FEMINIST HERO: A very cool visit from Rolling Stone!


Part 3—Feminist hero at home:
Is Stephanie Clifford a feminist hero?

Is she a hero or a feminist at all? Does she have to be?

Staing the obvious, everything is possible! That said, we wouldn't be inclined to see Clifford in such ways, at least not in the context which is currently devouring our failing nation's appalling and broken-souled corporate cable news monster.

Within that context, we'd say that Clifford is a person who had a seamy sexual relationship in 2006, then tried to make some money from it. We don't know if she was being paid in real time, though that's certainly possible, given the fact that her paramour was the highly disordered man known as Donald J. Trump.

Perhaps it was love at first sight! But in 2011, Clifford reportedly tried to sell her story about her affair to a tabloid entity for $15,000. And uh-oh!

By the summer and fall of 2016, Trump had become a much more significant figure.

Sure enough! According to Slate's Jacob Weisberg, Clifford was trying to sell her story again during that glorious time. Wisely, she wasn't willing to reveal "the juiciest details" until she could finger Slate cash:
WESIBERG (1/16/18): In our conversations, Daniels said she was holding back on the juiciest details, such as her ability to describe things about Trump that only someone who had seen him naked would know. She intimated that her view of his sexual skill was at odds with the remark attributed to Marla Maples.

She didn’t allege any kind of abuse, insisting she was not a victim. The worst Trump had done, she said, was break promises she’d never believed he would fulfill. She claimed he’d offered to buy her a condo in Tampa, Florida, and that he’d said he wanted to feature her as a contestant in an upcoming season of Celebrity Apprentice. Daniels, who is far from na├»ve, says she did not take him seriously, but Trump had insisted his NBC contract let him do whatever he wanted on the show. Eventually, she said, he’d told her the network wouldn’t allow her on the air because of the objections of an executive’s wife.


Given what was going on in the final weeks of the campaign, during which Trump was facing a torrent of accusations of sexual abuse, I didn’t think an extramarital affair would be a highly significant story. What interested me more was Daniels’ allegation that Trump had negotiated to buy her silence. Daniels said that, through intermediaries, she and Trump had worked out an agreement for the presidential candidate to pay her a six-figure sum to keep quiet.
She'd been offered a six-figure deal, but the money was slow in coming.

"Given her experience with Trump, she suspected he would stall her until after the election, and then refuse to sign or pay up," Weisberg wrote. "As an alternative to being paid for her silence, Daniels wanted to be paid for her story."

Slate doesn't provide sacks of cash in exchange for news, so the deal couldn't be consummated. Clifford ended up taking the cash from Michael Cohen, Donald Trump's guardian devil or angel.

To our eyes and ears, none of this looks or feels especially heroic. None of it looks or feels very "feminist."

Still, it's a marker of our modern world that our many tribal groups are willing to assert and believe almost any proposition which furthers some tribal narrative. On this basis, Salon's Nicole Karlis has now declared that Clifford is a "feminist hero" who is fighting for the right to share a "#MeToo story."

Claims like these tend to convince the wider world that we liberals are crazy, possibly even nuts. Part of Karlis' detailed reasoning appears in this part of her essay:
KARLIS (3/18/19): Why has the feminist left been slow to embrace her? Why is there still a mocking undertone when we talk about her? Is it because she’s a Republican? A stripper and adult film star? Is it because of her campy Make America Horny Again tour? Maybe it’s because she allegedly had consensual sex with Trump, an act that’s unthinkable to so many of us? But she was 27, and it was 2006 when the alleged tryst happened. As Clifford’s friend/assistant Kayla Paige said to Rolling Stone, "Who hasn't gone and f**ked someone we regret?”
As a thought experiment, we're prepared to revise and extend that thoughtful question from Clifford's friend, Kayla Paige. Here's how we'll rewrite it:
Who hasn't gone and f**ked someone we regret, then tried to sell the thrilling story, humiliating his wife and his 5- to 12-year-old child?
When we restate the question that way, we suspect that almost no one "has gone and done that!" But just to double-check, we reviewed the Rolling Stone piece from which Paige's question emerged.

Rolling Stone is the well-known liberal publication which recently convinced the world that we liberals are crazy and very possibly nuts. The magazine accomplished this task through its appalling treatment of a (false) claim about gang rape at the University of Virginia.

The gong show-flavored publication engaged in this clownish behavior a few years after a range of liberal thought leaders, including half the faculty at Duke, stampeded off to believe a (false) claim about a gang rape there.

In these ways, our liberal tribe persuades the world to despise us. Dumb and tribal as we are, we never seem able to grasp the fact that this loathing could be based on anything but the demonistic mental states Hillary Clinton keeps attributing to The Others on her endless world tour.

(Most recent stop, Mumbai.)

We liberals are quite a bunch! At any rate, Rolling Stone told Denver Nicks to pay a home visit to Clifford. He too decided that Clifford's a hero, or at least his editors were willing to say that he did.

