HAPPILY ANCHORED: To unexplained loathing!

FRIDAY, AUGUST 28, 2015

Part 4—TNR fails to explain:
Kevin Drum had read a piece at the New Republic.

Frankly, he was puzzled. He didn’t think the TNR piece lived up to its headline:
DRUM (8/21/15): I'm curious about something. Last night I read a longish piece at TNR by Gwyneth Kelly titled “Why ‘Anchor Baby’ Is Offensive.” I was actually sort of curious about that, so I read through it. But all the article did was provide a bit of history about the term and quote a bunch of people saying it was disgusting and dehumanizing. There was no explanation of why it’s offensive.
Saying he would likely regret it, Drum decided to issue his now-famous “‘Anchor baby’ challenge.” He asked his readers to explain why the term should be viewed as offensive.

“It's not obvious from first principles what the problem is here,” Drum offensively said.

On balance, we agree with Drum’s apparent skepticism. In our view, it isn’t obvious why the term in question should be viewed as offensive, or as “super offensive,” or as “an offensive, derogatory slur,” to use Kelly’s language.

At long last, let’s drop that question. But just for the record, Drum was plainly right about the TNR piece. Despite the headline on the piece, Gwyneth Kelly didn’t even try to explain why the term in question should be deemed offensive. She simply asserted that that the term is offensive, then offered a brief critique of Donald Trump’s claims in this area.

Drum was right to notice the fact that the piece doesn’t live up to the headline. That said, we strongly recommend Kelly’s piece, which helps us see the way our liberal tribe currently tends to reason.

What can we learn from Kelly’s piece? Let’s take a look at the record:

For starters, let’s note a basic fact. The headline which sits atop her piece makes two claims, not just one. This is the current full headline:

“Why ‘Anchor Baby’ Is Offensive—and a Distortion of Truth”

Kelly makes two basic claims in her piece. As she starts, she claims that the term “anchor baby” is offensive—“an offensive, derogatory slur.”

She then moves on to a second claim. She says the term “distorts the truth.”

This strikes us as the more significant claim, but Kelly gives it short shrift. This is her full discussion of this second, substantive claim, before she shifts back to her principal claim, her claim that the term is offensive:
KELLY (8/20/15): The term also distorts the truth. As Politifact noted in 2010, foreigners do come to the use to give birth to a U.S. citizen, but it's not the kind of foreigner Trump imagines:

“While that does appear to be happening with affluent ‘birth tourists,’ it's important to understand that those affluent ‘birth tourists’ are not the ones illegally crossing the Rio Grande or the Sonoran desert. They are coming here with the proper legal papers and giving birth. Thus, whatever public policy challenges arise from ‘birth tourism’ are separate and distinct from the public policy challenges of illegal immigration.”

Moreover, while the Fourteenth Amendment does guarantee citizenship for babies born in the United States (with some exceptions: the children of diplomats, occupying forces or anyone born on foreign public ships), that citizenship does not automatically extend to the child’s parents. An American child of undocumented parents must wait until they are 21 to petition for their parents’ citizenship. In the meantime, parents can be deported; sometimes their children leave with them, other times the children are placed in foster care.

Nonetheless, Trump would like to see the law changed to address this phantom menace. He told Fox News that, according to “some very, very good lawyers,” the longstanding legal consensus that the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees birthright citizenship “is not going to hold up in court.” This insurgent constitutional interpretation is certainly up for debate. The offensiveness of “anchor baby” should not be.
The offensiveness of “anchor baby” shouldn't be up for debate! So says Kelly, without bothering to explain why the term is offensive at all!

At any rate, that is Kelly’s full account of what she calls “this phantom menace.” In our view, it’s a lazy, faux attempt to discuss the full set of facts on the ground, as we’ll note below.

After making this facile attempt, Kelly returns to the claim we tribally love—the claim that Candidate Trump’s language is offensive. This is very much the principal way our tribe now likes to “reason.”

At present, our tribe is anchored to the act of eagerly taking offense! We love to accuse The Others of slurs. We’re less inclined to immerse ourselves in the substance of policy questions.

We fluff ourselves with our sense of moral superiority. We leave ourselves without the tools to win real debates, to change people's understandings.

Make no mistake! Trump’s immigration proposals strike us as utterly ludicrous. His kick-off speech, in which he characterized unauthorized Mexican immigrants in the most unpleasant ways possible, struck us as utterly heinous, a point we made at the time.

(Darling Rachel said nothing about Trump’s appalling statement that night. She barely mentioned his statement on the next evening’s program. Instead, she continued to cavort and play about a set of silly side points, wondering if Trump had hired actors to attend his kick-off speech. Today, Maddow claims to be “super-offended” by the term “anchor baby.” We’re all free to believe her, of course.)

