Vladimir Putin got it right!


With worse results to come: We hope that Senator David Perdue (R-GA) gets turned out of office next week.

Full disclosure! Barring exceptional circumstances, we automatically support the D over the R. This particular Senate race would have been no exception.

That said, Perdue branded himself as deeply lacking when he mocked Kamala Harris' first name last week. He did so during a public address, in a deeply unfortunate manner.

"No people are uninteresting," the anti-Soviet Soviet poet once said. ("Not people die but worlds die in them/Whom we knew as faulty, the earth's creatures.")

We regard those statements as scripture. We'll assert that those statements are true even about Perdue.

That said, to behave that way, at Perdue's age, is a sign of some deep inner vacuum. At the very least, the gentleman signaled the need to get turned out of office.

Then again, there's the somewhat peculiar op-ed column in today's Washington Post. It was written by Nana Efua Mumford, who holds the position of executive assistant to The Post's editorial board.

Mumford's column is deeply self-referential, which isn't always wrong. Eventually, though, it gets around to the mispronunciation of Harris's name, not Mumford's. 

Forget Perdue—Donald J. Trump has been doing it too! Right there in the hard-copy Post, here's what Mumford eventually says:

MUMFORD (10/31/20): This behavior might be expected in elementary school. It’s improper and insulting from elected officials. The president, who has repeatedly referred to KAH-ma-la and COMMA-la, said this week: “Kamala. Kamala. You know, if you don’t pronounce her name exactly right, she gets very angry at you.” At a recent Trump rally in Georgia, Sen. David Perdue (R) also denigrated and dismissed the Democratic vice presidential nominee, saying “Ka-mal-a, Comma-la, Ka-mala-mala-mala” and then “whatever.” These attempts to mock and otherize Harris resonated with me and many other Americans.

For the record, we know of no evidence that Harris gets angry at people who mispronounce her name. If she did, she'd be angry at quite a few pundits, perhaps even at Joe Biden.

That said, we were struck by the claim that Donald J. Trump has repeatedly referred to Harris as "KAH-ma-la and COMMA-la," with the fairly obvious suggestion that these pronunciations are insulting and also wrong.

In fairness, Trump—who seems to be profoundly disordered—insults pretty much everyone. He even tends to pronounce the familiar name "China" in an unusual way.

As we've frequently noted, we assume that Donald J. Trump is some serious form of "mentally ill." That said, we were struck by Mumford's apparent complaint about the way this disordered person pronounces Harris' name.

Why were we puzzled by Mumford's complaint?  We were puzzled because "COMMA-la" seems to be precisely the way Harris says her name should be pronounced. 

Below, you see the passage in question from Harris' book, The Truths We Hold. The passage appears early on, in the book's Preface:

HARRIS (page xvi): Just two more things to mention before we get started:

First, my name is pronounced "comma-la," like the pronunciation mark. It means "lotus flower," which is a symbol of significance in Indian culture.

Harris' name is pronounced "comma-la." But Trump has been pronouncing it "COMMA-la," we learn in this morning's Post.

Apparently, we're supposed to regard this conduct as insulting. Indeed, this deeply self-referential column appears beneath this headline:

Why I feel insulted when Trump mispronounces Kamala Harris’s name

Trump's behavior is so insulting that Mumford feels insulted! But as part of Trump's insulting behavior, it seems that he's been pronouncing Harris' name in the way Harris says it should be pronounced!

(Or something. As is common with upper-end journalism, it's hard to  know what's being said.)

Full disclosure! At no point in this morning's column does Mumford explain how Harris' name actually should be pronounced. The reader is left to flounder ahead, quivering with anger at Donald J. Trump but unencumbered by actual knowledge.

Three days out from Tuesday's election, this is the best the Washington Post has to offer today. Each week, the Post publishes two (2) op-ed columns in Saturday morning's print edition. Mumford's column is exactly half of today's mother lode.

Should Trump stop clowning around with Harris' name? In a sane world, yes, he should and he would. (Perdue's behavior was pathetic, egregious and worse.)

That said, this morning's column—good God! Is it possible that Vladimir Putin actually got it right? 

In the very long run, is Putin on his way to a win over the dysfunctional west? Consider:

Before we read Mumford's column today, we listened to C-Span callers explaining the basis on which they'll be casting their vote. 

Listening to such testimonies is always a sobering experience. Then too, we rewatched Brian Williams' segment with Dr. Stephen Sample last night.

Yesterday, the commander told one of his rally crowds that doctors are fraudulently inflating the number of Covid deaths because they get paid to do so. Williams and Sample exhibited their deep disgust with this claim without making any attempt to explain how viewers can know that the president's statements were bogus.

There was no attempt to offer anything like information! Meanwhile, the New York Times' report on Trump's claim constitutes competent journalism in much the way your frisbee-catching dog is ready to be a wide receiver in today's NFL

Democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others! We often say that Churchill said this.

Within the past decade, Putin apparently came to feel that he could prove that the self-satisfied sentiment behind that statement is bogus. He began to interfere in our discourse, gambling that we imperfect creatures of the earth could be turned against each other in various ways. 

We progressives were eager to help him out. Next Tuesday, his leading helpmate could even get re-elected!

(We don't know if Trump will get re-elected. In the long run, we also don't know if it makes any difference as our human desire to split into tribes keeps pushing us toward the sea.)

This morning, the Times has produced a Potemkin fact-check. At the Post, Mumford is personally insulted because Trump has been pronouncing Harris's name correctly.

Or something. As is persistently true with the work of our "well-educated" journalistic elites, it isn't entirely clear what Mumford is actually saying. But so what? Here's Fred Hiatt, describing Mumford's "must-read" piece as the greatest Post piece ever penned.

Somewhere in a sumptuous dacha, Putin is chuckling as he watches our struggles unfold. He's playing the primal human game, the game known as Strongman Wins Out in The End.

Meanwhile, how should Harris' name be pronounced? Endlessly discussing herself, Mumford forgot to say! Post readers were invited to feel all the heat. We'll get our light some other day!

Full disclosure: We consulted with Carlotta Valdes (1831-1857) on this. Somewhat dreamily, she said she's seen this process unfold a million times, through all our species' days.

She told us it's already too late. In fairness, she could be wrong.

Why do people support Donald Trump?


Does Eddie Glaude want to know?: We were struck by something Eddie Glaude said on cable TV last night. This is the way it went down:

For the second straight night, Lawrence O'Donnell had started his show by misexplaining "margin of error." 

In fairness, could any journalist explain margin of error? We would be extremely surprised if even one journalist could.

At any rate, Lawrence started with margin of error for the second consecutive night. A bit later, he discussed the way people are literally risking their lives when they attend a Trump rally.  He vastly overplayed the heat stroke element, but he mentioned the Covid risk too.

That said, why do people take the risk of attending those jam-packed, mask-free rallies? We think that's a very good question. But where would you go to find out?

When Lawrence threw to Glaude,  Glaude mentioned "the obvious callous disregard that Donald Trump has for the people who support him." Then, he offered a peroration about Trump's supporters which struck us as revealing:
GLAUDE (10/29/20): I'm also interested from the other side, that's the people who attend these rallies. The folk who see, in some ways, the callous disregard. The folk who make a choice to risk their lives to attend these super-spreader events.

I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the source of the attraction. It's not just simply charismatic authority.  It's not just simply charismatic power, because I don't read Donald Trump as a charismatic figure.

There is something that he represents. He's an avatar for something that in some ways inspires—that's the wrong verb—that leads these folk to risk their lives, and I think we need to ask ourselves the question, "What is that?" Because it's the question that takes us to the subsequent question:

Why do we still see a certain number, a large number, of Americans still supporting this guy after the record of four years? That's the question that's really deep for us to answer, particularly come November 4. 

LAWRENCE: Professor Eddie Glaude—

GLAUDE: November 3! Not November 4.
We'll bite! Why do so many people still support Donald J. Trump?  

We agree with Glaude on one major point—we think that's an important question for our team to try to answer.  But we think the way Glaude approaches this question unmasks our own self-impressed tribe.

Glaude starts by making an unsupported assumption about Trump supporters. He seems to say that they are able to see Trump's "callous disregard" for their lives, but agree to risk their lives by attending his rallies anyway.

We know of no reason to think that's true. Glaude is already off track.

Glaude thinks Trump is displaying a callous disregard for his supporters' lives. We agree with him on that point.

But do Trump's supporters think they're risking their lives by attending those rallies? We will guess that they generally don't, but you'd pretty much have to ask them, and very few journalists have.

(Some of them may believe that the pandemic is a hoax. Explanations may continue from there. Like you, we don't know what they'd say.)

Glaude then moved to a larger question—Why do these people still support Trump? This time, as he continued, he drew back the mask from himself!

Why do so many people still support Trump? It's an important question, but how odd:

Glaude described it as a question we have to ask ourselves!

"No, Eddie!" the analysts screamed at that point.  You'd actually have to ask them! But professors like Glaude may not be inclined to lower themselves in such ways. 

