SWEET DEMON ALABAMA: Secrets of Alabama’s Black Belt!

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 15, 2015

Part 4—We start to get the tale wrong:
Aloysius O’Donnell—not his real name—is a fictional major league shortstop.

He’s in the running for this year’s Golden Glove award in his league, which remains undisclosed. At the plate, he hit .203, with very few walks, only six steals, and 10 home runs (“ding-dongs,” “taters”).

O’Donnell isn’t real strong at the plate (at the “dish”). Having said that, suppose this:

Suppose we show you a highlight reel which features O’Donnell’s home runs—and nothing else. You hear the excited home run calls of his team’s partisan broadcasters. You see him mobbed by teammates in the dugout. You may not realize that his teammates were behaving semi-ironically on a few occasions.

From watching that highlight reel, an unsuspecting fan may get the impression that O’Donnell carries a “big stick.” That’s especially possible if the highlight reel ends with a flatly false statement—with a statement like this:

“Out of all God’s great green evolving earth, Alabama Republicans really did manage to pick this one spot, this center of African-American life in their state, in the Black Belt, as the place where they could really save some money by cutting all those offices where you get what you need to vote.”

That stirring statement is flatly false. As we noted yesterday, it’s the way Rachel Maddow ended an October 2 report about an important topic.

Alas! We the people can get misled (“royally conned”) if we’re handed selective information—information which has been “cherry-picked.” We’re especially likely to get misled if the selective information is helped along by statements which are flatly false—and if the cherry-picking is being performed in support of a treasured old theme.

That’s what happened in a recent, ongoing episode involving Alabama’s decision to close 31 driver’s license offices in 30 counties, a move which left 28 counties without a place to get a driver’s license.

We the liberals were told by our leaders that the state had aimed these closings at black Alabamians, in an attempt to keep such folk from voting.

The claim is pleasing, but it’s hard to square with the facts. Perhaps for the reason, we were exposed to a limited set of the facts.

On the brighter side, the cherry-picking to which we were exposed deserves a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. By the time the tale reached the Maddow Show, we were getting severely misled and flatly misinformed.

The episode provides a useful warning: Despite our obvious moral greatness, we liberals can be pitiful ditto-heads too! At a time of increasingly partisan media, we can be misled by our own superstars too, even about the most important topics.

This episode belongs in The Cherry-Pick Hall of Fame. It started with a pair of columns in the Birmingham News. On September 30, the columns appeared on-line within twelve minutes of each other.

We assume the columnists were well-intentioned. For the most part, they avoided statements which were flatly false.

That said, were their columns perhaps misleading? To us, it seems they were.

That said, the real problem began when national scribes began picking and choosing facts from these columns—at TPM, at Slate, and then on the Maddow Show. In our view, the results were grossly misleading—and flatly false statements were made. Maddow misstated the most.

Our story begins on September 30. At AL.com, Kyle Whitmire’s column went on-line at 3:55 P.M.

In part, the column said this:
WHITMIRE (9/30/15): In 2011, Alabama lawmakers approved the state's voter ID law, making it illegal to vote in Alabama without a government-issued photo ID.

For most folks, that's a driver's license.

[...]

Look at the list of counties now where you can't get a driver's license. There's Choctaw, Sumter, Hale, Greene, Perry, Wilcox, Lowndes, Butler, Crenshaw, Macon, Bullock—

Depending on which counties you count as being in Alabama’s Black Belt, either twelve or fifteen Black Belt counties soon won’t have a place to get a driver’s license.

Counties where some of the state’s poorest live.

Counties that are majority African-American.
Columnist, please! Just like that, the problem had begun.

Much of what Whitmire said in that passage was accurate. Two examples: Crenshaw County is in the Black Belt, and it did lose its office.

That said, Crenshaw County is majority white—more so than Alabama as a whole! In the 2010 census, it was 72.6% white, 23.4% black.

(Alabama was 67.0% white, 26.2% black.)

Butler County and Choctaw County are also majority white. It might be time for some basic info about Alabama’s “Black Belt.”

