Miami Gardens is full of great kids!


General Kelly's Days in May:
Miami Gardens, Florida is full of great kids.

(The same is true of Puyallup, Washington; Springboro, Ohio; and Lyons, Georgia, the hometowns of the other three men who died in Niger this month.)

Back to Miami Gardens:

Maybe fifteen years ago, La David Johnson was one of those great kids. By all accounts, he was lucky to be served by the mentoring program organized and run by Frederica Wilson, who was his congressional representative when he died this month.

In our view, General Kelly went around the bend and over the top when he aggressively belittled Rep. Wilson this week. On the other hand, we watched the videotape of Rep. Wilson's speech in Miami in 2015, and we can see why someone might have felt that she was perhaps a bit over her skis in her remarks that day.

Yesterday, it quickly became standard for mainstream and liberal pundits to say they couldn't imagine any such thing. The inability to imagine how Others might view an event is a dangerous aspect of human failing in times of tribal warfare such as the era into which we've descended.

General Kelly also made some obvious factual errors in his comments about Rep. Wilson's speech. Those factual errors don't go to the heart of what he said about Rep. Wilson, but they've been widely noted.

In our view, General Kelly's factual errors were largely trivial. His insulting remarks about Rep. Wilson went way, way over the line.

That said, everyone makes mistakes. In our view, General Kelly made a wider set of mistakes during his Thursday press event, and this wider set of mistakes has largely gone unremarked. This oversight should be corrected.

By all accounts, General Kelly is a disciplined, serious person. That said, he expressed views about the role of the military in American life which are historically dangerous and should therefore be assessed.

We refer to Kelly's repeated claims and insinuations that members of the military are our very best people, our top one percent, full stop. It's historically dangerous to think that way. This fact has been made clear in disastrous events all over the world down through the annals of time.

Simply put, those people aren't, all by themselves, our nation's top one percent, and they shouldn't be thought of that way. They're surely among our very best, but they have a whole lot of company.

What sorts of things did Kelly say that took us into this historically dangerous area? He started with some highly sensible remarks about the difficulty involved in informing a military family that their loved one has lost his life.

"If you elect to call a family like this, it is about the most difficult thing you can imagine," General Kelly said. "There's no perfect way to make that phone call."

That was a very sensible thing to say. He also described the painful process by which a fallen soldier's family is told of their loved one's death.

This was a powerful, worthwhile presentation. But along the way, Kelly made the highlighted remarks:
KELLY (10/19/17): A casualty officer typically goes to the home very early in the morning and waits for the first lights to come on. And then he knocks on the door, typically the mom and dad will answer. Wife. And if there is a wife, this is happening in two different places.

If the parents are divorced, three different places. And the casualty officer proceeds to break the heart of a family member and stays with that family until—well, for a long, long time. Even after the internment. So that's what happens. Who are these young men and women? They are the best one percent this country produces.

Most of you, as Americans, don't know them. Many of you don't know anyone who knows any one of them. But they are the very best that this country produces.
And they volunteer to protect our country when there's nothing in our country anymore that seems to suggest that selfless service to the nation is not only appropriate, but required. But that's all right.
Ignore the hint of Nixonian self-pity lurking in those remarks. Focus instead on this question:

Are the men and women who serve in the military "the best one percent this country produces," full stop?

Actually no, they aren't, not all by themselves. And it's dangerous to start down that road.

Those men and women are surely among the best people we produce. It's fitting and just that we should remember that fact.

But are they the best we produce, full stop? it's dangerous to say such thigs because soon you'll be saying things like this, as you trash Rep. Wilson in an undisciplined way:
KELLY (10/19/17): When I listened to this woman and what she was saying and what she was doing on TV, the only thing I could do to collect my thoughts was to go and walk among the finest men and women on this earth. And you can always find them, because they're in Arlington National Cemetery.

I went over there for an hour-and-a-half, walked among the stones, some of whom I put there, because they were doing what I told them to do when they were killed.
Are the men and women in Arlington National "the finest men and women on this earth?" It's dangerous to start down that road.

Those men and women are surely among the finest people on earth. But it's dangerous to say what Kelly said because you'll soon be saying this:
KELLY: In April of 2015, I was still on active duty. And I went to the dedication of the new FBI field office in Miami. And it was dedicated to two men who were killed in a firefight in Miami against drug traffickers in 1986 by the name of Grogan and Duke.

