The latest "killing" in Arkansas!


And the three or four which produced it:
In yesterday's award-winning post, we discussed Rachel Maddow's heroic treatment of Arkansas' recent "killings."

Later, we had occasion to read the New York Times' front-page report about the most recent "killing." We thought it was superb journalism, of a type you won't encounter on Maddow's corporate-funded TV show.

For ourselves, we oppose capital punishment; in fact, we always have. We also oppose the kind of "journalism" practiced on the Maddow program. We thought the Times provided the kind of work you'll never encounter there.

What type of journalism did the Times provide in its front-page report? Let's start with this:

In the case of the most recent "killing," it described the three or four killings or deaths which had gone before it.

According to the New York Times, the state of Arkansas "executed" Kenneth D. Williams this Thursday night. We're opposed to all executions.

At the same time, we favor journalism of this type,
in which people were allowed to hear what Williams did in 1998:
BLINDER AND FERNANDEZ (4/28/17): The state built its death chamber in 1978, and Mr. Williams was born the next year. In 1998, he emptied a revolver after a robbery in neighboring Jefferson County, killing a 19-year-old woman, Dominique Nicole Hurd. When Mr. Williams was spared the death penalty and sentenced to life in prison, he mocked Ms. Hurd’s relatives, turning to them and saying, “You thought I was going to die, didn’t you?”

He was sent to Cummins and, weeks after his arrival, escaped by hiding inside a 500-gallon tank that was brimming with hog slop. [Cecil] Boren was in his yard, working while his wife was at church, when Mr. Williams arrived. The fugitive entered the house, stole one of Mr. Boren’s guns, shot him seven times, seized his victim’s wallet and drove off in his truck.

In Missouri the next day, Mr. Williams led the police on a high-speed pursuit that ended when he struck a water truck, killing its driver. Sentenced to death for Mr. Boren’s murder, Mr. Williams later wrote a letter to The Pine Bluff Commercial, an Arkansas newspaper, and confessed to another killing that had been unsolved.
Who was Cecil Boren? According to the Times, he was, at the time of his death, "a former Internal Revenue Service worker who had been an assistant warden at the Cummins Unit, the prison where Mr. Williams awaited his execution [last week]."

Who was 19-year-old Dominique Hurd? Your question is very important.

You can see a photo, and read about her, at this memorial scholarship site. We can offer no photograph of the relatives Williams crazily mocked.

If the world operated on our views, there would have been no execution this week. In typical award-winning fashion, we're inclined to believe that, when Person A murders Person B, each person's life has been lost.

Person A's life had perhaps been lost at some earlier point. We don't know why Williams did the things he did, but we wouldn't have executed him for it.

That said, Williams wasn't the only player in this gruesome drama. Yesterday morning, the New York Times did what Maddow will never do:

The Times let you ponder, if just for a moment, the three or four people whom Williams killed or caused to die in the crimes for which he was later sentenced to death. The Times also told you how these events are viewed by the survivors of three of Williams' victims.

Those survivors have different outlooks. At least one family asked the governor to cancel this week's execution:
BLINDER AND FERNANDEZ: The daughter of Michael Greenwood, the man killed during the pursuit in Missouri, urged Gov. Asa Hutchinson to stop the execution. “We are in no way asking you to ignore the pain felt by the victims of Mr. Williams’s other crimes,” Kayla Greenwood wrote in a letter this week. “We know what they are going through, but ours is a pain that we have decided not to try and cure by seeking an execution.”
For much more on Kayla Greenwood (and her mother), see below. As a general matter, Maddow doesn't degrade herself by mentioning people like them.

Kayla Greenwood and her family weren't seeking Williams' death. According to the New York Times, other survivors felt differently about the impending execution:
BLINDER AND FERNANDEZ: Mr. Boren’s widow declined to be interviewed. Her family opposed clemency for Mr. Williams.

Vickie Williams, Ms. Hurd’s mother and no relation to Mr. Williams, said her daughter had ambitions of being a neonatologist as a biology and premedical student at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, where she was known as Nicky. Ms. Williams said she did not plan to attend the execution, but she supported it.

“He did not receive the death penalty for killing Nicky,” she wrote in an email. “If proper justice was served, others may not have lost their lives.
The justice system is very confusing. Everyone has rights except for the families of victims.”
Once again, for a photo of Nicky Hurd, you can just click here.

Meanwhile, is her mother right? Does everyone have rights except the families of victims?

We'll guess that's an overstatement. That said, victims and their families don't exist on the Maddow Show, which mainly exists to announce the moral greatness of the program's weirdly unbalanced, bizarrely self-involved multimillionaire host.

(You know? The one who weirdly grins and chuckles all night? Because the consultants said?)

The Times report also describes the thinking of some local residents who aren't related to the people Williams killed. They all seem to support capital punishment, certainly so in this case.

In that judgment, those Arkansans are expressing a view which people have held since the dawn of time. At the present time, that view is shared by a handful of others, including Clinton and Clinton, Obama, Gore, Kerry and Biden, just to pull names from a hat.

On Maddow's show in recent weeks, you weren't required to hear about what Williams crazily did. You did hear Maddow suggest that Arkansas was rushing the "killing" of Williams through. You weren't told that his case had been in the courts for nineteen years.

(Most excitingly, you were also told that Justice Gorsuch "voted for his first killing." This brave declaration was designed to give you an especially cheap tribal thrill, in line with corporate strategy for Maddow's embarrassing program.)

You didn't hear about Dominique Hurd, the 19-year-old who wasn't going to be a Rhodes scholar from a school like Stanford. You didn't hear about her mother. You didn't hear about Mrs. Boren, who became a widow in 1998. You didn't hear about Kayla Greenwood and her mother (much more on them below).

Why didn't you hear about these people? Let's think back to the spring of 2009, when you heard about folk of their general type on the Maddow Show. That's when Maddow spent two weeks dropping dick jokes on the heads of such throw-away people—people from the comically lesser ends of the earth.

(And yes, this very much does explain who you meet on this program.)

Last night, Maddow performed overt journalistic malpractice concerning Flynn and Pence. Last Friday, she staged her silly exhibition about the state of Arkansas' "killings." (It's one of her trademarked plays.)

Increasingly, Maddow is a clown, a devolving basket case, a journalistic con man. She now struts and frets and plays the fool pretty much every night. That stupid old DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS is totally gone.

Night after night, she mocked these people in 2009; night after night, she was even willing to pretend that she was embarrassed to do so. In these ways, our multimillionaire corporate stars helped put Donald J. Trump where he currently is.

For ourselves, we oppose capital punishment. Does Maddow? She's so busy acting out, we never quite hear her say that.

More on Kayla Greenwood: For (much, much) more on Kayla Greenwood (and her mother), you can just click here.

You can see a photo of Greenwood at age 5, just before her father was killed. You can see a photo of her younger brother, with whom her mother was pregnant.

"Regular people" do remarkable things, as you can see at that link. You will never learn such facts on a certain cable TV show, a show designed to churn good ratings, thus pleasing the corporate suits.

The program exists to promote its host and to Hannityize our tribe. In such ways, we self-impressed liberals have worked quite hard to put Donald Trump where he is.

Maddow in the "killing" fields!

FRIDAY, APRIL 28, 2017

Our own self-satisfied cant:
Oh what the heck! Let's journey with Rachel Maddow to the "killing" fields, as inspired by recent events in Arkansas.

For ourselves, we're opposed to capital punishment. We can't recall ever making that decision. It seems that we have always been opposed to capital punishment.

Rachel Maddow seems to oppose capital punishment too. We say "seems" because, as part of her devolving post-journalistic style, she rarely develops information or arguments concerning the practice.

A few years ago, it became clear that Maddow opposes botched executions. But does she oppose executions in general, and if so, why? In place of presentations which would speak to such questions, Maddow simply tends to emote, as she did, one week ago, in a trademarked Maddovian manner.

Note the brave, and highly dramatic, exciting choice of words. This is standard practice for Maddow:
MADDOW (4/21/17): And thanks to you at home for joining us for the next hour.

So this was supposed to be the week when Arkansas held two back-to-back double-header executions. Arkansas has not killed any of its prisoners in more than twelve years, but they decided that that they would try to kill eight of them in a row, all in a rush, eight men, eight prisoners. They were going to kill eight of them, two per night, in four different doubleheader executions spread across a week and a half.

And the urgency for that was because one of the drugs they wanted to use for these executions is getting close to its sell-by date. It will, it will not be legal to use that drug to kill people after the drug expires at the end of this month.

And you know, from a bureaucratic perspective on the part of the state, that must make some sort of sense on paper, right? You know, "Oh, hey, got to hurry, we can't use this stuff to kill anyone after April. So let's kill everyone in April then. Let's kill them all. Now."

From the perspective of one of the people who's going to be killed though, you could see how that might seem like a fairly random factor deciding whether you are going to live or die, right? If the state didn't have this expiration date thing going on in that one drug that they didn't notice before, there'd be no chance that all of these guys would be on deck to be killed all at once. But that's the reason they're trying to kill 'em all right now.

Stephen Breyer is a moderate liberal justice on the Supreme Court, but he has decided to make a real hollering legacy out of his time on the Court by dissenting and dissenting and dissenting again when it comes to the vagaries and the strangeness and the bias in our nation's system of killing men and women who are prisoners.

So that's where we were as of last night. Arkansas wanted to kill eight men over the course of ten days. They wanted to have already killed four of them by this time tonight. But over the course of this week, three of their four planned killings got blocked by the courts.