We'd say that Glaude's condescension was visible all though his oration. Consider:

Because he doesn't think that Trump's charismatic,  that means Trump's supporters can't! Moments later, the professor seemed to correct himself for suggesting that Trump could possibly "inspire" his supporters, though that may not be what he meant.

Sad! Meanwhile, don't worry—Trump supporters have been hearing that sort of thing since the dawn of time. For some of them, Trump is an inspiring figure precisely because he refuses to defer to elite figures like Lawrence and Glaude!

Such figures have always been with us. Here's sacred Thoreau, in 1854, making one of the most famous declarations in our cultural history, while perhaps looking down his nose a tiny tad:
THOREAU: Talk of a divinity in man! Look at the teamster on the highway, wending to market by day or night; does any divinity stir within him? His highest duty to fodder and water his horses! What is his destiny to him compared with the shipping interests?...

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. 
In such time-honored passages, "the mass of men" might possibly hear a strain of  condescension. Many years later, along comes Glaude—and it doesn't seem to occur to him that he might have to ask "the mass of men" how they understand the world. 

Glaude says we progressives "need to ask ourselves" why these folk love Trump. When we suggest that he should ask the Trump supporters themselves, are we merely playing games with a meaningless turn of phrase?

On balance, we'll guess that we aren't.  Once again, a bit of a guess:

Trump supporters are inspired by Trump precisely because it seems to them that he stands up to this tired old guff!

SNAPSHOTS FROM THE EDGE: "Anonymous" observed the commander-in-chief!


What "Anonymous" saw: As Carlotta Valdes has often told us, the so-called "rule of law" is a very recent addition to the human tool box.

Our species' history long predates any such high-minded notions. Our basic wiring clunked into place long before any such notions had ever occurred.

How primitive is the basic wiring of Donald J. Trump's brain? We can't really answer that question.

But next week is quite likely destined to be an historic Week That Was. This morning, Gabriel Debenedetti has published an insightful statement concerning what may be coming in Florida, or in some other key states:

DEBENEDETTI (10/30/20):  “The Biden team clearly understands that in the Trump organization they’re not just going up against someone who challenges the rule of law, but who does not believe in the rule of law,” said Fernand Amandi, a veteran Florida pollster and strategist. The state’s election laws have undergone significant reforms and streamlining since 2000’s recount, and even since 2018’s recounts in several races. But, Amandi continued, “This is more than just a bare-knuckle fight. This is jungle politics here, where only one comes out alive. At the very least, they’re going to need the greatest assemblage of lawyers since the [O.J.] Simpson defense team.”

According to that veteran Florida pollster, commander-in-chief Donald J. Trump "doesn't believe in the rule of law.” According to this veteran pollster, the commander will do whatever it takes to win, or if necessary to steal, Florida's electoral votes. 

The rule of law won't stand in the way, the veteran pollster says. We can think of this as prehistoric behavior, or perhaps as the behavior of a sociopath.

Is Donald J. Trump a sociopath? That is to say, is he afflicted with antisocial personality disorder, or perhaps with some stew of related disorders?

We aren't qualified to address such questions. Wisely or otherwise, those who are so qualified have been disappeared. 

That said, someone who saw the commander in action appeared on CNN's Cuomo Prime this past Wednesday night. The person in question is Miles Taylor, the former Department of Homeland Security official who wrote the famous "Anonymous" op-ed column in the New York Times.

For several years, Taylor was in position to observe the commander-in-chief up close. On Wednesday night, he told Chris Cuomo some of the things he saw.

Our reaction? We thought Taylor's assertions were so striking that attention ought to be paid. 

Some of what Taylor said to Cuomo isn't new. But he was describing what he saw and heard with his own eyes and ears—for example, this:

TAYLOR (10/28/20): The one I always go back to is the border. And I was never an immigration guy. I came into the administration as a national security guy. And as I became the Deputy Chief of Staff, I had to take over immigration, and of course as chief of staff.

The president, at one point, wanted us to gas, electrify, and shoot migrants at the border. What we're talking about, Chris, is innocent women and children who are seeking a better life in the United States, fleeing violence and persecution. And the commander-in-chief is telling us he wants to gas them? He wants to electrify the fence?

CUOMO: He literally said it? Was it ever put in writing? Or was it passed on by somebody else?

TAYLOR: Swear on my life— Swear on my life, verbatim, Oval Office of the White House of the president of the United States, that he mused about shooting them—and then, when there was clear shock on the faces of the people in the room, the president said, "Well, maybe you could just shoot them in the legs to slow them down, so they couldn't get to the border. And that would send a message."

CUOMO: You told him that it was mostly women and children, and he said that they should be shot or gassed? Seriously?

TAYLOR: Correct. Correct, Chris. And if that's not gut-wrenching to you, then you are not human.

Let's leave aside the deeper question of what it means to be "human"—the question of the kinds of wiring and ideations we've all inherited or developed to greater or lesser degree.

In that passage, Taylor was describing things the commander said and did right there in the Oval Office. Taylor gave the impression that Trump was surprised when he saw that people in the room were shocked by his weird advice.

As Taylor continued, he described the ways officials would react to these weird directives from the commander:

TAYLOR (continuing directly): And we would talk about these things behind the scenes. Those are moments where you would have to ask the tough question: "Wow! Do we resign now? Or do we stay and say, Mr. President, that's illegal, and we refuse to do it?" And we chose the latter.

And that wasn't always the easiest or right choice. But we got to a point where saying "No" to those things stopped working, Chris, because he would just go around us and do them anyway.

Taylor described the commander telling officials to break the law in various ways, saying he would grant them pardons if they ended up in prison. 

Those accounts have appeared before. We were struck by Taylor's assessment of where things will go from here if Trump finds a way to win or steal the election.

Taylor saw Trump up close and personal. His prediction goes like this:

CUOMO: What is your biggest fear about what happens if the president has a second term?

TAYLOR: I think the president will feel completely emboldened to pursue, not just these almost Nazi-like immigration policies.

I don't say that lightly. That's a pretty harsh term to levy against the president. But that's really where they want to go, is turn it, this country, into "fortress America" rather than a "shining city on a hill." 

But worse still for me, as a lifelong national security professional, is I believe the president is going to sell out our allies, and befriend our enemies, and put this country in danger.

And he's already shown a proclivity for friendships with despots and dictators around the world, and he's kicked our best friends to the curb. That kind of thing is going to put this country in danger for the long run.

The president will want to do things like pull out of NATO, pull out of our international agreements, put our troops and, pull our troops back from places where they're fighting forward so Americans don't have to fight bad guys here at home, on our city streets. That's what he's going to do.

I think if the guardrails come off, which they have, but even more in a second term, the president will feel unimpeded. And then finally, Chris, I think the damage he's done to our democratic institutions, he will double down on that, damaging the courts, damaging the oversight power of Congress, and expanding the power of the Executive so far that it's unreasonable.

None of that is entirely new. For various reasons, the upper-end press has made only minor efforts to evaluate these possibilities. 

None of that assessment is new. But in Taylor's view, that's what it would mean to have a re-elected president who, in the words of that Florida pollster, "doesn't believe in the rule of law."

Is Donald J. Trump a sociopath, whatever exactly that means? Next week, we expect to revisit Mary Trump's assessment of such questions.

For today, we'll offer a layperson's guess. Part of what it means be a sociopath is this:

It means that, for whatever reason, your wiring takes you way back, back beyond the very concept of "the rule of law." Your wiring takes you back to the war of the all against all.

Your wiring doesn't incline you to ponder the golden rule. The parts of our brains which let us do so, even if imperfectly, may not be active in people so afflicted at all.

The rule of law, and other niceties, are extremely recent additions to human cogitation and culture. 

None of us are fully wired for perfect adherence to Enlightenment values; sociopaths may not be so wired at all. For a more enlightened discussion of these matters, you'd have to ask a (carefully selected) medical or psychiatric expert, and those people have been banished from the pool.

Is the commander so afflicted? Over the course of the past several years, the mainstream press corps, rightly or wrongly, decided they shouldn't ask the medical experts who might have been able to offer informed views concerning such questions.

On the brighter side, the pandemic is over! The commander-in-chief has said!



Real life intervenes: Someone we know has received an undesirable medical diagnosis.

No, it isn't covid. But we won't be posting a snapshot today.

We may offer a late-afternoon post. There's no real way to say.

"He rolled out his Great American Health Care Plan!"


As heard on the PBS NewsHour: A long time ago, he said he'd dreamed "a crazy dream." He said he'd dreamed he was walking through World War III!

So it was for the (very) young Dylan, as reported in 1963. 

Last night, we also thought we'd dreamed a dream. We dreamed we were watching the PBS NewsHour, and someone identified as "acting director of the White House Domestic Policy Council" told Judy Woodruff this:

WOODRUFF (10/27/20): Let me also ask you about a health care plan.


WOODRUFF: The president has been saying, since he was elected, that he will present a health care plan to the American people. We're now almost four years later. There still isn't one. Why not?

ROLLINS: Judy, that's actually not—that's not trueHe rolled out his Great American Health Care Plan on September 24 in Charlotte, North Carolina. It is on the White House Web site. It talks and walks through lower costs, better care, more choice for all Americans and how he will do that, expanding health savings accounts, telemedicine—

By now, you can probably see why we thought we were dreaming! 

