BREAKING: What do Trump voters think about Cotton?

TUESDAY, JANUARY 16, 2018

No one is going to ask them:
We live in a nation which is now fighting the shithole versus shithouse wars. Meanwhile, in her review of the action for New York magazine, Margaret Hartmann makes this accurate point:

"Throughout the long weekend, the national conversation focused on whether or not the president said something racist, not the underlying policy issues."

When was it ever not thus? Meanwhile, discuss:

Is it possible that this continuing focus fits under our award-winning rubric, No Bait Left Behind?

However one assesses that point, this episode has had everything. Consider a few key junctures:

Last Tuesday, President Magoo said he'd favor a "clean" DACA bill (a bill involving no other provisions). He also said he'd sign whatever the heck Congress gave him.

Neither statement made any sense from the Trump perspective. For that reason, Magoo was forced to walk his statements back, perhaps with the help of distractions.

Two days later, he authored his "shithole or possibly shithouse" remarks, perhaps with a purpose in mind. Two Republican senators, Cotton and Perdue, have apparently built their defense of Donald J. Trump around the claim that he was misquoted, since he really said "shithouse," not "shithole," the way the Democrats said.

Trump's Magoo-like behavior is, by now, a given. We can't help wondering what Republican voters think of the distinction being sold by Cotton and Perdue. That said, it's long been clear that there's nothing so stupid that it can't be said as a major part of our discourse. Example:

In November 1999, Candidate Gore came under withering criticism for wearing suit jackets with three buttons, not the preferred number, two. That criticism was insane all by itself—but it led to escalating, crazy claims about what the three buttons meant. (Chris Matthews was especially crazy on that troubling point.)

This lunacy was being authored by mainstream and liberal figures, not by the right-wing machine. Fairly quickly, along came Arianna. In effect, she sewed a fourth button on Gore's suit jackets, saying this to Geraldo Rivera on his nightly CNBC program:
HUFFINGTON (11/9/99): Frankly, you know, what is fascinating is that the way he's now dressing makes a lot of people feel disconnected from him. And there was this marvelous story in one of the New Hampshire papers saying, “Nobody here—nobody here in Hanover, New Hampshire, wears tan suits with blue shirts.” You know, it's just—and buttons—all four buttons! You know, it's not just—it's just not the way most American males dress.
Aside from the pre-existing craziness, there were no four-button suits. There was also no pushback from our liberal world about this whole insane discussion, which persisted for months. (Brian Williams played a leading role.)

Today, two senators are arguing shithouse v. shithole. They seem to be calling Senator Durbin a liar on the basis of this imagined distinction. For the record, there is no evidence supporting their apparent claim that Trump really said shithouse, not shithole. The entire discussion is patently nuts, and they may have invented their factual claim.

On its face, the behavior of Cotton and Perdue is insane. We can't help wondering what Trump voters think about this transparent lunacy, to the extent that average voters have heard about it.

That said, no one on cable is going to ask any voters. On cable, cable stars listen to cable stars talk. They virtually never ask Trump voters what they think, feel or believe about anything that happens.

They prefer to tell us what Trump voters think. They never quite bother to ask.

One last point. That talk about Gore's disturbing buttons was totally crazy too. But it happened in 1999, and it was performed by mainstream and liberal players, not by the right-wing press.

To this day. it's Hard Tribal Law. No career liberal will ever tell you that that lunacy occurred. That said, our culture turned crazy a long time ago, and our own tribe was deeply involved.

You will never hear those facts from our favorite corporate cable stars. They'll tell you that Cotton and Perdue are behaving crazily, which is perfectly accurate. They won't tell you that they themselves invented this culture of The Big Crazy quite a few years ago.

Our modern press culture is totally nuts. It's been that way for a very long time. It's low-IQ all the way down.

Many long years ago: The press corps spent November 1999 deconstructing Candidate Gore's deeply significant clothing.

