Who the heck is J.D. Vance?

THURSDAY, JULY 18, 2024

Also, what's in a word? Last night, Usha Vance introduced her husband, J. D. Vance, at the Republican National Convention.

We were struck by one part of her short introduction. More specifically, we were struck her inclusion of one particular word:

USHA VANCE (7/17/26): I met J. D. in law school when he was fresh out of Ohio State, which he attended with the support of the G.I. Bill. 

We were friends first, because, I mean, who wouldn't want to be friends with J. D.? 

He was then, as now, the most interesting person I knew—a working-class guy who had overcome childhood traumas that I could barely fathom to end up at Yale Law School.

A tough Marine who had served in Iraq, but whose idea of a good time was playing with puppies and watching the movie "Babe."

(LAUGHTER)

The most determined person I knew with one overriding ambition, to become a husband and a father, and to build the kind of tightknit family that he had longed for as a child.

We were struck by her reference to her husband's childhood "traumas." We recalled a bit of the puzzlement we felt when we speed-read Hillbilly Elegy, back when it first came out.

The book contained striking portraits of many of the major figure in Vance's life during his childhood and adolescence. The only portrait which seemed to be missing was a portrait of the young Vance himself.

What was he like as a 10-year-old child? What was he like in high school?

It seemed to us that such questions went unanswered and unexplored in Vance's best-selling book. Among an assortment of others, his mother and grandmother were sharply described. Vance himself seemed to be missing.

Something else is true about Hillbilly Elegy. The book describes a childhood and an adolescence which were filled with bad behavior by some of the people charged with care of the young person in question. We refer especially to Vance's mother, who was drug-addicted at the time, and to the various men with whom she was linked by romance and by marriage.

It would hardly be surprising to learn that this childhood and adolescence was indeed marked by trauma. Also this:

By the norms of high-end American politics, the man who emerged from that tumultuous youth has behaved in unusual ways over the past dozen years.

What can there be in a word? That one word in Usha Vance's introduction took our thoughts in many directions. For today, we'll offer this:

In some cases, the price to be paid for childhood abuse or neglect will be paid later on, somewhere down the road.

Her husband's childhood involved traumas (plural), we were told last night—childhood traumas of a type Usha Vance "can barely fathom." 

Remembering the song by Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee—we were in high school when we bought the album!—we'll quickly recommend a world of pity for the motherless child. 

We'll recommend pity for the lost child. That said:

In his public life, if not in his family life, the adult who emerged from those traumas has turned out to be dismissively angry in recent years and has been quite erratic. Sometimes the wages of neglect emerge a ways down the road. 


FRIENDS: The friends gave thanks to "our lord and savior!"

THURSDAY, JULY 18, 2024

Duly recorded, for history: Long ago and far away, an Olympian intervened to save the life of one of her favorites.

The god in question was Athena, daughter of Zeus. As we noted yesterday, she intervened to save the life of Paris, the feckless Trojan prince who was on the verge of being killed in battle during the tenth year of the Achaeans' siege of Troy.

According to the western world's first great work of literature, Aphrodite whisked him away to his scented bedroom, where he was soon making love with his wife—with Helen, radiance of woman. Or at least, so many generations of Greeks were told as they listened to recitations of the war poem in question.

Today, experts claim that the Olympian gods never existed. Whatever your stance on that matter may be, we all can agree on this:

Last Saturday, a similar story began to spread concerning the apparent assassination attempt aimed at former president Donald J. Trump. 

One of the bullets clipped Trump's ear, drawing blood. It was an extreme near miss—and a story started to spread. As we noted yesterday, the New York Times reported the matter in a front-page report which started like this:

After Saturday, Trump’s Devotees See ‘God’s Protection’

For Donald J. Trump’s most devoted supporters, the bullet that nicked his ear and came within inches of ending his life was only further proof that a higher power is looking out for him.

“I don’t see this as luck,” said the Rev. Nathaniel Thomas, a Republican National Convention delegate and a pastor from the Washington, D.C., area. “I see this as God’s protection.”

Way back during the Late Bronze Age, Aphrodite had saved Paris. Last weekend, God saved former president Trump—extended his protection.

Many people said they believed this claim; there's no way to prove that it's "wrong." That said, a group of journalists on the Fox News Channel took things to the next level.

Today, bowing to the possibility that history will continue to exist, we're going to record some of the things these Fox News employees have said. 

We're referring to the various things that were said on Sunday morning's edition of Fox & Friends Weekend. In our view, the statements in question represent such a break from modern journalistic practice that they ought to be recorded—and high-end orgs like the New York Times simply aren't going to do that.

In our view, the story which follows includes a vast break from modern journalistic tradition. Five Fox journalists were involved in Sunday morning's discussion. The players in question are these

Co-hosts, Fox & Friends Weekend:
Rachel Campos-Duffy
Pete Hegseth
Will Cain

Co-hosts, Fox & Friends (regular weekday edition)
Lawrence B. Jones III
Ainsley Earhardt

The three weekend hosts were all present this day. They were broadcasting from a New York City studio. 

In the wake of Saturday's deadly event, they'd been joined by two of the co-hosts from the weekday Fox & Friends program. Jones and Earhardt were on the ground in Butler, Pa., at the scene of the previous day's events.

With that, we've listed the dramatis personae. Our story begins at 6:11 a.m. as Campos-Duffy throws to Jones, on the ground in Butler.

Campos-Duffy is an enormously warm and cheerful person. Somewhat oddly, she said this:

CAMPOS-DUFFY (7/14/24): Let's go to you, Lawrence. 

When Ronald Reagan was shot, he famously said, "I forgot to duck." In the case of Donald Trump, it's believed, from the video footage, that just his movement, and he missed it by—the bullet missed him by just a millimeter.

You're at the site of what our own medical correspondent, Dr. Siegel, is calling a medical miracle. What are you hearing there on the ground?

It's true! Earlier, Siegel had in fact referred to Trump's near-miss as "a medical miracle."

That was a peculiar turn of phrase. Inevitably, Campos-Duffy cited the peculiar remark—and Jones III, on the ground in Butler, now took things a giant step further:

JONES (continuing directly): I'll say this. We can talk about the medical miracle. We can talk about the duck [by Trump] and the split-second decision. 

But there is no Donald Trump today without Jesus Christ this morning. I mean, we could be having a very different conversation this morning—

CAMPOS-DUFFY: That's right.

JONES: —going over the obituary of the 45th president this morning. And if it wasn't for the grace of God, things could have been different. So I give honor and glory to our lord and savior, Jesus Christ, for protecting the former president. 

There it was, the start of the day's remarkable break from modern journalistic tradition. 

According to Jones, the miracle in question hadn't simply been realized through the grace of God.  Within the traditions of modern American speech, such a statement almost qualifies as secular. 

In his statement, Jones went several levels past that. He now gave honor and glory "to our lord and savior, Jesus Christ, for protecting the former president."

Campos-Duffy seemed to agree with Jones' formulation. As the morning proceeded, she would make the depth of her agreement clear.

Citizens, how about it? Had President Trump been afforded protection by Jesus Christ on the previous evening? 

There's no way to prove that he had! Also, there's no way to prove that he hadn't.

That said, Jones' statement had taken a turn which we would describe as sectarian. It wasn't just "the grace of God," or possibly even "divine providence, " which had allegedly saved the former president.

It was specifically "Jesus Christ, our lord and savior," who had intervened to provide this protection! Or at least, so Jones now said.

Whatever you think of that brand of journalism, it represents a startling break from the past. Through the course of the next three hours, this new paradigm was repeatedly advanced.

At 6:19 a.m., Campos-Duffy played videotape of former Speaker Newt Gingrich. When she did, this is where the discussion went:

CAMPOS-DUFFY: Last night, Newt Gingrich was on Sean Hannity, and here's what—he gives us a great historical perspective. Here's what he had to say about it:

GINGRICH (videotape): ...It was a very intimate moment for millions of Americans. And it was a providential moment. He had turned to look at that big screen, and when he was turned—the bullet would have hit him here [points to the side of his head]. When he turned back, it hit him here [points to his ear].

That's how close he came to being killed. And I think we need to understand that. This was providential, and he reacted appropriately.

CAMPOS-DUFFY: Yeah, it's a miracle!

HEGSETH: Providential.

CAMPOS-DUFFY: It's a miracle. And I told you guys earlier, I'm thinking more people pray over him—literally put their hands over him, There are many pictures of him in the Oval Office, and at many events, where, before then, people will pray over him. 

There is a protective shield over him. There's no question in my mind.

It was a miracle, the co-host said. Many people have prayed over Trump, she said. As a result, there is a protective shield over him. There's no question in her mind!

For the record, no such shield had protected Corey Comperatore that day. As they extended their theme this day, the friends never attempted to explain or discuss this fact.

At any rate, so it had gone, to our surprise, during the 6 o'clock hour. During the 7 o'clock hour, the general notions being developed continued to be fleshed out.

At 7:06 a.m., this exchange occurred:

CAMPOS-DUFFY: ...I know Dana Perino, our friend, said this is a warrior president. I think this is his Braveheart moment.