At that point, some CROSSTALK occurred. But then, the dream rolled on:

WOODRUFF: But it hasn't been presented to the Congress in the form of a formal proposal.


ROLLINS: Well—well, what his plan is is what he's presenting to the American people. He's tried to move things through the Congress. Of course, with the stalemate, it hasn't been possible.

"What his plan is is what he's presenting to the American people." The whole conversation bore the unmistakable feel of a dreamscape.

The dream continued from there. As noted, we dreamed we heard these unusual statements on last evening's NewsHour.

Was it just a dream, or did that exchange really happen? At first, we assumed it had to have been a dream because the claims seemed so implausible. 

We start with the implausible claim that someone is advising Trump on matters of domestic policy.

We move on to that alleged person's claims—the claim that Trump does have a health care plan; the claim that he rolled it out in September; and the fuzzy semi-claim that he tried to get his health care plan through Congress.

Even Trump hasn't made these claims when he's been questioned about this matter by people like Savannah Guthrie and Kristin Welker in recent weeks. But here was an acting director named Brooke Rollins, making these unusual claims as Judy Woodruff looked on.

Today, we looked at the PBS NewsHour site. A transcript for this conversation actually does appear at the site, along with full videotape. We realized then that this wasn't a dream—that this exchange did occur.

That said, is it true? Did Trump roll out a Great American Health Care Plan on September 24? Very frankly, Woodruff didn't seem a whole lot clearer about this claim than we were!

Tomorrow, we'll show you what we discovered when we decided to fact-check our dream. Also this:

In another "snapshot from the edge," we'll show you  how Lesley Stahl questioned Donald J. Trump about the absence of a health care plan when she interviewed him for 60 Minutes last week.

We'll show you the questions Stahl asked in the unedited interview. After that, we'll show you the dumbed-down version of the interview the suits aired on Sunday night.

The extremely young Bob Dylan dreamed he was walking through World War III. Speaking of dreams, do we actually have a "national discourse" at this extremely late date?

Tomorrow, we'll show you the questions Stahl asked. After that, we'll show you the Potemkin-flavored tapioca her bosses put on the air.

We'll even show you a little bit more of what Woodruff put up with last night. At this point, do we have anything like an actual discourse at all?

SNAPSHOTS FROM THE EDGE: Who is Associate Justice Barrett?


And why didn't anyone ask?: Is it possible that President Donald J. Trump just lost that one electoral college vote?

We refer to the EC vote the commander hopes to retain from Nebraska's second congressional district (Omaha and environs). Trump won that vote in 2016, but he could conceivably lose it this year. 

Nebraska awards three of its five electoral college votes to the winner of each of its three congressional districts. Nebraska's other two EC votes go to the candidate who wins the statewide popular vote.

(Obama won that one vote in 2008. For background, just click here.)

Last night, the commander-in-chief held a rally in Omaha, chasing that one EC vote. Did he possibly manage to lose that vote in the way the Washington Post now describes?

ELFRINK (10/28/20): By the time President Trump finished speaking to thousands of supporters at Omaha’s Eppley Airfield on Tuesday night and jetted away on Air Force One, the temperature had plunged to nearly freezing.

But as long lines of MAGA-clad attendees queued up for buses to take them to distant parking lots, it quickly became clear that something was wrong.

The buses, the huge crowd soon learned, couldn’t navigate the jammed airport roads. For hours, attendees—including many elderly Trump supporters—stood in the cold, as police scrambled to help those most at-risk get to warmth.

At least seven people were taken to hospitals, according to Omaha Scanner, which monitors official radio traffic. 

The buses in question were being provided by the Trump campaign. The buses showed up so late that some people didn't clear the freezing cold site until after midnight.

According to the Trump campaign, the breakdown resulted from unforeseeable circumstances. That said, a local Democratic pol quickly tweeted this:

HUNT (10/28/20): Supporters of the President were brought in, but buses weren’t able to get back to transport people out. It’s freezing and snowy in Omaha tonight, 

What people will do for this con man, what people have sacrificed, is so sad to me. He truly does not care about you.

"He truly doesn't care about you," state senator Megan Hunt said.  

This incident will come and go on the national stage, but it will constitute major news in the congressional district in question. Imaginably, fairly or otherwise, what happened last night could cost Commander Trump that one EC vote.

Meanwhile, how about it? Does this candidate care about his voters? Does he care about anyone else? If he's afflicted with sociopathy, it may be that he (more or less) literally doesn't!

Colorblind people can't distinguish certain colors. In a way which is vastly more significant, sociopaths aren't equipped to care about others, not even in the imperfect way the rest of us humans do.

Is Donald J. Trump  a sociopath? The press has agreed to avoid that discussion. At least in part for that reason, we the people may not understand who our commander is.

Who, or what, is Donald J. Trump? Perhaps for understandable reasons, the press corps agreed not to ask. 

That said, a related question came to mind midway through last week. Who is Amy Coney Barrett? And why didn't anyone ask?

Barrett, of course, is now an associate justice on the United States Supreme Court. She'll be on the Court for the next thirty years—but who was Amy Coney Barrett in the 48 years before that?

The question arises because of an AP news report which only broke last week. As it appeared in the Washington Post, the AP report started like this, headline included:

SMITH AND BIESECKER (10/21/20): Barrett was trustee at private school with anti-gay policies 

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett served for nearly three years on the board of private Christian schools that effectively barred admission to children of same-sex parents and made it plain that openly gay and lesbian teachers weren’t welcome in the classroom.

The policies that discriminated against LGBTQ people and their children were in place for years at Trinity Schools Inc., both before Barrett joined the board in 2015 and during the time she served.

The three schools, in Indiana, Minnesota and Virginia, are affiliated with People of Praise, an insular community rooted in its own interpretation of the Bible, of which Barrett and her husband have been longtime members. At least three of the couple’s seven children have attended the Trinity School at Greenlawn, in South Bend, Indiana.

The AP spoke with more than two dozen people who attended or worked at Trinity Schools, or former members of People of Praise. They said the community’s teachings have been consistent for decades: Homosexuality is an abomination against God, sex should occur only within marriage and marriage should only be between a man and a woman.

The AP report continued from there. We remain puzzled by the (extremely) late emergence of this information. 

Barrett testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on October 13 and 14. She was never asked about this matter, possibly because no one knew about it.

Borrowing from President Nixon, let us say this about that:

In one of the many ways the American public has widened the embrace of public inclusion in recent decades, it's no longer popular to have been a trustee (or a parent) at "a school with anti-gay policies."

It's no longer popular to teach that "homosexuality is an abomination against God."

Arguably, it was an abomination against democratic procedure when Barrett received a lifetime appointment to the nation's highest court without this matter being reported or discussed. One wonders where Democrats were in recent years, but also the national press.

Has opposition research suddenly ceased to exist? Barrett was known to (possibly) be "next in line" for at least the past three years. It's hard to know how a matter like this could come to light only after it was too late to make any conceivable difference in any conceivable way.

The AP report on this matter came and went last week. Perhaps understandably at this juncture, it provoked very little discussion. 

That said, the chronology of this revelation remains a mystery to us. Who is Associate Justice Barrett? And why was no one able to ask her about this part of her personal history?

As we mentioned in real time, we spent two full days watching Barrett testify. As we mentioned, we were struck by how amazingly little we knew about her by the time the two days were done.

Democrats insisted on asking the types of questions they knew she wouldn't answer. A week later, we learned that no one had asked her about this part of her past.

Today, warnings are emerging across the press about the ways the Supreme Court could intervene in the aftermath of an apparent win by Candidate Biden. Was Barrett a "Manchurian nominee," one who might tip the balance toward a judicial assault on the electoral process?

We don't know how the Court might handle legal challenges to an apparent Biden win. But who is Amy Coney Barrett, and why didn't anyone ask?

We had two major reactions to Barrett's two days of testimony:

First, we noted the fact that Barrett was amazingly telegenic. Also, Democratic questioning struck us as amazingly pointless and daft.

One week later, up jumped the AP report. In our view, the fire trucks had arrived at the scene puzzlingly late. 

What the heck ever happened to oppo? We can't answer that question.

But this is one of the ways our discourse works as our tribalized nation continues to slide toward the sea. Ayt any rate, our puzzled analysts have finally reached their own decision:

They've ruled that this episode might be called a "snapshot from the edge."

Tomorrow: More snapshots from the edge!

Why doesn't Trump care about (other folks') deaths?


Mary Trump, Krugman opine: Donald J. Trump doesn't seem to care whether other folks live or die. This morning, at the end of his column, Paul Krugman explains why that is:

KRUGMAN (10/27/20): Was there ever a chance that Trump would take the pandemic seriously? Probably not. After all, he has always been a die-hard, conspiracy-theorizing denier of climate change, and his coronavirus response has come straight out of the climate-denier playbook.

