Has MSNBC begun to flirt...


...with the return of transcripts?: Has MSNBC begun to flirt with the return of transcripts?

It's possible that The One True Channel has! Yesterday, we found a transcript for Brian Williams' program from Monday night. Today, we found a transcript for last evening's Last Word!

The practice still seems to be hit-or-miss, unlike the channel's journalism. But transcripts may be making some sort of a comeback, perhaps due to popular demand!

Transcripts may be making a comeback; the channel's journalism continues to lag. The overstatement will be general, the fidelity to Storyline pure.

Last night, the channel's leading star devoted her first 27 minutes to reports that Republican congressman Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) is being investigated for a possible crime. Gaetz is a gruesome propaganda machine, but let us repeat what we said:

The star discussed anonymously-sourced reports that Gaetz is being investigated. No charges of any kind have been filed. No one has any way of knowing if any charges will ever be filed, or if Gaetz is actually guilty of the alleged conduct.

At any rate, so what? The cable star burned 27 minutes on this report of a probe of a single congressman. All too typically, the first 17 of those minutes were devoted to the crackpot behavior of a tangential Florida figure who seems to be an associate of Gaetz. 

As innocent children drown in the sea, we liberals were entertained in this manner—with 17 minutes of "cable news" clowning concerning the weird behavior of this tangential non-Gaetz guy. 

In truth, this was pure entertainment. It was clowning all the way down.

On The Last Word, Lawrence devoted less time to this topic, but we were amused by something he said. We decided to go transcript-hunting, and there a transcript was!

In all honesty, almost all of cable news has been turned into propaganda. Tribal viewers know what they're going to hear when they go to their favorite channel, and that's exactly what they hear when they happily get there.

Transcripts may be making a comeback. Journalism, not so much!

SAME OR DIFFERENT? She answered the best question ever asked!


His question remains unanswered: For reasons our history makes sadly obvious, questions of "race" are everywhere in our nation's public discussions. 

This very morning, to cite one example,  the New York Times offers a profile of the people who are serving on the Derek Chauvin jury. For reasons which are sadly obvious, that news report starts like this (principal headline included):

Who Are the Jurors in the Derek Chauvin Trial? 

MINNEAPOLIS — A white intensive care nurse who said if she saw someone on the street who needed help, she would feel obligated to step in. A Black grandmother who said she had no personal experience with the police or the criminal justice system.

A white widow who rides a motorcycle in her spare time and said she believes that “all lives matter.” A Black man who works in banking and said he was eager to serve on the jury of “the most historic case of my lifetime.”

These are some of the jurors appointed to weigh the evidence in the case of Derek Chauvin, the white former police officer who is accused of murdering George Floyd, a Black man.

The jury is a demographic mix: three Black men, one Black woman, and two women who identified themselves as multiracial. There are two white men and four white women. They are urban and suburban, ranging in age from their 20s to their 60s. The two alternates are white women.

Every member of the jury is identified by his or her "race." Beyond that, Chauvin, the defendant in the trial, is identified by race. So is the late George Floyd, the man Chauvin stands accused of murdering.

(The word "Black" gets capitalized; the word "white" does not. At the Washington Post, each of these words gets capitalized now when it's used to refer to "race." At each newspaper, these are recent adaptations. These are the ways we struggle and flail as we deal, or attempt to deal, with our nation's brutal history with respect to "race.")

Race! It's the first characteristic the New York Times cites as it describes the jurors. (Age and gender are also cited.) We all understand why the newspaper does this—although then again, maybe we don't.

Questions of "race" play a central role in our nation's public discussions. Sadly, this comes to us as part of "the world the slaveholders made," to use a construction from Professor Genovese.

Within our nation, but also around the globe, we humans have tended to divide ourselves into groups on the basis of "race" (or tribe, or ethnicity). But how do we understand that concept and those divisions?

Four years ago, up stepped Professor Gates! He asked a question we have described as the best question ever asked.

He posed his question to Ava DuVernay, the director of the Oscar-nominated film, Selma. To watch their (good-natured) exchange, you can just click here. 

Their exchange went down like this:

DuVernay was appearing as a guest on Gates' PBS program, Finding Your Roots. Gates had shared the history of some of DuVernay's ancestors—and several of those people were "white."

DuVernay identifies as black. This led to the good natured exchange in question.

Professor Gates was about to let DuVernay see the results of her DNA test. At issue was the following question:

How much of DuVernay's DNA had tracked back to Europe? How much of her DNA had tracked back to African roots?

As you can see if you watch the tape, the exchange between Gates and DuVernay was partly comic—though also, in part it was not.  

Eventually, it became clear that this question did matter to DuVernay. Under current arrangements, there's no reason why it shouldn't.

Eventually, DuVernay read the results of her DNA profile. She was thrilled with the results, leading Gates to ask the best question ever asked:

GATES: Can you read those percentages?

DUVERNAY: 57.3 percent African—thank you! 41.5 percent European. This makes me so happy.

GATES (chuckling): I can tell.

DUVERNAY: This makes me so happy.

GATES: Wait a minute. What difference does it make?

"What difference does it make?" the professor asked. Yesterday, we told you what we assume he meant.

We assume he meant that the DNA in question is all just human DNA. It doesn't make any actual difference what part of the world it tracks to.

DuVernay went on to say this: "It does make a difference to me." Her affable host didn't push his guest on the question he had asked.

We're assuming we know what Gates meant.  We're assuming he meant what every liberal will eventually say, but at this time only when pushed.

We're assuming he meant that there's no biological meaning to the concept of "race." Beyond that, we're assuming he meant that all our DNA is just plain old human DNA. There are no essential differences in the various strands of our DNA , no matter where they "came from."

Is that what Professor Gates meant? Were he here, we'd ask! 

Among his many strengths, Gates is comfortable talking about "race," no matter what "race" his guest might be. He may understand that, quoting the poet, "them old dreams are all in your head." (Though of course, that's only true concerning "race" in the biological sense.)

There was absolutely nothing wrong with DuVernay's jocular reaction to the DNA reveal. On the other hand, her reaction—her obviously heartful feelings—may not make perfect sense.

Most of our reactions and feelings make something less than perfect sense. Tomorrow, though, we're going to start asking a type of "new age" question:

At one time, the liberal world emphasized the idea that "there's no such thing as race." Today, progressive thinking has taken Our Town in a vastly different direction.

Add in a highly performative mainstream press corps and we may start to achieve an unhelpful blend concerning this central topic.  It isn't clear that a modern. continental nation can hope to endure, given the road we're now on.

There was nothing wrong with what DuVernay said. What she said was thoroughly human.

Professor Gates was a courteous host. But he did ask the world's greatest question.

At one time, it was a point of liberal emphasis—we people are all the same. Today, our emphasis has largely shifted to assertions of difference.  

Can a large nation function this way? Across the globe, humanitarians like Putin and Xi are happily betting we can't.

Tomorrow: A strikingly personal column

SAME OR DIFFERENT? Professor Gates asked a very good question!


Here's what we think he meant: For better or worse, a tiny bit of sleight of hand is frequently involved in the way Professor Gates discusses the family background of his guests on his fascinating PBS program, Finding Your Roots.

Routinely, Gates describes the life stories of a few of a subject's many ancestors. Routinely, he fails to note how many other ancestors are going undiscussed in the process.

Here's what we mean by that: 

Typically, a person will have one (biological) father, two (biological) grandfathers and four (biological)  great grandfathers. Moving farther back in time, a person will typically have as many as 16 "third grandfathers" (biological great great great grandfathers), along with 32 "fourth grandfathers." 

And so on, then on and on, moving farther and farther back along a family tree.

Quite often, Gates will tell the life story of some one of these 16 great great great grandfathers. He will seem to treat that person as if he was the only great great great grandfather of his celebrity guest. 

The celebrity guest will then be invited to draw some type of meaning from the circumstances of that one ancestor's life story. As she does, the celebrity guest ignores the fact that she has 15 other great great great grandfathers, whose life stories have gone unmentioned.

(The celebrity guest also has 16 great great great grandmothers. What about the life stories of them?)

There's a bit of sleight of hand in that procedure, but then, what else is new? Along the way, Gates often presents fascinating accounts of the lives certain people lived many long years in the past.

Back in 2017, Gates' interviewed Ava DuVernay, director of the Oscar-nominated film, Selma, for his PBS program. During the bulk of the session, Gates discussed the life stories of a few of DuVernay's many ancestors. 

At the end of the session, Gates presented a study of DuVernay's DNA, as he does with many of his guests. This produced a fascinating, good-natured exchange between DuVernay and Gates. 

In the course of this exchange, Professor Gates asked The Best Question Ever Asked. This is the question he asked:

"What difference does it make?"

The question was asked in a good-natured way. DuVernay responded in kind. In the course of their exchange, Gates and DuVernay both laughed.

That said, we think Gates' question has great significances for our floundering nation's current cultural moment.  At issue was this more specific pair of questions:

How much of DuVernay's DNA traces back to Europe? Also, how much of her DNA traces back to sub-Saharan Africa?

Before Gates let her discover the answers, DuVernay made it very clear that she was hoping for a particular outcome. It was in that context that Professor Gates asked the best question ever asked.

