Also, Stelter on lies and delusions: Isabel Sawhill is 83. Morgan Welch is three years out of college (American University, class of 2017).

We're sure they're both good people. On the other hand, they co-authored an opinion column in this morning's New York Times. 

The column appears in the paper's print editions. Unsurprisingly, the column is full of fuzzy claims which go undefended and unexplained. 

The column is full of fuzzy but familiar claims. Perhaps for that very reason, the New York Times chose to run it. 

The analytical skills of our war-inclined species are extremely slight. Most strikingly, our own deeply tribal, war-inclined team just can't seem to stop doing things like this, principal headline included:

SAWHILL AND WELCH (11/30/20): Will White Women in Georgia Put Family or Culture War First?


In 2004, Thomas Frank published his best-selling book “What’s the Matter With Kansas?,” which argued that his fellow Kansans were voting against their economic self-interest because of hot-button cultural issues. Perhaps now we should be asking, “What’s the Matter With White Women?” Are they voting on cultural rather than economic issues? Are many simply following their husbands’ lead? For some, it would seem so.

According to the pair of seers, some white women "are simply following their husbands' leads" when they cast their votes in presidential elections!

How many "white women" are behaving this way? The seers don't try to say. But so continues the rank, dim-witted condescension which flows from our failing tribe in much the way that mighty rivers run  downhill toward the sea. 

The authors seem to say that "white women" shouldn't be "voting on cultural rather than economic issues." How much simpler the world would be if we simply let tribal eggheads like these cast everybody's votes for them!

What’s the Matter With White Women? At this point, the eggheads say we should perhaps be asking that question.

In fairness, based upon an (imprecise) exit poll result they've already cited in their column, their question should really be this:

        What’s the Matter With 55 Percent of White Women? 

It may turn out that Candidate Trump got fewer than 55% of "white women's" votes in the recent election. In the end, there's no way to produce a precise measure of such matters.

That said, the dumbness of our liberal tribe suffuses this morning's column. And for us, this weekend was a struggle to come to terms with the variables animating our nation's ongoing decline.

For starters, how should we regard Donald J. Trump and his ongoing wild west claims? Should we primarily regard him as a liar? Or should we possibly regard him as being mentally ill?

Yesterday, CNN's Brian Stelter spent the better part of an hour struggling with these concepts. For the transcript of his weekly Reliable Sources program, you can just click here.

Stelter and several guests were serially defeated by the logic of "lying" versus "delusion." Chalk this up to the analytical and intellectual deficits which suffuse our deeply unimpressive journalistic and academic elites.

Is Trump a liar, or is he nuts? At one point, Stelter acknowledged that he tries to avoid  that question.

Our journalists also avoid such questions when it comes to high-ranking Trump supporters. We think, for example, of South Dakota's governor, Kristi Noem. 

Question! Did Noem believe the things she said in this November 18 press event, or was she possibly lying? Starting tomorrow, we'll be poking at this basic question all through the course of the week.

Such ruminations involve psychological / psychiatric questions. They go to the question of "psychopathologies," and to what we should think about such psychiatric concepts.

A related question involves the psychological forces which may drive us humans to believe the various claims our tribal leaders make. As a general matter, we humans can see such forces at work among others, but not among ourselves.

Tomorrow, a case study! We'll start to look at what Noem said in her recent press event. By the end of the week, we'll be looking at the way the AP reported her presser.

Along the way, we'll look at the difficulties our own tribe's leaders have had as they've tried to report the basic Covid statistics involved in Noem claims. In truth, the woods are lovely, dark and deep, but we humans just aren't super-sharp.

Today, we confess one other way we spent a dispiriting holiday weekend. For the first time, we watched (parts of) several Melissa McCarthy films.

We were triggered by this New York Times listicle, in which Scott and Dargis named McCarthy as the 22nd best actor of the 21st century (to date).  Somewhat surprised by this assessment, we decided to take a look.

Two of McCarthy's films, including one which was cited by Scott, were available through On Demand. For the very first time, we clicked and tried to watch.

Two weeks ago, we told the somewhat comical story of the cognitive/cultural decline of  basic cable. In one instance after another, the nation's basic cable channels announced lofty aims at the start of life, then devolved into various forms of "World's Dumbest."

Over the weekend, we watched parts of Tammy (2014) and Life of the Party (2018). (According to Scott, McCarthy displays "a fast and furiously aggressive verbal wit" in the earlier film.) 

On YouTube, we even watched a scene with a great deal of aural humor from the big smash hit, Bridesmaids (2011).

We also read some god-awful analysis pieces by woke writers at major sites—essays which were substantially dumber and less self-aware than the column by Sawhill and Welch. 

(To their credit, Sawhill and Welch didn't refer to "white women" as "Karens.")

Concerning all that, we'll simply say this. A nation with a "World's Dumbest" culture (and capability) can't sensibly hope to survive.  

In our view, the behavior of Trump, and of many Trump voters, constitutes a type of epistemic secession. That said, is our own vastly self-impressed tribe a whole lot better in any clear respect? Especially given how "educated" we constantly say we are?

