Partisan pandering out of control!

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 2017

Maddow Show, last Friday night:
Last Friday morning, the New York Times offered a front-page news report under this headline:

"Trump Humiliated Jeff Sessions After Mueller Appointment"

According to the Times report, Donald J. Trump went ballistic when he learned that a special counsel, Robert Mueller, had been appoimted to investigate possible links between his campaign and the Russkies.

According to the Times report, Trump blamed Attorney General Sessions for the unwanted appointment. Furiously, he called Sessions an "idiot," then demanded, and received, a letter of resignation.

Why is Sessions still on the job? Here's what the Times reported:
SCHMIDT AND HABERMAN (9/15/18): Mr. Trump ended up rejecting Mr. Sessions’s May resignation letter after senior members of his administration argued that dismissing the attorney general would only create more problems for a president who had already fired an F.B.I. director and a national security adviser. Mr. Trump once again, in July, told aides he wanted to remove Mr. Sessions, but for a second time didn’t take action.
According to the Times report, aides talked Trump out of dismissing Sessions. Trump had just fired James B. Comey ("Comey the God"), the FBI director. It would create a world of hurt, aides are said to have said, if he proceeded to can his attorney general as well.

Is that what actually happened? We have no way of knowing, but it seems to make perfect sense. Unless you watched the Maddow Show last Friday night, in which case you saw a certain well-known cable news host angrily insist that this report made no sense, given the many White House officials who have resigned, or have been fired, over the past eight months.

We thought the cable star's tirade made little apparent sense. We also thought that Friday's show was strikingly disingenuous, even by this cable star's extremely modest standards.

The star in question is Rachel Maddow. In large part, she insisted that the Times report made no sense through a set of silly claims in which she conflated unknown figures with major officials and resignations with firings.

(To watch this whole segment, click here. Warning: 17 minutes!)

How silly were Maddow's examples? In July, "they lost" Tera Dahl, we were told in one of her examples. Dahl is so little known that Nexis seems to have thought that Maddow was talking about Tara Dowdell, a progressive Democrat. In typical fashion, MSNBC hasn't yet posted its own transcripts for Maddow's programs last week.

In July, the Trump administration "lost Tera Dahl!" According to Maddow, this shows that they wouldn't have worried about blowback from letting Sessions "resign," in an obvious firing, right after Comey got fired.

This was very, very dumb, but Maddow was weirdly insistent about the alleged absurdity of the Times report.

We have no idea why Maddow was so exercised about that particular report. But from there, she proceeded a remarkable string of cherry-picked and distorted reports.

She offered a familiar old recitation about the many lies of Vice President Pence—a familiar old recitation which features a chain of embellished accounts of murky events.

In a later report, she told us that "we also now know that the State Department is not responding to the Cuban government when they have been offering to bilaterally investigate what`s happening" with respect to the apparent "sonic attacks" at the U.S. embassy in Havana.

How do we know that the State Department is laying down on the job in this fashion? How do we know that "the State Department [is] apparently blanking Cuba when Cuba offers to help with this investigation?"

According to Maddow, this is how we know that:
MADDOW (9/15/18): Cuban sources also tell NBC News that the Cuban government allegedly sent a diplomatic note on this issue to the State Department, offering that they themselves would help investigate the incident. They offered to be part of a bilateral investigation with the United States into this matter. Cuban sources tell NBC News that they sent this note to the U.S. State Department, never got a response back.

I understand they're having some staffing issues at the State Department. They didn't get a response?
Needless to say, Maddow is always eager to say that the current State Department is failing to function. That said, how do we know that the State Department is laying down on the job in the case of the sonic attacks?

According to Maddow, we know that because that's what "Cuban sources" have said! Full stop!

For the record, we can find no sign of NBC News reporting any such thing. But so what? According to Maddow, we know the State Department is laying down on the job because "Cuban sources" have said so!

In an earlier segment, Maddow offered a highly slanted account of those nursing home deaths in Florida. We were surprised to see her raising this topic at all, until she slanted the story in such a way as to make it sound like it was all the fault of another favorite political target, Florida governor Rick Scott.

Over the years, we've warned you that Maddow often seems to be "less than obsessively honest." In Friday's performance, she seemed to have slipped over the edge into a type of serial dissembling which bore the feel of pathology.

We don't know when we've seen so many topics tilted so dumbly in such a blatantly partisan fashion. Our conclusion?

Wealth and fame can cause real harm, not unlike sonic attacks.

WHERE THE DEPLORABLES ARE: Data are hard!

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 2017

Part 1—Under every bed:
Should Hillary Clinton have said what she said about our many deplorables?

You may recall the incident! In early September 2016, while running for president, Clinton made an unusual comment about the people supporting her opponent, Donald J. Trump.

She about that half of Trump's supporters belonged in a "basket of deplorables." They deserved that designation because they were "racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic—you name it," she rather expansively said.

