CLARITY ISN'T US: We lost a chunk of time today!


Services resume tomorrow: Doggone it!

We lost a chunk of time today. Our services resume tomorrow.

For extra credit, this: A front-page report in today's New York Times starts exactly like this:

CLOSSON (9/30/22): New York City’s selective middle schools can once again use grades to choose which students to admit, the school chancellor, David C. Banks, announced on Thursday, rolling back a pandemic-era moratorium that had opened the doors of some of the city’s most elite schools to more low-income students.

Selective high schools will also be able to prioritize top-performing students.

The sweeping move will end the random lottery for middle schools, a major shift after the previous administration ended the use of grades and test scores two years ago. At the city’s competitive high schools, where changes widened the pool of eligible applicants, priority for seats will be limited to top students whose grades are an A average.

The question of whether to base admissions on student performance prompted intense debate this fall. Many Asian American families were particularly vocal in arguing that the lotteries excluded their children from opportunities they had worked hard for. But Black and Latino students are significantly underrepresented at selective schools, and some parents had hoped the previous admissions changes would become permanent to boost racial integration in a system that has been labeled one of the most segregated in the nation.

Our questions:

Is Gotham's school system "segregated" at all? Does reporter Closson ever explain what he means by his use of that (highly significant) term?

Also this:

If you're able to figure that out, is it true that Gotham's system is "one of the most segregated in the nation?"

Closson provides a link at that point. Go ahead! See if the source to which he links actually answers that question!

The New York Times routinely makes this claim. In our view, this is a case of Storyline first and always, clarity left behind.

He was adopted at two days old!


Aaron Judge on clear: Aaron Judge, now 30 years old, hit his 61st homer last night.

He was adopted at two days of age. He was adopted by Wayne and Patty Judge, a pair of teachers in California who aren't his exact same "race."

He learned that he'd been adopted when he was 10 years old. We think his thoughts about these matters are something you might want to hear.

(For what it's worth, Judge is a Christian. We don't have religious beliefs.)

By the norms of modern celebrity, Judge is dull as dishwater; he's something of a square. After reading this New York Post report, we also wondered if it's possible that he's on something like "clear."

CLARITY ISN'T US: Clarity is one of our lesser skills!


Job One is defining The Others: We recently had occasion to visit a large medical facility.

We entered a very large parking garage, so filled with cars at 8 A.M. that we had to snake up, up, up. From there, we proceeded to a truly overwhelming edifice—a gargantuan building which filled our heads with flashbacks to early Brasilia.

We wondered if it made good sense to overwhelm patients in this architectural manner. Mainly, we were amazed to think that we humans know how to design and construct such complex buildings at all.

As the week proceeded, we read about those Nord Stream pipelines, lying on the floor of the Baltic Sea. We read about the tons of concrete involved in their protection.


We humans are surprisingly good at building things! We say that we're surprisingly good because, in every other area, the most elementary type of clarity simply isn't us.

We build things with much more skill than we tend to reason. Consider the most recent offering from the Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin.

Rubin used to be a reliably scripted conservative. She's now a reliably scripted Never Trumper. She's reliably one of Us.

We humans! When it comes to banging out tribal script, clarity isn't us! It isn't one of our leading skills. Defining the Others is!

We thought of that, as we often do these days, when reading Rubin's column. But before we look at what she wrote, briefly consider the text of the following statement:

“White Americans today are not responsible for discrimination against Black people in the past.” 

We'll ask two questions about that statement:

1) Do you agree with that statement? 

Also, perhaps more importantly:

2) How well do you understand what that statement means?

Readers, how well do you understand what that statement means? 

For obvious reasons, it's often said that people aren't responsible for the sins of their parents. In various contexts, the reason for that judgment will strike most people as obvious. It will seem easy to explain.

In various contexts, it's often said that we aren't responsible for the sins of our parents. But is that what is meant by the statement we've posted above? In practical terms here in the real world, what would that statement mean?

What does, or would, that statement mean? In our view, you're asking a very good question!

In response to your very good question, we're going to showcase a certain rumination, a type of rumination we unveiled in Sunday's award-winning post

We're going to show you the correct answer to a certain question. The correct answer goes like this:

QUESTION: Are White Americans living today responsible for discrimination against Black people in the past?

CORRECT ANSWER: I'm not sure what you mean.

"I'm not sure what you mean!" Again and again, then again and again, that turns out to be the correct answer to a wide array of questions (and statements) in a wide array of fields. 

Even more politely, "I'm not quite sure what you mean!" That answer challenges the questioner to be more precise about what he actually means—about what he's actually saying or asking.

It asks the questioner to traffic in clarity. And no, it isn't a dodge!

We offer this preamble in reaction to Rubin's new column. Her column appears beneath a mandated headline:

Just how racist is the MAGA movement? This survey measures it.

Happy days are here again! Rubin says she's found a survey which measures how racist a certain movement is. 

You'll know, without reading, what the survey has found. But who exactly is part of that movement? And how was their "racism" measured and/or defined?

In his own most recent essay, Ed Kilgore joins many analysts in describing the heightened state of tribal loathing in our contemporary politics. He quotes this passage from a recent column in the Washington Post:

KILGORE (9/28/22): In a recent op-ed for the Washington Post, political scientists John Sides, Chris Tausanovitch, and Lynn Vavreck write that American politics has become more polarized and calcified. Events and the responses to them from politicians no longer have the ability to deeply and fundamentally reshape our politics or political coalitions. “Voters and leaders in the two major parties are not only more ideologically distant from each other but also more likely to describe each other in harsh terms,” they write.

We're dividing into warring groups and describing each other in harsh terms. This has been said again and again. Everybody knows this.

For better or worse, no one is much more scripted than Jennifer Rubin is. You always know what she's going to say. Tomorrow, we'll look at what she said in her recent column. 

Also coming, this latest from Blow. For today, we'll leave you with this:

Our species is good at building things—and at spotting Others.

Down through the millennia, clarity has rarely been our strong suit, even (or especially) at the highest academic levels. Job One has been defining The Others, a prelude to one of our wars.

Tomorrow: "72 percent"

Full disclosure, to set hearts at ease: This tendency won't be going away. It's all anthropology now!

Tucker Carlson exposes Joe Biden!


The silence of blue tribe lambs: We're losing a chunk of time today. And that's a shame, because the editors at Slate are giving us the chance to "get smarter" by reading these new reports from two of our tribal "dear friends:"

EMILY MCCOMBS / SEPT 28, 2022 / 5:55 AM
My Wife is a Total Slob—And Her Justification for the Mess Is Absurd

Help! My Ex Is Up to Something Suspicious With My New Boyfriend

Two more examples of Slate's good, solid, completely relentless, thought-provoking journalism!

Slate is a blue tribe publication; its work is aimed at blue tribe readers. As with the dumbnification of the online Washington Post, the relentless onslaught of such material tells us something about who we actually are over here within the tents of our own self-impressed tribe.

More on that possible problem below. First, a note about who the red tribe currently is, on the level of red tribe propaganda elites.

We strongly suggest that you read a new post by Kevin Drum. It appears beneath this headline:

I have a question about Tucker Carlson, Nord Stream, internet trunk lines, and the American power grid

The post concerns the opening monologue on last evening's Tucker Carlson Tonight (links below). We'll only say what we've said for the past twenty years:

When major figures present such material to millions of viewers, the fact that such reports have been offered should be treated as front-page news in our nation's major newspapers.

Essentially, Carlson's viewers were told that the Nord Stream pipelines were sabotaged this week, almost surely, by President Joseph R. Biden. 

When millions of people are told such things by abandoned "lost boys" like the pitiful Carlson, that should be treated as front-page news in our nation's major newspapers. A modern nation can't hope to survive in the face of such relentless behavior. 

That said, our major newspapers are disinclined to engage in such reporting. One such paper, the Washington Post, is rather plainly in the process of dumbing itself way, way down.

To its credit, the New York Times continues to present itself as a traditional, serious newspaper. That's true in both its print and its online editions.

That said, the Times has published a letter today which merits blue tribe attention. The letter came from a reader in Vermont. Headline included, here is the letter's full text:

A Paper for the Elite?

To the Editor:

Every time I sit down to peruse The New York Times I feel conflicted. I appreciate the factual political analysis, but when I start meandering through other sections of the paper I have to conclude that most readers are a very rarefied elite whose lives revolve around choosing among multimillion-dollar real estate investments, building kitchens in back of their kitchens, or planning exotic, expensive and time-consuming meals.

