YAHOOS R US? Charles Blow is a good, decent person!

THURSDAY, MARCH 30, 2023

The horribleness, it burns: "History is full of horribleness."

So writes Charles Blow, somewhat memorably, in his new column for the New York Times. The column appears in today's print editions under this earnest headline:

 A Ban on a Film Is a Ban on American History

That's what the headline says in print editions. Online, the headline is longer.

For the record, our human history truly is full of horribleness. Also though, all too often, so is the New York Times!

That said, we'll start today with words of praise for that same newspaper. As of 7 o'clock this morning, the Times still hasn't presented a news report about a recent non-event.

(We base that statement on a search using the Times' search engine. Based on the paper's search engine, there has been no news report about this non-event in the New York Times' print editions. Also, there has been no such report among the newspaper's much wider offerings online.)

The recent non-event in question took place in the state of Florida.  To its credit, the New York Times hasn't presented a news report about this non-event.

Inevitably, Charles Blow's column is all about a certain version of this recent non-event. His column is full of inaccurate and embellished factual claims mixed with fabulous leaps of logic.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep—but more and more, then more and more, the horribleness seems to be Us.

Tucker Carlson has been at his astonishing worst, in the past two nights, with respect to the shootings in Nashville. His conduct is truly hard to comprehend. 

Anthropologically, his conduct challenges the basic things we have always thought we knew about our own human species. Also, his conduct being completely ignored—by newspapers like the New York Times, by journalists like Charles Blow, by the people who pose as our "dear, dear friends" on Our Own Cable Channel.

Carlson's conduct is hard to comprehend. But then too, This Is Us.

For ourselves, we're losing a chunk of time this morning. We expect to continue this report in the early afternoon.

We want to make one point quite clear—Charles Blow is plainly a good, decent person. That said:

All too often, again and again, is it possible that the journalistic horribleness of our failing society turns out to be coming from Us?

To be continued: This afternoon

Tomorrow, or at least so we still hope: Dvorak's column; Rep. McGovern's embarrassing conduct; PEN America's abandoned post


Greta Van Susteren's long, winding road!

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 29, 2023

Rachel's great drinking pal: We're listing this as the morning when we learned that Greta Van Susteren is now the host of a program at Newsmax TV

(A short clip from her program aired on Morning Joe.)

The program started last June. For the record, we've never watched Newsmax TV, nor would we know how to do so.

Way back when, we did several charity / comedy events with Greta. She couldn't have been nicer, plus Will Durst was there!

She couldn't have been nicer! That said, according to the leading authority, her career trajectory looks like this on the long, winding road to Newsmax:

During coverage of the O. J. Simpson murder trial, she appeared regularly on CNN as a legal analyst. This led to her stint as co-host of CNN's Burden of Proof and The Point.

In 2002, Van Susteren switched to the Fox News Channel after a highly publicized contract-bidding war. She hosted the current affairs show On the Record w/ Greta Van Susteren.

On September 6, 2016, she resigned from Fox News. She was not able to say goodbye on-air, as the network immediately filled the On the Record anchor spot with Brit Hume...

In early 2017, Van Susteren signed on with NBC News to anchor the 6 p.m. program on its 24-hour cable news channel, MSNBC. The program, titled For the Record with Greta, launched on January 9, 2017. 

On June 29, 2017, according to Van Susteren on Twitter, she was "out at MSNBC" as her new program did not do well in ratings.

She had her nightly program at Fox through September 2016. During the last several years at Fox, she served as designated caddy to Donald J. Trump as he repeatedly went on her show to push his subhuman, destructive claims about Barack Obama's alleged foreign birth.

Over those years of service, Greta just sat there and took it as Trump became unparalleled king of the birthers. Appallingly, Rachel aggressively beat the drums for Greta when she got hired by MSNBC. 

Rachel repeatedly said what a great journalist Greta was and how great her new program was going to be. Most appallingly, Rachel even said that Greta and her husband had been her wonderful drinking pals during Greta's service-to-Donald Trump years.

Blue tribe members have little sense of the strangeness of Rachel's assorted behaviors down through the many long years. That said, she's always been extremely good at "selling the car"—at teaching us blue tribe adepts how to adore her most fully.

That said, Greta was Trump's number one birther enabler—and Rachel's great drinking pal.

We know, we know—you refuse to believe such things! As we've told you again and again, nothing we ever say at this site will ever be able to make you abandon your own preferred view of the world. 

Our tribe has certain things we like to believe, along with a set of approaches we very much like to take. According to a string of experts, none of that's likely to change.

At any rate, people will do a lot of things to hangs onto those "cable news" jobs. They're paid gigantic sums if they can persuade us to watch, and they won't let us know how much.


YAHOOS R US? Every [pundit] a demagogue!

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 29, 2023

Could the demagogues sometimes be Us? "Every man [sic] a king," Huey Long famously said.

It turned out to be the impossible dream. Today, our analysts see a less pleasing picture when they observe our declining world.

"Every pundit a demagogue!" these youngsters sardonically cry. This morning, we'll give you three quick examples from our failing blue tribe's failing world.

Jamelle Bouie's quote:

Within the past week or so, we made a complimentary remark about the New York Times' Jamelle Bouie. Even as we did, we secretly knew that what we were doing was wrong.

In his new column for the Times, Bouie offers a pleasing "quotation." It comes from Florida's infamous (and childishly named) Stop WOKE Act. 

Bouie provides no link to the text of the law. The "quotation" goes like this:

BOUIE (3/28/23): The official name of Florida’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill, prohibiting “classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity,” is the Parental Rights in Education Act. And the state’s Stop WOKE (short for Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees) Act, which outlaws any school instruction that classifies individuals as “inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously,” was framed, similarly, as a victory for the rights of parents.

Really? Does Florida's childishly-named Stop WOKE Act really "outlaw any school instruction that classifies individuals as 'inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously?” 

From those of us who are mentally active, it's a bit hard to know what such a statement could even mean. It almost sounds like the act is forbidding discussions of individuals as "racist" at all.

On its face, Bouie's alleged quotation doesn't quite seem to parse. For the record, that isn't what the relevant portion of the Florida law actually seems to say. 

We refer to what the law "seems to say" because, as we've noted in the past, there seems to be no clean version of the bill's text available online. 

Bouie doesn't identify the source of his quotation, or link to any such source. Below, you see the best version of the bill we have been able to find.  

The Washington Post recently linked to that version of the bill as the actual text. Here is the relevant portion:

From Florida's Stop WOKE Act:

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

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

As it turns out, the actual text of subsection (a) isn't crazy or weird or fuzzy at all. It makes a simple declarative statement. Because no one could possibly disagree with that statement, it's our impression that people like Bouie have repeatedly chosen to avoid quoting or paraphrasing it accurately.

Your lizard brain will quickly insist that Bouie was surely doing the best he could. That may well be the case, but we'll note another part of his column in the third parr of this report.

In the meantime, we'll only say this:

We don't think we've ever seen a serious attempt to explain, for good or for ill, what the Stop WOKE Act actually says. What we've typically seen instead has been tribal Storyline, pretty much all the way down.

Where did Bouie get that quote? How did it survive fact-checking?

Nicolle Wallace and the naked statue:

To our eye and ear, Nicolle Wallace had always been a bit demagogue-adjacent. It was true when she was shilling to outlaw same-sex marriage. It remains true today now that she's servicing Us.

Also to our eye and ear, Wallace has been getting a bit frenzied in the past few weeks, presumably under the stress of her unrequited demagoguery. For example, she has taken to repeating totemic formulations like this, from the start of yesterday's Deadline: White House program:

Hi there everyone! It's 4 o'clock in New York as we have learned more, and more, and more, about the events of January 6th and the insurrection, and specifically the efforts of the twice-impeached, disgraced ex-president to overturn his 2020 election defeat.

"The twice-impeached, disgraced ex-president!" This has become a totemic incantation on Wallace's popular show. She repeats the formulation at least five separate times during yesterday's program alone. This matched the number of incantations from Monday's show.

We'll assume that Wallace is a good person, but she's long been demagogue-adjacent. To our eye and ear, she has also seemed to be getting angrier and more frustrated over the past few weeks. 

According to experts, there is no foolishness that a human like this won't endure in service to Storyline. That explains yesterday's clownlike presentation about the naked statue:

WALLACE (3/28/23): It gets worse. A Florida charter school principal said last week she was forced to resign for not contacting the parents of students in a sixth-grade class—wait for this, an art class—before exposing them to what one parent equated to pornographic material.

A warning to our viewers now: If you're offended by priceless, sort of boring, works of Renaissance art, avert your eyes. [Brief pause]  Michelangelo's 16th century David marble statue is now the latest target of the censorship mobs...

Are you following this? Wallace was mocking a few parents of sixth graders. The parents felt they should have been notified that the naked statue would be shown to their sixth graders. In previous years, that had been the school's policy. The policy wasn't followed this year.

First, a few basic facts:

The principal did say that she had been forced to resign because of this failure to follow policy. The chairman of the school's board said that this was merely one in a succession of incidents.

