Nicholas Kristof and the indictment!

FRIDAY, MARCH 31, 2023

The way Others see the world: Quite recently, we praised the humanitarian values of Nicholas Kristof.

This morning, he pays us back with a slightly shaky overview of the indictment of Trump.

As Kristof starts, the wheels are still (largely) on the wagon. This is what he says:

KRISTOF (3/31/23): The Times reports that a grand jury has voted to indict Donald Trump for hush-money payments to a porn star but that the indictment, for now, is under seal. There are legitimate questions about this particular prosecution, and while we don’t know details of the charges, after educated guesses, we wonder:

Should the first indictment of an ex-president be under a novel legal theory that could be rejected by a judge or a jury? What do we make of the doubts about this case even among those who have zero sympathy for Trump? Does District Attorney Alvin Bragg know what he’s doing?

None of us can be sure of the answer to these questions until we’ve seen the evidence presented at trial, and I worry that a failed prosecution might strengthen Trump. Yet I’d also worry—even more—about the message of impunity that would be sent if prosecutors averted their eyes because the suspect was a former president.

As he starts, Kristof acknowledges a basic fact. We know that Trump has been indicted, but we still don't know what he's been indicted for

"We still don't know the details of the charges," Kristof correctly states. Before that, he says that Trump has been indicted "for hush-money payments to a porn star"—but by all accounts, there was nothing illegal about the payments themselves.

(As an aside, suppose this matter involved an accountant rather than a "porn star." How many capsule accounts of this matter would suddenly be a lot less thrilling?)

In his second paragraph, Kristof seems to assume that the indictment is based on "a novel legal theory." That may turn out to be true—but as he has already stated, we don't yet "know the details of the charges."

Citizens, can we talk? Is it possible that Kristof isn't thoroughly up to speed on this particular matter? 

In our view, he did superlative work during his recent trip to India. (Because his work was so superb, it has generated zero discussion.)

Has that journey left him under-informed about this high-profile matter? This is the way he proceeds:

KRISTOF (continuing directly): The former president’s fixer, Michael Cohen, was sentenced to three years in prison for doing Trump’s bidding, and a fundamental principle of justice is that if an agent is punished, then the principal should be as well. That is not always feasible, and it may be difficult to replicate what a federal prosecution achieved in Cohen’s case. But the aim should be justice, and this indictment honors that aim.

That’s particularly true because this is clearly a higher-stakes crime than a typical case of falsifying business records; the aim apparently was to affect the outcome of a presidential election, and that may have happened.

Oof! Right away, you see the suggestion that Cohen was sentenced to three years based on this particular matter, full stop. 

That of course is not accurate. But anyone watching blue tribe cable could understandably come away believing that talking point.

Our largest complaint involves that final paragraph. Kristof sees this as a relatively "higher-stakes crime" because "the aim apparently was to affect the outcome of a presidential election." 

Let's assume that's true. That is precisely why we think that a healthy society wouldn't want to see this matter as the source of a criminal charge.

Citizens, please! Consider this hypothetical scenario, in which we leave names out:

In 2006, Citizen A and Citizen B engage in consensual sexual relations on one (1) occasion. Ten years later, Citizen B is his party's nominee for president—and Citizen A decides that she can score some serious cash by publicly discussing this ten-year-old consensual event.

Our question: 

Given this scenario, does a rational, healthy society really want to reward Citizen A and charge Citizen B with a crime? 

In our view, a sane society would be strongly inclined to denounce Citizen A for her attempt to intrude on one of our allegedly sacred elections. 

But that would be in a sane society. In our society, tribunes of our own blue tribe quickly anointed Citizen A as a "feminist icon" and as a "feminist hero." Our "legal analysts" began looking for ways to charge Citizen B with a crime.

Back in 1992, Gennifer Flowers intruded on a presidential election with a highly implausible tale about her torrid twelve-year love affair with "my Bill"—with Candidate Clinton. (In a highly implausible book, she also told the world about what a giant lesbo Hillary Clinton was.)

Her tale was highly implausible, but so what? She walked away with at least $250,000 in cold hard cash, and she almost changed the course of American history.

As of 1999, Flowers was running a for-profit web site in which she was telling the world about the Clintons' many murders. In 2016, along came Citizen A, seeking to gain her own pile of cash based upon a thrilling tale about one (1) consensual encounter. 