In any case, we can predict with high accuracy what he will do if the polls are wrong, and he wins a second term. He will do nothing at all to fight the pandemic; he will, however, try to suppress the truth about what’s happening. And many, many more Americans will die.

Just for today, let's be fair! In the bulk of his column, Krugman explains that a network of big-money climate-denier interests have also been spending big bucks to promote "herd immunity."

With respect to climate change, their interests are served if the planet burns up (in the future). With respect to the pandemic, their interests are served if the country "stays open" (right now), even if people die. 

Presumably, this explains why these fossil-fuel interests have also been promoting "herd immunity." Is that why Trump seems to have turned in that direction under the guidance of his mad radiologist Svengali, Dr. Scott Atlas?

That's what Krugman seems to suggest. We'll rewrite that first paragraph, adopting a different perspective:

Was there ever a chance that Trump would take the pandemic seriously? Probably not. After all, leading psychiatrists have said that he seems to exhibit all the signs of "antisocial personality disorder," the technical term for sociopathy. And owing to their deep affliction, sociopaths aren't likely to care whether other folks live or die.

That revised theoretic might have come from Mary Trump, the president's niece, who's a clinical psychologist. On Sunday, her essay in the Washington Post's Outlook section appeared beneath this headline:

Psychiatrists know what’s wrong with my uncle. Let them tell voters.

In her recent best-seller, Too Much and Never Enough, Mary Trump tells an extremely sad story about her uncle's childhood, starting at the age of two. 

His mother was rarely available, in part due to medical ailments. His father was "a high-functioning sociopath," Mary Trump writes, early on.

As for Trump himself, Mary Trump suggests that his dysfunctional upbringing has saddled him with the same psychiatric affliction, or with a more complex stew of major personality disorders. In the sub-title of her best-seller, she refers to her uncle, Donald J. Trump, as "the world's most dangerous man."

We've decided that next week would be the appropriate time to review Mary Trump's new essay for Outlook, along with her best-selling book. But the press corps agreed, several years back, that matters of this type must never be discussed.

The press corps agreed that these obvious possibilities must be stifled, withheld, disappeared. For our money, Krugman's column helps us see the way that journalistic agreement has hobbled the public discourse.

Why doesn't the president seem to care if other people are consigned to suffering, injury, death? Is it because of what some think tanks have spent some money on? Or is the forbidden explanation the one which might really make sense?

SNAPSHOTS FROM THE EDGE: Lawrence edits, Cuomo goes wild!


It's all over but the screaming: At long last, Mark Meadows, Trump's chief of staff, had revealed the secret!

He'd done so while speaking to Jake Tapper on CNN's State of the Union. Last night, Lawrence O'Donnell played videotape of what Meadows had said.

Here's the part of Sunday's exchange which Lawrence aired last night:

MEADOWS (10/25/20): That's exactly the point. So, here's what we have to do. We're not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas—

TAPPER: Why aren't we going to get control of the pandemic?

MEADOWS: Because it is a contagious virus. Just like the flu, it's contagious—

TAPPER: Yeah, but why not make efforts to contain it?

That's where Lawrence cut the tape—and good lord! "We're not going to control the pandemic." Finally, Meadows had said it!

Finally, Meadows had revealed the secret! The Trump administration isn't trying to "control" or "contain" the pandemic! 

Lawrence stressed this point again and again. He appeared beneath a large visual which said, "We are not going to control the pandemic." At one point, he even told viewers this:

O'DONNELL (10/26/20): In the interview, Jake Tapper fought back against [Meadows'] lies about Joe Biden's position. But Mark Meadows never changed his statement of, "We are not going to control the pandemic." 

It is hard to imagine anything that can be said that will make the difference between the candidates on the most important issue of the campaign more clear than, "We are not going to control the pandemic." 

Mark Meadows said, "We are not going to control the pandemic" because it is contagious!

Meadows "never changed his statement," Lawrence explicitly said. After the short speech we've just posted, Lawrence played the videotape, editing Meadows' exchange with Tapper exactly as we've shown.

Meadows "never changed his statement," Lawrence explicitly said. Meadows never changed the statement in which he said that the administration isn't trying to control (or contain) the pandemic.

This made a stirring battle cry for Lawrence to offer us viewers. Except this is what Mark Meadows said in the fuller exchange with Tapper as recorded, CROSSTALK included, on the CNN transcript:

TAPPER (10/25/20): [The spread in cases] is coming from all sorts of places. It's coming from all sorts of places, because the pandemic is out of control.

MEADOWS: That's exactly the point. So, here's what we have to do. We're not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas—


TAPPER: Why aren't we going to get control of the pandemic?

MEADOWS: Because it is a contagious virus. Just like the flu, it's contagious.

TAPPER: Yes, but why not make efforts to contain it?

MEADOWS: Well, we are making efforts to contain it. And that's—

TAPPER: By running all over the country not wearing a mask? That's what the vice president is doing.

MEADOWS: Jake, we can, we can get into the back-and-forth. Let me just say this is what we need to do, is make sure that we have the proper mitigation factors, whether it's therapies or vaccines or treatments, to make sure that people don't die from this.

That was the fuller exchange. Lawrence edited the tape right before Meadows said that the administration is trying to contain the pandemic. He wanted you to hear the first statement, not the statement which followed.

"Meadows never changed his statement?" If we loved the L-word the way Lawrence does, we might angrily call that a lie.

In fairness to Lawrence, Meadows can be said to have described efforts at mitigation rather than at control or containment. It could be said that he described efforts to help people after they've become infected, rather than to keep them from getting infected  in the first place.

That said, it seems to us that Lawrence's editing was baldly deceptive. He cut the tape right before Meadows said they are trying to contain the virus. A moment later, Meadows added this:

MEADOWS: Well, when we lookwhen we look at the number of cases increasing, what we have to do is make sure that we fight it with therapeutics and vaccines, take proper mitigation factors, in terms of social distancing and masks when we can.

Meadows seems to include masks and social distancing as "mitigation" strategies. All in all, even though he spun incessantly, it didn't sound to us like he was saying that we should give up on trying to control or contain the spread. 

Question: Is the Trump administration trying to control or contain the pandemic? Is it possible that Donald J. Trump has secretly decided to adopt a "herd immunity" approach?

That's certainly possible! At present, we have a crackpot president who has crazily hired a crackpot radiologist to serve as his principal adviser on a type of public health issue in which the crackpot radiologist has no expertise or experience. 

It may well be that Donald J. Trump, in his heart of hearts, has decided that some version of "herd immunity" is the way to go. But is that really what Meadows said? Is that what Meadows meant?

We'd say that isn't clear at all—until you decide to edit the tape in the way Lawrence did.

Of course, Lawrence has hardly been alone in this approach. Every liberal pundit and his ardent nephew has reported the first thing Meadows said—"We're not going to control the pandemic"—without mentioning the second statement—"We are trying to contain the pandemic."  

Beyond that, Lawrence didn't mention Meadows' several endorsements of distancing and masks. In such ways, we liberals are told the sorts of things we most long to hear.

What was Meadows actually saying as he battled with Tapper? We'll guess that he may have been trying to offer a Kennedyesque rhetorical flourish in his initial statement, the statement in which he said what the White House is and isn't trying to "control."

Meadows has often revealed himself as a clumsy, almost oafish, public speaker. He doesn't necessarily seem to be the sharpest knife in the drawer. 

In our view, it's a stretch to assume that he was somehow giving a secret away when he said the (various) things he said. It remains true that he works for a public crackpot who has taken crackpot approaches and made crackpot statements all through the course of the year.

"It's all over but the shouting," political observers have traditionally said as Election Day approaches. In these final days of our failing republic, the shouting has perhaps become a bit more like a scream.

Tapper is sharper than the average cable news bear, but he endlessly interrupted Meadows in the course of their largely useless exchange. When Meadows said, "We can get into the back-and-forth," we actually thought that he was lodging a valid complaint.

The CROSSTALKs in the CNN transcript are testimony to a breakdown in the way such discussions are now being conducted by major mainstream journalists. A much more ludicrous example presented itself last night.

Last night, we watched Chris Cuomo pretend to interview Tim Murtaugh, the principal spokesperson of the Trump campaign. 

In our view, Murtaugh is deeply dogmatic and routinely odious. Last night, we thought Cuomo was substantially worse.

 We say that Cuomo "pretended" to interview Murtaugh because the two men's "interruptions" turned into a pair of dueling primal screams. They constantly spoke over each other, in the crazy manner of the ludicrous "interviews" Cuomo used to conduct with Rudy Giuliani.

For long stretches, the two men simply spoke in unison,  each orating at the same time without taking notice of the other. This is the image of tribal breakdown in its more advanced stages.

Our suggestion? You should take a look at the CNN transcript to see what that sort of behavior produces. You'll see that the breakdown became more extreme as the lunacy continued.

It seems to us that Cuomo has virtually lost his mind at this point.  Last night, his approach produced dueling monologues, a pair of equal-but-opposite rants conducted at the same time.

"It's all over but the shouting," political pundits once said As our nation slides toward the see, is it secretly all over now but the (primal) screams?

Tomorrow: So many to choose from, so little time! More snapshots from the edge

"Bad moon rising," Schaller said!