As the week proceeds, we'll ponder the recent claims of Governor Noem. But we'll also ponder the work of Stelter and others within our own failing tribe.

Drawing on extensive consultations with top major anthropologists, we'll suggest this overview: 

Our warring tribes are perhaps more alike than different. 

Our warring tribes are more alike? Carlotta Valdes keeps telling us that it's been this way all along!

Tomorrow: Case study begins! Noem's assortment of claims


  1. "According to the pair of seers, some white women "are simply following their husbands' leads" when they cast their votes in presidential elections!"

    Smithsonian Magazine said this:

    "The women’s vote diverged from the men’s vote beginning in 1980, when the two parties began staking different positions on women’s issues and social issues. Ronald Reagan is credited with pushing the Republican Party to stand against abortion and for the traditional family, compelling Democrats to adopt the pro-equality stances favored by the women’s and civil rights movements."

    So, we can thank Ronald Reagan for the gender gap.

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  2. "Such ruminations involve psychological / psychiatric questions. They go to the question of "psychopathologies," and to what we should think about such psychiatric concepts."

    Somerby is unqualified to discuss this topic.

  3. How dumb is Somerby?

    He doesn't seem to understand that the term Karen doesn't refer to all white women.

    He picks excerpts on youtube to evaluate the acting of Melissa McCarthy, instead of watching her in the context of the whole film.

    Then he refers to epistemic secession by Trump and his followers, while simultaneously hinting that they are all crazy (in a psychiatric sense). While also denigrating education:

    "That said, is our own vastly self-impressed tribe a whole lot better in any clear respect? Especially given how "educated" we constantly say we are?"

    I personally don't see liberals bragging about their education much. It is Somerby who looks up where journalists got their degrees, not the journalists themselves bragging about them.

    "Our warring tribes are more alike? Carlotta Valdes keeps telling us that it's been this way all along!"

    And no, Carlotta Valdes is not a real person, and the author of the screenplay in which see appears would most likely disagree with Somerby's idiocies. And if Somerby has talked to an actual anthropologist ever, in his entire lifetime, it is not evident from his writing. Anthropology, like psychology, is an actual domain of knowledge with its body of research (corpus), which Somerby is not only not read but routinely misrepresents. He has no right to do that, any more than Trump has the right to recommend bogus covid treatments out of his own ignorance and greed.

    I can't wait to hear how he puts down Melissa McCarthy, just as Trump gratuitously attacked Rosie O'Donnell. McCarthy, unlike Somerby, started as a standup but went on to have a career in films and TV, which is ongoing and widely applauded. Imagine how Somerby feels about that, as he pretends he never heard of her before! In his Catholic upbringing, Somerby would have learned that envy is one of the 7 deadly sins, but he clearly hasn't taken that to heart.

    1. He might watch Gilmore Girls on cable. She was a major character in that series, long before Mike & Molly:

      "Melissa Ann McCarthy is an American actress, comedian, writer, producer, and fashion designer. She is the recipient of numerous accolades, including two Primetime Emmy Awards and nominations for two Academy Awards and two Golden Globe Awards."

    2. Somerby probably thinks Gilmore Girls is a stoopid show, because girls like it.

    3. I wonder if Somerby would sell me a gallon of his urine.

    4. You realize, it may be flammable?

  4. "Our warring tribes are perhaps more alike than different. "

    If you read the platforms of the two major political parties (who are presumably what Somerby is referring to when he says "warring tribes"), you will see that there are major differences between them. They are not at all more alike than different. In fact, the differences are so stark that many historians have noted the increased polarization between parties in our current time period. Serious issues that people care strongly about now divide the parties.

    Somerby is perhaps referring to dumbness when he says the parties are alike, but that isn't even true. Somerby loves to call people in general "dumb," while he presumably stands above those he judges, since he can recognize our stupidity. But this is about the most idiotic statement he makes here, from a biological and psychological perspective.

    Human beings are what they are. Our brains function to provide evolutionary advantages that are demonstrably useful. Culture is a byproduct of that survival success. Whatever sense of despair Somerby feels about human behavior, people are not dumb and they are doing well in many respects. For example, how many otters could have devised a vaccine for a virus attacking their species? It is Somerby who is depressed and needs to see a shrink. To talk about warring tribes (as if war were literal) during a time period when war and other violent conflict is at an all-time low, makes him the ignorant one. What I can't figure out is what Somerby gains by these daily diatribes. Who benefits when a curmudgeon calls humanity dumb, aside from Trump and the forces of evil who wish to keep the populace from using its power of choice to throw the bums out? If there is no ulterior motive to what Somerby writes, he really does need to get help.

  5. Digby quotes from the interview of Chris Krebs, fired election cybersecurity chief (on 60 Minutes):

    "With 95 percent of 2020 ballots on paper (up from 82% in 2016), there is an auditable paper trail in place to reveal any manipulation of machine counts.

    “That gives you the ability to prove that there was no malicious algorithm or hacked software that adjusted the tally of the vote,” Krebs said. Hand recounts in Georgia confirmed machine tallies there.