As David Brooks rightly points out in “There Still Is No Strategy to Defeat Trump” (column, Sept. 16), the culture war we face boils down to a conflict between the “coastal elites” (e.g., readers of The New York Times) and the MAGA crowd and others who resent the elite.

The Times could do us all a favor by presenting its news and analysis in surroundings that look more like the lives of the 99 percent rather than a fabulously wealthy 1 percent. Doing so could go a long way toward creating a more welcoming environment for sharing political perspective with those who do not embrace such lavish lifestyles—as a matter of choice or necessity.

R— S— / Hinesburg, Vt.

It seems to us that this Vermonter's aim is true. 

Our blue tribe is currently losing a war with the likes of Tucker Carlson. In large part, he gains his cachet through the relentless appearance of self-involvement and class disdain which emanates, in various ways, from our own blue precincts.

(Our own cable stars continue to chirp our own inbred messages night after night after night.)

Our own blue tribe is famously self-impressed. At Slate and at the online Post, we're being shown that we may not be quite as impressive as we persistently claim.

In truth, we aren't all that, and it persistently shows! In part for that reason, the red rank and file won't listen to us when we tell them that they're being misled by the likes of Carlson. Also, as noted, our major newspapers are reluctant even to visit this topic. 

The red and rank and file won't listen to us. In fairness, we aren't a super-impressive group. We give these others plenty of reason to disregard the various things we say.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but our tribe (like all tribes) is deeply flawed. The fact that we don't understand that fact about ourselves may be one of our tribe's fatal flaws.

Linkages to a lost child: To watch Carlson's monologue, see Drum's post. For the transcript, just click here

Instant transcripts! Remember them?

UPDATE, 9:30 A.M.: On the front page of the online Washington Post, these are top four news reports:

Ian nears Category 5 as Fla. governor warns of ‘nasty’ days ahead

West condemns staged referendums, calls Nord Stream explosions ‘deliberate act’

Why this cheating accusation in the chess world matters

7 ways a recession could be good for you financially

Three more news reports follow. Two of them are these:

Marijuana’s last taboo: Parents who get stoned

This jet suit could make you fly like Iron Man — if you’re rich

Some of that seems a bit "light." From there, it's quickly on to ADVICE and these four reports:

Carolyn Hax: Will she always be ‘The Mistress’ to her now-husband’s children?

Ask Jules: Should teachers let students follow them on social media?

Miss Manners: My daughter eats at a slower pace than the rest of the family

Ask Amy: I’m 32 years old and don’t know how to make friends

WELL + BEING then offers five reports, including these:

Try these emotional exercises if you can’t find a therapist

How exercising now could benefit your future grandchildren

We don't understand that last headline either. We'll have to read the report! 

At any rate, if you continue to scroll, you'll eventually reach the sections set aside for WORLD and NATIONAL news. 

We'd say this famous national newspaper is being dumbed way down. Indeed, to our practiced eye and ear, the online Post no longer has the feel of a real newspaper!

To its credit, the online New York Times hasn't dumbed its online edition down this way. That said, it seems to us that the letter writer's observation stands.

One last time, The Dumbnification!


The Dumbnification, it burns: We lost a chunk of time this morning. We thought we'd show you what the Washington Post looked like when we returned to our sprawling campus at roughly 10:45 A.M.

We refer to the online Washington Post. At the top of the site's front page, three news reports were bannered. Those news reports bore these headlines:

How McCarthy’s political machine worked to sway GOP field for midterms

Ian makes landfall in Cuba as Category 3 hurricane; Fla. on alert

Meet the National Zoo’s new arrivals, from a Komodo dragon to a sand cat

It seemed to us that the Post was directing us to those new arrivals at the zoo in rather short order.

Two more news report got bannered billing. These were the headlines they carried: 

Mississippi’s welfare scandal goes much deeper than Brett Favre

She was an only child. Now she has 101 great-grandchildren.

Celebrity was selling that first report. (In today's print editions, it appears below the fold of the first page of the Post's SPORTS section. Online, it's one of the day five most important items.) 

The second report was being sold by the great-grand 101!

At any rate, within the newspaper's top five reports, we had the dragon and the cat—and we had the 101 great-grandchildren! There followed two reports from the WELL + BEING section:

Ultra-processed foods linked to early death, disease, weight gain

Five covid questions scientists still can’t answer—and why it matters

Not that such things may not matter! But after that, we were offered these four articles from the section called ADVICE:

Carolyn Hax: Husband ‘really upset’ that he can’t pick out spouse’s new car

Ask Elaine: I’m turning 30. Are my best days behind me?

Miss Manners: How do I pass co-workers chatting across the hallway?

Ask Amy: My neighbor’s daycare kids play outside unsupervised

Soon, we were offered these additional reports from the WELL + BEING section:

Syphilis cases are surging. Should I be worried?

Short menstrual cycle could be linked to early menopause

Ask a Doctor: Why do I get sleepy in the afternoon after eating lunch?

Struggling with mental health, I began to shoplift

Normal marital hatred is real. Here’s what to do about it.

Yesterday, some of this very same dreck was featured. Not that there's anything wrong with it—until such time as there is.

By now, we'd been offered links to quite a few reports—but few of them seemed to fit traditional notions of actual "front-page news."

At last, we hit a hard-news section:  CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT. But then it was back to a pair of non-traditional sections—HELP DESK, followed by LIFESTYLE.

Just so you'll know, the LIFESTYLE section offered these five reports:

Renovation with a purpose: A D.C. home gets a big eco-friendly overhaul

Iman makes the case for fashion’s humanity

Woke is now a dog whistle for Black. What’s next?

Most don’t read the fine print. Here’s what to look for before buying.

Ghent is Belgium’s unsung capital of cool

At this point, it finally happened! We hit the section marked NATIONAL—the section the online Post reserves for national news.

Our view? In its online edition, the Washington Post seems to be publishing the quiet part out loud. The discourse is being overtly dumbnified, with no real attempt to hide it.

As a nation, we've never had anything resembling a genius national discourse. That said, to borrow from Joyce:

The dumbnification is increasingly general across the great tribal divide. 

On the brighter side, and in various manifestations, this dumbnification seems to be good for the various bottom lines.

Today's discussion question: Do you believe that former Republican hitman Tim Miller is Stephanie Ruhle's "dear friend?"

That's what the cable star called him last night. Should viewers believe such words?

When QBs decide to take three knees!


Statistical misdirection: Lamar Jackson is off to a good start this year. He's off to a good start both running and passing the ball, but also in terms of trying to earn too much money.

Yesterday, how good was his running? With one minute left in the game, Jackson had run the ball eight times for a total of 110 yards. 

That was 13.8 yards per rushing attempt, a rather gaudy number.

One minute later, the whistle blew—and his numbers looked substantially different. As you can see, this is Jackson's official line for yesterday's rushing performance:

11 rushes, 107 yards
9.7 yards per rushing attempt

What had happened to Jackson's performance? Simple! With Baltimore comfortably in the lead, he "took a knee" at the end of the game, thereby running out the clock.

In fact, he took a knee on three consecutive plays—and under NFL statistical procedures, taking a knee is counted as a rushing attempt. The quarterback is charged with a rushing attempt, and he's charged with losing a yard, or sometimes with losing two.

Should "taking a knee" be counted as a rushing attempt? We would say that it pretty much shouldn't.

For starters, it obviously isn't a rushing attempt. It also isn't a rushing attempt when a quarterback gets sacked for a loss of yards—but sacks, and the yardage lost, are treated as a separate statistical category. It seems to us that "taking a knee" should be recorded separately too.

Our question:

Did Jackson run for 13.8 yards per rushing attempt, or was it just 9.7? As you can see, the difference is large.

In this most fully informed of all possible worlds, what should the record books tell us?

For professional skeptics only: You can track the eleven rushes here.  That includes the three "rushing attempts"-that-weren't right at the end of the contest.

AMERICAN APPLE PIE: American anti-Semitism!


But also, reflexive disdain: The front page of today's Washington Post seems like the front page of a traditional American newspaper.

Six reports are featured on that front page. A person could argue that the topic selection may tilt a bit in the blue tribe's direction, but each topic seems like a real news topic. That starts with the report which appears in the upper right-hand corner bearing this triple headline:

Russia fights to hold the line
More protests erupt over war effort, mobilization

That's the featured report on today's front page. To our eye, it has the look of a real front page.

We refer, of course, to the front page of the Washington Post's print edition. That same newspaper's online front page seems a bit different to us. 

Here are the headlines on the three reports featured at the top of that page:

He came out as trans. Then Texas had him investigate parents of trans kids.