His profile of our feminist hero appeared under the headlines shown below. Heh heh heh heh heh heh heh! Wink wink wink wink wink:
One Night with Stormy Daniels, the Hero America Needs
Frozen g-strings, squirt guns and hot wax—how Trump's alleged porn-star fling is unapologetically cashing in on a presidential scandal
Heh heh heh heh heh heh heh! It sounded just amazingly hot, thought perhaps not totally feminist.

For the record, Nicks is the author of Bradley Manning, WikiLeaks, and the Biggest Exposure of Official Secrets in American History—but also of Hot Sauce Nation: America's Burning Obsession, which appeared in 2016.

Amazon describes the latter book as "a journey of discovery...[which] explores the unique hold the dark prince of condiments has over the American heart." And how apt! In service to this terminally stoned, braindead magazine, Nicks stumbled upon some very hot sauce when he dropped in at the home of on our feminist hero.

Here's how his profile began:
NICKS (3/9/18): Stormy Daniels answers the door of her Houston hotel room wearing little athletic shorts and a green Pantera tank top over a sports bra, her long blond hair in a loose ponytail. We shake hands and she jumps back onto her bed, sitting up with her legs tucked under her in half lotus. Her assistant and longtime friend Kayla Paige, a retired adult-film actress and wife of Limp Bizkit founding member Sam Rivers, buzzes with aimless energy around the room they're sharing. They'd only just woken up and are in the middle of a discussion about penile implants, which I confess I didn't know is a thing. Then Paige half-jokingly wonders if she needs vaginal lip reduction surgery and drops her pants for reference. She isn't wearing panties.

Daniels rolls her eyes and laughs.
I stand for a moment unsure where to sit, then motion to the other bed, which Paige says I can sit on. "I don't have anything," she assures me with a chuckle.
Just so incredibly cool! Especially for feminist men and boys of all ages!

We've always wondered what heroes are like if you catch them at home! Nicks was getting a chance to find out. The start of his profile continued:
NICKS (continuing dorectly): I sit on the edge of the bed and Daniels and I make small talk. Her safe word, I learn, is “penguin.”

"Penguins have terrible breath," she says.

"How do you know penguins have terrible breath?" I ask.

"They smell like they've been eating bad vagina. I got to pet one at a zoo–if you ever go to the zoo, the penguin habitat is the stinkiest one. It smells like a really bad porn set."

She goes on like this for half an hour, bouncing from topic to topic.
What a super-cool, foxy lady! This is the kind of feminist hero we'd like to take home to the voters!

Should progressives hope that Stephanie Clifford gets to tell her #MeToo story, helping ten of millions of deplorables develop strong feminist values? For better or worse, does Clifford actually have any such story to tell?

We'll admit that we aren't seeing a whole lot here that smacks of "feminist" values. Being human ourselves and opposed to hate, we do wonder about something else.

Tomorrow: "Penguin" but also "Rosebud," plus disfigured hearts and heads

BREAKING: Mogul sells brew, interviews Avenatti!


Slimy used condom-chaser:
Is there a slimier used condom-chaser out there today than lawyer Michael Avenatti?

We ask our thoughtful question after subjecting ourselves to Josh Marshall's interview with Avenatti from last Friday. After personally reading an ad for "Grady's Cold Brew dot com, that's Grady's Cold Brew dot come, with promo code TPM," the Internet mogul, who's actually smart, asked this spot-on question:
MARSHALL (3/16/18): Let's launch right into it. First question, sort of a "devil's advocate" question:

Why does the public need to know about Stormy Daniels' story at all?
My understanding from that 2011 interview is that it's a consensual relationship. So why is this a public story? Why does it matter?
Ignore Marshall's apology! There you see the obvious question:

Why should the public be distracted by all this bullshit from Avenatti's perhaps disordered but now high-profile celebrity client? Why should the public have its attention dragged away by talk about a consensual relationship between two slimy, disordered people?

Marshall can never completely hide the fact that he has a good mind. He had asked the obvious question. The used condom-chaser deflected:
AVENATTI (continuing directly): Well, I think it's important that the American people always be told the truth, and always have as much information at its disposal as possible...
Nice attempt, Slimebucket!

Marshall's question suggested the obvious—it actually isn't important "that the American people always be told the truth," for instance about irrelevant matters. In response, the mother of all modern slimebuckets had sought a way to deflect.
From there, he refused to answer all subsequent questions.

That said:

Having asked the obvious opening question, Marshall refused to follow up. Did we mention the fact that Grady's Cold Brew, through its "cold brew kit," costs less than a dollar a cup?

BREAKING: It's all anthropology now, says Drum!


With gusto, the analysts cheer:
In spite of all the scarping and scrapping, you'll have to admit that we've had a good effect on our favorite blogger, Kevin Drum.

As we've frequently said, we think Drum's work on the effects of lead exposure is the best body of erudition to emerge from the web—with the exception of our own disappeared mountain of work on the press corps' 25-year war on Clinton, Clinton and Gore.

For Drum's hard-copy Mother Jones cover report on the effects of lead, you can just click here. Today, though, we can go that one better:

In this new post, Drum comes out and states a larger truth:

It's all anthropology now! Also, our floundering species, homo sapiens, just plain ain't up to the task!