"What difference does it make" he jocularly asked. What difference does it make whether the bulk of your DNA traces back to Europe at some point in time, or whether the bulk of your DNA traces back to Africa?

Somewhat jokingly, DuVernay made it clear that it mattered to her a great deal. Gates seemed to ask if it should make a difference. We understood Gates to be saying this:

It's all just human DNA. There's no essential difference.

Are we the people of our struggling nation essentially all the same? Are we all just plain old humans? Or in our various "racial" and ethnic groups, are we the people essentially different from one another, in fundamental ways?

At one point, the idea that we're all the same lay at the very heart of liberal belief and dogma. The notion that there's no such thing as "race"—that so-called race is just "a social construct"—lay at the very heart of liberal understanding.

A very large shift has occurred in Our Town over the past fifty years. It seems to us that this shift in thinking lay at the heart of Gates' jocular question, the best question ever asked.

At The Root, Breanna Edwards wrote a profile of this exchange between DuVernay and Gates. Accurately, Edwards wrote this:

"It was confirmation of her racial background that gave DuVernay a lot of joy and cause for celebration."

In our view, that's an accurate account of one part of this jocular exchange concerning DuVernay's DNA. 

In her profile, Edwards quoted a good chunk of what DuVernay said. She didn't quote Professor Gates as he presented the best question ever asked, but we think his question went to the heart of this floundering nation's current cultural moment:

Are we the people of this flailing nation fundamentally the same? Or are we fundamentally different?

Also, in what ways might we be different? Where do those differences come from? How fundamental are they?

There's no "correct" answer to these questions, except to the extent that there is. Computer willing, we'll be exploring these questions all this week, and in the weeks which follow.

As President Biden has noted, Vladimir Putin is betting that we the people can't sustain—that our differences, real or perceived, are going to drive us into the sea. He's betting that our internal divisions will let autocracy win.

We can't say that Putin is wrong in that assessment! For today, we'll suggest that you read Edwards' account in The Root. Tomorrow, we'll move on from there.

Are the autocrats going to bury us, much as the head of the Soviet Union once dramatically said? We think the best question ever asked goes to the heart of that question.

We think Gates asked a seminal question—the best question ever asked. He was smiling when he did, but his question leads on and on.

Tomorrow: The tale of the (video)tape

Coming Thursday: A remarkable column in The Nation

Expected on Friday: Could this approach produce a modern Babel—a Babel all the way down?

The New York Times attempts to report!

MONDAY, MARCH 29, 2021

This is your brain on human: To what extent are we the people really the rational animal?

For starters, we refer you to Saturday's report concerning what Rachel Maddow said last Tuesday night. 

Last Wednesday night, she offered an attack on Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) which struck us as almost equally fanciful. But Tuesday's report about Joe Manchin (D-West Va.) carried the culture of novelization all the way over to the realm of crazy/pure fairy tale.

As we've been noting since 2009, this sort of thing is quite common on this popular TV program—but so what? Here in Our Town, we love Our Own Rhodes Scholar's work—her "performance of the Rachel figure," as Janet Malcolm once strangely put it in a profile in The New Yorker. 

The average viewer doesn't see that Maddow's work is frequently massively flawed. Meanwhile, career liberal journalists who know that it is are never going to tell us.

In the other tribe's towns, they're told about groaners like this. We aren't told Over Here.

On Our Town's channels, much as on Fox, almost everything is permitted. In a similar vein, consider a piece of reporting in today's New York Times.

We refer to Andrew Jacobs' news report about vaccine delivery in the South. Online, the headlines say this:

‘All Hands on Deck’: When Vaccinating Black People Is a Communal Effort
In the face of limited transportation, patchy internet service and threadbare medical care, community leaders in Alabama and Mississippi are trying to shrink the racial disparities in vaccine access.

In short, the news report seems to discuss racial disparities in vaccine access across the Southern states. But how bad is that racial disparity? We don't know, in large part because of work like this:

JACOBS (3/28/21): Across the Southern states, Black doctors, Baptist preachers and respected community figures like Ms. Oliver are trying to combat lingering vaccine skepticism while also helping people overcome logistical hurdles that have led to a troubling disparity in vaccination rates between African-Americans and whites.

Though local leaders have made headway combating the hesitancy, they say the bigger obstacles are structural: the large stretches of Alabama and Mississippi without an internet connection or reliable cellphone service, the paucity of medical providers, and a medical establishment that has long overlooked the health care needs of African-Americans.

As it is, this region has some of the worst health outcomes in the country, and the coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately hit African-Americans, who have been dying at twice the rate of whites.

Alabama is one of the few states that does not require vaccine providers to report data on race, but health officials estimate that just 15 percent of the shots have gone to African-Americans, who make up 27 percent of Alabama’s population and 31 percent of all deaths from Covid-19. Whites, who make up 69 percent of residents, have received 54 percent of the vaccine supply, according to the state data, which is missing details on race for a quarter of vaccine recipients.

In Mississippi, 40 percent of Covid-19 deaths have occurred among African-Americans—a figure comparable to their portion of the population—but just 29 percent of the vaccines have gone to Black residents compared with 62 percent for whites, who make up nearly 60 percent of the state’s population.

That passage includes the following claim: African-Americans "have been dying [of Covid] at twice the rate of whites" across the Southern states.

That may well be true! But online, the report offers no link in support of that claim. And in the next two paragraphs, the report offers statistics from Alabama and Mississippi which don't seem to support that claim.

According to Jacobs' report, African-Americans "make up 27 percent of Alabama’s population and 31 percent of all deaths from Covid-19."  

Assuming those numbers are accurate, that represents a mild disproportion. Meanwhile, in the next paragraph, we're told about Covid deaths in Mississippi:

In that state, "40 percent of Covid-19 deaths have occurred among African-Americans—a figure comparable to their portion of the population."

Citizens, do you understand that? Very frankly, we don't. In Alabama, there's a very mild racial disproportion in the occurrence of Covid deaths. In Mississippi, there seems to be no disproportion at all. 

These data seem to fly in the face of Jacobs' claim about deaths in the Southern states as a whole. But no one at the New York Times seems to have noticed the oddness of this presentation—and consider what happens when we return to the question of vaccine distribution:

In Alabama, we're told that whites are 69 percent of the population, but are receiving 54 percent of the vaccine supply. In the case of Mississippi, we're told that whites are 60 percent of the population, but are receiving 62 percent of the vaccine supply.

Do you see any disparities yet? Very frankly, we do not—and since Alabama doesn't even have racial data for 25 percent of its vaccinations, there was never any reason to include that state's useless numbers at all. 

One disparity does seem to turn up in the case of Mississippi. We're told that blacks constitute 40 percent of the state's population but have received just 29 percent of the vaccine supply.

 Unfortunately, this creates a new statistical mystery. If blacks are getting 29 percent of Mississippi's vaccine supply, and whites are getting 62 percent, that means that 9 percent of the state's vaccine supply is unaccounted for. 

Where did all that missing vaccine go? Please don't ask the New York Times! The Times doesn't even seem to see that a statistical problem exists in any of this material!

Does that passage make any sense? In one respect, it doesn't. In the case of these two Deep South states, it doesn't seem to document or support the claims about disproportionate Covid deaths and vaccination rates.

In another respect, the passage does make a type of sense. It shows us that, at newspapers like the Times, nothing has to make any sense just as long as it can be made to (seem to) support some preapproved Storyline. 

That passage makes virtually no sense at all; neither did Maddow's long, upside-down report about Manchin. In Our Town, it isn't so much that nobody cares about howlers like these—it's more that nobody notices.

With regard to the Times report, what is the actual truth about these important topics? :Ladies and gentlemen, don't ask us! At this site, we read the Times, Our failing Town's leading newspaper! 

Final key point: Your lizard will insist that what we're saying is wrong. Your lizard loves tribal Storyline. Your lizard believes that, by definition, everything else is wrong.

How did that passage get into the Times? When we posed that question to top anthropologists, the piteous sounds of weeping emerged from their dark, musty, unfurnished caves. 

Starting tomorrow: SAME OR DIFFERENT?

MONDAY, MARCH 29, 2021

But also, Democracy or bust: Abraham Lincoln wasn't sure that American democracy, such as it was, could survive the Civil War.

He voiced that concern at the start of his famous speech at Gettysburg—the Gettysburg Address:

LINCOLN (11/19/63): Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.

That's the way he started.

Lincoln referred to both "fathers" and "men." Beyond that, he said the new American nation had been built upon the idea that "all men are created equal."

All people weren't being treated as equal within that new nation—but that nation had at least rejected the ancient notion of rule by kings and queens.

Could any such nation really expect to endure? In effect, the whole world was watching as a shockingly brutal war tested that proposition—a war which could have divided that nation in two.

At the end of his famous speech, Lincoln said that we the people should "take increased devotion to that cause for which" soldiers had died at Gettysburg. We should devote ourselves to the notion "that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

There is, of course, no perfect way to institute any such government. It's also true that, even in 1776, the British government against which an earlier war was conducted had ceased to be wholly based upon rule by kings and queens.

