SATURDAY: An ugly war about an officer's killing!


But mainly, Drum gets it right: We're so old that we can remember when topics like the ones we'll cite might have seemed to matter.

In fact, topics like these never mattered. We're so old that we can remember when you could still pretend.

We refer to several pieces of excellent work authored yesterday by Kevin Drum. We'd give one piece of Drum's work a straight-A grade. We'd give the second piece of work a grade of I, for Incomplete.

Let's be clear! No one cares, or ever did care, about the topics involved in Drum's reports. On the brighter side, we can report this one small advance in public understanding:

By now, it has at least become quite clear that no one of consequence cares.

All that matters at this late date is the ugly war which is developing, day by day, between spear-chuckers from Red America and their Blue America counterparts. This morning, that ugly war involved an array of angry claims concerning the shooting death, this past Tuesday, of Jonathan Diller, a 31-year-old officer with the New York City Police Department.

The war about Diller's death was quite ugly this morning on Fox. The larger war between the two Americas will only get uglier and more heated as the year proceeds.

On the "cable news" Fox News Channel, you have a gang of flyweight droogs who are pushing propaganda about several topics where the merits are so clear that even they can get it right in their basic stance.

On the "cable news" MSNBC, a group of more distinguished propagandists propagandize on our behalf is more sophisticated ways, largely by disappearing the topics which serve our own tribe poorly.

Regarding the topics which Drum explored, let us say this about that:

Propagandists from Blue America don't care about these topics. Propagandists from Red America don't give a flying fark either.

That said, Drum discussed one topic which we ourselves have been discussing since the 1970s. He then discussed a second topic, specifically citing something we ourselves recently wrote.

We're so old that we can remember when topics like these almost seemed to matter! At this time, very few people are still involved in any such pretense.

Topic 1: The good, decent children of Flint

The first post to which we'll refer you involves the good, decent children of Flint.

Drum's post involves an erroneous report in the Washington Post about the way those kids were affected by the 2014 Flinton water crisis. The post appears beneath this headline:

Here’s yet more misleading “science” about the Flint lead crisis

The background here would be this:

Starting in the mid-1960s, our major mainstream and liberal orgs began to pretend that we actually care about children like these. By now, it's clear that no one actually does or ever did—that these efforts tend were largely performative all the way down.

Also, there's the never-ending journalistic and academic incompetence. We'll summarize like this:

Drum links to this March 13 report in the Washington Post about one alleged consequence of the Flint water crisis. More specifically, he links to a Post report about the alleged drop in test scores by Flint's school kids in the aftermath of that high-profile event.

As Drum explains, the report in the Post was grossly inaccurate. So was a formal academic study which the Post's reporter took at face value. 

You can peruse Drum's post for yourselves. We'll add this bit of information concerning the Washington Post:

The reporter of the Post's report is two years out of college. She's officially listed by the Post as "a weather and climate reporter."

In other words, she's a young reporter with no background, experience or expertise in the realm of public schools and public school test scores. If an editor was involved in the report, he or she was apparently similarly clueless.

The Washington Post is a major newspaper which engages in all sorts of performative posing concerning the interests of low-income black and brown students. Just as it has ever been, the paper seems to have exactly zero accumulated expertise regarding a topic as basic as the one Drum's post explores.

This is the way it has always worked at our major newspapers! Even within the major orgs of Blue America, there's no sign that anyone actually cares about low-income kids or that anyone ever will.

We've been writing about bungled test score reporting since the 1970s. It's impossible to get major newspapers to report such topics with anything resembling even the more modest degree of technical competence. 

Simply put, it can't be done. By their works and their indolence you can know them, unless you prefer to pretend.

By the way, no one behaved more irresponsibly with respect to Flint's water crisis than Blue America's Rachel Maddow. She persistently failed to explore the scientific merits of various claims, focusing instead on trying to get Michigan's Republican governor frog-marched off to jail.

Today, getting Donald J. Trump locked up is our tribe's one major project. Our tribal leaders then to be very dumb, very obedient and extremely unhelpful.

Special bonus: Don't miss this statement from the academic study on which the Post was reporting:

"Between 2011 and 2019, including the 2014-15 crisis period, the incidence of elevated blood lead in Flint children was always at least 47% lower than in the control city of Detroit."

That's right! Kids in Flint were always better off, with respect to lead, than their counterparts in Detroit! Our multimillionaire cable thought leaders never told us that. Our thought leaders, much like theirs, tend to be borderline clowns.

Topic 2: How do border procedures work?

We'd give Kevin a straight A grade for that post about Flint. We'll give him an I for Incomplete concerning his very promising second post, which appears beneath this headline:

About a third of all border crossers ask for asylum

In that second post, Kevin lays out some basic facts about the way border procedures are driven by certain laws concerning asylum requests. We'll direct you to this nugget passage from Kevin's post:

I've written about asylum before, but usually I just assume everyone knows it's a problem and then move on from there. So in case you don't, here it is in plain words: If you get across the border and claim asylum, international law—long ago incorporated into US law as well—requires that we hear your case. You get to stay until we do.

According to Kevin's account, current procedures at the southern border are being directed by "international law," which was "long ago incorporated into US law as well." 

We don't doubt that those statements are true. That said, a whole lot more that remains unexplained, and the point we were making was this:

You never hear such explanations offered on Blue Tribe cable. On Bue Tribe cable, as on Red Tribe cable, you simply hear the recitation of a few mandated talking-points, followed by this exclamation by the next pundit up:

That's exactly right!

In that post, Kevin reproduces a graphic we've linked to earlier—a graphic which shows the massive rise in asylum requests (and subsequent entries) over the past few years. 

He also refers to our complaint about President Biden. That complaint would go like this:

President Biden has offered no fireside chats. He has offered no Oval Office address. He said and did nothing in recent years as the situation at the border turned into an obvious administrative farce. If he loses his re-election bid, it will largely be because of that remarkable act of silence and apparent indifference in the face of a baldly absurd state of affairs.

The obedient children at Blue America's "cable news" channels also disappeared this topic over the past several years. At Fox, they kept thumping the drums very hard.

In this way, even the clown-car denizens at Fox got to be more right than wrong when it came to the ludicrous lack of action by our own tribe's public officials and media stars.

The Fox News Channel is largely peopled by flyweights and clowns—but so what? Our own tribe's behaviors have often been so absurd and so inexplicable that even a bunch of clowns like Gutfeld and Watters and Judge Jeannine can't avoid getting it basically right.

If President Biden loses this year, it will largely be due to this. The stars of Blue America's "cable news" channels have politely kept their traps shut, just as they did in several major episodes in the past.

Our stars are former Rhodes scholars. Their stars are wrestlers and clowns!

You'll have to click to see for yourselves!

FRIDAY, MARCH 29, 2024

Termagant calls his shot: Last evening, it seemed that Greg Gutfeld was having an off night.

His hourlong "cable news" program began at 10 p.m., as it does each weekday night. But it wasn't until 10:05 that he issued his nightly joke—the nightly joke about Joy Behar being way too fat.

It seemed that the angriest termagant in the world was possibly out of sorts! Eventually, though, his parody program found its stride, though you'll have to bite the bullet and click a few clicks to see what we mean by that. 

After his nightly joke about Behar being too fat, Gutfeld offered a monologue about the way the world is pretty much falling apart. The prime example he offered was the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge. 

Eventually, he almost seemed to suggest that things have been falling part because Pete Buttigieg is way too woke.

How dumb does it get on this astonishing "cable news" program? During his monologue, Gutfeld cited a recent study from an international journal which has been the focus of controversy concerning its possibly shaky publishing standards. Title included, the study starts like this:

Is society caught up in a Death Spiral? Modeling societal demise and its reversal

Just like an army of ants caught in an ant mill, individuals, groups and even whole societies are sometimes caught up in a Death Spiral, a vicious cycle of self-reinforcing dysfunctional behavior characterized by continuous flawed decision making, myopic single-minded focus on one (set of) solution(s), denial, distrust, micromanagement, dogmatic thinking and learned helplessness. We propose the term Death Spiral Effect to describe this difficult-to-break downward spiral of societal decline. Specifically, in the current theory-building review we aim to: (a) more clearly define and describe the Death Spiral Effect; (b) model the downward spiral of societal decline as well as an upward spiral; (c) describe how and why individuals, groups and even society at large might be caught up in a Death Spiral; and (d) offer a positive way forward in terms of evidence-based solutions to escape the Death Spiral Effect. Management theory hints on the occurrence of this phenomenon and offers turn-around leadership as solution [sic]...

Is society "caught up in a Death Spiral...just like an army of ants caught in an ant mill?" As always, so too here:

Everything is possible! 

That said, Gutfeld and his nightly army of flyweights—on this occasion, two low-grade comedians; one former heavyweight wrestling champion; one other person who shouldn't have been there—proceeded to pretend to stage a heavy discussion of this deep-think, heavyweight topic.

How about it? Is society "caught up in a Death Spiral," just like an army of ants? Is everything falling apart, perhaps because Secretary Buttigieg is just too nuttily woke, just like Behar is too fat?

Ironically, Gutfeld and his merry band went on to prove that point through their own behavior during the course of the evening! At this point, full disclosure:

We aren't going to try to paraphrase the discussions which occurred later in this brain-dead program. You'll have to click a couple of clicks to see what we're talking about.

That opening segment dealt with the heavyweight question about the Death Spiral Effect, as first observed in ants. For his soul-draining second segment, Gutfeld focused on a comical case of tampon use by a college student.

Tampon use by 12-year-old girls and by college students? It's the type of conversation which allows Gutfeld to stay awake and focused. To watch this soul-draining second segment posing as a type of "cable news" discussion, you'll have to start by clicking here.

For his program's fourth segment, Gutfeld chose wisely again. This time, he returned to a topic from last month—to a report about strippers in the state of Washington attempting to unionize (or something like that).