Grogan almost retired, 53 years old. Duke, I think less than a year on the job. Anyways, they got in a gunfight and they were killed. Three other FBI agents were there, were wounded, now retired.

So we go down. Jim Comey gave an absolutely brilliant memorial speech to those fallen men and the, and to all of the men and women of the FBI who serve our country so well and law enforcement so well.

There were family members there. Some of the children that were there were only 3 or 4 years old when their dads were killed on that street in Miami-Dade. Three of the men that survived the fight were there and gave a rendition of how brave those men were and how they gave their lives.

And a congresswoman stood up, and in a long tradition of empty barrels making the most noise, stood up there in all of that and talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building, and how she took care of her constituents because she got the money, and she just called up President Obama, and on that phone call, he gave the money, the $20 million, to build the building, and she sat down.

And we were stunned, stunned that she'd done it. Even for someone that is that empty a barrel, we were stunned. But you know, none of us went to the press and criticized. None of us stood up and were appalled. We just said, "OK, fine."
Note the growing tone of self-pity. In that passage, Kelly makes his factual errors, and he characterizes Rep. Wilson's 2015 speech.

After watching Rep. Wilson's speech, we ourselves can understand why General Kelly might have thought that she was perhaps a bit self-aggrandizing that day, especially under the circumstances. We can see why the children of the fallen officers might have thought that her remarks were a bit tone deaf.

But it's troubling to see General Kelly slipping into an Us-and-Them framework in which "we"—presumably, the military people on hand that day—are portrayed as the long-suffering Better People forced to hold their tongues about The Lesser Beings with whom they must share this earth.

On a global scale, it's historically dangerous when military figures start viewing the world that way. Before too long, they may start structuring our civic life in this way:
KELLY: So I'm willing to take a question or two on this, on this topic. Let me ask you this. Let me ask you this:
Is anyone here a Gold Star parent or sibling? Does anyone here know a Gold Star parent or sibling?
OK. You get the question.


KELLY: Any other? Someone who knows who knows a Gold Star fallen person.

KELLY: I will take one more, but it's going to be from someone who knows [a Gold Star fallen person].
It's dangerous to let yourself think that Your Kind are the worthy and best, full stop. Before too long, you may be saying that only people with ties or connections to your very best people are fit to take part in our national discourse.

Before too long, no civilians need apply!

That was a very strange turn for General Kelly to take. As he ended his presentation, he rather strangely said this:
KELLY: As I walk off the stage, understand there's tens of thousands of American kids, mostly, doing the nation's bidding all around the world.

They don't have to be in uniform. You know, when I was a kid, every man in my life was a veteran, World War II and Korea, and there was the draft.

These young people today, they don't do it for any other reason than their selfless, sense of selfless devotion to this great nation.

We don't look down upon those of you that haven't served. In fact, in a way we feel a little bit sorry, because you will never have experienced the wonderful joy you get in your heart when you do the kind of things our service men and women do, not for any other reason than they love this country.

So just think about it. And I do appreciate your time.
By now, Kelly was coming close to directly asserting the moral superiority of that military one percent. He seemed to think he was being kind when he said that His Kind, the one percent, don't look down on the rest of us, although they feel a little bit sorry for us as they ponder our pitiful lives.

By now, Kelly was thoroughly over the top. We thought of the potent John Frankenheimer film, Seven Days in May.

By all accounts, General Kelly isn't General James Mattoon Scott, the character played by Burt Lancaster, who tries to stage a military coup against the Timorous Lesser Beings who are running the United States government.

By all accounts, Kelly isn't that man. But he was talking like that man during Thursday's presser.

Sgt. La David Johnson was among our very best. So were Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, who also lost their lives in Niger this month.

They were among our very best. But many others are among our very best, not excluding the energetic people who may establish and run the mentoring programs which may help the great kids in Miami Gardens become fully grown people like the late Sgt. Johnson.

All these people are fallible. None of these people are perfect. As Yevtushenko said of people:

"Whom we know as faulty, the earth's creatures."

None of these people are perfect. But many rank among our very best. Their ranks extend well beyond that meager one percent.

