THE YEAR OF THE LIBERAL: Gainesville, Virginia is full of great kids!

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2016

Conclusion—The world's greatest moral tradition:
Here at the 18-year old Daily Howler, excitement runs high concerning the change of life which is currently scheduled for the start of the week.

In the past 18 years, we've conclusively proven that we can't have nice things as part of our national discourse. Now, we're ready for an incomparable shift in focus.

Today, though, we make a key point: Gainesville, Virginia is full of great kids! Specifically, we refer to the 7-year-old second grader described in today's Washington Post.

To read that report, click here. In hard copy, it's the most prominent report on page one of the Metro section.

If we might borrow from Bill Clinton, the era of the lemonade stand is over! The second-grader of whom we speak has started a GoFundMe page to equip public school classrooms in Flint with "hand sanitizer dispensers, plenty of refills and disinfectant wipes"—items needed "because the kids [in Flint] were afraid to use the tap water to wash their hands."

One school, Eisenhower Elementary, has already been fully equipped. Other schools will follow.

Based on the Post's report, we're going to guess that seven-year-old Isiah Britt got very lucky in his choice of parents, one of whom is paraphrased telling the Post that her son "has always showed empathy for others."

Many, many, many children spill with that empathy stuff, some at seven years of age. Indeed, when we read what Isiah Britt's mother said, we thought again of that statement by Dr. King:

"You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve."

To recall Dr. King's fuller statement, you can just click here.

"Everybody can be great," Dr. King said. "Because everybody can serve." "You only need a soul generated by love," he said at the end of his statement.

That said, let's switch gears for a second. Have you heard the one about the 100,000 New Hampshire voters who are Islamophobic, sexist, misogynistic fascist supremacists?

As we noted yesterday, we liberals were told that familiar old tale on Wednesday evening's All In. Not that there's anything wrong with it!

Can we talk? Dr. King was part of one of human history's greatest religious and moral traditions. He didn't start that awesome tradition. Astoundingly, it was already part of the world a large group of oppressed people made.

We liberals rarely mention the greatness of the world those people made. Indeed, when that astounding tradition emerged again last year, we the various northern liberals knew what to do:

We tried to hush it up!

Last year, 2015, is now being widely described as "the year of the liberal." For our money, the single most remarkable element in that long, embarrassing year was the massive dumbing-down of the Rachel Maddow Show, the emblem of contemporary white corporate pseudo-liberalism.

The dumbing down of that cable show was extreme and bizarre last year. This dumbing down went completely unnoticed by us the liberals, who constantly insist that we're the smart brilliant nuanced insightful thoughtful ones.

The massive dumbing down of that program, mixed with its reflexive dissembling, wasn't the only journalistic embarrassment of 2015. We're still amazed by the conduct of the New York Times, including its ginormous, gong-show report about the "scary uranium deal."

The fruit of a deal with a right-wing hack, that ginormous report was an overt journalistic embarrassment. In that case, it wasn't that we the liberals didn't notice the clownishness of the Times report. On one of our corporate cable programs, two major liberals oohed and aahed about what a "bombshell" it was!

Truly, we're hapless, beyond any help. Partly for that reason, we'll be adjusting our principal focus next week. But first, we wanted to offer a final homage to that great moral tradition.

The religious/moral tradition in question is one of world history's greatest. When Dr. King arose from that tradition, which he proceeded to extend, he attributed some of his thinking to Gandhi. But he also spoke, again and again, of "the love ethic of Jesus."

(Dr. King was a Christian. For ourselves, we don't have any religious or cosmological views, but it's easy to see the greatness of the moral tradition Dr. King ascribed to that "ethic.")

The tradition Dr. King extended isn't the world's only moral tradition. No one is required to view it any particular way.

That said, it's one of the world's history's greatest traditions. Dr. King is revered around the world because of the way he expressed it through the conduct of his life.

Last summer, that tradition was enacted again, in astonishing ways, in the wake of the shootings in Charleston. But you know how we liberals are! Up here in our northern preserves, our various entitled assistant professors moved to put the Charleston families down.

Don't listen to those country cousins, our thought leaders helpfully said.

Our associate professors rushed into print to tell us to stop the forgiving! Last year being the year of the liberal, it was the least they could do.

