Deaths still rising, Trump still nuts!

FRIDAY, JULY 10, 2020

Thoroughly baffled by Krugman:
We're thoroughly baffled by the basic framework of Paul Krugman's new column.

First, though, an apparent mistake. In passing, Krugman says this about the pandemic:

"National death totals are still declining..."

We're afraid that's no longer true. As of this morning, the nationwide 7-day average has bumped up again.

As of this morning, we're averaging 576.7 deaths per day nationwide (July 3-July 9). We'd already dropped below that point as of June 23 (571.9, June 16-June 22).

The number continued to drop after that, inching down below 540. But now it seems to be moving back up again.

It seems clear that the decline has stopped. All that's left may be the size of what now seems to be the rise.

That's a minor if horrible point. We're baffled by Krugman's overall framework. Our bafflement starts with Krugman's headline, then continues with some points after that:
KRUGMAN (7/10/20): The Deadly Delusions of Mad King Donald

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling more and more as if we’re all trapped on the Titanic—except that this time around the captain is a madman who insists on steering straight for the iceberg. And his crew is too cowardly to contradict him, let alone mutiny to save the passengers.

As he opens, Krugman refers to Trump as a madman. Also, as a "mad" king driven by "delusions."

Later, he refers to Trump's "pathologically inept response to the coronavirus." He refers to his "delusions" again, and once again calls him "mad."

That said:

Even as this psychological/psychiatric language floats around, Krugman never brooks the possibility that Trump really is delusional, mad or pathological, and not just in the metaphorical sense.

Trump's niece, Mary Trump, is a clinical psychologist. She has written a book in which she discusses Trump and his "high-functioning sociopath" father in psychiatric terms. But even with this new prompting, our journalists refuse to consider the possibility that the president is psychiatrically or psychologically ill in some literal sense.

It may be that this is a stricture imposed on columnists from above. But at some point, the refusal to brook an obvious possibility becomes almost as odd as Trump's relentless lunacy itself.

Is Donald J. Trump psychiatrically ill? The steadfast refusal to conduct that discussion is part of the era's madness.

Deaths are rising again, thanks to Trump. How did we get to this place?

ANATOMY OF MODERN DISCUSSION: Fort Apache the Bronx, back in '71!

FRIDAY, JULY 10, 2020

Whose deaths turn up on TV?:
Over the weekend, the claim flitted by, two or three separate times, as we flipped through C-Span's programs.

It sounded like it couldn't be true. In the end, we decided to check.

The claim had been made by Rafael Mangual, Deputy Director for Policy Research/Legal Policy at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank. As part of a much longer presentation, this was his factual claim, though it seemed a bit hard to believe:
MANGUAL (6/18/20): In 1971, the NYPD fired their weapons more than 800 times. They wounded more than 220 people and killed almost a hundred. By 2016, those numbers were down to 72, twenty-something and nine, respectively.
To watch the whole C-Span program, click here.

Meanwhile, say what? In 1971, police officers in New York City shot and killed "almost a hundred" people?

The statement seemed hard to believe. We ourselves were in and out of Gotham in those days. Our sister and her husband were living in Manhattan at the time, on their way to a stay in Bed-Stuy.

In 1974, we even stood backstage at the Winter Garden as we watched Zero Mostel perform Ulysses in Nighttown! If memory serves, it was one of Mostel's greatest thrills!

We'd been in and out of New York in those days. We didn't recall all that gunfire, or any blowback from same.

In fairness, this had been the general era of Fort Apache, The Bronx. It was also the decade of Manhattan, a film in which no one got shot by police, not even the Woody Allen character, who we now understand to have been richly deserving.

That said, did Gotham police shoot and kill almost one hundred people in 1971? Skillfully, we started to google. Soon, we were reading this report from WNYC, the Gotham NPR outlet:
HENNELLY (11/22/11): The number of civilians shot and killed by New York City police officers has fallen to a record low.

In its annual firearm discharge report, the NYPD said officers killed eight people in 2010—compared to 12 in 2009 and 93 in 1971, when the record keeping began.

The NYPD shot and wounded 16 civilians last year.


The dramatic reduction in civilian police shooting casualties parallels an equally significant decline in NYPD officers fatally shot in the line of duty. In 1971 a dozen officers were killed, whereas for the last three years no officers were. Also in 1971, 47 officers were wounded, compared to only two last year.
As it turned out, Mangual's numbers were solid! In 2015, PolitiFact reported that 1971 had been "a particularly brutal year for both shootings of cops (47 injured, 12 killed) as well as the number of people shot and killed by police (221 injured, 93 people killed)."

The official data are here. As always, we certainly can, and we surely will, believe whatever we want.

So it went in the street-fighting days of 1971. One year earlier, as chaos reigned, the Weatherman accidentally detonated one of their home-made bombs, blowing up their Greenwich Village townhouse. So it went in those long-ago years.

Today, things are perhaps perceived to be worse. Consider:

Yesterday, the New York Times published the type of first-person account it just can't seem to quit. Thanks to the highlighted claims at the start of the profile, the ridiculous paper had finally found a Republican hopeful to love:
PETERS AND GRAY (7/9/20): John James still feels the sting from the harrowing encounters and indignities he has experienced as a young Black man crossing paths with the police.

He recently recalled the time he was with the woman who is now his wife at an upscale mall in suburban Detroit and two officers approached them in their car, guns drawn. Had his wife, who is white, not been there to de-escalate the situation, he said, “I don’t know what would have happened.”