A dirty little secret is floating around in this tale. It's a secret about who and what we the people actually are. 

This dirty little secret involves basic questions about how bright and upstanding we actually are—about the things we really care about.

Within our blue tribe, we've been posturing about the way we treasure "our democracy." Experts have told us to be very careful about such claims by multimillionaire cable TV stars.

Let's go a bit farther afield:

Back when Alvin Bragg didn't want to charge Trump with a crime, one of his deputies quit his job in a huff and wrote a book about the investigation, such as it was at the time.

We refer to Mark Pomerantz, author of People Versus Donald Trump

For a rather brief moment in time, the book made Pomerantz a blue tribe star. It included his account of the convoluted legal theory according to which he had urged Bragg to indict Trump.

Like so many prosecutors, Pomerantz seemed to know who he wanted indicted. He had then set out to fashion the crime by which his target could be charged.

For what it's worth, his own novel legal theory would have involved charging Citizen A with the crime of extortion. He received substantial pushback within the Bragg office. 

He refers to Daniels as Stephanie Clifford. Here's part of what he wrote:

POMERANTZ (pages 59-60): To me, the reservations that my new colleagues were expressing had no substance. Of course, extortion and blackmail cases often revolve around physical threats. Classic extortion cases involve loan-sharking and explicit threats to "break the knees" of the victim if he doesn't pay up. But extortion does not have to be hard-core to be illegal; soft-core extortion is also against the law, and involving lawyers and dressing up the conduct with a written nondisclosure agreement did not excuse the conduct in my mind. At bottom, the threat had been crystal clear: "If you don't pay me, I will tell everyone that we had sex." Under the New York Penal Law, this was a demand for money and an effort to instill a fear of public humiliation if the money was not paid. ...

Although I thought that a jury would likely find that extortion had taken place—Cohen said that Trump had referred to the whole thing as "a fucking blackmail"—I did what prosecutors typically do when there is a difference of opinion about a charging decision. We would go looking for more evidence.

We began the process of extracting more evidence from Clifford's lawyer, Keith Davidson. Davidson was a California lawyer who frequently represented clients who sought money from prominent individuals.


As things turned out, we never had to decide whether Clifford and her lawyer had committed the crime of extortion...Under New York law, the crime of "larceny by extortion" is complete only when the perpetrator actually obtains money by making a threat. 

We won't even try to describe the convoluted complications involved in the novel legal theory Pomerantz had concocted for the purpose of charging Donald J. Trump with a felony.  The whole thing gets very complex.

In our view, it's interesting to note the fact that Pomerantz thought that Daniels and her lawyer had in fact, at least on its face, committed the crime of extortion (blackmail). Perhaps for good reason, Bragg wasn't buying Pomerantz's novel approach, and certain arcane complexities of New York law made the strategy even more problematic than it had first appeared.

We'll suggest that you think about this in the following ways:

The question of extortion: On Fox, viewers have frequently been told that Daniels committed extortion / blackmail. On MSNBC, the possibility is never mentioned or discussed.

Because we now live in a news environment which is "segregated" by point of view, journalists from these two separate camps never have to puzzle this question out. 

One tribe is pleased to hear the claim that Daniels engaged in blackmail. The other tribe is pleased by the silence from its tribunes. Can a serious society really function this way?

The question of targeting: Pomerantz concocted a convoluted legal theory for the purpose of charging Trump with a crime. In his new posting, Kristof seems to assume that Bragg's indictment will also operate on the basis of a "novel legal theory."

That may or may not turn out to be true. If it does, can you see why red tribe members might be inclined to see this as a political prosecution? 

It isn't real hard for us to see that. Friends and neighbors, how hard is it for you?

YAHOOS R US? Paltrow clobbers same skier again!

FRIDAY, MARCH 31, 2023

Also, Trump indicted: Last night, during the 8 o'clock hour, we found ourselves changing our mind.

More specifically, we found our mind changing within us.

Until then, we had never quite been able to picture Donald J. Trump winning next year's presidential election. 

President Biden's obvious liabilities made some such outcome a technical possibility. But we'd never quite thought, until last night. that Trump could imaginably win barring some giant catastrophe.

Last night, our assessment changed within us as we watched Tucker Carlson Tonight. 

