Supplemental: Stooges assess upcoming coverage!


How to treat liberals like fools:
For our money, Rachel Maddow’s opening segment last night was just appallingly bad.

That said, Chris and Lawrence were even worse in their discussions of the possible coverage of Candidate Hillary Clinton. Each was assisted by a gaggle of corporate cable stooges.

At issue was a directive from a private group about potential sexist coverage of Clinton. On Hardball and on The Last Word, panels of pundits rolled their eyes at the amateurish directive.

The irony was especially strong on Hardball. This is the way the loathsome Matthews started the discussion, helped along by the repellent Ruth Marcus:
MATTHEWS (3/30/15): Let’s get to the hottest stuff, Ruth. This is something that I want you to start with because this is a wildfire, potentially.

A group of Hillary Clinton supporters, not associated with her, calling itself the HRC Supervolunteers, is out with a list of 13 words—reminds me of George Carlin—and phrases that they say are sexist if anyone uses them to describe Hillary Clinton.

Now, these are the list. I want you to jump on these. I want to take each one at a time.

Is the word “polarizing” sexist?


MATTHEWS: OK. And by the way, jump in here—

MARCUS: I like being the ruler here.

MATTHEWS: Well, I’ve only got one woman here.

FINEMAN: Go ahead.

MATTHEWS: Calculating.


MATTHEWS: Disingenuous.


MATTHEWS: Insincere?



MATTHEWS: OK. Entitled?


MATTHEWS: Overconfident?

MARCUS: Possibly.

MATTHEWS: Possibly what?

MARCUS: Possibly she is overconfident.

MATTHEWS: But is it sexist?

MARCUS: It has nothing to do with gender.

MATTHEWS: None of these sexist so far! Secretive?

MARCUS: True, and not gender-related.
On and on—and on and on—these relentless cable hacks went.

Will Hillary Clinton face sexist coverage in the upcoming campaign? We have no idea. Truth to tell, there was no particular reason to discuss the press release by the unaffiliated, amateurish advocacy group.

That said, all the pundits, Marcus included, understood that Matthews trashed Clinton for many years, in openly misogynistic ways, from the late 1990s right through the 2008 campaign.

He was hardly alone at MSNBC. In 2008, Keith Olbermann had to apologize on the air for one especially egregious suggestion.

By 2008, Matthews’ conduct bad been so egregious, for so many years, that it finally got profiled by the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz. The man was an undisguished, decade-long cesspool of misogyny and loathing.

A person like Marcus won’t tell you that. Instead, she will simper on command.

She’ll happily tell you the words which aren’t sexist. She will be careful not to recall what Matthews used to call Clinton.

Over on The Last Word, Lawrence’s childish cable stars were every bit as bad, Josh Barro almost excepted. All his panelists understand the history of the channel’s stars. They also know that, above all else, they mustn’t tell you the truth.

Will Hillary Clinton face sexist coverage? By June 2008, Maureen Dowd’s conduct had been so bad that she was savaged for her misogyny by Clark Hoyt, the New York Times public editor. Matthews’ insults down through the years couldn’t have been more clear.

This is the history of the topic the stooges pretended to analyze. On both programs, they knew the rules—they are the children, and children must always keep their pretty traps shuts.

To watch Lawrence’s segment, just click here. For the clowning on Hardball, click this.

You’ll be watching two gaggles of stooges. They all understand their top assignment:

They must cover for their hosts. They must never tell you the truth.

Barely scratching the surface: Kurtz profiled Matthews' long-standing attacks on the “witchy” woman he called “Nurse Ratched” in February 2008.

This was part of his profile. It barely scratched the surface:
KURTZ (2/14/08): [T]he Hardball host has been particularly hard on the former first lady, to the point where some of her advisers have glared at him at parties. And there is a history here. In 1999, amid speculation that Clinton might seek a Senate seat in New York, Matthews told viewers: “No man would say, ‘Make me a U.S. senator because my wife's been cheating on me.’ ”

The following year, he said: “Hillary Clinton bugs a lot of guys, I mean, really bugs people—like maybe me on occasion. . . . She drives some of us absolutely nuts.”

In 2005, when Clinton criticized the administration on homeland security the day after terrorist bombings in London, Matthews said: “It's a fact: You look more witchy when you're doing it like this.”

In recent weeks, he has asked whether Clinton's criticism of Obama makes her “look like Nurse Ratched.” He has said that “Hillary's loyal lieutenants are ready to scratch the eyes out of the opposition” and likened her to Evita Peron,
“the one who gives gifts to the little people, and then they come and bring me flowers and they worship at me because I am the great Evita.”

It was against that backdrop that Matthews sparked a furor last month when he said: “I'll be brutal: The reason she's a U.S. senator, the reason she's a candidate for president, the reason she may be a front-runner, is her husband messed around.”
Kurtz was barely scratching the surface. Indeed, Matthews had been comparing Clinton to Evita Peron at least since 1999, when his coverage of senate Candidate Clinton sometimes crossed over the line to the realm of the deranged.

In fairness, he did that on behalf of Saint Rudy. So at least in 1999 and 2000, he had a very good cause!

Last night, Matthews' guests all knew this history. They also knew that, above all else, they must never tell.

NO STATISTICS NEED APPLY: The Times tries to report the gender wage gap!


Part 2—Big newspaper tries and fails:
We do love our phony statistics!

Let’s put that a slightly different way. Sometimes, if it weren’t for the phony statistics, we’d have no statistics at all!

This Sunday, we offered these bromides to the analysts after a very rough week. Consider what happened on Saturday morning, when we let them enjoy their weekly political cartoons, courtesy of the Washington Post.

Right at the top of the Post’s op-ed page sat the latest four-panel effort by the Boston Globe’s hilarious Dan Wasserman.

At the Boston Globe site, the hilarious effort bears this headline: “Woman on $20 bill?”

Could a woman be pictured on the twenty? Wasserman ends with a thoughtful observation: You could put a woman on the $20 bill. “But it would only be worth $15.40!”

Hilariously, Wasserman had worked with a treasured statistic. According to this treasured statistic, women are paid 77 cents on the dollar, compared to men, for doing the same or equal work.

Can we talk? No one who works in the field thinks that’s a valid statistic. But we pseudo-liberals love the claim. We just love to repeat it.

Good old Wasserman! He applied the bogus statistic, then ran his cartoon in the Globe. The Washington Post liked it so much they put it at the top of their weekly political cartoons, where our young analysts saw it.

What gives our nation's bogus statistics so much juice? We’ll offer two explanations:

For obvious reasons, nitwits within the various tribes love to build their tribal claims around embellished statistics. Meanwhile, “journalists” at our leading newspapers can’t work with statistics at all.

Our “journalists” can’t handle statistics! Consider the terrible, horrible news report which appeared in Wednesday’s New York Times.

The analysts were hopeful as they read the hard-copy headline:

“Longtime Nursing Pay Gap Hasn’t Budged, Study Says”

Interesting, they loudly exclaimed. They pictured themselves getting the dope on some aspect of the gender pay gap.

Momentarily, they forgot! They forgot what frequently happens when reporters at the Times try to deal with the latest study concerning some important aspect of American life!

In this case, it happened again! Reporter Catherine Saint Louis and her unnamed editor produced a thoroughly bungled analysis of a new study.

It would be hard to be more clueless than Saint Louis and her unnamed editor were. But as we’ll be noting all week, this is what happens when the Times attempts to report key statistics.

Uh-oh! By the time they’d read just two paragraphs, the analysts were worried. Already, Saint Louis and her editor had employed a suspiciously fuzzy term:
SAINT LOUIS (3/25/15): Longtime Nursing Pay Gap Hasn’t Budged, Study Says

Male nurses make $5,100 more on average per year than female colleagues in similar positions,
researchers reported on Tuesday.

The new analysis, which included data on more than 290,000 registered nurses, also found that the pay gap had not narrowed within workplace settings and specialties from 1988 to 2013. The new study is the first to have measured gender disparities in pay among nurses over time.
“In similar positions?” What did that formulation mean? Already, the analysts thought they saw doom approaching.

Let’s understand—everyone knows that women, on average, earn smaller annual incomes than men in virtually every field. The famous “77 cents on the dollar” statistic—it’s already outdated, but still in wide use—involved a comparison of annual incomes for all full-time workers, defined as people working 35 hours per week or more.

Among those two groups, women were earning 77 percent as much as men, on average, over the course of a year. But that was before the statistics were adjusted for such factors as total hours worked per week (on average, men worked more hours), years of seniority and type of position.

When such adjustments were made, the difference in pay was much smaller. Every expert understands this fact, whatever their political orientation. You just don’t hear it much on cable! Or in other types of cartoons!

As she started her report, Saint Louis reported that male nurses “in similar positions” earn more on an annual basis. Instant problems:

She presented a dollar amount without converting it to a percentage. She didn’t specify the statistical adjustments which may or may not have been made.

Concerning statistical adjustments, was some part of that pay differential due to different hours of work per week? Way far down in paragraphs 9-11, she finally offered this:
SAINT LOUIS: The study did not address reasons underpinning the persistent gap. There could be several reasons, Dr. Muench said: Men may be better negotiators, for instance, or perhaps women more often leave the work force to raise children. Women may have a tougher time getting promoted, she said.