The strength! I mean, we've been talking all week, you guys, about a president with dementia and weak. And this is proof that age is not the question. 

It is about your strength and your stamina and your courage and boy, do you see that in those moments when he's fighting off those Secret Service agents to show the people that he intends to fight!

HEGSETH: It is indeed historic, and indeed providential, that we are on this couch, on-air this morning, with a former president that is alive...

Hegseth was doubling down on the idea that the near-miss had been "providential." At 7:16, Earhardt, on the ground in Butler, stepped in with this remark:

EARHARDT: You know, y'all brought up the fact that so many people have prayed for Donald Trump. God has really revealed a lot to us over the past few weeks with what's really happening behind closed doors at the White House...

In the midst of a set of absurd complaints from the other friends concerning minor points of real-time press coverage, Earhardt went on and on from there. In the process, she had now expanded the theme of the day:

According to Earhardt, God has been intervening to let us know what's really going on at the White House! 

Later in the hour, Earhardt returned to the day's basic recitation:

EARHARDT: Thankfully, the president turned his head at the right moment. God was protecting him and God was with him.

So it had gone in the 7 o'clock hour. Soon thereafter, at 8:09, the more sectarian part of the story was suddenly back:

HEGSETH: We're right, first and foremost, to thank Jesus Christ, the lord almighty, that Donald Trump is safe

CAMPOS-DUFFY: Yeah.

HEGSETH: —and those prayers went out, and to reflect on the historic nature of this. But you quickly move to how in the world did someone get that close with a high-powered rifle?

We were back to pure sectarian—to sectarian all the way down. According to Hegseth, "Jesus Christ, the lord almighty," had intervened to keep Donald Trump safe. 

No one else's God had done that! Hegseth was thanking the specific God recognized within his own particular faith, perhaps within his own particular sect.

Jesus Christ had now been specifically thanked two times. During the 9 o'clock hour, Campos-Duffy got the theme started again:

CAMPOS-DUFFY: There's another amazing picture in this photo. You can see the bullet whizzing past Trump's head where it then grazes his ear. 

I mean, it's just a remarkable photo, and a sign of what so many believe is true about Donald Trump, that he is under a special protection because of the millions of people who have been praying for him and praying to Jesus, praying to angels, praying to the Holy Spirit to put a shield around him. 

We had Dr. Siegel on earlier, and he said this is just almost a 99% impossibility that that bullet did not enter into his head. But for a millimeter of him turning his head, right now we would be sitting on the couch talking about an assassinated former president. It's really miraculous.

Why had the former president been under a special protection? Simple! Because so many people had been praying to Jesus!

(In this case, Campos-Duffy also mentioned angels and the Holy Spirit. That may have made her statement less sectarian, depending on how you score it.)

By 9:30, it was time for Jones III to stage a curtain call. Three hours earlier, it was Jones who had kick-started this unusual "news analysis." Having interviewed a pair of eyewitnesses, the weekday friend now offered this:

JONES: Powerful statement here. Renee, Ron—  As you can see, it's deeply emotional for these folks. 

Renee, this is thirty-two for you? Thirty-two rallies that she's been to! And as I said earlier in the program at the 6 a.m. hour, if it wasn't for the lord Jesus Christ, our lord and savior, we would probably be talking about obituary for the former president of the United States.

Guys, I send it back to you in New York City.

CAMPOS-DUFFY: Thank you, Lawrence.

"Thank you, Lawrence," Campos-Duffy said. And with that, it was accomplished.

Should friends let friends discuss news this way? In the end, that's a matter of judgment.

That's a matter of judgment! But according to this like-minded collection of friends, Donald J. Trump had avoided death thanks to our lord and savior Jesus Christ—thanks to Jesus Christ, the lord almighty. 

This remarkable presentation stretched through four long hours of this major news show. Thanks to our lord and savior, the former president has been furnished with a miraculous protective shield.  

There was no doubt in the one friend's mind, and that friend is a very warm person. Meanwhile:

For whatever reason, Corey Comperatore had not been gifted with any such miraculous aid. Neither had two other attendees who had been critically wounded.

Journalistically, this struck us as a remarkable morning—as a giant break from contemporary practice. You won't read about this in the Times—or anywhere else, as far as that goes.

More thoughts on this topic tomorrow.

Tomorrow: Changes...

J. D. Vance on climate change!

WEDNESDAY, JULY 17, 2024

But also, the New York Times on Vance: We just scrolled through the front page of the New York Times web site. With respect to climate issues, these four headlines appeared:

We Mapped Heat in 3 U.S. Cities. Some Sidewalks Were Over 130 Degrees.

Ukraine’s Devastated Energy Grid Battles a New Foe: A Sizzling Heat Wave

Amtrak Passengers Face Record Delays From Extreme Weather

J.D. Vance on the Issues, From Abortion to the Middle East

Oof! Actually, we copied that fourth headline from yesterday's notes. This excerpt from Adam Nagourney's report explains why we included it in the current list:

J. D. Vance on the Issues, From Abortion to the Middle East

[...]

Mr. Vance has said climate change is not a threat and has said he is skeptical of the scientific consensus that warming of the earth’s atmosphere is caused by human activity. “It’s been changing, as others pointed out, it’s been changing for millennia,” he told the American Leadership Forum. Mr. Vance is a strong supporter of the oil and gas industry—which is dominant in his home state—and has voiced opposition to wind and solar energy, and electric vehicles.

Say what? Climate change is not a threat? Also, Vance is skeptical of the idea that warming is caused by humans?

We were eager to believe the worst—but remembering a classic bromide, we decided to trust but verify by clicking Nagourney's proffered links. Perhaps we could see a fuller sample of what Vance has actually said.

What are the former hillbilly's views about this critical topic? Nagourney's link took us to Monday's report by Lisa Friedman. Headline included, this is the way it started:

J.D. Vance Is an Oil Booster and Doubter of Human-Caused Climate Change

Senator J.D. Vance, Republican of Ohio, is a strong supporter of the oil and gas industry, opposes solar power and electric vehicles, and has said climate change is not a threat.

It wasn’t always that way.

Mr. Vance, a fierce critic of Mr. Trump before becoming one of his most loyal MAGA supporters, also appears to have undergone an evolution on the issue of climate change. As recently as 2020, Mr. Vance said in a speech at Ohio State University that “we have a climate problem in our society.” He praised solar energy and he called natural gas an improvement over dirtier forms of energy, but not “the sort of thing that’s gonna take us to a clean energy future.”

Fast forward to 2022. As Mr. Vance sought Mr. Trump’s endorsement for his bid for the Senate, his positions on climate change took a sharp turn.

There it was, the central claim—Vance has said that climate change isn't a threat. He has also flipped his previous stance on this general topic, Friedman also says.

The shapeshifting isn't hard to believe, but what exactly has he said about the threat from climate change, or perhaps about the lack of same? 

Sad! As Friedman's report continues, this is what—and this is all—she explicitly says:

“I’m skeptical of the idea that climate change is caused purely by man,” Mr. Vance told the American Leadership Forum that year.

He acknowledged that the climate was changing but said that humans had no role in the changes. “It’s been changing, as others pointed out, it’s been changing for millennia,” Mr. Vance said.

Confusing! According to Friedman, Vance said—two years ago!—that he's skeptical of the idea that climate change is caused purely by humans.

At least, that's what he's said to have said in the first of those two paragraphs. Then we reach Freidman's next paragraph, in which he's said to have said that humans have no role in climate change.

We humans! We have no role, or possibly some! As Friedman continues, we see no direct discussion of whether Vance regards climate change as a threat. She focuses on the ways he has favored industry interests since becoming a senator.

In search of even greater punishment, we decided to click the link Friedman provides. We hoped that it would let us see what Vance actually said to that Leadership Forum—and we'll guess that's what it does!

Sad! Friedman's link took us to the videotape of an event which bore this title:

American Leadership Forum | An Evening with the Ohio Candidates for US Senate

As you can see by clicking Friedman's link, the videotape is two hours and 28 minutes long. Apparently, the viewer is supposed to watch the whole thing, hoping to hear what Vance actually said about this topic—rather, to hear what he said on one occasion roughly two years ago.

We're sure there's somewhere we could go to learn more about what Vance has said concerning climate change. Meanwhile, evidence grows that our human race just isn't built for this game. That's true on the "socios running for office" side, but also within the raggedy realm where we humans try to produce solid strong journalism.

Our question:

Has this fellow ever said that climate change isn't a threat? That was Nagourney's opening statement, but after reading these two reports, inquiring minds—wracked by frustration—can still only want to know.


FRIENDS: Long ago, Aphrodite intervened to save a favorite!

WEDNESDAY, JULY 17, 2024

Last Saturday, "our lord and savior" did: It's an ancient, extremely human way of understanding the universe. 