Uh-oh! Many of Alabama’s Black Belt counties are not majority black.

“Depending on the way you count,” there are eighteen definite Black Belt counties. If you count a different way, there are as many as 24.

Despite what you may have thought you read in Whitmire's column, only eleven of those 24 counties were majority black in the 2010 census. And only eight of those eleven counties lost their driver’s license offices in the recent jack-booted purge.

That may be eight too many; that's a matter of judgment, and there may be much more to say. But Whitmire was already having number problems as he presented his case.

Is it true that “fifteen Black Belt counties” lost their driver’s license offices? To get his number that high, Whitmire had to include seven counties which aren’t majority black. He was even including the one shown below—and no, we aren’t making this up:

Lamar County: 86.7% white, 11.3% black

It could still be true! It could still be true that this region’s black voters were disproportionally and/or unwisely affected by the office closings. But we’re already dealing with fuzzy math. And another key point must be made:

Of the eighteen definite Black Belt counties, eleven were majority black in the 2010 census. But here’s an important fact in the overall picture:

Most of those counties are rural counties with very small populations! Within their borders, the people who are inconvenienced will be majority black. But they represent a tiny portion of Alabama’s black population.

How small are the counties Whitmire named? Greene County has a population of 9,045!

Here’s the list of the majority black counties which lost their offices. Overall, the population of Alabama is 4.8 million:
Population of majority-black “Black Belt” counties which lost their offices
Macon County: 21,452
Hale County: 15,760
Sumter County: 13,763
Wilcox County: 11,670
Lowndes County: 11,299
Bullock County: 10,914
Perry County: 10,591
Greene County: 9,045
Larger majority-black Black Belt counties retained their offices. That includes Montgomery County (229,363) and Dallas County (43,820), where many more black voters live.

It would be better if every county retained the service in question. Reportedly, the state is now seeking a way to restore the shuttered offices.

That said, looking only at these small counties is a bit like watching a tape of O’Donnell’s ten home runs. It keeps us from seeing the broader picture of the way these closings worked across the state.

Offices were closed all over the state, not just in small Black Belt counties. By our count, the population of the 28 affected counties is 28.2% black, based on figures from the 2010 census.

In that census, the state of Alabama was 26.2% black. You really shouldn’t tell this story without including some such numbers, especially if you plan to say something like this:

“Out of all God’s great green evolving earth, Alabama Republicans really did manage to pick this one spot, this center of African-American life in their state, in the Black Belt, as the place where they could really save some money by cutting all those offices where you get what you need to vote.”

Multimillionaire TV star, please! That's just baldly false.

Vassals, can we talk? If you watch the tape of O’Donnell’s home runs, you may get a distorted picture of his overall hitting. If you’re only told about small Black Belt counties, you may get a distorted sense of the way these office closings affected Alabama’s full population.

Those eight smaller Black Belt counties are majority black—but they include a very small percentage of Alabama’s black population. If you aren’t allowed to know such things, we’ll suggest you’re being grossly misled, possibly even conned.

One additional basic fact was missing from Whitmire’s column. In Alabama, voters don’t need a driver’s license to vote.

They can get a free photo voter ID at all 67 county seats. That wasn’t affected by these office closings. Unless you're just trying to please the base, you really can’t tell this story without including that fact.

In our view, Whitmire’s column had some obvious problems. He seemed to change some counties from white to black. He omitted numerical context and a basic fact.

Twelve minutes later, John Archibald’s column appeared on-line;
it took matters quite a bit further. Slate, TPM and the Maddow Show were soon working from its facts and embellishing them even further.

They told us a story we very much like. In the process, we liberals got misled about an important matter.

On the bright side, it made us love Rachel even more. She told us a story we very much liked, as Sean has long done for The Others.

It hardened us in our tribal identity. Down through the war-ravaged annals of time, the tribe has always felt good!