Drum focuses on a recent, highly inaccurate claim by a D.C. council member. In our view, that claim is part of the biggest "news story"/revelation to emerge in the past thirty years.

That revelation involves the remarkable monster dumbness of our failing species. It involves the crazy things we tend to believe, and the hopelessness of improving the situation under current arrangements.

Why are we doomed to death by crazy belief? Below, we'll list three answers:
Why we're doomed to death by crazy belief:
Talk radio
Cable news
The Internet
Youngsters, please understand! Before these media came into existence, it was actually fairly hard to hear crazy assertions.

You had to go to the corner bar and sidle up to the craziest drunk. You had to send away, by U.S. mail, to crazy organizations like the Birch Society.

In those days, it was actually hard to hear crazy claims. Today, the promulgation of crazy claims is a major industry. It's practiced all over the dial and all across the partisan spectrum.

Conservatives hear crazy claims, but we liberals hear crazy claims too. Did you realize that Public School A is a "segregated school?" Did you know that the disturbed, money-grubbing Stephanie Clifford is a "feminist hero" who wants to share a "#MeToo story?"

We liberals are exposed to such claims every day. We're too dumb to see how crazy they are, though most other folk can this quite clearly.

Our craziest claim is the one which Hillary Clinton won't stop making. We're not unlike the gullible "conservatives" who can't see through the crazy claims Sean Hannity makes Over There.

The Crazy isn't all Over There! At last, though, Drum has copped to the era's central fact:

Our species isn't made for this challenge. Under present arrangements, we're simply too dumb to be self-governing. Too dumb all the way down!

As stated on C-Span: On February 23, Robert Reich made a presentation about his new book, The Common Good, at Harvard University. Thanks to the wonders of C-Span, you can watch the whole hour here.

At the 48-minute mark, Reich fielded a question from a LaRouche supporter. As the audience hoots, Reich shows genuine moral brilliance in the way he responds to this young woman.

The next questioner was a bit unusual too. Again, Reich was quite eloquent in his approach to this man.

At the 45-minute mark, a man had asked Reich about our technological problem. "I was interested in, heartened to hear about your optimism for a new progressive era," he said. "I just want to ask—it seems to me there are some systematic issues that are very different now."

He mentioned three "systematic differences." One of the three was this:

"The Facebook phenomenon, we go to the media we understand, that will reinforce us."

"Given those differences, how can you be optimistic?" this man asked. Regarding the splintering of the media, we thought he asked a very good question—the only real question, in fact.

It was a question Reich didn't address, except in his later moral example. That said, there is no sign that our system of government can survive under current arrangements, in which The Crazy is big business, sold all across the dial.

BREAKING: Has Stephanie Clifford been physically threatened?


Star journos assume she has:
Has Stephanie Clifford been threatened with physical harm?

We don't know the answer to that. Clifford's lawyer has been making that claim since last Friday morning—but he's offered no evidence in support of the claim, and he's been willing to answer few questions.

We've suggested that the lawyer, Michael Avenatti, should be frogmarched into the countryside for several years of reeducation, completely at the public expense. In the meantime, he can expect to receive one other benefit, free of charge:

On cable, American journalists will simply assume that his assertions are accurate.

Only one word can describe their behavior; their behavior is "sad." Consider the sad exchange which occurred last night on The 11th Hour:
WILLIAMS (3/19/18): What was being alleged there is that a sitting president was aware, was aware in real time, of threats being made to Stormy Daniels. That's a heck of a charge that we're going to learn more about, apparently.

WINE-BANKS: I can't wait to learn more about it. I also would like to know what the timing of the threat was. Because of course, if the threat preceded her signing the nondisclosure agreement, it completely voids that agreement.

You cannot reach a fair contract if you are doing so under the duress of threat. But even if the threat came afterwards, it is a serious allegation that the president is involved in threatening witnesses. So we know that it's happened before, and it`s almost not surprising. The president himself has said that he could do almost anything, and wouldn't lose political support.

So maybe he's trying to prove it to us. I think we'll all know a lot more after the Sunday night interview, which I'm sure all of your viewers are looking forward to as much as I am.

WILLIAMS (wistfully): All the things we talk about around here these days.

In fairness, Wine-Banks is a lawyer, a "legal expert;" she isn't mainly a journalist. She's also really, really looking forward to watching Sunday night's TV show, just like everyone else!

That said, she and Williams made little attempt to note that Avenatti's charge is an allegation, not an established fact. This basic distinction was left for dead as Wine-Banks rattled on.

At least nominally, Wine-Banks started out discussing Avenatti's latest "charge." Instantly, though, she seemed to transform his unsupported claim into an actual fact.

"I also would like to know what the timing of the threat was," Wine-Banks quickly said. Soon, she was explaining what might happen "even if the threat came afterwards"—after the non-disclosure agreement was signed.

Neither she nor Williams made any attempt to remind viewers of a key fact—the claim that Clifford was physically threatened is, as of now, an allegation. She regards the claim that Trump knew as an "allegation," but seems to regard the alleged threat itself as a fact.