On Tuesday and Wednesday evenings this week, Carlson had gone light years over the top in his discussion of the way the armed transgenderist godless community was now waging a murderous war on our Christian children.

They're able to do this, Carlson kept saying, because they don't believe in God. Instead, they believe that they are God. So the abandoned boy said.

We aren't engaging in parody as we offer this summary of Carlson's remarks. We've offered you a reasonable paraphrase of what the cable star said, with links to transcripts below.

Over the course of those two nights, we found ourselves thinking of Kafka again. We found ourselves thinking of Darwin's discoveries. 

We found ourselves thinking about the functioning of artificial intelligence, including the form of AI which is endlessly whirring, all day and all night, within our own human brains. For these two hours on these two nights, the yahoos were very much Them.

More on those musings at some future point! Last night, watching Carlson for the full hour, we began to believe, for the very first time, that Trump could conceivably win. 

The energy was general over Fox News all through that remarkable hour. Among a long string of highly energized guests, Jason Whitlock, 55, took the cake.

Whitlock is a long-time sports commentator who has steadily drifted in the direction of conservative cultural commentary. Also, in the direction of "politically incorrect" speech, especially concerning issues of gender. 

To review the twists and turns of Whitlock's career, you can just click this. Whitlock currently lives in Nashville, where three children were murdered this week.

When Whitlock appeared with Carlson last night, he began by thanking Carlson for his commentary, the previous two nights, about the godless transgenderist armed conspiracy which struck in Nashville this week. 

Soon though, Whitlock turned to an apparent call to arms. It became clear that the indictment of Trump had pushed Whitlock over a certain edge:

WHITLOCK (3/30/23): Today, in our state capitol, which is right here in Nashville, the transgender antigun crowd took over the House for a time. And then, by the time I get home, I find out Donald Trump has been indicted. And I hear you loud and clear. 

They are agitating for unrest. That's the only way to interpret this. They are agitating for unrest. And there's a godless element in this country that doesn't care about fairness. They don't care about the will of the people. They care about power and control. 

As you have spelled out this week, they think they're God, and they think that they can make up the rules. They can decide what fairness is. They don't have a Biblical worldview.

It's sickening for me. I'm upset. I'm emotional. I'm—I'm ready for whatever is next. And I hope, every other man out there watching this show, I hope you're ready for whatever's next.

If that's what they want, let's get to it.

Whitlock said he's "ready for whatever is next." Offering a form of The Whitlock Challenge, he told the men who were watching the show that he hopes they're ready too.

"If that's what they want, let's get to it," he said. His meaning was fuzzy but clear.

Whitlock urged men to get ready for what's coming next. Continuing. this exchange occurred:

CARLSON (continuing directly): It feels like this is not the behavior of people who want the current system to continue. That's what it looks like to me.

WHITLOCK: Yeah. They don't like our Judeo-Christian founding. That's why they don't like the Founding Fathers. That's why they want to overthrow the Constitution that is laced with Biblical values and Biblical principles. 

They want a Marxist, godless, Communist country. Plain and simple. Clear as day. With the alphabet mafia, this LGBTQ alphabet mafia, in control. 

The godless people that you're talking about, that are totally antithetical to Christianity and Biblical values, wants control, and is seizing control, and they feel like taking down Donald Trump and beating everyone else into submission and just making them give up. Give up on Donald Trump, give up on—

Tucker, I don't say this with pride, I really don't. I'm just being factual. I've never voted. And so, I am not saying that with pride. 

I'm hardcore MAGA tonight. I will be voting, I am hardcore MAGA. I've never voted. I observe Trump, I'm somewhat supportive of Trump, but they have made me MAGA. And they have made me ready for whatever is next because, what they are building for young people, I can't sit by and just let it happen without raising my voice and without being willing to sacrifice whatever so that kids don't live in a Communist Marxist society.

These people that think the government is going to take care of them don't understand history. They've never studied history. They don't understand how tyrannical a government is.

If they have their way, I, I— If they have their way, we're all catching Hell, except for the elites. And yes, I have a very good bank account, and perhaps I'm an elite. But my heart is working class. 

My parents were factory workers. I came from nothing in this country. I'm black. They're telling everybody, "Black kid! Oh, you can't come from nothing and make it in this country." That's bullshit.

