Teenagers can have mental health issues!


Adults, pretty much not: The journalistic rule is clear. We know the rule from this sub-headline in today's New York Times:

Helping Teens Struggling With Mental Health Issues

That headline tops a set of thoughtful letters concerning teenagers' mental health issues. In this way, the journalistic rule becomes clear:

New rule: Journalistically, teenagers can have mental health problems. But it seems that adults cannot.

Journalistically, adults can't have mental health / mental illness issues—and no, it isn't just Trump! Consider the way this report in today's New York Times describes David DePape:

BROWNING ET AL (10/31/22): A precise sequence of the break-in is still emerging, and a portrait of Mr. DePape is only beginning to take shape. People who have known him at various points in his life reveal a shy person who sought to improve the world, but also as someone whose life seemed to drift and whose behavior seemed strange at times, even unhinged.

The highlighted sentence doesn't quite parse. But according to people who knew him, DePape's behavior "seemed strange at times, even unhinged."

At times, his behavior seemed "unhinged"—even that! For the record, here is some of the behavior we seem to be talking about:

BROWNING ET AL: When Linda Schneider, 65, knew Mr. DePape for a couple of years starting in 2009, she was running an urban farm for low-income communities in the East Bay area. Mr. DePape would help her with her chickens and occasionally house-sit for her, she said.

At the time, Mr. DePape was living out of a storage unit in Berkeley and making hemp bracelets, said Ms. Schneider, who still lives in California. He had been using hard drugs but was trying to straighten his life, she said. She recalled him as being reliable, easygoing and painfully shy.

“He wouldn’t even have a bank account because he was terrified of talking to a teller,” she said.

By 2012, Ms. Schneider said she began receiving “very bizarre” emails from Mr. DePape in which he equated himself with Jesus Christ. She felt the messages were “somewhat dangerous,” she said, and she stopped communicating with him.

“This was a guy who didn’t have a lot of internal strength,” she said. “He’d follow anything a little abnormal in front of him.”

As of 2012, DePape had begun "equating himself with Jesus Christ." In the lexicon of the Times, this suggests the possibility that his behavior seemed strange at times, "even unhinged." According to the acquaintance they quote, he lacked internal strength!

It seems to us that newspapers like the Times go a million miles out of their way to avoid discussions of possible (severe) mental illness. 

Today, Browning at al. don't ask any of their interview subjects about the possibility that DePape had ever sought or received treatment for possible mental illness. Meanwhile, Charles Blow offers this thought about the endlessly bizarre behavior of Kanye West, which recently involved antisemitic stupidity:

BLOW (10/31/22): This is not about mental illness. Mental illness is very real and needs to be part of the conversation. But it doesn’t make you espouse anti-Black ideologies and antisemitism.

Mental illness doesn't make a person "espouse anti-Black ideologies and antisemitism?" On what basis does Blow claim to know that?

Is it possible that the Times could seek the counsel of medical specialists before they allow a person like Blow to offer such an assessment? That would seem like especially good advice in the current case, since West has said in the past that he's been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Back to DePape! In a report you'll never be able to find in the ridiculous online Washington Post, Davis and Bennett start by saying this:

DAVIS AND BENNETT (10/29/22): The San Francisco Bay area man arrested in the attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband filled a blog a week before the incident with delusional thoughts, including that an invisible fairy attacked an acquaintance and sometimes appeared to him in the form of a bird, according to online writings under his name.

David DePape, 42, also published hundreds of blog posts in recent months sharing memes in support of fringe commentators and far-right personalities. Many of the posts were filled with screeds against Jews, Black people, Democrats, the media and transgender people.

During October, DePape published over 100 posts. While each loads, a reader briefly glimpses an image of a person wearing a giant inflatable unicorn costume, superimposed against a night sky. The photos and videos that followed were often dark and disturbing.

According to DePape, an invisible fairy attacked an acquaintance and sometimes appeared to him in the form of a bird! The Post's reporters were willing to call these thoughts "delusional," but they too avoided asking DePape's acquaintances about any possible mental health / mental illness history. 

The woods are lovely, dark and deep. Many journalists went to the finest schools, but on this scariest day of the year, they avoid a major framework of established medical science as Dracula shrank from the cross. 

GOBLINS AND US: Elon Musk is a billionaire freak!


But quite a few goblins are Us: Unfortunately, the anthropology lesson continues! Let's start with some billionaires—that is, with some billionaire humans.

Elon Musk seems to be a person of zero discernment. As seen in this CNN report, he proved that for the ten millionth time with yesterday's braindead tweet:

DARCY AND O'SULLIVAN (10/30/22): Elon Musk on Sunday gave credence to a fringe conspiracy theory about the violent attack on Paul Pelosi.

The new Twitter owner tweeted a link to an article full of baseless claims about Pelosi. The article was posted on a website that purports to be a news outlet.

Musk, who has 112 million followers on the platform he now owns, posted the baseless story about Pelosi in response to a tweet from Hillary Clinton at 8:15 am ET. He later deleted the tweet around 2 pm, but not before racking up more than 28,000 retweets and 100,000 likes.


In 2016 the same website falsely claimed that Clinton had died and that the person on the presidential campaign trail was not Clinton but her body double.

It isn't possible to have less discernment than Musk. That said, he also has billions of dollars and millions of followers. Their discernment may at times be limited too.

Musk may be the world's richest person. He now controls the "platform" to which we humans repair when we want to invent ludicrous claims or to call Others names.

Jeff Bezos is also a billionaire. Now that he owns the Washington Post, its online edition is being turned into a rolling clown car. 

It's harder and harder to recognize the online Post as an actual newspaper. This very morning, as we type, the publication's top three news reports appear beneath these headlines:

‘I really thought I was going to die’: A reckoning awaits Seoul

Musk’s inner circle worked through the weekend to cement Twitter layoff plans

15 turkey alternatives for your Thanksgiving meal

Two out of three ain't half bad, you might say. That said, the dumbness and the distractions are everywhere at the online Post, presumably boosting profits for the former newspaper's billionaire boss.

Completing the rule of three, Donald J. Trump may not be a billionaire, but he plays one on TV. 

As of Monday morning, he hadn't offered any comment about the violent attack on Paul Pelosi. In fairness, he had offered words of condolence to the family of Jerry Lee Lewis, who died last Friday at the age of 87.

Increasingly, our national discourse lies in the hands of people with zero discernment—of those who, at least in certain cases, are almost surely some version of "mentally ill."

They unloose the crazy claims which crazy people believe to be true. It's been this way for a while now, dating all the way back to the mainstream press corps' wars against Clinton, Clinton and Gore—wars our own tribe's lack of discernment didn't allow us to spot.

The discourse is being shaped by defectives like Musk, Bezos, Trump. But when our own blue tribe attempts to respond, who do we have in charge?

Over the weekend, we were struck by a set of readings. We'll offer several examples:

On Saturday, a letter in the Washington Post directed us to an opinion column we didn't see in real time. The column was written by Perry Bacon, a good and decent person. The headline on Bacon's column said this:

America’s problem is White people keep backing the Republican Party

In our view, Bacon showed very poor journalistic judgment—showed substantially limited human discernment—at various points in this heartfelt piece. 

Inevitably, no editor at the Washington Post seemed to spot these problems. The column was waved into print, leading to the letter which led us to its text.

We also read David Frum's lengthy report at The Atlantic. 

Frum's report takes us deep inside the world of the associate, assistant and adjunct professors of our own blue tribe. The essay's twin headlines say this:

The New History Wars
Inside the strife set off by an essay from the president of the American Historical Association

Frum's report concerns the angry debate which followed a recent essay by James Sweet, president of the American Historical Association. Frum's essay begins as shown:

FRUM (10/30/22): Even by the rancorous standards of the academy, the August eruption at the American Historical Association was nasty and personal.

The August edition of the association’s monthly magazine featured, as usual, a short essay by the association’s president, James H. Sweet, a professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Within hours of its publication, an outrage volcano erupted on social media. A professor at Cornell vented about the author’s “white gaze.” A historian at the University of San Diego denounced the essay as “significant and substantial violence.” A historian at Knox College, in Illinois, organized an email campaign to pressure the AHA to respond.

Forty-eight hours after the essay’s release, Sweet posted a statement of regret for his words. The four-paragraph message concluded: “I apologize for the damage I have caused to my fellow historians, the discipline, and the AHA. I hope to redeem myself in future conversations with you all. I’m listening and learning.”

That attempt at mollification only widened the controversy...

This angry dispute generated a bit of mainstream coverage back when it occurred. Concerning the tenor of the dispute, we'd be inclined to offer this:

For reasons which are the fault of no living person—but also, due to the limits of human discernment—it can be very, very, very hard to sustain a "diverse democracy."

Frum goes into excruciating detail in the course of his essay. For ourselves, we clicked the link to the work of the historian who complained about the  “significant and substantial violence" involved in Sweet's short essay.

We'll only say that a glance at this professor's writings left the analysts wringing their hands and tearing wildly at their hair. Human discernment is very limited, and our own blue tribe now relies on such assistant, associate and adjunct professors as we continue our slide toward the sea.

Rather plainly, things are falling apart. The center seems to be failing to hold.

In large part, this is the work of the billionaires. But no one can address this state of affairs but our own blue tribe, and our own blue tribe is disastrously short of human discernment too.

