Deaths still rising, Trump still nuts!

FRIDAY, JULY 10, 2020

Thoroughly baffled by Krugman:
We're thoroughly baffled by the basic framework of Paul Krugman's new column.

First, though, an apparent mistake. In passing, Krugman says this about the pandemic:

"National death totals are still declining..."

We're afraid that's no longer true. As of this morning, the nationwide 7-day average has bumped up again.

As of this morning, we're averaging 576.7 deaths per day nationwide (July 3-July 9). We'd already dropped below that point as of June 23 (571.9, June 16-June 22).

The number continued to drop after that, inching down below 540. But now it seems to be moving back up again.

It seems clear that the decline has stopped. All that's left may be the size of what now seems to be the rise.

That's a minor if horrible point. We're baffled by Krugman's overall framework. Our bafflement starts with Krugman's headline, then continues with some points after that:
KRUGMAN (7/10/20): The Deadly Delusions of Mad King Donald

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling more and more as if we’re all trapped on the Titanic—except that this time around the captain is a madman who insists on steering straight for the iceberg. And his crew is too cowardly to contradict him, let alone mutiny to save the passengers.

As he opens, Krugman refers to Trump as a madman. Also, as a "mad" king driven by "delusions."

Later, he refers to Trump's "pathologically inept response to the coronavirus." He refers to his "delusions" again, and once again calls him "mad."

That said:

Even as this psychological/psychiatric language floats around, Krugman never brooks the possibility that Trump really is delusional, mad or pathological, and not just in the metaphorical sense.

Trump's niece, Mary Trump, is a clinical psychologist. She has written a book in which she discusses Trump and his "high-functioning sociopath" father in psychiatric terms. But even with this new prompting, our journalists refuse to consider the possibility that the president is psychiatrically or psychologically ill in some literal sense.

It may be that this is a stricture imposed on columnists from above. But at some point, the refusal to brook an obvious possibility becomes almost as odd as Trump's relentless lunacy itself.

Is Donald J. Trump psychiatrically ill? The steadfast refusal to conduct that discussion is part of the era's madness.

Deaths are rising again, thanks to Trump. How did we get to this place?

ANATOMY OF MODERN DISCUSSION: Fort Apache the Bronx, back in '71!

FRIDAY, JULY 10, 2020

Whose deaths turn up on TV?:
Over the weekend, the claim flitted by, two or three separate times, as we flipped through C-Span's programs.

It sounded like it couldn't be true. In the end, we decided to check.

The claim had been made by Rafael Mangual, Deputy Director for Policy Research/Legal Policy at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank. As part of a much longer presentation, this was his factual claim, though it seemed a bit hard to believe:
MANGUAL (6/18/20): In 1971, the NYPD fired their weapons more than 800 times. They wounded more than 220 people and killed almost a hundred. By 2016, those numbers were down to 72, twenty-something and nine, respectively.
To watch the whole C-Span program, click here.

Meanwhile, say what? In 1971, police officers in New York City shot and killed "almost a hundred" people?

The statement seemed hard to believe. We ourselves were in and out of Gotham in those days. Our sister and her husband were living in Manhattan at the time, on their way to a stay in Bed-Stuy.

In 1974, we even stood backstage at the Winter Garden as we watched Zero Mostel perform Ulysses in Nighttown! If memory serves, it was one of Mostel's greatest thrills!

We'd been in and out of New York in those days. We didn't recall all that gunfire, or any blowback from same.

In fairness, this had been the general era of Fort Apache, The Bronx. It was also the decade of Manhattan, a film in which no one got shot by police, not even the Woody Allen character, who we now understand to have been richly deserving.

That said, did Gotham police shoot and kill almost one hundred people in 1971? Skillfully, we started to google. Soon, we were reading this report from WNYC, the Gotham NPR outlet:
HENNELLY (11/22/11): The number of civilians shot and killed by New York City police officers has fallen to a record low.

In its annual firearm discharge report, the NYPD said officers killed eight people in 2010—compared to 12 in 2009 and 93 in 1971, when the record keeping began.

The NYPD shot and wounded 16 civilians last year.


The dramatic reduction in civilian police shooting casualties parallels an equally significant decline in NYPD officers fatally shot in the line of duty. In 1971 a dozen officers were killed, whereas for the last three years no officers were. Also in 1971, 47 officers were wounded, compared to only two last year.
As it turned out, Mangual's numbers were solid! In 2015, PolitiFact reported that 1971 had been "a particularly brutal year for both shootings of cops (47 injured, 12 killed) as well as the number of people shot and killed by police (221 injured, 93 people killed)."

The official data are here. As always, we certainly can, and we surely will, believe whatever we want.

So it went in the street-fighting days of 1971. One year earlier, as chaos reigned, the Weatherman accidentally detonated one of their home-made bombs, blowing up their Greenwich Village townhouse. So it went in those long-ago years.

Today, things are perhaps perceived to be worse. Consider:

Yesterday, the New York Times published the type of first-person account it just can't seem to quit. Thanks to the highlighted claims at the start of the profile, the ridiculous paper had finally found a Republican hopeful to love:
PETERS AND GRAY (7/9/20): John James still feels the sting from the harrowing encounters and indignities he has experienced as a young Black man crossing paths with the police.

He recently recalled the time he was with the woman who is now his wife at an upscale mall in suburban Detroit and two officers approached them in their car, guns drawn. Had his wife, who is white, not been there to de-escalate the situation, he said, “I don’t know what would have happened.”