In the western world's first poem of war, this understanding is given voice in the poem's first dozen lines:

Rage—Goddess. sing the rage of Peleus' son Achilles,
murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses,
hurling down to the House of Death so many sturdy souls.
great fighters' souls, but made their bodies carrion,
feasts for the dogs and birds,
and the will of Zeus was moving toward its end.
Begin, Muse, when the two first broke and clashed,
Agamemnon lord of men and brilliant Achilles.
What god drove them to fight with such a fury?
Apollo the son of Zeus and Leto.
Incensed at the king 
he swept a fatal plague through the army—men were dying
and all because Agamemnon spurned Apollo's priest...

In those, the poem's opening lines, we see the basic shape of this familiar portrait:

The gods on Olympus are intervening in the affairs of the mortals below. Apollo, the son of Zeus and Leto, incensed by Agamemnon's behavior, has sent a plague through the Achaeans' camp. 

Men are dying in the plague this god has sent, and all because Agamemnon has spurned Apollo's priest. 

Eventually, this will help explain the rage of Achilles, which will cost the Achaeans countless losses in the wider siege of Troy. In the shorter term, many men were dying from the plague which Apollo had sent—but inevitably, "the will of Zeus was moving toward its end."

As any reader of the Iliad will see, the poem reports that there were many gods on the slopes of Olympus. Today, experts largely believe that these gods never existed. 

That said:

Within the poem, the various gods interact with the humans in endless ways. Then as now, the various gods may intercede to save the lives of their favorites, as in this early example:

Paris is the feckless Trojan prince who has stolen Helen's affections and brought her back to Troy. In Book 3, after ten years of war, he agrees to engage in individual combat with the Achaean prince Menelaus, Helen's previous husband. 

As for Helen, she will be consigned to marriage with whoever wins the duel. So went the sexual politics of that earlier day.

Trojans and Achaeans alike pray that this duel will bring an end to this endless siege of Troy. But just as Paris seems doomed to defeat, one of the immortal goddesses swoops in and offers protection:

Lunging at Paris, he grabbed his horsehair crest,
swung him round, started to drag him into Argive lines
and now the braided chin strap holding his helmet tight
was gouging his soft throat—Paris was choking, strangling. 
Now he'd have hauled him off and won undying glory
but Aphrodite, Zeus's daughter quick to the mark,
snapped the rawhide strap, cut from a bludgeoned ox,
and the helmet came off empty in Menelaus' fist.
Whirling it round the fighter sent it flying
into his Argives scrambling fast to retrieve it—
back at his man he sprang, enraged with brazen spear,
mad for the kill but Aphrodite snatched Paris away,
easy work for a god, wrapped him in swirls of mist
and set him down in his bedroom filled with scent.
Then off she went herself to summon Helen...

Aphrodite, daughter of Zeus, intervenes to save her favorite. She whisks him away to his scented bedroom, where he's soon engaged in the pleasures of love with Helen, radiance of woman.

In this ancient poem, the gods are constantly interceding in the affairs of the humans. This seems to be the way the generations who composed and listened to this poem understood the cosmos.

It was also true that royal status, among the humans, was directly conferred by the will of the gods. For example, among the various Achaean kings, why was Agamemnon "lord of men," despite his endless meltdowns? 

It's because he held the royal scepter! In this passage, generations of Greeks learned the chronology which lay behind the royal status of Agamemnon (Atrides):

King Agamemnon
rose to his feet, raising high in hand the scepter
Hephaestus made with all his strength and skill.
Hephaestus gave it to Cronus' son, Father Zeus
and Zeus gave it to Hermes, the giant-killing Guide
and Hermes gave it to Pelops. that fine charioteer,
Pelops gave it to Atreus, marshal of fighting men,
who died and passed it on to Thyestes rich in flocks
and he in turn bestowed it on Agamemnon, to bear on high
as he ruled his many islands and lorded mainland Argos.
Now, leaning his weight upon that kingly scepter
Atrides declared his will to all Achaea's armies...

The scepter had been fashioned by Hephaestus, one of the gods. Hephaestus had passed it on to Zeus, and eventually it was passed to Agamemnon, affording him the ultimate royal status. 

Through this chronology, Agamemnon was understood to be the ruler authorized by the will of the gods. 

These are ancient, extremely human ways of picturing the structure of the universe. The gods intercede in our behaviors here on Earth. Meanwhile, our human monarchs enjoy the divine right of kings.

This picture stretches back through the annals of time. This understanding seems to be deeply bred in the bone.  That brings us to a front-page report in today's New York Times. 

The report was prepared by Bender et al. Below, we'll offer one complaint about their report.

That said, their report starts like this, front-page headline included:

After Saturday, Trump’s Devotees See ‘God’s Protection’

For Donald J. Trump’s most devoted supporters, the bullet that nicked his ear and came within inches of ending his life was only further proof that a higher power is looking out for him.

“I don’t see this as luck,” said the Rev. Nathaniel Thomas, a Republican National Convention delegate and a pastor from the Washington, D.C., area. “I see this as God’s protection.”

After he spent decades pursuing riches, fame and power, Mr. Trump’s life has been far from pious. Yet he has drawn a committed core of followers—many in Milwaukee this week for his nominating convention—who view him as handpicked by God for a second term in the White House.

These supporters are less likely to explicitly compare him to Jesus and instead view him as the latest example of a morally flawed Old Testament hero, like Cyrus or David, who was ordained by the heavens to lead profound missions of good versus evil. Their passion for Mr. Trump...appears to be reaching new heights after the assassination attempt on Saturday.

Stating the obvious, people are free to believe such things. At this point, it seems to be clear that many people do.

For those who don't believe such things, there's no way to prove that these beliefs are untrue. 

Within the modern context, religious faith is a part of this belief—and religious faith and religious belief are widespread among us humans all across the globe.

Religious belief is quite widespread, and it always have been. Stating the obvious, there's nothing "wrong" with religious belief, until such time as there may be, or until such time as there is.

We ourselves don't hold religious beliefs, but many people do. Religious belief lay at the heart of Dr. King's historic ministry. Religious belief has always been a large part of the human world.

As Bender et al. report, a new type of religious conviction seems to have emerged from last Saturday's assassination attempt. As they continue, the Times reporters start calling the roll of this legion of believers:

“God protected President Trump,” Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who had been one of Mr. Trump’s top running mate contenders, posted on social media after the shooting.

Speaker Mike Johnson said Mr. Trump’s survival was “miraculous,” a sign of God’s work that he compared to George Washington staying alive during the Revolutionary War. Franklin Graham, the evangelical leader, said on Fox News that “God’s hand of protection” was on Mr. Trump.

Stephen K. Bannon, who was Mr. Trump’s chief strategist in the White House, said that Mr. Trump was protected by “the armor of God.” Mr. Bannon is serving a four-month prison sentence after being found guilty of being in contempt of Congress and reacted to the shooting in an interview with The National Pulse, a conservative outlet.

Those armor-of-God themes were threaded through a prayer vigil on Sunday in Milwaukee organized by Turning Point Action, a conservative activist group.

“God protected President Trump,” Senator Rubio has said. Speaker Johnson agrees, as does Franklin Graham.

God shielded Candidate Trump from Saturday's apparent attempt! There's little doubt that this belief has been given wide voice in the aftermath of that near-miss. 

This belief has even been voiced on Fox, we're told in today's report—voiced there by the Rev. Graham. That represents our one complaint about today's report. 

In fact, this belief has been widely and aggressively voiced on the Fox News Channel—voiced there in remarkably sectarian fashion by an array of Red America's favorite reporters and friends.

In particular, we refer to the three co-hosts of Fox & Friends Weekend. As we've noted in the past several days, they were joined last Sunday morning by two co-hosts from the weekday Fox & Friends program.

That made five friends in all! As it turned out, those additional two co-hosts were perhaps "on loan from God." But they were very much on loan from the regular weekday program,

Tomorrow, we're going to show you some of what was said on Sunday morning's program. For the record, there's nothing "wrong" with what these friends said, unless you think there is.

Opinions will differ about the journalistic correctness of what the five friends said and did. But of one thing, there can be little doubt:

The climate is changing, but so is the world, when major stars of our nation's most-watched "news channel" present the news in the way this quintet did.

There's nothing wrong with religious belief, unless you think there is. That said, we think the conduct in question represents a type of journalistic departure that it ought to be recorded.

As usual, the New York Times ran and hid from that task in this morning's report. Its reporters didn't report the journalistic behavior we'll report tomorrow.

Long ago and far away, Aphrodite saved the life of a favorite. Last weekend, "our lord and savior did," according to these Fox friends.

Tomorrow: Opinions will differ about the wisdom of reporting the news in this manner


FRIENDS: J. D. Vance quickly figured it out!

TUESDAY, JULY 16, 2024

But also, the weekend friends:  The apparent assassination attempt took place at roughly 6:12 p.m. Eastern.

With two hours, Senator Vance had managed to figure it out! 

Everyone has always known that Vance is plenty smart. But, in this particular case, his clairvoyance—his skill at reading the flight of birds—went right off the charts:

FLAM (7/15/24): Sen. J.D. Vance, Donald Trump’s newly named running mate, responded to the assassination attempt on the former president by calling out President Joe Biden.

On Saturday, July 13, Trump, 78, was injured after Thomas Matthew Crooks, 20, fired shots at the former president in Butler, Pa., in what authorities have since confirmed was an "assassination attempt." 