Wallace doesn't know which account is true. Inevitably, she gave viewers the account which advances Storyline. Beyond that, we've seen no one say that this incident occurred in an art class. When Storyline is in the saddle and riding humankind, such additions will occur.

Seeming to embellish several known facts, Wallace described the handful of parents who complained as part of "the censorship mobs." But dear God! 

Before she (briefly) showed the naked statue to her own adult viewers, she seemed to feel the need to provide a brief warning herself! Your lizard brain is going to tell you that she was simply being ironic.

Everything is always possible, but we'll guess that wasn't the case.

According to experts, there are few things a human like Wallace won't do as she pursues her tribal warfare. In the past, she demagogued against same sex marriage. Today, she services Us.

The Ruby Bridges film:

At the tender age of 6, Ruby Bridges became a remarkable historical figure. 

In 1960, accompanied by no other children, she integrated a New Orleans public school all by herself. Her frightening walk to school on her first day was portrayed in one of Norman Rockwell's greatest and most famous illustrations, "The Problem We All Live With."

Today, we're living with a different problem. First, a few basic facts:

Way back when, Disney and ABC created a full-length film about Ruby Bridges. It aired as part of the first season of the ABC program, The Wonderful World of Disney. 

The film was 96 minutes long. It aired on January 18, 1998. Rightly or wrongly, it received a PG-rating from the Motion Picture Association, meaning this:

MPA Movie Rating System:

G – General Audiences

All ages admitted. Nothing that would offend parents for viewing by children.

PG – Parental Guidance Suggested

Some material may not be suitable for children. Parents urged to give "parental guidance." May contain some material parents might not like for their young children.

Correctly or otherwise, the 96-minute film didn't receive a G rating. Instead, it was rated PG, meaning it "may contain some material parents might not like for their young children."

We've never seen the film. Neither, you can feel quite sure, have the various blue tribe tribunes screeching about it today.

One such tribune is Jamelle Bouie; another is Nicolle Wallace. In yesterday's column, Bouie offered this:

BOUIE: It should be said that this movement for “parents’ rights” in Florida has empowered certain parents to remove books, films, even whole classes that threaten to expose their children to material that might make them uncomfortable. In Pinellas County, for example, a single complaint about the Disney film “Ruby Bridges”—about the 6-year-old girl who integrated an all-white New Orleans school in 1960—led to its removal from an elementary school.

There was indeed "a single complaint about the Disney film." That single complaint came from one lone parent, after the film was shown to second graders as part of Black History Month. 

That said, is it true that this single complaint has "led to [the film's removal] removal from an elementary school?" That isn't what the Washington Post has reported about this utterly trivial matter. Based on what the Post reported, that statement is an embellishment—but then again, what isn't?

In his column, Bouie provides no link to any account of the incident. Meanwhile, as of 10 o'clock this morning, his own New York Times—to its credit—hasn't yet offered a news report about this transcendently trivial non-event, in which one (1) parent had the nerve to state her view to the principal of one (1) elementary school.

Quick question: Should the school be showing this film to its second graders? Is the school showing good judgment?

We don't have the slightest idea! Like you, we've never seen the film. Also, we've never worked with second graders.

(It does seem a bit odd to us to think that second graders are being shown a 96-minute film, but we could be wrong about that. Just for the record, Common Sense Media has scored the film as appropriate for kids from the age of 10 up.)

Our view? There's zero reason to assume that the school is exhibiting perfect judgment. Beyond that, there's no reason to start attacking the parent who has questioned that judgment in the way our blue tribe's hacks are now doing across the board.

Wallace also went there yesterday. You can be sure she had no idea what she was talking about. It basically pure Storyline now—Storyline all the way down.

Long ago and far away, we did show a lengthy film to a fifth-grade Baltimore class. (May 1970!)

The film was The Forbidden Village, a John Steinbeck production about the attempt to bring modern medicine to a rural Mexican village—a village where the children were dying due to a contaminated well.

You can still see the film, in entirety and for free, through this link to YouTube. As it happened, those fifth graders reacted to that film with great ardor—but we certainly wouldn't have shown it to a bunch of second graders.

(We especially remember the outraged reaction of NAME WITHHELD. Why would any group of parents simply let their children die, that good kid angrily asked.)

Fifth graders aren't kindergartners; kindergartners aren't second graders. That said, you have to be completely insane to think that this trivial incident in one Florida school should be the subject of a national discussion, especially in a world where the pseudo-discussion will be led by a pile of corporate hacks who will embellish, disappear, rearrange or ignore an array of basic facts.

"Every man [sic] a king," Long said. According to anthropologists, we live in a different world.

Increasingly, we live in a world built from preferred tribal Storyline. At this point, could it be that it isn't just Them? Could it be that the Yahoos R Us?

More and more, the game is being played that way, inconsolable scholars insist.

Still coming: Love it or leave it; McGovern's inanity; PEN America's embarrassing post


Concerning the start of the public school wars!

TUESDAY, MARCH 28, 2023

The Washington Post reports: How did the culture war about public school instruction actually get its start?

To her credit, the Washington Post's Hannah Natanson recently tried to address that question. On the down side, Natanson tried to address that question, and she largely failed.

Natanson's report appeared in the online Post back on March 18. We don't know when, or if, it appeared in print editions. 

Online, the headline on the lengthy report says this:

Covid changed parents’ view of schools—and ignited the education culture wars

Covid ignited the culture wars, Natanson said—and this wasn't just a reference to arguments about virtual learning versus in-school instruction during the high pandemic. 

According to Natanson, one particular aspect of virtual learning led to further types of concern:

NATANSON (3/18/23): Concerns first emerged during the early phase of the pandemic, when parents facing school closures began showing up at school board meetings to demand in-person classes—or insist on continued virtual learning. Soon, membership exploded in Facebook groups that sought to end masking—or add new safety measures...

But as the covid case rates and death counts eventually abated, the anger and frustration did not. Instead, it morphed into conflicts over what schools should be teaching. Some conservative parents, granted an unprecedented glimpse into lessons during virtual learning, took issue with teacher-led discussions of race, gender and sexual orientation, arguing educators were promoting the views of the political left. They founded national organizations such as Moms for Liberty to promote greater parental control of education and eradicate books they deemed sexually inappropriate from school libraries. 

During virtual learning, parents were "granted an unprecedented look into" what their children (and grandchildren) were being taught. According to Natanson, conservative parents sometimes didn't like what they saw.

In our assessment, Natanson's personal views with respect to such issues seem to tilt toward the left. For that reason, it seems to us that she's being admirably fair in suggesting that conservative objections, in some cases, came from honest reactions by conservative parents to what they saw in the online instruction offered to their children.

Before long, Natanson gives three examples of such objections—or at least, she tries to do so. Her report was focused on the public school culture wars as they have developed in the Mentor, Ohio schools.

Natanson offers three examples—but, alas! Two of the three complaints from conservative adults are much too vague to evaluate. 

That said, one complaint was more specific. That said, for better or worse, this was Natanson's account:

NATANSON: Seventy-five-year-old Linda O’Brien, whose granddaughter used to attend Mentor schools, grew concerned after seeing a screenshot of a page from a training for Mentor teachers (also obtained by The Washington Post) that asked, “How can I be a co-conspirator while using a curriculum rooted in whiteness?”

According to Natanson's fuzzy account, O'Brien grew concerned after seeing "a screenshot of a page from a training for Mentor teachers." Presumably, this page was part of a document from some sort of training session. 

According to Natanson's fuzzy account, the Post also obtained this "page from a training." According to Natanson, this is what it said:

“How can I be a co-conspirator while using a curriculum rooted in whiteness?”

Within the public school context, that sounds like a slightly strange question. Unfortunately, it's also completely unclear what that lone question actually meant.

Within what context did that peculiar-sounding question appear in whatever sort of document the Washington Post had obtained? Fuzzily, Natanson didn't try to explain. 

Adding insult to injury, she eventually offered this:

NATANSON: Concerned Taxpayers says its advocacy helped convince the school district to discontinue its teacher training that asked educators to serve as “co-conspirators,” a change confirmed by Heath, the superintendent. Members also successfully petitioned for the removal of “George,” a children’s book about a young transgender girl. And the district is more careful in selecting curriculums these days, Heath said.

Everyone seems to agree! The Mentor, Ohio Schools decided to discontinue the teacher training that asked educators to serve as "co-conspirators" in some sort of undertaking which Natanson never described.

In what had that "teacher training" consisted? What was the "co-conspiracy?" Natanson never explained those points. The Post's readers were left to imagine.

This is the sort of thing that passes for major news reporting in the devolving Washington Post. The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but work like this makes little sense.

Natanson is a recent Harvard grad (class of 2019). She was managing editor of The Crimson. Today, she writes for the Washington Post about the public schools. 

Our question goes like this:

Is this really the best the Post can do? Disconsolate minds want to know!


YAHOOS R US? Can we conceive of the lives of others?

TUESDAY, MARCH 28, 2023

Otherization and Us: What the heck is "theory of mind?"

On the front page of today's New York Times, Oliver Whang explains the concept in a piece about AI.

