How to tell you're being played!

MONDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2017

The wages of "cable news" stardom:
At the risk of seeming negative, we're going to comment on last Thursday night's Rachel Maddow Show.

The program started, as it sometimes does, with the program's host, Rachel Maddow, talking down to her viewers. Soon, she offered a brief report which deserves memorializing.

This brief report concerned Donald J. Trump's strange, slurred speech patterns during a public statement the previous day. Trump's odd performance had created concerns that he might have experienced some sort of health problem, such as perhaps a stroke.

Almost surely, that wasn't the case. But on the subject of weird speech patterns, just consider the way Maddow spoke during this brief report.

She started off by saying this. To watch the full tape, click here:
MADDOW (12/7/17): So all that stuff has just happened tonight. A lot of unexpected there's a lot of weird news.

And on the subject of weird news, this is something that I did not talk about last night because I felt a little oogy about it. And honestly I still hesitate to bring it up now, but I'm going to because it has an important news consequence today. Despite my ooginess I'm just going to go there.
Yes, you're reading that right. According to Maddow, she hadn't discuss this event the night before because she "felt oogy about it." In case you were hoping you'd heard her wrong, she quickly said that she was going to discuss the topic that night, "despite my ooginess."

(Maddow pronounced "oogy" to rhyme with "boogie.")

At this point, we offer some advice. When someone talks to you that way on TV, you are being conned. You're being played by a corporate clown—in this case, by someone who 1) spends a lot of time discussing herself and 2) spends a lot of time making you think she's a little more special and unique than you and your circle are.

The previous night, Maddow had felt "oogy" about discussing the topic! As the corporate clown continued, she showcased her greatest talent—her skill at getting us to listen her as she talks about herself:
MADDOW (continuing directly): All right. Yesterday at the White House, when the president announced this very controversial decision that the U.S. will eventually move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, that announcement rattled nerves around the world because of its potentially explosive consequences in the Middle East and elsewhere. But at a more pedestrian level, the president's announcement yesterday also rattled some nerves at home because of the way he was speaking at the end of his announcement.

And I, I do not like making a bigger deal out of these things than ought to be made of them. I do not take any pleasure in showing you this, I do not find that this to be hilarious, as I know many people do. I also say this in full cognizance of the fact that I am a person who talks weird and flaps my hands around a lot, and I make weird faces sometimes. like I don't generally think people should be made fun of, or scrutinized especially, because they're funny-looking or talk weird or have a strange look on their face when they're saying something. That said:

When the president was making his announcement about Jerusalem, depending on how you look at it, he appeared to maybe have his teeth come loose? Or to have just started slurring his words, or maybe he bit his tongue hard or something. Something strange happened at the end of his speech.
At this point, the cable star played the videotape of Trump's strange speaking performance.

Again, to watch the full tape, click here.
Don't fail to notice the transparent phoniness of the way the cable star delivers her own strange speech.

All in all, we'd guess that Donald J. Trump experienced some sort of dental problem last Wednesday, causing his strange, slurred speech. But what accounts for Maddow's strange speech pattern the following night, in which she gonged us with the word "oogy," then made us listen as she discussed herself, establishing these key points:
Key points established by Maddow:

1) Rachel Maddow doesn't like making a bigger deal out of these things than ought to be made of them.

2) She didn't find Trump's slurring to be hilarious, as she knew many people did.

3) Rachel Maddow understands that she's a person who talks weird and flaps her hands around a lot.

4) She also knows that she makes weird faces sometimes.

5) Rachel Maddow doesn't generally think people should be made fun of, or scrutinized especially, because they're funny-looking or talk weird or have a strange look on their face when they're saying something.
These were all key points. Also, Maddow was willing to ignore her ooginess in order to discuss Donald J. Trump's strange speech.

We offer two assessments:

Most likely, Donald J. Trump engaged in strange slurred speech last Wednesday because he had a sudden dental problem.

Almost surely, Rachel Maddow engaged in her own weird speech the following night because she's a substantial egomaniac, not unlike Donald J. Trump.