This country is the greatest country in the history of the planet. It's the safest and most prosperous place for black people and all people. That's why people are beating down the doors to get here, and they demonize the whole thing and they turn Trump into this devilish, Luciferian character, when they are the devils. They're the ones that don't believe in God.

That concluded Whitlock's presentation. Carlson offered this:

CARLSON (continuing directly): Jason Whitlock. [Pause]

I agree. Thank you, very much. I appreciate that.

To watch the entire interview, you can just click here. But so it went as Whitlock spoke. 

At this point, we'll only note that Whitlock is, almost surely, completely sincere.

Some of the professional pols and professional pundits almost surely aren't. Almost surely, Whitlock believes every word he said as he issued what seemed to be a type of call to arms.

(We'll also offer this. Due to his sickened, emotional state, Whitlock was crazily over the top. But his sickened, emotional comments were built from some germs of insight.) 

Whitlock was the most striking of Carlson's highly energized guests last night. For the record, we aren't saying that Trump will win next year's election, assuming that some such election take place.

We aren't saying that he will. We're saying that, for the first time, it occurred to us that he imaginably could.

Late yesterday afternoon, the Deep State had its way once again. Jealously, it pushed Gwyneth Paltrow's ski collision vindication aside as it indicted Trump. (For the AP report on Paltrow, just click here.)

Assisted by consultations with experts, we thought of the way our human intelligence actually works as we watched Carlson's hour. Similar thoughts have crowded our mind of late as we've watched the other "cable news" programs, the ones where the Yahoos R Us.

These TV shows are all part of a large failing system. As far as we know, no one is in charge of that system, but just be completely honest, a large part of the problem is Us.

This afternoon: Love it or leave it!

For extra credit only: Compare and contrast. Discuss:

WHITLOCK (3/30/31): It's sickening for me. I'm upset. I'm emotional. I'm—I'm ready for whatever is next.

BLOW (3/30/31): As I watched the film, I was incredibly uncomfortable, sometimes angry, sometimes near tears as I revisited Ruby’s story.

For the record, there's no reason why Charles Blow shouldn't have felt that way as he watched that Disney film.

This isn't what we're saying. What we're saying is actually this:

Compare and contrast. Discuss.

What happened in that Florida school?


Charles Blow and the non-event: We continue to sing the praises of the New York Times.

It's now past 3 P.M. in the East—and as we noted in today's early edition, the Times still hasn't published a news report about a recent non-event.

The non-event took place in Florida. This is the way Charles Blow describes the non-event at the start of today's opinion column for the Times:

BLOW (3/30/23): This month, an elementary school in St. Petersburg, Fla., stopped showing a 1998 Disney movie about Ruby Bridges, the 6-year-old Black girl who integrated a public elementary school in New Orleans in 1960, because of a complaint lodged by a single parent who said she feared the film might teach children that white people hate Black people.

The school banned the film until it could be reviewed. So I decided to review the film myself.

According to Blow, one (1) elementary school "stopped showing" a certain film because a parent lodged a complaint.

As we'll note below, we aren't sure that actually happened. But even if some such thing did happen, we'd call it a non-event.

Why do we call it a non-event? We'd start by noting this:

According to the leading authority on such matters, there were 106,147 elementary schools in the United States as of 2017. (In fairness, only 73,686 were public elementary schools.)

You can pretty much take your choice between those two large numbers. That said, there's always something happening in one of these (many) schools. 

Almost always, a resolution of such kind is reached. Unless you have a script to recite and names to call, these are extremely minor events.

Blow does seem to have a script to push; you can see it in his language. According to Blow, the film at this one (1) elementary school has been "banned" until the school gets a chance to review it. 

Has the film really been "banned"—the film about the remarkable Ruby Bridges? Within our tribe, that word is very pleasing at present. Hacks Like Us like to use it.

That said, we think you're providing more heat than light when you say this film has been "banned." That said, our discourse has run on heat in the absence of light from the past many years.

To its vast credit, the New York Times still hasn't published a news report about this non-event. According to the Washington Post's news report, this seems to be what happened:

Every year, the school in question shows the film to its second graders, and perhaps to students in other grades, as part of Black History Month. 