A few years later, he was pulled over with one of their sons in the back seat. At the sight of the flashing blue and red lights, he asked himself if this was the day his child “sees his daddy bleed out in the street.” Mr. James, a West Point graduate and Apache helicopter pilot who once flew combat missions in Iraq, came to a chilling conclusion: He could be killed during a traffic stop in the suburbs just as easily as he could have been killed at war.

These are the kinds of stories that Mr. James, a Republican candidate for Senate in Michigan, said he hoped would help white Americans better understand the issues of racial justice now at the forefront of an election unlike any in his lifetime.
Will those stories help white Americans better understand (important) issues of racial justice? Even as we agree to assume that those stories are true, we have no way of answering that question.

We do note this:

The Times didn't attempt to explain why James was pulled over in his car on that one occasion. (Through some remarkable fluke, the future candidate didn't bleed out in the street in front of his son that night.)

Also, why had officers approached his car in suburban Detroit that time, guns drawn? The Times didn't go into that either. As readers, we were allowed to flesh out these stories through the work product of our own minds.

For the record, Candidate James sounds like an impressive person. It sounds like he's lived an impressive life.

(Even more so, his impressive father. At present, James runs "a shipping business that is part of the company his father started after moving to Michigan from segregated Mississippi in the 1960s." We're always amazed by people who have what it takes to do things like that.)

Candidate James is an impressive person. In 2018, he came surprisingly close to winning his previous Senate race.

That said, was his assessment correct?

Granted, it's the type of assessment the New York Times currently seems to love. But is it correct to say that Candidate James "could be killed during a traffic stop in the suburbs just as easily as he could have been killed at war?"

We're prepared to suggest that that assessment may not make perfect sense, even though it's a type of assessment the New York Times currently loves to publish.

In fairness, such assessments are thrilling to read of a weekend out in the Hamptons, and they fuel revolutionary fervor. On the downside, people may start believing such assessments, even passing them on to their kids.

Before long, substantial people may write essays for Slate in which they say their 7-year-old son was "terrified" by the things they recently told him. More specifically, they may say their 7-year-old son is terrified by what he's been told and wants to leave the United States.

Out in the Hamptons, that's a good read! But in the mind of a 7-year-old child, that is a tale of true terror—and, perhaps, an unfortunate tale of a possible misapprehension.

Could Candidate James "be killed during a traffic stop in the suburbs just as easily as he could have been killed at war?"

We're prepared to suggest a possibility which won't likely show up in the Times. We're prepare to suggest the possibility that that's a misguided assessment.

To explain why we're prepared to do that, we'll now mention a second person we've seen on TV in the past few weeks. We refer to Wilfred Reilly, an assistant professor of political science at Kentucky State University, an historically black college in Frankfort, Kentucky.

Reilly is the kind of person you're allowed to see on the Fox News Channel but not on CNN or MSNBC. We've seen him briefly on two Fox programs in something like the past month.

As Fox guests go, we'd say that Reilly is strongly non-partisan. On the other hand, he's sometimes a bit less precise with his statistical summaries than we'd like cable guests to be.

That said, his current data address an interesting question. Whose deaths will you see on cable TV, or in the New York Times?

More specifically, whose shooting deaths at the hands of police will you hear about on TV or read about in the Times? In a brief recent appearance with Laura Ingraham, the gentleman said this:
REILLY (7/6/20): In my most recent book, Taboo, I look at a lot of these cultural questions in American society. And I mean, one of the things I find, that other researchers have found many times before, is that the large, 75-80 percent majority of those killed by police in a typical year, for example, are Caucasian or Hispanic individuals, and those cases receive less than 20 percent of the media coverage of police violence.
To watch that brief appearance, click here, move ahead to 23:30.

There are other ways to sift those numbers about who gets shot and killed. We don't know where the statistic about media coverage comes from. For our money, Reilly isn't always a total stickler for perfect statistical accuracy.

That said, Reilly is speaking to a blindingly obvious state of affairs—a state of affairs you'll only hear discussed on Fox. In Taboo: Ten Facts You Can't Talk About, he discusses this same topic—the disparate coverage, within major media, of black and white shooting deaths.

When black shooting deaths are extensively covered and white shooting deaths may not be covered at all, misperceptions may arise. We think of the absurd presentation John Yang recently slept through on the PBS NewsHour:
YANG (6/16/20): Louisville has banned—in reaction to this, banned no-knock warrants. They called it Breonna's Law. How effective do you think that will be?

RITCHIE: I think it's good that we're stepping back to look at how those police officers came to be at her door and looking to interrupt one of the mechanisms that has resulted in her death and also in the death of—I can name five other black women killed by no-knock warrants, Tarika Wilson, Kathryn Johnston, Alberta Spruill, Aiyana Stanley-Jones.

So, there's many—this is not the first time. And so I think that stopping no-knock warrants is important, and that we need to recognize that increasing the time that folks have to respond to 15 or 30 seconds or a minute, imagine someone backing on your door in the middle of the night. That's not enough time to understand what's going on either.

So, we need to maybe step further back and ask ourselves, why are people showing up at—police officers, armed police officers, showing up on people's doors to serve no-knock or short-knock warrants?

And I think then we need to look at the war on drugs, which is where those warrants came from and what brought those officers to Breonna's door that night. And we need to rethink our approach to that in a way that we are taking an approach to saving lives not, taking them, in this way, as Breonna Taylor's was taken.
Barnard researcher Andrea Ritchie was Yang's only guest. When she named people other than the late Breonna Taylor who had died during "no-knock" raids, she named five black women, and she named nobody else.

