BREAKING: How stagnant are our stagnant wages?


It all depends on what the meaning of "stagnant wages" is:
BREAKING: Children who are born today are destined to age very slowly—at exactly our-fourth the rate of everybody else!

Also, Times subscribers continue to share and discuss the dating behavior of Lindsay Crouse's ex-boyfriend!

You read it here and nowhere else! On today's page A3 (print editions only), the feature called "The Conversation" does indeed start as shown, in classic Groundhog Day fashion:
The Conversation

1) Coronavirus Live Updates: Global Risk Is "Very High," W.H.O. Says as Epidemic Spreads
The day's live briefing about the coronavirus was once again the top story on Friday...

2) My Ex-Boyfriend's New Girlfriend is Lady Gaga
"How do you compare yourself with Lady Gaga?" asks Lindsay Crouse in this Opinion article, which was again among the day's most read on Friday.
If we can believe what we read in the Times, the dilemma created by Crouse's ex-boyfriend continues to attract the concern of the rational animal. To recall the shape of yesterday's list, you can just click this.

Does the boyfriend topic seem a bit light? For what it's worth, the third and fourth topics on today's list are these:
3) The Leopard Cub With the Lioness Mom
The lions and leopards of Gir National Park, in Fujarat, India, normally do not get along. But about a year ago...

4) No, Not Sanders, Not Ever
In this Opinion article, the columnist David Brooks makes an argument against Senator Bernie Sanders...
Crouse's ex-friend and the Lioness Mom—and also, just say no!

Just say no to Sanders! These are the topics the Times presents as most read, most shared, most discussed.

We offer these facts without comment. As we prepare to say goodbye to much of all this, let's consider a murky concept—the concept of "stagnant wages."

Stagnant wages are known to be bad. But what are people talking about when they talk about "stagnant wages?"

As with most of our standard statistical artifacts, very few people could tell you. The phrase is tossed around in partisan fights, though few people could really explain whether our wages, such as they are, are actually stagnant at all.

How stagnant are our stagnant wages? A recent post by Kevin Drum helps us unpack the familiar though murky concept.

Drum's post starts as shown below. We include his headline:
DRUM (2/28/20): The Great Income Decline Is Real

For some reason I’ve recently seen a little spate of skepticism over the notion that middle-class incomes have been stagnant for quite a while. I suppose this is a reaction to Bernie Sanders, who certainly has a habit of making things sound a little more catastrophic than they really are. But that’s no reason to doubt the basic fact of income stagnation—at least for some people.

Here are the figures from the Census Bureau for men of different ages:
Drum has heard some people questioning the familiar claim that middle-class incomes have been stagnant.

He says the great income decline is real. But what does that actually mean?

After the bit of text we've posted, Drum presents an instructive graphic. It shows median annual income (adjusted for inflation) for men of four different age ranges, dating from the late 1940s on through 2018.

Have wages (or income) for these men been stagnant? Have incomes been in decline? Consider men who were in the 45-54 age range as of 2018.

According to Kevin's graphic, men in this age group earned something like $58,000, on average, in 2018. Adjusted for inflation, that's roughly what their counterparts—previous groups in that same age range—had been earning since 1970.

Back in 1975, men who were 45-54 years old were earning roughly that same amount. That's what a person can sensibly mean with a claim about "stagnant wages." After adjusting for inflation, these 50-year-old men today are earning no more than their counterparts did over the past fifty years.

How terrible is that state of affairs? Everyone gets to decide! But that's what a sensible claim about stagnant wages might mean.

What can't such a claim sensibly mean? A sensible claim can't mean this:

A sensible claim can't mean that men who are 50 years old today are earning no more than they themselves earned when they were younger. Consider a basic example:

Mathematically, men who were 45-54 years old in 2018 were 25-34 years old in 1998. And what was that cohort earning back then? According to Kevin's graphic, men who were 25-34 years old were earning something like $45,000, on average, in that earlier year.

In short, the average man in this group has seen his income rise from $45,000 in 1998 to $58,000 today. In that sense, his wages haven't been "stagnant," let alone "in decline."

Does any such erudition matter? Actually no, it does not.

You rarely hear anything in our discourse which isn't built around confusion, misdirection, conflation or simple misstatement. Given the way our brains are wired, and given the way our institutions work, there's nothing anyone will ever say which is ever going to change that.

Bernie Sanders to the side, we liberals like to say that wages have been stagnant, full stop. We like to say that because it suggests that income inequality, and the "rigging" of our economic system, are especially bad.

We often talk about wage stagnation in ways which don't exactly make sense. This will sometimes encourage The Others to decide that we can't be trusted.

Our statements are often misleading. But that's the way our failing discourse routinely works. In fact, our failing discourse works that way all the whole freaking way down!

Friend, are you a man in the 45-54 year age range? If so, then you, on average, are earning substantially more than you did twenty years ago.

On the other hand, you aren't earning more than men of that age were earning, on average, over the course of the past fifty years. In that sense, wages have been stagnant. In the other sense, they've grown.

Over the course of our 22 years at this site, we've learned One Big Thing. Distinctions like these are light years beyond the capacity of our discourse. Our discourse runs on bullroar, error, posing and spin, and it always will.

(Anthropologists says this enabled Donald J. Trump—future anthropologists, that is. Like others warehoused in the academy, contemporary anthropologists rarely attempt to serve.)

We now return to our regularly scheduled broadcasting, in which our journalists spend hours on end speculating about the way different groups of people might vote somewhere next week.

Also, in which we the people—we rational animals—share our thoughts about Crouse's ex-boyfriend and about the leopard cub who has the lioness mom.

Starting Monday: When the authors of best-sellers posture, pose, thunder and flail

On first encountering a very strange book!


The nation's latest best-seller:
There's nothing so dumb that it won't be hailed within our upper-end press corps, just so long as it flogs a currently popular theme.

Consider Alexis Coe's remarkable book, You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington.

We first encountered this very strange book when the Washington Post let Coe write a Sunday Outlook piece, Five Myths About George Washington.

We thought that piece was perhaps a bit odd. A few of its links were comically "hinky."

The very next day, Coe wrote an op-ed column in the New York Times. We thought this seemed even more odd:
COE (2/17/20): For nearly two and a half centuries, most of the stories Americans have told themselves about their country’s past have been by and for white men—and it shows, particularly when it comes to presidential history. When female historians have managed to elbow their way in, however, they often remind us that we don’t always know what we think we know.

My own preoccupation with Washington began with an attempt to read between the lines of his major biographies. All of his biographers are obsessed with his body; Ron Chernow’s “Washington: A Life,” to take just one example, sometimes reads like a romance novel: Washington, Mr. Chernow writes, was “powerfully rough-hewn and endowed with matchless strength. When he clenched his jaw, his cheek and jaw muscles seemed to ripple right through his skin.”
That sounded a little bit odd. Were all of Washington biographers really "obsessed with his body?" We decided to take a look at Coe's book.

We proceeded to do so. In the Introduction, we found some peculiar claims about Washington's male biographers. We include Coe's actual title:
The Thigh Men of Dad History


First, his biographers stick a portrait of the man [Joseph] Ellis calls America's “foundingest father" on the cover. Many favor Washington's most iconic image, his rigid and gloomy face on the one-dollar bill, but most prefer a painting that shows his whole body, because his thighs drive them wild. [Richard] Brookhiser, examining a portrait from 1792, can't help but notice how “well-developed” they are. Ellis admires how they "allowed him to grip a horse's flanks tightly and hold his seat in the saddle with uncommon ease." For [Ron] Chernow, Washington's "muscular thighs" were just the beginning. He was a “superb physical specimen, with a magnificent physique...powerfully rough-hewn and endowed with matchless strength. When he clenched his jaw, his cheek and jaw muscles seemed to ripple right through his skin."


The Thigh Men, as I came to think of these kinds of biographers over the years, are a decidedly "size matters" crowd. Chernow's book on Washington, which won the Pulitzer Prize, clocks in at almost a thousand pages, a record among single-volume editions on our first president—in no small part because it takes every opportunity to remind readers that the great general was very, very manly...After a while, it begins to feel as though there's something hinky behind these biographers' repetitive insistence on Washington's conspicuous masculinity—because there is.
Those are paragraphs 3 and 5 of Coe's Introduction. We thought her claims seemed possibly odd.

Really? Do Washington's thighs actually "drive [his biographers] wild?" (The italics belong to Coe.) Do they drive his biographers wild in a way which involves "something hinky?"

Can Washington's traditional and recent biographers—"The Thigh Men," as this borderline crackpot dubs them—sensibly be described as "a decidedly 'size matters' crowd?" And just how "repetitive" is their "insistence on Washington's conspicuous masculinity?"

Meanwhile, is Chernow's book really so long—allegedly, "almost a thousand pages"—because "it takes every opportunity to remind readers that the great general was very, very manly?"

(For the record: excluding endnotes, Chernow's book ends at page 817.)

Coe's claims struck us as possibly odd. We decided to check them out. We started by checking to see how often the words "thigh" or "thighs" appear in the three books Coe specifically cites.

We'll tell you what we found next week. But this is an extremely strange book, and it's being hailed by various flyweights across our upper-end press corps.

We still can't show you what Brian Williams said when he interviewed Coe on February 20. We can tell you this—he specifically identified the passage about "The Thigh Men" and their "hinky" attractions as his favorite part of the book.

We're not sure we've ever seen a dumber or stranger book. But because it flogs a currently popular theme—those white male historians screwed everything up!—the children want to affirm it.