As of now, there is no evidence that any such threat ever occurred. This particular claim may be true, of course.

Wags have said that anyone who deals with Michael Cohen ends up getting threatened at some point. Then too, Avenatti's claim could be false. This charge could be an invention.

Claims of such threats have been made in the past—and have turned out to be false. That doesn't mean this claim is false. It does suggest that a journalist should want to maintain standard professional skepticism.

Such skepticism has been hard to find in certain cable news precincts. Below, we'll link you to the three segments devoted to this topic on last Friday's Morning Joe.

Tomorrow, we'll run through the not-so-famous false allegation which could have gotten Cody Shearer killed. You've never heard about this event because the people who pose as journalists within our entertainment/propaganda systems don't want you to know that it ever occurred.

For today, we'll link you to the three segments devoted to this topic on last Friday's Morning Joe. The lack of skepticism was general that day as the excited boys and girls heard Avenatti make this claim for the very first time.

You'll have to search extremely hard to hear anyone warning you that this claim is, at present, an allegation. It goes without saying that nobody said that such allegations actually have, on occasion, turned out to be false in the past—that some people make this shit up.

Our country is sliding into the sea. The jugglers and clowns on cable TV have played a key role in this process.

A tale of three Morning Joe segments: Last Friday, Morning Joe devoted three segments to this exciting new claim.

For the most part, the cable performers simply assumed that the claim was true. In the second segment, legal expert Joyce Vance was an especially egregious offender.

The people you'll see are jugglers and clowns. Their behavior over the past thirty years helps explain how we all got here:

First segment: Near the end of this 12-minute first segment, Avenatti makes his claim for the first time. As he refuses to answer any questions about his claim, Mika starts to imagine the worst:

"Was her life threatened?" Mika asks. "Did anyone point a gun at her?"

There's little attempt to assert a key point. At the juncture, Avenatti is making an extremely fuzzy claim, and he's presented no evidence in support of his charge.

Second segment: In this second, 13-minute segment, Vance comes on and quickly assumes the accuracy of the claim, which she calls a "bombshell." She seems to restate this position as the segment ends.

Along the way, there are only the tiniest mentions of the fact that the claim is an allegation. As a general matter, we'd say that it's assumed throughout that the physical threat really occurred.

Third segment: Through some miracle of prescient booking, on came Jonathan Turley, Avenatti's former professor. Early in this 7-minute segment, Turley assures the world that Avenatti would never make a claim like that if the claim wasn't true, and if he didn't have proof.

Later, Turley seems to assume that there is no proof—that it will all come down to a "she said/they said" dispute. None of the pundits notice this switch. The children are useless, as always.

Our culture is sliding into the sea. These are the overpaid corporate clowns who have enabled Trump's ascent. Do we really think that overpaid, overfed "losers" like these can hope to turn Trump back?

FEMINIST HERO: "What more could we ask for?"


Part 2—We can think of a million things:
Is Stephanie Clifford, AKA Stormy Daniels, some type of "feminist hero?"

Is she attempting to "share" a "#MeToo story?"

As always, everything's possible! Inevitably, it all depends on what the meaning of "feminist hero" is!

In theory, it will also depend on what turns out to be true about Clifford's interactions with Donald J. Trump, the disordered man with whom she says she had an affair in 2006, when his wife had just given birth to a baby boy, their son.

We know of no reason to doubt Clifford's claim about her affair, which wasn't illegal or even necessarily "wrong," but doesn't seem to have been especially heroic.

Even less heroic, at least on their face, were Clifford's subsequent attempts to discuss this exciting affair in exchange for sacks of cash—in 2011, for example, when she reportedly tried to sell her story to a tabloid entity for $15,000.

To our eye, Clifford didn't look much like a hero back then. Is she a "feminist hero" today? Is she telling a "#MeToo story?"

That's what Nicole Karlis claimed this Sunday morning in an opinion piece Salon. Her argument started with the claim that Clifford might "take Trump down"—and with a peculiar question:
KARLIS (3/18/18): When news broke that adult film star Stephanie Clifford (whose stage name is Stormy Daniels) allegedly had an affair with President Donald Trump in 2006 while he was married to Melania Trump, gasps and glimmers of real hope arrived for many who are utterly exhausted by Trump’s misogyny, racism and bullying. Unlike the many would-be scandals that have followed Trump all the way into the Oval Office, Clifford has a real chance at thwarting Trump’s position of power.

Of course, it’s absurd that this would be the thing to take him down, all things considered, but this is America.

As Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., said on MSNBC, “If for some reason [Robert] Mueller does not get him, Stormy will.” And Daniels might be a safer bet than Mueller, at this point. And wouldn’t that be the most perfect ending to a man who has eluded consequences for his misogyny, in public and private, for years? If Clifford, an entrepreneurial, sex-positive woman, swoops in and causes the collapse of the Trump empire, what more could we ask for in the age of #MeToo?
Could Stephanie Clifford "take Trump down?" Everything is possible, though most things are unlikely.

