This has been happening for a long time!

SATURDAY, MAY 30, 2020

We don't mean that as a compliment:
In print editions, this front-page report in the New York Times appears beneath this headline:
Fatal Encounter Wasn’t First Time Paths Crossed
Eye-catching! But in the actual report, readers seem to be told that there's no particular reason to think that their paths ever had crossed:
FURBER, BURCH AND ROBLES (5/30/20):Mr. Floyd had been a star football and basketball player in high school, moving to Minneapolis about five years ago. When he returned to Houston for his mother’s funeral two years ago, he told a cousin that Minneapolis had come to feel like home. “He was such a happy guy, he loved to be around people, loved to dance and he loved Minneapolis,” said Jovanni Thunstrom, who owned the Conga Latin Bistro where Mr. Floyd worked security on salsa nights. “He walked in every day with a smile on his face.”

It was another club, El Nuevo Rodeo, where both Mr. Floyd and Mr. Chauvin worked. Maya Santamaria, who sold the club in January, said she doubted that the two men interacted.

Mr. Floyd worked the occasional weeknight, she said, while Mr. Chauvin worked security on weekends
over the past 17 years.
That was the full discussion of whether their paths had ever crossed. That said, what the heck! It was close enough for New York Times front-page headline work!

Through a pair of links, the report connects to the formal criminal complaint in which Officer Chauvin is charged with murder and manslaughter. The document tells a more complicated story than any we'd previously heard.

None of that is why we offer this post. We offer this post because of the following sleight-of-hand:
FURBER, BURCH AND ROBLES: The case has become part of a now-familiar history of police violence in recent years in which African-American men have died in encounters that were shockingly mundane in their origins—Eric Garner, who died after a 2014 arrest in New York for selling cigarettes without tax stamps; Michael Brown, who died in an encounter with the police the same year in Ferguson, Mo., after walking in the street instead of using the sidewalk.
The second highlighted passage is stunningly disingenuous.

As has been widely noted, the original police report about George Floyd's death was remarkably deceptive. Everything included was accurate. But dear God! The facts which got left out!

So too with that highlighted passage, which omits the reason why Michael Brown was being sought on the fateful morning when he was spotted "walking in the street instead of using the sidewalk." As someone at the Times surely knows, he was being sought because he'd just assaulted, and stolen from, a much smaller convenience store clerk.

First the police report, then the Times! This is the world we all live in.

Chait and Flynn and the Post oh my!

SATURDAY, MAY 30, 2020

The end of competent journalism:
We've read and seen some horrible journalism in the past 24 hours.

For one example, consider this lengthy front-page report in today's Washington Post. More specifically, consider two of the various things you never learn about the fatal police shooting incident with which the report begins:

Did the late Wayne Reyes have a shotgun with him when he was shot and killed? Also, had he in fact "stabbed his girlfriend and another friend" in the minutes, or perhaps in the hour, before he was shot and killed?

Despite the length of this front-page report, you're never told such things. We'd give this report a failing grade, except as an example of unfortunate story-shaping.

We're going to make a confession today. Like you, we've never been a police officer.

Unlike Jeronimo Yanez (see Post report); unlike Mohamed Noor (see Post report); we've never been dispatched, in the dead of the night, to police an incident in which a gun eventually appeared, or in which a sexual assault was said to have occurred right out in the street.

We've never had to do that! For that reason, we're slow to judge people who are required to do such things. We ourselves have never made the brave, dead-of-night decision, as everyone else has done.

It's hard to imagine any excuse for Derek Chauvin's recent conduct. He's been charged with murder and with manslaughter, and the conduct in which he engaged does in fact seem to have been deranged and depraved.

(How do people end up that way? We've wondered about that all week. So far, there's been little background reporting.)

In other cases involving police officers, we're inclined to be slower to judge. Luckily, everyone else is willing to leap, and reporters like Bailey and Berman are prepared to sift the information we're given about various events.

That front-page report is terrible work, but it's also a sign of the times. As a matter of anthropology, it may be the best our species can be expected to do. It may be that, at times ;like these, we human beings are hard-wired to novelize such reports.

A second report, from the Post's page A2, is shorter and more straightforward. Now that transcripts have been released, it reports what Michael Flynn said to Russkie ambassador Kislyak in December 2016.

This second, shorter report was written by Barrett and Miller, a pair of experienced, top-level reporters. Barrett and Miller do not report that Flynn was "undermining" the Obama administration's policy on sanctions. (In the report which appears in our hard-copy Post, the word does not appear.)

Jonathan Chait does make that claim. As he does, we weep for the species.

In the end, of course, it all depends on what the meaning of "undermine" is. Chait is certain that "undermining" occurred. He says so in this paragraph:
CHAIT (5/29/20): The transcripts today quote Flynn telling Kislyak, “Do not, do not uh, allow this (Obama) administration to box us in, right now, okay?” If that does not constitute “undermin[ing] the outgoing administration’s policy,” what does?
What would have constituted undermining the policy? Frankly, we're not sure.

The outgoing Obama administration had three more weeks to serve. The incoming Trump administration was going to have every right to adopt a different sanctions policy.

The existing policy stayed in effect right through inaugural day. On that day, President Trump addressed the largest, most admiring crowd in solar system history.

Nothing Flynn said to the Russkie affected, or could have affected, the continuing operation of the Obama policy until such time as Obama was no longer president. We have no idea what it means to say that Flynn "undermined" that policy, nor does Chait, full of certainty, bother to explain why he says it did.

By way of contrast:

In the fall of 1968, President Johnson may have been on the verge of a peace deal with the North Vietnamese.

By common understanding, Candidate Richard M. Nixon tried to keep a peace deal from happening. So it says in this factually accurate New York Times news report:
BAKER (1/2/17): Richard M. Nixon told an aide that they should find a way to secretly “monkey wrench” peace talks in Vietnam in the waning days of the 1968 campaign for fear that progress toward ending the war would hurt his chances for the presidency, according to newly discovered notes.

In a telephone conversation with H. R. Haldeman, who would go on to become White House chief of staff, Nixon gave instructions that a friendly intermediary should keep “working on” South Vietnamese leaders to persuade them not to agree to a deal before the election, according to the notes, taken by Mr. Haldeman.

The Nixon campaign’s clandestine effort to thwart President Lyndon B. Johnson’s peace initiative that fall has long been a source of controversy and scholarship. Ample evidence has emerged documenting the involvement of Nixon’s campaign. But Mr. Haldeman’s notes appear to confirm longstanding suspicions that Nixon himself was directly involved, despite his later denials.
It's easy to see why someone would say that Nixon and/or the Nixon campaign sought to undermine Johnson's possible peace deal. For all we know, they may have kept it from happening!

But in what way did Flynn's remarks to the Russkie undermine the Obama policy? To this day, we have no idea—nor does Chait attempt to explain. To Chait, it's just blindingly obvious!

So it tends to go at highly tribal times such as these. We were similarly stunned, but also dismayed, by the peculiar way this early report from Minneapolis ended, a report about the use of tear gas.

Unlike everyone else, we've never been a police officer. But we think we can answer the following questions, at least on a provisional basis:

Why might a police department use tear gas in a situation where arson and looting were occurring? Also, why might a police department decline to use tear gas in a situation where as far as we know, for better or worse, no crimes were being committed?

Despite our lack of experience, we think we can answer those questions! At New York magazine, but also in this remarkable piece at Slate, these behaviors indicate the existence of preferential racist behavior on the part of police.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep—but our species isn't, and never was, "the rational animal."

According to reams of decorated top major anthropologists, man (sic) was always the tribal animal. Our war-inclined species was always wired to generate stories which favor the clan or the tribe.

This is now happening all over "the news." It's even happening Over Here, among the admittedly good smart brilliant thoughtful unbiased humans.

How did we ever make it this far? For all their brilliance and erudition, despondent major anthropologists are completely unable to say.

Postponed today: The decline of the once seminal book, The Family of Man (sic).

Also, postponed again: What did Rachel Maddow say? On that same night, Adam Schiff!

The Post, in print and online: The online version of the Post's report about Flynn includes material in which an "analyst" seems to say that Flynn's phone calls did undermine the Obama policy. The professor in question doesn't explain why he uses that term.

In the report which appears in our print edition, the word (and the analyst) never appear. The report appears on page A2 of our hard-copy Post.

The online report is longer. On the other hand, it isn't included on the list of reports you access by clicking the link, "Today's print stories."

Online, the report is longer—but you have to hunt it down!

From the rubble (and death) of Minneapolis...

FRIDAY, MAY 29, 2020

...standardized narratives form:
We still owe you an account of what Rachel Maddow said about Deborah Birx last Friday night.

As of yesterday, our leading slacker cable news channel had posted the transcript from last Friday's shows. We still promise to show you what was said, but for today, let's defer to events from Minneapolis.

We're not sure that we've ever been glad to hear that someone has been arrested and charged with a crime.

That said, if anyone was ever going to get arrested and charged with a crime, it would have to be Officer Chauvin. Many questions remain to be asked about his remarkable conduct, and about the conduct of the other three officer on the scene.

That said, we cover the public discourse here, not the mysteries of (some) police conduct. In these latter days of our failing republic, we've been amazed by some of the scripts which have emerged from our own struggling tribe.

Remember, this site is all anthropology now. We no longer expect to see any sensible, sound discussions, whether about this or about some other important topic.

At this site, it's all about the ancient wiring which leads us to behave in the tribal ways we do. With respect to that ancient questions, highly expert anthropologists wake us on a nightly basis to contradict Aristotle:

Man [sic] is the tribal, script-reading animal, these despondent future scholars all say.