It seems to us that significant chunks of this (extremely slender) book have imaginably been "borrowed" from the very sources its author is constantly sliming. But so what? Doris Kearns Goodwin blurbs this very strange book on the back cover, perhaps in admiration of one of the statements about Washington which grace the start of the book:
"I heard that motherfucker had like thirty goddamned dicks."
The next statement (there are four in all) is rather tangy too. Does anyone know if Doris Kearns Goodwin has ever set eyes on this book?

Personally, we have no views about George Washington. Beyond that, we have no views about Ron Chernow, Coe's number-one target, or about his various books, none of which we've read.

We do have a view about people who peruse this very strange book and feel they want to affirm it.

This very slender, highly padded, rather derivative book is very strange and highly peculiar pretty much all the way down. We'd say its author could use some help—and needless to say, she got it!

Coe's book is now a New York Times best-seller! A remarkably credulous New York Times editor delivers the good news here.

More on this peculiar matter next week. But a major nation can't run on such fuel. If you doubt that, just take a look around.

Donald J. Trump is now in the White House. Such are the wages of the inanity unto death.

THE RATIONAL ANIMAL'S GUARDIANS: Potential guardians kicked to the curb!


Plus, news of former boyfriends:
Routinely, the dumbness is so vast that it can seem performative—like some type of marketing scheme.

So it was in this morning's New York Times. On page A3, one of the day's daily features actually starts like this (print editions only):
The Conversation

1) Coronavirus Live Updates: New Cases Light Up The Map as Countries Brace for Outbreak
This article with the latest news about the epidemic was Thursday's most read...

2) My Ex-Boyfriend's New Girlfriend is Lady Gaga
Lindsay Crouse's article for the Opinion section about realizing her ex-boyfriend had started dating Lady Gaga was popular on Thursday. "I went to a nice store I’d never been inside before and I tried something on. The clerk asked me what the occasion was. I found out from Facebook that my ex-boyfriend was dating Lady Gaga, I told her," Ms. Crouse writes. "She looked me up and down. 'Huh,' she said. Really?'"
We know—you think we're making that up. But no, we actually aren't.

If you turn to page A3 in your hard-copy Times, that embarrassing drivel awaits you. The column about who's dating who "was popular on Thursday."

Full disclosure! We were tipped to Crouse's column, and to its promotion by the Times, by spokespersons for Future Anthropologists Huddled in Caves, a disconsolate group of major experts who communicate with us from the years which lie beyond the global conflagration they refer to as Mister Trump's War.

They felt that we deserved to be warned that the dumbness had become this vast. Indeed, consider the world which lies behind this morning's A3 feature:

First, Lindsay Crouse actually wrote an "Opinion" piece about the subject in question.

Disease is spreading across the globe; global markets seem to be imploding; and there is evidence that Donald J. Trump may win re-election. In the face of these situations, what did Crouse want to tell us?

She wanted to tell us that her former boyfriend is dating Lady Gaga! She wanted to tell us what she did, and how it felt, not unlike Thoreau of old, right at the start of Walden
THOREAU (1846): When I wrote the following pages, or rather the bulk of them, I lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbor, in a house which I had built myself, on the shore of Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts, and earned my living by the labor of my hands only. I lived there two years and two months. At present I am a sojourner in civilized life again.

I should not obtrude my affairs so much on the notice of my readers if very particular inquiries had not been made by my townsmen concerning my mode of life...Some have asked what I got to eat; if I did not feel lonesome; if I was not afraid; and the like. Others have been curious to learn what portion of my income I devoted to charitable purposes; and some, who have large families, how many poor children I maintained. I will therefore ask those of my readers who feel no particular interest in me to pardon me if I undertake to answer some of these questions in this book...
Thus spake sacred Thoreau, concerning his stay in the woods. By way of contrast, Crouse's recent years have been spent at the Times, and inquiries have perhaps been made about her former boyfriend—about who he's dating, about how she found out, about how she reacted and felt.

Today, Crouse wants us to think about her dating experience, and she wants to mention Gaga, engaging in the type of humblebrag name-drop whose secret meaning may perhaps seem perhaps a bit slightly obvious.

Who in the world is Lindsay Crouse? In this case, she isn't the American actress who appeared in a wide range of major films, starting with All The President's Men in 1976.

This Lindsay Crouse is 13 years out of college (Harvard, class of 2006). For reasons which go unexplained, she's "a senior staff editor in Opinion" at the New York Times, our nation's most famous newspaper.

That famous newspaper gave itself over to several major types of dumbness quite a while ago. This spectacular dumbness goes on display when the editor who composes page A3 can't see how strange it may seem when our greatest newspaper lists Crouse's column as the second item in today's "Conversation" feature.

In the main, the dumbness doesn't consist in the fact that Crouse would write such a column. Nor does it even mainly consist in the fact that the Times would be willing to publish such fare.

The dumbness mainly consists in the fact that the Times is now listing the column as an essay of major interest. Or is the Times merely aiming another slander at its hapless readers?

For what it's worth, Crouse is no stranger to self-reference. Her last "Opinion" column ran beneath this headline:
I Am 35 and Running Faster Than I Ever Thought Possible
Generally, Crouse writes about distance running, with occasional side trips into pointless, invidious musings about the differences between women and men.

In "Why Men Quit and Women Don’t," she undertook to explain why only 3.8 percent of women failed to finish the 2018 Boston Marathon, as compared to a full 5 percent of men.

This type of foolishness is a key part of ongoing New York Times culture, in which no serious topic or point of concern won't be pursued in the dumbest, least helpful way possible.

That said, good God! This senior staff editor's former boyfriend is now dating Gaga! To some editor at the Times, this exploration deserved to be placed in the number 2 slot in the listing of articles across the vast sweep of the Times which were read, shared and discussed.

If we take that listing at face value, this may seem to speak poorly of New York Times readers. But the whole fandango speaks very poorly of the Times itself.

Beyond that, it reminds us of one type of cultural change concerning which a young journalist once tried to cast herself in the classic guardian role. We refer to Katherine Boo's 1992 piece about the cultural onslaught she described as "Creeping Dowdism," a cultural style which has gone on to dominate the political work of the New York Times.

As far as we know, Katherine Boo has never written about who her ex-boyfriend is dating. She's best known for her 2012 book, Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, a volume which won the National Book Award for Nonfiction.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers was a serious book about human suffering and human striving—the kind of book which is given awards but is neither read nor discussed.

It was an earlier, younger Boo who offered the warning about Dowdism, a vapidity which was advancing on the culture of the Times and on that of the wider press corps.

Boo's lengthy essay appeared in the Washington Monthly. It appeared in 1992, when Dowd was still a reporter at the Times.

As far as we know, Boo's essay can't be accessed on line. In a 1999 essay for Slate, A. O. Scott described its viewpoint:
SCOTT (4/18/99): Boo’s brief boils down to two main charges: that Dowd’s breezy, sardonic style has inspired a flood of stilted, self-conscious imitators; and that “the Dowd crowd” contributed to the erosion of political discourse by placing style and personality above seriousness and substance.
Boo delivered an early warning—a prescient warning which was almost wholly ignored. In June 2008, Clark Hoyt, then the New York Times public editor, also cast himself in the guardian role, savaging Dowd for the misogyny she had directed at Candidate Hillary Clinton over the previous year.

As with Boo, so with Hoyt; his essay produced zero discussion. Maureen Dowd was too influential, and this was before the #MeToo movement inspired the press corps' legion of phonies to move from completely ignoring misogyny to an approach in which they try to discuss nothing else.

Maureen Dowd was too big a deal; Hoyt's piece led to zero discussion. But so it has gone, in the past many years, when people have attempted to cast themselves in the classic guardian role.

Way back in 2005, Paul Krugman tried to start a conversation about this country's crazily excessive health care spending. Thirteen years earlier, Boo had tried to start a conversation about the growing inanity of journalistic culture.

They cast themselves in the guardian role. The pointlessness of such attempts has been shown again and again.

By November 2000, Dowd was writing the seventh column in which she focused on Candidate Gore's deeply amusing bald spot. Just last month, Case and Deaton tried to discuss those crazy health costs. As with Krugman's earlier effort, their work produced zero discussion.

Simple story! Given modern upper-end culture, it's impossible to create a discussion within the American press corps. With that in mind, riddle us this:

Yesterday, what were New York Times subscribers reading and discussing?

We can't be sure about that. But in this morning's New York Times, we're told that a report about an emerging pandemic was yesterday's "most read" article—and then, we were moved directly ahead to a collection of thoughts about an editor's former boyfriend.

"Aristotle's error" to the side, this seems to be who and what we actually are. It explains how Donald Trump got where he is. It explains why he may get to stay there.

A modern, continental nation simply can't run on this fuel. Look around at where matters stand if you think that statement is wrong.

This failing culture gives the lie to our species' ancient self-description. The rational animal never was, according to the despondent scholars who glumly invade our "dreams."

Krugman tried, and so did Boo. In December 1999, a group of New Hampshire high school students actually showed that the Times had flatly misquoted Candidate Gore in a deeply destructive way.

Those high school students had cast themselves in the guardian role. Needless to say, they were kicked to the curb, and the New York Times kept telling the story it liked.

It's one of The Greatest Stories Never Told. It shows us how our culture works, and it helps explain how we got here.

This afternoon: Good God! The latest best-seller!

Tomorrow: "Stagnant wages" explored

Do Bernie Sanders' proposals make sense?


And why don't we ever find out?:
Do Bernie Sanders' various proposals actually make sense? More specifically, is it possible that they could ever be paid for?

Ron Brownstein has an analysis piece in the Atlantic designed to help people consider those questions. His essay is entitled, The Sixty Trillion Dollar Man. That may give you some idea of where he seems to come down.