And then, last night, as the U.S. Supreme Court weighed in on the fate of the fourth man, at the very last minute last night, a few landmarks were reached.

Number one, the new justice, Neil Gorsuch, voted to kill his first man. He voted to kill, and it was a deciding vote, and that was his first significant vote on the United States Supreme Court.

Number two, Justice Stephen Breyer dissented again, short, sharp and to the point. It was less than two pages. It's pretty remarkable stuff, very straightforward, not particularly legalistic argument. He just puts it out there.


But Justice Breyer's opinion was a dissent. His side lost. The Neil Gorsuch side won, and Arkansas went ahead with one of the four killings they wanted to accomplish this week. The death warrants to kill Ledell Lee expired at midnight Central time. Less than an hour before that warrant expired, the United States Supreme Court voted five to four to let them kill him.

By 11:26 Central time, the Supreme Court decision had been conveyed to Arkansas and announced to the people who are at the prison. Eighteen minutes later, they started injecting Ledell Lee at 11:44. And then by 11:56, they said he was dead.

So that's important, that timing there just made it. The warrant that made it legal to kill him expired four minutes after they said he died.

Now Arkansas still wants to kill all the other prisoners that it can next week, before the expiration date on one of their drugs makes the rest of those executions illegal too. So they're hurrying.

And one of one of the things we'll be watching in the news this weekend is the continuing legal wrangling to see how many more of these guys they're going to be able to kill.
To watch this full segment, click here.

For ourselves, we're opposed to all executions. But do you see the way this lazy corporate multimillionaire works?

Rachel Maddow thrills us rubes by saying "kill," not "execute." That's as far as her ultimate laziness seems to take her.

Presumably, we're supposed to get a tribal charge by hearing her talk that way. What we hear when she stages these screeds is a multimillionaire corporate star who's too lazy to do real work.

We're opposed to capital punishment. Other people—Barack Obama, let's say—are not.

Rather than develop information or marshal arguments about the practice, Maddow tends to posture and preen. We're supposed to get a special thrill when she says things like this:

"The new justice, Neil Gorsuch, voted to kill his first man."

Yay yay yay yay yay yay yay! Presumably, that's supposed to give us rubes an especially big tribal charge.

Maddow's work gets worse and worse all the time. (Did you see her flip, this Tuesday night, on that "Flynn was on the Turkish government payroll" matter?) Plainly, we liberals aren't able to discern this fact, and our career liberal pundits are never going to tell us. Dearest darlings, use your heads! It simply isn't done!

Watching her show, we liberals get ourselves Hannityized. Her devolving work is making it clear:

In the end, We simply aren't much sharper than They are. This helps explain how we've ended up with Donald J. Trump where he is.

Question for the fourth graders: Children, please address these questions:

Does the Supreme Court "vote to kill people?" Or does the Court vote on the constitutionality and legality of some such decision?

BEHIND THE CURTAIN: Con men of the world, unite!

FRIDAY, APRIL 28, 2017

Interlude—Enduring deep grief through Fermat:
In 2012, Jim Holt published Why Does the World Exist? An Existentialist Detective Story.

Almost surely, it's one of the most fraudulent books ever published. Inevitably, the New York Times selected it as one of the ten best books of the year.

Why do we say "inevitably?" Consider the embarrassing flow of the past five years.

When Holt's ridiculous book about "the mystery of existence" appeared, it was reviewed in the Times' Sunday Book Review by Sarah Bakewell, "an author of non-fiction" who "currently lives in London."

Bakewell gave the book the mandated, standard respectful review, describing Holt as "an elegant and witty writer comfortably at home in the problem’s weird interzone between philosophy and scientific cosmology."

Things spiraled downward from there, leading to the book's selection as one of the year's ten best. Four years later, inevitably, it happened all over again!

In 2016, Bakewell came along with her own ridiculous book, At the Existentialist Cafe: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails [sic]. It's one of the most ridiculous books we've ever read. Inevitably, the New York Times selected it as one of the year's ten best.

Con men of the world, unite! To publish a book which will be judged by the Times as among the year's ten best, you need only follow these simple rules:

Trick up a book about existentialism with the good solid fun of "apricot cocktails," or with the time-honored allure of a "detective story." Your spectacular intellectual incompetence will be completely overlooked. Gotham savants will declare your book among the year's ten best!

To what extent is Holt's ridiculous book tricked up with silly externalia? Consider the part of the book which he has declared to be the best—the part of the book where he describes the death of his pet dachshund, Renzo.

(Yes, there is such a part of the book. It's the "Interlude" following Chapter 8, a mini-chapter entitled "Nausea.")

How silly do the endless, self-referential parts of this silly book really get? At the start of "Nausea," Holt has jetted to Austin to meet with physicist Steven Weinberg, part of his quest to determine "why the world exists."

(He's searching for three or four Einsteins.)

According to Holt, he emerged from the plane in his linen suit, "elegantly rumpled as always." Before asking "the concierge at my hotel for advice on where to dine," Holt wanders about among the crowd at an outdoor music festival.

No, he doesn't run into Terry Malick; if only he had! Instead, Holt tells us what follows. We didn't make this up:
HOLT (page 149): Making my way through the cacophonous crowd under the hot sun, I pretended that I was Roquentin, the existential hero of Sartre's novel Nausea. I tried to summon up the disgust that he would feel at the surfeit of Being that overflowed the streets of Austin—at its sticky thickness, its grossness, its absurd contingency. Whence did it all spring? How did the ignoble mess around me triumph over pristine Nothingness?
Holt's musings become more puerile from there. As readers, we are apparently asked to believe that this foolishness really occurred—which is possible, of course, in the sense that everything is.

Con men of the world, unite! To the people who ponder books at our nation's most elite newspaper, nonsense like this propels a book to the top of the annual pile.

Not only do the savants believe that this nonsense really occurred. They seem to believe that the behavior and thinking Holt describes is profound in some way. It's all part of the quest!

Such judgments afford us a horrible look behind a cultural curtain. They help explain how we've reached the point where Donald J. Trump is now president, with our culture lying in ruins.

Behind that curtain, within a bubble, nonsense like this is seen as a form of deep thought. We offer mild words of dissent:

Holt was perhaps 58 years of age when he jetted to Austin. Why in the world would a man of that age engage in such ludicrous piddle? Alternately, why in the world would he type this up and claim that it actually happened?

Why on earth would a grown man pretend that he wandered the streets of Austin that way? Perhaps that gentleman knows the shape of a winning literary con! Just consider what Holt said a bit later in this ridiculous chapter.

After dining in Austin that night, Holt learns that Renzo has had a medical event in New York. The next day, he cancels his appointment with Weinberg. He flies home, holds Renzo in his arms for ten days, then agrees that Renzo must be euthanized.

Many pet owners have had such experiences. The good con man must distinguish himself from all these regular folk.

What makes Holt stand out from the crowd with all its sticky thickness? Amazingly but undeniably, Holt goes on to say this:
HOLT (page 152): The vet in charge of all this looked like a young Goldie Hawn. She and her assistant took turns with me stroking Renzo during the preparations. I did not want to break down sobbing in front of them.

Fortunately, I have a good trick for maintaining my outward composure in such situations. It involves a beautiful little theorem about prime numbers, originally due to Fermat...
Mercifully, we never learn who or what the vet's assistant looked like. Instead, we're subjected to an excruciating account of the good trick Holt allegedly uses to maintain his outward composure in such situations.

Holt goes on, at considerable length, explaining the "good trick" involving the "beautiful little theorem" he tracks to Fermat, who is name-dropped for the first time way back on page 37.

Out of respect for the mortality of our own last few brain cells, we aren't going to describe the trick in which Holt allegedly engaged while Renzo was being euthanized. Let's leave it at this:

As he ran through all the prime numbers, performing a mathematical test, Holt "made it past 193 and was still dry-eyed at the moment the vet gave Renzo the final injection."

We won't describe Holt's wonderful trick to the extent that he does. We will describe the role such episodes play in this fraudulent book.

Duh! The con men who author books of this type must start by convincing you, the mark, that they are more lofty than you are. Holt runs this con all through his book, nowhere in a sillier fashion than in this mini-chapter.

In the passage posted above, Holt describes one part of his personal behavior—behavior which, as you can see, is remarkably fey and outre. Such episodes will convince the trusting reader that the con man who wrote this book is truly a man set apart.

More commonly, Holt works the con throughout the book by name-dropping every famous thinker who ever existed, along with the names of quite a few thinkers who aren't famous. More potently, he litters his book with mathematical and "philosophical" sophistry and cant.

These droppings lie beyond the intellectual experience of the typical college graduate. Such a person is thereby left with no obvious way to challenge or doubt the manifest bullshit she is being handed.

We say "she" for a reason. In Part 1 of this report, we discussed the way a young journalist, one year out of Princeton, reacted to Holt's book.

She'd been assigned to discuss a book she couldn't possibly hope to critique. Making things worse, the New York journalistic elite was widely vouching for the status of the book's ridiculous author.

All through Holt's ridiculous book, that young woman encountered flimflams of a "philosophical" bent. Like the vast bulk of Holt's potential readers, this young woman wasn't equipped to challenge these shameless cons.

In our next report, we'll look at some of the mathematical nonsense this young woman encountered in the earlier parts of Holt's book. We'll also look at the way Holt buries a remarkable lede in Chapter 10 of his book—a remarkable lede about the "philosophical" beliefs of the majority of the world's mathematicians.

(How crazy are mathematicians' beliefs? Get ready to think Ben Carson!)