That said, "What more could we ask for in the age of #MeToo?" We can think of a million things, followed by several more!

Surely, Karlis jests! Let's examine the way this fandango looks to her at the new and improved Salon.

Given all that Trump has done, could his relationship with Clifford take him down? Karlis acknowledges the surface absurdity of this idea, "but this is America," she pleasingly tells our tribe.

What is Clifford actually like? We have no real idea. To Karlis, though, Clifford is "entrepeneurial" and "sex positive," full and complete total stop.

She doesn't consider the possibility that Clifford may also be some version of a "money-grubber," not unlike Donald J. Trump. She doesn't consider the possible consequences when a person's "sex positivity" is acted out through the attempt to share her story about all the f**king with the wider world—starting in 2011, when that previously mentioned child is still just 5 years old.

(Donald Trump should have thought about that! So your lizard brain says.)

As we'll see below, we get our lexicography from Karlis herself. First, though, consider the reasoning behind the claim that Stephanie Clifford is telling a #MeToo tale:
KARLIS (continuing directly): Yet, Clifford doesn’t appear to be receiving the support and recognition she should be receiving right now. Feminists (a group I identify with) can rally. We can make noise and create change. This has been shown multiple times since Trump took office. We praise Special Counsel Mueller every time he indicts someone, but why don’t we do the same to Clifford, who’s now crowdfunding her legal fees? She’s asking for help, and we owe it to her.

Their alleged affair may have been consensual, but this is Clifford’s #MeToo story, and she deserves the same support of all the other women who have been brave enough to share theirs. She’s been silenced through a $130,000 non-disclosure agreement via Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen—yet another story of unjust abuse of power at a woman’s expense. Her attorney says she's been threatened with physical violence, too.
According to Karlis, Clifford is describing a consensual affair—but she's telling a #MeToo story! She's been "silenced," Karlis says—silenced by an agreement to accept a big sack of cash, an agreement which was also completely consensual, as far as anyone knows.

Karlis does make a fleeting reference to the claim—and so far it's only a claim—that Clifford was "threatened with physical violence" by someone at some point.

If true, would that make this a #MeToo story? It all depends on what the meaning of "#MeToo story" is! It would also depend on who made the threat—and again, on the question of whether the threat really happened.

Karlis has asked what more could we ask for in the age of #MeToo. At this point, we'd have to say we could ask for much, much more thanwhat we're getting here.

Imaginably, morally sensitive people could ask for a feminist hero who didn't go around f**king the newly-married father of a newborn child. Surely, though, we all could ask for someone who doesn't start trying to sell the story of all that f**king when that newborn child in question is only 5.

Not to mention the wife—the wife, who is a woman!

It seems to us that liberals, progressives and feminists could all, imaginably, ask for a lot more than this. Eventually, though, we reach this lament for the insufficiently lionized hero of our tale:
KARLIS: I’d argue that she’s also been ignored by part of the left too, and I think the silence is just as bad as being mocked or hated. I’m at fault for this as well. I haven’t been exactly rallied around Clifford, but I’m here now. As Sady Doyle explained in an article entitled “Stormy Daniels is Not a Punchline” in Elle, “By treating her as trashy or tainted or inherently ridiculous because of her job, we send the message that none of Trump’s flaws are worse than being a ‘porn star.’’

Why has the feminist left been slow to embrace her? Why is there still a mocking undertone when we talk about her? Is it because she’s a Republican? A stripper and adult film star? Is it because of her campy Make America Horny Again tour? Maybe it’s because she allegedly had consensual sex with Trump, an act that’s unthinkable to so many of us? But she was 27, and it was 2006 when the alleged tryst happened. As Clifford’s friend/assistant Kayla Paige said to Rolling Stone, ”Who hasn't gone and f**ked someone we regret?”
This passage ends with Clifford's friend, Kayla Paige, posing a thoughtful question. ”Who hasn't gone and f**ked someone we regret?” the thoughtful assistant asks.

Karlis offers this thoughtful question as the soul of wisdom. In doing so, she blows right past the larger problem with the elevation of Clifford to the status of feminist goddess.

There was certainly nothing illegal about f**king the irresistible Donald J. Trump. Beyond that, no one is required to believe that there was something morally wrong with doing so, especially when we realize that Clifford is sex positive.

People do get to f**k whoever they like. There's nothing automatically wrong with that.

The problem starts when people seeking fame and cash find ways to turn our failing political discourse into endless, brain-dead discussions of who's zoomin' who, or who did so in 2006. This is the kind of brain-dead chatter our corporate news channels most like.

An even larger problem involves the desire to seek cash and fame by telling the story of the regrettable fellow you (consensually) f**ked—the decision to humiliate his wife and child by selling your "#MeToo story" about all that consensual f**king.

For reasons only she can explain, Karlis says that she can think of nothing better than this. She can think of nothing better than a bout of consensual f**king, followed by several attempts to turn all the consensual f**king into a big pile of cash.

We can think of many things that are better than that. At any rate, is the person who does that a "feminist hero?" The notion strikes us as so dumb that it defines a powerful ongoing problem:

Our society is on the way to going down in a deeply destructive way. Publications like the new Salon have been a part of this decades-long process.

