POSSIBLY WIRED FOR LACK OF SOUND: The New York Times runs fifteen letters!


Part 1—Triggers "Brabender effect:"
On several occasions, we've recalled the deathless words of the late Gene Brabender, who was, as far as we know, a totally decent person.

From 1966 through 1970, Brabender—reportedly, his nickname was Lurch—was a major league pitcher. He may have achieved his greatest fame as a character in Jim Bouton's celebrated 1970 book, Ball Four.

Bouton was a major league pitcher too. Ball Four was a diary of his 1969 season with the Seattle Pilots, a short-lived franchise which later became the Milwaukee Brewers.

Ball Four was widely praised when it appeared. Its fame has lived on after that. According to the leading authority on the book, it's "the only sports-themed book to make the New York Public Library's 1996 list of Books of the Century."

Also, Ball Four is "listed in Time magazine's 100 greatest non-fiction books of all time," a list which appeared in 2011. (More precisely, Time's honor roll represents "the 100 best and most influential [nonfiction books] written in English since 1923," the year Time began.)

Bouton's book was quite good; Brabender was one of its stars. In one of its most memorable passages, Brabender becomes angry when Bouton and several teammates conduct a long, abstruse discussion of an absurdly pointless topic during the latest long, boring day out in the Pilots' bullpen.

As his teammates conduct their pointless debate, the raw-boned country boy's gorge starts and continues to rise. Finally, "Lurch" can restrain himself no longer. Advising his teammates to shut the heck up, he authors his most famous speech:

"Where I come from, we just talk for a little while," the irate righthander exclaims. "After that we start to hit."

Brabender didn't want to hear any more discussion. According to major anthropologists who sometimes appear to us in our dreams, our flailing, floundering, irrational species may be wired that way—may be wired for (lack of) sound.

At any rate, at the end of last week, we thought of Gene Brabender's words. Here's the way we were triggered:

Last Thursday morning,
the New York Times engaged in a bit of unusual conduct. The newspaper published fifteen (15) letters from people who still support Donald J. Trump.

The letters consumed that day's entire editorial page. Atop the page, the editorial board explained its unusual conduct. Hard-copy headline included:
Trump Voters, One Year In

The Times editorial board has been sharply critical of the Trump presidency,
on grounds of policy and personal conduct. Not all readers have been persuaded. In the spirit of open debate, and in hopes of helping readers who agree with us better understand the views of those who don’t, we wanted to let Mr. Trump’s supporters make their best case for him as the first year of his presidency approaches its close. Tomorrow we'll publish some letters from readers who voted for Mr. Trump but are now disillusioned, and from those reacting to these letters and our decision to provide Trump voters this platform.
Fifteen letters in praise of Trump appeared beneath that apologia. Interminably, people explained why they still support Donald J. Trump.

For whatever reason, the editorial board had decided to publish those letters. There they stood last Thursday morning, apparently offending against everything decent, American, good.

Why do we say that? Here's why:

The very next day, as the editors promised, our own liberal team was allowed to reply to those letters. In our view, the letters the New York Times posted that day had a certain Gene Brabender feel.

According to Brabender, people where he came from only talked for a while. After that, they started brawlin'.

(Brabender grew up in Black Earth, Wisconsin, a small community which is part of the Madison Metropolitan Statistical Area.)

Brabender hated all that talk. Out in the bullpen that day, he wanted the others to shut the heck up—or at least, so Bouton said.

He wanted the others to shut the heck up. To our ear, it sounded that way, at least a bit, when our own tribe's letters appeared in the Times.

Our species may even be wired that way, or so it can sometimes appear.

Tomorrow: First the Trump voters. Then Us.


  1. Re-stating Bob's point. The pro-Trump letters focused on policies and results. The anti-Trump letters focused more on insulting Trump and his supporters.

    One "anti", Julie Tebo, said she "could delineate a point-by-point rebuttal to each of these letters", but she chose not to do so. Instead her rebuttal consisted of the question: "Did you ever consider the impact of Mr. Trump’s policies on others’ lives?" She didn't specify which "others" she was talking about.