A few years later, he was pulled over with one of their sons in the back seat. At the sight of the flashing blue and red lights, he asked himself if this was the day his child “sees his daddy bleed out in the street.” Mr. James, a West Point graduate and Apache helicopter pilot who once flew combat missions in Iraq, came to a chilling conclusion: He could be killed during a traffic stop in the suburbs just as easily as he could have been killed at war.

These are the kinds of stories that Mr. James, a Republican candidate for Senate in Michigan, said he hoped would help white Americans better understand the issues of racial justice now at the forefront of an election unlike any in his lifetime.
Will those stories help white Americans better understand (important) issues of racial justice? Even as we agree to assume that those stories are true, we have no way of answering that question.

We do note this:

The Times didn't attempt to explain why James was pulled over in his car on that one occasion. (Through some remarkable fluke, the future candidate didn't bleed out in the street in front of his son that night.)

Also, why had officers approached his car in suburban Detroit that time, guns drawn? The Times didn't go into that either. As readers, we were allowed to flesh out these stories through the work product of our own minds.

For the record, Candidate James sounds like an impressive person. It sounds like he's lived an impressive life.

(Even more so, his impressive father. At present, James runs "a shipping business that is part of the company his father started after moving to Michigan from segregated Mississippi in the 1960s." We're always amazed by people who have what it takes to do things like that.)

Candidate James is an impressive person. In 2018, he came surprisingly close to winning his previous Senate race.

That said, was his assessment correct?

Granted, it's the type of assessment the New York Times currently seems to love. But is it correct to say that Candidate James "could be killed during a traffic stop in the suburbs just as easily as he could have been killed at war?"

We're prepared to suggest that that assessment may not make perfect sense, even though it's a type of assessment the New York Times currently loves to publish.

In fairness, such assessments are thrilling to read of a weekend out in the Hamptons, and they fuel revolutionary fervor. On the downside, people may start believing such assessments, even passing them on to their kids.

Before long, substantial people may write essays for Slate in which they say their 7-year-old son was "terrified" by the things they recently told him. More specifically, they may say their 7-year-old son is terrified by what he's been told and wants to leave the United States.

Out in the Hamptons, that's a good read! But in the mind of a 7-year-old child, that is a tale of true terror—and, perhaps, an unfortunate tale of a possible misapprehension.

Could Candidate James "be killed during a traffic stop in the suburbs just as easily as he could have been killed at war?"

We're prepared to suggest a possibility which won't likely show up in the Times. We're prepare to suggest the possibility that that's a misguided assessment.

To explain why we're prepared to do that, we'll now mention a second person we've seen on TV in the past few weeks. We refer to Wilfred Reilly, an assistant professor of political science at Kentucky State University, an historically black college in Frankfort, Kentucky.

Reilly is the kind of person you're allowed to see on the Fox News Channel but not on CNN or MSNBC. We've seen him briefly on two Fox programs in something like the past month.

As Fox guests go, we'd say that Reilly is strongly non-partisan. On the other hand, he's sometimes a bit less precise with his statistical summaries than we'd like cable guests to be.

That said, his current data address an interesting question. Whose deaths will you see on cable TV, or in the New York Times?

More specifically, whose shooting deaths at the hands of police will you hear about on TV or read about in the Times? In a brief recent appearance with Laura Ingraham, the gentleman said this:
REILLY (7/6/20): In my most recent book, Taboo, I look at a lot of these cultural questions in American society. And I mean, one of the things I find, that other researchers have found many times before, is that the large, 75-80 percent majority of those killed by police in a typical year, for example, are Caucasian or Hispanic individuals, and those cases receive less than 20 percent of the media coverage of police violence.
To watch that brief appearance, click here, move ahead to 23:30.

There are other ways to sift those numbers about who gets shot and killed. We don't know where the statistic about media coverage comes from. For our money, Reilly isn't always a total stickler for perfect statistical accuracy.

That said, Reilly is speaking to a blindingly obvious state of affairs—a state of affairs you'll only hear discussed on Fox. In Taboo: Ten Facts You Can't Talk About, he discusses this same topic—the disparate coverage, within major media, of black and white shooting deaths.

When black shooting deaths are extensively covered and white shooting deaths may not be covered at all, misperceptions may arise. We think of the absurd presentation John Yang recently slept through on the PBS NewsHour:
YANG (6/16/20): Louisville has banned—in reaction to this, banned no-knock warrants. They called it Breonna's Law. How effective do you think that will be?

RITCHIE: I think it's good that we're stepping back to look at how those police officers came to be at her door and looking to interrupt one of the mechanisms that has resulted in her death and also in the death of—I can name five other black women killed by no-knock warrants, Tarika Wilson, Kathryn Johnston, Alberta Spruill, Aiyana Stanley-Jones.

So, there's many—this is not the first time. And so I think that stopping no-knock warrants is important, and that we need to recognize that increasing the time that folks have to respond to 15 or 30 seconds or a minute, imagine someone backing on your door in the middle of the night. That's not enough time to understand what's going on either.

So, we need to maybe step further back and ask ourselves, why are people showing up at—police officers, armed police officers, showing up on people's doors to serve no-knock or short-knock warrants?

And I think then we need to look at the war on drugs, which is where those warrants came from and what brought those officers to Breonna's door that night. And we need to rethink our approach to that in a way that we are taking an approach to saving lives not, taking them, in this way, as Breonna Taylor's was taken.
Barnard researcher Andrea Ritchie was Yang's only guest. When she named people other than the late Breonna Taylor who had died during "no-knock" raids, she named five black women, and she named nobody else.

Almost surely, such presentations will create false impressions. Yang and Judy Woodruff should have been disciplined, the very next day, for sleepwalking though that presentation on PBS that night.