“A workplace may offer a bit more to the men in order to diversify,” said Diana Mason, a professor of nursing at Hunter College of The City University of New York and former editor of The American Journal of Nursing.

Still, it is possible that women earn less because of a “lingering bias that a man is more of an expert because he’s a man,” she said.
The study did not address reasons underpinning the gap, Saint Louis now wrote. And not only that:

“Women more often leave the work force to raise children?” That suggested that the study was comparing the annual incomes of men and women with different levels of seniority.

“Women may have a tougher time getting promoted?” That suggested that the study was comparing annual income of men and women who were actually holding different types of positions.

In the end, the journalistic incompetence here is hard to believe. Let’s consider those two basic problems:

Who needs percentages: The gender wage gap is normally discussed in terms of percentages. All over these United States, we the people have had that “77 percent” statistic drummed into our heads. That said, Saint Louis never converted the difference in income among nurses into a percentage.

That $5,100 difference in income sounds like a lot—and it is! That said, it doesn’t come anywhere near the statistical difference commonly cited on a percentage basis.

According to Wasserman’s bogus statistic, women are paid 23 percent less than men. But based on income data which appear in the study, that $5,100 seems to represent something like seven percent less income for women in this field. Though we can’t be entirely sure about that, due to the Times’ weak reporting.

Saint Louis did a long report. Given the conventional way this topic is discussed, she and her unnamed editor should have thrown in a percentage.

Who needs adjustments: That $5,100 difference in income is still a large amount. To what extent does it represent less pay for the same work?

Amazingly, Saint Louis and her editor never really attempt to settle this question. At first, her use of the term “in similar positions” suggested to many readers (you can see them in comments) that she was talking about amounts of pay “for the same or equal work.”

Later, though, she seemed to say that the study didn’t make such adjustments. Here’s where this gets really sad:

In comments, many commenters said they had clicked to the study. Most of the study lies behind a substantial pay wall. But in one portion which is visible, the study seems to suggest that it did adjust for some standard factors at some point.

Or something! Who can tell?
JAMA STUDY (3/24/15): Using ordinary least-squares regression and employment information in the NSSRN, we assessed how much of the annual salary differences could be accounted for by demographic factors, work hours, experience, work setting, clinical specialty, job position, survey year, state of residence, and other factors...
The researchers say they assessed “how much of the annual salary differences” could be accounted for by such factors as “work hours, experience [and] job position.”

Does that mean that the $5,100 was the raw difference in average income? Does that mean that adjustments were later made on the basis of such factors as “hours worked?”

We don’t have the slightest idea. In even a slightly rational world, that’s the sort of thing the New York Times would have explained in its news report!

The gender wage gap has become a battle cry for us on the pseudo-left. We love to repeat our bogus statistic, just as pseudo-conservatives have always loved to advance their own tribe’s bogus claims.

Into the fray stepped the New York Times. The analysts were gnashing their teeth as they struggled with the paper's report.

“Can’t anyone here play this game?” one analyst even asked.

Last Wednesday, this news report drove the analysts wild. The very next day, the youngsters would come to despair over the way the Times handled a striking statistic about another high-profile topic—the rate of police shootings by race.

How many shootings is just about right? We will admit that we were struck by what the New York Times said.

Tomorrow: Shootings by race. Still coming:

Doctored statistics about math achievement. Also, those peculiar dueling statistics concerning campus rape! With brief side trips to health care spending! Also, Mitt Romney’s tax rate!

“Can anyone here play this game?” We’d call the answer surprising but obvious.

Supplemental: College student addresses the Times!

MONDAY, MARCH 30, 2015

Paging noble Nestor:
Right there in yesterday’s Sunday Review, the New York Times published seven letters about a piece from the week before—Judith Shulevitz’s essay about “safe spaces” in college.

As we noted this morning, two letters clobbered These Kids Today for their alleged fear of “scary ideas.” In four other letters, college professors defended These Kids and their own professorial practices.

Our view? In principle, there’s nothing wrong with turning classrooms into “safe spaces” for college students who may have therapeutic issues—far from it. This can be overdone, of course, just like anything else can.

That said, the seventh letter in the Times came from an actual college student—from one of These Kids Today! We’ll always defend the younger people until they go cataclysmically wrong. That said, we experienced serious 60s flashbacks as we read this student’s words.

You say you want a revolution? Here’s what the student said:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (3/29/15): Judith Shulevitz’s article about safe spaces on college campuses is a direct assault on my generation and what we find important. My generation has embraced the ideas of safe spaces and safe language. Without these, many victims of trauma or discrimination would be excluded from campus discussions that seek to cultivate and strengthen campus intellectual life. Truly open-minded intellectual growth desperately needs the participation of these groups.

Not all ideas are created equal. Some ought to be unreservedly condemned; consideration of such ideas is not at all helpful in bolstering campus intellectual life. The current generation of college students has denied validity to the failed ideas of the past. We have embraced the knowledge and empathy of the present. We are shaping the wisdom of the future.
We agree with the spirit of that first paragraph, although we’d warn any young person against believing that he belongs to a “generation” in which all the other people his age think the same way he does.

They don’t! Unless he develops strong skills of persuasion, most of them never will.

That said, our 60s flashback began as we read that second paragraph. Back in the day, many members of our generation thought we had debunked “the failed ideas of the past,” that we were effortlessly “shaping the wisdom of the future.”

Doggone it, students! The notion that you’re debunking the failed ideas of the past is one of the failed ideas of the past! Meanwhile, the potential downside to “safe space” thinking begins to appear in this familiar formulation:

“Not all ideas are created equal. Some ought to be unreservedly condemned; consideration of such ideas is not at all helpful in bolstering campus intellectual life.”

Should some ideas be “unreservedly condemned?” Presumably, yes! But who will decide which ideas must be banished? Who will decide which ideas can’t be considered—can play no valid, helpful role in campus intellectual life?

When young people start thinking this way, they could probably use a bit of perspective from their professors and college presidents. In a similar way, headstrong Diomedes once needed the counsel of noble Nestor, the seasoned charioteer, “who always gave the best advice.”

Are professors and presidents playing this role on These College Campuses Today? Doggone it! All too often, these august authority figures seem to be egging These Kids Today on!

Tomorrow: Back to the work of the Times

NO STATISTICS NEED APPLY: The New York Times can’t handle stats!

MONDAY, MARCH 30, 2015

Part 1—A fiery professor’s response:
Last Sunday, March 22, the New York Times ran a somewhat snarky opinion piece about These Kids Today—more specifically, about their attitude toward “safe spaces.”

The piece was written by Judith Shulevitz. Last Thursday, we discussed the part of the essay which concerned a debate at Brown about sexual assault on college campuses.

Yesterday, that same New York Times published seven letters about the Shulevitz piece. One of the letters came from a professor at Wisconsin’s Madison campus.

For us, that letter capped a week in which we puzzled about the New York Times’ puzzling use of statistics, and about our nation’s highly tribalized pseudo-debates.

A range of reactions and views were expressed in yesterday’s letters. This afternoon, we’ll look at one letter which actually came from one of These Kids Today!

On balance, we thought that student’s approach was unwise—but then, he’s still a college student! The other six letters pretty much broke down as follows:

Two of the letters scolded These Kids Today. More specifically, students were scolded for their alleged desire to be shielded from unwelcome ideas.

The other four letters came from college professors. As a general matter, they defended the practices Shulevitz had criticized.

Students with therapeutic issues deserve to be treated with care, these professors said—and yes, we’re paraphrasing.

As we noted last week, we agree with that position as a general matter. But then too, there was the fiery letter from the Wisconsin professor.

We thought that letter deserved review. As we read it, we pictured the way such letters might serve the political interests of Wisconsin’s Governor Walker, who wants to cut state funding to the state’s university system.

We also puzzled about the letter’s one statistical claim. It called to mind our puzzling, ongoing non-debate about the rate of sexual assault on the nation’s campuses:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (3/29/15): I am dismayed by Judith Shulevitz’s belittling response to student trauma. I teach an undergraduate class on “Sexualities and Race.” We discuss challenging issues like campus rape, human trafficking, pornography and sex work. “Scary ideas” certainly. Tragically, for some students these ideas are also scary realities. My students engage these issues with intellectual rigor and great courage. Yes, I give trigger warnings, and try to make my class a safe space.

Five students in my class were recently raped. One sits at the back so she has walls behind her, close to the door in case panic overwhelms her. I wonder how Ms. Shulevitz would deal with a student triggered into a major panic attack. Or a student whose friend was murdered by a cop. Making cheap jibes at a safe room with “cookies” and “Play-Doh” infantilizes the real-life traumas these students face too young, and belittles their right to face these intellectual and personal challenges in safe ways.

Madison, Wis.

The writer is a professor of gender and women’s studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
We agree with some of the things Professor McClintock said.

Whatever one thinks of the term itself, there’s no reason why a professor shouldn’t try to make her class a “safe place” for students. Professorial discretion may help create classrooms in which students with therapeutic issues can play fuller roles.