For today, let's restrict ourselves to the best part of Holt's book—the part where he walks around pretending to be the nausea-infested Roquentin, then turns to Fermat for help when he and his Goldie Hawn look-alike are comforting his dying dog.

Apparently, the New York Times believed the things this fellow said about this ridiculous episode. To Holt's credit, he worked the con all the way through this mini-chapter.

Holt is a shameless self-fantasizer. Here's the way the mini-chapter about Renzo and nausea ends:
HOLT (page 153): The vet and her assistant left me alone in the room so I could sit for a while with Renzo's lifeless body. I opened his mouth and looked at his teeth, something he would never let me do when he was alive. I tried to close his eyes. After a few more minutes, I left the room and paid the bill, which included a "communal cremation" with other dogs that had been put down. Then, carrying only Renzo's blanket, I walked home.

The next day, I called Steven Weinberg at his home in Austin to ask him about why the world exists.
Con men of the world, take note! Melodrama gives way to heroism as Holt pushes on with his quest.

Con men of the world of books are willing to play these games. So are the con men of cable TV, a group we'll return to next week.

At the New York Times, the nation's journalistic elite thinks this is good solid deep stuff. We're peeking behind the curtain this week, observing an intellectual breakdown which has our self-impressed liberal tribe on the canvas, back-flat, looking up.

Tomorrow: That Princeton kid encounters a set of mathematical and "philosophical" cons

Tomasky says Comey didn't fear Dems!


The long list hardy stops there:
Last Sunday, the New York Times did a long, front-page piece about James B. Comey's serial intrusions on last year's election.

The first such intrusion occurred on July 5, 2016; it included inaccurate and highly misleading statements about Clinton's behavior by the man who is most often referred to as "Comey the God." Two more intrusions occurred late in the campaign.

Why did Comey feel free to stage these intrusions? In this recent piece, the Daily Beast's Michael Tomasky offers a key takeaway from the Times report.

According to Tomasky, Comey feared what Republicans would do if he didn't interefere. By way ofcontrast, he didn't fear what Dems would do if he did interfere:
TOMASKY (4/24/17): [H]ere’s another takeaway for you, and I haven’t seen anyone make this point, and it’s an important one: If the Times is to be believed—and stories like this one, based on 30 interviews, might get some facts wrong but are generally accurate in the gist of what they convey—Comey was often motivated by fear. Fear of how a certain group would react.

We see in three instances that he feared the wrath of the Republicans.
One, if he didn’t break precedent and speak harshly of Clinton while officially exonerating her last summer. So he spoke harshly. Two, if he didn’t announce in late October that the investigation was reopened. So he announced the investigation (which, as we learned too late, again amounted to nothing) was reopened.

And three, if the Republicans in Congress decided post-election to include him and the bureau in its inevitable Clinton witch hunts. So he beat them to the witch hunt.


We also see at least one instance in which he feared the anger of his own agents (again, with respect to speaking harshly of Clinton last summer. And we know...he had reason to fear them, as agents leaked freely to Rudy Giuliani, who then broadcast them on Fox News).

We even see one instance when he feared the Russians—he knew they had a certain pivotal document, and he was afraid at one point that they would leak it.

So fear of political fallout seems to have motivated almost everything he did. Kevin Drum made this point over the weekend.

But Drum didn’t emphasize what is to me the most telling thing, which is that there is one group Comey appears not to have feared at all: Democrats.


[N]owhere does the article say that Comey feared how Democrats would react if he raked Clinton over the rhetorical coals without bringing charges. Of course he didn’t! Democrats don’t scare anybody.
Comey feared almost everyone, Tomasky says. He especially feared Republican pushback if he didn't slime Clinton.

According to Tomasky, he didn't fear pushback from Democrats. And Tomasky says this made perfect sense. Democrats don't push back!

For ourselves, we don't know who James B. Comey feared. We have little faith in giant Times reports.

Sadly, we do know this. There's another group Comey had no reason to fear: liberal and pseudoliberal pundits!

Comey the God had no reason to fear our fiery liberal pundits! More specificaly, he had no reason to fear Tomasky himself, or Kevin Drum, who seconded Tomasky's assessment.

According to the Times report, Comey was spooked at one time by fury from the National Review. No such fury was coming at him from our hapless tribal weaklings over here on the "left."

After Tomasky's piece appeared, we reviewed the reactions from Tomasky and Drum after Comey's initial intrusion. Pretty much as we had remembered, the boys ran off and hid in the woods. On the Maddow Show, things were much worse.

Good God! The corporate world's most effective car salesman was enjoying a well-deserved vacation on the week of July 5. Steve Kornacki guest-hosted that week—and for two straight nights after Comey's intrusion, he strongly defended Comey's behavior and attacked Candidate Clinton.

Rachel returned, relaxed and refreshed, on Monday, July 11. She never mentioned Comey's name again until late October. There was exactly zero reaction from our tribe's number-one con man.

The children have behaved this way for the past twenty-five years. Back in the Clinton/Gore years, one generation rolled over and died. They've been replaced by the Maddows and them. Last summer, this new gang of careful corporate players carefully followed suit.

For twenty-five years, con men like Comey the God demonized Clinton, Gore, Clinton. People like Tomasky, Drum and Maddow persistently refused to fight, in much the way their predecessors had refused to fight before them.

For this reason, Candidate Clinton was fighting twenty-plus years of demonization as she entered the race. Mix that with her lousy campaign and we got the outcome our corporate children have been seeking for the past twenty-five years.

Rachel would jump off the Golden Gate Bridge before she'd ever take the lead in challenging an establishment figure like Comey. She doesn't play it that way, and we're too dumb to notice. By last summer, Drum was feeding us the race-baiting bullshit our tribe so enjoys, thus hiding his failure to fight.

Go ahead—search the Web the way we did! You'll see Tomasky and Drum failing to go after Comey last summer. Even after Slate's Fred Kaplan detailed the bullshit in Comey's report, the 90-pound weaklings we love Over Here refused to go after the God.

(All through the fall of 2012, they had played the same cowardly game as Susan Rice was crazily slimed and the Benghazi story was born. The bullshit they enabled that year helped defeat Clinton last fall.)

It was all Comey's fault, one ardent pundit now cries. Look who's talking, our analysts typically say.

Final point: Comey's July 5 non-indictment indictment was full of bullshit and embellishment. By now, this basic fact has completely disappeared.

You've seen no one mention that fact in the wake of the Times report. The Times forgot to mention it too. This is precisely what it means to be James Comey the God.

No one is reminding you of that part of Comey's behavior, in part because no one discussed it in the first place. They were too busy telling you that The Others are racists and that Professor Wang was sure that Trump couldn't win.

Yay yay yay yay yay yay yay! Things were going well!

We're stupid and feeble and thoroughly hapless. On the brighter side, very good jobs at very good pay go to those who behave.

None of this will matter a whit. We've discussed this game since 1998. This con game will go on forever.

BEHIND THE CURTAIN: An early clip from the text-in-itself!


Part 4—The need to explain what you mean:
The alleged philosopher Jim Holt was off on a hero "quest."

He set himself on the hero quest at the start of his ridiculous book, Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story. Inevitably, the book would be chosen by the New York Times as one of the ten best books of the year.

Alas! The silliest newspaper in the land never doesn't do this!

What was this philosopher's quest? Inanely, he decided to jet around the upper-class world in search of three or four Einsteins. According to Holt, he would then "arrange them in the right order," settling a question with which he had struggled since he was maybe like ten.

Holt assumed that readers wouldn't notice the sheer absurdity of his plan. Correctly, he further seemed to assume that reviewers wouldn't note the nonsensical nature of his quest—further, that they wouldn't note the fact that he seemed to have embellished the televised conversation from which he'd drawn the inspiration for his quest.


Have we ever fact-checked a peculiar claim from a heralded book and found that it wasn't embellished? When we fact-checked the troubling incident at the start of Ta-Nehisi Coates' recent heartfelt letter to his son, we found that Coates was basically making it up. Long ago and far away, we'd had similar experiences fact-checking mammoth best-sellers by such redoubtable stars as Bernard Goldberg and Ann Coulter.

(Coulter had been praised in a New York Times review for the huge number of footnotes supporting her claims. Again and again and again and again, we found that the footnotes didn't check out.)

Coulter's footnotes were impressively numerous, but they didn't support the claims to which they'd been appended! When you draw back the curtain on modern elite journalistic culture, you find that basic thoughts like that don't occur to the pitiful souls who conduct their own quests at the New York Times, eventually leading to Donald J. Trump and his future war.

Whatever! In the case of the philosopher Holt, he decided to jet to the finest salons looking for three or four Einsteins. He described that quest on his book's page 11, as we explained in yesterday's award-winning effort.

Before reaching that point, Holt had already displayed the type of pseudo-philosophical flimflam which would suffuse his book. In the process, he convinced at least one young Princeton grad that his work was "over her head."

Briefly, then, let's turn to Holt's text-in-itself! In this way, we'll start to see what the New York Times takes to be deep thought.

We'll start at the top of page 8. Quickly, let's review:

As a teen, Holt abandoned the thought that God created the world. Why then do we have something rather than nothing? Decades later, Holt still wanted to know.

On page 7, he said how "unnerving" our world will be if we can't untangle that riddle. Atop page 8, he offered this:
HOLT (page 8): This dilemma has lurked in the suburbs of my mind ever since I first hit upon the mystery of being. And it has moved me to ponder just what "being" amounts to.
This dilemma had moved Holt "to ponder what 'being' amounts to." At moments like this, young journalists start thinking that work of this type is "over their heads."