Still, Lincoln saw the Southern secession as a sign that we the regular people might not be up to the task of maintaining stable self-government. Eventually, Union forces won the war, and the United States continued along as a single nation.

Today, that nation functions very poorly, almost clownishly, in many major respects. In part because of new technologies and modern media, we're dividing into an array of warring tribes. 

We lack a sufficiently evil external enemy, a source of national unity. It can sometimes seem that a wide array of identity groups are creating a modern Babel.

Also, the dumbness is general. That said, a second problem arises—we're so dumb that we can't even see this about ourselves..

As this is happening, several major anti-democrats think our system is doomed. At his press event last Thursday, Joe Biden named two such people—Putin and Xi. 

As we noted last Friday, Biden said that Putin and Xi think our system is destined to fail. At the end of yesterday's column, Maureen Dowd quoted part of what Biden said

DOWD (3/28/21): Republicans are grasping to find something to throw at Biden. Their only ammo is weak: tabloid trash about his son and the absurd idea that Joe is out of it, a smear that only became more risible after watching Thursday’s news conference. He was calm, despite the monumental nature of his plans. He seemed to know his own mind—a nice contrast with his predecessor, who was out of his mind.

Republicans are out of touch with their own voters, many of whom seem to like free money and the possibility that Biden, unlike Trump, actually wants to go big on infrastructure, rather than frittering away his days hitting the links and tweet-trashing Bette Midler.

“Republican voters agree with what I’m doing,” Biden said.

The president knows that the American identity is on the line.

“I predict to you,” he told reporters, “your children or grandchildren are going to be doing their doctoral thesis on the issue of who succeeded, autocracy or democracy, because that is what is at stake.”

In that passage, Dowd chuckles at am unavoidable appearance—the appearance that we the people will approve any legislative proposal, just so long as we get $1400 per person as part of the deal.

She said that President Trump was "out of his mind" during his time in the White House. We can't say we disagree with that, although we'd rather see serious medical specialists discuss this matter in serious ways, using grown-up language.

Dowd said that Republican officials have little ammunition to use against Biden. She said these officials are out of touch with their own voters.

We think she's whistling in the dark when she makes these pleasing statements. She also said that Biden was calm at his press event. It seemed to us that he also doddered a good deal—and that's what those Republican voters are now being told on Fox.

As Dowd ended, she referred to Biden's remarks about Putin and Xi—to the bet he said they're making. They're betting that autocracy is going to win, Biden said at his presser.

Is autocracy going to win? We can't swear that it won't.

In our view, Dowd has played a major role in our nation's descent into clownishness over the past thirty years. 

So have the poobahs at her frequently clownish newspaper. These poobahs apparently thought that "Creeping Dowdism"—that was Katherine Boo's prescient term—was the way of the future in our political journalism. 

(For Joe Klein's unverifiable anecdote about the moment when this judgment was made, you can just click here. Mondale didn't know who to hug! To the brass, that seemed profound!)

Dowd said Trump had been out of his mind. She didn't mention the fairly  obvious ways she herself had seemed to endorse him in 2016, when she rather plainly seemed to hate Candidate Clinton more.

She didn't mention her endless columns devoted to Candidate Gore's bald spot. She didn't mention the way we over here, in the liberal world, were too gullible, too lazy and dumb to rise up against the Dowdism which crept, then spread and finally congealed as it came to define our childish, failing journalism.

Lincoln was a mental giant. Today, we pretty much aren't, not even here in Our Town.

In our view, it's true that Trump was "out of his mind" during his four years in office. But what can a sensible person say about the silly journalism and advocacy widely observed in Our Town?

Our view? It's no longer true that we the people, here in Our Town, believe that we're a nation at all. Can any assemblage so conceived survive as a functioning state?

We don't think it's entirely clear. More on this topic all week.

Tomorrow: Chuckling, Professor Gates asked a question: "What difference does it make?" 

What Maddow said about Joe Manchin!


The parable of the French cuffs: We the people love our "stories." We love our novelized tales.

As a case in point, consider a letter in this morning's Washington Post. Robin Givhan had published this critique of Joe Biden's press event. This morning, a reader spills with praise for Givhan's attention to detail:

It's the little things

All praise to Robin Givhan for once again turning her finely tuned fashion eye to small details that give us fresh insight into the impact of presentation on political perception. In her March 12 news column, “Biden spoke without swagger, to lift a weary nation,” she highlighted small gestures—the president’s slow removal of his mask, his polished attire (white French cuffs), the way he leaned into the camera to send signals—to convey the importance of still wearing masks, the potential for institutional power to make things better and the extent to which reaching the “shaft of light at the end of a dark horror” depends on all of us.  

Givhan is an astute observer, and we’re grateful for her persistent efforts to help us see and understand more of our world.

In all candor, it isn't the little things. Nothing was conveyed or changed by the fact that Biden was wearing French cuffs.

Givhan has been at this sort of thing forever, as has the wider press corps. Perhaps because we the people are so highly educated, we're inclined to credit her interpretations of the signals and symbols involved in the ways our top politicians dress.

In truth, the speed with which Biden removed his mask will have no effect on anything. Over on Fox, the French cuffs will be taken as a sign that the president is an elitist who's hopelessly out of touch.

Our sainted mother and her sisters always loved their "stories" (their favorite soaps). There was no reason why they shouldn't have.

That said, even on the highest levels, we continue to interpret politics as if we're watching our soaps. Our biggest stars invent, and sell, their heroes and their demons. They take vast liberties with basic facts, and with  Enlightenment values, as they perform these chores.

Sitting at home, we trust the judgments of the stars Our Town has come to trust. We repeat the pleasing things they say, never checking to see if they're accurate, rarely asking if they even make sense.

So it went this past Tuesday night on the Maddow Show. 

Rachel Maddow delivered her standard, 25-minute opening monologue. Most of it was devoted to an angry, sarcastic roasting of her current leading demon, the evil Senator Manchin (D-W.Va.).

At the heart of her scathing attack was a lengthy attempt to describe Manchin's behavior in April 2013, in the wake of the Newtown school shooting deaths. 

The diatribe began at 9:08 Eastern; it ran at least ten minutes, depending on where you want to say it finally stopped. Comically, the angry, sarcastic "cable news" star said this early on:

MADDOW (3/23/21): You might remember how this all unfolded. You're forgiven if it has blurred together over the years because of the way these things always resolve. But remember how this how this happened.

The cable star said we'd be forgiven if our memory was blurred. From there, she proceeded to offer a crazy, upside-down account of "how this all unfolded." 

Within hours, liberal sites were shrieking with praise for the cable star's brilliance. Town criers praised the inspiring way she had described Manchin's perfidy in the case of the April 2013 Manchin-Toomey proposal.

As we noted on Wednesday, Maddow's account of this matter was stupendously inaccurate. On its face, it didn't make any sense.

If we hadn't seen her do this sort of thing before, we would have found it hard to believe that her angry, sarcastic account could be as bogus as it was. That said, the star's account was stupendously bogus—utterly, manically, crazily inaccurate, misleading and false. 

It may be that the star's devoted staff wrote the material, and she simply performed it. But as a service to future historians, even if they're huddled in caves, we thought we ought to create a record of what this TV star said.

Luckily, we found a site which had transcribed the bulk of the TV star's rambling remarks. The TV star's corporate owners no longer provide that service, for reasons which strike us as perhaps  being blindingly obvious.

Today, we offer a quick review of The Case of What The Cable Star Said:

The Manchin-Toomey proposal was a late-gasp attempt to move an expansion of background checks for gun buyers through the Senate. Technically, it was an amendment to a pre-existing, more extensive proposal which, as everyone knew by that time (by April 2013), was plainly doomed to defeat,

The proposal was endorsed and supported by President Obama. In this report, the New York Times named one of its co-sponsors (headline included):

STEINHAUER (4/10/13): A Senator’s Search for an Ally Keeps a Gun Bill Alive


The politics of the deal are so fragile that Mr. Toomey asked that one of the Democratic co-sponsors of the amendment, Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, not appear at a news conference Wednesday morning, Senate aides said. Mr. Schumer agreed, and told Mr. Manchin at the 50th-birthday party of the television host Joe Scarborough that he would not be attending.

Schumer was one of the measure's co-sponsors. The politics of the matter were extremely fragile. 

At any rate, the proposal was supported by President Obama—and it was hotly opposed by the NRA. After the proposal failed to achieve the required sixty votes in the Senate, Obama angrily condemned by the NRA for having lied about its provisions. 

On April 17, the proposal failed, despite receiving 54 Senate votes. All but five of the Senate's 55 Democrats voted in favor of the Manchin-Toomey proposal—and one of the five was Majority Leader Harry Reid, who supported the proposal but voted against it on the basis of  one of the Senate's three million arcane procedural rules.

(To peruse the roll call, click here.)

On the other side of the aisle, all but four of the Senate's 45 Republicans voted against the proposal. In other words, Manchin-Toomey was a Democratic Party proposal. It was opposed by almost all Senate Republicans, in line with the NRA. It was Senator Toomey, not Senator Manchin, who was behaving as a "traitor to his class."

