We’re heading home to tasks undone!

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2014

You ought to be very angry:
Later today, we’re heading home from this, the Hudson Valley, on Amtrak. And no, we don’t mean Acela!

In the meantime, you ought to be angry about many things found in recent newspapers.

For starters, you ought to be angry about this passage shown below from Paul Krugman’s new column. The column deals with the power of the mega-rich, about whose vast wealth most of us are less than fully informed:
KRUGMAN (9/29/14): Does the invisibility of the very rich matter? Politically, it matters a lot. Pundits sometimes wonder why American voters don’t care more about inequality; part of the answer is that they don’t realize how extreme it is. And defenders of the superrich take advantage of that ignorance. When the Heritage Foundation tells us that the top 10 percent of filers are cruelly burdened, because they pay 68 percent of income taxes, it’s hoping that you won’t notice that word “income”—other taxes, such as the payroll tax, are far less progressive. But it’s also hoping you don’t know that the top 10 percent receive almost half of all income and own 75 percent of the nation’s wealth, which makes their burden seem a lot less disproportionate.
We were a tiny bit peeved by that highlighted passage. Here’s why:

How many years have gone by since we started identifying that key piece of sleight of hand? Back in the day, we endlessly tied it to Sean Hannity, who was endlessly pimping it out.

In that highlighted passage, Krugman is citing a tightly-scripted piece of disinformation. We identified it more than a decade ago, along with a group of companion misdirections.

Fiery liberals and mainstream journalists have aggressively let such matters go. It’s very, very, very hard to induce career journalists to discuss the highly visible ways the American people get disinformed about financial and budget matters and, in the process, get fleeced.

If a problem deals with race and sex, a different rule obtains! In those cases, the modern, millionaire corporate liberal will shout the outrage to the skies, keeping your eyeballs over there, where you can't follow the money.

The so-called “social issues” are very important, of course. They’re also very useful to the plutocrat class. Over at the new Salon, an astonishing piece by Daisy Hernandez has the commenters calling each other names. In these, and equally useful ways, we the rubes get turned against each other, as people like the awful Hernandez carry off sacks of cash.

We’ll discuss the Hernandez piece upon our return to our award-winning campus. For now, let’s return to the ways the public gets played concerning issues of wealth:

In yesterday’s Sunday Outlook section, the Washington Post presented its weekly “Five Myths” feature. Yesterday’s piece was written by Darrel M. West, a functionary at the Brookings Institution. West’s piece bore this slightly concerning headline:

“Five Myths About Billionaires”

We’ll admit it—we were already concerned. As Krugman notes today, we don’t have anywhere near enough "myths" about the ongoing role of our billionaires.

What “myths” was West prepared to debunk? Incredibly, this was the very first myth his piece addressed:

“1. Billionaires can buy elections and change public policy.”

Billionaires can buy elections and change public policy. In bold print, these obvious facts were trumpeted as a “myth” in yesterday’s Washington Post!

There’s much more to be said about that piece—and about its strange twin at Salon, in which the same Darrel M. West warns that a group of billionaires is planning to buy the next presidential election!

We don’t know when we’ve seen a more peculiar pair of pieces. We think you ought to be angry at West—and especially, at the Washington Post.

In the end, our favorite piece from yesterday’s papers appeared in the Sunday Review of the New York Times. It was written by the unbelievably foppish Anna Della Subin, a young semi-academic with whose simpering class you ought to be very annoyed.

Subin wrote about procrastination. Her essay was the the featured, front-page piece in the high-profile Sunday section.

In comments, many readers said they loved it. We were struck by this horrific passage:
SUBIN (9/28/14): [I]f procrastination is so clearly a society-wide, public condition, why is it always framed as an individual, personal deficiency? Why do we assume our own temperaments and habits are at fault—and feel bad about them—rather than question our culture’s canonization of productivity?

I was faced with these questions at an unlikely event this past July—an academic conference on procrastination at the University of Oxford. It brought together a bright and incongruous crowd: an economist, a poetry professor, a “biographer of clutter,” a queer theorist, a connoisseur of Iraqi coffee-shop culture. There was the doctoral student who spoke on the British painter Keith Vaughan, known to procrastinate through increasingly complicated experiments in auto-erotica. There was the children’s author who tied herself to her desk with her shoelaces.

The keynote speaker, Tracey Potts, brought a tin of sugar cookies she had baked in the shape of the notorious loiterer Walter Benjamin. The German philosopher famously procrastinated on his “Arcades Project,” a colossal meditation on the cityscape of Paris where the figure of the flâneur—the procrastinator par excellence—would wander...