We liberals! In the past year, it became quite clear that we love it when our cable stars dumb it down. We love being handed their simple-minded, embellished stories, complete with their facile tribal accounts of perfect heroes and perfect tribal villains.

Something else became clear last year. It became completely clear how much we love to loathe. We liberals seem to love, lurve, loave our highly pleasing tribal hatred. For this reason, experts and scholars are now calling last year "the year of liberal loathing."

We liberals! We rarely invite American adults to take pride in the astounding moral tradition which somehow, in the face of our history, was brought to life on these shores.

It's one of world history's greatest traditions, but we almost seem to prefer tribal loathing. It's clear that our "thought leaders" do.

We're constantly invited to loathe by our assorted cable hacks and our assistant professors! Indeed, our thought leaders seem to like it best when we get to loathe 100,000 folk at a time.

Good grief! Our professors don't like the love ethic of Jesus, as Dostoyevsky foretold.


THE YEAR OF THE LIBERAL: The ridiculous claims Those People will make!

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 2016

What the Trump voters said:
A fascinating moment occurred at the end of Wednesday night's All In.

Chris Hayes was speaking with Linda Sarsour, "executive director of the Arab Association of New York." Also with "my good friend Ezra Klein, founder and editor-in-chief of Vox.com."

Hayes turned to Sarsour first. In this exchange, she described Candidate Trump:
HAYES (2/10/16): Linda, let me start with you. As a proud Muslim-American woman, a woman who wears a hijab, who works in the space of sort of Muslim-American political power, your reaction to last night?

SARSOUR: I mean, I was—I wasn't shocked, but it reaffirmed for me that Donald Trump is not a joke and there was over 100,000 fellow Americans that walked out of their homes and voted for an anti-immigrant, Islamophobic, sexist, misogynistic fascist. And that really scares me, that he has the actual platform and he can potentially be the next president of the United States of America.
In rapid succession, Sarsour unloosed a set of I-, S-, M- and F-bombs in her description of Trump.

Is Candidate Trump an Islamophobic, sexist, misogynistic fascist? Beyond that, is this sort of analysis an effective type of persuasion?

We're not sure how to answer those questions. But we're often struck, at moments like this, by our tribe's growing inability to talk about politics without the use of our bombs.

This way of talking is quite widespread. The next morning, Nicholas Kristof offered this description in the penultimate paragraph of his New York Times column:
KRISTOF (2/11/12): So today the leading candidate for president in the party of Lincoln is an ill-informed, inexperienced, bigoted, sexist xenophobe. And he’s not a conservative at heart, just a pandering opportunist.
Is Candidate Trump a bigoted, sexist xenophobe? We aren't sure how to answer that either. But increasingly, the deployment of long lists of bombs constitutes one of the basic ways our fiery liberal tribe talks.

In our view, the rise of Trump represents a giant cultural breakdown—a cultural breakdown which got its start within an array of American elites. That includes the mainstream press elite, within which Kristof is a major player and a major brand. In our view, Christopher Matthews was Donald Trump long before Trump took it higher.

In our view, Candidate Trump is a cultural black hole. Is he also an Islamophobic, sexist, misogynistic, bigoted fascist xenophobe?

Over here, in our own lofty tribe, such claims now get lots of play.

A distinction should be observed at this point. Kristof dropped his bombs on Trump; he didn't assess Trump's voters.

Sarsour's earlier statement to Hayes was a bit less clear on this point. In her next exchange with the cable host, she tried to clear up any confusion.

She wasn't bombing Trump alone. You might say that, like Ted Cruz, Sarsour was carpet bombing:
HAYES: Two things I want to ask you, Linda. One, there's an argument this is just shtick and he'll completely change if he wins the general election. Does that make you feel any better?

SARSOUR: It absolutely doesn't. I mean, the fact that— I'm talking about—

I'm not talking about Donald Trump, I'm talking about those 100,000 people that went and voted for him in New Hampshire, thousands that came to his rallies, and, you know, root him on when he talks about banning Muslim immigration, and talks about killing women and children, the family members of whatever, ISIS.
Sarsour said she wasn't talking about Trump. She was talking about the 100,000 New Hampshire residents who voted for him this week.