Trump’s immigration proposals strike us as utterly ludicrous. But Kelly’s piece strikes us as lazy and perhaps a bit less than obsessively honest. In fairness, she gives us our tribal fix—we get to condemn another “slur!” But she tells us very little about the facts on the ground.

What’s missing in Kelly’s brief attempt to deal with the substance of Trump’s proposals? Let’s go back to the very beginning, to the first appearances of the term she frames as a slur.

Judging from the Nexis archive, the term “anchor baby” first appeared in American newspapers in 2001. At that time, activists who used that term tended to make a specific claim. You see the outline of the claim in a column in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, in which Colin Campbell described the mail he’d been getting:
CAMPBELL (2/27/01): Some people hate the flood of foreign immigrants into metro Atlanta. I know this because of the mail I'm getting about a column I did a couple of Sundays ago in which I confessed to taking pleasure in the city's newly cosmopolitan feel. (I also admitted some obvious problems.) Of course there are readers who share my delight. But others have nothing good to say about immigration. To them it's a threat...

Several readers sent me material on the campaign to change the Constitution so that U.S. birth won't automatically confer citizenship. (Critics note that “anchor babies” are allowing whole clans to move here).
That was the original claim. If a non-citizen gave birth in this country, her child would be an American citizen—and this would allow the whole family to move to the States!

In 2002, columnist John McCaslin advanced the same general notion in the Washington Times. So did Dennis Byrne in the Chicago Tribune:
MCCASLIN (7/11/02): There was considerable reaction from around the country to our item this week on birthright citizenship and its related phenomenon that has been dubbed “anchor babies.”

The United States, we reported, grants automatic citizenship to babies born in this country to illegal aliens, temporary workers, even tourists. The babies can eventually “anchor” their extended families in the United States, thus precipitating an unlimited number of “chain immigrants” with the right to immigrate.

BYRNE (7/29/02): Consider the movement for “birthright citizenship” and “anchor babies.” It is based on the fact that the United States automatically grants citizenship to babies born in the country—including to babies whose mothers are here temporarily, as tourists or even illegally. Of course, once the baby is defined as a citizen, his family gets preferential immigration treatment. An entire industry has developed around getting pregnant women into this country just for that purpose.
As early as 2002, the Los Angeles Times was noting a problem with this presentation, even as it noted the rise of what is now called “birth tourism.” In a long report which focused on South Koreans coming to Los Angeles to give birth, Barbara Demick noted a wrinkle in U.S. immigration law—the very wrinkle Kelly cited thirteen years later:
DEMICK (5/25/02): “Even though it is not illegal immigration per se, it is exploiting a loophole,” said Jack Martin, a project director at the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a Washington-based group that advocates restrictions on immigration.

The federation is especially critical of what it calls anchor babies, whom mothers arrange to have in the United States with the hope that the child will later help the entire family immigrate. Under the law, a U.S. citizen cannot sponsor anyone for immigration purposes until the age of 21, but according to Martin, the long wait is not a deterrent.

“It is hard to conceptualize a strategy that is so long-term with regard to U.S. citizenship, but that's what they are doing—establishing a foothold,” he said.

The federation says 165,000 babies are born in the United States each year to illegal immigrants, most of them from Mexico.
Were that many babies born to illegal immigrants that year? We don’t know, but Demick cited the same part of immigration law Kelly cited in TNR.

Uh-oh! Under immigration law, a family can’t automatically stay in the States just because its child is born a citizen. That baby can’t sponsor his parents for citizenship until he turns 21!

This complicates the initial, simple-minded claim in which entire families were able to come to the U.S., “anchored” by one birthright citizen baby. As it turned out, that initial claim was misleading, facile, massively simplified.

Kelly cited that aspect of U.S. law in her TNR piece. Every liberal knows to cite it, after which we get to return to the practice we love—taking offense at the “slurs” The Other Tribe is employing.

We modern liberals love the act of taking offense in this manner. As the responses to Drum helped show, we’re even happy to take offense when we can’t seem to explain what makes the term in question offensive! The answers Drum received to his challenge ought to embarrass any progressive. They show us for what we often are—juvenile, unpleasant, dumb.

Ditto-headed in every way. Driven by the ancient joy of thoroughly loathing The Other.

Kelly never bothered explaining why that term is offensive. But then, she failed to do something else in her piece:

She failed to note what Trump has actually said when he’s used the term “anchor baby.”

So far, Candidate Trump hasn’t evoked the original, simple-minded claim in which “anchor babies” let whole families gain American citizenship. Below, you see what he said in New Hampshire when he touched off the current dispute, in which cable stars try to top each other about who is most offended.
TRUMP (8/19/15): There’s a very big question as to the anchor babies. They’ve been talking about it for years. There is a very big question as to whether or not the 14th Amendment actually covers this. We’re going to find out whether or not it does.