Once again, this is the sort of topic which allows Gutfeld and his hand-picked guests to keep from falling asleep. The conversation which resulted was soul-draining once again. To watch that "girls working the pole" discussion, start by clicking this.

This conversation crackled along in the predictable manner. At one point, a mystery guest—a person who should never have been on that program—offered this possible complaint:

GUTFELD (3/29/24): Sage, I want the stripping career to be a long and comfortable one!


MYSTERY GUEST: ...You know, we've talked about orifices a lot today, something I wasn't warned about.

We were sorry to see that the mystery guest had agreed to appear on this program. That said, let us add this: 

No orifices, no peace! On this parody of "cable news" programming, nothing else can keep the moderator's band of flyweights from drifting off to sleep.

Are things falling apart, the way the program's termagant host had suggested at the start of the program as he pretended to discuss that technical paper from that possibly shaky journal?

Yes, things are wholly falling apart in our clown-car nation. On a nightly basis, gong-shows like this are now presented as "cable news," and no one in the finer, higher-level world seems prepared or willing to comment, complain or notice.

Readers, it's all anthropology now. This is part of what we the humans are like. We told you that long ago!

DISPUTATION: One guest sketched an explanation!

FRIDAY, MARCH 29, 2024

Real Time gets it right: Bill Maher's Real Time program now airs on CNN as well as on HBO.

CNN re-airs the program on Saturday night, one night after HBO does the initial broadcast. Because its provenance has expanded, we were able to watch last weekend's entire show!

For that reason, we were able to see one of Bill's guests offer the explanation shown below. Bill's guest was explaining a procedure which now helps control life at the southern border:

FIRST BILL MAHER GUEST (3/22/24): So there was this video which you might have seen this week where a bunch of migrants flood the National Guard which was there and overtake them, pushing past them. You know, people were knocked down, etcetera...

Part of the problem here is the asylum system. We have this giant magnet—

You know, after World War II, we were—very understandably and correctly—embarrassed by what we did about Jews seeking asylum from Germany and Europe. And so we have this asylum law where, if you get to the United States, we are going to hear your asylum claim.

Well unfortunately, that means there's just a huge incentive, any way you can, to get across that Rio Grande river. Because then we have to hear your asylum claim. That's the other thing that only Congress can fix! 

The president cannot fix that. And as long as that's the rule—that, get here and you can stay as long as you say the magic words: "I have a credible fear of returning to my country"—we're not going to fix the border.

SECOND BILL MAHER GUEST: I agree with you...

You may, or you may not, agree with that first guest's implied or apparent views concerning immigration policy in general. For ourselves, we were struck by the explanation she offered—and also, by the instant agreement voiced by that second guest.

Who were those two Real Time guests? The first guest was Sarah Isgur, who has been all over the landscape in Republican Party politics and officialdom over the past dozen years.

The second guest was Beto O'Rourke, the liberal former congressman who was the Democratic Party's candidate for governor of Texas in 2022. 

To watch videotape of Isgur's fuller statement, you can just click here. That said, the two Maher guests are both Texans, though they hail from opposite sides of the political tracks. 

We offer Isgur's statement for a basic reason. In that brief statement, she offers an explanation of one of the procedures which has made current policy at the border an apparently inexplicable mess—a confusing mess with a powerful downside for President Biden's attempt to get re-elected this year.

We offer the text of Isgur's statement for a somewhat peculiar reason. We offer this text, not because Isgur's explanation of asylum law is necessarily perfectly accurate, but because of the fact that she offered an explanation at all.

For those of us who watch "cable news" programs, such explanations pretty much don't exist. Blue America's cable news channel and Red America's cable news channel operate on a similar set of assumptions. Those procedures work like this:

Carefully selected guests spend hours on end repeating mandated talking points. Little attempt at explanation will interrupt the pleasing flow of mandated tribal agreement. 

Everyone understands the rules of this (profit-seeking) game. To appear as a guest on Red or Blue "cable news" programs, the pundit must memorize one mandated statement:

That's exactly right!

Having voiced complete agreement with whatever the previous pundit just said, the second pundit is now free to say the same thing, possibly spinning things up a bit.

As we watched the Maher show last weekend, we saw something different occur:

Isgur gave a cogent explanation of one of the factors lying behind the current chaos at the southern border. Instantly, O'Rourke—he hails from the other side of the aisle—quickly said that he agreed with what she had just said.

That said, he was agreeing with a description of an American law, not with a mandated partisan talking point. Also, though, we note this:

As you can see, Isgur was saying that President Biden can't "fix" that asylum law. She said that only Congress can do that. 

Indeed, a person watching Maher's program this night would have had little way of knowing that Isgur's career history lies in the realm of conservative Republican politics, including her stint as spokesperson for Attorney General Sessions under President Donald J. Trump.

President Biden can't "fix" that asylum law all by himself, Isgur said. If we had been there, we might have added this:

Yes, but he could get off his ascot and tell the country about the way these procedures currently work. He could actually state his views, in some detail, about the way he thinks the current chaos should be addressed.

President Biden failed to do any such thing over the past several years. In the aftermath of these years of inexplicable silence, every guest on Blue America's "cable news" programs knows the mandated talking-point which is now "exactly right:"

A bipartisan group of senators just fashioned the most comprehensive and the toughest immigration law ever seen in the past many years.

Those who propagandize Blue America all know they should start with that statement. The next Blue pundit will then emit this:

That's exactly right!

On Red America's cable news channel, the participants know they must say something different. They know they must say that Biden dismantled all of Donald Trump's policies, the policies which (they say) had the border sealed tight as a drum.

What was our reaction to watching Isgur and O'Rourke? Our basic reaction went like this:

Along with the help of the moderator, they produced a smarter conversation than any conservation we've ever seen on Red or Blue "cable news" programs. It even included an explanation of one of the laws which lies behind current border procedures!

Isgur's explanation of that asylum law jumped out at us as the crown jewel of their discussion. No one offers such explanations on Blue America's "cable news" programs, and no one ever will.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, and our nation is in trouble. Part of the problem is this:

Our species just isn't real sharp.

As was true on the plains before the towering walls of Troy, our brains are wired for tribal formation and warfare. 

The notion that "rational discourse" should be part of the deal came to human affairs quite late in the game. That notion has never quite taken hold, as our "cable news" programs now show us.

Our view? First, a tip of the hat to Bill himself, who we first met in 1982. Does anyone fully understand how hard it is to do what he does—to offer intelligent discussions of major issues with extremely good jokes scattered throughout?

No one else can do what Bill does or can even come close. Greg Gutfeld proves that every night on Fox. Last night was especially gruesome.

There was no major point of disputation between Isgur and O'Rourke last Friday night. Amazingly, the emphasis landed on explanation, not on promulgation of the mandated talking points which increase viewership and corporate profits.

The conversation we saw was much, much smarter than any conversation we recall seeing on Red or Blue cable news. There was even an explanation of one of the laws which now control the puzzling state of affairs at the border—a state of affairs which could conceivably send an unelectable candidate like Donald J. Trump back to the White House next year.

In yesterday morning's report, we discussed a cable news program on which Alex Wagner broke all the rules. She allowed an outsider guest, a Georgias State law professor, to stage a minor disputation—to disagree, on two points, with the views of a regular guest.

This minor piece of disputation added a bit of nuance to our own understanding of what was happening  in Georgia with respect to the Fani Willis racketeering indictments. A minor disputation had been allowed:

On cable, that's never done.

Last Friday night, Bill Maher and these two guests staged an intelligent conversation. The conversation didn't involve a bunch of reliable employees reciting mandated points for the purpose of providing pleasure and reassurance to a tribal audience.

Bill went on to offer a monologue which we ourselves thought was right on target. ("New Rule: Identity Crisis." To watch the whole thing click here.)

As Bill noted, no one has to agree with the points which were advanced, and some people won't. That said, we thought his monologue was smarter, and more salient, than anything you'll ever see on Blue America's cable.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep! That, of course, was already the case when warrior fought on the plains outside Troy. Can we possibly see ourselves a bit more clearly by venturing within the pages of that ancient poem of war? 

The Gutfeld! program was clown car last night. Was Blue America's "cable news" really that much better? 

No disputation need apply when Blue America's cable news programs get started. As with Red America's cable news programs, so too with ours:

The corporate model is built around the recitation of mandated points. No explanations need apply.

 Very few ever do.

Professor Kahneman dies at 90!


Thinking slow and slower: Professor Daniel Kahneman died yesterday. Headline included, the start of the New York Times obituary provides some basic background:

Daniel Kahneman, Who Plumbed the Psychology of Economics, Dies at 90

Daniel Kahneman, who never took an economics course but who pioneered a psychologically based branch of that field that led to a Nobel in economic science in 2002, died on Wednesday. He was 90.


Professor Kahneman, who was long associated with Princeton University and lived in Manhattan, employed his training as a psychologist to advance what came to be called behavioral economics. The work, done largely in the 1970s, led to a rethinking of issues as far-flung as medical malpractice, international political negotiations and the evaluation of baseball talent, all of which he analyzed...

As opposed to traditional economics, which assumes that human beings generally act in fully rational ways and that any exceptions tend to disappear as the stakes are raised, the behavioral school is based on exposing hard-wired mental biases that can warp judgment, often with counterintuitive results.

Do we humans "generally act in fully rational ways?" If memory serves, Sigmund Freud had suggested that we possibly don't. 

According to that overview, the behavioral school of economics heads in a similar direction. Everyone seems to agree that Kahneman's work was very important—but as the Times obituary continues, a person might start to wonder why:

Professor Kahneman delighted in pointing out and explaining what he called universal brain “kinks.” The most important of these, the behaviorists hold, is loss-aversion: Why, for example, does the loss of $100 hurt about twice as much as the gaining of $100 brings pleasure?