Especially with respect to life-and-death matters, selective presentation may lead to gross misimpressions. Before too long, we have Hopkins professors who won't leave their homes, and we have terrified 7-year-olds who want to leave the country.

You can hear about this topic on Fox. CNN's angriest dog in the world is unlikely to speak to this issue.

Here within our failing society, this is the way our upper-end "discussions" now work. On the upper levels of the press, we've been this dumb, and this destructive, for an extremely long time.

We were surprised by what we learned from the Manhattan Institute researcher. We weren't surprised by what Reilly said, but we think he's discussing a topic which ought to be discussed a lot more.

That said, the things that people are told on Fox aren't heard by us Over Here. On our own cable channels, we're handed our own tribal tales, nothing else.

On the upper ends of our corporate press corps, this is largely the way "discussion" had worked for decades before Donald J. Trump ever descended that staircase.

By light-years, Trump is the most disordered high-level player yet. But these people, all through the upper-end press corps, were thoroughly Trumpist before he arrived on the scene.

How many people are shot and killed by police officers? Roughly a thousand people per year!

Which deaths get covered, which get disappeared? We've seen Reilly address that question twice, but it's all taking place Over There. This is no way for discussion to work, but it's how we got Trump in the first place.

Friedman sets rules for Trump-Biden debates!


Least savvy thought of all time:
Can anybody really imagine a set of Trump-Biden debates?

Theoretically, they're going to happen. But can anyone really picture such monsters from the deep?

In yesterday's New York Times,
Thomas Friedman offered some suggestions for the way these debates should work. At one point, he gave voice to the least savvy thought of all time:
FRIEDMAN (7/8/20): Biden should insist that a real-time fact-checking team approved by both candidates be hired by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates—and that 10 minutes before the scheduled conclusion of the debate this team report on any misleading statements, phony numbers or outright lies either candidate had uttered. That way no one in that massive television audience can go away easily misled.
Does Friedman actually live on this planet? No really—where does this guy live?

It's very, very hard to believe that any pair of candidates will ever agree to stop their debate with ten minutes to go so a fact-check team can identify their various misstatements.

It's very hard to imagine that. But no, that isn't our point.

What brought us out of our chairs was Friedman's reference to "outright lies." Is he really suggesting that our fact-checking team should identify such deliberate misstatements at the end of each debate?

That strikes us as a sad presentation. This is Elementary Logic 101, but how exactly would they know when an "outright lie" had occurred?

We're dealing here with a point so simple that everyone used to know it. It's relatively easy to spot a misstatement, but it's very hard to reliably identify a "lie."

Not long ago, every journalist understood this blindingly basic point. It was considered extremely bad journalistic form to refer to a misstatement as a lie.

Reason? A lie is a deliberate misstatement—and it's hard to get inside someone else's head.

In our view, Trump's mental disorder only drives this basic point home. We know of reason to think that Trump cares about telling the truth or making accurate statements.

But in any given case, can anyone feel they know what's going on inside that disordered noggin? How many of his lunatic statements might he believe to be true?

Maybe Friedman didn't mean that the fact-check team would explicitly identify "outright lies." But what a lack of sophistication was tangled up in that statement!

Journalistically speaking, of course, it's much like Springsteen said. Journalistically, this is our hometown, and its storefronts are badly faded.

It looks like deaths (may) have started to rise!


American carnage in action:
Just in time for deaths to appear to begin moving up, The Atlantic has offered five perfectly decent reasons explaining why deaths keep going down while "cases" keep going up.

After a long decline from a very high point, have deaths begun increasing again? A 3-day holiday weekend can create a significant statistical glitch, but this is where the numbers have stood on each of the past seven Thursday mornings:
Daily deaths nationwide from covid-19
7-day rolling average

May 28: 971.9
June 4: 908.6
June 11: 773.4
June 18: 650.0
June 25: 574.7
July 2: 537.9
July 9: 551.6
A long decline began in mid-April, when the 7-day rolling average exceeded 2000 deaths per day. To appearances, that long decline has leveled off, and may now have started to rise.

Why have deaths been in decline in recent weeks even as "cases" have been rising? The Atlantic offers five perfectly sensible reasons. The essay is well worth reading:
1. Deaths lag cases
2. Expanded testing is finding more cases, milder cases, and earlier cases
3. The typical COVID-19 patient is getting younger
4. Hospitalized patients are dying less frequently, even without a home-run treatment
5. Summer might be helping—but probably only a little bit
We'll guess that there could be other perfectly sensible reasons. (Improved policies regarding nursing homes?)

That said, the oddness of "cases" as a statistic makes this phenomenon a natural puzzler. Remember:

The number of "cases" you see reported each night is only the number of cases which have been confirmed/diagnosed by a coronavirus test. There may be many other new infections (new cases) which haven't been so diagnosed.

Just two nights ago, on MSNBC, Dr. Redlener said the actual number of new cases may be ten times as high as the number you see reported on a daily basis. It's just that all those other new infections haven't been confirmed by a test. Infected parties may have no idea that they're even infected.

In short, no one knows how many actual new cases there actually are at any given time. That makes it hard to compare the number of "cases" with the number of deaths.

In many other countries (not all), deaths have largely been snuffed out. In Donald J. Trump's America, deaths may be back on the rise.

You'll continue to hear every kind of statistical misstatement from the stars of cable news, even at times from experts. But we're involved in a rolling disaster-by-dumbness—a dumbness which started long ago, in large part within the tents of our mainstream press elite.