Did Schaller get it right?: Long ago and far away, we knew Tom Schaller a tiny tad.

As happenstance had it, we even sat together at a press table when Al Gore testified before a congressional committee about climate change. We'll guess that it was the 2007 event described in this news report.

We mention Schaller because Charles Blow quotes him in today's column. 

In our view, Blow could use some help with using his indoor voice, and with his use of key words like "some" and "all."  But we agree with the Timesman concerning Schaller's assessment:

BLOW (10/26/20): The most optimistic among us see the Trump era as some sort of momentary insanity, half of the nation under the spell of a conjurer. They believe that the country can be reunited and this period forgotten.

I am not one of those people. I believe what political scientist Thomas Schaller told Bloomberg columnist Francis Wilkinson in 2018: “I think we’re at the beginning of a soft civil war.” If 2018 was the beginning of it, it is now well underway.

Like Blow, we're inclined to agree with Schaller's assessment. (Schaller has already said in a tweet that he hopes his assessment was wrong.)

We're inclined to think Schaller was right! In our view, we've long since reached the point where political parties and demographic groups turn instead into warring tribes. We differ with Blow in this regard:

We don't think that all the unhelpful tribal warfare is being conducted Over There, on the other tribe's side. 

Now, a bit of disclosure:

Starting yesterday, at roughly 9 A.M., we were caught in a brutal installment of the occasional modern drama, The Flat Tire Which Can't Be Fixed and Occurs Some Distance From Home.

The bulk of the day was lost. This morning, we finally managed to arrange for a tow. For these reasons, today's report arrives a bit late, offering an overview of what we'll be discussing this week.

We've seen two recent pieces of journalism we'd especially like to discuss. 

On the one hand, there's Mary Trump's well-written piece in yesterday's Washington Post. Here's what the headline says:

Psychiatrists know what’s wrong with my uncle. Let them tell voters.

In Mary Trump's view, psychiatrists know what's wrong with Donald J. Trump. In our view, her piece is as interesting for what she omits as for what she chooses to discuss.

Mary Trump thinks her uncle is deeply unwell. Then too, there was Hannah Natanson's recent piece, also in the Washington Post, about the very small number of black and Hispanic kids who get admitted to Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County, Virginia, a high school commonly said to be "the nation's best."

In our view, Natanson's piece is interesting for the questions it doesn't ask—for the remarkable facts it doesn't discuss. Do the lives of black children matter? We're never sure how to answer that question after reading essays like this.

Speculation will be running wild over the next eight days. Pundits will be offering utterly useless predictions, and they'll keep it up day after day.

We were struck by Mary Trump's piece, and by that piece about T.J. High. Our prediction:

By tomorrow, we'll have a clearer idea of what to discuss this week.

"Can we ever have an honest debate?"


"Excuse me," the president said: In this morning's print editions, the New York Times published three letters about Thursday night's debate.

One writer makes an apt observation, then closes with a question:

To the Editor:

Your reporters’ characterization of the second presidential debate as “more restrained”  is at best damning by faint praise. The longer the debate went on, the more President Trump interrupted, went over his time limits and ignored the moderator’s pleas to move on.

Perhaps because I am a history teacher, I found myself astounded by the president’s angry lies. Could we someday have an honest exchange of views?

The letter writer is a professor emeritus at Williams. He started with an excellent point about Donald J. Trump's interruptions.

During Thursday night's debate, Trump interrupted Biden a great deal less than he did during his crazy performance at their first debate. That said, he constantly interrupted the moderator, Kristin Welker, as she tried to move the various discussions along.

"Excuse me," Trump said, again and again, as Welker tried to introduce a new topic or ask a new question about an existing topic. 

Again and again and again and again, the commander showed a commanding need to get the last word in. If you search this transcript-plus-videotape for the simple words, "Excuse me," you can review Welker's ongoing struggle to rein the commander in.

In our view, Welker never got control of that situation, though we'll guess that very few journalists would have been able to do so. Trump interrupted Biden much less, but he interrupted Welker all night long. 

We've seen few pundits mention this point, so we're glad the professor did.

Having made a strong observation, the professor then asked a question. He asked if we will ever be able to have "an honest exchange of views."

"Honesty" is hard to assess. We'd fault the professor for failing to grasp this basic fact.

That said, can we ever have a coherent discussion , one which isn't dominated by false or misleading statements? The answer is, we probably can't, as long as moderators try to work too many topics and questions in.

Other journalists have stood in line to praise Welker's performance. We felt she was largely overpowered by Trump's interruptions, as almost anyone else would have been, but also that she deferred to the commander's will to power in some of the questions she asked.

Yesterday, we noted the way she deferred to the commander's fatuous claim that he would respond to Obamacare's termination by instituting "much better health care." (On this occasion, he forgot to say "at a much lower price.")

A candidate couldn't possibly make an emptier statement—but as we noted, Welker simply let it go. Instead, she challenged Biden's actual health care proposals, working from a bit of right-wing agitprop.

In so doing, she rolled over and died in the face of Trump's utterly fatuous statement. Also, why in the world would a moderator respond to Trump's refusal to release his tax returns by asking a question like this?

WELKER: You just said you spoke to your accountant about potentially releasing your taxes. Did he tell you when you can release them? Do you have a deadline for when you're going to release them to the American people?

After all these years, why on earth, why in the world, would a journalist ask that question? Everyone on the face of the earth knew what Trump would say in response to that pointless question:

TRUMP (continuing directly): As soon as the auditors finish.  I get treated worse than the tea party got treated, because I have a lot of people in there—

WELKER: [Inaudible]

TRUMP: —deep down in the IRS, they treat me horribly. We made a deal, it was all settled until I decide to run for president. I get treated very badly by the IRS, very unfairly, but we had a deal all done. As soon as we're completed with the deal, I want to release it, but I have paid millions and millions of dollars and it's worse than paying. I paid in advance. It's called prepaying your taxes. I paid—

The nonsense about the tax returns went on and on from there, with Trump constantly struggling to get the last word in. That said, Welker, like everyone else on the planet, knew exactly what Trump would say in response to her T-ball question.

Trump has been saying since 2015 that he will release his tax returns as soon as his audit is done.  Meanwhile, we don't think we've ever seen a journalist ask him this, as Welker should have done:

"Mr. President, Vice President Biden just said that he has released 22 years of his tax returns. Why can't you release your tax returns from earlier years, even as you wait for your current audit to be done?"

Have you ever seen that question asked? We can't recall that we have.

The professor asks if we can ever have a real exchange of views. We'll make one final suggestion:

Plainly, the answer will be no, as long as moderatos insist on raising too many topics and asking too many different questions.

Presidential candidates will always tend to misstate and evade. This has become an apparent matter of pathology where Candidate Trump is involved.

At any rate, it will never be easy to get clear even on such a major topic as the health care proposals of the two major candidates. It will be impossible to do so if a moderator has a hundred other questions he or she wants to move to—and Welker was plagued by Too Many Questions Disease in her work Thursday night.

Why hasn't Donald J. Trump ever offered a health care plan? Especially at the present time, could any question be more salient than that?

That said, with so many other questions to ask, Welker let his absurdly empty statement of intention slide. He said he'd produce "much better health care," and she chose to move on.

Why hasn't Donald J. Trump released his earlier tax return? Rather than ask this obvious question, Welker chose to play T-ball.

Why hasn't Trump produced a health care plan? Welker didn't ask.

Welker had a tough assignment Thursday night. In large, part, that was so because one candidate seems to be severely disordered, and the press corps has steadfastly refused to examine that obvious point.

Welker had a very tough assignment.  All in all, we didn't think she did especially well, in large part because she tried to ask too many different questions about too many topics and sub-topics. 

In the aftermath of the debate, Welker's colleagues stood in line to praise her brilliant performance. Under the power of Trump's attacks, that is now another way our floundering discourse works.

Purity of heart is to ask one thing: When Trump refused to answer her question, Savannah Guthrie just kept repeating her question. She asked it again and again.

Purity of heart is to ask one thing. We believe Abraham Lincoln said that.

Question asked, question unanswered!


Moderator moves on: Does information play any role in our national discourse? Consider a major non-exchange during last night's debate.

The question was posed to Donald J. Trump, and it was a very good question. It came at the start of Kristin Welker's third 15-minute segment: 

WELKER (10/22/20): Let’s move on to American families and the economy. One of the issues that’s most important to them is healthcare, as you both know. 

Today, there was a key vote on a new Supreme Court Justice, Amy Coney Barrett, and healthcare is at the center of her confirmation fight. 

Over 20 million Americans get their health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. It’s headed to the Supreme Court, and your administration, Mr. President, is advocating for the Court to overturn it. 

If the Supreme Court does overturn that law, there’s 20 million Americans could lose their health insurance almost overnight. So what would you do if those people have their health insurance taken away? You have two minutes uninterrupted.

That was a very good question. 

If the administration has its way, the Supreme Court will overturn the Affordable Care Act. The hearing will take place on November 10. 

If the Court overturns the ACA, twenty million people could lose their health insurance. What will Trump do if that occurs?