Among its myriad implications, loss-aversion theory suggests that it is foolish to check one’s stock portfolio frequently, since the predominance of pain experienced in the stock market will most likely lead to excessive and possibly self-defeating caution.

Loss-aversion also explains why golfers have been found to putt better when going for par on a given hole than for a stroke-gaining birdie. They try harder on a par putt because they dearly want to avoid a bogey, or a loss of a stroke.

Mild-mannered and self-effacing, Professor Kahneman not only welcomed debate on his ideas; he also enlisted the help of adversaries as well as colleagues to perfect them...

Professor Kahneman won a Nobel prize for this work in economics. Did he really win that prize because he was able to explain why golfers putt with greater success in certain situations?

(Also, please don't check your stock portfolio on an hourly basis?)

We aren't trying to question the salience of Professor Kahneman's work. We may be questioning the capabilities of modern high-end journalism.

Having said that, we'll add this:

There has been one great learning in American politics over the past dozen years (or more). That one great learning is this:

There's no claim so apparently crazy, or so plainly unsupported by evidence, that you can't get very large numbers of people to believe it.

On balance, it seems that we humans aren't always supper-rational in the ways we assemble our ideas concerning what is true out there in the big wide world. 

That seems to be true concerning red tribe voters who have come to believe that the last election was "stolen." Still, we wouldn't say that this general problem is confined to the red tribe only.

DISPUTATION: Alex Wagner got it right!


Disputation within the tribe: Sometimes, representatives of two warring parties may engage in disputation.

During the long-abandoned "Crossfire era" of American broadcast news, that was the familiar nightly practice on American "cable news."

Some member of the Republican Party would appear on a program like Crossfire. That person would then debate—or would perhaps pretend to debate—some member of the Democratic Party.

Often, these events were pseudo-discussions—mere imitations of life. Basic issues never got settled, and they very rarely got clarified.

(In a good solid year of such disputations, our news orgs were unable to settle the major dispute from the Gingrich/Clinton years: Was the Republican Party recommending "cuts" to the Medicare program? Or was the party simply slowing the rate at which the program would grow?)

(A solid year of such discussions led to zero clarity. Our journalists are often severely lacking in basic skills—an obvious fact which flies in the face of the things we're encouraged to imagine.)

Still and all, it's easy to understand the logic behind some such format:

 Political Party A says X, but Political Party B says Y! Let's bring these warring parties together and let them pretend to debate!

It's easy to see the logic behind that type of disputation. But how about disputation within some party—within some nation or within some political tribe?

How about disputation within the clan? That's an alternate form of disputation, one with a long human history. Consider what happens right in Book One of The Iliad, the ancient poem of war,

Agamemnon, lord of men, had flown into a fury. He has stolen the daughter of a priest to serve as his sexual slave. But now the gods have intervened, in a way which suggests that he must give this young woman back, if only for a fine ransom.

Agamemnon, lord of men, doesn't want to do this. Trembling, Calchas—a seer who reads the flight of birds—rises within a tribal council to challenge, question or dispute Agamemnon's view of the matter.

Calchas doesn't want to dispute the view of someone so powerful. Before he explains the will of the gods, he seeks protection from Achilles:

"Achilles, dear to Zeus—
you order me to explain Apollo's anger,
the distant deadly Archer? I will tell it all.
But strike a pact with me, swear you will defend me

with all your heart, with words and strength of hand.
For there is a man I will enrage—I see it now— 
a powerful man who lords it over all the Argives,
one the Achaeans must obey. A mighty king,
raging against an inferior, is too strong.
Even if he can swallow down his wrath today,
still he will nurse the burning in his chest
until. sooner or later, he sends it bursting forth.
Consider it closely, Achilles. Will you save me?"
And the matchless runner reassured him: "Courage!
Out with it now. Calchas. Reveal the will of god,
whatever you may know. And I swear by Apollo
dear to Zeus, the power you pray to, Calchas,
when you reveal god's will to the Argives—no one,
not while I am alive
and see the light on earth, no one
will lay his heavy hands on you by the hollow ships."

It's no fun to dispute someone within the tribe or within the clan, let alone someone as powerful as Agamemnon. That said:

Thus reassured by the mighty Achilles, Calchas reveals the will of the gods. The ensuing disputation continues on into the night, with various warriors rising in council to state their view of the matter.

Agamemnon, Achilles and Calchas are all men on the Argive side in this ancient war poem. They're part of the party which has spent ten years laying siege to Troy—but all through the pages of The Iliad, we see acts of disputation within the Argive ranks.

In Book Nine, the headstrong young Diomedes hotly disputes Agamemnon, who has suffered an emotional meltdown; Nestor is forced to intercede to bring Argive factions back together. 

But these are all men of the Argive side. Their disputations are taking place in nighttime councils—nighttime councils within the tribe.

In the world of modern day "cable news," such exchanges rarely occur. On the Fox News Channel and on MSNBC, a certain hiring regime obtains:

Everyone hired to appear on these channels will agree with the views expressed by rest of their "dear friends."  Whatever Pundit A has just said, Pundit B is expected to start by saying this:

"That's exactly right."

After swearing this loyalty oath, Pundit B will proceed to make the same point—or will perhaps engage in a bit of embellishment, making the point even more convincing for the channel's tribal viewers.

During the Crossfire era, disputation was the norm on this nation's "cable news" programs. But in our modern era, the cable news channels are now almost wholly "segregated by viewpoint."

Fox News belongs to Red America; MSNBC belong to Blue. It's very rare to see people on either one of these channels cable who hail from the other side.

It's also rare to see disputes break out between members of the prevailing tribe. Pundits are paid to give voice to the tribe's mandated views. Few people risk their well-paid jobs by introducing some point of nuance or disagreement.

Way back when, on February 2, Alex Wagner broke out of this low-IQ rut on her nightly MSNBC program, Alex Wagner Tonight. 

Good lord! Wagner brought Andrew Weissmann, a highly credentialed legal expert, on the show to talk about emerging charges against Fani Willis. But she also spoke with Clark Cunningham, a law professor or from Georg is State, and Cunningham was allowed to state a view which plainly differed, in several respects, from the views expressed be Weissmann.

This is simply never done! Meanwhile, please understand:

Cunningham wasn't defending Donald J. Trump as he critiqued, and even criticized, Willis and her assistant, Nathan Wade. One week before, he had offered a guest essay in the New York Times, in which, despite its offensive headline, he had closed his essay as shown:

Why Fani Willis Should Step Aside in the Trump Case in Georgia


To be clear, I say this as someone who has generally approved of the way Ms. Willis has handled the case. And I believe that the indictment against Mr. Trump and his co-defendants has a solid factual and legal foundation.

For Ms. Willis, taking a personal leave need not be considered an admission of wrongdoing. This is the most important case in Georgia right now, arguably the most important case in the nation, and potentially of historic significance.

Choosing the option that has the best chance of keeping the case on track, even at a personal cost, is the right decision for Ms. Willis to make as a public-spirited official.

So he'd said in the New York Times. In the later discussion on Alex Wagner Tonight, Cunningham differed with Weissmann's views in several different ways, with Weissmann offering his own view of Cunningham's critiques. 

To watch that whole segment from Wagner Tonight, you can just click here. It's very rare to see exchanges of this type on the Fox News Channel—or on MSNBC.

Wagner let a bit of nuance enter the picture that night. In our view, Alex Wagner got it right!

Within our modern journalistic world, repetition isn't just the title of a puzzling 1843 book by Soren Kierkegaard, the most depressed person in Europe. Within our journalistic firmament, repetition is a pseudo-journalistic way of life.

Each pundit repeats what the last pundit said. This next pundit may even jack the mandated claim up a tad.

Never is heard a discouraging word! This is a very unhelpful framework, even among "dear, dear friends."

We've slid a long way, baby! Calchas was allowed engage in disputation with Agamemnon, lord of men.  

Today, our cable news hosts are even more mighty. No one disagrees with them!

Tomorrow: Bill Maher (and his guests) gets it majorly right

Letters regarding disinformation!


What's up with the New York Times? Misinformation has been playing a very large role in our modern-day politics.

(Sometimes, the misinformation qualifies as disinformation. It isn't always easy to know if that has occurred.)

At any rate, the promulgation of misinformation has driven vast amounts of modern-day politics. This morning, the New York Times published a set of four letters under this headline:

The Debate Over Free Speech, Disinformation and Censorship

To appearances, all four letters were written in response to a front-page report from Sunday, March 17. The first letter specifically cites that report, which actually topped that day's front page in New York Times print editions. 

Today, the Times has published four letters about that March 17 report. Here's how today's first letter appears:

To the Editor:

Re “Trump Allies Are Winning War Over Disinformation” (front page, March 17):

The U.S. Supreme Court put limits on free speech, saying you can’t falsely shout “fire” in a crowded theater. Fundamental to our democracy is an informed electorate. Yet our courts seem to be OK with a flood of lies and propaganda masquerading as news and aimed at burning down our democracy.

This should concern every American for several reasons, including the surge of social media sites that contain much misinformation, the closure of many local newspapers, a decline in the number of real journalists, and an increase in the amount of misinformation spread by adversaries like Russia and China in an attempt to affect the outcome of our elections.

R— D— / Richmond Hill, Ga.

Strange! We didn't recall seeing that front-page report—and so we decided to check!

Sure enough! As it turns out, the New York Times has done it again!

On March 17, that report was actually the featured front-page report in the hard-copy Times. In print editions, it sat in the upper right-hand corner of the front page, as you can see right here.

It topped the front page of the Sunday Times! That said:

At the New York Times "Today's Paper" site, the report wasn't listed that day. If you read the Times online that day, you most likely wouldn't have known that the news report even existed!

As a general matter, we don't get a print edition of the Sunday Times. On that particular Sunday, we would have scanned the newspaper's contents by using the Today's Paper site.