As we entered the ninth, grueling hour of the conference, a professor laid out a taxonomy of dithering so enormous that I couldn’t help but wonder: Whatever you’re doing, aren’t you by nature procrastinating from doing something else?
The conference had a biographer of clutter! Also, a theorist about queer procrastination! Every top conference does!

You should be extremely annoyed with horrible people like Subin and Potts, who wasted time baking those fracking cookies in the shape of an alleged philosopher whose life story Subin made virtually incoherent. Over the past thirty years, they and their kind have been wasting time at international conferences of the type described in that passage, creating the impression that a serious work is occurring.

Gullible newspapers like the New York Times pretend that these high academics are involved in serious work.

Unfortunately, they aren’t. As they piddle their time away, their guild’s economists keep pimping the cant of billionaires, in the way Krugman described in Sunday's Book Review section. None of their pretty class stoops to the actual work of the day—refuting the disinformation spewed by the people like Hannity.

We’ll offer you more on that horrific conference this week. To peruse its truly horrific web site, you can just click this.

That said, you ought to be very angry at useless young people like Subin. Their conferences are funded by gifts from the plutocrats and it horrifically shows.

Tomorrow, we’re back to The Houses of Nantucket County. We’ll be explaining how the world seems to work—the world which has us in our second war in Iraq.

How weird that it is left to us to describe the role of those lovely houses in the journalistic horror show of the past thirty years! That said, who else is going to do it? Career journalist will never tell you how their world actually works. The Subins, meanwhile, flounce around at Oxford with their plutocrat-financed acts of self-absorption.

That horrific international conference is linked to The Houses of Nantucket Country. Everything’s pretty in those realms. The truth is told not to escape.

At Oxford, the flâneurs are in charge. They're eating their Walter Benjamin cookies and trying themselves to desks with shoelaces. This leaves the plutocrats free to do business in The Houses of Nantucket County.

Amtrak willing, that story resumes tomorrow.

Just for the record: The theorist of queer procrastination was the regally named Lilith Dornhuber de Bellesiles, whose presentation was called The Queer Art of Procrastination. For verification, click here.


On most recently looking into Steven Pinker!

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2014

How did these giants not notice:
For the first time since an elderly friend became ill four years ago, Amtrak semi-failed us yesterday.

But that's a different story.

This morning, up here in the Hudson Valley, before we go to visit our friend, we were reading Steven Pinker, in an interview in in the Book Review section in tomorrow's New York Times. Asked for his favorite science writers, Pinker responded alphabetically:
PINKER (2/28/14): Broadly defined: Dan Dennett, Jonathan Gottschall, Colin McGinn, Geoffrey Pullum, Mary Roach, Robert Sapolsky, Steven Strogatz, Carl Zimmer.
In a brush with greatness on somebody's part, Dennett's sister, Charlotte Dennett, was our pal in grade school.

We'll admit it! Daniel Dennett is one of the writers we enjoy reading for his apparent incoherence, especially in Consciousness Explained, which the New York Times declared to be one of the most accessible books of all time. Soon, Pinker was asked to name "the great writing styliests of our time:"
PINKER: Where to begin! In the book I showcase Richard Dawkins, Rebecca Goldstein, Margalit Fox, Isabel Wilkerson, Brian Greene, John Mueller and Mike O’Connor, author of the Ask the Bird Folks column in The Cape Codder.
So many great stylists! Four ourselves, we have studied Greene at great length, pondering his inability to "make Einstein easy." Earlier this year, we spent maybe six weeks in the coffee joint puzzling over the world-class incoherence of Goldstein's book on Godel.

Pinker went on and on, praising the greatness of the high-minded and brilliant. For whatever it may be worth, Goldstein is his wife.

Can we tell you what we always think when we see work of this type?

Our current posts on The Houses of Nantucket County have led us back into the world of Clinton/Gore-trashing. Here's what we always wonder when the Pinkers go on and on about the greatness of their class:

We always wonder how all the named giants have managed to sleep through the past many decades. Why the lunacy of the "earth tones" journalistic culture didn't offend their massive pools of intelligence, as it so deeply insulted ours.

(Our active puzzlement about that culture dates to 1992.)

Are you happy with the place that culture has taken us to? Here at THE HOWLER, we aren't! Next week, we'll finish our Houses of Nantucket County posts and move on to our next topic.

Jack Kennedy wrote Why England Slept. In our view, the Pinkers, so skilled at self-praise, have slept through their own era.

Did they own TV sets in the Clinton/Gore years? What did they think when they read Maureen Dowd? Given their self-admitted brilliance, how have they managed to sleep so deeply and soundly, for so many years?

All in the family: On the front page of that same Book Review, Krugman discusses the rolling failure of the top economics professors!

The things we saw and heard yesterday!