Changing the 14th Amendment would take years and years. It's a long, drawn-out process. A lot of people think that it is absolutely, in terms of anchor babies, that it is not covered. So we're going to find out.

But look, here’s the story. Here’s what happens. Wait a minute. Wait, wait, wait!

Here’s what's happening.

A woman is going to have a baby. They wait on the border. Just before the baby, they come over to the border. They have the baby in the United States. We now take care of that baby: Social Security, Medicare, education. Give me a break. It doesn't work that way. The parents have to come in legally.

Now, we’re going to have to find out what's going to happen from a court standpoint. But many people, many of the great scholars say that anchor babies are not covered. We're going to find out.
In that statement, Trump wasn’t complaining about whole families gaining citizenship through the birth of a child. He was advancing a different type of complaint. He was saying that children born to undocumented / illegal / unauthorized residents will be eligible for all sorts of benefits over the eighty years of their lives.

In some ways, this claim is plainly accurate—and a lot of beautiful kids are born to illegal / unauthorized / undocumented residents of this country each year. In a study in 2010, Pew estimated that 340,000 babies were born in 2008 to parents who were unauthorized / undocumented / illegal residents of the U.S.

That was roughly eight percent of all babies born in the U.S. that year! To cite one possible challenge of the type to which Trump referred, those beautiful kids and their undocumented / illegal / unauthorized siblings and cousins can present a challenge to American public schools.

Personally, we aren’t troubled by that, at least as matters currently stand. But no one’s required to think that this is a good way of doing things.

Can we talk? Candidate Trump is a remarkably classic demagogue. Like a certain figure from the last century, he extends his lower lip and insists that he can make the trains run on time.

In times of confusion and dysfunction, this stance can be quite appealing—always has been, all over the world.

Is Trump a well-intentioned figure? We can’t measure that. But in the face of claims which seem appealing, it isn’t enough to drop R-bombs and complain that The Others are being offensive, especially when we can’t even explain why we’re making that claim.

Are unauthorized / undocumented / illegal residents taking jobs from American citizens? Through birthright citizenship, are the beautiful children of these residents creating various types of challenges, financial and otherwise, within the overall society?

These questions aren’t crazy questions. Indeed, all over the world, developed nations have been rolling back their own birthright citizenship laws in response to such considerations.

It isn’t enough for liberals to respond to such considerations by littering the countryside with our favorite weapon, our R-bombs. That said, the dropping of bombs is plainly the thing we liberals most enjoy at this time.

Can we be honest for once? We’re unpleasant and tribal and full of the loathing we love to attribute to Others! Just exactly as Drum observed, Kelly never explained why the term in question should be considered offensive or a slur. But then, she also didn’t speak to the actual concerns Trump actually raised in his statement about those darn “anchor babies.”

Kelly didn’t even explain why that term is offensive! But down through history, tribal haters like us have never stopped to explain.

The term “anchor baby” migrated, years back, from its original narrow use. It’s now often used in a more general sense, as a reference to all children born to illegal / unauthorized / undocumented residents who become U.S. citizens due to birthright citizenship.

To many people, the practice of birthright citizenship won’t make obvious sense. The claim that taxpayers are getting ripped off will make sense to these people.

On their face, such concerns aren’t crazy. Are we willing to learn to speak to those people's concerns? Or are we anchored to unexplained tribal loathing, the oldest scourge on the planet?

Anchors are brown, Drum’s commenters said. In our view, those comments should serve as a wake-up call to our whole self-impressed tribe.

Are we willing to love our neighbor? or do we love dropping bombs?


Supplemental: The nature of State Department email!

THURSDAY, AUGUST 27, 2015

As Baldwin pretends with some polls:
Briefly watching mid-afternoon CNN, we just saw Brooke Baldwin hyping a “bombshell report.” In a brand-new Quinnipiac poll, Biden performs a few points better than Clinton against the leading Republicans!

In August of the year before, with Biden not even in the race, that’s a bombshell in much the same way that Baldwin is Pliny the Elder reborn. Also, with people like Baldwin, press corps-wide, working hard to fluff Uncle Joe while knocking Vile Clinton around.

Our “journalists” routinely say it—they say they have a professional bias in favor of creating a lively race. Perhaps that explains why the corps is fluffing Biden. Perhaps it’s Clinton hatred.

Whatever it is, it isn’t journalistic. This brings us back to the press corps’ ongoing obsession with the Clinton email non-probe.

We say non-probe for a reason. By now, any news org—in theory, that includes CNN—could have catalogued the issues involved in the email matter. As far as we know, there are two major claims:

First claim: Clinton put national security at risk by using a non-secure email account. Also, Clinton stymied FOIA requests by maintaining her own server.

