due to her youth and inexperience, Omar tends to makes it easy for a demagogue like Trump. Eventually, the Post reporters say this:
WAGNER AND ITKOWITZ (7/20/19): In his tweets Friday, Trump predicted that he would win Minnesota next year, saying voters there “can’t stand” Omar and “her hatred of our Country.”

In 2016, Democrat Hillary Clinton carried Minnesota by less than two percentage points.
Are you sure that Trump is wrong in that prediction? Are you sure he can't exploit Omar that way?

Given the follies of human nature, sadly, we are not. We expect to hear a great deal more about this matter tonight.

Merle Haggard, back in the day!

FRIDAY, JULY 19, 2019

Gene Brabender gets the assist:
Way back when, it was Merle Haggard who managed to corner the eternal "love it or leave it" market.

He'd already scored with Okie From Muskogee, a song which captured white working-class disdain for coastal elites. Then, along came The Fightin' Side of Me.

At the time,
the advice was offered to pot-smokin' hippies, not to four women of color:
I hear people talkin' bad
About the way we have to live here in this country
Harpin' on the wars we fight
An' gripin' about the way things oughta be.
I don't mind 'em switchin' sides,
And standin' up for things they believe in.
But when they're runnin' down my country, man,
They're walkin' on the fightin' side of me.

Yeah, walkin' on the fightin' side of me.
Runnin' down the way of life
Our fightin' men have fought and died to keep.
If you don't love it, leave it!
Let this song that I'm singin' be a warnin'.

When you're runnin' down our country, man,
You're walkin' on the fightin' side of me.
Anthropologically speaking, the late Jim Bouton captured this part of the human mind in his iconic book, Ball Four.

Out in the bullpen, Bouton got in a pointless debate with Gene Brabender, a big raw-boned right-hander.

Finally, Brabender had had enough. As quoted by Bouton, he flawlessly expressed one key part of the human condition:

"Where I come from, we just talk for a little while. After that we start to hit."

So said the late Gene Brabender. So pretty much say we all.

Sometimes, a single excellent joke...!

FRIDAY, JULY 19, 2019

Lyons gets it right:
Sometimes, the very good joke is the best, perhaps the only, viable form of rebuttal.

A very good joke goes straight to the brain. It bypasses the neural pathways where mere logic all too often gets hauled down from behind.

With that in mind, we think Gene Lyons has landed the very good joke. He does so in his current syndicated column:
LYONS (7/17/19): So anyway, that’s where I’m coming from as a direct descendant of refugees [from Ireland]. What we have here is a perfect storm of Trumpism: equal parts ignorance and bigotry. Only Trump (born in Queens) could tell Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (born in the Bronx) to go back where she came from.
It isn't like the current challenge can be turned back by a good joke. At the end of roughly three decades of lunacy, we let a crazy person get into the White House—and our "press corps" has a sacred rule against discussing the fact that he's nuts!

One good joke can't turn that back. But only Trump could be that dumb? That isn't a bad place to start!

Hidden claim: "Dumb" is much more potent than "racist."

Anthropologically, "dumb" is a judgment that's hard to avoid. "Racist" triggers a fight.

Death by excellent joke: Ronald Reagan ended the 1984 campaign with the excellent joke about refusing to take advantage of Mondale's youth and inexperience.

Even Mondale had to laugh. The campaign ended right there.

SCHOOLED ON CHARLOTTE: Today we have naming of test score gains!

FRIDAY, JULY 19, 2019

At long last, has the Times no shame?
"Today we have naming of parts."

So wrote British journalist and poet Henry Reed in a rueful, ironic war poem. Long ago and far away, as we prepared to march on Iraq, Roger Rosenblatt discussed the poem on the PBS Newshour.

His presentation started like this:
ROSENBLATT (7/29/02): By now one ought to be used to the collision of basic human impulses. Familiar business, especially today, when summer is in full swing all over, and people are going to war all over, all over.

Summer explodes, a bus explodes; grill the suspect, grill the suspect. In the middle of the season of hang gliding, helicopters patrol; and again we take in the harsh attachment of destruction and celebration–the usual, old hat. We've been through it lots before.
In Reed's poem, Reed and his fellow soldiers are subjected to "naming of parts." Today, we ourselves, for the ten millionth time, will have naming of test score gains!

This too is part of an ugly and stupid war. We refer to the war the New York Times runs against the interests of the nation's black and Hispanic children, though always in the most high-minded, lofty way.