Almost surely, such presentations will create false impressions. Yang and Judy Woodruff should have been disciplined, the very next day, for sleepwalking though that presentation on PBS that night.

Especially with respect to life-and-death matters, selective presentation may lead to gross misimpressions. Before too long, we have Hopkins professors who won't leave their homes, and we have terrified 7-year-olds who want to leave the country.

You can hear about this topic on Fox. CNN's angriest dog in the world is unlikely to speak to this issue.

Here within our failing society, this is the way our upper-end "discussions" now work. On the upper levels of the press, we've been this dumb, and this destructive, for an extremely long time.

We were surprised by what we learned from the Manhattan Institute researcher. We weren't surprised by what Reilly said, but we think he's discussing a topic which ought to be discussed a lot more.

That said, the things that people are told on Fox aren't heard by us Over Here. On our own cable channels, we're handed our own tribal tales, nothing else.

On the upper ends of our corporate press corps, this is largely the way "discussion" had worked for decades before Donald J. Trump ever descended that staircase.

By light-years, Trump is the most disordered high-level player yet. But these people, all through the upper-end press corps, were thoroughly Trumpist before he arrived on the scene.

How many people are shot and killed by police officers? Roughly a thousand people per year!

Which deaths get covered, which get disappeared? We've seen Reilly address that question twice, but it's all taking place Over There. This is no way for discussion to work, but it's how we got Trump in the first place.

Friedman sets rules for Trump-Biden debates!


Least savvy thought of all time:
Can anybody really imagine a set of Trump-Biden debates?

Theoretically, they're going to happen. But can anyone really picture such monsters from the deep?

In yesterday's New York Times,
Thomas Friedman offered some suggestions for the way these debates should work. At one point, he gave voice to the least savvy thought of all time:
FRIEDMAN (7/8/20): Biden should insist that a real-time fact-checking team approved by both candidates be hired by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates—and that 10 minutes before the scheduled conclusion of the debate this team report on any misleading statements, phony numbers or outright lies either candidate had uttered. That way no one in that massive television audience can go away easily misled.
Does Friedman actually live on this planet? No really—where does this guy live?

It's very, very hard to believe that any pair of candidates will ever agree to stop their debate with ten minutes to go so a fact-check team can identify their various misstatements.

It's very hard to imagine that. But no, that isn't our point.

What brought us out of our chairs was Friedman's reference to "outright lies." Is he really suggesting that our fact-checking team should identify such deliberate misstatements at the end of each debate?

That strikes us as a sad presentation. This is Elementary Logic 101, but how exactly would they know when an "outright lie" had occurred?

We're dealing here with a point so simple that everyone used to know it. It's relatively easy to spot a misstatement, but it's very hard to reliably identify a "lie."

Not long ago, every journalist understood this blindingly basic point. It was considered extremely bad journalistic form to refer to a misstatement as a lie.

Reason? A lie is a deliberate misstatement—and it's hard to get inside someone else's head.

In our view, Trump's mental disorder only drives this basic point home. We know of reason to think that Trump cares about telling the truth or making accurate statements.

But in any given case, can anyone feel they know what's going on inside that disordered noggin? How many of his lunatic statements might he believe to be true?

Maybe Friedman didn't mean that the fact-check team would explicitly identify "outright lies." But what a lack of sophistication was tangled up in that statement!

Journalistically speaking, of course, it's much like Springsteen said. Journalistically, this is our hometown, and its storefronts are badly faded.

It looks like deaths (may) have started to rise!


American carnage in action:
Just in time for deaths to appear to begin moving up, The Atlantic has offered five perfectly decent reasons explaining why deaths keep going down while "cases" keep going up.

After a long decline from a very high point, have deaths begun increasing again? A 3-day holiday weekend can create a significant statistical glitch, but this is where the numbers have stood on each of the past seven Thursday mornings:
Daily deaths nationwide from covid-19
7-day rolling average

May 28: 971.9
June 4: 908.6
June 11: 773.4
June 18: 650.0
June 25: 574.7
July 2: 537.9
July 9: 551.6
A long decline began in mid-April, when the 7-day rolling average exceeded 2000 deaths per day. To appearances, that long decline has leveled off, and may now have started to rise.

Why have deaths been in decline in recent weeks even as "cases" have been rising? The Atlantic offers five perfectly sensible reasons. The essay is well worth reading:
1. Deaths lag cases
2. Expanded testing is finding more cases, milder cases, and earlier cases
3. The typical COVID-19 patient is getting younger
4. Hospitalized patients are dying less frequently, even without a home-run treatment
5. Summer might be helping—but probably only a little bit
We'll guess that there could be other perfectly sensible reasons. (Improved policies regarding nursing homes?)

That said, the oddness of "cases" as a statistic makes this phenomenon a natural puzzler. Remember:

The number of "cases" you see reported each night is only the number of cases which have been confirmed/diagnosed by a coronavirus test. There may be many other new infections (new cases) which haven't been so diagnosed.

Just two nights ago, on MSNBC, Dr. Redlener said the actual number of new cases may be ten times as high as the number you see reported on a daily basis. It's just that all those other new infections haven't been confirmed by a test. Infected parties may have no idea that they're even infected.

In short, no one knows how many actual new cases there actually are at any given time. That makes it hard to compare the number of "cases" with the number of deaths.

In many other countries (not all), deaths have largely been snuffed out. In Donald J. Trump's America, deaths may be back on the rise.