More specifically, Whang explains the way the term is used by psychologists. For our money, he clouds his explanation a bit—but this is the way he defines the term in his opening paragraphs:

WHANG (3/28/23): Mind reading is common among us humans. Not in the ways that psychics claim to do it, by gaining access to the warm streams of consciousness that fill every individual’s experience, or in the ways that mentalists claim to do it, by pulling a thought out of your head at will. Everyday mind reading is more subtle: We take in people’s faces and movements, listen to their words and then decide or intuit what might be going on in their heads.

Among psychologists, such intuitive psychology—the ability to attribute to other people mental states different from our own—is called theory of mind, and its absence or impairment has been linked to autism, schizophrenia and other developmental disorders. Theory of mind helps us communicate with and understand one another; it allows us to enjoy literature and movies, play games and make sense of our social surroundings. In many ways, the capacity is an essential part of being human.

For our money, Whang clouds his explanation a bit with his reference to "mind reading"—a reference he introduces, then quickly discards.

That said, Whang does describe a basic, if occasional, human capacity—"the ability to attribute to other people mental states different from our own."

He says that this ability helps us understand one another. He even says that this ability "is an essential part of being human."

Friend, do you have that ability? More precisely, are you able to conceive of a world in which other people may have outlooks, understandings and ideas "different from [your] own?"

Along the way, are you able to understand a basic point? Are you able to understand the fact that differences of this type will always exist within human populations—that there will always be people who disagree with you in some way or other?

Are you able to understand that basic fact about life in the human sphere? Or are you inclined to otherize those who present you with the specter of difference? Do you look for ways to suggest that such Others just aren't fully human?

At issue are "the lives of others"—and no, we don't mean the widely acclaimed 2006 German film. At issue is the ability to accept the fact that other people are going to differ from you in some way or other, and that such people have every right to hold such differing views.

Friend, does your so-called lizard brain sometimes direct you to reject that basic understanding? Does it direct you to adopt a different stance? Does it direct you to otherize others? 

Otherization is powerful, and it's very common! Last week, we saw former president Donald J. Trump take a very familiar path on the road toward otherization. 

Taking a very familiar route, he otherized Alvin Bragg:

WHY WON'T BRAGG DROP THIS CASE? EVERYBODY SAYS THERE IS NO CRIME HERE. I DID NOTHING WRONG! IT WAS ALL MADE UP BY A CONVICTED NUT JOB WITH ZERO CREDIBILITY, WHO HAS BEEN DISPUTED BY HIGHLY RESPECTED PROFESSIONALS AT EVERY TIURN. BRAGG REFUSES TO STOP DESPITE OVERWHELMING EVIDENCE TO THE CONTRARY. HE IS A SOROS BACKED ANIMAL WHO JUST DOESN'T CARE ABOUT RIGHT OR WRONG NO MATTER HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE HURT. THIS IS NO LEGAL SYSTEM, THIS IS THE GESTAPO, THIS IS RUSSIA OR CHINA, BUT WORSE. DISGRACFUL!

It's one of the most common ways to perform an otherization. The party being otherized is referred to as an animal. This move is performed all the time.

It's easy for us to spot this behavior when it's performed by someone like Trump. Way back in October 1999, the Democratic front-runner for president was otherized in this same way by some in the mainstream press corps.

The otherization began with Jacob Weisberg in Slate. Weisberg is a good, decent person, but this came at the start of his instant appraisal of the first Gore-Bradley debate from New Hampshire:

WEISBERG (10/27/99): Gore arrived on stage like some sort of feral animal who had been locked in a small cage and fed on nothing but focus groups for several days. Upon release, he began to scamper furiously in every direction at once. Assuming his stool 20 minutes before showtime, he volunteered to take extra questions from the audience. At the end of the hour-long non-debate, he promised to stay and answer even more. As of this writing (10:30 p.m.) he's still at it, sitting on the edge of the stage with his wife, talking about human rights in Africa and offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico with a few dozen New Hampshireites.

Gore came across as a kind of manic political vaudevillian. He oozed empathy from every pore, getting all over every questioner like a cheap suit. First he would ask the person about his circumstances, his family, or his job, in a desperate effort to bond. Then he would respond with an explosion of gesticulation, sympathy and agreement...

As we noted at the time, Weisberg's astoundingly negative instant appraisal was widely "sampled" by other major mainstream pundits over the next several days.

It had started with a classic bit of otherization—with the claim that the widely despised Candidate Gore had "scampered furiously" about the stage "like some sort of feral animal." 

The takedown proceeded from there. For the record, Democratic Party viewers had scored the debate a draw.

At this juncture, let's state the world's most obvious point:

This astoundingly negative appraisal was the fruit of Gore's earlier failure to denounce President Clinton to the extent that the corporate hacks of our mainstream press had demanded. 

In that same month, then again in November, CNN's Howard Kurtz asked two separate panels of mainstream journalists why Gore was being covered in such a negative way by the mainstream press. Everyone agreed that the coverage of Gore had been harshly negative—and everyone pretended that they didn't know why that was!

Last week, Trump described Alvin Bragg as an animal. In Weisberg's construction, Gore was a feral animal, one who had scampered about. 

It's like that with otherizations! In the Rwandan genocide of 1994, the Tutsis had been widely described as "cockroaches." Before long, the murders began. In its most consequential appearances, otherization takes this form.

At any rate, this is one of the common ways we tend to otherize Others. Simply put, the Others simply aren't human. They'll be compared to animals, but also perhaps to machines.

Robotically, mainstream pundits borrowed from what Weisberg had said. In real time, we cited some of the borrowing. Years later, we expanded that work.

On the front page of this morning's Times, Whang discusses the human capacity which gets abandoned, left behind, when otherization starts. 

He describes the ability to understand a basic fact about the lives of others. He describes the ability to understand the fact that other people are separate from us, and even different—the ability to understand the fact that other people won't necessarily share every one of our own infallible views.

In all honesty, our blue tribe has a long history of dehumanizing Others. As tribal polarization has increased in recent years, our tribunes have increasingly turned to the pleasures of this approach.

We have a long list of insulting names we're quick to apply to the Others. We're at our happiest when we name-call the Others this way tens of millions at a time.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but our tribe is often extremely unimpressive. Reading Petula Dvorak's recent column, and much else in the Washington Post, we've almost begun to wonder if a certain changing of the guard is currently taking place:

Could it be that the Rednecks R Us in the brave new world we're composing? Is it possible that our own blue tribe is adopting this long-despised role? 

How about it, friend? Can you "attribute to other people mental states different from [your] own?" More precisely, can you do that without feeling the need to otherize such people?

Are you prepared to inhabit a world which includes the lives of others? It seems to us that our own blue tribe is increasingly challenged on this score.

Otherization has played a key role in the sweep of human history. As we increasingly name-call Others, could it possibly turn out to be that the new Yahoos R Us?

Tomorrow: Love it or leave it, she said


Trivial incident transformed into script!

MONDAY, MARCH 27, 2023

Perfect for Storyline: In our view, Kevin Drum basically had it right, from his headline right on down.

At issue was the forced resignation of a charter school principal at one small school in Tallahassee. Drum's killjoy headline said this:

BREAKING: Unbelievably trivial story somehow becomes national news

Drum linked to a report in the Washington Post about the forced resignation. As you can see if you read the report, the Post's reporters didn't have any obvious way of knowing why the principal had been shown the door.

On a simple journalistic basis, Bella and Natanson didn't know why the principal had been shown the door. In their report, they basically posed as press agents for the former principal, from whom they had taken dictation.

They didn't seem to know why the principal had been canned. That said, whoever wrote the headline on the Post's report had a good ear for Storyline:

Florida parents upset by Michelangelo’s ‘David’ force out principal

According to the Post's headline, the principal had been canned because of the naked statue brouhaha. Under current circumstances, that made for good solid blue Storyline.

The chairman of the charter school's board said the mishandling of the naked statue incident was only one of several reasons for the principal's dismissal. There seems to be no obvious was for outsiders to know why the principal is gone, but we can all agree on this:

The story is unbelievably trivial—and it did become national news.

It became big news due to Storyline—preferred Storyline at that. It let our tribunes start to cluck in some of the time-honored ways that our blue tribe has always loved. 

To see a trio of clowning clowns behaving like clowns on MSNBC, you can click this link to the Internet Archive, then search on the key word, David.

The sardonic clowning will start with Mehdi Hasan, filling in as guest host for the routinely woeful Stephanie Ruhle. He will perform like a clowning clown, after which he will throw to David Jolly and then to Robert Gibbs.

Each of the clowns will take his turn playing the blue corporate fool. Even as these blue tribe hacks mock the Tallahassee school for notifying parents ahead of time that a nude statue will be shown to sixth graders, you'll note that their corporate owner, MSNBC, was only willing to show the iconic statue from the waist up!

We can't say that we expect much better from Hasan. We were disappointed to see Gibbs play the fool this way, perhaps less so with Jolly. 

(For added enjoyment, note the way Jolly plays the fool, in that same segment, with respect to the nature of the Republican Party during the many years when he was a major party player within the GOP.  His presentation was clownishly inaccurate. If Lawrence called his presentation a lie, there would be no obvious reason to say that Lawrence was wrong.)