"Some of those folks—they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America," she said as part of this same comment. From Clinton's full remarks, it wasn't clear if all the deplorables were irredeemable, or if only some of them were.

This was a highly unusual statement from someone running for president. Her opponent, Candidate Trump, said that Candidate Clinton's statement showed "her true contempt for everyday Americans." The statement became a rallying-point for Trump's supporters.

(For the record, 63 million people ended up voting for Candidate Trump. [66 million voted for Clinton.] As such, Clinton had placed well over 30 million people in her now-famous basket.)

Clinton has now released a book, What Happened, in which she offers her account of last year'as campaign. In a somewhat surprising passage, she defends the substance of her remarks about the deplorables, if not the political wisdom of making such a remark.

On the substance, Clinton says that her sweeping assessment was right. In this essay, CNN's Dan Merica quotes from Clinton's book:
MERICA (9/12/17): Clinton writes that she handed Trump a "political gift" in September when she told an audience of supporters that "you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables."

Her admission of a mistake isn't without equivocation, though.

Clinton writes that she was "talking about well-documented reality," citing a 2016 study by the General Social Survey that found 55% of white Republicans "believed that blacks are generally poorer than whites 'because most just don't have the motivation or willpower to pull themselves up and out of poverty.'"

"Generalizing about a broad group of people is almost always unwise. And I regret handing Trump a political gift with my deplorables comments," Clinton writes. "I know that a lot of well-intentioned people were insulted because they misunderstood me to be criticizing all Trump voters. I'm sorry about that."
Quite correctly, Clinton says she didn't condemn all of Donald J. Trump supporters to the agonies of Hell. She's sorry that people misread her remarks—remarks whose accuracy she has now reaffirmed.

It's very unusual for a political figure to make such comments about such a wide swath of the public. It's amazing to see Clinton double down on the accuracy of her assessment, in a book for which she presumably conducted full measures of research.

Having said that, let us also say this:

What Clinton says about last year's General Social Survey is basically accurate, perhaps perfectly so—at least as far as she went.

What is the General Social Survey? The GSS is a giant survey of social and political attitudes. According to the leading authority on the project, it's "a sociological survey created and regularly collected since 1972 by the research institute NORC at the University of Chicago. It is funded by the National Science Foundation."

As such, the GSS is conducted by some of the nation's top brainiacs in the general field of social science. Last year, as in prior years, this is one of the questions respondents were asked. We apologize for reprinting the question:
Question from the General Social Survey:
"On the [sic] average (Negroes/Blacks/African-Americans) have worse jobs, income, and housing than white people. Do you think these differences are because most (Negroes/Blacks/African-Americans) just don't have the motivation or will power to pull themselves up out of poverty?"
That's a stereotype-laden question. As best we can tell, the brainiacs at NORC ask this question about no other group. Arguably, its inclusion in the GSS helps draw back the curtain on the hearts and minds of Those Top Researchers Today.

We'll discuss the judgment of those NORC researchers before the week is through. That said, that unfortunate question was indeed asked and answered as part of last year's GSS, and Clinton's statistic is basically accurate, perhaps even perfectly so.

For ourselves, we can't easily find the series of clicks which tells us what "white Republicans" said in response to that question. But according to the somewhat unwieldy GSS site, these were the responses to that question from "non-black Republicans," and from Republicans overall. Once again, we apologize for posting the question:
Responses to particular question, 2016 GSS
"On the average (Negroes/Blacks/African-Americans) have worse jobs, income, and housing than white people. Do you think these differences are because most (Negroes/Blacks/African-Americans) just don't have the motivation or will power to pull themselves up out of poverty?"

Responses by non-black Republicans:
Yes: 53.1 percent
No: 43.1 percent
Don't know: 3.7 percent

Responses by Republicans overall:
Yes: 53.3 percent
No: 42.8 percent
Don't know: 3.9 percent
On the basis of that survey question, Clinton continues to say that half the people who supprted Trump belong in the "basket of deplorables" and may even be irredeemable. She was dumb to say it, but right on the substance, Clinton has said in her book.

Let's ignore the possible lack of political wisdom in Candidate Clinton's original remark. Every candidate says something unwise at some point in a long campaign. There's no reason why Candidate Clinton should have been the exception.

Forget the possible lack of political wisdom in Clinton's extemporaneous comment. Over the next few days, we're going to review her defense of the accuracy of her assessment.

Having said that, we offer this trigger warning:

We've reviewed the full data set from the GSS. We've seen how Democrats responded to that question as well as Republicans.

We've seen how our different "racial" groups responded—whites, Hispanics and blacks.

A full year later, Candidate Clinton is still upset about the way Trump's supporters answered that unfortunate question. Tomorrow, we're going to show you how her own supporters answered that question. We may even try to figure out what the full set of data might mean, perhaps about the usefulness of including such questions in social science research.