As she continued, Sarsour seemed to drop one final bomb—the white supremacist bomb—on those people's heads. From her statements, it wasn't entirely clear. But in voting for the Islamophobic, sexist, misogynistic fascist, those 100,000 New Hampshire voters may have fingered themselves as white supremacists too!

Is this sort of thing persuasive? It's hard to measure such things.

Does it make sense as a matter of substance? In our view, it doesn't. We were taught, when we were 13, to avoid such sweeping claims, which were described to us freshmen as "generalizations." We drifted back to December 10, when a pair of Trump supporters briefly spoke, via videotape, on the Maddow Show.

As we noted in Wednesday's report, Trump appeared in Portsmouth, New Hampshire that night to receive a major endorsement. A small number of Trump supporters were at the site to cheer him on, as were a larger group of anti-Trump demonstrators.

A reporter, probably Katy Tur, had interviewed two members of each group. On Wednesday, we showed you what the anti-Trump people said on videotape that night. Today, let's review what the Trump supporters said.

For ourselves, we found the brief interviews intriguing. You virtually never see Trump supporters interviewed on MSNBC. You're much more likely to see the network's cable stars lounging about, complaining that they can't imagine what's in those Trump voters' heads.

On this evening, two Trump voters got to speak. Were those Trump supporters Islamophobic, sexist, misogynistic fascist supremacists?

There's no sure test for such widespread traits. We'll have to show you what they said and let you play God on this matter.

Like Noah before her, Tur had selected a male and a female of the pro-Trump species. By way of context, these interviews were conducted eight days after the San Bernardino attacks. It had been three days since Trump first adumbrated his call for a ban, then for a temporary ban, on immigration into the country by Muslims, except for Muslim citizens.

Speaking via videotape, this is what the male of the pro-Trump species said:
REPORTER (12/10/15): You're not a total Trump diehard necessarily?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. I support him and I'm supporting what I believe he meant when he said, "I'll ban Muslim immigration." I don't think he's a racist. I think he was talking about that we need to step back and re-examine the vetting process and get it right.

We're getting it wrong. People are being killed in America and it's going to get worse unless it gets better, unless we stop what we're doing wrong and start doing it right.

REPORTER: So you think it's Trump just being smart in this circumstance?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do. I do. I don't think he meant all— You know, he wasn't attacking one religion and saying ban an entire religion. I don't think he meant that.
At this point, Maddow jumped in to "correct" what this fellow had said. We'll show you what she said below. We found her correction intriguing.

At any rate, the male of the species improbably said that he doesn't think Trump is a racist. His female consort played this game too. Here's what she had already said:
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have a problem. There are beliefs coming into this country that do not coincide with our constitutional rights, our amendments, our Bill of Rights. And if they cannot— if their beliefs are complete opposite of what we believe in and how we function in this country, then it does not belong in this country.

REPORTER: How do you think that would work? At the border, you know—

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want the wall up. I want the wall up on the southern border. I want the walls up on the northern border. This country, we have to protect it. We the people.

And I will support Mr. Trump when he becomes president. It's we the people that will back him up and get this country back on its two feet and be a strong country, a strong nation, a nation of people that are wonderful.

Excuse me. I'm sorry. Yes, I'm like—

REPORTER: What are your thoughts on the Republican Party in general?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was a registered independent. I switched right over to the Republican Party.
This Trump supporter said she wanted southern and northern walls. For those with tribal ears to hear, her coded language, her loud dog whistles, were present in every word.

So was her New England accent, a familiar sound to our ears. She sounded like many people we've known, dating to the 1950s.

Her name was very familiar too. We decided to scope her out.

As it turned out, Tur had spoken with Mary Donnelly, "a state employee who lives in Concord and recently changed her registration from independent to Republican."

Several other reporters had spoken with Donnelly too. That description came from the Washington Post. Reporter Jenna Johnson quoted Donnelly saying this:
JOHNSON (12/12/15): Mary Donnelly agrees “150 percent” with Donald Trump’s “very positive” idea to temporarily bar most Muslims from entering the United States.

“You can’t tell people: ‘If you’re not going to convert to my religion, I’m going to cut your head off.’ You can’t do that. . . . That does not belong in this country,” said Donnelly, 58, a campaign volunteer who stood with other supporters outside Trump’s latest campaign event on Thursday evening. “We’re a country that loves one another, no matter what the race.”