Seniors are stuck home alone as health aides flee for higher-paying jobs

Let’s talk about the big reveal in ‘Don’t Worry Darling’

Online, we encounter that "big reveal" amazingly fast! Only the report about home health aides appears on the print edition's front page—and it's the "softest" of the six topics found there. 

Continuing down the online front page, we meet the next three topics. The report on Russia is now included, but then again, so is this:

5 money-saving tips for grocery shopping

Soon, we're deluged with links to various ADVICE columns, and with such WELL + BEING reports as these:

Struggling with mental health, I began to shoplift

Ask a Doctor: Why do I get sleepy in the afternoon after eating lunch?

Normal marital hatred is real. Here’s what to do about it.

Boredom is a warning sign. Here’s what it’s telling you.

Not that there's anything wrong with it! Later, we reach the news sections for the WORLD, and also for the NATION.

We're struck by the dumbnification of the Post's web site pretty much every day now. For ourselves, we continue to find ourselves in the grasp of the new Ken Burns film, The U.S. and the Holocaust

Watching the film's six hours over the weekend, we were struck by its portrait of anti-Semitism in America during the 20th century. This portrait returned us to the Boston suburb of our youth, and to our escape to suburban San Francisco in 1960, as we entered eighth grade.

We may remark on the differences observed in the Golden State as the week proceeds. For today, we'll note our surprise at the general lack of discussion occasioned by the Burns film—and we'll note our concern at the polling numbers featured on today's Morning Joe.

The numbers struck us as quite poor. Numbers from the New York Times/Siena College poll were reported in the Times under this gloomy headline:

Trump Support Remains Unmoved by Investigations, Poll Finds

Even as a treasured array of legal cases proceed, Trump's support shall not be moved! Granted, 53% of respondents said they view the former president unfavorably. But that is little more than half, and it compares to 51% who said, in that same poll, that they think he has committed serious federal crimes!

Even worse, a Washington Post/ABC News poll showed Republicans running four points ahead of Democrats in "generic question" polling about who voters want to control Congress. Joe put the best face on the numbers, but the numbers struck us as quite bad.

(Full disclosure: We don't know how these elections will turn out. This recent assessment by Ed Kilgore offered a gloomy though sensible view.)

Increasingly, our nation is really a pair of nations. As President Lincoln said long ago ("Each side prayed to the same God") these nations agree on a basic point:

They agree that our nation stands divided between Ourselves and The Others.

Tens of millions of our fellow citizens don't share our blue tribe's view of the current state of affairs. On many mornings, we listen to people calling C-Span and we're struck by the depth of the differences—differences which extend to dueling tribal conceptions of basic, elementary facts.

We've also been struck by the lack of discussion about the Ken Burns film. Casting about, we found a review in The New Yorker which ran beneath these headlines:

Ken Burns Turns His Lens on the American Response to the Holocaust
Commemorating the Holocaust has become a central part of American culture, but the nation’s reaction in real time was another story.

The review was written by James McAuley, who's ten years out of Harvard. Inevitably, he closed his piece with a familiar bit of snark about the American masses:

MCAULEY (9/18/22): This latest project is both a departure from and a continuation of the Burns œuvre—a departure because he focusses, for the first time, on an atrocity that occurred far from the nation whose myths he regularly interrogates and advances; a continuation because he seeks to show that the Holocaust, too, forms part of a decidedly American history. If the film has a thesis, it is delivered in a line from an interview with the historian Peter Hayes: “exclusion of people, and shutting them out, has been as American as apple pie.”


The persecution and mass murder of European Jews between 1933 and 1945 loom so large in our culture that even our own homegrown brownshirts now have the Holocaust on the tips of their tongues. In recent years, a sitting member of Congress, Marjorie Taylor Greene, has styled her enemies as “Nazis” and posted a video of a fake-looking President Biden with a Hitler mustache. Beyond the arena of electoral politics, a number of ordinary people wore yellow stars on their lapels to protest coronavirus-vaccine requirements. Given its interest in the contemporary, “The U.S. and the Holocaust” might have confronted, or at least acknowledged, these fixations and distortions. They, too, turn out to be as American as apple pie.

The highly educated youngster closes his piece was a familiar, snarky dismissal of Amerikan attitudes. He complains that Burns wasn't hard enough on "our own [American] brownshirts."

Of course, such attitudes are common around the world, even in places like present-day Italy and Sweden. For better or worse, "exclusion of people" has always been one of our species' apparent general tendencies.

Also for better or worse, snarky dismissal of Others has long been "as American as apple pie" within our own blue tribe's preserves. McAuley closed with a bit of snark. It's amazingly easy to do so. Our tribe has been at it for years, or possibly even forever.

We recall how much better California was in the summer of 1960. We're specifically thinking about anti-Semitism in its tragic American forms.

It was better in California at that point in time! Can lessons be learned from that fact? 

As the week proceeds, we'll give it a try, though we'll guess that the die has been cast.

Tomorrow: We may be delayed tomorrow

Spectacular confuse-istry!


As spooned in the New York Times: Almost surely, Alec Wilkinson, age 70, is a thoroughly good, decent person. 

According to the leading authority on his life, Wilkinson "has been on the staff of The New Yorker since 1980." According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, he is among the "first rank of" contemporary American "literary journalists."

Also, Wilkinson wrote a guest essay in today's New York Times which helps explain the gloomy last line of that Graceland album:

"That's why we must learn to live alone."

Wilkinson says that he is trying, late in life, to learn mathematics. By total coincidence, he also writing a book about this undertaking.

Needing to fill space, the New York Times decided to give him a chance to publicize his book. Along the way, in his guest essay, Wilkinson offers this assortment of mumbo-jumbo and argle-bargle, causing the later Wittgenstein to roar with pain in his grave:

WILKINSON (9/25/22): The beginner math mystery, available to anyone, concerns the origin of numbers. It’s a simple speculation: Where do numbers come from? No one knows. Were they invented by human beings? Hard to say. They appear to be embedded in the world in ways that we can’t completely comprehend. They began as measurements of quantities and grew into the means for the most precise expressions of the physical world — E = mc², for example.

The second mystery is that of prime numbers, those numbers such as 2, 3, 5, 7, 11 and 13 that can be divided cleanly only by one or by themselves. All numbers not prime are called composite numbers, and all composite numbers are the result of a unique arrangement of primes: 2 x 2 = 4. 2 x 3= 6. 2 x 2 x 2 = 8. 3 x 3= 9. 2 x 3 x 3 x 37 = 666. 29 x 31 = 899. 2 x 2 x 2 x 5 x 5 x 5 = 1,000. If human beings invented numbers and counting, then how is it that there are numbers such as primes that have attributes no one gave them? The grand and enfolding mystery is whether mathematics is created by human beings or exists independently of us in a territory adjacent to the actual world, the location of which no one can specify. Plato called it the non-spatiotemporal realm. It is the timeless nowhere that never has and never will exist anywhere but that nevertheless is.

Mathematics is one of the most efficient means of approaching the great secret, of considering what lies past all that we can see or presently imagine. Mathematics doesn’t describe the secret so much as it implies that there is one.

 In that passage, Wilkinson describes the two great mysteries he's come across in this pursuit of old age. 

On the one hand, he wants to know "where numbers come from." Also, he wants to know why prime numbers "have attributes no one gave them."

As Wilkinson ponders these puzzlements, he takes us back to Plato's belief in "the timeless nowhere that never has and never will exist anywhere but that nevertheless is." He somehow feels that he is somehow "approaching the great secret!"

In effect, he's asking where the number 2 lives. Simply put, you can't stop humans from saying such things, from revisiting such high bafflegab.

Today, we have instant instruction! Concerning Wilkinson's first question, the correct answer is this:

QUESTION: Where do numbers come from?

CORRECT ANSWER: I don't know what you mean.

In short, the person who presents that fuzzy question must be asked to explain himself. Briefly, let's be fair:

In fairness, that question sounds like a perfectly sensible question, along the lines of such questions these:

Daddy, where do babies come from?

Mommy, where did our ancestors come from?

Did these raspberries come from the store? Or did they come from our garden? 

Everyone knows what is being asked when someone asks those questions. But what is Wilkinson talking about when he asks where numbers come from?

Simply put, the point of his question isn't abundantly clear. Assuming he can't get clearer in his own head, we'd offer these reactions:

Our species' use of number words emerged through a laborious process of evolution. 
Some collections of objects were seen to be greater; some collections of objects were seen to be lesser. Slowly, our ancestors invented ways to distinguish between the size of such groups.

