THE DISAPPEARED: We've been called away from our desk!


Sympathy for Cassandra: As it turns out, we shouldn't have started a week-long report this week.

As it turns out, we've been called away from our sprawling campus on a mission of national import. For that reason, we won't be able to finish this week's report on The Disappeared. 

We won't be able to wrestle with a certain complex story. We refer to the story concerning the young woman who was held up at gunpoint. 

(It's a story you've never heard. The complex story involves Al Sharpton, but also the New York Times.) 

We won't be able to get to that story this week. But as we prepare to exit our campus, we increasingly sympathize / identify with Cassandra, the prophet with no last name.

Cassandra, daughter of Priam and Hecuba, could see disaster coming for her native Troy. Her problem was, she couldn't get anyone else to see it. 

The leading authority on this history recounts these events as shown:


Cassandra was said to be a daughter of King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy. Her older brother was Hector, hero of the Greek-Trojan war. The older and most common versions state that she was admired by the god Apollo, who sought to win her with the gift to see the future. According to Aeschylus, she promised him her favors, but after receiving the gift, she went back on her word and refused the god. The enraged Apollo could not revoke a divine power, so he added to it the curse that though she would see the future, nobody would believe her prophecies. 

The sexual politics of those days was primitive, undisguised. More on these events:

Her cursed gift from Apollo became an endless pain and frustration to her. She was seen as a liar and a madwoman by her family and by the Trojan people. Because of this, her father, Priam, had locked her away in a chamber and guarded her like the madwoman she was believed to be. Though Cassandra made many predictions that went unbelieved, the one prophecy that was believed was that of Paris being her abandoned brother.

Before the fall of Troy took place, Cassandra foresaw that if Paris went to Sparta and brought Helen back as his wife, the arrival of Helen would spark the downfall and destruction of Troy during the Trojan War. Despite the prophecy and ignoring Cassandra's warning, Paris still went to Sparta and returns with Helen. While the people of Troy rejoice, Cassandra, angry with Helen's arrival, furiously snatched away Helen's golden veil and tore at her hair.

In Virgil's epic poem, the Aeneid, Cassandra warned the Trojans about the Greeks hiding inside the Trojan Horse, Agamemnon's death, her own demise at the hands of Aegisthus and Clytemnestra, her mother Hecuba's fate, Odysseus's ten-year wanderings before returning to his home, and the murder of Aegisthus and Clytemnestra by the latter's children Electra and Orestes. 

She issued those warnings, but no one believed her. So it went for Cassandra of Troy.

As we acknowledged several years ago, Cassandra has been advising us on occasion, addressing us through the nocturnal submissions the haters refer to as dreams. Like Cassandra, we think we see disaster coming, though of course we could always be wrong.

Cassandra's vision involved the tribal warfare between the Trojans and the Achaeans (the Argives). Our vision involves the ongoing tribal warfare between our nation's red and blue tribes, with combat among an ever-increasing array of identity groups adding to the complexification, confusion, disorganization and distrust.

We don't see an obvious way out of this situation. Mountains of money are being made by corporate and personal entities who stoke these intergroup wars. Tribal novelization is big business now.

Regarding the various identity groups to which we've referred, each of these various groups has its own complaints. None of these complaints is necessarily "wrong," but all these complaints will be overstated or built on misstatement at times.

It's Cassandra who has called our attention to these disastrous patterns. We don't see a good way out of the mess, given the systemic, structural nature of this advancing war.

How do matters stand at present? Things aren't encouraging at all.

In our view, the red tribe has already seceded, at least on the leadership levels. Meanwhile, our own blue tribe is busy doing two things: 

We're busy creating invidious distinctions between an ever-increasing array of identity groups. For example, black women are now invidiously compared to black men. Stereotypical insults about the Karens are occasionally thrown in.

We're also busy trying to get The Others locked up. These seem like two perfect ways to lose future elections. It's also true that our love of loathing tends to blind us to such facts.

(Or so Cassandra tells us. Even after all these years, she's extremely convincing.)

This morning, as we prepared for our coming mission, we watched a bit more Morning Joe than we normally would. We had these reactions to a pair of fascinating segments, each of which can be watched at the Morning Joe site:

In the first segment to which we refer, Jonathan Haidt discussed his new essay in The Atlantic, "Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid."