[...]

Donnelly said she likes Trump because “he’s trustworthy, he’s honest and he’s humble; plus, nobody owns him.” Even if the Republican National Committee finds a way to overrule voters and pick a nominee other than Trump—something his fans are increasingly worried about—Donnelly said she would vote for him as an independent, if he were to decide to run as one.
Donnelly said she thinks that Trump is humble. Intriguingly, she also said this:

"We’re a country that loves one another, no matter what the race.”

Donnelly also said she doesn't think that people should cut other people's heads off if they belong to the wrong religion. Beyond that, we're going to guess she wasn't real thrilled with the shootings in San Bernardino. Or with the killings in Paris.

Does Mary Donnelly really think we're a country that loves one another, no matter what the race? Those of us in God's perfect tribe are able to see that she's lying. That said, Donnelly continued her fiendish deceptions when she spoke to the Huffington Post. In a statement reported by Sam Stein, she posed as open-minded, even perhaps as good:
STEIN (12/11/15): "You're probably going to ask me a question with regards to those [anti-Trump] protesters. I'm going to tell you one thing. They're practicing the First Amendment, freedom of speech. God bless them. God bless all of you, OK? But I'm here for my candidate, Mr. Trump."
God bless the people who don't agree with me, the wily supremacist said.

Presumably, Donnelly voted for Trump this week. Does that mean that she's an Islamophobic, sexist, misogynistic fascist supremacist, the way our sachems have said?

Let's consider another possibility! Is it possible that Donnelly is a decent person whose judgments differ from yours, perhaps in substantial ways?

To us, Donnelly's judgment that Trump is humble seems extremely far-fetched. Then again, Sarsour thinks she can psychoanalyze 100,000 Granite State voters, none of whom she has ever met! Why are members of our tribe so pleased with judgments like that?

Let's review. The male of the species to whom Tur spoke said he didn't think that Candidate Trump was a racist. He said Trump wasn't "attacking one religion" and saying it should be banned.

He said he didn't think that Candidate Trump meant that. Is it possible he was telling the truth? In this regard, we were intrigued by the way Maddow jumped in to "correct" what this Trump voter said.

Rachel could see that this person was wrong. Here's what she helpfully said:
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (12/10/15): I don't think he meant all— You know, he wasn't attacking one religion and saying banning an entire religion. I don't think he meant that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: One Donald Trump supporter in New Hampshire speaking with NBC's Katy Tur tonight, saying that he does not believe that Donald Trump meant to ban everyone from an entire religion from this country.

I have to say, for the record, that is in fact what Donald Trump is proposing. He is proposing banning all Muslim entry into this country, quoting from him directly. It was a written statement. He is—and I'm quoting him. "Calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States."

His supporters may not believe that's what he meant, but that's what he's proposing.
Maddow jumped in to quote from Trump's original statement, which had been made on December 7. This helped us see that the Trump voter was wrong in what he had said.

Starting the very next day, of course, Trump had begun to revise and extend and sand his remarks, as he commonly does, especially when he says something that occasions substantial pushback.

By the time he went to New Hampshire, Trump had stressed the fact that his proposed ban wouldn't apply to American citizens. He had also said that the ban would be temporary. On the morning of Tuesday, December 8, he said this to Chris Cuomo:

"Look, I'm talking about a temporary situation until our country's representatives can figure out what the hell is going on, Chris. We have to figure it out." That same morning, he was even saying that "maybe it could be a few weeks."

By that Thursday night, those Trump supporters knew that. But so what? Maddow jumped in to read from Trump's initial statement. In part, she "corrected" Trump's male supporter by disappearing the ways Trump had softened and clarified his stand through amendments to the original stance which Maddow had never discussed.

We often get our facts this way on this, our own liberal program.

Remember—we're not asking if you think that Trump's proposal made sense. We're not asking if you think it showed good judgment.

We're asking you if someone who isn't as perfect as you could support Trump's rather fuzzy proposal without being an anti-immigrant, Islamophobic, sexist, misogynistic fascist supremacist. A bit more simply, we're asking if Donnelly could be a decent person while still supporting Trump.