At some point, we'll offer examples. For today, we'll only say this, after watching CNN. We really don't think that Crispus Attucks is part of what happened this week.

How did we ever make it this far? Can anyone riddle us that?

IMITATIONS OF DISCOURSE: Candidate Mondale's etiquette gaffe!

FRIDAY, MAY 29, 2020

As gaffe culture emerged:
We self-defined, self-impressed "human beings" can be amazingly dumb.

Let's make that observation a bit more interesting. The intellectual leaders among us humans can be amazingly dumb!

Wittgenstein sketched one of the ways that dumbness can work among the highest academic elites. This morning, though, the New York Times seems to go out of its way to showcase this hard-wired dumbness.

How dumb can the dumbness get? Consider the way this letter begins. The New York Times chose to publish this letter at the very top of today's letters column:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (5/29/20): Amy Cooper is surely a Karen (an entitled white woman), and a bad dog owner, and probably a little racist, but does she deserve to have her life ruined over this incident—and perhaps be permanently banned from the park, as the Central Park Civic Association has asked?
So the letter begins. It begins by normalizing a mocking, derogatory term which is applied to a wide swath of people on the basis of race (and gender).

In fairness, this writer says a "white woman" is only a "Karen" if she is "entitled." Only a fool would think that a group denigration of that type can be contained in such ways.

This morning, the Times helps enable the current superspread of this derogatory race- and gender-based term. In doing so, it joins The Atlantic, and the Central Park birder himself, along with that Harvard man's sister and a growing cast of thousands.

(Stating the obvious: in terms of misogyny and woman-hating, the term plays a role similar to that of the previous term, "dumb blonde." You'd think that anyone could see that, but our brightest lights routinely won't.)

In The Atlantic, a Kaitlyn offered this chirpy analysis back on May 6. (She referred to the term as "a popular joke.") Her piece was linked to this very week by a David Graham.

It should be hard to be this dumb, but our high-end journalists are up to the task. Such observations help us recall the birth of the modern-day gaffe.

Michael Kinsley explained the emerging phenomenon in the trivia-pimping year of 1984. The whole point of the gaffe, he claimed, was that the much-maligned statement in question had to be trivial, pointless.

In that sense, the ensuing pseudo-discussion had to be defiantly dumb. The ensuing bafflegab would therefore, by definition, be an imitation of discourse, even perhaps of life.

Back in 1984, modern gaffe culture had begun to emerge. Today, it helps define the simple-minded world of our upper-end press corps, many of whose silly-Bill members have "gone to the finest schools."

(Stating the regrettable: When Bob Dylan presented that phrase in what may be his most famous song, he was, by fairly obvious inference, perhaps and possibly tilting toward the denigration of women.)

Today, the press corps [HEART] gaffes! Over the past three or four decades, gaffe culture has expanded to include a wide array of monumentally pointless missteps.

As we've noted, the press corps will seize on the spoken gaffe, but also on the wardrobe or hairdo gaffe.

They'll note the cheese on the cheesesteak gaffe. For decades, they've discussed the gaffe which involves asking for the wrong type of beverage when in a bar or saloon.

In 2008, the Wall Street Journal's Amy Chozick discovered the "too skinny to get elected" gaffe. In a sensible world, this would have meant that no serious newspaper would ever have wanted to hire any such Amy.

In our world, the reverse was true. When the New York Times saw her "too skinny" piece, they knew they had to recruit her! (Or so perhaps it went.)

We've listed many kinds of gaffes this week, but we haven't yet mentioned the etiquette gaffe. According to a report by Gay Jervey, that gaffe was invented by a Maureen. It happened in 1984, the year of Kinsley's excavations.

Jervey's report was sourced to Bill Kovach, Washington bureau chief at the New York Times during the era in question. Kovach's story appeared in Jervey's profile of Dowd in the late, lamented Brill's Content.

Kovach had a major career. But good God! This story:
JERVEY (June 1999 issue): Even as a young reporter Dowd had an eye for telling detail and nuance...“We were on deadline,” Kovach explains. “Mondale and Ferraro had just been nominated...As the candidates stood on the platform, Maureen jumped up and grabbed me and said, ‘Look! Look! There is the story. Mondale doesn’t know whether to hug his wife or Ferraro. He doesn’t know what to do.’ She saw that signaled a new era, with women playing a whole new role in politics and men not quite knowing what to do.” That keen observation...crystallized for Kovach just how clairvoyant a reporter she was.
In this way, Dowd's brilliance was discovered by her newspaper's power brokers. Sixteen years later, she built seven (7) columns around Candidate Gore's bald spot.

Candidate Bush won by a hair, then sent our army into Iraq. People are dead all over the world because of the gaffe of the bald spot.

Concerning Mondale's etiquette gaffe—he didn't know which Karen to hug!—please consider the following:

On that same evening, Candidate Mondale was caught in public making an accurate statement. During the speech in which he accepted his party's nomination for president, Mondale said that he would have to raise taxes—and that his opponent, Ronald Reagan, was going to do the same thing, although he wouldn't tell us.

In this emerging age, this was the ultimate gaffe. No, it wasn't a trivial statement, but it was an accurate statement—and according to Kinsley's various definitions, a gaffe occurs when a politician says something that's actually true.

This spoken gaffe dealt with a major policy topic. For many years thereafter, Mondale was ridiculed, by reporters and pundits, for having made that accurate statement.

That said, up in a sky box, a Karen had reportedly spotted a gaffe—in this case, an etiquette gaffe. It didn't get a lot of play as campaign reporting unfolded, but it presumably led to this Karen's ascent, and onward to the "Creeping Dowdism" which came to engulf the Times.

It was a Katherine, Katherine Boo, who stood up on her two hind legs and tried to warn us about that creeping investment in trivia. In the years which followed his disregarded warning, trivia may be their most important product as the Samsons of the guild proceeded to dumb the world down.

That said:

Regarding Aperol Spritz and Taylor Swift, you can check the original document here.

We don't want to offer that document as a criticism of the youngish reporter who wrote about Candidate Biden's gaffe last week, linking it to Candidate Clinton's previous "hot sauce" gaffe. Boo tried to serve the nation well, and so will that youngish reporter.

To us, that document showcases something else. It documents the way New York Times editors seem to love our nation's trivia and those who pursue it well!

No, you can't run a modern nation this way. In the words of a famously average Joe, just "take a good look around."

Tomorrow: The Family of Man, the book

Speaking of "mentally deranged"...

THURSDAY, MAY 28, 2020

...this is our species on journalism:
We're big fans of [the bulk of] Kevin Drum's work. We think his body of work on lead abatement has been about the best work to emerge form the Internet.

That said, today he said this, at the end of a short post. We'll explain below:
DRUM (5/28/20): Is Trump mentally unstable? I don’t know. But he’s sure not mentally all there, is he? What kind of leader decides he can just shut his eyes to a deadly pandemic and instead spend all his time plotting revenge on enemies both real and imagined? Only a mentally deranged one. When will the Republican Party finally realize just what kind of trouble they’ve gotten us into?
Within one paragraph, Kevin said this:

He doesn't know if Trump's "mentally unstable." But he does know he's "mentally deranged."

(The headline on the post says this: "Donald Trump Is Mentally Unhinged.")

Our best guess concerning a translation:

Mainstream news orgs won't let their employees discuss Trump's possible mental illness. "Journalistically," it's against the rules to discuss what's right there in front of our faces.

This is our species on journalism! Mental health issues are widely discussed in all other contexts. They just can't be discussed here.

Fuller disclosure: Donald J. Trump, who can't be discussed, holds the nuclear codes.

Journalists keep offering "links to nowhere!"

THURSDAY, MAY 28, 2020

Links which don't support claims:
Yesterday afternoon, we discussed the recent adventure in which we labored to compare New York City's experience with Covid-19 to that of Los Angeles.

Due to an oddity in the far west, it was hard to learn how many people had died of Covid-19 in Los Angeles. As you may recall, our search began with this short paragraph from this op-ed column in the New York Times:
WILENTZ (5/25/20) And indeed, the pandemic in Los Angeles has not been anywhere as intense as in New York, where as of this week the number of deaths was about eight times what it was in Los Angeles. We know people in New York who’ve died of Covid-19; here, so far, we know no one.
In fact, as of last weekend, the number of deaths in New York City was about sixteen times what it was in Los Angeles. That said, in discussing our recent adventure, we forgot to mention one point:

We forgot to mention where our adventure began. It began with a "link to nowhere."

As you can see from the online version of the column, that one short paragraph carries three (3) separate links. We clicked the link beneath the words "about eight times" to see if we could validate that claim about New York City and Los Angeles deaths.

As you can see from clicking that link, the link in question took us to this news report. The report supplied the number of coronavirus deaths in Los Angeles County, but it didn't give the number for New York City or for the city of Los Angeles itself.

In short, that link didn't support the claim it seemed designed to support. It seems to us that "links to nowhere" of this type are appearing more and more often in work at upper-end news orgs.

Consider the latest example:

The first report we read this morning was this report at Slate.
The piece adopts a somewhat tendentious approach to the recent phone call to 911 from inside New York's Central Park.

The author took us inside the mind of Amy Cooper, the person who made the unfortunate phone call in question. The writer tells us what Cooper thought and felt as she made the call. This seems a bit presumptuous to us, given Cooper's extremely disordered behavior and apparent state of mind.