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2014

No further posts today:
As we do every few months, we’re heading north on Amtrak today to continue our tour of Medicaid-funded long-term care facilities.

As we do, we’re in a state of mild depression over the things we saw and heard yesterday—or perhaps over our inability to discuss them today.

What ever made us think that the Ray Rice matter was going to fade? Yesterday, the AP’s Rob Maaddi updated his earlier report about the claim that a copy of the damning second tape was sent to NFL offices.

In this update, we’re told who the tape was sent to—Jeffrey Miller, head of NFL security. But uh-oh!

We’re also told that there are two different Jeffrey Millers at NFL headquarters. We’re also told the following things, several of which are new:
MAADDI (9/25/14): The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to release details of the case, said he doesn't know if Miller ever saw the DVD or opened the package. His only communication with the NFL was a 12-second voicemail on April 9 from league offices confirming receipt of the package, in which a woman says, "You're right. It's terrible."

[...]

The official told the AP two weeks ago that he sent the video to the NFL, but asked the AP not to report that he had addressed the package to Miller. He eliminated that restriction Thursday.

"Since the NFLPA and NFL have launched separate investigations into the league and the Ravens' handling of Ray Rice's case, I want to make a few things clear. No one from the NFL ever asked me for the inside-elevator video," the official said Thursday. "I mailed it anonymously to Jeff Miller because he's their head of security. I attached a note saying: 'Ray Rice elevator video. You have to see it. It's terrible.' I provided a number for a disposable cellphone and asked for confirmation that it was received. I knew there was a possibility Mr. Miller may not get the video, but I hoped it would land in the right hands."
(Just for the record: Two weeks ago, we were told that the anonymous law enforcement official didn’t want to name the NFL executive to whom he sent the tape because it might blow his cover. Maaddi doesn’t explain why that fear no longer obtains.)

Assuming the basic facts in that passage are correct, did anyone actually look at the tape when it apparently reached NFL offices? We have no way of knowing.

But we find it easy to imagine that some receptionist dropped the tape from the anonymous sender with the 13-word cover note directly into her office waste basket, assuming it was the tape that everyone had already seen and assuming that it had been sent by a semi-nut.

(Every one of our sainted aunts would have called the anonymous mailer back, sharing the conventional view that “You’re right, it’s terrible,” as of course it always seemed to be, just based on the first tape.)

We can also imagine incriminating possibilities. By law, only those possibilities can be considered on cable.

Chris Hayes and Mike Pesca did another horrible job with this topic last night. (Hayes was worse than Pesca.) Two weeks later, Hayes still hasn’t noticed the obvious problem with ESPN’s original “four sources,” the sources who said that Rice was honest with Goodell in their June 16 meeting (which Hayes think occurred “early on”).

As we noted way back when, ESPN never claimed that these sources actually attended the meeting in question. Beyond that, the sources were identified as “sources close to Rice.”

To Hayes, those rather shaky four sources remain the thrilling definitive sources. On cable, complications and uncertainties aren’t allowed to spoil the chase. In fairness, this is good for business. It supports a ripe salary structure.

At ESPN, the highly underwhelming Bill Simmons has been suspended. At Slate, Josh Levin gives us a look at Simmons’ background.

As it turns out, Simmons is the kind of Boston guy who likes to call people whores while thrilling us with his interactions with porn stars. Levin doesn’t seem to have a strong grasp of the overall matter here, but he does issue the definitive statement of the way these chases work:
LEVIN (9/25/14): The problem for ESPN is that Simmons said what everyone in America wants to hear right now. The only way Roger Goodell could be less popular is if video emerged of him burning the Ray Rice video, cackling maniacally, and whispering, “I’ll never tell.” Simmons said what he believed, with no bullshit and no filter. This was the Sports Guy at his best: righteous, angry, and probably correct. (On Thursday the AP reported that a law enforcement official sent the Rice video to the NFL’s head of security back in April.)
We have no idea why Levin thinks that Simmons was “probably correct” when he called Goodell a liar, dropping his F- and BS-bombs to show us he really means it. But in that passage, Levin defines the essence of the cable chase:

In our Salem Village chases, people like Simmons “say what everyone in America wants to hear right now,” if possible in a “righteous, angry” manner. People like Levin then tell us that these people are sincere.

The game has been played this way a long time. It’s very good business for people like Simmons. Here's the problem:

In the 1990s, the object of the chase wasn’t Roger Goodell. The object of the chase was President Clinton. Then it was Candidate Gore.

Are you happy with the way that chase worked out? We’re now in our second war in Iraq because people like Hayes and Levin played along, all through that era, with the righteous, angry assertions of people like Simmons.

Today, that low-IQ culture continues. Luckily, it’s only Goodell they’re chasing this time. But people! Just wait! Give them time!