Maddow has a hundred hooks to make you think that she's more special than you. This is part of what Janet Malcolm recently described as "her performance of the Rachel figure."

Beyond that, Maddow loves to talk about herself. Playing old videotape of herself is even better.

Maddow loves to speak this way! As we near the start of Mister Trump's Inevitable War, we gullible liberals have spent eight years encouraging her to do it.

THE PAROCHIALS: From milk carton kids to teenage dates!

MONDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2017

Part 3—Whatever turns journalists on:
Of what does Roy Moore stand accused as tomorrow's election approaches?

Ever since November 10, the press corps has focused on charges about his alleged behavior from the late 1970s. His crazy public behavior is ignored as scribes thrill to this earlier era.

That said, of what does Moore stand accused?

Many journalists have had a very hard time answering that question. Last Friday, though, the analysts cheered! In her column for the New York Times, Michelle Goldberg got it almost exactly right:
GOLDBERG (12/8/17): While Franken is on his way out of the Senate, Roy Moore, Republican of Alabama, may be on his way in. Moore stands credibly accused of molesting a 14-year-old whom he picked up outside her mother's custody hearing and of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old after offering her a ride home from her waitressing job.
We agree with every word, although we'd add the word "violently" to the latter description.

Leigh Corfman has accused Moore of molesting her in 1979, when she was 14. Gloria Young Nelson has accused Moore of committing a violent sexual assault on her person in 1977, when she was 16.

Moore stands accused of molesting one teen and of sexually assaulting another. How hard is it to say that?

For many major journalists, it has been amazingly hard. Major scribes have stumbled about, attempting to describe the accusations.

Goldberg made the task look easy. But here's the way Kathleen Parker described the charges in yesterday's Washington Post:
PARKER (12/10/17): Moore, far from being a comedian, is known for his affection for the Ten Commandments. Clearly, there should have been an amendment to the commandment that thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife: or his little girl, either. The former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court is alleged to have fondled or otherwise behaved in sexual ways with teenage girls when he was in his 30s.
Say what? Parker has heard of Corfman's accusation. It isn't entirely clear that she has heard about Nelson's. Where Goldberg describes these charges with specificyty, Parker ends up offering this murky description:

Moore stands accused of "having behaved in sexual ways with teenage girls." Will readers have any clear idea what that means? From what post-Victorian usage manual has Parker cobbled this murky description?

The Washington Post launched this topic with a November 10 front-page report which was built around Corfman's accusation. From that day to this, we've been fascinated by the peculiar ways in which journalists have described the charges against Ol' Roy.

In part, we suspect the problem stems from the parochialism of our upper-end journalists. We'll guess it stems from their parochialism, but also from their self-involvement. That said, the problem tracks to that original November 10 report, in which the Post displayed a rather peculiar bit of editorial judgment.

We'll admit it! We're fascinated by the way the press corps has handled this matter. As we wait for the inevitable start of Mister Trump's War, we think this episode sheds a lot of light, anthropologially speaking, on the mental and moral habits and skills of our upper-end press.

What was journalistically strange about that initial Post report? As noted, the Post featured Corfman's accusation—her claim that Moore molested her when she was 14 years old.

So far, so good, although we thought there were a few points where the Post's journalism was spotty. But as a second part of its report, the Post featured statements by three other women. They claimed that Moore had dated them, or asked them out, during that same time period, when they too were teenagers.

In this way, it seemed that Moore stood "accused" of two "crimes." He stood accused of molesting a 14-year-old girl, which would seem to be a criminal act. He also stood "accused" of having dated two older teenagers—and of having dated them with their mothers cheering him on!

What was the logic of the implied connection between these two types of conduct? Did the fact that Moore dated Gloria Thacker Deason when she was 18, then 19 serve as supporting evidence for the claim that he molested Corfman when she was 14?

The Post made no attempt to explain the logic of this implied connection. From that day to this, people like Parker have stumbled and flailed as they try to describe the very serious crimes with which Moore does in fact stand accused.

Dating Deason wasn't a crime; if Moore violently assaulted Nelson, that rather plainly was. Still and all, people like Parker fumble about, seeming to understate the degree of offense with which Moore stands charged.