For ourselves, we'd be slow to read the mind of such a disordered person. At any rate, in paragraph 4, the author moves on to say this:
GRUBER (5/27/20): For decades, conservative and liberal women alike have been taught that the key to empowerment against men who pose a threat, real or imagined, is to call the police. As high as the stakes were for Christian, they were nonexistent for Amy. For upper- and middle-class white women, the demographic least likely to be arrested or face state violence, a call to the police appears to be a no-lose proposition.
Is it true that "upper- and middle-class white women" are "the demographic least likely to be arrested?"

On its face, we didn't (and don't) find that hard to believe. (We'd be curious to see the corresponding rate for Asian-American women.) We'd also be curious to see how different the rates of arrest might be for other groups of women.

Meanwhile, is it true that "upper- and middle-class white women" are "the demographic least likely to face state violence?"

We wondered what that term might mean. Skillfully, we proceeded to click that paragraph's two links.

The first link seems designed to support the claim about rates of arrest. As best we can see, nothing in the lengthy report to which we were taken says anything about the socioeconomic status of the three groups of women under discussion (white, black, Latina).

As such, the report to which the link leads doesn't support the pleasing claim in question. Nor does the report explicitly say that white women are arrested less often than Latinas!

Indeed, based on what the report does say, it seems possible that white women are arrested more often than Latinas. (Asian-American women aren't included in the report.)

Meanwhile, there's no attempt in the report to discuss socioeconomic status of the three groups in question. The report to which we were taken doesn't address, let alone support, the claim it's supposed to support.

As such, the link in question is another link to nowhere! It seems to us that we're finding them more and more often these days.

So how about that second link—the link designed to support the claim that "upper- and middle-class white women" are "the demographic least likely to face state violence?"

Slate's link in apparent support of that claim takes us to this study, whose title refers to "police violence." Rather, it takes us to the abstract for that study, whose full text we weren't able to access.

Based on the abstract, that study doesn't seem to include socioeconomic status either. Nor does it include data for Asian-American women.

Meanwhile, good news! According to the first linked report, Latinas are less likely than white women to experience a traffic stop. They're also less likely than white women to experience a "street stop" by police. Overall, it isn't clear who gets arrested more often.

Out of all this, the author came up with a pleasing claim about upper- and middle-class white women. Again and again, more and more often, this is the way our politicized journalism seems to work in these latter days of extremely high tribalization. (More examples to come.)

Links to nowhere seem rather common. Do "editors" ever check those links before they put essays in print?

For extra credit only: According to the essay in Slate, Amy Cooper's crazy phone call poaed no threat to her. "As high as the stakes were for [her target], they were nonexistent for Amy."

Amy Cooper has lost her job and she's lost her dog. Compare and contrast. Discuss.

IMITATIONS OF DISCOURSE: Did Joe Biden commit a gaffe?

THURSDAY, MAY 28, 2020

Are more such vile comments to come?:
In this morning's New York Times, a letter writer in Los Angeles discusses Joe Biden's alleged gaffe.

The New York Times published his letter.

The writer is a recent graduate of the law school at the University of the Pacific. We're sure that he's a good, decent person—but his letter helps us contemplate the logic of modern gaffe culture:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (5/28/20): How does The New York Times decide which offensive comments made by presidential candidates are worth writing full articles about? Joe Biden’s comment on “The Breakfast Club” radio show—that voters “ain’t black” if they are torn between him and Donald Trump—was obviously a gaffe and he was right to apologize for it, but it was not the worst thing said by a presidential candidate this past week.

The day before, President Trump visited a Ford factory and stated that the Nazi sympathizer Henry Ford had “good bloodlines.” The comment was not even mentioned in your article about Mr. Trump’s factory visit, despite being arguably more vile than anything Mr. Biden said during his “Breakfast Club” interview.

Will The New York Times repeat its missteps of 2016, or will Mr. Biden’s gaffes, of which there are sure to be more, be put into their proper context and held up against the words and actions of his opponent?
The writer agrees that Biden committed a gaffe. Indeed, he says it's "obvious" that he did so.

As he closes, he even says that there are sure to be more to come!

The writer seems to say that a "gaffe" is an "offensive comment." At one point, he even seems to say that Biden's comment was "vile." It's just that something Trump said about Henry Ford was "arguably more vile."

(Warning! The writer says that Trump's remark was arguably more vile than "anything Mr. Biden said" during last week's radio program. This seems to imply the possibility that Biden may have made other vile comments that day!)

That's what the letter writer said. If we might adapt Wittgenstein's first sentence in Philosophical Investigations:

"These words, it seems to me, give us a particular picture of the essence of [modern gaffe culture]."

Those who adhere to modern gaffe culture see the world as a brutal place. They are constantly being assailed by the vile, offensive remarks made by politicians.

It falls to them, in their goodness, to rank these comments in order of their vileness. The writer scolds the New York Times for failing to see that Trump's remark about Henry Ford was arguably more vile than anything Biden said.

The letter writer sketches the essence of modern gaffe culture. That said, the gaffe was a different animal back in 1984, when Michael Kinsley began trying to define its emerging role in pseudo-journalistic culture.

Thanks to Jonathan Chait, we can see one of the original New Republic columns in which Kinsley began his discussion of this blossoming art form. The backstory goes like this:

While seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, Candidate Gary Hart had made a snide remark. He'd complained about having to campaign in New Jersey while his wife got to campaign in California.

"Journalists" seized upon this obvious gaffe. Kinsley stood apart from the crowd, as he frequently did at that time.

Michael Kinsley wasn't buying! His second column on gaffe culture started off like this:
KINSLEY (6/18/84): We have reached a political nadir of some sort if the Democratic Party candidate for the leadership of the free world is chosen on the basis of a casual remark about New Jersey. Yet it seems possible history will record that Gary Hart lost his chance to be President when he stood with his wife, Lee, on a Los Angeles terrace and uttered these fateful words: “The deal is that we campaign separately; that’s the bad news. The good news for her is she campaigns in California, and I campaign in New Jersey.” Lee Hart mentioned that in California she’d held a Koala bear, and the Senator added in mock rue that in New Jersey he’d held “samples from a toxic waste dump.”

The TV networks played this incident very big, the analysts of the print media went to work on it, and it appears to have blossomed into a gaffe.
This could cost Hart the New Jersey primary—and therefore, everyone agrees, any hope of the nomination.

The “gaffe” is now the principal dynamic mechanism of American politics
, as interpreted by journalists. Each candidacy is born in a state of prelapsarian innocence, and the candidate then proceeds to commit gaffes. Journalists record each new gaffe, weigh it on their Gaffability Index...and move the players forward or backward on the game board accordingly.
In this morning's New York Times, we seem to learn that the modern gaffe is a statement which is offensive and vile. This follows our emerging brain-dead culture over here on the pseudo-left, in which our lives are built around performative virtue in response to obvious, grotesque moral failures on the part of pretty much everyone else on the face of the earth.

We liberals and progressives! In large part, we have our assistant, associate and adjunct professors to thank for this loud, self-admiring culture, in which we trumpet our own moral greatness while issuing amazingly broad denunciations of large swaths of dveryone else.

(See the astoundingly broad constructions which drive today's column by an Australian author and doctoral candidate. The New York Times chose to publish it. It appears in this morning's Times, opposite the letter.)

To this morning's letter writer, the modern gaffe seems to be a vile, offensive remark. That isn't what a gaffe was said to be back in Kinsley's day.

To Kinsley, there were two defining characteristics of the classic gaffe. According to Kinsley, for a statement to be a gaffe, the statement had to plainly true, and it had to be trivial, pointless.

So Kinsley craftily said as he continued his column:
KINSLEY (continuing directly): Hart’s Jerseyblooper contained both of the key elements of the gaffe in its classically pure form. First, as explained in this space three weeks ago, a “gaffe” occurs not when a politician lies, but when he tells the truth. The burden of Hart’s remark was that, all else being equal, he’d rather spend a few springtime weeks in California than in New Jersey. Of course he would. So would I. So would Walter Mondale, no doubt, along with the vast majority of Americans, including, quite possibly, most residents of New Jersey...

The second element of the classic gaffe is that the subject matter should be trivial...[T]he ideal “text” for political journalism to chew on is an episode of no real meaning or importance—such as a small joke about New Jersey—which can then be analyzed without distraction exclusively in terms of its likely effect on the campaign.
Kinsley refers to the classic gaffe. This implies that this journalistic monster predated the 1984 campaign, which ended with Reagan winning big after Mondale had been observed in public making several accurate statements.

At any rate, Kinsley said the classic gaffe had to satisfy two criteria. The classic gaffe was plainly true, and it was wholly trivial.

In the Jerseygate matter, the gaffe might also be a joke. That's how some people, including Paul Krugman, saw Biden's vile remark last week—as a quip, a joke, a jest, a jibe or possibly just a sally.

We've come a long way since 1984! Today, the tendency is to see the gaffe as a statement which reveals some vile hidden moral belief. According to the letter writer, Biden made at least one such remark last week, and he will surely make more.

Have we mentioned the fact that the letter writer is surely a good, decent person? For ourselves, we'd have to say that we regard Biden's remark as trivial.

Roughly three million blue-leaning pundits, observers and nutcakes have made similar remarks in the past. As we noted yesterday, we wouldn't make such a remark ourselves. But we don't regard it as a window into a soul more offensive and vile and than our own.

That said, it's all anthropology now—and it's close to becoming all vanity.

Our warlike species is highly tribal. We're wired to denigrate others, and possibly to find such specimens under every rock. Our assistant professors have come a long way and have given us many new tools.

Tomorrow, we'll look behind the journalistic trivia which might be said to lie behind this latest front-page gaffe. We might even visit the high-profile news site Kinsley founded to see what they care about now.