"Today is not just some isolated incident," Vance, 39, wrote on X (formerly known as Twitter) two hours after the incident. "The central premise of the Biden campaign is that President Donald Trump is an authoritarian fascist who must be stopped at all costs. That rhetoric led directly to President Trump's attempted assassination."

That's part of this report from People magazine. Even People had noticed!

In fact, the soothsaying solon had no way of knowing whether his accusation was accurate. Even now, three days later, no evidence has emerged concerning the motive, or the state of mind, of the 20-year-old assailant.

Full disclosure! A familiar old soundbite comes to mind when we consider what this latter-day Calchas did. It's a soundbite which ruled the 2000 White House campaign:

Willing to do and say anything.

Way back in 1999, that unflattering description was relentlessly applied—by mainstream and conservative journalists alike—to Candidate Al Gore. 

Al Gore is willing to do and say anything! As evidence, our journalists kept offering crazy claims Gore had supposedly made—crazy claims the journalists themselves had invented and had then placed in Gore's mouth.

Starting in March 1999, this pattern continued for twenty straight months. The candidate won the popular vote, but lost Florida by an eyelash.

The Crazy was already on the prowl back in 1999. By now, The Crazy has come, en masse, for what's left of the American nation, a fact which was all too apparent in the immediate aftermath of Saturday's assassination attempt.

All across the firmament, people like Vance hurled themselves forward, making claims they couldn't possibly justify, prove or support. "Conspiracy theories" were everywhere! On the front page of today's New York Times, Hsu et al. offer this:

The Gunshots Rang Out. Then the Conspiracy Theories Erupted Online.

Four minutes after the first report of a shooting at a rally for Donald J. Trump on Saturday, an anonymous account on X posted, “Joe Biden’s antifa shot President Trump.”

Within half an hour, another account on X with links to the QAnon conspiracy theory claimed without proof that the attack against Mr. Trump had most likely been ordered by the Central Intelligence Agency. Shortly after that, the far-right activist Laura Loomer posted on X about some recent remarks that President Biden made about Mr. Trump and then wrote, “They tried to kill Trump.” She did not provide evidence.

An hour later, with official details of the assassination attempt still scant, the narrative that President Biden and his allies had engineered the attack on Mr. Trump was being amplified by Republican lawmakers, Russian sympathizers and even a Brazilian political scion. By the time 24 hours had elapsed, posts about the unverified claim had been viewed and shared millions of times.

The idea that President Biden was behind the shooting of Mr. Trump was perhaps the most dominant conspiracy theory to emerge after the attack in Butler, Pa., on Saturday. The unproven conjecture surfaced almost instantly, hardened into a narrative and then catapulted between platforms large and small, even as information about the incident was limited. It was a striking example of the speed, scale and stickiness of rumors on social media, which often calcify into accepted truth far more efficiently than efforts to debunk or pleas for restraint. 

In fairness, Vance's tweet didn't exactly present "a conspiracy theory." That said, it was a fairly obvious sign that at least one member of the Senate was willing to do and say anything.

It's as we noted early this morning. The climate is changing before our eyes—but then again, so is the world!

We'll guess that our own Blue America may finally have earned its way out, a speculation and claim we plan to discuss over the next several weeks.

Our own Blue America may be on the way out—or possibly not, of course. But in the wake of Saturday's apparent assassination attempt, Red America spilled over with an endless array of insinuations and accusations, and with some religious fervor as well.

That brings us to the unusual conduct on Sunday's Fox & Friends Weekend.

Full disclosure! We have a soft spot for weekend friend Rachel Campos-Duffy, who we believe is a million percent sincere in the various things she says. 

As we mentioned a few days back, Will Cain is the most cautious and careful of the three weekend friends. Pete Hegseth—the famous "Trader Pete"—strikes us as a perfectly intelligent person who needs to become a bit less upset and perhaps a great deal more honest.

Campos-Duffy and Hegseth also seem to be quite religious. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that—until such time as there is.

This Sunday, the weekend friends were joined by Lawrence Jones and Ainsley Earhardt, two of the regular friends from the weekday Fox & Friends program. That made five friends in all.

Was something "wrong" with what the five friends did this Sunday? For ourselves, we wouldn't say that.

Instead, we'd go with this:

We think what happened on Sunday's show should be recorded for posterity. It strikes us as an example of the way the world is currently turning. 

Climate is changing, but so is the world—and it seems to us that we Blues have very much earned our way out. We seem to be on our way to an earlier world—to an earlier model of the way a society should function. That's part of what we thought we saw when we watched two hours of Sunday's program, and when we searched the records of the Internet Archive for two more hours after that.

All in all, we'd put it this way—Sunday's program was flatly sectarian. Campos-Duffy and Hegseth took part in the repetitive service, as did Earhardt and especially Jones. 

We're not sure if Cain joined in. We'll continue with our research.

There's nothing wrong with being religious. There's nothing wrong with being doctrinal.

In our view, there was something new and different about what the five friends did. What they did was new and different, but then too it was also quite old. We lost a lot of time today, but in the course of the rest of the week, we're going to show you (some of) what was said and done.

There's nothing wrong with being religious. There's nothing wrong with being doctrinal.

Was something wrong with what the friends did? We'd put it a slightly different way:

We self-impressed Blues may have earned our way out. Climate is changing before our eyes, but so is the rest of the world.

Tomorrow: You'll read it nowhere else


FRIENDS: We won't be posting till mid-afternoon!

TUESDAY, JULY 16, 2024

Our plan RE the weekend friends:  Much like Rick in Casablanca, we'd been misinformed.

Yesterday afternoon, we told you that today's high temperature in Baltimore was forecast to be 101 degrees.

As of this morning, the forecast stands at 103! We regret the error. 

Even worse—due to a bunch of appointments, we won't be posting until this afternoon.

In the course of the week, we plan to record some—only some—of what we saw when we watched Fox & Friends Weekend this Sunday. It seems to us that what's happening on the Fox News Channel is a bit of cultural history which ought to be recorded.

The climate is changing, but so is the world. That second change to which we refer is being widely ignored by the men and women at our nation's finer news orgs.

They do good work in some other areas. For whatever reason, their news orgs seem determined to avert their gaze from this.


Then too, this deliberately forgotten attempt!

MONDAY, JULY 15, 2024

The plane crash on the South Lawn:  As of 2 o'clock, Baltimore's predicted high temperature for today stood at 100 degrees. 

Tomorrow, the predicted high is 101. Something like two weeks back, the resident chimp at the Fox News Channel referred to climate change as one of "the major hoaxes."

So it goes within the withered remnants of "our democracy." Conduct like that goes unremarked and unreported by Blue America's finer "news orgs."

In this somewhat sardonic new post, Kevin Drum has listed American assassination attempts of the past maybe eighty years. He lists the attempts that get discussed. He doesn't list the apparent assassination attempt which basically got disappeared.

The year was 1994; the jackals of the mainstream press were baying at the president's door. This was the start of a lengthy press corps war in which the group's enmity would eventually be transferred to Candidate Gore, then to Candidate Hillary Clinton.

Journalists and academics have buried news of that long war quite well. Also buried away and forgotten? The plane crash on the South Lawn!

To recall that sign of things to come, you can just click here. You'll be reading a retrospective report published by Politico in 2018.

Headline included, this is the way it began:

Stolen plane crashes into White House South Lawn, Sept. 12, 1994

Shortly before 2 a.m. on this day in 1994, a red and white, two-seat, propeller-driven Cessna 150 flew low over 17th Street in the heart of the nation’s capital, banked leftward in a U-turn near the Washington Monument, and headed toward the presidential bedroom in the White House.

Gliding just over the treetops, the Cessna passed over the fountain and the red cannas flowers blooming on the South Lawn, bounced off the grass just short of the mansion, crashed through the branches of a magnolia tree planted by President Andrew Jackson and came to rest in a crumpled heap two stories below the Clintons’ unoccupied bedroom. The impact immediately killed the pilot, Frank Eugene Corder.

Some 50 yards from the Oval Office, just around the corner from the Rose Garden, sat a tangle of metal, what was left of the plane’s nose, inches away from the barred office window of the White House physician and one floor below the State Dining Room. A twisted brown aircraft seat rested in the dirt just left of the wreckage.

As daylight broke, the Secret Service hung a tarpaulin over the plane to conceal its identification numbers.

Politico's report continues from there. (Mental illness may have been involved.) But was that an assassination attempt? 

You can teach it flat if you prefer. We'd more likely teach it round.

The Crazy was just getting started back then. It was being driven along by Newt Gingrich, but also by Rush Limbaugh. 

(The Fox News Channel didn't exist. Before long, Jerry Falwell had skin in the game.)

The Crazy was coming for the future. The mainstream press corps largely took part, but also maintained massive silence.

Today, we have a little chimp telling millions of viewers that climate change is one of the major hoaxes. As he leaps and flings his poo about, the finer news orgs in Blue America make a point of averting their gaze.

The Crazy was coming on strong at that point. But was that an assassination attempt?