None of these facts was ever mentioned during Maddow's lunatic presentation. The presentation made so little sense that it's hard to find a few key nuggets to quote. Below, you see the way the crazy diatribe started.

All across the liberal web, believers rushed to praise the star for her brilliant presentation. If there actually is a future, and if that future includes historians, we think such scholars should take note of what this overwrought crackpot said about Manchin's role in this failed Democratic proposal.

We offer this note to future historians. This represents the state of our failing nation's lapsed intellect as of March 23, 2021:

MADDOW (continuing directly): After Sandy Hook, Vice President Biden put in charge of a task force which moves with incredible alacrity, incredible speed, to come up with concrete proposals for things that can be done to try to reduce the number of people killed by guns in this country.

President Obama proposed just what you heard there, universal background checks. Background checks should be run on the buyer any time anybody wants to buy a gun in this country.

Ninety percent-plus support for that among the American people. And it's simple. You have to have a background check if you want to buy a gun. That's a simple idea. Overwhelming support, near unanimous support among the American people. 

But Republicans in Congress, including Republicans in the Senate, are not among that 90 percent plus, apparently. And they decided instead that they would go for something even lower than that smallest, unambitious, simple goal. 

Conservative Democrat Joe Manchin and Republican Pat Toomey, both with A ratings from the NRA, they said that they wouldn't pursue, they wouldn't allow the pursuit of a simple rule that there ought to be a background check if you want to buy a gun. Instead, they had their own idea and they said they could get it done. 

They had their own way. They had something that they said they could pass. We wouldn't actually do what more than 90 percent of the country wanted to do. We'll instead just do a tiny little piece of it, because they said so. 

So instead of that simple thing, saying you have to have a background check in order to buy a gun, full stop, Senator Manchin and Senator Toomey said, "No, no, no. We think that's a terrible idea. We're against that. We know that more than 90 percent of the public is for it, we're against it, but we've got another idea.

"Our idea is that the law will be changed to just say you have to have a background check if you buy a gun at a gun show or on the Internet. We'll only extend background checks that far. Gun show purchases, Internet purchases. That's it."

It is hard to imagine a smaller reform, but that is what they said they would do. That's what they said they could do. And so the rest of the country, again, more than 90 percent of whom just want fricking background checks for gun sales, full stop—the rest of the country stood back to let these very serious, very credible senators pursue this basically rinky-dink, tiny reform instead, because they said that was something they could get done. And they failed. 

They couldn't even get that done. Not through the United States Senate. Not even right after the Sandy Hook massacre, 

Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey were convinced. They convinced the whole political class that they had magic gravitas on this issue to show that the legislative process in the United States Senate can be trusted to work to do at least the smallest imaginable thing on an issue of overwhelming public concern.

They were wrong. They could not even do that one pitiful thing. Not in the U.S. Senate. Not with filibuster rules in place that say a majority vote doesn't count. And so nothing happened in American law. No law changed. Nothing made it through Congress. 

The star was just getting started at this point, but the lunacy was already apparent. For starters, let's note one tiny factual point:

The cable star said, again and again, that Manchin had "an A rating" from the NRA. For the record, that was true at the time of the Manchin-Toomey proposal.

That was no longer true after the Manchin-Toomey proposal. When Manchin ran for re-election in 2018, the NRA gave him a D rating and endorsed his Republican opponent, complaining about the way he had conspired with Obama to extend gun control.

(Luckily, Manchin was able to hold on to his Senate seat, if by a narrow margin. Had he lost, Mitch McConnell would still be running the Senate. President Biden's $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan—Senator Manchin voted for it—would never have come up for a vote.)

In other words, Manchin sacrificed his NRA rating in the course of trying to extend background checks. The cable star never mentioned this fact. We'll guess that her staff didn't include that fact in the lengthy, soap opera-style diatribe they prepared for the star to perform.

The omission of that fact was comical but ugly. Now, let's consider the overall lunacy of what the cable star said:

The cable star made it sound like it would have been a simple thing to pass the initial, "unambitious" proposal for universal background checks. That's like saying that your neighbor's cow could easily jump to the moon.

In fact, the need for Manchin-Toomey arose after it had become clear that the original measure couldn't possibly garner sixty votes. On the Democratic side of the aisle, everyone from Obama on down stood in support of Manchin-Toomey because it was clear that this would be the best they could possibly hope to do.

On Tuesday evening, the cable star disappeared this obvious point. Instead, she offered a crazy account, in which Manchin and Toomey, by some unexplained act of legerdemain, persuaded Majority Leader Reid to forget the original "unambitious" proposal and vote on their measure instead.

You'd have to be crazy to think that made sense, but that's what the furious cable star said—and all across La La Land, liberal sites sang the praises of her obvious brilliance. Other career liberals—career liberals who knew how stupid this was—also knew that they mustn't say such things  about a tribal star.

This cable star has performed this way again and again and again and again down through the annals of cable news time. We're sure that she's a good decent person away from her need for wealth and fame, but she also seems a bit unstable, and she seems to possess almost zero political judgment.

(She's been bashing red-state Democrats in ridiculous, unintelligent ways ever since her corporate bosses put her on the air.)

Her crazy episodes have been many. Some have been episodes of commission; others have been episodes of omission and avoidance. But The Crazy runs riot on this corporate cable news show as we liberals roll over and die, in thrall to Storyline.

The cable star is a corporate confection. She was sold to us as Our Own Rhodes Scholar, and she's extremely skilled at the process known as "selling the car."

Meanwhile, we the people are fairly sure that those French cuffs made all the difference. As a result of these manifestations, Future Historians Weeping In Caves often come to us, always late at night.

"It all began with those dick jokes in 2009," they despondently say, referring to the cable news star. "Jon Stewart even told her to stop!"

("Is this the upshot of your experiment" We suspect that they're working from that.)

What have they done with the real Kaitlan Collins?

FRIDAY, MARCH 26, 2021

The cult of the upper-end press: The whole thing started with Nancy Cordes of CBS News. 

She could have asked Joe Biden anything. Instead, she asked him this:

CORDES (3/25/21): On a related note, have you decided whether you are going to run for reelection in 2024? You haven't set up a reelection campaign yet as your predecessor had by this time.

Has he decided to run in 2024? Skillfully, we glanced at the calendar. Just as we expected, it still said 2021!

Biden has been president for barely two months. The slate is crowded with major issues, procedural and substantive both.

Cordes could have asked about any topic. Instead, she wanted to know why Biden hasn't declared for re-election yet, the way The Craziest Boy in History had already done at this point.

Everyone thought it was totally nuts when Crazy Boy started so early. But given the chance to approach any issue, Cordes was wondering why Biden hasn't done the same thing!

Biden gave the shortest possible answer. He said it's his intention to run.

Then he turned to CNN's Kaitlan Collins—and the analysts came out of their chairs. After some questions about the filibuster, Collins came out with this:

COLLINS: You made news by saying you are going to run for reelection. 

BIDEN: I said that is my expectation. 

COLLINS: So that is a yes, that you are running for reelection?

BIDEN: I don’t know where you guys come from. I am a great respecter of fate. I have never been able to plan for three and a half years ahead for certain. 

COLLINS: If you do, will Vice President Harris be on your ticket? 

BIDEN: I would expect that to be the case. She’s doing a great job. She’s a great partner. 

COLLINS: Do you believe you will be running against former President Trump? 

We're grateful that she didn't ask him if he had bumper stickers yet. Wondering what planet he found himself on, the embattled Biden said this:

BIDEN: Oh, come on. I don't even think about it. I have no idea. I have no idea whether there'll be a Republican Party. Do you? I know you don't have to answer my question, but I mean, you know, do you?

At that point, he offered a short, effective speech about who he's in office to serve.

In fairness, no one asked him to state his view about which royal made which royal cry about the bridesmaids' dresses. 

Does he feel bad that Meghan and Harry are going to have to make do with a $15 million house? Nobody pushed him on that!

He was allowed to duck those points. But asking those re-elections questions in March 2021? We'll call it a cultural lesson.

Let it be said that we're big Kaitlan Collins fans at this particular site. Due to her youth and her inexperience, we were major skeptics when CNN hired her and assigned her a major post, all at age 25. 

But at one point during The First Covid Year, Collins stood up to the ludicrous President Trump in a way no colleague was willing to do. We've been fans ever since. We vastly admire her confidence.

The analysts moaned when Collins asked that string of re-election questions. It's very, very hard to grasp how empty the guild's culture is.

Final point:

Are they finding it hard to quit Donald J. Trump? Even Collins, who we want to admire, couldn't help bringing him up!

SPECIES AND TOWN: High-end columnist(s) baffled!

FRIDAY, MARCH 26, 2021

Putin, Xi get their wings: Despite questions about whether he plans to run for re-election, who he thinks he'll be running against, and whether he plans to make Vice President Harris his running-mate again:

Despite those astonishing questions, President Biden made some significant statements at yesterday's press conference. 

His most striking statement involved the battle over the emerging world order. It's rare that you hear an American office holder speak as clearly as this:

BIDEN (3/25/21): I’ve known Xi Jinping for a long time. Allegedly by the time I left office as Vice President, I had spent more time with Xi Jinping than any world leader had...