Haidt said the evolving culture of social media has been turning the nation into a Babel. (His term. Beyond that, he explicitly said that we can typically see the "stupidity" of other groups, but we can't quite see our own.)

Haidt described social media's role in creating a Babel. (He didn't mention the role played by mainstream news orgs.)

But uh-oh! When Haidt suggested that unbalanced, unintelligent commentary on social media is coming at us from various points on the political spectrum, we thought we saw Professor Glaude make the classic unhelpful suggestion:

The stupidity is only coming from Them; it isn't coming from Us. Or at least, that's what we thought Professor Glaude pretty much said.

Is that what Professor Glaude said? We thought that's what we saw him suggest. If you choose to watch the segment, you'll have to decide for yourself.

In the second segment to which we refer, Mallory McMorrow, a Wisconsin state senator, discussed the way she was attacked in a recent fund-raising pitch by a Republican colleague. 

McMorrow, age 35, is stone-cold political talent. (She graduated from Notre Dame in 2008.) 

She looks like talent; she articulates like talent. Then again, there's also what she said.

Yesterday, McMorrow became an instant blue tribe icon, thanks to the aggressive way she pushed back against the charges made in the fund-raising letter. On Morning Joe, we thought McMorrow went wrong, and we'll guess that Cassandra agrees.

On Morning Joe, McMorrow hotly attacked the "hatred" shown by the Republican state senator who launched the accusations. She didn't say that she regretted her colleague's "lack of wisdom." She went straight to a major bomb, with Joe hotly urging her on.

We know what Cassandra will say about that approach. For starters, she'll talk about President Clinton. 

("We don't have a single person to waste," the inclusive candidate said in 1992. He campaigned on behalf of everyone who "works hard and plays by the rules.")

She's also going to talk about President Obama's speech, the one which shot him to fame in 2004. 

("We pray to God in the blue states," he said. "Also, we coach Little League in the red states.")

That meant that we're the united states, the emerging superstar said. At the time, we wondered why it had taken so long for someone to make that speech.

Cassandra has said it before. There's only one way out of this mess. The savior pol—the new Lincoln, the new FDR—would pretty much have to say this:

I believe in the people who voted for me. I also believe in the people who voted against me.

I endorse every one of you, however you decided to vote. We get to vote the way we choose, but each of us has a citizen's duty. We have a citizen's duty to be careful in the things we say and in the judgments we make. 

We have a duty to triple-check the things we're prepared to believe. We have to respect our neighbors and friends if they reach a different judgment. Each of us has a citizen's duty to do those basic  things. 

Cassandra will say that the savior pol is going to have to make that statement every single time out. We can already hear the howls of protest from the war-inclined citizens behind our own blue walls.

We suspect that it's already too late for any such savior pol. We see people saying the darndest things on various sides of the aisle.

We've become a Babel, we're inclined to say—an angry, routinely unintelligent collections of warring tribes.

Cassandra says she still regrets what happened on the wide plains before Troy. You never really get over such things, the prophet despondently says.


  1. "Her cursed gift from Apollo became an endless pain and frustration to her. She was seen as a liar and a madwoman by her family and by the Trojan people."

    The whole premise of this myth is ridiculous. When someone prophesies, you can easily check reality to see whether the prophesy came true or not. When someone's predictions are routinely borne out, the tendency to believe them would result from the observations, not any God's curse. There is no reason why any people would fail to believe prophesies that were routinely correct. Apollo would have had to have cursed all of the people involved, not simply Cassandra, or else her prophecies were not accurate, which would be revoking the gift itself, which Somerby says was not allowed.

    Apparently it is easy for Somerby to believe that humans are irrational and wouldn't use evidence to determine belief, but in reality, that is exactly what people do. They change their belief in the accuracy of predictions based on the results of those predictions. How do we know this? Studies have been conducted where the outcomes of predictions can be manipulated to either confirm or disconfirm the predictions. Then you look at the confidence and the faith the predictor places in his or her own judgments. This is done in experimental cognitive psychology.

    But Somerby prefers to evaluate reality using his favorite Greek myth, one that bears no resemblance to reality, even when determining what Gods may or may not do.