They pimped The Donald every step of the way, going all the way back to Marla Maples' report of the "best sex ever." To balance things off, they kept calling Hillary Clinton Evita and Nurse Ratched, while tolerating crackpot discussions of the many people she'd killed.

All the idiots gamboled and played, having their fun with these dimwitted themes. In November 2016, the laughter largely faded.

At that point, we geniuses over here on the left decided to start our resistance. We leaped into action, ready for battle, at least thirty years too late!

ANATOMY OF MODERN DISCUSSION: Novelization of news in the raw!


The Post reports on George Floyd:
For better or worse, you'll never see it any more clearly.

You'll never see the architecture of modern journalistic "discussion" laid out in a more explicit fashion.

In part, we refer to the practice we began describing, in the last century, as "the novelization of news." More specifically, we refer to a practice which might have been drawn directly from Wonderland:

Storyline first! the prevailing rule says. Information later.

It may not be narrative all the way down, but plainly it's "Narrative First."

We refer to the lengthy front-page news report in this morning's Washington Post, a front-page report which includes a wealth of new detail about the dreadful killing of the late George Floyd.

Readers are handed the storyline first. Right there in paragraph 2, still on the paper's front page, readers are told what they should think about everything which will follow:
EXPERIENCED REPORTER (7/9/20): George Floyd repeatedly begged police officers not to shoot him and complained of being claustrophobic as they tried to place him in a squad car in the minutes before he was killed on a South Minneapolis street corner in May, according to transcripts of police body camera footage from the scene released Wednesday.

The transcripts make clear that Floyd was trying to cooperate with police but was deathly afraid of them, at times telling them that he had had covid-19 and was worried that he was going to die because he couldn’t breathe while in their custody...
"The transcripts make clear that Floyd was trying to cooperate with police." Readers are handed this storyline at the start of this morning's report.

Readers are told that this is what they should think about the information which will follow. You'll rarely see a purer instance of modern press storyline.

Before we continue, let's make two basic points:

First, what follows is not intended as a criticism of George Floyd. It's not intended as a commentary on any of his behavior.

To the extent that what follows is commentary on anyone, it's intended as commentary on the behavior of the Washington Post. For ourselves, if we believed there were angels in heaven, we'd believe that one of them would surely be George Floyd.

Our second point would be this:

What follows is principally meant as a contribution to the science of anthropology. It's intended as a report on one of the ways our highly tribal, war-inclined species is strongly inclined to behave.

The major experts with whom we consult say this behavior was bred in the bone. However we may regard that claim, you'll rarely see a clearer example of the inclination to novelize all information—of the inclination to adhere to preferred tribal storyline even in the face of countervailing facts.

That said, let's try to remember! What follows isn't meant, in any way, as a commentary on Floyd. It's offered as a report on human instinct, especially during heavily fraught, tribalized times such as these.

At deeply fraught times, or so we've been told, we humans were especially inclined to cling to tribal narrative. So it was, we'd have to say, at the start of the Post's news report.

The transcripts make clear that Floyd was trying to cooperate with police? That's what Post readers are instantly told today. Concerning that statement, please note:

The transcripts don't suggest that Floyd was trying to cooperate. The transcripts don't help us gauge the extent to which Floyd actually did cooperate.

According to the opening statement, the transcripts make it clear that he was trying to do so. We're told that this is what we should think, a bit later on, when we read such excerpts as this:
EXPERIENCED REPORTER: Officers had responded to a 911 call from Cup Foods complaining of a customer who had passed a counterfeit $20 bill. Kueng and Lane were the first officers on the scene, and the transcripts show that a store clerk pointed them to where Floyd and two others sat in a parked car nearby.

Transcripts show that Lane approached the car and called on Floyd at least five times to show his hands, drawing his gun when he didn’t. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Floyd responded, according to a transcript of Lane’s body camera. “I didn’t do nothing. . . . What did I do though? What did we do, Mr. Officer?”
In that passage, it almost sounds like former officer Lane asked Floyd to show his hands five times without Floyd doing so.

Was cooperation already missing? A few paragraphs later, the reporter tells us this:
EXPERIENCED REPORTER: The transcripts show that Floyd continued to ask officers not to shoot him as he stepped from his vehicle, and suggest that he struggled with officers as they tried to handcuff him.
As we've noted, this isn't meant as a criticism of Floyd, or of his behavior. Concerning the Post's journalistic behavior, does that passage help "make it clear" that Floyd was trying to cooperate with the two officers then on the scene?

Does that passage seem to comport with the Post reporter's instant front-page storyline? For ourselves, we'd say it does not. Ditto for what comes next:
EXPERIENCED REPORTER (continuing directly): “Stop resisting Floyd!” Shawanda Renee Hill, a witness inside the car, called out, according to the transcript of the footage from Lane’s camera.
Nothing about these events is funny, but it's hard not to laugh at the reporter's description of Hill as "a witness inside the car," as if Floyd had been driving an Uber that day and Hill had just been picked up.

In fact, Hill seems to have been a friend or acquaintance of Floyd. At this point, the transcript suggests that she thought her friend was resisting arrest.

As the Post reporter continues, Hill's view is further fleshed out:
EXPERIENCED REPORTER (continuing directly): As Kueng walked Floyd across the street, Lane asked Hill about Floyd’s behavior. “Why’s he getting all squirrelly and not showing us his hands and just being all weird like that?” he asked, according to the transcript.

“I have no clue, because he’s been shot before,” Hill said.

Lane asked whether Floyd was “drunk” or “on something.”