This probably isn't the most significant part of Clinton's new book. That said, we think this episode has much to tell us about the way our broken American discourse currently works.

We think the episode tells us some things about Candidate Clinton herself. We think it tells us some things about the American press corps.

We think the episode tells us some things about the nation's liberal social scientists. As a general matter, we think it tells us somethings about the "hive mind" of our own liberal world, which has misfired very badly over the past several decades.

More than anything else, we think this episode helps us ponder our liberal tribe's desire to loathe The Others. To a substantially lesser extent, we'd say the same thing about this recent piece at Slate, in which William Saletan examines five recent surveys in an attempt to examine (we're quoting a headline) "the president’s racist base, by the numbers."

We'll review that piece later on in the week. Tomorrow, we'll look at the wider set of responses to that stereotype-laden question from last year's GSS.

All through the annals of time, tribal groups have looked for ways to loathe, despise and negatively characterize The Others. This deeply entrenched human desire has given rise to the endless succession of wars we've conducted down through the annals of time.

We humans are always able to see how bad The Others are. AS our horror grows, we usually manage to find such demons under every bed.

In the modern context, as we pleasure ourselves with our exquisite loathing, we rarely bother to take the time to review full data sets. We're much more likely to pick and choose our data, selectively feeding the beast of our exquisite loathing.

In the world of us rational animals, loathing The Others has always felt good. Checking the data is hard.

Tomorrow: "White" and "black" responses

Can't get past the headline on that!

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2017

At Slate, Name Withheld sounds off:
We'll file it under the colorful heading, "Can't get past the headline."

The headline(s) in question say this:
Why Isn’t Hillary Clinton Even Angrier?
In What Happened, Clinton takes on the obsessive demand that she assume responsibility for the 2016 election. But we can’t move on.
Name Withheld is very angry—today. Back then, she was the person who joined Chris Hayes in saying the New York Times' report about the scary uranium deal was a "bombshell."

(The gigantic report was a world-class journalistic fraud. It had literally been funded by Bannon! But so what? The report had appeared in the New York Times! Deference had to be paid!)

It's hard to get past the headline on that. That said, our discourse is silly, incompetent, pitiful, faux pretty much all the way down.

The children have never been willing to fight. This helped put you-know-who where he is. On the brighter side, they have good jobs. Mother and father are proud!

Why isn't Clinton even angrier? We'll substitute a different question:

Why wasn't Name Withheld angry back then at all?

POSTCARDS FROM THE LEDGE: This whole discourse is out of order!

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2017

Part 4—Crazy all the way down:
The American people owe Sally Quinn a major debt of thanks.

Actually, two! First, we owe Quinn a debt of thanks for her lengthy report, in November 1998, about Establishment Washington's loathing for President Clinton.

Due to her standing within Establishment Washington, Quinn was able to report, live and direct, from the belly of the beast. She wrote about the loathing for Clinton which existed among political players—but also among major members of the upper-end mainstream press.

If anyone ever wants to write about the press corps' long war against Clinton and Clinton—the evidence strongly suggests that no one ever will—Quinn's 3700-word report will be an invaluable document.

Four months after her piece appeared, Al Gore began his run for the White House. That same Establishment Press Corps landed on Clinton's chosen successor like a ton of bricks.

If anyone ever wants to write about what happened in that campaign—several name-brand historians have already shown that no one is ever going to do that—Quinn's report offers a way to explain the otherwise puzzling hostility, and open dissembling, with which Candidate Gore was met for the next twenty months.

No one is ever going to write about those topics. In the past two nights, hustlers like Cooper and Maddow have steered away from the parts of Hillary Clinton's new book in which she assails the upper-end national press.

Matt Lauer is assailed by name in Clinton's book, but he's part of Maddow's ownership group. We should thank Quinn for that lengthy report, even though the hustlers who live inside that guild will never go back and review it.

We the people should thanks Sally Quinn for that lengthy report. We should also thank her for her recent book, in which she helps us see how deeply entrenched The Crazy is within that upper-end press corps.

Good grief! Unless Connie Schultz was hallucinating when she read Quinn's new book, Quinn confesses to committing three deaths-by-hex, following two deaths-by-hex committed by her mother.

No one is ever going to discuss the apparent craziness of Quinn's book. But we the people should compliment her for making the role of The Crazy within our upper-end press corps so plain.

Please understand! We're speaking here of the mainstream press, not of the right-wing machine. We're speaking of the crazy Mittyesque tales churned by Brian Williams. We're speaking of a decade of blatantly crazy behavior by Chris Matthews. starting in 1999.

During those years, the role of The Crazy was expanding at Fox, including The Sexual Crazy. But the stink of The Crazy is also found all across the mainstream press, enabled by a gang of hustlers who refuse to discuss the crazy behavior of the very high people holding the reins.