By all accounts, General Kelly is a highly accomplished, highly admirable person. By all accounts, he isn't James Matoon Scott.

That said, like all people, he's faulty. He was talking like James Mattoon Scott this week, and Sarah Huckabee Sanders was quickly surfing behind him.

He was talking historically dangerous talk. It may be several light years too late, but attention should be paid to the unwise things he said.

Final thought:

We can see why someone might have thought that Rep. Wilson's speech was a bit tone deaf. Especially during the tribal times which have historically led to our wars, it's important to be able to see the way the world looks to The Others.

It's the oldest fact on the earth. Your team is faulty too.

UPDATE: Video surfaces of Wilson's speech!


Possible irony looms:
Video has surfaced of Rep. Frederica Wilson's 2015 "empty barrel" speech. You can watch it at the Sun-Sentinel site.

Your choices:

1) Our tribal script is already in place. It says that General Kelly was wrong on his facts. Bellow, pause, repeat.

2) For ourselves, we can see why Kelly might have thought that Wilson possibly went on a bit this day. Under the circumstances, we'll note a possible irony:

Donald J. Trump's tone is said to have been wrong in his phone call to Sgt. La David Johnson's family this week. We can imagine that the families of two fallen FBI agents might have had a similar reaction to Rep. Wilson's speech back in 2015.

3) No one is a perfect messenger. We'd recommend that people look for ways to halt our floundering nation's rapid steep dangerous slide.

The Times asserts that Rep. Wilson was crass!


Their skills are amazingly limited:
We plan to discuss General Kelly's highly unusual press statement tomorrow.

On the merits, if not on the tone, we thought Lawrence was strongly on target last night, criticizing Kelly's belittling attacks on Rep. Frederica Wilson. To watch his long statement, click here.

(Does Katty Kay write Kelly's stuff? We ask that after watching Kay's scolding treatment of Wilson on Wednesday's Morning Joe.)

Rep. Wilson may not be a perfect messenger; neither is anyone else. Then again, it sounds to us like she's done some outstanding things in Miami.

All that said, we were amazed by Michael Shear's formulation in a front-page news report in this morning's New York Times. Where on earth—where in the world—do they get these journalists?
SHEAR (10/20/17): [Kelly] said Mr. Trump was merely trying to express what Mr. Kelly had discussed with the president before the phone call—that soldiers like Sergeant Johnson were doing what they loved, and what they had chosen to do, when they were killed serving the country.

“That’s what the president tried to say to four families,” Mr. Kelly said. He later appeared to attack Ms. Wilson by noting that, during an emotional 2015 ceremony, a congresswoman had crassly claimed political credit for getting funding for an F.B.I. building in Miami that was named for fallen agents. Ms. Wilson’s congressional district includes parts of Miami.

“And we were stunned—stunned that she’d done it,” Mr. Kelly recalled, though he did not name Ms. Wilson. “Even for someone that is that empty a barrel, we were stunned.”
According to Shear, Kelly "not[ed] that, during an emotional 2015 ceremony, a congresswoman had crassly claimed political credit for getting funding for an F.B.I. building in Miami." What a sad choice of words!

Shear could have said that Kelly "charged," "opined," "claimed" or "said" that the congresswoman—who was, in fact, Rep. Wilson—had made a crass presentation that day.

Instead, he said that Kelly "noted" that Wilson had done this. For those of us still speaking English, that means that it actually happened!

What an unfortunate choice of words from a top-shelf journalist! We'll assume that Shear wrote something else, and that some editor changed it.

As Lawrence noted last night, Kelly's comments about Wilson were extremely belittling. We decided to check the press coverage of the 2015 ceremony where he said she had been so crass.

Within the Nexis archive, there isn't much reporting on the event. But at the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, Linda Trischitta reported what the keynote speaker said.

Headline included:
TRISCHITTA (4/11/15): New FBI headquarters dedicated to slain agents

Survivors rely upon rituals, symbols and memories when someone dies, and during the FBI's dedication of its new Miramar headquarters to two fallen agents Friday, a hymn was performed, funny and horrifying stories were shared and prayers were offered.

The powerful—from Congress, the military and law enforcement—came before an audience of 2,000 to pay tribute to Benjamin Grogan, 53, and Jerry Dove, 30, who died in a 1986 shootout where six other agents also came under fire.