Ideally, they shouldn't have that reaction. Ever so briefly, here's why:

Imagine that someone walks and offers you a question. This is what your interlocutor asks, using his hands to form scare quotes:

What does "being" amount to?

Imagine that someone poses that question. Almost surely, the obvious answer is this:

I don't get it. What do you mean?

The person who asks a question like that needs to explain what he means. It shouldn't be up to a young journalist to figure out what he meant.

In the end, the chances are good that a fellow like Holt won't be able to explain what he means. But it's very much up to him to explain. It isn't the job of a young Princeton grad to decipher his Delphic musings.

All through Holt's ridiculous book, Holt fails to explain what he means. He offers various Delphic thoughts and, because he's a "philosophical" made man, upper-end book reviewers give him extremely wide berth.

That doesn't mean he's saying things that make definable sense. Consider the first block of text, right there on page 8, where he takes us on a flight.

What does "being" amount to? After posing that riddle, Holt notes that philosophers since Descartes have tended to refer to two "ultimate constituents of reality"—basically, to matter and mind. ("Physical matter" and "consciousness," Holt also says on page 8.)

This is fairly basic stuff. Sadly, it leads to this:
HOLT (pages 8-9): If that's all there is to reality—matter-stuff and mind-stuff, with a web of causal relations between them—then the mystery of being looks hopeless indeed. But perhaps this dualistic ontology is too impoverished. I myself began to suspect as much when, following my teenage flirtation with existentialism, I became infatuated with pure mathematics. The sort of entities mathematicians spend their days pondering—not just numbers and circles, but n-dimensional manifolds and Galois systems and crystalline cohomologies—are nowhere found within the realm of space and time. They're clearly not material things. Nor do they seem to be mental. There is no way, for example, that the finite mind of a mathematician could contain an infinity of numbers. Then do mathematical entities really exist? Well, that depends on what you mean by "existence." Plato certainly thought they existed. In fact, he held that mathematical objects, being timeless and unchanging, were more real than the world of things we perceive with our senses. The same was true, he held, of abstract ideas like Goodness and Beauty. To Plato, such "Forms" constituted genuine reality. Everything else was mere appearance.

We might not want to go that far in revising our notion of reality. Goodness, Beauty, mathematical entities, logical laws: these are not quite something, the way mind-stuff and matter-stuff are. Yet they are not exactly nothing either. Might they somehow play a role in explaining why there is something rather than nothing?
Piddle-pure nonsense of this type pervades Holt's useless text. Unfortunately, it's the type of sophistry which makes journalists, young and old, imagine that Holt is working on a lofty plane.

Holt's text is full of formulations which badly need explaining. We'll offer some advice:

Try to ignore the way Holt mentions obscure "mathematical entities" like Galois systems. This is a form of name-dropping. Its basic function is to signal that you're out of your depth as you try to decipher this text.

Try not to be distracted! Let's note some of the claims in that passage which don't quite seem to make sense:

Numbers and circles "are nowhere found within the realm of space and time?"

In fact, numbers are found on every page in Holt's ridiculous book! Whatever it is he's trying to say, he hasn't explained it yet. There's no reason to think that he could explain if he decided to try.

"There is no way that the finite mind of a mathematician could contain an infinity of numbers?"

In what way does anyone's mind "contain" any numbers at all? How many numbers does the average mathematician's mind "contain?"

Does a mathematician's mind "contain" those numbers all the time, or only when she's working with the numbers in question? As a more general matter, do you have any idea what somebody means when he starts talking like this?

"Do mathematical entities really exist? Well, that depends on what you mean by 'existence.' "

It also depends on what you mean by "really," the pseudo-philosopher's favorite flimflam term. But since Holt is the one who's presenting this point, it's up to him to explain it.

(For the record, Holt has identified numbers as a type of "mathematical entity." As of this morning, we can report that such "entities" clearly exist on the front of every house on our block!)

"Do mathematical entities really exist? Plato certainly thought they existed."

Plato believed more crazy things than you could fit in a phone book. (More recently, Newton kept trying to turn lead into gold. He also believed in witchcraft.)

The various things Plato said form an important part of our impoverished intellectual history. But it's hard to know why you'd offer him as an expert witness, some 2500 years later.

The fog continues from there. Mathematical entities aren't quite something, the savant says. Yet they aren't exactly nothing either!

Might they somehow play a role in explaining why there's something rather than nothing? Holt is flirting with massive claptrap as he spreads this familiar old porridge around.

As he does, untutored journalists mistakenly think they're being exposed to "the most sophisticated conversations about philosophy, physics, mathematics, and theology today," to conversations that go "over their heads." If you doubt that, just click here.

Those journalists are being exposed to nothing of the sort. Tomorrow, we'll show you more of Holt's world-class claptrap. Then, we'll show you his chapter 10, in which he ginormously buries his lede, while giving us an embarrassing look behind a cultural curtain.

Did Holt know he was doing that? As he conducted his search for his three or four Einsteins, there is no sign that he did.

Tomorrow: Two-thirds of mathematicians say...

Coming next week: Behind the curtain at the daily Times

BEHIND THE CURTAIN: The alleged philosopher's flimflam and quest!


Part 3—Hero of his own gong-show:
Perhaps it's time to define the nature of Jim Holt's actual quest.

His quest is explained in the first two pages of his Ten Best Books of 2012 book, "Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story." His quest adopts this form:

Holt was raised Catholic in rural Virginia. He was told by the nuns and the monks that God created the world.

As "a callow and would-be rebellious high school student," he "began to develop an interest in existentialism" in the 1970s. He was bowled over by Heidegger's presentation of the question, or perhaps the pseudo-question, Why is there something rather than nothing at all?

The explanation Holt had received from the nuns no longer seemed to work. Almost forty years later, he set out on a quest to write a book to examine this deepest question.

Did God create the world, and was God "self-caused?" The nuns told us that story too; we memorized the correct answers as part of Catechism class. As Holt notes on his second page, "It is a story still believed by a vast majority of Americans."

For ourselves, we got talked out of that story in (we think) ninth grade. Full disclosure:

Like many people who cease to believe that story, we don't think that we the humans are likely to provide an alternate answer to Holt's question, at least not any time soon.

Physicists can take us back to the Big Bang, but it has proven rather hard to explain things much beyond that. And when "philosophers" enter the scrum, the foolishness really gets started, as Holt demonstrates, again and again, all through his ridiculous book.

We don't think the three-year old preschoolers up the street could build a ladder to Mars. We also don't think that a person like Holt has any real chance to answer the question which has dogged him, or so he claims, since he became a rebellious teen, Heidegger and Sartre in hand.
so he
Forty years later, Holt set out to see if he could answer that question, or at least so he pretended. The result was a plainly ridiculous book of a rather familiar kind, a book larded with silly self-dramatization and obvious manifest bull-roar.

In other words, the type of book the New York Times adores! In the next dew weeks, we'll be peeking behind the curtain in an attempt to come to terms with this state of affairs.

Credit where due! When Dwight Darner reviewed Holt's book for the Times, we thought we saw green shoots of scorn pushing up through the ground.

Still and all, Holt was a "made man" within the journalistic elite, and Garner is employed within that guild. Perhaps for that reason, he was willing to describe Holt's basic account of his quest without noting how silly and absurd this premise actually is:
GARNER (8/2/12): Mr. Holt’s book was inspired partly by Martin Amis, who suggested in an interview that humanity is, in terms of discovering the algebra of existence, “at least five Einsteins away.”

This comment lights more than a few synapses in Mr. Holt’s mind. “Could any of those Einsteins be around today?” he wonders. “It was obviously not my place to aspire to be one of them. But if I could find one, or maybe two or three or even four of them, and then sort of arrange them in the right order...well, that would be an excellent quest.”

An excellent quest it mostly turns out to be.
It’s no spoiler to report that the author doesn’t return, like Ernest Hemingway with a marlin, with a unified theory of everything. “Why Does the World Exist?” is more about the nuances of the intellectual and moral hunt.
An excellent quest it (mostly) turns out to be? Scripted reviewer, please!

Holt does in fact describe that "quest" in his book's opening pages. As he does, we're introduced to the heroics which animate this ridiculous book—and we're asked to believe Holt has magic trombones for sale which basically play themselves.

For the record, Holt's book starts on page 3. The rumination shown below, concerning a search for the "algebra of being," arrives quite early on.

Trust us—nothing Holt writes before this passage helps us understand the term "algebra of being." The showy term is a type of flim-flam, of a type which litters this book:
HOLT (pages 10-11): How close are we to discovering such an algebra of being? The novelist Martin Amis was once asked by Bill Moyers in a television interview how he thought the universe might have popped into existence. “I'd say we're at least five Einsteins away from answering that question," Amis replied. His estimate seemed about right to me. But, I wondered, could any of those Einsteins be around today? It was obviously not my place to aspire to be one of them. But if I could find one, or maybe two or three or even four of them, and then sort of arrange them in the right order...well, that would be an excellent quest.

So that is what I set out to do.
My quest to find the beginnings of an answer to the question Why is there something rather than nothing? has had many promising leads. Some failed to pan out.
So begins Holt's "quest." Let's note how silly this is.

For starters, why the Sam Hill would Bill Moyers have popped that question to Amis?

We don't have the slightest idea how to answer that question. That said, if you work off things like published transcripts, this is the actual Q-and-A which actually seems to have transpired back in 2006:
MOYERS (7/28/06): What brought you to this PEN festival of writers on faith and reason? Because you're not a believer?