Mika Brzezinski's three (3) memoirs also take us to the place where The Crazy, or perhaps the semi-crazy, intersect with our ability to engage in a sane public discourse. It would take weeks to do credit to the sheer weirdness of Brzezinski's three memoirs—to the litany of bizarre anecdotes, mixed with the endless, amusing self-contradictions, found within those tomes.

That said:

Behind these tales is a 13-year-old girl, still just an unhappy child, who began exhibiting symptoms of a major emotional disorder. But the person who is telling these tales is 46 years old by the time the third memoir appears, and her three memoirs are so bizarre that a sensible person can only ask this:

In a nation of 330 million people, how can the person who wrote those strange books possibly be a high-ranking, major analyst—a highly influential architect of the national discourse? Despite her admittedly smokin' hot looks, how can an adult as strange as this possibly hold that position?

How is it possible that Mika Brzezinski is an influential national pundit and analyst? In her books, she repeatedly describes behavior on her own part which seems impossibly weird, though she herself never quite seems to see how weird her anecdotes are.

In her third memoir, she finally describes the effects of an "addiction," an "obsession," which has dogged her since she was that 13-year-old child. The next time you see Brzezinki spouting off on cable TV or passive-aggressively forcing Joe to drag her opinions from her, please remember this account, from Memoir III, of where her mind really is when she sits in the public square:
BRZEZINSKI (page 136): I am in awe of successful women who manage to be free of the tyranny of food. The ones who connect with everyone in a room, while I'm busy thinking about how I can connect with another platter of food...

There I am, in conversation with Walter Isaacson or Colin Powell, but my mind is so focused on those appetizers that I barely hear what they’re saying. Instead I find myself wondering, "Where is that waiter with the mini hot dogs?” My eyes are on Powell and I am nodding with fervent interest, but with my peripheral vision I'm looking for the waiter, and with my brain I'm wondering when he might show up. I keep on discussing the conflict in Syria as best I can, but by now I'm thinking that I just might walk back into the kitchen and get those damn mini hot dogs myself!
Inevitably, a reader thinks of Sandburg's Lincoln, whose beloved stepmother, Sally Bush, knew that "even when he rode in an open carriage in New York or Washington with soldiers, flags or cheering thousands along the streets, he might just as like be thinking of her in the old log farmhouse out in Coles County, Illinois."

So too with Brzezinski! Even when she pretends to be talking about Syria with some important political figure, she might just as like be thinking about the mini hot dogs elsewhere on the set.

Let's state the obvious. If we believe what Brzezinski writes in that passage, she's describing a deeply unfortunate affliction. As readers, we may feel we're finally getting a window into the endless weird behavior she has already described in her two previous memoirs.

That affliction apparently got its start with a 13-year-old child. But by the time of Memoir III, that afflicted child who apparently got no help is 46 years old, and she's a major American political pundit and analyst! Once again, we ask our question:

How can a person so deeply afflicted possibly be assigned a key role in shaping America's discourse? Are we possibly seeing, once again, the endless, ridiculous role of The Crazy within our upper-end press?

The craziness of our public discourse is visible all the way down. It's visible in the bullshit we get told, and in the many basic facts which get withheld from our view.

We liberals are skilled at seeing this phenomenon Over There, among The Others. We've proven to be completely unskilled at seeing The Crazy within the major mainstream and "liberal" players who play an even larger role in shaping our misshapen discourse.

Brzezinski is one such player. Of all the crazy actors, from Trump on down, who have crazily shaped our ludicrous discourse, we may find it hardest to be sympathetic to her. That's because of the role she played in electing the current president, who is one of the experts to whom she turned in writing her second memoir, the one about earning the millions of dollars she so richly deserves.

Brzezinski is cast on Morning Joe as the Democrat who balances Joe Scarborough. That said, sad!

Starting in June 2015, she relentlessly fawned over Donald J. Trump, during the time when Morning Joe was pimping him hard. And good God! Even after the program flipped on Trump in 2016, Brzezinski remained the world's most reluctant supposed supporter of Clinton.

Once a week or so, she would offer a "hostage tape" recitation, in which she would unconvincingly claim to be a Clinton supporter. During the rest of the week, she would push all the standard claims about Clinton's endless character issues.

Her endorsements of Clinton were so faux they served as endorsements of Trump. Mixed with the dumbness of her work, this was a hard stew to swallow.

Beyond that, Brzezinski is a terrible pundit and analyst, both by dint of her temperament and due to her general lack of political insight. Once again, we ask the obvious question:

How in the world can a person like this be in a position of such major influence?

With her new book, Sally Quinn has done us another favor. Unless Connie Schultz is hallucinating, Quinn's new memoir helps us ponder the remarkable reach of The Crazy through our upper-end press.

