Supplemental: From the Trans-Pacific Partnership to the role of race at UT!

TUESDAY, JUNE 30, 2015

Also, Bessie Jones meets Hobart Smith:
Given the way our up-country journalism works, does anyone ever understand any policy issue?

For example, could you explain the issues involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership in any way at all? There have been very few attempts to explain what that whole thing’s about—or to explain why Obama is siding with the congressional GOP more than with his own party.

Over the weekend, we took the obvious step. We reviewed what Krugman has said about the TPP in his columns and on his blog.

Some day soon, we’ll show you what Krugman has said. (We were a bit surprised.) In the meantime, let’s admit it. None of us understands the TPP, and no one is making the slightest attempt to explain the relevant issues.

Second issue: Obamacare.

We don’t intend what follows as a criticism of President Obama. But we’re often struck by the way the liberal world seems to have settled regarding this general topic.

We’re so old that we can remember when President >Clinton tried to create a national health care program or something of that sort. No one ever understood that program either, but it seems to us that the original goal was something like “universal coverage.”

Twenty-two years later, the Supreme Court saved Obamacare’s bacon last week. That said, we still aren’t hugely close to universal coverage; we still spend two to three times as much on health care, per person, as other developed nations spend; and we watched Ezekiel Emanuel on C-Span last weekend telling a caller why the deductibles in Obamacare are so darn high.

Is it just our imagination? Or, judged on a global basis, is this a comically awful program, even after all these years?

(Some day soon, we’ll show you the Q-and-A with Emanuel.)

Third issue: affirmative action procedures at the University of Texas.

In this morning’s New York Times, Adam Liptak reports on the Supreme Court’s decision to review UT’s affirmative action admissions program again.

Liptak’s front-page report struck us as perhaps a bit propagandistic, and perhaps a bit poorly explained to boot. After reading it, we don’t even feel clear about which part of UT’s admission procedure will be under review.

In this passage, Liptak describes the current admission procedure, which has two basic parts:
LIPTAK (6/30/15): Most applicants from Texas are admitted under a part of the program that guarantees admission to top students in every high school in the state. (This is often called the Top 10 program, though the percentage cutoff can vary by year.)

The Top 10 program has produced significant racial and ethnic diversity. In 2011, for instance, 26 percent of freshmen who enrolled under the program were Hispanic, and 6 percent were black. Texas is about 38 percent Hispanic and 12 percent black.

The remaining Texas students and those from elsewhere are considered under standards that take account of academic achievement and other factors, including race and ethnicity. Many colleges and universities base all of their admissions decisions on such “holistic” grounds.
Later, Liptak describes the Top 10 program as “race-neutral,” implying that it won’t be under review. Here’s the problem:

If we understand the matter correctly, the Top 10 program was adopted in part to produce racial diversity. Among various theoretical downsides, it can have bad consequences for ambitious black kids and for diversity in Texas high schools. (In theory, it could give black kids a reason to stay in all-black high schools instead of transferring to more challenging magnet schools, where they might not end up in the top ten percent.)

We didn’t think that Liptak’s report was especially clear. For that reason, we had the analysts file “UT admission procedures” in the drawer with TPP and O-care.

Our national discourse is a daily ridiculous mess. This fact, though, may be hard to discern, given the platforms from which our journalists and our professors perform.

Those high platforms may convey the sense that the moral and political intelligence resides in Gotham and DC, not in the Carolina low country, where people talk love and forgiveness and may even lapse into Gullah.

Do yourselves a favor! Imagine the possibility that those families in Charleston may know more about various things than their condescending city-dwelling cousins, who pushed back against them last week.

Why not take a trip on that old gospel ship! For more on the so-called “Lowcountry clap,” you can examine a book from the Duke Books Scholarly Collection, Talking to the Dead: Religion, Music, and Lived Memory among Gullah/Geechee Women.

The low-country clap is explicitly mentioned. Readers, we’re just saying!

Ranging a bit further afield, our personal preference, even in music, is for so-called black and so-called white together. For that reason, we offer this link, in which the Georgia Sea Island Singers engage with Hobart Smith.

Our up-country ways may not be all that. Except when we’re doing the telling!

LOW-COUNTRY CADENCES: The families love built!

TUESDAY, JUNE 30, 2015

Part 2—Echoes of Dr. King:
In this morning’s New York Times, Alan Blinder describes the last of the Charleston funerals.

“Charleston Church Mourns One More Beloved Victim,” the headline says, employing a bit of language from Dr. King.

Myra Thompson was 59 when she was murdered. According to Blinder, “She joined [the Emanuel AME Church] when she was young, and she was long one of the church’s lay leaders.”

Governor Haley and Mayor Riley spoke at Thompson’s funeral. At one point, Blinder reports an implausible claim:
BLINDER (6/30/15): Hundreds of mourners could not attend the service in the crowded sanctuary, including some who said they arrived around 7 a.m., four hours before Ms. Thompson’s funeral was scheduled to begin. As Ms. Thompson’s coffin arrived, onlookers lifted handwritten signs that declared: “Love Wins. Every. Single. Time.”

The signs also included “#CharlestonStrong,” a refrain that has been common here since the massacre. The suspect, Dylann Roof, 21, has been charged with nine counts of murder.

“We know that an evil man came downstairs 12 days ago with hate in his heart, and this community responded with love,” Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. said. “He came preaching and believing in division, and he brought unity.”
For ourselves, we wouldn’t call Roof “an evil man.” We think the term confers power on someone like Roof. We think it encourages other lost souls to follow along in his wake.

That said, does love win every single time? In the literal sense, it certainly doesn’t seem to.

Last Thursday night, Professor Butler went a bit farther than that. He spoke with Chris Hayes, who thanked him for his “frank honesty:”
BUTLER (6/25/15): It goes to a larger issue, that when black people talk to white people about white supremacy, we’re supposed to be loving and forgiving. The problem is, love and forgiveness are not productive in American politics. That`s not how social change is achieved. You know, you could do it through organizing, you could do it through electoral politics, you could take it to the streets. But being nice in the face of white supremacy does not advance racial justice.
Are black people somehow supposed to be loving and forgiving when speaking in such contexts? We can’t say we observe that dynamic in our national discourse a lot.

At any rate, Professor Butler plainly doesn’t seem to think that love always wins. He specifically said that “love and forgiveness” are unproductive in our American politics.

Plainly, Professor Butler is deeply pained by the events in Charleston. That said, we were very much struck by his remark about love and forgiveness.

He was speaking as part of an instant pushback against the conduct of the Charleston families who had responded to the murders with expressions of love and forgiveness. “We are the family love built,” one of the mourners memorably said just two days after the murders.

People all over the world have responded to those families with expressions of respect which bordered on incomprehension and awe. Up north, many of our professors and journalists engaged in instant pushback.

To our ear, a fair amount of this pushback was openly condescending. It was too soon for the families to forgive, an omniscient short story writer explained in the New York Times, a paper which couldn’t run fast enough to keep condescension alive.

Some of the condescension seemed to mock the families for being too old-school churchy. Inevitably, though, it fell to the new Salon to complain about the fact that the families had spoken at all.

It’s hard to top the new Salon! Bravely fighting through her own remarkable lack of information, a fiery omniscient named Ericka Schiche heroically offered this:
SCHICHE (6/27/15): What kind of twisted criminal justice system does South Carolina have that would even encourage a family member to address a killer before a trial has even transpired? Charleston County Chief Magistrate James B. Gosnell Jr., a person who allegedly once uttered the word “n***er” in court, ought to be ashamed of himself for even exposing grieving family members to videotape of the cretinous killer standing with his back to armed guards less than 48 hours after the shootings. The looming question is: Who is protecting and advising these families which are now permanently damaged by the massacre of their loved ones in this moment of extreme shock, sorrow and bottomless dejection?
We’ll assume that Schiche is well-intentioned in some tremendously general sense. That said, she seemed to suggest that the Charleston families needed someone to make them stop talking in such ridiculous ways.

For the record, Schiche knows what everyone else should do, but she didn’t seem to know what actually happened on the day to which she refers. In the court hearing in question, the Charleston families spoke directly to Roof, who was being held in a separate location, not to videotape of this pitiful soul.

Even at the new Salon, it was amazing to see Schiche’s fact-challenged condescension thrown into print. (Her factual error stands uncorrected, except in reader comments.) At any rate, readers of the new Salon were given a perfect tribal fantasy from which to derive their tribal pleasure:

The families only spoke that way because of the racist judge!

It’s hard to top the new Salon! That said, ponder these questions:

Did those pitiful Charleston families know whereof they spoke? Had they spoken up too soon, as the omniscient Roxane Gay seemed to tell us?

Should they have been told by advisers to keep their traps shut, as the all-knowing Schiche seemed to suggest? Was this “dangerous” mess the fault of a racist judge?

To our ear, the condescension expressed by these writers is obvious and quite familiar. But in our view, Professor Butler’s statement to Hayes was the most striking pushback of all.

Plainly, Professor Butler is deeply angry about these murders; there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be. That said, is it true that “love and forgiveness are not productive in American politics?”

In their statements after the murders, the Charleston families weren’t offering theories about what works in our politics. But is it true that “love and forgiveness” don’t work?

We were struck by Professor Butler’s claim because we’ve read Dr. King. He believed that love and forgiveness constituted a powerful force in effecting social change and addressing social problems.

In 1957, Dr. King published Stride Toward Freedom, his history of the Montgomery bus boycott. In Chapter 6, Pilgrimage to Nonviolence, he described the intellectual search which led him to conclude that “nonviolent resistance was one of the most potent weapons available to oppressed people in their quest for social justice.”

The concepts of love and forgiveness are central all through the chapter and book.