But wait—there’s more agreement! Like the professor, we thought Shulevitz may have laid it on a bit thick concerning the Play-Doh and the cookies in the “safe spaces” which were created at Brown. (And the videotape of the puppies!)

This doesn’t mean that the therapeutic/”safe space” approach can’t be overdone in particular instances. Obviously, this approach can be poorly executed, just like everything else.

This brings us to the professor’s statement about a class she’s currently teaching. It calls to mind our nation’s ongoing pseudo-discussion of sexual assault on campus.

In the highlighted passage, the professor states that five students in her “Sexualities and Race” class “were recently raped.” She also asks how a professor should deal with “a student whose friend was murdered by a cop,” although she doesn’t claim that she currently faces this problem.

Let’s start with that second possible circumstance.

We were struck by the heroic language affected by this professor. Beyond that, we thought we may have heard cheering from Walker’s political staff.

The professor asks how she should deal with “a student whose friend was murdered by a cop.” For starters, we would suggest that she make sure that the “murder” has been reported. But we’d also suggest that she give some thought to her fiery language.

Professor McClintock plays the hero with this fiery language. On a political basis, she also plays into conservative hands.

How many students at Wisconsin have had a friend “murdered by a cop?” We have no idea. But we’ll guess the number is small.

That said, our fiery professors have been heroically tossing that language around in the past several years. On campus, their daring behavior may turn them into heroes.

In the wider political world, this language has sometimes blown up in our tribe’s face—although our most heroic professors will rarely acknowledge such facts.

Pols like Walker thanks the gods for such exciting language. It makes it easy to tell a state’s voters that Our Kids Today are in the hands of These Professors Today—that the state’s exciting professors are pushing “agendas” on campus.

Heroic professors of this type may serve as a curse on progressive interests. This brings us the professor’s factual claim—the statement that five of her students “were recently raped.”

Needless to say, we have no way of knowing if this statement is accurate. We aren’t sure how the professor herself could know that this statement is true, although everything is possible.

That said, university postings seem to show that the class in question contains only 36 students. This calls to mind one of our nation’s puzzling non-debates and the statistical claims which fuel it.

Is a “rape crisis” occurring on college campuses? Over here in the liberal world, we keep saying yes.

Last year, Rolling Stone decided to offer the perfect example. Its astounding non-journalistic behavior quickly blew up in its face.

That said, dueling statistics are floating around about the rate of sexual assault on our college campuses. Here’s the problem:

These dueling statistics seem to paint wildly divergent portraits of the basic facts. And uh-oh! To all appearances, major newspapers like the New York Times simply aren’t up to the task of dealing with such statistics.

Last week, the Times floundered badly in several important high-profile areas:

On Wednesday, Catherine Saint Louis (and her editor) did a miserable job with some new statistics about the gender wage gap. Many commenters noted the problems with this news report.

On Tuesday, Matt Apuzzo presented some fascinating new statistics about police shootings in Philadelphia. At one point, though, he offered a rather strange assessment of one of those new statistics—and he failed to note the way his new statistics connect to recent high-profile discussions about police behavior in Ferguson.

Last Sunday, Martin and Haberman made a standard ridiculous claim about school closings in Chicago. Yesterday, Fareed Zakaria adopted a standard statistical ploy about the state of the nation’s schools, in a typically underfed piece for the Washington Post.

We were especially struck by the Times’ reports about the gender wage gap and about police shootings. We were also struck by Professor McClintock’s one statistical claim.

That said:

In one area after another, the nation’s Potemkin public discourse is riddled with puzzling statistical claims—about arrests and shootings by police; about sexual assault on campus; about achievement in public schools; about the gender wage gap.

In other high-profile debates, the most fundamental statistics are constantly going AWOL.

In all these areas, the assessment of basic statistical claims seem to be well beyond the skill level of our most famous newspapers. In part as a result, the nation’s different tribal groups just keep advancing their favorite tribal claims.

All too often, in recent years, the tribal group has been us!

Why can’t the New York Times do a better job with basic statistical claims? To what extent does the Times simply defer to preferred story lines?

To what extent do our fiery professors make themselves heroes while helping politicians like Walker? Is this anything like the gigantic fail by the Stone?

We’ll be asking these questions all week! By the end of the week, we’ll even look at the dueling claims about the rate of assault on campus—and about the large percentage of students who don’t even know they’ve been raped!

Our craziest claims used to come from the right. At this point, is there any chance that The Crazy is coming from us? And when The Crazy comes from us, do we undermine liberal interests?

Later today: The student’s letter

Supplemental: Mount O’Donnell’s greatest eruptions!


When Dorchester street toughs explode:
In recent months, Brian Williams and Bill O’Reilly have been called on the carpet for past misstatements.

Bill’s wild claims tend to be standard-issue self-promotional bluster. Brian’s claims, which have sometimes been quite a bit weirder, tend to bring the air of suffering and martyrdom in.

Did Lawrence O’Donnell get his due as those claims were being examined? It seems to us that Lawrence’s claim to have grown us as a Dorchester street tough put him right up there in the Bill-and-Brian class.

This thought came to mind when the analysts completed a recent research assignment. “List Mount O’Donnell’s greatest eruptions,” the assiduous youngsters were told.

The youngsters showed us three eruptions from their volcano files. In perhaps his craziest eruption, Lawrence challenged one of Mitt Romney’s sons to a fight—and he delivered his lengthy challenge in Dorchester accent and argot!

We’ll save that strange eruption for last. Below, we give you videotape of three of the greatest eruptions:

Lawrence swims after the Swift Boats: Lawrence’s most famous eruption occurred in late October 2004. Sadly, many liberals praised him for it.

This 11-minute eruption spewed lava all over John O’Neill, head of the “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” group which had been attacking Candidate Kerry. Howard Kurtz described some of the action in the Washington Post:
KURTZ (11/1/04): When Swift Boat Veterans author John O'Neill appeared on "Scarborough Country" two weeks ago, MSNBC commentator Lawrence O'Donnell ripped into him and his "disgusting, lying book."

O'Donnell, a Democrat and "West Wing" writer, repeatedly interrupted O'Neill with his literary critique: "That's a lie, John O'Neill. Keep lying. It's all you do." And: "That's a lie. It's another lie. That's a lie." And: "You lie in that book endlessly." And: "You're just lying about it." And: "You're totally afraid of the truth."

Undeterred when O'Neill accused him of lying, O'Donnell kept firing: "You have no standards, John O'Neill, as an author. And you know it. It's a pack of lies. You are unfit to publish." And: "He just spews out lies." Not to mention: "I just hate the lies of John O'Neill." Oh, and there was: "He's been a liar for 35 years."
Pat Buchanan was guest host in Scarborough Country that night. Midway through this famous eruption, he took a commercial break, hoping that cable firefighters could possibly put Lawrence out.

No such luck! After the break, Mount O’Donnell erupted again, producing a predictable outcome:
KURTZ (continuing directly): MSNBC said in a statement that O'Donnell "crossed a line. MSNBC believes he was disrespectful to you, the viewer, and that his insults did nothing to forward the debate or the understanding of a very critical issue. We have spoken to Lawrence O'Donnell, and he agrees."

Except that O'Donnell, who didn't know the statement was coming, doesn't agree. He was "too loud," he admits, in what was "an uncontrollable outburst on my part," and "my manner was everything I hate about cable TV shouting matches." But, O'Donnell says, "I don't apologize for a single word that I said...People have been coming out of the woodwork to tell me how great they thought it was. There's a big 'mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore' contingent out there on this subject that feels I was giving voice to their position.”
Thoughtfully, Lawrence acknowledged that he had engaged in “an uncontrollable outburst,” but he stood by the things he had said. Liberals had been “coming out of the woodwork,” he insultingly said, to tell him how great he had been.

Had Lawrence O’Donnell really been great in his uncontrollable outburst? Actually, no, he had not. His outburst occurred on October 22, long after clarification of any claims was likely to do much good.

Beyond that, uncontrollable outbursts tend to have perverse effects. To the undecided voter, they tend to make the uncontrollable party look like the crazy guy in the room.

Lawrence made O’Neill a victim. After that, he was disappeared from MSNBC for the next several months.

In fairness, the outburst did produce great tape. To get the flavor of this eruption, you can just click here.

You can smell the lava and feel the ash as the smoldering mountain explodes. That said, we were saddened when liberals praised Lawrence for his great eruption. Here’s why:

Here at THE HOWLER, we had spent a lot of time on the 35-year-old incidents at issue in the Swift Boat attacks. We’re going to guess that Lawrence pretty much hadn’t.

Because of his standing, Lawrence could have had an article published about these damaging attacks. It’s possible that a high-profile analysis piece of that type could have helped Candidate Kerry.

There was one problem with that approach—it would have required work on Lawrence’s part. Perhaps for that reason, Lawrence waited until late October, then exploded on the air.

Lawrence pursues the Mormons: At various times, Lawrence has had to apologize for his eruptions concerning the Mormon faith. In this tape from the McLaughlin Group in 2007, you’ll see Lawrence making Pat Buchanan look like the sensible one again.

For videotape of the fuller segment, click here.

In 2012, Lawrence erupted about the Mormons again, this time on his own MSNBC program. Eight days later, he apologized on the air, acknowledging that he had made inaccurate statements about Mormon history.