In fact, Brownstein's essay runs beneath a double headline. Though we think his essay is very much worth reading, we'd quibble with the second part of the headline:
The Sixty Trillion Dollar Man
The price of Bernie Sanders’s agenda could be his biggest general-election weakness. But his rivals haven’t yet forced him to explain how he’d cover the full cost.
That headline criticizes the other candidates for failing to make Sanders explain how he'd cover the cost of his proposals. We'd be more inclined to point a finger at the upper-end press corps itself.

The Democratic candidates have now engaged in about three million debates. Moderators from the various networks have rarely succeeded in creating a focused discussion of any serious topic.

In part, the cattle-call nature of modern "debates" plays a role in this failure. On Tuesday night in South Carolina, there were still seven (7) candidates—two of whom were only there because they'd bought there way onto the stage—interrupting, cat-calling and changing the subject every time the chance arose.

Given that circumstance, a fair-minded person might pity the poor moderator. But let's consider two (2) questions asked Tuesday night by Gayle King.

Early on, the following question sent three analysts screaming out into the yard:
KING (2/25/20): Vice President Biden, I want to make—I want to bring us to another topic. We're in South Carolina. It's the first primary with a significant black voting population. Your numbers appear to be slipping with black voters. And I'm wondering if you could respond about why that is happening to you at this particular time.
Analysts wept! Do we want to see candidates forced to discuss major policy problems, or do we want to see them asked to audition for a role as a cable news pundit?

There's very, very little to gain from asking such a question of any candidate in a seven-hopeful debate. Sadly, four New York Times reporters discuss Biden's answer to this question on this morning's page A3, and none of them displays any sense that questions like this are a pointless waste of time.

(Biden's answer, in a nutshell: "I intend to win in South Carolina, and I will win the African-American vote." His exchange with King on this matter was time we'll never get back.)

The second question we have in mind came in the form of a statement. Fairly late in the debate, King told the candidates this:
KING: I know it goes fast, but a minute-fifteen is really a long time. So we'd ask respectfully if you would all please try to keep to the time.
King was referring to the amount of time each candidate was given to answer questions from moderators. A minute and fifteen seconds is really a long time, she said.

In fact, except in the world of modern punditry, a minute-fifteen really isn't a really long time. To wit:

Way back when, Theodore White wrote the iconic campaign book, The Making of the President, 1960. As part of that historic campaign, Candidates Kennedy and Nixon staged the first televised presidential debates.

In his discussion of those debates, White lamented the way the rules of those debates limited the candidates to answers which couldn't exceed two-and-a-half (2.5) minutes in length. White lamented thusly:
WHITE (pages 291-292): [T]here certainly were real differences of philosophy and ideas between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon—yet rarely in American history has there been a political campaign that discussed issues less or clarified them less.

The TV debates, in retrospect, were the greatest opportunity for such discussion, but it was an opportunity missed...[S]ince two and a half minutes permit only a snatch of naked thought and a spatter of raw facts, both candidates, whenever caught out on a limb with a thought too heavy for two-minute exploration, a thought seemingly too bold or fresh to be accepted by the conditioned American mind, hastily scuttled back toward center as soon as they had enunciated the thought...

If there was to be any forum for issues, the TV debates should have provided such a forum. Yet they did not; every conceivable problem was raised by the probing imagination of the veteran correspondents who questioned the candidates. But all problems were answered in two-minute snatches...
Nixon and Kennedy were limited to two-and-a-half minutes at a time. To White, this made it impossible to conduct a real discussion.

Today, candidates on crowded stages are told that they're lucky to get 75 seconds. Brief answers are given as crowds of hyenas leap about, interrupting at every turn, changing the subject where possible.

The candidates have been asked about health care at every debate. Has anything of substance ever been nailed down, in even the tiniest way?

With that in mind, do Candidate Sanders' sweeping proposals really make sense? Is there any conceivable way he could pay for his varied proposals?

Isn't it time that someone tried to nail this basic point down? Brownstein is a valuable throwback to an earlier, less fatuous time.

THE RATIONAL ANIMAL'S GUARDIANS: The major discussion which never took place!


Drum tries to blaze a trail:
Could the federal government really afford Medicare For All?

You're asking a big major question. One is tempted to voice this reply:
Not at these prices it couldn't!
Why would the overall price tag possibly be a bit high? Once again, for the ten millionth time, we'll show you the remarkable data which, by upper-end rule of law, simply cannot be discussed:
Per capita spending, health care, 2018
United States: $10,586
Canada: $4974
France: $4965
Japan: $4766
United Kingdom: $4070
Why would it be a heavy lift to institute Medicare For All? Because, for reasons which go unexplained, we're paying more than twice as much for the product in question as those "peer nations" do.

It's hard to buy a fleet of cars if you're being charged 40 grand each for a type of car which everyone else is getting for $18,000. And so it would go, right here in these states, if we decided to go with Medicare For All.

Why are we paying $40,000 each for a fleet of $18,000 cars? By some system-wide rule of law which itself goes undiscussed, your press corps refuses to wonder.

Paul Krugman tried to raise this question about health care spending in a series of New York Times columns way back in 2005. His work on this topic was met with a chorus of crickets.

The locusts also sang last month, in response to Heather Long's front-page report in the Washington Post. When Long's report raised this same remarkable question, the roaches all scurried into cracks in the wall.

That said, so it goes. So it goes when the rational animal is confronted with a blindingly obvious question.

Back in The Summer of '05, Krugman cast himself in the guardian role, attempting to trigger a public discussion of an obvious question. Economists Case and Deaton did the same thing just last month, as described in Long's report.

The question couldn't be any more obvious, but this nation's upper-end rational animals are incapable of responding. When high-ranking players like Krugman and Case and Deaton cast themselves in Plato's classic guardian role, the children enter the zombified state which has long characterized our failing nation's flailing national discourse.

They look for something else to discuss, something dumber and more entertaining. As in this BREAKING report at Slate, they never fail to find it.

Having said that, let's be fair. We've said that Heather Long's front pager report produced zero reaction, and that isn't quite the case. Our favorite blogger, Kevin Drum, flagged and discussed her report over at Mother Jones.

Drum's post raised the types of question which would be discussed if the rational animals who crawl all over our upper-end press corps were capable of rational conduct.

In his post about Long's report, Drum improved upon Case and Deaton's work in an important way. He said the typical American family is actually paying an extra $12,000 per year in health care costs, not the mere $8000 "poll tax" Case and Deaton decried.

We're puzzled by Drum's "percentage of GDP" methodology; it seems to us the actual amount of excess spending may be higher yet. Setting that side for another day, here's Drum's explanation for all the missing money which makes universal health care in this country especially hard:
DRUM (1/7/20): If we spent at the OECD average level, we’d save more than $12,000 per family. How did our health care spending get so high?

That’s a complicated question, and it’s water under the bridge anyway. The real question at hand is: why don’t we make an effort to cut back to European levels? After all, they have perfectly fine health care even with much lower spending.

The answer to that is easier: It’s because most of our outsize expense comes from paying doctors more, nurses more, medical staff more, hospitals (and their workers) more, drug companies (and their workers) more, device makers (and their workers) more, and so forth. Thus, the only way to seriously cut back our health care spending is to pay people a lot less than they’re getting now, and this can be done only slowly if at all. You can’t suddenly tell doctors and nurses that they’re all getting 30 percent pay cuts. Hell, you can’t even do that to pharmaceutical companies, as much as we might like to. Aside from being massively disruptive, it would generate massive opposition. And in a democracy, massive opposition matter.
Is that where all the money goes? As a general matter, does all the missing money go to a wide range of people?

Are people in a wide range of sectors all taking an extra share, as compared to what their counterparts are paid in places like France? Is everybody taking a cut, producing our remarkable spending?

Is Drum's general explanation generally correct? Because this topic is never discussed, we have no real idea.

We can compare Drum's explanation to the one Bernie Sanders tends to supply. Again, this is the way the hopeful preached it in Las Vegas last week:
SANDERS (2/19/20): From Teddy Roosevelt to Barack Obama, this country has been talking about the need to guarantee health care for all people. And yet today, despite spending twice as much per capita, Chuck, twice as much as any other major country on Earth, we got 87 million who are uninsured or underinsured, we got over 60,000 people who die every year because they don't get to a doctor on time.

We're getting ripped off outrageously by the greed and corruption of a pharmaceutical industry, which in some cases charges us 10 times more for the same drugs. Because of their price-fixing, five hundred thousand people go bankrupt every year because they can't afford medical bills.
That was the candidate's full explanation for the fact that we spend "twice as much per capita as any other major country."

In fairness, Sanders was operating within our clownish "debate" system. Within that "system," candidates are asked complex questions and are given 11 seconds to respond, with baying wolves arrayed around them interrupting the whole way through.

For some, this system produces the illusion that some version of a "discussion" is taking place. Future experts despondently hang their heads when they see this charade occur.

Back to our two explanations:

Drum gave a wide-ranging explanation for the astounding data we've now posted for the ten millionth time. Sanders offered a narrower statement, in which one lone industry was mentioned and was accused of greed and corruption.

As a general matter, Drum tended to figure us the people; Sanders fingered the corporate swells.

Elsewhere, though, the crickets spoke. The rational animals within our "press corps" began discussing (partial) statements Sander had made in 1985 about a wildly tangential matter. The pundit corps focused on those (partial) remarks, as once they thrilled to the number of buttons on Gore's suit coats and on the exciting claim that he had "hired a woman to teach him how to be a man."

This is what our upper-end "press corps" does. Anthropologically speaking, this is who, and what, they are.