In this morning's New York Times, the paper has done it again! The Times has gone to several precincts in Pennsylvania to see how the Other tribe lives.

Shane Goldmacher speaks to several Others about the Pennsylvania Senate race. Deep in his report, he even quotes one of these goblins:

GOLDMACHER (10/31/22): Justin Taylor, the mayor of nearby Carbondale, is another Obama-Trump voter. Elected as a 25-year-old Democrat almost two decades ago, he endorsed Mr. Trump in 2020 and grew increasingly more Republican, just like the city he serves.

Today, he is adamantly opposed to Mr. Fetterman, calling him a liberal caricature and the kind of candidate the left thinks will appeal to the people of Carbondale, a shrinking town of under 10,000 people that was founded on anthracite coal. “I think, quite honestly, he is an empty Carhartt sweatshirt and the people who are working class in Pennsylvania see that,” Mr. Taylor said.

Mr. Taylor is still technically a registered Democrat, he said, but he feels judged by his own party. “The Democratic Party forces it down your throat,” he said, “and they make you a bigot, they make you a racist, they make you a homophobe if you don’t understand a concept, or you don’t 100 percent agree.”

Still, Mr. Taylor said he might not vote in the Senate race at all...

The New York Times actually put that in print! Within our own infallible tribe, we've long tended to rise in protest when publications like the Times report the views of such monsters and freaks.

If we lived in Pennsylvania, we'd vote for Candidate Fetterman. That said, many former Democrats will be voting for Candidate Oz—and in our view, Taylor's observations are well worth considering on this most frightening day of them all.

Goblins are everywhere tonight. They're also found all over the discourse, sometimes perhaps Over Here.

Tomorrow: Where does a person start?

Carla from Illinois, but also Stephanie Ruhle!


The limits of human discernment: We listened this morning to the first hour of C-Span's Washington Journal.

Mimi Geerges took phone calls from C-Span viewers concerning the violent attack on Paul Pelosi. At 7:44 A.M., a caller on the Republican line offered these thoughts:

CARLA FROM ILLINOIS (10/29/22): Good morning. How are you?

GEERGES: Good thanks!

CARLA FROM ILLINOIS: I'm kind of like on the fringe about all this, because the fact is, is that, to me, it looks like another one of the Whitmer deals where the FBI has been involved.

They got some probably crazy person off the street, one of the homeless people there in San Francisco, to go in and do this. Then they're going to blame it on QAnon, and it's like— 

Really, the FBI has a lot to do with a lot of this stuff that goes on in the world and you ain't going to tell me any different.

You can hear the whole phone call here.

Carla's analysis continued briefly from there. We would say that this phone call provides an anthropology lesson—an important lesson concerning the limits of human discernment.

For the record, Carla lives in a village in southern Illinois whose population is just under one thousand. She seems to have formed an instant idea about this violent attack.

She wasn't asked to explain why she thinks the FBI was involved in this matter. For better or worse, C-Span's moderators rarely offer any reaction to the things their callers assert.

Needless to say, Carla is just one person. There are roughly 330 million people in the United States, roughly 260 million of whom are above the age of 18.

Carla is just one person of many. That said, she seems to have formed an idea about this attack in the absence of any evidence of any kind, and that's where today's lesson starts.

According to major anthropologists, human discernment is often extremely limited. Quite often, we humans don't behave like "the rational animal" we've sometimes claimed to be.

Carla from Illinois is just one person. She isn't an influential person. She may not be "well educated" in the ways we tend to define that term.

Today, experts are asking us to consider another example of badly flawed human discernment. They've referred us to this statement by Stephanie Ruhle, a high-ranking "cable news" host—a person who went to the finest schools, who is wealthy and is quite influential:

RUHLE (10/25/22):  Walk me through what that's supposed to look like. You're a young, vulnerable, 16-year-old girl dealing with an unwanted pregnancy, and you're supposed to address that with your parents, your doctor, and then what happens? You call a mayor?

As you know, MSNBC tends to hide its work. Thanks to the invaluable Internet Archive, you can hear Ruhle's statement here.

"Stephanie, that's bullshit," former Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter replied. He was accepting Ruhle's hapless paraphrase of something Candidate Oz had said.

We're so old that we can remember when we respected Nutter! At any rate, in response to what Nutter said, Ruhle broke out in a crooked grin, as if his wonderful barnyard language had been wonderfully daring, instructive.

Ruhle was offering a paraphrase of something Candidate Oz had said at that evening's Pennsylvania Senate debate. Her paraphrase was silly, dumb, stupid—pleasing but baldly bogus. 

That plainly wasn't what Oz had suggested or said. But according to experts, that's the best a certain class of blue tribe leaders are ever likely to do, given the limits of human discernment and the power of human ambition.

Dating to her hedge fund days, Ruhle has all the money in the world. 

She started out in the finest schools. Today, she's wealthy and quite highly placed—but in even a modestly rational world, that one bit of conduct would have gotten her fired.

That said, these are the "favorite reporters and friends" our flailing blue tribe widely follows. Their judgment and skills tend to be very poor—except in the realm of self-advancement, where they tend to be highly skilled.

Their basic intellectual skills tend to be strikingly limited. We're willing to guess that the paraphrase in question is truly the best Ruhle could do.

Alas! Dating all the way back to "Al Gore said he invented the Internet," these are the intellectual stumblebums who have been scripting our discourse. They're highly skilled at self-advancement, unimpressive at everything else.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep. Ludicrous as her phone call was, we'll take Carla from Illinois over this gang any day of the week.

She hasn't been to the finest schools. What is their excuse?

What did Candidate Oz really say? As we noted on Thursday, Monica Hesse explained the statement by Candidate Oz in her latest column for the Washington Post. 

She also discussed the actual problem, from the pro-choice perspective, with what the candidate actually said. No, really! You can read her column right here!

Hesse actually behaved like a competent journalist! Given the limits of human discernment and the desire to stick with the pack, you almost never see that.

Hesse broke every rule in the book when she behaved in the way she did. Ruhle was working from instant script—but according to major, world-class experts, this is the basic way of the world and no, it's not going to change.

ISP attacks again!


Each Friday, or so it seems: Maybe it's a scheduled thing we just don't know about. Our Internet service seems to go out many Fridays at 2 P.M.

It comes back on as 5 P.M. nears. People, we're just sayin'!

Added insight: Admit it! Whenever your Internet service goes out, you instantly fear that it will never come on again.

Experts tell us that's normal.

THE FALL: Traister spoke, and so did Putin!


Our blue tribe's route to the fall: Many voters in Ohio will adopt a different view.

That said, we pray that J. D. Vance doesn't win Ohio's Senate seat. In our view, Vance is a horror show, and we're impressed with the political intelligence of his opponent, Tim Ryan.

We wouldn't vote for Vance ourselves, though many Ohioans will. That said, we also wouldn't vote for the kind of journalism showcased directly below. 

We refer to the report about Vance in today's New York Times. In print editions, the report appears on the Times' front page. Sadly, it starts like this:

BARRY (10/28/22): Blue jeans evoked his hardscrabble upbringing, and a crisp dress shirt conveyed his success as a Yale Law School graduate, venture capitalist and best-selling memoirist—with the open collar signaling that he was still just J.D., who happens to be the Ohio Republican candidate for the Senate.

This was the J.D. Vance uniform as he spoke one October Saturday to Republican campaign volunteers gathered in a Cincinnati office, near a portrait of a brow-knitted Donald J. Trump...

They just can't quit the childish world which features silly accounts of the secret meanings of the items which make up a candidate's wardrobe.

For twenty months, they did this with Candidate Gore. They discussed his boots, his suits, his polo shirts, the height at which he hemmed his pants. 

They discussed the color of that one earth-toned suit and the reason his boots were so shiny. They discussed the number of buttons on his deeply troubling suit jackets (3), and the reason why all three were buttoned. 

They played these cards for the bulk of two years. After that, the United States went into Iraq. Today, that wardrobe game has returned.

"Man [sic] is the rational animal?" Plainly, that isn't the case.

 Major world-class anthropologists have been telling us that for quite a few years. The woods are lovely, and deep, these experts say, but we humans tend to see through a glass extremely darkly.

Today, these experts have told us to tell you about two recent presentations. Also, to mention Professor Johnson again, whose (well-intentioned) specific remarks we'll push ahead to next week.

Oddly, one presentation to which these experts refer has come from Vladimir Putin! Atop the front page of today's New York Times, Anton Troianovski's account of yesterday's speech by Putin starts exactly like this:

Playing to Western Discord, Putin Says Russia Is Battling ‘Strange’ Elites

President Vladimir V. Putin declared on Thursday that Russia’s battle was with “Western elites,” not with the West itself, in a speech seemingly aimed more at winning over political conservatives abroad than his own citizens.

Mr. Putin, addressing an annual foreign policy conference outside Moscow, appeared intent on capitalizing on political divisions in the United States and its allies that have only heightened since they began showering Ukraine with military aid to fend off the Russian invasion.

Many of the Russian leader’s themes were familiar, but they took on particular resonance given the coming midterm elections in the United States and growing discontent in Europe over the costs of the war.

“There are at least two Wests,” Mr. Putin said.