“No, he got a thing going on, I’m telling you, about the police,” Hill replied. “He have problems all the time when they come, especially when that man put that gun like that.”
It isn't clear what Hill is talking about by the end of that passage. But when Lane suggests that Floyd's behavior seems somewhat odd, Hill doesn't seem to disagree.

Later, we're told this:
EXPERIENCED REPORTER: According to the transcripts, the officers tried placing Floyd in the squad car, but he resisted, repeatedly telling them he was “claustrophobic” and had “anxiety.” He begged to be released from his handcuffs, promising he wouldn’t hurt anyone. “Y’all, I’m going to die in here,” he told them. “I just had COVID man, don’t want to go back to that.”

By then, Chauvin and Thao had arrived as Kueng and Lane were struggling to get Floyd in the car...[A]t one point, an unknown officer sought to intervene, according to the transcripts. “Man, you’re going to die of a heart attack,” one of the officers told Floyd. “Just get in the car.”
First, Hill explicitly seemed to say that Floyd "resisted." Now, though, the reporter does! She says it in her own words!

Meanwhile, the two rookie officers were "struggling to get Floyd" into their police car. This is what the reporter says we can glean from the transcripts!

By now, former officer Derek Chauvin has arrived on the scene. When he does, the events of the day take a disastrous turn.

For the record, the Post reporter describes several instances in which Lane, the rookie cop, tries to get the experienced veteran to stop killing Floyd. In their own front-page report in this morning's New York Times, Oppel and Barker provide more detail about these several attempts.

So it went in this morning's Washington Post. If you watched Lawrence O'Donnell last night, you saw a remarkably selective reading of these tragic transcripts.

Needless to say, Hill's statement that Floyd was "resisting" wasn't mentioned by Lawrence at all. Lawrence included only one fleeting reference to Lane's suggestions to his superior officer that he should stop killing Floyd.

"So it tended to go among this highly tribal species," our highly credentialed advisers have said. They speak in the past tense at such times, as pitiful wailing emerges from the caves in which they now seem to live.

With respect to this morning'a report in the Post, these experts have told us this:

Rarely will you see the essence of journalistic "discussion" so clearly carved into stone:

Readers are told what they should believe right at the start of the lengthy report. Readers are handed the storyline first. A torrent of contradictory information comes later!

As some may struggle to recall, none of this is meant as a criticism of the late George Floyd.

(Experts say that humans generally longed to hear their tribal storylines, and tended to have a very hard time focusing on anything else.)

This isn't even meant, in the main, as a criticism of the Washington Post.

It's true that, in Sunday's editions, the Post published a lengthy report by an inexperienced rookie reporter. The rookie had been sent out to pretend that the paper cares about the lives and interests of black kids.

Mainly, though, it seems that she'd been told to stick to approved storyline. Or some editor may have stepped in.

Our sources tell us that this was done because the Post's more experienced reporters have been told to focus on offensive costumes worn by well-intentioned people at Halloween parties past. They've been asked to compile lists of well-intentioned people the Post may be able to get fired from their jobs for Thought Crimes of this type.

This left it to a rookie reporter, one year out of college, to report on a (prestigious) public school and on the lives and the interests of black kids.

That reporter graduated from Harvard last June (class of 2019). Before that, she prepped at Georgetown Day. Not that there's anything wrong with it because, of course, there isn't.

There is something wrong with letting an inexperienced non-specialist report on the interests of black kids. That said, our journalistic elites have always played it that way, and they always will.

There's little sign that the cub reporter knows much about the problems of public schools and low-income schooling. That said, she knew the prevailing storyline—and in this world, it's "Storyline First."

This isn't the kid reporter's fault. We shouldn't even "blame" her editors, our future experts insist.

These experts say that all these players should be listed among Styron's "beaten and butchered and betrayed and martyred children of the earth."

In Sophie's Choice, Sophie Zawistowski was one such person, but so were many others. That's the most humane way to view these events, these weeping top experts have said.

Tomorrow: "Discussions" of police shootings

How useful is "cases" as a statistic?


Consider what Redlener said:
How strange a statistic is "cases?" Consider what Dr. Irwin Redlener said to Brian Williams last night.

(We can't give you a link. As we type on Wednesday afternoon, the slacker channel has produced transcripts only through last Thursday's night's TV shows.)

Redlener strikes us as one of the best of the many capable medical specialists currently being glimpsed on cable TV. Here's part of what he said in reply to Donald Trump's recent crazy claims concerning our triumph over the virus:
REDLENER (7/7/20): Anthony Fauci said, just two weeks ago, that we can expect to see 100,000 new, confirmed, tested cases every day, which means that's about a tenth of what the real number is because not everybody gets tested. So we could be seeing a million new cases a day within the next few weeks.
Redlener joined Dr. Fauci's recent prediction—100,000 new confirmed cases per day—with Dr. Redfield's earlier statement that the actual number of cases to date may be as much as ten times the current recorded amount.

On that basis, Redlener says we may soon be experiencing one million new infections per day, with 100,000 of those new infections/new cases being confirmed through testing.

Will that actually happen? Will a million additional people be getting infected each day?

We have no idea. But again, just consider how strange a statistic "cases" is! Think of it like this:

Why do we use this statistic at all if the number we're recording and reporting may be off by as much as a factor of ten? Can we make valid comparisons over time if we're missing this many actual cases? Can we make valid comparisons from one state to another? From one part of some state to another part of that state?

If the number of cases we record depends so heavily on 1) the volume of testing being conducted, and 2) the public's interest in being tested, then what are we really recording and reporting?

Deaths are easy, "cases" are hard! If the number we're recording each day may be off by a factor of ten, how valuable is "cases" as a statistic?