The school in question showed the film last month, as it always does. The Washington Post's news report gives a bit of background, then takes things from there:

EDWARDS (3/28/23): In mid-February, North Shore Elementary sent a permission slip to parents asking whether their children could watch “Ruby Bridges,” which is standard procedure for movies rated PG, district spokesperson Isabel Mascareñas wrote in an email. Two families opted their children out, and on March 2, a teacher showed the movie to about 60 second-graders.

Four days later, one of the parents who’d chosen not to have their child watch the film filed a formal objection with the district. The parent listed several racial slurs in the movie that they felt were inappropriate for second-graders to hear, including the n-word. The parent also listed a scene where adults scream, “I’m going to hang you!”

The parent said the movie was more appropriate for an eighth-grade American history class and asked that the district remove it from the list of films approved for elementary schools.

Officials told the parent that because the class had already watched the movie, the school would not show it again this school year, Mascareñas wrote. Officials will review “the challenged material,” although Mascareñas said there’s no timeline on when that review will be completed.

Let's review! One (1) parent stated her view about the suitability of the film on the second-grade level.

Except on a planet where Charles Blow is king, there is zero reason why this parent shouldn't have done that. School officials are going to watch the film and see if they agree with this parent's judgment.

Except on the planet where Charles Blow rules, the film in question has not been "banned" in any normal sense of that word. Nor has the one (1) school in question actually "stopped showing" the film. 

According to that news report, the film had already been shown as part of this year's Black History Month by the time the complaint was offered.

According to that news report, the film wasn't going to be shown again until February of next year. By then, it's entirely possible that school officials will have watched the actual film and rendered their ultimate judgment.

At present, Hacks Like Us like to screech and holler and yell about non-events of this type. It lets us repeat the time-honored claim we love—the claim about books and films being "banned" by the reprobates we fashion as The Others.

Blow proceeds, all through his column, to slime the parent who lodged this objection, calling her the kinds of names our Yahoos like to employ. 

He never quite addresses the possibility that this parent could imaginably have a point about the use of this particular film on the second grade level

Is it possible that this this parent could possibly have a point? That is a matter of judgment! 

But as the Post notes in its news report, the film carries PG-rating. As we ourselves noted yesterday, this is what that means:

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.

According to its official rating, the film in question "may contain some material parents might not like for their young children." 

That may include the use of racial invective; other factors may be involved. At any rate, that explains why the Florida school had parents sign permission slips before their 7-year-old children were allowed to see the film.

The one (1) parent who voiced a complaint said that 7-year-olds are too young to see this film in a public school setting. Very loudly, Blow disagrees—but look at the way he reasons:

BLOW: What happens if this glove gets turned inside out and minority parents begin to complain about the teaching of other aspects of American history and culture?

What happens if they reject lessons or books about Thomas Jefferson because he raped a teenage girl he enslaved, Sally Hemings, and was the father of her children, including at least one born while she was a child herself. (For the record, I consider all sex between enslavers and those they enslaved rape, because it was impossible for the enslaved to consent.)

What happens if a parent objects to a school celebrating Columbus Day because Christopher Columbus was a maniacal colonizer who sold young girls as sex slaves?

What happens if parents object to books about and celebrations of Thanksgiving because the standard portrayal of the first Thanksgiving as a meeting among friends who came together to share bounty and overcome difference is a fairy tale?

What if they object to the Bible itself, which includes rape, incest, torture and murder?

With all due respect to the New York Times, that work is so dumb it squeaks. And yes, he really did include that part about objections to the Bible itself.

That work is also slightly inhuman. It comes from the place where humans scream, not from the place where humans employ their human discernment.

Blow's inquiring mind wants to know such things as this:

What happens if minority parents begin to complain about lessons or books about Thomas Jefferson?

Duh. Wouldn't that depend on what the books and lessons said? In fact, there have been many complaints about such lessons and books. Is Blow unaware of that fact?

Blow's inquiring mind also wants to know this:

What happens if parents object to books about Thanksgiving? 

Duh. Wouldn't it depend upon what the book in question said? Isn't it likely that some such complaints could have the germ of a solid point?

In a similar vein, ponder this: 

In Blow's view, Christopher Columbus was "a maniacal colonizer who sold young girls as sex slaves." 

Let's assume that statement is accurate. Would a book or film exploring that fact be suitable in second grade? 