You'll continue to hear every kind of statistical misstatement from the stars of cable news, even at times from experts. But we're involved in a rolling disaster-by-dumbness—a dumbness which started long ago, in large part within the tents of our mainstream press elite.

They pimped The Donald every step of the way, going all the way back to Marla Maples' report of the "best sex ever." To balance things off, they kept calling Hillary Clinton Evita and Nurse Ratched, while tolerating crackpot discussions of the many people she'd killed.

All the idiots gamboled and played, having their fun with these dimwitted themes. In November 2016, the laughter largely faded.

At that point, we geniuses over here on the left decided to start our resistance. We leaped into action, ready for battle, at least thirty years too late!

ANATOMY OF MODERN DISCUSSION: Novelization of news in the raw!


The Post reports on George Floyd:
For better or worse, you'll never see it any more clearly.

You'll never see the architecture of modern journalistic "discussion" laid out in a more explicit fashion.

In part, we refer to the practice we began describing, in the last century, as "the novelization of news." More specifically, we refer to a practice which might have been drawn directly from Wonderland:

Storyline first! the prevailing rule says. Information later.

It may not be narrative all the way down, but plainly it's "Narrative First."

We refer to the lengthy front-page news report in this morning's Washington Post, a front-page report which includes a wealth of new detail about the dreadful killing of the late George Floyd.

Readers are handed the storyline first. Right there in paragraph 2, still on the paper's front page, readers are told what they should think about everything which will follow:
EXPERIENCED REPORTER (7/9/20): George Floyd repeatedly begged police officers not to shoot him and complained of being claustrophobic as they tried to place him in a squad car in the minutes before he was killed on a South Minneapolis street corner in May, according to transcripts of police body camera footage from the scene released Wednesday.

The transcripts make clear that Floyd was trying to cooperate with police but was deathly afraid of them, at times telling them that he had had covid-19 and was worried that he was going to die because he couldn’t breathe while in their custody...
"The transcripts make clear that Floyd was trying to cooperate with police." Readers are handed this storyline at the start of this morning's report.

Readers are told that this is what they should think about the information which will follow. You'll rarely see a purer instance of modern press storyline.

Before we continue, let's make two basic points:

First, what follows is not intended as a criticism of George Floyd. It's not intended as a commentary on any of his behavior.

To the extent that what follows is commentary on anyone, it's intended as commentary on the behavior of the Washington Post. For ourselves, if we believed there were angels in heaven, we'd believe that one of them would surely be George Floyd.

Our second point would be this:

What follows is principally meant as a contribution to the science of anthropology. It's intended as a report on one of the ways our highly tribal, war-inclined species is strongly inclined to behave.

The major experts with whom we consult say this behavior was bred in the bone. However we may regard that claim, you'll rarely see a clearer example of the inclination to novelize all information—of the inclination to adhere to preferred tribal storyline even in the face of countervailing facts.

That said, let's try to remember! What follows isn't meant, in any way, as a commentary on Floyd. It's offered as a report on human instinct, especially during heavily fraught, tribalized times such as these.

At deeply fraught times, or so we've been told, we humans were especially inclined to cling to tribal narrative. So it was, we'd have to say, at the start of the Post's news report.

The transcripts make clear that Floyd was trying to cooperate with police? That's what Post readers are instantly told today. Concerning that statement, please note:

The transcripts don't suggest that Floyd was trying to cooperate. The transcripts don't help us gauge the extent to which Floyd actually did cooperate.

According to the opening statement, the transcripts make it clear that he was trying to do so. We're told that this is what we should think, a bit later on, when we read such excerpts as this:
EXPERIENCED REPORTER: Officers had responded to a 911 call from Cup Foods complaining of a customer who had passed a counterfeit $20 bill. Kueng and Lane were the first officers on the scene, and the transcripts show that a store clerk pointed them to where Floyd and two others sat in a parked car nearby.

Transcripts show that Lane approached the car and called on Floyd at least five times to show his hands, drawing his gun when he didn’t. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Floyd responded, according to a transcript of Lane’s body camera. “I didn’t do nothing. . . . What did I do though? What did we do, Mr. Officer?”
In that passage, it almost sounds like former officer Lane asked Floyd to show his hands five times without Floyd doing so.

Was cooperation already missing? A few paragraphs later, the reporter tells us this:
EXPERIENCED REPORTER: The transcripts show that Floyd continued to ask officers not to shoot him as he stepped from his vehicle, and suggest that he struggled with officers as they tried to handcuff him.
As we've noted, this isn't meant as a criticism of Floyd, or of his behavior. Concerning the Post's journalistic behavior, does that passage help "make it clear" that Floyd was trying to cooperate with the two officers then on the scene?

Does that passage seem to comport with the Post reporter's instant front-page storyline? For ourselves, we'd say it does not. Ditto for what comes next:
EXPERIENCED REPORTER (continuing directly): “Stop resisting Floyd!” Shawanda Renee Hill, a witness inside the car, called out, according to the transcript of the footage from Lane’s camera.
Nothing about these events is funny, but it's hard not to laugh at the reporter's description of Hill as "a witness inside the car," as if Floyd had been driving an Uber that day and Hill had just been picked up.

In fact, Hill seems to have been a friend or acquaintance of Floyd. At this point, the transcript suggests that she thought her friend was resisting arrest.