There are still mountains of trivia out there. Much of it comes straight from us.

Tomorrow/still coming: Aperol Spritz and Taylor Swift! Plus, who authored the first modern-era gaffe? Did JFK ever commit one?

For extra credit only: Does Trump know anything about Henry Ford? We can think of no reason to think so.

How many people have died in L.A.?


Also, where are last Friday night's transcripts?:
This Monday, we were struck by the highlighted statement in a New York Times opinion column:
WILENTZ (5/25/20): For years, New Yorkers like me have mocked and reviled Los Angeles because of its messy residential sprawl and its out-of-control car culture. They’ve asked: Can you even call that a city? But sprawl and cars means Los Angeles doesn’t have much in the way of virus vectors like subways and residential elevators.

And indeed, the pandemic in Los Angeles has not been anywhere as intense as in New York, where as of this week the number of deaths was about eight times what it was in Los Angeles. We know people in New York who’ve died of Covid-19; here, so far, we know no one.
The column was written by Amy Wilentz. According to the leading authority, she actually grew up in New Jersey, though that could always be wrong. Today, though, she's a professor at Cal Irvine and is the author of well-received books.

We were struck by the highlighted sentence because it referred to "deaths" rather than to death rates. To some, this will seem like a trivial point. To others, this will recall the remarkable problems our upper-end news orgs often have with the simplest types of statistical constructions.

New York is much larger than Los Angeles. For that reason, it doesn't exactly make sense to compare the number of deaths which have occurred in the two famous cities.

We'll guess that Wilentz presented a more sensible comparison, and that some editor changed it. At any rate, we decided to take a look at the record! We decided to see how many people have died in the two famous cities, and also to see how the two cities' death rates compare.

How many people have died in L.A.? You'd think it would be easy to get that information. In fact, it took us roughly half an hour on Monday morning, though we found the figure more easily today.

The problem was the surprising dominance of a jurisdiction known as Los Angeles County. Frankly, who knew? The story goes like this:

The City of Los Angeles—the jurisdiction commonly known as L.A.—currently boasts a population of roughly 3.96 million. (Good luck finding any such figure at the city's own web site.)

That said, the city is part of the much larger jurisdiction we've cited above—the County of Los Angeles. As of last year, the county's population had nudged up just over 10 million—and to our surprise, it dominates the more famous city which shares its name, statistical information-wise.

Go ahead! If you go to the Los Angeles Times, they will tell you the number of deaths for Los Angeles County. If you go to the web site for the city itself, they'll do the same darn thing! (Once you're able to find any statistic at all.)

The city will tell you how many people have died in Los Angeles County; as of yesterday, the number was 2,143. But how many people have died in Los Angeles itself? How many people have died in the world-famous city?

The number is remarkably hard to find, even at the city's own web site.

Eventually, we did manage to find it, although we had to leap one more rather comical hurdle. You'll be able to find it too, if you're willing to struggle a bit.

Assuming the accuracy of the city web site's data, the number of deaths by coronavirus currently stands at 1,051 in the very famous city commonly known as L.A.

By way of contrast, deaths for New York City currently stand it 16,410, as you can easily learn. This means that New York City has roughly sixteen rimes as many deaths as Los Angeles, not the eight the Times reported, if we're discussing what everyone means when they refer to "Los Angeles."

New York City has sixteen times the number of deaths, but its population is slightly more than twice as large as L.A.'s. That means its death rate is roughly eight times that of L.A. We'll assume that's what Wilentz wrote, and that some editor changed it, hoping to make things easier for people who read the Times.

Does this matter? As the past three decades have made clear, virtually nothing does! We paraphrase pols in the ways which feel good. We generate gaffes to keep script alive. Routinely, the simplest kinds of statistical matters are simply too much to deal with.

There's one other point we should mention:

We tell you these things in our afternoon post because the all-time slacker "cable news" channel still hasn't posted transcripts for last Friday's night's programs. We'll show you what Rachel said about Dr. Birx if the slackers at that channel ever find their way back to work from their three-day weekend.

At the upper end of the social scale, nothing much actually matters. It's been this way for a rather long time, and it helped give us our Trump.

IMITATIONS OF DISCOURSE: Krugman calls it a harmless gaffe!


A statement of opinion:
Just for starters, let it be said:

Paul Krugman's assessment of Biden's remark is a matter of judgment—a matter of opinion.

Last week, Biden was speaking with a radio host who calls himself Charlamagne Tha God. According to the New York Times, the radio host "has been called out for his own gaffes and homophobic, transphobic and sexist comments."

Not that there's anything wrong with it! That said, Biden forgot the basic rule of modern outrage-era politics:

The politician has to be especially careful about what he says to someone named Tha God.

Ignoring this well-known rule, Biden proceeded to make a remark which had been made about three million times by blue-leaning pundits before him. Because we live in The Age of the Gaffe, this set off storms of complaint, largely among a certain subset of blue-leaning pundits.

Krugman was stating his view about this set of events. Midway through his column, he referred to Biden's fleeting remark as "a harmless gaffe"—but as he started, he stated his basic view of the matter:
KRUGMAN (5/26/20): Last week Joe Biden made an off-the-cuff joke that could be interpreted as taking African-American votes for granted. It wasn’t a big deal—Biden, who loyally served Barack Obama, has long had a strong affinity with black voters, and he has made a point of issuing policy proposals aimed at narrowing racial health and wealth gaps. Still, Biden apologized.

And in so doing he made a powerful case for choosing him over Donald Trump in November. You see, Biden, unlike Trump, is capable of admitting error.
Was Biden's off-the-cuff remark actually a "joke?" In the hubbub which has ensued, contradictory views have been stated.

Was Biden's possible joke "a big deal?" Krugman said the comment wasn't a big deal; he also said it was "harmless." Others expressed alternate views.

Last Saturday, the controversy hit the front page of the Washington Post. One day later, it led the National section of the New York Times—and in the Times, inevitability struck:

Readers were told that Biden's remark recalled Candidate Clinton's "hot sauce" remark. That remark touched off a gaffe watch during our last presidential campaign, the one which (ever so barely) sent Donald J. Trump to the White House.

So it has gone in our White House campaigns during this, The Age of the Gaffe.

During this, The Age of the Gaffe, our journalists have helped us that the gaffe can take many forms.

As we noted yesterday, there is the spoken gaffe. But there's also the wardrobe gaffe and the hairdo gaffe, and there's the gaffe of the cheese placed on the cheesesteak.

There's the spousal imperfection gaffe. There's the gaffe of what you order to drink while campaigning in a saloon, lounge, dive, restaurant, private club, hell-hole or bar.

Closely related to the gaffe is the question of whether the politician knows the price of a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk. There's the gaffe of crying or seeming to cry, even if major journalists have to dream tears up.

Long ago and far away, when the gaffe was being invented, Michael Kinsley defined the emerging phenomenon. According to Kinsley's formulation, "A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth."

Kinsley stated that view in 1984, a year in Walter Mondale was caught making accurate statements in public on at least several occasions. By now, the frontiers of the gaffe have been expanded. Indeed, the leading authority on the topic now offers this gaffe catalog:
The term gaffe may be used to describe an inadvertent statement by a politician that the politician believes is true while the politician has not fully analyzed the consequences of publicly stating it. Another definition is a statement made when the politician privately believes it to be true, realizes the dire consequences of saying it, and yet inadvertently utters, in public, the unutterable. Another definition is a politician's statement of what is on his or her mind—this may or may not be inadvertent—thereby leading to a ritualized "gaffe dance" between candidates...A propensity to concentrate on so-called "gaffes" in campaigns has been criticized as a journalistic device that can lead to distraction from real issues. The Kinsley gaffe is said to be a species of the general "political gaffe."
Etcetera and so forth and so on! We'll only note that this catalog of gaffes fails to mention a wide array of possible gaffes, including the wardrobe gaffe, the hairdo gaffe, and the gaffe which occurs when the politician tells a joke which is then excitedly treated as a serious comment.

(See Candidate Gore, September 2000, "union lullaby" joke. See giant mainstream press hubbub which followed. See subsequent extremely narrow win by Candidate Bush.)

Was Candidate Biden telling a joke on that radio show? Did he possibly author a jest or a jibe? Was his comment "harmless?"

Those are all matters of opinion. And Biden's remark was made in this, the tribalized era characterized by the deathless cry, No Offense Left Behind.

Because of the nature of the age, offense was instantly taken. This sent Biden to the front page of the Washington Post, the same front page which, today, is discussing the latest pathological insults delivered by the other presumptive candidate in our coming White House election, assuming some such election actually happens.

For ourselves, we wouldn't have made Biden's comment. We think so-called race is correctly regarded as a "suspect category," and not just under strictures of constitutional law.

We would be extremely loath to make joking remarks in the general area of "race." It's generally a bad idea for a pol to do so, even if he's talking to someone who calls himself Tha God.

For the record, we don't mean to criticize Charlamagne by making such comments. He isn't one of the people who turned Biden's off-the-cuff comment into a front-page gaffe.

Tomorrow, we'll look at a few who did. They were expressing their opinions, just as Krugman later did. Such behavior is of course allowed, though it may not always be helpful or wise.

We're going to close by repeating something we just said. For ourselves, we wouldn't have made Biden's comment.

His comment dealt with so-called race, and for reasons which are blindingly obvious, our brutal history has made that an extremely difficult topic. It's also true that people of various "races" are allowed to support Donald J. Trump.