    Tebo's rebuttal is pretty weak. At this point, Trump has had a positive impact on blacks, Hispanics, working Americans, investors, Iraqis and Syrians.

    1. Are you including prospective Iraqi and Syrian immigrants to the US in your list? How about Hispanics in Puerto Rico? How about people who were working for Carrier and are no longer working Americans. What about black parents who relied on CHIP to insure their kids? Please describe how Trump's impact on those people was positive.

    2. @David and @Somerby: And who chose those "rebuttal" letters? Obviously, the editorial staff curated them. Perhaps the staff chose those rebuttals specifically for their tone, while rejecting others that were not so. You have possibly been "had" by the Times. And all of us have, for that matter.

    3. This is the same NY Times that is portraying the shutdown as the fault of the Democrats.

  2. What do you mean "still support Donald J. Trump"?

    Without a doubt many more people support him now than before, just look at the economy and at all 'em lib-zombies squirming...

    1. "Without a doubt many more people support him now than before..."

      This. This. This.
      Remember, before the election, the corporate-media was telling them Clinton was on the side of the Establishment.
      Trump had to hand the economy to Wall Street to win them over. You'd think they should have known from Trump's 4+ decades of screwing over his contractors, he was their boy, but you know how slow on the uptake Conservatives are.

  3. Four possible groups:
    1. Trump voters who still support Trump
    2. Trump voters who now oppose Trump
    3. Hillary voters who still oppose Trump
    4. Hillary voters who now support Trump.

    The Times published letters from groups 1, 2 and 3. No letters were published from group 4. Mao points out that there ought to be a fair number of such people. I wonder if that's actually the case. Based on my circle of friends and relatives, Trump opponents are unswayed by his actual results.

    1. There are no Hillary voters who now support Trump.

      Trump's "results" are considered mistakes by those who support Hillary.

    2. 5. People who didn't care one way or the other. Apolitical. The "same-shit" people - a majority.

      Now, when their lives have, perhaps, changed for the better (of, less likely, worse) during the last year, they may have a preference.

  4. Somerby said: "According to major anthropologists who sometimes appear to us in our dreams, our flailing, floundering, irrational species may be wired that way—may be wired for (lack of) sound."

    Anthropologists do not believe that humans are wired to hit. They believe humans use talking to achieve social goals that further survival of both the individual, the group, and the species. Hitting is what animals who cannot talk do.

    Brabender is not saying anything wise and neither is Somerby.

    No anthropologist would endorse Somerby's notion, in his dreams or otherwise.

  5. The people who I know that voted for Trump and still support him do so because their reasons have not changed.

    They voted for Trump because (1) they were Republicans and he is a Republican, (2) they disliked Hillary, and (3) they wanted to see change. He is still a Republican and so are his voters, Hillary is not running this year (nor is anyone else), and he is changing things, for better or worse.

    My experience with Trump voters is that they do not think beyond that. Talking beyond that with them is frustrating to all involved. They get very defensive and their vote for Trump but also about their inability to discuss any issue beyond what they saw on the news (e.g., Fox). You cannot have a discussion with them.

    I don't see any point to hitting them. They probably shouldn't be voting but someone no doubt convinced them it is the civic-minded thing to do.

    1. It's not hard. We have businesses that benefit from Trump's tax cuts, we hate abortion, we support law enforcement officers, we think boys who think they are girls have a psychological problem and we think democrats are racist.

    2. What isn't hard?

      Liberals too have businesses that benefited from Trump's tax cuts, they also hate abortions but recognize their necessity sometimes, they too support law enforcement but recognize that officers sometimes make mistakes or need training, and Democrats think social rules must follow the science on transgender issues. We think the genuine racists among us tend to feel more comfortable among Republicans because Democrats are not only more racially diverse but consider that a good thing.

