How bad are Wisconsin's gerrymanders?


In one case, this bad: Yesterday, Kevin Drum sounded off about Wisconsin's "egregiously gerrymandered legislative map."

When people talk about the gerrymanders of Wisconsin, they're generally talking about the way the state's Republicans have gerrymandered districts for the state legislature, not necessarily for Wisconsin's eight seats in the U.S. House. 

So it was with Drum, who correctly said that Wisconsin's "state Senate districts are wildly gerrymandered."

That said, how wildly gerrymandered are they? How crazy does it actually get—for example, in The Gerrymanders of Dane County?

For the start of an answer, just click here to examine the gerrymandering involved in Wisconsin's 47th Assembly district. 

(Full disclosure: The district has been gerrymandered to assure that a Democrat will win the seat with a gigantic boatload of "wasted votes." This helps Republicans win elsewhere.)

Go ahead! Just click on that Wikipedia map to see how crazy our world has become. We'll quote this statement from that leading authority:

In its current boundaries, the 47th district is one of several districts which violate the Wisconsin Constitution's requirement for districts to "consist of contiguous territory."

Go ahead—examine that map! The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but some Badger State districts, a bit like our nation, have come almost wholly undone!

SEGREGATION NOW: On Fox, the friends were quite active today!


Comically propagandistic: What could the late Roger Ailes have been thinking when he created the comically awful cable news channel, America's Talking?

As we noted yesterday, the unwatchable channel came and went within the space of two years. Lost to the world was such unwatchable daily fare as this:

Am I Nuts? (later named State of Mind): Hosted by psychologist Bernie Katz and behavioral therapist Cynthia Richmond.

What's New?: The latest hot gadgets, hosted by Mike Jerrick and later Brian Tracey.

Have a Heart: A talk/news show discussing the brighter side of the news and show-arranged charitable situations, hosted by Lu Hanessian.

Pork: A political talk show focusing on government waste hosted by John David Klein. The executive producers were Robin Gellman and Dennis Sullivan.

Bugged!: A comedic look at what bugs people, hosted by Brian O'Connor with Bill Gulino.

No more hours devoted to gadgets. No more "show-arranged charitable situations," a throwback to the ghastly late-50s hit, Queen for A Day.

No more Bugged!, "a comedic look at what bugs people." That said, though the program called Pork was now dead and gone, it pointed the way towards the Fox News Channel, the network where Ailes would hit it big by assembling a gaggle of propagandists disguised as one tribe's TV "friends."

As we chronicled on Tuesday, Fox debuted in October 1996. Within sixteen months, Ailes had come up with a winning formula:

Fox & Friends is an American daily morning news and talk program that airs on Fox News. It premiered on February 1, 1998, and is currently hosted by Steve Doocy, Ainsley Earhardt and Brian Kilmeade on weekdays. Will Cain, Rachel Campos-Duffy and Pete Hegseth host on weekends.


Fox & Friends evolved from Fox X-press, Fox News Channel's original morning news program.

Gone was the remarkably unfriendly name, Fox X-press. In its place, viewers were given a title which promised them happy hours of access to friends.

Today, the friends consume the first four hours of air time on Fox each weekday. (Fox & Friends airs at 6 a.m., preceded by an hour of Fox & Friends First.) 

On weekend mornings, Fox cracks the whip. Viewers are restricted to three hours of TV time with their good friends.

This morning, the friends were deeply engaged in a standard type of pseudo-journalistic practice. In a time which was less politically fraught, we might call it "comically awful undisguised propagandization." 

Under modern pseudo-journalistic arrangements, the role of the friend has been transformed. To wit:

At one time, it was accepted that friends don't let friends drive drunk. In contemporary pseudo-journalism, friends don't let friends encounter epistemic or cultural discomfort.

With that in mind, the friends were busy early this morning, flogging standard red tribe topics. Their producers had spanned the globe in search of places where someone of a liberal bent had perhaps showed possible signs of somewhat limited judgment.

Fill disclosure! In a nation of 330 million people, someone is showing some form of bad judgment pretty much all the time every day. In a nation which has split into tribes, it will generally be easy to find someone from the other tribe who has behaved in such ways, or who may seem to have done so.

That doesn't mean that the friends on Fox might not discuss some actual serious topics. And so it went on this morning's show when they took us to California's little-known Spreckels Union School District, which describes itself this way:

About Us

Located three miles south of Salinas, the town of Spreckels was established in 1899 by Claus Spreckels to house workers for his Spreckels Sugar Factory. Rich agricultural land serves as Spreckels’ four boundaries and many community members work in ag-related businesses. The town of Spreckels was immortalized in John Steinbeck’s novel Tortilla Flats and used in 1955 in the filming of East of Eden. 

Spreckels Union School District (SUSD) remained a one-school district until the opening of Buena Vista Middle School in 1996. Currently, SUSD is made up of two schools, Spreckels Elementary (K-5) and Buena Vista Middle School (6-8).  SUSD serves the children from the communities of Spreckels, Las Palmas, the Highway 68 Corridor, Indian Springs, Pine Canyon, Creekside, Serra Village and Toro Sunshine.

Click here to learn more about the town of Spreckels.

When we clicked the proffered link, we were taken here.

At any rate, the district in question operates exactly two (2) schools. In one of its schools, some of its employees may have exercised limited judgment with respect to an 11-year-old student in the year before Covid—and as of this week, the district has agreed to pay $100,000 to the mother of that child, without admitting wrongdoing.

What were the cable news viewers known as The Others hearing about this morning? For an NBC News report about this particular matter, you can now click here.

In our view, this matter involves some serious questions about the way school systems should function. That said, you'll hear more about such incidents on Fox, very little on our own blue channel.

The friends on Fox were pushing buttons all through today's early hours. As is often the case, they talked about some topics which won't be discussed in any way on our own blue tribe's cable channel—and not everything they said was blatantly crazy or wrong!

Still and all, we increasingly live within a news culture best characterized by the unfriendly term, "Segregation now." 

The friends on Fox serve gruel to one herd. But what do our friends do?

Tomorrow: Almost never the twain

SEGREGATION NOW: On cable, we viewers get schooled by our friends!


It's a bit like The Mickey Mouse Club: It's often said that the late Roger Ailes was a "cable news" genius.

Eventually, Ailes invented the Fox News Channel. As we noted yesterday, he quickly began to assemble the reassuring friendship cadres by whom the channel's viewers get schooled through the course of the day.

That said, the notion that Ailes was an instant genius is a bit hard to sustain. Indeed, we're so old that we can remember his first attempt at inventing a cable news channel. 

In one extremely tiny way, we were even there at the start!

We refer to the mid-90s gong-show channel, America's Talking. The channel came and went in short order, as this thumbnail describes:

America's Talking was an American short-lived cable television channel focused mainly on talk based programming, created by NBC and spun off from economic channel CNBC. It was launched on July 4, 1994, and was carried in 10 million American households upon launch The headquarters were in an office building in Fort Lee, New Jersey, two floors below CNBC's original studios, on Fletcher Avenue. It was shuttered on July 15, 1996, and its transponder space was replaced by MSNBC.

The channel was launched in July 1994, a spin-off from CNBC. It was shuttered just two years later. 

As a general matter, its lineup of programs was a remarkably puzzling mess. The leading authority on the debacle offers this head-scratchinging rundown:

America's Talking A.M.: A morning talk show, hosted by Steve Doocy and Kai Kim, with Tony Morelli as "the Prodigy Guy".

Am I Nuts? (later named State of Mind): Hosted by psychologist Bernie Katz and behavioral therapist Cynthia Richmond.

What's New?: The latest hot gadgets, hosted by Mike Jerrick and later Brian Tracey.

Break A Leg with Bill McCuddy: Mid-afternoon chatfest hosted by the winner of a CNBC-sponsored talent contest, Bill McCuddy. Featured celebrities and musical acts.

Alive and Wellness: Healthy living by holistic methods, hosted by Carol Martin.

Ask E. Jean: A call-in advice show hosted by writer E. Jean Carroll.

Have a Heart: A talk/news show discussing the brighter side of the news and show-arranged charitable situations, hosted by Lu Hanessian.

Pork: A political talk show focusing on government waste hosted by John David Klein. The executive producers were Robin Gellman and Dennis Sullivan.

AT In-Depth: A two-hour news/talk show focusing on the day's top stories, co-hosted by Terry Anzur in Fort Lee and Chris Matthews in Washington. Matthews later got his own show...

Straight Forward: A celebrity hour-long talk show, hosted by the President of the network, Roger Ailes.

Bugged!: A comedic look at what bugs people, hosted by Brian O'Connor with Bill Gulino.

R&R with Roger Rose: A late-night themed talk show featuring the latest music and celebrities.

One hour devoted to nothing but gadgets, one hour devoted to bugs! The profoundly untelegenic Ailes assigned himself the task of interviewing the celebrity guests. All in all, the puzzling array of hour-long programs created a thoroughly unwatchable cable news mess.

Full disclosures! On one occasion, we guested on AT In-Depth, appearing in connection with our one-person show at the D.C. Improv. Also, we played a tiny role in the selection of our friend, TV's Bill McCuddy, as the host of that "mid-afternoon chatfest," the spot he (deservedly) won as a result of that nationwide talent hunt.