That site purports to list all the reports found in that day's print editions. That said, there were five reports on the front page of that day's print editions, but the Today's Paper site listed just four!

That's right! The most important report on that day's front page was omitted from the listings in the Today's Paper site. The Times seems to do this rather frequently, as we've noted on several occasions in the past few months.

Citizens, let's review:

The headline on the report said this:

Trump Allies Are Winning War Over Disinformation

In the March 17 print editions, it was the featured report on the front page of the Sunday Times.

In print editions, it was the most prominent news report in the whole dad-burned newspaper! But if you used the March 17 Today's Paper site, that important news report didn't exist—and even today, it still doesn't.

The Times has done this again and again. For some unknown reason, it fails to list a front-page report—often the featured front-page report—in its Today's Paper listings.

It's a very strange thing to do. Does the Times ever plan to stop?

Special bonus link: If you want to read that front-page report, here it is—ten days later.

DISPUTATION: An occasional change in the daily routine!


Musings from the gurney: Does it matter? Does it matter how we characterize a misstatement? 

Does it matter if we call the misstatement a "lie" as opposed to (let's say) a simple "falsehood?" What the heck is in a word? Does it matter which word we use?

Yesterday afternoon, we returned to that favorite topic. This morning, propped up on a semi-gurney, we thought about the various ways a statement or claim can be (said to be) less than accurate.  

As we did, we thought about a somewhat similar passage from the later Wittgenstein—from Philosophical Investigations. We couldn't quite think what the passage was. 

After returning home, we were finally able to find it! The passage starts—merely starts—like this:

66. Consider for example the proceedings that we call "games." I mean board-games, card-games, ball-games, Olympic games, and so on. What is common to them all?—Don't say: "There must be something common, or they would not be called 'games' "—but look and see whether there is anything common to all.—For if you look at them you will not see something that is common to all, but similarities, relationships, and a whole series of them at that. 

To repeat: don't think, but look!—Look for example at board-games, with their multifarious relationships. Now pass to card-games; here you find many correspondences with the first group, but many common features drop out, and others appear. When we pass next to ball games, much that is common is retained, but much is lost...

That's just the start of the passage we fuzzily had in mind.

Within the context of Wittgenstein's largely puzzling book, what's the point of all that convoluted claptrap? For today, let's skip that question!

That said, it matters whether you call a misstatement a "lie," as opposed to simply saying that the statement or claim isn't accurate.

We're always amazed when people on the highest levels of American discourse seem to be unaware of that fairly obvious fact. It makes a giant difference as a nation's discourse unfolds—though at times of war, the tribal warrior will always default to the preferred martial term, "lie."

Speaking of times of war, the ten-year siege of sacred Troy has turned against the invading Achaeans at the start of Book Nine in The Iliad. Responding to death on the battlefield, Agamemnon, lord of men, suffers a breakdown that rivals any 2 in the morning, all-caps tweet delivered by Donald J. Trump.

Agamemnon gathers the troops. Streaming tears like a dark spring, he suffers a major meltdown:

Lord marshal Agamemnon rose up in their midst,
streaming tears
like a dark spring running down
some desolate rock face
, its shaded currents flowing.
So, with a deep groan, the king addressed his armies:
"Friends, lords of the Argives, all my captains.
Cronus' son has entangled me in madness, blinding ruin-
Zeus is a harsh, cruel god. He vowed to me long ago,
he bowed his head that I should never embark for home
till I had brought the walls of Ilium crashing down.
But now, I see, he only plotted brutal treachery:
now he commands me back to Argos in disgrace,
whole regiments of my men destroyed in battle.


So come, follow my orders. Obey me, all you Argives.
Cut and run! Sail home to the fatherland we love!
We'll never take the broad streets of Troy."

Tears streaming down his face, Agamemnon has told the troops that they should abandon their siege of Troy. The headstrong young Diomedes rises and says that he and other young warriors of his ilk are determined to stay and fight.

The ranks of the Achaeans are coming undone. At this point, Nestor the seasoned charioteer scrambles to his feet and offers his usual good sound advice. 

He rebukes Agamemnon and Diomedes both. In the process, he authors one of the greatest short scenes we know of in all of literature:

And all the Achaeans shouted their assent,
stirred by the stallion-breaking Diomedes' challenge.
But Nestor the old driver rose and spoke at once:
"Few can match your power in battle, Diomedes,
and in council you excel all men your age.
So no one could make light of your proposals,
not the whole army—who could contradict you?
But you don't press on and reach a useful end.
How young you are—why, you could be my son,
my youngest-born at that, though you urge our kings
with cool clear sense: what you've said is right.
But it's my turn now, Diomedes,
I think I can claim to have some years on you.
So I must speak up and drive the matter home.

And no one will heap contempt on what I say,
not even mighty Agamemnon. Lost to the clan,
lost to the hearth, lost to the old ways, that one
who lusts for all the horrors of war with his own people.


Atrides. lead the way—you are the greatest king;
spread out a feast for all your senior chiefs.
That is your duty, a service that becomes you...

Nestor has scolded Agamemnon (Atrides) before. In this scene, he rebukes him again, then orders further action. 

In this scene, we're seeing the time-honored practice of disputation within the clan. We're even seeing such disputation directed at Agamemnon, lord of men. 

Eventually, Nestor offers the strongest advice:

Lost to the clan, lost to the hearth, lost to the old ways. that one who lusts for all the horrors of war with his own people.

Corporate bosses of modern-day "cable news," Red and Blue cable news alike, are schooling us Americans in "the horrors of war with our own people."

At this point, we rarely see disputation even within the clan on such propaganda / entertainment / tribal reassurance programs. No one ever challenges the hosts of these scripted "cable news" programs. By law, the scripted response to every comment must start off like this:

"That's exactly right."

Before the week is done, we hope to mention what we saw when we watched Bill Maher's HBO show last weekend. For today, we'll riddle you this:

Especially at time of war, it's exciting to accuse The Others of lies. That said, such name-calling tends to be dumb on the merits, and it almost surely isn't a way to press on to a useful end.

What was Wittgenstein talking about? We'll leave that for another day. For today, we'll tell you this:

We saw a smarter set of conversations, watching last Friday's Real Time program, than we think we've ever seen on an actual "cable news" program. 

Red America's cable news channel has largely been handed to flyweights and chimps.  Pseudo-discussions are made to take place—imitations of life. 

That's how it is on Red America's "cable news" channel. Its pundits still get to be right on a regular basis, so inexplicable is a great deal of current White House behavior.

That's how it is on red tribe cable. Is Blue America's cable channel really that much smarter?

Ladies and gentlemem, what's in a word?


Combatting falsehoods (or possibly lies): We'll be absorbing a medical procedure tomorrow morning. For that reason, we don't expect to post again until Thursday. 

As of this very afternoon, we had shut things down for the day! Still and all, we were drawn in by Quinta Jurecic's new essay for The Atlantic. 

She's writing about a very important topic. The dual headlines said this:

Good Luck Fighting Disinformation
A group that formed during the pandemic to counter medical lies found that every lever it pulled on failed to produce the results it was hoping for.

For the record, Jurecic is very bright and very experienced. Her identity line says this:

Quinta Jurecic is a contributing writer at The Atlantic, a fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, and a senior editor at Lawfare.

Jurecic is smart. That said, she had us at the word "disinformation," but also at the word "lies."

The essay concerns a well-intentioned group which set out, during the pandemic, to counter inaccurate claims about Covid. Or was the group attempting to counteract "lies?" 

Jurecic is very smart. But early on, in the passage shown below, it seems that she may not be sure:

JURECIC (3/26/24): The collapse of No License for Disinformation, and of AB 2098, is a cautionary tale about why the harmful falsehoods flooding American life are so difficult to control, even when enormous efforts are made to do so. Sawyer and his colleagues believed that disinformation could be clearly identified and successfully countered—that the industry consensus would support them, that allies would line up behind them, that their professional organization had the power to tamp down those untruths. All of these assumptions proved wrong, to varying degrees. The market for lies still has no shortage of buyers and sellers, and few, if any, levers exist that can directly change this dynamic.

What was the group in question trying to counter? Was it trying to counter "falsehoods" and "untruths," or was it trying to counter "lies?"

Also, is every "harmful falsehood" a form of "disinformation?" And is "disinformation" the same thing as "misinformation?" 

Also, why should anyone care?

For now, we'll postpone an answer to that last question. First, let's examine the somewhat pessimistic passage which closes Jurecic's essay:

JURECIC: The difficulty of responding to falsehoods about COVID isn’t just because of the First Amendment or institutional inaction. It’s because there’s political benefit in promoting those falsehoods, and political, legal, and even physical danger for those who oppose them. Lies, it turns out, have a constituency.

That constituency uses harassment as a tool to silence those who disagree, as Sawyer and Nichols discovered—a way to raise the cost of pushing back. Reporting and research have documented how both misinformation researchers and health-care workers seeking to combat pandemic falsehoods have struggled under the weight of online threats. Among the doctors affected by such harassment is Natalia Solenkova, a Florida critical-care physician who collaborated with the NLFD team and was later targeted with online abuse after a faked tweet of hers began circulating widely among anti-vaccine activists and was promoted by Joe Rogan. (Rogan later apologized.) “Whoever speaks about disinformation immediately gets harassed,” Solenkova told me. “And there is no institution that can support you.” She still posts about health care and COVID on social media, but worries about the security of her job if another, more convincing, fake begins to circulate.

Reflecting on her initial efforts with NLFD to respond to COVID lies, Solenkova seemed to look back on that early idealism with resignation. She explained to me over email that the organization’s work had been motivated by the belief that responding to falsehoods was largely a project of spreading truth. If No License for Disinformation could identify those falsehoods and explain their dangers clearly enough, the group had reasoned, then surely medical authorities would take action. But, she wrote, “we were naive.”