Clarence Thomas' views, and those of the grandfather who raised him, are part of the American experience too. No group of people has ever agreed on any one topic. No group can sensibly be expected to do so, and no group ever will.

That said, long before Biden spoke, three million blue-leaning pundits had offered some version of his remark, often while killing time on 24-hour cable. Such remarks are occasionally part of the dumbness of Our Own Tribe.

Everyone says what Biden said! Still, a basic reason to avoid joking as Biden did was captured in the account given above:
The term gaffe may be used to describe an inadvertent statement by a politician that the politician believes is true while the politician has not fully analyzed the consequences of publicly stating it.
We'd advise against making a comment like Biden's because you know exactly how a bunch of people will quickly and loudly react.

Later in his column, Krugman expressed a view about Biden's opponent this fall, assuming we have an election. Intriguingly, Krugman said this:
KRUGMAN: Trump’s pathological inability to admit error—and yes, it really does rise to the level of pathology—has been obvious for years, and has had serious consequences. For example, it has made him an easy mark for foreign dictators like North Korea’s Kim Jong-un...
Is Biden's possible opponent caught in the grip of an actual "pathology?" We'd like to see some major journalist stand on his or her hind legs and examine that question in a serious way.

We'd like to see medical and psychological specialists consulted on that difficult question, but only if they're non-partisan. But until the time when someone is willing to take that route, gaffe culture is going to work its eternal will:

Over the weekend, it had the guy who doesn't seem to be mentally ill on the front page with the guy who apparently is. We liberals often refer to that as "moral equivalence," until we ourselves want to spout.

The age of the gaffe is the age of the quick declamation. Tomorrow, we'll ponder an historical question:

Which politician authored the very first modern gaffe? When was modern gaffe culture born? Who stands as its very first victim?

Tomorrow: Exploration of "the star-making machinery behind the Aperol Spritz," along with "a standout piece on [a journalist's] change of sides in the Kanye vs. Taylor Swift debate."

Plus, who authored the first modern gaffe? Does it go back to Muskie?

What explains those varying deaths rates?

TUESDAY, MAY 26, 2020

Some comparisons you've never seen:
What explains the varying death rates from coronavirus in different nations?

In today's Washington Post, this report seeks to explain Germany's relative success as compared to its major European neighbors.

Canada is often praised too. On the other hand, if we consider death rates from various states, here's how some numbers look:
Coronavirus deaths per million population, as of May 26
Canada: 176

Arizona: 116
Missouri: 113
Florida: 110
Germany: 101
California: 97
Wisconsin: 89
North Carolina: 75
Texas: 55
Oregon: 36
California's right there with Germany. Texas has them both beat.

Those are some of our less afflicted larger states. Meanwhile, Europe's most afflicted nations don't look quite so bad when compared to our most afflicted states:
Coronavirus deaths per million population, as of May 26:
New York: 1443
New Jersey: 1260
Connecticut: 1045
Massachusetts: 939
Belgium: 806
Spain: 580
United Kingdom: 546
Italy: 545
Michigan: 526
France: 437
United States: 303
Presumably, many factors go into those widely varying numbers.

At any rate, we've never seen such comparisons before. We compile, you ponder/rue this terrible affliction/seek to explain.

Chris Wallace batters McEnany!

TUESDAY, MAY 26, 2020

Maddow slimes Dr. Birx:
Friday afternoon's White House press briefing was a genuine lollapalooza.

At the start of the event,
President Trump came storming out to insist that churches reopen. He threatened to override any governor who tried to stand in the churchhouse door, failing to say on what authority he thought he'd be able to do so.

The president stormed away after roughly two minutes. At that point, Kayleigh McEnany praised the president for his brilliant remarks.

Thirty-five minutes later, near the end of the briefing, McEnany slimed the press with an inane remark about the way they seem to hate religious belief. "And boy," she thoughtfully said. "It’s interesting to be in a room that desperately wants to seem to see these churches and houses of worship stay closed."

To his vast credit, Reuters' Jeff Mason directly challenged McEnany's remark. That said, the dumbest was yet to come.

McEnany then sought, and received, a ludicrous "question" from OAN's half-crazy Chanel Rion. To be specific, Rion asked whether President Trump is planning to pardon President Obama for his Obamagate crimes.

Yes, that's what she asked! Thus emboldened, McEnany ended the briefing with several minutes of snide and stupid remarks. Her condescending diatribe started like this:
MCENANY (5/22/20): I have not spoken to the president about that, but who I did speak to about President Obama and unmasking Michael Flynn were the men and women in this room.

I haven’t spoken to him on that specific point. Have spoken to him about the matter generally. And I laid out a series of questions that any good journalist would want to answer about why people were unmasked, and all sorts of questions. And I just wanted to follow up with you guys on that.

Did anyone take it upon themselves to pose any questions about Michael Flynn and unmasking to President Obama's spokesperson?


Oh, not a single journalist has posed that question. Okay!

So I would like to lay out a series of questions. And perhaps if I write them out in a slide format, maybe we’re visual learners, and you guys will follow up with journalistic curiosity.

So, number one...
From there, McEnany listed five questions the journalists would certainly want to ask. Just in case the reporters are a bunch of visual learners, she had prepared her five questions in a slide format.

For the record, yes. As McEnany took her dramatic pause, Jonathan Karl tried to object to her premise. He tried to note that reporting has said that Flynn's name had actually never been masked, and therefore had never been unmasked.

Skillfully, McEnany ignored what Karl was saying and continued with her scolding.

You can read the transcript of the full briefing at this site. You can watch the tape of the full briefing here, with accompanying transcript.

For the record, no—McEnany actually isn't that dumb. She proved that again and again during her time as a CNN contributor.

Presumably, this is the persona she has adopted in service to her new boss. And hallelujah! On Sunday morning, Chris Wallace let McEnany have it, but good, right there on Fox News Sunday.

Wallace berated McEnany up one side and down the other. Reports of this matter have tended to focus on McEnany's one remark questioning the reporters' attitudes about religion. Plainly, Wallace was also battering McEnany for the stupid, condescending list of questions with which she ended her briefing.

The session had begun with Trump the Avenger; it ended with Kayleigh the Scold. That said, the bulk of the session belonged to Dr. Deborah Birx and the unending stream of slides she flashed before the reporters.

By our count, Dr. Birx presented 23 slides, many of which were poorly explained, as part of a 23-minute presentation. She then took a few questions.

That night, Rachel Maddow characterized Birx's presentation in about as phony a way as you'll ever see.

We aren't big fans of Dr. Birx, but Maddow's account of her presentation was absolutely crazy. Assuming MSNBC emerges from its weekend stupor and posts the transcript of Maddow's remarks, we'll show you what she said tomorrow.

Trump and McEnany acted like clowns. Maddow may have topped them. This is where our discourse goes as we split into warring tribes.

Presumably, Maddow's conduct is good for corporate ratings. Throughout the course of human history, such conduct has also been the stuff of our highly tribal species' destructive tribal wars.

We get conned by our stars too! We continue to think that you ought to know that.

IMITATIONS OF DISCOURSE: "No big deal," the Times seems to say!

TUESDAY, MAY 26, 2020

Earlier, the Times had spotted the latest gaffe:
We were surprised by something we read in this morning's New York Times, print edition only.

It seemed to come right at the start of today's featured editorial. At any rate, we were surprised to read this:
APPARENT NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL (5/26/20): Last week Joe Biden made an off-the-cuff joke that could be interpreted as taking African-American votes for granted. It wasn’t a big deal—Biden, who loyally served Barack Obama, has long had a strong affinity with black voters, and he has made a point of issuing policy proposals aimed at narrowing racial health and wealth gaps. Still, Biden apologized.
Biden's remark was no big deal, the apparent editorial said.

We were surprised by that assessment, in part because we'd read the New York Times over the weekend, on Saturday and Sunday both.

On Saturday, the Times had devoted this full-length news report to Biden's troubling remark. On Sunday, things got worse.

On Sunday, there was no way to move the topic to the New York Times front page. On Sunday, the Times front page was wholly devoted to a bit of performative mourning on the part of what has become our most tribal blue newspaper. That said:

On Sunday, the featured report in the paper's National section concerned Biden's remark. The topic led the National section. A youngish writer had been assigned the task of analyzing Biden's comment.

In fairness, yes, this is the guild this youngish reporter has chosen. Despite that fact, we can't blame the youngish reporter for what you'll see below.

The youngish reporter didn't invent the journalistic world into which she has emerged after graduating from college in 2014. But with a pitch-perfect ear for her newspaper's gaffe culture, she wrote this about the radio show on which Biden committed his comment:
MZEZEWA (5/24/20): “The Breakfast Club” airs every weekday from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Eastern and from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Saturdays on Power 105.1. Before the pandemic, its three hosts welcomed guests into their studio in Manhattan to discuss everything from music to celebrity gossip to politics. Many fans of the show listen to it on podcast apps, too.

Interviewees have been known to walk out if they don’t like a question. Even DJ Envy, a host, once walked out on the show. No one who enters the studio or, now, joins a video call with any member of the hosting trio is safe from commentary and criticism. And when the hosts upset listeners, people take to Twitter, where Charlamagne has been called out for his own gaffes and homophobic, transphobic and sexist comments.

In its nearly decade-long run, the show has created viral moments with rappers, actors, and politicians. As it has carved out a space for serious conversations about politics, it has become an important stop for candidates who desperately want to appeal to black voters. After all, it was on this show that Hillary Clinton said that she carried hot sauce in her bag, just like Beyoncé.