Welker had asked the commander in chief an extremely salient question. But in his two-minute response, the commander didn't answer the question. Instead, he offered this:

TRUMP (continuing directly): First of all, I’ve already done something that nobody thought was possible. Through the legislature, I terminated the individual mandate. That is the worst part of Obamacare, as we call it. The individual mandate, where you have to pay a fortune for the privilege of not having to pay for bad health insurance, I terminated. It’s gone. Now, it’s in court, because Obamacare is no good. 

But then I made a decision—run it as well as you can. To my people, great people, run it as well as you can. I could have gone the other route and made everybody very unhappy. They ran it. Premiums are down. Everything’s down. 

Here’s the problem. No matter how well you run it, it’s no good. What we’d like to do is terminate it. We have the individual mandate done. I don’t know that it’s going to work. If we don’t win, we will have to run it, and we’ll have Obamacare, but it’ll be better run. But it no longer is Obamacare, because without the individual mandate, it’s much different.

Pre-existing conditions will always stay. What I would like to do is a much better healthcare, much better. We’ll always protect people with pre-existing. So I’d like to terminate Obamacare, come up with a brand new, beautiful healthcare. The Democrats will do it, because there’ll be tremendous pressure on them. And we might even have the House by that time. And I think we’re going to win the House. You’ll see, but I think we’re going to win the House. 

But come up with a better healthcare, always protecting people with pre-existing conditions. And one thing, very important, we have 180 million people out there that have great private healthcare. Far more than we’re talking about with Obamacare. Joe Biden is going to terminate all of those policies. 

These are people that love their healthcare. People that have been successful, middle-income people, been successful. They have 180 million plans, 180 million people, families. Under what he wants to do, which will basically be socialized medicine, he won’t even have a choice, they want to terminate 180 million plans. We have done an incredible job at healthcare, and we’re going to do even better. Just you watch.

Trump said he got rid of the individual mandate. He said Obamacare stinks. 

But what would he do if the law is struck down? As always, he said he'd like to come up with a better health care plan—and, as always, he gave no idea how such a plan would work.

As always, Trump's answer was pure tapioca. As always, the moderator sat there and took it.

She didn't ask him how this "much better" plan would work. She didn't ask him how he'd be able to afford the guarantee that people with preconditions would be covered.

Most significantly, in subsequent questioning, she didn't ask him this:

"Mr. President, you've been making this pledge for five years now. Why haven't you, or any other Republican, ever proposed such a plan?"

Just a guess:

Last night, most viewers had never heard that the president has never proposed a specific plan. They've never heard the comical rundown of all the times he has pledged that his proposal was just weeks away.

Also, most viewers have never heard that there's a major problem with being able to finance the guarantee the preconditions would be covered. Most people haven't heard discussions of topics like that.

Obamacare found a way to finance the coverage of preconditions. Why hasn't Trump ever said how he would accomplish this difficult task? Last night, once again, he simply wasn't asked.

After Biden gave his two-minute statement, Welker chose to challenge his health care proposal on the basis of a highly partisan Republican talking point. The emptiness of Trump's statement  went unremarked.

Does information play any role in our national discourse? Welker asked Trump what he would do if Obamacare is overturned.

When he gave her the silliest possible answer, she simply agreed to move on.

Also this: Here's another follow-up question the president wasn't asked:

"Mr. President, you said that Vice President Biden wants to terminate the insurance of 180 million people. Since he hasn't made any such proposal, on what basis are you making a statement like that?"

Biden raised this objection on his own. As is common on such occasions, the moderator let Trump's statement go.

Meanwhile, where the Sam Hill is Trump's proposal? The moderator didn't ask.

THE 1619 CONNECTION: We'd describe this as embarrassing work!


Babes in arms enter the schools: As with the show the kids put on in the Mickey-and-Judy film, Babes in Arms, the New York Times' 1619 Project came together amazingly fast.

The speed is especially striking given the sweep of the project. Somehow, a bunch of journalists got it into their heads that this ambition made sense:

The 1619 Project 

In August of 1619, a ship appeared on this horizon, near Point Comfort, a coastal port in the English colony of Virginia. It carried more than 20 enslaved Africans, who were sold to the colonists. No aspect of the country that would be formed here has been untouched by the years of slavery that followed. On the 400th anniversary of this fateful moment, it is finally time to tell our story truthfully.

Finally! Finally, someone was going to tell our [nation's] story truthfully!

No one  had ever done it before. It would now be done by these kids!

When the truthful story emerged, their work was perhaps underwhelming. There was little new about the story, which had been told many times before.

Everyone already knew the story. Needless to say, though, the kids went on to win a Pulitzer prize.

The New York Times' Nikole Hannah-Jones is a good, decent person. In the project's introductory essay, she told the story of her father, and of her father's mother.

Her father's mother came from what was truly our "greatest generation." By the time this generation had completed its endless sacrifices, a new generation had emerged which was perhaps just a bit hubristic.

In fairness, we humans are all inclined to be that way as soon as we get the chance.

A few years before, Hannah-Jones' long report for ProPublica was full of information about Tuscaloosa's public schools. That wealth of information had been the fruit of deep reporting. 

Now, she described a familiar (brutal) history, giving it a bit of a "TV miniseries" feel. Especially given the importance of its subject matter, the project had come together amazingly fast—and, according to Bret Stephens' recent account, it even included this:

STEPHENS (10/11/20): About a month before the project’s publication, [editor Jake] Silverstein reached out to the Pulitzer Center to propose a 1619 curriculum for schools. Soon thereafter, the project was being introduced into classrooms across the country.

We can't vouch for the perfect accuracy of that chronology. At the same time, we know of no reason to doubt it.

That chronology comes from a recent column in which Stephens made some sensible points about the 1619 Project, while also wandering afield at times. For one thing, Stephens engaged in a pointless dispute about when the nation's "true" founding occurred. 

If our nation had public logicians, they would have rushed to tell us that semantic disputes of this type serve no useful purpose—that there are many important dates in this nation's variegated history, and that 1619 and 1776 are two such important dates.

Our nation's culture and essence arise from various points of departure. Aside from satisfying the age-old desire for war, there's nothing to gain from arguing about when the "true" or "real" foundational moment occurred.

In our view, Stephens made that timeless mistake, but he also made some perfectly decent points about the project. Along the way, he produced that chronology, describing the astonishing speed with which this underwhelming project had been introduced into the nation's schools.

According to Stephens, the Times reached out to the Pulitzer Center in July 2019. "Soon thereafter," a curriculum was being introduced into classrooms. Not long after that, the Pulitzer board gave the Times its latest prize.

At Education Week, a young journalist named Madeline Will reported on this part of the  project. 

Will was five years out of college; in 2014, she'd graduated from UNC with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science. In familiar fashion, Education Week was describing her as an (unspecified) "expert."  So too with everyone else on its staff.

What was this young reporter an expert in? Education Week didn't say. But after a somewhat jumbled start to her report, Will described a thoroughly sensible point of concern:

WILL (8/19/19): To bring this groundbreaking project into the classroom, the Pulitzer Center created a curriculum for teachers of all grade levels. The curriculum asks students to examine the history and the legacy of slavery in the United States, as well as our national memory. 

A report last year from the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights and advocacy organization, found there's no systematic approach to teaching slavery in schools—and lessons often miss crucial components to understanding this fundamental American topic. It's taught as a Southern phenomenon, rather than something originally sanctioned in the Constitution, and the voices and experiences of enslaved people are generally left out. And just over half of the teachers surveyed said they spoke about the continued legacy of slavery.

Many teachers surveyed said they were concerned about terrifying black children or making white children feel guilty. (There are also teachers who do slavery simulations, like a mock slave auction or a game about the Underground Railroad, to try to convey the brutality—but experts and educators say that these simulations can minimize horrific events and cause emotional trauma to black students.)

Did a lot of teachers voice such concerns?  If so, we'd have to say that their concerns were valid.

Our nation's brutal racial history takes us deep into the ugly realm of "the world the slaveholders made." We enter very delicate territory when we "teach" children about such topics. This is especially true when we're working with the youngest children in the earliest grades.

Long ago and far away, we talked about "race" with the good, decent kids in our fifth grade classes. We discussed the life of Frederick Douglass, our fellow Baltimorean. (Also, our fellow American and our fellow person.)

One year, we discussed the nightly airings of a new miniseries—Roots.

In 1851, Douglass published the first of his several autobiographies, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. In the book's opening chapters, Douglass described his early years on Maryland's "Eastern Shore."

In those first few chapters, Douglass describes behaviors of astounding cruelty—behaviors he was forced to observe as a child.  These behaviors occurred not long ago, right here in this very state.

Because those kids were in fifth grade, the books they read about Frederick Douglass didn't go into such vicious detail. Still, those children were puzzled by an obvious question. They wanted to know, and they asked:

      How could people ever have treated other people that way?

We told them we'd tell them what we thought, but that it was just our own opinion. We told them that they would decide what they thought about all such questions as they grew up. 