 Had Solenkova been "responding to falsehoods?" Or had she been trying to "respond to COVID lies?"

Surely, everyone knows that "lies" are a subset of the (presumably) much wider universe of "falsehoods" (or "untruths"). Surely, everyone knows that "disinformation" is a subset of the world's larger collection of "misinformation."

Or then again, maybe not! We used to assume that everyone agreed on such basic traditional points. But over the course of the past quarter century, it has seemed increasingly clear that many people, including very bright people within our blue tribe, don't seem to accept such traditional verities at this point.

(We blame our one-time almost friend, David Corn, for dumbing this traditional standard down. And we love David Corn, a genuine prince of a fellow!)

It's endlessly surprising to us when people who are very smart are this cavalier with this kind of language. Jurecic is writing about a very important topic, but it seems to us that her thinking and her analysis are undermined right out of the box.

We'll offer one tiny thought concerning the very important question which lies at the heart of this important essay:

As a general matter, we'll guess that it's easier to get people to rethink a "falsehood" than it is to get them to rethink something you've described or denounced as a "lie."

In a highly partisan age, it's exciting and fun to accuse The Others of "lies." On the downside, it commits the accuser to an act of mind-reading—and it may tend to drive others away.

"Lies" are a subset of "falsehoods!" There was a time before the red-blue wars when we thought that we all agreed on that traditional notion!

(Also, RICO plainly isn't a crime. It's a federal law!)

DISPUTATION: And the absence of same!


Concerning the size of the bond: For us, the story started yesterday with a post by Kevin Drum.

The size of Donald Trump's bond had been reduced! Headline included, the Drumcat offered this:

Trump fine cut in half—for now

Donald Trump has been let off the hook for the full amount of the $454 million bond he was ordered to pay in his business fraud case. An appeals court cut it to $175 million.

This is disappointing for those who enjoy watching Trump squirm, but it's probably reasonable. The court gave no reason for its decision, but more than likely it's because they thought the original penalty was excessive and was likely to be reduced. And since they're the ones who would reduce it, who would know better?

The math in the headline was slightly off. So was the headline's language.

In fact, the size of the bond had been reduced—by substantially more than half. 

For ourselves, we were mainly struck by Drum's suggestion that the appeals court likely thought that the original size of the required bond had been excessive. Also, by his personal assessment—by his assessment that the reduction was "probably reasonable."

For ourselves, we still don't know why someone appealing a legal judgment has to post a giant bond before he can pursue an appeal. At times like these, the great god Explanation tends to defer to more powerful gods, including the powerful god whose name is Partisan Narrative.

That said, Drum's surmise about the appeals court's assessment didn't align with standard blue tribe narrative! It more closely aligned with prevailing red tribe narrative, as did this excerpt from this morning's report in the New York Times:

Trump’s Bond in Civil Fraud Case Is Reduced to $175 Million


In a statement, Mr. Trump said he would “abide by the decision” and either post a bond or put up the money himself. He added that the appellate court’s decision to reduce the bond “shows how ridiculous and outrageous” the $454 million judgment against him is.

While the court, the Appellate Division in Manhattan, did not rule directly on the merits of Mr. Trump’s appeal, its ruling suggests that some of the judges could be sympathetic to Mr. Trump’s case, legal experts said.

Say what? Some of the judges in the Manhattan-based appellate court "could be sympathetic to Mr. Trump’s case?" Again, that would seem to align with red tribe Storyline, according to which the original proceedings in this case were conducted by people who were biased against Donald J. Trump.

As Peter Baker explained two months ago in this New York Times analysis piece, this November's election will involve "two presidents of profoundly different countries, the president of Blue America versus the president of Red America." 

Especially on "cable news" channels, the narrative preferences of those dueling countries were on full display last night.

Each side prayed to the same God, President Lincoln once mournfully said. Last night, each side agreed on one basic point:

A dual system of justice has been put on display in these unfolding events.

Cable news hosts agreed. A dual system of justice has been on full display.

Red and Blue hosts wholly agreed on that basic point. They only disagreed about this:

For pundits speaking to Red America, that dual system of justice has been biased against Donald J. Trump. For viewers living in Blue America, the justice system was bending over backwards again to defer to the former president.

Pundits agreed—a dual system of justice exists. They disagreed on the question of who that system favors! 

We were struck by Drum's post, and then by the Times report, because of the way the assessments in question cut against basic blue tribe narrative. Laura Ingraham put it most mockingly, and possibly best, on her Fox News program last night.

As Ingraham started her hour-long show, she played videotape of figures on MSNBC pushing Blue America's standard assessments. In this excerpt, you can see her playing tape of NeverTrumper Michael Steele, then voicing Red America's assessment: 

INGRAHAM (3/25/24): Yet another in the simpleton pundit category is Michael Steele, the failed former RNC chair. He too is stunned that the appellate court made a sane ruling, posting [this]:

"Again, Donald Trump gets special treatment with his own private system of justice. This makes absolutely no sense."

What makes no sense is that comment. So now, the NeverTrumpers are so deluded they think the New York appellate court is MAGA?

Unpleasant name-calling to the side, Ingraham may seem to have a bit of a point. Is it really likely that a group of five appellate court judges in Manhattan is biased in favor of Trump?

On its face, Ingraham's insinuation may seem to make sense. That said, you can be sure of this one point:

Under current cable news arrangements, any such insinuation will go wholly untested. Such assessments, suggestions or insinuations will never be subject to disputation from those on the Blue America side.

Fox News Channel programs presented legal analysts last night. So did MSNBC programs. That said, these two different sets of legal analysts presented two vastly different sets of assessments of the matters under review.

How red did it get on Ingraham's program? Shortly after she introduced legal analyst David Schoen, he offered this assessment of Trump's impending appeal in the New York civil case:

SCHOEN: I think the court did—took a big step in the right direction. I don't think there should have been any bond for the appeal in this case, and the court certainly had that discretion. 

He has the assets. You know where he is. But I think the underlying conviction is going to be reversed, certainly by the time it reaches the New York Court of Appeals, assuming it has to go that far.

As you have said, no loss, no victim—the banks were more than happy to do what they—to make the loans. They wanted more business, he is an international brand, and so on. 

This is very different from the definition of frauds that we have ever seen before.

Say what? "I think the underlying conviction is going to be reversed, certainly by the time it reaches the New York Court of Appeals?" Are analysts allowed to say that?

More broadly, does any of Schoen's presentation make any sense? Because that's what Red America was being told last night—though under current corporate arrangements, no one watching cable news in Blue America heard anything like that last night.

Red America hears one set of assessments. Blue America hears something completely different. So it goes under current arrangements, in which "segregation by viewpoint" is the prevailing organizational arrangement all through the cable news world.

For the record, some of the comments by Barrister Schoen would have been extremely familiar to viewers in Red America. The notion that there were "no victims" in this civil case—the claim that the banks were perfectly happy with Trump's conduct—is a common talking point on Fox News Channel programs.

Viewers in Red America hear such claims all the time. For all intents and purposes, viewers of cable in Blue America will never hear such claims reported, discussed or assessed.

As we puzzle over last night's Babel, we again refer you to this. On last Friday's PBS NewsHour, David Brooks cited an Associated Press analysis which tended to support certain claims which routinely get made on the Red America side.

We posted the text of Brooks' statement in yesterday's report. You can read the AP analysis piece simply by clicking here

Is there any chance that anything Schoen said last night contains a bit of merit? We're especially curious because of the way the Appellate Court knocked down the size of the bond, with unnamed "legal experts" suggesting that its members may have thought that the original size of the bond was excessive.

Red America has been told all along that the court in this case had been biased against Donald Trump. Last night, Blue America was being told that Trump was getting "special treatment with his own private system of justice" from that New York appellate court.

Here's what no one saw last night—no one in either country:

No one saw legal analysts from the two countries brought together on one cable program, where their varying assessments could be debated, discussed. No one was able to benefit from any such discussion or debate.

Instead, people living in Red America heard one set of familiar assessments. People living in Blue America heard an alternate set of familiar representations.

What ever happened to disputation? In the abandoned Crossfire era, legal analysts with opposing views would have been brought together on TV and asked to battle it out. Those days, of course, long gone. 

Today, people living in either of the two Americas hear their own tribe's assessments, full and complete total stop. Citizens of these two countries lock in on the Storylines of their respective nations. Can a large modern nation really function this way?

Friend, take a good look around!

We close with one sardonic observation about Ingraham's performance last night. Along the way, she directed the latest jibe at Rep. Ocasio-Cortez concerning the "RICO" bullroar. You can watch that foolishness here.

Friend, is RICO a crime? Plainly, no, it isn't—unless you're getting your propaganda from stars in Red America. In the wild tribal lands of that new tribal country, an entirely new and different bit of semantics now obtains!

Final point:

The appellate court vastly reduced the original size of the bond. Does that mean that Trump was the victim of a dual system of justice in the initial establishment of the bond? 

Or does it mean that Trump was gifted by a dual system of justice, as practiced by that New York appellate court?

Last night, Blue America heard one of those claims. Red America heard the other!

We the humans have limited skills!

MONDAY, MARCH 25, 2024

Fox's Joe Concha proves it: In this morning's report, we asked you the following question:

Is RICO a crime?

As we noted, this latest tribal semantic dispute arose last Wednesday, during the latest, and possibly the last, impeachment inquiry concerning President Biden.

It arose in connection with a question posed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). As you may know, red tribe pundits love to please tribal viewers by claiming that she isn't especially bright.

Spoiler alert! In this case of this silly dispute, we'd have to rule that Rep. Ocasio-Cortez plainly did have it right! Reporting for The Hill, Rebecca Beitsch gave a good account of the way the dispute arose. 