      The main difference between Dems and Repubs is that they emphasize different values that are shared across parties. Trump himself neither holds nor exemplifies any of those values. It is baffling that Republicans would be enthusiastic about a leader who does not represent Republican values any more than Democratic ones (remember he once was a Democrat). That's what needs to be explained. Why have Republicans abandoned the things they used to care about?

    3. You can't present the way Dems conduct themselves as a difference in emphasis when your candidate didn't say what you said, she stood up and labeled Republican voters deplorable, racist, sexist. That sent anyone considering your party who also sympathizes with law enforcement or opposes most abortion or is sick of the use of the racist card to cover for bad policies stampeding to Trump. Small business is going go benefit from Trump's policies no matter how you slice it but Dem behavior through the Obama years and in the election, on most other issues, sealed her fate with enough voters to defeat her.

    4. Democrats in CA do not support all law enforcement. They actively oppose enforcement of immigration laws. Unfortunately, Dems control the state government, so nothing can be done about this.

      Yes, 2:48 PM, Trump personally does not represent the Republican values that I believe in. But, his actions on laws, regulations and appointments do forward the values that I believe in. That's why my support for Trump has grown.

      BTW Trump also supports many values that liberals believe in, such as defeating ISIS, lowering unemployment for blacks, minorities and women, supporting Israel, making the UN operate more efficiently. But, few liberals seem to have noticed. I think that's because media has given these achievements limited coverage.

    5. Democrats in CA do not oppose ICE enforcing immigration laws. It is not the job of the local police to do so. That is what ICE agents do. When local police do it, they neglect their own work and there is a bad impact on crime rates for other crimes. Trump has already increased the number of ICE agents, so there is no need for him to conscript local cops in that effort.

      Since you are willing to support a pussygrabber as long as he reduces regulations and appoints conservative judges, I have to conclude that you place a higher value on regulation than on women's safety. That seems like an odd choice to me, being female.

      Trump gives mouth-service to good values but his actions contradict his words. You judge a man by his deeds. You are too willing to give Trump credit for things that were achievements of Obama. The media has wisely not accepted the self-aggrandizing claims of Trump's press people and instead reflects the judgment of economists and foreign relations experts on these matters.

      You are too gullible.

    6. "Dem behavior through the Obama years and in the election, on most other issues, sealed her fate with enough voters to defeat her."

      That's why she won the popular vote by 3.5 million.

    7. When a woman who is undocumented is raped, she cannot go to the police about it if the local police will turn her over to ICE. That means a rapist stays on the streets and is able to rape more women, documented and not. Coopting local police into ICE has this same effect on all kinds of crimes, preventing witnesses and victims from coming forward and helping police efforts. CA has been through this before and understands what works best for local policing. Trump is ignorant and won't listen to anyone on such matters -- he thinks in stereotypes and doesn't care what benefits local people in large cities, regardless of ethnicity, color, income level or neighborhood.

    8. What a creative argument, 3:54. One can see the flaw by applying your reasoning to people who violate laws other than immigration laws.

      Consider a woman who is wanted by the police for murder, or for armed robbery, or for selling drugs to minors, or for bunco games, or for any other crime. If she is raped, she cannot go to the police about it. So, following your reasoning, police shouldn't enforce any crime at all.

    9. 3:45 "economists" said the economy would never recover from Trump getting elected. Get woke.

    10. There is more to the economy than the stock market. All the other indicators are down from obama’s term.

    11. David, the police are in the business of protecting citizens. They let the courts decide who is a criminal or not. The % who are not committing such crimes is far larger. Your logic that the cops might accidentally protect a criminal stinks because police cannot refuse to serve just because a victim is also a felon.

    12. AnonymousJanuary 22, 2018 at 3:45 PM - Sorry, Democrats in CA do indeed oppose ICE enforcing immigration laws. In fact, they have made it illegal for people to cooperate with ICE agents in their job of enforcing immigration law. Here's a news article from last week.

      ‘We will prosecute’ employers who help immigration sweeps, California AG says

      The state’s top cop issued a warning to California employers Thursday that businesses face legal repercussions, including fines up to $10,000, if they assist federal immigration authorities with a potential widespread immigration crackdown.