Can we talk? In their typical parochial way, our journalists sometimes seem to be more concerned about the dating than about the violent assault!

Behind that concern stands a list of domestic panics. First, we had the public concern about the missing "milk carton kids."

The practice of putting the faces of missing children on milk cartons started in the 1980s. It's credited with helping authorities locate some missing children in the years before better organized tracking systems existed.

On the downside, this campaign also led to wildly exaggerated claims about the number of missing children in the United States. Before the practice faded away, "psychologists, social service workers and other child advocates, including celebrated pediatricians T. Berry Brazelton and Benjamin Spock, [argued] that the onslaught of photos and publicity ha[d] evolved into a sort of hysteria, producing a new anxiety in young children." Or so reported the Post.

Was that a bit of a moral panic? We'll guess it possibly was—and not long after, something similar happened.

Before long, comedians were soon mocking the widespread placement of "Baby on board" signs in the rear windows of cars. These signs suggested that it was OK to rear-end a car if no baby was present.

Was that episode a moral panic? As a courtesy, we'll vote no, but a genuine panic was coming on fast, with disastrous consequences.

We refer to the wave of cases in the late 1980s and 1990s in which day care workers were falsely accused of abusing children. The leading authority on the phenomenon describes it as "Day-care sex-abuse hysteria." Innocent people went to prison as a full-blown, genuine moral panic swept across the land.

We rarely hear about these remarkable cases any more. Our guess would be that it's a point of journalistic and national embarrassment. For that reason, the episode is best ignored, in spite of the lessons the episode can teach.

In the May 1990 Harper's, Dorothy Rabinowitz produced a brilliant piece of journalism in which she confronted this deeply consequential moral panic. (We believe this is the full original text.) She wrote about the Wee Care Nursery School case in Maplewood, New Jersey, a Salem Village-level travesty in which a young woman, Kelly Michaels, was initially sentenced to 47 years in prison.

(After Michaels had served five years, her conviction was overturned. Among other things, the New Jersey Supreme Court held that "the interviews of the children were highly improper and utilized coercive and unduly suggestive methods." These travesties occurred in other cases as this panic occurred.)

Rabinowitz's piece appeared beneath this headline in Harper's: "From the Mouths of Babes to a Jail Cell." She described the lunacy which had sent Michaels to prison. Along the way, she said this:
RABINOWITZ (5/90): We are a society that, every fifty years or so, is afflicted by some paroxysm of virtue—an orgy of self-cleansing through which evil of one kind or another is cast out. From the witch-hunts of Salem to the communist hunts of the McCarthy era to the current shrill fixation on child abuse, there runs a common thread of moral hysteria. After the McCarthy era, people would ask: But how could it have happened? How could the presumption of innocence have been abandoned wholesale? How did large and powerful institutions acquiesce as congressional investigators ran roughshod over civil liberties—all in the name of a war on communists? How was it possible to believe that subversives lurked behind every library door, in every radio station, that every two-bit actor who had belonged to the wrong political organization posed a threat to the nation's security?

Years from now people doubtless will ask the same questions about our present era—a time when the most improbable charges of abuse find believers; when it is enough only to be accused by anonymous sources to be hauled off by investigators; a time when the hunt for child abusers has become a national pathology.
A similar atmosphere exists in one or two of our current stampedes. Sadly, our upper-end journalists rarely display the requisite intellectual skills and moral perspectives which can help undermine such panics.

Concerning Roy Moore, we'll only say this. Based upon the ways they describe the accusations about Moore, many of our journalists seem more concerned about the dating than about the alleged assaults. We'll guess that this is related to a common human failing—to the interest in what might happen to one's own children or grandchildren, as opposed to what may have actually happened to somebody else.

The Post enabled this stampede with a rather peculiar initial report. From that day to this, journalists have often seemed to be more concerned with the idea that Moore dated teenagers than with the charge that he committed two criminal assaults. Somehow, Goldberg described both alleged assaults. Few other journalists, Parker included, have.