There are at least two Wests? As Troianovski continued, he spelled out what Putin meant about the competing values of the "two Wests" to which he referred:

One, he said, is a West of “traditional, mainly Christian values” for which Russians feel kinship. But, he said, “there’s another West—aggressive, cosmopolitan, neocolonial, acting as the weapon of the neoliberal elite,” and trying to impose its “pretty strange” values on everyone else. He peppered his remarks with references to “dozens of genders” and “gay parades.”

Mr. Putin, as he often does, portrayed Russia as threatened by the possible expansion of NATO—and the values of its liberal democracies—to countries like Ukraine that were once part of the Soviet Union.

Putin thinks it's strange! He thinks its strange that a certain "western elite" says there are "dozens of genders." 

Beyond that, he seems to be saying that such strange beliefs threaten his own "Christian values." But are his claims actually true?

Is there really a "western elite" which claims there are "dozens of genders?" Somewhere, we'll guess, you could find some such elite. On balance, we'd have to say—surprise, surprise!—that Putin was perhaps embellishing concerning this alleged point.

Having said that, let us also say this:

In that speech, Putin was creating a picture of the West which is often seen on Fox News broadcasts. We've seen that portrait on Tucker Carlson Tonight several times this week alone—and we're rarely able to sit through the entire hour-long broadcast. 

Indeed, live and direct from the state of Vermont, we saw a version of that portrait on Carlson's program last night! Before we offer a further assessment, let's also talk about something we saw on MSNBC this past Tuesday night.

Live and direct from Pennsylvania, the Fetterman-Oz debate had just concluded. On Alex Wagner Tonight, Wagner introduced New York Magazine's Rebecca Traister.

As we noted in Wednesday's report, Traister soon offered this remark concerning Candidate Fetterman:

TRAISTER (10/25/22): There was such intense scrutiny—often, ableist scrutiny—over how he was going to communicate.

Right out of the gate, Traister complained about the ableism directed at Candidate Fetterman. 

As before, so too today:

We aren't asking if Traister's perception was actually "accurate" here. We're asking if her instant reference to "ableism" will possibly sound "strange" to a broad swath of American voters—if it might even seem that Traister was speaking from the inside of an elite which is promoting unfamiliar concepts and values.

We hate to say it, but could it be true? Could it be that Vladimir Putin has a better understanding of our blue tribe's ongoing fail than our own tribal leaders do?

Remember—as the fall elections approach, we aren't asking if the actual values of our leaders are decent and well-founded. Pace Putin, we're asking if the way our corporate leaders express those values might seem "strange" to a wide swath of the people who help decide the outcomes of our elections.

To our eye and ear, Traister was speaking from inside a badly cosseted elite: 

To our eye and ear, her host dresses expensive and coiffs expensive. For her own part, Traister quickly turned to language which comes from far outside the standard American lexicon.

It's fairly well proven that these can be ways to convince voters not to listen. Later, Traister began to drop an array of more familiar bombs.

Also this:

In our view, the incident from Vermont which Carlson discussed last night will strike a substantial majority of American voters as being somewhat "strange." He wasn't even forced to dissemble all that much as he discussed the incident.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But in truth, the leadership of our flailing blue tribe is sometimes a bit of a self-involved clown car. 

The children of blue tribal elites—Wagner's father co-chaired Bill Clinton's presidential campaign—focus on blue tribal values. They tend to turn to aggressive name-calling as soon as Others evince different sets of reactions, outlooks and views.

We tribals! We call the Others every name in the book, then wonder why they won't do the things we tell them to do! This past Monday, we thought Professor Johnson gave a great example of this impulse on Deadline: White House.

(To our eye, Professor Johnson was quite upset, and was completely sincere.)

Is it possible? Is it possible that Vladimir Putin understands the American electorate better than Traister and Wagner do? Better than Lawrence does? Better even than Nicolle Wallace, who (given her history) struck us as amazingly disingenuous on yesterday's Deadline: White House?

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but is it possible that our tribe is in the hands of a hapless children's crusade? Are we led by a cosseted "western elite" whose defining characteristic is its love of self and its apparent contempt for Others?

How will the fall elections turn out? We can't answer that question! But does the portrait offered by Putin help point the way to a fall?

In our view, Carlson is an astonishingly disingenuous Lost Child. That said, he reported events from Vermont involving cultural values (and behaviors) which will strike many voters as strange. He wasn't even forced to play the fool all that much as he did so!

Our tribe's Lost Children are sure they're right—and they only speak to their own "dear friends." As blue tribe members, we've been strongly inclined, for the past twenty years, to get in line behind them.

Professor Johnson seemed fully sincere. But oh, what kinds of values are these "which go from bad to worse?"

Next week: Blue tribe, heal thyself!

Stephanie Ruhle was working from script!


Monica Hesse explains: Today, we get the chance to speak well of Monica Hesse—though only up to a point.

In print editions of today's Washington Post, Hesse's new column is easy to find. It was right there in its usual spot, on the front page of Style.

In print, the column is easy to find—but if you read today's Post online, you might not know that the column even exists. We were only able to find it online by searching on Hesse's last name!

So it goes as the Bezos Post becomes more and more strange.  That said, there's nothing strange about the accurate point with which Hesse starts her column today—a column which carries this headline:

What Dr. Oz really said about abortion during debate

That key word, "really," suggests a key fact—a statement by Oz at Tuesday's debate has been widely misrepresented. To her credit, before she possibly goes a bit wrong, Hesse starts out saying this:

HESSE (10/27/22): During Tuesday evening’s senatorial debate between Pennsylvania’s John Fetterman and Mehmet Oz, the latter candidate allegedly said something shocking and enraging about abortion access, which was then allegedly captured in a tweet that got a lot of attention:

“Oz says his abortion position: should be between ‘a woman, her doctor, and local political leaders,’ ” wrote a Democratic opposition researcher.

John Fetterman, who is recovering from a stroke, had been the candidate for whom viewers were on gaffe alert. But to read this tweet—which has been reposted thousands of times—it seemed that Oz, a smooth television personality, had instead won the headline for most alarming statement.

Only, he didn’t say it—not quite, not exactly. I went back and re-watched the clip. 

We'd say that Oz didn't say it at all, but that is a matter of judgment. For now, consider the astonishing journalistic act Hesse describes in that passage:

Hesse is a major journalist. In this instance, she went back and checked the tape to see what Oz actually said! 

As we've told you for several decades, such things simply aren't done! 

Truth! It's very, very, very rare to see a mainstream journalist do what Hesse does at the start of her column. In the face of a pleasing narrative, Monica Hesse actually went back and checked the actual facts!

She then proceeded to so the unthinkable. She described the way other journalists played the fool in the wake of Tuesday's debate.

In Hesse's account, a Democratic opposition researcher quickly produced a bungled account of what Oz had said. But because the bungled account made Oz look especially stupid and bad, the rest of the kids  stampeded off and repeated the bungled account.

According to Hesse, the oppo researcher's bungled account has been reposted thousands of times. As part of that foolishness, the bungled account has also been served to us rubes by multimillionaire "journalists."

Truth up! That's exactly the way our discourse was working back in 1998, when we launched this incomparable site. Twenty-four years later, that's the way the clowning worked in the immediate aftermath of Tuesday night's debate.

Truth up! An oppo researcher produced an account which made Oz sound amazingly stupid. So the horrible children who script our world all began to recite the pleasing account—Stephanie Ruhle and Nicolle Wallace and quite a few others oh my!

In the face of such familiar conduct, it's very rare to see a major journalist do what Hesse has done. Hesse has blown the whistle on the latest act of group stupidity engineered by the corporate multimillionaires who constitute "our favorite reporters and friends."

As she continues her column today, Hesse makes a second important point. She says that what Oz actually said about abortion is actually worse than what he is said to have said. 

We don't completely agree with that, but we agree with Hesse's basic point. Her basic point is this:

For anyone who is pro-choice, what Oz actually said at Tuesday's debate should be seen as quite undesirable.

How stupid was the faux paraphrase our corporate hacks churned out? We've decided to wait another day to show you what Stephanie Ruhle said on her "cable news" program late Tuesday night.

Ruhle was simply working from script, reciting the latest inanity. Our blue tribe keeps accepting this crap from these overpaid hacks while wondering why we can't win.

Tomorrow, we'll take this to the next step. For today, gaze in wonder:

Hesse didn't think that was what Oz said. Breaking every rule in the book, she decided to go back and check!

In print, her column was highly visible. Online, it can't be found.

THE FALL: Tucker and Lawrence debate the debate!


A portrait of the fall: Monday evening's Senate debate continues to be debated.

We refer to the Pennsylvania Senate debate between Candidates Fetterman and Oz. In this morning's print editions, the New York Times offers three separate reports:

Fetterman’s Debate Showing Raises Democratic Anxieties in Senate Battle

Pennsylvania Voters Absorb an Unusual Debate: ‘I Felt Sorry for Fetterman’

What the Pennsylvania Media Is Saying About the Senate Debate

In print editions, that first report is the featured report atop the paper's front page. In that third report, four Philadelphia journalists are quoted saying these things:

Sharp critiques from The Philadelphia Inquirer’s opinion staff

A panel of columnists and other contributors was less than charitable in its reviews of both candidates, giving Mr. Fetterman an average score of 4.3 out of 10 and Dr. Oz a score of 4.1.