As the Post reporter continues, Hill's view is further fleshed out:
EXPERIENCED REPORTER (continuing directly): As Kueng walked Floyd across the street, Lane asked Hill about Floyd’s behavior. “Why’s he getting all squirrelly and not showing us his hands and just being all weird like that?” he asked, according to the transcript.

“I have no clue, because he’s been shot before,” Hill said.

Lane asked whether Floyd was “drunk” or “on something.”

“No, he got a thing going on, I’m telling you, about the police,” Hill replied. “He have problems all the time when they come, especially when that man put that gun like that.”
It isn't clear what Hill is talking about by the end of that passage. But when Lane suggests that Floyd's behavior seems somewhat odd, Hill doesn't seem to disagree.

Later, we're told this:
EXPERIENCED REPORTER: According to the transcripts, the officers tried placing Floyd in the squad car, but he resisted, repeatedly telling them he was “claustrophobic” and had “anxiety.” He begged to be released from his handcuffs, promising he wouldn’t hurt anyone. “Y’all, I’m going to die in here,” he told them. “I just had COVID man, don’t want to go back to that.”

By then, Chauvin and Thao had arrived as Kueng and Lane were struggling to get Floyd in the car...[A]t one point, an unknown officer sought to intervene, according to the transcripts. “Man, you’re going to die of a heart attack,” one of the officers told Floyd. “Just get in the car.”
First, Hill explicitly seemed to say that Floyd "resisted." Now, though, the reporter does! She says it in her own words!

Meanwhile, the two rookie officers were "struggling to get Floyd" into their police car. This is what the reporter says we can glean from the transcripts!

By now, former officer Derek Chauvin has arrived on the scene. When he does, the events of the day take a disastrous turn.

For the record, the Post reporter describes several instances in which Lane, the rookie cop, tries to get the experienced veteran to stop killing Floyd. In their own front-page report in this morning's New York Times, Oppel and Barker provide more detail about these several attempts.

So it went in this morning's Washington Post. If you watched Lawrence O'Donnell last night, you saw a remarkably selective reading of these tragic transcripts.

Needless to say, Hill's statement that Floyd was "resisting" wasn't mentioned by Lawrence at all. Lawrence included only one fleeting reference to Lane's suggestions to his superior officer that he should stop killing Floyd.

"So it tended to go among this highly tribal species," our highly credentialed advisers have said. They speak in the past tense at such times, as pitiful wailing emerges from the caves in which they now seem to live.

With respect to this morning'a report in the Post, these experts have told us this:

Rarely will you see the essence of journalistic "discussion" so clearly carved into stone:

Readers are told what they should believe right at the start of the lengthy report. Readers are handed the storyline first. A torrent of contradictory information comes later!

As some may struggle to recall, none of this is meant as a criticism of the late George Floyd.

(Experts say that humans generally longed to hear their tribal storylines, and tended to have a very hard time focusing on anything else.)

This isn't even meant, in the main, as a criticism of the Washington Post.

It's true that, in Sunday's editions, the Post published a lengthy report by an inexperienced rookie reporter. The rookie had been sent out to pretend that the paper cares about the lives and interests of black kids.

Mainly, though, it seems that she'd been told to stick to approved storyline. Or some editor may have stepped in.

Our sources tell us that this was done because the Post's more experienced reporters have been told to focus on offensive costumes worn by well-intentioned people at Halloween parties past. They've been asked to compile lists of well-intentioned people the Post may be able to get fired from their jobs for Thought Crimes of this type.

This left it to a rookie reporter, one year out of college, to report on a (prestigious) public school and on the lives and the interests of black kids.

That reporter graduated from Harvard last June (class of 2019). Before that, she prepped at Georgetown Day. Not that there's anything wrong with it because, of course, there isn't.

There is something wrong with letting an inexperienced non-specialist report on the interests of black kids. That said, our journalistic elites have always played it that way, and they always will.

There's little sign that the cub reporter knows much about the problems of public schools and low-income schooling. That said, she knew the prevailing storyline—and in this world, it's "Storyline First."

This isn't the kid reporter's fault. We shouldn't even "blame" her editors, our future experts insist.

These experts say that all these players should be listed among Styron's "beaten and butchered and betrayed and martyred children of the earth."

In Sophie's Choice, Sophie Zawistowski was one such person, but so were many others. That's the most humane way to view these events, these weeping top experts have said.

Tomorrow: "Discussions" of police shootings

How useful is "cases" as a statistic?


Consider what Redlener said:
How strange a statistic is "cases?" Consider what Dr. Irwin Redlener said to Brian Williams last night.

(We can't give you a link. As we type on Wednesday afternoon, the slacker channel has produced transcripts only through last Thursday's night's TV shows.)

Redlener strikes us as one of the best of the many capable medical specialists currently being glimpsed on cable TV. Here's part of what he said in reply to Donald Trump's recent crazy claims concerning our triumph over the virus:
REDLENER (7/7/20): Anthony Fauci said, just two weeks ago, that we can expect to see 100,000 new, confirmed, tested cases every day, which means that's about a tenth of what the real number is because not everybody gets tested. So we could be seeing a million new cases a day within the next few weeks.
Redlener joined Dr. Fauci's recent prediction—100,000 new confirmed cases per day—with Dr. Redfield's earlier statement that the actual number of cases to date may be as much as ten times the current recorded amount.

On that basis, Redlener says we may soon be experiencing one million new infections per day, with 100,000 of those new infections/new cases being confirmed through testing.

Will that actually happen? Will a million additional people be getting infected each day?