Below, you see the heart of Beitsch's report.  We include The Hill's highly cogent headline: 

Ocasio-Cortez demands GOP specify actual crimes in Biden impeachment inquiry


[Tony] Bobulinski, in a heated exchange with Ocasio-Cortez, said he personally witnessed President Biden committing crimes, listing “corruption statues, RICO, and conspiracy, FARA” in referencing racketeering laws and those that govern registering as a foreign agent.

It’s not clear what activity Bobulinski would have witnessed that would qualify as a crime, and he has previously testified he had limited interactions with President Biden shortly after he left office. 

He then added that the lawmaker was “obviously not familiar with” RICO.

“RICO is not a crime; it is a category. What is the crime?” Ocasio-Cortez retorted.

Bobulinski grumbled about having to cite an exact statute and noted there are numerous lawyers on the committee.

"RICO isn't a crime," AOC said. At that point, she asked Bobulinski to name the specific crime or crimes he had seen Joe Biden commit.

Bobulinski wasn't able to do that—and in the wake of that exchange, a set of bungled semantic claims broke out on the red tribe right.

Human cogitation, alas! We humans simply weren't designed to handle such delicate tasks. 

When it comes to basic skills of cognition, we humans are a puzzling mix. Our substantial engineering skills have allowed us to send people to the moon, even to design electric vehicles. But, as a general matter, our skills don't equip us to handle relatively simply analytical questions of this particular type.

Let us say, before we proceed, that we agree with the statement for which AOC was later ridiculed. We agree with her when she says that RICO isn't a crime.

If RICO isn't a crime, then what the Henry Hill is it? At this point, we're going to let the leading authority explain:

Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act is a United States federal law that provides for extended criminal penalties and a civil cause of action for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization.

RICO was enacted by Title IX of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970, and is codified at 18 U.S.C. ch. 96 as 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961–1968.

Since 1972, 33 U.S. states and territories have adopted state RICO laws, which, although similar, cover additional state crimes and may differ from the federal law and each other in several respects.


Under RICO, a person who has committed "at least two acts of racketeering activity" drawn from a list of 35 crimes (27 federal crimes and eight state crimes) within a 10-year period can be charged with racketeering if such acts are related in one of four specified ways to an "enterprise."

Those found guilty of racketeering can be fined up to $25,000 and sentenced to 20 years in prison per racketeering count.

Briefly, let's try to get clear:

As you can see, RICO actually isn't a crime. In reality, RICO—The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act—is "a United States federal law."

RICO isn't a crime; it's a federal law! A person can violate this particular law by committing at least two acts drawn from a long list of specific federal crimes. But that doesn't mean that the law itself is somehow a federal crime!

During her exchange with Bobulinksi, Ocasio-Cortez was asking him to name the specific acts by President Biden which would qualify as such crimes.  Bobulinksi wasn't able to do it—and that's when the clowning began.

Making a bad situation that much dumber, red tribe pundits began to pretend that Ocasio-Cortez had produced the world's dumbest remark. Last Saturday night, Fox New pundit Jon Concha assigned himself that task.

Concha was serving as a panelist on the Fox News Channel program, The Big Weekend Show. As you can see by clicking here, the other panelists enjoyed a good laugh as Concha ridiculed Ocasio-Cortez for having produced "the biggest fail of the week."

After playing videotape from the hearing, Concha launched the ridicule. The foolishness ended like this:

CONCHA (3/23/24): I think AOC thinks "Rico" is the guy who drives her to the restaurant, or drives her to the airport. Because clearly, RICO is a crime! Jason.


Except, of course, it isn't a crime; it's a federal law. Ocasio-Cortez was asking Bobulinski to name the specific crimes he says he saw Joe Biden commit under terms of that law.

None of this clowning will actually matter in the longer run. It does help us see an important point:

We humans just aren't especially sharp when it comes to matters like this. The later Wittgenstein was all about the kinds of failings involved in such confusions of language—human failings which he observed being committed from the top of the pile on down.

Don't get us wrong! We wouldn't necessarily fully endorse the way Ocasio-Cortez used her measly five minutes at the hearing in question. (To watch the full five minutes, click here.)

She wanted to ask Bobulinski if he could name a specific crime he'd ever seen Joe Biden commit. She also wanted to deliver a speech about the way the GOP-led committee had once again failed to state a basis for impeaching President Biden.

She may have tried to cram too much into her measly five minutes. Beyond that, we don't know what she meant when she said that RICO "is a category."

That said, on the one key point which later arose, she was plainly right. We're sorry, but RICO isn't a crime. It's a (highly complex) federal law.

Our brains aren't built for tasks of this type. We fail such tasks with great frequency, all the way down the line. 

That's especially true when we're working in carefully selected partisan groups on "cable news" programs—on programs designed to entertain tribal viewers as they get propagandized, and also dumbed down, within an inch of their lives.

Red tribe programs are built that way. Blue tribe programs too. 

DISPUTATION: Brooks and Capehart and Luntz oh my!

MONDAY, MARCH 25, 2024

Friends, is RICO a crime? Dearest readers, riddle us this:

How about it? Is RICO a crime?

We ask the question because Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) recently said that RICO isn't a crime. On the red tribe's Fox News Channel, she's been ridiculed for making that (accurate) statement from that day to this.

Saturday night, on The Big Weekend Show (actual name!), Joe Concha described the (accurate) statement by Ocasio-Cortez as "The Biggest Fail of The Week." He did so in the part of the entertaining "cable news" program which is called "Big Weekend Flops."

At this point, a spoiler alert:

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) actually isn't a crime!

We're sorry, but no—it isn't a crime. It's a (complex) federal law! 

You can break that complex federal law by committing certain types of crimes, which would have to be named and demonstrated at some point. But the law itself isn't a crime, any more than New York State's 65 mile per hour speed limit is some sort of state crime.

We'll discuss this dumb but instructive matter in more detail later today. For now, we'll tell you this:

The ridicule to which AOC has been subjected is a good example of what can happen when disagreement and disputation are removed from the culture of big-time American journalism. 

When that occurs, we're left with big fun, and with reliable group agreement. More simply put, we're left with an imitation of life.

Concha's silly behavior will come and go, leaving barely a ripple. This morning, let's consider a disagreement about a very important matter—a disagreement which surfaced last Friday night on the PBS NewsHour.

At issue was an important set of events which will start unfolding today. Today, Donald Trump's assets could start to be seized by New York State Attorney General Letitia James.

This important matter is covered in this report in this morning's New York Times. On last Friday's NewsHour, Geoffrey Bennett posed the following question to David Brooks during the program's weekly segment involving Brooks and Jonathan Capehart:

BENNETT (3/22/24): Donald Trump needs to find half a billion dollars, and he has to find it fairly quickly. He has until Monday to post a bond covering the full amount of the $454 million civil fraud judgment against him as he appeals this ruling.

And if he can't somehow find the money, the New York A.G., Letitia James—she might start seizing some of his assets to help cover that obligation.

David, for any candidate running for public office, especially the presidency, who is short on cash and who has to find $454 million, that is a serious liability, and it also raises in this case some national security questions.

To review the full transcript, click here.

Will Attorney General James start seizing Donald Trump's assets today? At this point, no one knows.

That said, here's where the disagreement started last Friday night. Responding to Bennett, Brooks said he has reservations about this whole affair: 

BROOKS (continuing directly): Yes, I mean, I have a few problems with the seizure. The Associated Press did a good survey. They looked like at 70 years of cases like this. And in cases where there was no clear victim, they have never seized assets before.

And so if the people who claim a lot of this is a political witch-hunt, I think that Associated Press [report]I found it kind of alarming that the Trump case is not being treated like the other cases. 

Nonetheless, it is what it is. And so he's got to raise a lot of money really fast.

Brooks continued from there, but he said this case is not being treated like other cases of the past seventy years. He cited a detailed report by the Associated Press, and he said he found the situation "kind of alarming." 

We'll link to the AP report below. At this point, let's move on to Jonathan Capehart.

David Brooks said he doesn't like the way this case has been shaking out. But when Bennett threw to Jonathan Capehart, a different view emerged:

CAPEHART: ...I have to disagree with David. No, take the properties! If any of us at the table were in that situation, we would be in serious trouble.

And it would be within the right of the attorney general to say, you know what, we're going to take your golf club, or we're going to take your tower. And quite honestly, I would love to see the A.G., the New York attorney general, do that, because then it would be the most tangible sign for the nation, the world, and for Donald Trump that you have been held accountable.  

Brooks said he finds the whole thing "kind of alarming." By way of contrast, Capehart said he would love to see Trump's assets seized. 

For the record, Capehart didn't mention the AP report to which Brooks had referred. Seeming to contradict what the Associated Press said it had found, he said that anyone would be in serious trouble if they'd done what Trump has done.

As viewers watched this weekly segment, they saw an obvious disagreement about a major ongoing matter. But at this point, Bennett made no attempt to explore this difference of opinion.  

He simply moved to a different topic. Disagreement frequently dies a quick death under current arrangements.

Brooks had one reaction to this highly significant matter. Capehart's reaction was quite different.

At one time, not long ago, American broadcast journalism was built around the presentation of such disagreements. During what might be called "the Crossfire era," people with opposing views were thrown on the air on a nightly basis and invited to battle it out.

By the end of the Crossfire era, it had come to seem that this practice had outlived any possible usefulness:

Partisans stuck to their talking points through thick and thin. Moderators couldn't make anyone budge, or didn't especially want to. 

Nothing much was ever learned from these scripted pseudo-debates. In October 2004, Jon Stewart appeared as a guest on Crossfire. In the course of a single half hour, he brought the whole system crashing down, a bit like Samson of old.

Today, cable news is organized in a very different manner. The Fox News Channel is loaded with red tribe partisans who can be relied on to agree with every red tribe talking point and with every other panelist. 

MSNBC's programs are built the same way, but from the blue side of the partisan tracks.

Last weekend, no one on The Big Weekend Show challenged Concha when he ridiculed AOC for her statement. In all candor, AOC's basic statement was plainly accurate—but viewers of the Fox News program saw a panel of four reliable employees mock her for what she said.