    “And that tells you what?” Pelly asked.

    “That tells you that there was no manipulation of the vote on the machine count side.”

    If there was some foreign algorithm flipping votes, it did not work. Most likely, it did not exist, Krebs said. Claims by Rudy Giuliani and the president’s legal paper tigers are “farcical.”

    Allegations of votes counted in Germany? Venezuelan software? Communist money?

    “The proof is in the ballots,” Krebs responds. “The recounts are consistent with the initial count, and to me that’s further evidence, that’s confirmation, that the systems used in the 2020 election performed as expected, and the American people should have 100% confidence in their vote.”

  6. Teddy Roosevelt was a progressive, not a conservative. Here is the platform of The Progressive Party in 1912 (which Teddy Roosevelt founded):

    "A limit on campaign contributions
    Unemployment insurance
    Social Security (though that term had not yet been invented)
    Workman's compensation for the injured and the disabled
    A livable minimum wage
    Support for unions and the right to strike
    Woman's suffrage
    An eight-hour workday (at a time when many worked far longer hours)
    Hefty inheritance taxes for the affluent
    National health care
    New rules which would make it easier to amend the Constitution
    Recall elections (particularly useful when a Trump gets into office)
    An end to monopolies (like Amazon, PayPal and Google)"

    From Joseph Cannon at Cannonfire blog.

  7. TDH: Concerning all that, we'll simply say this. A nation with a "World's Dumbest" culture (and capability) can't sensibly hope to survive.

    This "we're all so dumb" notion, while true, has become exceedingly stale. It seems to have always been true, so what is to be done?

    Wiki: Dumbing down is the deliberate oversimplification of intellectual content in education, literature, and cinema, news, video games, and culture. Originated in 1933, the term "dumbing down" was movie-business slang, used by screenplay writers, meaning: "[to] revise so as to appeal to those of little education or intelligence."

    Why Johnny can't read, and what you can do about it,
    by Rudolf Flesch was written in 1955.

    1. The Flynn Effect is the phenomenon of increasing scores on IQ tests over time, worldwide. It is attributed to better nutrition. It also suggests that Somerby's belief that we are getting dumber is not empirically supported by evidence, just his cranky old opinion.

      Those movie writers engaged in dumbing things down in order to broaden their audience and sell more tickets, not because people were getting stupider.

    2. I agree. Many Republican/Trump voters are voting out of what they perceive to be their own self-interest (tax cuts) and cultural fears (race and religion). They follow certain centuries-old cultural ideas that give them an emotional framework from which they define experience. Mental capacity is not the issue in any these examples Somerby brings up. People are behaving the way their cultural ideology tells them to behave.

  8. TDH: Perhaps now we should be asking, “What’s the Matter With White Women?”

    We know what’s the matter with them, Bob. And we do know how they vote. In Oregon, Vermont, and Massachusetts, 55% to 65% of them voted for Biden. And in places like Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana, 70%-75% of them voted for Trump. What could account for these stark differences between various states?

    In 2016, white evangelical or born-again Christians voted 81% to 16% for Trump over Hillary. The rest of the voters voted for Hillary 59%-35%.

    The intensity of a religious belief is a major determining factor behind why white voters vote the way that they do.

    So, why are so many mainstream political analysts flailing about and vainly asking, what’s the matter with, rather than discussing this massively significant factor? My guess that it’s because the mass media, from top to bottom, is overwhelmingly secular, as are we in the left blogosphere. Religion makes us squeamish. We wish it would go away. It is one of the oldest and strongest bastions of irrationality in the modern world and it frightens us to think about how widespread religious fanatism still is in this godforsaken country.

    1. "Religion makes us squeamish. We wish it would go away."

      Speak for yourself. I don't feel that way about religion. And I am not frightened of it either. This attribution echoes the things religious people say about atheists, right before they say that science is the atheist's religion. All of that is hooey.

      Hillary Clinton was strongly religious, a Methodist whose faith allowed her to overcome the disappointment she must have felt over first losing to Obama and then to Trump. Her life is guided by religion and the religion-inspired desire to help other people and do good works. She is also liberal, to the left of Obama, another religious person. Quite a few Democrats are Catholic, as Joe Biden is.

      Religious fanaticism is not the same as being religious. Most of us secular types understand that. I think the type of religion practiced on the right is different, and I believe that racism is also motivating those right-wing women who voted for Trump. Trump's behavior is disgusting to most women and most religious people, so there has to be something additional that causes Trump supporters to overlook his character. That is the part that people are too squeamish to talk about -- the blatant racism lingering in our society. Christian fundamentalist religion may correlate with that racism, but I don't think it is determining those voting patterns, except for single-issue voters who oppose abortion.

      I find it interesting how few male bloggers and commenters are willing to talk about women's issues. They almost talk about women voters as if they were just like men, except they have husbands to guide them in choosing a candidate. Somerby loves to talk about understanding The Others, but why doesn't he devote any mental effort to understanding women? (We know the answer to that.)

    2. The "religion" of evangelicals is bigotry.

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