Dr. King describes an anguished search, undertaken at a young age. He describes the way he found the answer to his search in Gandhi’s concept of Satyagraha, which Dr. King translates as “truth force” or “love force.”

“As I delved deeper into the philosophy of Gandhi my skepticism concerning the power of love gradually diminished,” Dr. King wrote, “and I came to see for the first time its potency in the area of reform.”

Dr. King’s entire chapter can be read here. We’re surprised anew every time we read it. Truly, it’s a remarkable document, written when this world historical figure was just 28 years old.

You can read that chapter today. Tomorrow, we’ll run through highlights of the search which led him to his ultimate belief in the power of “the love ethic of Jesus” as a tool for social change.

Warning! If you choose to read that chapter, you may perhaps be embarrassed on several occasions. Dr. King’s basic concepts are considerably out of step with the times, though much less so in the low country than in the rest of our world.

In her report on two earlier funerals, Lizette Alvarez mentioned “the syncopated ‘Lowcountry clap’” which animated the musical presentations.

Those Charleston families live with some remarkable low-country cadences. This includes their religious traditions, which are tied to a brilliant moral and intellectual regime, one which has changed the world.

To our ear, the pushback hasn’t seemed to be real aware of that fact.

Tomorrow: A remarkable search

Supplemental: Clinton “not quite as bad” as Bush!

MONDAY, JUNE 29, 2015

So says northern journalist:
Why are we inclined to support those Charleston families over our northern journalists and professors? Especially when the brilliant moral and intellectual tradition in question formed the backbone of the civil rights movement?

Consider the relentless bad judgment of our current northern intellectual guilds. Let’s start with the front-page report about Candidate Bush in today’s Washington Post.

The report concerns Candidate Bush’s allegedly shaky business history. Written by O’Harrow and Hamburger, the piece appears beneath these hard-copy headlines:
As Bush built wealth, questions arose
Legal cases involving some of GOP hopeful’s associates put his reputation at risk
The piece runs 3832 words.

Personally, we find reports of this type a bit dull. We’d rather see insightful reports about policy matters, including issues of racial justice.

That said, this is the basic nugget concerning the way the GOP hopeful has put his reputation at risk:
O’HARROW AND HAMBURGER (6/29/15): Today, as he works toward his run at the White House, Bush touts his business experience as a strength that gives him the skills and savvy to serve as the nation's chief executive. He has said he “worked my tail off” to succeed. As an announced candidate, Bush soon will be making financial disclosures that will reveal recent business successes and show a substantial increase in his wealth since he left office as Florida governor in 2007, individuals close to the candidate told The Post.

But records, lawsuits, interviews and newspaper accounts stretching back more than three decades present a picture of a man who, before he was elected Florida governor in 1998, often benefited from his family connections and repeatedly put himself in situations that raised questions about his judgment and exposed him to reputational risk.


Five of his business associates have been convicted of crimes; one remains an international fugitive on fraud charges. In each case, Bush said he had no knowledge of any wrongdoing and said some of the people he met as a businessman in Florida took advantage of his naiveté.

Bush, now 62, has said that he has learned to be more careful about vetting his associates, telling the Miami Herald during his first, failed run for Florida governor in 1994 that getting “burned a couple of times” made him “better at deciphering people's motives.”
Let’s be fair! Nothing in that passage says that Bush himself ever did anything wrong. The passage also seems to say that the business troubles it describes all occurred before 1998, when Bush was elected governor of Florida.

The passage gives that plain impression, but that impression is wrong. Several thousand words into the piece, O’Harrow and Hamburger report that Bush fell in with one of his crooks in 2008, after leaving the State House, when he joined the board of a start-up firm called InnoVida.

The head of the firm “eventually was charged with taking $40 million from investors and $10 million from a federal loan program intended to finance construction of homes in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake,” the Post reports. “He was sentenced to 12 1/2 years in prison and ordered to pay $24 million in restitution.”

The firm’s chief financial officer got a four-year sentence, according to the Post.

We’ll admit it! As we fought our way through these matters, we wondered how the corps would handle such facts if Candidate Clinton had been involved with this array of crooks.

We can’t necessarily answer that question, but it came to mind. Then, we read Jaime Fuller’s synopsis of the Post’s report at the up-country New York magazine, a pillar of the northern journalistic establishment.

As she starts, Fuller runs through the basics of the Post report. She then cites an earlier report by Jennifer Senior, a New York magazine piece which covered similar ground and produced little discussion.

According to Fuller, Senior described the InnoVida matter as Bush’s “most eyebrow-raising venture.” That’s the venture which started in 2008.

We were puzzling over the way the New York Times has broken its back inventing scandalous conduct by Candidate Clinton while saying next to nothing about matters like this. At that point, Fuller broke our hearts, fecklessly typing this:
FULLER (6/29/15): However, as Senior points out, at least one other 2016 presidential candidate has failed to win the Florida political missteps version of “Where's Waldo”—although not quite as badly as Bush.
Fuller then posts a long excerpt from Senior’s piece in which Candidate Clinton once had her picture taken with an unsavory person at a public reception.

In Fuller’s account, this means that Clinton has screwed up too, “although not quite as badly as Bush.”

Fuller’s end her piece with that utterly silly excerpt. Our question: Where in the world—where on earth—do they find these people?

In Fuller’s case, they found her post-Middlebury. She graduated four years ago, in 2011.

Today, Fuller displays the strange lack of judgment which has characterized our political reporting for lo, these disastrous years. Our advice?

Remember who you’re running with when you let these puzzling people stage their latest jihad—in this case, their jihad against the brilliant moral and intellectual values which drove the principal strand of the civil rights movement.

We’ll be discussing that jihad all week. Meanwhile:

Candidate Bush was in business with a succession of crooks. Candidate Clinton once had her photo taken.

Her conduct “wasn’t quite as bad!” Where in the world do they find these people? What makes us listen to them?

LOW-COUNTRY CADENCES: Widely rejected!

MONDAY, JUNE 29, 2015

Part 1—Big northern brains push back:
We’re not sure we’ve ever seen a more remarkable welter of pushbacks than we’ve seen in the past week.

The pushback came from Professor West, simultaneously speaking all sides of the topic on yesterday’s Reliable Sources.

(West on our cable news channels: “You’ve got MSNBC, you know, is basically Obama propaganda. You’ve got Fox News, right-wing propaganda. CNN, much more ambiguous, able to generate some insights, wrestle with some issues, like your show. But still, CNN fearful because you’ve got to deal with the profit margin. You’ve got to deal with making money.”

(Two months back, we captured Professor West kissing the ascot of his “brother” Sean Hannity as he attempted to sell his new book. Whatever! We’re just saying!)

Back to the recent pushback:

The pushback came from Professor Butler (of Georgetown), first in an angry hour with Diane Rehm, then in a somewhat puzzling segment with Chris Hayes, who praised him twice for being “frankly honest.”

Inevitably, the most pitiful form of the pushback came at the new Salon, in this jumbled essay. The pushback also came from Karen Attiah, on-line at the Washington Post.

In some ways, it seems to us that Attiah expressed the pushback most directly. It also seems to us that some of what follows doesn’t exactly make sense.

We tend to be like that up north:
ATTIAH (6/28/15): In society’s rush to fawn over how quickly and easily blacks turn to the Bible, and forgive and reconcile with those who seek to dehumanize black people, to harm black people, to destroy our sense of security at our places of worship, there is the tendency to ignore the psychological and spiritual price racial terror and white supremacy extracts from black people by striking fear into our hearts.

For black people in America, there has been a lot to feel afraid of lately. Are my family and friends at black churches safe? Can a black girl who looks like me go to a swimming party in a McKinney, Tex.? Will my brother and black male friends be safe at a “routine” traffic stop? Will my college-age friends be safe from chants of segregation and lynching from fraternity boys?

The media was filled with headlines riffing on the themes of “Grace in Charleston,” “Forgiveness in Charleston,” aiming to celebrate the capacity of black folks to forgive yet another unspeakable act of violence. We were enthralled by President Obama, the first black U.S. president, singing “Amazing Grace” during his eulogy for S.C. State Senator Rev. Clementa Pinckney, allegedly gunned down by white supremacist Dylann Roof this month at the Mother Emanuel AME church.

I admit Obama’s eulogy in South Carolina was a welcome tonic, easing, if only a little bit, the pain and weight of what happened in Charleston. But, as barely two weeks have gone by since the massacre in that church, many black folk are still hurt, angry and afraid.
Without any question, many black people are feeling hurt, angry, afraid. There’s no reason why people shouldn’t be feeling those ways.

Has there been a “tendency to ignore the psychological and spiritual price racial terror and white supremacy extracts from black people?” That could be true as well.

Beyond that, though, Attiah said that “society” “rushed to fawn” in the aftermath of the recent murders in Charleston. More specifically, she said society “rushed to fawn over how quickly and easily blacks turn to the Bible, and forgive and reconcile.”

Attiah also criticized “the media,” saying it was “filled with headlines...aiming to celebrate the capacity of black folks to forgive yet another unspeakable act of violence.” She linked to one alleged example, this analysis piece in the Atlantic. She didn’t cite the media entity for which she herself works.

(For the record, the piece to which Attiah links also cites the way Amish families forgave the killer in a 2006 mass schoolhouse shooting. The piece specifically states this point: “An individual or community’s gift of forgiveness, however, does not obviate a society’s demand for justice.”)

Attiah seemed to praise President Obama’s eulogy, failing to note that he too hailed the way those “black folks” in Charleston did what they did with respect to love and forgiveness and the affirmative refusal to hate. But so it has tended to go as this pushback has unfolded.

In our view, this pushback against the Charleston families has often been unattractive and condescending and not hugely helpful or wise. It has also been quite widespread in the past week.