(McCuddy went on to host an entertainment program on the Fox News Channel. Eventually, that program was canceled as Ailes discovered the road to "cable news" success.) 

For the record, Chris Matthews' Hardball program emerged from the disaster which was America's Talking. Right to this day, Steve Doocy is co-host of Fox & Friends, serving as part of the friendship cadre which starts the day at Fox.

That said, the craziness of that crazy-quilt lineup of programs pretty much speaks for itself. Given a chance at redemption, Ailes went on to construct the Fox News Channel, a place where red tribe viewers know they'll constantly be in the presence of ideological and cultural friends.

As noted above, MSNBC emerged from the American carnage when America's Talking went belly-up. Eventually, MSNBC would follow the lead of Fox News in building its daily programming around the cultural sponge bath reliably provided by cadres of favorites and friends.

As a result, contemporary cable news offers a deeply unhelpful version of "segregation [by tribal membership] now." Viewers know they can safely watch their tribe's channel of choice while being confronted by no one other than their ideological friends.

Yesterday, we traced this warm sponge bath of cable programming back through a succession of earlier TV programs, not excluding the actual sitcom called Friends. Experts say that we failed to journey far enough into the medium's past.

In fact, the notion that viewers could count on being welcomed by friends drove children's programming right from the start. To wit:

The Howdy Doody Show was built around the presence of a bunch of kids in the so-called peanut gallery. A bit later, kids of the 1950s and 1960s got to see a circle of imaginary friends introduced themselves by name every day. 

We refer to what their friends the Mouseketeers did at the start of every show of the Mickey Mouse Club. Implicitly, Annette and Jimmy and Darlene were our earliest TV friends.

In fairness, those earlier shows, with their friendship cadres, were aimed at 8-year-old children. For better or worse, a similar branding strategy is aimed at warring tribes of American adults in these latter days.

On weekdays, red tribe viewers can tune in to their self-identified "friends" starting at 5 a.m. Eastern. (Fox & Friends Weekend doesn't start until 6 a.m.)  Eventually, a blue tribe cable competitor chose to adopt the same silly, childish approach.

Back in the day, Annette and Jimmy and Darlene were being pitched to children. Today, corporate "cable news" operations aim their friendship cadres at an older clientele.

It ought to be embarrassing to see our own blue tribe behaving in this childish way. But these are very challenging times, and we humans are strongly inclined to seek comfort within the mandated Storylines of a surrounding tribe.

On blue tribe cable, our various favorites and friends shield us from many storms. They discuss a very small selection of topics, disappear a boatload of others.

This is propaganda (and disinformation) too. As we'll note in the next few days, this doesn't just happen on Fox.

Also, this approach to delivering pseudo-news is a form of "segregation now." The lunacy of our failing discourse is derived, at least in part, from this very dumb, childish approach.

America's Talking came and went. After that, Ailes wised up—and our own blue tribe was next.

Tomorrow: "Our favorite reporters and friends"

Selected by Roger: To enjoy (certain elements of) TV's Bill McCuddy, why not just click here?

Random thoughts when fleeing from "cable news"...


...and from our modern discourse: We're pleased to report that Kevin Drum got thinking the other day about—

Well, we'll let him tell it himself:

A couple of days ago I was thinking, as one does, about the equivalence of gravitational mass and inertial mass. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, all mass has two properties:

All mass has two properties? To learn what they are, just click here.

With Labor Day approaching, we had considered the possibility of spending a week on the opening passages of Philosophical Investigations. 

How would you introduce "the most important philosophy text of the last century" to a bunch of first-time readers? Every now and them, we dream of spending time on explorations of that type.

Along the way, along came a New York Times review of Nikhil Krishnan's new book. Headline included, Jennifer Szalai starts her review like this:

The Philosophers Who Used Word Puzzles to Understand the World

When setting out to write “A Terribly Serious Adventure: Philosophy and War at Oxford, 1900-1960,” Nikhil Krishnan certainly had his work cut out for him. How to generate excitement for a “much-maligned” philosophical tradition that hinges on finicky distinctions in language? Whose main figures were mostly well-to-do white men, routinely caricatured—and not always unfairly—for being suspicious of foreign ideas and imperiously, insufferably smug?

Krishnan, a philosopher at Cambridge, confesses up front that he, too, felt frustrated and resentful when he first encountered “linguistic” or “analytic” philosophy as a student at Oxford. He had wanted to study philosophy because he associated it with mysterious qualities like “depth” and “vision.” He consequently assumed that philosophical writing had to be densely “allusive”; after all, it was getting at something “ineffable.” But his undergraduate tutor, responding to Krishnan’s muddled excuse for some muddled writing, would have none of it. “On the contrary, these sorts of things are entirely and eminently effable,” the tutor said. “And I should be very grateful if you’d try to eff a few of them for your essay next week.”

“A Terribly Serious Adventure” is lively storytelling as sly “redescription”: an attempt to recast the history of philosophy at Oxford in the mid-20th century by conveying not only what made it influential in its time but also what might make it vital in ours...

In Szalai's rendering, the "philosophical tradition" which Krishnan explores is much-maligned but potentially vital in our age. For ourselves, a question about Wittgenstein comes to mind, though it's also applicable to the contemporaries under review in this book:

If Wittgenstein was the most significant philosopher of the last century, why is it that neither you nor anyone else can give even the slightest thumbnail description of what he "said" or wrote about?

God is dead, Nietzsche is said to have said. In the short essay from Professor Horwich which we've often cited, Wittgenstein is said to have said or implied something similar about the set of linguistic muddles known as traditional philosophy.

For what it's worth, here's the puzzling way Philosophical Investigations begins

1. "When they (my elders) named some object, and accordingly moved towards something, I saw this and I grasped that the thing was called by the sound they uttered when they meant to point it out. Their intention was shewn by their bodily movements, as it were the natural language of all peoples: the expression of the face, the play of the eyes, the movement of other parts of the body, and the tone of voice which expresses our state of mind in seeking, having, rejecting, or avoiding something. Thus, as I heard words repeatedly used in their proper places in various sentences, I gradually learnt to understand what objects they signified; and after I had trained my mouth to form these signs, I used them to express my own desires." (Augustine, Confessions, I. 8.)

These words, it seems to me, give us a particular picture of the essence of human language. It is this: the individual words in language name objects—sentences are combinations of such names.——In this picture of language we find the roots of the following idea: Every word has a meaning. This meaning is correlated with the word. It is the object for which the word stands.

Now think of the following use of language: I send someone shopping. I give him a slip marked "five red apples". He takes the slip to the shopkeeper, who opens the drawer marked "apples"; then he looks up the word "red" in a table and finds a colour sample opposite it; then he says the series of cardinal numbers—I assume that he knows them by heart—up to the word "five" and for each number he takes an apple of the same colour as the sample out of the drawer.——It is in this and similar ways that one operates with words.——"But how does he know where and how he is to look up the word 'red' and what he is to do with the word 'five'?"——Well, I assume that he acts as I have described. Explanations come to an end somewhere.—But what is the meaning of the word "five"?—No such thing was in question here, only how the word "five" is used.

So begins the book which was chosen as the most important philosophy text of the last century. Questions may come to mind:

What in the world was Wittgenstein talking or thinking about? Where did he go from there?

Is there any chance that this most important text actually had something of value to offer? Why is it that no one has the slightest idea what that supposedly is or was?

Our contemporary public discourse turns on nonsense and trivia. It's piddle and trivia all the way down, over and over again.

Could we ever turn to loftier thoughts? As Hemingway once so thoughtfully wrote, "Isn't it pretty to think so?"

SEGREGATION NOW: NBC had another smash hit!


The branding jumped to Fox: Arguably, the branding tracks all the way back to September 22, 1994. On that date, a new NBC sitcom went on the air, under a one-word title:


The friends were a group of New York City 20-somethings who lived in a somewhat improbable whites-only Gotham world. They shared their somewhat unrepresentative demography with the cast of an earlier NBC sitcom smash, Seinfeld.

Like Seinfeld, Friends was a hit. The leading authority on the program's success thumbnails the matter as shown:

The show ranked within the top ten of the final television season ratings; it ultimately reached the number-one spot in its eighth season. The series finale aired on May 6, 2004, and was watched by around 52.5 million American viewers, making it the fifth-most-watched series finale in television history and the most-watched television episode of the 2000s.

Friends received acclaim throughout its run, becoming one of the most popular television shows of all time. The series was nominated for 62 Primetime Emmy Awards, winning the Outstanding Comedy Series award in 2002 for its eighth season. The show ranked no. 21 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time...

We note again the somewhat unlikely demography of these smash hit sitcoms. Chronologically, the programs appeared in the era before the mainstream and blue tribe worlds decided that racial justice and inclusion were the social values it had always treasured most.

At any rate, Friends was a major hit from its first season forward. Like the demographically limited Cheers, it placed its major characters inside a warm and friendly central venue—"a place where everybody knows your name," even within the anomie of the increasingly crowded American urban landscape.

Friends may have started the branding—the branding which jumped, rather quickly, to the arena of pseudo-news. If so, it was Roger Ailes who got there first.