His suits, his boots, his polo shirts? The number of buttons he wore on his suits? The color of that one brown suit? The height at which his pants were hemmed?

No part of the wardrobe went unfrisked. The motto of these giants was clear:

No Lunacy Left Behind

A few inane players extended this theme beyond that one crazy month. (On the whole, it gave way to December 1999, the month of Love Canal, the month which decided the race by cementing the GORE LIAR theme.) Brian Williams was one such wardrobe obsessive. Why not read Chapter 5 at How He Got There, our companion site?

You will never be told about this; it's neither allowed nor done. That said, this is what our species is like. Our species simply isn't real sharp, and that's at its less crazy moments.

SEGREGATE THIS: "Segregation" in public schools!

TUESDAY, JANUARY 16, 2018

Part 1—Must every discussion be faux?
Must every one of our public discussions be tilted, flimsy, fake/phony/faux, overwrought, substantially bogus?

By some diktat of Hard Pundit Law, has this become a basic part of modern journalistic and academic culture?

We often ask such questions when we read discussions of increased "segregation" in the public schools. For a recent case in point, consider this January 8 report for Vox, written by Alvin Chang.

Chang graduated from NYU in 2009. He describes himself as "Senior Graphics Reporter at Vox," not as an education specialist—though it hardly matters.

We'll assume that Chang is good at graphics, even though this particular piece may suggest a different conclusion. In fairness, his presentation about "segregation" is thoroughly standard, given the norms of modern progressive culture.

Nothing Chang says or claims in his piece is novel or new. That said, his presentation seems to make little sense, except as an example of tribal devotion to script.

All this week, we'll consider basic parts of Chang's presentation, which treats a very important topic. We'll also consider the high-profile academic source from which he draws his basic data.

Beyond that, we'll consider the reaction to Chang's presentation by a major liberal/progressive journalist who has written extensively on the topic at hand. As for Chang's report at Vox, it appears beneath these headlines:
We can draw school zones to make classrooms less segregated. This is how well your district does.

Is your district drawing borders to reduce or perpetuate racial segregation?
The key term there is "racial segregation." As everybody surely knows, the term is heavily fraught.

For many years, public school systems throughout the South—and in border states like Maryland—were legally segregated by race. Black kids went to one set of schools. White kids went to another.

In theory, this practice was declared unconstitutional by the 1954 Brown decision (Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka). That said, compliance with the decision was slow in some places; "white flight" to private academies took place in many others. Beyond that, housing patterns meant that many schools remained racially unbalanced, even after separation-by-law had ceased to exist.

In the language of the time, de jure segregation was over; de facto segregation remained. But the term "segregation" remains highly fraught, for these historical reasons.

Presumably for that reason, "segregation" is the word we progressives prefer when we discuss demographic patterns within today's public school. This reflects one of the basic laws of flailing human culture:

Especially in heavily partisan times, elbows and thumbs must be on the scales in all public discussions—and especially in discussions of topics which are very important.

That's the background to the fraught term which appears in those Vox headlines. Reflexive use of such terms tends to produce a familiar reaction, with one tribe feeling morally pure while the other tribe feels inclined to push back.

Whatever! Below Chang's headline, he starts his argument in the manner shown below. After the text we provide, he presents his initial graphic:
CHANG (1/8/18): Think about your elementary school.

If you attended an American public school, chances are you went to that school because your family lived in that school’s attendance zone. You probably didn’t think twice about it.

We tend to assume these are neutrally drawn, immutable borders. But if you take a step back and look at the demographics of who lives in each attendance zone, you’re faced with maps like this:

[Graphic: "Demographics of school attendance zones"]
Chang's graphic shows maps of school attendance zones in three cities—Omaha, Milwaukee and Houston. The graphic is coded to show us what percentage of the student population in each zone is black or Hispanic.

In each of the cities, some of the attendance zones seems to be more than 90 percent black or Hispanic. Other attendance zones are less than 10 percent black or Hispanic.