Mrs. Clinton appeared in April 2016
, and since then the show has become an even more crucial campaign stop for presidential hopefuls who want to reach the show’s mostly black, young listeners and viewers.
The radio host with whom Biden spoke "has been called out for his own gaffes"—also, for his homophobic, transphobic and sexist comments. For now, let's forget about that.

Also, and much more significantly, "it was on this show that Hillary Clinton said that she carried hot sauce in her bag, just like Beyoncé." Candidate Clinton made this remark in April 2016, the youngish reporter now said.

The youngish reporter didn't seem to feel the need to explain the inclusion of such a trivial matter in her news report. She (and her editor) possibly thought that readers would remember the candidate's "hot sauce" remark.

Mind-reading skillfully, she did suggest that this remark by Candidate Clinton had signaled her "desperate" desire to appeal to black voters. Reporters have long been able to discern the motives behind such otherwise trivial comments.

For those condemned to recall such matters, Candidate Clinton's "hot sauce" disclosure touched off one of the braindead gaffe-based culture wars which have increasingly defined our presidential politics over the past several decades.

It was right up there with Candidate Kerry's terrible gaffe when he ordered the wrong kind of cheese to go on his Philly cheesesteak during Campaign 2004. It was right up there with the three million sartorial gaffes committed by Candidate Gore during Campaign 2000, when he even wore suit jackets with three buttons instead of the much-preferred two.

Braindead members of the upper-end guild have patrolled such campaign gaffes for decades. They've patrolled the candidates' spoken gaffes. They've patrolled the candidates' wardrobe gaffes.

They've patrolled an array of hairdo gaffes, including those committed by spouses. Here was Maureen Dowd, patrolling the various gaffes of Candidate Dean's unacceptable wife, once again during Campaign 2004:
DOWD (1/15/04): Even by the transcendentally wacky standard for political unions set by Bill and Hillary Clinton, the Deans have an unusual relationship.


The first hard evidence most people had that Howard Dean was actually married came with a startling picture of his wife on the front page of Tuesday's Times, accompanying a Jodi Wilgoren profile.

In worn jeans and old sneakers, the shy and retiring Dr. Judith Steinberg Dean looked like a crunchy Vermont hippie, blithely uncoiffed, unadorned, unstyled and unconcerned about not being at her husband's side—the anti-Laura [Bush]. You could easily imagine the din of Rush Limbaugh and Co. demonizing her as a counterculture fem-lib role model for the blue states.
"Judith Steinberg has shunned the role of helpmeet," Dowd reported as she continued. And not only that! Dearest darlings, the clothing in that startling photo! And that uncoiffed hair!

Dowd went on to pen a second column discussing Candidate Dean's living, breathing gaffe of a non-Stepford wife. In fairness to Dowd, she wasn't the only major pundit frisking Dean's inexcusable spouse. Sadly, this is an integral part of the braindead culture into which youngish reporters must emerge when they join the upper-end press corps.

This morning, we were surprised! We were surprised when it seemed that the Times editorial board had declared that Candidate Biden's recent remark "wasn't a big deal."

As it turned out, that wasn't the editorial board voicing that judgment at all! In fact, the essay was written Paul Krugman. It was his regular Tuesday column.

The authorship of the piece is clear if you read the Times online. In print editions, the Krugman column is positioned in such a way that it may appear to be the day's featured editorial. This is a type of unwise visual misdirection in which the routinely unwise editorial board has recently begun to engage.

We can't blame that youngish reporter for becoming a part of gaffe culture. Nor was the New York Times alone in treating Biden's "off-the-cuff joke" as a major topic.

On Saturday morning, Biden's remark was the subject of a full-blown front-page news report in the Washington Post's print editions. On Sunday, the opinion columns followed. So it long has gone within the press corps' prevailing gaffe culture, a culture maintained by a circle of adepts who are devoted to The Cult of the Offhand Comment.

Unfortunately, there's more to say about Biden's remark and its coverage. There's a great deal more to say about the guild's never-ending gaffe culture.

Such discussions are nothing but anthropology now, of course. Nothing will ever change this guild's attraction to trivia and the irrelevant.

For decades now, this low-IQ culture has produced the imitations of discourse which pose as campaign coverage. You might even refer to these manifestations as "imitations of life."

We'll explore this culture all week. Krugman's comments about Biden's remark are, of course, matters of opinion and judgment. That said, the press corps' judgment has often been amazingly poor down through these many long years.

As Sunday's report in the Times helps us see, the judgment of us the people is often even worse. All hail social media, with its rampaging furious Dowdism! All hail the three million ways we humans will wander off point!

Coming: Rational animals are asked to recall the book called "The Family of Man [sic]"

Also, there was no Professor Reade!

SATURDAY, MAY 23, 2020

Donald Trump as his state's greatest baseball player:
When the New York Times reported on Tara Reade's apparent misstatement, they cited CNN as the original source of their report.

Reade had always claimed to be a graduate of Antioch University. But, as CNN had reported, the university has now said that it just isn't so.

As we noted yesterday, this is emerging as a rather familiar pattern. But when we read CNN's lengthy report, the problem seemed to be even worse:
LEE AND KAUFMAN (5/19/20): Reade has said that she changed her name to Alexandra McCabe and fled from her ex-husband [in 1996]. Some details of Reade's personal life are hazier after that.

Reade told CNN that she received a bachelor of arts degree from Antioch University
in Seattle under the auspices of a "protected program," personally working with the former president of the school to ensure her identity was protected while she obtained credits for her degree. She also said that she was a visiting professor at the school, on and off for five years.

Presented with this, Karen Hamilton, an Antioch University spokesperson, told CNN that "Alexandra McCabe attended but did not graduate from Antioch University. She was never a faculty member. She did provide several hours of administrative work."

An Antioch University official told CNN that such a "protected program" does not exist and never has.
Oof! According to Antioch, Reade doesn't hold a degree from the school—and she was never a professor there!

For whatever reason, CNN didn't start discussing these problems until paragraph 17 of its largely ho-hum report. When they did, they only said that the facts here seem to be "hazy."

We can't swear who's right about these matters, but in this morning's Washington Post, the story seems to get worser. In this passage, the reporters are discussing assertions by Reade in her work as an alleged "expert witness" in various court proceedings:
VISER AND SCHERER (5/23/20): While Reade told the court she had worked as a legislative assistant to Biden, she actually held the job of staff assistant, a more junior role, according to Senate records. And while her résumé, shared with the defense by the district attorney before she appeared in court, said she worked in Biden’s office from 1991 to 1994, records show she was there only eight months, from Dec. 2, 1992, until Aug. 6, 1993.

A spokeswoman for Antioch University said that, contrary to Reade’s claim, she did not graduate from the school
, as first reported by CNN. The spokeswoman also said that Reade never worked as an “online visiting professor,” as she claimed on the résumé shared as part of the court proceedings.

In testimony that she gave in December 2018, she was asked if she was licensed to practice law in California, and she responded that she had not taken the bar exam.

But Reade herself published a blog in 2012 documenting her third attempt to pass the California bar exam.
The blog was titled “California Bar Exam: Three Times A Charm.”
Oof! According to the Post's report, Reade misstated the nature of her job with Biden. She misstated the length of time she worked for Biden, turning eight months into three or four years.

She falsely claimed to be a graduate of Antioch. She falsely claimed that she had been a professor at the school.

Beyond that, she claimed that she'd never taken the bar exam. Earlier, she'd apparently said that she had taken the exam three times.

We can't straighten out these various contradictions. But we can recall the headlines on Professor Manne's highly instructive essay:
I Believe Tara Reade. And You Should, Too.
We already knew that Biden is the type. Had we as voters and had the Democratic Party taken this seriously, we wouldn’t be in this mess now
Professor Manne believed Tara Reade. She said that you should too.

Why did she believe Tara Reade? In part because, as the headline explained, Biden is "the type!"

Appallingly, Professor Manne is a ranking philosophy professor, at Cornell. Her essay appeared in The Nation.

Each of these facts should tell us something about the way our absurdly self-impressed tribe has been contributing to our failing nation's breakdown in intellectual order. Concerning Reade, the pattern which seems to be emerging is quite familiar.

As we tell you every time, none of this can possibly prove that Reade's claim about Biden is false. But, for whatever reason, some people do make false accusations of this type. At this point, does Reade really seem like someone you'd be inclined to trust?

(For the record: Natasha Korecki's report about Reade stressed her endless money problems. Could Reade be on the Putin payroll? Yes, of course she could! She's written at least one crazy essay about the sexy Russkie hunk. Also, everything's possible, and it always has been!)

Does Reade seem like someone you can trust? Instead, might she be a person who "has problems," as Emily Bazelon suggested at Slate way back in April, speaking to a pair of hopelessly scripted male colleagues?

In the the words of the embarrassing Manne, does Reade seem like someone you should believe? Sadly, Professor Manne is a real professor, and she's part of our own failing tribe!

This brings us to the question of President Trump, whose statements are generally semi-coherent but rarely seem to be accurate.

This morning, perusing the Washington Post, we were struck by the headline above Colbert King's weekly column. We became even more intrigued when we saw the way King began:
KING (5/23/20): All the president's lies

When President Trump announced this week that he is taking the drug hydroxychloroquine, I was working my way through The Post’s new book, “Donald Trump and His Assault on Truth,” written by the newspaper’s Fact Checker staff.

The thought that Trump would ignore warnings from the Food and Drug Administration and deliberately ingest a drug that could have serious side effects was disturbing. Equally upsetting, however, was the thought that the president may have taken to the airwaves to tell a flat-out lie. Why should we believe he’s taking the drug? After all, America has come to this: a president of the United States whose word cannot be trusted.
As a general matter, it's certainly true that President Trump's "word cannot be trusted." President Trump emits bogus, false and misleading statements in much the way dark storm clouds will toss off showers of rain.