    It is lovely that Somerby is capable of imagining himself as a cursed woman, despite the necessity of imagining what "gender politics" was like among the Greeks, but he doesn't appear to be able to imagine a future that doesn't involve some disaster. And that is hugely tiresome.

  2. Somerby spews hate daily, today is no different.

    Clinton and Obama were elected to due special circumstances, not due to their supposed unifying rhetoric, which, risibly, was extremely limited.

    (After elected, they both governed as neoliberals, basically Reagan with less corruption.)

    Clinton and Obama both CLUNG more so to their tribal rhetoric, there are way more quotes to be mined of Clinton/Obama trashing the Right than the couple of times they performed pandering rhetoric about unity.

    Somerby is full of hatred. I hope he finds some peace before he dies a sad old man, all alone.

    1. Earth to Somerby, the disaster has been here already for a long time. Right wing values are the culprit.

      Apparently Apollo has gifted Somerby with willful ignorance.

      Somerby complains that our side works against oppression and corruption, instead of coddling the Republican slide into fascism.

      It has been tried, but all it has led to is more oppression and more corruption.

      Occasionally, during one of capitalism's cyclical busts, we are able to force some progress, but that progress always get chipped away, usually via right wing's most powerful tool: racism.

      Somerby's trite and empty garbage is boring; still, as easy as it is, it is satisfying to daily debunk his nonsense. So I guess, thanks Somerby, sort of?

  3. "As we acknowledged several years ago, Cassandra has been advising us on occasion, addressing us through the nocturnal submissions the haters refer to as dreams."

    Nocturnal "submissions" (a play on the word emissions) are called wet dreams and they are very different than regular dreams. This little word play seems to amuse Somerby in what can only be called adolescent humor (one pictures Beavis and Butthead giggling over it).

    Who are these supposed "haters"?

    Who takes advice from dreams and who considers anything that unsourced and ungrounded in reality to be worth passing along to anyone else? The modern understanding of dreams has nothing to do with prophecy and in fact denies that dreams foretell anything.

    This represents Somerby's desire to cloak his own opinions in rhetorical devices that shift responsibility onto others, in this case the Greek God Apollo, while also giving his statements the status of divine prophesy. Psychologists call this grandiosity.

    Actual pundits are not afraid to attach their own names to their opinions and predictions. This desire to avoid any responsibility for saying anything directly may be why Somerby has been unable to become an opinion writer and why he spent years presenting his ideas in the form of jokes, which can be readily denied as "I was just joking, can't you take a joke?" Is Somerby worried that what happened to Cassandra would happen to him, if he actually stated his opinions in a straightforward, direct way? Perhaps bad things would happen, given the objectionable things he has been saying here lately, but that only means he is addressing the wrong audience. Somerby would find plenty of positive response to his ideas on the right. But then he wouldn't be able to claim he was a liberal any more. And what would letting go of that label mean to him? Loss of his mother's approval (yes, I know she is in heaven now, but she remains as an inner voice in her children's heads)?

    This reticence of Somerby's to tell the truth about his beliefs condemns him to a life of dishonesty, because he also seems determined to present his thoughts to the public, even while being conflicted about attaching his name to them. And that rises to the level of Greek tragedy, at least the kind that psychoanalysts write about.

    I myself have no sympathy for Somerby. He is struggling to find a way to express unpalatable, socially unacceptable ideas, without suffering personal consequences. I believe that racists, sexists and other bigots should suffer social disapproval, because their ideas are mean-spirited and harmful to others and not what should be said in good company. If Somerby wishes to hang onto his bigotry, he will have to wear the dunce cap with the rest of the miscreants on the right. And glamorizing that with references to Cassandra is no excuse, because there is no truth to bigotry, just shameful attempts to salve a white ego losing its unearned privilege, by hurting others.

  4. "I believe in the people who voted for me. I also believe in the people who voted against me.

    I endorse every one of you, however you decided to vote. "

    This is ridiculous. A newly elected president can respect those who voted against him or her, can support their needs and work to help them, without endorsing or believing anything his or her political opponents believe.

    It is wrong to confuse reality further for wayward Republicans by telling them you endorse Trump's great lies or that you endorse their racist bullshit or believe in their attempts to meddle with how history is taught in schools. Somerby's longed for kumbaya moment would be harmful for a country that is struggling to determine what is real, what is true, and what is good for our country. Endorsing mistaken beliefs and lies doesn't help anyone.