Beyond that, we can offer no help, until the high-ranking American writer is able to explain what he means.

Concerning Wilkinson's second "mystery," Wittgenstein writhes in his grave. 

In all honesty, the later Wittgenstein was hopelessly inarticulate himself. This helps explain why his methods of clarification never caught on with our species.

That said:

Wilkinson seems to be saying that prime numbers (the numbers 5 and 7, let's say) have the following attribute: they can only be divided by themselves and one.

That simply means the following:

If you have a collection of seven rocks, you can't split them into two groups of equal size (as you could with a collection of six rocks). Also, you can't split a collection of seven rocks into three groups of equal size!

We're not sure what makes a person want to keep asking why that is, but it's a great deal like the habit, familiar among 5-year-olds, of thinking that saying "Why?" makes sense in every context.

At some point, the question "Why?" stops making sense. At some point in their development, most humans come to understand that fact, leaving only the logicians and the gifted American writers.

Let's explore this matter further:

If you have four cupcakes and two children, you can split the cupcakes evenly among the children. (Each child can get two cupcakes.)

If you have five cupcakes and two children, you'll have to split one of the cupcakes in half! Remarkably, people like Wilkinson, dating to Plato, have found themselves mystified by such basic facts. 

In modern times, such people speak to the New York Times. Their work is then rushed into print.

The later Wittgenstein was remarkably inarticulate. He wasn't good at explaining what he was talking about.

Articulating for him, he might have said something like this:

We get tangled up in forms of language which lead us far astray. We take forms of language which make perfect sense in various familiar contexts and export them to other contexts, where they produce a feeling of mystification.

Rather than think those differences through, we start inventing mystical worlds. Numbers and circles now seem to live in one such world, along with their various "attributes." In short, we generate hocus-pocus.

(Wittgenstein, in a different context: "Where our language suggests a body and there is none: there, we should like to say, is a spirit.")

Needless to say, this is all Rebecca Goldstein's fault. It's all her fault, but it's also the fault of the process of evolution which invented our highly imperfect human brain, an organism which rather plainly wasn't designed to handle such puzzles as these.

For the record: For the record, Plato said very few things which made any actual sense.

In his defense, he lived more than a hundred years ago. At the very dawn of the west!

When others (aren't allowed to) arrive!


Concerning the Ken Burns film: It occurred to us, just yesterday, that we didn't know much about Ron DeSantis, given his increasingly prominent role in American politics.

We checked the leading authority on his life. When we did, we were surprised by some of what we learned.

We were (very) surprised to learn that he's only 44. He seems much, much older to us—and we don't mean that as a compliment.

We were (somewhat) surprised to learn that he's a native Floridian, born and bred. We don't know what "native Floridians" look and seem like, but we'd have to say that DeSantis isn't it.

We pretty much already knew that he graduated from Yale, then from Harvard Law School. He seems to have come from a working-class background. He was not to the manor born.

In this recent column, David Brooks described himself as "a DeSantis doubter...I doubt someone so emotionally flat and charmless can win a nomination in the age of intensive media," Brooks wrote. 

We agree with Brooks concerning the gentleman's remarkably lifeless affect. We can't say that we feel sure that Brooks' political judgment is accurate.

Immigration policy and procedure:

By the start of this week, DeSantis was starring in blue tribe discussions due to his recent dispatching of some Venezuelan migrants to Martha's Vineyard. 

Under terms of a prevailing mandate—No Bait Left Behind—this action produced waves of angry pushback. In a column she wrote with Bret Stephens, Gail Collins offered this overall view:

COLLINS (9/20/22): You have waves of folks fleeing from disaster back home—these days, particularly Venezuelans.

Many of them have endured terrible treks by foot, sometimes with children. If they present themselves at the border, their claims have to be processed, which can take a lot of time. The procedure is really a mess, and meanwhile there’s the choice between letting them live miserably in makeshift camps or providing them, and especially their children, with the services they need.

Like his predecessors, Biden has been trying to get the system improved, but the legal issues plus the politics make it almost impossible.

If these folks make their way into the country illegally, with luck they’ll get settled and work out their immigration problems later. But of course they can also wind up homeless and drift into crime. The border state residents have to bear most of the burden just because of their location, so you can see why they’d resent that.

Prevailing procedures are "a mess," Collins wrote—and it's hard to disagree with that assessment. That said, we were struck by her statement about the way border states, and their residents, have to bear most of the burden of this procedural chaos.

In the tumult of the past week, we saw no attempt from blue tribe tribunes to quantify the way the burden is or isn't distributed. 

How much of the burden of prevailing procedure does fall on the border states? Admit it—you don't really know either! As a general matter, our journalism is increasingly built on the angry transmission of narrative, not on the development of information and facts.

The Ken Burns film:

This weekend, we're catching up on the new Ken Burns film for PBS, "The U.S. and the Holocaust." Right from its opening scene, the film is built around a terrible fact:

Anne Frank's family was unable to gain admittance to the United States when they were living in Amsterdam. For that reason, Anne Frank—a brilliant child who would later be regarded as a sacred figure around the world—died in Bergen-Belsen at the age of 15 years, along with her older sister, Margot Frank.

We well remember the first time we learned about Anne Frank. We were maybe 9 or 10. We read about her in a full-length spread in Look or Life, or one of those mid-50s magazine monoliths.

It's estimated that the sisters died in February or early March of 1945. Bergen-Belsen was liberated on April 15 of that same year. They came that close to survival.

Once again, we recommend Francine Prose's 2009 book, Anne Frank: The Book, the Life, the Afterlife. Back in 2009, NPR published its interview with Prose under this headline:

Francine Prose Explores Anne Frank's Literary Genius

Along with the interview, an excerpt is posted. Prose begins her book with a quote from John Berryman, all the way back in real time:

"I would call the subject of Anne Frank's Diary even more mysterious and fundamental than St. Augustine's, and describe it as: the conversion of a child into a person..."

We can't recommend Prose's book strongly enough. For us, it came as a revelation, in several different ways. 

Our view? Its beautiful cover, a tribute to life, pays the price of admission alone.

WHEN OTHERS ARRIVE: Meredith Willson calls his shot!


Paul Simon lives alone: Long ago and far away, Meredith Willson called his shot.

Willson was author of The Music Man, a smash hit Broadway musical and then, in 1962, an Oscar-nominated film. 

The Music Man told the story of Professor Harold Hill, an itinerant con man at the turn of the 20th century. 

He cons the people of River City into buying trombones for their kids. But how would the children ever learn to play their new trombones?

Learning to play would be no problem, the alleged professor said:

[Professor Hill] incites concern among River City's parents that their boys are being seduced into sin and vice by the town's new pool table. He convinces them that a marching band is the only way to keep boys out of trouble, and begins collecting money for the band.


Hill tells the boys to learn to play via the "Think System," in which they simply have to think of a tune over and over and will know how to play it without ever practicing on their instruments.

Hill's con is nearly complete: all he has to do is collect the rest of the money and disappear.

In the end, the phony professor's "Think System" pretty much seems to work! But this is the happy ending to a Broadway musical, not a slice of real life.

Professor Hill extolled the think system—and so now has Donald J. Trump! On Wednesday night, he told Sean Hannity how his particular version of Professor Hill's system works.

At one point, Hannity asked Trump about the classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago. This exchange occurred:

HANNITY (9/21/22): You have said on Truth Social, a number of times, you did declassify [the documents in question]. Is there a process? What was your process to declassify?

TRUMP: It doesn't have to be a process, as I understand it. You know, there's different people say different things. But as I understand, there doesn't have to be.

If you're the president of the United States, you can declassify just by saying it's declassified—even by thinking about it. Because you're sending it to Mar-a-Lago or to wherever you're sending it.  And there doesn't have to be a process. There can be a process, but there doesn't have to be. 

You're the president. You make that decision. So when you send it, it's declassified. I declassified everything.

So it goes with this new iteration of Professor Hill's "Think System." 

Most experts say that Trump's presentation makes no sense, or is simply wrong as a matter of established procedure. We did see Bradley Moss say, on Thursday evening's Last Word, that there might be a tiny germ of truth to what Trump said in that passage. 

Alas! Our systems are all so complexified that it seems to be very hard to ever make a definitive statement about pretty much anything. Beyond that, it's hard to explain how anything works, and few people really try.

At any rate, most people agree that Trump's version of the "Think System" doesn't make sense, or is just flatly wrong. At any rate, it started out as a joke in The Music Man—and now it's a part of world news, bannered across the top of A1 along with Putin's threat to use Mother Russia's nukes.