By now, CNN, or anyone else, could have created a coherent account of the various charges, crazy and otherwise, being made against Clinton. No one has done so because our imitation, Potemkin “news orgs” simply don’t function that way.

That isn’t what our “news orgs” do. Instead, they spend two years obsessing over meaningless polls while gossiping about a wide assortment of silly distractions.

What would it look like if major news orgs tried to clarify the email debate?

We’ll direct you to this post by Kevin Drum, in which Drum links to an AP report.

The AP report starts to sift the ball of confusion surrounding the security aspects of Clinton’s email practices. Below, you see the start of Ken Dilanian’s report:
DILANIAN (8/26/15): The transmission of now-classified information across Hillary Rodham Clinton's private email is consistent with a State Department culture in which diplomats routinely sent secret material on unsecured email during the past two administrations, according to documents reviewed by The Associated Press.

Clinton's use of a home server makes her case unique and has become an issue in her front-running campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. But it's not clear whether the security breach would have been any less had she used department email.
Say what? “It’s not clear whether the security breach would have been any less had she used department email?”

Later in his report, Dilanian mentions similar practices from the Bush years. He seems to say that Clinton’s email system wasn’t any less secure than the State Department’s corresponding system:
DILANIAN: In five emails that date to Condoleezza Rice's tenure as secretary of state during the George W. Bush administration, large chunks are censored on the grounds that they contain classified national security or foreign government information.

[…]

Such slippage of classified information into regular email is "very common, actually," said Leslie McAdoo, a lawyer who frequently represents government officials and contractors in disputes over security clearances and classified information.

What makes Clinton's case different is that she exclusively sent and received emails through a home server in lieu of the State Department's unclassified email system. Neither would have been secure from hackers or foreign intelligence agencies, so it would be equally problematic whether classified information was carried over the government system or a private server, experts say.

In fact, the State Department's unclassified email system has been penetrated by hackers believed linked to Russian intelligence.
“It would be equally problematic whether classified information was carried over the government system or a private server?” According to Dilanian, that’s what experts say.

This past weekend, on Fox News Sunday, Ellen Tauscher discussed the nature of the State Department’s “unsecure” email system. She also tried to explain the distinction between the State Department’s separate-and-distinct classified and unclassified email systems.

Dilanian seems to be plowing the same fields here. He seems to be saying that the State Department’s regular unclassified system would have been no more secure than the private system Clinton used.

If our “news orgs” were really news orgs, they would have tried to clarify these matters by now. That said, our “news orgs” quite plainly are not news orgs—haven’t been any such thing for a very long time.

Our TV news orgs are corporate arrangements whereby attractive, youngish men and women can sit around discussing worthless polls all day. After that, they spend some time discussing who interrupted whom, and how loudly, at which event last night.

At night, the propagandists come out. Did you watch the horrific Maddow sifting your info, and clowning around, on her program last night? Has any news figure ever been so devoured by the twin monsters, wealth and fame?

You’re living inside an “I, Claudius” bubble. Live and direct from Atlanta, Baldwin was pretending nicely as we clicked off CNN.

HAPPILY ANCHORED: In the one play we know!

THURSDAY, AUGUST 27, 2015

Part 3—That bag of hammers is us:
In her 2003 memoir, Living History, Hillary Clinton aimed an ugly slur at lawyer David Kendall.

Nothing was subtle in Clinton’s attack. Peter Baker recalled the episode in a front-page profile of Kendall in Monday’s New York Times:
BAKER (8/24/15): [T]he Clintons leaned on Mr. Kendall heavily. “He became an anchor in our lives,” Mrs. Clinton later wrote in a memoir.
It’s just like the Clintons to do this!

Before this past weekend, we might have missed the import of Clinton’s remark, in which she suggested that Kendall is Hispanic (anchors are brown) and compared him to an inanimate object, thereby implying that he's dumb as a bag of hammers.

Before this past weekend, we might have missed that! Luckily, we read the comments to Kevin Drum’s recent post about the disturbing term “anchor baby.” As a result, we understood what Clinton actually meant by her ugly remark.

At this point, can we talk? Almost surely, Clinton wasn’t insulting Kendall when she described him as “an anchor in our lives.” Almost surely, she wasn’t saying that he is brown, or even inanimate.

When the Carter Family sang “Anchored in Love,” they weren’t deriding the love they felt they received from God. When Walter Cronkite was called an anchor, he wasn’t being compared to a bag of hammers.

None of those associations are obvious when we use the word “anchor.” But alas! Last Friday, Kevin Drum issued what has come to be known as “the ‘anchor baby’ challenge.”