Decent progressives should be appalled to see our blue tribe's corporate hacks playing the fool in such ways. In another vein, we'll direct you to the comments which were appended to Drum's post.

Hasan and his two little pals showed us the ways of the blue corporate clown. Drum's commenters help us see how detached from reality, and how arrogant, so many blue voters are.

Inevitably, Drum's commenters wanted to mock The Others for being such ridiculous prudes. In such ways, they display their inability to live in a world in which some people's cultural norms and social judgments differ in some trivial way from their own.

To his credit, the first commenter tries to be fair about the reason for the dismissal. Still and all, we'd have to say that this comment is remarkably clueless:

FIRST COMMENT: One issue was that the school didn't notify parents this year that they'd be showing this art. It's depressing that we need to do this over pretty innocuous art, just as it seems depressing (to me, anyway) that this board member believes David isn't appropriate for kindergarteners. (I mean, really? Are we that frightened by nudity?)

Are we that frightened by nudity? this commenter asks. We wouldn't use the word "frightened" ourselves, but the cluelessness seeping out of that question truly defines comprehension.

To his credit, that first commenter was being fair about the (unknown) reason(s) for the dismissal. By way of contrast, the second commenter believed himself to be all-knowing, then moved straight to the name-calling.

Drum had asked the following question: "In what way is this even much of a local news story, let alone a national one?" Here's how the dumbly omniscient second commenter answered:

SECOND COMMENT: I think it's because the argument the school is making and that you're making on their behalf is so blatantly stupid. The issue is obviously about the nudity, not about not notifying the parents or any of the rest of the smokescreen. I'm quite sure the parents would not have demanded the firing of the principal over not notifying them about showing Mona Lisa or The Last Supper or some such.

The issue is newsworthy because it's not very long ago that a teacher could teach about Renaissance masterpieces without dealing with right-wing bullshit.

This all-knowing blue tribe droog is too dumb to understand that he simply doesn't know why the principal got canned. He also seems to think that sensitivity with respect to a matter like this is some sort of recent American development.

From there, let the name-calling begin! We're dealing with some "right-wing bullshit," this blue tribe ambassador says.

Here's a response to that second comment. Simply put, you can't get dumber, or more arrogant, than this:

RESPONSE TO SECOND COMMENT: This is the United States of America we're talking about. There's never been a time like the one you describe. The country has always been home to mouth-breathers who think "culture" is bad because it starts with the same letter as "Communism."

In fairness, this responder does at least know that The Others have always been prudes. From there, he moves directly to some remarkably dimwitted insults. Let the name-calling begin!

The third commenter offered these thoughts:

THIRD COMMENT: The real problem is that a few prudish, bigoted, generally backwards parents want to control education for all kids, and that more enlightened parents generally stay silent and let the bullies run the schools.

It's a play on Goofus and Gallant! The Others are "bigoted, generally backward." Just as it ever was, we blues are "more enlightened." 

(On the down side, we're also so freakishly dumb that we tend to believe this dumb shit.)

On and on this sort of thing goes. The dumbness of these comments is matched by the inability of the commenters to understand that they live in a world where various people may differ from them in a wide array of unharmful ways.

Do you really fail to understand why our tribe is so widely loathed? In fact, we're stupid and nasty and nobody likes us. Also, we've been this way for a long time.

Hasan and the other two children played the fool last Friday. Drum's commenters brought on the insults.

This is a significant part of who and what we actually are. This sort of thing helped get Trump elected. We're very dumb and very unpleasant, and we can't see ourselves as we are.


STARTING TOMORROW: Yahoos R Us?

MONDAY, MARCH 27, 2023

A changing of the guard: An unusual exchange occurred on yesterday's Meet the Press.

The critique began with Peggy Noonan, then jumped to host Chuck Todd. At issue was the recent behavior of former president Donald J. Trump. 

The night before, Trump had taken "the trip to Bountiful," substituting Waco as his actual set. On Meet the Press, this exchange occurred:

NOONAN (3/26/23): There's also, I think, there’s been a sense this week that you look at what he's doing, posing with a baseball bat, saying there may be violence, all this stuff. You look and you think, "Is this strategy or a public nervous breakdown?" You actually are not sure

TODD: I'm not sure.

NOONAN: —of which. Look, I think, speaking in terms of tacky politics, he's trying to nail down and excite his base. Looks like he succeeded. Waco looked, last night, like he succeeded.

[...]

TODD: Cornell [Belcher], I'm actually with Peggy on this. I'm not sure if he's having a nervous breakdown, or if he thinks this is good politics...

This struck us as an unusual moment, mainstream analysis-wise. 

To our ear, the suggestion that Trump may be "having a nervous breakdown" takes us surprisingly close to a forbidden idea. We refer to the idea that the former president's peculiar behavior should be analyzed in terms of psychology / psychiatry / mental illness.

Steadily, the upper-end mainstream press has always refused to go there. Given the primitive nature of our primitive nation's discourse, this reluctance may even be wise. 

The first step down that analytical road would lead to many demented claims from the realm of psychiatry as a form of rebuttal. Still and all, here is David French's capsule account of what happened at Waco this time around:

FRENCH (3/27/23): Politicians are always tempted to pander, but rarely do you see such a complete abdication of anything approaching true moral or political leadership as what transpired at the Waco rally...[The rally] ended with an angry, albeit boilerplate Trump stump speech that was also littered with falsehoods.

And if you think for a moment that there’s any Trumpworld regret over the Jan. 6 insurrection, the rally provided a decisive response. At the beginning of Trump’s speech, he stood—hand over his heart—while he listened to a song called “Justice for All,” which he recorded with something called the “J6 Prison Choir,” a group of men imprisoned for storming the Capitol. The song consists of the choir singing the national anthem while Trump recites the Pledge of Allegiance.

It's amazing to think that there's some such group as the "J6 Prison Choir" at all. At Waco, their new record drop was played for the crowd as Trump stood by, hand over heart.

At least in its print editions, the New York Times hasn't provided a news report about the Waco event. On a journalistic basis, this strikes us as odd.

For better or worse, the paper doesn't just avoid discussions of the former's president's possible clinical state. At this point, the Times also seems reluctant to provide news reports about the various things the gentleman says and does.

Certain types of conventional sanity seem to be disappearing inside the tents of TrumpWorld. But as the former president behaves in such ways, how does our blue tribe respond?

We'd have to say that our own tribe's certified tribunes have been melting down as well. The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but our own tribe's moral and intellectual resources are severely limited.

The meltdowns within our own tribe strike us as troubling and deep. Tomorrow, we'll likely start with last Thursday's column for the Washington Post, in which liberal columnist Petula Dvorak turned to the oldest play in the 60s-era right-wing playbook.

Who is Petula Dvorak? For starters, she had the good sense to go to college in what was then the Pacific 10.

She graduated from Southern Cal in the class of 1992. In the fall semester of her senior year, she was editor of The Daily Trojan.

She's been a columnist at the Washington Post for the past fourteen years. Under the Post's current peculiar arrangements, her columns receive prominent placement in the paper's print editions, but are routinely hard to find in the dumbnified online Post.

In the column to which we refer, Dvorak turned to the ancient bromide in which those who disagree with the writer's infallible view of the world are invited to "Love it or leave it." We flashed on the advice the anguished Merle Haggard once offered in one of his most authoritarian songs:

If you don't love it, leave it
Let this song I'm singin' be a warnin'
When you're runnin' down my country, man
You're walkin' on the fightin' side of me.

"If you don't love it, leave it," Haggard once commanded. Dvorak offered a version of this advice in last Thursday's column.

Judged by journalistic norms, Dvorak's column was an incoherent mess. Increasingly, tribunes of our own blue tribe tend to play that way now.

At this point, we'll remind you of a basic fact. Nothing which gets said at this site is going to affect anything moving forward. We're offering pure anthropology now—anthropology all the way down.

As the week proceeds, we'll show you some of the embarrassing conduct performed by the tribunes of our own blue tribe. For example, did you ever think you'd see the day when Virginia Foxx (R-NC) would make more sense in a committee hearing than the embarrassing Jim McGovern (D-Mass.)?

We never thought we'd see that either. Over the weekend, we did!

(Meanwhile, how about this frequently cited post by PEN America? Unless there's something we're totally missing, that's an embarrassment too!)

Former president Donald J. Trump may be having a nervous breakdown! On the other hand, the dumbness within our own blue tribe has been mammoth and virtually endless, as has been our tribe's inability to see ourselves as we are.

The dumbness of our most trusted tribunes has been mammoth and virtually endless. To us, this seems like the wrong approach as the prospect of war moves along.

The sheer stupidity is everywhere now. It has even crossed our mind that a changing of the guard may be underway.

Could it be that the yahoos, even the rednecks, may turn out to be Us? At a time like this, top experts aver, it will be extremely hard for us to see such truths about our own infallible tribe.

Tomorrow: "There are options these folks might consider!"


It would be hard to be more phony!

SATURDAY, MARCH 25, 2023

Spectacular con men R Us: Is anybody phonier than our blue tribe corporate hacks?