That said, we aren't sure what conclusion we can reach from looking at those maps. On their face, none of the attendance zones seem to be crazily "gerrymandered." Presumably, the racial composition of the zones largely or primarily reflects residential patterns.

We don't know what conclusion we can reach just from observing that graphic. But as he continues, Chang tells us:
CHANG (continuing directly): Once you look at the school attendance zones this way, it becomes clearer why these lines are drawn the way they are. Groups with political clout—mainly wealthier, whiter communities—have pushed policies that help white families live in heavily white areas and attend heavily white schools.

We see this in city after city, state after state.
Just this once, we'll be honest. It may well be that those attendance zones were drawn to help white families send their kids to heavily white schools. But we don't see how Chang can know that just from surveying those maps.

No matter! As if to strengthen his point, Chang then presents attendance zone maps for six additional cities. After that, he states his main idea. It involves a familiar claim:
CHANG: And often the attendance zones are gerrymandered to put white students in classrooms that are even whiter than the communities they live in.

The result is that schools today are re-segregating. In fact, schools in the South are as segregated now as they were about 50 years ago, not long after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision.
Our public schools are "resegregating," Chang says. In fact, this is a highly familiar claim. It gets the lift of a driving dream from its use of a highly fraught term.

Are American public schools actually "resegregating?" Are schools in the South "as segregated now as they were about 50 years ago, not long after the landmark Brown decision?" (At this point, Chang presents a graph in support of the latter claim.)

Because of their use of a highly fraught term, these claims involve a lot of heat; they often produce a lot less light. According to many major experts, this is the way our species reasons at highly fraught times like these.

American schools are resegregating! Over here in our progressive realm, this represents pretty much the only way we talk about public schools.

More specifically, it represents one of the only ways we talk about the experiences of "minority" and low-income kids in our public schools. As with almost everything we do, the claim helps us progressives feel morally pure. In our view, it also betrays our standard lack of interest in the actual lives and interests of actual black and Hispanic kids.

"Are we here to play golf? Or are we just going to [BLANK] around?" So Moses says to the Holy Trinity in the famous old golfing joke we famously learned from Paul Reiser many years ago.

We sometimes think of that famous old joke when we read reports like Chang's. All week, we'll poke and prod at his basic claim—the only claim our tribe ever seems to make about those good, decent, deserving kids.

Those good decent kids are highly deserving. Is it possible that they deserve more help than we adults provide?

Tomorrow: Basic rule: always omit key facts

BREAKING: We've got your intelligent species right here!

MONDAY, JANUARY 15, 2018

Chotiner and Sullivan on Trump and mental illness:
In our current state of evolution, are we humans capable of conducting a serious discussion?

More and more, we'd have to say the answer seems to be no. Consider this discussion at Slate, in which Isaac Chotiner asks the Washington Post's Margaret Sullivan about the wisdom of discussing the possibility that Donald J. Trump may be in the grip of some form of "mental illness."

In our view, Trump has behaved so strangely for such a long time that the question can't sensibly be avoided. This doesn't mean that reporters or op-ed columnists should start spouting off about technical matters they don't understand.

It does mean that they should be asking qualified specialists to discuss the possible sources of the president's bizarre behavior. After all, among other obvious problems, the gent holds the nuclear codes.

Should reporters speak with qualified specialists in the way we've described? As a starter, that's what you'd do if someone in your family was behaving in remarkable ways. It's crazy to think that it shouldn't be done in the case of someone with so much power in the public realm.

That said, go ahead—read the discussion between these two upper-end thought leaders. Neither person ever establishes the basic distinction we've just outlined—the distinction between 1) journalists spouting off with their own uninformed views about mental illness, and 2) journalists interviewing experienced professionals as to what this powerful person's behavior might conceivably indicate.