We have no idea. But again, just consider how strange a statistic "cases" is! Think of it like this:

Why do we use this statistic at all if the number we're recording and reporting may be off by as much as a factor of ten? Can we make valid comparisons over time if we're missing this many actual cases? Can we make valid comparisons from one state to another? From one part of some state to another part of that state?

If the number of cases we record depends so heavily on 1) the volume of testing being conducted, and 2) the public's interest in being tested, then what are we really recording and reporting?

Deaths are easy, "cases" are hard! If the number we're recording each day may be off by a factor of ten, how valuable is "cases" as a statistic?

We don't know the answer to that question. Also, no one is going to ask!

(Redlener shared time with two non-medical guests as Brian hopscotched around. This is the way "discussion" works in our current version of Short Attention Span Theater.)

Chris Hayes makes a strange pair of corrections!


Does anyone here know anything other than storyline?:
No one can sensibly blame Chris Hayes for what Michael Williams said.

Williams is president of the Memphis Police Association. Last Tuesday night, he appeared on All In during a special town hall program about urban policing.

Four big-city mayors appeared as Hayes' guests. Midway through, Williams was interviewed. As we noted yesterday, he made this wildly inaccurate presentation about fatal police shootings:
WILLIAMS (6/30/20): Police answered over 10 million calls last year. Out of those 10 million calls, I think you–the FBI said you had about 1,000-and-some individuals that were shot.

Out of that 1,000 individuals, you had 400 that were armed–or unarmed. I believe you had 19 Caucasians that were shot and killed by the police last year. You only had nine African-Americans that were killed by the police last year.

Now, don't get me wrong. Anybody that's killed needlessly, that's wrong and it needs to be addressed. But at the same time, I think that we're definitely putting a lot of emphasis on the police when we have, in this city, 222 individuals were murdered in this city last year.

HAYES: Memphis Police Association president Michael Williams, in the city of Memphis. Thank you so much, sir. I appreciate it.

WILLIAMS: Thank you.
That presentation was wildly inaccurate, but it went uncorrected that night. The basic problems are these:
Number of people shot: Williams seemed to say that "about one thousand" people were shot by police officers last year. In fact, that's the approximate number of people who were shot and killed by police.

Number who were unarmed: Williams seemed to say that about four hundred of those thousand people were unarmed. (Despite his initial stumble, it was fairly clear that that was what he meant.)

It's harder to settle this factual matter. The Washington Post's Fatal Force site says that, of the 999 people shot and killed by police last year, only 55 were unarmed.

The Post reaches that judgment because it counts Tasers, baseball bats, knives, shovels, crowbars and cars as weapons. The Post says that 599 of the 999 people shot and killed were actually "armed" with a gun, and that 55 of the 999 had no weapon at all.

Black and white people shot: Williams seemed to say that police shot and killed only 19 white people and nine black people last year. That claim would be crazily wrong.

Williams seems to have gotten those numbers, and other numbers, from the Fatal Force site. Until about a month ago, the Fatal Force site listed those as the numbers of unarmed white and black people shot and killed by police last year. For some reason, the numbers then changed to 25 white people and 15 black people. Today, the site lists the numbers as 25 and 14.
People, can we talk? We know these things because we've puzzled over these numbers at substantial length.

This is a very high-profile topic. We sometimes wonder if any "journalists" ever consult any such data at all, as opposed to treating the topic as storyline all the way down.

We're familiar with the data from the Post site. Listening to Hayes on Wednesday night, we wondered if he has ever spent any time perusing any such data at all.

Williams made his wildly inaccurate presentation on Tuesday, June 30. Hayes said nothing at the time, but he offered a somewhat puzzling correction of Williams the following night.

He also offered a peculiar correction of his own peculiar misstatement about coronavirus testing, a groaner from last Monday's program.

Does anyone here play this game at all? Last Wednesday night, Hayes started his two-part correction like this:
HAYES (7/1/20): Last night, we held a special town hall on cities, police and the movement for black lives.

One of our guests was the president of the Memphis Police Union, Michael Williams, who at one point began rattling off some statistics about police shootings in America I had not heard before.
Some statistics he hadn't heard before?

In fact, Williams had rattled off some statistics which were crazily wrong. Anyone with any knowledge of this topic would have instantly known that.

At this point, Hayes made a journalistically strange decision; he played the videotape of Williams' misstatements all over again. Then, as he continued along, he made his own strange remarks:
HAYES: In the moment, those numbers struck me as implausibly low. But these data can be hard to find, so we tried to get Michael Williams to help us out, we tried to track him down.

We could not find them, which might not be surprising since the FBI database on police use of force, launched last year, which I think is what he was citing. has not yet publicly released any information.
The numbers "struck him as implausibly low?" Does that mean he didn't know that they were crazily wrong?

Meanwhile, data about police shootings aren't "hard to find" at all! As Hayes continued, he seemed to reverse this peculiar claim, then provided some actual data:
HAYES (continuing directly): In fact, various media organizations, because the reporting's so bad on this, have had to build their own systems from scratch in light of the lacking public data.

Now one of the best of those databases, which is from the Washington Post, found that police shot and killed 14 unarmed black people last year and 25 unarmed white people.
Those are the numbers which now appear at the Fatal Force site. According to that site, police shot and killed 25 unarmed white people and 14 unarmed black people last year.

From there, Hayes noted that some people die in encounters with police officers without being shot. Eventually, Hayes said this:
HAYES: The Washington Post database shows about one thousand people a year being shot and killed by the police, for example, a disproportionate number being black and Hispanic.
Hayes didn't give the actual numbers. He merely said the numbers were "disproportionate."