Every part of our national discourse is in the hands of The Crazy. "This whole discourse is out of order," as Al Pacino once said.

We liberals are too dumb to see this. We're too dumb to see the ways we've been played by the parts of the press corps we unwisely trust. But that press corps is riddled by The Crazy—and by the way our grasping stars reach for the wealth and the fame.

Brzezinski's books are a tribute to the crazy drive for the wealth and the fame. The books are full of crazy anecdotes about Brzezinski's crazy behavior. As a basic part of the package, Brzezinski rarely seems able to see how crazy her anecdote are.

Out of this mess, there emerged one of our nation's most influential pundits. Martin Luther once came along and nailed his theses to a door. If you watch this tape of Brzezinski in July 2015 angrily shouting down reporting on Trump, you will possibly ask this question:

How did such an unusual person ever attain the position she holds? And what can we the people do to evict the Crazy from our broken discourse?

The angry person on that tape helped send her one-time friend Trump to the White House. Yes, it's just one videotape; it may look A-OK to you. But in our view, we the people should be angry that a person as weird as Brzezinski could ever end up in the driver's seat, shaping our national discourse.

Brzezinski started as a child in need of help. That deserving child didn't get that help. All these years later, Donald J. Trump is in the White House, in part because of the grasping adult the troubled child became.

In Obsessed, Mika's best friend, Diane Smith, semi-jokingly says, "I have to be honest. She's a little nuts." Smith goes on to tell the childbirth story, one of the weirdest stories in the three books. (Brzezinski told the same weird story, though quite differently, in the first of these books.)

How "nuts" is Diane Smith's friend? You should read her memoirs and decide! Having said that, we'll close with this—and yes, we're skipping past a long array of crazy anecdotes from her peculiar books:

Brzezinski's second book is devoted to the proposition that upper-class women in high-paying fields should get paid what the're worth. Inevitably, women in lower-paying positions completely escape her interest.

She dedicates the book to her daughters, who were teens at the time. They play key roles in all three books, as in this peculiar passage from her first memoir, in which she describes the way she behaved after losing her job at CBS, during a year in which she was a stay-at-home mom:
BRZEZINSKI (page 190): Once I realized I wasn't about to land a new job anytime soon, I decided to dive right in to being there for my family. Home. Available. I thought I'd take advantage of the situation. Trouble was, I was a terrible cook. And as a housekeeper, I was even worse. I was terrible at folding laundry. I'd fold it, and it would look like someone could have done a better job crumbling it into a ball. I could use the washing machine without too much trouble, but once I took the clothes out of the dryer, they were on their own. I couldn't make a bed too well, either—and cleaning and dusting is never too high on my to-do list.

[...]

Oh my goodness, it's hard work being a full-time, stay-at-home mom! Ten times harder than doing a piece for the CBS Evening News. I just wasn't up to it, I'm afraid. I have enormous respect for women who can make a go of it at home—men too. My kids saw through me right away. But they humored me. All along, they'd been fairly autonomous, which is how it goes in a house where both parents work. I couldn't even get them to the dentist the first time I tried. I wanted to do all these things for them, even these mundane scheduling things, but Carlie set it up herself. She was about nine, and she was making an appointment on her cell phone because she didn't want to wait for Mommy to get around to scheduling a cleaning.
Every reader gets to decide what that highlighted passage actually describes, and how much of that overall passage he wants to believe. For the record, this is hardly the strangest set of stories in the Brzezinski oeuvre.

It's certainly true that these anecdotes can't tell us whether Brzezinski is a capable political analyst. In theory, a person who can't fold laundry or make a bed could be an excellent analyst.

That said, we were struck by the image of the 9-year-old child (more accurately, she was about nine) who had to get on the phone and schedule her own dental cleaning because Mommy couldn't do it.

The person who couldn't fold that laundry could be an excellent analyst. With Brzezinski, that isn't the case, as you can see if you watch the videotape in which she angrily defends the wonderfulness of Donald J. Trump against 1) his first wife's prior claim that he once raped her and 2) the claim by Trump's crazily aggressive, profane lawyer that a husband can't rape his wife.

Angrily, Brzezinski attacked a young journalist who was reporting these matters. How exactly did this person attain the position she holds?

That said, Sally Quinn has helped us ponder a very important question. In the rush of our greedy American pundits to attain the wealth and fame they deserve, to what extent has The Crazy come to play a dominant role in the shaping of our discourse?

Does The Crazy suffuse our upper-end press? We'll let Brzezinski speak for herself. Her second book is about the need for (upper-class) women to attain the level of pay they deserve. She urges (upper-class) women to "know their value," to understand their worth.

That's a perfectly valid concern. Brzezinski stresses the fact that she wants her daughters to know their worth, to respect themselves as women.