I spent hours upon hours with him alone with an interpreter, my interpreter and his, going into great detail. [inaudible] very, very straightforward. He doesn’t have a democratic, with a small d, bone in his body, but he’s a smart, smart guy. 

He’s one of the guys, like Putin, who thinks that autocracy is the wave of the future and democracy can’t function in an ever-complex world.

That was an unusually straightforward account of the emerging battle for the future world order. As Biden explained, Putin and Xi are placing a bet:

They're betting that a messy system like ours can't prevail in an increasingly complex world.

"The future lies in who can, in fact, own the future as it relates to technology, quantum computing, a whole range of things, including the medical fields," Biden said a moment later. That said, the future also lies in this:

The future lies in whether a country like ours can conduct a presidential press conference, sixty days into a term, without a major journalist asking a series of astonishing questions about a presidential campaign which won't take place for four years. Less politely, the question is this:

Are we simply too stupid at this point to compete with determined autocrats?

Are we too stupid to compete? Experts say we quite possibly are. Yesterday's questions are one example. Then too, we have the endless tribal meltdowns which now consume our polarized world, even here in Our Town.

We're extremely self-impressed in Our Town, but we're also strikingly dumb. As our nation succumbs to a growing tribal divide, we engage in a  rapidly-shifting series of  performative episodes designed to display our allegiance to tribal verities.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but these episodes are very dumb. Two weeks ago, it was all about Oprah and a pair of multimillionaire royals. 

By now, that jaw-dropping foolishness has disappeared. It will never be heard from again!

According to major anthropologists, our species' repetitive descent into tribal war has always operated in this manner:

As tribal division seems to grow, members of respective tribes become more and more unsettled. These individuals keep looking for ways to affirm their membership in the tribal group and their allegiance to hard tribal verities.

In effect, these episodes are a series of "tulip crazes," each one less intelligent than the last. In an ideal world, a nation's thought leaders—its professors and its journalists—help extricate these tribal groups from their descent into polarized madness.

Here in Our Town, an awkward fact obtains. Our upper end journalists are simply too dumb to serve this essential purpose. 

They've proven this fact again and again and again over at least the past three or four decades.. According to experts, there's no clear way out of this ongoing mess.

Consider what happened last week when a 21-year-old man shot and killed eight people in Atlanta. Six of the victims were Asian-American women.

Here in Our Town, journalists quickly turned to preapproved tribal script. These killings were an expression of anti-Asian racism, a wide range of pundits said.

At the Washington Post, columnists took numbers and stood in line, awaiting the chance to give voice to this preapproved conclusion. In truth, these people just aren't very sharp. They and their colleagues have been proving this point for three or four decades by now.

How weak were the analytical skills put on display at this time? How under-endowed are these people? On Friday, March 19, Monica Hesse, the Washington Post's gender columnist, started her column with this:

HESSE (3/19/21): Here is how local law enforcement on Tuesday bafflingly explained its thinking about the Atlanta-area shooting suspect who had confessed to killing eight people, including six Asian women, at three local spas: “He apparently has an issue, what he considers a sex addiction,” a captain from Cherokee County said at a Wednesday news conference. It was too early to tell, officers said, if the incident was a “hate crime.”

The major columnist said she was baffled by what "local law enforcement" had said. 

Within one paragraph, the major journalist had contradicted herself about the day on which the baffling comments in question were made. Were the baffling statements made on Tuesday or on Wednesday?

The columnist let you decide. That said, the baffling statement in question was this:

On the first day after these killings, "local law enforcement" had said it was too early to tell if the incident was a "hate crime."  (Comments by the head of the FBI were excluded from Hesse's column.)

In what world does a major journalist find such conduct baffling? In what world does a major journalist think that local law enforcement should voice instant judgments about technical legal matters?

Alas! The world in which journalists find that baffling is the world in which we all live. And, as she continued directly, here's what the journalist said:

HESSE (continuing directly): Here is what Christine Liwag Dixon, a Filipino American writer and musician, thought about after she heard that clip. She thought about how she was once offered money for a “happy-ending massage,” even though she is not a massage therapist and never has been. She thought about all the men who have told her they’re “into Asian women” and expected her to take it as a compliment. She thought about the time she went outside to call an Uber while her husband paid a restaurant bill and a group of men cornered her, one of them chanting “Me love you long time” while standing so close she could feel his breath on her neck.

Of course the shootings were racially motivated, she thought. Of course they were motivated by gender. They were both.

Thar is the way this journalist reasons. A writer/musician had a certain thought. And so, for some unstated reason, that thought had to be correct! 

Of course, it wasn't just any writer/musician who had the thought in question; the writer/musician was Filipino American. To the major American journalist, this seemed to mean that her thoughts on this particular matter must be accurate.

The writer/musician had quickly judged that the killings were racially motivated and motivated by gender. And of course, it was entirely possible that each of those claims—fuzzy as they were—might be true in this matter.

The claims in question might be true, and so might the claim about "hate crimes." To the journalist, it was baffling when local law enforcement didn't skip attempts at investigation and say so right away!

The journalist said she was baffled that law enforcement didn't instantly use the legal term "hate crime." Below, you see the astonishing way she argued for the first of the writer/musician's slightly different claims.

We'll start you off with this:

HESSE: Of course the Atlanta shootings represented gender-based violence. Asian Americans of all genders reported an increase in harassment in 2020—racist responses to coronavirus misinformation, which was amplified by the previous White House. But in new research from Stop AAPI Hate, Asian American women reported harassment incidents 2.3 times as often as male counterparts.

"Of course the Atlanta shootings represented gender-based violence," the confident journalist wrote. And in some ways, that statement is plainly true!

When eight people are shot and killed, we're plainly talking about violence. But was the violence "gender-based?" In all depend on what you mean by the term, and the journalist didn't stop to explain. Nor, in any rational world, did those harassment data help.

Meanwhile, were the killings based on race? Here's how the journalist nailed down that (murky) claim:

HESSE (continuing directly): And as for race-based violence: A law enforcement official said the shooter was attempting to remove the “temptation” that “these places” presented him—a victim-blaming notion on its face.

But the shooter’s route between Young’s Asian Massage—where Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, Delaina Ashley Yaun and Paul Andre Michels were killed—and his second destination took him past several adult businesses.

He could have stopped at strip clubs, pornographic video stores or multiple shops lined with wall-to-wall dildoes. But he didn’t. He drove 27 miles to Gold Spa, where he allegedly killed three Asian women, and then crossed the street to Aromatherapy Spa, where he allegedly killed one more (the names of the victims at the final two establishments have not been released).

He chose businesses where the employees were not just women but Asian women, not just Asian women but lower-wage Asian women in a fetishized profession.

The journalist entered am extraneous point about "victim-blaming," then moved ahead to her proof. She said  the killer could have stopped at various sex establishments which weren't primarily run by people of Asian descent.

She chose to omit an obvious fact—the killer said he went to these particular places because he (and others) said that he had long been a customer of those establishments. As with the FBI director's remarks, these facts disappeared.

This pitiful bit of information suppression—of journalistic legerdemain—was widely performed at the Washington Post and everywhere else script is sold. Our journalists had a preferred Storyline. Discordant facts had to go.

Was did Robert Long kill those people? Were the killings driven by some sort of anti-Asian "racial" animus?

At this point, we don't know how to answer that question. Unlike the journalist, we're grateful when local police don't rush to state such conclusions.

This columnist found their professional reticence baffling. All around Our Town's upper-end press, other work was equally bad. (We wish we could work Capehart in.) 

All hints of journalistic or analytical skill were AWOL from that column. Concerning what Joseph Biden said, the moral we draw would be this:

Every time a bell rings, some angel reportedly gets his wings. And every time a columnist speaks, Vladimir Putin racks up his next win.

These columnists drive us toward tribal war through the use of approved Storyline. It's very, very dumb at Fox, but also quite dumb Over Here.

The spirit of mandated Storyline is spreading all through Our Town. Why are we sliding toward the sea, making seers of Xi and Putin?

Why are we sliding toward the sea? At long last—not that it will help—experts explain next week.

This afternoon: Those astonishing press conference questions

Tomorrow: For the sake of establishing the historical record, the text of what Maddow said

Looking ahead to Biden's first presser!


Who and what we are: In roughly half an hour, Joe Biden will he holding his first press conference.

Many topics need exploration. But this is the way the Washington Post is currently previewing the event:

Biden once called himself ‘a gaffe machine.’ Today’s news conference will test his discipline.

That's the way the presser is being teased on the front page of the Post's web site. But if you click through to Matt Visser's preview report, the word "gaffe" doesn't appear. That isn't his focus at all.

Some editor is in love with the gaffe—with the press corps' long-standing Gaffe Culture. That editor devised the teaser which appears near the top of the Post's web site.

Yesterday, Margaret Sullivan previewed the event in her regular column for the Post. This is the way she started:

SULLIVAN (3/24/21): The first news conference of a new administration is always a high-stakes affair for the White House.

How will the new president do under the glare of direct questioning from a crowd of correspondents? Will he utter a cringe-inducing gaffe? Will he actually make any real news?