We refer to the foolishness which transpired last evening on The 11th Hour.

Once again, Mehdi Hassan was sitting in as guest host for Stephanie Ruhle. He launched the evening's most repulsive bit of hackistry at 11:33 P.M.

As the segment began, Hassan dripped with sarcasm about the dumb-ass, right-wing Florida school we discussed in today's first report. At the stupid right-wing school, three (3) parents complained when their sixth graders were allowed to see Michelangelo's naked masterpiece, David.

Hassan was joined by David Jolly and Robert Gibbs, a pair of blue tribe regulars. In turn, each ridiculed the stupid red state rubes for their stupid behavior.

What the three said was phony enough. The peak fraudulence consisted in this:

Each pundit took his turn ridiculing the "raw ignorance" (Jolly) involved in "the Michelangelo story." As they did, producers kept showing photographs of the famous masterpiece.

That said, the photographs only showed the masterpiece in head-and-shoulders mode, or in one case from the waist up! Even as these scripted hacks ridiculed three ignorant rubes for their reluctance to show the statue to sixth graders, The One True Channel was refusing to show the naked statue to a late-night adult audience!

It's impossible to have sufficient contempt for the people who agree to behave this way on a nightly basis. We'll expose you to these hacks' full statements, and to the comical visuals, when the Internet Archive posts the tape of last evening's show. 

It's impossible to have sufficient contempt for the people who agree to do this. On the corporate tribal level, a spectacular clownlike lack of decency is really and truly Us!

Willa Cather's contempt: In Book II, Chapter IX of My Antonia, Willa Cather voiced her contempt for the native-born boys of her native Nebraska who saw the beauty of their town's immigrant girls but refused to pursue them in marriage.

More precisely, Cather's narrator, Jim Burden, gives voice to his contempt. At the start of the chapter, he starts his portrait of these vibrant immigrant girls in the manner shown:

There was a curious social situation in Black Hawk. All the young men felt the attraction of the fine, well-set-up country girls who had come to town to earn a living, and, in nearly every case, to help the father struggle out of debt, or to make it possible for the younger children of the family to go to school.

Those girls had grown up in the first bitter-hard times, and had got little schooling themselves. But the younger brothers and sisters, for whom they made such sacrifices and who have had ‘advantages,’ never seem to me, when I meet them now, half as interesting or as well educated. The older girls, who helped to break up the wild sod, learned so much from life, from poverty, from their mothers and grandmothers; they had all, like √Āntonia, been early awakened and made observant by coming at a tender age from an old country to a new.

I can remember a score of these country girls who were in service in Black Hawk during the few years I lived there, and I can remember something unusual and engaging about each of them. Physically they were almost a race apart...

They were almost a race apart! Later, the portrait continues:

The Black Hawk boys looked forward to marrying Black Hawk girls, and living in a brand-new little house with best chairs that must not be sat upon, and hand-painted china that must not be used. But sometimes a young fellow would look up from his ledger, or out through the grating of his father’s bank, and let his eyes follow Lena Lingard, as she passed the window with her slow, undulating walk, or Tiny Soderball, tripping by in her short skirt and striped stockings.

The country girls were considered a menace to the social order. Their beauty shone out too boldly against a conventional background. But anxious mothers need have felt no alarm. They mistook the mettle of their sons. The respect for respectability was stronger than any desire in Black Hawk youth.

As the chapter ends, Burden describes one native-born fellow, Sylvester Lovett, who falls for Lena Lingard, one of the (Norwegian) immigrant girls. 

He falls for Lena Lingard, and he falls very hard. The chapter ends with one of our favorite passages from fiction:

Sylvester dallied about Lena until he began to make mistakes in his work; had to stay at the bank until after dark to make his books balance. He was daft about her, and everyone knew it. To escape from his predicament he ran away with a widow six years older than himself, who owned a half-section. This remedy worked, apparently. He never looked at Lena again, nor lifted his eyes as he ceremoniously tipped his hat when he happened to meet her on the sidewalk.

So that was what they were like, I thought, these white-handed, high-collared clerks and bookkeepers! I used to glare at young Lovett from a distance and only wished I had some way of showing my contempt for him.

So that was what they were like, Burden thought. 

Burden was full of contempt for the young men who wouldn't act on their attraction to the vibrant immigrant girls. In the case of Lovett, Burden feels no sympathy for a young man who is walking away from a chance at his fullest and most authentic personal happiness.

So that was what they were like, Burden thought. At some point, will we liberals be willing to see what our tribe's corporate con men are like?


FLAILING: Smoke gets in our blue tribe's eyes!

SATURDAY, MARCH 25, 2023

The spectacular dumbness, it burns: According to disconsolate experts, it's true among all human tribes at times of partisan warfare.

Because it's true among all such tribes, it's also true within our own tribe:

It's very hard for us to see how dumb we actually are.

The spectacular dumbness, it burns! The smoke from the dumbness gets in our eyes, and leaves us with clown shows like this:

Florida parents upset by Michelangelo’s ‘David’ force out principal

The link takes you to what passes for a news report in the present-day Washington Post. If you read far enough into the pseudo-report, you'll see that reporters Bella and Natanson have no apparent way of knowing why the principal in question was pushed out of her job.

No matter! The reporters proceed with a favored stance, seeming to function as press agents for the former principal. But as we read the full report, we were most struck by the following fact:

The spectacular dumbness, it burns!

The dumbness is general in that report. The spectacular dumbness, it burns!

The dumbness in question is now general within our own script-obsessed tribe. To see the dumbness as it runs amok, we recommend that you read this attempt at an interview with the chairman of the Tallahassee school's board, as conducted by Slate's Dan Kois:

An Interview With the School Board Chair Who Forced Out a Principal After Michelangelo’s David Was Shown in Class

Blinded by allegiance to script—but also by smoke from spectacular dumbness—Kois seems completely unable to hear what the school board chair keeps saying.

(How is hearing affected by smoke? You'll have to ask Dan Kois!) 

For further evidence of this tribal breakdown, we invite you to read the comments to Kevin Drum's post on this topic, a post which carried this headline:

BREAKING: Unbelievably trivial story somehow becomes national news

Commenters fought back against Drum in age-old tribal ways. The spectacular arrogance, condescension and dumbness! How those three qualities burned!

There are perfectly decent questions which can be asked about the creation of public charter schools like Tallahassee Classical. According to anthropologists, those questions will rarely be asked by our flailing tribe at this fraught point in time.

The arrogance involved in our own tribe's systems of true belief has been quite evident lately. We expect to explore this phenomenon next week.

In the meantime, we'll sell some statistics:

Within our own blue tribe, we may assume that Tallahassee Classical is one of those Florida redneck "white supremacy" joints. Who else would go to a school like this? Here are the actual data:

Tallahassee Classical, student race / ethnicity
White kids: 43%
Black kids: 35%
Hispanic: 9%
Asian ancestry: 8%
Two or more races: 4%

For the raw numbers from the National Center for Education Statistics, you can just click here.

According to the Post's report, three (3) parents complained. or at least semi-complained, about the Michelangelo caper. This allowed Bella, Natanson, Kois and those commenters to run all through the pea patch.

Based upon their report, the Post's reporters don't seem to know why the principal lost her position. Regarding the parents and the bare-naked statue, are you sure the parents who complained were the standard white supremacy types? 

No, it doesn't make any difference. But given what we know of the world, we'll suggest that you shouldn't feel certain.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep. Here within our own blue tribe, the spectacular dumbness, it majorly burns, and the arrogance may be even worse.


Be careful with your federal indictments!

FRIDAY, MARCH 24, 2023

Associate frog-marched to jail: For what it's worth, Boston's legendary Mayor Curley was a semi-associate of our father, though probably not a friend. 

Our father was 65 years old when we were born. The amusing adventures to which we refer all occurred long before our time.

Still and all, we've often thought of Mayor Curley during the past few weeks. For today, here's a record of his brief sojourn in federal prison while he continued to serve his fourth term as Boston's street-fighting mayor:

Fourth mayoralty (1946–1950)

In 1945, Curley opted to vacate his seat in Congress to run for a fourth non-consecutive term as mayor of Boston. 

[...]

By his fourth mayoral term, numerous investigations had been conducted against Curley's machine during his time in Congress, and he now faced felony indictments for bribery brought by federal prosecutors. Nonetheless, Curley's popularity with the Irish American community in Boston remained incredibly high in the face of his indictment. 

He campaigned on the slogan "Curley Gets Things Done." A second indictment by a federal grand jury, for mail fraud, did not harm his campaign either, and Curley won the election with 45% of the vote.

In June 1947, Curley was accused of accepting $60,000 from the Engineers Group, a firm Curley headed which was under investigation for war profiteering. He was found guilty of mail fraud and sentenced to 6–18 months at the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Connecticut. 

Under pressure from the Massachusetts congressional delegation and in consideration of Curley's poor health, President Truman commuted his sentence after only five months. City Clerk John B. Hynes served as acting mayor during Curley's time in prison.