Drum asked his readers to explain why the term “anchor baby” should be seen as “offensive.” Because taking offense is the only play we modern liberals seem to know, his readers leaped to comply.

Alas! We the modern pseudo-liberals live for such assignments! We’re extremely skilled at taking offense—at finding the slur in all manner of speech by The Others.

We’re deeply clueless—hapless; inept—at all other plays in the playbook.

We’ve been trained to take offense, and we’re eager to do it. Consider a pair of responses to Drum’s iconic challenge.

Bless our hearts! We rushed to explain why that term is offensive—even super-offensive, as the increasingly ludicrous Rachel Maddow super-phonily said. One reader explained it this way:
COMMENT TO DRUM: It’s kinda insulting to insinuate you’re so rapacious as to purposefully get pregnant and have a kid just so you can stay in the U.S. It suggests you see the child as a legal boon, not someone to love. In a more family-oriented culture that’s very hurtful.
The reader said it would be “kinda insulting” to make a certain insinuation. That may or may not be true, but Drum had asked a different question.

Drum had asked what made a specific term offensive. It isn't entirely clear that he commenter spoke to that point.

Having said that, let’s note the general background to that reader’s comment. Over the past fifteen years, people who have discussed “anchor babies” have generally been criticizing the conduct of the parents of the babies in question.

As a general matter, they haven’t said that the parents in question “purposefully get pregnant” just so they can stay in the States—and the term “rapacious” has never been used, according to Nexis. More often, these people have simply claimed that some parents come to the States when it’s time to give birth so that the baby will be an American citizen, possibly letting the parent and other family members reside in the U.S.

(That’s the way the claim began. The nature of the claim has changed through the years, a point we’ll note tomorrow.)

The people who speak about “anchor babies” disapprove of this alleged practice. That doesn’t mean that the term they’re using is a racial slur. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the term is “super offensive.”

It doesn’t mean that they meant for us to think that anchors are brown. It doesn’t mean that they were comparing people to bags of hammers.

Was the term meant or intended as a “slur?” The commenter didn’t explain why we should view it that way. Meanwhile, just for the record, it’s perfectly plain that some people do come to the U.S. for the purpose of giving birth to a baby who's an American citizen. Whatever a person may think of that practice, it’s plain that the practice exists.

When a reader responded to the comment we’ve posted, he or she took note of this fact. In our view, this responder helps us see how anchored we are to the tribal practice of eagerly taking offense:
COMMENT TO DRUM: It’s kinda insulting to insinuate you’re so rapacious as to purposefully get pregnant and have a kid just so you can stay in the U.S. It suggests you see the child as a legal boon, not someone to love. In a more family-oriented culture that’s very hurtful.

RESPONSE TO COMMENT: I agree. It’s the notion that an undocumented person is having a kid to “anchor” them in the United States, and hence, beat the system.

It's possible that it could be viewed neutrally—as describing a functional reality—and hence not offensive. But look at the word “homosexual.” That strikes me as a neutral description, but some in the gay community don't like it at all. Why? Probably because it's mostly used by people hostile to them. Which is a description of the majority who use the term “anchor babies.”

In the picture accompanying Kevin's post someone is holding up a sign "NO BIRTH TOURISM!" A couple of years ago there was a big story about a place east of Los Angeles that had pregnant Chinese visiting for about two to four weeks, timed so that they would give birth in the U.S. That seems to me to merit the description “birth tourism.” I’m not sure what the consensus is about the offensiveness of that expression.
In our view, that response is a bit sad, but instructive. Let’s note what this first responder said.

Needless to say, the responder agreed with the original comment. He seems to feel that the term in question is offensive because it’s “kinda insulting.”

At the same time, the responder was vaguely aware of the fact that quite a few people do come to the U.S. for the express purpose of giving birth to babies who are American citizens. That said, his information on the matter is a bit out of date.

In this May 1 news report, the Los Angeles Times reported ongoing federal prosecutions connected to the practice, which is indeed called “birth tourism” or “maternity tourism.” These prosecutions have been reported in the Times on an ongoing basis.

Rightly or wrongly, those prosecutions were being conducted by Eric Holder’s Justice Department. That said, let’s look at the extent to which this responder is anchored to the practice of eagerly taking offense.

First, note the way this responder seems to decide if a term is offensive. It almost seems that he holds this view:

If a term is used by people who object to a certain group in some way, then by definition the term in question can be deemed “offensive.”

In his view, some gays object to the term “homosexual” because it’s used by The Other Tribe. We don’t know if any gay person has ever actually felt that way. But as a general matter, this comes quite close to describing the way our low-IQ tribe now functions.

Increasingly, how do we function? Increasingly, like this:

Has a statement been made by The Other Team? Then, almost by definition, we judge that it must be offensive! It’s left to us to invent some rationale, however absurd, with which we can sell this claim to the wider world. But the assessment is automatic.