AMIS: Right. No. I wouldn't call myself an atheist any more. I think that's it's a sort of crabbed word. And agnostic is the only respectable position, simply because our ignorance of the universe is so vast that it would be premature. We're about eight Einsteins away from getting any kind of handle on the universe. So there's not going to be any kind of anthropomorphic entity at all.
At least on that occasion, that's what Moyers actually asked. And that's what Amis said in reply.

That exchange occurred in 2006. Seven years later, the Moyers site was still linking to the transcript of that program, while posting the videotape of that specific exchange. To convince yourself, click here.

Holt, who's extremely light on sourcing, provides no source for the exchange he describes. We're prepared to consider the possibility that it never occurred, at least not in this part of the multiverse.

Whatever! Holt's presentation does supply the tiny gist of what Amis actually said. That said, what Amis actually said is this:

Amis said that he doesn't think that three-year-olds could build a ladder to Mars. He also doesn't think that we the humans have anything like the ability to answer the kinds of questions Holt pretends to explore in his flimflam-laden book.

Amis said we're "eight Einsteins away." That's what his statement meant.

To Holt, Amis' statement seems to suggest something different. He cut "eight Einsteins" down to five, then handed his readers a hero quest—a hero quest starring himself and driven by servings of flimflam.

Charlatan, please! Einstein (1879-1955) is popularly considered the greatest physicist since Newton. Newton was born in 1643. In short, an Einstein, in the sense Amis meant, comes along every 236 years.

(Full disclosure: When Amis said we're eight Einsteins away, he wasn't suggesting that the eight Einsteins would show up all at once.)

Holt says that he himself couldn't aspire to be one of these Einsteins, thereby lodging the idea that he maybe possibly could. But he imagines that he might be able to find as many as four such people just by flying around on somebody's dime and talking to people he's heard of.

Humblebragging skillfully, Holt imagines himself discovering as many as four new Einsteins, within just a couple of years! After finding these four people, Holt was further planning to "arrange them in the right order."

Holt assumed that book reviewers would ignore the absurdity of this idea. Quite correctly, he assumed they would respectfully describe his "quest" as if it made some sort of sense.

"So that is what I set out to do," our humble hero says. In the rest of his page 11, he proceeds to describe three of the "promising leads" which actually "failed to pan out."

But alas! Even when his leads fail to pan out, Holt skillfully humblebrags in the course of describing the failures. This incessant elevation-of-self is basic to this style of flam, which is widely observed in "cable news" and within the types of silly books the New York Times adores.

At any rate, our humble hero assigns himself a quest. He plans to jet around the world in search of maybe four Einsteins.

What isn't explained is why we should think that he would be able to spot a new Einstein even if he stumbled upon one. He didn't even provide a source for his nugget anecdote, which he seems to have misrepresented and which doesn't seem to make sense. But somehow, he's going to find a string of Einsteins as he flounces about in the finer cafes—with time out for talking about his dead dog, "the best part of the book."

Holt seemed to feel sure that the New York Times wouldn't notice small matters like these. That they wouldn't mention a basic fact—again and again and again and again, his utterly silly and ludicrous text makes no earthly sense.

Tomorrow: On to the text-in-itself

People Comey the God had no reason to fear!


People like Tomasky and Drum, along with Kornacki and Maddow:
Last weekend, Kevin Drum wrote a long post about James B. Comey which struck us as oddly illogical.

Did James B. Comey's behavior last year tip the election to Donald J. Trump? That is surely quite possible.

On the other hand, the election tipped to Trump by a narrow margin in three states. In such a situation, many factors can be said to have possibly tipped the election to Trump. Examples:

It may be that Clinton would have won if Comey hadn't behaved as he did. But it's also possible that Clinton would have won, in spite of Comey, had she run a better campaign in some way.

Beyond that, it may be that Clinton would have won in spite of Comey absent the Russian invasion. Especially in a narrow race, any number of different factors may have tipped the campaign.

For some reason, Drum seems determined to fix Comey as the "decisive" cause of November's outcome. Absent further explanation, that doesn't exactly make sense. Neither does Drum's claim that Clinton probably ran an average campaign, not a bad campaign.

In truth, there is no objective way to say who ran a "bad" campaign. Drum chose several subjective measures, then used them to say that Clinton's campaign wasn't all that bad.

In this, his nugget explanation, he correctly says that Clinton outperformed one predictive model. This leads him to suggest that Clinton's campaign just wasn't all that bad:
DRUM : [T]hat got me curious: how do Clinton and her campaign compare to past elections? There's no way to measure this directly, but you can get an idea by comparing actual election outcomes to the predictions of a good fundamental model. So I hauled out Alan Abramowitz's model, which has a good track record, and looked at how winning candidates performed compared to the baseline of what the model predicted for them.


According to this, Hillary Clinton did way better than any winning candidate of the past three decades, outperforming her baseline by 2.4 percent. Without the Comey effect, she would have outperformed her baseline by a truly epic amount.

Now, was this because she ran a good campaign, or because she had an unusually bad opponent? There's no way to tell, of course. Donald Trump was certainly a bad candidate, but then again, no one thinks that Dole or Gore or Kerry or McCain were terrific candidates either.

Bottom line: we don't have any way of knowing for sure, and this is an inherently subjective question. But the evidence of the Abramowitz model certainly doesn't suggest that Hillary Clinton ran an unusually poor campaign or that she was an unusually poor candidate. Maybe she was, but aside from cherry-picked anecdotes and free-floating Hillary animus, there's not really a lot to support this view.
Drum acknowledges that this is a subjective question. Still and all, we're semi-gobsmacked by what he says about Candidate Trump in that passage.

Drum notes that Clinton outperformed the (necessarily crude) Abramowitz predictive model. He acknowledges that this may have happened because Clinton had "an unusually bad opponent" in Candidate Trump.

He goes on to say that Donald J. Trump "was certainly a bad candidate." But he says that Kerry and Gore and McCain were no great shakes themselves.

People! In a wide array of (subjective) ways, Donald J. Trump was the most god-awful candidate in our political history! At several points, he engaged in such bizarre extended behavior that people debated the possibility that he was trying to lose.

Judged by a somewhat objective measure, he currently has the lowest approval ratings of anyone elected president in the past three million years. By a fairly wide margin.

It has widely been said that a President Clinton would have horrible approval ratings now too. But it's a simple matter of fact that President Trump stands much lower than any elected candidate in the history of poling. This suggests the possibility that he was an historically horrible candidate.

Let's get clear on the way this works. If Candidate A runs a truly awful campaign, Candidate B can run a bad campaign and still outperform predictions. Is that what Candidate Clinton did? We don't see any real point in trying to figure that out.

We do see an unpleasant point in thinking about the Comey matter. Yesterday, Michael Tomasky wrote a piece about Comey's lack of fear of Democrats when he began his interventions last July. Drum links to, and agrees with, Tomasky here.

Comey staged the first of his intervention on July 5, 2016. Aside from Democrats, we can think of other people he had no need to fear when he made this fateful decision. They have names like Tomasky and Drum—and like Kornacki and Maddow.

A basic pattern has been acted out here, especially in Tomasky's piece and Drum's reaction to it. More of this misery tomorrow, with links to the silent past of our liberal intellectual leaders.

When Comey started down that road last July, Barney Fife would have known to nip it in the bud! Following Tomasky's line of reasoning, Comey may have understood that our big liberal stars were never going to do that.

At any rate, that's what happened. The same thing had happened again and again in the previous twenty-five years.

Long ago, Candidate Clinton got demonized in this way. The liberal silence, our lack of fight, politely persisted last summer.

BEHIND THE CURTAIN: Who the Sam Hill is Jim Holt?


Part 2—Stopped before reaching Kyoto:
Who the heck is best-selling author Jim Holt? By the norms of Internet information collection, it's remarkably hard to find out.

In this essay for New York Magazine, Holt revealed that, in the summer of 68, he, unlike Jackson Browne, was 13. This would mean that he was born in 1954 or 1955. You can work out his current age from there.


Based upon a few passages in his 2012 book, Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story, it seems That Holt grew up in Lynchburg, Virginia, the city of seven hills. Beyond that, his biographical profile is remarkably fuzzy.

We'd say the standard version of Holt's bio is offered in the blurb promoting his TED Talk. In its overview, TED also provides an upbeat account of Holt's book:
TED: In his 2012 book Why Does the World Exist?: An Existential Detective Story, Jim Holt creates a narrative out of one of the biggest questions we can ask—and how modern scientists and philosophers are asking it. Can answers be found in many-worlds theory, in quantum mechanics, in a theology? Traveling around North America and Europe, he talks to physicists, including David Deutsch; philosophers, including Richard Swinburne; and the novelist John Updike. Why? Because as he tells Vanity Fair, "To me it’s the most sublime and awesome question in all of philosophy and all of human inquiry."

A longtime contributor to the New York Times, Slate and the New Yorker, Holt has written on string theory, time, infinity, numbers, humor, logic, truth and bullshit, among other topics. Holt studied mathematics at the University of Virginia, and was a faculty fellow in the philosophy department at Columbia. He is now at work on a book about free will, weakness of will, self-knowledge and happiness.
Holt has written on bullshit, among other topics. Let's fill out that basic bio:

It's often said that Holt got a master's degree in math at Virginia, then went to Columbia to study philosophy. That "faculty fellow" designation may mean that he was a graduate teaching assistant. We've seen no claim that he received a degree from Columbia, or that he was an actual faculty member.