Tomorrow: The new Salon

Still coming: That visit with Rolling Stone!

BREAKING: Is Donald J. Trump maybe crazy or nuts?

MONDAY, MARCH 19, 2018

"Don't ask, don't tell," scribes advise:
Once again, people are wondering about the mental health of our current president.

Over the weekend, Jonathan Chait offered a useful post which touched upon this topic. As he started, he compared a former well-known historical figure to our own current leader, Donald J. Trump:
CHAIT (3/17/18): A history professor of mine once attempted to explain to our class why Adolf Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, when the virtual impossibility of a land invasion of a country as vast as Russia was already well known in 1941. The answer, he concluded, was that Hitler was put on earth to invade Russia. His loathing of Bolshevism, his twisted Darwinian mania for the acquisition of land and resources, and his fixation with his own military genius all led him to a decision that was both inevitable and impossible.

This is a good way to think about President Trump’s approach toward the Robert Mueller investigation.
Chait recalled a crazy, self-destructive decision by Adolf Hitler. According to Chait, this manifestly crazy decision resulted from a "twisted mania" on Hitler's part. Also, from his "fixation with his own genius."

"Twisted manias" and "fixations with genius" don't sound like markers of good mental health. In the case of this former world leader, they led to a manifestly crazy, self-destructive act.

According to Chait, this famous historical event gives us a way to think about Trump. It seems to us that Chait's right.

Key point! As Chait continues, he quickly says that he's "not drawing any moral parallel between" these two world leaders. "Trump is not a Nazi or a fascist," Chait also says.

You can judge that last claim yourselves, but Chait is directing us to a key point. Donald J. Trump, the American president, may not be mentally well.

Could Trump be involved in some form of "mental illness?" As he continues his post, Chair refers to Trump's "demonstrated pathologies," even to "his madness."

He says that Trump's recent behavior "displays a reckless disregard for even his own self-preservation." We don't know if that is true, but Chait's making a basic point:

Donald J. Trump, the American president, may be "mentally ill," or something like it. This calls to mind some peculiar advice we all got at the start of the year.

This advice came from several quarters. We'll concentrate on just two, beginning with a post by Josh Marshall.

On January 6, Marshall wrote a post in which he said we shouldn't attempt to discuss Trump's mental health. In the course of his post, he said that Trump is "frequently either frighteningly out of touch with reality or sufficiently pathological in his lying that it is impossible to tell." And yet, headline included, he started off like this:
MARSHALL (1/6/18): Is President Trump Mentally Ill? It Doesn’t Matter

We are now back on to the feverish debate about whether or not Donald Trump is mentally ill or suffering from the onset of dementia. The most important thing to know about this debate is that it simply doesn’t matter. Diagnoses are something for trained professionals and even they are challenged to make them without a proper in-person examination. But again, it doesn’t matter.
According to Marshall, it doesn't matter if Trump is mentally ill. According to Marshall, we'll learn nothing from a discussion of that possibility that we can't learn just as well by seeing the things Trump does.

We thought that argument was somewhat nuts. But five days later, the New York Times editorial board pretty much borrowed his stuff:
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL (1/11/18): Is Mr. Trump Nuts?

Is Donald Trump mentally fit to be president of the United States? It's an understandable question, and it's also beside the point.

Understandable because Mr. Trump's behavior in office—impulsive, erratic, dishonest, childish, crude—is so alarming, and so far from what Americans expect in their chief executive, that it cries out for a deeper explanation.

It's beside the point not because a president's mental capacity doesn't matter, nor because we should blindly accept our leaders' declarations of their own stability, let alone genius. Rather, we don't need a medical degree or a psychiatric diagnosis to tell us what is wrong with Mr. Trump. It's obvious to anyone who listens to him speak, reads his tweets and sees the effects of his behavior...
The board went on and on from there, arguing that we shouldn't waste our time discussing this topic. If memory serves, other pundits weighed in at this time, expressing the same point of view.

We never got around to discussing these posts at the time; this omission has bugged us ever since. Chait's renewed concern about Trump's mental health called these past essays to mind.

You can read those two posts for yourselves. For ourselves, we think the argument they make is very weak, but also quite familiar.

Introducing psychiatry into politics would of course be perilous. Any such discussion would have to be undertaken with great care, not a strong suit of our press corps.

That said, the idea that we could learn nothing from such a discussion strikes us as slightly insane. Sadly, it also seems familiar, in this familiar way:

Again and again, our discourse seems to built around the rolling refusal to discuss important topics. We don't discuss major policy matters. We don't discuss the work of the press.

At the start of the year, we were now told that we shouldn't discuss the state of the president's mental health. He seems to be nuts, the pundits said. But what more can we learn beyond that?

In recent decades, our society has featured two dueling bromides. Within the press corps, "See something, say something" tends to lose out. "Don't ask, don't tell" tends to prevail.

BREAKING: Rachel Maddow gets it right!