We thought of this pushback when we read Andrew Sullivan’s post about Friday’s same-sex marriage decision. Sullivan has been advocating for this issue since 1989. He described the early pushback, including that which came from “much of the gay left:”
SULLIVAN (6/26/15): Those were isolating days. A young fellow named Evan Wolfson who had written a dissertation on the subject in 1983 got in touch, and the world immediately felt less lonely. Then a breakthrough in Hawaii, where the state supreme court ruled for marriage equality on gender equality grounds. No gay group had agreed to support the case, which was regarded at best as hopeless and at worst, a recipe for a massive backlash. A local straight attorney from the ACLU, Dan Foley, took it up instead, one of many straight men and women who helped make this happen. And when we won, and got our first fact on the ground, we indeed faced exactly that backlash and all the major gay rights groups refused to spend a dime on protecting the breakthrough … and we lost.

In fact, we lost and lost and lost again. Much of the gay left was deeply suspicious of this conservative-sounding reform;
two thirds of the country were opposed; the religious right saw in the issue a unique opportunity for political leverage—and over time, they put state constitutional amendments against marriage equality on the ballot in countless states, and won every time. Our allies deserted us...Those were dark, dark days.

I recall all this now simply to rebut the entire line of being “on the right side of history.” History does not have such straight lines...
Just to be clear, there is no reason why “the gay left” or any of the “the major gay rights groups” were required to support this movement, whether then or now. Marriage equality has come to be seen as a basic right by most on the left. There’s no reason why everyone had to see things that way in 1989.

Still, we thought of the pushback against the Charleston families when we read that passage. That pushback is being disguised in various ways, as is our wont up north in our journalistic and academic circles.

For the most part, we’re framing our pushback as a pushback against “society,” or more often as a pushback against “the media.” We’re hiding behind these safe targets as we secretly ridicule southern blacks for their quick, easy turn to the Bible.

In some of her phrasing, we thought Attiah made this, our actual target, more clear than others have done. Again, we’ll suggest what we suggested last week:

In the past week, Northern liberal alleged intellectuals have been pushing back against southern blacks for all their stupid Bible crap and all their love and forgiveness. It seems to us that this isn’t the greatest idea.

Full disclosure—we aren’t religious ourselves. We hold no religious or cosmological views, aside from the cosmological view that we humans have no idea who, what or where we are or what we’re doing there.

South Carolina’s church traditions don’t belong to us—but they do constitute an important part of American and world history. On balance, we think they’re being denigrated in ways which aren’t especially helpful or smart, as is our wont up here.

We northern alleged intellectuals! Last Friday, Lizette Alvarez profiled two of Charleston’s murder victims. Early on, she let a bit of the glory out.

Good for her, we said:
ALVAREZ (6/26/15): Yet in the face of profound loss, the funerals Thursday were jubilant, the overflow crowds swaying, singing and cheering, doing the syncopated “Lowcountry clap.” Speakers recalled both women as pillars of their families and their church.

The victims’ family members have drawn national attention for the grace they have shown, offering blessings, love, and even forgiveness to the man accused in the killings—an example they say was set by the people who were suddenly ripped from their lives.

One by one, Ms. Lance’s five grandchildren stood in front of the congregation at Royal Missionary Baptist Church, where her body lay before the altar in a shimmering silver gown, and praised her spirit of generosity, which they hoped would be embraced by all. One of her granddaughters said the family wished her legacy to stretch beyond the bullets and bloodshed at Emanuel.
Alvarez cited the families’ “grace” even before Obama did! She also referred to “the syncopated ‘Lowcountry clap’ ” which animated those funerals.

South Carolina is culturally unique in various ways; this is especially true of coastal South Carolina. In principle, large continental nations can gain from the cultures which may emerge in their various corners and crannies.

As far as we know, southern black church traditions didn’t come, in the main, from coastal Carolina. That said, we were happy to see Alvarez make that lovely reference to that “Lowcountry clap.”

Our question:

Is it possible that we all-knowing northerners have more to gain from southern black culture than this one rhythmic infusion? Is it possible that our professors and journalists might gain from an examination of their own basic instincts this time?

Tomorrow: The aggressive refusal to hate

Supplemental: Otherization, Alito and us!


Keeping the glory locked in:
Otherization seems to be a basic human instinct.

It certainly runs all through American politics! Consider what Candidate Clinton said about yesterday’s Supreme Court decision, Jeremy Peters reporting:
PETERS (6/27/15): Absent a surprise change of heart by one of the Republicans, the Democrats will look to use same-sex marriage to their advantage. Democrats see the issue as one that allows them to hold up their nominee as empathetic and compassionate, while portraying the Republican as retrogressive and out of touch. Hillary Rodham Clinton hinted at the party’s line of attack on Friday when she said, “As love and joy flood our streets today, it is hard to imagine how anyone could deny the full protection of our laws to any of our fellow Americans—but there are those who would.”
We thought the highlighted statement was odd. For Clinton’s full statement, click here.

It isn’t exactly clear what Clinton meant by that highlighted statement. But is it really “hard to imagine” how anyone could oppose the Court’s decision? Is it “hard to imagine” how someone could oppose the right to same-sex marriage?

We don’t know why those things would be hard for Clinton to imagine! She opposed same-sex marriage herself until two years ago!

Now, she seems to find it “hard to imagine” how anyone else could hold the view she apparently held for the first 65 years of her life! After a vote of the analysts, we’ve decided to call that an act of “otherization.”

We wouldn’t criticize Candidate Clinton for her past views or positions. Same-sex marriage has been a major wedge issue in the past several decades, and Clinton was a major figure in national electoral politics. We refer you back to what James Clyburn said to Chris Hayes about this week’s political change, by Nikki Haley and others, concerning the Confederate flag:
HAYES (6/22/15): You know, there are obviously folks who are celebrating this [change of stance] and welcome it. There are others who are sort of saying, “Well, this was done in the face of a kind of crescendo of public outrage and the initial instinct to both Governor Nikki Haley and Senator Lindsey Graham were, if not to outright defend the flag, kind of hem and haw on it.”

How do you understand this decision? As one of conviction, or kind of following the momentum of where things were headed anyway?

CLYBURN: Well, you know, I understand politics, and I know the difference in the Republican voters’ psyche about the flag and Democratic voters’ psyche. I would say generally two-thirds Democratic voters have got problems with the flag flying on the State House grounds, about two-thirds of Republican voters want it to fly on the State House grounds.
From there, Clyburn went off in a different direction. For the most part, he declined to criticize Haley’s motives. Earlier in the interview, he had seemed to praise her for her new stance.

Why did Clyburn react as he did? When he said, “Well, I understand politics,” we took him to be saying that the flag had been a major wedge for Republican pols in South Carolina, and that, as a politician, he understands the way such matters inevitably work.

In our view, the same considerations apply to Candidate Clinton and same-sex marriage. But good grief! Just two years after she came out in support of marriage equality, she seems to say that she “can’t imagine” how anyone else could possibly hold that view!

We’d have to call that “otherization” on a major scale. In Clinton’s statement, we’re being encouraged to think the worst of those in the other tribe.

We liberals often decry such conduct by those on the right, but we’re sometimes happy to engage in such conduct ourselves. Regarding yesterday’s decision, consider this rather strange excerpt from Justice Alito’s dissent, as presented in the hard-copy Washington Post:

“Today’s decision usurps the constitutional right of the people to decide whether to keep or alter the traditional understanding of marriage. The decision will also have other important consequences. It will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy. In the course of its opinion, the majority compares traditional marriage laws to laws that denied equal treatment for African-Americans and women. Today’s decision shows that decades of attempts to restrain the Court’s abuse of its authority have failed...I assume that those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes, but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools.”

As part of a constitutional ruling, that strikes us as a strange set of considerations. But will dissenters be labeled as bigots? Of course they will! People will be otherized for holding the same positions Candidate Clinton (and President Obama) recently held.

In our view, otherization tends to lock the glory in. Human nature being what it is, we liberals often criticize otherization when it’s being performed by The Others. But we sometimes seem to enjoy the ancient practice when we do it ourselves.

Supplemental: People admire people like this!

FRIDAY, JUNE 26, 2015

Who was Ethel Lance:
In this morning’s New York Times, Lizette Alvarez offers a profile of Ethel Lance, who died in Charleston last week.

People admire people like this. We wish the professors would stop telling these love-and-forgiveness people to stop discussing their values:
ALVAREZ (6/26/15): One by one, Ms. Lance’s five grandchildren stood in front of the congregation at Royal Missionary Baptist Church, where her body lay before the altar in a shimmering silver gown, and praised her spirit of generosity, which they hoped would be embraced by all. One of her granddaughters said the family wished her legacy to stretch beyond the bullets and bloodshed at Emanuel.

“I want my grandmother’s legacy to be a catalyst for this country to change,” she said.

Another granddaughter recalled the grits, bacon and sausage Ms. Lance cooked for her, and the love and care her grandmother showered on her after her own mother died. “My granny was the other side of my heart,” she said.

Ms. Lance worked for decades as a custodian at Gaillard Auditorium before retiring, and spent 30 years working at Emanuel.
She did not finish high school, but she made sure her children and grandchildren went to college.
Ethel Lance “worked for decades as a custodian.” She didn’t finish high school. We thought of Dr. King’s famous statement about what it takes to serve.

What does it take to serve? This is part of the way Lance made sure her children and grandchildren got to college:

“At Emanuel, Ms. Lance was the sexton, in charge of keeping her church clean seven days a week, ‘and if God had given her eight, she would have been there eight days,’ Rev. Goff said.”

People admire people like this.

For centuries, our benighted ancestors told us there were two different kinds of people in this country.

