Supplemental: They had to be seen to be believed!


The new Salon’s peculiar professors, tumbling out of Graceland:
Let’s agree that we won’t explore this topic indefinitely. That said, we thought it was worth taking one more look at the new Salon’s peculiar professorial class.

Today, Professor Palumbo-Liu is back at the new Salon. He offers a piece about police killings in the United States as opposed to police killings in other developed nations.

As always, the comparative statistics are striking. Also striking is the way the professor begins his report:
PROFESSOR PALUMBO-LIU (8/4/15): Not having a license plate on your vehicle, changing lanes to make way for a police cruiser, casually walking in the middle of the street: Apparently each of these actions has started a chain of events that has ended up with someone being killed by a police officer. And that someone has, in each of these cases, been black.

When I heard about the killing of Samuel DuBose, the first thing that came to my mind was, “That is the absolute worst instance.” But immediately after that I thought, “Well, I thought the same when Trayvon Martin was killed by a ‘security’ officer.” In actuality, to say “that’s the worst” implies a trajectory of ever-increasing evil. But the reality is that things have always been horrible in this country with regard to the casual killing of blacks.
We’re puzzled. In his opening paragraph, is the professor saying that Sandra Bland “ended up being killed by a police officer?”

That’s certainly the way it seems. He describes three examples in that paragraph. The first of them seems to be Samuel DuBose. The last seems to be Michael Brown.

“Changing lanes to make way for a police cruiser?” That would seem to be Sandra Bland.

Our very high number of police killings cries out for analysis. So does our very high number of non-police killings, even in an era when homicide rates have gone down from their earlier peaks.

That said, has someone determined that the late Sandra Bland “ended up being killed by a police officer?” That seems to be what the professor is saying, although it isn’t true at this time in any conventional sense.

Professors say the darnedest things at the new Salon! Indeed, they say the darnedest things there on an almost daily basis. And Palumbo-Liu isn’t just any professor. As Salon notes again today, he’s the Louise Hewlett Nixon Professor at Stanford University, a high-ranking institution.

Just this once, we’ll be honest. We never bought into the idea that We The Liberals were the uniquely smart and honest people, while They The Conservatives were uniquely ditto-headed. But if we hadn’t seen the rise of the liberal professors at the new Salon—and, to a lesser extent, on MSNBC and CNN—we really wouldn’t have believed that so many such people exist.

For whatever reason, we always flash, at times like this, to the gloomy, surprisingly downbeat ending to Paul Simon’s Graceland album from 1986.

“These are the days of miracle and wonder,” Simon says in the album’s first cut, expressing his dominant theme of global outreach and global connection.

At the end of the album’s final cut, he’s expressing the gloomier supporting theme of interpersonal failure and personal isolation. “It was the myth of fingerprints. That’s why we must learn to live alone,” he says as the album ends.

We’re routinely amazed by the new Salon’s professorial class. It we hadn’t been able to see their work, we’d never have dreamed, for even a minute, that such a thing could exist.

That was her mother: Yesterday, a neighborhood electrical failure forced us to Baltimore’s Penn Station for happy hour.

We thought about That Was Your Mother, the song in which Simon, reminiscing about the end of his marriage, tells his 9-year-old son about the first time he saw the boy’s mother.

Last year, we saw a male in-law tell the story of the first time he met his wife, a close relative of ours. Their 8-year-old daughter was at the table as he told his enthusiastic tale. She tried very hard to take it in stride, but you could see that her ears were ten times their normal size.

It’s good to let children hear stories like that. It’s also good to tell the truth about the public events which are occurring around us.

Not the metaphorical truth; not the tribal version of truth. We refer to telling the truth as the familiar old term is most widely understood.

“Catch a little bit of those Cajun girls dancin’ the zydeco?” We don’t like everything about Simon’s lyrics to That Was Your Mother. But we like the fact that he didn’t disguise the pleasure of simple attraction.

We admire his bow to Clifton Chenier, described as the “king of the bayou.”


  1. "Let’s agree that we won’t explore this topic indefinitely."

    Mordant. Chuckle.

    1. Because the mordant chuckle is easier, safer, than our usual *hilarious* play on what "seems" in Somerby's estimation?

      Can we not get worked up today to moan that Somerby is concerned that Palumbo-Liu "seems" to say something, something we trolls can pretend the prof doesn't really intend to say?

      Is it only that the professor isn't female? I know we trolls would certainly 'round the wagons to defend against the awful Somerby's sexism in such a case.

      But what's a troll to do with today's post? Is this it, 3:34?

      Not worth dusting the Chee-Tos from one's fingers, some would say. But they aren't the hardened warrior you are, I'm certain.

      Lead on, brave troll. Your example gives succor to the weaker. 3:40 below has been encouraged! Take that, Somerby!

    2. Robin, Cooper, Richardson, Palumbo-Liu, Brenowitz, Guinier, Greer, Parker, Mehta, Reinhart, Rogoff, Kruze, Banville,
      Harris-Perry, Gordon, Darling-Hammond, Yankah, Popkin, Brinkley, Yancy, Sheth, McClintock, Spiro, Stewart......

      As a wise man once said, "The nation's professors have never seemed as sad as they do this morning."

    3. Somerby suggests that professors have failed in their duty to propagate knowledge -- that is the job of being a professor. From his past complaints, he thinks professors aren't doing their jobs right.

      I think in this case, the failure of Palumbo-Liu to stick to the facts is due to his African American ethnicity and his desire to show solidarity with racial social causes, including those involving the police.