For our money, we'd say yes. Linda Sarsour says no, as she deploys our array of bombs. As is now the way in our tribe, she says no 100,000 supremacists at a time.

We've known a lot of people who talk like Mary Donnelly. In our view, her political judgment isn't all that great. (We'd say she might not be "sophisticated," but that might trigger tribals to call her a low-information voter.)

In our view, Donnelly's political judgment may not be real great. But then again, neither is Sarsour's. As a courtesy, we're going to call that a wash.

For ourselves, we think Candidate Trump represents the ongoing, very dangerous disintegration of our political and intellectual culture. In our view, though, so does Kristof's New York Times, an organ which pretty much beat this candidate in the race to the dumpster fire.

So does a lot of the work being done by our corporate liberal stars. That includes the endless bomb-throwing which has led scholars and experts to refer to 2015 as "the year of liberal loathing." That includes the destructive past work of Chris Matthews, who played the role of Donald Trump long before Trump came along.

Can we talk? We modern liberals love our hatred and loathing! Beyond that, the simple truth is, we just aren't especially sharp. Nor are we especially different from The Others, from Those People, the people we love to deride.

We liberals seem to love our loathing; we just don't like to admit it. Tomorrow, as we finish this award-winning series, we'll recall a great American tradition—a brilliant American moral tradition which took, and still takes, a different approach to matters of this type.

That tradition came center stage last year. We liberals tried to squash it.

Tomorrow: Liberals, please! Ignore those calls for forgiveness

Supplemental: Creating the cartoonized hero of Flint!

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2016

In search of the health effects:
If you watch the Maddow Show, you're often watching cartoons. The program's coverage of Flint is a case in point.

A cartoonized story will often come with heroes, villains and victims. One of the perfect heroes of Flint has been Virginia Tech's Marc Edwards, whose actual views you've rarely heard on the Maddow Show.

Even as she avoids his views, how did Maddow cartoonize Edwards, making him one of her perfect heroes? This was her first portrait of Edwards, offered during her second report on Flint:
MADDOW (12/18/15): Turns out there was a broad problem with the drinking water in Flint. And the Snyder administration so obviously not caring about it spurred other people to action when they saw that the state did not care.

A MacArthur genius, award-winning drinking water expert drove 15 straight hours from Virginia Tech to start testing Flint's water. When he got the results, he went back to Flint and held a press conference on the lawn in front of city hall to show Flint's water eating through an iron nail. He told the people of Flint, "Do not drink this water."
The MacArthur genius, award-winning expert drove fifteen straight hours to get to Flint! On its face, this statement is a bit strange, since MapQuest says the trip from Blacksburg to Flint should take a bit more than nine hours.

Whatever! Four nights later, Maddow told the heroic story again. On this occasion, she added an additional hook about the award-winning genius:
MADDOW (12/22/15): So Rick Snyder's government got that news from the federal EPA in February and they did not say a word about it to the public for the better part of a year.

We knew that as of Friday. Now there's something new.

The MacArthur genius, award-winning drinking water expert from Virginia Tech who dropped everything when he heard what was going on in Flint and he drove 15 hours straight to start testing the water in Flint, that Virginia Tech professor now says, in addition to ignoring the EPA telling them what was wrong, the state of Michigan under Rick Snyder also intentionally withheld even its own data—the Snyder administration's own data which showed the levels of lead in blood tests in Flint going up.
In that account, the genius hero expert "dropped everything," then drove fifteen straight hours to get to Flint. Surely, we all can see the cartoon elements here.

Questions:

Did Professor Edwards really "drop everything?" We're going to guess he did not.

Despite that disinformation from MapQuest, did he really drive fifteen straight hours? Maybe not!

According to this detailed report in the Detroit News, "Edwards was among a team of five who drove 11 hours from Virginia Tech to Flint to conduct a broader examination of the water."

All of a sudden he's part of a team. Not being the brother of Annie Hall, he didn't drive fifteen straight hours!

We seem to looking at cable cartooning versus news reporting. By the time the Detroit News got through, Edwards had no longer driven fifteen straight hours, apparently by himself, to get to Flint and start his testing. He had driven eleven hours with a team of researchers—and they'd perhaps possibly stopped for lunch, explaining those two extra hours.