There aren’t two different kinds of people! That said, many people have received a learning experience in the past week from the “love and forgiveness” brigade. They’re being exposed to one of this country’s greatest moral and intellectual traditions, with a slightly crabby group up north begging the families to stifle themselves.

“I want my grandmother’s legacy to be a catalyst for this country to change,” one of the grandchildren said.

Recalling what Dr. King said: Delivered from within that tradition:
KING (2/4/68): Everybody can be great. Because everybody can serve.

You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve.

You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve.

You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.

RED AND BLUE TOGETHER: Rep. Clyburn speaks!

FRIDAY, JUNE 26, 2015

Part 4—And says a magic word:
Who was Clementa Pinckney?

According to this New York Times profile, his mother named him for Roberto Clemente, who had just died bringing supplies to survivors of an earthquake in Nicaragua.

It seems the concept of service stuck. Later in the profile, Kevin Sack describes the essence of Rev. Pinckney, as seen by his “relatives, colleagues and parishioners:”
SACK (6/26/15): Many cite his disarming humility. Despite his rapid rise, searing intellect and oratorical gifts, he never conveyed superiority or belittled opponents, they said. He managed to empathize with those who disagreed with him, while also firmly presenting his own views.

A towering presence at over six feet tall, he spoke extemporaneously in a resonant baritone, but rarely raised the volume. If he had a failing, several colleagues said, it was that he could be too gentle with adversaries who deserved harsher treatment.

“The most irritating thing about Senator Pinckney,” said State Representative William K. Bowers, a Democrat from his district, “is that when you had a debate he would just come over and pat you on the back and say, ‘Maybe tomorrow you’ll be thinking right.’ He was full of love and full of respect.”
“Mr. Pinckney seemed unconcerned with self-promotion,” Sack writes. “[A]lthough firmly grounded in the A.M.E. church’s activist tradition he chose to work within the system, seeing himself more as a persuader than a firebrand.”

Who produces greater societal change—the persuaders or the firebrands?

There’s no reason why we can’t have both, of course. Last night, Professor Butler presented himself as one of the latter in an interview with Chris Hayes.

We speak this time of Professor Paul Butler, who made a fiery comment this week to a caller on NPR. We were especially struck last night when he made this slightly odd statement:
BUTLER (6/25/15): And it goes to a larger issue that—when black people talk to white people about white supremacy, we’re supposed to be loving and forgiving. The problem is, love and forgiveness are not productive in American politics. That’s not how social change is achieved. You know, you could do it through organizing, you could do it through electoral politics, you could take it to the streets. But being nice in the face of white supremacy does not advance racial justice.
Professor Butler continued the pushback we have described in the past two days. In this rolling movement, northern “intellectual leaders” have been rebuking those silly low-country blacks for their silly, unproductive “love and forgiveness” approach.

Professor Butler’s interview with Hayes was fascinating. We expect to review it in some detail next week. That said, following the century of Gandhi, Dr. King and Mandela, we were struck by his assessment of what works in pursuit of societal change.

Can we talk, perhaps unkindly? Northern and Yankee “intellectuals” have been schooling the love-and-forgiveness southern contingent all week. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights, Rachel Maddow struck us as especially condescending toward Reverend Pinckney’s family. But then, what is else is new?

We expect to discuss these topics next week. For today, let’s continue discussing the Reverend Pinckney, who was murdered last week.

First, an obvious statement:

It goes without saying that Reverend Pinckney wasn’t as great, as brilliant or as insightful as we progressives Up Here. Despite that fact, we’ve been struck, in profiles and interviews, by the way he seems to have affected his colleagues down South.

This Monday, in the wake of his death, the nation saw a rare display of red and blue together. Governor Haley stood on a stage and said the Confederate flag must come down. Red and blue were standing there with her—as were black, white and brown.

In our world, this rarely occurs. There’s a positive back-story here.

As we’ve noted in the past, South Carolina Republicans deserve a lot of credit for certain parts of their recent behavior. At present, for example, they’re sending as many blacks to the United States Senate as all our blue states combined!

We wouldn’t vote for Tim Scott ourselves; we don’t share his politics. But we think it’s a very good thing that so many white Republicans in South Carolina were willing and able to vote for Scott along the way, given their wide range of choices.

We think it’s a sign of moral progress; we think liberals should be glad to see this improvement occur. Indeed, the progress reaches the level of comedy when we consider the circumstance under which Scott was first elected to the House of Representatives back in 2010.

White voters had an almost comical range of choices. Despite that fact, they decided to vote for Scott:
WIKIPEDIA: Scott ranked first in the nine-candidate Republican primary of June 8, 2010, receiving a plurality of 32% of the vote. Fellow Charleston County Councilman Paul Thurmond, son of U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond, ranked second with 16% of the vote. Carroll A. Campbell III, the son of former Governor Carroll A. Campbell, Jr., ranked third with 14% of the vote...

Because no candidate had received 50 percent or more of the vote, a runoff was held on June 22, 2010. Scott faced off against Paul Thurmond. Scott was endorsed by fiscally conservative Club for Growth, various Tea Party movement groups, former Alaska Governor and Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin, Republican House Whip Eric Cantor, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, and the founder of the Minuteman Project. Scott defeated Thurmond 68%-32% and won every county in the congressional district.
White Republicans voted for Scott over the son of Strom Thurmond! Also, over Carroll Campbell III, another giant name in South Carolina politics.

Surely, the gods on Olympus created these events to help us Yankees notice the fcat that something was happening Down There. Congenitally, we can’t seem to make ourselves do it.

Just for the record, that same Paul Thurmond made one of the most insightful statements regarding the flag this week. We think liberals should be pleased by, and respectful of, these and other events.

Unfortunately, we liberals don’t tend to function that way. Instinctively, we tend to function like small-minded tribal players. That keeps us from seeing the way people in South Carolina have perhaps been conspiring of late to let the glory out.

When Governor Haley spoke from that stage, we had an instant reaction. We wished she was playing on our team, we incomparably said.

Good God! Haley is a first generation American—and not only that, she’s a woman! In 1972, she was born Nimrata Nikki Randhawa, the daughter of an Indian Sikh family which had immigrated to South Carolina.

At the age of 38, she was elected governor of the state! By white Republican voters!

We wouldn’t vote for Haley ourselves; we don’t share her overall politics. But when white Republican voters did, we’re going to say they were letting a bit of the glory out!

What is permitting this state’s Republican voters to move beyond “whites only” traditions? On Monday night, we were struck by something a Republican state senator said about reverence Pinckney.

Chris Hayes spoke with Tom Davis, a Republican member of the South Carolina state senate. Davis had called for the flag to come down before Haley spoke that day.

What was the basis for his decision? We were struck by something Davis said:
DAVIS (6/22/15): The fact is, [the Confederate flag] is perceived by many to be a symbol of hate. And trying to do what Senator Pinckney always admonished me to do was to put myself in somebody else’s shoes and to see things through their eyes. And after he was murdered on Wednesday and Thursday and Friday and then this weekend talking with my wife, I tried to imagine what it must be like to be a black South Carolinian that comes to the State House, their State House as much as it is mine, and as much as it is anybody else’s in South Carolina, and to see that symbol that causes so much pain.
Every good liberal knows how to tear such statements to shreds. We’re well-schooled in our tribal loathing. We all know how to recite.

That said, we were struck by the mixed metaphor in which, Davis said, Reverend Pinckney had always urged him “to put myself in somebody else’s shoes and to see things through their eyes.”

The first part of that metaphor comes straight from To Kill a Mockingbird. In the famous novel, two children come to understand that their neighbor, Boo Radley, is an actual person.

But alas! In the novel’s second strand, their community’s white adults can’t achieve that same understanding concerning Tom Robinson, a falsely accused black person.

Davis described himself moving past that traditional failure. In our view, he was describing a very good turn in the weather. Right there on a TV show, he said he was able to make the turn because of the instruction he took from Pinckney, a colleague and friend he admired.

Every good liberal knows how to denigrate Davis for not achieving this moral turn sooner—for not being as morally brilliant as we all are Up Here. This strikes us as a limiting move, if it’s more progress you’re after.

Within the history of the human race, Senator Davis was describing a radical act—the act of learning to see the world through the eyes of people defined as The Other. Earlier that night, on that same show, James Clyburn absent-mindedly seemed to do the same thing!

Rep. Clyburn is an honored veteran of the civil rights movement. When South Carolina operated under a strict, unyielding racial regime, he was placed on the “black” side of this unyielding division.

On Monday, Clyburn stood on the stage as Governor Haley said the flag should come down. He was part of the red and blue mix that, to us, looked like a very good thing.

We were struck by something he said to Hayes this night. First, he described his interactions with Governor Haley:
CLYBURN (6/22/15): Last Thursday at Morris Brown AME Church, at the service, the governor and I spoke. And during our embrace, she said to me, “We just got to do something. We got to have a proper response to this.”

So I had no idea she was talking about the flag at the time. I saw her later that afternoon, and it just seemed to me that she was getting to a good place on something. But I didn’t know until yesterday that—that the flag was something that was eating away at her.

And so when I talked to her earlier today, she told me what she was going to do and asked would I stand with her when she did. And so I did.
To watch the whole segment, click here.

Clyburn casually described an “embrace” which at one time couldn’t have happened. He seemed to accept the idea that Governor Haley, a person he knows, was sincere in her stance on the flag.

For ourselves, we have no way of knowing who’s sincere about what. But in the next Q-and-A, we were struck by a word Clyburn said.