It isn't that Chotiner and Sullivan didn't agree with our own conclusions. The problem is different—Chotiner and Sullivan never managed to establish this obvious distinction.

Midway through the Slate discussion, Chotiner and Sullivan go through a five-part Q-and-A on this topic. Sullivan makes five separate statements. She ends up saying this:

"I don’t think that speculating about it or interviewing psychologists about what they see from a distance is a good way to go."

Concerning that first possibility—"speculating about it"—we might be inclined to agree with Sullivan, depending on what she means. But why shouldn't a reporter "interview psychologists [or other experienced specialists] about what they see from a distance?"

Chotiner never asks; Sullivan never explains. So it goes, again and again, if you read the American press.

"Man [sic] is the rational animal," Aristotle is said to have said. Maybe it's just the lead exposure which took place in the last century, but the lunacy of that famous claim is apparent almost any time our upper-end journalists gather.

We humans donnt seme to reezun reel gud. Could it just be how we're made?

BREAKING: Charles Blow explains what racism is!

MONDAY, JANUARY 15, 2018

No bait left behind:
In this morning New York Times, Charles Blow takes a brave, lonely stand.

His headline says, "Trump Is a Racist. Period." Within the column, his declaration to that effect goes like this:
BLOW: Trump is a racist. We can put that baby to bed.

“Racism” and “racist” are simply words that have definitions, and Trump comfortably and unambiguously meets those definitions.
In his next sentence, Blow says "racism" is a word with a "simple definition." At the very start of his column, he defines the term as shown below, hard-copy headline included:
BLOW (1/15/18): Trump Is a Racist. Period.

I find nothing more useless than debating the existence of racism, particularly when you are surrounded by evidence of its existence. It feels to me like a way to keep you fighting against the water until you drown.

The debates themselves, I believe, render a simple concept impossibly complex, making the very meaning of “racism” frustratingly murky.

So, let’s strip that away here. Let’s be honest and forthright.

Racism is simply the belief that race is an inherent and determining factor in a person’s or a people’s character and capabilities, rendering some inferior and others superior. These beliefs are racial prejudices.
In that highlighted statement, Blow defines the term "racism." We're inclined to disagree with his "simple definition," and with his basic instincts regarding such matters as this.

Is racism really a simple concept? It all depends on what the meaning of "simple concept" is!

That said, we think the definition requires two parts, and that Blow has fudged the first. After consulting with experts and Hollywood stars, we would expand Blow's definition as shown below:
Racism is the mistaken belief that people belong to different "races" and that membership in some "race" is an inherent and determining factor in a person’s or a people’s character and capabilities, rendering some inferior and others superior.
Having defined the term that way, we'll perform an additional service. We'll advise you to be careful in applying the term to various people you loathe.

In the current instance, is Donald J. Trump a racist? We'd recommend a more constructive term, a term Bob Dylan coined. Beyond that, we'll recommend pity over loathing, even as a political strategy:
I pity the poor immigrant
Who wishes he would’ve stayed home
Who uses all his power to do evil
But in the end is always left so alone

That man whom with his fingers cheats
Who lies with every breath
Who passionately hates his life
And likewise fears his death

I pity the poor immigrant
Whose strength is spent in vain
Whose heaven is like Ironsides
Whose tears are like rain
Who eats but is not satisfied
Who hears but does not see
Who falls in love with wealth itself
And turns his back on me.
We'd recommend pity over loathing. We'd further suggest that you try viewing Trump as a "poor immigrant," in Dylan's sense.

Even here, we'd recommend that you be careful in the accusations you make involving terms like "evil" and "lies," unless you secretly long for war and all the destruction it brings.

Is Donald J. Trump best seen as a "racist?" Is he possibly better seen as a "poor immigrant," in Dylan's sense of the term, in which he "eats but is not satisfied" and turns his back on thee?

We recommend pity over loathing as the sounder moral stance. But also, as the stance which is more likely to change the world.