The fierce but airy 380,000-square-foot building that recycles sunlight and water on a 20-acre campus is named for the fallen agents. It is expected to cost $194 million and stands along Southwest 145th Avenue and the east side of Interstate 75.

The building is made of exposed concrete and glass that reflects surrounding wetlands. It accommodates 1,000 bureau employees who were previously based in North Miami Beach and leased offices in the region, the U.S. General Services Administration said.

Now called the Benjamin P. Grogan and Jerry L. Dove Federal Building, U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami, was credited with pushing naming legislation through Congress in four weeks that was signed Tuesday by President Barack Obama in time for Friday's ceremonies.

"Rep. Wilson truly did the impossible, and we are eternally grateful," FBI Director James Comey said.
Did Wilson pull an attention-grab that day? Everything is possible, but we find no record of that.

That said, James B. Comey—Comey the god—said he was eternally grateful for Wilson's work in getting the building named in time for them to honor the fallen agents. Maybe he was just being polite. But given Kelly's unpleasant remarks, attention should be paid!

Kelly said he and the others were stunned. Comey said something constructive.

The Times report also said this: As he continued his report, Shear also said this:
SHEAR: Mr. Kelly said that Mr. Trump had not intended to suggest during an impromptu White House news conference on Monday that his predecessor, President Barack Obama, had not done enough to honor the fallen. Mr. Trump’s words incensed former Obama administration officials.
Did Kelly actually say that about Trump's intentions? We see nothing in the transcript or tape which supports that statement.

Kelly said Trump didn't intend to make that suggestion? We have no idea why Shear, and his editors, would state that as a fact about what Kelly said.

Skill levels are amazingly weak in our upper-end press corps. This constitutes a very large problem. It helps explain how we all got to this very dangerous place.

LESSONS CONCERNING THE FALL: Sources of liberal enjoyment!


Conclusion—Gifts from the Rachel figure:
Did Jeffrey Sessions lie to that Senate committee back in January?

In our view, this question is much too complex for modern mainstream journalists. We'd also say that the answer is wholly unclear.

We'd say the answer is wholly unclear. Unless you're watching the Maddow Show, where liberals get to hear presentations like the one which ended Tuesday night's program:
MADDOW (10/17/17): You know what? Senators don't like being lied to. And Jeff Sessions never apologized or really cleaned up that lie he told to his confirmation hearing.

Well, tomorrow, Jeff Sessions goes back before that same Senate Judiciary Committee again, the one he lied to, for what's supposed to be a routine oversight hearing. I have my doubts it will be a routine oversight hearing. And it starts tomorrow 10 AM Eastern. I will watch.

That does it for us tonight. We'll see you again tomorrow. Now it's time for The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell.

O'DONNELL: Now I have my assignment at 10 AM Eastern tomorrow, which I did not know until you just gave it to me. But that's, that's why we have to get our homework assignments from Rachel every night.

MADDOW: You know from your time in the Senate that if there's one thing that senators never forget, it's being lied to.


MADDOW: Especially by a witness under oath.
On the Maddow Show, Sessions did lie, full stop, no explanations needed. In fact, viewers heard Maddow say, three separate times, that Sessions "lied" that day.

In much the way described by Janet Malcolm, hearing such statements makes liberal viewers feel good. On Wednesday night, the charismatic "corporate liberal" ran an even more pitiful scam on her mesmerized viewers:
MADDOW (10/18/17): Go back to the first week of March this year. On March 1st, the Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, all reported some very troubling news about the new administration.

They reported that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had in fact met with multiple Russians—excuse me, had in fact met multiple times with Russian officials during the presidential campaign, even though he had repeatedly denied that, including it under oath. That was March 1st, those reports came out about Sessions having meetings with Russians.
Wow! Those three newspapers all reported that Sessions "had in fact met multiple times with Russian officials during the presidential campaign."

People! Sessions had met with the Russkies "multiple times!" Welcome to the Maddow Show, where we liberals get to enjoy ourselves, even in spite of the terrible times our ineptitude helped bring on.

Maddow's statement was pleasing. That said, was it accurate? Was it perhaps misleading?

In point of fact, the "multiple" number of meetings in question was the rather small number "two," a word Maddow chose not to use. In fact, those newspapers had reported that day that Sessions had met with the Russkies twice—that is to say, two times.