To us, his overall point seems a tiny bit daft. But in the passage we’ve highlighted, he used a magic word:
HAYES (continuing directly): You know, there are obviously there are folks who are celebrating this and welcome it. There are others who are sort of saying, “Well, this was done in the face of a kind of crescendo of public outrage and the initial instinct of both Governor Nikki Haley and Senator Lindsey Graham were, if not to outright defend the flag, kind of hem and haw on it.”

How do you understand this decision? As one of conviction, or kind of following the momentum of where things were headed anyway?

CLYBURN: Well, you know, I understand politics. And I know the difference in the Republican voters’ psyche about the flag and Democratic voters’ psyche. I would say generally two-thirds of Democratic voters have got problems with the flag flying on the State House grounds. About two-thirds of Republican voters want it to fly on the State House grounds.

But you know, when I talk to even Republican voters, and I point out to them that they have been misled for years about this flag, a lot of them say to me, “I never heard that before.”

Most people don’t know that that flag that’s sitting in front of the State House right now, that is a northern—that is the battle flag of northern Virginia. That was a flag that Robert E. Lee fought under. But when Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, he asked all of his followers to furl the flag. And as you know, six months after the war, he applied for citizenship to come back into the United States of America.

And so people who celebrate that flag, South Carolinians, they just don’t know.

South Carolinians didn’t fight under that flag. For the most part, we fought under the flag of the Citadel and other regimental flags. So South Carolinians have been celebrating a myth. And so when I point this out to people—there was one lady who called me and said, “I checked on it and you were right.”
Clyburn’s overall point strikes us as rather tortured. But we couldn’t help noting his use of the magic word—“we.”

“We” fought under the flag of the Citadel, Rep. Clyburn said. He didn’t seem to give his construction a thought.

Every good northern liberal will know how to scold him for this. For ourselves, we were glad to see him say what he did.

By all accounts, Clementa Pinckney’s colleagues greatly admired him, on both sides of the aisle. By many accounts, people all over the country have greatly admired the Charleston families’ “love and forgiveness” in reaction to last week’s murders.

Forgive us for suggesting this, but those families seem perhaps to be walking the walk Dr. King once walked. Next week, we’ll examine the ways we in the north always seem to know so much more than these southern rubes.

For ourselves, we think we’ve seen moral improvement occurring in South Carolina. We’ve seen it on the TV machine. We’ve sometimes possibly even seen it in person.

Who’s more productive—the lovers and forgivers or the firebrands? In principle, we could have both, of course.

We’ll puzzle this out next week. We thought Professor Butler’s statement last night was familiar but somewhat odd.

Next post: Who was Ethel Lance?

Supplemental: Piece about black kids completely ignored!


The reason for which should be clear:
Yesterday morning, the New York Times ran a fascinating op-ed column by a pair of professors.

The column appeared in the hard-copy Times; it concerned the interests of black kids. For that reason, the column has been completely ignored. Your favorite liberals haven’t discussed it, and they never will.

Intentionally or otherwise, our favorites have been pushing a lot of our buttons this week. They've fed us a steady diet of outrages, real and imagined, concerning events in the South.

Unfortunately, our favorite liberals don’t give a rat’s ascot about black kids. There’s no sign they ever will.

Yesterday’s column appeared beneath this headline:

“Is Special Education Racist?”

Incredibly, even the R-bomb couldn’t pique the interest of our favorite liberals! Special ed is so déclassé! Who could possibly care about that?

(In fairness, your favorites are not alone. The column garnered just 97 comments from Times readers. By way of contrast, the column in which Roxane Gay condescended to those Charleston rubes racked up 885.)

What did the professors argue in their column? Unfortunately, the professors make a complex bevy of points. Their basic thesis can be found here:
MORGAN AND FARKAS (6/24/15): The belief that black children are overrepresented in special education is driving some misguided attempts at policy changes. To flag supposed racial bias in special-education placement, the United States Department of Education is thinking of adopting a single standard for all states of what is an allowable amount of overrepresentation of minority children.

If well-intentioned but misguided advocates succeed in arbitrarily limiting placement in special education based on racial demographics, even more black children with disabilities will miss out on beneficial services.

Black children face double jeopardy when it comes to succeeding in school. They are far more likely to be exposed to the gestational, environmental and economic risk factors that often result in disabilities. Yet black children are less likely to be told they have disabilities, and to be treated for them,
than otherwise similar white children.
The piece details a depressing set of risk factors to which black kids are disproportionately exposed. But who could possibly care about that when a great flag hunt is on?

If you care about actual kids, you can read the piece. That said, you’ll never see the authors’ claims discussed or assessed at any major site.

Now for a different approach! In this morning’s New York Times, Nicholas Kristof wrote a column which blended the current flag hunt with comments about public schools.

He started, as he often does, stressing his own moral greatness.

No, we aren’t making this up—and it isn’t clear that this passage was meant as a joke. In fairness, this isn’t the start of the column:
KRISTOF (6/25/15): Suppose American women waved flags of Lorena Bobbitt, who reacted to domestic abuse in 1993 by severing her husband’s penis and throwing it into a field? The aim wouldn’t be to approve of sexual mutilation, of course—but Bobbitt’s subsequent acquittal was a landmark in the recognition of domestic violence!

Well, you get the point. That’s how the Confederate battle flag looked to many of us...
In fairness, three other examples were less absurd although, we would say, not a whole lot more helpful, unless we’re mainly trying to Keep Regional Rancor Alive.

Eventually, Kristof began listing additional efforts we can make, now that Bobbitt has been banned from various states’ license plates. He hurried through some familiar remarks about low-income schools and the kids who attend them:
KRISTOF: More consequential than that flag is our flawed system of school finance that perpetuates inequity. Black students in America are much less likely than whites to attend schools offering advanced science and math courses.


So I’m all for celebrating the drawing down of the Confederate battle flag, but now let’s pivot from symbolic moves to substantial ones.

That means, for example, early childhood programs, which offer the most cost-effective interventions to create a more even starting line. These include home visitation, high-quality preschool and literacy programs.

A Stanford University randomized trial examined a simple, inexpensive program called Ready4K!, which simply sent three text messages a week to parents to encourage them to read to their preschoolers—and it was astonishingly successful. Parents read more to children, who then experienced learning gains—and this was particularly true of black and Hispanic children. And because this was text messaging, the cost was less than $1 a family for the whole school year.
Kristof’s work on public schools often strikes us as dilettante-ish, perhaps even tilting toward simple-minded.

Today, he rushed his work even more than usual, thanks to the time spent on You Know Who’s you-know-what. That said, his educational nuggets may have left readers feeling good, thanks to the mandated reference to a program which has allegedly been “astonishingly successful.”

People like Kristof have been typing such anecdotes since the 1960s. Such anecdotes leave the upper-class reader with a bounce in his step—with the sense that simple solutions are sitting out there, just waiting to be applied.

Was Reading4K! really “astonishingly successful?” If so, how successful is that? Kristof doesn’t say, and no one you see on cable TV is ever going to ask.

Concerning these dueling columns, let’s offer a few quick points:

Black kids are scoring much higher, in reading and math, than was true a few decades ago. On its face, this is important good news.

That said, it’s virtually impossible to learn this important fact from writers like Kristof or from newspapers like the New York Times.

You really have to hate black kids to keep that fact a secret. For what it’s worth, that improvement has been earned despite the obstacles listed by Morgan and Farkas—and a substantial “achievement gap” still exists, due to the fact that white kids are scoring higher in reading and math as well.

Is the achievement gap mainly due to “our flawed system of school finance?” We’d say it pretty much is not. But you will never see the column, the broadcast or the report which thoroughly thrashes out such questions. Simply put, the press corps doesn’t care, not even on our own “liberal” channel.

In truth, our heroes don’t seem to care about black kids very much. Even in this heroic week of the flag, few things could be more clear.

For extra credit only: “Black students in America are much less likely than whites to attend schools offering advanced science and math courses?”

We all know how we’re supposed to react to that statement. We’re supposed to say, “If we simply provided the funding, low-income kids could take advanced math classes too!”

We aren’t supposed to ask this question: “Due in part to the obstacles cited by the two professors, how many kids in those low-income schools wouldn’t quality for those advanced math courses?”

Those anecdotes help make us feel good about our educational challenges. We’ve been reading such anecdotes in our major newspapers for the past 45 years.

RED AND BLUE TOGETHER: Watching the story-line change!


Part 3—A move toward massive resistance:
In this morning’s New York Times, a single letter chides Roxane Gay for the way she cuffed the victims’ families aside in yesterday's op-ed column.

Click here, scroll down to third letter.

Just a guess, and it may not be accurate—the Times may have received other such letters. If so, they chose to publish the gentlest one.

On the New York Times’ front page, the attitudes of those Charleston families is admiringly profiled today by Lizette Alvarez.

The profile begins as shown below. Presumably, Deray McKesson—a good, decent person—might regard what follows as the latest “sensationalized message of forgiveness” (see yesterday’s afternoon post).

This is the way the profile begins. Hard-copy headlines included:
ALZAREZ (6/25/15): Charleston Families Hope Words Endure Past Shooting/
Taking Stock on Eve of Charleston Funerals

On the day that Dylann Roof peered into a camera and spoke his first words in court last week, Alana Simmons, whose grandfather was killed at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, was not prepared to stand up and talk. Her presence, she thought, would be enough.

But then she heard Nadine Collier, in a startling moment of anguish and grace, address Mr. Roof, the man accused of shooting nine church members to death. “I forgive you and have mercy on your soul,” said Ms. Collier, whose mother, Ethel Lance, was one of the victims.

At that moment, Ms. Simmons said, her own path became clear, and she joined other relatives of the dead in expressing both their pain and forgiveness to the man charged with causing such despair. “We are here to combat hate-filled actions with love-filled actions,” Ms. Simmons said. “And that is what we want to get out to the world.”