Dr. King wrote and spoke, again and again, about "the love ethic of Jesus." Dylan offered a deeper insight into people who speak and behave in the manner of Donald J. Trump.

In his Second Inaugural, Abraham Lincoln basically said, Our side did this too. These are the people the world admires. By way of contrast, fiery people who "leave no bait behind" tend to produce more war.

Last Thursday night, cable was full of brave people who dared stoke the call for endless cultural war. In this morning's Washington Post, Margaret Sullivan hails their wisdom and courage:
SULLIVAN (1/15/18): Lisa Mascaro of the Los Angeles Times provided meaningful context in her immediate news story: “While cruder and blunter than his past public statements, the president’s comments were in keeping with his long-standing position that the United States should shift its immigration policy away from poorer, developing countries, and instead focus on carefully selecting educated immigrants, especially from Europe.”

[...]

By evening, some cable newscasters had become far more blunt. Don Lemon of CNN flatly declared: “The president of the United States is racist.” His colleague Anderson Cooper went there, too: Trump’s words were not just “racially charged” but simply racist.

David Leonhardt of the New York Times quickly wrote a ­well-argued opinion piece, “Just Say It: Trump Is a Racist.”
Everyone was bravely willing to say it! We would have been inclined to say something different. Of course, we also wouldn't have played the role of Trump's pool boy all through Campaign 2016, as the newly brave and forthright Cooper horrifically did.

That said, our flailing species is heavily wired for war. We're heavily wired to see the world as Us and Them. Perhaps because of that elemental wiring, Blow accompanies his column today with a graphic headlined like this:
'Deplorable' Sounds About Right
So cool! Our species is wired to spot The Others and to call them names. In such ways, we strongly tend to "study war much more."

In closing, let's return to our clarified, two-part definition of "racism." We'll close by asking a question:

Do you believe that our floundering species is divided into "races?" We modern progressives have purchased that concept in much the way the townfolk of River City rushed to purchase all those phony trombones.

Do you believe that so-called blacks and so-called whites really belong to different "races?" That destructive belief is a major part of "the world the slaveholders made." No one pushes that destructive idea more than our tribe currently does.

Our tribe is deeply invested in that idea, and is strongly inclined to feel no pity for people like Donald J. Trump. Does that latter fact mean that we secretly long to be like him? Anthropologists have told us it does!

Blow says the R-word has a simple definition. We'd call that a simple-minded idea, but our species is wired for that!

BREAKING: We're watching a species attempt to reason!

SATURDAY, JANUARY 13, 2018

It's all anthropology now:
Recently, we made a major announcement:

"It's all anthropology now."

By that, we meant the following:

Especially at times like these, there's no point in trying to offer facts, information or analysis to our floundering species. Especially when our species is in the grip of moral panics, our species will have no use for such proffers.

Our current moral panics mainly involve issues of "race" and gender. All you can do, at a time like this, is observe and describe the way our floundering species behaves—the way we're programmed to act.

Still, we'll try to be helpful:

In the general area of "race," we would advise our floundering species to stop believing in the concept, which is such a prominent part of "the world the slaveholders made." We expect to explore this award-winning idea this year, building from Professor Gates' question last fall:

"What difference does it make?"

In the general area of gender, we compliment the Washington Post for the three letters it ran today. The letters concern a gruesome opinion piece the paper ran in last Sunday's Outlook section—a piece which shows how horrific the "reasoning" gets at times of moral panic and cultural stampede.

Last Sunday's piece was written by Richard Morgan. In hard copy, the Post identified Morgan as "a journalist" and as "a writer in New York." Online, the Post identifies him like this:

"Richard Morgan, a freelance writer in New York, is the author of 'Born in Bedlam,' a memoir."

Morgan's piece concerned the alleged contents of Woody Allen's mind. Whatever a person may think or imagine about the contents of Allen's mind, Morgan's journalism on the topic was just horrifically awful.