      I sympathize with the employer who might be faced with the choice of violating federal law by obstructing ICE or violating California law by cooperating with ICE.

    13. "So, following your reasoning, police shouldn't enforce any crime at all." Sounds like a Freudian slip to me, DinC.

      As far as your 7:30 comment, you left out an important part of the article:

      “It’s important, given these rumors that are out there, to let people know – more specifically today, employers – that if they voluntarily start giving up information about their employees or access to their employees in ways that contradict our new California laws, they subject themselves to actions by my office,” state Attorney General Xavier Becerra said at a news conference. “We will prosecute those who violate the law.”

      Your aaall about violating the law, I presume. Where’s mm when needed? Hope s/he’s doing okay, I miss the comments.


    14. It has always been common for sleazy employers to evade paying wages owed to undocumented workers by ratting them out to ICE. David, you are now allied to them at heart.

    15. 9:57 I guess you mean threatening to rat them out. If the sleazy employer actually rats out the illegal immigrant worker, the employer loses that worker and may find himself prosecuted for knowingly hiring an illegal immigrant.

      But, aside from that quibble, I agree with you. Illegal immigrant workers are in a dicey situation. It's easy to take advantage of them. E.g., supposedly some illegal workers in Chinese restaurants accept salaries below minimum wage.

      Leroy -- I think the California laws are nuts. They're parallel to the States' Rights arguments made by the seceding Confederate states. I would love to see the courts rule un-Constitutional the various Sanctuary City and Sanctuary State laws.

    16. David, I hear property is cheap in Texas. Why not move there if you are unhappy rubbing shoulders with the people who used to own our state. Oh, wait, brown people used to own Texas too. Maybe that’s why you are so adamant that a piece of paper legitimizes your place in our state.

    17. Yes, 11:56, a piece of paper legitimizes my right to be a citizen of the USA. A piece of paper legitimizes my ownership of the computer on which this comment is being typed. A piece of paper legitimizes my marriage to Ms. David in Cal. Would you prefer a system were anyone can just walk in to the US and be a citizen? Where anyone can just walk into your home and take your computer away?

      BTW you seem to think that because some brown people once owned Texas, some completely different and unrelated brown people have the right to live there. I don't think that makes sense. It's treating brown people not as individual people, but as atoms or cells within a single brown glob of people.

    18. Ah yes, 11:56, typical lib-zombie hitlerism: essentializing and politicizing 'race' and ethnicity, defined by ancestry.

    19. For most of our history anyone could walk in and live here. I like the result.

    20. your momma's bedroom?

    21. "...she stood up and labeled Republican voters deplorable, racist, sexist."

      Boy does she ever egg on her face now. Once Trump voters burnt Trump Tower to the ground due to Trump's Wall Street cabinet appointments, there was no way for anyone to claim Trump voters weren't turned on by bigotry, but were obviously concerned about the economy being rigged for plutocrats.

  6. I wanted to reiterate a reply I made above: the Times quite possibly chose those "liberal rebuttal" letters specifically for their supposedly combative tone. There were likely others that they rejected. The Times has played its readers, including, possibly, Somerby. He takes it as a given that these letters confirm his worst image of liberal NY Times readers, i.e. our "liberal team."

    1. As evidence, they juxtaposed one letter that thanked them for the Trump letters with one that said "please don't do this ever again." That's editorial choice -- their way of absolving themselves of any responsibility for giving the Trump supporters a huge platform. I didn't think the letters were that bad and I thought the questions asked of Trump supporters were fair, and largely unanswered. Do Trump voters have no empathy for the folks thrown off health insurance by failure to fund CHIP? Do they have no empathy for deportees who have lived here since they were children, now separated from their own kids? Do they not care that the poor cannot visit public parks in this country because of high admittance fees?

      Why is it the equivalent of "hitting" to ask such questions? These seem like fair questions to me.

    2. AnonymousJanuary 22, 2018 at 3:37 PM - First of all, both Dems and Republicans support the continuation of CHIP. The disagreement was over the technical issue of whether it should be funded as a part of an overall funding agreement.