Under Ailes' direction, the Fox News Channel launched in October 1996.  Sixteen months later, the network may have borrowed a bit of branding from the NBC sitcom realm:

Fox & Friends is an American daily morning news and talk program that airs on Fox News. It premiered on February 1, 1998, and is currently hosted by Steve Doocy, Ainsley Earhardt and Brian Kilmeade on weekdays. Will Cain, Rachel Campos-Duffy and Pete Hegseth host on weekends.

It begins at 6:00 a.m. Eastern Time Zone with the latest Fox News Live headlines and news of the morning and continues with a variety of segments including current events, interviews, updates of news stories with correspondents, political analysis from the hosts, and entertainment segments. 

Fox & Friends evolved from Fox X-press, Fox News Channel's original morning news program.

Originally, the morning slot had gone to a program with a thoroughly unfriendly name—Fox X-press. Before long, network honchos had come to their senses, rebranding it Fox & Friends.

Before too long, we ourselves, right here at this site, had branded Fox & Friends as the dumbest show in the history of TV news. Perhaps for that reason, the franchise grew like topsy.

Today, Fox & Friends runs for three hours each weekday, from 6 to 9 a.m. Eastern.  It's preceded by a companion show, Fox & Friends First, which airs for one hour at 5 a.m. Eastern. 

On Saturday and Sunday, Fox & Friends is replaced by yet another companion show—Fox & Friends Weekend. The sprawling franchise occupies a large chunk of real estate every day of the week

As a general matter, Fox & Friends remains very dumb, with a strong propaganda component. The program is quite selective in its choice of news topics. With respect to the pushing of ideology, the program's motto might be this:

No logical leap left behind

Still and all, despite its flaws, the various Fox & Friends programs are loaded with plenty of recognizable friends. 

Remarkably, Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade have served in their role as the male co-hosts from the program's launch right up to the present day. For red tribe viewers who tune to Fox, Fox & Friends remains a place where you are at least going to know their names.

Like Friends itself, Fox & Friends supplies its fans with a warm bath of friendly recognition. This spirit is joined to a type of adamant dumbness that was unknown in the golden age of TV news, but began to surface during the later era of local news "happy talk."

At any rate, the literal promise that you'd be surrounded by friends had jumped to TV news by 1998. Eventually, the "cable news" channel of our own blue tribe muscled in on the branding too.

Today, we blues have our "cable news" friends, and the reds have theirs. These friendships groups never interact. So it goes in the pseudo-journalistic realm we're inclined to disparage for its dedication to an old ideal:

 "Segregation now."

Tomorrow: "Some of our favorite friends"

A date has been set for Trump's first federal trial!


So has he committed a crime? A date has been set for Trump's first federal trial. Headline included, the New York Times reports the basic facts:

Judge Sets Trial Date in March for Trump’s Federal Election Case

The federal judge overseeing former President Donald J. Trump’s prosecution on charges of conspiring to overturn the 2020 election set a trial date on Monday for early March, laying out a schedule that was close to the government’s initial request of January and that rebuffed Mr. Trump’s extraordinary proposal to push off the proceeding until nearly a year and a half after the 2024 election.

The decision by Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, issued at a contentious hearing in Federal District Court in Washington, to start the trial on March 4 potentially brought it into conflict with two other trials that Mr. Trump is facing that month.

If Judge Chutkan's decision holds, this first federal trial will start on March 4, 2026. This raises a very important question:

With respect to the charges involved in this first prosecution, has Donald J. Trump committed any actual federal crimes?

Has Donald J. Trump committed a crime? Our overview goes like this:

Based on a wealth of public reporting, it seems obvious that Trump has almost surely committed recognizable crimes with respect to his handling of the classified material found at his Florida country club, Mar-a-Lago. But that's the stuff of his other federal indictment. That wouldn't be part of this trial.

As Alan Feuer notes in the Times, this first federal prosecution of Trump would involve "charges of conspiring to overturn the 2020 election." Here's the thumbnail account of the charges as provided by the leading authority:

On August 1, 2023, a grand jury indicted Trump in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on four charges for his conduct following the 2020 presidential election through the January 6 Capitol attack: conspiracy to defraud the United States under Title 18 of the United States Code, obstructing an official proceeding and conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding under the Sarbanes–Oxley Act of 2002, and conspiracy against rights under the Enforcement Act of 1870. The indictment mentioned six unnamed co-conspirators. It is Trump's third indictment and the first indictment against a U.S. president concerning their actions while in office. Trump appeared at an arraignment on August 3, where he pleaded not guilty. The charge with the longest sentence carries a maximum of 20 years in prison.

As of August 2023. the trial is scheduled for March 4, 2024.

Hmmm. If Trump had shot someone on Fifth Avenue, it would be easy enough to understand what he's been charged with doing. 

By way of contrast, does the average person know what it means to "defraud the United States," or to engage in a "conspiracy against rights?" Offhand, we ourselves have little idea what those fuzzy phrases might mean.

In the aftermath of the 2020 election, Trump was surely engaged in lunatic conduct based upon a lunatic refusal to accept and acknowledge the fact that he had lost the election. Beyond that, he was certainly trying to game the system in a lunatic or ludicrous way through the demands he made on Mike Pence leading up to the formalities of January 6.

That said, did this president's lunatic conduct involve any criminal acts? We'll wait to hear the arguments on that—but we can already tell you this:

At this site, we're much more concerned with the political / epistemic / journalistic aspects of this astonishing state of affairs than we are with the criminal charges. 

We're much more concerned with a troubling political fact—with the fact that our own blue tribe can't convince half the country of the rather obvious lunacy of Trump's behaviors and claims.

We're concerned with the political haplessness of our own failing blue tribe. That strikes us as a more pressing question than the question of whether Trump can be said to have committed some sort of federal crime in the course of his lunatic conduct.

In the matter of the classified documents, it seems that Trump clearly has committed recognizable crimes.  In this matter, has he committed a "conspiracy against rights?" We aren't even sure that we know what such lingo means.

We do know this:

Trump has engaged in lunatic conduct at many stops along the way. Our tribe has been largely unable to convince a wide array of neighbors and friends of this rather obvious fact.

Oue tribe is eager to see Trump frog-marched to jail. On cable, there's virtually no other topic.

We badly want to lock him up! Given our own political haplessness, is it possible that we should spend a bit of time trying to heal ourselves?



Segregation and silence: On Saturday morning, C-Span's Washinton Journal invited viewers to respond to the following question:


What did C-Span viewers regard as the week's top "news story?" 

Inevitably, the Donald Trump mug shot was frequently mentioned. That said, at 7:20 A.M. Eastern, this exchange occurred:

JESSE (8/26/23): Let's go to Bonnie, who's calling from Prospect, Connecticut, on the Republican line.


JESSE: Just fine.

BONNIE FROM CONNECTICUT: I just want to say that people are really mistaken if they believe that more people in this country voted for Joe Biden than President Obama.

I mean, I don't understand. This man. he has no—he has no pizzazz. He's half dead.

And as for Trump being with my sister or daughter, I am fine with that. Joe Biden swims naked with, and takes showers with, his daughter. I mean, come on! Let's be real. Let's talk the truth here.

JESSE: All right. Let's go with Georgia, who's calling from Louisiana on the Democratic line...

Hoping only that we Americans would be willing to "talk the truth," Bonnie seemed to be saying that Biden's alleged vote total in 2020 had been swollen with non-existent, fraudulent votes. Also, she was responding to a previous caller's suggestion that you wouldn't want to leave a female relative alone with Donald J. Trump. 

With respect to the naked swimming and the showers, she was echoing a claim which was often advanced by Tucker Carlson when he was still on Fox. In part, this is the way a nation's discourse is likely to go when its largest news organs are almost wholly segregated on the basis of tribe and tribal viewpoint.

Other C-Span callers that day swore that the 2020 election had in fact been stolen. One caller complained that Biden likes to swim naked in front of female Secret Service agents.

This is the way a nation's discourse is likely to go in an age of segregation. Can a major nation survive such a system? We very strongly doubt it.

Alas! As MSNBC has become less and less watchable, we have found ourselves sampling the fare on  Fox.

What we see on Fox & Friends qualifies as an anthropology lesson. In fairness, so does much of what we see on our own tribe's "cable news" channel. But that's the way a discourse will go when our tribunes only speak with "our favorite reporters and friends."

George Wallace said it long ago: Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever! 

He was referring to separation on the basis of "race." Today, we have journalistic separation on the basis of viewpoint and tribe. And within the nation's sprawling news industry, amazingly little attention is paid to the wages of this ongoing disaster.

People like Bonnie from Connecticut are encouraged to believe various things by various news orgs like Fox. A great deal of what they're handed is unfounded or false. Then again, some of it isn't.

We'll try to discuss this topic this week. We don't see a good way out of this mess, and we see little interest, within either tribe, in discussing the vast sweep of the problem.

Tomorrow: Long ago, we first watched Fox & Friends

COMFORT FOOD IS US: What might a pro-Trump juror think...

SATURDAY, AUGUST 26, 2023 the course of the Georgia trial? Is Donald J. Trump a madman? Here's the way the invaluable Paul Krugman begins his latest column:

KRUGMAN (8/26/23): James J. Jordan was a Mad man—a copywriter who devised advertising catchphrases that were annoying but memorable, including “I’d rather fight than switch” for Tareyton cigarettes and “When you’re having more than one” for Schaefer Beer. In other words, he was very good at his job.