As with Patty Duke's famous hot dog, so too here—the thought that Ol' Roy dated teens has made them lose control! Inevitably, as part of their standard practice, our journalists took immediate steps to heighten the sense of outrage:

First, they barred use of the term "dated," substituting "pursued." The latter term sounds more menacing. It helps move the charge (and excitement) along.

Second, they adopted the use of term "pedophile." Have we learned nothing from Chuck Todd? By standard definitions, the term is inappropriate here, but it sounds extremely scary, so it's been widely used.

Their third move was most striking. Our journalists completely disappeared the mothers who had cheered Moore on. They didn't want the public to know that the mothers of the two teens in that first Post report hoped the dating might lead to marriage.

Just a guess! That isn't what they want for their own kids today, so they had to block the ugly thought. They had to take arms to defeat it.

Given the norms of the time and the place, the mothers of Gloria Thacker Deason and Debbie Wesson Gibson were thrilled that Moore was dating their teenage daughters, or so the women told the Washington Post.

It was right there in the Post's initial report. But from that day right through to this, we've never seen a single journalist mention that fact. As always happens in cases like this, this basic fact has been disappeared. Our "journalists" have all agreed that you must never hear it.

Why were those two Alabama mothers cheering Ol' Roy on? Tomorrow, we'll offer an information dump about dating and marriage practices during the era in question. For today, we'll only say these things:

Candidate Moore stands accused of two very serious crimes. Dating isn't one of those crimes. Just as a matter of fact, it wasn't a crime at all.

Goldberg had no trouble describing those alleged crimes. Two days later, Parker joined the long list of troubled practitioners who have had a very hard time explaining what Moore is accused of.

As scribes like Parker play this way, a basic fact remains—the mothers of those teenage girls were cheering Ol' Roy on as he dated their daughters way back when down there. Also this:

Elvis started dating Priscilla when she was 14 years old! Could that be some small part of this cultural tale, which took place long ago?

Tomorrow: Information dump! "The best love story, ever"

BREAKING: As usual, CNN does it again!

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2017

The Washington Post tries to cover:
Does CNN ever stop making these costly errors?

At New York Magazine,
Benjamin Hart seems to be mad at Donald J. Trump for cashing in on this latest blunder. He doesn't seem to be annoyed with CNN for its latest own-goal.

We first heard about this blunder in this transplendently murky news report in today's Washington Post. As we tried to puzzle out what had happened, we were struck by the way Rosalind Helderman was covering for CNN.

What happens within the mainstream press corps stays within the mainstream press corps! Having said that, does CNN ever stop delivering these gifts to Donald J. Trump?

THE PAROCHIALS: Even as young as 22!

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2017

Interlude—The parochial Post rolls on:
Will Roy Moore make it across the finish line in Alabama next Tuesday?

We can't tell you that! In all honesty, it would be fascinating to see him forced to defend his claims about Leigh Corfman and Beverly Young Nelson, who have accused him of assaulting them when they were 14 and 16 years old, in 1979 and 1977, when he was 32 and 30.

We would be very surprised if these accusations were false. Beyond that, Moore's current attempt to attack Nelson's credibility is especially ludicrous, though the Washington Post helping him out today with its inability to compose a sensible front-page headline.

(Front-page headline in today's Post: "Roy Moore accuser alters her account of inscription." While technically accurate, we'd say that headline displays extremely poor journalistic judgment.)

It would be fascinating to watch Ol' Roy attempt to address those accusations and defend his recent conduct. That said, we focus on press corps behavior here. How have they been behaving?

In our view, the Washington Post continues to display amazingly parochial behavior. We refer to part of Michael Scherer's front-page report today, the report which bears that unfortunate headline.

Corfman and Nelson have accused Moore of extremely serious, apparently criminal assaults. But at the parochial Washington Post, other "accusers" abound.

Let's try to stop judging Moore for an Alabama minute. Instead, let's consider the sophistication, or lack of same, of the highly parochial folk who keeping churning copy like this:
SCHERER (12/9/17): Six women have told The Post that Moore pursued them in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Five were teenagers at the time, and one was 22; Moore was in his early 30s. One woman, Leigh Corfman, said she was 14 and Moore was 32 when he took her to his house, gave her alcohol and touched her sexually.