(For the Post's report, click here.)

Why did Maddow refer to "multiple meetings" instead of just saying "two?" We can't answer that question! But two weeks ago, as you may recall, Maddow said that Steve Mnuchin had traveled on military jets "multiple times, many multiples of times."

The actual number of times was seven, a word she never used. Instead of saying "seven times," she said "many multiples of times!" The Rachel figure possibly seemed to be playing her viewers then too.

Why did Maddow refer to "multiple meetings" rather than "two?" We can't answer that question. That said, only one of these "meetings" was actually a "meeting" in the normal sense of the term. You're shielded from ever hearing such things if you're a suitably gullible liberal watching the Maddow Show.

Did Sessions attempt to mislead Al Franken that day in that committee hearing? We think the answer is far from clear. But Maddow's embellished reports this week help explain one part of Janet Malcolm's weird assessment of her program, the weird assessment Malcolm delivered right at the start of her endless, and endlessly strange, profile of Maddow in the October 9 New Yorker.

Malcolm started by saying, quite correctly, that Maddow "is the current sweetheart of liberal cable TV." Soon, though, she also weirdly said this:
MALCOLM (10/9/17): As I write this, I think of something that subliminally puzzles me as I watch the show. Why do I stay and dumbly watch the commercials instead of getting up to finish washing the dishes? By now, I know every one of the commercials as well as I know the national anthem...I sit there mesmerized because Maddow has already mesmerized me. Her performance and those of the actors in the commercials merge into one delicious experience of TV. “The Rachel Maddow Show” is a piece of sleight of hand presented as a cable news show. It is TV entertainment at its finest. It permits liberals to enjoy themselves during what may be the most thoroughly unenjoyable time of their political lives.
According to Malcolm, Maddow's show is a nightly "sleight of hand" which "permits liberals to enjoy themselves" during a disastrous time. Strikingly, that's the basic assessment we've been offering for the past quite a few years.

Weirdly, though, Malcolm effusively praises Maddow for working this sleight of hand. We've routinely criticized Maddow for her sleights of hand, which often resemble cons.

We liberals got to enjoy ourselves this week as Maddow told us that Sessions had "lied" about those "multiple meetings." She swept away uncertainty; she toyed with her number words.

In the process, we liberals were getting pleasured and possibly conned—according to Malcolm, by the sleight of hand of a mesmerizing purveyor of "TV entertainment at its finest."

Malcolm's profile is stupendously weird. It's astounding to think that David Remnick was willing to publish such manifest dreck, given its manifest strangeness.

That said, Malcolm offers many accurate observations about Maddow and her deliciously entertaining, enjoyable nightly program. One of Malcolm's most interesting frameworks involves her repeated references to "Maddow’s TV persona—the well-crafted character that appears on the nightly show."

Extremely weirdly, Malcolm compares Maddow's nightly "performance" to the performances which are offered by the actors in the "mesmerizing" TV ads which pay for Maddow's show. Eventually, she refers to Maddow's "performance of the Rachel figure." What the heck might Malcolm mean by that?

We can't speak for Janet Malcolm, whose reasoning in this essay is often quite hard to follow. That said, we can provide the outlines of "the Rachel figure," the "well-crafted character that appears on the nightly show."

What are the basic elements of this "stage persona?" Below, we offer a quick overview:

The Rachel figure is an attention-seeking clown—more politely, an entertainer. As part of her mugging and clowning, she'll even put the lid of "a baby-poop-colored cannister" right on her head, after wonderfully telling us that it's "baby-poop-colored."

The Rachel figure won't always seem to be obsessively honest. She ran her DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS scam for years, convincing gullible viewers of her massive honesty.

(Malcolm describes one such session, ignoring the lengthy history.)

In fact, Maddow rarely corrects her mistakes at all. She persistently tends to embellish facts to make life enjoyable for liberals. She'll embellish the facts about political issues, and about her own life.

(She only bought the TV set because she was blackout drunk! She was completely surprised the next morning when she found the on-line purchase order right there in her bed!)

The Rachel figure is constantly engaging in staged laughter. We've long suggested the obvious, that this may be a performance tic prescribed by her corporate owners as a way of avoiding The Shrill.