Now he has posthumously become a sloganeer for an actual madman, a former president who tried to overturn an election and may yet destroy U.S. democracy.

Given the existential threat he poses to America as we know it, Donald Trump’s economic ideas aren’t the first thing on most people’s minds. Nonetheless, it was a bit startling to see Trump propose, as he did last week on Fox Business, a 10 percent tariff on all U.S. imports, which he called a “ring around the collar” of the U.S. economy.

Before he gets to the meat of his column, Krugman offers a whimsical aside about a recent turn of phrase by Trump.

He also calls Trump "an actual madman." But what does he mean by that?

For ourselves, it has long been our assumption that Trump is, in fact, in the grip of some severe "mental illness" or "personality disorder." 

We assume that Trump could, in fact, be diagnosable as (colloquially) a "sociopath"—as someone in the grip of "antisocial personality disorder." 

That said, the major organs of our "mainstream press" all agree that such obvious possibilities must never be allowed to play a role in the national discourse. Today, the reader is left to wonder what Krugman actually thinks about the possibility lurking in his highlighted description of Trump.

We mention this because it takes us right to the heart of our discussion of the comfort food we liberals  get served each night on MSNBC. 

The happy talk and the comfort food come at us thick and fast. This has even created a world in which we agree with Ann Coulter on a particular point.

In a recent colloquy with Frank Bruni and Stuart Stevens, Coulter describes Trump as author of "the most disappointing presidency ever." 

Coulter wants DeSantis to be the GOP nominee. She also offers these remarks, in the New York Rimes no less:

COULTER (8/23/23): [F]amous last words, but: I don’t think Trump will be the nominee, but you’d really do the country a solid if you could get Democrats to stop indicting him.


The only reason Trump will “stay in the news” is that the media keep him there. The weird obsession liberals have with Trump is driving normal people away from the news. Even I, MSNBC’s most loyal viewer, cannot watch it anymore. The same words, same arguments, same info, same topics for over two years now! “We almost lost our democracy!”

Trump is a bore. Please stop covering him. [Coulter's italics.]

We agree with Coulter's comment about MSNBC. The channel is so devoted to selective discussion—to the endless repetition of happy talk and the endless provision of comfort food—that it become extremely hard to watch.

We do try to watch Lawrence O'Donnell. That said, it seems to us that his recent doses of cheerleading represent the type of adamant true belief that could, very imaginably, pave the way to defeat next year.

In recent days, we've floated a question: 

Is it possible that Donad J. Trump could go on trial and escape conviction?

Watching Lawrence or Nicolle, any such notion seems like sheer absurdity. Especially with respect to the Fani Willis indictments in Georgia, Lawrence has cast himself in the role of cheerleader fanboy in a way which surely boosts ratings and sales, but leaves our blue tribe barefoot and clueless, exposed.

[Never] is heard a discouraging word on our blue tribe cable! This strikes us as a very dumb way to approach next year's election.

With respect to the Willis indictments, Lawrence started by praising the document for the sheer brilliance of the writing.

We can't say that we share that assessment. But then, by last Thursday night, Lawrence was cheerleading thusly:

O'DONNELL (8/17/23): Amy Copeland, one struggles to imagine what anyone could seriously say in Donald Trump's defense at [Trump's newly canceled] Monday event, which is why I read just that one page of the [Fani Willis] indictment, which contains thirteen lies told in the famous phone call to Brad Raffensperger, lies that usually get ignored by us in our coverage of the phone call because we're just stuck on the solicitation part of it, which is the "Get me the 11,000 votes." 

But if you are defending Donald Trump against this accusation of this being a criminal enterprise, you have to take on each one of those grotesque lies in those thirteen lies in that phone call.  I just don't see where the Trump defense begins on material like that.

In Lawrence's world, the Willis indictment lists thirteen "lies"—actually, thirteen grotesque lies—allegedly told by Donald J. Trump "in the famous phone call to Raffensperger."

Lawrence said he couldn't see where the Trump defense could even begin with that. Soon after, to his massive credit, Andrew Weissmann offered this:

WEISSMANN (8/17/23): [W]hat you would say here, if you were a defense counsel, is, "You know, I had lawyers telling me this is what happened. I had people doing this data collection, so I was relying on things. So even though I may have been wrong, I didn't kn— I wasn't knowingly lying."

Because remember, you can't— It's not enough that he was just saying it and he was wrong. It has to be with knowledge, intentionally, at the time.

Uh-oh! Because Weissmann was present on the scene that night, we got to hear some very rare words of caution. A prosecutor will have to show that Trump really was lying that day. A prosecutor will have to show that Trump  knew his claims were wrong.

According to Weissmann, a Trump defense would start by saying that Donald J. Trump believed the things he said in that famous phone call. Lawyers had been telling Trump the various things he said in that call—and Trump's attorneys would start by saying that Donald J. Trump believed what those lawyers had said.

Weissmann went on to say that it wouldn't be easy to sustain that line of defense. Our reaction was this:

Long ago and in real time, we listened to the entire audiotape of that entire "famous phone call."  We didn't just listen to the one cherry-picked line about "finding" the needed number of votes.

After we'd listened to Trump for an hour, he had us believing that he really did believe his crazy claims. There's no way to be sure, of course—but that's how it sounded to us.

 Apparently, we aren't alone in this reaction to this "actual madman." Headline included, Devlin and Dawsey offered this at the start of the month in the Washington Post:

Heart of the Trump Jan. 6 indictment: What’s in Trump’s head

Donald Trump’s trial for allegedly conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 election may hinge on a long-debated aspect of the former president’s mind-set: How much, or if, he believes his own false claims.

The 45-page indictment filed Tuesday lays out the myriad ways Trump allegedly lied about mass voter fraud and tried to use those claims to get state, local and federal officials to change results to declare him the winner.

Central to special counsel Jack Smith’s case is the accusation that Trump knew his claims were lies. Evidence of a defendant’s intent is often critical to criminal prosecutions, and it may be the most crucial element of Smith’s case against Trump.

“These claims were false, and the Defendant knew they were false,” the indictment’s first page declares, staking out the boundaries of what will probably be a high-stakes legal battlefield inside Trump’s brain.

“I think the entire indictment really turns on the question of Trump’s intent,” said Robert Kelner, a veteran D.C. lawyer. “Arguably, there isn’t any smoking-gun evidence in the indictment regarding intent, though there is certainly circumstantial evidence. At the heart of the case is really a metaphysical question of whether it’s even possible for Donald Trump to believe that he lost the election, or lost anything else, for that matter.”


Within hours of the indictment’s unsealing, Trump’s legal team signaled that his defense will be based in part on the argument that he genuinely believed the election was stolen and rejected arguments made by those who tried to convince him otherwise.

“I would like them to try to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Donald Trump believed that these allegations were false,” Trump lawyer John Lauro told Fox News.

Multiple witnesses have said they were asked by prosecutors in front of the grand jury if they heard Trump say he lost—and what evidence he was shown about the election, said people familiar with the questioning, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss closed proceedings.

Some of the witnesses were asked about particular pieces of evidence—including reports from state officials and reports commissioned by the campaign—and whether those reports were shown to Trump or his advisers, including Rudy Giuliani, a key figure in that time period who is identified only as “Co-Conspirator 1” in the indictment.

At least one witness testified that Trump was provided extensive evidence showing the election was not stolen, but Trump never conceded the point, the people said.

“Even in private, he’d argue and say that it was,” one Trump adviser said Wednesday. “You could give him 100 reasons why it wasn’t stolen, and he’d come up with something else. It was like playing whack-a-mole.”


People close to Trump insist that, to this day, he believes the voter fraud claims.

In conversations with eight current and former advisers on Wednesday, including some who have soured on Trump, none said they heard him privately contradict his claims that the election was stolen in the months after the election. All eight of them, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations, said they believed at the time, and still do, that Trump had convinced himself that he won.

“He is going to keep saying the election was rigged and stolen because he believes it,” one adviser said. “They are never going to get him to say he was lying, because he still believes it.”

Is Donald J. Trump crazy enough—is he enough of an "actual madman"—to believe his unsupported claims about the 2020 elections? We have no idea.

Our cable stars repeat a tiny set of unconvincing claims in which it's said that Trump admitted defeat at various points. In the ancient jargon of the press corps, we'd say that these flimsy examples are "close enough for tribal cable news work."

That said, many observers have suggested that he actually is crazy enough to believe his own twaddle. On August 6, Michael Wolff offered this in the New York Times:

WOLFF (8/6/23): His yearslong denial of the 2020 election may be an elaborate fraud, a grifter’s denial of the obvious truth, as prosecutors maintain, but if so, he really hasn’t broken character the entire time. I’ve had my share of exposure to his fantastic math over the years—so did almost everyone around him at Mar-a-Lago after the election—and I don’t know anyone who didn’t walk away from those conversations at least a little shaken by his absolute certainty that the election really was stolen from him.

Declaring that Trump is "an actual madman" may not be the way to a pro-Trump juror's heart. But there are a million problems with the childish ways our "cable news" servants serve us our nightly comfort food, and there are a million ways that a pro-Trump juror might differ from Lawrence's fanboy reactions to the endlessly complicated Willis indictments.

Our blue tribe culture has become so childish and dumb that we've even created a world in which Ann Coulter gets to be right. 