That said, Trump continued to talk that night. It seems to us that his next presentation was considerably stranger. 

Why did the FBI conduct its search of Mar-a-Lago? Even with Hannity trying to help, Trump proceeded to offer this:

TRUMP: There’s also a lot of speculation, because of what they did,  the severity of the FBI coming in, raiding Mar-a-Lago—

Were they looking for the Hillary Clinton emails that were deleted but they are around someplace? Were they looking for the spying on Trump's—

HANNITY: Wait, wait. You're not saying you had it?

TRUMP: No, no. They may be saying—they may have thought that it was in there. And a lot of people said the only thing that would give the kind of severity that they showed by actually coming in and raiding with many, many people is the Hillary Clinton deal, the Russia, Russia, Russia stuff, or I mean there are a number of things.

Does this presentation make any sense? The FBI went to Mar-a-Lago hoping to find Hillary Clinton's deleted emails?

At moments like these, we're inclined to despair for the republic, such as it has been. We don't even begin to understand what Trump's speculation might mean. But the apparent craziness of this presentation has occasioned little comment.

We've been asking a question for some time: Is something "wrong with" Donald J. Trump? Every once in a while, he says something which seems to make no earthly sense, even as an absurdly strained attempt at self-justification.

In what way could Hillary Clinton's deleted emails have been present at Mar-a-Lago? We don't have any idea what this could mean—and neither, it seemed, did the frustrated Hannity.

At times like these, we'll admit it. We're inclined to give up. 

Maintaining a large continental nation requires the establishment of a delicate balance. This is especially true when the large nation in question involves a wide array of identity groups, a project that's dear to the hearts of our blue tribe at the present time.

(At one time, we liberals emphasized sameness. Now we emphasize difference.)

Beyond that, the development of new technologies has made this task much more difficult here in our staggering nation. Crazy statements are quite widespread, and our human discernment is limited.

Is something "wrong with" Donald J. Trump—whether with his "mental health" or with his basic cognition? 

Our press corps has agreed that such questions must never be asked. Also, our upper-end press corps works on a level where presentations like this are somehow believed to make sense:

ROBERTS (9/22/22): Saul Kripke, a math prodigy and pioneering logician whose revolutionary theories on language qualified him as one of the 20th century’s greatest philosophers, died on Sept. 15 in Plainsboro, N.J. He was 81.

 Professor Kripke’s classic work, “Naming and Necessity,” first published in 1972 and drawn from three lectures he delivered at Princeton University in 1970 before he was 30, was considered one of the century’s most evocative philosophical books.


The Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Taylor Branch, writing in The New York Times Magazine in 1977, said Professor Kripke had “introduced ways to distinguish kinds of true statements—between statements that are ‘possibly’ true and those that are ‘necessarily’ true.”

“In Professor Kripke’s analysis,” he continued, “a statement is possibly true if and only if it is true in some possible world—for example, ‘The sky is blue’ is a possible truth, because there is some world in which the sky could be red. A statement is necessarily true if it is true in all possible worlds, as in ‘The bachelor is an unmarried man.’ ”

For more detail, see yesterday's report. That said:

According to the New York Times, the late Saul Kripke is recognized as one of the 20th century's most important philosophers because he noted the fact that, while the sky is blue in our world, there is some world in which the sky could be red. 

That's why Kripke is so important. At the very top of our upper-end press, such reasoning is presented as if it actually makes sense.

This seems to be the best we can do; this seems to be all we have. We think of the glum closing line in the upbeat yet gloomy album, Graceland:

"That's why we must learn to live alone."

The post-war project which failed: The Music Man was one in a series of major musicals of the post-war era in which a certain type of man was returned to the human race by the intervention of a woman with better human values.

The Music Man, The Sound of Music? Gigi, My Fair Lady, The King and I? In these smash-hit musicals, various types of domineering men are humanized by their recognition of, and adoption of, stereotypical "women's values."

These leading men were humanized by their leading women. It's a post-frontier project we'd strongly endorse, but it doesn't quite seem to have worked. 

WHEN OTHERS ARRIVE: Vladimir Putin threatens the world!


Cable keeps serving us porridge: We wish, wish, wish we could focus today on the work of Saul Kripke, whose death, at age 81, is reported in the New York Times.

In the Times' obituary, Sam Roberts describes Kripke as "a pioneering logician whose revolutionary theories on language qualified him as one of the 20th century’s greatest philosophers." 

It may be surprising to think that you've never heard of one the greatest philosophers of the 20th century.  But as we told you some years back, it's all anthropology now.

In fairness, Roberts isn't a specialist in the branch of alleged erudition known as academic philosophy. As a journalist, he's had a long career at the New York Times, dating to 1983.

In this morning's obituary, Roberts attempts to explain Kripke's enormous stature. The attempt begins in paragraph 3, then proceeds onward as shown:

ROBERTS (9/22/22): Professor Kripke’s classic work, “Naming and Necessity,” first published in 1972 and drawn from three lectures he delivered at Princeton University in 1970 before he was 30, was considered one of the century’s most evocative philosophical books.

“Kripke challenged the notion that anyone who uses terms, especially proper names, must be able to correctly identify what the terms refer to,” said Michael Devitt, a distinguished professor of philosophy who recruited Professor Kripke to the City University Graduate Center in Manhattan.

“Rather, people can use terms like ‘Einstein,’ ‘springbok,’ perhaps even ‘computer,’ despite being too ignorant or wrong to provide identifying descriptions of their referents,” Professor Devitt said. “We can use terms successfully not because we know much about the referent but because we’re linked to the referent by a great social chain of communication.”

Say what? People can use familiar terms despite knowing little about "their referents?" 

Can that possibly qualify as a discovery in the field of "logic?" Can that possibly explain why Kripke is rated as highly as he is? 

As he continues, Roberts stumbles ahead, keeping the Times from breaking faith with a companion elite. His attempt at explanation continues:

ROBERTS (continuing directly): The Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Taylor Branch, writing in The New York Times Magazine in 1977, said Professor Kripke had “introduced ways to distinguish kinds of true statements—between statements that are ‘possibly’ true and those that are ‘necessarily’ true.”

“In Professor Kripke’s analysis,” he continued, “a statement is possibly true if and only if it is true in some possible world—for example, ‘The sky is blue’ is a possible truth, because there is some world in which the sky could be red. A statement is necessarily true if it is true in all possible worlds, as in ‘The bachelor is an unmarried man.’ ”

According to Kripke, "The sky is blue" is only a possible truth—it isn't a necessary truth—because we can imagine a world in which the sky is red?  As of 1972, could that possibly have qualified as some sort of major discovery in the field of "logic?" 

On its face, that seems to make little sense. And yet there it is, offered precisely that way, in this morning's New York Times, with editors relying on subscribers to accept such work on the part of the Times without eye-rolling or spit-takes or snorting, or even comment or criticism.

(As we'll show you below, we think that passage is a bit unfair to what Taylor Branch actually wrote.)

The fact that such work can appear in the Times is a fact about anthropology. According to experts in the field, so it may go when major journalists attempt to maintain faith, in a transparently illusory way, with the world of academic philosophy. 

Surely, no one can think that Roberts' explanation actually seems to make sense. As readers, though, we mumble each word to ourselves as we read through this strange account.

We agree to swallow our doubts. We agree to pretend.

In such ways, our tribe agrees to maintain faith in our intellectual elites. And that's how it works, it may possibly seem, with the way we accept the basic functioning of our upper-end mainstream journalism.

In our view, the New York Times has basically run a charade in today's obituary. In our view, the paper does a much more respectable job in the layout of its front page.

Even there, the paper basically splits the difference between two dueling events. The events in question are these: 

On the one hand, Vladimir Putin has threatened to bring an end to the world. But also, an appeals court has rejected a frivolous appeal by Donald J. Trump!

How should the importance of those dueling events be weighed? As some logicians might be able to say, that is a matter of judgment—but, like Solomon of old, the New York Times has pretty much decided to split the baby. 

In this morning's print editions, Putin's threat to destroy the world dominates two-thirds of the paper's front page (four columns out of six). Beneath a banner headline concerning President Biden's address to the U.N., the Times offers two reports:

Russian Leader Challenges the West, Issuing a Veiled Nuclear Threat

In Address to U.N., President Assails Kremlin as a Menace to Peace

In our view, that nuclear threat was thinly veiled, but that too is a matter of judgment. At any rate, this topic consumes two-thirds of the space at the top of page one—but it's placed to the left of the page.