That’s what happened when Drum’s readers took his iconic challenge. By definition, everyone knew that the term in question had to be offensive—super-offensive, a slur. And then, we invented our rationale:

The Other Tribe was comparing babies to bags of hammers! Also, anchors are brown!

In that middle paragraph, the responder describes a basic part of our current tribal game. If it’s said by The Other Tribe, it’s by definition offensive.

In his third paragraph, the responder displays another part of the way we currently function. When he mentions the term “birth tourism,” he offers this sad glimpse of the pseudo-liberal mind:

“I’m not sure what the consensus is about the offensiveness of that expression.”

Is the term “birth tourism” offensive? Is it super-offensive, a slur? On his own, it seems that this reader can’t tell! Apparently, he’ll have to wait until he receives “the consensus.”

Lucky for us, multimillionaire tribal leaders now appear on TV each night to feed us our tribal consensus. We used to laugh at The Dittoheads for this. Now, it’s the way we play!

Kevin Drum’s readers were eager to say that the term in question was offensive. They invented some deeply inane rationales. But they all agreed to agree.

Drum’s readers just knew the term was offensive. At the same time, we couldn’t help noticing this:

They didn’t seem to know very much about the actual facts on the ground with respect to The Other Tribe’s complaints. We’re skilled at eagerly tasking offense, but we’re weak at discussing the possible merits of complaints The Others have made.

To what extent has The Other Tribe been making valid complaints in this area? To what extent might The Other Tribe’s complaints make some sort of sense?

We pseudo-liberals are highly skilled in finding their language deeply offensive. We’re useful as a bag of hammers when it comes to the rest.

Tomorrow: Concerning the other tribe’s claims

Supplemental: Back inside the “I, Claudius” scam!

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 26, 2015

While haplessly letting it happen:
By now, it’s fairly obvious. We’re back inside an “I Claudius” bubble.

Here’s what we mean by that:

In 1976, the Robert Graves novel became a massively popular PBS series. In each format, Graves’ entity created a fascinating picture of the way politics can work—more particularly, of the way the public can be deceived about the way their republic is functioning.

On the PBS series and in the novel, we were taken behind the scenes of the Roman republic. We saw what was actually happening inside the halls of power—and we saw the way the public was misled about the nature of the deliberations which controlled their alleged republic.

We’re back inside that world today as we get handed a very familiar old story. Candidate Clinton is being portrayed as the world’s biggest liar. We’ve been handed this tale every step of the way during the Clinton/Gore years.

The liberal world has always accepted this treatment. We’re accepting it once again.

Quite correctly, Joan Walsh is complaining today at Salon. More specifically, she's noting the contradictions of the industry-wide, melodrama-driven, good-old-Joe Biden build-up.

Unfortunately, Walsh accepted the familiar “biggest liar” charade when it was worked against Candidate Gore. Her mentor, Chris Matthews, was one of the most important authors of that disastrous deception—a twenty-month onslaught which sent George Bush to the White House.

Walsh has never told the truth about that version of this play. She’s complaining about the revival now.

The mainstream press corps is up to its ears in this familiar revival. They led the charge against Candidate Gore. Their complicity is only slightly less this time around.

Question:

Does anyone have the slightest idea what is actually being alleged in the latest revival of the long-running hit, “The press corps against the Clintons?” Does anyone understand the ball of confusion contained in Ruth Marcus’ Sunday column? And how about the various things Ellen Tauscher just said?

Tauscher, D-CA, is a former six-term member of Congress. From 2009 through 2012, she served in two different major posts at the State Department.

This Sunday, Tauscher appeared on Fox News Sunday, where she pushed back against the current ball of confusion, which our major news orgs are making exactly zero effort to clarify, explain, unpack, delineate, explore or resolve.

To her credit, guest host Shannon Bream let Tauscher speak at some length about the current ball of confusion concerning State Department operations. As Gene Lyons notes in his current column, her most striking remark concerned the claim that federal judge Emmet Sullivan recently said that Clinton violated policy in some way:
TAUSCHER (8/23/15): If we're going to cherry-pick, let’s stay with the cherry tree. You talked about what Judge Sullivan said. Judge Sullivan’s extraneous remark was about something completely different and it was about something going on with somebody else, an employee. And so, it has really nothing to do with what is going on right now.
For the full transcript, click here.

Judge Sullivan’s widely-quoted statement wasn’t about Clinton? Is there any chance that Tauscher’s statement could possibly be accurate?

We don’t know, and it’s unlikely we ever will. At present, the press corps is running a familiar old scam, of a type it knows quite well. No one is trying to clarify matters as the excitement, drama and gossip build. In fairness, there’s no reason to think our “journalists” would have the chops to do so even if they tried.