Somewhat comically, TED quotes Holt's interview with Vanity Fair—an interview which paired him with a young English major one year out of college. As we noted yesterday, the young journalist started the session by telling Holt that she didn't have the first fucking idea what the Sam Hill he was talking about in his book. Holt pretended that this meant that he had "failed" in his book.

Somewhat cynically, we'd wonder if that young woman's statement didn't mean that Holt had actually succeeded in his basic mission. Leaving such speculations to others, we'll note that the Vanity Fair interview gives us some sense of who Holt may actually be.

As we all await Professor Trump's war, we'll also suggest that the interview may give us a tiny peek behind a significant cultural curtain. The foolishness behind that curtain has led us to our current degraded state.

In the summer of 2012, Vanity Fair had tasked Linda Christensen, one year out of Princeton, with interviewing the seer. As we noted yesterday, she quickly said she had no idea what the fuck Holt was talking about in his new book.

But uh-oh! Being well-mannered and well-employed, she quickly added words of mandated praise. In this initial back and forth, we're peeking behind a curtain:
CHRISTENSEN (7/16/12): Mr. Holt—I have to confess: a lot of this book was over my head.

HOLT: Oh no! That’s terrible. I’ve failed.

CHRISTENSEN: That’s not a total negative. It’s certainly an impressive whirlwind of complex arguments in cosmology, philosophy, physics, and mathematics—but why the fixation with being and nothingness?

HOLT: To me it’s the most sublime and awesome question in all of philosophy and all of human inquiry...
It wasn't Christensen's fault that she'd been handed this assignment, for which she had no apparent qualification. Indeed, having been handed this absurd task, she proceeded as best she could.

That said, we see an intriguing juxtaposition as the interview starts. His interlocutor told Jim Holt that she didn't have the first fucking idea what he was talking about. That much said, so what? She quickly added words of high reassurance:

"It’s certainly an impressive whirlwind of complex arguments in cosmology, philosophy, physics, and mathematics," the young scribe unknowingly said. This joined the introductory appraisal she had penned:

Jim Holt had "established himself as an invaluable fixture in the most sophisticated conversations about philosophy, physics, mathematics, and theology today," the young scribe had unknowingly said.

Stating the obvious, this young journalist had no way of knowing whether those judgments made sense. But so what? Having said the book was "over her head," she went on to praise its "complex arguments," having already certified its author's "invaluable" status.

This pattern is widely observed when people like Holt write books of this type. Journalists know they've been assigned to applaud, and so they proceed to do so. A standard group assessment thereby gathers steam.

Our view? Holt's book is, at heart, a giant pile of heavily self-referential bullroar. Again and again as we plow through its text, we're struck by the author's sophisticated humblebragging and by his truly spectacular nonsense.

The intellectual namedropping performed in the book has surely established world records. Other music men play this game, but Holt is a grand past master.

In 1988, Michael Kinsley described the 39-year-old Al Gore as "an old person's idea of a young person." In similar fashion, Holt's book might be seen as an untutored journalist's idea of "an impressive whirlwind of complex arguments" compiled by an "invaluable" guide.

(As we'll note before the week is done, Holt's is precisely the type of book the New York Times will inevitably name as one of the year's ten best. They crowned Holt's book in 2012, did the same thing last year.)

Good God, this book is awful! But before we look at a bit of its text, let's ponder the glimmerings we can glean from the rest of that Vanity Fair interview.

Poor Christensen! Having no idea what Holt's book was about, she was forced to engage in small talk about the process by which it had joined the great chain of being.

As TED tells us, Holt had "travel[ed] around North America and Europe," talking to physicists and philosophers in the course of compiling his book. Early on, Christensen briefly tried working with that:
CHRISTENSEN: How much of this scavenger hunt for answers had you planned out before you began research?

HOLT: In 2009, I thought the journey was going to end up in Kyoto. I ran out of traveling money, actually.


HOLT: It turns out that the Kyoto school of Buddhism makes Heidegger seem like Rush Limbaugh—it’s so rarified, I’ve never been able to understand it at all. I’ve been knocking my head against it for years.


CHRISTENSEN: But you didn’t end up working from there, in the end.

HOLT: I found the Café de Flore in Paris to be a very convenient base from which to operate. It’s where Jean-Paul Sartre wrote Being and Nothingness and hung out with Simone de Beauvoir during the war, and Descartes is buried right across the square. And Leibniz, when he was in Paris, was also right across the street.
We're sparing you Holt's fuller thoughts on the Kyoto school. We're giving you the tiniest taste of the book's high culture foppishness, along with a taste of the nonstop intellectual namedropping to which we have alluded.

At the Café de Flore, Holt was operating right across the street from the place where Leibniz once had been! Concerning Holt's reference to "traveling money," this exchange raised a basic question for us about this piddlerich book:

Who in the world paid for all the hard traveling Holt performs in the book? For all the trips to Paris, and to Oxford and/or Cambridge? For all the fancy meals Holt describes himself consuming? Not to mention the bottles of wine!

Given the worthlessness of this book, why was there any money to fund this manifest nonsense? Presumably, we can feel blessed that the money ran out before Holt reached Kyoto. But given the glimpses Holt provides of his own background; given his relatively light prior output; we're curious how a high-livin' grab bag of nonsense like this ever got funded at all.

Christensen didn't ask. Instead, she proceeded to a standard question, triggering an incorrect answer:
CHRISTENSEN (continuing directly): Bone to pick: your list excludes women.

HOLT: It wasn’t meant to be that way! I was going to include a Harvard physicist who’s not only a woman but she’s extremely attractive. But then I alienated her by writing an insufficiently favorable review of a book of hers in the Times. So I never asked her—it would have been too gelid an atmosphere.
Poor Christensen! She tried to throw in a type of question which was standard even in 2012. For her trouble, she received a tone deaf remark about a Harvard physicist "who’s not only a woman but she’s extremely attractive."

Holt seems to refer to Harvard's Lisa Randall, high school classmate of Brian Greene. Given Holt's review of Randall's book, any such conversation would have been too "gelid," the VF scribe was told.

Christensen didn't complain. With the book's actual contents off limits, she took one more side trip:
CHRISTENSEN: The book is just as much a personal journey as it is one of science—what made you want to include autobiographical elements into your analysis?

HOLT: Of course, there was a certain amount of death intruded into the book—first of all, one of the philosophers almost killed me—but also my dog dies while I’m in Austin. It’s the best part of the book—it’s really sad. And then later, my mother dies towards the end, and it’s kind of tacky to exploit the death of one’s mother, but I saw not only a self but the self that engendered my own being flicker out of existence. Contemplating the question of why the world exists makes one contemplate the precariousness of one’s own existence.
"One of the philosophers almost killed me?" As we'll likely explain in a later installment, this is a humblebrag, of a type which pervades this book.

That said, Christensen gets credit for noticing the constant self-reference in this high philosophical work. The best part of his book concerns the death of his dog, the invaluable philosophe says. It was really sad.

Can that possibly be the best part of this deeply sophisticated book? Tomorrow, we'll look at some actual text from Holt's "detective story." We'll be peeking behind a cultural curtain as we take this step.

Tomorrow: Spectacular nonsense of the type the New York Times runs to reward

Sheryl Sandberg's superb op-ed!

MONDAY, APRIL 24, 2017

That was their father:
Have we ever read a better op-ed column than Sheryl Sandberg's transplendent essay in today's New York Times?

With co-author Adam Grant, Sandebrg has written a book about resilience. In hard copy, her column appears beneath these headlines:
How to Build Resilient Kids, Even After a Loss
I needed to find ways to help my children after their father's death
We think it's a stunning column.

Two years go, Sandberg's husband unexpectedly died. Their children were seven and ten.

In her column, Sandberg describes the things she did, after seeking advice from Grant and others, to help her children cope. We were struck by this all the way down:
SANDBERG (4/24/17): One afternoon, I sat down with my kids to write out “family rules” to remind us of the coping mechanisms we would need. We wrote together that it’s O.K. to be sad and to take a break from any activity to cry. It’s O.K. to be happy and laugh. It’s O.K. to be angry and jealous of friends and cousins who still have fathers. It’s O.K. to say to anyone that we do not want to talk about it now. And it’s always O.K. to ask for help. The poster we made that day—with the rules written by my kids in colored markers—still hangs in our hall so we can look at it every day. It reminds us that our feelings matter and that we are not alone.

Dave and I had a tradition at the dinner table with our kids in which each of us would share the best and worst moments of our day. Giving children undivided attention—something we all know is important but often fail to do—is another of the key steps toward building their resilience. My children and I have continued this tradition, and now we also share something that makes us feel grateful to remind ourselves that even after loss, there is still so much to appreciate in life.


Since my children were so young when they lost their father, I am afraid that their memories of him will fade, and this breaks my heart all over again. Adam and I also learned that talking about the past can build resilience. When children grow up with a strong understanding of their family’s history—where their grandparents grew up, what their parents’ childhoods were like—they have better coping skills and a stronger sense of mattering and belonging. Jamie Pennebaker, a psychologist at the University of Texas, has found that expressing painful memories can be uncomfortable in the moment, but improves mental and even physical health over time.

To keep Dave’s memory alive, I asked dozens of his closest family members, friends and colleagues to capture their stories about him on video. I also taped my children sharing their own memories, so that as they grow up, they will know which are truly theirs. This past Thanksgiving my daughter was distraught, and when I got her to open up, she told me, “I’m forgetting Daddy because I haven’t seen him for so long.” We watched the video of her talking about him, and it gave her some comfort.