Tomorrow: We try to cram in a whole lot

28 comments:

  1. For all your legitimate complaints about the statements by Maddow, do you agree or not that the equivalent of a Poll Tax has been created? That is to say, require a visit to a DMV to get the identity card needed to vote, and then make those locations far less accessible to poor people?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Require a visit to a DMV to get the identity card needed to vote, and then make those locations far less accessible to poor people?"

      Commenter, please!

      "They can get a free photo voter ID at all 67 county seats."

      Delete
    2. Hey great idea! And while they are looking for costs to cut, why not close all the voting locations in these counties except the county courthouse.

      After all, people can still vote at all 67 county seats.

      Delete
    3. "They can get a free photo ID in their own living room."

      Problem solved.

      Delete
    4. Put all the voting locations in the poor neighborhoods. The rich have the means to get there.

      Delete
    5. This isn't about driver's licenses or voting places. It is about photo voter IDs. These are available free to anyone who is previously registered, without presenting any other form of photo ID (no driver's license needed). Only those who have not previously registered to vote need to present photo ID to get their voter ID card. This can be done in ALL counties. If someone doesn't have photo ID of any kind, then they have a problem requiring them to identify themselves. The number of people who have never registered before, live in a rural area without a driver's license bureau and who have never driven before and thus lack a license and who are also poor or African American -- is going to be extremely small. Any local candidate running for office would no doubt be pleased to drive such a person to a county and get them registered, since that is how folks get elected in local politics. I sincerely doubt this is a problem that will decrease black or liberal votes at all. It is a propaganda opportunity.

      Delete
    6. 7:08,
      For those previously registered, new voter IDs can be printed and given to those who need them when they show-up to vote. Sounds easy enough.

      Also, as you mentioned, the number of people who have never registered before, live in a rural area without a driver's license bureau and who have never driven before and thus lack a license and who are also poor or African American -- is going to be extremely small.

      There must be more to it if the state isn't willing to expend a few bucks in exchange for clean elections. What s it we're missing?

      Delete
    7. In my replay at 10:46, After paragraph 2 above it should read: Sounds like an extremely small outlay of resources by the state to assure all eligible voters have Voter IDs.

      Delete
  2. Where is the tax if a card can be obtained for free?

    ReplyDelete
  3. If a relatively small number of blacks have drivers licenses, maybe because they can't afford a car, then making it harder to get licenses is a discriminatory action. This is the sort of thing that Republicans are doing everywhere. For example they make it harder for all college students to register - they don't exempt Oral Roberts and other conservative institutions.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "If a relatively small number of blacks have drivers licenses, maybe because they can't afford a car, then making it harder to get licenses is a discriminatory action."

      No.

      If making it harder to get licenses disproportionately impacts blacks, then it is a discriminatory action.

      That doesn't appear -- at all -- to be the case here.

      Delete
    2. If making it harder to get licenses disproportionately impacts blacks, then it is a discriminatory action.

      Under this standard, every action taken by every organization is discriminatory. The reason is that there are so many subgroups: blacks, whites, Asians, Native Americans, gays, straights, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, atheists, disabled people, women, men, youngsters, oldsters, rich, poor, middle class, illegal immigrants, sick people, etc., etc. No action can affect every single subgroup exactly proportionately.

      Delete
    3. Legislation that selectively disadvantages these other groups is similarly illegal (with the exception of children, illegal immigrants and the middle class who are not protected groups). Please note that none of these groups has the long history of systematic discrimination arising from centuries of slavery that African Americans have.

      Delete
  4. Bob makes an excellent point. As an aside, his shortstop simile was pretty much how Derek Jeter was treated in his final season. Unlike Bob's hypothetical SS, Jeter was poor both fielding and hitting. Nevertheless, what the media showed was the good things he did.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Except for a couple of problems that any baseball fan would know, and a person who doesn't only exposes their ignorance.

      First, the award is called "Gold Glove" not "Golden Glove." Second, the Gold Glove is awarded to the best FIELDING player at each position in each league, regardless of hitting statistics. So it is indeed possible for a light-hitting shortstop to win a Gold Glove, and in fact, it's happened. Quite often.