Malcolm tells us, admiringly, that "to keep herself in character, so to speak, Maddow marks up the text that she will read from a teleprompter with cues for gestures, pauses, smiles, laughs, frowns—all the body language that goes into her performance of the Rachel figure."

There's nothing "wrong" with that, of course—until there actually is. At any rate, the Rachel figure's constant forced laughter helps keep us entertained.

The Malcolm profile is full of glimpses of the Rachel figure's essence. We'll suggest that narcissism is one key part of that essence. The Rachel figure is inclined to play old videotape of the Rachel figure. She reminds us of Donald J. Trump more than anyone else in all of corporate cable.

We'll especially suggest that you review the bullroar in Malcolm's profile about Maddow's "distant relative," Ben Maddow, who—we'll take a guess—Maddow mentioned to Malcolm because she wanted readers to know that she has some Jewish ancestry, balancing the Catholic upbringing she also discusses with Malcolm. (The Rachel figure is fascinatingly complex, much more so than you.)

Malcolm's long diversion on this matter is utterly pointless. That said, she asserts, again and again, that Maddow mentioned this distant relative, a writer of poems and books, "in a forthcoming moment."

Scenting the obvious hint of a Maddovian scam, we checked to see if Rachel could have known that Malcolm has long admired Ben Maddow. Sure enough! Malcolm mentioned Ben Maddow as recently as 2013, in a best-selling book. By total coincidence, Rachel Maddow dropped his name when she spoke with Malcolm.

Malcolm swallowed the bait. Is she really that easy to play? We have no idea.

As a long-time Maddow watcher, we found many markers of the Rachel figure floating around in Malcolm's essay. Today, we're deciding that we don't want to go any farther into the weeds on this matter.

Still and all, we think we'll mention Malcolm's opening sentence! Were we the only readers who noted the apparent contradiction with the self-deprecating claims of the Rachel figure?
MALCOLM: In Rachel Maddow’s office at the MSNBC studios, there is a rack on which hang about thirty elegant women’s jackets in various shades of black and gray. On almost every week night of the year, at around one minute to nine, Maddow yanks one of these jackets off its hanger, puts it on without looking into a mirror, and races to the studio from which she broadcasts her hour-long TV show, sitting at a sleek desk with a glass top. As soon as the show is over, she sheds the jacket and gets back into the sweater or T-shirt she was wearing before. She does not have to shed the lower half of her costume, the skirt and high heels that we don’t see because of the desk in front of them but naturally extrapolate from the stylish jacket. The skirt and heels, it turns out, are an illusion. Maddow never changed out of the baggy jeans and sneakers that are her offstage uniform and onstage private joke. Next, she removes her contact lenses and puts on horn-rimmed glasses that hide the bluish eyeshadow a makeup man hastily applied two minutes before the show. She now looks like a tall, gangly tomboy instead of the delicately handsome woman with a stylish boy’s bob who appears on the show and is the current sweetheart of liberal cable TV.
Quick question: Does anyone extrapolate a skirt and high heels when Maddow is on the air? Also, on what planet was this profile written? Moving right along:

How strange! Malcolm says that Maddow's rack contain thirty elegant, stylish jackets. Maddow has often said that her crummy old jackets cost $19 each. The Rachel figure is self-deprecating, in a humblebrag sort of way.

The Rachel figure is deeply self-involved, to almost Trumpian levels. She's doesn't seem obsessively honest. She loves to mug and clown and entertain. She'll even put "baby-poop-colored" objects on her overpaid head.

The Rachel figure is extremely good at selling the car, and the car she sells is The Maddow. In the October 9 New Yorker, Malcolm bought a fully-loaded roadster, apparently paying cash.

The mugging, clowning, dissembling continue. The largest questions are these:

What can it mean when the nation's best magazine writer admires cable news sleight of hand designed to let liberals enjoy themselves? What can it mean when The New Yorker puts such manifest weirdness in print?

Beyond that, the Rachel figure will continue mugging and clowning and pleasing liberal viewers. Long ago, Jon Stewart tried to tell her that she ought to drop the stand-up routine. She said she didn't want to.

According to the highly peculiar Malcolm, the Rachel figure works a nightly sleight of hand. This results in "TV entertainment at its finest." Plus the Cialis ads!