As the first of the funerals begin Thursday, the nine families are still pondering the effect their words—allowing love and forgiveness to crowd out hate and vengeance—have had on the nation.
We strongly recommend that profile. Beyond that, we assume it’s true:

We assume the behavior of those families is, in fact, having “an effect on the nation”—a deeply wide-ranging effect.

Tomorrow, we’ll discuss those families’ values in a bit more detail. As we do, we’ll discuss the way a wide range of Southern white Republican men have described their colleague and friend, the Reverend Clementa Pinckney, who was murdered last week.

For today, we’ll note two points:

The greatest achievers of the last century were people who expressed the values those families are expressing. Also this:

All across the “progressive” world, voices are urging liberals and progressives to adopt a different point of view. We’re being urged to adopt an angrier, less ecumenical, profoundly crabbed approach.

Some of those voices are plainly well-intentioned. Some strike us as perhaps a tiny bit less evolved. But it seems to us that those voices are urging liberals to make the less constructive play.

Those values were good enough for Dr. King and Mandela. Are we somehow tougher than them?

Oof! We were embarrassed to watch David Corn and Jonathan Capehart on last night’s Hardball. In this morning’s Washington Post, Harold Meyerson presents as such an over-inflated moral balloon that he’s about to explode.

In this morning’s New York Times, Nicholas Kristof’s lofty column made three of the analysts gnash their remaining teeth. We’ll discuss their reactions in this afternoon’s post.

Atop the front page of the New York Times, Alvarez lets members of the Charleston families discuss the values which have been affecting the nation—that were affecting the nation before last week, through Reverend Pinckney’s life.

Elsewhere, though, the children are railing. In the process, it seems to us that they have been changing some basic story-lines.

There have, of course, been many ways to view last week’s events. Early on, we were struck, in various ways, by the extent to which the nation has changed.

Consider what happened when a pitiful fellow with a big gun decided to start a “race war.” When he decided to start a race war in South Carolina.

According to the New York Times, this is part of what happened. We’ll add to the story below:
CORASANITI, PEREZ-PENA AND ALVAREZ (6/19/15): The police said it was a tip from a commuter that led to the arrest.

Deborah Dills was traveling along Highway 74 on Thursday morning from her home in Gastonia, N.C., to her part-time job at a florist
in Kings Mountain, N.C., when she spotted a dark Hyundai Elantra with South Carolina plates. The car—and its driver, Ms. Dills, 51, soon thought—matched the descriptions in the police alert she had heard on the morning news.

“I thought oh no, Debbie, you're just paranoid, you've had this on your mind so strong. This is not happening here. What would he be doing here?” Ms. Dills said in an interview.

Unsure of what to do, she called Todd Frady, the owner of the florist shop.

“She got kind of nervous and pulled off,” Mr. Frady said. He insisted she follow the car, while he called the Kings Mountain police.

Ms. Dills rushed back onto the highway, lined with stores and fast-food restaurants in a chain of suburbs west of Charlotte, in pursuit of the Hyundai. Finally at a stoplight near a Walmart in Shelby, N.C., she pulled up behind the car and read its license plate number to Mr. Frady, who relayed it to the police.

“That's it,” he told her. “That's him.”

A short time later, at 10:43 a.m., the police in Shelby, 250 miles north of Charleston, pulled over the Hyundai and arrested Mr. Roof. He waived extradition and was flown to South Carolina on Thursday evening and, amid extraordinary security, walked into the jail in Charleston County at 7:25 p.m.

As Mr. Roof, who was wearing a striped jail jumpsuit, entered the jail through a secured entrance, a police dog barked, cameras clicked and one woman muttered, “The bastard’s here.”
As Roof appeared in a striped jail jumpsuit, a police dog barked and one woman muttered, “The bastard’s here?”

Try not to be angry about that. That was just the New York Times trying to humanize Roof!

Just to be clear, Deborah Dills isn’t a visiting professor from Oberlin. In her broadcast interviews, it’s clear that she is a very southern woman who is also very “white.”

She’s also very “churchy.” Gloriously, she did the right things last week.

In her TV interviews, she told the story in a bit more detail. She described the fear she felt when her boss told her to get back on the road and follow the suspect’s car.

“I’m not brave,” we saw her say on videotape. But she continued to follow the car until she saw it pulled over.

Dills has largely disappeared from the press as story lines have evolved. We think that’s too bad. We haven’t seen a lot of attention paid to some of the ways things have changed.

Imagine! A pitiful fellow with a big gun wanted to start a race war. What happened when he did?

A southern white woman saw his car and called her southern white boss. Her southern white boss told her to follow the car while he called the southern white police force.

The southern white police proceeded to make the arrest. We think that’s an excellent story, a story that’s well worth considering.

We think that’s a story of moral improvement. We think there are several such stories involved in last week’s events.

Tomorrow, we’ll touch on some of those stories. But as we’ve watched the northern “progressive” world this week, we’ve seen those stories ignored, even denigrated.

Again and again, we’ve almost thought that we were seeing a different story line emerging. We've almost thought that we were seeing an act of massive resistance.

On the front page of the New York Times, we’re told today that the values of those Charleston families are having an effect on the nation. We would assume that’s true.

We would assume that that is occurring despite the progressive world’s massive resistance. On balance, we think that resistance is small, reactionary, unhelpful, unhealthy, unwise.

In our view, the Charleston families are much, much wiser than our reliably awful professors. We’re glad that their values are getting discussed.

More on this story tomorrow.

Tomorrow: At long last, what James Clyburn said

Supplemental: Chris Hayes asks a basic question!


In search of the best route to progress:
Chris Hayes asked a very basic question last night.

He spoke with Judith Brown Dianis, a specialist in civil rights law. He asked her an important question—a question about the best way to seek further advances in the area of race.

The question was very basic. Under the circumstances, we also thought it was perhaps a bit revealing and perhaps a tiny bit strange:
HAYES (6/23/15): We think of unity as a good thing and division as a bad thing. But there’s also the fact that part of the job of activists, and part of the job of people who are trying to create social change, is to create friction and—Martin Luther King talked a lot about this.

How do you understand the sort of relative value of those two things? Like, we think of polarization, particularly along racial lines, as a bad thing. But maybe it’s sometimes productive?
On Monday afternoon, South Carolina leaders—black and white, red and blue—stood together in the public square, making a statement about the flying of the Confederate flag. It was one of the most striking examples of unity on a racial issue the country has seen in a very long time.

One night later, Hayes posed his question. We think of unity as a good thing, he said. But is it possible that polarization is more productive?

Everything is possible! That said, this strikes us as a slightly strange time to be asking that question, which is very basic and very important and can’t really be answered.

In our view, the sight of black and white together—and red and blue—is a welcome, encouraging sight. In our view, if we the liberals were slightly more wise, we’d give credit where credit is due and use the occasion as a chance to suggest something else that would be productive.

All in all, our tribe doesn’t work that way. We’re constantly struck by the way our own liberal tribe resists giving credit where credit is due, especially in matters of race. Increasingly, major parts of out tribe only seem happy with a state of wedge-based division.

What’s the best way to move ahead? In our view, it isn’t best to crash about making claims which make little sense—claims which will seem highly implausible to the bulk of the public.

No, Virginia! “The media” really haven’t been trying to “humanize” Dylann Roof. It says something bad about us when we start gulping this ludicrous claim—or when we start making claims like the ones we heard on Reliable Sources.

Brian Stelter spoke with Deray McKesson, a highly visible, plainly decent “social media activist.” In our view, McKesson took an emerging narrative to a puzzling place:
STELTER (6/21/15): Let me put up a tweet on screen that you wrote in the past couple of days. You wrote that “whiteness will work to preserve its innocence at all costs.”

This got me thinking about the issue and I wonder if you say white journalists are protecting a killer in this case.

MCKESSON: You know, it’s just interesting the way that whiteness always humanizes white people, right? So I have seen many pictures at this point of Dylann Roof and really calm spaces [sic].

I have seen pictures of him opening presents around Christmas as a child and humanizing photos of someone who killed people as a terrorist. And I’ve not seen any of those similar pictures of any of the victims.
And that is a humanizing function of whiteness in this America. And that’s what I was referencing in that moment.

STELTER: Your argument is that minorities who are committing violence are not humanized in the same way?

MCKESSON: I’m saying that even the victims, right? So the victims of this crime have not been humanized. We have not heard all of their stories in the same way that we have seen these photos that sort of—that encourage sympathy with the killer.

So I haven't seen any baby pictures or any childhood photos of any victim. And I monitor news outlets. But I just stumbled across these photos of Dylann Roof, just haphazardly, right? They are just present in ways that like humanized him. They encouraged us to believe that, you know, he was a troubled teen as opposed to like a cold-hearted killer who is racist.
Question: How many baby pictures of Dylann Roof have you seen in the past week?

If you go to Google images, you will find many photos of Roof. A few of these photos match the description McKesson gave here.

That said, it seems to us that we have most frequently seen visuals of Roof in his prison suit as he was being lectured by relatives of his victims, and now at the point of his arrest and as he was later being transported. The idea that Roof is being “humanized” in some inappropriate way strikes us as delusional. Meanwhile, the victims have been widely lauded as pillars of the community, which they plainly were.

Are we liberals just talking to ourselves, or are we trying to talk to the public? In the end, it’s hard to get the bulk of voters to believe claims which are plainly absurd.

When liberals start making implausible claims, liberals can drive the public away. That said, this was the answer Dianis gave to Hayes:
DIANIS (continuing directly from Hayes, above): That’s right. Division is often important because that’s where you get the breakthrough. Because at some point we have to take a stand and we have to say, “Are you with us? Are you on freedom’s side or are you against freedom?”