Judging from appearances, it looks like Maddow created a bit of a silly cartoon with that portrait of Edwards. That said:

By all accounts, Edwards' work in Flint has been indispensable, all-important. That's why it's so odd that Maddow has made so little effort to inform her viewers about the views of the genius hero expert who drove those fifteen straight hours.

Uh-oh! Edwards has been at this type of work a long time, and he's a savage critic of the EPA. But uh-oh! In her cartoonized story-telling, Maddow has been playing "the federal EPA" as one of the good guys of the piece—as one of the heroes arrayed against her arch-villain, the evil Governor Snyder.

Here's another problem. When he testified before the House, Edwards seemed to say that a small group of state employees bore the primary responsibility for the initial horrific error in Flint, then for a wide-ranging cover-up.

At one point, he seemed to say that these state employees even lied to Governor Snyder. Just a guess: That sort of thing can't be discussed on the Maddow Show, where Snyder has been portrayed as the all-knowing evil genius of the cartoonized tale.

Whatever the explanation might be, Maddow's genius expert hero has never appeared on her show, except for a truncated appearance during her Flint town hall. Beyond that, his views have not been explained to Maddow's viewers, who are being served a typical porridge of perfect heroes, perfect victims and perfect (Republican) villains.

There seems to be no room in Maddow's story for any complexity—for anything which doesn't advance her simple-minded partisan story. This may explain why the genius hero hasn't been interviewed on her program.

In future posts, we hope to discuss other aspects of Maddow's cartoonized story-telling. We'll show you the way she has fluffed the role of the EPA, an agency which has been savaged by Edwards.

We'll marvel at the absence of LeeAnne Walters, the remarkable Flint resident and parent who got Edwards involved in the first place. Walters didn't even appear on Maddow's "town hall" program from Flint. Warning! She's also very tough on the EPA. Beyond that, there may even be a second problem with Walters!

In our view, Maddow's treatment of this topic has been a journalistic disgrace. For today, let's close with one more point. Let's return to the letter which appeared in Tuesday's Washington Post.

The letter was written by Joseph Cotruvo, director of the EPA’s drinking water standards division from 1976 to 1990. We continue to wonder about the highlighted point concerning the CDC:
COTRUVO (2/9/16): The EPA has taken some flak for its regional office’s inaction. But the EPA should get credit for the major nationwide reduction in lead exposure when it eliminated leaded gasoline, the dominant source of lead exposure, years ago. The average lead blood level for children was 16 micrograms per deciliter in 1976.

A recent report from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services indicated that 3.4 percent of the child blood measurements in Flint were greater than 5 micrograms per deciliter, and 0.6 percent were greater than 10 micrograms per deciliter. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calculates that fewer than 2.5 percent of U.S. children between ages 1 and 5 exceed 5 micrograms, its reference level. It recommends medical treatment at 45 micrograms per deciliter.
According to Cotruvo, the CDC "recommends medical treatment at 45 micrograms per deciliter." We're not sure what that means, but it leads to the most important question in this whole sorry mess:

What kinds of health effects are the children of Flint likely to experience? Maddow has toured the countryside bellowing about "mass poisoning" in Flint—more specifically, about the mass poisoning of "the entire town."

"Poisoning" is a very scary term. In this instance, what does it mean? Maddow has made exactly zero attempt to define the range of health effects which may appear in the children of Flint.

As with almost everything else, she simply doesn't seem to care about a trivial matter like that. She does seem to care about her cartoonized partisan yelling and about the heroism she drapes across her own shoulders.

What is the range of health effects those kids are likely to experience? As she continues to offer her relentless mugging and clowning, including her endless wasting of time and her "poofing" of head shots, Maddow hasn't taken the trouble to ask.

The clowning cartoonist hasn't addressed this most important question from Flint! More and more, we wonder it this peculiar person cares about anything at all, except her own bloated career.

More to come in the coming days. Sample questions:

What has "my friend, Debbie Stabenow" (Hillary Clinton, promising action) done about this matter in the course of the past two years?

Why hasn't Maddow asked?

THE YEAR OF THE LIBERAL: Rabbi, why are you shifting your focus?