Back in 2005, Krugman attempted to cast himself in the guardian role. His work was met with systemwide silence.

Last month, Case and Deaton tried to take the "poll tax" route. Drum tried to discuss what they had said, but our cable stars never did. (Neither did the candidates, just to be fully inclusive.)

Your cable stars, rational animals all, engaged in their typical conduct. Kornacki was placed before the big board and told to rattle polling data. Pointless speculation followed, hours of it at a time.

Long ago and far away, Plato imagined a guardian class. In fairness, he also claimed that we were looking at shadows on the wall of a cave.

He just may have had that part right! But did he imagine a guardian class protecting the interests of the republic? According to despondent anthropologists, the way our species' brains were wired didn't allow for such conduct.

Why does the typical American family spend so much extra for health care? The data are simply astounding. But what explains those data?

Something tells the rational animals of the press that they mustn't go there. Something tells the other animals that we shouldn't notice their silence.

Our vaunted professors don't rise to complain. Over Ireland, the silence is general.

Tomorrow: Boo, Hoyt, Concord high school students ignored

The cable broadcast which didn't bark!


Coe interview disappears:
What happened in the world of cable news last Thursday evening?

Thank you for asking! All in all, the Fox News programs outrated their MSNBC counterparts by substantial amounts.

You can check the numbers at the TVNewser site. Here's how the numbers break down:

At 8 PM, Tucker Carlson attracted 3.8 million viewers, Chris Hayes just 1.6 million.

At 9 PM, 4.1 million people watched Hannity, as compared to 2.8 million for the Maddow Show.

At 10 PM, Laura Ingraham had 3.6 million viewers, Lawrence just 2.0 million. And at 11 PM, Brian Williams racked up 1.6 million viewers, as compared to Shannon Bream's 1.9 million at Fox.

Brian attracted 1.6 million viewers to last Thursday's 11th Hour—unless you look at MSNBC's newly updated transcripts.

You guessed it! According to MSNBC's updated transcripts, there was no 11th Hour With Brian Williams program last Thursday night at all!

That's right! Ever since the end of last week, we've been waiting for MSNBC to update its transcripts. We wanted to show you excerpts of Brian's interview with Alexis Coe, author of the peculiar new book, You Never Forget Your First.

Coe's new book is remarkably strange. That said, there's a lot to learn from the credulous way major news orgs have bought the manifest nonsense Coe is selling. The major thing we learn is this:

Within the world of our "mainstream press," there's nothing so manifestly absurd that it won't be accepted by one and all, just so long as it promotes a favored tribal narrative. So it goes as Coe pretends to construct a cheeky new biography of George Washington, the nation's original president.

We wanted to show you what Brian and Alexis said last Thursday night. But while MSNBC has posted Brian's transcript for last Friday night's program, and even the transcript for last evening's show, it has skipped right past last Thursday night's show. No transcript is posted at all!

(No transcript appears for last Wednesday night because that was the night of NBC's Democratic debate.)

Coe's book is remarkably strange. The instruction comes when we see the way major news orgs, and major pundits, have accepted her manifestly weird presentations with no questions asked. But so it has gone in the past forty years as our clown-like national discourse has turned into a low-IQ stew of misdirection, entertainment and dust.

Eventually, we think we'll be able to show you what Brian and Alexis said. For today, we'll only report that a certain transcript has gone missing.

According to TVNewser, 1.6 million people watched Brian's show last Thursday night. But according to the slacker channel, there was no such program at all!

THE RATIONAL ANIMAL'S GUARDIANS: What Sanders said in '85!


What Sanders said last week:
Should Bernie Sanders be the Democratic nominee this year?

We don't have a firm view about that. By traditional standards, every candidate on last night's stage is unelectable. This complicates the decision a primary voter must make.

That said, the sitting president, Donald J. Trump, is also unelectable. And, by the rules of the game, someone has to be elected this year, assuming we have an election.

That conundrum set the stage for last night's embarrassing reenactment of the time-honored bar scene from Star Wars.

Who was worse—the moderators or the hopefuls? Our favorite exchange went like this:
KLOBUCHAR (2/26/20): So I have long supported the assault weapon ban. I am the author of the bill to close the boyfriend loophole that says that domestic abusers can't go out and get an AK-47—

BIDEN: I wrote that law.

KLOBUCHAR: That bill, along with— You didn't write that bill. I wrote that bill.

BIDEN: I wrote the bill, the Violence Against Women Act—

KLOBUCHAR: OK. You did do that.

BIDEN: —that took out of the hands of people who abused their—

KLOBUCHAR: OK. We'll have a fact check look at this.

BIDEN: Let's look at the fact check—

KLOBUCHAR: Oh my goodness.

BIDEN: The only thing that the boyfriend loophole is was not covered. I couldn't get that covered. You, in fact, when you were, as a senator tried to get it covered and Mitch McConnell is holding it up on his desk right now, and we're going to lose the Violence Against Women Act across the board.

KLOBUCHAR: OK. So if I could finish. I have the bill, anyone can check it out, to close the boyfriend loophole.
Who actually wrote the provision which would have closed the boyfriend loophole?

Reportedly, the text came to Biden in a dream when he was imprisoned on Robben Island. Why won't Klobuchar simply accept the basic facts of American history?

For our money, Candidate Biden is pretty much out on his feet. To her credit, Candidate Klobuchar seems to be sane, except when forced to stand within fifty yards of Candidate Buttigieg.

That said, voters were being asked to make their decisions on the basis of exchanges like the one we've posted—an exchange concerning the authorship of a loophole they'd never heard of. And then, there was the giant question—the question concerning what Candidate Sanders (partially) said in The Summer of '85.

As we noted yesterday, the sudden focus on this question comes from the part of modern campaign culture known as No Misdirection Left Behind.

Earlier in this very campaign, Candidate Harris assailed Candidate Biden for a position he'd taken all the way back in the 1970s. But as it turned out, Candidate Harris holds the same position today.

This awkward fact undercut the claims of greatness showered upon Candidate Harris in the aftermath of her attack. But whether it's Candidate Hart's possible girl friend, or Candidate Gore's three-button suits (one of which was brown);

Whether it's Candidate Clinton's treasonous Moscow trip, or Candidate Clinton's "extremely careless" behavior with a bunch of trivial emails;

Whether it's the temper displayed by Candidate Muskie while playing cards with the boys on the bus, or the fact that Candidate Dukakis didn't bunch Bernie Shaw in the nose when Shaw asked a deeply inappropriate question during a 1988 debate;

Whatever form the misdirection of the moment may take, the misdirection will always come when the rich come into our lives. This explains why we're now talking about what Sanders (partially) said in 1985 about a topic which no longer matters, as opposed to what he said last week.

What did Sanders say last week? He said something which is plainly very important! But he said something which, by the rules of the game, simply cannot be pursued within the American discourse.

In Monday's report, we were discussing this forbidden topic before Griff Witte came into our lives. Here's what Sanders last week. He said in the last Democratic debate, the one held near the casinos
SANDERS (2/19/20): Let me be very clear, two points. For a hundred years, from Teddy Roosevelt to Barack Obama, this country has been talking about the need to guarantee health care for all people. And yet today, despite spending twice as much per capita, Chuck, twice as much as any other major country on Earth, we got 87 million who are uninsured or underinsured, we got over 60,000 people who die every year because they don't get to a doctor on time.

We're getting ripped off outrageously by the greed and corruption of a pharmaceutical industry, which in some cases charges us 10 times more for the same drugs because of their price-fixing, Five hundred thousand people go bankrupt every year because they can't afford medical bills.
Thus spake Candidate Sanders—and he says this all the time! But as we noted in Monday's report, the topic goes undiscussed and unreported. By the unwritten rules of the game, this topic simply cannot be discussed within the American discourse.

Instead, we've now zeroed in on (partial) statements by Candidate Sanders from 1985. This is what happens when the rich come into our lives. Stated another way, this is what happens when the rational animal stages its latest charade.

On Monday, we approached this forbidden topic through the rarest of sightings—a front-page report in the Washington Post about American health care spending.

The report was written by Heather Long, an experienced economics reporter. She's the type of reporters who doesn't get asked to appear on MSNBC.

As we noted, Long's front-page report appeared on January 8. It started off like this:
LONG (1/8/20): America’s sky-high health-care costs are so far above what people pay in other countries that they are the equivalent of a hefty tax, Princeton University economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton say. They are surprised Americans aren’t revolting against these taxes.

“A few people are getting very rich at the expense of the rest of us,” Case said at conference in San Diego on Saturday. The U.S. health-care system is “like a tribute to a foreign power, but we’re doing it to ourselves.”

The U.S. health-care system is the most expensive in the world,
costing about $1 trillion more per year than the next-most-expensive system—Switzerland’s. That means U.S. households pay an extra $8,000 per year, compared with what Swiss families pay. Case and Deaton view this extra cost as a “poll tax,” meaning it is levied on every individual regardless of their ability to pay.
As we noted, Case and Deaton were actually understating the size of the annual "poll tax" visited upon the typical American family. If they had compared American health care spending to that in larger nations like England, Canada, France or Japan, the size of the extra annual spending which have been much more dramatic.

Long's report in the Post was a major outlier. This topic has been around forever. It goes to the heart of questions which have long defined our pseudo-discourse—questions about stagnant wages and about federal deficits and debt.

That said, this topic, by the rules of the game, simply cannot be discussed within the mainstream American press. For that reason, we're allowed, indeed encouraged, to discuss what Sanders (partially) said in 1985. But we aren't allowed to discuss a basic question:

Where's all the extra money going? What explains the very large "poll tax" paid by each family each year?