It showed the instincts of our species at its most incompetent. According to experts and anthropologists, work this bad only appears at times of moral panic and cultural stampede.

We researched several of Morgan's claims, but we'll link you to the three letters and pretty much leave it at that. As a piece of analysis, Morgan's piece is amazingly bad. The fact that the Post chose to publish the piece is the most striking fact of all.

And by the way, did the Post ever choose to publish the piece! In hard copy, it ate about 80 percent of Outlook's front page. Inside the section, it ate the top two-thirds of page B4.

In short, the Post devoted gigantic space to work which is horrifically poor. According to an assortment of experts, those are the judgments our species makes when panics and stampedes are on.

What is a moral panic? you ask. You're asking a very good question. For today, we'll answer in circular fashion:

A moral panic is a time which gives way to work like Morgan's—to horrible, horrific work about important topics.

For what it'd worth, Morgan's essay wasn't his first for the Post. In June 2015, he penned another lengthy, front-page piece for Outlook. Hard-copy headlines included, that Father's Day essay started off like this:
MORGAN (6/21/15): When 'dad' is a four-letter word/ How Richard Morgan learned to love the idea of fatherhood despite his own awful dad

Not everyone celebrates their father on Father's Day. I recently Googled mine for the first time—to double-check that he was still alive. He was not a good dad; we are not close. He taught me one crucial lesson, though: that fatherhood is not about his way of being a dad.

During a trip to Disney World when I was 13, one night I decided to sleep in my swim trunks at the hotel. I hadn't gotten them wet because I didn't know how to swim (still don't). He scolded me at bedtime, then he yelled at me, then, when I didn't remove the suit, he beat me on my arms and legs. Finally, he stripped me. All in front of my younger siblings and our mom. The youngest, my brother, was 8.

In the dark of that room, naked and bleeding, only the sound of my sobs filled the silence—until I began putting my trunks back on. My father heard the hushed rustles, got out of bed, pulled me up by my hair until he could lift me by my neck and dragged me to the parking lot, throwing me against the car door and telling me to get in. He drove so furiously as he swerved onto the main road that I tried, unsuccessfully, to open the door and roll out. I saw my mother, in tears, chasing after the car and pictured the taillights glaring at her like the taunting eyes of a fleeing demon.

"Bastard," my father muttered. He was enraged that night, as he often was, at me more than my siblings, because I, the firstborn, had made my father a father. I was the proverbial 98-pound weakling, so I hurled words over fists, mostly half-plagiarized takedowns from trashy soaps like "Days of Our Lives" and "Melrose Place."
It sounds like Morgan, and his younger siblings, received some truly horrible parenting. In payment, Post readers have received some truly horrible journalism, on perhaps two occasions.

"Man [sic] is the rational animal?" So sacred Aristotle is widely said to have said.

Despite his alleged brilliance, Aristotle didn't speak any English. Whatever he actually may have meant by whatever it was he actually said, it seems to us that he might have misfired in this instance.

"Man [sic] is the animal which can't fashion an argument?" All over cable, all through the opinion pages, our species seems to be fulfilling that alternate claim at this highly fraught juncture.

Man [sic] seems to have a very hard time with "race" and sex. Especially with topics so fraught, the wiring of our misfiring species just isn't especially strong.

One recent application: It seemed to us that Professor Miles and some audience members were having a fairly hard time handling the concept of "race." (The concept is a large part of the deeply noxious "world the slaveholders made.")

This difficulty seems to be leading them to seek their "identity" in the stories of a small number of people numbered among the honored dead. As they engage in this overwrought search, they and everyone else in our tribe ignore the 48,000, who are found among the living.

"Man [sic] is the rational animal?" Tell that to the 48,000, whose "chances at life" crash and burn as cable stars entertain us with talk about Trump and the porn star.

Was Morgan mistreated as a child? So are the 48,000! They live in a world whose misfiring adults continue to "walk on by."