But here we go again! She dedicates the book to "my girls" but she signs it from "your crazy mommy." A reader may think of the troubled child she once was, the child who ate and ate and ate and ate and didn't get the help she needed and deserved.

Brzezinski is a terrible analyst. As such, she's perfect for our grasping, multimillionaire pundit corps, which, as Sally Quinn reminds us, is in the grip of The Crazy.

Our discourse is crazy all the way down. It's in the hands of grasping players. Where the heck are our Martin Luthers? Why can't we drain this swamp?

Sanders proposes Medicare for all!

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2017

Strong points, unanswered questions:
In yesterday's New York Times, Bernie Sanders wrote an op-ed column introducing his Medicare for all proposal.

We thought he made some excellent points. We were struck by some unanswered questions.

Sanders started as shown below. And yes, he named some actual names in the highlighted passage about the massive looting which defines our health care system:
SANDERS (9/13/17): This is a pivotal moment in American history. Do we, as a nation, join the rest of the industrialized world and guarantee comprehensive health care to every person as a human right? Or do we maintain a system that is enormously expensive, wasteful and bureaucratic, and is designed to maximize profits for big insurance companies, the pharmaceutical industry, Wall Street and medical equipment suppliers?

We remain the only major country on earth that allows chief executives and stockholders in the health care industry to get incredibly rich
, while tens of millions of people suffer because they can’t get the health care they need. This is not what the United States should be about.
Sanders named four miscreants, double the normal number. For future discussion, this recent post by Kevin Drum throws in several more.

Before too long, Sanders mentioned a widely-disappeared group, The USA 9400. We'll make a few points about this:
SANDERS: Even though 28 million Americans remain uninsured and even more are underinsured, we spend far more per capita on health care than any other industrialized nation. In 2015, the United States spent almost $10,000 per person for health care; the Canadians, Germans, French and British spent less than half of that, while guaranteeing health care to everyone. Further, these countries have higher life expectancy rates and lower infant mortality rates than we do.
In that passage, Sanders engages in some basic blocking and tackling. For the record, these are the more precise OECD figures to which his passage refers:
Per capita spending, health care, 2015
United States: $9451
Canada: $4608
France: $4407
United Kingdom: $4003

(Germany: $5267)
You'll note that Germany didn't spend less than half as much as we did. Acknowledging that minor apparent blip, we'll offer these award-winning questions:

Why have you never seen those numbers on the front page of the New York Times? Why have you never seen those numbers discussed by the major stars on MSNBC, our "corporate liberal" channel?

Sanders is starting a real discussion about a hugely important topic. That real discussion has never occurred because players like the Post, the Times and our corporate TV stars have always seemed to agree that it mustn't occur.

Last point—can you spot the possible semi-contradiction in this passage?
SANDERS: The reason that our health care system is so outrageously expensive is that it is not designed to provide quality care to all in a cost-effective way, but to provide huge profits to the medical-industrial complex. Layers of bureaucracy associated with the administration of hundreds of individual and complicated insurance plans is stunningly wasteful, costing us hundreds of billions of dollars a year. As the only major country not to negotiate drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry, we spend tens of billions more than we should.

The solution to this crisis is not hard to understand. A half-century ago, the United States established Medicare. Guaranteeing comprehensive health benefits to Americans over 65 has proved to be enormously successful, cost-effective and popular. Now is the time to expand and improve Medicare to cover all Americans.
Sanders praises the cost-effectiveness of Medicare. One paragraph earlier, he cites our failure to negotiate drug prices with the pharmaceutical cabal.

As everyone knows, Medicare is one principal place where we have failed to do that! Now for a question:

Have you ever seen data for American health care spending on people over 65, versus comparable spending in a nation like France? We've never seen that either!

We would assume that our Medicare program vastly overspends too, as compared to everyone else. Why has the pandering corporate clown Rachel Maddow never discussed such a topic?

Our health care system is defined by systematic looting. The Post, the Times, MSNBC all seem to like it that way.

That leads us to our final questions:

How much do players like Maddow get paid? Why do you think you aren't told?

POSTCARDS FROM THE LEDGE: Three ways of viewing top pundit's three books!

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2017

Part 3—Found humor, real life, The Crazy:
On the one hand, the opening to the pundit's third memoir can be viewed as found humor.

For the record, the pundit in question isn't just any pundit. This pundit is Mika Brzezinski, "co-host" of the influential show, Morning Joe, at least on the mornings when she actually shows up.

Yesterday, we listed the titles, and the secret subject matter, of the three memoirs in question. According to Brzezinski's second memoir, the books were written as part of a deal to provide her with the high income she so richly deserves.

As noted yesterday, Brzezinski's third memoir bears this title: Obsessed: America's Food Addiction—And My Own. In the book, Brzezinski says that she has been tormented by obsessive over-eating, and by a concomitant addiction to exercise, ever since she was 13 years old.