(It has been a very long time since they used any such skills.)

In I, Claudius, we saw the world through the eyes of “the street”—and we saw what was occurring behind the scenes, where “the street” wasn’t allowed. As of now, we the people are back in the scam zone again. If you think this can’t send a Republican to the White House again, we own screen rights to a very good novel we would be happy to sell you.

The liberal world has tolerated this long-running scam every step of the way. Has there ever been a less vigilant tribe than the one we belong to?

Obvious question, widely ignored: Didn’t everyone in the White House know that Secretary Clinton was using a private email address? Absent some technical explanation, how could they not have known? Did she never send an email to anyone in that realm?

It seems like the world’s most obvious question. We hear it asked every now and then.

As far as we know, no one ever tries to answer it! But then, that’s what the world looks like inside an “I, Claudius” bubble—in a world where the national “press corps” mainly just clowns and pretends.

HAPPILY ANCHORED: In the mouthing of dogmas!

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 26, 2015

Part 2—Reciting what leaders have said:
As it turned out, Kevin Drum made a valid point.

He’d read a piece at the New Republic denouncing the use of the term “anchor baby.”

The term is offensive, the piece had said. But according to Drum, the piece in question never explained why the term is offensive:
DRUM (8/21/15): I'm curious about something. Last night I read a longish piece at TNR by Gwyneth Kelly titled “Why ‘Anchor Baby’ Is Offensive.” I was actually sort of curious about that, so I read through it. But all the article did was provide a bit of history about the term and quote a bunch of people saying it was disgusting and dehumanizing. There was no explanation of why it's offensive.
Drum went on to ask his readers to explain why the term is offensive. “I’m probably going to regret asking this,” he prophetically said. “But I am curious. It's not obvious from first principles what the problem is here.”

Uh-oh! To our ear, it sounded like Drum wasn’t sure that the term really is offensive. Tribal heresy to the side, he was certainly right about the TNR piece he had read.

Right in its headline, the New Republic said its piece would explain why the term is offensive. But despite that headline, Gwyneth Kelly never gave that explanation. She simply presented blurbs from pundits asserting that it is.

(For the record: On line, the full TNR headline says this: “Why ‘Anchor Baby’ Is Offensive—and a Distortion of Truth.”)

Kelly is just two years out of Northwestern, but she knows who we liberals should ape. This is the way she started:
KELLY (8/20/15): Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump continues to lead not only in the polls, but with his crude rhetoric. In a Tuesday interview with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, Trump questioned whether “anchor babies,” a pejorative term for babies born in the U.S. to undocumented immigrants, are legal American citizens. “What happens is [the parents] are in Mexico, they're going to have a baby, they move over here for a couple of days, they have the baby," he said. A day later, Jeb Bush called for “[b]etter enforcement so that you don't have these, you know, 'anchor babies,' as they're described, coming into the country.” And on Thursday, Bobby Jindal said he’s “happy to use” the term “anchor babies.”

Nevermind that “anchor babies” are largely a myth. The term is also an offensive, derogatory slur.
At this point, Kelly presented a tweet from Chris Hayes saying this: “The term ‘anchor baby’ is disgusting and dehumanizing. I can't believe anyone in ‘mainstream’ American politics uses it.”

She followed with this response from Jamelle Bouie: “I can’t say it any better. ‘Anchor baby’ doesn't belong in our discourse any more than a racial slur.”

Blurbing completed, Kelly went on to say that the American Heritage Dictionary lists the term as “offensive” and “disparaging,” a change from its original neutral listing in 2011. A person may agree with this view, of course, but Drum was right in his observation—at no point did Kelly explain why the term should be so regarded.

Should the term “anchor baby” be viewed as offensive? Is that term really as offensive as a racial slur? Should it be viewed as “disgusting?”

To our ear, Drum didn’t seem real sure in his initial post. But tribal leaders were plainly instructing us in this view when Kelly’s piece appeared.

Her piece appeared last Thursday. On MSNBC that evening, Hayes described the term as “a deeply loaded phrase that’s offensive to many.”

In making that statement, Hayes backslid from his earlier designation, perhaps in a racist manner. But one hour later, Rachel Maddow topped Hayes. The term is actually “super offensive,” the perpetually clowning cable anchor said.

Is the term super offensive? In his initial post, Drum seemed unsure—and so, he asked his readers to take the “anchor baby” challenge. Saying he would likely regret it, he asked his readers to explain why the term is offensive.

In our view, the results were highly instructive. In our view, Drum’s commenters helped us see the way we modern liberals are strongly inclined to reason. In our view, they displayed a deeply scripted tribal approach which strikes us as possibly quite ineffective.