Talking openly about memories—not just positive ones, but difficult ones, too—can help kids make sense of their past and rise to future challenges.
Whenever we read an essay like this, we think of the millions of kids who don't get this kind of parenting. Sandberg reminds us of those kids too, early in her column.

Just yesterday, we were thinking about the way children (and adults) want to know the history of their family members, especially their parents. We were thinking about the emotional power of Big Fish, the Tim Burton film in which a young man tries to find his way through the persistent tall tales of his evasive father, who is dying.

Our own sainted mother was extremely reticent about discussing her personal history. On the rare occasion, she would let a random anecdote fly:

The time she skated so far up the Merrimack that she couldn't get home till long after dark. The time she was halfway down the ski jump and spotted her mother off to the right, glaring angrily at her.

The time she thought the ballplayer had stood her up on a date, until it turned out that he had just played in the longest game in major-league history! (We assumed this referred to the Red Sox.)

The time Casey Stengel told her he liked her because his wife was named Edna too! (We assumed this would have been in the 1950s, when Stengel was with the mighty Yanks, after our mother had married our father.)

How did our mother and father meet? We'd never heard the story until our older half-brother, now deceased, told us maybe fifteen years ago. The story he told us was very familiar to us and very believable. Almost surely, our mother would have been someone a gent would have noticed.

Children want to know about their family histories. About a year ago, we were lucky enough to be sitting at a dinner table when a relative of ours (by marriage) suddenly told everyone, including his then 9-year-old daughter, about the first time he saw her mother.

(It happened in the D.R. The 9-year-old's father was coaching the Dominican national track team, on loan from God in the form of Fidel. The 9-year-old's mother was in the D.R. working for UNICEF.)

His daughter, our great niece, is easily one of our all-time most favoritest people. We thought her eyes grew extremely wide as she listened, with great interest, to this sudden story about her mother and father in the years before she was here.

"That was your mother," Paul Simon said. In the case of Sandberg's column, that was their father. We don't know when we've encountered so much decency and so much wisdom on an op-ed page.

Two long stories short: A few years ago, we decided to fact-check our mother's story about that "longest game." Had there actually been an extremely long MLB game in Boston during the relevant years?

Sure enough! On June 27, 1939, the Boston Braves (then called the Boston Bees) and the Brooklyn Dodgers battled to a 23-inning tie at Braves Field. We'd always assumed that she meant the Red Sox. But if we might borrow from Don Corleone, it was the Braves all the time!

We checked to see who was on the Braves' roster. Manager of the 1939 Bees?

Who else? Casey Stengel!

(You can see him colorized here.)

BEHIND THE CURTAIN: Assigned to interview the savant!

MONDAY, APRIL 24, 2017

Part 1—The semi-comical functioning of our rather fraudulent world:
A funny thing happened, five years ago, in the suites at Vanity Fair.

Jim Holt, whose name won't ring a bell, had written a recognizable type of book. For unknown reasons, Vanity Fair assigned Lauren Christensen to interview him about it.

The fruit of that session can be squeezed here. Before the Qs-and-As began, readers were handed this overview:
CHRISTENSEN (7/16/12): New Yorker Jim Holt has established himself as an invaluable fixture in the most sophisticated conversations about philosophy, physics, mathematics, and theology today, as an author and essayist for The New York Times and The New York Review of Books. With his latest book, Why Does the World Exist?: An Existential Detective Story, out today from Liveright, Holt allowed VF Daily to pick his brain...
Was it true? Had Holt "established himself as an invaluable fixture in the most sophisticated conversations about philosophy, physics, mathematics, and theology today?"

That is a matter of judgment. The humor of the situation involves the person Vanity Fair picked to deliver this judgment.

At the time her judgment was rendered, Lauren Christensen was one year out of Princeton, where she had majored in English. Starting in June 2011, she had worked at Vanity Fair. According to she best positioned to know, she had worked in some or all of these capacities:
Assistant Editor to Aimée Bell, Deputy Editor
• Edited features, columns, and Spotlights across politics, culture, and Hollywood sections
• Coordinated an integrated monthly development process across all departments for incoming stories
• Directly aided contributing editors with story ideas, research, and editing
• Compiled the Vanity Fair books list for first serial and Hot Type considerations
• Pitched, researched, and wrote independent book reviews for both the print magazine and
By this time, Christensen may have edited features, columns, and "Spotlights" across politics, culture, and Hollywood sections. She may have compiled the Vanity Fair books list for "Hot Type" considerations.

Now, through zero fault of her own, she was handed a new assignment. She was assigned to name the people who are invaluable fixtures in the most sophisticated conversations about philosophy, physics, mathematics, and theology today!

Question: in what world would an editor assign such a task to such a young, unqualified person?

Answer: in the world of our modern journalistic elite, after the curtain's drawn back! In the world of the music men who have helped create the world in which we all cringe today.

Nothing that happened in this comical instance was Laura Christensen's fault. Had deputy editor Aimee Bell made this rather unlikely assignment? We have no idea.

(In 1992, Bell, then 26, was reportedly "an editor of the Vanities section of Vanity Fair magazine in New York and is the books editor there." You can confirm those facts here.)

Whatever! Someone asked an English major one year out of college to engage in the act of judgment to which we have alluded. Understandably, when the Qs and As began, the Qs and As started like this:
CHRISTENSEN (continuing directly from above): Holt allowed VF Daily to pick his brain—highlights from our chat:

CHRISTENSEN: Mr. Holt—I have to confess: a lot of this book was over my head.

HOLT: Oh no! That’s terrible. I’ve failed.
In truth, that was an excellent way for this young journalist to start. In his utterly bogus response, it was Holt who cast himself in the role of cosmic pretender.

At the time this piece appeared, the alleged success of Holt's new book hadn't yet been established. Holt is an elusive figure whose background is surprisingly hard to pin down. Even today, the leading authority offers only the short bio shown below, but the bio does start to establish the worldly success of his book:
Jim Holt is an American philosopher, author and essayist. He has contributed to The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, The American Scholar, and Slate. His book Why Does the World Exist? was a NYTimes bestseller for 2013.

He hosted a weekly radio spot on BBC Wales called "Living in America, with Jim Holt" for ten years. He has appeared on William F. Buckley's Firing Line, NBC News with Tom Brokaw, and CNN. In 1997, he was editor of The New Leader, a political magazine. Holt lives in Greenwich Village, NY.
Is Holt "an American philosopher?" Only the recent college grads know for sure!

This bio does make the somewhat muddled claim that Holt's book "was a NYTimes bestseller for 2013." Under "Awards and Honors," it further notes that Holt's book was a 2012 finalist for a National Book Award.

(According to Nexis, the book appeared on the Times hard-cover bestseller list for three weeks during 2012, and for one week during 2013, never rising above number 23. During 2013, it appeared on the paperback bestseller list four times.)

In truth, Holt's book wasn't a giant best-seller, whether for 2012 or for 2013. That said, the leading authority doesn't mention another high honor received by Holt's book. Inevitably, in December 2012, the New York Times selected Holt's "existential detective story" as one of the ten best books of the year.

Should the Times have made that selection? That's a matter of judgment. That said, Christensen couldn't know this honor was coming when she received her assignment in the summer of that year.

Presumably, Christensen asked around concerning Holt, then voiced a conventional view. As an author and essayist for The New York Times and The New York Review of Books, Holt had established himself as an invaluable fixture in the most sophisticated conversations about philosophy, physics, mathematics, and theology today. She herself didn't understand Holt's book. But it was what everyone said!

Christensen did something very right when she started her conversation in the way we've cited. She said she had no fucking idea what the fuck the invaluable fixer was talking about in his highly sophisticated book.

Did Holt know what he was talking about? We'll flirt with that question this week. In the process, we'll be starting a highly controversial conversation, one we expect to extend over several weeks.

At present, we're all waiting for Donald J. Trump to start his invaluable war. With our national discourse now a mere memory, we think it's time to take a peek behind the curtain and chuckle about the assortment of journalistic and academic frauds who have brought us to this darkly amusing point.

Who would ask a college kid to make an assessment like the one which landed in Christensen's lap? Music men would take that step—and none of Us would notice.

Tomorrow: Who the Sam Hill is Jim Holt? And what the Sam Hill has he said?

Later today: Drum on Comey

Maddow in the "killing" fields!


We have no fish today:
Initially, we planned to return today to Monday evening's Maddow Show—specifically, to the remarkable way the program doctored a statement by Jeff Sessions.

Last Thursday, April 13, the program had played the same game. We discussed this rather obvious con in last Saturday's post.

This Monday, April 17, the program did it again. We'd have to say that Session's statement was doctored even more aggressively on this second occasion.

We'd even have to say that Monday's program introduced a striking new form of the "Maddow edit!" Also, and alas, the con was delivered this time around by guest host Joy Reid.

Reid is much, much smarter than this. But as we've long suggested, everyone who draws outsized pay from "cable news" ends up playing these cable news games.

Watching Maddow's show last night, we decided to change today's topic. We decided to discuss Maddow's propagandistic, uninformative trip to the "killing" fields.

Sadly, MSNBC hasn't produced a transcript for last night's program. And we don't plan to depress ourselves, at this time, by returning to Monday night's con.

That said, the Maddow Show is an endlessly devolving con which feeds on liberal brain cells. Watching its host perform last night, we thought again of the description she gave, a few years back, of her own emotional problems.

To our eye, Maddow seemed to be struggling last night, in a way you never want a person to struggle. But her work this week has been very poor. Liberal brain cells die each time this car salesman goes on the air.