We won’t even try to explain what was wrong with these eruptions, which often included factual misstatements. In our opinion, neighborhood types like O’Donnell and Dowd performed good imitations of religious bigots during the two Romney runs.

Boston street tough seeks fight: For our money, the greatest eruption occurred in 2012, when Lawrence challenged Taggart Romney to a fight. The greatness lay in Lawrence’s use of a Dorchester accent during his choreographed invitation.

By way of background, “Dorchester chic” has gained a substantial toehold in Hollywood, thanks to such films as Good Will Hunting. For unknown reasons, Lawrence seems to think that he emerged from that roughhouse Boston subculture.

Did Lawrence grow up as a street tough? As best we can tell, his persistent insinuation to this effect ranks with the greatest crazy misstatements of O’Reilly and Williams. And yet, he rarely seems to get credit for being as nutty as they are!

To watch Lawrence go all Dorchester on us, just click here, then move ahead to 9:25. And yes, that’s a Dorchester accent he intermittently brandishes.

The lunacy starts as shown below. Soon, Lawrence walks out from behind his desk, gesturing at the hated Taggart, who had made an ever-so-slightly dumb offhand remark:
O’DONNELL (10/18/12): OK, Taggart, let’s have a little talk, just you and me, yoooou—

[angrily draws out the word]

When I hear you talk about taking a swing and taking punches, why do I get the feeling that you’ve never actually taken a punch? Or thrown a punch?

I didn’t have that luxury in the part of Boston that I grew up in.
But in your rich, suburban Boston life, with your father filling a $100 million trust fund for ya, I don’t know. I just get the feeling that things were kind of different for you.

Now, I know you’ve got a lot, a lot to be pissed off at these days, starting with the name “Taggart,” which you got every right to be wicked pissed off at for every day of the 42 years of your life. So let me help you try to deal with all this aggression you’re feelin’ right now...
The invitation to fight follows as Lawrence walks out from behind his desk. Truly, this ridiculous person seems to out of his mind.

Warning! Wealth and fame will often attract the wrong types of people to “journalism.” In our view, the world would be much better served if Lawrence returned to his greatest love, the writing of fatuous Hollywood scripts.

For the record, Lawrence’s most appalling performance occurred in Campaign 2000, when he kept calling Candidate Gore a liar right through a dismaying performance on the McLaughlin Group in October 2000. He was a leading dead-ender in the war designed to punish Gore for his connection to the loathed Clinton, who had received those ten blow jobs.

The Iraq war came after that.

Right to the end, Lawrence worked to send George Bush to the White House. Our Dorchester street tough achieved this goal by making up “lies,” lies no one had told.

Wealth and fame may attract the word crowd into the journalism racket! Our own street tough from St. Sebastian’s and Harvard may be the ultimate proof.

Supplemental: A memorable piece of reporting from Mosul!

FRIDAY, MARCH 27, 2015

What hating the others can do:
We saw several pieces of weak reporting in the New York Times this week.

We expect to review a few of those efforts tomorrow. Today, consider some memorable reporting by the Times’ Rod Nordland.

Nordland described some recent events in Mosul. This is the way he began:
NORDLAND (3/25/15): Islamic State militants in Iraq on Tuesday publicly stoned a man and woman to death on charges of adultery, parading the victims in a public square in the northern city of Mosul, according to witnesses and an Iraqi military official.

Later in the day, the militants publicly beheaded three young men on a street in central Mosul, accusing them of being the nephews of a political opponent of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

They were the latest in a series of public executions of people accused of social offenses in the city, which the militants wrested from Iraqi control last June.

The stoning victims, who were not identified, were in their 20s, witnesses said. The woman was described as being married. It was not known whether they had been given a trial, but none was held in public.
Accused of being nephews! Meanwhile, let’s not forget to parade our victims in the square. Hatred of the others can be a very powerful force.

Empathy may be less powerful, at least in the moment. We were struck by this account from an eyewitness who described himself as helpless:
NORDLAND: Another witness said he had tried to record video of the execution on his cellphone but was ordered by the militants not to do so.

“I was moved by the crying of this woman, who started bleeding and then died from the stoning,” said the witness, Saad, who gave only his first name out of concern for his safety. “I was standing there helpless. The government has left us as captives in the hands of ISIS, who make all kinds of crimes in the city. The more I see their crimes, the more I hate them and realize they have come to carry out a paid agenda to destroy the city and its history and civilization and to defame the image of Islam.”
He was moved by the crying, but helpless.

We humans! We’re strongly inclined to hate the others. We thought this remarkable bit of reporting deserved a second look.

OUR CONVERSATIONS TO NOWHERE: Fox takes our latest moment worldwide!

FRIDAY, MARCH 27, 2015

Part 4—Our endless agreement to lose:
Over at Slate, Jamelle Bouie had a message for Hillary Clinton.

Candidate Clinton, he seemed to say. Please don’t bring us together!

To some small extent, we jest. And in fairness, Bouie was offering advice which is now thoroughly standard within the liberal world:

Below, you see the headlines from Bouie’s piece at Slate. This is now thoroughly standard advice within the liberal world:
What Scott Walker Can Teach Hillary Clinton
Forget all this talk about uniting America. It’s a fool’s errand.
We’re not even saying that outlook is “wrong.” We’re here to say that we were struck by the way that standard advice interacts with an early chunk of Bouie’s piece.

Below, you see the way Bouie began.
Given the advice those headlines announced, we were struck by his second paragraph:
BOUIE (3/24/15): Hillary Clinton has been polarizing her entire political career. But now, ahead of a second presidential run, she wants to be a uniter, not a divider. People should “get out of the kind of very unproductive discussion that we’ve had for too long, where people are just in their ideological bunkers, having arguments instead of trying to reach across those divides and have some solutions,” she said, speaking to labor leaders and policy wonks during a Monday event at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank that doubles as the Clinton administration-in-waiting.

Elsewhere in Washington, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities—another left-leaning think tank—released its analysis of the new Republican budgets. “Each budget plan,” notes the CBPP, “derives more than two-thirds of its [approximately $5 trillion] budget cuts from programs for people with low or modest incomes even though these programs constitute less than one-quarter of federal program costs.” This includes billions in cuts to tax credits for working families as well as trillions in cuts to health care for low-income people. At the same time, House Republicans are mulling huge tax relief for the wealthiest Americans; later this week the House Ways and Means Committee will consider a bill to repeal the federal estate tax.

Clinton hasn’t announced a full agenda for 2016, much less a campaign for president. But when she does, it will stand on the opposite bank of anything offered by Republicans, with a vast distance between the two. She will give a plan for growing the welfare state. They will offer a plan for gutting it.
We always gag when liberal writers refer to “the welfare state.” We also balk when writers refer to people like Clinton as “polarizing.”

This suggests that she created the polarization, rather than the Republican propagandists who have been seeking to drive us apart, in the dumbest possible ways, for more than two decades now.

Those are relatively minor points. We were most struck by Bouie’s accurate portrait of those Republican budget plans.

Those plans would eliminate programs for families with modest incomes. At the same time, they would generate giant savings for the lucky duckies who are so rich that they might have to pay federal estate taxes.

Very few Republican voters will ever pay a cent of federal estate tax. On the other hand, tens of millions of Republican voters are people with modest incomes.

In short, millions of Republican voters would be harmed by those GOP budget plans. But in this same piece, Bouie ends up advising against trying to “bring us together”—against trying to cross the red/blue divide in search of votes.

Once again, we aren’t trying to single Bouie out. The advice he gives in this piece is now thoroughly standard.

In the narrowest sense, we’re not even necessarily saying he’s wrong.

That said, his account of those new budget plans understates the extent to which red and blue voters are being jointly looted by current policies—by the ludicrous costs of American health care, by federal tax policies.

Good God! Why shouldn’t progressive figures try to “bring us together?” In a wide array of ways, average voters, red and blue, are being looted together! Why shouldn’t progressive figures actively point that out?

Conservative voters are getting ripped off in the same ways liberal voters are. But when have you seen progressive figures even try to create that conversation about the real shape of our world?

That conversation is rarely even attempted. Very few progressive orgs have ever tried to create a discussion about the massive joint looting.

What do we tend to do instead? Consider the latest ludicrous moment, which went worldwide on Fox.

This ludicrous moment occurred Wednesday afternoon. It occurred on MSNBC’s Now with Alex Wagner, where very few people saw it.

Wednesday evening, the folk at Fox took this latest moment worldwide. We’ll let the Washington Post’s Eric Wemple describe this latest moment.

Warning! Based on the videotape Wemple provides, his account is unfair to Michael Steele. The rest of his account is sadly accurate.

Jamilah Lemieux, who authored this latest moment, is a senior editor at Ebony:
WEMPLE (3/25/15): Freshly announced presidential candidate Ted Cruz has made news with his claim that he became a fan of country music after rock-and-roll music disappointed him with its response to the Sept. 11 attacks. The MSNBC afternoon program “Now with Alex Wagner” used Cruz’s music comments as the jumping-off point for a discussion among guest host Ari Melber, Joan Walsh, Michael Steele and Jamilah Lemieux.