The children go on TV each night and serve us our happy talk and our comfort food. Except for the childishness of our own tribe, the news product they are offering has become almost wholly unwatchable. 

Meanwhile, Biden and Trump are tied in the polls. We're rarely asked to wonder about what that could possibly mean.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but our tribe is locked in a silo. [Never] is heard a discouraging word as ratings and profits and salaries go up while we wander about in a haze.

There are a million ways a pro-Trump juror may not buy the Willis indictments. It only takes one dissenter, in a twelve-member jury, to deny conviction.

Jack Smith faces a similar task. One lone dissenting juror could mean that Trump escapes conviction.

Cheerleader O'Donnell can't seem to imagine this possible problem. That said, a trial could end without a conviction.

Where would things go from there?

The morning after the really big show...


...Mike Barnicle (pretty much) got it right: Yesterday, all afternoon, we hoped we'd get a chance to show you what Mike Barnicle said. 

To our chagrin, the invaluable Internet Archive was a little bit slow on the upload.

Better late than never! Yesterday morning, Barnicle guested on Morning Joe. When he reviewed the previous evening's GOP forum, this is what he said:

BARNICLE (8/24/23): It was a revealing and depressing performance—a two-hour performance.


My problem with watching the debate was, this debate opened—and Joe alluded to this a couple of moments ago when he was talking about what's happened to the debt and the deficits in this country over the last five or six years, due largely to Donald Trump.

This country has suffered great damage, none more so than the injection into the political bloodstream that the election of 2020 was fixed, was rigged. How do you begin a debate with any of the candidates, Republican or Democrat, without asking them the yes or no question, "Was Joseph R. Biden legitimately elected president of the United States? Yes or no?"

That way, we know where you're going to go on continuing this poison that's in the political culture today—and no one asked that.

For whatever reason, Willie seemed to hurry on from there. Here on our sprawling, leaf-strewn campus, we thought Barnicle had it right.

In reality, there are very few "yes or no questions" in high-end American politics. At that GOP forum, that particular question would have quickly occasioned a large array of highly evasive non-answer pseudo-replies.

In fairness, let's be fair! A moderator who raised that question would have had to supply some high-precision follow-up questions. 

On the afternoon before the GOP forum, we ourselves had suggested some such questions. We would have liked to see the participants asked such questions as these:

Do you believe that Donald J. Trump actually won the Wisconsin election? If so, on what basis do you make that assessment?

Do you believe that Donald J. Trump actually won the election in Georgia? On what basis do you say so?

Do you believe that Donald J. Trump received more votes in any one of the disputed states than Joe Biden did? In which of those states do you believe that Trump actually got more votes?

Do you agree with Donald Trump's claim that the last election was stolen, rigged, fixed, a hoax? Can you explain why Donald Trump has never produced some sort of white paper offering systematic evidence for that remarkable claim? Isn't it reasonable to assume that no such evidence actually exists?

Had the moderators asked Barnicle's "yes or no question" that night, they almost surely would have been met with a shipload of fuzzy responses. They would have had to work to establish the parameters of what they were actually asking.

That said, we agree with Barnicle's general take on the current state of our failing political / journalistic discourse. Especially on the Republican side, the former president's remarkable claim lies at the heart of our ongoing political meltdown.

Millions of citizens truly believe Trump's unsupported claim. That claim lies at the heart of our ongoing breakdown. The forum should have started right there.

Donald J. Trump's unsupported claim is the leading element in our current discourse. Barnicle said the "debate" should have started right there. 

In our considered view, the Morning Joe guest got it right.

Also even this: A moderator could even have posed a question like this:

Participant A, why is it that you've never issued a clear statement concerning this question? Don't the voters in your party deserve to know what you think?


COMFORT FOOD IS US: The comfort food was general...


...all over blue cable last night: Over in the realm of the reds, Donald J. Trump is already selling product through the allure of his mug shot.

In fairness, the tribunes of our own blue tribe are already selling product that way too. 

As with the earlier "snow all over Ireland," the comfort food was general over blue tribe cable last night. At 10 p.m., Lawrence O'Donnell started his program as shown:

O'DONNELL (8/24/23): We now have the first mug shot ever taken of a former president of the United States. Here is Donald Trump's mug shot, which will instantly become the most famous mug shot in the history of photography.

[Mug shot appears on screen.]

The mug shot of the 45th president of the United States will go from tomorrow's newspapers into our history books, where the only presidential mug shot will live forever.

American high school history students will be looking at that photograph for hundreds of years. That mug shot will define the low point in the history of the American presidency. That mug shot will soon be everywhere in our lives.


We are still publishing biographies of Abraham Lincoln 158 years after he was assassinated. We will still be publishing biographies of Donald Trump 158 years from now, and 300 years from now, and each of those books will contain that mug shot

That mug shot will eventually be seen by more people than any other picture of an American president...Hundreds of years from now, history students around the world will be staring at that mug shot—staring into the eyes of Donald Trump—and wondering what they see.

Lawrence's monologue continued from there. To watch his fuller set of remarks, you can just click here.

(Spoiler alert: Lawrence said that those future students will be looking at "stupidity" and "hatred" when they stare into Donald Trump's eyes. He didn't mention the possibility that they will be looking at some form of severe mental illness.)

Lawrence's work can be highly informative. He also has a tendency to go way over the top.

We would call that opening statement a form of comfort food. Like almost everything else you'll see on MSNBC, that monologue seems to assume that Trump will end up being convicted in some upcoming criminal trial, and that he won't be able to make his way back to the White House.

As a general matter, the monologue seems to assume that this current episode will conclude in a way which is favorable to the prevailing world view of our own blue tribe. Presumably, that's one of the obvious possibilities. But the joy of watching MSNBC lies in the following fact:

On MSNBC, "[never] is heard a discouraging word" about the current situation. We blue tribe viewers are reliably told that the situation will resolve in our favor.

(Never is heard a discouraging word about another grim possibility. In the ultimate foolishness of last evening's presentation, we're even told what high school kids around the world will be reading and thinking about three hundred years from now, long "after the [climate] deluge.")

Lawrence was way out over his skis as he opened his program last night. That said, this is the joy of "cable news" as it is currently practiced.

Eight hours later, Mika began this morning's Morning Joe with another instant reference to that era-defining mug shot. Below her, on the screen, this pleasing chyron appeared:


Trump is already using that mug shot to sell various types of product. On MSNBC, our tribunes are using the mug shot to sell us "news product" too.

Will Donald J. Trump be convicted of a state or federal crime in one of his upcoming trials? That's an obvious possibility! It's even possible that he'll end up being frog-marched off to jail.

For better or worse, it's also possible that Donald J. Trump will be forced to stand trial next year and that he won't be convicted. Having said that, also this:

In large part because President Biden is a uniquely vulnerable candidate for re-election, it's possible that Donald J. Trump will win next year's election and return to the White House. (At present, the Biden-Trump polling is tied—and under current electoral college norms, ties go to the Republican.)

Since the winners write the history books, we can only imagine what high school kids in Lapland will be reading three hundred years from now if Trump somehow does get elected.

In one apparent action this week, Russia's version of Vladimir Putin may have rewritten the contents of Russian history books over the next clump of years. If our own version of Putin returns to the Oval, what will our history books be saying by the time he gets done?

On blue tribe cable, there is no need for fear or concern about such possibilities! Our tribunes will gather on historic evenings like last night with their many "dear friends."  They'll spend hours chuckling and chortling about that excellent mug shot.

[Never] will be heard a discouraging word about the way this dangerous mess could turn out! We viewers will get to hear plenty of happy talk as we're served our comfort food.

Is it really possible? Is it really possible that Donald J. Trump could get elected next year? 

Is that really possible? We'd have to say that it actually is, though we can't say what will happen.

On blue tribe cable, no such limits on clairvoyance seem to obtain. Lawrence is even able to tell us what high school students in Tasmania will be doing in the 24th century! 

Full disclosure! Comfort food may not be nutritious, but it does feel good going down.

Tomorrow: How might the Georgia indictments and trial seem to a pro-Trump juror?

COMFORT FOOD IS US: Seven hopefuls agree about Pence!


Vice president did the right thing: "How did things ever get so far?"

We believe Don Corleone said that.

This morning, the famous statement came to mind as we watched pundit reactions to last night's "debate." Many observers focused on this somewhat surprising fact:

Six of the eight Republican hopefuls said they'd support Donald J. Trump as the GOP nominee even if he's been convicted of a felony in one of his upcoming trials.

Six of the eight would still support Trump? How did things get so far?

In this matter, that strikes us as a political / journalistic / epistemic question. It's a question about where we citizens get our facts—or, more accurately, our pictures of the world.

We live in a world where citizens receive dueling arrays of facts from dueling cable news channels. Also, from a welter of other news orgs aligned to some tribal perspective. 

Those dueling perspectives rarely come into contact with one another. For example, you've never seen a Trump supporter interviewed on MSNBC. Instead, you see endless streams of "favorite reporters and friends"—sometimes including "dear, dear friends"—agreeing with one another on every point as the hours pass away.

On Fox, the conduct is often—not always—worse. In such ways, citizens receive highly selective versions of "the facts."

Can a very large nation function this way? Almost surely, the answer is no. 