The upper right-hand corner of the front page concerns Trump's legal troubles. Here too, a pair of reports appear, with one headline in all caps:


New York Sues Trump, Citing Decade of 'Staggering' Fraud

In our view, Putin's threat to destroy the world is a major event. 

Depending how you want to score it, the legal events concerning Trump may have been given a larger display in the Times—though we'd say the Times played the two events as basically even-Steven in importance.

Reviewing, Putin has said that he damn-straight will use his nukes. Also, Trump got an expected negative ruling, by a unanimous vote.

In this morning's New York Times, these two events share the top of A1. But on blue tribe cable news last night, things were enormously different.

In the last two hours of the evening's broadcasts, the news about Putin's threat was mentioned in one (1) seven-minute segment. Other than that, it was tribal porridge and tribal pleasure all the way down:

Trump Trump Trump Trump Jail! This framework consumed the entirety of The Eleventh Hour with Stephanie Ruhle. It consumed all but one brief interview segment on The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell. 

Lawrence ran that one short interview segment, starting at 10:52 P.M. Aside from that, it was two solid hours of Trump Trump Prison Jail.

Back in our youth, Slim Pickens hallooed and waved his ten-gallon hat as he descended to earth riding a nuclear weapon. What kind of news judgment was offered last night on blue tribe cable news?

As some logicians could probably tell you, that is a matter if judgment. As for the death of (the undoubtedly brilliant) Kripke, we call tell you this:

Taylor Branch was an historian, not a specialist in academic philosophy. Still, we think he was scoring points in the street-fighting Summer of 77, saying such things as this:

BRANCH (8/14/77): Though this may not be an age of philosophical gods, Robert Nozick, the Harvard political philosopher, has called Saul Kripke "the one genius of our profession,” and many of Kripke's distinguished colleagues, who are not by nature given to lavish praise, say that he could one day rank with such legendary figures as John Stuart Mill and Bertrand Russell.

It is remarkable that someone so young has approached such a ranking. yet is so little known outside his field. But philosophy has changed a great deal in the past century. While “social” philosophers like John Dewey and Jean‐Paul Sartre are practically household names, they do not represent the mainstream of contemporary philosophical inquiry, which has become such an arcane discipline that it leaves most laymen gasping for meaning. Those who can easily grasp formulations like Descartes’ “I think therefore I am” are befuddled by a modern “analytic” philosopher's equivalent: “To be is to be the value of a variable.”

British analytic philosophers have abandoned to science the “pursuit of truth” while claiming for their own the logician's and semanticist's “pursuit of meaning.” Even the most well‐educated persons in America today, who understand the metaphysics of Schopenhauer or the epistemology of Kant, flounder in the mathematical thickets of such 20th‐century figures as Rudolph Carnap and Willard Van Orman Quine. 

This alone would explain why philosophy has become an isolated field of knowledge, increasingly neglected even by the must intellectual circles of society. But there is another, more important reason. 

The analytic school to which Kripke belongs has taken philosophy into such esoteric realms that it is divorced from classic philosophic questions like “What is the good life?” The analytic philosophers do not seek to provide a synthetic, or universal, “theory of life.” Many students who came to philosophy drunk with Plato or spellbound by Santayana have dropped out after discovering that the ideas of the old philosophers are out of the way, refrigerated, while their professors work with equations. The professors speak of “ordinary language” with distance and long for a “perfect language” in which the meaning of all words will be as precise as that of numbers. The current philosophical journals are packed with so many equations and Greek variables that a large family of waterbugs seems to be skating across the pages.

Kripke's contributions to philosophy thus far have extended the boundaries of the most unfamiliar and technical regions of modern analytic philosophy—where philosophical reasoning intermingles with abstract mathematic theory. He has worked in the field of modal logic, a branch of formal logic that has introduced ways to distinguish kinds of true statements—between statements that are “possibly” true and those that are “necessarily” true.

Thank God for modal logic! According to Branch, it was that branch of formal logic which had allowed Kripke to note the fact that certain statements are only possibly true.

Branch isn't and wasn't a specialist in academic "philosophy." We wouldn't endorse everything he wrote in that passage, but we'd say he was occasionally in the turnstiles on his way into the ballpark.

Full disclosure! We were introduced to Branch on one occasion, right there in Baltimore's version of the Pantages. We'll only say what we've said before:

In our view, the logicians have largely walked off their posts. Along the way, they left some comical markers behind, including the hundreds of pages Russell devoted to proving that 1 + 1 equals 2.

The logicians have largely walked off their posts! That helps explain why you've never heard of one of the greatest philosophers of the 20th century.

At the Times, Roberts offers a puzzling account of Kripke's greatness. As in the old joke from the Soviet Union, Times readers agree not to notice.

(The old joke from the Soviet Union: We pretend to work, and they pretend to pay us.)

Within our tribal elites, we keep pretending that we have "logicians" guiding us in our various struggles. Also, we keep pretending that we have a wide array of functioning mainstream journalists.

Last evening, on tribal cable, the plight of the migrants had disappeared. But so it goes, again and again, when others arrive at our borders.

Tomorrow: Attention C-Span callers!

Fuller disclosure: O'Donnell mentioned Putin's threat, somewhat briefly, during his seven-minute interview with Karine Jean-Pierre. 

For the most part, Jean-Pierre was allowed to spend the time extolling President Biden's unmistakable greatness. "Karine Jean-Pierre gets the last word," Lawrence said as he closed.

WHEN OTHERS ARRIVE: Ron DeSantis, at it again!


"Ghost flights" occasion a cheer: "Back out of all this now too much for us?"

That's the way Robert Frost began his puzzling poem, Directive. For what it's worth, the poem appeared in 1946!

Frost might have been speaking about the world of public discourse in which we now live—a world of discourse largely created by the "democratization of media."

News consumers no longer are restricted to a choice between Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley, neither of whom was insane. We now suffer beneath a Babel of "news" and "information" outlets—a profit-based Babel in which the dissembling and misinformation seem to be virtually endless.

Everyone and his crazy next-door neighbor runs his own "news outlet" now. This lets the misinformation flow—and if you doubt that, please consider what Governor DeSantis just said.

We start with a thrilling "news report" from the Fox News Channel. The report was posted yesterday afternoon. This morning, the report appears beneath this thrilling headline:

DeSantis rips into outrage over Martha's Vineyard flights: 'I didn't hear a peep' about Biden flights

DeSantis was busy deceiving the people again! For the record, here's the way Timothy Nerozzi's "news report" starts:

NEROZZI (9/20/22): Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis dismissed criticism of him flying migrants to Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts, claiming his political opponents have ignored similar initiatives from the White House.

DeSantis spoke at an event in Florida Tuesday during which he took questions from the press.

DeSantis was asked by a reporter to comment on harsh criticism from across the aisle accusing him of "human trafficking" for flying approximately 50 migrants to Martha's Vineyard, a famous stronghold of wealthy Democrats.

"So when Biden is flying these people all over the fruited plain in the middle of the night, I didn't hear a peep out of those people," DeSantis told the crowd Tuesday...

DeSantis was attacking the hypocrisy of the libs. In the governor's framing, the libs have savagely criticized him for flying people to the Vineyard—but they haven't said a word when Biden has (apparently) done (something like) the same thing.

What was DeSantis talking about? If you watch Fox, you surely know. If you watch MSNBC, you most likely don't. 

If you watch the tape of the DeSantis event, you can hear roar of the crowd when he makes this statement. They think they know what DeSantis is talking about, and Fox News is cheering them on.

People who watch Fox News will recognize the DeSantis reference. He was referring to the famous "ghost flights" which have formed a key part of the channel's novelizations about immigration over perhaps the past year.

President Biden's fiendish "ghost flights" have long played a starring role at Fox. If you're watching MSNBC, you don't hear a word about this. Instead, you hear hours of our own tribe's favorite novels, almost all of which involve some version of Trump Trump Racist Trump Jail.

That said, what are the "ghost flights" to which we refer? In what way was DeSantis still dissembling, even this late in the game, as the crowd cheered him on?

Traditional news sites have made scattered attempts to fact-check the endless claims about the fiendish "ghost flights." Below, we offer you the links with which you can straighten this matter out on your own:

The Washington Post: February 2, 2022
Claims of ‘ghost flights’ of ‘illegal immigrants’ don’t add up
NPR: June 20, 2022
'Ghost flights' are the latest GOP effort to weaponize immigration ahead of midterms
The New York Times: June 24, 2022
‘Ghost Flights’? The Facts Behind Transporting Migrant Children

PolitiFact: September 6, 2022
A surprising number of Americans believe these false claims about immigrants. Here are the facts

For our money, much of that report by PolitiFact was strikingly incompetent. Also, we don't know why  PolitiFact would find it "surprising" when people believe all sorts of claims which they hear again and again.