And it’s when we start to change hearts and minds around these issues of race is where we start to get the unity. But we have to underscore the division first in order for people to come along and say, “You know what, I don’t want to be on the wrong side of history. I want to be an inclusive America.”

Everyone deserves the right to breathe in America and so I think that we’re going—that’s the retrenchment part and that’s why I was saying we’re going to have retrenchment before we see some unity.
“We have to underscore the division first?”

Really? Why not underscore the points on which the vast bulk of decent people agree, then try to proceed from there? More and more, it seems to us that we the liberals simply don’t want to go there.

Concerning the victims’ families: As he continued to speak with McKesson, Stelter said that he had been hearing many references to “terrorist” and “terror” in the discussion of Roof and his crime. He wondered if McKesson might perhaps be expecting the worst from the press and overlooking his own influence on the discussion.

Good grief! McKesson, who is decent and sincere, said this:
MCKESSON: You know, the thing about the language of “terrorist” is that some places have like hidden it in the text, right, as opposed to putting it front and center. So what we saw the other day was that every newspaper has these sensationalized messages about forgiveness and none about the terror of the victim, or the terror of the killer. And that's what we are talking about.

So it’s one thing to hide “terrorist” in the 15th paragraph. It’s another thing to put it front and center on major newspapers. That’s not what we have seen.
With no examples being given, it’s hard to assess these complaints. That said:

“Every newspaper has these sensationalized messages about forgiveness?” We have one word for you:


Those “sensationalized messages about forgiveness” originated with the victim statements made by relatives of the people who were murdered! As with Roxane Gay’s column in the New York Times, our activists don’t necessarily seem to like the relatives of Roof’s victims.

That strikes us as a very familiar but very bad old choice.

RED AND BLUE TOGETHER: Our own dissembling never stops!


Part 2—Our latest narrative spreads:
By now, the evidence seems fairly clear. Dylann Roof, age 21, hasn’t yet achieved his goal of instigating a “race war.”

In the early returns, in fact, he seems to have done the opposite. In the past few days, South Carolina has provided us with endless scenes of black and white and brown together—even with scenes of red and blue together!

That said, don’t lose hope! None of this means that we the liberals can’t turn this lost soul with a murderous gun into the dynamic figure he crazily dreamed of becoming.

Is/was Roof a “terrorist?” For various reasons, we’d be disinclined to describe him that way. Others disagree.

In this morning’s New York Times, Roxane Gay describes Roof as a terrorist, a view which many people affirm. More remarkably, she’s pushing a new tribal narrative—a narrative which lies just this side of being Our Own Blindingly Obvious Lie.

Based on everything we know, we assume that Gay is a good, decent person who remembers to feed her pets. That said, if you ever thought that we the liberals don’t behave the way The Others do, we recommend that you take a look at her remarkable column.

Her column is the most prominent op-ed piece in today’s hard-copy Times. It appears beneath a headline which struck us as perhaps a bit strange right off the bat:

“Why I Can’t Forgive the Killer in Charleston”

Have you “forgiven the killer in Charleston?” Before you attempt to answer, let’s put that a different way:

Has it even occurred to you that this is your question to answer?

For ourselves, we pity the killer in Charleston, as we tend to pity those who throw their own lives away in crazed, ridiculous ways.

(Should you “pity the poor immigrant?” To see Bob Dylan argue the case, you can just click here.)

In this instance, the killer in Charleston murdered nine people in the process of throwing his own life away. The people he murdered are widely judged to be of superlative character.

This helps explain the remarkable way these murders have brought the state’s red and blue together. No “race war” has broken out, although we can always hope.

Have you forgiven Dylann Roof? In many cases, family members of the murdered people actually have! Their public conduct has been widely viewed as remarkable—even perhaps as hard to comprehend.

That said, it never occurred to us that we were supposed to push them aside and discuss whether we, in our manifest greatness, were willing to forgive the killer in Charleston, who killed no one we knew. But that project did occur to Gay, and we’d have to say that she has cuffed those people aside in the rudest possible manner.

We the liberals sometimes evince a remarkable sense of self-importance and self-involvement. It seems to us that Gay may be working those precincts today.

In the passage shown below, Gay names two of the relatives who have forgiven the killer in Charleston. Immediately after this passage, Gay will start to push a narrative which closely resembles a lie:
GAY (6/24/15): Forgiveness does not come easily to me. I am fine with this failing. I am particularly unwilling to forgive those who show no remorse, who don’t demonstrate any interest in reconciliation. I do not believe there has been enough time since this terrorist attack for anyone to forgive. The bodies of the dead are still being buried. We are still memorizing their names: Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, DePayne Middleton Doctor, Clementa C. Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel L. Simmons Sr., Sharonda Coleman-Singleton and Myra Thompson.

We are still memorizing these names but the families who loved the people who carried these names have forgiven Dylann Roof. They offered up testimony in court, less than 48 hours after the trauma of losing their loved ones in so brutal a manner. Alana Simmons, who lost her grandfather, said, “Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate, everyone’s plea for your soul is proof that they lived in love, and their legacies will live in love.” Nadine Collier, who lost her mother, said: “You took something very precious away from me. I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again. But I forgive you and have mercy on your soul.”
Might we ask a few questions?

In the current circumstance, who cares whether forgiveness comes easily to Gay? Who cares how she feels about her possible “failing?”

Apparently, Gay and the relevant New York Times editors do! In a touch of the macabre, those editors have published this column under a photo of Gay in which she wonderfully mugs for the camera.

It isn’t Gay’s fault that they published that photo. But its publication gives us a sense of the editors’ judgment, which may not be perfectly flawless.

In that passage, Gay names Alana Simmons, an impressive young woman whose grandfather was murdered by the killer in Charleston. Last night, we saw Simmons on CNN as she explained her reactions to her grandfather’s murder.

No one has to share her general perspective, of course. But below, you can see what it is.

Simmons actually knew her grandfather, who was murdered by Roof. This is what she said last night about the walk her grandfather walked:
LEMON (6/23/15): Alana, you addressed Dylann Roof at a hearing on Friday. Let's take a look.

SIMMONS (videotape): Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate, this is proof, everyone's plea for your soul is proof that they lived in love and their legacies will live in love. So hate won't win. And I just want to thank the court for making sure that hate doesn’t win.

LEMON: I can't even imagine how you got through that. Some of the family members of the victims, Alana, said that they forgave Dylann Roof. How do you get to that so quickly?

SIMMONS: Well, that’s what inspired me. When I got there and they went up and that was just their immediate reaction with “I forgive you” and “may God have mercy on your soul,” that inspired me because it really showed that, you know, if we would have went up there and to say hateful things to the suspect, that wouldn't have changed anything.

That would have been giving him exactly what he wanted. And we know our relatives and our loved ones, and they wouldn't have wanted that. That’s not the walk that they walked.
That's not the talk that they talked. They spoke love. They preached love. They lived in love. So, when—in their memory, that's all we're here for. For love.

LEMON: Yes. And in their memory, you're saying that hate won’t win. You said it there and you’re starting a campaign call “Hate won’t win.” Tell us about it, please.

SIMMONS: Yes. My siblings and I, we sat down and we prayed about what would be the best thing to do for our grandfather. To carry on his legacy and the legacy of the other victims.
In that way, Simmons described the walk her grandfather walked. She seems to be describing a religious/ethical/intellectual tradition which played a very large role in the mid-century civil rights movement.

We’d like to see more discussion of that. Moments later, Simmons described her reaction to discussions of the killings she has seen on the Internet:
SIMMONS: I was almost in tears at what I saw about how people were focusing on the suspect and on the judge and on what the police did here and what they didn’t do there. And it’s not like that in Charleston. It hasn’t been like that.

When we got here, it seems like everyone was singing Kumbaya almost. So, you know, to get on the Internet and to see that the rest of the world wasn’t partaking in that, knowing that that’s what the family of the victims would want and that’s what the victims themselves would have wanted, it broke my heart.

So, we came up with the campaign called the “Hate Won't Win” challenge...And basically, all we’re asking you to do, and this is with no funding or anything like that, all we’re asking you to do is to show an act of love to someone who’s different from you.
No one has to agree with Simmons’ general perspective on any of this. That said, we were amazed by the way Gay proceeded in today’s column.

In the passage we’ve posted above, Gay has already said that, in her opinion, “I do not believe there has been enough time since this terrorist attack for anyone to forgive.”

She’s entitled to her opinion, of course. That said, her opinion strikes us as oddly dismissive of people like Simmons, who were directly affected by these appalling murders.

To us, that passage almost seemed to border on the rudely dismissive. But as Gay continued, we’d have to say she came very close to telling an ugly, dismissive lie in service to a new tribal narrative—a narrative she virtually cut-and-pasted from Sunday’s Washington Post:
GAY (continuing directly from above): I deeply respect the families of the nine slain who are able to forgive this terrorist and his murderous racism. I cannot fathom how they are capable of such eloquent mercy, such grace under such duress.

Nine people are dead. Nine black people are dead. They were murdered in a terrorist attack.

Over the weekend, newspapers across the country shared headlines of forgiveness from the families of the nine slain. The dominant media narrative vigorously embraced that notion of forgiveness seeming to believe that if we forgive we have somehow found a way to make sense of the incomprehensible.

We are reminded of the power of whiteness. Predictably, alongside the forgiveness story, the media has tried to humanize this terrorist. They have tried to understand Dylann Roof’s hatred because surely, there must be an explanation for so heinous an act. At the gunman’s bond hearing, the judge, who was once reprimanded for using the N-word from the bench, talked about how not only were the nine slain and their families victims, but so were the relatives of the terrorist. There are no limits to the power of whiteness when it comes to calls for mercy.