As of this morning, blue tribe pundits were commenting on the fact that six candidates would still support a Nominee Trump, even if he'd been convicted of a federal crime. This exchange, and its aftermath, was producing much less commentary:

MODERATOR MACCALLUM (8/23/23): President Trump's former vice president is on this stage tonight. He has faced hecklers on the campaign trail over his actions on January 6. 

On that day, the vice president moved forward with the certification of the election. So do you believe that Mike Pence did the right thing? 

Senator Scott, do you believe he did the right thing?

SCOTT: Absolutely. He did the right thing...

Say what? Vice President Pence did the right thing on January 6?

Scott then launched a long attack on the alleged weaponization of the Justice Department. But he said that Pence had "absolutely" done the right thing on January 6.

As it turned out, Scott was hardly alone in that view. Ron DeSantis was questioned next. After a series of evasive maneuvers, the Floridian copped to this:

PENCE: Answer the question!

DESANTIS: I've answered this before. Mike did his duty. I've got no beef with him.

From there, it was on to Asa Hutchinson, who plainly thought that Pence had done the right thing. So did Chris Christie, who jumped in to say this:

CHRISTIE: Mike Pence stood for the Constitution and he deserves, not grudging credit—he deserves our thanks as Americans for putting his oath of office and the Constitution of the United States before personal political and unfair pressure.

From there, it was on to Nikki Haley. This exchange occurred:

MACCALLUM: Governor Haley, we haven't heard from you on this. Do you agree that Vice President Pence did the right thing that day, or not?

HALEY: I do think that Vice President Pence did the right thing. And I do think that we need to give him credit for that.

How about little-known Doug Burgum? The little-known Burgum said this:

MACCALLUM: Governor Burgum, your opportunity?

BURGUM: Happy to answer the question. Mike Pence did the right thing on January 6.

For some reason, only Vivek Ramaswamy wasn't asked to respond. But along the way, Pence made it clear that he too thought that he'd done the right thing. In sum, seven out of Republican hopefuls think Pence did the right thing on January 6! 

This seems to suggest that these seven hopefuls may not agree with Donald Trump's ongoing claim that the last election was stolen. That said, no one was asked about that ongoing claim. 

Was the 2020 election stolen? Last evening, that was the fairly obvious question which didn't bark.

At any rate, seven of the eight Republican candidates think Pence did the right thing. That said, six would still support a Nominee Trump even after a criminal conviction.

That doesn't necessarily involve a contradiction. But for ourselves, we would have loved to see the key question asked:

Was the 2020 election stolen? Did Donald J. Trump really defeat Candidate Biden in all those disputed states?

Red tribe voters have been handed those claims a million times. It's a deeply consequential assertion. 

Last night, no one was asked about those claims, and no one had to tell. This is the jumbled, confusing way our "discourse" tends to function. 

On our blue tribe "cable news" channels, we're routinely offered happy talk about related questions. On this morning's Morning Joe, Joe Scarborough said something very close to this:

How does he [Donald Trump] not end up in jail?

Scarborough couldn't seem to imagine a way that Trump could stay out of prison. George Conway voiced instant agreement.

On last Thursday evening's Last Word, Lawrence O'Donnell couldn't seem to imagine an answer to that question either.  We can imagine a fairly obvious answer.  We can even imagine Trump winning a second term over Joe Biden next year. 

The comfort food can taste quite good. In our view, the reality seems puzzling, disordered, much darker.

How did it ever get this far? MacCallum and Baier didn't ask if Donald Trump's signature claim is wrong.

They didn't ask, and no one had to tell. In this way the endless gong show just kept rolling along.

Tomorrow: Lawrence [HEART] Willis' work

The only question which needs to be asked...

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 23, 2023 this evening's event: For starters, no—it isn't a "debate."

You could say that Kennedy and Nixon had a set of debates in 1960. On the level of nomination contests, you could say the same about Gore and Bradley, the only two Democratic candidates in 2000.

Tonight, eight Republicans will share the stage in a serial press event. The only questions which need to be asked are variants of this one:

Do you agree with former president Trump's continuing claim that the 2020 election was stolen? If so, on what basis do you make that claim?

Several of the performers tonight would try to slide away from the first of those questions. Ideally, the moderators would be ready with detailed follow-up questions, including a set of questions about the former president's continuing failure to present any evidence in support of his ongoing claim.

Other questions follow:

Do the participants believe that Trump won Georgia in 2020? If so, why do they believe that?

Do they believe that he won Arizona? That he won Wisconsin? If so, on what basis can they make such claims?

With the possible exception of DeSantis, none of the people on stage tonight is actually seeking nomination. There's no point asking them to state their views on any issue.

Only one question should exist on that stage:

Is there any reason—any reason whatsoever—why any voter should believe this unsupported ongoing claim by Donald J. Trump?

COMFORT FOOD IS US: Concerning the president's trip to Hawaii!


Morning Joe battles Fox: It wasn't exactly comfort food. It was more of a furious pushback.

We refer to the opening segment of this morning's Morning Joe. Right from the jump, the Morning Joe gang savaged Fox News for what was said, during yesterday's programs, concerning President Biden.

More specifically, concerning President Biden's trip to Hawaii. Concerning what the president said and did while he was there.

Sadly, we're forced to say that the people on Fox got it more right than the people on Morning Joe did. And in our view, it gets even worse:

In our view, the people on Morning Joe were extremely selective in their account of what the people on Fox had said. At issue was the alleged strangeness of President's Biden's remarks while visiting Lahaina on Monday.

Full disclosure! As happenstance had it, we turned on our TV early Monday evening moments after President Biden had started his first set of remarks about the recent wildfire disaster. 

CNN was airing his remarks live; MSNBC and Fox were not. As we watched his remarks on CNN, we became even more concerned about the president's hopes for re-election next year.

For the official White House transcript of that first set of remarks, you can just click here. These are the open-air remarks the president made at the Lahaina Banyan Tree Park.

As we watched the president make that first set of remarks, we didn't realize that his presentation had just begun. But uh-oh:

Not unlike the loudmouths on Fox, we thought the president's extended self-reference demonstrated very poor judgment. We were even more concerned by the halting, fumbling way he delivered those remarks.

Hawaii's two senators stood at his side, as did first ladt Jill Biden. Full disclosure:

His performance struck us as embarrasingly bad. We  actually thought that the others might be on the verge of walking away from the podium.

About two hours later, the president delivered a second set of remarks, this time at the Lahaina Civic Center. In our view, his extensive act of self-reference was even weirder on this occasion.  For the White House transcript, click this.

Yesterday, the loudmouths were screaming about this on Fox. All in all, we thought their assessment of Biden's pair of formal statements was pretty much on target.

Inevitably, they threw in several other complaints which may have been total confections. (Example: At one point, he even seemed to fall asleep!)

This morning, the Morning Joe gang attacked the Foxsters for those phony, confected critiques. But they failed to mention the more substantive complaints about the president's allegedly "tone deaf" comments.

Below, we'll link you to some news reports and opinion pieces about the president's remarks. For ourselves, we'll only say this:

As we watched the president's first set of remarks, we feared the outcome of next year's election as we've never feared it before.

We began to wonder if President Biden will be able to make it through the next year as a candidate for re-election. In our view, his second set of remarks that day turned out to be weirder still.

Early this morning, we were surprised to see the guest host on Way Too Early defending Biden against the less substantial attacks on Fox. 

We were further surprised to see the Morning Joe gang open their show by taking the same approach, while failing to mention the stronger critiques we had seen made on Fox.

As we watched Joe and Mika declaim in this selective manner, it seemed to us that we've finally reached the point where our so-called "cable news" has become Complete Total Tribal Propaganda. Meanwhile, in a related point:

Can President Biden get re-elected next year?

Early Monday evening, we watched the president speak in real time, before any punditry had begun. When we watched him make his first set of remarks, we worried about next year's election as we've never worried before.

They played it dumb on today's Morning Joe. Our political world is in near total meltdown. Is it possible that our polarized, pseudo-journalistic world is in even worse shape?

All the president's comments: What did President Biden do or say that seemed to be "tone deaf?"

We'll remind you that, as a matter of politics, his halting delivery worried us even more than his self-referential remarks. That said, we'll start you with Newsweek's account of the matter:

Joe Biden Comparing Maui Fires to Almost Losing His Corvette Sparks Fury

Business Insider discussed Biden's performance under this headline:

Biden told Maui wildfire survivors that he can relate, citing a small fire he had in his kitchen in 2004

The National Review was somewhat scathing, thought we can't really say they were wrong:

Biden Likens ‘Insignificant’ 2004 House Fire to Deadly Hawaii Wildfire

Here's the way the headlines have looked over at Fox News:

Biden blasted for comparing kitchen fire in his home to devastating Maui blaze: 'Absolutely disgusting'

Biden has repeatedly told exaggerated house fire story to victims of tragedies

Your lizard brain is going to tell you to ignore what's being said at Fox. In our view, Morning Joe was whistling past the graveyard this morning, conning us as they went. 

This strikes us as very bad news. We're just telling you what we saw.

Lozada indicts America first!


High-end fuzzy thinking: It used to be a standard part of hackish conservative agitprop. We liberals were the "Blame America First" contingent—though we were more often described as a "crowd."