“Nothing says ‘Let’s go kill some Muslims’ like country music,” said Lemieux in kicking off the festivities. The comment came off as something packaged, premeditated. While Walsh and Steele giggled, Melber remained stone-faced, vouching for the pluralism of the genre. “Well, but I mean, there’s plenty of country music that doesn’t have that message,” he said.

Moments later, Melber returned to the matter, telling viewers: “We have a programming note. A few minutes ago on this program, a guest made a comment about country music that was not appropriate, and we want to be clear this network does not condone it.”
On the videotape, we see no evidence of Steele’s reaction to this latest brilliant remark. Wemple gets the rest of it right:

Walsh chuckles appreciatively at Lemieux’s masterful wit—but then, Walsh would feel she had to. Guest host Melber never smiles, then comes back to apologize.

(In one way, Wemple is kind to Lemieux. He omits her second witticism, in which she notes that Cruz’s remarks were made—where else?—in Lynchburg!)

Very few people saw this latest moment live. Five hours later, it went worldwide on Fox.

Millions of people got to see us liberals at our dumbest. When the tribal divide is enabled this way, the plutocrats happily win.

In recent years, we liberals have kept creating conversations to nowhere. We’ve reviewed a few examples this week.

Sometimes, these absurd conversations come from our corporate moguls, like the very strange Howard Schultz.

Sometimes, these conversations come from famous liberal publications like Rolling Stone.

Sometimes, they come from the millionaire hosts who minister on corporate cable, people like Lawrence O’Donnell.

Increasingly, these conversations start when we liberals go around inventing facts which create perfect victims of perfect incidents—perfect incidents which just keep falling apart.

Sometimes, these conversations to nowhere come from our college presidents. And from their assistant professors, who are willing to march into lecture halls and tell the children this:
HARRIS (11/19/14): Research on assault characteristics has revealed that about half of reported incidents involve alcohol, Orchowski said. Many sexual assault perpetrators are repeat offenders...

Orchowski said only about 20 percent of sexual assault victims correctly labeled their assaults as “rape,” often reporting them as results of miscommunication or bad dates.
In fairness, the highlighted statement is a paraphrase written by a student journalist.

That said, does anyone doubt that our liberal assistant professors are willing to make such wonderfully peculiar statements? That we modern liberals are routinely unable to see that such statements are even peculiar at all?

The wide range of voters, red and blue, are being jointly looted. But you will rarely hear that problem described on The One True Liberal Channel.

You will rarely see any attempt to explain this fact to red voters.

What are you going to see instead? On MSNBC this week, Chris Hayes—who started with a lot of promise—was declaiming in astounding detail about Tucker Carlson’s emails.

Also about the emails of Buckley Carlson, Tucker’s brother, who was said to have a weird name. To watch the segment, click here.

It isn’t that Hayes’ statements were wrong. The problem with that segment is different:

Hayes, who started with so much promise, was staging the latest conversation to nowhere. All next week, we’ll be discussing the million ways we liberals now practice to lose.

Supplemental: What Wendy McElroy said at Brown!


No wonder the students were frightened:
Uh-oh! The free-thinking students at Brown’s Janus Forum had scheduled a debate.

For background, see our previous post.

At the Brown Daily Herald, two reporters described the growing concern. They profiled the two debaters:
BRANDFIELD-HARVEY AND KELLY (11/17/14): A Janus Forum debate titled “How Should Colleges Handle Sexual Assault?” that will take place in Salomon 101 Tuesday has incited controversy among some students, prompting a community-wide email from President Christina Paxson this weekend and the creation of alternative events.

Some students have voiced opposition to the nature of the debate between visiting speakers Jessica Valenti and Wendy McElroy, whom Janus Forum fellows director Dana Schwartz ’15 said were chosen as representatives of conflicting viewpoints on campus sexual assault and rape culture.

Their opposition sparked the staging of two additional events—at the same time as the debate, a faculty member will present research on rape culture in the Building for Environmental Research and Teaching, and BWell Health Promotion will host a “safe space” for emotional support in Salomon.

Valenti founded in 2004 and has written five books, including “The Purity Myth” and “Full Frontal Feminism.” McElroy is a controversial author of several books, an editor of—an abbreviated moniker for “individualist feminist”—and the author of “The Big Lie of a ‘Rape Culture,’” an article for the Future of Freedom Foundation. McElroy’s viewpoints in particular have attracted condemnation from some students.
In that account, Valenti has written five books. McElroy is “controversial.” Fear of McElroy’s frightening views had set off a scramble for safety.

Moving quickly, President Paxson scheduled a simultaneous forum where students could hear a presidentially-sanctioned account of “the research.” Later in their news report, the Daily Herald scribes reported a solemn pledge:

“Marisa Quinn, vice president for public affairs and University relations, wrote in an email to The Herald that both the Janus debate and Orchowski’s lecture will be taped and available for students to view later.”

We don’t know what happened. But assistant professor Orchowski’s lecture doesn’t seem to be available. Neither does Valenti’s part of the debate.

By way of contrast, the tape and transcript of McElroy’s 20-minute opening statement are both available. This is the way she began:
MCELROY (11/18/14): Thank you and good evening.

How many of you came tonight knowing exactly who I am and thinking you know exactly what I'm going to say?

I'm an individualist feminist which is a tradition within feminism that you may not be familiar with. It's also called libertarian feminism. I'm going to open in an unconventional manner by speaking about my personal background.

I've had a great deal of violence in my life. When I was 16 I ran away from home and lived on the street. I was raped, and brutally so. I did not blame society, I did not blame the culture. I blame the man who raped me. I've had reason in my life to blame other men. Due to a domestic violence incident years ago, I had a hemorrhage in the central line of vision of my right eye that left me legally blind. I did not blame society. I did not blame culture. I blame the man who put his fist in my face.

Every morning I wake up I know the pain and the importance of violence against women because I see only half of the world because of it.

I am bringing this up before I bring up arguments and the evidence because when a woman like me comes and disagrees with the feminist orthodoxy, what comes back are accusations. They claim I don't know what it means—the significance, the importance of violence against women. Or that I trivialize rape.

Let's put that behind us. Let's say I am a woman who knows intimately the pain of sexual violence, and that I disagree. Let's do the one thing that is most important on this issue, which is actually discuss the issues. Raise questions.

This evening I'll address two topics all too briefly. The rape culture, and how I think sexual assault accusations on campus should be treated.
To watch her presentation, click here.

We’re not sure why students needed an alternate forum to protect them from hearing that. As McElroy began discussing “rape culture,” she quoted last year’s statement by the (mainstream) Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), in which RAINN said this:

“There has been an unfortunate trend towards blaming the rape culture for the extensive problem of sexual violence on campus. While it is helpful for pointing out the systemic barriers towards dealing with the problem it is important not to lose sight of a simple fact: Rape is caused not by cultural factors but by the conscious decisions of a small fraction of a community to commit a violent crime. While that may seem an obvious point it has tended to get lost in recent debates.”

For ourselves, we don’t have a giant view on this matter. Does a “rape culture” exist in this country? As a general matter, this tends to strike us as a largely semantic question.

(Though it’s obvious that giant industries earn lots of money from selling the vicarious thrill of violence against women. People, we walked out of The Deep! In 1977!)

We’d like to watch the full debate. But only one side is available.

In this piece last year for Slate, Amanda Marcotte described RAINN as “one of the most active and important organizations in the country fighting sexual violence.” She went on to say that RAINN doesn’t seem to understand the concept of “rape culture.”

You can assess that as you like. We thought it was worth looking at the outlandish views which caused President Paxson to direct an assistant professor to create a forum where students would only be exposed to ideas of which their president approved.

In Sunday’s New York Times, Judith Shulevitz snarked fairly hard at several Brown students. We thought the actual problem here involved Brown’s adult authorities.

Was there some reason why the average Brown student had to be shielded from McElroy’s views? In that report from the Brown Daily Herald, the organizer of the debate was quoted making a striking statement:
BRANDFIELD-HARVEY AND KELLY: “Obviously we knew that any topic about sexual assault would be challenging to address, but we aim to be a non-partisan, non-biased organization,” [Dana Schwarz] said. “We brought two speakers, who have completely different viewpoints, one of which probably has a completely different viewpoint than most of campus, but we do that with the intent to spark debate and discussion.”

Schwartz said the Janus Forum has wanted to host an event focused on women’s issues and sexual assault since students raised concerns about the University’s sexual assault policies and disciplinary procedures last spring.

Janus Forum events “always try to reflect the climate of the campus,” Schwartz said. “We don’t shape it, we just respond to it.”

In response to students’ opposition to McElroy, Schwartz said hearing and dissecting opposing opinions is essential to strengthening one’s own viewpoint. “We have to be aware that people outside of Brown have opinions that we might find highly unpalatable, and I think instead of silencing opinions, by listening and understanding how to deconstruct and debate them effectively, that’s the best thing a Brown student can do.”
Schwarz seemed to think that McElroy “probably has a completely different viewpoint than most of campus.” We don’t know if that’s true.