We told them they should always talk to their parents or their guardians about such matters first. We told them that we would tell them what we thought, but that we were just their teacher, while their parents and guardians were the people who, for them, came first.

Teachers who voiced those concerns to Madeline Will may have known whereof they spoke. Our racial history is astonishingly brutal and ugly. 

Meanwhile, the conceptual frameworks the slaveholders made stay with us to this day. This includes the conceptual framework according to which everyone has a "race."

Public schools should be very careful in the ways they approach such matters. They're dealing with the most painful topics we have, and with children's tender minds. 

Public schools should be careful. But straight ahead rushed the Pulitzer Center, before giving the Times its top prize.

Question: How much does the Pulitzer Center know about public school education? It wouldn't be easy for anyone to create curriculum in such a difficult area, but why should the Pulitzer Center be the agency rushing ahead on this project?

In our view, the (extremely limited) curriculum developed by the Pulitzer Center is a sad, familiar embarrassment. 

We're especially struck by the foolish way the Center says that some of its materials are suitable for "All Grades." On a much smaller scale, we're struck by the way the Center seems to have had a young person who was one year out of college authoring this part of its curriculum.

The kids had decided to put on a show; they'd rushed ahead with their staging. They dragged the Pulitzer Center in. Later, they won its top prize.

Way back when, Maureen Dowd also won a Pulitzer prize. She won the prize in April 2000. Seven months later, on the Sunday before our presidential election, she started her column like this, headline included:

DOWD (11/6/00): I Feel Pretty

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

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

If I rub in a tad more of this mahogany-colored industrial mousse, the Spot will disappear under my Reagan pompadour...

If memory serves, this was the seventh column in which Dowd featured Candidate Gore speaking to his bald spot.  In this column, he was singing about how pretty he felt. 

This extended a mainstream press corps theme in which Candidate Gore had been cast as "today's man-woman" (Chris Matthews). Our liberal elites sat and stared as their award-winning colleagues played these pitiful, braindead games over the course of two years.

Twenty years later, the New York Times won another Pulitzer. We think its rushed, D-minus curriculum helps drive home a pair of  points we've persistently made:

No one cares about black kids. Also, our self-branded modern elites just aren't super-sharp.

THE 1619 CONNECTION: What if we were to tell you...


...that the Times played the same old games?: In print editions, The 1619 Project made its debut on Sunday, August 18, 2019.

The project debuted in a special edition of The New York Times Sunday Magazine. The materials had appeared online four days before.

According to the leading authority on the project, that special edition of the magazine contained ten essays, a photo essay, and a collection of poems and fiction by an additional 16 writers.

An introductory essay was written by Jake Silverstein, the magazine's editor. What if we were to tell you that the essay started like this?

SILVERSTEIN (8/18/19): 1619. It is not a year that most Americans know as a notable date in our country’s history. Those who do are at most a tiny fraction of those who can tell you that 1776 is the year of our nation’s birth. What if, however, we were to tell you that this fact, which is taught in our schools and unanimously celebrated every Fourth of July, is wrong, and that the country’s true birth date, the moment that its defining contradictions first came into the world, was in late August of 1619?

So began the attempt, by a bunch of upper-end journalists, "to tell our [nation's] story truthfully,” apparently for the first time. No one else had done that!

So began Silverstein's essay. We'd have to say it was already time to call in the logicians.

In that passage, Silverstein seems to make an ardent claim. He seems to say that a very familiar assertion—the claim that "1776 is the year of our nation’s birth"—can now be seen to be "wrong."

He seems to say that the nation's "true birth date" was actually August 1619! He seems to make that ardent claim, but a careful reader might say that he actually doesn't.

Subscribers, let's be fair! Silverstein doesn't exactly say that the familiar old fact is wrong. He merely asks a question:

What would happen, or what we would think, if he were to tell us it's wrong?

In this pointlessly roundabout way, Silverstein started to set the historical record straight. We think of the way Judy and Mickey and the rest of the kids decided to put on a show in the silly old Judy-and-Mickey movie, Babes in Arms.

The kids at the New York Times had decided to put on a show. But where would the logicians come in? The logicians would come in here:

Silverstein never exactly said such a thing—but to many, he may have seemed to say that 1776  isn't the nation's "true birth date." 

Logicians might have warned us rubes to beware of such words as "real" and "true." 

Silverstein's ardent language has created many pointless debates about when the nation's true founding really occurred. Logicians might have stated the obvious:

There's more than one way to imagine or discuss a nation's history. It's silly to get into pointless disputes about when the "real" birth occurred.

Silverstein was ardent that day, though in a fuzzy manner. He hadn't said that 1619 was the true birth date. He'd merely given that impression.

If Mickey and Judy were staging a show, they were off to a fuzzy start. And how odd! If you read Silverstein's introductory essay today, this is the way it now starts:

SILVERSTEIN (12/20/19): 1619 is not a year that most Americans know as a notable date in our country’s history. Those who do are at most a tiny fraction of those who can tell you that 1776 is the year of our nation’s birth. What if, however, we were to tell you that the moment that the country’s defining contradictions first came into the world was in late August of 1619?

Today, Silverstein imagines himself telling us something much more limited. 

Today, he imagines himself telling us that "the moment that the country’s defining contradictions first came into the world was in late August of 1619." He no longer imagines himself telling us that a certain extremely familiar factual claim is "wrong."

Today, Silverstein almost seems to be saying that 1776 actually is "the year of our nation’s birth!" Of course, because he's retained his highly ornate "what if we were to tell you" construction, he doesn't actually say that either!

At any rate, the song-and-dance about the  "true birth date" is mercifully no longer present. Silverstein has simplified his original opening statement.

After the 1619 project appeared, Silverstein's apparent opening claim—the apparent claim that 1776 isn't the nation's "true birth date"—stirred up a lot of opposition. 

As of today, that apparent claim is gone. As to when and why that passage was dropped, we have no idea. 

That said, the original passage seemed to make a very large, rather ardent claim, and it stirred a large fuss. The new passage is vastly harder to argue with.

Almost everyone would agree—the presence of slavery formed one part of a massive "contradiction" which dogged our nation's history.  It isn't hard to agree with that claim. The claim is almost blindingly obvious.

Of course, since very few people would disagree with that claim, it's hard to see how The Project is "finally telling our story truthfully," the grandiose claim the Times seemed to be making when this hodgepodge emerged. So it goes when the kids get excited and decide to put on a big show.

Silverstein has amended the first paragraph of his original work. As a general matter, there's nothing wrong with doing something like that.

In this case, the change to the original text has slid by without an appended statement of correction or clarification. But so it has gone as Silverstein and Nikole Hannah-Jones have corrected and "clarified" their original ardent work in fuzzy, fudged and disingenuous ways, often insisting that they've done no such thing. 

Consider Hannah-Jones, the founder of the project and the author of its introductory essay. In her original text, she ardently claimed this:

HANNAH-JONES (8/18/19): Conveniently left out of our founding mythology is the fact that one of the primary reasons the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery...

The colonists  decided to declare independence because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery! That "fact" had been  "conveniently left out of our founding mythology," the ardent founder of the project declared.

But is that an actual fact? Did the colonists declare independence to protect the institution of slavery? Was that "one of the primary reasons" for their decision?

Major historians disputed the claim. In the end, Hannah-Jones and The Project decided to relent, or at least to give that appearance. 

Hannah-Jones inserted a tiny "correction" into her text, while leaving a much longer set of disputed background claims intact. Silverstein authored a slippery "Editor's Note" which vastly downplayed the nature of the issue and the size of the correction.

In this way, the journalists motored ahead. "Finally," someone was "telling our story truthfully!"

More absurd was Hannah-Jones' recent decision to eliminate a whole set of tweets in which she'd repeatedly said that 1619 represented the "true founding" of the nation. 

The decision to delete these tweets followed more recent claims by Hannah-Jones, in which she insisted that no one had ever said such a thing. 

When Judy and Mickey would put on a show, the show would always go well. In this case, the gang at the Times moved with remarkable speed to put a vast project into effect, saying, with substantial ardor, that "it is finally time to tell our [nation's] story truthfully."

Mommy and Daddy had been lying about our story! As they've done so many times about so many other issues, the boys and girls at the New York Times decided to tell us the truth.

No one had tried to do it before. While they were at it, they even decided to create a school curriculum, a matter we'll turn to tomorrow.

The hubris lying behind this project is wide and deep and vast. The children decided to tell us the truth; No one had done it before!

Once they started telling the truth, they seemed to make a lot of mistakes. As usual, they've played a set of slippery games in coming to terms with that fact.

Our nation's brutal racial history lies at the heart of our national story. There's nothing new about that statement. Everyone knows that fact.

That said, a bunch of enormously "privileged" babes in arms decided to give the nation a show. We aren't big fans of their work. More on that tomorrow.

Tomorrow: Recalling Frederick Douglass, on the eastern shore

To read more about this dreck: The history of the project's bungling  takes us down a series of long, winding roads. So too with its slippery, disingenuous reactions to criticism.

If you want to read more about this meshugas,  we'll recommend that you click the links at Bret Stephens' recent column. You might also review Sarah Ellison's report in the Washington Post about the project's controversies.