We don't know the answer to that question. Also, no one is going to ask!

(Redlener shared time with two non-medical guests as Brian hopscotched around. This is the way "discussion" works in our current version of Short Attention Span Theater.)

Chris Hayes makes a strange pair of corrections!


Does anyone here know anything other than storyline?:
No one can sensibly blame Chris Hayes for what Michael Williams said.

Williams is president of the Memphis Police Association. Last Tuesday night, he appeared on All In during a special town hall program about urban policing.

Four big-city mayors appeared as Hayes' guests. Midway through, Williams was interviewed. As we noted yesterday, he made this wildly inaccurate presentation about fatal police shootings:
WILLIAMS (6/30/20): Police answered over 10 million calls last year. Out of those 10 million calls, I think you–the FBI said you had about 1,000-and-some individuals that were shot.

Out of that 1,000 individuals, you had 400 that were armed–or unarmed. I believe you had 19 Caucasians that were shot and killed by the police last year. You only had nine African-Americans that were killed by the police last year.

Now, don't get me wrong. Anybody that's killed needlessly, that's wrong and it needs to be addressed. But at the same time, I think that we're definitely putting a lot of emphasis on the police when we have, in this city, 222 individuals were murdered in this city last year.

HAYES: Memphis Police Association president Michael Williams, in the city of Memphis. Thank you so much, sir. I appreciate it.

WILLIAMS: Thank you.
That presentation was wildly inaccurate, but it went uncorrected that night. The basic problems are these:
Number of people shot: Williams seemed to say that "about one thousand" people were shot by police officers last year. In fact, that's the approximate number of people who were shot and killed by police.

Number who were unarmed: Williams seemed to say that about four hundred of those thousand people were unarmed. (Despite his initial stumble, it was fairly clear that that was what he meant.)

It's harder to settle this factual matter. The Washington Post's Fatal Force site says that, of the 999 people shot and killed by police last year, only 55 were unarmed.

The Post reaches that judgment because it counts Tasers, baseball bats, knives, shovels, crowbars and cars as weapons. The Post says that 599 of the 999 people shot and killed were actually "armed" with a gun, and that 55 of the 999 had no weapon at all.

Black and white people shot: Williams seemed to say that police shot and killed only 19 white people and nine black people last year. That claim would be crazily wrong.

Williams seems to have gotten those numbers, and other numbers, from the Fatal Force site. Until about a month ago, the Fatal Force site listed those as the numbers of unarmed white and black people shot and killed by police last year. For some reason, the numbers then changed to 25 white people and 15 black people. Today, the site lists the numbers as 25 and 14.
People, can we talk? We know these things because we've puzzled over these numbers at substantial length.

This is a very high-profile topic. We sometimes wonder if any "journalists" ever consult any such data at all, as opposed to treating the topic as storyline all the way down.

We're familiar with the data from the Post site. Listening to Hayes on Wednesday night, we wondered if he has ever spent any time perusing any such data at all.

Williams made his wildly inaccurate presentation on Tuesday, June 30. Hayes said nothing at the time, but he offered a somewhat puzzling correction of Williams the following night.

He also offered a peculiar correction of his own peculiar misstatement about coronavirus testing, a groaner from last Monday's program.

Does anyone here play this game at all? Last Wednesday night, Hayes started his two-part correction like this:
HAYES (7/1/20): Last night, we held a special town hall on cities, police and the movement for black lives.

One of our guests was the president of the Memphis Police Union, Michael Williams, who at one point began rattling off some statistics about police shootings in America I had not heard before.
Some statistics he hadn't heard before?

In fact, Williams had rattled off some statistics which were crazily wrong. Anyone with any knowledge of this topic would have instantly known that.

At this point, Hayes made a journalistically strange decision; he played the videotape of Williams' misstatements all over again. Then, as he continued along, he made his own strange remarks:
HAYES: In the moment, those numbers struck me as implausibly low. But these data can be hard to find, so we tried to get Michael Williams to help us out, we tried to track him down.

We could not find them, which might not be surprising since the FBI database on police use of force, launched last year, which I think is what he was citing. has not yet publicly released any information.
The numbers "struck him as implausibly low?" Does that mean he didn't know that they were crazily wrong?

Meanwhile, data about police shootings aren't "hard to find" at all! As Hayes continued, he seemed to reverse this peculiar claim, then provided some actual data:
HAYES (continuing directly): In fact, various media organizations, because the reporting's so bad on this, have had to build their own systems from scratch in light of the lacking public data.

Now one of the best of those databases, which is from the Washington Post, found that police shot and killed 14 unarmed black people last year and 25 unarmed white people.
Those are the numbers which now appear at the Fatal Force site. According to that site, police shot and killed 25 unarmed white people and 14 unarmed black people last year.

From there, Hayes noted that some people die in encounters with police officers without being shot. Eventually, Hayes said this:
HAYES: The Washington Post database shows about one thousand people a year being shot and killed by the police, for example, a disproportionate number being black and Hispanic.
Hayes didn't give the actual numbers. He merely said the numbers were "disproportionate."

You can't sensibly blame Chris Hayes because a guest on his program made a jumbled presentation which included some wildly inaccurate claims. You would assume that a major corporate-paid journalist would have known that the presentation was crazily wrong in real time.

That's especially true of a figure like Hayes, who was plainly intelligent and sophisticated coming in. Since then, it seems to us that he has increasingly become a captive of storyline.

At any rate, Hayes' statement on Wednesday night struck us as highly peculiar. It's hard to believe that he didn't know how far off-base Williams' claims had been. But he managed to put that thought in our heads with the things he said Wednesday night.