That said, it didn’t seem to cross her mind that someone might learn something, or end up with a changed point of view, from hearing that different viewpoint. By listening to McElroy, students could only learn about the “highly unpalatable” opinions which obtain off campus, out in the rest of the world.

Schwarz did a lot of things right in the matter. But that strikes us as a remarkably blinkered view.

That said, Schwarz is an undergraduate; she’s a college student. With leadership from adult authorities like Paxson and Orchowski, it’s no wonder that terrific young people at Brown might hold such blinkered views.

Progressives can’t succeed in this know-it-all manner. But as Augustine thoughtfully said:

Dear lord! It just feels so good!

OUR CONVERSATIONS TO NOWHERE: The pros and cons of feeling “safe!”


Interlude—Minder knows best:
We couldn’t help feeling that Lawrence O’Donnell was helping us liberals feel “safe.”

Let’s be clear about that. No physical danger was being avoided as we watched The Last Word Monday night. We were being protected from something else—from various types of information which we liberals may not most enjoy.

For background, see yesterday’s report.

In a rational world, there was no reason why liberals and progressives should be shielded from the information at issue. That said, Lawrence and a scripted panel seemed intent on keeping us safe from information like this:
Information which got disappeared:
1) There's no reason to think that a widely-discussed gang rape actually happened.
2) The alleged victim in that case had made a long series of statements and claims which turned out to be false.
3) In failing to fact-check this person’s claims, Rolling Stone engaged in an astounding journalistic fail.
In a rational world, it would be helpful for progressives and liberals to understand those things. It would be helpful for us to know that not all claims turn out to be true, even if they comport with our larger beliefs, and that our “liberal” news orgs can massively fail, especially when they overreach in the pursuit of Tribal True Belief.

It would be helpful for liberals to know those things, but Lawrence wasn’t selling. Instead, he and his panel let us hear some familiar old scripts, the ones we most enjoy:
Some things we were told instead:
1) Universities won’t involve the police in rape allegations because it’s bad for business. (In the case of this rape claim, UVa seems to have called in the local police on three separate occasions.)
2) A black student was recently “brutalized” on the UVa campus. (The investigation of the incident has barely begun. The agency in question seems to have no history of mistreating black students.)
Was Martese Johnson “brutalized” in this recent incident? Like Lawrence’s unfortunate panel, we simply don’t know at this time.

Alas! Lawrence seemed to be protecting us from facts which don’t comport with our views in the most simple-minded ways. This unhelpful service is now being performed all over the “liberal” world.

Rush and Sean have always treated the public this way. Now, people like Lawrence are paid big bucks by corporate entities to bring these practices into the liberal world.

Remember when we fought a war “to keep the world safe for democracy?” People like Lawrence are striving to keep the world safe for the most simple-minded true belief.

This isn’t good for progressive causes, but these practices are widespread. Consider what happened at Brown last fall when a non-ideological student group decided to stage a debate.

The debate bore this title: “How Should Colleges Handle Sexual Assault?” Plainly, that’s a sensible topic—but the inclusion of Wendy McElroy, an “individualist feminist,” sparked a pre-debate debate which included concerns about “safety.”

In Last Sunday’s New York Times, Judith Shulevitz discussed these events, events which are well worth discussing. At the same time, we think Shulevitz was a bit snarky, especially toward several students at Brown, who may be 19 years old.

We thought Shulevitz should have focused more on the adults at Brown—at the adult authorities who, like O’Donnell, seemed to be keeping our “liberal” world safe for the most simple-minded ideas.

With those trigger warnings in place, here’s how Shulevitz started her piece. We include the headline, which basically pokes the students:
SHULEVITZ (3/22/15): In College and Hiding From Scary Ideas

Katherine Byron, a senior at Brown University and a member of its Sexual Assault Task Force, considers it her duty to make Brown a safe place for rape victims, free from anything that might prompt memories of trauma.

So when she heard last fall that a student group had organized a debate about campus sexual assault between Jessica Valenti, the founder of, and Wendy McElroy, a libertarian, and that Ms. McElroy was likely to criticize the term “rape culture,” Ms. Byron was alarmed. “Bringing in a speaker like that could serve to invalidate people’s experiences,” she told me. It could be “damaging.”

Ms. Byron and some fellow task force members secured a meeting with administrators. Not long after, Brown’s president, Christina H. Paxson, announced that the university would hold a simultaneous, competing talk to provide “research and facts” about “the role of culture in sexual assault.” Meanwhile, student volunteers put up posters advertising that a “safe space” would be available for anyone who found the debate too upsetting.

The safe space, Ms. Byron explained, was intended to give people who might find comments “troubling” or “triggering,” a place to recuperate. The room was equipped with cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies, as well as students and staff members trained to deal with trauma. Emma Hall, a junior, rape survivor and “sexual assault peer educator” who helped set up the room and worked in it during the debate, estimates that a couple of dozen people used it. At one point she went to the lecture hall—it was packed—but after a while, she had to return to the safe space. “I was feeling bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against my dearly and closely held beliefs,” Ms. Hall said.
Byron and Hall, who are students at Brown, got snarked at pretty good in that passage. The description of the “safe space” which Hall helped set up pretty much lowered the boom on These Kids Today.

(Just for the record, that “safe space” was actually run by Bwell Health Promotion, a part of Brown health services. Shulevitz may have had her thumb on the scale a tad as she seemed to mock an overwrought Hall.)

Byron and Hall got snarked at good. In our view, President Paxson got off easy. Let’s discuss three types of conduct cited in that short passage.

Creating the safe space: It may sound silly—in fact, it does sound silly—to stock a “safe space” at a college with coloring books and videotape of puppies. This may sound especially silly since no one was forced to attend the debate.

That safe space may sound silly; in fact, it pretty much does. That said, if some Brown students have emotional issues stemming from past assaults, it isn’t silly to think that Brown would provide counseling services.

We’ve never done such work ourselves, whether for victims of sexual assault or for traumatized former soldiers. For that reason, we’ll hold off on passing judgment about the best practices for young people who may be struggling with such issues.

The views of These Kids Today: Byron and Hall seem to express some peculiar views in that passage. Outside a therapeutic context, the views they express are strange.

Outside a therapeutic context, it’s hard to know why a person would expect to be protected from hearing “viewpoints that really go against their dearly and closely held beliefs.” Beyond that, it sounds like Byron may not have wanted McElroy to be allowed to speak at all, although we don’t know if that's true.

Outside the therapeutic context, Byron and Hall are expressing strange views—unless you watch Lawrence O’Donnell each night, where we liberals are protected against feeling bombarded by viewpoints and facts that go against our dearly held pseudo-beliefs. In our view, a lot of overpaid corporate figures are engaged in exactly the conduct these young people seem to desire—although again we stress the fact that Byron and Hall were speaking here in a therapeutic context.

Shulevitz hammers Byron and Hall. At this point, let’s hail on the chief.

Assistant professor knows best: In our view, it’s President Paxson, the adult here, whose conduct is deeply unfortunate.

It seems to us she was working hard to cast herself in the Lawrence role—to keep students safe from facts and ideas which don’t comport with “liberal” views in the most simple-minded way possible.

Good God! Confronted with a campus debate in which students would hear competing views, Paxson created a simultaneous forum in which students would be able to hear just one set of views. Here's how Paxson described her plan in an email to the masses:
PAXSON (11/14/14): Over the past year, as the issue of sexual assault on college campuses has attracted national attention, the role of culture in sexual assault has been a subject of debate. Some people–including writer Wendy McElroy, who will speak with Jessica Valenti at a Janus Forum event next week–have argued that sexual assault is the work of small numbers of predatory individuals whose behaviors are impervious to the culture and values of their communities. I disagree. Although evidence suggests that a relatively small number of individuals perpetrate sexual assault, extensive research shows that culture and values do matter. Societies that have strong norms against sexual assault have fewer assaults. Furthermore, people are more likely to come forward to report assaults in communities that understand the seriousness of assault and support survivors.

In order to provide the community with more research and facts about these important issues, students and administrators have worked together to sponsor a lecture by Brown University Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior Lindsay Orchowski, entitled The Research on Rape Culture. This presentation will take place at 4:30 pm on Tuesday, November 18th in Wilson 102 as an alternative to the Janus Forum (which will be held at the same time and date in Salomon 101).
At this second event, students would be provided “with more research and facts” about the issues in question. More specifically, they would hear the “research and facts” of which Dear Leader approved.

In effect, President Paxson was creating a second “safe space.” But this safe space had been designed for students who weren’t trauma victims.

This safe space had been designed so students would only be asked to hear viewpoints with which they already agreed. The event would be held at the same time as the previously scheduled debate!

Students were bright enough to see the downside to this move. Below, you see part of the way the Brown Daily Herald reported the president’s plan.

Two undergraduate journalists created a cool, clear report, if you’re willing to swallow the concept of “feeling attacked by viewpoints:”
BRANDFIELD-HARVEY AND KELLY (11/17/14): Students who may feel attacked by the viewpoints expressed at the forum or feel the speakers will dismiss their experiences can find a safe space and separate discussion held at the same time in Salomon 203. This “BWell Safe Space” will have sexual assault peer educators, women peer counselors and staff from BWell on hand to provide support.