We promise! We'll take you to the "killing" fields at some future date. We'll show you what this program's writers made Reid say Monday night.

We just don't want to do those things today. Our culture is in a downward spiral, and it seems to us that Maddow is central to this dangerous state of affairs.

On Monday, we plan to start an award-winning series, "The Music Men." Maddow is part of this upscale assemblage, but we plan to start somewhere else.

Finally, a chance for a last bit of fun as we all await you-know-who's war!

To us, these critiques seem fair: This morning, we stumbled across this Heat Street report, and on this Hot Air comment about it.

It seem to us that these critiques are probably on-target. Maddow strikes us as a struggling soul. Her program strikes us as a highly unhelpful, uninformative pseudo-progressive mess.

EMBRACE OF HATE: Loss of empathy for Those People!

FRIDAY, APRIL 21, 2017

Part 5—Loss of our brains and our souls:
In her column in last Friday's New York Times, Professor Fels described the varied effects of political hate.

What are the motives of "people who hate?" How are such people affected by their loathing of The Others? Today, we'll think about one possible motive, and about one effect:
FELS (4/14/17): The point is to hurt and humiliate. Those who hate want to make the objects of their hate suffer as they have. It is this that makes the attacks so personal and lends them their crude, violent and often sexual nature. The intent is not to challenge opposing beliefs but to destroy those who hold them.


People who hate can blame others for their losses, reducing doubts about their own inadequacies.

Hate converts a sense of helplessness into one of action. It can even be the impetus for the formation of new communities in which people share grievances and plans for retribution, relieving their sense of isolation or powerlessness. As a consequence, though, there’s a loss of empathy, and beliefs become simplified and rigid.
When we liberals swallow the type of stew served by Amanda Marcotte this week, we're being taught to hate. For background, see yesterday's award-winning report.

Let's start with that one possible motive. Does our gulping of this stew allow us to "blame others for [our] losses, reducing doubts about [our] own inadequacies?"

It's hard to know how to answer. On the whole, we'd say that we liberals are too clueless, at this point in time, even to consider the possibility that Candidate Trump's win last year reflects in some way on Us—on "our own [massive] inadequacies."

We're just too dumb to see things that way. But good God! Our tribal inadequacies are comically endless. Consider another recent piece which appeared in the new, improved tribal Salon.

In the piece, David Masciotra reviewed an embarrassing new book. Masciotra's review appeared beneath these thrilling headlines:
Hillary hatred, exposed: What drives America’s never-ending case against Clinton
Susan Bordo's "The Destruction of Hillary Clinton" is a vital but incomplete look at her strange political life
Could the ineptitude of our tribe be put on more vivid display?

Hillary Clinton has been demonized, in ludicrous ways, over the course of the past twenty-five years. Now that it's officially too late, our pitiful tribe has somehow managed to cough up a book which explores, or pretends to explore, these decades of demonization.

Could any political group or tribe be more hapless than this? Our biggest corporate stars—think TV's Rachel Maddow—have repeatedly run and hid in the woods rather than confront this phenomenon. Our biggest stars—think Rachel Maddow—report their admiration for their "dear friend," Chris Matthews, one the greatest and most misogynistic demonizers of Hillary Clinton over those many long years.

We liberals just sit there and take it! And now that it no longer matters, as if to amuse the gods on Olympus, a book has appeared which claims to discuss this phenomenon. In a similar vein, we liberals started our "resistance" against Trump on January 21, 2017—exactly one day too late.

We had twenty-five years to get off our ascots, stand on our hind legs and fight. We rose in opposition, and staged our march, exactly one day after Trump took office! (Because we can't stop praising ourselves, we've dubbed our pushback "the resistance.")

Truly, we must be the least competent bunch that ever drew breath on the earth. Despite this rather obvious fact, our tribal propaganda is replete with the claim—see Marcotte's report—that We are the very smart people, while The Others, the ones Over There, are "low information voters." Has any group, of any type, ever been more obnoxious than We?

On balance, The Others are low-information, of course—but We Over Here are worse. We're stupid and venal and nobody likes Us. We're also too dumb to understand these patterns. For that reason, there's no obvious way in which, in our gulping of hate, we're trying to cover the fact of our own inadequacies.

We liberals are tremendously dumb. But we're too dumb to know it.

On balance, how dumb are We in the end? Let's consider what Fels said about the "loss of empathy" which obtains among "people who hate."

At this point, lack of empathy for The Others is virtually our tribal calling card. We can't "feel the pain" of a 59-year-old woman who can't afford to go to the doctor. (Reason: she's rural, Southern and white.)

In a similar vein, consider a second book review, a piece by Jennifer Senior in yesterday's New York Times.

In our view, Senior has done tremendous work in this new role at the Times. In her review, she praises Amy Goldstein's new book, Janesville: An American Story.

Yay yay yay yay yay yay yay! Goldstein's book concerns Janesville, Wisconsin, Speaker Ryan's home town. As every good pseudo-liberal will know, this will likely let us smirk and snark about the ways of Those People, whose votes for Candidate Trump last November Marcotte so deftly "explained."

As we noted yesterday, Wisconsin was one of the midwestern states Marcotte sought to explain. Why did voters turn to Trump last fall, flipping these states from blue to red and sending Trump to the White House?

According to Marcotte, it was their "blatant racism" which led them to do it, full freaking tribal stop. When we liberals indulge our hate, this is the only answer we currently know. It's our answer to every question!

Before we look at Senior's review, a word about Janesville, Wisconsin. According to the leading authority, Janesville is "the county seat and largest city of Rock County and the principal municipality of the Janesville, Wisconsin Metropolitan Statistical Area."

As of 2010, Janesville's population (63,575) constituted about 40 percent of Rock County's population. And good lord! Rock County supported Clinton over Trump by a significant margin last year:
Rock County, Wisconsin, 2016 election
Clinton: 51.7 percent
Trump: 41.4 percent
By Marcottian analytical standards, this might mean that we can't blame Rock County, or presumably Janesville, for what happened last year. Except uh-oh! Clinton ran five points behind Senate candidate Russ Feingold in Rock County last November—and this is the way the county voted in 2012:
Rock County, Wisconsin, 2012 election
Obama: 61.0 percent
Romney: 37.8 percent
Oof! Clinton ran more than nine points behind Obama. As such, Janesville seems to have been part of the general pattern across Wisconsin in which Clinton significantly underperformed Obama, producing a narrow statewide loss.

According to Marcotte, voters supported the black Democrat in 2012, then dumped the white Democrat in 2016, because of their "blatant racism." As noted above, this has become the only story our own tribe knows how to tell.

This brings us back to Senior's review of Goldstein's new book. Why might people in Janesville have flipped to Trump last year?

In our view, a vote for Trump represented an act of bad political judgment. But why might other people have judged it differently, as they're allowed to do?

Goldstein's book examines what happened in Janesville after General Motors closed a plant in 2008. Massive dislocation ensued. We'll let Senior tell it:
SENIOR (4/20/17): “Janesville” joins a growing family of books about the evisceration of the working class in the United States. What sets it apart is the sophistication of its storytelling and analysis.

The characters are especially memorable. This may be the first time since I began this job that I’ve wanted to send notes of admiration to three people in a work of nonfiction.


[P]erhaps the most powerful aspect of “Janesville” is its simple chronological structure, which allows Goldstein to show the chain reaction that something so calamitous as a plant closing can effect. Each falling domino becomes a headstone, signifying the death of the next thing.

Because the G.M. plant closes, so does the plant at the Lear Corporation, which supplied it with car seats and interiors. Because so many in Janesville are now out of work, nonprofits lose board members and contributions to local charities shrivel. Because their parents are out of work, students at Parker High start showing up for school both hungry and dirty. A social studies teacher starts the “Parker Closet,” which provides them with food and supplies. (Deri Wahlert: She’s one of the people to whom I’d like to write a fan note.)

The fabric of hundreds of families unravels, as an itinerant class of fathers—“Janesville Gypsies,” they call themselves—start commuting to G.M. factories in Texas, Indiana and Kansas, just so they can maintain their wage of $28 an hour. Those who stay home invariably see their paychecks shrink drastically. One of the men Goldstein follows, Jerad Whiteaker, cycles through a series of unsatisfying, low-paying jobs, finally settling in one that pays less than half his former wage and offers no health insurance. His twin teenage girls—to whom I’d also like to send awed notes—share five jobs between them, earning so much money for their family that they compromise their eligibility for student loans.

You will learn a lot about the arbitrary rules and idiosyncrasies of our government programs from this book. They have as many treacherous cracks and crevices as a glacier—and offer about as much warmth.
As has been widely noted, Candidate Clinton never campaigned in Wisconsin. Candidate Trump kept telling the victims of such dislocations that he was aware of their plight, and that he would be able to help them as president.

In our view, people who believed Trump's representations likely made a bad judgment. That said, they're nowhere near as dumb as we liberals are when we swallow ridiculous hate-driven essays such as Marcotte's latest.

Senior's review lets us examine our values. Are we able to empathize with people affected in the manner described? Are we able to understand that people can make judgments we consider faulty without necessarily being the most evil persons on earth?

Are we able to consider the lives of real people? Are we more than four years old?

We liberals get conned by our own big corporate stars every day. Are we able to live in a world where other people may get fooled by con men in different ways?

More and more, we liberals are unable to so such things. We're stupid and ugly and nobody likes us. But we're so sure of our manifest brilliance that we just keep pouring it on.

Tomorrow: The Maddow Show plays us again!