What was striking about the comments Drum received? For one thing, people had a very hard time explaining why the term in question should be seen as offensive.

Don’t get us wrong! Almost everyone agreed that the term is offensive. But as Drum would note in a later post, almost no one could explain why.

The comments were largely a big pile of crap, the mild-mannered blogger would later observe. We’d have to say that Drum was right—and we think his point is important.

Why is the term “anchor baby” offensive? It would take a month of Sundays to catalog the bad explanations Drum received in that thread.

Several commenters said the term reminded them of the offensive term “welfare queen.” But they didn’t explain why the term should strike people that way.

Many commenters noted that the term is typically used by people who are criticizing the parents of the babies in question. That’s certainly true—but it doesn’t tell us why the term should be viewed as equivalent to a racial slur, or as offensive at all.

Other commenters found unique ways to make little sense. This is one of the first explanations Drum’s question occasioned:
COMMENTER: It’s demeaning, denies the humanity of the child, and makes the parents out to be inhuman monsters.

Other than that, you know, it’s fine.
Snark was present, but this comment offered little else. How does the term in question “make the parents out to be inhuman monsters?” The commenter didn’t attempt to say. This commenter spilled with certainty, but so does Candidate Trump.

Inevitably, more than a few comments took us off the deep end of the tribal pier, with the anchor of our tribal certainty dragging us toward the bottom. Over-“educated” savants explored the meaning of the terms which constitute the hateful expression. Cover the eyes of the children as we show you this:
COMMENTER: “Anchor” = brown

Edit to add that for those with ears to hear, "anchor" sounds a bit like the more blatantly racist “wetback,” no?
Does “anchor” sound like “wetback” to you? It does if you have ears to hear! Meanwhile, do you typically think of anchors as brown? Is that what people meant all those years when they called Walter Cronkite an anchor?

Tribal belief is powerful; it has been down through the murderous ages. It lets us hear what we want to hear, as in the second part of this analysis:
COMMENTER: The term riles up xenophobia over something which happens rarely. But it is also offensive in itself. It is a metaphor which compares a human being to a dumb inanimate object.

“You are an anchor baby” has a bit of similarity with “you are dumb as a box of hammers.”
The term is offensive in itself! It’s like saying the babies in question are dumb as a box of hammers!

Others possessed those same ears—or in this case, those same eyes:
COMMENTER: [The term] impl[ies] an abusive relationship where a child was purposefully born into an unstable legal position solely for the mother’s benefit. And I might add, it does so through some awful imagery (am I the only one who pictures a baby literally being used as an anchor?)
How horrible is the imagery occasioned by that hateful term? This commenter pictures the baby literally being used as an anchor! But this is the way we end up thinking when we surrender to true belief—to the pure and literal ultimate truth possessed by the one true tribe.

Should the term “anchor baby” be viewed as “super offensive?” Different people will judge that question in different ways.

We’ll only note that Drum was right in what he said about Kelly’s TNR piece. Two years out of Northwestern, Kelly was certain, right from the start, that the term in question was “an offensive, derogatory slur.” But despite the headline on her piece, she never even tried to say why other people should think such a thing. She simply quoted tribal leaders voicing the same idea.

Is the term in question “offensive in itself?” We’d be inclined to say “not hugely,” unless we’re mainly looking for ways to make ourselves feel tribally pure and good.

That doesn’t mean that Candidate Trump is making sensible presentations and proposals concerning immigration. It means that our current tribal approach, based upon eagerly taking offense, may not be the most effective way to address his crackpot proposals, claims and behaviors.

In this follow-up post,
the normally mild-mannered Drum rejected the bulk of the explanations he received in response to his question.

We’d say that Drum made several good points as he reviewed the explanations he had received. Mainly, though, we were struck by the way he threw his readers under the bus in his exasperated comments.

Normally, Drum is fair-minded, perhaps to a fault. In this instance, he suggested his readers tend to be “tribal hacks” whose comments are almost totally worthless. (For background, see yesterday’s award-winning post.)

If we might borrow from Candidate Trump, we have a bigger heart than that! But we can see why the frustrated Drum made those despairing remarks.

We’re standing with Drum, not with Trump! We too had been struck by the rhymes-with-daiquiri which larded the comments to his post. And we were struck by something else. We were struck by how poorly many of Drum’s commenters seemed to understand the issues involved in this latest exciting dispute, which the corporate cable nets love.

We liberals! Increasingly, we tend to spill with tribal certainty—certainty which is now being sold, for profit and fun, at various corporate sites. Even worse, we tend to be low on the types of actual knowledge which might enable us to change people’s minds about the various unlikely proposals offered by Candidate Trump.

We’re scripted and certain and lack the first clue. Other than that, we rule!

Tomorrow: A problem with Trump’s basic portrait