Nelson's account has not been independently verified by The Post. But The Post did interview another accuser, Debbie Wesson Gibson, who shared a scrapbook from her senior year in high school containing a similar inscription and signature from Moore. His campaign has not specifically contested Gibson's account.
Say what? Did we miss this earlier? Has the Post ever reported the "accusation" that Moore "pursued" someone who was 22 when he himself was 30 years old, or perhaps somewhat older?

We were puzzled by that statement—but as it turns out, we didn't exactly miss it. Presumably, Scherer is referring to a woman named Becky Gray, who says Moore asked her out on several occasions in 1977, when he was 30 and she was 22.

We were able to revisit Gray's claim after firing up the Nexis. In this November 16 report, Gray was quoted telling the Post that Moore asked her out so many times that he made her uncomfortable. Forty years later, this is offered as conduct which should help a voter decide how to vote next week.

Does that journalistic judgment make sense? Should people vote against a 70-year-old candidate because someone who supports his opponent says he made her uncomfortable in 1977, when he was 30 years old and she was 22?

Does Gray's account help establish a pattern of conduct by the 30-year-old Moore? Does it make sense to toss this off in a major newspaper in the way Scherer does?

These are all matters of judgment. For our money, we think the journalism is strange when readers are told, without any surrounding context, that a male candidate once "pursued" a woman who was 22, full and complete freaking stop.

Especially before we turned to Nexis, that struck us as very strange writing. That said, at times of moral panic, everything seems to make sense.

Everything will seem to make sense at times of moral panic! That includes Scherer's additional claim, the claim that Debbie Wesson Gibson is one of Moore's "accusers"—that she is "accusing" him of some sort of misconduct during that distant era.

Is Gibson accusing Moore of past misconduct? We'd have to say she is not! But that is where the charge of parochialism comes in.

Corfman and Nelson are accusing Moore of criminal assaults. Gibson is "accusing" Moore of dating her in an open fashion, with her mother's enthusiastic approval, in a way which left her feeling that Moore was "one of the nicest people I know."

Does that sound like an "accusation?" It pretty much doesn't to us!

As part of Gibson's "accusation," she recently told the Post that she'd held Moore "in high esteem" for forty years, until recent weeks. She told the Post that she'd always considered her brief dating relationship with Moore to have been "a very lovely part of my past."

Does that sound like an "accusation?" At a time of moral panic, pretty much everything does! To parochial people on a stampede, Gibson's account of "a very lovely part of my past" starts sounding like Corfman's and Nelson's descriptions of criminal assaults!

When journalists stampede in such ways, they help us see their vast limitations. These limitations have helped create the current era, in which sentient beings are counting the days until the start of the conflagration which will be known, by future survivors, as "Mister Trump's War."

On Monday, we'll finish our recent award-winning series about dating and marriage patterns from the period in question. Almost surely, those patterns help explain why Debbie Gibson, and her mother, welcomed Moore's "pursuit" in an era the Post's parochial, unimpressive children may not understand.

The children are staging their latest stampede. They do this amazingly often.

Future anthropologists, living in caves, continue to tell us, in dreamlike visits, that this was the best our species was able to do. This is all our species was, these anthropologists keep telling us, reporting from the desolate years after Mister Trump's War.

On Monday, we'll execute a data dump concerning marriage patterns from the era in question. We'll postpone a fascinating discussion of age-and-sex in the cinema during the 1950s and early 1960s, the highly comical Hollywood era in which, to cite one abomination, poor Leslie Caron had to marry Maurice Chevalier in the Oscar-nominated film, Fanny.

(Caron was 30, playing 18. Chevalier was 73! But this was the way of this ridiculous Tinseltown era, in which young and young-seeming female stars—Caron, Reynolds, Novak, Loren, Audrey Hepburn and others—were repeatedly forced to hook up in major films with a crusty battalion of aging "old coot" male stars.)