A separate event titled “Research on Rape Culture” with Lindsay Orchowski, assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior, will also take place in BERT 130 during the Janus debate. The Facebook event for these alternative options was created Thursday.

Marisa Quinn, vice president for public affairs and University relations, wrote in an email to The Herald that both the Janus debate and Orchowski’s lecture will be taped and available for students to view later.

Schwartz and Janus Forum Director Alex Friedland ’15 expressed their disappointment in the events being held at the same time, as they both said students invested in the issues who may want to attend both events now must choose between them.

“I think it could have been really great if (Orchowski’s) event happened right before,” Friedland said. “People would have been able to hear the research and then come to our event fully informed.”
Schwartz and Friedland were able to see the downside to simultaneity. That said, even Friedland accepted the notion that Assistant Professor Orchowski would be presenting “the research” (full stop).

In fact, different people will understand “the research” in different ways. In a perfect world, a senior at Brown would understand that there’s no such thing as “the research.”

But then again, so would Brown’s president!

At any rate, students would now be able to hear only one pre-approved account of “the research.” Like Lawrence and so many others, President Paxson seems to know what’s good for us liberals to hear.

Lawrence’s presentation was horrible this Monday night. We liberals were shielded from hearing about the horrible ways a much-discussed claim had failed.

Instead, we got to hear the same old crap our overpaid corporate minders are constantly reciting. President Paxson played the same role in the vineyards of Brown.

Like Lawrence, Paxson created a safe “liberal” space. At her hastily-scheduled alternate forum, the assistant professor would hand us our truth again.

Sadly and horribly, this is part of what the safety-seeking students were told by the assistant professor. Emma Harris did the reporting in the Daily Herald:
HARRIS (11/19/14): Research on assault characteristics has revealed that about half of reported incidents involve alcohol, Orchowski said. Many sexual assault perpetrators are repeat offenders...

Orchowski said only about 20 percent of sexual assault victims correctly labeled their assaults as “rape,” often reporting them as results of miscommunication or bad dates.
Assistant professor knows best! Orchowski knows if you’ve been raped. Eighty percent of the time, we the people can’t tell!

Assistant professor Orchowski knows best! But then, all around the emerging “liberal” world, so do a wide range of others. They are creating a range of safe spaces for people who aren’t trauma victims. In these safe spaces, we liberals keep hearing the “facts” we’ve already memorized.

So it goes when the reins are handed to crackpots like Lawrence. He insists that he’s a kid from the streets—and he knows what we liberals should hear.

Later today: What McElroy said!

Tomorrow: Our (liberal) conversations to nowhere

Supplemental: Who in the world is Mo’ne Davis?


Professor Cooper’s concerned:
Professor Cooper is concerned about Mo’ne Davis.

A male college baseball player referred to Davis as a slut. When he got kicked off his college team, Davis, who is 13 years old, wrote a letter to the college president saying the offending party deserves a second chance.

The professor voices her concerns in this piece for Salon. For our money, it’s better than her usual fare, which has been both undercooked and perhaps a bit overwrought.

That said, which part of the following paragraph isn’t about Professor Cooper’s greatness? Perhaps you can see what we mean.

We’re just saying, of course:
COOPER (3/25/15): Her level of empathy is remarkable but not particularly surprising. Black girls learn almost from the womb to empathize with others, even when those others have committed deep injustices toward us. Perhaps it is the unparalleled level of our suffering that makes us always look with empathy upon others.
Whatever! We’re not even saying she’s wrong!

Davis appeared with Lawrence O’Donnell on last evening’s Last Word. On that basis alone, we’re prepared to forgive Lawrence his endless affronts to the well-being of the world.

As we watched O’Donnell’s unusual guest, we couldn’t help thinking of a few other people. One commenter at Salon drifted in the same direction.

The commenter quoted one of the great souls, someone who addressed the United Nations on her sixteenth birthday. In the passage the commenter quoted, this young person spoke about the man who shot her in the face:
Even if there was a gun in my hand and he was standing in front of me, I would not shoot him. This is the compassion I have learned from Mohamed, the prophet of mercy, Jesus Christ and Lord Buddha. This the legacy of change I have inherited from Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Mohammed Ali Jinnah. This is the philosophy of nonviolence that I have learned from Gandhi, Bacha Khan and Mother Teresa. And this is the forgiveness that I have learned from my father and from my mother.

This is what my soul is telling me: be peaceful and love everyone.
Watching Davis last night, we thought of Malala Yousafzai and we thought of Anne Frank. We also thought of Nelson Mandela, who can be seen on YouTube discussing the way he and his comrades, locked in prison, “identified with” that young European girl.

The comments at Salon are full of anger at the college player, full of the desire to see him punished. In the end, the world remembers the Kings, the Mandelas and the Lincolns—the people who announce their refusal to judge or to hate. At least, before ISIS it did.

Also the Franks and the Malalas. Last night, as we watched an unusual guest, we were pleased to find our thoughts drifting away toward those famous great souls.

OUR CONVERSATIONS TO NOWHERE: Lawrence O’Donnell provides a safe space!


Part 3—Keeping us barefoot and clueless:
The story of Rolling Stone’s gang rape debacle is extremely complex.

The number of claims Rolling Stone failed to check beggars the imagination. On a journalistic basis, this rates as one of the most astonishing fails of all time.

Meanwhile, the strangeness of the alleged victim’s conduct and claims has led many observers to say that she must be “troubled,” “disturbed” or “mentally ill”—and those are among the more sympathetic observers.

(The less sympathetic call her a liar, or say she should be prosecuted.)

For ourselves, we expect more from adult journalists than we do from college students. In this case, the alleged victim was in the first month of her freshman year when she started her chain of contradictory claims, some of which seemed to violate basic laws of physics and human biology.

We expect more from adult journalists than we do from a college freshman who may, in fact, be “troubled.” Concerning the journalism in this case, one more thing seems clear:

In this instance, it seems that Rolling Stone engaged in the latest example of a growing, deeply unfortunate trend over here on the pseudo-left:

To all appearances, Rolling Stone went looking for the perfect example through which it could pretend to discuss an alleged social crisis. Failing to find a perfect example, it did the next best thing:

It seized upon a troubled young person who was telling a deeply disturbing story. Failing to fact-check her most basic claims, Rolling Stone ran with her stories.

Presto! We pseudo-liberals had our latest perfect example! Within weeks, our latest example was falling apart in a deeply embarrassing fashion.

Here’s the problem:

Over here on the pseudo-left, we refuse to be deeply embarrassed. For that reason, it fell to Lawrence O’Donnell and a panel of stooges to create a space, this Monday night, where we could stay barefoot and clueless.

Lawrence performed this task with aplomb. Let’s start with a bit of background:

On Monday afternoon, Chief Longo held his latest presser in Charlottesville. He reported the findings of a long, expensive police inquiry into Rolling Stone’s much-discussed tale.

On the front page of yesterday’s New York Times, Owen Robinson summarized those findings. Starting with its front-page headline, the Times included the basic facts Lawrence chose to deep-six:
ROBINSON (3/24/15): Police Find No Evidence of Rape at University of Virginia Fraternity

The police here said Monday that they had found “no substantive basis” to support a Rolling Stone magazine article depicting a horrific gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity house
and that a four-month review had identified serious discrepancies in the account by a woman identified as Jackie, who refused to cooperate with their investigation.

After a review of records and roughly 70 interviews, Police Chief Timothy J. Longo Sr. said at a crowded news conference here, his investigators found “no evidence” that a party even took place at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity on Sept. 28, 2012, when the rape was said to have occurred. Instead, he said, there was a formal that night at the house’s sister sorority, making it highly unlikely that the fraternity would have had a party on the same night.
Police said they had found no substantive basis to support Rolling Stone’s depiction of a horrific gang rape. Beyond that, police had found “serious discrepancies” with the alleged victim’s account.

The previous night, Lawrence and his panel had taken a different approach. They created a space where we pseudo-liberals wouldn’t have to deal with the latest collapse of a perfect story.

Before we see how Lawrence did that, let’s think about the kinds of “serious discrepancies” which were found in the alleged victim’s various accounts. From now on, we’ll call her Jackie.

In fact, these discrepancies were virtually endless. For the sake of simplicity, let’s consider one relatively minor example, concerning a second alleged attack.

According to Jackie, the gang rape at the heart of this matter occurred on September 28, 2012. According to the Charlottesville police department’s press release about its probe, she first reported a version of this alleged attack in May 2013, after being “referred to the Dean because of poor grades.”

Her version of this alleged sexual assault would change over time. But in April 2014, Jackie reported a second assault to the UVa dean—an alleged assault in which she was deliberately hit by a bottle which shattered against her face.

A version of this second alleged attack appeared in the Rolling Stone article. Given the laws of physics and human biology, Rolling Stone’s account sounded highly improbable, if not completely impossible.

The police department investigated this claim. According to Monday’s press release, Jackie’s claims about this attack fell apart in three different ways:
CHARLOTTESVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT (3/23/15): On April 21, 2014, “Jackie” again met with Dean Eramo and reported a physical assault that was alleged to have occurred on April 6, 2014 on the University Corner in the vicinity of Elliewood Avenue.