A person could teach it flat or round.  On balance, we'd say that it was.


FRIENDS: We live in two nations composed of best friends!

MONDAY, JULY 15, 2024

Friends don't let friends hear from Others:  As it turned out, the assailant—the gunman, now deceased—was only twenty years old.

As it turned out, he was a registered Republican. That said, it still isn't clear what his political views may have been, or whether he really had any.

As has often been the case with these gunmen, someone who knew the gunman in high school has said he was endlessly bullied. Full disclosure:

At this time, we ourselves don't know if that's true.

Quite a few of our nation's recent mass shootings have been committed by young men—young men of roughly this same age—who were apparently lost in clinical depression, severe mental illness, disordered thinking, despair. 

Meanwhile, here's something else that's true. Frequently, the most obvious possible motive for our nation's political shootings hasn't turned out to be the actual motive. 

Sometimes, the motives for political shootings haven't been political! In a superb "News Analysis" overview for the New York Times, Peter Baker recalls the motives behind a few such "political" shootings:

BAKER (7/15/24): When President Ronald Reagan was shot by an attention-seeking drifter in 1981, the country united behind its injured leader. The teary-eyed Democratic speaker of the House, Thomas P. O’Neill Jr., went to the hospital room of the Republican president, held his hands, kissed his head and got on his knees to pray for him.

[...]

Gov. George C. Wallace, Democrat of Alabama, was shot at a campaign event during his 1972 presidential run by a man who wanted to be famous...John Hinckley attacked Mr. Reagan out of an obsession to impress the movie star Jodie Foster. 

John Hinckley, who had just turned 26, tried to kill President Reagan. As it turned out, he wasn't driven by a political motive. Insanely, he decided to shoot President Reagan in the hope that such an act would impress the very young Jodie Foster. 

In the grip of a mental illness, he apparently came to believe that shooting and killing President Reagan would be the way to do that! So it has often turned out in the case of attempts on the lives of political figures.

Hinckley tried to kill a sitting president. When George Wallace was shot, he was a presidential candidate.

More recently, Rep. Gabby Giffords was shot and severely wounded by Jared Lee Loughner, who was 22 years old at the time. Six other people were killed in this crazy attack on a political figure.

What exactly was this young man's "motive?" Wikipedia's thumbnail says this:

Jared Lee Loughner is an American mass murderer who pled guilty to 19 charges of murder and attempted murder in connection with the January 8, 2011, Tucson shooting, in which he shot and severely injured U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords, and killed six people, including Chief U.S. District Court Judge John Roll, Gabe Zimmerman, a member of Giffords's staff, and a 9-year-old girl, Christina-Taylor Green. Loughner shot and injured a total of 13 people, including one man who was injured while subduing him.

Acquaintances say that Loughner's personality had changed markedly in the years prior to the shooting, a period during which he was also abusing alcohol and drugs. He had been suspended from Pima Community College in September 2010 because of his bizarre behavior and disruptions in classes and the library. After his arrest, two medical evaluations diagnosed Loughner with paranoid schizophrenia and ruled him incompetent to stand trial...

In any normal sense of the term, did this young man have a "motive" at all? You can teach it flat or teach it round—but it seems quite clear that he was in the grip of a severe mental illness.

Let's move farther afield. Why did Mark David Chapman, age 25, end up killing John Lennon? What was Chapman's "motive?"

Below, you see an early summary of Wikipedia's much longer account:

Raised in Decatur, Georgia, Chapman used to be a fan of the Beatles, but was infuriated by Lennon's lavish lifestyle and public statements, such as his remark about the band being "more popular than Jesus" and the lyrics of two of his later songs "God" and "Imagine". In the years leading up to the murder, the J. D. Salinger novel The Catcher in the Rye took on great personal significance for Chapman, to the extent that he wished to model his life after the novel's protagonist, Holden Caulfield. Chapman also contemplated killing other public figures, including David Bowie, Johnny Carson, Elizabeth Taylor, Paul McCartney, and Ronald Reagan...

Following the murder, Chapman's legal team intended to mount an insanity defense based on the testimony of mental health experts who said that he was in a delusional psychotic state at the time of the shooting.

Among other complaints, he'd been infuriated by Lennon's lavish lifestyle! This young man's earlier episodes of clinical depression are described in Wikipedia's detailed account. 

Clinical depression seems to be an obvious part of this tragic story. For the record, here's a bit more detail about the short-term "motive" behind his crazy, murderous attack:

Chapman had also been influenced by Anthony Fawcett's John Lennon: One Day at a Time, which detailed Lennon's lavish lifestyle in New York City. According to [a personal friend], "He was angry that Lennon would preach love and peace but yet have millions." Chapman later said: "He told us to imagine no possessions and there he was, with millions of dollars and yachts and farms and country estates, laughing at people like me who had believed the lies and bought the records and built a big part of their lives around his music." He also recalled having listened to Lennon's solo albums in the weeks before the murder:

I would listen to this music and I would get angry at him, for saying [in the song "God"] that he didn't believe in God, that he just believed in him and Yoko, and that he didn't believe in the Beatles. This was another thing that angered me, even though this record had been done at least ten years previously. I just wanted to scream out loud, "Who does he think he is, saying these things about God and heaven and the Beatles?" Saying that he doesn't believe in Jesus and things like that. At that point, my mind was going through a total blackness of anger and rage.

According to Chapman, his mind "was going through a total blackness of anger and rage." So it frequently goes with the "motives" of these badly disturbed young men.

In the current case, why did the latest assailant—a 20-year-old registered Republican—attempt to kill Donald Trump? 

At this point, no answer to that question has emerged. It may turn out that he left writings which will explain his state of mind. It's also possible that no clear picture will ever emerge. 

Even today, no one knows why this very young man did what he did last Saturday—why he went to a rally and apparently tried to shoot and kill a presidential candidate. (Presumably, he knew this act would likely end in "suicide by cop.")

At this point, no one knows why he did what he did—but so what? On the Fox News Channel, and elsewhere in Red America, thought leaders rushed forward that very day to announce why he did what he did. They said he did it because of what Joe Biden had said, or because of things that had been said on Blue America's "cable news" channels.

In our view, there's plenty to criticize in what has been said on Blue America's "cable news" programs. (In our view, the behavior on the Fox News Channel tends to be even worse.)

In our view, there has been plenty to criticize! That said, what was the "motive" for Saturday's attack? What explains this latest assailant's behavior?

Even today, no one can say—but so what? Here's the start of Baker's analysis piece, which appears in today's print editions:

BAKER (7/15/24): When President Ronald Reagan was shot by an attention-seeking drifter in 1981, the country united behind its injured leader. The teary-eyed Democratic speaker of the House, Thomas P. O’Neill Jr., went to the hospital room of the Republican president, held his hands, kissed his head and got on his knees to pray for him.

But the assassination attempt against former President Donald J. Trump seems more likely to tear America further apart than to bring it together. Within minutes of the shooting, the air was filled with anger, bitterness, suspicion and recrimination. Fingers were pointed, conspiracy theories advanced and a country already bristling with animosity fractured even more.

The fact that the shooting in Butler, Pa., on Saturday night was two days before Republicans were set to gather in Milwaukee for their nominating convention invariably put the event in a partisan context. While Democrats bemoaned political violence, which they have long faulted Mr. Trump for encouraging, Republicans instantly blamed President Biden and his allies for the attack, which they argued stemmed from incendiary language labeling the former president a proto-fascist who would destroy democracy.

Mr. Trump’s eldest son, his campaign strategist and a running mate finalist all attacked the political left within hours of the shooting even before the gunman was identified or his motive determined. “Well of course they tried to keep him off the ballot, they tried to put him in jail and now you see this,” wrote Chris LaCivita, a senior adviser to the former president.

So said the senior adviser—and from others, the accusations were more specific and dumber and worse. That's what was instantly being said, at a time when no one had any way of knowing what may or may not have lay behind this latest violent attack. 

That very Saturday, major political figures "attacked the political left." The next morning, on Fox & Friends Weekend, a quintet of the Fox News Channel's official "friends" staged a gruesome, hours-long clinic in the ways of pre-human pseudo-journalistic behavior.

We briefly described this gruesome gong-show in yesterday's report. As they staged their tribal war, no manner of dimwitted tribal propaganda was left behind. 

But so it goes—so it has always gone—when members of our limited species split themselves into warring tribes.

Yesterday morning, the inanity on Fox & Friends Weekend was endless. It went on and on and on, and then it went on a bit more. It started with the unblinking assertion of divine providence the previous day, not excluding the intervention of "our lord and savior, Jesus Christ." 

So ruled weekday friend Lawrence Jones, speaking at precisely 6:12 a.m. Already, the weekend friends had agreed on the role of divine providence. On this "cable news" show, Jones then took the next step.

(Jones didn't explain why the divine intervention had allowed other people to be critically wounded or killed during the violent assault. Nor did the other friends ask him to do so. On this imitation of a news channel, friends don't let friends kill a buzz!)

Stating the obvious, Jones and the other friends are fully entitled to their religious beliefs. That said, no point of dumbness was left behind yesterday morning in the two hours we watched.