Here’s some of what the panelists said:

“The only good thing you can say about Fetterman’s performance is that he didn’t put on airs. He is authentically inarticulate.” — Jonathan Zimmerman

“Rather than counter his reputation as a snake-oil salesman, Oz leaned into it for most of the debate, with slick answers that were as empty as the diet pills that he once promoted (despite his ridiculous dodging answer) on TV.” — Will Bunch

“Fetterman’s stumbling and verbal gaffes made the debate a complete cringefest from beginning to end.” — Jenice Armstrong

“For all his years on TV, Oz came across as a fast-talking used car salesman.”—Paul Davies

Borrowing from Paul Simon's The Boxer: "Does a columnist hear what he wants to hear and disregard the rest?" 

For ourselves, we would vote for Fetterman, for the obvious reason: 

Within our current political system, the only thing which really matters in this race is which party controls the Senate. As we note this obvious point, we'll be straightforward enough to note this related fact:

Down in Georgia, some voters will vote for Candidate Walker for the exact same reason. 

Across the nation, few people watched this debate. You can watch the whole debate, and read a full transcript as you do, thanks to the invaluable web site Rev.

"Cable news" was perhaps less helpful last night. We say that for the following reason:

At 8 P.M., we watched Tucker Carlson. At 10 P.M., we watched Lawrence. 

We watched Tucker and Lawrence last night. Each host opened his program with a segment about the Pennsylvania debate.

In our view, each fellow was uselessly partisan. This is all part of our floundering nation's ongoing political fall.

At 8 P.M., Carlson engaged in his standard behavior. He started with a reasonable premise, given the fact that Fetterman's performance had raised valid points of concern.

That said, he was quickly overstating wildly, with both thumbs on the scales. Consider what he said about Rebecca Traister's appearance on Alex Wagner Tonight, an appearance we discussed in yesterday's report.

Carlson played tape of Traister's first few remarks. Then, he offered this:

CARLSON (10/26/22): We just keep clips like that around just for future historians to assess what went wrong in America and we wanted the hackiest possible response, the most dishonest assessment ever offered of any public event, and we just played it for you.

For a transcript and tape of Carlson's monologue, you can just click here.

For the record, Traister actually didn't present "the most dishonest assessment ever offered of any public event." For the record, Carlson tends to perform that task himself, pretty much on a nightly basis.

As an example of what we mean, consider what Carlson said next. In the passage shown below, he is referring to Traister's claim that "there were moments where [Fetterman] was really strong, including...his very fluent and direct response on raising the minimum wage. I thought was a really strong moment:"

CARLSON (continuing directly): Because we're literally can't control ourselves, you just heard her say that Fetterman had a strong answer to a question. Talk about patronizing, by the way. Well, we thought we'd go and check what was his answer. You can assess for yourself whether this was "strong." Here it is:

MODERATOR: What do you say to small business owners who have told us that if the minimum wage were increased to $15 an hour, it would put them out of business? You have 30 seconds. 

FETTERMAN: We all have to make sure that everyone that works is able to, that's, that's the most American bargain that if you work full time, you should be able to live in dignity is well true and I believe they haven't, have any businesses being, being, we can't have businesses being subsidized by not paying individuals that just simply can't afford to pay their own way. 

CARLSON: Again, we could fill the hour recapping John Fetterman's sad responses, but it's not really that surprising. Anyone who's been following John Fetterman for the past five months, you knew that he was profoundly cognitively impaired, and it turns out he is.

Is Fetterman "cognitively impaired" at all, let alone "profoundly?" We aren't qualified to make such assessments. Neither, of course, is Carlson.

We are prepared to tell you this:

As you can at the Rev site, Fetterman responded to two (2) consecutive questions concerning the minimum wage. 

His first response—the response to which Traister was likely referring—was in fact fairly articulate.  His second response was not, so that was the lone response for which Carlson provided tape.

Carlson dissembles in such ways on a nightly basis. He also offers ludicrous, sweeping assessments concerning the motives of Others. (Traister had also been selective in ignoring that second, jumbled response, in which Fetterman had to respond, off the cuff, to a follow-up question.)

Carlson often starts from a reasonable premise, then dissembles in ludicrous ways. His presentation last night was pure propaganda, as his efforts frequently are.

That said, we're not sure that Lawrence did a whole lot better.

First, our apologies! We can't link you a transcript of Lawrence's presentation. MSNBC began slow-walking its transcript production long ago, we assume for the obvious reason.

At present, the most recent transcript from a Last Word program dates from October 4. We assume it's obvious why the channel is doing this—and yes, it's an obvious mark of the times.

That said, you can watch Lawrence's full presentation here. We'll say this about that:

All in all, Lawrence delivered a monologue in which he made an obvious point: Many political leaders have continued to serve despite significant medical events.

Lawrence cited the medical history of several important political figures, including Winston Churchill. In his second segment. he interviewed Senator Chris Van Hollen, who suffered a mild stroke back in May. 

Van Hollen was back on the job within a week. This, of course, tells us nothing about the possible severity of Fetterman's medical event. Nor did Lawrence interview any medical journalist—any person who could have offered specialized information concerning the general topic at hand.

Tucker was pushing his viewers one way. Lawrence was also pushing his viewers, though in the opposite direction. 

In the process, every scrap of relevant medical information was left far behind. We'd vote for Candidate Fetterman ourselves, but we would vote against the way these "cable news" channels perform.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep. Increasingly, our public discourse is a highly tribalized joke.

Carlson at least transcribes the things he says. Our own stars won't even do that!

Tomorrow: Hopefully, back to what Professor Johnson said

The power to paraphrase is the power to spin!


What Oz is said to have said: It's stunning to see how truly pathetic our blue tribe leadership is.

Consider the way they're paraphrasing Candidate Oz today. More specifically, consider what Candidate Oz is now said to have said.

We refer, of course, to what Candidate Oz said last night about abortion. Here are the words in question—the actual words he said:

OZ (10/25/22): I want women, doctors, local political leaders, leading the democracy that’s always allowed our nation to thrive, to put the best ideas forward so states can decide for themselves. 

Instantly, those words began being subjected to acts of "creative paraphrase." For the record, Oz had already said, several times, that he doesn't favor the adoption of any federal abortion policy.

Personally, we would favor the adoption of a federal abortion policy. We'd favor adoption of a federal law which would basically follow the framework adumbrated in Roe v. Wade, cleaned up to eliminate the massive inroads produced by many states when Roe was still "law of the land."

That said, Oz said that he doesn't want a federal law in this area. Also, he said the words we've posted above, and those words are now being paraphrased. 

In truth, they're being paraphrased clownishly. That's the kind of conduct you'll see from a tribal leadership cadre with nowhere else to go and virtually nothing to offer.

So far, we've seen no paraphrase as dumb as the one offered last night by Stephanie Ruhle. That said, our blue tribe's ship seems to be sinking fast.  Our corporate tribunes are being paid millions, but they have almost no skills at all.

Tomorrow, we'll show you what Ruhle said last night, unless we've managed to spot something even dumber. The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but the friends we enjoy on our "cable news" programs are programmed to talk about just one thing:

Trump Trump Trump Trump Jail!

They talk about that, and about little else. We'd vote for Fetterman ourselves, but many voters will disagree, and we fear that he's going to lose.

THE FALL: Not just racist, but ableist too!


Intimations of the fall: For the record, we don't know how next month's elections are going to turn out.

Atop the front page of today's print editions, it seems that the New York Times does! Online, the dual headlines on the report say this:

Democrats, on Defense in Blue States, Brace for a Red Wave in the House
“Reality is setting in”: With two weeks to go, Republicans are competing in Democratic bastions like New York, California, Oregon and even Rhode Island.

For Democratic voters like us, the report is horrifically gloomy. Online, figure filbert Thomas Edsall offers these words of encouragement:

The Left-Right Divide May Help Democrats Avoid a Total Wipeout

We might avoid a total wipeout! So Thomas Edsall now says.

For the record, the front-page report to which we've referred only considers House races. Do things look better for Democrats in Senate and gubernatorial races?

The Times doesn't seem to think so! Here are three headlines from inside today's print edition:

Fetterman, Showing Stroke Effects, Battles Oz in Hostile Senate Debate

New York’s Governor’s Race Is Suddenly Too Close for Democrats’ Comfort

Cortez Masto, the Senate’s Most At-Risk Democrat, Fights to Hang On in Nevada

In New York, Hochul is battling to retain the State House. Then too, there are the horrible rumblings from those two Senate races.

Let us say this about that:

It we lived in Pennsylvania, we'd cast our vote for Fetterman to win our state's Senate seat. But he suffered a stroke in May—and on the surface, his performance last night was cosmetically poor.

We'd vote for Fetterman ourselves, but many Pennsylvanians will reach a different judgment. Of course, we'd vote for every Democratic candidate—but then, we're Democratic voters.

We don't know how the elections will turn out, but disaster may be closing in on various fronts. As it does, we direct your attention to a manifestation on "cable news" last night.

We refer to a manifestation involving New York Magazine's Rebecca Traister. For the record, we bear a grudge against Traister concerning her deference to Keith Olbermann's rank misogyny as displayed way back long ago.

Traister has become much more reliable in the years since then. Her reliability is part of the the manifestation to which we refer today.