People, it's part of our hemisphere's history! Why would we handicap our children by refusing to teach such facts?

In fairness to Blow, we assume that his perpetual anger is fully genuine. Presumably, it springs from the soil of our nation's brutal racial history, which stretches back to 1619, or perhaps to 1492.

Blow's anger is fully genuine, but so in his apparent disregard for the lives of others—in this case, for the lives of the 7-year-old children on whose needs and interests he can't seem to make himself focus.

Here's what we mean by that:

We've been thinking, in the past week, about NAME WITHHELD, a very shy kindergartner who used to stop by our fifth-grade class on a daily basis when we were a Baltimore public school teacher.

Her older sister, NAME WITHHELD, was a student in our fifth grade class. Evey day at 3 P.M., the very polite, very shy little girl would come to our room and her older, very impressive sister would walk her home from school.

Fifty years later, we still remember those daily visits from that beautiful, shy little girl. Her older sister was well cared for and very capable. From these recollections, we draw a certain conclusion:

Kindergartners aren't fifth graders! Partly depending on their ages, the "children" in our public schools are not all the same!

The things you'd discuss with a fifth grader you might not discuss with kindergartners, or even with a first grader. Everyone on the planet knows this, except for Loudmouths Like Us.

The Florida parent who voiced that objection had every right to do so. At some point, the school will assess her complaint, and this most recent non-event will have reached its end.

In the meantime, Hacks Like Us will holler and yell and shout our scripts and our insults. We'll massage the facts to improve the tale, the way tribal demagogues do.

In fact, the parent who voiced that objection to that film is development director for the YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg. We have no idea what her overall political views might be. 

In Blow's column, we seem to be told, on no discernible basis, that this parent is involved in "the resurrection of a Lost Cause moment in which a revisionist history is crafted to rehabilitate Southern racists." 

Blow has no discernible way to know what this parent's views may be—but so what? Hacks Like Us enjoy shouting insults. We love our Storylines, in which we are the very good people and everyone else is Them.

We've never seen the 96-minute film in question. We have no idea whether it's a good fit for second graders in a public school setting.

It's always possible that the parent may have the germ of a decent point. Or not! At some point, the school will decide.

We do know this:

Back when we were in Baltimore classrooms, we had discussions about our brutal racial history with fifth and sixth graders which we wouldn't have had with younger kids. 

Our racial history is very brutal. For that reason, race is a very important and very painful topic.

Blow seems to be almost completely unable to reason in this area. It isn't so much that he lacks fundamental human discernment. In truth, he doesn't even seem to know that human discernment exists.

Like many other tribal shouters, he seems to say, simple-mindedly, that we need to teach our history, and we need to teach it all. We need to teach everything everywhere all at once! On every grade level! 

BLOW: History is full of horribleness. We do ourselves and our children no favors pretending otherwise.

Learning about human cruelty is necessarily uncomfortable. It is in that discomfort that our empathy is revealed and our righteousness awakened.

So true! We do our second graders no favors by pretending that history isn't full of horribleness.

For that reason, let's teach our second graders all about the Holocaust! Shall we show them the photos of the piles of emaciated bodies Allied troops found, to their horror and to their disgust, as they liberated the camps?

Should we show those pictures to our first graders? The photos might make them "uncomfortable." But if they do, whose fault and whose doing is that?

We don't have any view about the suitability of this film for second graders in a public school setting. We do have a view about the people you see all over blue cable, who shout and scream favored Storylines in service to Marks Like Us.

There's nothing wrong with suggesting to a school that its instruction is inappropriate or unwise in some way. Stating the obvious, that is exactly what the New York Times has done, on a very large scale, through its 1619 Project.  

There is zero reason why the Times shouldn't have chosen to do that. That is true whether you agree with their various judgments or not.

There's zero reason why that parent shouldn't have done what she did. But as hacks across the cable dial please us with recitation of script, a question does pop into our heads:

Is it possible that our nation's imitation of discourse is now coming, more and more, from a troubling realm? More and more, does that clownlike conduct come from a disordered realm in which the Yahoos R Us?

In the end, two cheers for the New York Times. To their credit, they haven't pimped a news report about a non-event!

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


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!


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!


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!


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?


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:


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.


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!


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 Ántonia, 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!


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.


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!