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2016

Interlude—Who the Sam Hill is Neil Irwin:
Lately, neighborhood children have been stopping us in the street with an anguished question.

"Rabbi, why are you shifting your focus?" they ask, using a term of respect they encountered in their New Testament.

Their large eyes shine with tears as they pose their question. They've seen our all new Wittgenstein/Einstein Grammatical Confusion Pavilion (Plus Other Wings) as it rises near the headquarters of our sprawling campus.

They don't understand what that name even means! We haven't seen children this upset since Martin and Lewis broke up—and that happened back in the 50s.

This morning, we're able to answer the children. Why are we shifting our principal focus? Our answer has a hundred names. One of those names is Neil Irwin.

Irwin has an analysis piece from "The Upshot" in today's New York Times. In hard copy, it appears on the front page of the Business Day section. It bears an electrifying headline:

"Donald Trump's 42% Unemployment Rate"

As you may know, "Upshot" pieces are branded as the remaining smart work in the Times. In theory, an Upshot piece won't hand you the same stupid shit you're handed everywhere else.

You won't have to read the ten millionth account of how morally great it was when Saint McCain said that Obama actually isn't an Arab. You get that today in Kristof's column. In theory, you won't be fed that type of gruel under the Upshot brand.

For ourselves, we were thrilled by the headline we've quoted. Sadly but surely, here's why:

After Tuesday night's win in New Hampshire, Candidate Trump started in with the bullshit. Thoughtfully, he told us what he's heard about unemployment.

We join the lunacy in progress. This is now the reliable norm in our nation's post-discourse:
TRUMP (2/9/16): I am going to be the greatest jobs president that God ever created. Remember that.

(APPLAUSE)

Don't believe those phony numbers when you hear 4.9 and five percent unemployment. The number's probably 28, 29, as high as 35. In fact, I even heard recently 42 percent. Do you think we'd had gatherings like this if we were, if we had— If we had five percent unemployment, do you really think we'd have these gatherings?

Forgetting about security, forgetting about ISIS— Which by the way, we're going to knock the hell out of ISIS.

(APPLAUSE)

We're going to knock the hell out of them. And it's going to be done the right way.

So we're going to take care of the economy. We're going to take care of jobs, we're going to take care of all of the things that I said, our border, everything, and health care. It's going to be so great.
It's going to be so great, he said, when he knocks the hell out of ISIS and takes care of unemployment. Which, he says he recently heard, is 42 percent.

Yesterday afternoon, we were speaking telephonically with a journalist friend—a journalist friend with a name so big it would rock your world.

We noted the sheer insanity of the modern age. As we said, it's not so much the fact that Trump would say something like that. It's the fact that our "journalists" now treat these claims as completely routine.

Which part of the equation is crazier—the fact that Trump advances such claims, or the fact that he attributes such claims to things he has "recently heard?"

Neither! The craziest part is the way the people who now play journalists on TV swallow such conduct whole. We saw the same culture at play on yesterday's Morning Joe, with the whole gang sitting mutely by as Trump made ridiculous claims about the rise in premiums under Obamacare.

We've told you this for many years—information plays no role in our modern discourse. It's narrative all the way down—narrative plus clowning, of course.

Those were among our telephonic remarks yesterday afternoon. This morning, we opened the hard-copy Times and stared at this glorious headline, marked with the Upshot brand:

"Donald Trump's 42% Unemployment Rate"

Greedily, we tore at the paper, eager to see what Irwin would say. But Irwin is a post-journalist too.

Headline included, here's the way he began:
IRWIN (2/11/16): Donald Trump's 42% Unemployment Rate

Donald Trump seems quite certain that the real unemployment rate is higher than the 4.9 percent that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported it to be. A lot higher.

“Don’t believe these phony numbers when you hear 4.9 and 5 percent unemployment,” Mr. Trump said in his victory speech after the New Hampshire primary Tuesday night. “The number’s probably 28, 29, as high as 35. In fact, I even heard recently 42 percent.”

Mr. Trump might be bombastic, but he’s not entirely wrong...
"Rabbi," the children are going to say. "Why would Neil Irwin type that?"

What would you say to the children if you were confronted with that? Can you see why it might be time to expand our range of topics? To leave this sunken ship?