Last night, Traister appeared on Alex Wagner Tonight to discuss the Fetterman-Oz debate, which had ended about a half hour before. 

"He did fumble. He did make verbal mistakes," Traister said. She was referring to Fetterman and the continuing effects of his stroke.

That said, she also praised Fetterman for displaying "such remarkable transparency" in showing up to debate at all. She said this transparency might even turn out to be seen as "an asset" by voters.

In our view, Traister seemed to be trying quite hard. Indeed, before citing Fetterman's "verbal mistakes," she had offered this:

TRAISTER (10/24/22): There was such intense scrutiny—often, ableist scrutiny—over how he was going to communicate.

Here on our sprawling campus, the youthful analysts writhed in pain. Later, the manifestation became substantially worse after Traister was asked to comment on what Wagner called "the crime piece."

Apparently, Oz had said something about Fetterman's policies on crime. Viewers weren't given any specifics. Instead, we were handed what's shown below.

We'll let you sift it out:

TRAISTER: Fetterman himself has actually been very friendly and pro-police—I think more pro-police than a lot of progressives would like him to be, right? 

But, it is also true that we know that a right-wing—no matter how dishonest, and no matter how sort of morally corrupt and, and false, right-wing attacks on Democrats for being soft on crime, which are always racially coded, and often gendered too—"softness," "weakness," right? 

You know, this stuff is resonant—people reach for those kinds of weapons because they're effective in a country that responds to racism and to sexism as communicative tools to take down a candidate. 

Fetterman, you know, is such an interesting candidate in part because he just—it's very hard to imagine using this kind of racist and sexist language against him. But, you know, I think we have to see.

I think his responses tonight on crime, you know, were pretty communicatively effective. But this is, you know, very sweet candy that Republicans are selling to a country that is so deeply built and attuned to messages that are fundamentally misogynistic and racist in nature.

"I would say candy with a poison center," Wagner said. With that, the interview ended.

By now, the analysts were openly weeping. Several tore at their hair. We thought we understood their reactions. The analysts' tale went like this:

Concerning "the crime piece," Wagner's viewers were told next to nothing about what Oz and Fetterman had actually said. Here's what we were told instead:

We were told that the United States is "a country that responds to racism and to sexism as communicative tools to take down a candidate." 

We were told that Republican attacks against Fetterman on issues of crime—whatever those attacks might actually be—are built from "racist and sexist language." 

Such criticisms "are always racially coded, and often gendered too." Or at least, so we were told.

We were also told that the United States is "a country that is deeply built and attuned to messages that are fundamentally misogynistic and racist in nature."

That's what we were told. We blue tribe viewers weren't told what anyone had actually said about any particular issue. We weren't told what Fetterman's policies actually are. We weren't told what Oz has said.

Instead, we were once again handed a very sweet tribal candy of our own. In our view, that candy constitutes a type of manifestation as the nation slides toward the sea and the Democratic Party slides toward possible disaster next month

(Also, criticisms of Fetterman have been "ableist," we blue tribe viewers were told.)

If we lived in Pennsylvania, we'd vote for Fetterman without batting an eye. But those are the things we viewers were told as we enjoyed our own candy last night. 

Borrowing from Tara Westover, we'd call this a manifestation. This is all our blue tribe seems to have, and it's worse than not enough. 

Tomorrow: Back to those focus groups 

Does Donald J. Trump believe that he won?


Haberman has no idea: Over the weekend, we watched Jonathan Alter conduct an hour-long interview with the New York Times' Maggie Haberman.

Haberman was discussing her new book, Confidence Man. The interview, which took place last week, aired on C-Span's Book TV.

At one point, a fascinating question arose. It all began with an clumsily-worded question by Alter, who is of course very articulate. In the face of Alter's mumble-mouthed question, we were struck by what Haberman ended up saying:

ALTER (10/13/22): Do you ever get the sense that [Trump] is untethered from reality? Or do you think it's all connected to his alternative universe in some way that you can kind of track how it makes a certain amount of sense in his own—

HABERMAN: Aren't those the same thing? I mean, if he's untethered to reality and he's also and he's also—that's sort of like the same thing to me.

ALTER: Well, he's craving his own reality, I guess.

HABERMAN: But you're saying, is he doing it knowingly? And he's just trying to bring you along?

ALTER: Yes. Or is it all instinctive? 


HABERMAN: He is trying to create this reality and get you to buy into it more often than not. Now, I think, then sometimes he ends up really believing what he is saying. So I couldn't tell you if he really believes what he is saying about the election or not. I have no idea. I have no idea if it matters...

Alter wanted to know if Donald J. Trump is "untethered from reality." By the time the brief exchange was done, Haberman had tightened his language a bit.

By the time the exchange was done, Haberman had translated the question as follows:

Does Donald J. Trump really believe that he won the 2020 election?

Haberman assumed that's what Alter was asking. Here's the answer she gave:

I couldn't tell you if he really believes what he is saying about the election or not. I have no idea. 

Haberman has covered Trump for years. She's his favorite journalistic whipping-person. She has interviewed him various times.

Even after all these years, Haberman says she doesn't know if Trump really believes his crazily unfounded claim. Even now, after all these years, she says she has "no idea."

Our view would go like this:

If Trump really believes his unfounded claim, that suggests that he's "untethered from reality" in what may be a clinical way. 

(For what it's worth, we often get the sense that he actually does believe his various crazy claims.)

We'd like to see carefully-chosen medical specialists discuss this ongoing question. Is it possible that Donald J. Trump is "delusional" (untethered from reality) in some definable clinical sense?

We'd like to see specialists offer their impressions. That said, our journalists have agreed that this question must never be discussed, except in euphemistic terms.

THE FALL: Michael Flynn's anthropology lesson!


Professor Johnson errs: A few days back, we mentioned the fact that we'd been watching a new Frontline program, Michael Flynn's Holy War.

At several junctures, the journalism on display is perhaps a wee bit odd. But strangest of all is the conduct of Flynn. We'll let Peter Wehner explain.

Wehner is a high-ranking conservative NeverTrumper. In a new piece for The Atlantic, he describes the current behavior of Flynn—his ongoing "holy war."

Wehner's profile of Flynn reminds us of a basic fact—our nation's political discourse over the past thirty years has increasingly become an anthropology lesson. 

It has been a lesson in what we humans are actually like, as opposed to the ways we've always described ourselves. The shortfalls on display have been remarkable—and these shortfalls have been on display in the conduct of both major tribes.

What sorts of shortfalls are on display in Michael Flynn's ongoing war? At the very start of his essay, Wehner describes a prayer which was offered at a recent Flynn event:

WEHNER (10/25/22): A prayer at a “ReAwaken America” event in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, a few days ago, at which Michael Flynn appeared, captured the sensibilities of this moment: “Father God, we come to you in the name of Jesus. We’re asking you to open the eyes of President Trump’s understanding, that he will know the time of divine intervention. He will know how to implement divine intervention. And you will surround him, Father, with none of this deep-state trash, none of this RINO trash. You surround him, people that you pick, with your own mighty hand. In the name of Jesus.”

Dear Lord, deliver us from this "Deep State trash." So the prayer (angrily) prayed, as you can see at this link.

As Wehner continues, he starts sketching the basics of Flynn's "holy war." We'd call this an education—an anthropology lesson:

WEHNER (continuing directly): Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general who once led the Defense Intelligence Agency, resigned as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser after less than a month for allegedly misleading the vice president, and then pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. (He later filed to withdraw his guilty plea, insisting that he had been set up by the FBI, and was eventually pardoned by Trump.)

Flynn has been embraced by MAGA world in part because he’s seen as a martyr, the victim of a “deep state” hit job. But what turned him into a rock star on the right was the post-pardon chapter of his life, as the Associated Press’s Michelle Smith points out in the recently broadcast Frontline documentary “Michael Flynn’s Holy War.” It was then that Flynn, whom a former military colleague describes as being susceptible to “extreme thinking”—fully took up residence in a world of fantasy and illusion, of crazed conspiracy theories and disinformation.

Flynn didn’t just claim that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump; he floated the idea of having Trump declare martial law and try to “rerun” the election. He suggested that the president should seize voting machines. And he said that the election involved “probably the greatest fraud that our country has ever experienced in our history.” At an event in Arizona last month, Flynn said, “Did you know that a governor can declare war? A governor can declare war. And we’re going to probably see that.”

Flynn has also asserted that COVID-19 was unleashed intentionally by global elitists in order to “rule the world,” “control humanity,” and “steal an election.” He has warned about the dangers of a “new world order” in which people such as Bill Gates, George Soros, and World Economic Forum Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab “have an intent to track every single one of us, and they use it under the skin. They use a means by which it’s under the skin.”

"Today, Michael Flynn is building a nationwide, grassroots movement that is fusing deranged political ideas with a mangled version of the Christian faith," Wehner soon opines. 

Flynn's ideas are "deranged," Wehner says. For ourselves, we'd offer this:

Watching footage of Flynn at his various rallies, we can't help wondering if General Flynn is some version of (severely) "mentally ill."

That said, we aren't medical specialists. We have no expertise—none at all—when it comes to the task of making such assessments.