In theory, our journalists and our professors should be rushing into print to discuss this important topic. But, with very rare exceptions, our guardians have long since walked off their posts, and so we face the current situation:

We're encouraged to discuss what Sanders (partially) said in 1985 about a topic which no longer exists. We aren't allowed to discuss what Sanders said on NBC in prime time just last week.

Our guardians from CBS behaved like fools last night. Their inanity and incompetence helped create what happened.

That said, our major news orgs have never tried to explain where all that extra money is going. When Long's report appeared in the Post, it triggered zero discussion.

Rachel continued to worry about how many years Roger Stone would get. Others kept dragging Kornacki before "the big board" to supply us with tons of pointless statistics. (No jacket; sleeves rolled up.)

The entertainment rolls along. But Long's report, a major outlier, came and went without notice.

Last night, we saw the fruits of this very familiar game. What Sanders said last week is extremely important. But, because it can't be discussed, we've returned to things he (partially) said in the summer of '85.

This happens when the rich come into our lives. The other rich won't tell you.

Tomorrow: As with Case and Deaton, so with Katherine Boo

Has MSNBC stopped producing transcripts?


Slacker channel cuts back:
Has MSNBC stopped producing transcripts?

We've begun to wonder. As of 6 PM Eastern this very night, transcripts seem to end with last Tuesday night's programs. We're still waiting for the transcript from Brian Williams' program last Thursday night, when Brian hosted alleged historian Alexis Coe to discuss her new, and very strange, book, You Never Forget Your First.

Who cares about Coe's new book, which principally concerns "The Thigh Men of Dad History?" The situation strikes us as highly instructive, not so much because this very strange book was written, or even because the book got published, but because of the way major news orgs, and major pundits, have accepted and affirmed its manifest nonsense with no questions asked.

In many instances, it's been a very long time since news orgs and pundits considered fact checking any claim, no matter how wacky or how improbable, so long as it broadly adheres to prevailing tribal narrative.

Your guardians have gone very far away, and they've also gone to sleep. In their place, we have a collection of pod pundits—sleepwalking boys and girls.

For Mike Pesca's interview with Coe for Slate, you can just click here. The podcast appears beneath these brain-damaged headlines:
Leave George Washington’s Thighs Alone
There’s more to the founding father than just his body
A jumbled transcript is included. In fairness, future anthropologists are already describing Coe's book as "the definitive text of end-times second-wave Dowdism."

As Williams did, Pesca swallows Coe's weird premises with zero questions asked. At this point, does Pesca try to get anything right? Despondent anthropological minds bemusedly want to know!

THE RATIONAL ANIMAL'S GUARDIANS: This day was always going to come!


When guardians attack:
This day was always going to come.

More precisely, this day was always going to come if Candidate Sanders became the Democratic nominee, or if it seemed he was getting close.

"If history teaches us anything," it teaches that it's better for this day to come sooner rather than later.

It would have been better for Democrats, and for Michael Dukakis himself, if the attack on the Massachusetts prison furlough program had come during the primary campaign, rather than later on, during the general election.

Alas! The attack came later on, with Candidate Bush changing William Horton's first name to "Willie." But the attack will always come, as it did this very day on the front page of the Washington Post.

The attack was written by Griff Witte, a well-regarded Princeton man (class of 2000). Near the end of the original version of A Moveable Feast, Hemingway described a different form of the attack which was always going to come.

A Moveable Feast is a memoir of the first, happy years of Hemingway's first marriage. Four pages from the end of the book, the end of the marriage starts like this:
HEMINGWAY: During our last year in the mountains new people came deep into our lives and nothing was ever the same again. The winter of the avalanche was like a happy and innocent winter in childhood compared to the next winter, a nightmare winter disguised as the greatest fun of all, and the marvelous summer that was to follow. It was the year that the rich came into our lives.
The next four pages end the book, with Hemingway composing a self-absolving though brilliantly fashioned account of the way he betrayed his first wife. It all started, Hemingway said, when the rich came into their lives, chasing after his own emerging success.

That's largely what happened today on the front page of the Post. This day was always going to come. This morning, with hard-copy headline included, it started like this:
WITTE (2/25/20): Rivals rip Sanders' past praise of Communists

The mayor of tiny Burlington, Vt., was back from Nicaragua and eager to share the good news.

The country’s Soviet-backed government—forged via armed rebellion—was cutting infant mortality, reducing illiteracy and redistributing land to peasant farmers. Its Sandinista leaders, branded terrorists by the U.S. government, impressed him with “their intelligence and their sincerity.”

Three years later, Bernie Sanders was fresh off the plane from Moscow
, reveling in the beauty of the land and the contentedness of the people.
That headline might make readers think that the piece is about what Sanders' "rivals" have said. In fact, Sanders is being "ripped" today by the Washington Post itself, in a way which is thoroughly familiar and was always going to come.

It's better that it's coming now. But it wouldn't hurt to understand the way these formats work.

As he starts, Witte almost seems to forget that our own nation, the United States, was "forged via armed rebellion" too. We're currently being told that you never forget your first (president), but our first president engaged in years of armed rebellion, as many other people have done.

Today's attack really began when Anderson Cooper came into our lives. On Sunday, he interviewed Sanders on 60 Minutes. The exchange in question was presented as shown:
COOPER (2/23/20): (Voiceover) Back in the 1980s, Sanders had some positive things to say about the former Soviet Union and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.

Here he is explaining why the Cuban people didn't rise up and help the U.S. overthrow Cuban leader Fidel Castro:

SANDERS (videotape from the 1980s): He educated their kids, gave them health care, totally transformed the society, you know?

SANDERS: We're very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba but you know, it's unfair to simply say everything is bad. You know? When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?

COOPER: A lot of political dissidents were imprisoned in Cuba.

SANDERS: That's right. And we condemn that. Unlike Donald Trump, let's be clear, you want to—

I do not think that Kim Jong Un is a good friend. I don't trade love letters with a murdering dictator. Vladimir Putin, not a great friend of mine.
We don't get to see the actual question Cooper asked in real time. But understand this:

In this exchange, Sanders was being asked about things he said more than thirty years ago. Viewers were offered one tiny example of the allegedly troubling things he said.

If our society's guardians hadn't abandoned their posts a long time ago, viewers might be wary concerning the capacity of such presentations to shed much more heat than light. That's especially true if major news orgs can edit the interview in which the topic is raised.

Alas! Our guardians quit us a long time ago! Our journalists are routinely fatuous, are often tools of power. Our academics (including our "logicians") are strongly inclined to be lost in the weeds of super-specialization.

Given the general silence of our journalists and our academics, very few people ever step forward to challenge the ways of our upper-end press corps. We the people have rarely been schooled in the ways of selective presentation.

Our guardians walked away long ago. In their place are people like Witte, people who adopt the trappings of the guardian role.

This has led to many heavily tilted attacks on past presidential candidates. Note the sanitized way Witte remembers one of these past attacks:
WITTE: Sanders is not the first would-be president to confront scrutiny over long-ago travels. When he ran in 1992, Bill Clinton faced questions over a 1969 trip to the Soviet Union. John F. Kerry, the Democrats’ 2004 nominee, took heat from Republicans for a 1985 visit to Nicaragua—the same year that Sanders visited.

But Clinton was in Moscow as a student tourist,
while Kerry went to Managua as a senator preparing to vote on whether to back President Ronald Reagan’s plan to spend millions of dollars funding the ruling Sandinistas’ rivals, the Contras. While there, Kerry challenged the government over its curbs on individual liberties, and he carried back to Washington a proposal for peace.

The reasons the mayor of Burlington, Vt.—population 38,000—would repeatedly cross the world’s great geopolitical chasm are less straightforward.
In that passage, Witte crafts an insinuation about Candidate Sanders' motives back in the 1980s. As he does, he forgets to remember the way Candidate Clinton's motives were slimed when the rich came into our lives during the 1992 Clinton-Bush campaign.

He forgets to recall such moments as this, as reported in the New York Times:
ROSENTHAL (10/8/92): President Bush tonight accused Gov. Bill Clinton of not telling the truth about his visit to Moscow as a student in the late 1960's and sharply criticized the Democratic nominee for demonstrating against the Vietnam War while he was studying in England.

In an appearance on the CNN program "Larry King Live" that was broadcast around the country and abroad, Mr. Bush made one of his strongest attacks yet on Mr. Clinton's opposition to the Vietnam War...


Asked by Mr. King what he thought about Mr. Clinton visiting the Soviet Union while he was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford in 1969, Mr. Bush seemed to choose his words carefully. He avoided any direct accusation but at the same time clearly conveyed the impression that he had suspicions and disapproved.

"I don't want to tell you what I really think, because I don't have the facts," he said. "But to go to Moscow one year after Russia crushed Czechoslovakia, not remember who you saw? I really think the answer is, level with the American people."
For starters, please don't miss the absurdity of what President Bush said. He said he didn't have the facts, but there was something he really thought, though he wasn't going to say it!

As it turned out, the rich had been going through Candidate Clinton's passport files hoping to find some evidence of treasonous conduct. In December 1992, then-attorney general William Barr found "that there was possible evidence of White House involvement in a criminal act," though the subsequent multiyear investigation did not produce criminal charges.

In the childish language we love so well, the episode came to be known as Passportgate. For the late Robert Parry's history of this appalling episode, you can just click here.

That's the sort of thing which happens when the rich come into our lives during White House campaigns. When they trigger new episodes, people like Witte tend to erase such events from our collective memory.

For whatever reason, Cooper wanted to know about things Sanders said back in the 1980s. As everyone surely knows, inquiries of this type will often shed vastly more heat than light.