No unfounded assertion was left behind—no preapproved element of tribal agitprop. That said, this is the regular order of business on the increasingly gruesome Fox News Channel. In fairness, behavior which isn't altogether different is common on MSNBC, Blue America's "cable news" channel.

The Fox News Channel starts each weekday morning with four (4!) hours of Fox & Friends. The friends talk down to their millions of viewers. No possible sifting of information will ever be left behind.

Over on the rival channel, a conventionally attractive woman with perfect teeth and excellent hair has been pleasuring Blue America for two hours per day over the past five or six years.

Her very heavily watched TV show has been devoted to LOCKING HIM UP. This program has been a repository of bad political judgement—a type of judgment which now may be blowing up in Blue America's face. 

That said, her program has been built around friendship cadres too. Every single freaking day, this former advocate of war in Iraq and antigay referendums tells her trusting viewers that they are watching conversations involving "some of our favorite reporters and friends."

(Sometimes, these friends are elevated to "dear, dear friends." Sometimes, viewers even hear themselves described as "beloved viewers.") 

The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But this is no way to assemble friends, and this is no way for friends to be treating friends. But this is the way we now organize vast amounts of our nation's journalism, along with our national politics.

Under current corporate arrangements, these "cable news" channels are almost wholly "segregated bv viewpoint." It's been this way for years.  On these ersatz cable "news" channels, one key rule obtains: 

Friends don't let friends consider the viewpoints or insights of Others. 

Friends don't let friends speak to Others. Friends don't make friends listen to Others. All in all, friends don't ask friends to encounter the world like functioning human beings.

This is the way our world has been organized for a rather long time. For Blue America, it's beginning to look like this may have been a disaster.

Yesterday morning, the friends behaved like trained seals. They're cast in that role every day.

Our nation has been organized this way by profit-seeking corporate interests. Very large modern nations simply can't function this way.

We'll explore the behaviors of these dueling groups of friends as the week proceeds. But why did Crooks, just 20 years old, do what he did last Saturday?

Even today, nobody knows—but who what? On Fox & Friends Weekend, a quintet of well-paid corporate tools rushed forward to bulldoze their friends.

Tomorrow: Fox & Friends never quits


SUNDAY: We watched two hours of Fox & Friends!

SUNDAY, JULY 14, 2024

No Bad Judgment Left Behind:  Full disclosure! We watched two hours of Fox & Friends Weekend this morning.

We watched the 6 o'clock and 7 o'clock hours. The three regular weekend "friends" were on hand, joined by two members of the weekday Fox & Friends cast.

We watched what happened for two solid hours. We'd described what we saw this way:

No Impossibly Bad Example of Pseudo-Journalism Left Behind

For now, we won't attempt to report or transcribe what we're talking about. We may do so tomorrow.

That said, the uninformed speculations were virtually endless. They went on and on, then on and on. Very few unfounded speculations were omitted from the mix.

For today, we'll offer two assessments:

First, this sort of thing is inevitable when a nation organizes its journalism in the way much of our journalism is now organized—on the (thoroughly undisguised) basis of "segregation by viewpoint."

Today's five friends all share the same tribal viewpoint. No alternate viewpoint, inclination or impulse was present on the set.

In such situations, the participants will all agree with whatever the last friend said—or they'll try to top it. On and on and on they'll go, leaving no impossibly unwise insinuation behind.

Our second point would be this:

Under such arrangements, the bad judgment won't all be found Over There.

In our view, there has been a lot of bad judgment within our own Blue America over the past several years. In certain respects, we'd say that our tribe's self-defeating behavior dates back something like sixty years

During the Trump era, quite a few misstatements have become established parts of Blue America's treasury of memorized tribal dogmas. In our view, the focus on trying LOCK HIM UP has constituted a relentless case study in bad political / moral judgment—bad political / moral judgment which has tended to be self-defeating.

(That focus on trying to LOCK HIM UP is also "human, all too human." We humans will always be inclined to tilt that way in the absence of wise leadership.)

The friends went on and on, then on and on, in the two hours we watched this morning. Along the way, they did allege one example of very bad judgment by an unnamed staffer to an unnamed member of the January 6 committee.

At 8 a.m., we sat down and googled it up. Sure enough! It looks like that one allegation was basically accurate. For a preliminary news report, you can just click here.

We humans are prone to bad judgment. That doesn't mean that we're bad people—it means we're people people. But especially at times of tribal or national war, our powers of discernment may be strikingly limited.

The results are bound to be horrible when we let our corporations split us into warring tribes in search of ratings and profits. As one result of this ongoing arrangement, the performance on today's Fox & Friends was just gruesomely bad.

Two days ago, we cited President Lincoln again. As we've noted many times, he insisted, again and again, on regarding his neighbors as friends. 


SATURDAY: We encountered the word "cognition!"

SATURDAY, JULY 13, 2024

It brought us a moment of pleasure:  Once in a while—it happens quite rarely—we're afforded a moment of pleasure.

As the world of "our democracy" turns, it happens less and less often. 

This past Tuesday, almost wholly by accident, we were afforded one such tiny moment. In between several medical appointments, we bumped into the word "cognition," a key word at this highly fraught time. 

We encountered the word at the end of the official Foreword to the 2001 revised edition of Nagel and Newman's classic text, Godel's Proof. The twelve-page foreword to the revised edition of the book was penned by Douglas Hofstadter, a highly renowned authority figure in the world of high academics.

Professor Hofstadter wrote the foreword to the revised edition of Nagel and Newman's 1958 book. At the end of his twelve-page essay, his institutional affiliation appeared:

Center for Research on Concepts and Cognition
Indiana University, Bloomington

Just like that, there it was! "Cognition"—one of the present day's most prominent "it words!" 

Why were we perusing Godel's Proof as we lounged about, killing time between a set of brief appointments? By pure serendipity, we'd grabbed the slender volume off the top of a pile of books as we went out the door that day.                                                                                              

We hadn't looked at the book in years. We thought it might be ripe for review.

When we began to peruse the book, we could see, by our markings, that we'd never made it past page 5 in Nagel and Newman's text. When we first struggled with the book, we had plainly devoted more attention to Professor Hofstadter's foreword. 

The burst of pleasure we experienced came from that foreword's sixth page. One page earlier, Professor Hofstadter had finally begun to address this question, and we're quoting directly: 

"What is Godel’s work about?"

We'll bite! What is Godel's (famous) work about? The professor began to seem to explain. And then, three paragraphs into his effort, we encountered this:

This wraparound was a truly unexpected turn of events, for it inevitably brought ancient paradoxes of self-reference to Godel’s mind—above all, “This statement is false.” Using this type of paradox as his guide, Godel realized that, in principle, he could write down a formula of Principia Mathematica that perversely said about itself, “This formula is unprovable by the rules of Principia Mathematica.”

Just for the record: 

By this point, the non-specialist will have no idea what Hofstadter's talking about. 

Having said that, oh good grief! We were back to that ancient "paradox"—that "paradox of self-reference."

Extremely long story short:

Back in 2001, the publisher said that Hofstadter's efforts would make this classic text "even more accessible." In fact, nothing the professor wrote in that foreword would make Godel's work accessible to the non-specialist. 

(For the record, that would be true whether the non-specialist realized it nor not.)

Having said that, dear God! There it was again, as always—that silly "ancient paradox."

“This statement is false.” Why is that short string of words supposed to qualify as some sort of "paradox?"

In theory, here's your answer. Here's what the professors will tell you:

"This statement is false!" 

If you think that statement is true, that means that the statement is false! But if you think that statement is false, that means that the statement is true!

It's like what Arsenio Hall used to say, though only in jest: Things that make you go ooohhh!

Thousands of years later, we're still supposed to be puzzled by that silly string of words. It's supposed to count as a paradox—and we're constantly told that the greatest work of logic since Aristotle was somehow built out of that mind-boggling structure.

("The mind crashes" in the face of that paradox, Professor Goldstein wrote in her 2005 book, Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Godel. The book was widely praised, in blurbs and reviews, by some of the author's favorite professors and friends. For her fuller text about the crash of the mind, see below.)

Sad! This paradox is just a silly game played by a bunch of conchas. This is the way the later Wittgenstein might have approached such a silly reaction to a meaningless string of words:

Normally, when someone says that a statement is false, he's referring to an actual statement which someone has already made.

He may have seen a public speaker make a statement. He may have read a statement in a newspaper or a book. But he believes the statement is false, and now he proceeds to say so.

In this normal situation, the speaker is referring to a pre-existing statement. In his own subsequent statement, he says the original statement was false. At any rate, some original statement must exist before we can say it is false.

But alas! In the short string of words which makes Professor Goldstein's mind crash, there is no pre-existing statement! There's nothing to denounce as false!

Sad! People can also assemble such strings of words as these:

Up is down.
Day is night.
War is peace.

Stripped of any possible context, would such short word bursts cause the mind to crash? Only if the mind is remarkably weak—and so too with the short word burst presented by Professor Hofstadter.