Liberals were routinely said to "blame America first."  And then yesterday, Hoo boy! Along came the New York Times, Carlos Lozada, with an opinion column whose peculiar headline says this:

The Trump Indictments Are an Indictment of America

Now we're indicting America first! At one point, Lozada offers this:

LOZADA (8/21/23): One of the Trump era’s recurring questions (a bit quaint now) has been whether Trump lies knowingly or truly believes the untruths he professes. These documents leave little doubt that Trump was told, repeatedly, that his lies were just that, and by officials close to him. David French summarized the latest indictment against Trump in The Times this way: “The Georgia case is about lies. It’s about lying, it’s about conspiring to lie, and it’s about attempting to coax others to lie.”

Much the same could be said of the other Trump indictments and of his impeachments, too. They’re all about his lies and about the country’s willingness to countenance them.

There are individuals in these documents like Rusty Bowers, a former speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, who, when Trump urged him to appoint new presidential electors from the state, responded: “I voted for you. I worked for you. I campaigned for you. I just won’t do anything illegal for you.” But there are many who believe and enable Trump’s lies, whether out of conviction, allegiance or expedience. His overwhelming lead in the early polling for the next Republican nomination and his current tie with Biden in a possible 2024 rematch exist despite—or, at times, because of—those lies.

Set aside the enduring question about whether Trump is so far gone that he actually believes his wild misstatements.  Instead, let's puzzle over this peculiar statement by Lozada:

Trump's indictments "are all about his lies and about the country’s willingness to countenance them."

The indictments are all about the country's willingness to believe Trump's misstatements? The country has made that mistake?

Does that include the part of the country which turned out in record numbers to vote against Trump's re-election? Does it include the part of the country which sat on the January 6 committee? The part of the country which supported his two impeachments?

As Lozada notes, there actually are tens of millions of American citizens who actually do believe Trump's various false or unfounded statements, including his claim that the last election was stolen. 

Many of those people believe such claims for a fairly obvious reason. Our country now suffers under the yoke of a bifurcated set of highly partisan "news orgs."

If you exclusively follow the red tribe orgs, you're never told about the way Trump's various claims have been debunked. You're never shown the video of the violence which took place at the Capitol building on January 6.

Such people do believe that the last election was stolen! Those people aren't lying when they advance this unsupported claim. They're simply advancing an unfounded claim which they truly believe to be accurate.

(Bowers was too sophisticated to believe Trump's claims, and too honest to pretend otherwise.)

Lozada is a Pulitzer winner. He went to the finest schools. He works for our highest-end national newspaper.

Also, he's a good and decent person—but good lord! What amazingly fuzzy thinkers we humans turn out to be!

That headline is extremely strange. And yes, such things get noticed.

COMFORT FOOD IS US: Lawrence presented some happy talk!


But here's what Weissmann said: Us and Them is the oldest, and perhaps the most powerful, of all known human drugs.

With that in mind, ponder this:

Yesterday's Morning Joe began with 59 references to the claim that Trump voters are members of a "cult." To watch the full onslaught as it unfolds, you can start right here.

Today, Morning Joe's 7 a.m. Eastern hour (no links available yet) took us in a similar direction, with Mika describing support for Trump as "a disease"—a disease afflicting people who have ingested a "poison."

Why do tens of millions of fellow citizens—friends and neighbors!—still support Donald J. Trump? On MSNBC programs, you will never see a Trump supporter asked this basic question.

You'll never see a Trump supporter asked to explain his support. You'll just continue to hear the hammering as the silos get reinforced.

For the record, yesterday's extensive reference to cults hadn't appeared out of nowhere. 

According to the Morning Joe gang, there was no other way to explain the results of a brand-new CBS / YouGov poll. One day before, two major mainstream figures had authored this somewhat aggressive reaction to that same CBS survey:

Brian Klaas, an associate professor of global politics at University College London, reacted to the poll on Sunday writing on X, formerly known as Twitter, "Trump voters believe Trump is more likely to tell them the truth than their friends and family. Again: to understand the modern GOP, you need to understand what an authoritarian cult of personality is, because that's what it has become."

Tom Nichols, staff writer for The Atlantic, also posted to X in response to the poll and wrote, "Insanely cultish."

So wrote Anna Commander, reporting on the new CBS survey in this report for Newsweek

Klaas and Nichols had paved the way. One day later, everyone on Morning Joe had the exact same reaction! 

For ourselves, we'd rather see the Morning Joe squad interview some Trump voters. However appealing it may be, it's our impression that name-calling of the type on display yesterday morning isn't likely to help.

At any rate, yesterday morning's extensive name-calling wasn't "happy talk." For that, we return to Lawrence O'Donnell's performance last Thursday night, when the gang on MSNBC's The Last Word were pleasuring blue tribe viewers with such presentations as this:

O'DONNELL (8/17/23): Amy Copeland, one struggles to imagine what anyone could seriously say in Donald Trump's defense at [Trump's newly canceled] Monday event, which is why I read just that one page of the [Fani Willis] indictment, which contains thirteen lies told in the famous phone call to Brad Raffensperger, lies that usually get ignored by us in our coverage of the phone call because we're just stuck on the solicitation part of it, which is the "Get me the 11,000 votes." 

But if you are defending Donald Trump against this accusation of this being a criminal enterprise, you have to take on each one of those grotesque lies in those thirteen lies in that phone call.  I just don't see where the Trump defense begins on material like that.

Last week, Lawrence had gushed about the brilliant writing in the newly-released Fani Willis indictment of Trump (and 18 others). Now, he said that he couldn't imagine where a defense of Trump could even start at trial.

As we noted yesterday, Copeland replied with a snarky quip, and the panel enjoyed a group laugh. This is the type of Complete and Total Group Agreement with which the blue tribe viewer will be rewarded when he or she decides to watch this ratings-based blue tribe "news channel."

During his famous phone call with Raffensberger, Trump had told thirteen "grotesque lies," and Willis had listed them all! Lawrence couldn't begin to imagine where a defense could start.

It's the sort of comfort food on which our tribe has long fed. But then, to his undying credit, legal analyst Andrew Weissmann briefly broke through the happy talk.

The gang had been enjoying some happy talk. Then came this killjoy buzzkill:

WEISSMANN (8/17/23): [W]hat you would say here, if you were a defense counsel, is, "You know, I had lawyers telling me this is what happened. I had people doing this data collection, so I was relying on things. So even though I may have been wrong, I didn't kn— I wasn't knowingly lying."

Because remember, you can't— It's not enough that he was just saying it and he was wrong. It has to be with knowledge, intentionally, at the time.

Oof! For one brief, shining moment, this reminder from Weissmann briefly broke through the somewhat cultish spell.

According to Weissmann, it's not enough to show that Trump made the thirteen statements in question. It's not enough to show that the statements turned out to be wrong.

According to Weissmann, a prosecutor would have to show that Trump had made those false statements "with knowledge, intentionally." Willis would have to show that Trump had known that his claims were wrong.

In fairness to Weissmann, he went on to say that it would be hard to show that Trump had believed his false claims. But ever so briefly, the happy talk had been interrupted among the circle of very dear blue tribe friends.

(As you know: On MSNBC, every pundit falsely claims that every other pundit is one of his or her "friends.")

Cable news of the red and blue kinds are now broadcast from alternate silos. Seldom is heard a discouraging word to those from the blue or red tribe.

Weissmann provided a service that day—a traditional journalistic service. That said, traditional expectations are rarely allowed to intrude on the pleasing experience offered to us when tribal gatherings on MSNBC serve us our comfort food.

At this point, we offer a few quick reminders:

It will take only one juror, out of twelve, to kill hopes for a conviction of Donald J. Trump in some forthcoming trial. 

Also this:

If a Fani Willis jury votes 11-1 or 10-2 in favor of conviction, no conviction will be forthcoming. And that result will instantly be bruited as an acquittal. It won't actually be an acquittal, but it will be successfully bruited that way far and wide.

Tomorrow, we'll continue along from the happy talk-based comfort food Lawrence was serving last Thursday night. For today, we'll leave you with this observation concerning blue tribe cable:

Sometimes we get served happy talk and comfort food on our blue tribe cable. Other times, we get pleasured with sweeping denunciations of the Others, who all come from a cult.

Us and Them is a cherished drug, but we'll leave by asking this. If the Others are so brainwashed, what makes Lawrence, or anyone else, believe that a unanimous verdict could ever emerge from a trial?

Tomorrow: Concerning that famous telephone call

We love our tribal lines of attack!


Shakespeare in the schools: Has Shakespeare been banned from the Florida schools? Has something like that occurred?

We humans love our tribal Storylines—our tribal lines of attack! That's a lesson we'd take away from today's New York Times.

More specifically, we refer to the letters section in this morning's print editions. Headline included, the section starts like this:

Shakespeare in Full, Including the Bawdy Parts, Except in Florida

To the Editor:

Re “Make Shakespeare Dirty Again,” by Drew Lichtenberg (Opinion guest essay, Aug. 14):

I feel sorry for students in Florida. Shakespeare has been revered across the globe for his wit, his wordsmithy and his deep understanding of human nature.

Thanks to Gov. Ron DeSantis, it seems that the celebration, appreciation and lamentation of the human condition in its entirety, which is what has made Shakespeare last all these centuries, may be removed from what is presented to Florida students. What an intellectual and cultural crime!