      And yes Dave. How awful of the "media" and the fans all over baseball to celebrate the brilliant career of Derek Jeter. Instead, they should have booed him out of the game because he had gotten old -- for a baseball player -- and his skills diminished.

      Delete
  5. It took the fourth post to name the names of the two folks who started the demonization of Alabama. Sportsblogger Aloysius "Bob" O'Somerby got three good whacks in at the keyboard against the High Heat of Rachel Maddow before bothering to take a good lick at the offerings of the witch hunt instigators, the ones who started the "jihad."

    Usually Bob's highlight reels include valuable information about media persons he disagrees with....like their age, their effete college credentials and such. He skipped it with these columnists, preferring instead to start off with the New York Times reporter, then Maddow, then some fellow from Beantown. You know, the usual Yankee suspects who regularly "demonize" all things southern.

    So let's look at these two fellers who sparked this unfair barrage against Alabama.

    Kyle Whitmire. White. Native of Clarke County Alabama, sometimes included as a Black Belt County. Education: Birmingham Southern College. Age 38. Professional Career; Entirely based in Alabama.

    John Archibald. White. Native of Decatur, Alabama, raised in Birmingham. Education: University of Alabama. Age 52. Professional Career. With the Birmingham News since the 1980's.

    Well, these fellers don't fit the general criteria Bob uses to fill in bio stats. White. Male. Nowhere near young. Southern raised and no Ivy
    on their diplomas, just Cudzu.

    Of course Archibald once worked as a stuntman for a summer at Circus World. Wonder if he can disappear things like Bob did that have yet to be revealed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "musings on the mainstream "press corps" and the american discourse"

      Alabama journalism is not the mainstream press corps. These people are mentioned only because others drew their facts from them.

      Delete
    2. 3:59. Thank you for this post.

      Delete
  6. Maddow has great comedy chops despite a lil bit of hyperbole. I do see why people can't see past that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maddow is not a comedian -- she is a journalist. If she were presenting herself as a comedian she would not be able to earn a living. I doubt she would be able to stand the heckling endured by beginning stand up comedians -- her narcissism wouldn't permit it.

      Delete
    2. @7:01

      Being devoted to the liberal doctrine disqualifies R.M. from being a journalist. She is a commentator/entertainer. Her education and professional background have zero to do with journalism.

      Delete
    3. "Being devoted to mrc talking points disqualifies cicero from having any credibility. It is a shabby troll trolling for nickels and being overpaid at that and only in order to remain in its mother's basement. cicero has zero credibility."

      FTFY - wanker

      Delete
  7. "We the liberals were told by our leaders that the state had aimed these closings at black Alabamians, in an attempt to keep such folk from voting.

    The claim is pleasing, but it’s hard to square with the facts."

    Howler 10/15

    Well, Kevin Drum fell for Bob's version. The problem is that there is something harder to square with the facts. Finding liberal leaders that "told us that the state had aimed these closings at black Alabamians."

    If you want to promote a part time columnist for the Boston Globe to the plural position of "liberal leaders" Bob has shown you one person who said that. Anyone care to name a second?

    Bob seems to county liberal leaders as poorly as he claims some journalists count Alabama counties.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Right, that never happened. "Liberal leaders" never touted and misdescribed this story. "Liberals" never showed up in comment threads to promote their misunderstandings. Liberal twitter never bruited this false claim.

      Oh, wait. yes, they did.

      Troll's own "Kevin Drum fell for it" reveals what a sad clown troll is. Facts? Pshaw!

      Delete
    2. Drum: "I haven't paid a lot of attention to the outrage over Alabama's closure....Bob Somerby says the prevailing liberal wisdom is a crock. The story is that Alabama closed offices in predominantly black counties as a way of making it harder for blacks to get driver licenses and thus making it harder for them to vote."

      So, somebody who paid little attention believes Bob is right! About what is the prevailing story.