We agree with that formulation! In theory, journalists used to know what we need. As Malcolm says in her crazy third paragraph, corporate cable's Rachel figure has long seemed to know what we want.

We think her judgment tends to be poor. Luckily, no one's in charge!

New York Times headline stirs the blood!


How to gin tribal war:
Yay yay yay yay yay yay yay! The headline on the Times news report spoke about Us and Them:

"Democrats Think Men Have It Easier. Republicans Disagree."

Yay yay yay yay yay yay yay! Over here, We think one way. Over there, They think another!

That headline tops Claire Cain Miller's on-line report for the brainiac Times blog, The Upshot. This morning, the same headline topped Miller's report on page A15 in our hard-copy Times.

(The graphics you see in the on-line report didn't appear in the hard-copy Times.)

Sadly, that headline is highly misleading. Headline included, here you see the first two paragraphs of Miller's report:
MILLER (10/18/17): Democrats Think Men Have It Easier. Republicans Disagree.

Whether or not people think it’s a good time to be a woman or a man in the United States depends largely on their political party, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center.

More than two-thirds of Democrats say the country needs to do more to give women equal rights, compared with only a quarter of Republicans who say that, the Pew report found. Meanwhile, half of Democrats say men have it easier these days, compared with 19 percent of Republicans.
Oops! In actual point of fact, only 49% of Democrats answered that murkily-rendered question in the murkily-rendered way that headline describes!

Let's take a look at the record. In the actual survey, 49% of Democrats said they think that "men have it easier," whatever exactly that means.

Miller rounded that off to "half." In the headline, it was simply (and dumbly) said that "Democrats" hold that view!

In this way, the New York Times managed to turn "half" of Democrats into something that sounds like all! We Democrats think that men have it easier. Over There, Those People do not!

Seriously. What the fungk goes through the head of a journalist—a New York Times editor, no less—who composes a headline like that? Is he or she mesmerized by Rachel's Cialis ads, like the nation's best magazine writer?

For the record, performance like this suffuses the Times on a daily basis. In passing, might we make a few comments?

Miller's report is almost completely worthless. Due to the fuzzy questions asked of respondents, so is this whole Pew survey, on which she was reporting.

Having said that, let us also say this. In this silly presentation by the Times, we're looking at the eternal "human" desire to manufacture the appearance of essential tribal difference.

According to the Pew report, respondents were asked this question:

"All things considered, who do you think has it easier these days—men or women?"

Apparently, respondents were offered a third possible answer: "No difference." This is the way the numbers turned out:
Who has it easier these days?
Democratic respondents:

Men: 49 percent
No difference: 45 percent
Women: 6 percent

Republican respondents:
Men: 19 percent
No difference: 68 percent
Women: 12 percent
Without any doubt, responses by the two groups of respondents weren't exactly the same. On the other hand, it isn't like all Democrats thought X while all Republicans thought Y, the way that Times headline suggests.

In fact, responses by the two groups were more alike than different. We base this assessment on our own award-winning statistic, the internationally-acclaimed "dinner party metric."

Suppose you're holding a large dinner party. You'll be hosting two hundred guests—one hundred from each party.

If you were seating pairs of guests based on their answers to this question, you could match seventy Republicans with Democrats who had given the same answer. This would include all 19 Republicans who said "women;" 45 of the Republicans who said "no difference;" and six of the Republicans who said "men."

You would only have to seat thirty couples whose responses had differed. In their responses, the two parties agreed more than they disagreed—until you read that pitiful headline in the New York Times.

Let's review. Miller turned 49 percent into "half." A headline writer then turned "half" into the appearance of "all."

Readers glancing at that headline got a familiar warm glow. Our Tribe thinks one thing, Their Tribe thinks another! Yay yay yay yay yay!

We liberals got to feel wonderfully good, knowing how wrong They are. Low-IQ performance of this type suffuses the work of the New York Times, where writers may still be mesmerized by last night's Cialis ads, or perhaps by a certain someone's performance of the Rachel figure.

"Her performance of the Rachel figure?" Boy howdy! More on that bullship tomorrow.

Percentages bollix the New York Times!