The Elizabethans did not live long by our standards, falling prey to disease and poor sanitation, but they enjoyed life as seen in the flourishing of the arts in the English Renaissance, which included the bawdy sexual innuendo and bodily-fluid humor as well as rapturous poetry and mellifluous madrigals. Shakespeare has captured this spirit as no other has so far.

I am an English teacher, and my favorite part of the curriculum I teach is watching my students get the double entendre and puns (with a little guidance) of the spicier wordplay and situations as well as watching them moved by characters’ struggles and victories in the Shakespeare plays that we study in full.

My students are 13 and 14 years old. They are neither shocked nor offended. They encounter much saltier language and images on TikTok.

J— G— / Pleasantville, N.Y

Darn those letters from Pleasantville! Three additional letters follow, two of which batter Florida for having banned the bard.

On the other hand, note this:

The claim made by this letter writer is rather fuzzy. She says it seems that a full interaction with Shakespeare may be removed from the Florida schools.

We decided to click the link to "Make Shakespeare Dirty Again" to see what we could see. We were taken to an extremely fuzzy recent guest essay. It had started with this fuzzy claim:

Make Shakespeare Dirty Again

It seemed, for a moment, that Shakespeare was being canceled. Last week, school district officials in Hillsborough County, Fla., said that they were preparing high school lessons for the new academic year with some of William Shakespeare’s works taught only with excerpts, partly in keeping with Gov. Ron DeSantis’s legislation about what students can or can’t be exposed to.

According to that fuzzy essay, it had seemed, though just for a moment, that officials from one Florida school district had said that some of Shakespeare's works would now be "taught only with excerpts."

That statement struck us as extremely fuzzy—and so, we dutifully clicked the link in the fuzzy guest essay. It took us to this fuzzy news report by a Florida TV station—to a news report which started like this, clever headline included:

Is Shakespeare ‘to be or not to be’ taught in Hillsborough Schools this year?

Hillsborough County’s new acting superintendent says there has been confusion this year over what can and can not be taught in schools this year, because of a new state law.

Acting Superintendent Van Ayers emailed a statement to parents Wednesday saying in part; “To be clear, we are teaching Shakespeare in a variety of ways in high schools, everything from short excerpts to full novel readings, based on the standards for the course a student takes. Shakespeare has been a foundation of our literary teaching for decades. This instructional plan follows state law.”

The statement by Ayers was far from clear. (By the way, did Shakespeare ever write novels?) 

Ayers said there's been a lot of confusion floating around concerning the way the bard will now be bruited. But this news report doesn't say if the bawdy parts of the bard's work actually have been banned in the Hillsborough County schools.

We clicked one additional link, in this case from that TV station's report. Even after clicking that link, we still don't have the slightest idea what, if anything, is actually transpiring in the Sunshine State regarding Shakespeare's spicier sallies and salvos.

That said, we humans love our tribal claims! And one of our blue tribe's most treasured claims has long involved the way the yahoos way down South are constantly banning books.

This morning, the New York Times gave us the pleasure of thinking that some such thing must be going on with respect to Shakespeare in the Sunshine State schools. During a brief additional search, we found no sign that the Times has ever done an actual news report on this alleged state of affairs, but the letters editor gave us a thrill in today's letters section.

What fools we tribal humans be! We think Abraham Lincoln said that!

STARTING TOMORROW: Happy talk and comfort food!


Comfort food is Us: If Donald J. Trump goes on trial next spring, will he be convicted?

A second question is this:

If he isn't convicted in his first trial, how might that event play out as the November election draws near?

Concerning next November's election, we can only offer you this: You'll rarely hear this on blue tribe cable, but current polling, such as it is, has the race quite close.

According to, the most recent Emerson College poll has Trump ahead by one point. The most recent Economist/YouGov poll had Biden up by one.

Late in July, the New York Times/Siena College poll had Biden and Trump deadlocked at 43 points apiece. Consternation swept the ranks, if only briefly, when that finding was published.

From the blue tribe perspective, these are puzzling, worrisome poll results. Perhaps for that reason, we rarely see these surveys mentioned when on our tribe's prime time "cable news" programs.

It's also true that it's much too early to be polling next November's election. That said, President Biden seems to be a highly vulnerable candidate—and even as his likely opponent piles up his current string of indictments, nobody seems to have a poll in which that likely opponent is going away.

Within that context, we restate our initial question. If Donald J. Trump goes on trial next spring, could he escape conviction?

It seems to us that he plainly could, especially if the trial in question involves his conduct with respect to the 2020 election. We think Trump could escape conviction.

This is why we say that:

We find it hard to believe that Trump could ever be acquitted in either one of those possible trials. (The same is true of a potential trial concerning his retention of top-secret government documents.)

We find it hard to believe that a unanimous jury will ever find Trump not guilty in one of those possible trials. But it only takes one holdout juror to eliminate conviction, and a hung jury would instantly be bruited, across the land, as the equivalent of an acquittal.

A hung jury wouldn't be the equivalent of an acquittal, of course. That would be especially true if ten or eleven jurors, out of twelve, had voted for conviction. 

Still, it's hard to estimate the possible effect of any such failure to convict. And, for reasons we'll explore this week, we know of no reason to assume that either of these possible trials would have to end in conviction.

Tens of millions of neighbors and friends—tens of millions of fellow citizens—will be eager to vote for Candidate Trump if he's nominated next year. For ourselves, we disagree with the judgment of those neighbors and friends concerning that possible vote for Trump—but then, they disagree with us!

In our view, the possible election of Trump is a matter of significant concern. But in the face of that possible election, we see a high-profile "journalistic" world which principally exists to serve tribe members large doses of blue tribe happy talk and blue tribe comfort food.

Have the guardians of our blue tribe perhaps abandoned theirs posts? Instead of offering good, sound advice, are they offering happy talk and comfort food instead?

We were especially struck by that possibility as we watched Lawrence O'Donnell last Thursday night. In our view, Lawrence offered a heaping platter of blue tribe comfort food all through his hour-long program.

We can't link you to a transcript of that evening's Last Word program. As you know, MSNBC has stopped publishing transcripts of its shows, we assume for the obvious reasons.

We can't link you to a transcript of the revelry and the gloating. That said, you can watch the entire hour thanks to this posting by the invaluable Internet Archive site.

We can't show you a transcript! But to our ear, Lawrence was still gloating, as he'd done all week, about the manifest greatness of the Fani Willis indictment in Georgia.

The schadenfreude was general over our tribe's cable news that night—for example, when Lawrence said this to defense attorney Amy Lee Copeland midway through the program:

O'DONNELL (8/17/23): Amy Copeland, one struggles to imagine what anyone could seriously say in Donald Trump's defense at [Trump's newly canceled] Monday event, which is why I read just that one page of the [Fani Willis] indictment, which contains thirteen lies told in the famous phone call to Brad Raffensberger, lies that usually get ignored by us in our coverage of the phone call because we're just stuck on the solicitation part of it, which is the "Get me the 11,000 votes." 

But if you are defending Donald Trump against this accusation of this being a criminal enterprise, you have to take on each one of those grotesque lies in those thirteen lies in that phone call.  I just don't see where the Trump defense begins on material like that.

Copeland replied with a snarky but pleasing quip. The other panelists shared a laugh. Meanwhile, though, Lawrence had made a type of admission:

Possibly blinded by his own tribal messaging, he had offered a stark admission. He can't even see where a defense of Trump might start with respect to those "thirteen lies." 

He can't see where Trump's defense might start! Thus spake our tribal thought leader.

Alas! Our tribunes have behaved this way dating all the way back to their endless claims about the way Robert Mueller was going to dismantle Trump. (Surely, Mueller already had the complete tax records, we were told again and again.)

Also, dating back to their clueless judgments in July 2015. At that time, they were sure, completely sure, that Candidate Trump's snarky comment about POW John McCain was going to end his campaign right there!

Alas! Our blue tribe tribunes have been remarkably clueless every step of the way as Trump has risen to political power and to cultural dominance. Last Thursday night, Lawrence was boasting about his cluelessness—about the fact that he can't even imagine how a defense night work.

Copeland replied with a bit of snark, and the whole panel chuckled. Moments later, Andrew Weissmann did a great deal better. 

But all in all, last Thursday's hour was a sponge bath of tribal comfort food as we and our tribunes convinced ourselves that this latest long national nightmare would turn out well for our side.

Tomorrow, we'll show you what Weissmann said to Lawrence that night and then we'll continue from there. All in all, we'll be suggesting this:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but our blue tribe's corporate tribunes have rarely been especially helpful over the past eight years.

Good grief! As Lawrence puzzled and Copeland quipped, Trump was running even with Biden—and given the way our electoral college tips at present, a tie goes to the Republican.

Could Donald J. Trump get elected next year? There's no way to know what's going to happen, but we'd have to say that he certainly could.

Also, concerning those upcoming trials, we'd like to remind you of this:

It isn't solely a question of how Trump's defense might seem to a bunch of people like us. How might a Trump defense seem to those one or two jurors—to the one or two jurors which could stop a conviction? How does all this happy talk sound to friends and neighbors like them? 

How might the Fani Willis indictment seem to fellow citizens like them? On blue tribe cable, the question is rarely asked. 

We just keep wolfing our comfort food. We'll consider this problem all week.

Tomorrow: For starters, what Weissmann said