Whatever happened to disputation? As we'll start to see tomorrow, disputation, even within the confines of the tribe, has a long and noble history here in the western world.

Today, disputation is almost totally gone from red and blue tribe "cable news," and from much other contemporary journalism.

For what it's worth, we're inclined to agree with Brooks a bit more than with Capehart concerning the current point of dispute. In part, that's because we've never seen an explanation of the unusual-seeming procedure according to which an individual may have to raise a large sum of money before he can pursue an appeal of a legal finding.

For the record, we're also concerned about what Frank Luntz recently said.

Luntz has been strongly NeverTrump for the past several years. Last week, he said that James might get Trump elected if she decides to kick him right in his assets.

Luntz's statement was widely noted—but only in red tribe circles. Despite this lonely report at the progressive site Raw Story, most blue tribe members never heard a word about what Luntz has said.

Does democracy die in the darkness? It seems to us that intelligent discourse dies in the darkness when everyone is sent on the air to stick to preapproved tribal topics and to mouth preapproved tribal points.

Tomorrow: The disputation of monarchs!

SATURDAY: "Why is [Donald Trump] tied with Joe Biden?"


Cable star can't figure it out: Yesterday morning, in the 7 o'clock hour, Joe Scarborough gave voice to a long-standing bit of puzzlement.

At this site, we're puzzled by Scarborough's puzzlement! That said, here's the question Scarborough posed to Michael Steele:

Why is he tied with Joe Biden right now?

"He," of course, was Donald J. Trump. Let's fill in the background to the question Scarborough posed.

The discussion in question had actually started right around 7 o'clock. At 7:12 a.m., Scarborough ran down the names of the (many) former Trump officials who are refusing to endorse his current bid for election. 

Below, you see Scarborough offer a partial list of the (many obvious) reasons why such officials have walked away from Trump. This list of horribles eventually leads to the question he posed to Steele:

SCARBOROUGH (3/22/24): Michael Steele, you couple that with the fact that this guy really worships dictators. You couple that with January 6th. 

You couple that with the fact that he stole nuclear secrets, and then his IT guy said he ordered him to destroy them, and when he decided not to, he wanted to flood the room to destroy the documents.

We could go on and on. You had a federal judge in New York state who said Donald Trump raped E. Jean Carroll. 

Again, I could go down the list for the next three hours of one thing after another which would have disqualified any other candidate running for president in American history. So why is he tied with Joe Biden right now?

Why is Trump tied with Joe Biden right now? At this point, Steele launched an attempt to answer that question. 

All in all, Scarborough and a bevy of reliable guests offered a long discussion of that basic question—a discussion which consumed the first twenty-five minutes of the program's 7 o'clock hour.

Scarborough says he can't understand how Biden and Trump can be tied. More specifically, he said—as he frequently does—that he can't understand why family members and long-term friends continue to support Donald J. Trump in the face of Trump's many offenses.

We'll be voting for Biden this fall—but it's puzzling to us that a person like Scarborough is puzzled by this phenomenon. 

In our view, it's obvious why a candidate like Trump could still be tied with President Biden. In our view, the basic answer would go something like this:

Judged by normal political standards, Candidate Trump is basically unelectable. But judged by normal political standards, it seems to us that President Biden is basically unelectable too!

Presumably, one of the two will be elected this fall, assuming they're both on the ballot. But it seems to us that each of the candidates is unelectable—and this helps explain why the pair, less than eight months out, seem to be locked in a statistical tie in the polls.

We agree with the general drift of what Scarborough said about Trump. Based upon many of his behaviors and statements, we would say that he's basically unelectable, as judged by traditional norms.

That said, we'd say that President Biden is unelectable too! What's puzzling here is the fact that Scarborough doesn't seem to have any idea why someone would voice such a judgment. 

What makes President Biden unelectable as judged by traditional norms? Why might he be tied with someone like Donald J. Trump?

At the present time, we'd list (at least) four fairly obvious factors. In possible order of importance, the four factors would be these:

Factors making President Biden unelectable:
1) His conduct and statements—or his remarkable lack of same—concerning the southern border.

2) The fairly obvious fact that he seems to be personally diminished, in a way that (the badly disordered) Trump is not.

3) The price of food in grocery stores, happy talk to the side.

4) The power of red tribe propaganda as delivered through red tribe "news orgs."

Judged by any normal standard, the situation at the southern border is an astonishing mess. The president's persistent refusal to address or discuss this situation strikes us as astonishing too.

Blue tribe programs like Morning Joe virtually disappeared this absurd situation during the past few years. Presumably, the blue world's agreement to behave this way has helped keep Biden afloat.

Beyond that, President Biden seems to be diminished in some fairly obvious way. Surveys suggest that everyone can see this about President Biden, except those who are blinded by tribal loyalty.

We would add the price of food, at least as such prices currently exist. Also, red tribe propaganda is blasted out all day every day. Many voters hear nothing else.

By normal standards, we would say that these four factors help make President Biden unelectable. In our view, he remains tied in the polls for one reason only:

The vastly disordered Donald J. Trump is unelectable too!

Why in the world is it so hard for Scarborough to answer his own question? Is he really puzzled by this situation, or is he simply striking a pose?

The conversation he anchored yesterday touched on all the standard blue tribe bases. By 7:19, he was even willing to trash mainstream news orgs in this standard though remarkable way:

SCARBOROUGH: I'm from Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida. It ain't like I grew up in the Young Marxist League in Greenwich Village.

I'm from—I was born in the heart of Dixie. I grew up in the heart of Dixie. You know, it's like—still, all these years later, I can't figure it out. 

And really, I don't want to drive to Pennsylvania, middle of Pennsylvania, to sit down and go [SPEAKS MOCKINGLY], "Tell me, I want to understand, because I don't understand"—

You see, I'm a conservative, so I can go "bullshit" on that.

If liberal media people want to drive to the middle of Pennsylvania and go [SPEAKS MOCKINGLY], "Oh, tell me why you want to like a guy who loves Kim Jong-Un"— 

Don't waste your time. Don't waste your time.

Scarborough didn't grow up in Greenwich Village! That said, he long ago became a resident of the big-money metropolitan area surrounding Greenwich, Connecticut

(Not that there's anything wrong with it, until such time as there is.)

Scarborough, who is very bright, doesn't want to bother himself asking actual voters why they still support Trump, or why they may simply prefer Trump to Biden. Instead, he ridicules other journalists for pursuing this obvious journalistic endeavor.

Please don't speak to the others! This is how dumb things have become over here within our own blue tribe in this modern age in which our news orgs are organized around the principle of "segregation by viewpoint."

Why do people support Donald Trump? Why do people prefer Trump to Biden?

Voters will offer many reasons, some of them derived from the vast disinformation regime to which Scarborough has become a blue tribe counterpart. 

People are routinely (though not always) disinformed by organizations like Fox News. That said, voters are also kept in the dark by people like Scarborough, who is very bright except when it comes to this.

You can't run a large modern nation this way. Routinely (though not always), Watters and Gutfeld are as dumb as it gets, but what can we say about our own blue tribe's wholly partisan news orgs?  We'll be exploring such questions all week.

Possibly through no fault of his own, President Biden's a terrible candidate. In our view, Trump is worse. 

Watters interviews latest guru!

FRIDAY, MARCH 22, 2024

First the toad-smoking expert, now this: The kind of programming being offered by the Fox News Channel is truly hard to believe.

As we noted yesterday, Jesse Watters' latest book was finally published this week. We saw "finally" because Watters has been promoting the book, day after day and night after night, for the past several months on the aforementioned "news channel."

As you may recall from yesterday's lesson, the Watters tome carries this title:

Get It Together: Troubling Tales from the Liberal Fringe

As you may recall, the remarkably unembarrassed publisher describes the project as follows:

Watters set out to interview a few dozen radical activists to find out where their wild ideas came from. When he did, he discovered that most of these figures from the liberal fringe actually need a therapist.

Their liberal causes have been generated by people who are illogical, emotional, and ill-informed. Watters uncovered some common threads among the personal stories of these liberals—childhood traumas, broken relationships, and a lack of introspection. 

We know! This sounds like some sort of badly underfed parody project. In fact, the undertaking actually seems to be dumber and more pathetic than that. 

As you may recall: To celebrate publication week, Watters is interviewing some of these figures from the liberal fringe on his prime time "cable news" program.

Yesterday, we linked you to Wednesday's night interview with "toad-smoking expert Hector Gonzalez." Last night, Watters' "Get It Together" segment started off like this:

WATTERS (3/21/24): It's a new edition of the Get It Together series, where some of the people I interviewed for the book come back and talk to us on Primetime.

Today, we're skipping to Chapter 16 to talk to "the decriminalizing drug guru."

Meet Doc Gunn, a drug guru who wants to legalize everything. He started getting high at 12, He doesn't believe people caught with drugs should be arrested, and he joins us now.

What's up, Doc?

What's up, Doc? Yes, that's what he said!

At this point, up popped Gunn himself, seeming to present as a badly underdeveloped performance artist of some undefined type. A short, inane interview followed, ending with a mercifully short bit of Gunn's musical artistry.

It's very, very hard to believe that Fox is presenting this sort of dreck as part of its "cable news" programming. It's hard to know what the typical Fox News viewer is supposed to think as he or she, sitting at home, watches this manifest idiocy.

(In truth, the propaganda message is clear. Liberal activists are all nutty. Please don't speak to liberals at any point in your life!)

To watch the mercifully brief segment with Gunn, you can start by clicking here. When Gunn comes on, you'll be watching "cable news" inanity at its most fully accomplished. 

It's very, very hard to believe that such manifest nonsense is actually put on the air. It's also hard to believe that Fox can be producing such undisguised idiocy with no one else saying a word!