The silly, daft, upper-class Times builds its public school reporting around a couple of pretty tales—stories it very much likes. One such story goes like this:
The nation's (giant) achievement gaps are all just a function of test prep.
You'd almost think that nothing could be any dumber than that. But last Sunday, the paper returned to another beloved tale:
Black kids gained ground under desegregation. It's been downhill from there.
At long last, has the Times no shame? At long last, is there nothing that will make its employees stop reciting the pretty stories which make Times readers feel high-minded and good?

We ask this question because, today, we have naming of test score gains!

We've conducted this naming many times in the past. That said, you aren't allowed to know about such gains if you read the New York Times. Nikole Hannah-Jones kept this destructive nonsense alive with her lengthy report this past Sunday. The interests of black kids get thrown down the drain as the Times pursues pleasures like these.

Hannah-Jones seemed to tell a certain story about black kids' progress in school. For the last time, we'll once again post her nugget presentation.

After that, we'll run through the endless, encouraging test score data which are never allowed to bark. In place of such data, you are handed performative portraits like this:
HANNAH-JONES (7/14/19): For years, North Carolina’s Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools, where the community decided to make busing work, were some of the most integrated in the country, and both black and white students saw achievement gains. The district was forced to return to neighborhood schools after a white family brought down the desegregation order, and Charlotte is now the most segregated district in North Carolina. We should question why in the narrative of busing we remember Boston but not Charlotte.


We now know that school desegregation significantly reduced the test-score gap between black and white children—cutting it in half for some black age groups without harming white children. No other reform has reduced the gap on this scale. Rather, the opposite is true: The test-score gap between black and white students reached its narrowest point ever at the peak of desegregation and has widened as schools have resegregated.
In the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS),"both black and white students saw achievement gains" during the era of desegregation. At one point, Hannah-Jones says this era reached its peak in 1988.

During the current era of "resegregation," CMS has become "the most segregated district in North Carolina," Hannah-Jones says. She doesn't say anything about academic progress in Charlotte-Mecklenburg during this era, but she paints a gloomy picture of progress nationwide.

According to Hannah-Jones, desegregation "significantly reduced the test-score gap between black and white children." Unfortunately, the achievement gap has widened in the era of resegregation, she says.

With these claims in mind, today we have naming of test score gains! We're going to run through those test score gains because the picture painted by Hannah-Jones is highly selective at best and may perhaps even be wrong.

Before we have naming of test score gains, we'll need to have naming of National Assessment of Educational Progress (Naep) programs.

Hannah-Jones links to the Naep at several junctures, though in one case her link is a phantom. Before we have naming of gains, we may need naming of programs:
The Long Term Trend Assessment:
This, the Naep's original program, started in 1971. It tests 9-year-old, 13-year-old and 17-year-old students in reading and math. Its most recent data come from 2012.

As part of the passage posted above, Hannah-Jones links to this Long Term Trend Assessment report to support her claim about CMS schools during the era of busing. Tgat said, there is nothing in that lengthy report about the Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools. Simply put, the Naep can't tell us about the system's black and white kids during that bygone era.

The Main Naep:
The so-called Main Naep is, in effect, a companion to the Long Term Trend Assessment. In its main component, it tests students in grades 4, 8 and 12 in reading and math.

The Main Naep started in 1990; its most recent published data date from 2017. It produces scores for the kids of every state, and for several dozen urban systems, along with scores for the nation as a whole.

In effect, the Main Naep provides a type of second opinion when combined with results from the Long Term Trend Assessment. As the program's name implies, the Main Naep is now the more commonly cited of the two Naep studies.

The Trial Urban District Assessment:
The Trial Urban District Assessment is a subset of the Main Naep. Within this program, several dozen urban systems participate in such a way that reliable test scores are produced for each system's kids.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg joined the TUDA in 2003. There are no Naep data for CMS in the earlier years which Hannah-Jones describes.
Now that we've had naming of programs, let's proceed with naming of gains. Our basic point is simple:

All groups of kids have produced large score gains during the era of "resegregation!" In various areas, achievement gaps have been reduced during this era, but nowhere have gaps gotten larger. These facts fly in the face of the gloomy picture people like Hannah-Jones simply refuse to quit.

Since Hannah-Jones linked to the Long Term Trend Assessment report, let's review that program first. We'll start with the year 1992, thereby creating a 20-year time span during the era of "resegregation."

Despite the picture Hannah-Jones fashions, score gains have been very large during "resegregation." We calculate these gains directly from the graphs in the 2012 report to which the gloomy Hannah-Jones linked:
Gains in average scores, Long Term Trend Assessment
9-year-old students, reading, 1992-2012

White kids: 13 points
Black kids: 24 points
Hispanic kids: 22 points
Those were enormous score gains over a 20-year period. Beyond that, you'll note that the black/white and Hispanic/white achievement gaps shrank during this period.