Return after prison sentence

A crowd of thousands greeted Curley upon his return to Boston, with a brass band playing "Hail to the Chief." In a fit of hubris after his first day back in office, Curley told reporters, "I have accomplished more in one day than has been done in the five months of my absence."

In 1949, Curley was opposed for re-election by Hynes, who took Curley's public comments as a personal affront and marshaled support to defeat him. While Curley argued Hynes lacked experience, Hynes responded that the city could not "afford the city bosses anymore," and tapped into widespread dissatisfaction with the city's high tax rate to defeat Curley in the primary. During his lame duck period, Curley granted a large number of tax abatements and granted exorbitant city contracts to cronies, further hampering the city's finances.

Hynes was again victorious in a November 1951 rematch, ending Curley's half-century career in elective politics.

Retirement

In retirement, Curley was financially supported by a state-granted pension ushered through the legislature by Tip O'Neill. Curley continued to support other candidates and remained active within the Democratic Party after his defeats. His death in Boston in 1958 was followed by one of the largest funerals in the city's history.

"Curley's popularity with the Irish American community in Boston remained incredibly high." 

Also this: 

"His death in Boston in 1958 was followed by one of the largest funerals in the city's history."

None of this has much to say about what should be done about Donald J. Trump. In fact, we can't say that these events offer any guidance at all.

In our view, it isn't yet clear that Trump has committed any recognizable crimes with respect to the 2020 election and its violent aftermath, though he certainly may have and clear evidence may yet surface.

It does look like he'll be indicted. Given the way we humans are, indictments sometimes make supporters love favored pols that much more!


HACKS LIKE US: Bandy X. Lee is gone from Yale!

FRIDAY, MARCH 24, 2023

Donald J. Trump has gone wild: We may have misled you yesterday. For that, we apologize.

That said, full disclosure:

When Hacks Like Ours service Marks Like Us, their work doesn't have to make sense! So it went on Wednesday's Morning Joe, as the gang flogged the new tribal script concerning the burned-up couch.

In some way which was never explained, the incident was supposed to address the concerns of a band of legal observers. Those observers had voiced concerns about an allegedly shaky legal maneuver—a maneuver which would turn a misdemeanor charge against Donald J. Trump into a glorious felony. 

What was supposed to be the connection between the larcenous claim about the couch and Donald J. Trump's "hush money" payments to "porn star" Stormy Daniels? 

That never got explained on Wednesday's Morning Joe. We may have misled you yesterday by restricting ourselves to the thrashing of this script in the program's 6 o'clock hour.

Our fuller disclosure starts here:

At the start of Wednesday morning's 7 o'clock hour, Joe Scarborough returned to the sofa script. If anything, he was more unhinged in his presentation in this, his second crack at the apple.

At the start of the 9 o'clock hour, it fell to sidekick Willie Geist Jr. to echo his master's voice. This program's sidekicks always support the themes of the show, no matter how far they may have to wander from presentations which make recognizable sense.

Thanks to the Internet Archive, you can watch Scarborough's recognizably nutty performance at the start of the 7 o'clock hour. All you have to do is click here, then search on the key word "couch" and move to that part of the show.

How did the tale of the burned-up couch relate to the pornstarhushmoney payments? If we might borrow from the later Wittgenstein (section 1):

No such thing was in question here, only how the word "[pornstar]" is used.

Also this, from section 2: 

"[Scarborough's presentation] has its place in a primitive idea of the way [our public discourse] functions. But one can also say that it is the idea of a [public discourse] more primitive than ours."

In truth, our current American public discourse is precisely that primitive. Increasingly, this is the way our discourse works when multimillionaire Hacks Like Ours are sent on the air to provide comfort to Marks Like Us.

Did Donald J. Trump commit a recognizable criminal offense in his payments to the hushmoneypornstar? Did he commit a felony in some recognizable way?

That all remains to be seen! For now, we direct you to Kevin Drum's analysis of these events.

Drum posted his analysis yesterday. To his substantial credit, he has left the ranting to others.

He starts by noting that many of Donald's J. Trump's behaviors were, in fact, not illegal. This includes the payment of the pornstarhushmoney itself.

Drum ends up offering this sensible assessment. We don't yet agree in every possible way:

DRUM (3/23/23): However, in order to maintain the secrecy, the payments to Cohen were labeled "legal expenses."

And that's illegal. Moreover, you can argue that the payoff was a campaign expense that Trump didn't report. That would be illegal too.

So the case against Trump is this: In order to keep his payoff of a blackmailer secret, he had it labeled as a legal expense.

This strikes me as pretty trivial, and I have my doubts that a jury would convict Trump if it goes to trial. We should probably save our legal firepower for something more serious.

And like it or not, public opinion matters too...

"You can argue that the payoff was a campaign expense?" That's certainly true, but as various legal observers have noted, you can also argue that it actually wasn't as a matter of law.

Drum continues from there. We note that he describes Daniels as "a blackmailer." We expect to return to that intriguing question this afternoon or tomorrow.

We agree that the conduct in this case, as currently understood, is relatively trivial. In that regard, please note the irony Drum has employed:

If you're paying money to a blackmailer to keep some embarrassing matter secret, you won't likely describe the payment, in some public business record, as "payment to a blackmailer concerning alleged sexual act."

In our view, the ultimate question may perhaps be this:

Do we want our presidential elections to turn on matters like this? 

Do we want cash-seeking droogs to produce quadrennial October surprises, encouraging us to think about which candidate (allegedly) engaged in some consensual sexual act, on one occasion, ten years earlier? Is that what we think our presidential elections should turn on? 

Sad! More and more on our own's tribe cable, it sounds like our answer is yes!

We close for now by recalling someone who wasn't a Hack Like Us. We refer to Bandy X. Lee, the psychiatrist who lost her position at Yale because her work was insightful and relevant in a way which isn't allowed.

Within the past day, Donald J. Trump's postings on Truth Social have been profoundly disordered even by his own prior standards. Yesterday, he posted this:

WHY WON'T BRAGG DROP THIS CASE? EVERYBODY SAYS THERE IS NO CRIME HERE. I DID NOTHING WRONG! IT WAS ALL MADE UP BY A CONVICTED NUT JOB WITH ZERO CREDIBILITY, WHO HAS BEEN DISPUTED BY HIGHLY RESPECTED PROFESSIONALS AT EVERY TIURN. BRAGG REFUSES TO STOP DESPITE OVERWHELMING EVIDENCE TO THE CONTRARY. HE IS A SOROS BACKED ANIMAL WHO JUST DOESN'T CARE ABOUT RIGHT OR WRONG NO MATTER HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE HURT. THIS IS NO LEGAL SYSTEM, THIS IS THE GESTAPO, THIS IS RUSSIA OR CHINA, BUT WORSE. DISGRACFUL!

So the candidate said. For the record, he seems to have flipped on Russia and China. Also, the "convicted nut job" to whom he refers would seem to be Michael Cohen.

So the former president posted. Early this morning, he also posted this:

What kind of person can charge another person, in this case a former President of the United States, who got more votes than any sitting President in history, and leading candidate (by far) for the Republican Party nomination, with a Crime, when it is known by all that NO Crime has been committed, & also that potential death and destruction in such a false charge could be catastrophic for our Country? Why & who would do such a thing? Only a degenerate psychopath that truely hates the USA!

As of now, the Manhattan D.A. isn't just a Soros backed animal. He's also a degenerate psychopath!

Right from the start, Dr. Lee had said that, in her professional opinion, the president's psychological / psychiatric condition was going to get worse. 

By the established rules of the discourse, no such discussion could be allowed to occur.  As of now, Lee is long gone from her position at Yale and her medical assessment seems to have been accurate.

What follows is Anthropology 101, as suggested to us by major credentialed top experts:

Our public discourse is very primitive—and no, it isn't just Trump.

Go ahead! Check the truly stupid performance by Scarborough in Wednesday's 7 o'clock hour. You'll be looking at a Hack Like Ours performing for Marks Like Us

Trump may be some (serious) version of mentally ill. What exactly is the excuse for the conduct of Hacks Like Us?


Nicholas Kristof visits the Dalits!

THURSDAY, MARCH 23, 2023

Teaching American history: Go figure!

Somehow, Nicholas Kristof decided to run for governor of Oregon (his home state) without checking to see if he was eligible to do so under Oregon law.

It turned out that he wasn't! As evidenced by his column in today's New York Times, Oregon's loss was the journalistic world's gain.

Kristof writes from Tilonia, India. He isn't frisking the latest minutia concerning the round-the-clock effort to throw you-know-who in jail.

Instead, he's describing an attempt to create a better world for some good, decent people who deserve one. At the start of his column, he introduces to the kind of person who will never be mentioned on our self-impressed blue tribe's repulsive multimillionaure cable.

Headline included, he describes a good, decent person:

Can’t Read? Here’s a ‘Barefoot College’ for You.

TILONIA, India — It’s the Harvard of rural India, minus wingtips or heels: a 50-year-old institution called Barefoot College that offers lessons for empowering people worldwide. Maybe even in America.

Barefoot College does empowerment as well as any institution I’ve ever seen, and here’s what that looks like in the rural state of Rajasthan: An illiterate woman named Chota Devi who never attended a day of school is hunched over a circuit board, carefully using color-coded instructions to solder resistors and diodes into place.