We'll especially recommend this detailed thread by The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf, one of the nation's most careful journalists. One problem—he repeatedly links to Hannah-Jones' tweets, and those tweets have now been disappeared.

As always, a basic point prevails:

Creating confusion is amazingly easy. Critiquing confusion is hard.

Whitmer appears with cable news star!


What unblinking courage looks like: We can't link you to a transcript. Presumably for obvious reasons, the "cable news" channel in question no longer provides them.

We can't show you the videotape of the full interview. The cable news conglomerate in question has cut way back on its postings.

We can tell you this:

Last night, Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer appeared on the Rachel Maddow TV show. We had the same reaction we've had on several occasions watching Whitmer of late:

That's what political talent looks like that. Talent, and political leadership.

The flyweights who run the Maddow Show have dropped the part of the interview which we found most impressive—beyond impressive, in fact. That was the opening exchange, when Whitmer said, as she always does, that she and her family have the Michigan state police in charge of their security.

For that reason, "I have never once felt unsafe," Whitmer said, unblinkingly, just as she always does, even though it's hard to believe that her statement could be true. 

It's amazing to see an elected official who knows exactly what to say, even when it's almost surely untrue. Also, who knows how to go out in public and say it without the slightest hint of flinching.

Whitmer was referring to the recent kidnap/trial for treason plot aimed at her person. She went on to discuss Donald J. Trump's ongoing attempts to stir up such acts of violence. 

In the face of this heinous behavior, this governor keeps saying all the right things, without the slightest sign of flinching. Meanwhile, our "journalists" keep refusing to speak to medical specialists about the possible state of the president's mental health.

Whitmer looks straight into camera when she says these things; she doesn't flinch or blink. She goes on to say that Trump's behavior needs to stop. 

You rarely see such perfect leadership We're newly surprised, almost amazed, every time we see it.

AOC is soaked in raw talent; Whitmer has been amazing. We thought we saw that same talent when we watched Kamala Harris make her campaign kick-off speech.

We quickly saw that we'd been mistaken as Harris waged her horrible primary campaign. Nothing that's happened since Biden picked her has led us to think that she's up to the task she's been handed.

(Very few people would be.)

It's surprising to us that muscular Michigan is the state which elects so many impressive women to statewide office. That said, Michiganders just keep doing it, and Trump just keeps doing it too.

Talent and leadership on this level don't come along very often. It seems to us that attention should be paid.

Mateo explained it in the 2002 feature film, In America, speaking to the delightful pair of sisters who had just moved in upstairs and had come to his door on Halloween.

Lacking candy to give as a treat, why was he giving the girls his "fortune"—a big glass jar full of spare change?

"When luck comes knocking on your door, you can't [shouldn't] turn it away."

THE 1619 CONNECTION: Woodward's book is a bit Dick-and-Jane!


So too with the Project?: Last month, we broke down and purchased Bob Woodward's latest best-seller, Rage.

After that, we tried to read it. We only got so far.

Woodward's books tend to be written on something like fourth-grade level. We refer to the Dick-and-Jane sentence structure, but also to the lazy standards of evidence and proof the reporter brings to his various tasks.

Full disclosure! We bought the Kindle version of Rage, for $14.99. Certain electronic evidence suggests that we gave up after reading page 198 of 452, an effort which had taken us to "Location 2722 of 8448."

Woodward's books have a certain grade school "story hour" feel. We gather around and listen to Woodward tell us a string of vastly sanded and simplified tales.

His conclusions may not be wrong, but his route to those conclusions is vastly smoothed and sanded. We'll have to admit that we get a somewhat similar feeling when we read the featured essay for the New York Times' ballyhooed 1619 Project, the somewhat unusual plus-que-journalistic undertaking which was unveiled last year.

That featured essay was written by Nikole Hannah-Jones, an experienced journalist who, based upon the standard metrics, has had a very substantial career.  

Hannah-Jones graduated from Notre Dame in 1998. In 2003, she earned a master's degree in journalism from UNC. Her career took her to ProPublica in 2011, then on to the New York Times in 2015.

As a journalist, she has received some of the highest honors possible. The leading authority on the topic tells us this:

Hannah-Jones is a 2017 award winner of the MacArthur Foundation "Genius Award." The award cited her “ Chronicling the persistence of racial segregation in American society, particularly in education, and reshaping national conversations around education reform.”

In 2019, Hannah-Jones launched a project to re-examine the legacy of slavery in the United States, timed for the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first Africans in Virginia. Hannah-Jones produced a series of articles for a special issue of The New York Times Magazine titled The 1619 Project. The ongoing initiative began August 14, 2019 and "aims to reframe the country's history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative"...

In 2020, Hannah-Jones won a Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for her work on the 1619 Project. The award cited her “sweeping, provocative and personal essay for the ground-breaking 1619 Project, which seeks to place the enslavement of Africans at the center of America’s story, prompting public conversation about the nation’s founding and evolution.”

We'll guess that very few journalists have ever won a MacArthur Foundation "genius" award and a Pulitzer prize. On a slightly cynical note, we'll throw in this observation:

She won these awards for saying the things our tribe's current ruling elites most deeply want to hear. Though this doesn't necessarily mean that her work lacked merit.

Briefly, a personal note:

At this site, we spent a great deal of time on a lengthy report Hannah-Jones prepared for ProPublica in 2014. 

Her report concerned the segregation, integration and desegregation of the Tuscaloosa city schools, a very complex topic. 

We can't recall the ultimate assessments we drew concerning the journalistic merits of her lengthy piece. If memory serves, we came away thinking that she had criticized the city's (black) leadership class for reaching certain decisions which were forced upon them by the backwash of our nation's brutal racial history.

We're working from memory there. That said, the lengthy piece was thoroughly reported and full of information. 

On balance, we can't say we're inclined to spill with praise for Hannah-Jones' featured essay for The 1619 Project. Indeed, as we've reread it in recent weeks, it has made us think of Rage.

The essay revisits aspects of our nation's brutal racial history which everyone already knows and has known for a very long time.  As is currently fashionable, it seeks to retell this brutal history as if no one has ever been willing to tell it before.

To our ear, it also tends to tell this history in a type of "TV miniseries" way. Brutal history is simplified to the point of possibly being simplistic. 

The stories read like YA fiction, with a hint of invidious group division thrown in. Consider what's said to have happened here:

HANNAH-JONES (8/14/19): Without the idealistic, strenuous and patriotic efforts of black Americans, our democracy today would most likely look very different—it might not be a democracy at all.

The very first person to die for this country in the American Revolution was a black man who himself was not free. Crispus Attucks was a fugitive from slavery, yet he gave his life for a new nation in which his own people would not enjoy the liberties laid out in the Declaration for another century. In every war this nation has waged since that first one, black Americans have fought—today we are the most likely of all racial groups to serve in the United States military.

Did Crispus Attucks "give his life for" this country? There's a treacly feel to that construction which modern upper-end discourse loves, and frequently seeks to reward.

That said, constructions like that are more commonly found in books for third or fourth graders. For the record, it isn't clear that they're instructive, appropriate or helpful even there.

Our nation's conventional history crawls with stories like that. As every schoolchild once knew, Nathan Hale is said to have said, at the time of his execution, that his only regret was that he had but one life to give for his country.  

As is almost always the case in such matters, it seems that no one really knows what Hale actually said. Whatever! Smoothed and sanded hero tales have always been popular with us rubes, and Hannah-Jones' account of Attucks' death seems to follow the yellow brick road which leads to grade school accounts of heroism.

In this case, the imagined heroism is especially pleasing because it's imputed to "a black man who himself was not free." As in standard grade school narration, he isn't just "the first person to die for this country"—he's the very first person to die for this country! That almost comes before first!

To our ear, Hannah-Jones simplifies such stories throughout, dumbing us down as she serves us helpings of current approved tapioca. Such work is now amazingly common on the front pages of our major upper-end newspapers.

To our ear, Hannah-Jones also tends to overdo it in the direction of the one "racial" group being greater than all the rest. But that's a story for a whole different era, for an era which isn't in love with invidious "identity" structures.

Woodward's book struck us as Dick and Jane. So does Hannah-Jones' essay. 

That said, she's telling us liberals, and our liberal elites, the stories we love at this juncture. There's nothing especially new about the basic history which anchors her piece—Before the Mayflower was a major book in the mid-1960s—but she almost seems to be suggesting that no one has told it before.

Sometimes, Hannah-Jones makes us think of Woodward's book. It's when she and her editor were forced to contemplate corrections of apparent errors that we saw the kind of work which defines the modern age.

We'll discuss those non-correction corrections tomorrow. For today, one last point concerning the life and death of Attucks:

The leading authority on Attucks' life and death offers a much less simplistic account. (We weren't present at the time to give you a first-hand report.)

That authority's account of that life and that death almost seems to be drawn from the real world of  human experience. 

By way of contrast, Hannah-Jones gave us something perhaps a bit more like a novel. Rightly or wrongly, the corps then gave her its top prize.

Tomorrow: Douglass' (Maryland) childhood