Last Monday night, Hayes had made his own peculiar misstatement about coronavirus testing in Oklahoma (for transcript, see yesterday's post). In this case, a statement made by Hayes himself made no apparent sense.

How could anyone seriously think that everyone tested in Oklahoma had tested positive for two consecutive days? It's like thinking a cow had jumped over the moon. But that's what Hayes had said.

After correcting what Williams had said, Hayes offered a correction for that strange howler too. For better or worse, we can't show you what he said because of the latest slacker conduct from his slacker "news channel."

All last week and all through this weekend, MSNBC left its programs untranscribed from last Tuesday on. Over the weekend, in an excess of caution, we ourselves transcribed what Hayes had said last Wednesday night about Williams. We planned to use the transcript they would eventually prepare for his self-correction.

As of yesterday, the slacker channel had finally posted some transcripts. Last Tuesday's transcript had always been there. Now, last Thursday's transcript was posted as well, but the slacker channel had skipped right over last Wednesday!

(Tape of the show is no longer available.)

This is the way these lazy, incompetent corporate lapdogs function. They've been this way for the past thirty years. Nothing is going to change this.

As Springsteen said, Take a good look around. This is your hometown.

Did Chris Hayes know that Williams' presentation was crazily wrong? And hpow on earth had he managed to claim that everyone tested in Oklahoma came up positive for two consecutive days?

Putting it a different way, does anyone on "cable news" know anything other than storyline? Is it really all narrative now? If the news just two warring novels?

ANATOMY OF OUR DISCUSSIONS: Fauci joins the angriest dog!


Can anyone here play this game?:
Last evening, starting at 8 PM Eastern, we watched as the angriest dog in the world continued to bite, snap and growl.

Needless to say, his trademark sarcasm was on full display as he rushed out into the yard:
COOPER (7/8/20): Good evening. We are in a good place with this pandemic. A good place. We've done a good job.

How does that sound to you? Does that sound like reality, that we're in a good place?

Because those are the words of the president of the United States today, even as the numbers, and his own experts, scientists with decades of experience, say otherwise.

The president says we are in a good place with the pandemic. Those are his actual words. I didn't actually believe it when I first heard it, but it's on tape.
For some unknown reason, the angriest dog didn't believe it when he first heard those words.

As we've noted, it's an eternal groundhog day with these cable news stars. For performative reasons, or perhaps from sheer dumbness, they're "shocked, shocked" every time the president opens his mouth.

Luckily, we have the words of the president's experts to let us know what's true. But before he played tape of what Fauci had said, the angriest dog played tape of the disordered commander himself:
COOPER (continuing directly): He was asked by Greta Van Susteren about Dr. Anthony Fauci's assessment that the country is still, quote, "knee-deep" in the first wave of coronavirus. Here is what he said.

TRUMP: Well, I think we are in a good place. I disagree with him. We have done a good job. I think we're actually—we are going to be in two, three, four weeks. By the time we next speak, I think we're going to be in very good shape.

COOPER: So this is a good place to be in a pandemic, in case you were wondering. And soon we'll be in very, very good shape, he said.
This angriest, possibly laziest dog runs on pure sarcasm now.

Just to refresh you, Van Susteren served as the president's principal caddie during the years when he was establishing himself as the nation's leading birther.

In those days, Van Susteren had a nightly show at Fox. For years, she hosted pre-candidate Donald J. Trump as he spewed his birther tales.

(In 2017, Van Sustern got hired away by MSNBC. When that happened, Rachel Maddow aggressively vouched for Van Susteren's journalistic greatness, even saying that she and Van Susteren had been drinking buddies during those birther-rich years. This is the way these peculiar people play this peculiar game.)

Back to the angriest dog, tugging last night on his chain:

The angriest dog now played tape of the president's latest remarks. Rachel's pal was back in the saddle, assisting The Donald again.

The dog was shocked by Trump's crazy remarks, as he is every night. Soon he was lunging at Diamond and Silk, and playing tape of the expert we all can trust:
COOPER (continuing directly): The president spoke of Florida and California, states that became in his words, hot, but even there, he said, quote, "We're going to be very good, very soon."

The same president who told Diamond and Silk that the virus would miraculously disappear by April, the one that keeps saying we have the best testing.

Keeping them honest, it is remarkable how sunny things can look from inside a biological bunker at the White House where everyone has to wear masks around you and get tested just to come in contact with you.

It's a bunker so secure, apparently, not even the sound of your own leading experts can penetrate it. The president says we're in a good place. Dr. Anthony Fauci said just this yesterday:

FAUCI: The current state is really not good in the sense that, as you know, we have been in a situation where we were averaging about 20,000 new cases a day.

Two days ago, it was at 57,500. So within a period of a week and a half, we've almost doubled the number of cases.

COOPER: So of course, the president doesn't have to take it from the nation's most trusted infectious disease expert. He could listen to other top members of his own virtually invisible Coronavirus Task Force...
The angriest dog then played tape of Pence and Birx. They cited the rising number of cases in, they said, nine states.

It never occurred to the angriest dog to fact-check Fauci's statement. It seemed to us that his statement might be incorrect, and so we decided to do so.

We knew we were engaged in a Thought Crime. But something convinced us to act!

"Within a period of a week and a half, we've almost doubled the number of cases," the president's top expert had said.

He made the statement on Monday, July 6. The latest numbers available were those from Sunday, July 5.