That's especially true when agents like Witte bring their own selectivity in. Witte's report includes a lot of paraphrase, a great deal less quotation.

What did Sanders actually think about Nicaragua and the Soviet Union back in 1985 and 1988? We don't know, and the chances are very slim that anyone will ever find out.

Once an episode like this is triggered, the downward spiral begins. Regarding Sanders' past thoughts about the (Gorbachev-era) Soviet Union, Witte makes us wait till paragraphs 50-52 before we get to read this:
WITTE: [Back in 1988], Sanders expressed hope that, after “a dismal history,” the Soviet Union could be redeemed by moving “forward into some of the early visions of their revolution, what their revolution was about in 1917.”

William Taubman, an Amherst College historian of the Soviet Union who was living there at the time, said Sanders’s comments need to be understood in the context of the moment, which was dominated by then-leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy of opening and liberalizing his nation.

“He was not doing what the real suckers might have done, which was to say, ‘Gosh isn’t it wonderful?’ ” Taubman said. “I don’t think he was a dupe.”
As the rich tend to do when they enter our lives, Witte sells Sanders' rapture about "the beauty of the land and the contentedness of the people," though only in paraphrased form, in his second paragraph 2. He saves the direct quote about the Soviet Union's "dismal history" until paragraph 50.

The rich alwaye enter our lives during White House campaigns. Because our guardians abandoned their posts a long time ago, we tend to be quite unschooled in the face of this behavior.

Al Gore said he invented the Internet! Bill Clinton went to Moscow!

Gary Hart seems to have a girl friend! (We know because we hid in the bushes outside his home!) Candidate Muskie wept!

This is the way these lifeforms function. The people who should be warning us have long since abandoned their posts.

It's better that this has started now. But what follows won't be pretty, and it will be very dumb.
Tomorrow: Guardians ignored

Also this one: Hillary Clinton was "extremely careless!"

Incredibly, the Maddow Show explicitly took James Comey's side. So our guardians work.

We've never forgotten our very first time!


Our first time reading Lincoln:
We're still waiting for a transcript to appear from last Thursday's 11th Hour. It was on that evening that Brian Williams interviewed Alexis Coe about her very strange biography of George Washington and his mistreated, misunderstood thighs.

Coe's new book, You Never Forget Your First, has provided us with our most interesting fact-checking experience since we fact-checked the three million footnotes to Ann Coulter's 2002 book, Bias.

To recall the first of our many posts about that book, you can just click here.

One after another, Coulter's three million ballyhooed footnotes kept failing to check out. But there was the New York Times, credulously citing their impressive number in a fair-and-balanced review of the ridiculous best-selling book.

(Coulter was pimping the large number of footnotes to give her work credibility. Her work in the book was relentlessly faux, but the Time bought the pitch.)

So it has gone, for many years, as our flailing, failing society slides toward the sea. We'd like to show you what happened last Thursday night as we prepare to move on to an exciting new meta-discussion.

Coe's new book is very odd. But it's being widely purchased wherever prevailing dogma is sold.

At some point, we'll offer examples. For today, we recommend an outstanding piece from this morning's New York Times.

Edward Achorn has written a book about the day on which Abraham Lincoln delivered his Second Inaugural Address. The Times' John Williams asked Achorn five questions. We may have liked this exchange best:
WILLIAMS (2/24/20): When did you first get the idea to write this book?

ACHORN: That’s a hard one because I suppose it was decades ago, when I first came across this speech. It has all this resonant language that sounds like something out of Shakespeare or the King James Bible. Here you have this president who’s been re-elected and virtually won a war that was a struggle for the country’s survival, and instead of celebrating he speculates on the war’s immense suffering. He says it may be God’s judgment for the sin of slavery. It’s not an ordinary speech. I’ve always thought I would want to write about it.

About five years ago, I decided to do it...
We remember, very clearly, the day when we ourselves "first came across the speech." We even have photos of the event. We'll post a few of those photos some day, though it can't be done on this campus.

We were 25, or maybe 27. We were taking a fifth grade class from Baltimore on a day-long field trip to Washington.

One stop was the Lincoln Memorial. On one of the walls beside the great statue has been engraved the entire text of the Second Inaugural Address.

We'd never read it before! As we read it, we found it hard to believe that any human being had ever said such things on earth.

As Achorn says, Lincoln was the commander in chief who was on the verge of winning an astoundingly bloody war. What did Lincoln say that day?

It's right up there on the wall of the memorial. Paraphrasing, Lincoln said this:

He said that our team did this too. And he said, in religious language, that if we're forced to shed even more blood, and if we're forced to sacrifice even more treasure, no one will ever be able to say that we've been unfairly treated, given the vast wrong we've done.

We remember thinking, instantly, that Lincoln must have come from another planet. We didn't tell our fifth graders that—it wasn't in the curriculum—but that's what we instantly thought on that, our very first time.

We had committed this vast evil too! It wasn't just The Others. We humans simply don't think that way. Some day we'll post a couple of photographs with a whole bunch of beautiful kids looking up at those words.

Lincoln was gone in a matter of weeks. For his full text, just click here. "It's not an ordinary speech."

THE RATIONAL ANIMAL'S GUARDIANS: Guardians abandon their posts!


The $8000 tax:
Long ago and far away, the Washington Post published a front-page report which was, in theory, important.

Actually, Heather Long's front-page report appeared early last month. It graced the front page of the Washington Post.

Long's report started as shown below. As a theoretical matter, her topic was very important:
LONG (1/8/20): America’s sky-high health-care costs are so far above what people pay in other countries that they are the equivalent of a hefty tax, Princeton University economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton say. They are surprised Americans aren’t revolting against these taxes.

“A few people are getting very rich at the expense of the rest of us,” Case said at conference in San Diego on Saturday. The U.S. health-care system is “like a tribute to a foreign power, but we’re doing it to ourselves.”

The U.S. health-care system is the most expensive in the world, costing about $1 trillion more per year than the next-most-expensive system—Switzerland’s. That means U.S. households pay an extra $8,000 per year, compared with what Swiss families pay. Case and Deaton view this extra cost as a “poll tax,” meaning it is levied on every individual regardless of their ability to pay.
In recent years, Case and Deaton have become major high-profile economists. In 2015, Deaton won a Nobel Prize in the field.

Now, the pair were saying that the typical American household is paying the equivalent on an $8000 tax due to our nation's very high health costs.

Indeed, the typical family is paying this extra $8000 every single year. And, as Long's report continued, the news got even worse:
LONG (continuing directly): Despite paying $8,000 more a year than anyone else, American families do not have better health outcomes, the economists argue. Life expectancy in the United States is lower than in Europe.

“We can brag we have the most expensive health care. We can also now brag that it delivers the worst health of any rich country,” Case said.
Oof! American families are paying an extra $8000 per year. In return, our system is "delivering the worst health [outcomes] of any rich country," according to Case.

Case and Deaton had delivered this analysis at the annual meeting of the American Economic Association. Their analysis went right to the front page of the Washington Post—and, completely predictably, that's where the matter died.

The Post's report appeared in early January. We've waited to mention the front-page report in order to make a key point:

Our public discourse involves no serious discussion of any significant issue. In journalism and in the academy, the guardians have walked off their posts.

Before proceeding, let's note one key fact about Case and Deaton's analysis. By comparing American health care spending to that of Switzerland, the economists were making their point in the softest possible terms.

Switzerland is a small higher-income nation. Its per capita health care spending falls well short of our own, but it far exceeds that of all other major developed nations.

If Case and Deaton had compared our health care spending to that of Canada, France, the U.K. or Japan, the "poll tax" paid by the typical family would have been much larger.

Those larger developed nations all spend much less, per capita, than Switzerland does. For the relevant data, click here.

In that sense, the typical American family is paying a hidden "tax" of substantially more than $8000 per year. In return for all that extra spending, they're getting the worst health outcomes in the developed world, or so say Case and Deaton.

You'd almost think a front-page report like the one in the Post would trigger wide public discussion. That's especially true because health care has become the central driving topic in the nation's recent political discussion.

Health care lies at the heart of the current Democratic White House campaign. The Post was reporting that the typical family was paying an extra $8000 for its health care every single year—and, as a handful of journalists may even know, the real number is substantially higher!

You'd almost think a report like that would generate public discussion. But this front-page report in the Post had a predictable lifespan:

It appeared on page one of the Washington Post, and that's where the matter died.

Exactly as anyone might have predicted, that front-page report produced exactly zero wider discussion. Columnists didn't discuss the report in the Post or the New York Times. No one discussed the report on the liberal world's favorite "cable news" programs.

The silly children on corporate cable are there to entertain and please their tribal viewers. Rachel Maddow wouldn't discuss a report like Long's if her grandmothers' lives were at stake. In fairness, the same can be said for Chris and Chris, and for Lawrence and Brian.

Briefly, let's be fair. Absent the inflammatory language about a "poll tax," there was absolutely nothing new about Case and Deaton's presentation.

Way back in 2005, Paul Krugman devoted a series of columns in the New York Times to this remarkable state of affairs. To read the first column in his series, you can just click this.

Krugman hadn't yet won his own Nobel Prize; that happened in 2008. But he was writing from one of the highest platforms in American journalism, and his columns produced zero discussion. Simply put, topics like this will not be discussed within the mainstream American discourse.

Within the mainstream American discourse, silly children go on TV and hand you the latest polls.

They speculate about what will happen next. They discuss what Trump said ten minutes ago, and they do little else.

They gambol and they play and they cash their extremely large checks. They're trained to know how to make you like them. They do not discuss the kind of topic Case and Deaton aired.