Also, how the late Bunny Mellon managed potato chips:
Nos morituri, we kid you not! Live and direct from our hard-copy page A3, this is one of the "Noteworthy Facts" in today's New York Times:
"The late heiress Bunny Mellon was known to offer guests at her Virginia farm a bowl of Lay's potato chips, but behind the scenes she ordered her kitchen staff to first remove all the broken chips."
That's the second entry on today's list of noteworthy facts! The third entry on the list goes exactly like this:
"440 Hz is the current tuning standard for the music note A."
Someone at the New York Times thinks these are noteworthy facts! Meanwhile:

Concerning Bunny Mellon's management of those potato chips, does the inanity of that noteworthy fact perhaps align with this bizarre confession from the October 9 New Yorker?
As I write this, I think of something that subliminally puzzles me as I watch [The Rachel Maddow Show]. Why do I stay and dumbly watch the commercials instead of getting up to finish washing the dishes? By now, I know every one of the commercials as well as I know the national anthem: the Cialis ad with curtains blowing as the lovers phonily embrace, the ad with the guy who has opioid-induced . . . constipation (I love the delicacy-induced pause), the ad for Liberty Mutual Insurance in which the woman jeers at the coverage offered by a rival company: “What are you supposed to do, drive three-quarters of a car?” I sit there mesmerized because Maddow has already mesmerized me. Her performance and those of the actors in the commercials merge into one delicious experience of TV. “The Rachel Maddow Show” is a piece of sleight of hand presented as a cable news show. It is TV entertainment at its finest. It permits liberals to enjoy themselves during what may be the most thoroughly unenjoyable time of their political lives.
What does it mean when "the nation's best magazine writer" is mesmerized by constipation ads, while someone at our brainiest newspaper thinks Bunny Mellon's past handling of potato chips is one of the day's "noteworthy facts?"

No, really! What does it mean when sheer inanity starts to define a powerful nation's upper-class journalistic culture?

(In our view, it helps explain how Donald J. Trump ended up in the White House.)

The inanity of that "noteworthy fact" should probably stand on its own at this point. That doesn't mean that we weren't saddened at other points as we fought through today's New York Times.

We were struck by the puzzling logic put on display in several Times reports. To cite just one puzzling problem, where else does "half" seem to end up equaling all?

That particular puzzler popped up in this utterly useless news report. For the record, the report appears in our hard-copy Times, though it isn't listed on the Today's Paper page or in the Nexis record of this morning's Times.

Where else except the New York Times does "half" seem to turn into all? We'll ponder that puzzler after lunch. For now, we'll leave you with Bunny's chips—and with this third "noteworthy fact," out of a list of seven:
"This year alone, the Romanian government has tweaked its tax code 22 times."
Within the context of American news and public affairs, does that seem like a noteworthy fact? No, really! As Ed might once have said to Johnny, "How noteworthy is it?"

There are seven allegedly noteworthy facts on today's "reimagined" page A3. We've shown you three of those facts.

To whom do they seem like noteworthy facts? Is that upper-end journalist drunk on last night's Cialis ads?

LESSONS CONCERNING THE FALL: "Her performance of the Rachel figure!"


Interlude—Grand finale tomorrow:
We've very very very sick of our ongoing report, of our discussion of Janet Malcolm's weird and endless profile of Rachel Maddow.

At the end of last week, we decided to continue our discussion into this second week because we were fascinated by Malcolm's reference to Maddow's "performance of the Rachel figure." You can hardly blame us for that!

What exactly did Malcolm mean by "her performance of the Rachel figure?" What did she mean when she referred to "Maddow’s TV persona—the well-crafted character that appears on the nightly show?"

We still think those are fascinating, important questions. But we're truly sick of reading that ludicrous profile, which appeared in our brainiest upper-class magazine.

Our initial question remains the same. What does it mean when a profile which is so inane can appear, at such mammoth length, in an upper-class, allegedly high-IQ publication like The New Yorker?

What does the publication of such transparent nonsense say about our upper-class journalistic culture? What does it say about us liberals? Those are still very good questions.

We also think it's interesting to consider Maddow's alleged "performance of the Rachel figure." What did Malcolm mean by that? We think it's well worth exploring that question.

That said, we'll wrap the whole thing up tomorrow. We just can't face it today.

What is involved in Rachel Maddow's "performance of the Rachel figure?" We've been watching that play for the past nine years. Tomorrow, we'll mine Malcolm's profile for clues.