That said, PolitiFact did supply the basics about the so-called "ghost flights." It did so in its final section, "The government is not secretly flying immigrants around the country."

As you can see, it can't be said that mainstream outlets have never fact-checked this matter. That said, the fact-checks have been occasional, and have been widely ignored. The bogus claims about "ghost flights" continue day after day on Fox, but also at scattershot press events.

Yesterday, DeSantis was playing the "ghost flight" card for a group of cheering minions. On MSNBC, our tribunes talked and talked, then talked and talked, about Trump Trump Trump Trump Trump Trump Trump Trump Trump Trump Prison Jail.

(Shortly after 11 P.M., Stephanie Ruhle said we'd "get smarter" with her "all-star panel." We get told, all through the day, that these people are all our "friends.")

On these dueling cable channels, Storyline is in the saddle and riding humankind pretty much all the way down. Red tribals receive their narrative-affirming soap operas from the Fox News Channel. We get ours from our own cable news stars.

Do not deceive yourself into thinking that one of these profit-based outlets is playing it straight. Tomorrow, we'll plan to show you what was said on Morning Joe this morning.

The analysts screamed and tore at their hair. "Back out of all this now too much for us," we heard a voice say in our heads!

Tomorrow: Morning Joe sounds like Newt Gingrich!

Has Ron DeSantis broken the law?


Bexar County Jail: Did Ron DeSantis break the law when he engineered those flights to Martha's Vineyard?

We don't have the slightest idea. Jonathan Chait says he probably did:

CHAIT (9/20/22): The Ron DeSantis approach to governance is to feed a steady flow of chum to conservative media. His most recent such measure was a made-for-Fox gambit that involved transporting two planeloads of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard in a modern reverse Freedom Ride. But not only did Martha’s Vineyard’s residents greet the residents with love rather than the fear DeSantis hoped to provoke, it also seems probable he violated the law in order to pull it off.

There are two potential legal violations at play: lying to the migrants and misusing state funds.

Multiple reports have found the migrants were lured onto the plane with misleading or false promises that included employment. WBUR’s Eve Zuckoff and NPR’s Luis Clemens interviewed migrants the night they arrived in Martha’s Vineyard. At least two reported a woman who called herself “Perla” promised them jobs and four months of housing at their destination:


One of the migrants told the Boston Globe, “There, a lady offered us three months of rent, work, and said they were going to put our papers in order.”

Yesterday, Javier Salazar, the sheriff of Bexar County in Texas, opened an investigation into whether any laws had been broken in luring the migrants onto the plane.

Inevitably, our liberal world is now picturing DeSantis consigned to the Bexar County jail. We regard this as our tribe's latest "category error."

Here's what we mean by that:

Our problem—and it's deeply serious—is a political problem. It involves the way many voters are drawn to the kind of claims and conduct performed by people like Trump and DeSantis.

Almost surely, you can't solve a political problem by means of criminal law. But our tribe rarely seems to imagine the pursuit of a political solution to our political failures.

On cable, our tribe has devoted years to the project of getting Trump locked up. Our tribunes discuss this project for hours on end, day after day after day after day. 

Everything else disappears. Little else gets discussed, including the actual immigration problems which turn a lot of voters toward DeSantis and Trump.

Inevitably, we're now seeking the same type of "jail cell solution" in the matter of DeSantis. One thinks of the early Tommy Lee Jones vehicle, Jackson County Jail.

(Beyond that, Chait's reference to the Freedom Rides reminds us that, by dint of basic tribal law, DeSantis must also be seen as a racist.)

For us, the political instincts to which we refer recall the old country song. You recall the name of that famous old song:

Born to Quite Possibly Lose.

A basic reminder: How might our tribe peel voters away from the Trump-DeSantis orbit?

We recommend this basic reminder. We're seeking to win the most persuadable of these voters, not the "hard-core fanatics."

Those "fanatics" have a perfect right to their beliefs, of course—but no, they aren't the target. We aren't after 100 percent of the vote. We're after maybe five points more.

INSTANT UPDATE: Also, let's get Cathy Latham locked up.

WHEN OTHERS ARRIVE: In fairness, the New York Times has tried to explain...


...the chaos of our procedures: As we noted yesterday, we're forced to say that John from New York didn't have it totally right.

More specifically, he didn't have it totally right concerning the way the New York Times—and even, perhaps, the Washington Post—has covered, or has at least attempted to cover, the tortured and torturous topic of American immigration policy and procedure.

John called C-Span's Washington Journal on Sunday morning. In our view, he made a good point—or at least, he made a good point on balance. 

But along the way, he overstated the state of play concerning the work of the New York Times. As we noted yesterday, this is the way he began:

JOHN FROM NEW YORK (9/18/22): Yeah, thanks for taking my call.

The topic today is "GOP governors send migrants to Democratic areas." Now, it took this long for this topic to come front and center in the Washington Post, the New York Times, and actually be front and center on the Washington Journal. 

Basically, this has been going on for—since Biden was elected president. The first day in office, he changed all kinds of restrictions with executive orders. We've had two million people coming across our borders, and we haven't discussed it until Ron DeSantis and Abbott, the governor of Texas, sent a couple of busloads with a couple of thousand people to New York City...

Had John been discussing the conduct on "cable news," we'd say his statement was basically accurate. 

As we noted yesterday, immigration issues are endlessly discussed on Fox News, though with something less than obsessive accuracy. 

By way of contrast, such issues are very rarely discussed on blue tribe cable channels. Instead, our tribunes obsessively focus on our one controlling topic:

Trump Trump Trump Trump Jail.

That said, the New York Times has made several attempts, in recent months, to explore this hopelessly complex topic, sometimes in front-page reports. 

In these reports, the Times has tried to explore the complexities which get massacred on Fox and ignored by MSNBC. Consider the report which appeared in print editions on August 6, appearing beneath this headline:

Bused Far From Border, to Shelters, Tents and Park Benches

Miriam Jordan penned the report. In print editions, it topped the first page of the paper's National section.

As she started, Jordan described the plight of a recent migrant from Venezuela. This was an early attempt by the Times to discuss a certain "political tactic" being pursued by a pair of Republican governors:

JORDAN (8/6/22): Lever Alejos was out of money and out of options when he arrived in South Texas last month, after an arduous journey from Venezuela that culminated with him crossing the Rio Grande in water up to his chin. The Border Patrol quickly arrested him, and after his release, he was offered a choice: a $50 bus ride to San Antonio, or a free bus ride to Washington, D.C., paid for by the State of Texas.

“I wanted San Antonio, but I had run out of money,” said Mr. Alejos, 28, who has no family in the United States. “I boarded the bus to Washington.”

A few days later, he arrived in the nation’s capital, among a busload of weary migrants. He spent the first night in the plaza across from Union Station but eventually found a bed at Central Union Mission, where he hopes to stay until he can apply for asylum, get a work permit and find a job—a process that could take months.

Offered a choice, Lever Alejos took the bus ride which would be free. As she continued, Jordan offered the background on the choice Alejos had been offered:

JORDAN (continuing directly): A political tactic by the governors of Texas and Arizona to offload the problems caused by record levels of migration at the border is beginning to hit home in Washington, as hundreds of undocumented migrants arriving on the governors’ free bus rides each week increasingly tax the capital’s ability to provide emergency food and housing.

With no money and no family to receive them, the migrants are overwhelming immigrant nonprofits and other volunteer groups, with many ending up in homeless shelters or on park benches. Five buses arrived on a recent day, spilling young men and families with nowhere to go into the streets near the Capitol.

Amazing! Migrants were arriving at the southern border "with no money and no family to receive them." According to Jordan, many were ending up "in homeless shelters or on park benches." They'd been allowed to enter the country, but they had nowhere to go.

In that passage, Jordan described a certain "political tactic by the governors of Texas and Arizona"—a tactic designed "to offload the problems caused by record levels of migration at the border."

In that passage, Jordan seemed to empathize with officials in D.C. while possibly snarking a bit at the "political tactic" of the Republican governors. Later, though, Jordan offered a thumbnail account of those governors' stated concerns:

JORDAN: Cities along the border in Texas and Arizona have at times been overwhelmed with a surge in unauthorized border crossings that peaked under the Biden administration, which has sought to unravel some of the harsh border restrictions imposed by former President Donald J. Trump.