You can't sensibly blame Chris Hayes because a guest on his program made a jumbled presentation which included some wildly inaccurate claims. You would assume that a major corporate-paid journalist would have known that the presentation was crazily wrong in real time.

That's especially true of a figure like Hayes, who was plainly intelligent and sophisticated coming in. Since then, it seems to us that he has increasingly become a captive of storyline.

At any rate, Hayes' statement on Wednesday night struck us as highly peculiar. It's hard to believe that he didn't know how far off-base Williams' claims had been. But he managed to put that thought in our heads with the things he said Wednesday night.

Last Monday night, Hayes had made his own peculiar misstatement about coronavirus testing in Oklahoma (for transcript, see yesterday's post). In this case, a statement made by Hayes himself made no apparent sense.

How could anyone seriously think that everyone tested in Oklahoma had tested positive for two consecutive days? It's like thinking a cow had jumped over the moon. But that's what Hayes had said.

After correcting what Williams had said, Hayes offered a correction for that strange howler too. For better or worse, we can't show you what he said because of the latest slacker conduct from his slacker "news channel."

All last week and all through this weekend, MSNBC left its programs untranscribed from last Tuesday on. Over the weekend, in an excess of caution, we ourselves transcribed what Hayes had said last Wednesday night about Williams. We planned to use the transcript they would eventually prepare for his self-correction.

As of yesterday, the slacker channel had finally posted some transcripts. Last Tuesday's transcript had always been there. Now, last Thursday's transcript was posted as well, but the slacker channel had skipped right over last Wednesday!

(Tape of the show is no longer available.)

This is the way these lazy, incompetent corporate lapdogs function. They've been this way for the past thirty years. Nothing is going to change this.

As Springsteen said, Take a good look around. This is your hometown.

Did Chris Hayes know that Williams' presentation was crazily wrong? And hpow on earth had he managed to claim that everyone tested in Oklahoma came up positive for two consecutive days?

Putting it a different way, does anyone on "cable news" know anything other than storyline? Is it really all narrative now? If the news just two warring novels?

ANATOMY OF OUR DISCUSSIONS: Fauci joins the angriest dog!


Can anyone here play this game?:
Last evening, starting at 8 PM Eastern, we watched as the angriest dog in the world continued to bite, snap and growl.

Needless to say, his trademark sarcasm was on full display as he rushed out into the yard:
COOPER (7/8/20): Good evening. We are in a good place with this pandemic. A good place. We've done a good job.

How does that sound to you? Does that sound like reality, that we're in a good place?

Because those are the words of the president of the United States today, even as the numbers, and his own experts, scientists with decades of experience, say otherwise.

The president says we are in a good place with the pandemic. Those are his actual words. I didn't actually believe it when I first heard it, but it's on tape.
For some unknown reason, the angriest dog didn't believe it when he first heard those words.

As we've noted, it's an eternal groundhog day with these cable news stars. For performative reasons, or perhaps from sheer dumbness, they're "shocked, shocked" every time the president opens his mouth.

Luckily, we have the words of the president's experts to let us know what's true. But before he played tape of what Fauci had said, the angriest dog played tape of the disordered commander himself:
COOPER (continuing directly): He was asked by Greta Van Susteren about Dr. Anthony Fauci's assessment that the country is still, quote, "knee-deep" in the first wave of coronavirus. Here is what he said.

TRUMP: Well, I think we are in a good place. I disagree with him. We have done a good job. I think we're actually—we are going to be in two, three, four weeks. By the time we next speak, I think we're going to be in very good shape.

COOPER: So this is a good place to be in a pandemic, in case you were wondering. And soon we'll be in very, very good shape, he said.
This angriest, possibly laziest dog runs on pure sarcasm now.

Just to refresh you, Van Susteren served as the president's principal caddie during the years when he was establishing himself as the nation's leading birther.

In those days, Van Susteren had a nightly show at Fox. For years, she hosted pre-candidate Donald J. Trump as he spewed his birther tales.

(In 2017, Van Sustern got hired away by MSNBC. When that happened, Rachel Maddow aggressively vouched for Van Susteren's journalistic greatness, even saying that she and Van Susteren had been drinking buddies during those birther-rich years. This is the way these peculiar people play this peculiar game.)

Back to the angriest dog, tugging last night on his chain:

The angriest dog now played tape of the president's latest remarks. Rachel's pal was back in the saddle, assisting The Donald again.

The dog was shocked by Trump's crazy remarks, as he is every night. Soon he was lunging at Diamond and Silk, and playing tape of the expert we all can trust:
COOPER (continuing directly): The president spoke of Florida and California, states that became in his words, hot, but even there, he said, quote, "We're going to be very good, very soon."

The same president who told Diamond and Silk that the virus would miraculously disappear by April, the one that keeps saying we have the best testing.

Keeping them honest, it is remarkable how sunny things can look from inside a biological bunker at the White House where everyone has to wear masks around you and get tested just to come in contact with you.

It's a bunker so secure, apparently, not even the sound of your own leading experts can penetrate it. The president says we're in a good place. Dr. Anthony Fauci said just this yesterday:

FAUCI: The current state is really not good in the sense that, as you know, we have been in a situation where we were averaging about 20,000 new cases a day.

Two days ago, it was at 57,500. So within a period of a week and a half, we've almost doubled the number of cases.