  5. How nice and virtuous you are, dear Bob. Such a good person.

    Tsk. Alas, your banksters-serving tribe has nothing whatsoever to offer, other than its usual hate-mongering.

    Oh well.

  6. Anonymous on fire today, appreciate the comments.

    Poor Bob.

  7. "We have a duty to triple-check the things we're prepared to believe. We have to respect our neighbors and friends if they reach a different judgment. Each of us has a citizen's duty to do those basic things. "

    What does "triple check" mean? It cannot mean going back to Fox archives and making sure that Tucker really said what you quoted him as saying. It cannot mean finding a few other conservatives who agree with Tucker, either. It can't mean checking with three conservative friends to see whether they agree with you.

    There are many, many covid-deniers and anti-vaxxers who "did the research" by finding websites who tell them that covid isn't real and that vaccines don't work. I'll bet each and every one of them believes they "triple-checked" their facts and that they are right in their beliefs. So, what then can Somerby mean by this, especially given that Somerby has railed against experts and elites and professors nearly every day in his own blog? What can triple check mean wheb Fauci and others who DO know the facts are reviled, conscripted into conspiracy theories involving biolabs and Ukrainian reptilians?

    "Respecting" those who believe wrong things isn't going to help them triple check their facts or come any closer to reality than they are now. People who refuse to compare Cassandra's predictions to reality are going to fail to learn anything about reality. And those who ignore reality tend to get bitten on the ass by it. They die from covid, and that is a fact confirmed by statistics available to both the right and the left. But I have never heard Somerby say anything positive about science as a way of knowing what is true.

    I don't know what will wake up the Republicans who are suffering from false beliefs and delusions. I would have thought that covid would do it, but apparently not. Maybe nothing less than cult deprogramming will work. Or maybe it will take Trump's removal from politics (he is getting older by the minute) or some sound defeats by voters to change them, or maybe they can be laughed into irrelevance at some point, as more people catch on the these are idiots. But Somerby's approach will not work. There is no reason why it should, no active ingredient for producing a desired change. And I'm not sure Somerby is genuine in wanting Republicans to change. I think he is here working on the Democrats, and that suggests he is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

    1. Absolutely. Anyone who suggests Democrats need to change their politics in the slightest is a big, big, part of the problem.

    2. Cat, you misunderstand the comment, try reading it over a few times, see if you can gain comprehension. If you are still truly lost, then someone putting the effort into explaining it to you is not likely to get far, the dogma is likely too deeply ingrained in you.

    3. Nope. No comprehension gained after a re-reading. But maybe if you post another comment with zero substance but a whole lotta innuendo, then I'll see the light.

    4. @3:44 It's the liberals who see blacks as inferior. That's why they want a tilted playing field. They want to throw our SAT exams and other objective measures, because they think blacks can't do as well as Asians on an objective measure. They want special set-asides and special benefits, because they think blacks are inferior to Asians and whites.

      Liberals pretend that they think the problems is racism, but they know that isn't so. Yes, there is some racism today, as well as some preferences, but neither is strong enough to overcome personal effort.

      IMO blacks CAN do just as well as other ethnic groups. I favor policies that will help unleash that potential.

    5. Tests like the SAT are being abandoned by top universities because (1) scores are most strongly correlated with parental income not academic ability, and (2) scores are not good predictors of college level academic success. They don't do a good job of identifying students with talent unless they come from rich families.

      If colleges wished to only give blacks a leg up, they would make all colleges open entry (no admission criteria beyond a high school diploma). The top universities are not doing that -- they are using what they consider to be better admission criteria.

      The flaw in your argument, David, is your assertion that blacks do not expend effort. That is manifestly untrue. When there is an actual pathway to success available, black young people put in way more effort than their white peers. To see this, look at what happens in professional sports. Being a racist, you will probably say that is just a matter of innate talent, but anyone with a kid in peewee football knows how much effort it takes to get noticed as an athlete.

      If you truly favored policies to help black people and other ethnic groups do their best, you would not be a Republican -- the party that uses every means it can think of to disadvantage black people. Trump even shut off programs like CHIP during covid, because some black families might gain health insurance for their kids using it. Liberals are the ones who support policies to help people. Republicans favor policies to help themselves and disadvantage anyone of color, because they see BIPOC folks as a threat to their own prosperity.