For ourselves, we received a burst of pleasure when we encountered the passage in question in Professor Hofstadter's foreword. That said, the professor's failed attempt to make Godel easy reminds us of a major human problem:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but our human discernment is extremely limited. As a species, we're highly skilled at building tall buildings (and the like), but we're almost wholly unskilled at almost everything else.

Einstein couldn't make Einstein easy. Wittgenstein was almost wholly incapable of explaining his own work. And when Professor Goldstein sees "This statement is false," she says it makes the mind crash.

This is the general state of play as we humans attempt to maintain the way of life we now refer to as "our democracy."

Demagogues are all about, paid by corporate interests. So are people who are cognitively impaired (even as judged by normal standards) or are "mentally ill" in some major way.

Our intellectual leadership barely exists. Our major journalists are inclined to drift toward their time-honored pastime—Candidate Gaffe Alert.

So it goes in this most self-deluded of all possible worlds. Bring on our nation's pseudo-discussion of this year's presidential election!

Starting in the late 1960s, we've spent a good number of years examining topics of the kind lurking in that foreword. It started with the undergraduate course in Wittgenstein, then proceeded to Professor Cavell's graduate seminar on that same topic.

At the time, the later Wittgenstein was very hot, though no one was pretending that they understood his remarkably garbled work. We've continued to puzzle him out down through the several years.

On Tuesday, we encountered a key word—"cognition." It brought us pleasure to think back on all the transparent foolishness we've encountered over the years.

Should our candidates take cognition tests? How about our ranking journalists, or maybe our top professors?

For extra credit only: That ancient paradox has been kicking around for thousands of years. Professor Goldstein is a good, decent person, but here's the way she limned it in 2005:

GOLDSTEIN (page 49-50): Paradoxes, in the technical sense, are those catastrophes of reason whereby the mind is compelled by logic itself to draw contradictory conclusions. Many are of the self-referential variety; troubles arise because some linguistic term—a description, a sentence—potentially refers to itself. 

The most ancient of these paradoxes is known as the "liar's paradox," its lineage going back to the ancient Greeks. It is centered on the self-referential sentence: "This very sentence is false." This sentence must be, like all sentences, either true or false. But if it true, then it is false, since that's what it says. And if it is false, well then, it is true, since, again, that is what it says. It must, then, be both true and false. The mind crashes.

"This book is a gem," the first blurb says. Could that statement make the mind crash?

All sentences must be either true or false? A person might imaginably agree with that formulation—if we're speaking about actual sentences, and if the authors of the sentences in questions intended them to be true or false.

(Some sentences are intended to be flights of fancy or purveyors of amusement. They aren't supposed to be true or false.)

At any rate, some strings of words may not exactly qualify as actual sentences. Absent further explanation, some strings of words don't seem to make any recognizable sense. 

In that circumstance, it falls to the person emitting the string of words to explain what he or she means by the emission. Or he or she can sit around, pretending to grapple with matters of logic as our discourse turns into an open joke and as "our democracy" burns.

We grabbed the slim book off the top of a pile. Midway through its jumbled foreword, it brought us a moment of pleasure.

Later, we saw that one key word. We mordantly chuckled:

Cognition!


The greatest challenge since that facing Lincoln!

FRIDAY, JULY 12, 2024

Also, JFK:  It's known as Lincoln's Farewell Address. We know it from the closing pages of Sandburg's Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years, Volume II.

The president-elect was leaving for Washington. He spoke to neighbors and friends from the back of his train at the Springfield rail station:

Springfield, Illinois, February 11, 1861

My friends—No one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe every thing. Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. 

I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington...

You can read one version of the full address by clicking here. In Sandburgh's rendering, Lincoln closed his brief remarks by saying this:

Friends, one and all, I must now bid you an affectionate farewell.

With a young nation on the brink of war, he saw himself confronting a task "greater than that which rested upon [General, then President] Washington."

According to Sandburgh, the last stop in Illinois was at Tolono station. Volume Two of his master work ends with this:

Tolono station was the last stop in Illinois. There he said, “I am leaving you on an errand of national importance, attended as you are aware with considerable difficulties. Let us believe as some poet has expressed it, ‘Behind the cloud the sun is still shining.’ I bid you an affectionate farewell.”

And there were voices, "Good-by, Abe."

At that stop, Lincoln declared himself to be "leaving you on an errand of national importance." Though of course, as it turned out, no, he didn't return.

We had started this with a thought to relating President Lincoln's words to the monumental task we ourselves now face. We refer to the task of convincing denizens of Blue America that it wasn't a good idea to abandon the traditional journalistic / political rule against the use of the L-bombs:

LIAR, but also LIES.

Is convincing us liberals of that idea commensurate with the task which once rested upon General Washington? We're not completely sure how to rank such things.

That said, as we post Lincoln's sacred words, it occurs to us that we should all be fully aware of the challenging task we ourselves face today, as this time of political and cultural crisis. 

Lincoln saw his Illinois neighbors as friends. That said, there was no cable news in his day. There had been no "democratization of media," with the concomitant striving for maximum profit through separation of a large, sprawling continental nation into a set of angry, squabbling, disinformed rival entities.

With respect to JFK, we're going to wait for tomorrow! A new book about the way the men of his family were apparently raised helps describe what we would describe as a human / American tragedy.

"Behind the cloud the sun is still shining?" According to the historical record, Abraham Lincoln said that!

For extra credit only: According to photographic evidence, a plaque in Tolono says this.


FAILS: Candidate Biden seemed to exhibit a cognitive fail!

FRIDAY, JULY 12, 2024

Then again, so did Candidate Trump:  Did E.J. Dionne get it right when he offered the warning in question?

He issued his warning four days before the fateful June 27 debate. This was the text of his warning:

DIONNE (6/23/24): Because the “age issue” has been raised relentlessly against [President Biden], the media have a tendency to overlook or downplay Trump’s many moments of incoherence and even lunacy. Biden and his lieutenants must turn this side-by-side performance into an opportunity to have the two men judged by the same standards.

So Dionne wrote, before the debate. Four days later, President Biden's performance was so strange that it has routinely been described as "shocking." 

That brings us to Candidate Trump's performance at the same debate. Has it been judged by a different, less aggressive standard?

We'd have to say yes, it has been.

Was President Biden's performance "shocking?" We'd say that it pretty much was. Two weeks later, it largely remains unexplained. We've seen little effort by mainstream news orgs to consult with medical specialists concerning what might have happened that night.

President Biden's performance was quite strange. Then again, there was Candidate Trump, issuing a stream of groaning misstatements—many of which entered a realm which may seem to take us to a cognitively challenged place.

Trump issued a stream of groaning misstatements that night. As we noted in Tuesday's report, CNN's fact check team instantly summarized matters as shown:

Trump made more than 30 false claims during CNN’s presidential debate—far more than Biden

Both President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump made false and misleading claims during CNN’s presidential debate on Thursday–but Trump did so far more than Biden, just like in their debates in 2020.

Trump made more than 30 false claims at the Thursday debate. They included numerous claims that CNN and others have already debunked during the current presidential campaign or prior.

[...]

Biden made at least nine false or misleading claims in the debate. 

According to the CNN census, Trump made "more than 30 false claims." Biden made at least nine.

President Biden's physical appearance and apparent confusion qualified as "shocking" that night. But there were two candidates on the stage during that evening's ersatz debate. What about the steady stream of bogus statements issued by Candidate Trump?

CNN issued a long list of misstatements by Trump, with links to previous fact checks. That said, a certain taxonomy may been missing from the detailed fact check. 

With merciful brevity, we would offer this:

Some of Trump's false or misleading claims qualified as misstatements of the fairly typical kind. This would be one example:

TRUMP:  We now have the largest deficit in the history of our country under this guy.

In fact, we don't have the largest deficit in history at this time. That said, that false assertion qualifies as a misstatement of a fairly typical kind. 

At one point in the evening, Candidate Trump even issued a type of throwback misleading claim. This was a standard type of misleading assertion back at the turn of the century:

TRUMP: Now, when we cut the taxes—as an example, the corporate tax was cut down to 21 percent from 39 percent, plus beyond that—we took in more revenue with much less tax.

If you lower the tax rate, you take in more revenue! Sean Hannity used to live off that silly, misleading claim way back in the dim, distant past. Suddenly, Donald J. Trump brought it back!

Some of Trump's misstatements were fairly typical. That said, many others weren't. Example:

One familiar claim by Candidate Trump—the claim that President Biden wants to "quadruple your taxes"—is more than a typical political misstatement. The claim is absurd on such a scale that it qualifies as something more than false or misleading, or as simply inaccurate or wrong.

The statement is so absurd—defies plausibility to such an extent—that it takes us close to the realm which we would describe as "crazy."

So too with other claims by Trump that night—for example, with patently ludicrous claims of this now-familiar type:

TRUMP: Fifty-one years ago, you had Roe v. Wade, and everybody wanted to get it back to the states. Everybody, without exception. Democrats, Republicans, liberals, conservatives, everybody wanted it back. Religious leaders.

And what I did is I put three great Supreme Court justices on the Court, and they happened to vote in favor of killing Roe v. Wade and moving it back to the states. This is something that everybody wanted.