That said:

If Trump is taking hydroxychloroquine, that would seem to indicate that he actually hasn't been lying when he's said that he thinks it's safe. If he thought the drug was going to kill him, we'll guess that he wouldn't be taking it.

Is he actually taking the drug? There's no way to be sure. But that headline talks about the president's "lies," and the Washington Post's Fact-Checker site has never used that term.

Playing by older, sounder rules, the site continues to tabulate the president's "false or misleading claims." And, as everyone used to know, a false statement isn't a lie if the speaker believes the statement is true.

The Fact-Checker site has bowed to that old understanding. Until today, when King proceeds to quote Glenn Kessler, the site's major player:
KING (continuing directly): Fact Checker editor and chief writer Glenn Kessler labels Trump “the most mendacious president in U.S. history.” And the 344-page book backs up that charge.
Mendacity is a form of lying. It may be that Kessler is held to one set of rules in the Post itself, but has been able to state a different judgment in this new book.

We haven't seen the new book. We do recommend the possibility that Trump is disturbed and disordered—that the fellow "has problems."

Consider two apparent misstatements by Trump. Just this week, at a public event, he claimed, apparently falsely, that he was honored as Michigan's "Man of the Year" a few short years ago.

It seems quite clear that there is no such prize, and that Trump wasn't so honored. But was Trump lying when he said that? Is it possible that he's so delusional that he believes that claim?

In asking that question, we refer you to another absurdly swollen claim Trump has made down through the years. Linking to a fascinating report in Slate, Tyler Lauletta summarized the lunacy here:
LAULETTA (5/6/20): President Trump's recollections of his career as a high school baseball player have come under scrutiny.

Trump has claimed that he was a standout player, capable of making the big leagues had he desired.

"I was captain of the baseball team," Trump said in a 2010 interview with MTV. "I was supposed to be a professional baseball player. Fortunately, I decided to go into real estate instead. I played first base and I also played catcher. I was a good hitter. I just had a good time."

In a 2013 tweet, Trump went as far as to say that he was the best player in the state of New York in his high school days.
Actually, Trump only said in that 2013 tweet that he was said to be the best player in the state. Exaggerations and misstatements are part of the human condition!

That said, was Trump the best baseball player in the state of New York during his high school days? Asking a slightly different question, was he any darn good at all?

Wonderfully, Leander Schaerlaeckens decided to check it out! In his lengthy, detailed report for Slate, it becomes fairly clear that Trump wasn't an especially good high school player at all, let long the best player in the state.

Question: When Trump made this ridiculous claim, was he actually lying? Or could it be that he's so disordered that he thought his false claim was true?

If he knew his claim was false, he was lying. If he actually thought it was true, does some larger problem exist?

Is Donald J. Trump a liar, or might he simply "have problems?" We think that question is worth exploration. This seems to put us in the minority in our own infallible tribe.

Like all tribes in all of human history, our tribe likes to make the sweeping moral denunciation. We tend to opt for the simplest accusation against the other or others.

You can't believe a thing Trump says, but how often is he actually lying? We'd like to see medical specialists tease that question out, if they can be nonpartisan in their discussions.

Concerning Reade, it seems that a certain familiar pattern has emerged. Our big news orgs are actually discussing that pattern this time. They were never willing to do so in the history-altering cases of Gennifer Flowers and Kathleen Willey, who never stopped being regarded as the most credible people on earth.

An unfortunate pattern has also emerged among some of our tribe's professors. Recent essays by Professors Hirshman and Manne constitute an embarrassing indictment of one branch of our own failing tribe.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but our self-impressed species is deeply tribal. At times like these, we aren't inclined to be real bright—and that cab even be true Over Here, among our most brilliant sachems.

Andrew Sullivan batters Trump!

FRIDAY, MAY 22, 2020

To our ear, this doesn't make sense:
As with Conor Friedersdorf, so too with Andrew Sullivan.

He doesn't work from either tribe's scripts. That makes him a valuable journalist.

Sullivan's weekly ruminations for New York magazine have struck us as very valuable. That said, we though today's profile of Donald J. Trump is very strange, highly illogical, on the border of almost deranged.

All though his profile, Sullivan uses the language of psychiatric or cognitive impairment as he describes Trump behavior. He starts by describing the "plain evidence of Trump's derangement" and, by paragraph 3, he's explicitly saying this:
SULLIVAN (5/22/20): Count the objective COVID-19 failures in 2020 alone. The president was briefed on the looming viral threat, both internally and externally, multiple times in January. But he does not read his briefings—he doesn’t actually read anything—and is uniquely un-briefable in person, according to a story in the New York Times: “‘How do you know?’ is Mr. Trump’s common refrain during his 30- to 50-minute briefings two or three times a week. He counters with his own statistics on issues where he has strong views, like trade or NATO. Directly challenging him, even when his numbers are wrong, appears to erode Mr. Trump’s trust, according to former officials, and ultimately he stops listening.” In other words, the officials who tell him things he doesn’t want to believe are soon sidelined or fired. This is the behavior of a 2-year-old. In a man in his 70s, it’s a form of pathology.
Trump's behavior is "a form of pathology," Sully explicitly says. To our ear, that sound a great deal like a psychiatric assessment.

Sullivan uses this kind of language all through his profile of Trump. We'll highlight the relevant examples in the following chunk of text:
SULLIVAN: He even predicted at the end of February that “you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero.” (Asked two months later about this prediction, he said—of course!— that he was right: “Well, it will go down to zero, ultimately.”) He said it wasn’t a threat, and would go away, like a miracle. Put simply, these are delusional attempts to describe his own fantasies as an objective reality—like how the Russians did not try to interfere in the 2016 election, his inauguration crowd was way bigger than Obama’s, tariffs are paid by the Chinese government, and that anyone in America could have gotten a COVID-19 test. This is a form of psychological disorder.


I know we’re used to it, but there is no rational or coherent explanation for any of this. There is no strategy, or political genius. There is just a delusional pathology in which he says whatever comes into his head at any moment, determined entirely by his mood, which is usually bad. His attention span is so tiny and his memory so occluded that he can say two contradictory things with equal conviction repeatedly, and have no idea there might be any inconsistency at all.

His COVID-19 press conferences were proof of his mental limits. He couldn’t understand basic questions. He had no grip on epidemiology. He believes that tests are bad, because they make America look bad, and then boasts of his record in testing (which is, of course, not good). When a White House staffer, Vice-President Pence’s spokesperson, Katie Miller, tested positive for COVID-19, this is what Trump said: “She tested very good for a long period of time. And then all of a sudden today she tested positive. So, she tested positive out of the blue. This is why the whole concept of tests aren’t necessarily, right, the tests are perfect but something can happen between a test where it’s good and then something happens and then all of a sudden, she was tested very recently and tested negative.” With anyone else, we would assume he was drunk when he said that. His sobriety is indistinguishable from alcoholic stupor.
All in all, that's about as clear as it gets. According to Sullivan, Trump exhibits "a delusional pathology"—"a form of psychological disorder."

Sullivan also suggests that Trump may suffer from a cognitive impairment. (Many older people do.) Trump's recent press conferences, Sullivan says, "were proof of his mental limits."

With anyone else, we'd assume he was drunk. Trump behaves like a two-year-old, Sullivan tells us, twice.

As the reader may know, we don't necessarily disagree with any of this. That said, Sullivan isn't a medical or psychological specialist. We'd rather hear these possibilities discussed by some responsible person who is.

We think Sullivan may well be right, but we're puzzled by his overall tone. We modern Americans don't normally scold people who are psychiatrically or cognitively impaired, but Sullivan aggressively scolds Trump all through his profile, even as he seems to tell us that Trump is in the grip of a psychological disorder, indeed a pathology, and presumably can't do any better.

Sullivan is very smart; it seems to us that this long tirade pretty much isn't. We'd even say that it tends toward the type of writing which has come to be called a form of "derangement syndrome." Such syndromes, from the right or the left, have made it impossible for our discourse and our politics to function.

We don't normally scold people who are cognitively limited or cognitively impaired. Sully thoroughly scolds Trump on this basis.

(When Sully scolds Trump for not reading anything, it doesn't seem to occur to him that it's possible that Trump suffers from some form of dyslexia—that he literally can't read, or can't read well, and has never been able to.)

We also don't normally scold people with severe psychiatric disorders. Sullivan desribes Trump that way all through his profile, but scolds him all the way through.

Trump has extreme "mental limits," Sully says. He says there is "no rational or coherent explanation" for the crazy things he says and does.

Trump's pressers were proof of these mental limits. Later, though, Sully says this:
SULLIVAN: When it was pointed out that what mattered was not the number of tests as a whole but tests per capita, Trump responded: “You know, when you say ‘per capita,’ there’s many per capitas. It’s, like, per capita relative to what? But you can look at just about any category, and we’re really at the top, meaning positive on a per capita basis, too.” I have no idea what he is trying to say and neither does he. But it’s a lie. Per capita, the U.S. is not “way ahead of everybody”: We’re behind Russia, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Germany, Denmark, Australia, Italy, Austria, and New Zealand. And this is only true because, as Alexis Madrigal has reported, the CDC has been counting antibody testing as well as COVID-19 swab testing, o the numbers are inflated. How the CDC has been reduced to this squalid error is beyond me.
First Sullivan seems to say that Trump is too limited to know what he's talking about. His crazy claims aren't a strategy, Sully explicitly says.