      Here's my understanding of the "hitting" analogy. Suppose I say that Trump's policies have been good for women, blacks and Hispanics, because their unemployment rates are now so low. That's a plausible policy point, although you may have counter-arguments that might refute it.

      But, suppose I say to you, "You have no empathy for women, poor blacks and poor Hispanics who are so needy and disadvantaged!" That's attacking you personally -- making you to be a mean and awful person.

    3. @David: OK, fine. But the point is, there are people on both sides who argue that way. It isn't just liberals. Somerby never, or hardly ever, shows examples like that from the right, but they are readily available. I can go along with the criticism that liberals shouldn't "hit" or fight dirty, or whatever, but only as long as that criticism is directed at the right as well. Otherwise, our discourse won't really improve.

    4. If Republicans supported CHIP they wouldn’t have let it expire.

      I can only conclude they don’t care about kids if they do nothing to renew this program. That isn’t name calling. It is a valid inference from the facts.

    5. "Here's my understanding of the "hitting" analogy."

      Wait a minute. Are you telling me "I don't hate America" and "Love Saddam Hussein", just because I didn't want to waste $3.5 Trillion to fuck-up the Middle East?
      What Conservative knew?

  7. Somerby says: "He wanted the others to shut the heck up. To our ear, it sounded that way, at least a bit, when our own tribe's letters appeared in the Times.

    Our species may even be wired that way, or so it can sometimes appear."

    Why are the letters on the second day being generalized to the entire species but not the letters from the first day?

    The letters on the first day did a bunch of talking. why are they less representative of our species than those that seemed to want to shut them up?

    Somerby has no basis for picking one day as typical and the other day as atypical. They are both representative of our species. It is Somerby who has the bias -- he wants to consider hitting normative whereas talking shit is not.

    If I were a shrink, I would be wondering who Somerby wants to hit. Also who told him not to hit and why he has to justify hitting by saying it is intrinsic to our species. Why one cannot wish to hit one day and wish to talk the next day without it being labeled as species-specific behavior.

  8. Somerby has spent years detailing the malfeasance of the Times, with its shoddy and/or antagonistic reporting of Whitewater, Lewinsky, Gore, and even Hillary (the Uranium One story, for example). The pattern seemed to be anti-liberal, or anti-Democrat. And suddenly, the Times editorial staff is disappeared, and the liberal rebuttal letters suddenly represent some general truth about liberals, and not one more deliberate attempt to sabotage liberals? Or at least, an attempt at keeping the flame of antagonism burning? I thought we were all wise to the Times by now.

  9. This Brabender image isn't wonderful. It is the strong silent man portrayed by John Wayne. It is a gendered stereotype that women talk and men do not, they act (e.g., hit). When a nonverbal man feels brow-beaten by a woman's talking, he hits her. That shuts her up all right. I hope Brabender never hit his wife or anyone else he considered too talkative, but the implicit approval of such behavior is there in his words, put forth by Somerby as a liberal tendency.

    To my knowledge, liberals aren't particularly known for spousal abuse, but the right's strong admiration for these strong men of action is pretty well known. Those who do talk a lot are considered somewhat effeminate. I could draw stereotypical talkative characters from the movies, but I won't.

    I think Somerby needs to be a little more careful about the rhetorical devices he chooses to present to us. This one is borderline offensive.

    1. "This Brabender image isn't wonderful."

      Duh. Where does Somerby say it is? That's the whole point of his post. Cheez 'n' crackers...

    2. "I think Somerby needs to be a little more careful about the rhetorical devices he chooses to present to us. This one is borderline offensive."

      Yes, he might influence the entire world. WTF is he thinking?

    3. @8:25 Somerby picked out Brabender himself, not from someone else’s essay. He extolls Bouton’s book, almost gushing, then likens liberals to this hick who is too stupid to particiate in a discussion. I object to Somerby’s ongoing insults of “our tribe.” His point is offensive.

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