In journalism and in the academy, our guardians have walked off their posts. Our journalists avoid topics like this. Our academics tend to be lost in the weeds of their particular "disciplines."

Krugman's columns produced no reaction. Fifteen years later, Long's report disappeared. Starting next week or the week after that, we plan to say goodbye to most of this, embarking on a different type of award-winning meta-discussion.

This week, though, we plan to review the type of carnage we'll be leaving behind. It's a type of American carnage characterized by endless silence, but also by mountains of foolishness.

Our thought leaders gave up the ghost long ago. Across the nation's upper-end landscape, our guardians have abandoned their posts.

Tomorrow: When guardians attack

Reporting which may not exactly make sense!


Also, which may elect Trump:
For our money, the most important part of the news report appeared more than halfway through.

The report in question was the featured report in the National section of Thursday's New York Times. Bannered across the top of page A11, it consumed the bulk of the page.

At its start, the report discusses a new practice at one of the nation's "renowned" universities. But for our money, this later passage was the most important part of the lengthy report:
HARTOCOLLIS (2/20/20): “A lot of students who are transitioning, trying to figure this out—there’s a lot of depression, their suicide rate is high, there’s a lot of emotional turmoil attached to that,” she said. “The least we could do is make it an OK thing to be open about who you are.”

Recent research indicates that social affirmation, including the use of chosen names and proper pronouns, can help reduce the higher rates of depression and suicide for transgender and nonbinary young people, which stem in part from a lack of acceptance and frequent harassment.
No one should want young people consumed by depression. No one should want young people to be taking their own lives.

Beyond that, the world is a much better place when young people experience social affirmation. Also, older people, and people of various stripes.

In our view, these are the most important points in this report from a societal and human perspective. From a journalistic perspective, we were struck by several other features of this high-profile report.

From a journalistic perspective, we're often struck by reports which don't exactly seem to make sense right from the opening whistle. We're also struck by reporting which doesn't attempt to explain basic points the readership won't understand.

On occasion, we're also struck by various manifestations which may tend to keep Donald Trump where he is. It seems to us that this Times report checked off all three boxes.

That doesn't mean that this news report wasn't well-intentioned. But below, you see the way it began.

On the surface, does this make sense?
HARTOCOLLIS: For generations of future diplomats and cabinet officials educated at Harvard’s renowned John F. Kennedy School of Government, orientation day has come with a name placard that the students carry from class to class, so their professors can easily call on them.

When Diego Garcia Blum, 30, got his placard last fall, the first-year graduate student immediately took a Sharpie to it, writing “He/Him” next to the big block letters of his name. Other students did the same thing, writing “She/Her” and “They/Them.”

“Yup! Day 1,” Mr. Garcia Blum, recalled, adding, “That’s when I thought, the students are ahead of the school.”

But despite its reputation as a bastion of the establishment, the Kennedy School followed the students’ lead, agreeing to provide clear plastic stickers this semester with four pronoun options that students could apply to their name cards: “He/Him,” “She/Her,” “They/Them” and “Ze/Hir.”
As a general tendency, the Times likes to keep its readers apprised of events and practices at our most "renowned" schools. In this instance, we seem to be learning about stickers which can be applied to students' name cards "so their professors can easily call on them."

We're told that these stickers provide four different "pronoun options" that students can apply to the name cards they wear to class or in social interactions early in the year.

Just a guess! Already, we'll guess that many Times subscribers don't exactly understand what's being discussed. But even for those who may understand, let's return to the basic logic of the way this report begins:

How would third-person pronouns come into play when a professor calls on a student in class? Presumably, students are called on by name. Where do these pronouns come in?

Some will say that the answer is obvious, or that the question we've asked is hopelessly beside the point. We'll suggest that the answer to our question isn't obvious—and since we're discussing life and death issues, it seems to us that editors might want their logic to be a bit more clear right from the start.

That opening logic strikes us as opaque, and we think that a larger problem lurks there. Beyond that, though, we were struck, all through this report, by the assumption that readers understand what is being discussed, when we'll assure you that they generally don't.

The American people are pretty sharp! Public figures all know that should say that. Times subscribers are even smarter, according to tribal lore!

That said, let's recall the four stickers in question. They were described as shown:
The Kennedy School agreed to provide plastic stickers with four pronoun options that students could apply to their name cards: “He/Him,” “She/Her,” “They/Them” and “Ze/Hir.”
Question: How many Times subscribers could explain the meaning of "Ze/Hir?" We'll guess that the number is quite small. But those pronouns go unexplained in the lengthy text.

In the classic way of elite upper classes, it seems to be fairly clear that you're just supposed to know what those pronouns mean. If you don't understand what those pronouns mean, you're supposed to just play along.

What the heck do Ze and Hir mean? If readers don't know, that's too bad! But in fact, it seemed to us that basic points go unexplained all through this report. Consider this later passage:
HARTOCOLLIS: Amy Hillier, an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice, said her university did not have a standard gender pronoun protocol. But it is becoming more common for students and professors to put personal pronouns on email signatures and name tags, she said.

Despite those efforts, Loran Grishow-Schade, a 33-year-old graduate student in social work at Penn, said that when “X” appears on official documents as their gender, many professors can be bewildered. So Mx. Grishow-Schade has found that it is generally a good idea to meet with instructors and explain that they are agender.
In this passage, the Times drops in on another elite university. That said, we'll take a quick guess:

Professors at Penn may not be the only ones who are "bewildered" by the honorific "Mx.", or by the use of "X" to designate someone's gender.

Beyond that, we'll guess that many Times subscribers can't explain what it means to be "transgender and nonbinary," as is one student in this report. Or perhaps to be "agender" or "nonbinary" at all.

That said, the Times report just steamrolls ahead. Wouldn't it perhaps be better to take the time to explain?

In our view, this report stands out for its failure to explain basic points its readership almost surely won't understand. It also stands out for the way it lingers at Harvard and Penn, and at Sarah Lawrence and Evergreen—in other words, for the way it brings the eternal note of capital v. provinces in.

Human history spills with the recurrent division of the capital versus the provinces. Our deeply dangerous current political division follows this ancient pattern.

Last night, we watched as Chris Cuomo urged Democrats to understand the way Trump voters see the world. We humans aren't inclined to function that way. This tends to produce major problems.

In our view, the most important part of this Times report involves the possibility of reducing human suffering—the possibility of reducing depression and death at one's own hand.

We shouldn't want young people to feel depressed or to feel disregarded. Then too, "social affirmation" will ideally be extended to those in the provinces too.

This Times report was full of material its readership won't understand. Reflexively, the Times blew past this problem.

Do you know what "Ze/Hir" means? Do you know what it means to be both transgender and nonbinary?

Do you know what Mx. means? What it means to list X as a gender? The chances are fairly good that you don't. When elites behave as if the rubes are just supposed to know, they tend to trigger the deluge. Trump skates behind such divisions.

We were left with one last question as we read this Trump-helpful piece. How many students at the Kennedy School choose pronouns other than the traditional pairs? How many "Ze/Hirs" attend the Kennedy School? What's it like everywhere else?

Inquiring minds might like to know the lay of the land in this emerging world. Also, in the parts of the world to which Cuomo referred last night.

We'll close with one last point. To many people all over the country, this might not seem to make sense:
HARTOCOLLIS: Three years ago, Ruth Hayes, who teaches animation at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., adopted a script to introduce herself in class: “My name is Ruth Hayes. I use she/her pronouns. I teach animation.” Her L.G.B.T.Q. colleagues had been following the formula for a while. But it knocked her off balance at first, she said—and she found that disturbing, because she had always been the radical in her family.

“It’s kind of funny to be in that position where you’re the stick in the mud or the old-fashioned person,” said Ms. Hayes, 64. But she recognizes how important it is psychologically to get it right, because “gender is so close to our core.”
Gender is quite close to our core, and so respect should be paid. On the other hand, does that "script" really seem to make sense?

Does Professor Hayes "use she/her pronouns?" Yes, but in the most obvious sense, so does everyone else! At one time, teachers would settle the question in play here by writing "Ms. Hayes" on the board.

Our tribe often seems to go out of its way to adopt the arcane kinds of private language which exist, on a secret level, as a way of establishing Tribe.

Unfortunately, Tribe tends to drive Others away. And uh-oh! All across this vast continental nation, the Others are able to vote!

Like love, anthropology hurts!


Just this side of insane:
Last night, the purported historian Alexis Coe appeared with Brian Williams. She jumped right into her favorite topic, discussing the "thigh men" who have written biographies of George Washington while allegedly zeroing in on his exciting thighs.

(At present, no tape is available. And no, we're not making up.)

Coe's new book seems almost insane; happily, Brian was lapping it up. To our eye and ear, Coe seems like the avatar of a movement we might call "second-wave Dowdism." We may possess sufficient bad judgment to cover the topic next week.

Watching Brian enjoy Coe's d*ck jokes, we thought back to a wonderfully comical interview he performed in June 1999. Governor Bush had emerged from Texas to initiate his White House campaign. Brian was having a very hard time hiding his admiration.

On the comical occasion in question, Brian was about to interview Steve Forbes, one of Bush's opponents for the GOP nomination. But omigod! Governor Bush emerged from a plane and walked across the tarmac to a camera location, where he spoke with Brian!

Candidate Forbes would have to wait! When Brian was able to collect himself, poor Forbes was subjected to this torrent of gushing in the form of a question:
WILLIAMS (6/28/99): And Mr. Forbes, let's start with the mechanics of what we just saw play out here on live television.