      His failure to tell the truth is not because he is a crappy professor and professors aren't what they used to be. It is because he is African American first, a professor second, and his training to evaluate facts is not being applied to his concern for mistreatment of African Americans by police.

      I think Somerby is wrong to blame this on being a professor. That just gives him access to Salon beyond what he would have as an individual. Somerby pretends that professors have decined in their professionalism, instead of acknowledging that when it comes to race, even black professors are not free from bias.

      DuBose wasn't killed for failing to have a front license plate (or lacking a license and registration). He started the car and began driving away when he was told to get out of the car. Bland wasn't killed by a cop at all (although nearly ALL African Americans blame the cops) but by her own hand. The rest happened when she refused to comply with the cop's order to get out of the car. Similarly, Brown attacked the cop when ordered to get out of the middle of the street and use the sidewalk. We don't need to rehash whether Zimmerman was actually a "security officer" at all. Those more proximate causes are ignored because it makes the cops sound more bigoted if they kill black people because of lane changes or "jaywalking." But that isn't the truth.

      I agree with Somerby that a professor who does not honor the truth isn't much of a professor. However, I think it is not because there is something lacking in professorial training these days. That utterly ignores that when someone is black, he or she closes ranks and supports the race no matter what is said and no matter what the circumstances. There are no gray areas and the only story told is one of maximum white culpability and evil racism, with no contribution of the victim to what happened.

      No professor speaks for his or her institution. That this person is from Stanford is irrelevant. If he has tenure, he cannot be removed for expressing controversial or even wrong opinions, as long as the topics are related to his area of expertise. This seems to fit within that sphere.

      Someday it may be possible for African Americans to examine their own biases. It never happens now, at least where people of other races might hear. I don't see how any sort of racial dialog can happen without that honesty, and I don't see how social progress on issues related to policing can be made without such a dialog. Someone has to start telling the truth. That extends to Somerby too. He is pretending the problem is with today's professors instead of with today's African American professors (and their white liberal supporters).

    4. You better hurry or you'll be late for your VDARE class.

    5. Professor Palumbo-Liu is Asian.

    6. Then he can be considered a liberal supporter. In any case, his critical faculties are being biased by race. The racial divide is clear between those who think Bland was murdered and those do not use that term.

    7. I would tend to think, comparing his analysis to yours, that the divide is between someone who, in a political polemic, made a stupid mistake and someone who is simply stupid.

  2. Hey, when you are the Louise Hewlett Nixon Professor, and Professor of Comparative Literature, at Stanford University, your qualifications on these matters seem a bit higher than if you dropped out of your last teaching job decades ago.

    And that is what is wrong with our culture today.

    1. NIXON, Louise Hewlett - Died September 13, 2003, in Berkeley after a brief illness. She was 94 years old. Born in Michigan, Mrs. Nixon grew up in San Francisco, attended Lowell High School and Stanford University (class of 1930). After WWII she entered Stanford Medical School and completed her medical education with a specialty in psychiatry. She worked as a practicing psychiatrist for 25 years, much of that time spent at the Student Health Services at the University of California, Berkeley. She and her husband, Alan Nixon, who died in 2002, were long time residents of Berkeley. Louise and Alan owned a cabin at Echo Lake for many years and were both long time members of the Sierra Club. Mrs. Nixon was the sister of William R. Hewlett, co-founder of the Hewlett-Packard Company. Mr. Hewlett died in 2001. Mrs. Nixon is survived by the five children of William R. Hewlett, two nieces and three nephews: Eleanor Hewlett Gimon, Mary Hewlett Jaffe, Walter B. Hewlett, James S. Hewlett and William A. Hewlett; and by her stepdaughter, Sandra Nixon. Gifts in her memory may be directed to the Sierra Club, Stanford University or a favorite charity.

  3. Back in 1967, Paul Simon lamented the liberal philosophy.

    I know I'm fakin' it, fakin' it
    I'm not really makin' it
    This feeling of fakin' it
    I still haven't shaken it, shaken it

    1. cicero's blowup dollAugust 4, 2015 at 7:42 PM

      @ 4:58

      Back in 1967, Arthur Brown proclaimed "I am the God of Hellfire, let there be trolling!"

      And here you are.

  4. Love Paul Simon, but if Los Lobos' Steve Berlin is to believed, Simon stole "The Myth of Fingerprints" from them!

    1. Makes him kind of like Doris Kearns Goodwin.

  5. "They call me a cotton picker; they call me a corn breaker- a potato digger.
    Ain't no way baby you gonna starve with me around".
    Yea Clifton Yea Cleveland.
    Yea! Yea!
    I remain your musical correspondent.


  6. The Graceland shit was heavy.

  7. "Just this once, we’ll be honest. We never bought into the idea that We The Liberals were the uniquely smart and honest people, while They The Conservatives were uniquely ditto-headed."

    Thank you for admitting this Mr. Somerby. Candidly, I thought you hinted at it when you wrote:

    "We liberals are the problem now too! We're lazy and we aren't very smart. We exude a moral squalor. We're lazy and dumb and our morals are bad."

    Confessions like your are the first step in healing.

  8. I'm glad Somerby modernized his musical references to the mid Eighties, just thirty years ago.

    For the youngsters in the audience, Bob has selected an artist who is actually even older than he is. Simon achieved fame as part of a duo,
    Simon and Garfunkel, which achieved fame in the Sixties. This was a watershed decade which is the moral and spiritual touchstone for pseudo-intellectuals of Bob Somerby's Boomer generation.

    The close Sixties pals split as the Seventies dawned. One recovered and went on to greater fame. The other not so much. Kind of like Bob
    and his own Sixties group.

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