      Your racist garbage is the only bigotry here more blatant than Somerby's! You make me sick.

    6. uh 7:38 your comment had zero substance, so why would anyone bother to respond with substance, that was the point. I have literally had better comprehension from conversations with my pet cat, who has a tiny brain that mostly focuses on food. What is your excuse?

  8. "Cassandra will say that the savior pol is going to have to make that statement every single time out."

    It this how Somerby sees himself? A savior pol? Talk about grandiosity!

    It makes more sense to see our current polarization as the extension of the civil war between those who see black people as inferior and suitable as only slaves, not equals, and those who consider black people to be human beings deserving of the same benefits of our nation as all are.

    The South and those who consider black people inferior never gave up on its core principles and they have been using political power to subvert full equality since the confederacy surrendered. That is what is going on today. The pitch of the conflict has heightened because the demographics of our country are shifting and white people are no longer going to be a majority in future decades. That is unacceptable to those who believe in white supremacy (now camouflaged as preserving Western heritage). Attitudes about women's inferiority and subjugation to white men are bound up in preserving the purity of the white race, going hand in hand with racial bigotry.

    As in the 1860s, you can be on one side or the other, but there is no neutral position in this conflict. We are fortunate that efforts to provoke wide scale violence by the right have not succeeded. Somerby never talks about violence, but it is an explicit goal of those wishing to preserve white supremacy. The right will surely lose this conflict because of the sheer numbers involved, and because fairness and equality are explicitly stated in our Constitution and endorsed by a majority of those in our country of all ethnicities and cultures.

    Somerby suggestion that we can resolve this while respecting the right is not possible, any more than it was during the Civil War itself. But today's craziness reflects the desperation of the right in the face of certain defeat. They will do and say anything to win, and that is what these lies, conspiracy theories, manipulations and even insurrection is about.

    Somerby asks that sane people abandon their principles, their integrity, to embrace miscreants who will do anything to ensure their superiority over certain groups. This is no more possible today than it was for the abolitionists and good Christians of the 1860s. Somerby should know better than to ask, if he is any kind of savior pol or true Cassandra. He shouldn't even be asking this as a Catholic or a liberal. Equality, freedom, fairness, embrace of humanity are core values that people on the left will die for, before they will ever vote for Trump.

    1. This is the most honest explanation of neo-liberal thinking that I've seen.

      Thank you, Anonymouse4:00pm.

    2. Cecelia, neoliberalism has mostly to do with economics, a hands off approach, free markets, etc. It involves notions like small government, personal responsibility, and meritocracy.

      The comment does not reflect neoliberalism, at all.

    3. "Don't take away my millions and give it to the poor" and "don't take away my slaves and spend tax money on them" is really the connection. These (partially astroturf) movements know about each other and are not exactly separate. Neoliberals need an army and racists will do just fine for the Kochs. They almost kidnapped Michigan's governor.

  9. Today I actually googled "how to have a conversation," cause I realized that political activism didn't teach me that and I want to be able to wear that hat.

    I don't know what I was really supposed to take away from the Atlantic article. Yeah Facebook is pretty garbage for society. What is the motivation behind this analysis of Babel in the glossy Atlantic pages? I wonder if it's really not about communal values like trust etc. Maybe, just maybe, it's a smug elitism that I was born in the wrong generation, I am better than you. Intellectuals have been saying that so long it starts to lose meaning. The editor of the Atlantic is a huge suck up to the powerful.

  10. The Atlantic says people are getting too crazy on Facebook and they should have to show photo id and manually slow down the share button. I would like to hear with other experts and activists about that. It seems being anonymous has its benefits to democracy when you can arrest people who use their real name.

    It's also strange we just accept American democracy is under attack. It's a flattering idea, but we're not a democracy. What's under attack is our potential to become a democracy. And the Atlantic doesn't say that. It just says, add more Facebook features.

    Like there's a lawyer on house arrest in New York for whistleblowing on big oil pollution. Facebook didn't do that. Big business did that.

  11. Bob,
    Focus on your mission of national import for as long as it takes.
    The nonsense Right-wing memes will still be available for you to repeat when you get back to TDH.