      Unfortunately Drum cites no examples to support the contention that the prevailing liberal story is that the closures were designed as a way of making it harder for blacks to vote." He just takes Bob's word for that part. Sadly neither has Bob save for the work of a part time columnist for the Boston Globe whose other career appears to be Democratic speechwriting.

      Now, if you want to ignore things people have said which indicate they have said the practical effect is to make voting more difficult but they cannot say for sure the motive wasn't simply budget slashing, then you can make a case that Bob is right. But isn't a primary criticism by Bob that things are being left out of the discussion?

      If Bob is right, then he must have left a liberal leader out of this story and promoted Mr. Cohen to leadership status. He cites no other example of anyone saying "the state had aimed these closings at black Alabamians , in an attempt to keep such folk from voting."

      If you want to give an example of "comments" that make that claim, be sure and include the "leadership" credentials of the commenter.

      Delete
  8. Much of what Whitmire said in that passage was accurate. Two examples: Crenshaw County is in the Black Belt, and it did lose its office.

    That said, Crenshaw County is majority white—more so than Alabama as a whole! In the 2010 census, it was 72.6% white, 23.4% black."

    Blogger please, you had to disappear a whole paragraph of Whitmire's work to erase the fact he wasn't implying Crenshaw County was majority black. You state he "seemed to change some counties from white to black." No, he did nothing of the sort nor did he "seem" to do so. And for someone who has spent as long as you have complaining about what people said Al Gore "seemed" to claim about his role in creating the internet, you should be ashamed.

    ReplyDelete

  9. Am here to testify what this great spell caster done for me. i never believe in spell casting, until when i was was tempted to try it. i and my husband have been having a lot of problem living together, he will always not make me happy because he have fallen in love with another lady outside our relationship, i tried my best to make sure that my husband leave this woman but the more i talk to him the more he makes me fell sad, so my marriage is now leading to divorce because he no longer gives me attention. so with all this pain and agony, i decided to contact this spell caster to see if things can work out between me and my husband again. this spell caster who was a woman told me that my husband is really under a great spell that he have been charm by some magic, so she told me that she was going to make all things normal back. she did the spell on my husband and after 5 days my husband changed completely he even apologize with the way he treated me that he was not him self, i really thank this woman her name is Dr Aluta she have bring back my husband back to me i want you all to contact her who are having any problem related to marriage issue and relationship problem she will solve it for you. her email is traditionalspellhospital@gmail.com she is a woman and she is great. wish you good time.
    He cast spells for different purposes

    ReplyDelete
  10. My ex husband and I have been divorced now for two years. He remarried one year ago. Last year him and I were still talking, he was engaged at the time and I didn't know. We were meeting each other at the park, talking, emailing, and went out to dinner one time. The entire time he told me I was the love of his life and that he didn't love this woman he is now married to. Of course my response to him was that he was also the love of my life as well. I was the one that asked for the divorce, and it was the biggest mistake of my life. This man is the only man I've ever truly loved and I am unable to love another man. When his fiance found out we were talking she broke all communication..Changed his phone number, deleted his email account etc. I've had no way of contacting him and I also have changed my number so he doesn't have anyway of contacting me either. I feel desperate, I feel like a crazy person because I can't stop these racing thoughts that control my life every single day. I just need to know how he feels. The very last time we talked he told me he could never love another woman again, and now he's married. What do I do? I cry myself to sleep every night. I can't listen to music, I'm afraid to go places for fear I'll see him with her. And when I do go to various places I think of him...Everything reminds me of us. I just want him back, he's my everything!! I love him so much!!!, i never wanted to check the internet for spell casters because i believed that they are all scam, but a child hood friend of mine told me to give it a try and contact a spell caster which i did, i contacted Chief Nwaluta Mallam Zack and was doubting his powers, because he assured me not to worry about anything that all will be well, he did the spell for me and now my ex husband is back in my life and our marriage is saved with the help of chief nwaluta, here is his email if you are going through cases like this { Nwalutaspelltemple@gmail.com }. Thank you chief i really appreciate.

    ReplyDelete