As such, this third memoir gives us a look at a deeply troubled bit of real life—at years of torment which began when the author was still a child.

Of all our pundits, we'll have to admit, we find it hardest to empathize with Brzezinski, for a list of reasons we may yet find time to discuss. But this story starts with a 13-year-old child who doesn't feel at home within her own high-achieving family—whose mother still ridicules her lack of smarts, in public settings, even now, when the unhappy child has become an adult.

(Page 28, Obsessed: "After two years at Georgetown I transferred to Williams College. My mother likes to tell people that I had the lowest SAT scores of anyone who ever got into that college.")

Decent people don't want children to suffer. That said, the opening to this third memoir almost insists on being seen as found humor, even after the reader knows the story of the lost child.

In this book, Brzezinski says she's finally going "to come clean" about her life-long struggle. That said, the book begins in a way which is so tone deaf, in so Brzezinski-esque a way, that it must be cataloged as a type of unintentional humor.

How can someone as skinny and hot as Brzezinski be writing a book about over-eating? That's the question with which the author struggles as she opens the Introduction to this third book. To set the scene, we'll start with the first three paragraphs of an unintentionally comical five-paragraph passage:
BRZEZINSKI (page 1): As I have moved through the process of writing this book—drafts, edits, revisions, etc.—I’ve sought the unvarnished opinions of friends, colleagues, and family members to answer a question that has troubled me from the beginning: How does a person who is not overweight write about her lifelong obsession with overeating without sounding like a narcissistic, woe-is-me skinny girl with an overinflated image of herself, particularly to those who share her obsession with food but happen to be overweight, or even obese?

I can report back to you that the answer to my question was almost unanimous: you can’t. No matter what you say or how you say it, you’re going to sound like a privileged skinny bitch with food issues. Oh yeah, and a TV show. And a woman who was born into a wonderful, prominent family and has a blessed life.

None of that suggests any kinship with the legion of suffering women whose debilitating relationship with food actually shows when they stand in front of the mirror in their closet. Yours doesn’t, so your opinion is not necessarily welcome here.
Poor Mika! She starts this book with the air of grievance which animates much of her punditry. People will call her a "privileged skinny bitch" for writing a book of this type! Her opinion won't be welcome! Given how hot and slender she is, there's nothing she could possibly do to get around this problem!

You'll note that we've already been told, two separate times, that Mika is very thin. As the opening passage continues, we're rewarded with the world-class unintentional humor:
BRZEZINSKI (continuing directly): So here’s the deal. I get it. I am acutely aware of the eye-rolling derision with which many may view my role in this book. I stipulate up front that a good degree of my success in life was gained through my appearance. I did not earn my genetic makeup, any more than I chose the family I was born into.

I am a lucky woman, and I know it.
Mika is just so freaking hot! To read the full passage, click here.

Due to her genetic makeup, Mika is so freaking hot—and so thin! That said, she understands how lucky she is to look the amazing way she does. It's all because of those fabulous genes, the genes that keep her thin.

She shouldn't get credit for being so thin and so hot. It's part of her "blessed life!"

We'll call that passage found humor. And just in case anyone thought the reference to those amazing genes was some sort of slip, she restates the point two paragraphs later, modestly saying that her low weight—115 pounds, she suggests—can be attributed to "fortunate genetics."

Mika is a lucky woman, and very thin, because of her wonderful genes!

If an American Museum of Tone Deafness is ever built on the National Mall, the opening passage to this book should be featured right there in the lobby. Even as she talks her tough talk about being viewed as a "skinny bitch," Mika seems to be working overtime to earn that (unfortunate) label.

The tone deafness here is remarkable. That said, Mika litters this book with testimonials to her own incredible hotness—testimonials from many others, and from Mika herself. Even though an unfortunate, real-life story is playing out beneath the surface, it's hard to read this tone deaf book without chuckling at the sheer persistence of the unintended humor.

Mika's incredible hotness is a persistent theme of this book. Sometimes Mika describes the hotness herself. Perhaps more often, she quotes other people doing it.

By page 14, she explains what happened when, in a remarkably ill-advised episode, she waits until she's in the middle of Long Island Sound, in a small boat with her cowering children, to tell her best friend, "co-author" Diane Smith, that Smith isn't just fat, she's obese.