But when President Biden steps to the lectern Thursday, the pressure will also be on the White House press corps themselves, as reporters recalibrate after the tumultuous, misinformation-filled years of Donald Trump to a president who is far less showy and, to date, much more truthful.

It’s a major test for news organizations and reporters in covering Biden.

Sad! When Sullivan pictured Biden's performance, her brain went directly to gaffes. Also, he might make some news!

According to Sullivan, today will be  "a major test for news organizations and reporters in covering Biden." She has already flunked her test. So has some headline/tease writer.

These people have been like this forever. This is the way our press corps thinks. 

Anthropologically, it's who and what they actually are. No, it's not going to change.

SPECIES AND TOWN: Major columnist baffled by cited remark!


The Case of the Cinnamon Toast Crunch: We were trying to walk the straight and narrow this morning. But there it was, confronting us, as we scanned the web site of today's Washington Post.

It was roughly 7 A.M. Eastern. According to the synopsis on the Post's web site, the paper's "most read" report was this:

Critics pounce on Meghan McCain’s comments about Asian representation on ‘The View’

Critics had pounced on McCain's remarks. Quickly, the Post pounced too.

As of 7 A.M., that report had attracted more readers than anything else the Post offered. Courageously, we clicked the proffered link. 

When we did, we encountered this news report by the Post's Meryl Kornfield,  a staff writer on the general assignment desk.

We feel quite certain that Kornfield is a good, decent person. Under the circumstances, she's also extremely young. She's completing her second year out of college (University of Florida, class of 2019).

Why are so many high-end reporters so amazingly young? We'll leave that to the cynics. 

The cynics tend to cite salary reduction. Quite possibly, Jeff Bezos hasn't been able to squeeze enough profit out of Amazon to keep the Post afloat.

Kornfield is surely a good, decent person. We don't have any idea who her unnamed editors are. 

But when we read Kornfield's "most read" report, we encountered the kind of journalism which now defines vast swaths of the national discourse. We encountered the kind of journalism which we would say is notably lacking in anything resembling journalistic or analytical skill.

Kornfield's report concerns public reaction (on social media) to something Meghan McCain said, or at least is said to have said. In fairness, it isn't real clear just what McCain said because Kornfield's report, like so much of our modern journalism, largely runs on the petrol called paraphrase.

McCain's remarks are paraphrased as the report begins. So are remarks by two Democratic senators. Their remarks were apparently under discussion when McCain said whatever it is she actually said on The View.

For better or worse, the remarks by those senators—Duckworth and Hirono—are paraphrased in a highly innocuous way. Possibly by way of contrast, in a news report just yesterday, the Post had reported this:

WANG ET AL (3/24/21): ...Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) vowed Tuesday afternoon to vote no on Biden’s “non-diversity” Cabinet nominees until the White House addressed the issue [of Asian-American inclusion]. 


All 15 of Biden’s Cabinet secretary slots have been filled, and there are no Asian Americans or Pacific Islanders among them, the first time in more than 20 years a president’s Cabinet has not included at least one AAPI secretary.

Duckworth said that during the past six months she has repeatedly offered the White House the names of “many well-qualified AAPIs” for Cabinet positions, but those individuals “never even got a phone call,” she said.

“At this point … they can call me and tell me what the proposal is,” Duckworth said of the White House. “But until then, I am a no vote on the floor on all non-diversity nominees. You know, I will vote for racial minorities and I will vote for LGBTQ. But anybody else, I’m not voting for.”

As of now, Duckworth will vote to confirm no "white" nominee for any position, unless the nominee is LGBTQ. She's willing to vote for an LGBTQ white woman, but not for a white woman who's straight.

Is something "wrong" with such a stance? Is there a possible point of concern lurking there?

Different people will answer those questions in different ways. We expect to discuss this matter in more detail next week. For now, we'd score the Duckworth position like this:

Perhaps a little bit strange, but not quite the end of the world.

That would be our instant assessment. But readers of the Post's "most read" report were never told what Duckworth had said. At two different points, Duckworth's position was admiringly paraphrased, arguably in the most innocuous possible way. 

Was that the remark which triggered the discussion on The View, a "more heat than light" daytime program? Based on the most-read report, we can't exactly tell you—and we had to read to paragraph 8 before we saw any quotation from McCain herself.

Even there, context was largely absent. This was a basically useless news report—but what else is different or new?

Go ahead—click anywhere on the dial! You're likely to find misleading data poorly explained; significant data which don't appear; slippery paraphrase driving excitement; or the latest bullroar from Rachel Maddow treated like the it came to us live and direct from the voice of God.

How dumb does it routinely get? Consider last night's Tucker Carlson Tonight. 

The Fox star started with the comments by Duckworth—remarks which may well merit discussion. But within minutes, he was back in the early 1940s, stupidly quoting stupid things a very young version of (the late) Sen. Robert Byrd had once stupidly said.

The presentation got very dumb very fast. One hour later, how much better did Maddow do? We don't think she did well at all but elsewhere, pundits were thrilled.

The Stupid is everywhere here in Our Town; it has long since run roughshod in Theirs. That said, it's unclear whether anyone knows about The Stupid's role in all human towns. It's the story of our tragicomical human race, but it's a story which gets disappeared.

(For ourselves, we still long to return to the turn of the last century—to Bertrand Russell's comical effort to come to terms which "the set of all sets not members of themselves," but also with "Russell's Paradox." That was a wonderfully comical case of analytical breakdown at the highest end of academic authority. More than a hundred years later, leading professors still revere the comical struggles in which Lord Russell engaged. Those who managed to wriggle free are given professorial side-eye. This is the way rationality works at the very top of the pile!)

In recent years, despondent anthropologists have come to us, reporting to us from the future. They've begged us to tell the actual story of our species, the so-called human race.

At times, they're briefly able to engage in wry humor. More often, they weep inside their caves. 

In this country, has the breakdown reached a point from which there will be no coming back? When we pose that question to these experts, they vanish into thin air. 

But our species wasn't made for tasks like these, these experts repeatedly tell us. They point to the recent onslaught of ten-minute topics which clearly exceed our grasp. 

These experts come to us on a daily basis. Recently, they pointed to the column which opened with the admission, by an upper-end columnist, that she was baffled by something a police spokesperson had said.

They call our attention to the war developing between our tribes. They recall the silly Southern boys at the start of Gone With the Wind: 

The silly boys tell Miss Scarlett they're eager for the start of the  war. An hour later, the camera draws back and we see their region's largest city in a state of devastation, with the dead and the dying lying on bare ground all around.

All over the press corps, the current generation of children cavort and happily play. At Slate, Elena Debre is still undergraduate age. Her latest attempt was this:

ELENA DEBRÉ / MARCH 23, 2021 / 6:00 PM
An Interview With the Guy Feuding With Cinnamon Toast Crunch Over an Alarming Discovery in His Cereal

The modern Slate crawls with bullsh*t like that. Meanwhile, this topic apparently rang some bells at the New York Times. 

The Times ran a news report on this key topic (headline: The Curious Case of the Cinnamon Toast Crunch Box). This morning, on page A3, it's the second entry in a list of "six of the most read, shared and discussed posts across NYTimes.com."

It's second in a list of six. So the great paper admitted.

This bullsh*t is now endless at Slate. At the Times, things are perhaps somewhat better.

But what is the state of basic skills among high-level press corps performers? Tomorrow, we'll visit the columnist who recently said that she was baffled, and we'll wonder why she was.

According to experts, our species simply isn't wired to deal with stressors like these. Tomorrow, we'll explore an example or two.

Next week, we'll let them explain.

Tomorrow: Not unlike Lord Russell himself, baffled all the way down

Our Own Rhodes Scholar does it again!


Bizarro World meets Manchin: It's amazing how badly a person can be misled and misinformed by watching "cable news." 

As a case in point, consider Rachel Maddow's upside-down performance last night concerning the 2013 Manchin-Toomey proposal.

Maddow's account of this event lasted at least ten minutes. In the course of her bizarre presentation, she reactivated her angry, sarcasm-loaded loathing of Joe Manchin (D-WVa). She also completely misinformed her viewers about the failed attempt to pass gun legislation in the wake of the Newtown killings.

Alas! MSNBC no longer creates transcripts of TV shows like Maddow's. The channel has also cut way back on the amount of video it makes available.

Presumably, MSNBC has taken these steps to make it harder to critique crazy performances by cable stars like Maddow. And make no mistake—last night's performance was about as crazy as it gets.

Maddow's rant about this brief historical episode lasted at least ten minutes. To see roughly one-third of her presentation, you can visit her program's site.

If you watched the whole presentation last night, you were given the impression that Maddow's most loathed politician, Senator Manchin, joined forces with Republican Senator Pat Toomey to thwart the public's will for gun reform in the wake of the Newtown killings. The three-minute tape her site provides carries this crackpot headline:

How Joe Manchin and a broken Senate squandered U.S. will for gun reform after Sandy Hook

That isn't what happened at all. With links to news reports below, here's what actually happened:

The murders at Sandy Hook Elementary occurred in December 2102. By the following month, President Obama and Senate Democrats had proposed an array of gun reform measures.