MONDAY, MARCH 19, 2018

Also, was Clifford threatened?
Last Thursday evening, a loud, sustained cheer went up from the Analyst Viewing Facility.

Because it was during the 9 PM Eastern hour, we were somewhat puzzled. When we hurried into the cavernous hall, we were pleased to learn that an unnamed major cable news had very much gotten it right, even as she was getting it somewhat wrong:
MADDOW (3/15/18): We have some breaking news about the lawsuit between the adult film actress who is suing the president.

This is a thing you get to say in 2018, but I still admit it feels weird to be talking about the president and the adult film actress.
"Credit where due," the cheering analysts lustily said. Even as the cable star called attention to herself and to her own alleged feelings, she referred to Clifford as an "adult film actress," not as a "porn star."

We agreed with the youngsters' assessment of this description. As we left their spartan quarter, their cheering continued behind us.

Is there really anything "wrong" with calling Clifford a "porn star?" On a journalistic basis, we'd say there possibly is.

The designation is quite exciting—but that's what could be wrong with it, journalistically speaking. Referring to Clifford as a "porn star" may tend to generate a bit more heat than light.

Maddow chose to go with a different description. In our view, she got it right.

Granted, everyone else is doing it. On Sunday morning, this headline appeared atop page A6 of our Washington Post:
Airing of porn star's story halted in 2011
The day before, the Post had run this headline on page A6:
Lawyer: Porn star liable for millions
In the Washington Post, as in most cable precincts, Clifford is a "porn star," full stop. Where possible, we'd go with Maddow's designation, or with some other description.

We now come to a new, extremely smokin' hot topic. We refer to the exciting claim made by Clifford's lawyer last Friday—the claim that Clifford "was physically threatened to stay silent about what she knew about Donald Trump."

Michael Avenatti made that claim last Friday morning while speaking with Chris Cuomo on CNN. Earlier that morning, he had made a similar, much fuzzier claim while being interviewed on Morning Joe, in one of the patently stage-managed interviews for which the inexcusable program is becoming famous.

(To watch that stage-managed "interview," you can just click here. Move ahead to minute 9 to see how stage-managing works.)

Even when he spoke with Cuomo, Avenatti refused to say if the threat had come from Donald J. Trump or even from someone close to Trump.

Earlier, Mika had flopped and floundered about in the wake of Avenatti's response to her stage-managed question. Avenatti wouldn't even say if someone had "pointed a gun at" his client, one of the possibilities Mika had excitingly conjured for him.

Has Stephanie Clifford been physically threatened? We have no idea! Tomorrow, though, we'll help you remember some of the greatest such claims from the past, including the exciting claim—a claim which was later proven false—which almost got Cody Shearer killed.

Exciting claims of physical threats are common in these cases. They often emerge from stage-managed interviews, like the inexcusable Hardball session which created the (flatly false) claim which almost got Shearer killed.

People like Mika and Joe play along. It's the way this destructive game is played as the American project continues to go down.

Except at the occasional rogue site, you aren't allowed to hear about such matters. What occurs in the press corps stays in the press corps—and that's especially true when the exciting claims are made on behalf of "porn stars," the favorite species of humanity known to our "cable news actors."

Tomorrow: The claim was extremely exciting—and it was totally false. After it almost got Shearer killed, it was sent to the memory hole.

(This is the way these people work. You aren't encouraged to know that.)

FEMINIST HERO: Stephanie Clifford's #MeToo story!

MONDAY, MARCH 19, 2018

Part 1—Perhaps too dumb to prevail:
When Donald J. Trump fires Robert Mueller, will the center hold? Will the center push back, reinforcing American norms?

The chances are good that it won't. The chances are good that we will learn, at that time, that our basic expectations and norms are "lost, stolen and strayed"—that our presumptive norms have been reinvented, changed for all time, purloined.

Investigations will come to a halt. The Congress will grumble, but fail to act. Either that, or Donald J. Trump will finally start his war—and yes, this really could occur, no matter what the Princeton professor says, based on his predictive models!

Such as it was, our civilization will have ceased to exist. In large part, the reason will lie with Us.

By "Us," we mean us Over Here in our liberal tents, where a simple truth prevails—given the way our standards and our norms have evolved, we may simply be too dumb to survive or prevail.

The sharks will always devour the lambs—or they'll pay the wolves to do it for them. It seems to us that our piteous bleating can already be heard.

However well-intentioned we may be, just how dumb are we the liberals at this point in time? How ill-equipped for the fight?

Alas! The spectacular dumbness of this liberal era was put on painful display this weekend. It was put on display in an essay at Salon—an essay which defines Stephanie Clifford as a "feminist hero."

Is Stephanie Clifford a feminist hero? Everything is possible! Also, it all depends on what the meaning of"feminst hero" may be!

That said, it's amazingly hard to see how any clear-thinking liberal or progressive would want to see Clifford in those terms—in the terms which blare from the headline on the new piece at Salon:
Stormy Daniels is a feminist hero
And we owe it to her to give her the respect she deserves in her fight to break her silence
Please understand. We aren't saying that Clifford should be frog-marched into the country side for years of re-education. (Though we might recommend that type of assistance for her lawyer, Mark Avenatti.)