A week and a half is like ten days, though some might call it eleven. Below, you see the number of (reported/confirmed) cases over a ten-day stretch as of the time Fauci spoke:
New reported cases per day, nationwide:
June 25: 39,332
June 26: 45,767


July 4: 51,151
July 5: 43,347
Here and in what follows, we're using the Washington Post's numbers for cases and for deaths.

Had the number "almost doubled?" Even though we're flirting with "the weekend game" (see below), we're going to say that it hadn't!

In fairness to Fauci, the rolling 7-day average had, in fact, risen by 48% from June 25 through July 5. Because formal reporting of cases and deaths typically drops over a weekend, this is the only sensible way to present such comparisons.

You can't cherry-pick individual days, as it might be said that Fauci did. You have to give 7-day averages.

Over that week and a half, the rolling 7-day average had risen by 48%. Clearly, that's a substantial rise. But had the number "almost doubled?"

Saying that was a bit of a stretch, or so they'll tell viewers on Fox.

Here's something else that ought to be said. "Cases" is a very shaky statistic.

Remember—we aren't talking about the total number of actual cases. (According to the CDC, the total number of actual cases may be ten times as high.) We're speaking here about the number of (reported/confirmed) cases.

We're talking about the number of infections (cases) which have been diagnosed (confirmed) by an actual test. That makes this a very shaky statistic. Here are some reasons why:

"Cases" turns on the amount of testing which is being conducted. Donald J. Trump has performed like a clown when discussing this basic idea, amazing Cooper every time, but the basic idea is sound:

To the extent that you conduct more tests, you will record more "cases." With that in mind, we can make these provisional statements about the recent increase in (confirmed) cases:

To some extent, the increase in "cases" may reflect an increase in the amount of testing being conducted.

To some extent, the increase in "cases" is being tamped down every day as municipalities and states run out of test kits. Some of the people who had to go home would have tested positive.

To some extent, the increase in "cases" is being affected as publicity in certain states induces more people to go out and get themselves tested. These are all factors in the creation of this statistic—a statistic which is rather shaky.

To what extent might the recent increase in "cases" reflect an increase in the amount of testing being done? In a better world, multimillionaire TV stars would help us understand such points.

In our world, angry dogs go all sarcastic as soon as they enter the yard. They're all about their visible anger, and they're all about storyline.

Often, they don't seem to have the slightest idea how to deal with even the most basic statistics. Last night, for example, the angriest dog was soon barking this, just before he introduced additional videotape:
COOPER: Even as new modeling from the University of Washington today forecast more than 208,000 people in this country may be dead of COVID-19 by Election Day, which the President still does not seem to think is all that bad. Because he is still repeating the same falsehoods as ever about testing and mortality, which fell for a while, but is once again sadly sickeningly ticking up.
Say what? Is "mortality" once again "ticking up?"

Within the context of cable news, "mortality" is a somewhat imprecise term. In this longer clip, the angry dog makes his meaning perfectly clear, and performs a dumb self-indictment:
COOPER: [The president] is still repeating the same falsehoods as ever about testing and mortality, which fell for a while, but is once again sadly, sickeningly ticking up.

TRUMP: Therefore we have more cases. Because we're doing more testing, we have more cases. If we did half the testing, we'd have far fewer cases, but people don't view it that way.

What they have to view, though, is if you look at the chart and maybe Mike has it, but we looked at it before, if you look at the chart of deaths, deaths are way down.

So what we want to do is we want to get our schools open. We want to get them open quickly, beautifully in the fall.

COOPER: Dr. Fauci calls the mortality claims, quote, "a false narrative."

In any case, those numbers, they have begun rising again. More than 600 fatalities today, compared to about 250 a day over the weekend.
"More than 600 fatalities today, compared to about 250 a day over the weekend!" Has this endlessly furious person ever spent any time reviewing these data at all?

For starters, here are the actual numbers over the past four days. The angry dog didn't seem to know that he was reporting an incomplete count of yesterday's (recorded) deaths:
Deaths by coronavirus, nationwide:
July 4: 289
July 5: 217
July 6: 221
July 7: 929
Yesterday's actual number was much higher than the number the angriest dog reported.

That said, those numbers don't necessarily mean that deaths are "once again...ticking up." That may happen, but official reporting always drops over a weekend, with the numbers jumping up again at the start of the work week. This may be especially true over a holiday weekend.

Have deaths begun ticking up again? As of this morning, the 7-day rolling average of deaths stands exactly where it stood before the holiday weekend began. The average may start rising from here, but that hasn't happened yet.

So far, no uptick in deaths has occurred, unless you're cherry-picking. The angriest dog, and his brain-damaged staff, didn't seem to have the first freaking idea about these basic statistics.

Two Sundays ago, Hugh Hewitt made an absurd misstatement on Meet the Press. (During the show, his groaner went uncorrected.) The mistake was so jaw-droppingly stupid that it became obvious that Hewitt has never spent even five minutes thinking about these basic pandemic statistics.

Last week, Chris Hayes made several very strange presentations on the air. This afternoon, we'll finish our report on that topic. For now, consider the angriest dog in the world:

Assuming he wasn't simply lying during his angry performance last night, it seems that Cooper has no idea how these death-by-coronavirus statistics work. Presumably, he spends the bulk of his off-camera time in wardrobe, makeup and hair, and in workshops to help him master his angriest dog theatrics.

Simply put, you can't put your faith in the "discussions" you see on TV. More to the point, you can't put your faith in the people who conduct these "discussions"—in the Coopers, or in the Van Susterens, or even in their drinking pals.

How much are they paid to clown in such ways? You aren't permitted to know that.

This afternoon: A very strange pair of corrections

Tomorrow: "Discussing" public schools

Friday: "Discussing" police shootings