Based on a standard but very rough rule of thumb, black kids progressed by something like two academic years during this period. White kids progressed by just one!

We can't vouch for the "accuracy" of such assessments. But this is the study to which Hannah-Jones linked, and those are the data which have emerged during "resegregation."

Elsewhere, large gains were recorded by all groups, leaving the size of the achievement gap unchanged. Here we see the gains in 9-year-old math:
Gains in average scores, Long Term Trend Assessment
9-year-old students, math, 1992-2012

White kids: 19 points
Black kids: 21 points
Hispanic kids: 23 points
Those are huge gains for all three groups. But alas! Because white kids did much better too, the gaps were only slightly reduced.

Again, these large score gains were recorded during "resegregation." Nothing in Hannah-Jones' gloomy dreamscape would prepare a reader to imagine any such state of affairs.

Those were results for 9-year-old students through 2012. The 13-year-old kids produced some large gains too. Here are the score gains in math:
Gains in average scores, Long Term Trend Assessment
13-year-old students, math, 1992-2012

White kids: 15 points
Black kids: 19 points
Hispanic kids: 13 points
As with any data which result from sampling, the numbers jump around a bit depending on the year you cherry-pick as your starting point. If we started with 1996, those gains would look like this:
Gains in average scores, Long Term Trend Assessment
13-year-old students, math, 1996-2012

White kids: 13 points
Black kids: 17 points
Hispanic kids: 16 points
Black kids gained seventeen points in sixteen years on the Long Term Assessment. This occurred during "resegregation," Hannah-Jones' tears to the side.

We've shown you data from the Long Term Trend Assessment. Data from the so-called "Main Naep" tell a similar story, though the data now extend through the year 2017.

We'll stick with data from grade 8, and we'll begin where the program began. Ignoring a minor statistical blip along the way, current score gains in math look like this:
Gains in average scores, Main Naep
Grade 8 math, 1990-2017

White kids: 23.48 points
Black kids: 23.09 points
Hispanic kids: 23.83 points
For all Main Naep data, start here.

On their face, those are very large gains. Those gains were achieved, by all three groups, during "resegregation."

Alas! Because all three groups scored so much higher, the gaps didn't shrink on this measure. If we accept those test scores at face value, the achievement gaps remained the same, though at a much higher academic level.

In grade 8 reading, the gaps did shrink. Starting with the initial testing, the score gains look like this:
Gains in average scores, Main Naep
Grade 8 reading, 1992-2017

White kids: 8.77 points
Black kids: 12.42 points
Hispanic kids: 16.23 points
As a general matter, score gains have been smaller in reading. In Charlotte-Mecklenburg, score gains in grade 8 math were very large from 2003 to 2017, but score gains in grade 8 reading were rather small.

Now we're going to have naming of a few basic points:

We've adjusted for a minor statistical blip in our calculation of the gains in the Long Term Trend Assessment. (On the graphics, you can see the blip occur in 2004.) We haven't done this with the Main Naep. The changes would be minor.

We don't review Grade 12 students or 17-year-old students. Changes in nationwide drop-out rates make year-to-year and decade-to-decade comparisons basically meaningless among these older groups.

The Naep may share our view on this. It doesn't even include Grade 12 in its voluminous Naep Data Explorer, a phenomenal research tool which, as far as we can tell, has never been used by any journalist down through the annals of time.

There of course is a reason for that. As you know, our mainstream journalists rarely traffic in information, data or facts. They traffic in preferred story lines, in the fictions their weak minds prefer.

At any rate, today we've had naming of test score gains! All these gains have occurred during the era of "resegregation." In many areas, gaps have shrunk. During these roughly 25 years, gaps haven't gotten larger.

You'd almost think that score gains like these would be seen as major news. Indeed, you'd almost think that score gains like these would be seen as major good news.

You'd almost think that journalists would want to tell the public about these score gains. But if you thought that, you don't understand the way our "press corps" works.

Also, you may not understand the basic workings of the human brain.

Our journalists love to tell us their stories, their favorite fictional tales. At the Times, Eliza Shapiro jumps over the moon pretending that Gotham's giant achievement gaps are just a result of test prep.

Hannah-Jones likes to suggest that we can only produce academic gains in schools which have been "integrated" on a mid-60s, Leave It To Beaver demographic model.

Also this:

For many years, no one could report test score gains because elites were in thrall to the "education reform" preferred tale, according to which "nothing has worked." These are the novels which determine which facts you're allowed to encounter.