One such measure would have created universal background checks for gun sales. That would have replaced the prevailing (crackpot) system, in which a gun buyer needed a background check if he was buying his gun at a gun store, but not if he was buying his gun at a gun show across the street.

Obviously, that system made (and makes) no sense. Obama had proposed a law requiring universal background checks, even if you were just buying a gun from your uncle or your grandmother.

By April of 2013, it was plain that Obama's proposal wasn't going to make it through the Senate. The Manchin-Toomey proposal was a slightly scaled-back measure—a measure which was supported by almost all major Democrats from Obama and Biden on down.

Repeat: Barack Obama supported the Manchin-Toomey proposal; the NRA opposed it. When the proposal was voted down in the Senate (actually, when it failed to clear the sixty-vote bar), all but five Senate Democrats voted in favor of the proposal. 

(One of the five was Majority Leader Harry Reid. He supported the proposal, but voted against it as a procedural maneuver.)

All but four Senate Democrats supported Manchin-Toomey. All but four Senate Republicans opposed it—voted against it. 

In other words, Manchin-Toomey was heavily favored by Democrats. It was kept from getting sixty votes due to near-unanimous opposition from the GOP, with Ted Cruz braying loudest.

Last night, Maddow spent at least ten minutes conveying the opposite impression. She snarked and sighed and directed her vast sarcasm at the man she currently loathes.

Assuming even minimal competence (we don't), her presentation would have been astoundingly dishonest. We assume that Maddow may have believed the things she said. We regard her as that incompetent.

If you watched that presentation last night, you got to see where tens of millions of corporate dollars, mixed with vast celebrity, will sometimes take certain people. You also got to see how vastly people can be misled by watching cable news. 

(This was hardy a first for Maddow. Her rap sheet is clownish and long.)

Below, we'll offer several links helping you see what actually happened. The overview, though, is this:

Obama and Biden supported the Manchin-Toomey proposal. So did almost all Senate Democrats.

The NRA opposed Manchin-Toomey. When Manchin-Toomey failed to get sixty votes, the NRA exulted.

The four Senate Dems who opposed the measure came from bright red, pro-gun states. Those senators later lost their seats. This helps explain why there are only 50 Senate Dems today. 

The fact that Manchin has managed to hang on in West Virginia explains why Mitch McConnell isn't still running the Senate. But just try telling that to Maddow! She lives in a novelized realm.

One last time:

Manchin-Toomey was a last-gasp attempt to pass an expansion of background checks. It was favored by Barack Obama and by almost all Senate Dems. It was aggressively opposed by the NRA.

If you watched Our Own Rhodes Scholar last night, you were treated to an angry, demonological presentation which seemed to say precisely the opposite. If MSNBC was a journalistic enterprise (it isn't), the cable star of whom we speak would have been sat down a long time ago.

This is the world in which we all live. Here in Our Town, it can be extremely hard for many of us to get clear on this point.

Let's take a trip back in time: It's hard to believe how crazy Maddow's presentation was last night. (Unless you regularly watch her at work, in which case her presentation was basically par for the course.)

At any rate, what was the history of Manchin-Toomey? We'll give you three (or four) easy links:

On April 10, 2013, the New York Times reported the last-minute emergence of the Manchin-Toomey proposal. This was the basic overview:

STEINHAUER (4/10/13): Senator Joe Manchin III so craved a pro-gun-rights Republican as a partner for a bill to expand background checks on gun buyers that he took to buttonholing senators on the in-house subway that ferries them from their offices to the Capitol, making his pitch while his colleagues were trapped with him in the tiny car.

Repeatedly rebuffed, Mr. Manchin, a conservative West Virginia Democrat, decided to call on his friend Senator Patrick J. Toomey, the Pennsylvania Republican known almost exclusively for his conservative fiscal positions. On a recent Amtrak trip from New York to Washington where they happened to intersect, Mr. Toomey agreed to listen.

On Wednesday the two gun owners, long favorites of the National Rifle Association, came together in a last-ditch effort on a background check compromise that opened the door to a rare Congressional consideration of gun law changes, beginning Thursday. While their agreement ensures only that the measure will reach the Senate floor for debate, it rescued gun law changes sought by President Obama and gun control groups from an early defeat.

Duh! Obama's proposal for universal background checks was on its way to defeat. Manchin-Toomey emerged as an attempt to fashion a slightly scaled-back proposal which might have a chance to pass.

Five days later, the New York Times discussed the measure again. Once again, the paper noted that the measure was designed as "the best hope" of fashioning a bipartisan measure which might hope to pass:

STEINHAUER (4/15/13): Mr. Manchin and Mr. Toomey have written an amendment intended to substitute for the background check component of the current bill, which has attracted scant support from Republicans. Mr. Manchin and Mr. Toomey’s bill has far more exemptions as well as pieces that strengthen gun rights in some ways, and is seen as the best hope for a foundation of a bipartisan consensus measure.

On April 17, the Washington Post reported the fact that Manchin-Toomey had been voted down. In response, Obama had "lashed out at the NRA" for having opposed the measure:
O'KEEFE AND RUCKER (4/17/13): Background checks for all gun buyers, long considered the most politically palatable of Obama’s proposals, were the linchpin and last week had seemed poised for passage after a pair of pro-gun senators, Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.), announced a compromise deal.

Yet even a late flurry of meetings between senators and Sandy Hook Elementary School parents was not enough to bend the will of Democratic centrists and more moderate Republicans. Although they had been open to expanded background checks, many of them voted no.

Obama sounded exasperated that senators were not more responsive to public opinion and did not offer what he considered worthy explanations for why they voted down the measures.

The president lashed out at the National Rifle Association for having “willfully lied” about the background-check proposal to stoke fear among gun rights supporters that Congress would violate their Second Amendment rights or create a federal gun registry.

And he laid the blame squarely on Republicans, although four Democrats also opposed the bill.
After Manchin-Toomey's defeat, Obama lashed out at the NRA for having opposed the proposal. Only four Senate Dems had opposed the bill.

Manchin-Toomey was supported by Obama, opposed by the NRA. Rachel ranted and raved last night in a thoroughly crazy way. In a slightly saner, less profit-based world, it would be time for her to go.

For a broad overview of Manchin-Toomey, you can just click here. To peruse the Senate roll call vote, you can just click this.

We see no easy way out of this mess. The corporate bosses serve us this stew, and we're too dumb to refuse it.

SPECIES AND TOWN: A second mass shooting occurs!


Preferred Storyline seem to change: Monday afternoon, in Boulder, a second mass shooting occurred.

This time, ten people were shot and killed. The previous week, in Atlanta, the corresponding death count had been eight.

Why do people engage in such crazy behavior? We can't answer that question. We aren't psychologists, psychiatrists or mental health experts or specialists—and the mainstream press corps shows amazingly little interest in consulting with people like that.

Why do people commit these acts? At this site, we can't say. We did think this:

We thought we might be seeing a "Storyline shift" as the event in Boulder has been reported and discussed. In this morning's Washington Post, the front-page news report starts like this:

SCHNEIDER ET AL (3/24/21): A 21-year-old Colorado man was charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder Tuesday after authorities said he walked into a King Soopers grocery store on a quiet Monday afternoon and gunned down 10 people, including police officer Eric Talley, a father of seven who responded to the rampage.

In a news conference Tuesday, authorities identified the suspect as Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa of Arvada, Colo., who was shot in the leg during the attack and later filmed being taken into custody. He was charged with 10 counts of murder in the first degree and one count of attempted first-degree murder.

The mass shooting—the second in the country in less than a week—has reignited the debate on gun violence, even as investigators struggle to identify a motive for this latest, horrific event.

According to this news report, investigators are "struggl[ing] to identify a motive" for this latest mass shooting. 

It's possible that investigators will come up with a fairly clear-cut type of motive. It's also possible that they won't.

That said, the suspect's name, all by itself, suggests a possible racial / ethnic / cultural Storyline for those who want to rush there. We're sure there are people on social media who have already gone there.

Here's the good news—we didn't see people on cable last night pushing any such instant Storyline. We were struck by the framework Brian Williams built around this new event at the start of last night's broadcast:

WILLIAMS (3/23/21): The suspect, identified as 21-yearold Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, is charged with ten counts of first-degree murder in connection with the shooting. His profile is familiar by now, according to investigatorsa young man with mental illness and access to lethal weapons.

To his credit, Williams didn't run straight to a racial or ethnic motive for the killings. Instead, he said the suspect is a young man—a young man "with mental illness."

(From there, Williams introduced his first, three-member panel of guests. None of the three was a specialist in mental illness. This is the way the very dull minds of our upper-end press corps reliably tend to work.)

To his credit, Williams didn't start novelizing about a possible racial motive. To his credit, he didn't start novelizing about any particular motive at all.

To his credit, Williams seemed willing to wait for investigators to try to discern a "motive." That may not always be easy to do in crazy events of this type.

In some instances—think Dylann Roof in the Charleston church murders—a type of motive will be fairly easy to find. After a bit of investigation, it became fairly obvious that Roof had been acting, at least in part, out of a tragic and stupid racial hatred.

In other instances, no such obvious motive will come into view. At such times, the floundering sages who people Out Town will frequently turn, often quite quickly, to Our Town's preferred Storylines.