Chota, who has no idea how old she is, is a Dalit, those at the bottom of the caste system once known as untouchables, and from a particularly low-ranking group called the Valmiki who often cleaned human waste.

“I will have more knowledge than my husband,” Chota noted slyly. When she goes home, villagers now call her “Madam.” It’s partly a joke, partly a show of respect.

Chota is a good, decent person. According to Kristof, she has five children, none of whom are currently attending school, but she wants that to change.

“I’m working with women who know how to read and write, so now I want my children to learn as well,” Kristof quotes her saying. You will never hear about people like this from our own blue tribe's millionaire hacks.

Chota is a Dalit, Kristof says. The leading authority on the topic offers this overview:

Dalit (from Sanskrit: meaning "broken/scattered"), also previously known as untouchable, is the lowest stratum of the castes in India. Dalits were excluded from the four-fold varna system of Hinduism and were seen as forming a fifth varna, also known by the name of Panchama. Dalits now profess various religious beliefs, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Christianity, and Islam. Scheduled Castes is the official term for Dalits as per the Constitution of India.

The term Dalit is a self-applied concept for those called the "untouchables" and others that were outside of the traditional Hindu caste hierarchy. Economist and reformer B. R. Ambedkar (1891–1956) said that untouchability came into Indian society around 400 CE, due to the struggle for supremacy between Buddhism and Brahmanism (an ancient term for Brahmanical Hinduism)...

In the late 1880s, the Marathi word 'Dalit' was used by Mahatma Jotiba Phule for the outcasts and Untouchables who were oppressed and broken in the Hindu society. Dalit is a vernacular form of the Sanskrit... In Classical Sanskrit, this means "divided, split, broken, scattered."

Untouchability came into Indian society around the year 400. In our view, such facts should be an inherent part of teaching our brutal American history to our American public school kids at an appropriate age.

Our nation's brutal racial history is one part of the frequently brutal human history which has prevailed around the world since the dawn of time. To wit:

In this morning's New York Times, Troy Closson profiles a bunch of kids at Brooklyn Tech who are taking the College Board's Advanced Placement course in African American studies. The good, decent kids in that high school class deserve to know the global context of the brutal American history they're currently learning about.

Those good, decent kids will instantly know how to care about "the wretched of the earth." Kids like them are decent and good. They will want to be told about this.

Along the way, they will learn that the suffering inflicted on the American group with which they identify was part of a much wider human moral problem. You must resolve not to be this way, a trusted teacher may tell them.

Kids like them will understand the meaning of this larger lesson. On the other hand, you will never hear about any of this on the clown-like corporate "cable news" channel devoted to pimping the Storylines which please our own self-impressed tribe.

Let's save those good, decent kids from us and from our wretched instincts! Let's teach them about our world's history. We can guarantee that they'll care.

"We in America could learn from this approach in rural India," Kristof writes near the end of his column about Barefoot College. "The United States as well must do better providing training in technical skills to people who have been left behind."

The woods are lovely, dark and deep. Even within our infallible tribe, our instincts aren't always the best.


HACKS LIKE US: Morning Joe recites, then recites some more!

THURSDAY, MARCH 23, 2023

This is the garbage we've chosen: Should Donald J. Trump be charged with a crime with respect to those payments to Stormy Daniels?

Imaginably, it could depend on what he actually did! For example, did he write off those "legal fees" on his tax returns, thereby defrauding the state and federal governments out of some cold, hard cash?

We have no idea if he did that! If he did, that would start to look like a recognizable crime, unlike the less recognizable crimes with which it has recently seemed that he was about to be charged.

Concerning those less recognizable crimes, Charles Coleman went rogue last night. 

By his own admission, Coleman is "a seasoned civil rights attorney and legal analyst [who] has quickly emerged as one of one of strongest thought leaders and modern voices in today's conversation on race, law, culture, politics, social justice, and civil rights. "

Coleman is also an MSNBC legal analyst. Inevitably, he's a graduate of Harvard Law School—and he's frequently seen on MSNBC's primetime TV shows.

Coleman is a good, decent person. Last night, on The Last Word, he briefly went rogue, saying this:

COLEMAN (3/22/23): I will be very honest and candid, although it is unpopular and many people may not necessarily want to hear it...

[Later today, we'll be able to complete the transcript of Coleman's remarks. For reasons which seem to be perfectly obvious, MSNBC no longer provides transcripts of its TV shows.]

In this statement, Coleman echoed the recent column by the Washington Post's Ruth Marcus, a graduate of Harvard Law School. As we noted yesterday morning, Marcus said she was somewhat concerned by the route Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg seemed to be taking.

In fact, several people within our blue tribe have voiced discomfort with the possible direction being taken by Bragg.  As Andrew Weissman noted last night immediately after Coleman spoke, we'll have to wait for Bragg's final action before we can assess what he has and hasn't done. 

As for now, it may be that Trump has committed a recognizable crime in this matter. But it may also be that he hasn't.

Maybe he has—but maybe he hasn't! Of course, as everyone surely knows by now, that isn't the way cable works.

Blue cable belongs to Hacks Like Us—to people who tell us the stories our blue tribe likes to hear.

These "hacks" appear on our TV shows, fracturing known facts and elementary logic. In yesterday morning's report, we described one such performance—the absurd performance which unfolded Tuesday night on CNN's Erin Burnett OutFront.

Blue tribe legal expert Ryan Goodman was eager to show that nothing could possibly be wrong with any possible indictment of Donald J. Trump up in Gotham.  People get criminally charged for conduct like Trump's all the time, the expert seemed to be saying. 

According to Goodman, one couple was recently charged with a crime for defrauding their insurance company out of something like three thousand dollars! That doesn't seem to resemble anything Trump is known to have done in the Daniels case, but Erin Burnett simply gazed all about as Goodman expounded, thus letting the lesson unfold.

Did Goodman's performance make any sense? We can't say that it did.

He offered four examples of regular people who have been criminally charged for a false business filing. But none of these cases seemed anything like what Trump is known to have done.

In such ways, the stupidification of modern discourse advances apace on our own tribe's TV shows. And sure enough! Eleven hours later, in yesterday morning's 6 o'clock hour, the gentleman known as Morning Joe began to recite.

Scarborough teased his recitation at 6:03 A.M. Judging from appearances, producers had directed him to the four events Goodman had cited the night before. 

Thanks to the work of The Internet Archive, you can watch him deliver the 6:03 tease and the rest of the mormning's remarks. The tease went exactly like this:

SCARBOROUGH (3/22/23): You hear one lie after another coming from Republicans who get in front of microphones and say, "Nobody gets charged with this. There's no way he'd be charged with this except for the fact that he's Trump and they hate Donald Trump and they're going after Donald Trump."

My gosh, Mika, we're going to be showing some examples coming up of how this statute has been used, this felony statute has been used for as small an item as a couch! Somebody shopping and bringing back actually goods that they didn't pay for, and getting store credit for them, getting caught for that, a couple of thousand bucks, and they get charged with this felony. 

And so somehow lying about $130,000 to pay off a porn star, them saying this is much ado about nothing, when people are getting charged with this same thing for a couch and for a couple of thousand dollars of store credit? They're lying! But of course, that's not a shock!

So it went in the 6:03 tease.

At this extremely early hour, Joe seemed to have two of Goodman's cases mixed up in his head. He wasn't confused about Storyline, in which 1) only Republicans have voiced concern about this pending matter in Gotham; and in which 2) by obvious rule of law, the Republicans have been "lying."

Joe did seem to be confused about two of these cases. In fact, the three thousand dollars was the amount the larcenous couple had scammed from their insurance company for the couch they lost in the fire. The larcenous store credit at Lord & Taylor was for an unnamed amount.

No matter! Joe returned to this script at 6:08 A.M. By now, he had a full-sized graphic which listed three of Goodman's cases from the night before. 

"I want to get back to the Republican lie, the main Republican lie right now," the cable star thoughtfully said. As Lawrence O'Donnell has endlessly taught us, repeating the L-word is powerful!

With the graphic to work from, Joe was now able to rattle some facts about the handful of cases at issue. These cases involved baldly larcenous conduct—larcenous conduct which didn't seem to resemble Donald J. Trump's:

SCARBOROUGH: Let's give you some details on people who were charged with what Trump may be charged with...

Here's some examples:

A married couple charged for, quote, attempting to recover the cash value of various items of property that were lost in a house fire. They claimed $5,000 for a leather couch they had purchased for $1,900. You see that?

In fact, everyone could see that now, in part because he now had the graphic to work from. For the record, Joe was performing for Mika at this time, but also for a pair of sidekicks and for three other guests. 

Needless to say, none of these players said a word about the sheer stupidity of Joe's repeated presentation. Blue tribe "cable news" is built upon this baldly corrupt arrangement.

Joe ran through his puzzling examples at 6:08 A.M. His principal point seemed to be this:

$130,000 is more than $3,000.

His arithmetic was correct. But in the one case he had cited, an insurance company was being scammed out of that $3,000. An obvious theft had occurred.