According to “Jackie” she was struck in the face by a glass bottle. She further advised that her roommate at the time, a nursing student, assisted her in removing glass from her (“Jackie’s”) face.

In a subsequent interview by investigators, “Jackie’s” roommate denied ever removing glass from “Jackie’s” face. Further, she described “Jackie’s” injury as an abrasion consistent with having fallen.

According to “Jackie” she stood in the parking garage on Elliewood Avenue and called her mother. Yet, a subsequent search of phone records which we believe to be “Jackie’s” failed to yield any evidence that such a call was made. In fact, no calls were made from April 5, 2014 from 8 p.m. to April 6, 2014 at 4 a.m.


Investigators reviewed a photograph of “Jackie” believed to have been taken during the week of April 11, 2014. The injury depicted in the photograph has the appearance of swelling above the right eye and an apparent abrasion on the upper cheek. In the opinion of the investigator, it did not appear consistent with being struck by a blunt object.
This is a relatively minor part of the overall web of claims. That said, the claims concerning this second attack seem to have fallen apart.

The same is true of Jackie’s shifting claims about the alleged gang rape itself. Because those claims are so convoluted and so baroque, we’ll let the simpler account of this second attack provide an example of what happened when the Charlottesville police investigated Jackie’s claims.

Given the weirdness of the overall story, we would guess that the alleged victim may be “disturbed” in some way. It seems likely that she got caught in a web of misstatements from which she couldn’t free herself.

Along came Rolling Stone, looking for a perfect example through which it could pretend to discuss a social problem. In an astonishing journalistic debacle, it fact-checked virtually nothing and it published all.

In a way which should be deeply embarrassing, this latest “perfect example” soon started falling apart. This Monday, the story completely collapsed.

In response, Lawrence and a panel of stooges worked to soften the blow. They created a safe space for us liberals—a place in which we could continue to hear our favorite nostrums. In such ways, the liberal world keeps getting dumbed down and undermined.

How did Lawrence create a safe space for us liberals? Consider the way he started his report, comparing his framework to that which appeared in the Times:
O’DONNELL (3/23/15): Charlottesville police announced today the suspension of a police investigation into an alleged gang rape at a fraternity house on the University of Virginia campus in 2012. The rape was first described in a Rolling Stone cover story last year, but the magazine later apologized after discrepancies in the story were revealed.

NBC’s Gabe Gutierrez has more. Gabe?
To watch the whole segment, click here.

If you read the New York Times, you were told that police had “found no evidence of” the alleged gang rape. The party at which it was alleged to have occurred didn’t even seem to have happened.

If you watched Lawrence, you were told something substantially different. You were told that police were suspending their investigation into the alleged rape.

That was an accurate statement, of course. But it avoided the basic facts about what police had found.

In fairness, Lawrence said “discrepancies” had been found in Rolling Stone’s report. Incredibly, this was the sole example his viewers were given in Gutierrez’s videotaped report:
GUTIERREZ: The shocking story initially led university officials to halt all Greek activities. But soon, Jackie’s friends began to raise doubts.

RYAN DUFFIN: She said that there were five men. The Rolling Stone article reported seven.

GUTIERREZ: Rolling Stone apologized to its readers, saying there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account. On UVA campus, some students worry the discredited story will have a chilling effect on future sexual assault victims coming forward.
Gutierrez’s basic chronology is hopelessly jumbled there. In fact, Rolling Stone apologized for the “discrepancies” several months ago.

That said, Gutierrez gave an absurd example of the types of “discrepancies” involved in this debacle. In fact, Jackie’s friends have contradicted her various claims in all sorts of major ways. Beyond that, her various stories are full of fundamental claims which didn’t pan out.

Indeed, the backstory to this debacle involves a non-existent suitor, “Haven Monahan,” who Jackie apparently invented in September 2012 in an attempt to make a male freshman jealous. But what example of a “discrepancy” was served to Lawrence’s viewers?

At first, Jackie reported five attackers. But Rolling Stone later said seven!

(In the original account, Jackie was forced to give oral sex to five men. In Rolling Stone, she was vaginally raped by seven men, for a period of three hours, on a bed of broken glass.)

Jackie said five; Rolling Stone said seven. It’s virtual journalistic fraud to offer that as the sole example of the “discrepancies” in this mess. That said, Gutierrez was working with some very soft soap this night.

After a very soft report, it was time for Lawrence and his panel to create a safe space for us liberals. We’d get to hear our favorite points repeated all over again!

Here’s the way the hapless O’Donnell started his panel discussion. For him, this was the main take-away from Monday’s events:
O’DONNELL: Thanks, Gabe. We’re joined now by Karen Desoto, former defense attorney and prosecutor. She’s a legal analyst for the Weekend Today show.

Karen, what the police seem to be saying today, as one of the lessons of this, is go to the police early.
DeSoto agreed with that idea. “Yes, absolutely,” she said.

Police had said many things that day. Lawrence chose to walk away with an absurdly anodyne lesson.

From what he said, you might have thought the problem with this remarkable case involved Jackie’s failure to speak to police right away. In fact, she has refused to speak to the police, in any way, right to this very day.

Seven deeply vicious rapists are loose on the UVa campus. In response to this situation, this is what Jackie has done:
CHARLOTTESVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT (3/23/15): On November 20, 2014, Detective Via again attempted contact with “Jackie”. This time “Jackie” responded and agreed to meet after the Thanksgiving break.

On December 2, 2014, “Jackie” came to the Charlottesville Police Department headquarters accompanied by University Dean Laurie Casteen and legal counsel from the Legal Aid and Justice Center. While there “Jackie” declined, through legal counsel, to provide a statement or answer any questions.

Since that time, despite numerous attempts to gain her cooperation, “Jackie” has provided no information whatsoever to investigators.

In an effort to access certain records pertaining to “Jackie” that would aid in our investigation, efforts were made through her legal counsel to obtain her written consent. Those efforts, too, were met with negative results.
Lawrence’s viewers weren’t asked to hear that. Instead, he offered a bromide a person could offer any day of the year.

As he continued, Lawrence threw to Professor Warren, who is defining himself as one of the most reliable hacks in the world of liberal TV. He voiced an array of talking-points designed to make us glad:
WARREN: Right now, Lawrence, there are over 100 universities that are being investigated around sexual assault charges by the Justice Department, ongoing investigations, right now. And so it raises a bigger question: What is the role of the university in creating a safe campus climate for all of its students?

I mean, you look at UVA and take sexual assault, and then Martese Johnson, who, by the way, went to my high school in Chicago, and was brutalized by, not campus police, but another law enforcement agency.

And, in this case, you don’t have campus police doing this investigation, you have Charlottesville police. That raises a larger question: What are campuses doing, or not doing, to keep all of their students safe? Why aren’t they the first place of recourse for students who in some way feel violated?
We’d have to call that jumbled passage a ball of confusion. That said, it involved a set of talking-points and insinuations which make all liberals glad.

Most strikingly, we got to hear that Martese Johnson was “brutalized” by that other agency.

The investigation of that event has just started. But so what? The professor already knows what the probe is going to show—just as Lawrence once knew that Michael Brown had been a victim of first-degree murder.

Rather plainly, nothing can stop our “liberal” professors from behaving this way. They’re paid to dumb us liberals down. They’re only too happy to do it.

At this point, DeSoto jumped in again, reacting to the professor’s suggestions. What she said flew in the face of the day’s revelations:
WARREN: What are campuses doing, or not doing, to keep all of their students safe? Why aren’t they the first place of recourse for students who in some way feel violated?

DESOTO: Well, that’s an easy answer because universities are—it’s a business. And you want people to go to your school. And moms and dads don’t want their daughters to go to school where there’s a high rape incidence, right? So you’re going to want to protect that.

You’re going to want to, maybe, cover that up because you want students to go there. So that’s part of the problem.

I mean, are you going to have campus police? Are you going to report it? So the policies and procedures that a lot of these universities are what is in question. I mean, are you going to be for the student or are you going to be for your image? And that is the huge problem here.
DeSoto voiced another one of our tribe’s favorite scripts. The universities won’t call the police because they’re running a business!

That may well be a problem. But in fact, that day’s report had seemed to show that UVa called in the local police three separate times in this case, starting in April 2014. Jackie refused to cooperate every time.

For the Washington Post’s report of this matter, just click here. To see Jezebel’s Anna Merlan say the same thing, just click this.

DeSoto was stating the standard point while skipping what the report had shown. At home, we liberals got to feel glad as we heard a favorite script.

There was more, but let’s quit.

Lawrence and his panel staged an awful display this night. They conveyed little sense of what had been revealed that day. Instead, they rattled a series of tribal talking-points.

Viewers were given little idea about the shape of this remarkable case, in which a young person made an assortment of claims and a group of adults at Rolling Stone staged one of the most gigantic fails in journalistic history. All in pursuit of the latest perfect example!

Lawrence’s viewers got little sense of that. They heard that Jackie said five, while Rolling Stone later said seven. Also, the universities won’t call the police, even though UVa did!

As usual, Lawrence gave us a tribal “safe space.” But what do we mean by that?

Tomorrow: Assistant professor knows best!

Friday: Our liberal conversations to nowhere