Let's be fair to Irwin! In one tortured way, you could almost say Trump's ridiculous statement isn't "entirely wrong."

In fact, his statement doesn't rise to the level of being wrong! Starting with his attribution, his statement is about a hundred times dumber than "wrong."

"And yet, this is [us]," to borrow from the poet. This is very much the way our post-discourse discourse works, with no serious pushback emerging from our own helpless tribe. Darlings, it just isn't done!

As he continues, Irwin is even more sanguine. Trump isn't entirely wrong, he pitifully says. "And the ways in which he is wrong are actually useful for anyone who wants to understand how to make sense of economic data." According to Irwin, Candidate Trump's presentation just gets more and more useful!

Why on earth would any real journalist take this approach to that latest buffoonish statement by Trump, with that gong-show attribution? We can't exactly answer that. Yesterday morning, the whole Morning Joe gang played the game the same way. But then, they always do.

Neil Irwin represents the smartest brand at the Times. That said, the Times is no longer a real newspaper, although the type of reasoning it puts on display is also on widespread within our own addled tribe.

Have you read Michelle Alexander's new piece at The Nation? Did you see the segment with Ben Jealous on last night's Maddow Show?

Jealous is famous for being the NAACP head who threw Shirley Sherrod under the bus based on something he saw at Breitbart. That defines the caliber of work currently found within our own failed liberal tribe.

Alexander's piece is based on the ancient need to extend tribal loathing within an established tribe. At some point, the elect will decide it isn't enough to loathe The Others, since everyone already does. The elect will then create a new pattern of loathing, a pattern of loathing within one's larger tribe.

To accomplish this task, the elect will begin to sift, select and disappear facts in the utterly silly way put on display in Alexander's piece. The same need to loathe was put on display by Jealous last night.

Under this familiar old system, it isn't enough to say, "I like Candidate Sanders more," a perfectly sensible judgment. Clinton must be villainized, in all the stupid old ways!

Now for an admission. Plato has repeatedly come to us in our dreams of late. He keeps reminding us of what he once said, in the Seventh Letter.

In the Seventh Letter, Plato described what he thought when The Thirty came to power around 400 BC. "In what way isn't your tribe like this?" he thoughtfully asks us as we fitfully sleep:
PLATO (353 BC): My feelings were what were to be expected in a young man: I thought they were going to reform society and rule justly, and so I watched their proceedings with deep interest. I found that they soon made the earlier regime look like a golden age. Among other things they tried to incriminate my old friend Socrates, whom I should not hesitate to call the most upright man then living, by sending him, with others, to arrest a fellow-citizen, and bring him forcibly to execution; Socrates refused, and risked everything rather than make himself a party to their wickedness. When I saw all this, and other things as bad, I was disgusted and withdrew from the wickedness of the times.
"Rabbi, please!" we've often said. "You were talking about political figures. We write about journalists here."

Same difference, he constantly says, often in the original Greek—and we see his point. Just look at the work at the new Salon. Just look at Maddow's endless mugging, at her endless apparent dissembling.

"Your associates can't see through that sort of thing," Plato has often told us. While you're at it, look at this comment to Alexander's piece:
COMMENTER: The article is wonderful...It's weird all the Obama people I know who are now pro-Hillary. SHE of course is the most anti-Obama Democrat on record. And as secy of state, she disagreed plenty, and not in a good way, always being more hawkish.
The commenter is puzzled by "all the Obama people" who are now pro-Hillary. She doesn't seem to realize that Obama is one of those pro-Hillary people—that it was Barack Obama who made Clinton his secy of state.

With the gatekeepers gone, that's the actual caliber of us over here in our tribe. "What you need is a good strong philosopher-king," Plato has often told us.

We always reject that idea. Still, would you want to reason with liberals like that on a daily basis? Because, in the end, that's very much who We actually are, even as we fluff ourselves by discussing how dumb and evil They are.

The gatekeepers are gone—and left on our own, we reason like that. "Why not open that new wing?" Plato has often said.

"Rabbi, why?" the children still ask. It's hard to level with them about the adults who lounge about in human, all-too-human ways within their nation's post-discourse.

Tomorrow: What those two Trump voters said

Saturday: One of world history's greatest moral traditions