No one was scammed out of any money when Stormy Daniels was handed her cash. Meanwhile, everyone agrees that payments of this kind are not illegal in and of themselves.

Joe ran through his examples during his 6:08 recitation. He ran through them again at 6:13 when he introduced an additional guest. Blue tribe viewers got to hear the recitation all over again.

This new guest was Dave Aronberg, state's attorney for Palm Beach County, Florida. Despite the importance of his public office, Aronberg can be counted on to go along with these recitations of distorted approved tribal script. 

Uh-oh! On this occasion, even Aronberg felt forced to acknowledge that he himself had been "a little bit critical" about the Gotham venture.

Instantly, though, he recovered and established his worth. The state's attorney said this:

ARONBERG (3/22/23): As far as this case, you know, I know a lot of people are saying it's small ball, and you know I've been a little bit critical, thinking maybe this isn't the one that should go first. It's the fourth out of four out there of the cases swirling around Donald Trump.

But that doesn't mean it's a weak case. The hush money payment is what sent Michael Cohen to federal prison.

"The hush money payment is what sent Michael Cohen to federal prison?" We reviewed the role played by that mandated statement in Monday afternoon's report:

As Aronberg knows, Cohen pled guilty to a total of eight (8) federal crimes. His role in the payments to Daniels was involved in only one or two of those charges, and those charges were never put to the test in front of an actual jury.

That said, the people who perform on blue tribe cable will always say what Aronberg said—that Cohen was sent to federal prison because of the hush money matter, full stop. 

This embellishment makes the story sound better to blue tribe ears. Presumably, pleasing misstatements of this type bring viewers back for more.

Starting at 6:03 yesterday morning, Scarborough played the tribal fool, as he now frequently does. He was ably assisted by Mika's occasional two-word bursts of agreement.

He had been equipped with script which came live and direct from the previous evening's gong-show on CNN. Today, you can see his early recitations thanks to the Internet Archive.

As Scarborough staged his recitations, he tried to say the words "porn star" as many times as possible. None of his sidekicks and none of his guests asked the world's most obvious questions:

In what way does a fraudulent insurance claim about a couch relate to whatever it is that Trump will turn out to have done? 

In what way is Trump's conduct, whatever it turns out to be, comparable to the act of stealing merchandise from Lord & Taylor, then "bringing it back" for a "refund?"

Those were examples of recognizable crimes—but in what way were those criminal acts comparable to whatever it is that Trump is known to have done?

Joe was surrounded by corporate clowns. As "MSNBC contributors," they all know they're paid not to ask.

This is the way the game is now played by the tribe which is good and honest and just extremely smart! Or at least, so the self-flattering story goes, thanks to our blue tribe's vastly disordered sense of self and our vastly disordered logic.

Go ahead—watch Joe's early recitations, thanks to the Internet Archive! He started at 6:03 A.M., then kept reciting the material his producers had fed him.

Except by the logic of tribal war, none of it actually made any sense. If we might borrow from Don Corleone, this is the moral and intellectual breakdown we've chosen. 

Tomorrow: This bullsh*t never ends


"This whole [discourse] is out of order!"

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 22, 2023

Also, though, Mary Trump: We don't think we've ever seen the 1979 film, With Justice For All.  Al Pacino is often said to have made this statement as part of that courtroom drama:

"This whole court is out of order!"

Apparently, that's a misstatement of what the Pacino character says. According to an array of sources, the actual line goes like this:

"You're out of order! You're out of order! The whole trial is out of order!"

All in all, the same idea.

It has occurred to us, in the past few days, that our whole national discourse is [badly] out of order. The sheer inanity of "cable news" discourse has taken things well beyond the pale—and no, it isn't just that way on Fox.

We started building this site in the fall of 1997 because we thought, even then, that the howlers were arriving on a daily basis. But in the last few days and nights, our gong-show discourse has moved beyond the realm of mere howlers into the world of gonzo incompetence and general semi-insanity.

Our guess would be that this results from the "viewpoint segregation" of cable news, in which our tribunes are almost never forced to defend, refine or re-analyze anything they've ever said. Years inside such echo chambers reduce the intellectual skills of participants—and quite a few of those pundit skill levels were quite thin coming in.

"This is the discourse we have chosen," we thoughtfully said this very morning—and that isn't just the doing of our journalists, such as they frequently are. 

The failure of academics to notice and challenge this culture is one of the gong-shows of the age. Even the experts with whom we consult can't account for this failure to serve, though this failure was already pronounced by the time we started this site.

Last night, we were happy to observe a brief break in this state of affairs. We refer to Mary Trump's appearance on The Last Word.

We've long stated the obvious here—you can't conduct a serious discussion of Donald J. Trump without input from (carefully selected) medical / psychological / psychiatric specialists. 

Because she's Donald Trump's niece, Mary Trump wouldn't be the perfect choice to serve in this role. That said, she does have training as a clinical psychologist, and on rare occasions she's allowed to say such things as this:

MARY TRUMP (3/21/23): Well Lawrence, first of all, it's great to be with you. And you are talking about these quotes from people near Donald who allegedly spend a lot of time with him. There is always such a disconnect between what they claim and what I know can't possibly be true.

So I think, first of all, the emotion of sadness is not in Donald's arsenal. What he is feeling, to the extent that he is feeling anything, is self-pity. And that makes sense.

He's also feeling grievance, but he feels aggrieved every time he walks into the Mar-a-Lago dining hall and his paid patrons don't pay him sufficient homage, right? So none of this is new, and he has such a limited range...

[...]

Again, I try to avoid any diagnostic labels. But this is somebody who has such serious psychological problems, he has such serious psychopathologies, that the range of emotion that is available to most relatively stable people is not available to him.

I think Donald's emotional makeup consists mostly of anger and the self-pity I spoke about earlier, and deep, deep fear. And a lot of that is in the service of making sure he never feels humiliated.

Lawrence changed the focus of the discussion for his second segment with Mary Trump. But in the material offered above, you see one of the rare attempts to offer an adult appraisal of this badly disordered person's badly disordered behavior.

As we've noted again and again, the mainstream press corps isn't going to take part in this type of discussion. In truth, it may be just as well. Our TV stars aren't mature enough, or smart enough, to conduct a discussion of this type, and the introduction of frameworks like this would instantly be abused across the partisan spectrum.

Simply put, our floundering nation lacks the capacity (the range) to conduct a serious discussion of Trump. We simply aren't up to the task. We enjoy "the jugglers and the clowns," and we listen to almost nobody else.

One or two final points:

In her first, best-selling book, Mary Trump explicitly identified her grandfather (Donald Trump's father) as a "sociopath." She didn't say the same thing about her uncle, but as she listed his various psychopathologies, we'd be inclined to say that she made it clear she was saying something quite similar.

As we noted in real time, our journalists ran from those assessments much as Dracula flees the cross. They simply refuse to engage with such topics. Within our blue tribe as well as in theirs, we're children in a childish land, and that isn't going to change.

We've recommended pity for Donald J. Trump, and we continue to do so. That said, pity for someone afflicted this way isn't within the range of emotion available to us as a people or as a tribe. The range of emotion available to us doesn't let us go to any such place, even as we work to keep Trump out of office.

At any rate, this whole (pseudo) discourse is out of order! Our own blue tribe is increasingly foolish. Our tribe is unable to see this.

From her original book: In her first, best-selling book, Mary Trump offered this overview of her famous, disordered uncle:

MARY TRUMP (pages 12-13): None of the Trump siblings emerged unscathed from my grandfather's sociopathy and my grandmother's illnesses, both physical and psychological, but my uncle Donald and my father, Freddy, suffered more than the rest. In order to get a complete picture of Donald, his psychopathologies, and the meaning of his dysfunctional behavior, we need a thorough family history.

In the last three years, I’ve watched as countless pundits, armchair psychologists and journalists have kept missing the mark, using phrases such as "malignant narcissism" and "narcissistic personality disorder" in an attempt to make sense of Donald’s often bizarre and self-defeating behavior. I have no problem calling Donald a narcissist—he meets all nine criteria as outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)—but the label only gets us so far.

[...]

[Clinical] experiences showed me time and again that diagnosis doesn't exist in a vacuum. Does Donald have other symptoms we aren't aware of? Are there other disorders that might have as much or more explanatory power? Maybe. A case could be made that he also meets the criteria for antisocial personality disorder, which in its most severe forms is generally considered sociopathy but can also refer to chronic criminality, arrogance, and disregard for the rights of others...

The fact is, Donald’s pathologies are so complex and his behaviors so often inexplicable that coming up with an accurate and comprehensive diagnosis would require a full battery of psychological and neuropsychological tests that he’ll never sit for. 

According to Mary Trump, her uncle didn't "emerge unscathed" from her grandfather's sociopathy. Neither did her father, who died at age 42.

Years later, the wider meaning of those remarks remains unexplored, undiscussed. This whole discourse is out of order! As a people, we simply aren't up to the task of conducting mature public discourse.

Tucker Carlson isn't up to that task. As we clown (and call names) from within our blue tents, could the same thing be true about us?