Then, when Trump makes a stupid remark, Sullivan says it's a lie. That doesn't quite seem to make sense.

A lie is a knowing misstatement. Does this mean we're supposed to believe that Trump does know what he's talking about? Earlier, did Sullivan seem to say different?

Increasingly, our politics has been driven by lurid "derangement syndromes." For ourselves, we were trained, early in life, to "pity the poor [metaphorical] immigrant." We believe Bob Dylan said that!

It seems to us that Trump is nuts, that he's basically out on his feet. Does it help to scream and yell at a person who's so impaired?

Sullivan is a valuable journalist. Andrew Sullivan, call Bandy X. Lee!

Ask Lee how she would assess these disordered syndromes and these impairments. She's waiting at Yale for your call!

INTELLECTUAL INFRASTRUCTURE: What Friedersdorf said about Tara Reade!

FRIDAY, MAY 22, 2020

Top professors fail:
The background reporting on Tara Reade is beginning to sound quite familiar.

One week ago today, Politico's Natasha Korecki published a punishing report in which former associates of Reade described her in deeply unflattering terms.

Reade is a "liar," one such person said. Also, Reade was said to "have problems."

That same day, the PBS NewsHour published and broadcast lengthy reports casting doubt on some of the claims Reade has made concerning Joe Biden. Over at Vox, Laura McGann has largely cut Reade loose too.

We summarized and linked to these three reports on Monday of this very week. To recall our winged words, just click here.

Korecki's report was punishing, but go ahead—admit it! In the week since her report appeared, you've heard almost nothing about it.

You haven't seen it discussed on your favorite "cable news" channel. Jonathan Chait discussed it at New York magazine, but we haven't seen it discussed anywhere else.

How for a sad fact:

Within our own self-impressed tribe, such discussions aren't permitted. Our professors tell us not to conduct them. Instead, they conduct screwball discussions of their own, in which we're encouraged to keep believing claims we can't possibly know to be true.

In these ways, our self-impressed tribe contributes to the ongoing failure of our society's intellectual infrastructure, a breakdown which has been underway for three or four decades now. It's frequently horrible over at Fox (and in the deep red precincts beyond), but it's also quite bad Over Here.

One week ago, Korecki's report painted a picture of Reade as someone whose word you wouldn't be likely to trust. Late last night, the New York Times filed another such report.

According to the Times report, Antioch University has become the latest entity to challenge Reade's past claims. Reade's resume has always claimed a bachelor's degree from Antioch, but Antioch has now said that she holds no such degree:
LERER, RUTENBERG AND SAUL (5/23/20): Defense lawyers in California are reviewing criminal cases in which Tara Reade, the former Senate aide who has accused Joseph R. Biden Jr. of sexual assault, served as an expert witness on domestic violence, concerned that she misrepresented her educational credentials in court.

Then known as Alexandra McCabe, Ms. Reade testified as a government witness in Monterey County courts for nearly a decade, describing herself as an expert in the dynamics of domestic violence who had counseled hundreds of victims.

But lawyers who had faced off against her in court began raising questions about the legitimacy of her testimony, and the verdicts that followed, after news reports this week that Antioch University had disputed her claim of receiving a bachelor’s degree from its Seattle campus.

The public defender’s office in Monterey County has begun scrutinizing cases involving Ms. Reade
and compiling a list of clients who may have been affected by her testimony, according to Jeremy Dzubay, an assistant public defender in the office.
Antioch has denied Reade's claim that she holds a degree from the school. We offer three cheers for the New York Times for publishing this report.

That said:

In a somewhat myopic way, the Times report focuses on the way this revelation might affect verdicts from court cases in which Reade participated as an "expert witness." If she did misstate her credentials, some verdicts may be thrown out.

Somewhat comically, the Times report focuses on that. Meanwhile, how might this revelation affect the way people view Reade's remarkable claim against Joe Biden, a claim which might change world history?

Within our tribe, we may tend to be too polite to focus on questions like that!

Did Joe Biden assault Tara Reade in 1993? As before, we have no way to demonstrate that he did, and no way to show that he didn't. In cases of this type, it's very rare for evidence to emerge which proves or disproves an accuser's claim.

As everyone knows, "liars" can get assaulted too, as can people who "have problems." But the background reporting around Tara Reade has taken on a familiar look, whether the sachems of our tribe are prepared to discuss this fact or not.

They've never discussed the background reporting on Gennifer Flowers. Back in the day, they refused to report one embarrassing matter after another concerning the credibility of press corps' darling, Kathleen Willey.

It may well be that our tribal sachems will never discuss the background reporting on Tara Reade as well. They'll let the matter fade away, or we'll still be told that we should believe the claims such accusers make. Our professors, such as they are, are sometimes willing to jumble their logic to keep us on this tight path.

All the way back on May 16, the Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf discussed what sensible people should do when confronted with such accusations.

Friedersdorf isn't in thrall to either of our warring tribes; this makes him a valuable journalist. That said, we're going to grade him down a few points for his rumination on this matter, as we did on May 19, when he let himself imagine the possibility that President Trump isn't lying as much as we might be inclined to think and say.

In that more recent essay, Friedersdorf imagined an un-tribal possibility. In effect, he imagined the possibility that President Trump is cognitively impaired in such a way, and to such a degree, that he actually may not understand the various topics he constantly mangles when he tries or pretends to discuss them.

We don't know how to assess that possibility. We'd like to see medical specialists consider this thesis, but under the rules of our high-minded tribe, these discussions aren't permitted either. We aren't allowed to discuss Reade's apparent lying, and we aren't allowed to discuss the possibility that Trump is badly impaired.

With respect to the matter of Trump, we're going to grade Friedersdorf down several points for his failure to come to terms with the hidden issue:

Is it possible that Trump's weird behavior and weird ruminations are the result of psychological or cognitive impairment? We'd like to see this question raised with the use of such big boy terms.

In our view, Friedersdorf took a bit of a pass on that. For that reason, we'll give him an incomplete, even as we praise the way he stepped outside scripted denunciations.

So too with the question of Reade. We cheered Friedersdorf for articulating a basic fact—with most accusations of this type, there will never be an ultimate way to determine the truth of the matter.

In his discussion of Reade's accusation, Friedersdorf started as shown below. He was working outside tribal lines:
FRIEDERSDORF (5/16/20): Do you believe Tara Reade or Joe Biden? Did you believe Christine Blasey Ford or Brett Kavanaugh? My emphatic answer to both questions is the same: I pass. I punt. I vote present. And that dodge causes me no guilt, anxiety, or nagging discomfort. If these questions cause you distress, try it yourself: When pressured to pick a side in a public controversy without definitive evidence, just politely decline.

Agnosticism is bliss—though it can upset others.
Biden supporters warn that a failure to defend him could saddle the country with another four years of Donald Trump in the White House. Countervailing pressure from feminists and members of the #MeToo movement is as intense. As the headline of an article in The Nation put it, “I Believe Tara Reade. And You Should, Too.”

Its author, the feminist academic Kate Manne, argued that admitting the credibility of Reade’s claim is a “moral obligation,”
even though she went on to acknowledge, “If this were a court of law and we were jurors, then it would be appropriate to deem Biden innocent until he’d been proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.” But if what happened in a given case hasn’t been proved beyond a reasonable doubt, why would anyone be morally obligated to believe either party’s claims?

“If the Me Too movement means anything, it is that victims must not be swept aside and ignored, impugned, erased, and silenced when their claims are difficult to countenance,” Manne argued. As far as that goes, she is correct. But declining to reach a conclusion about an allegation isn’t the same as sweeping it aside, erasing it, or ignoring, impugning, or silencing the accuser. One can listen, assess, and still conclude that one knows too little to judge.
That's the way Friedersdorf started. In a way which predates current battle lines, he stuck to the basic logic and understandings which our own tribe's sachems have long since abandoned.

He said we should be willing to recognize, even to say, that we don't know how to reach a verdict in cases of this type. And good lord! In just his first four paragraphs, he assailed the logic of Professor Manne on two basic matters.

Later, he assailed the tribal logic of Professor Hirshman, whose misshapen reasoning finally reached the New York Times' print editions on that same day, May 16.

Professors Hirshman and Manne are reigning sachems of our own floundering tribe. Their conduct helps define the ongoing failure of our nation's infrastructure.

That said, we're going to grade Friedersdporf down on this topic too. It seems to us that he ducked some basics concerning the Reade/Biden matter.

He failed to note a basic fact—we've had a series of high-profile cases in which we saw that, on some occasions, some women do make false accusations of this very type.

We saw that in the Duke lacrosse case. We saw that in the UVa matter. Most likely, we saw that with Julie Swetnick. Most likely, we saw that with Kathleen Willey.

Meanwhile, in the case of Gennifer flowers, the background reporting revealed a host of past claims which suggested that Flowers—she was alleging a consensual, 12-year love affair—probably wasn't the type of person you would rush to trust. Rather plainly, the background reporting on Tara Reade now resembles that background reporting.

These are very basic facts with respect to whole Reade matter. That said, our own tribe's high-ranking sachems keep ignoring these basic facts.

Our tribal pundits tend to ignore reports from the likes of Korecki. Her report suggests that Reade may not be a hugely credible person—but within our deeply fallible tribe, such things simply aren't said.

If you're a human, you belong to a species which was built to think and act tribally. Manne and Hirshman are tribal beings, recently up from the swamp.

Our failing nation's intellectual infrastructure is often amazingly poor. It's frequently horrible over at Fox, and it isn't real great Over Here.