To watch Wednesday's interview with the toad-smoking expert, you can start by clicking this. Full disclosure:

Two hours later, at 10 p.m., things don't get a lot better when the Gutfeld! program comes on.

SKILLS: The professor got way out over his skis!

FRIDAY, MARCH 22, 2024

The candidate feeds on such meat: Briefly, let's recall the basic facts which were established in yesterday's report.

Last Saturday, Donald J. Trump made an array of familiar yet very strange claims during his campaign rally in Vidalia, Ohio:

At the start of his endless address, the candidate referred to prisoners who have been convicted of violent attacks against police officers as a group of "hostages." 

As he continued, he claimed, on nine occasions, that the 2020 presidential election was "crooked," "fake" or "rigged."

All praise goes to Timothy Snyder for recording these peculiar statements in this March 19 essay at Substack. Yesterday, the editorial board of the Washington Post listed other things the candidate said that day which they regard as beyond the pale.

Full disclosure:

As we noted yesterday, Trump has been saying that the 2020 election was rigged for well over three years now. He has never presented anything like a white paper offering evidence for this inflammatory claim.

One analysis after another has concluded that this remarkable claim is a fantasy—a dreamscape invented by Trump. And yet, our own blue tribe has never been able to convince the bulk of Trump supporters of this apparent fact.

What explains our blue tribe's inability to persuade so many voters? On this morning's Morning Joe, Joe Scarborough aggressively said that he still can't understand the way "these people" think.

If we were being paid millions of dollars to go on TV as a political analyst, we would regard that as a confession that we were being overpaid. Such thoughts don't seem to enter the mind of major cable news stars as current journalistic arrangements create two warring Americas, Red and Blue, and never the twain shall meet.

At any rate, Candidate Trump had started his speech with those peculiar statements and claims.  Thirty-three minutes into his address, he did something new:

Fleetingly, the candidate uttered the word "bloodbath." In fact, he uttered the word two times.

He did so as part of a crowd-pleasing soliloquy—a soliloquy in which he discussed certain aspects of the auto industry for a bit less than four minutes. After that, it happened again:

Acyn Torabi posted a 20-word excerpt from that soliloquy. With that, our blue tribe pundit corps was off to the races again.

Let's return to one basic fact about the candidate's speech in Vidalia.  As you can see from the C-Span videotape, Trump's discussion of the auto industry lasted roughly three minutes and 35 seconds. 

It starts around the 33-minute mark of the tape. As you can see, he switches to a different topic (U.S. Steel) almost four minutes later.

It was in the midst of that discussion of the auto industry that the word "bloodbath" appears.

Trump spoke for three minutes and 35 seconds about the auto industry—unless you were watching Ali Velshi this past Tuesday night! If you were watching Velshi, you were told something different.

 Velshi was serving as guest host on MSNBC's 9 p.m. program, Alex Wagner Tonight. In his opening segment, he introduced Professor Snyder as his lone guest, and he was soon saying this:

VELSHI (3/19/24): Joining us now is the Yale historian, Professor Tim Snyder...Thank you for being here in person.

This is a remarkable conversation because people have spent the past couple of days saying he was just talking about the cars. 

I'm an economics reporter. We've not used that term, "bloodbath," about cars.

But what you wrote about is the context.  It's not just whether he said that sentence about cars. It's everything else he said in the speech, starting with the salute of the hostages.

Say what? "It's not just whether he said that sentence about cars?"

Had Donald J. Trump said just one sentence about cars? At this point, Velshi's meaning wasn't clear, but soon he was saying this:

VELSHI: You write [at Substack], "Those who speciously insist that Trump had in mind an automotive bloodbath never mention that he had just celebrated criminals, repeated the big lie, dehumanized people, and followed fascist patterns." 

You lay out, in your article, the pattern of that speech. All of that was done before he brought up cars for one sentence and then went back to violence.

In fact, Trump had spoken about cars for almost four minutes. Unless you were watching Velshi, in which case you were now being told that he "brought up cars for one sentence," then went back to violence.

It seemed to us, as we watched that night, that Velshi's presentation was at best highly misleading. In fairness, Professor Snyder had said something similar in his Substack essay:

SNYDER (3/19/24): Yes, Trump spoke for a moment about cars.  He was saying that we should elect him so that he can put tariffs on Chinese cars.  At this point he is presumably still on script.  And then he starts to say that it will be bad for the auto industry if he is not elected.  He never quite gets to that, since in the middle of the sentence he has another idea. 

Trump "spoke for a moment about cars?" In fact, he "spoke about cars" for almost four minutes, with the "bloodbath" remark coming midway through. 

Meanwhile, were people simply being "specious" if they said that Trump had been speaking about an automotive bloodbath?  In the passage we just posted, Velshi quoted Snyder making that sweeping assessment.

Meanwhile, here's the fuller chunk from the part of Snyder's essay which we just posted:

SNYDER: [E]ven if we knew nothing about the history of political violence, or about Trump, or about the rest of his appearance in Vandalia, the meaning of "bloodbath for the country" would still be absolutely clear to anyone who listened to him.  Even if we play the bad-faith syntactical game that his defenders want us to play, there is really no doubt that he was talking about a bloodbath when he spoke of a bloodbath.

Yes, Trump spoke for a moment about cars.  He was saying that we should elect him so that he can put tariffs on Chinese cars...

According to Snyder, Trump's meaning would be "absolutely clear" to anyone who watched what he said. There was "really no doubt" about what Trump meant when he used the term "bloodbath."

According to the all-knowing professor, people who offered a different assessment were simply being specious. Such people had engaged in bad faith, or so the professor said.

Professor Snyder is worried about the possibility of a second term for Trump. In our view, there's no reason why he shouldn't be worried—and the professor is generally understood to be a leading expert about the way autocracies can take shape.

Professor Snyder is generally understood to be a leading expert about the history of such development. That doesn't mean that he has sound political judgment, or that he can keep his larger political views from infecting his transitory judgments. 


In that editorial by the Washington Post, the editors say that Candidate Trump was in fact talking about an automotive bloodbath:

("He was talking—hyperbolically—about the potential impact on U.S. jobs of imported automobiles, not political violence.")

In this earlier post, Kevin Drum had reached a similar conclusion:

("Many news outlets reported that Trump had threatened a 'bloodbath' if he's not elected. But if you listen to his remarks, he's talking about a bloodbath in the US auto industry unless he's elected and places high tariffs on Chinese cars.")

Our own best guess was somewhat different. Still and all, riddle us this:

Were the editors merely being specious when they said what they said? Was Drum acting in bad faith when he voiced his assessment?

In our view, Professor Snyder was way out over his skis as he made his sweeping claims. Meanwhile, let's return to one other thing Velshi sweepingly said.

"I'm an economics reporter," Velshi told Snyder that night. "We've not used that term, 'bloodbath,' about cars."

So the blue tribe cable star said, apparently speaking for an entire guild. Earlier, though, we ourselves had been surprised when we checked standard dictionary treatments of the newly exciting term. 

Here. for example, is the way Merriam-Webster presents the term in question:

bloodbath noun

1: a great slaughter

2 a: a notably fierce, violent, or destructive contest or struggle

the campaign has become a bloodbath

b: a major economic disaster

a market bloodbath

We were surprised to see that many dictionaries list "bloodbath" as a term which is routinely used in the context of market meltdowns. Velshi seemed to be assuring us of something different, and it looks like Velshi was wrong.

Why has our own blue tribe had so much trouble persuading Trump voters? In part, it's because of presentations like these, in which blue tribe stars offer accounts of Trump's behavior which are plainly misleading, highly subjective, or sometimes just flat-out wrong.

There are many examples of blue tribe reinventions. This very morning, red tribe viewers were reminded of an example from 2021 on Fox & Friends—a debunked example which has popped up in the discourse again.

In the case now under review, a highly regarded Yale professor was telling the world that anyone who disagreed with his assessment was being specious—was acting in bad faith. Meanwhile, he and Velshi seemed to be fudging certain facts in line with preferred assessments. 

A blue tribe host was telling us that Trump "brought up cars for one sentence and then went back to violence."

On its face, that statement was simply inaccurate. In our view, Snyder's statements were often spectacularly unintelligent. He's a highly respected historian, but his judgment in matters like this may not be especially strong. 

That said, our tribe has followed these people down the primrose path over the course of a great many years. Back in December, we saw how skilled these people may turn out to be when three elite college professors got left for dead, in embarrassing fashion, by an undisguised demagogue named Elise Stefanik, with Professor Tribe rushing out to say that Stefanik had been right.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep. Our tribe is very self-impressed, but we're nowhere near as impressive as we're inclined to say and believe.

Last Saturday, Acyn played his standard game. When he did, our blue tribe was off to the races again.

By Tuesday night, our tribe was already taking a bit of beating about the way we'd jumped to an instant analysis about Trump's "bloodbath" remark.

Quite possibly, this latest Acyn-inspired stampede had become a loser for our side by that point. And then, up jumped the guest host and the highly regarded professor with a highly slanted account of what Trump had said and what he had plainly meant.

We've offered our own best guess about Trump's "bloodbath" remark. We'll guess that he likes to drop such terms into the stew to provoke these outbursts from our tribe—outbursts which work in his favor. 

By now, we've seen three different people on Fox who have voiced a similar view. Is that what Trump was doing when he dropped "bloodbath" into the soliloquy about car lats in Mexico?

There's no way to know such things for sure, Professor Snyder's astounding degree of certainty notwithstanding.

Snyder is a highly erudite historian. Like everyone else, he's also just a person.

In his essay and then on the air, some of his claims were unintelligent in the extreme. The stars at Fox feed on such meat.

So does Candidate Trump!

Full disclosure: We often think of what Hector said: "Sacred Troy must die."

(Hector's sister was Cassandra. She'd been given the gift of prophecy, along with a famous curse.)