While thousands of migrants have been swiftly expelled under a pandemic-related health order known as Title 42, thousands of others are being allowed into the country to pursue asylum claims because they cannot be returned to Mexico or their own countries.

State officials in Texas and Arizona have been greeting many of the migrants after their release from U.S. Border Patrol custody, offering them free bus rides to Washington in a bid to force the federal government to take responsibility for what they say is a failed immigration system.

After reaching their destinations, migrants may remain in the country for months or even years while they fight their deportation cases in court; they are allowed to work while they pursue asylum claims.

The situation has become acute in recent weeks with the arrival of so many Venezuelans, who cannot be expelled under Title 42 because Mexico will not take them and their own government does not have an agreement with the United States to accept deportation flights. And unlike most migrants from Mexico and Central America who have family and friends in the United States, Venezuelans often arrive with no money and nowhere to go.

We can't begin to capture all the complexities explored in Jordan's full report. These complexities tend to get massacred on Fox while being wholly ignored on MSNBC.

Last week's flight to the Vineyard did change that state of affairs. Suddenly, these immigration issues were being cited all across the blue tribe's world as well as over on Fox.

That said, the situation was being explored in a highly partisan way. On September 6, the Times had made another attempt to flesh these complex matters out. It did so with a front-page report which now carries these headlines:

Biden Administration Has Admitted One Million Migrants to Await Hearings
The presence of asylum seekers in the United States is both a humanitarian challenge and a political flash point in a divided country.

In this report, Eileen Sullivan took Times readers all the way to Portland, Maine. Sullivan began her report with this remarkable portrait:

SULLIVAN (9/6/22): At a modest hotel a few miles from the ocean here, most of the rooms have been occupied this summer by families from African countries seeking asylum—192 adults and 119 children in all.

They are among the more than one million undocumented immigrants who have been allowed into the country temporarily after crossing the border during President Biden’s tenure, part of a record-breaking cascade of irregular migration around the world.

Distinct from the hundreds of thousands who have entered the country undetected during Mr. Biden’s term, many of the one million are hoping for asylum—a long shot—and will have to wait seven years on average before a decision on their case is reached because of the nation’s clogged immigration system.

The hotel in South Portland is among a handful in the region, in addition to Portland’s family shelter, that are offering temporary housing for hundreds of new immigrants. Maine is unusual in that it allows asylum seekers to receive financial support for rent and other expenses, in part through its General Assistance program. 

Astounding! The migrants in question have, in fact, "been allowed into the country" as they pursue asylum status. They are separate and distinct from the hundreds of thousands who have entered the country undetected—without legal authorization.

That said, these migrants "will have to wait seven years on average before a decision on their [asylum] case is reached." And Sulivan says their chances for eventual legal success tends to be "a long shot."

In the meantime, as they wait, Sullivan further describes the complexity of these cases:

SULLIVAN: While immigration is among the country’s most hotly debated political issues, the focus is almost always on the surging numbers of people seeking to cross the southwestern border. Less attention has been paid to what happens to those who get released from government custody to lawfully await immigration court hearings and who end up scattered around the country. Some disappear into the shadows, never showing up for their court dates or required check-ins with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Others struggle to comply with reporting requirements in a system that is ever more overloaded and unorganized.

Their presence is both a humanitarian challenge and a political flash point for a divided country that has failed for decades to agree on who should be admitted, and for what reasons. It takes about a year before the federal government grants asylum seekers permission to work, and there is no designated funding to help support them in the meantime, as there is for refugees.

Astounding! According to Sullivan, it will take "about a year" before these people receive permission to work. After that, six more years before their cases are heard.

This is the ultimate portrait of a failing nation's failing systems. In the meantime, as in Casablanca, so too here:

"They wait—and wait, and wait."

In her front-page report, Sullivan said that immigration "is among the country’s most hotly debated political issues." That isn't exactly true on cable, where immigration issues are often demagogued on Fox while being ignored on MSNBC.

On Fox, you'll rarely hear the distinction drawn between (lawful) asylum seekers and those who enter the country without legal authorization. On MSNBC, you'll rarely much beyond this:

Trump Trump Trump Trump Jail.

Why is the state of Maine housing these migrants in those Portland motels? Eventually, Sullivan speaks to that question in her frpont-page report.

That said, the issues here are overwhelming and hopelessly complex. And, as Sullivan notes, these issues are all "part of a record-breaking cascade of irregular migration around the world," with attendant political problems on display in a wide array of lands.

These migrants—more specifically, these asylum seekers—wait and wait and wait. On Sunday, John from New York had the germ of an accurate point—but many C-Span callers repeated the familiar, comforting talking points of their warring red and blue tribes.

Our nation has largely ceased to exist in the face of such pseudo-discussions. In the meantime, as our giant nation fails, a very large number of good decent people wait and wait and wait.

Tomorrow: Dueling C-Span callers 

Focusing on the (perhaps) very few!


Where tribal identity comes from: We don't know anything about Lord of the Rings, or about Tolkien himself, or about Tolkien's world.

(As we used to enjoy telling Blaine and Patton, we were busy stopping a war when The Brady Bunch was on. So too with those books by this Tolkien fellow!)

That said, Kevin Drum has a sensible question today:

Apparently, a certain, possibly small number of people are complaining about the casting of non-"white" actors in Amazon’s new Lord of the Rings series. Drum says he suspects that the number of people advancing these complaints may be rather small:

DRUM (9/19/22): There's a tiny cadre of [stupenagels] writing about this [diverse casting], an even tinier cadre of committed racists, and a super tiny cadre of people who think they're arguing for being faithful to Tolkien's legacy. But the numbers are so small that it's not clear why anyone is bothering to write about this.

Am I wrong? Are there really hundreds of thousands of these folks around? Where? And if not, why are we bothering to give voice to a minuscule sliver of [lost souls] who have done nothing except spend ten seconds to write a snarky tweet?

Drum's question goes like this: 

Assuming that these complaints are coming from a mere handful of lost souls, why do we bother discussing them?

We don't know how many people are complaining about this casting issue. Drum seems to assume the number is small.

If so, why are some people talking about it? It seemed to us that a possible answer began to surface in these two comments to Drum's post:

COMMENT: As far as I can imagine, there's no way to know [how many such people there are], short of someone spending a bunch of money on a real poll, which seems highly unlikely and pretty pointless. But we know from many other polls, election results and the general news that the country is chock full of racists. So my guess is there are quite a few people [who are upset] about this stuff. Probably the relatively small number of trolls posting about it did a lot to generate a backlash that would not otherwise have existed, but that's the whole modus operandi of the rightwing hate machine. Take something silly that most people wouldn't know about and then leverage existing racism / sexism / homophobia / Islamophobia etc. to make it a controversy.

COMMENT: "Am I wrong? Are there really hundreds of thousands of these folks around? Where?"

While the loudest voices complaining about these are probably smaller than the noise they make, I would put the actual number of people who would have strong opinions along these lines if they were aware of it a lot closer to the number of people who are loyal Trump supporters.

These commenters rushed to say that the country is "chock full of racists." According to the second commenter, the actual number of such racist, sexist, homophobic Islamophobes closely resembles "the number of people who are loyal Trump supporters."

Within our self-assured blue tribe, this core belief forms a key part of tribal group identity. In some cases, observers may focus on complaints of this type as a way of instructing the rest of us rubes about the danger in failing to loathe The Others with sufficient zeal.

According to this wing of tribal thought, there's a Deplorable under every bed! As an example of what we mean, these are the headlines which sit atop the essay in Vox to which Drum refers:

The racist backlash to The Little Mermaid and Lord of The Rings is exhausting and extremely predictable 
Lord of the Rings and The Little Mermaid are just the latest targets of racist fans

According to this school of thought, we can't say "racist" often enough. There's a racist under every bed! Our blue tribe needs to be warned!

(We're exhausted by all this predictable stuff! This is just the latest racist behavior from all the racist fans!)

"The Others are very different from Us, and they're all very bad!" According to the major top experts with whom we consult, belief in this claim involves the oldest of all known human instincts.

Could this explain why some people may be inclined to talk about this? By the basic rules of construction, our answer will have to be yes!

Also, the source could be this: Another commenter offers this theory:

COMMENT: "There's a tiny cadre of [people] writing about this, an even tinier cadre of committed racists, and a super tiny cadre of people who think they're arguing for being faithful to Tolkien's legacy."

And a very large number of bots that are set up to spread & amplify every right-wing grievance.

"To amplify every right-wing grievance!" (And to set our "left-wing" alarm bells off?)

Does Putin like to divide and conquer? If so, the gentleman may be tired by now of amassing all the wins!