What you just saw was a very much at-ease governor of a big state in this country, jacket slung over his shoulder, going on over to a camera position and doing what some find absolutely impossible without paper in front of them and a briefing within five minutes of the appearance.

Is that appearance—and we're talking, you know, as much physical appearance as anything, making no judgments or comparisons—the people say has made the difference with this person-on-person contact?
Seriously though, that's what he said, although it didn't quite parse. Brian had been blown away by the governor's physical appearance. Plus, that jacket slung over his shoulder!

By that fall, Brian was going on and on, night after night, complaining about Candidate Gore's deeply troubling wardrobe. According to Brian, it was obvious that Gore was wearing polo shirts to appeal to female voters. Brian kept this bullshit up for several weeks before regaining control.

(He continued complaining about Gore's clothes on into the new year. Gore's obvious psychological problems were also part of the play list.)

Last night, Brian let his inner fatuous out for the first time in years. Coe seems to be Dowd-beyond-Dowd, and Brian was lapping it up.

Brian is secretly just a bit strange. We had almost forgotten.

Also nearly insane: On page A3 of this morning's Times, readers were offered a detailed analysis of the way they can fight climate change through their choice of alcoholic beverages.

This too was just this side of insane. The "Here to Help" feature was an edited version of this even longer longer essay. In hard copy, the edited version started out like this:
Here to Help

If you did dry January this year, you probably reduced your carbon footprint without knowing it. That’s because alcohol production and distribution can be quite energy intensive. So, what if you want to reduce your environmental footprint but you’re not quite ready to hop on the wagon and stay there?

Broadly speaking, liquor tends to be more environmentally sustainable per unit. “The more concentrated they are, the less impact they have,” Alissa Kendall, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California, Davis, said of alcoholic beverages.

Drinkers typically get more mileage out of a bottle of spirits than wine or beer. That’s especially true if you drink to get a buzz. Simply put: Liquor is quicker.

For beer, the world’s most consumed alcoholic beverage, refrigeration is a big part of the emissions equation. A 2008 study by the New Belgium Brewing Company, based in Fort Collins, Colo., found that the greenhouse gas emissions from one six-pack were about the same as driving a car nearly eight miles. The largest share of those emissions came from refrigeration.


Shipping distance can also be an important consideration when choosing climate-friendly wine...
Seriously though, does anybody actually think that individuals can affect climate change by regulating the shipping distance of the wine they drink? That said, manifest craziness on this level is a regular part of the New York Times. The sheer insanity of this piece made Williams and Coe seem look giants.

Anthropologically speaking, how did the race ever get this far? Inquiring minds want to know.

THE RATIONAL ANIMAL'S SYSTEMS: Judge Jackson says the truth still matters!


We don't know if Maddow agrees:
Famously, Mr. T pitied the fool.

Way back in 1968,
Bob Dylan said he pities Trump.

("That man who with his fingers cheats, who lies with every breath...Who falls in love with wealth itself and turns his back on me.")

For ourselves, we pity the poor American citizen to whom the most obvious question occurs.

Within our tribalized journalistic system, such questions will routinelgo unaddressed. Information is no longer the coin of the realm. Tribalized narrative is.

Consider the question which occurred to us after the perpetually ludicrous Roger Stone was sentenced to forty months in prison. Our question shaped up like this:

On Monday, February 10, the Justice Department originally recommended a sentence of 7-9 years for Stone (more precisely, 87-108 months) The next day, that recommendation was amended.

Attorney General William Barr had been involved in this switch. This new, amended recommendation included these statements:
AMENDED SENTENCING RECOMMENDATION (2/11/20): The defendant committed serious offenses and deserves a sentence of incarceration that is “sufficient, but not greater than necessary” to satisfy the factors set forth in Section 3553(a).

Based on the facts known to the government, Mb and unwarranted under the circumstances.
Even in the amended recommendation, the DOJ said that Stone "committed serious offenses and deserves a sentence of incarceration." However, the amended recommendation said that a sentence of "far less than 87 to 108 months’ imprisonment would be reasonable under the circumstances."

At one point, the amended recommendation suggested that a term of 37 to 46 months might be "more in line with the typical sentences imposed in obstruction cases." That said, the amended recommendation "ultimately deferred to the Court" without specifically recommending a specific term of imprisonment.

As of February 11, so the matter stood. In the days which followed, Barr was raked over the coals for his role in this amendation. On cable, we liberals were told that Judge Amy Berman Jackson wouldn't be swayed by such conduct.

But then, how strange! When Judge Jackson sentenced Stone, she sentenced him to 40 months. The recommendation which came from Barr was pretty much where Jackson came down!

Our question: Why did Jackson's sentence seem to align with the amended recommendation? Did this mean that the heroic Barr had been right all along? Was Jackson somehow required to defer to the general drift of the amended recommendation?

Why did Stone's sentence fall short of the initial recommendation? Inquiring minds wanted to know, but liberal news orgs didn't rush to explain.

If you watched Nicolle Wallace yesterday at 4 PM Eastern, you saw a lengthy discussion of this matter. But no one ever noted the fact that Jackson's sentence largely aligned with Barr's amended recommendation.

If you watched Rachel Maddow last night, things seemed to get much worse.

Did you watch Maddow last night? To our ear, she seemed to say that the mustachio-twirling Barr had recommended that Stone get no prison time at all.

That's what Maddow seemed to say, and Maddow tends to be like that. In the course of an endless treatment of this matter,
here's the way her second segment started:
MADDOW (2/20/20): How would the court deal today with the crisis around this case, right? The president publicly demanding that the sentencing recommendation from prosecutors should be thrown out, that Roger Stone was being treated unfairly and that he shouldn't get any prison time.

The attorney general then apparently acceding to that request and getting himself into that case personally,
overruling the prosecutors who had brought the case to instead ask for lenience for the president's friend, for Roger Stone.
That's the way the segment started. It almost sounded like Trump had said that Stone should get no prison time, and that Barr had then said the same thing.

Plainly, that isn't what happened. But that's almost the way it almost sounded as Maddow's segment began.

Later in this same segment, Maddow seemed to make this claim more clearly. As part of a lengthy oration, she explained what happened after Barr had engaged in the conduct described below:
MADDOW: ...William Barr hears that public criticism from the president and intervenes and rescinds the sentencing recommendation from the prosecutors running this case and instead says, "No, no, no! I, William Barr, instead insist that instead we have a revised sentencing recommendation in which Roger Stone gets off."
You can watch the full oration yourself. As she continued, Maddow suggested, one more time, that Barr had said that Roger Stone shouldn't have to "go to jail."

In that presentation, Maddow seemed to say that Barr had recommended that Stone should "get off"—shouldn't go to prison at all. To our ear, Maddow had seemed to say that at the start of the segment. Now, her account of the matter seemed clear.

For ourselves, we were still wondering why Judge Jackson's sentence had come down as it did. Even in the course of endless monologues on a favorite subject, people like Maddow don't waste their time explaining such matters to you.

As our journalistic systems continue to crash and burn, people like Maddow paint tribally pleasing pictures and tell tribally pleasing stories. In 2017, Janet Malcolm seemed to praise this pseudo-journalistic process when she profiled Maddow in the New Yorker:
MALCOLM (10/9/17): “The Rachel Maddow Show” is a piece of sleight of hand presented as a cable news show. It is TV entertainment at its finest. It permits liberals to enjoy themselves during what may be the most thoroughly unenjoyable time of their political lives.
Maddow's show lets us liberals enjoy ourselves! Weirdly, Malcolm seemed to approve of this service. To us, Malcolm's description captures the way our information systems are increasingly falling apart.

Over on Fox, Tucker was telling millions of viewers last night that Judge Jackson has been behaving like an authoritarian. We haven't been able to review his whole segment yet, but our own tribe is involved in so much nonsense at this point that his segments are often highly persuasive without even being inaccurate.

Rachel and Tucker are extremely well paid to ladle comfort food to the tribes. Information and explanation play second fiddle to the process of novelization which now lies at the heart of this corporate project.

Can a continental nation function this way? We'd say the answer is no.

Last evening, an irate Maddow seemed to say that Barr had recommended that Stone get no prison time at all. Obviously, that isn't true. Just consider what readers were told in this morning's Washington Post, though only if they read all the way to paragraph 32:
WEINER ET AL (2/21/20): This week, those close to Barr said the attorney general has told Trump advisers that he has considered resigning over the president’s tweets. But Trump continued to tweet about the Stone case. This week, he suggested his friend deserved a new trial—just as the Justice Department, with Barr’s blessing, made clear it had opposed Stone’s request on that front. Like prosecutors, Barr has called Stone’s prosecution “righteous” and added, “I was happy that he was convicted.”
Say what? Barr has called Stone’s prosecution “righteous?” Barr has said, “I was happy that he was convicted?”

Well actually, yes he has. He said those things to ABC's Pierre Thomas in an interview last week. Maddow's viewers have never been told that Barr said those things.

Barr said Roger Stone should go free? Maddow talked and talked and talked and talked about this topic last night. It seemed to us that's what she said, but with multimillionaire novelists like Maddow, the viewer can never be sure.

This too from Nicolle: Wallace and her "favorite reporters and friends" didn't attempt to explain the way Jackson's sentence turned out. Along the way, she once again repeated a claim which she knows is false.

We refer to her repeated claim that the Mueller report charged Trump with ten instances of obstruction of justice.

In the past, Wallace has said, on at least two occasions, that she knows this statement is false. But she says it, she has explained, because, "as a political communicator," she makes inaccurate statements which put her opponents on the defensive.

Increasingly, this is the way the tribes are allowed to enjoy themselves. Along the way, our systems fail. Increasingly, things fall apart.