Having said that, we would also say this:

The religiosity tied up in Flynn's work suggests a major anthropology lesson. A bit later on, Wehner offers this account of Flynn's current mission, quoting the Frontline program:

WEHNER: In November, Flynn told a packed sanctuary at Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, “If we are going to have one nation under God, which we must, we have to have one religion. One nation under God and one religion under God.” He has described this as “a moment in time where this is good versus evil.”

“Mike Flynn has emerged as a martyr and a mascot for the far-right contingent of the Christian-nationalist movement in the United States,” Samuel Perry, a sociology professor at the University of Oklahoma, a scholar of Christian nationalism, and himself a person of the Christian faith, told Frontline.

That's what Professor Perry told Frontline. For better or worse, the role of religiosity here flies in the face of conventional portraits, in which we humans have long admiringly referred to ourselves as "the rational animal."

How many people agree with Flynn? How many people think "we have to have one nation under God," but also "one religion?" 

We have no idea what the answer would be. We do know that an anthropology lesson is involved. 

In theory, that lesson could let us form a fuller understanding of our true human nature. It might give us a batter idea how to emerge from this mess.

Yesterday morning, on Morning Joe, we saw several manifestations of the daunting mess our floundering nation faces. 

On the one hand, we saw videotape from a recent focus group conducted with ten Trump voters. (One of the ten had voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, then had voted for Trump four years later.)

You can watch two chunks of videotape from that focus group. At the Morning Joe site, they appear beneath these headings:

Pittsburgh Trump voters say they would vote for him again

Trump voters in focus group say he couldn't have stopped Jan. 6 violence

As we watch the videotape, we see people repeating an array of claims we would regard as inaccurate or unfounded. A lot of anger seems to be present.

That said, it's clear that these people believe these claims. It's clear that these people aren't "lying."

They've heard the claims again and again, from Trump himself and from various "news" sources. As a general matter, the claims in question aren't visibly "crazy." There's just no reason to think that the claims are actually true.

In our view, the red tribe currently swims in a sea of false and unfounded beliefs. 

There are also beliefs which seem to be crazy. And within some parts of that red tribe, the religiosity appears.

On that same Morning Joe show, we saw David French report some things he was recently told by some pro-Trump neighbors based on their religious beliefs. Some of these statements seem to enter the zone of the "crazy." Here comes that anthropology lesson again!

As we've occasionally noted, we humans aren't the rational animal, and we never were. That said, breakdowns of the type we're describing also afflict our own blue tribe—the only tribe whose unhelpful behavior we can instantly change.

Yesterday afternoon, we saw Professor Johnson, on Deadline: White House, offering thoughts about The Others. We also saw Nicolle Wallace supporting his badly flawed claims.

Professor Johnson is well intentioned, but his statements were deeply unwise. They help define the way our own self-impressed tribe has failed in this dangerous era. 

The problem isn't all Over There as our nation slides toward the sea. Our own tribe's manifestations are often badly flawed, deeply unwise.

We thought the professor (and Wallace) were badly off track. What kinds of manifestations are these, we'd ask, which go from bad to worse? 

Tomorrow: What David French reported; what Professor Johnson said

THE FALL: Manifestations of the fall!


Manifestations of Babel: Donald J. Trump, the former president, was launching a manifestation.

Last Saturday night, he was speaking at a Save America rally in Robstown, Texas. Before long, he was discussing "the January 6th committee of unselect political thugs:" 

TRUMP (10/22/22):  Remember this, and I’m going to get off this subject, but January 6, January 6, January 6 was caused because of a crooked stolen election. And they don’t even talk about it during the January 6 committee hearings. Never even discussed.

January 6 was caused by a stolen election. But the committee of that name won't even discuss that fact!

And that's not all they won't discuss! As the former president continued, he turned to a favorite tale:

TRUMP (continuing directly): So they don't discuss that. And what's the second thing they don't discuss? Nancy Pelosi is in charge of security in the Capitol. Ronny knows this better than anybody. There he is. And they don't discuss it at all because they said, "Hands off, we're not going to discuss that." 

I authorized from 10 to 20,000 troops, should they need them, four days, three days earlier. Nancy Pelosi didn't like the look and she decided not to do it. They never discussed that.

In the run-up to January 6, Trump authorized twenty thousand troops—but Nancy Pelosi wouldn't allow it! According to Donald J. Trump, the January 6 committee won't even discuss that fact.

The claim about the thousands of troops is a favorite of Trump's. By now, the claim has been stated, and restated, then stated again, about twenty thousand times.

On this morning's Morning Joe, we saw videotape of a recent focus group. Elise Jordan had spoken with ten Trump voters in Pittsburgh. Eventually, one of the voters said this:

TRUMP VOTER: Nancy Pelosi denied his request of several thousand National Guard troops.

Trump voters have heard that claim at least ten thousand times. The claim has launched a thousand negative fact-checks, but there was no sign that any of the focus group members knew anything about that.

The young man who offered that remark almost surely believed what he said. On the videotape, Jordan offered a somewhat clumsy rebuttal to his claim, but then quickly moved on.

Even this morning, when the tape was played on Morning Joe, no one offered a clear rebuttal to what that young man said. The claim had been broadcast once again, with no clear attempt at correction!

History teaches that Cassandra, daughter of King Priam and Queen Hecuba, "was a Trojan priestess dedicated to the god Apollo and fated by him to utter true prophecies but never to be believed."

Cassandra's foreknowledge made her life hard. As if things weren't bad enough, she could only see the future when a snake or snakes licked her ears!

For ourselves, we see them everywhere we look. We see manifestations of the belief that our nation, such as it was, has already come apart, in a way unlikely ever to be undone.

The red tribe spills with false or unfounded belief. Given the failures of our blue tribe, can "the center" hold?

Tomorrow: Some bogus beliefs are merely false. Some bogus beliefs may seem worse.

Top seven headlines, the Washington Post!


Our fascinated remains: At some point, we're going to stop. That said, we remain fascinated by what we regard as the rolling dumbnification of the (online) Washington Post.

This morning, at the top of the online paper's front page, seven reports were granted full banner headline status. At 9:15 on this Sunday morning, those seven featured reports appeared beneath these headlines:

Democrats fear the midterm map is slipping away

China’s Communist Party hands Xi Jinping an endless rule for flexing power

Is this what Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers came back for?

Plans to pave Australia’s remote, dangerous Outback Way bring hope, fear and anger

A college wrestler fought a bear to save his teammate—and won

Use this TikToker’s viral travel tip to find the best places to stay

Clemson’s QB change comes just in time (college football winners and losers)

A college wrestler fought a bear! Also, three quarterbacks in two different reports, and viral best places to stay!

That strikes us as a peculiar top-of-the-front-page list for a major national newspaper. That said, we'll guess that the Washington Post knows what readers want. 

Borrowing from Tara Westover, we call this an educationbut also anthropology. As Springsteen's narrator says to his son, "Son, take a good look around."

In search of "all that false instruction!"


Some of it aimed at Us: Long ago and far away, the artist still known as Bob Dylan switched sides in the ongoing, painful culture war known as "the generation gap."

Back in 1963, Dylan had issued this warning to the nation's mothers and fathers: "Your sons and your daughters are beyond your commend." 

But now it was 1968, and Dylan—now married with children himself—wrote the iconic Tears of Rage, giving voice to a new attitude.

In the iconic song, a heartbroken father speaks to a "dear daughter" from a parent's point of view. At one point, that father offers this:

It was all very painless
When you went out to receive
All that false instruction
We never could believe.
And now the heart is filled with gold
As if it was a purse
But oh, what kind of love is this
Which goes from bad to worse?

In Dylan's song, a father says he has seen his "dear daughter" receiving "all that false instruction."  Dylan thereby switched sides in the painful culture war which defined that particular era.

Today, our nation's discourse is ruled by torrents of false instruction. Mountains of false instruction emerge from the major tribunes of the red tribe. But is some of the current day's "false instruction" also aimed right straight at Us?

We posed that question to the analysts after watching Alex Wagner close her MSNBC "cable news" program this past Thursday night. In a brief closing segment, Wagner was back on the "so-called Stop WOKE Act" beat. At one point, she offered this:

WAGNER (10/20/22): There's a so-called Stop WOKE Act, which bans the teaching of any lesson, specifically about race and racism, that makes any student feel discomfort...

Would learning about the work of Martin Luther King violate the Stop WOKE Act if a single child felt uncomfortable during that lesson? All of that has been unclear from the start.

To some extent, it isn't exactly the "so-called" Stop WOKE Act. That's the actual, childish and churlish name given to the Florida legislation by Governor Ron DeSantis. In the governor's childish rendering, its full name goes like this:

The Stop the Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees Act 

AKA, The Stop W.O.K.E. Act! That's how dumb our discourse now gets.

The snarky (semi-official) name of this bill helps define the politics of Florida's churlish governor. But what about the ministry to which our blue tribe gets exposed each night on "cable news?"

More specifically, is it true that the childishly-named Stop WOKE Act "bans the teaching of any lesson, specifically about race and racism, that makes any student feel discomfort?" Or is that more of the "false instruction" we ourselves are routinely told to believe?

What does the Florida law really say? In our experience, it's amazingly hard to find out!

In innumerable Google searches, we've never been able to find a definitive, finished version of the legislative text. For today, we'll offer you this link as the best we can do.