Back to Hannah-Jones. Is it true that progress can only occur in the world of Leave It To Beaver?

We'd better hope that's not true! Given the basic facts of our nation's residential sorting, big urban systems like New York City's will never be "integrated" in the wonderfully pretty, childish way the New York Times likes to imagine.

The gains we've shown you have occurred during the era the Times likes to call "resegregation." At the Times, they weep and cry and hide these score gains. In the process, they throw black kids under the bus as they relish their sick tribal tales.

Down in Charlotte-Mecklenburg's schools, lower-income black eighth graders seem to have made a lot of progress in math. Let's revisit the picture we showed you in Wednesday's report:
Gains in average scores, Main Naep
Lower-income black kids, grade 8 math, 2003-2017

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools: 11.21 points
Public schools nationwide: 8.44 points
Public schools statewide, North Carolina: -1.26 points
Their peers across their state have lost ground as North Carolina has staged a conservative retrenchment. But as this was happening, lower-income black kids in CMS were gaining more than a year!

You'd think a person might want to know why that seems to have happened. But at the Times, score gains like those will always be disappeared. Black kids get thrown under the bus in the process, but our "journalists" retain their prize tales.

Full disclosure! Anthropologists keep telling us that this was the best our species could actually hope to do.

"The human brain was wired for gossip and fiction," these future experts have repeatedly said. Sadly speaking in the past tense from the years which follow Mister Trump's War, they sadly say that Professor Harari basically got it right.

Test scores have gone up and up. The public has never been told!

Inaccurate, false don't register!


The shape of the cable news brain:
Today, at the start of Morning Joe, Mika played tape of a certain fuhrer holding forth at last evening's event.

Roughly one minute into the program, she was airing this videotape of the crackpot's crazy remarks:
TRUMP (7/18/19): Representative Ilhan Omar—


TRUMP: Omar laughed that Americans speak of Al-Qaeda in a menacing tone and remarked that, "You don’t say America with this intensity. You say, 'Al-Qaeda makes you proud. AL-QAEDA makes you proud.' You don’t speak that way about America."

She looks down with contempt on the hardworking American, saying that ignorance is pervasive in many parts of this country. And obviously and importantly, Omar has a history of launching vicious antisemitic screeds.

AUDIENCE: Send her back! Send her back! Send her back! Send her back!
You have to watch the tape to see the crazy way the fuhrer performed Omar's alleged remarks. For ourselves, we were struck by what occurred when the videotape ended.

Mika had just played some ridiculous tape of Trump engaged in a vicious and ludicrous slander. Creative paraphrase hasn't had such an outstanding day since the boys and girls of cable news spent twenty months pretending that Candidate Gore had said all kinds of crazy things.

Dearest darlings, did Rep. Omar actually say what Trump said she said about the greatness of al Qaeda? Was he delivering an accurate account of her actual remarks?

Just yesterday, the Washington Post's Fact Checker site reviewed a similar gong show by Trump in which he attributed the same remarks to Omar. And sure enough! Early in his Fact Checker piece, Salvador Rizzo said this:
RIZZO (7/17/19): He seemed to be referencing an interview Omar gave in 2013 to a local television show in Minnesota. But Trump completely twisted and falsely characterized Omar’s remarks.
For Rizzo's full report, click here. But people who watched Morning Joe today didn't receive any information about what Omar really said.

The gang took turns mouthing words like "shocking," "low point," "disgusting" and "depraved." Also, needless to say, "racism," "racist" and "bigot." But none of these lunkheads made any attempt to challenge the accuracy of the claim they themselves had just put on the air.

We're fairly sure that we'll hear tonight from Future Anthropologists Huddled in Caves (TM), the trademarked yet disconsolate group which reports to us from the years which follow Mister Trump's War through the peculiar nocturnal submissions the haters refer to as dreams.

These experts have often spoken to us about this peculiar aspect of the wiring of the elite human brain in these, the last few days before the nuclear attack on Somalia.

"Due to chance mutations connected to their endless tribal interbreeding, the concept of accuracy had ceased to register on what was left of their failing brains," these rueful future scholars have repeatedly noted.

"In the face of slanderous claims, they would turn to cascades of denunciation," these top future experts have told us. "It rarely seemed to occur to them that they should start by telling their viewers that the presentations in question were factually bogus."

You can watch this morning's proceedings here.
Just as soon as the tape was done, the children began to display their moral greatness. The prevailing state of their intellect was possibly not as impressive!

Or so some future anthropologist will likely tell us tonight. When they refer to our failing species, they'll do so in the past tense!