The call for forgiveness is a painfully familiar refrain when black people suffer. White people embrace narratives about forgiveness so they can pretend the world is a fairer place than it actually is, and that racism is merely a vestige of a painful past instead of this indelible part of our present.

Black people forgive because we need to survive. We have to forgive time and time again while racism or white silence in the face of racism continues to thrive. We have had to forgive slavery, segregation, Jim Crow laws, lynching, inequity in every realm, mass incarceration, voter disenfranchisement, inadequate representation in popular culture, microaggressions and more. We forgive and forgive and forgive and those who trespass against us continue to trespass against us.
Gay says she deeply respects the families. She then makes it clear that she doesn’t and won’t.

In our view, she rushes to disrespect the families in service to something which closely resembles a lie.

As is often the case in these matters, Roxane Gay seems to know everything. She knows why “white people” do what they do. She possesses the same omniscience concerning the behavior of “black people.”

“Black people forgive because we need to survive,” she all-knowingly says. That pretty much isn’t what Simmons said about her decision and her reaction. But as is often the case with our tribe’s all-knowing observers, Roxane Gay knows much better than the black country girl really could.

Readers will surely see the narrative Gay is pushing. It is taken, virtually word for word, from Professor Butler’s ludicrous claim in Sunday’s Washington Post, which we discussed in yesterday’s report.

Almost seeming to cut-and-paste from Professor Butler’s work, Gay instructs us about “the power of whiteness.” Cutting and pasting further, Gay further instructs us:

“The media has tried to humanize this terrorist.”

This horrible person provides no examples. And the Times required none!

Just for once, let’s try to tell the truth. Just for once, let’s try to stop reciting our latest script. Let’s consult our own experiences:

Just for once, let’s be truthful. Have you actually seen the media “trying to humanize the terrorist” in some inappropriate way?

Go ahead. Tell the truth. Have you actually seen that?

On Sunday, Professor Butler made the mistake of offering an example. Being a professor, it probably didn’t occur to her that someone would fact-check her claim.

Professor Butler’s example was clownishly fraudulent. But the Washington Post threw it in print in their Sunday Outlook section, and when Gay cut-and-pasted Butler’s work, the Times asked for no examples!

Alana Simmons “was almost in tears” when she saw these people behaving in these way. But what could Simmons possibly know? Too little time has gone by! Plus, she’s a country girl!

The “professors,” our greatest burden and scourge, cuffed her remarkable traditions aside. As they did, they pimped our pitiful tribe’s latest ridiculous narrative, which we must learn to recite.

The Washington Post and the New York Times were happy to let them do this. The New York Times even published Gay’s column under a smiley face!

Still coming: What James Clyburn said

Just so you’ll know: More about the author, who offered exactly no examples in support of her word-for-word claim:
My writing is represented by Maria Massie of Lippincott Massie McQuilkin.
27 West 20th Street
Suite 305
New York, NY 10011
(212) 352-2055

My film and television interests are represented by Sylvie Rabineau of the RWSG Literary Agency.

1107 1/2 Glendon Avenue
Los Angeles, California 90024

My speaking engagements are represented by Kevin Mills of The Tuesday Agency.

Kevin Mills
The Tuesday Agency
132 1/2 East Washington
Iowa City, Iowa 52240
o: 319-338-5640

My publicist at Grove/Atlantic (An Untamed State) is John Mark Boling.

My publicist at Harper (Bad Feminist) is Gregory Henry.

My e-mail address is roxane at

I have a Facebook page that I haven’t figured out at

I am on Twitter at @rgay.

My “bio”:

Roxane Gay’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Best American Mystery Stories 2014, Best American Short Stories 2012, Best Sex Writing 2012, A Public Space, McSweeney’s, Tin House, Oxford American, American Short Fiction, West Branch, Virginia Quarterly Review, NOON, The New York Times Book Review, Bookforum, Time, The Los Angeles Times, The Nation, The Rumpus, Salon, and many others. She is the co-editor of PANK. She is also the author of the books Ayiti, An Untamed State, Bad Feminist, and Hunger, forthcoming from Harper in 2016.
These are the people who hand us our scripts. Although they may not want you to know, they live in a grasping world.

Supplemental: Paul Reiser’s very old joke!

MONDAY, JUNE 23, 2015

Along with Paul Krugman’s new column:
Long ago, we once (or twice) saw Paul Reiser tell a long, complex “joke-joke” about the time Moses was invited to golf with the three persons of the Holy Trinity.

To make a very long joke-joke short, Moses was thrilled to be invited to round out the celestial foursome. But when the group arrived at the first tee, the three members of the trinity took turns authoring increasingly ridiculous holes-in-one. Each produced a supernatural shot which evoked a Bible miracle story.

Finally, it was Moses’ turn to tee off. In sheer frustration, though, he said this:

“Are we here to play golf? Or are we just gonna [blank] around?”

Reiser said you should always know 45 minutes of old jokes for the nights when things aren’t going well. We thought of that very old joke when we read Krugman’s new column.

We just lunched with a couple of liberal friends who thought the column was great. We had had a different reaction. Here’s why:

Krugman’s column bore this headline: “Slavery’s Long Shadow.” After noting that America “is a much less racist nation than it used to be,” Krugman articulated his basic point:
KRUGMAN (6/22/15): Yet racial hatred is still a potent force in our society, as we’ve just been reminded to our horror. And I’m sorry to say this, but the racial divide is still a defining feature of our political economy, the reason America is unique among advanced nations in its harsh treatment of the less fortunate and its willingness to tolerate unnecessary suffering among its citizens.

Of course, saying this brings angry denials from many conservatives, so let me try to be cool and careful here, and cite some of the overwhelming evidence for the continuing centrality of race in our national politics.
Noting that his thesis tends to produce “angry denials,” Krugman said he would “try to be cool and careful here.”

Was Krugman trying to help his message go down? If so, it was probably too late by that point. Once you’ve accused the other side of authoring “harsh treatment of the less fortunate” and tolerating “unnecessary suffering among its citizens,” the other side has probably stopped listening to what you might have to say.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that your thesis is “wrong,” although of course it could be. It may mean that a lot of people may have stopped listening already.

What does Krugman mean when he says that “race” and the “racial divide” explain our country’s harsh treatment of the less fortunate? As he continues, he cites an academic paper which helps explain his claim:
KRUGMAN: The second paper, by the economists Alberto Alesina, Edward Glaeser, and Bruce Sacerdote, was titled “Why Doesn’t the United States Have a European-style Welfare State?” Its authors—who are not, by the way, especially liberal—explored a number of hypotheses, but eventually concluded that race is central, because in America programs that help the needy are all too often seen as programs that help Those People: “Within the United States, race is the single most important predictor of support for welfare. America’s troubled race relations are clearly a major reason for the absence of an American welfare state.”
According to Krugman, this nation’s historically troubled race relations “are clearly a major reason for the absence of an American welfare state”—more specifically, for the absence of “a European-style welfare state” in this country.

That may well be true. But are we here to play golf? Or are we here to scold all those very bad people?

As Krugman continues, he stresses a certain correlation, the one which drives his headline. It starts as he considers those states which haven’t chosen to expand Medicaid under Obamacare.

What kind of state would turn down this program? States which practiced slavery before the Civil War:
KRUGMAN: For those who haven’t been following this issue, in 2012 the Supreme Court gave individual states the option, if they so chose, of blocking the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid, a key part of the plan to provide health insurance to lower-income Americans. But why would any state choose to exercise that option? After all, states were being offered a federally-funded program that would provide major benefits to millions of their citizens, pour billions into their economies, and help support their health-care providers. Who would turn down such an offer?

The answer is, 22 states at this point, although some may eventually change their minds. And what do these states have in common? Mainly, a history of slaveholding:
Only one former member of the Confederacy has expanded Medicaid, and while a few Northern states are also part of the movement, more than 80 percent of the population in Medicaid-refusing America lives in states that practiced slavery before the Civil War.
It isn’t just Obamacare, Krugman notes. “A history of slavery is a strong predictor of everything from gun control (or rather its absence), to low minimum wages and hostility to unions, to tax policy.”

We’re not saying that Krugman is “wrong” about those correlations or about that predictor. We’re saying that, from our point of view, this is a shaky way to play golf.

How can liberals persuade other people to institute the various programs of the “welfare state?” Our first suggestion:

In this country, we might start by dropping references to “the welfare state!”

Beyond that, we can think of few approaches that are less likely to bear fruit than the suggestion that other people pursue the policies they pursue because their ancestors were slaveholders. If that’s what we say when we’re being “cool and careful,” what do we say when we let it all hang out?

Krugman is the liberal world’s MVP on matters of policy—has been for many years. In our view, all liberals owe him a giant debt, a debt too large to repay.

At the same time, it seems to us that Krugman’s sense of politics is less strong than his grasp of policy. This returns us to our basic question:

Are we here to play golf?

Increasingly, it seems to us that many liberals primarily want to scold the other team. In the main, we aren’t looking for ways to make better things happen in the world. We’re looking for ways to shame the many millions of people who are less fine than us.

When the flag comes down in South Carolina, we complain that it didn’t happen last year. We complain that the motives for the change weren’t pure. We complain that this doesn’t affect the flag in Mississippi.

Listening to the radio today, we heard these complaints roll down like water from a mighty stream. We learned that we seem to the only liberal who is thrilled by what happened yesterday in South Carolina.

All week, we’ll ask variants of Moses’ age-old question, routed to us through the prophet Reiser:

Are we here to play golf? Or are we just going to [blank] around?

Are we looking for ways to produce societal gains? Or is this really all about us? All about our desire to tell the world that we are the truly good tribe?

Like Moses, of course, we’re just saying...