It's astonishing, but rather typical, that the text of this widely-discussed legislation remains a bit of a mystery. That said, our national discourse runs on partisan Storyline now, with tribal tribunes  scripting our battling tribes with simplified tribal cartoons. 

Our question: Is it possible that Wagner was performing some such function with her capsule account of the Florida law? Is it possible that she was offering "false instruction" tp us rubes, perhaps of the type which is "easy to believe?"

Was Wagner offering false instruction? We'll suggest the possibility that the answer may be yes:

Is it true? Is it true that the Stop WOKE Act "bans the teaching of any lesson, specifically about race and racism, that makes any student feel discomfort?" 

Our tribal tribunes have told us that until the cows have come home. We find it pleasing to hear that account—but is that account the work of a faithful servant?

We've never seen a serious discussion of that question, but on balance we'd tilt toward no. Below, we highlight the part of the legislation which has apparently given rise to such pleasing claims:

The Legislature acknowledges the fundamental truth that all persons are equal before the law and have inalienable rights. Accordingly, instruction and supporting materials on the topics enumerated in this section must be consistent with the following principles of individual freedom:

(a) No person is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously, solely by virtue of his or her race or sex.

(b) No race is inherently superior to another race.

(c) No person should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, disability, or sex.

(d) Meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are not racist but fundamental to the right to pursue happiness anD be rewarded for industry.

(e) A person, by virtue of his or her race or sex, does not bear responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex.

(f) A person should not be instructed that he or she must feel guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress for actions, in which he or she played no part, committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex.

The highlighted passage doesn't say that no student should ever be permitted to "feel discomfort." It says that no student should be instructed that he or she must feel discomfort ("psychological distress") for actions committed by other people in the past.

As best we can tell, our tribunes have taken that passage and run. Which side would Dylan be on?

(Full disclosure: Other parts of the Stop WOKE Act require the teaching of the Civil Rights movement and the evils of racism. The legislation goes into substantial detail about what has to be taught.) 

For the record, we'd love to see a full discussion of this important topic. We'd even like to see the definitive text of the Florida law in its final form! 

(We've wasted enormous amounts of time trying to find that text.)

That said, our discourse no longer runs on such types of rocket fuel. Our discourse runs on pleasing tribal narratives offered by corporate employees and the people they may have misled.

More broadly, our current (failing) political culture swims in "false instruction." 

Huge amounts of this false instruction come from people like DeSantis. How much of it comes from the highly connected corporate moguls who proselytize our own self-impressed blue tribe?

STORYLINE / NARRATIVES / NARRATORS: Why is the red tribe pulling ahead?


One part of the problem is Us: Sadly, we live in interesting times. 

Human history is repeating itself pretty much wherever you look. Consider the latest attempts to explain the likely outcome of our congressional elections this year.

At present, almost everyone seems to agree that the pendulum is swinging back in the GOP's favor. Of course, given the way our midterm elections normally work, and given the price of gas and food, everyone has always understood that this should be a "red wave" year.

For a brief "Dobbs decision" minute, it looked like things might be different this year. Now, indications are swinging the GOP's way, and people are trying to explain why this election seems to be going the way everyone always assumed that it would.

For the record, the dumbness of our politics is its defining characteristic. The agreement that we must never say so has long been one of the defining characteristics of our mainstream press.

The American people are pretty sharp, our top pundits always said. In fact, we the people aren't especially sharp at all, and we never have been.

Within the realm of public policy, we the people just aren't real sharp! In this morning's column, Paul Krugman cites a frequently-cited example:

KRUGMAN (10/21/22): [I]t’s hard to think of a worse metric for judging a president and his party than a price determined mainly by events abroad and technical production issues here at home, a price that isn’t even  high compared with, say, a decade ago.

Yet gas prices may sway a crucial election, a fact that is both ludicrous and terrifying.

A sitting president, and his party, have little to do with the price of gas. But go ahead—just try to tell "us the people" that! 

This year, as in other years, the election prospects of a president's party seem to be directly tied to the price of gas. It doesn't matter how many times we're told that this connection doesn't make sense. It seems that we the people persistently vote on that basis, year after year after year.

We the people just aren't super-sharp! Meanwhile, consider David Brooks' assessment of the coming elections, offered in a column across this morning's op-ed page from Krugman's.

Brooks discusses the reasons for the Democrats' (apparently) dwindling prospects. He ends his column like this:

BROOKS (10/21/22): The Trumpified G.O.P. deserves to be a marginalized and disgraced force in American life. But I've been watching the campaign speeches by people like Kari Lake, the Republican candidate for governor in Arizona. G.O.P. candidates are telling a very clear class/culture/status war narrative in which common-sense Americans are being assaulted by elite progressives who let the homeless take over the streets, teach sex ed to 5-year-olds, manufacture fake news, run woke corporations, open the border and refuse to do anything about fentanyl deaths and the sorts of things that affect regular people.

In other words, candidates like Lake wrap a dozen different issues into one coherent class war story. And it seems to be working. In late July she was trailing her opponent by seven points. Now she’s up by about half a point.

The Trump-era GOP should be a disgraced force, Brooks says. But their candidates are telling a compelling story, and it seems to be working.

Those observations seem to be correct—though we'd have to say that Brooks leaves part of the story out.

At his own site, Kevin Drum posts the first of those two paragraphs by Brooks. At the end of his post, he offers this—we'd have to say unwisely:

DRUM (10/21/22): The most discouraging part of this is not that Republicans do it. What do you expect an opposition party to do? The discouraging part is that after 50 years Democrats still have no idea how to fight it.

It's not that we lose every culture war battle. In fact, we win quite a few. But when Republicans sense weakness, they circle the wagons and beat the class war drums loudly and in unison. That's what we don't know how to fight.

Practically all the evidence suggests the United States is fundamentally a strong country right now. Probably the strongest in the world, and with the brightest future. It's extraordinary to think of just how good a place it could be if only we could figure out a way to overcome the debilitating fear that so many people still have of progress and change.

The most discouraging part of Drum's assessment is the way he ends it. He seems to offer this as the blanket explanation for why this Republican narrative works:

It doesn't work because there's a germ of truth to much of that the Republicans have said. It only works because so many people—so many of those hopeless Others—"still have a debilitating fear of progress and change!"

That's why the story works! It isn't because of anything we blue tribe members have said or done. It only works because so many members of the red tribe have a vast "fear of progress!"

We lost a chunk of time today. For that reason, we're postponing our treatment of the recent interview  between Ezra Klein and Rachel.

But as our nation slides toward the sea, the dumbness is general—and yes, that does include Us, the vastly self-assured blue tribe denizens who are found Over Here. 

Drum has long been our favorite blogger. But today's assessment is amazingly lacking in insight, and his tribally self-assured commenters took it from there.

Stating the blindingly obvious:

A lot of what the GOP peddles is built on a germ of truth. For example, the idea that our blue tribe is soft on crime is plainly tied to the horror show in which some of our most visible members created "Defund the police" as a political slogan.

For the record, our self-impressed team is so dumb that we still can't identify the principal problem with that self-defeating slogan—the fact that it was so unclear what it actually meant.

That said, our failing blue tribe has routinely allowed itself to be defined by the least discerning among us. Meanwhile, as a basic stance, we insist on calling The Others names. After that, we're surprised that they won't rush to do the various things we recommend.

The current state of our failing nation's politics is extremely poor:

The reds are full of crazy belief, and there's nothing the Kari Lakes aren't prepared to tell red tribe voters. Meanwhile:

On cable news, but elsewhere too, our vastly self-impressed blue tribe is often amazingly dumb. We can't reasons our way through a wet paper bag. In the main, we're just skillful at name-calling Others.

We're dumb and unpleasant and nobody likes us. Everyone knows this but us!

STORYLINE / NARRATIVES / NARRATORS: Intellectual leadership down!


Alex Wagner flunks: Two years ago, more than 158 million people voted in our nation's presidential election.

A smaller, though very large number of people will vote in this year's House elections. Very few of those people have a detailed understanding of any specific policy question. None of us can speak with authority on all such topics and questions.

Most of us get our understandings, and our Storylines, from journalistic / political / intellectual leaders—or perhaps from those who "play them on TV." At present, with our very large nation coming apart, it's astounding to see the degree of bad judgment some of these people are putting on display as they make their pronouncements.

Last night, we saw Tucker Carlson over a truly crazy assessment of Tiffany Cross, the anchor of a weekend show on MSNBC. In our view,  Cross is a massively limited tribal intellectual leader—but no, she isn't the equivalent of Hutu radio in the days which ked up to Rwanda's 1994 genocide, as cable's top-ranking "excitable [and disordered] boy" aggressively claimed.

(For transcript and video, click here.)

So it went on Fox! On a local PBS station, we rewatched a bit of a new PBS show about Michael Flynn, who continues to craft the Storylines which animate quite a few voters. 

Personally, we regard Flynn as largely disordered. Our neighbors and friends who adopt his narratives take a different view.

Along the way, we also watched a remarkable presentation by one of our own blue tribe's "cable news" journalistic leaders. We refer to Alex Wagner, host of the nightly MSNBC program, Alex Wagner Tonight.

In the first four minutes of last night's program, Wagner presented a remarkable grab bag of surface non sequiturs concerning a congressional redistricting issue. We'd break it down like this: 

Some of Wagner's statements simply didn't make sense. Some of her statements may have made sense, but Wagner failed to explain them.