Hollywood's male moguls were dreaming big dreams during that ridiculous era, the era in which the mothers who later cheered Moore on were forming their cultural notions! We'll tell that ridiculous, instructive story at some not-too-distant date, hopefully next Saturday.

On Monday, we'll talk about actual marriage patterns from the era in question. Was it strange when Ol' Roy Moore, age 30 or so, dated younger women? Truth to tell, stampedes to the side, it seems to us that it probably wasn't real strange at all. This may explain why at least two mothers were cheering him on, the fact which can't say its name.

Corfman and Nelson have made real accusations. By way of contrast, Gibson has said that she held Moore in high esteem! But at the Post, it all sounds the same. This is the way of panics.

When our journalists start lumping everyone in, people on The Other Team find ways to allege fake news. As our journalists stampede ahead, can anybody actually say that The Others are totally wrong?

At present, Moore seems to be lying through his teeth. At the same time, we'd say the Post is on its latest stampede.

The Post directs us, often stupidly, to focus on decades-old conduct where the facts will be extremely hard to resolve. In the process, it steers us away from Moore's ludicrous behavior as a public official, conduct the Post may find less exciting because the one thing to which its scribes can relate isn't directly involved.

The children want to stampede about sex. According to major anthropologists, this is the way of our kind.

The dance of the major male moguls: The horrifically bad major film, Daddy Long Legs, helped capture this ludicrous Hollywood era.

The film appeared in 1955. Fred Astaire was 56. Leslie Caron was 24, playing 18 in the film.

Everyone knows what had to occur! The leading authority on the unwatchable film describes its plot line as follows:
Wealthy American Jervis Pendleton III (Fred Astaire) has a chance encounter at a French orphanage with a cheerful 18-year-old resident, Julie Andre (Leslie Caron). He anonymously pays for her education at a New England college. She writes letters to her mysterious benefactor regularly, but he never writes back. Her nickname for him, "Daddy Long Legs", is taken from the description of him given to Andre by some of her fellow orphans who see his shadow as he leaves their building.

Several years later, he visits her at school, still concealing his identity. Despite their large age difference, they fall in love.
Of course! What else could happen? And trust us—it's even worse on the screen! Adding to the lunacy is this account from the leading authority:

"The film was one of Astaire's personal favorites, largely due to the script, which, for once, directly addresses the complications inherent in a love affair between a young woman and a man thirty years her senior."

Thirty years her senior? On the screen, it looks like a hundred!

Hollywood's ludicrous alpha males continued this delusional nonsense for a great many years. As they did, Americans were possibly forming their notions about sensible ages for dating and marriage.

At least two mothers cheered Ol' Roy on! Why the Boot Hill did they do that?

BREAKING: Thoughts achieved during jury duty!

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 8, 2017

Cultural revolution accomplished:
Thoughts achieved during a long, leisurely day of jury duty:

RE revolutionary heroine Gillibrand and the way these "revolutions of the saints" work:

1) First, our moral leaders do and say nothing whatsoever about the mammoth moral crisis, even in the face of harassment pay-outs taking place under their noses and very much on their watch.

2) Then, they stage their heroic Cultural Revolution. All offenses must be viewed the same; all accusers must be believed. All offenders must leave the stage right now, if not a few minutes sooner.

There is no time for assessment or judgment. A great stampede is on!

Fatuous pundits cheer them on. "Watershed moment" accomplished!

That said, also this: Ruth Marcus spots the problems with this familiar behavior pattern in today's Washington Post. Along the way, she did feel the need to heap the requisite words of praise on Our Own Chairman Mao.

We humans simply aren't smart. The exercise of judgment isn't our typical tendency. Future anthropologists told us this, right there in the jury room, in something which almost resembled a dream as we briefly nodded off.

(It's all anthropology now! They keep telling us that they're living in caves in the aftermath of Mr. Trump's War. "Yes, but what about 'the resistance?'" So we've often said.)

BREAKING: Award-winning jury pool assembled!

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 8, 2017

No fish today:
We've been summoned to jury duty. We'll have no fish today.