That claim moves us past the realm of mere misstatement. It takes us past the point of mere error into a dumber and stranger land.

So too with these related statements:

TRUMP: As far as the abortion’s concerned, it is now back with the states. The states are voting, and in many cases, they—it’s, frankly, a very liberal decision. In many cases, it’s the opposite.

But they’re voting and it’s bringing it back to the vote of the people, which is what everybody wanted, including the founders, if they knew about this issue, which frankly they didn’t. But they would have—everybody wanted it brought back...

Everybody wanted it brought back and many presidents had tried to get it back. I was the one to do it. And again, this gives it the vote of the people. And that’s where they wanted it. Every legal scholar wanted it that way.

TRUMP: Now, ten years ago or so, they started talking about how many weeks and how many of this—getting into other things. But every legal scholar, throughout the world, the most respected, wanted it brought back to the states. I did that.

Every legal scholar wanted it that way? 

Every legal scholar throughout the world? Even the founders would have wanted that, had they only known?

Every legal scholar in the world wanted Roe returned to the states? That claim is so baldly absurd that it needs to be separated from the realm of mere misstatement.

Many of Candidate Trump's statements this night wandered across the borderline into the realm of the baldly absurd. Then too, we come to the array of self-affirming claims which barely qualify as actual statements at all.

We refer to the types of claims this disordered man delivers in bushel loads when he's out on the stump. These are statements in which he alleges the unparalleled greatness of everything he's ever said or thought or done.

It's a type of greatness no one has ever seen before! Everyone was amazed by his greatness! So we're routinely told:

TRUMP: We had the greatest economy in the history of our country. We had never done so well. Every—everybody was amazed by it. Other countries were copying us.

TRUMP:  First of all, our veterans and our soldiers can’t stand this guy. They can’t stand him. They think he’s the worst commander in chief, if that’s what you call him, that we’ve ever had. They can’t stand him. So let’s get that straight.

And they like me more than just about any of them. And that’s based on every single bit of information.

TRUMP:  So, I want absolutely immaculate clean water and I want absolutely clean air, and we had it. We had H2O. We had the best numbers ever. And we did—we were using all forms of energy, all forms, everything. And yet, during my four years, I had the best environmental numbers ever. And my top environmental people gave me that statistic just before I walked on the stage, actually.

TRUMP:  Jake, we’re doing very well at addiction until the COVID came along. We had the two-and-a-half, almost three years of like nobody’s ever had before, any country in every way

TRUMP:  And if you would see my statements that I made on Twitter at the time, and also my statement that I made in the Rose Garden, you would say it’s one of the strongest statements you’ve ever seen.

TRUMP: All of the things that we’ve done, nobody’s ever—never seen anything like—even from a medical standpoint. 

Nobody's ever seen anything like the astonishing things this amazing leader has accomplished. Routinely, were told that no one had ever seen anything like it before.

Routinely, these self-affirming claims of greatness are based on no discernible or imaginable evidence. 

His top people just gave him the statistic, we are inanely told. His claims are based on every single bit of information!

In fact, these claims are based on no imaginable type of information. As such, they barely qualify as statements at all.

They take us into an unfamiliar realm. They move us past the point of error into a realm which seems to border on something which might be compared to a second cousin to lunacy, to borrow a term from Dionne.

Does this disordered person's cognitive state perhaps come into question as he churns this endless array of emissions? Behind the high walls of the mainstream press, the answer is typically no.

In our view, the reason for that seems to be fairly obvious. It involves an unwise and childish decision which has infected the world of the mainstream press corps and of Blue America's thought leaders.

It involves the enjoyable use of the childish term LIES. 

It happened some time back. In the face of President Trump's endless stream of weird misstatements, the mainstream press corps decided to abandon a long-standing prohibition on the use of that highly fraught term.

In our view, that decision was unwise on the basic merits. The decision has also had the effect of empowering Candidate Trump. 

In our view, that decision drives the dimwitted double standard which is now general within the mainstream press corps. According to that double standard, Candidate Biden seems to exhibit a possible cognitive shortfall—but for all his apparent lunacy, Candidate Trump does not!

Candidate Trump is a LIAR, full stop. We regard this stance by the mainstream press, and by Blue America, as silly, childish, unwise, destructive—as a very large cognitive fail.

"The media have a tendency to overlook Trump's lunacy," Dionne wrote on June 23. Given the strength of the language he used, we'd have to call that a remarkable claim.

We'd call it a remarkable claim! Sadly, we're going to rule that Dionne got it right—and that his colleagues in the press, and in Blue America, have long been caught in their own extremely large, very unhelpful, all-too-human cognitive fail.

Still coming: What's wrong with calling a LIE a LIE? Gene Brabender helps us explain.


Had you ever seen the president like that?

THURSDAY, JULY 11, 2024

Here's what Chris Coons said: BREAKING! We ourselves had a "one-off" once! 

It happened somewhere around 1990. It was caused by a prescription drug error. 

We were taking steroids as a treatment for poison ivy, something we'd done a few years before.  In this instance, we hadn't been told that we needed to taper the dosage of the steroids as the treatment proceeded, and we didn't remember doing that from the earlier episode. 

As a result, we simply took the initial daily dosage until the prescription ran out. At that point, we stopped cold turkey.

That wasn't a good idea! It led to a few slightly odd occurrences on that first day, then to (what was described to us as) a strange performance at The Comic Strip in Fort Lauderdale that night. 

(Millions now claim they were there.)

At any rate, management was extremely unhappy. In the immediate aftermath of the show, it somehow suddenly came to us that the day's peculiar events had occurred because we hadn't tapered the steroids, the way we'd done before.

We spent the next several days sick in bed. Always taper your steroids!

We'd describe that weird event as an obvious "one-off." The episode had a fairly obvious pharmaceutical cause. There was no reason to think it would recur. It didn't seem to be a manifestation of some underlying condition. 

With that, we jump ahead to President Biden's performance at the June 27 debate. Can that be viewed as some strangely unexplained but isolated event? Putting it another way:

Had anyone ever seen President Biden behave that way before?

On this morning's Morning Joe, that key question was addressed in the 7 o'clock hour. Joe Scarborough said he's spoken to the president a fair amount, though usually on the phone. 

He said he'd never seen or heard the president confused in the way he was at that debate. I never saw anything approaching this, Scarborough said at some point. 

(We can't give you perfect quotes at this point. The video from today's program still hasn't been posted by the invaluable Internet Archive.)

For us, an obvious question had come to mind several days before. That said, in the world of "cable news," even the world's most obvious questions routinely go unasked.

But then, dear God, a major surprise! Up popped Senator Coons! 

Coons was introduced at roughly 7:12 a.m. Since 2010, he's been the junior (Democratic) senator from Delaware.  He won a special election that year to fill Vice President Biden's former seat.

There's more! According to the leading authority on the matter, "Coons is seen as among President Biden's closest allies in the Senate and is a co-chair of his 2024 reelection campaign." 

Senator Coons is all in on Biden. There's no reason why he shouldn't be—but for that reason, we were surprised by something he now said.

It happened at 7:15. Scarborough said he's never seen (or heard) the president in the state of confusion he exhibited at that debate. According to our notes, the then directly asked Senator Coons if he'd ever seen such a thing.

Coons said no, he never has. He said he found the debate performance "shocking."

At that point, he answered the question we'd had in mind without ever having been asked. According to our notes, he said something very much like this:

I don't see Joe Biden every day. Often, [when we speak], it's by phone, and it's him calling me.

And it's him calling me! We almost wondered if Senator Coons, who's very bright, was trying to tell us something.

If the president has a debilitating condition which comes and goes, that may mean he has times of high lucidity mixed with episodes of confusion. As with Scarborough, so too here:

If the phone conversations only happen on the days, and at the times, when President Biden calls, that doesn't tell us what the president might be like on the days, and at the times, when he doesn't call.

We would have asked Scarborough that very thing about his phone calls with President Biden. Does Scarborough place phone calls to the president, and do his calls go through? Or instead, does he have to wait until the president calls?

It seems like the world's most obvious question. But in the world of cable news—in the world of human cognition—even the world's most obvious questions will typically go unasked.

As for Senator Coons, he's very bright. He answered the question without being asked. Because the guy is very bright, we wondered why he did that.

For ourselves we would guess that the debate performance actually wasn't a "one-off." We've seen a fair amount of videotape in the past year in which President Biden seemed to be lost and confused.

They play that kind of videotape on the Fox News Channel. It gets disappeared on cable channels whose business models are built around the goal of keeping us Blue Americans happy. 

(On cable channels where we get pleasured by "our favorite reporters and friends.")

We've seen a fair amount of such videotape. To our eye, a lot of it looked unmistakable. 

For that reason, we were surprised when the Biden campaign agreed to do a debate. We can't tell you the ultimate truth about this unexplained situation, but we certainly would have asked that one fairly obvious question.

By the way:

Diminishment with age often presents as a tragedy. Along with everything else, the situation under pseudo-review within our ersatz "public discourse" is a deeply human affair.