One hour after Carlson's lunacy, Wagner was serving a basically incoherent stew to our own blue tribe's many viewers. This is the way things fall apart when a large nation's basic points of consensus have long since come undone.

We discussed the basic logic of redistricting is just the past few weeks. Wagner started with one of the surface non sequiturs we discussed at that time:

WAGNER (10/19/22): Let's start with the great state of Louisiana... White people are now less than 60% of Louisiana's population, and about a third of the population there is black. And yet, this is Louisiana's congressional delegation:

[A set of six photos appears]

Five are white Republicans, one is a black Democrat. Because even though Louisiana is one-third black, only one congressional district has a majority black population. That's how state lawmakers drew the congressional maps.

Fuller disclosure! As Wagner spoke, a visual appeared on the screen, saying this:

"Louisiana's population identified as nearly 56% white, more than 31% black." 

On the basis of such data, Wagner voiced concern about the fact that only one of the state's six congressional districts is majority black. Also, about the fact that only one of the state's six House members is black. 

We return to a point of basic logic:

If a state's population is roughly 31% black, there is no obvious reason to assume that any of its congressional districts will be majority black. 

In the case of Louisiana, if its population is evenly spread across the state, black voters could conceivably constitute roughly one-third of all six of the state's congressional districts, depending on the way those districts are drawn.

Under that arrangement, if the state's white voters all vote Republican, there is no reason to assume that Louisiana would have any Democrats in the House, instead of the current one.

Wagner seemed to working from an implied assumption, one we've discussed in the past. She seemed to assume that, if some state is one-third black, then that state's congressional delegation should also be one-third black.

That may seem to make a type of sense as a type of basic fairness. But in a state which is one-third black, there is no reason to assume that any of its congressional districts will be majority black—unless a special effort has been made to create some such district.

In her presentation, Wagner was doing what our highly privileged "cable news" TV stars will quite typically do. "Glorying in the power of her strength," she blew right past a basic logical point—a point her presentation erased.

In fairness, it's also possible that Wagner had never thought, for even one second, about this basic matter. Cable news stars get their basic understandings from other cable news stars—from the long history of tweaked presentations which now constitute our idea of news within both our failing tribes, our own blue tribe as well as the red,

Let's return to Wagner's presentation:

As she continued, Wagner made a snarky, low-IQ claim about the way Louisiana's districts had been created. Skipping a minor irrelevant point, we'll show you what she said:

WAGNER: Louisiana's white Republican lawmakers managed to magically, once again, draw five majority white districts, and just one black majority district. Imagine that! Can you imagine that?

Louisiana's legislature had "magically" managed to create only one black majority district! Snarking very, very hard, our tribe's multimillionaire "cable news" leader then asked us if we could imagine such an outcome.

In fact, it's astoundingly easy to imagine some such outcome, for the reasons we've cited above. But the dumbness of this presentation only grew as Wagner continued to script our failing, mistreated blue tribe.

How did the dumbness of the presentation grow? It did so as Louisiana's congressional map appeared behind Wagner on the screen. It clearly showed that, for whatever reason, Louisiana's legislature had gone to something resembling heroic lengths to produce that one majority black congressional district!

(To see that map, click here.)

As every viewer could plainly see, the oddly-shaped district snakes across the southeast section of the state in an east-to-west / west-to-east direction. It's plainly the type of weirdly-shaped congressional district which would normally be described as "gerrymandered," barring some alternate explanation.

Anyone with an ounce of sense would understand that this is a congressional district whose elongated, irregular shape reflects a basic fact about its birth—the district was deliberately constructed in such a way as to make it majority black.

There is no "magic" involved in this practice, which is of course quite common. The magic may lie in the fact that a massively privileged corporate millionaire was on the air creating a pleasing but deeply under-explained story for trusting blue tribe viewers.

As Wagner proceeded from there, her story got even dumber. She blew past one point after another, handing blue voters the type of story we very much like to hear. 

(This involved a disputed part of the Voting Rights Act which no one ever tries to unpack or explain. Each tribe simply powers ahead, presenting its preferred and pleasing cartoon.)

Grading on the curve, the massively privileged graduate of Brown had offered us a D-minus presentation. If we throw the curve away, her presentation truly deserved a failing grade—and yet, this is the kind of intellectual leadership our tribe is routinely offered by the corporate entities who pay Wagner's (undisclosed) salary.

The craziest thing we saw last night came from Tucker Carlson. In fairness, he was making crazy claims about a weekend cable news player whose work is very slack.

On PBS, we saw Michael Flynn at work, among the large number of voters who think his claims make sense. And then again, there was Wagner, narrating a presentation which was crushingly dumb.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but our nation has long since come undone. 

In fairness, it's hard to maintain a very large nation like ours. But as people like Wagner keep cashing those checks. this basic historical fact is being played out once again.

Wagner's presentation was very dumb; Carlson is deeply disordered. We the people of the U.S. get our ideas from them!

Tomorrow: When Ezra interviewed Rachel

"How do you know that it isn't a tie?"


What the freshman said: Long ago and far away, we saw something unfortunate happen.

We were a freshman at a famous upper-class college (Harvard). The incident involved some dumb behavior by a fellow freshman—someone we didn't know, not even by name.

In fairness, this kid was just a college freshman. He didn't seem to know that he was being obnoxious. But on his way into the freshman dining hall, he gave a dumbly bad time to the working-class Cambridge woman who was charged with checking us in for lunch.

His behavior went down like this:

At the time, we Cantabs were required to wear a jacket and tie to eat in the dining hall. This kid showed up one day, we think in the spring, wearing a ratty white t-shirt and a windbreaker, but also this:

He had tied a shoelace around his neck and was claiming that it was his "tie!"

Various rules of campus deportment were on the way out at that time. It was the spring of 1966—or it may have been the previous fall—right at the dawn of the street-fighting late 1960s. 

Many rules were on the way out—but on that particular day, that dining hall dress code wasn't. The working-class lady who was checking us in kept telling him—correctly, of course—that he wasn't dressed in the manner which had been prescribed.

We recall the specific dumbness of what the kid kept saying: 

"How do you know that this isn't a tie?" the snotty youngster said of the shoelace he had tied around his neck. (He may have derived his all-knowing skeptical tone from some beginner "philosophy" course.)

We recall thinking that someone really needed to stifle this horrible kid. We seem to think he was a private school kid, as was almost half the freshman class, but we can't say we're sure about that.

(In our experience, most of the private school kids in our class were completely decent people. For some reason, we still have the Joan Baez, Volume II album which belonged to Dean Witter III!)

At any rate, this kid's condescension-by-social-class seemed to be fairly obvious. He seemed to think he was smarter than this working-class woman, nor was this attitude hidden.

We aren't inclined to blame college freshmen for having imperfect judgment. Also, something else would turn out to be true as that street-fighting decade proceeded:

As disputes about Vietnam and drug use intensified, many members of the white working class began to engage in angry, unattractive public conduct. A lot of social dislocation followed—but we've never forgotten the college kid who dumbly gave a hard time to a polite. middle-aged woman who was politely, and correctly, telling him that he wasn't dressed according to code, that his shoelace wasn't a tie.

In fairness, he was just a college kid. That said, he was speaking the language of the arrogant upper-class pseudo-savant, and we feel completely sure that the check-in lady heard that. 

Within the past year, we've wondered about the conversation which may have taken place that night in that woman's working-class Cambridge home.

Our highly self-impressed blue tribe has constantly signaled in such ways to the nation's "lesser breed." Today, many years later, Eric Levitz describes the ongoing political realignment which largely echoes what happened that day, with the Democratic Party gaining among college graduates but shedding working-class voters at a major rate.

In this passage, Levitz delivers a painful assessment:

LEVITZ (10/19/22): There are worse things for a political coalition to be than affluent or educated. Professionals vote and donate at higher rates than blue-collar workers. But college graduates also comprise a minority of the electorate—and an underrepresented minority at that. America’s electoral institutions all give disproportionate influence to parts of the country with low levels of educational attainment. And this is especially true of the Senate. Therefore, if the coalitional trends of the past half-century continue unabated—and Democrats keep gaining college-educated votes at the expense of working-class ones—the party will find itself locked out of federal power. Put differently, such a development would put an increasingly authoritarian GOP on the glide path to political dominance.

Increasingly, Levitz notes, the Democratic Party is becoming the province of the affluent and the "educated." (This is true of our blue tribe in general.)

But uh-oh! According to Levitz, if Democrats "keep gaining college-educated votes at the expense of working-class ones, the party will find itself locked out of federal power."

Way back when, a college freshman was mouthing off. He was dumbly asking a working-class woman how she could possibly know that his shoelace wasn't a tie.

He was displaying his ersatz erudition at the expense of someone who almost surely hadn't gone to college. Aside from the general dumbness involved in this sort of conduct, this is one of the major ways our highly self-impressed blue tribe can, and does, lose votes.

We engage in such conduct day after day. After that, we do it again.

The correct answer is this: During the Watergate hearings, Senator Ervin provided the correct answer to that college's kid's question.

For the full context, just click here. But here's the way the check-in lady could have answered the college kid's question:

COLLEGE KID: How do you know that it isn't a tie?

CHECK-IN LADY: Because I speak the English language. It's my mother tongue!