Did we mention the fact that Mika dropped this bomb out in the middle of Long Island Sound? As the girls cower in the small boat with their father and with Smith's husband, Mika and Smith go at it. In this passage, Mika shares one part of what was said by her angry, embarrassed best friend:
BRZEZINSKI (page 14): "Oh please, Mika! You sit there in your Daisy Duke shorts looking incredible, and you tell me how hard your life is? Why don;t you try talking to me when you start wearing size XXL stretch pants—then you can complain. Any woman I know would kill to look like you. You really can't look me in the face and say that you struggle."
As any journalist would do, Mika is simply recording Smith's remarks on the day which eventually led to this book. At any rate, two paragraphs later, Smith's tribute to Mika's amazingness continues:
BRZEZINSKI: "Seriously, Mika, what would you know about being fat?" she continued. "You won the freaking lottery: great job, perfect body, and an amazing life. You walk into the room and every overweight woman dismisses you as a skinny bitch. Do you have any idea how how women who look like me feel about women who look like you?"
Did we mention the fact that these are best friends? At any rate, Mika is back to being an incredibly hot "skinny bitch" in this passage. (The b-bomb is part of the bracing "tough talk" at various points in this book.)

These testimonials to Mika's hotness are found throughout the book. On page 21, at the start of Chapter One, a United States senator is conscripted into service. Chapter One starts like this:
BRZEZINSKI (page 21): If you struggle with weight, I know what you're thinking.

Really? You, Mika? What can you possibly know about my problems?

That's what Diane thought, and it's what Senator Claire McCaskill thought, too. The Democrat from Missouri said that right to my face; blurted it out in front of a thpusand people on stage at the Annual Congressional Dinner of the Washington Press Foundation. "Mika, you look so beautiful sitting there in your size two dress. We have all noticed . . . your strong and consistent message of better eating and more exercise. And I would like to say, on behalf of all the middle-aged overweight women in America, JUST . . . SHUT . . . UP!"
Mika goes on to say that her "outspoken stance on obesity" has subjected her to tons of abuse on-line.

These testimonials to Mika's hotness continue all through the book. They're mixed with testimonials to her tremendous skills as a journalist, and to her "brains and ability" (Donny Deutsch), even to her "brilliance" (Margo Maine, a nationally known specialist in eating disorders).

Also mentioned is the very hot wardrobe for which Mika seems to believe she is known. ("I am known for wearing body-hugging sleeveless dresses with very high heels on TV," she writes at one point. In 2012, though, she says she was "not wearing my trademark sleeveless dresses as much" because she'd gained some weight. You can see this, Mika reports, if you watch the videotape from TV.)

The tone deaf quotient is so high that this third book could probably fill that museum all by itself. And yes—behind these tone-deaf songs of self, there lies the struggle of a 13-year-old child.

That said, it's impossible to read this book without being overwhelmed by the world-class, humorous cluelessness found in the endless string of comically tone deaf remarks. The child's story seems to be very sad. The adult's writing is unintentionally comic.

Whitman celebrated himself; Brzezinski does so too. Behind her song is the pain of a child, but the pain of that child has given issue to an incredibly tone deaf adult.

It seems to us that the adult is also blind to the shape of her own life. On page 1, we're told that Mika has "a blessed life." Instantly though, on page 3, though, a reader is also told this:
BRZEZINSKI (page 3): This is the book I have been afraid to write … terrified actually. It deals with an issue that is radioactive for me. How I eat, diet, and look has tied me up in knots my entire life, and I know I am not alone. I have been held hostage by food since I was thirteen years old. My body started filling out more than the figures of other girls in my class, and that set off what has become a thirty-year battle with my body image. Food has been my enemy. My determination to be thin has led me to extremes, and I’ve done damage to my body and my mind in the process.

It has taken me a very long time to find a way back to health and balance, both physically and emotionally. I’m not there yet, but I’ve come a long way,
and it’s time that I have the guts to talk about it...
By any normal standard, the person who wrote that passage hasn't exactly led "a blessed life." She's done damage to her own body and mind. At age 46, after thirty-three years, her battle still wasn't over.

Brzezinski's three memoirs are full of puzzling anecdotes, peculiar claims, and entertainingly instant self-contradictions. That said, the largest contradiction lies right there, in the opening pages of this third (3rd!) memoir.

Perhaps because of her apparent addiction to money, fame and external success, Brzezinski is able to think that the decades of torment she describes constitutes "a blessed life." This same peculiar calculation animated her first book, in which she instructs young women to do as she did, after several hundred pages which seem to describe a type of hell on earth.

For this reason, we'd say there are at least three ways these revealing books can be read. Yes, they come to us straight from real life, from a difficult life whose torments began when the author was 13 years old.

These books can also be read as Whitmanesque samplers of inintentional humor. In the end, the most sympathetic reader has to put these books down and laugh at the tone-deaf presentations and weird stories which appear throughout.

Here's a third possible reading:

Brzezinski seems to have a very hard time seeing the outline of her own life. Along with all the anecdotes which don't seem to make sense, there is this persistent failure to see the overall shape of these real-life events.

This leaves us with a question:

How can the person who wrote these books possibly be a major political analyst? It's almost like this is another part of The Major Crazy which lies behind our failing discourse, from Sally Quinn's hexes on down.

Tomorrow: Loving Trump, 2015