So it was last week in Atlanta. The journalistic tribunes who plague Our Town swept into action immediately, attributing racist and misogynist motives to the confessed killer.

Tomorrow, we'll look at one or two of these instant assessments—at these deliveries of Storyline. For today, we'll only say this:

Quite routinely, our major journalists' lack of analytical skill is truly amazing. They have the stories they long to tell—Al Gore said he invented the Internet!—and absolutely nothing on earth is going to stop them from those appointed rounds.

In Atlanta, our tribunes turned, with remarkable speed, to racial Storyline. Quite often, these tribunes  reasoned in ways which would have made a cow cry.

Such writing offers a type of lesson about the nature of our self-impressed species. In all honesty, we just aren't especially sharp as a group  According to major credentialed experts, we basically aren't "the rational animal," and we never were.

In the case of the Atlanta killings, the Storylines to which we turned emphasized racism and misogyny. In the case of Boulder, we were avoiding such instant judgments. We were talking about mental illness instead—mental illness and access to guns.


Does anyone think that the 21-year-old man in Atlanta wasn't afflicted with some sort of mental health issues? In our view, you'd have to be crazy yourself to doubt that possibility. But the heart is said to want what it wants, and journalistic hearts in Our Town preferred a different Storyline in last week's instant assessments.

Were these young men both "mentally ill" in some manner or way? We would assume that the answer is yes. Why else would young people engage in such lunatic, dead-end crimes?

More to the point, we'd like to see carefully-selected mental health specialists interviewed about such questions. But, for whatever reason, that isn't the game Our Town plays.

Last week, reading about Atlanta, we were amazed by the way our tribunes rushed to construct the stories they liked. We were struck by the very few comments about mental illness.

As they pasted their novels together, we were struck by their vast determination. They're determined  to have it their way!

When it came to the Atlanta killer, they wanted to go straight to race. When it came to his Boulder counterpart, such novelization will be avoided here in the streets of Our Town.

Elsewhere, on social media, deeply unimpressive people will push that Storyline. This will prove how racist they are, we'll quickly say in Our Town.

Major anthropological scholars have explained this matter this way:

Here in the west, we humans have been quick to praise our own brilliant mental abilities. We've heard that we're "the rational animal." Beyond that, we've even heard that our journalists are "well educated." 

One star was even sold to us as Our Own Rhodes Scholar! Her work last night was a shocking disgrace, as we'll note later today.

Last night, Williams avoided instant ascription of motive. We have one word for that: Good!

In truth, the work of our upper-end journalists is routinely impossibly bad. Despite the claims you've always heard, The Dumbness runs deep in Our Town. 

To appearances, our unimpressive corporate journalists love the freedom that dumbness provides:

They get to tell the stories they like. We're inclined to repeat what we've heard.

Tomorrow: "Baffling," the columnist said

Full disclosure: These are the assessments of major professors and experts with whom we often consult.

Don Lemon is learning new things all the time!


You can't run a press corps this way: What follows is going to be somewhat unkind. What follows will also be accurate.

In what follows, we're going to focus on Don Lemon, who hosts the two-hour nightly program, CNN Tonight.

In Sunday's New York Times, Lemon was the subject of the weekly "By the Book" feature. He was interviewed about his reading habits. We were struck by this exchange:

NEW YORK TIMES (3/21/21): What’s the most interesting thing you learned from a book recently?

LEMON: I learned from “Four Hundred Souls” that my ancestors arrived here on a slave ship before the Mayflower. Just because I went to a Black Catholic elementary and middle school, which drilled Black history into us, I thought I knew more about our history than most. Alas, I was wrong. 

Presumably, Lemon didn't learn in that book that any of his own particular ancestors arrived here before the Mayflower. Presumably, he meant that he learned that the first captive Africans were brought to these shores at that time.

That's true, and there's no wrong time to learn something. Having said that, good lord! 

The New York Times launched its widely-discussed "1619 Project" back in  August 2019.  The project was very widely discussed. Its title refers to the fact that the first captive Africans arrived here in 1619.

In early discussions of the project, it was widely noted that the Pilgrims didn't arrive on the Mayflower until the following year. But even if a person missed that part of those discussions,  there had always been Lerone Bennett and his famous book.

The book was published in 1962. Quite literally, its original title was this: Before the Mayflower: A History of the Negro in America, 1619-1962.

(In later editions, the title was changed to Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America.)

Bennett's book was always a bit controversial. There were always questions—questions we can't answer—about the caliber of Bennett's scholarship.

That said, the book never stopped being at least semi-famous. When Bennett died in 2018, the New York Times offered this overview at the start of its obituary:

GENZLINGER (2/16/18): Lerone Bennett Jr., a historian and journalist who wrote extensively on race relations and black history and was a top editor at Ebony magazine for decades, died on Wednesday in Chicago. He was 89.

The cause was advanced vascular dementia, Ebony said on its website.

Mr. Bennett was both lyrical and outspoken in his writing, arguing that the history of black people in the United States had been ignored or told only through a white filter.

His best-known book was “Before the Mayflower,” drawn from a series of articles for Ebony and first published in 1962. (Revised editions were still being published decades later.) In it he noted that the first blacks arrived in the colonies in 1619, the year before the Mayflower did, on a ship that reached Jamestown, Va. He wrote of that same arrival in a 1992 article in Ebony.

“No ship ever called at an American port with a more important cargo,” he said...

Why didn't Lemon know about this? We have no idea. That said, we can tell you this:

Along the way, it's been blindingly obvious that no one has ever cared about any of this. Our press corps cares about their careers. There has long been exactly zero sign that they care about anything else. 

In his earlier days at CNN, Lemon hosted a weekend show. At that time, he tended to take the more conservative-ish position on various racial issues. 

In recent years, a different attitude has gripped our highly performative press corps. Lemon's attitudes seem to have changed, perhaps for reasons which are fully sincere.

Then again, it's very important for people like Lemon to remain aligned with prevailing attitudes within the corporate/celebrity guild. People like Lemon are paid extremely well for the very poor work they perform. Their access to their swollen salaries is predicated upon their ability to adopt the attitudes which are currently in favor.

Lemon's changes have kept him on the air. He and Chris Cuomo treat their viewers like fools many evenings, saying how much they love one another. We the people are simply too gullible to suspect this for what it is.

One thing it is is very profitable, both for the network and for people like Lemon. Until recently, Lemon didn't know the first freaking thing about the history he's always cared about, but he may have known on which side his bread is buttered. In this piece, the Los Angeles Times reported his recent real estate sale:

FLEMMING (2/25/21): CNN anchor Don Lemon has sold his three-bedroom condo in New York’s Harlem neighborhood for $1.525 million—about $37,000 more than he paid for it in 2013.

The sale comes a few years after he picked up a place near the Hamptons, paying $3.1 million for a quaint cottage in Sag Harbor in 2016.

The condo is the smaller of his two properties, with three bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms in just over 1,400 square feet. According to the listing, Lemon configured the space as an open-concept layout with two bedrooms during his stay.

For oodles of photos, click here.

The article didn't explain where Lemon is going to live in town at this point, or if he needs to live in town at all. Under pre-pandemic conditions, the quaint cottage in Sag Harbor would have been too far away. Does he possibly work from there now?

How much is Lemon paid by CNN? You aren't allowed to know that.

Presumably, corporate owners of our profit-based news orgs don't want you to know how much their stars get paid. Stating the obvious, they're paid what they're paid for message obedience. Very few people ever break the rules or walk away.

The ones who do are gone forever. The ones who obey get paid.

Today, we'll repeat a point we've made many times in the past. You simply can't run a middle-class democracy with a multimillionaire press corps.

When people get paid the way these people do, they (and their owners) aren't going to tell you jack squat about certain topics. Nor will they have the first f*cking clue about when the first captive Africans arrived on American shores, under American skies.

Lemon's By the Book interview could be seen as a bit embarrassing throughout. We'll point you to one more exchange:

NEW YORK TIMES: What book would you recommend for America’s current political moment?

LEMON: I don’t mean to be self-promoting but I’d have to say my book, “This Is the Fire.” That’s why I wrote it.

Lemon didn't mean to be self-promoting as he promoted his book. But then, every time we fly by his cable program of late he seems to be pimping that book. You will never get real news from people who function this way.

In fairness to Lemon, even more money was sloshing around in the good old days of MSNBC, when Chris Matthews and Tim Russert were buying "cottages" on Nantucket even pricier than Lemon's. 

Those were the days when the whole NBC crew was working for Jack Welch and against the Clintons and Gore. Somewhat comically, their "cottages" weren't far from Jack's own manse on the pricey island.

The journalists who con Our Town's occasional gullibles never discuss such scams. Dearest darlings, use your heads! Within the celebrity press corps guild, such things simply aren't done! A journalist's career would come to an end the second he or she went there.

This is the way the game is played as our stupendously low-IQ nation continues to slide toward the sea. Also, the first captive Africans really did beat the Mayflower here.

That is now an established fact. By now, one of CNN's anchors has heard!

Viewership falling at CNN: Numbers are dropping all over cable. Paul Farhi reports this post-Trump slump in today's Washington Post.