We aren't saying that Stephanie Clifford should go to prison for her current conduct. As far as we know, there's no justification for that.

We aren't even saying that Stephanie Clifford should be publicly attacked for doing something "wrong," although it seems to us, as a private judgment, that she has perhaps done many things which aren't especially admirable and may just plain be destructive and wrong.

We're not saying that Stephanie Clifford should be dunked in an Essex County pond. We're saying it takes a very soft head to think that she's a "feminist hero," or to offer this account, as seen in Salon, of her current exertions:
Why has the feminist left been slow to embrace her? Why is there still a mocking undertone when we talk about her? Is it because she’s a Republican? A stripper and adult film star? Is it because of her campy Make America Horny Again tour? Maybe it’s because she allegedly had consensual sex with Trump, an act that’s unthinkable to so many of us? But she was 27, and it was 2006 when the alleged tryst happened. As Clifford’s friend/assistant Kayla Paige said to Rolling Stone, ”Who hasn't gone and f**ked someone we regret?”

The bigger question is a rhetorical one: Should any of that matter when a woman wants to share her #MeToo story?
For what it's worth, Kayla Paige may be a very nice person. The Rolling Stone piece in which she's quoted suggests that she may also be extremely unwise—that she certainly isn't someone from whom the liberal world should take direction, unless we really have decided that we plans to let Donald Trump win.

The Rolling Stone piece in which Paige is quoted is a rather sad production. In its headline, it too refers to Clifford as a "hero."

That said, even Rolling Stone—the mag which blew the whistle on UVa's mistreatment of Jackie on its way to stupidly losing its shirt—isn't dumb enough yet to refer to Clifford as a feminist hero.

Beyond that, why on earth would anyone think that Clifford is trying to share "a #MeToo story?" If you'll permit a moment of sanity, this is the story in question:
Step one: In 2006, Clifford engaged in a sexual affair with a newly married man whose wife had just given birth to a baby boy. There's nothing illegal about that.

That said, we'll assume that Clifford hadn't yet achieved the status of "feminist hero."

Step two: Five years later, Clifford apparently tried to sell her story about this affair to a tabloid magazine. For a payment of $15,000, the feminist hero was willing to tell the story about her exciting affair with the father of the child who was now five years old.

According to this report in yesterday's Washington Post, Clifford abandoned her attempt to score the 15 grand under threat of a lawsuit. Was the disappointed Clifford a "feminist hero" yet?

Step three: By 2016, the man with whom she had the affair was a much more significant personage. If we might borrow Salon's transcription, Clifford was therefore now offered $130,000 to shut the f**k up about her exciting affair.

Clifford's payday was much larger than the one she'd originally sought! Consensually, she took the cash. Did this make her a "feminist hero?" Was she some sort of feminist yet?

Step four: By 2018, Clifford had decided that she wanted to "share her story" in public after all. A cynic would say that her potential payoff had exponentially risen by now, though that would be speculation.

At any rate, Clifford now began to look for a way to escape the earlier cash deal she had made. That's where the story stands now.
We're not saying that Clifford has done anything illegal. We're not even saying she's necessarily done something "wrong."

That said, we now reach today's basic question. That question goes something like this:

At what point in this seamy, back-alley affair did Stephanie Clifford become a "feminist hero?" Even more strikingly, when did her story—a story of f**cking, indifference to others and material greed—turn into a #MeToo affair?

We're so old that we can remember when the #MeToo movement was dedicated to stories of sexual harassment and outright criminal assault. Truth to tell, this takes us all the way back to some time last week!

That's what #MeToo stories were once said to be. When did this back-alley tale of chasing the money turn into a "feminist" #MeToo affair?

There's really no way to be polite about the piece which appeared at Salon. Realists, though, may want to say this about that:

Over the course of the past fifteen years, our emerging, new-world liberal culture has become monstrously dumb, spectacularly clueless.

We've moved from decades of liberal silence to a new regime of liberal dumbness. Everyone can see how dumb we routinely are—everyone except us.

This spectacular dumbness is a key tool as the deranged and disordered Donald J. Trump reshapes the norms of our civilization. Every time we showcase our tribal dumbness, we add one more link to our chain.

Again and again and again and again, we liberals have turned out to be just very dumb. We're self-impressed and impressively clueless. We've been like this for a while, following on a previous era of spectacular silence.

This fact has become painfully clear over the past fifteen years. Donald J. Trump has ridden our Dumb all the way to where he is. For example, to the brink of a possible war—and yes, it really could happen.

All this week, we'll be exploring the claim that Stehanie Clifford is a "feminist hero" who's bravely trying to tell her "#MeToo story." When a tribe or a movement has become so dumb that it can swallow notions like that. then it's just as Professor Brown once said:

There may come a time when the secret agreements are gone, when a civilization may end.

Lincoln put it differently last night in a vivid dreamlike appearance. "The mystic chords of memory" are being ripped out, he morosely alleged.

Tomorrow: For starters, a visit to Rolling Stone