COOPER: So of course, the president doesn't have to take it from the nation's most trusted infectious disease expert. He could listen to other top members of his own virtually invisible Coronavirus Task Force...
The angriest dog then played tape of Pence and Birx. They cited the rising number of cases in, they said, nine states.

It never occurred to the angriest dog to fact-check Fauci's statement. It seemed to us that his statement might be incorrect, and so we decided to do so.

We knew we were engaged in a Thought Crime. But something convinced us to act!

"Within a period of a week and a half, we've almost doubled the number of cases," the president's top expert had said.

He made the statement on Monday, July 6. The latest numbers available were those from Sunday, July 5.

A week and a half is like ten days, though some might call it eleven. Below, you see the number of (reported/confirmed) cases over a ten-day stretch as of the time Fauci spoke:
New reported cases per day, nationwide:
June 25: 39,332
June 26: 45,767


July 4: 51,151
July 5: 43,347
Here and in what follows, we're using the Washington Post's numbers for cases and for deaths.

Had the number "almost doubled?" Even though we're flirting with "the weekend game" (see below), we're going to say that it hadn't!

In fairness to Fauci, the rolling 7-day average had, in fact, risen by 48% from June 25 through July 5. Because formal reporting of cases and deaths typically drops over a weekend, this is the only sensible way to present such comparisons.

You can't cherry-pick individual days, as it might be said that Fauci did. You have to give 7-day averages.

Over that week and a half, the rolling 7-day average had risen by 48%. Clearly, that's a substantial rise. But had the number "almost doubled?"

Saying that was a bit of a stretch, or so they'll tell viewers on Fox.

Here's something else that ought to be said. "Cases" is a very shaky statistic.

Remember—we aren't talking about the total number of actual cases. (According to the CDC, the total number of actual cases may be ten times as high.) We're speaking here about the number of (reported/confirmed) cases.

We're talking about the number of infections (cases) which have been diagnosed (confirmed) by an actual test. That makes this a very shaky statistic. Here are some reasons why:

"Cases" turns on the amount of testing which is being conducted. Donald J. Trump has performed like a clown when discussing this basic idea, amazing Cooper every time, but the basic idea is sound:

To the extent that you conduct more tests, you will record more "cases." With that in mind, we can make these provisional statements about the recent increase in (confirmed) cases:

To some extent, the increase in "cases" may reflect an increase in the amount of testing being conducted.

To some extent, the increase in "cases" is being tamped down every day as municipalities and states run out of test kits. Some of the people who had to go home would have tested positive.

To some extent, the increase in "cases" is being affected as publicity in certain states induces more people to go out and get themselves tested. These are all factors in the creation of this statistic—a statistic which is rather shaky.

To what extent might the recent increase in "cases" reflect an increase in the amount of testing being done? In a better world, multimillionaire TV stars would help us understand such points.

In our world, angry dogs go all sarcastic as soon as they enter the yard. They're all about their visible anger, and they're all about storyline.

Often, they don't seem to have the slightest idea how to deal with even the most basic statistics. Last night, for example, the angriest dog was soon barking this, just before he introduced additional videotape:
COOPER: Even as new modeling from the University of Washington today forecast more than 208,000 people in this country may be dead of COVID-19 by Election Day, which the President still does not seem to think is all that bad. Because he is still repeating the same falsehoods as ever about testing and mortality, which fell for a while, but is once again sadly sickeningly ticking up.
Say what? Is "mortality" once again "ticking up?"

Within the context of cable news, "mortality" is a somewhat imprecise term. In this longer clip, the angry dog makes his meaning perfectly clear, and performs a dumb self-indictment:
COOPER: [The president] is still repeating the same falsehoods as ever about testing and mortality, which fell for a while, but is once again sadly, sickeningly ticking up.

TRUMP: Therefore we have more cases. Because we're doing more testing, we have more cases. If we did half the testing, we'd have far fewer cases, but people don't view it that way.

What they have to view, though, is if you look at the chart and maybe Mike has it, but we looked at it before, if you look at the chart of deaths, deaths are way down.

So what we want to do is we want to get our schools open. We want to get them open quickly, beautifully in the fall.

COOPER: Dr. Fauci calls the mortality claims, quote, "a false narrative."

In any case, those numbers, they have begun rising again. More than 600 fatalities today, compared to about 250 a day over the weekend.
"More than 600 fatalities today, compared to about 250 a day over the weekend!" Has this endlessly furious person ever spent any time reviewing these data at all?

For starters, here are the actual numbers over the past four days. The angry dog didn't seem to know that he was reporting an incomplete count of yesterday's (recorded) deaths:
Deaths by coronavirus, nationwide:
July 4: 289
July 5: 217
July 6: 221
July 7: 929
Yesterday's actual number was much higher than the number the angriest dog reported.

That said, those numbers don't necessarily mean that deaths are "once again...ticking up." That may happen, but official reporting always drops over a weekend, with the numbers jumping up again at the start of the work week. This may be especially true over a holiday weekend.

Have deaths begun ticking up again? As of this morning, the 7-day rolling average of deaths stands exactly where it stood before the holiday weekend began. The average may start rising from here, but that hasn't happened yet.

So far, no uptick in deaths has occurred, unless you're cherry-picking. The angriest dog, and his brain-damaged staff, didn't seem to have the first freaking idea about these basic statistics.

Two Sundays ago, Hugh Hewitt made an absurd misstatement on Meet the Press. (During the show, his groaner went uncorrected.) The mistake was so jaw-droppingly stupid that it became obvious that Hewitt has never spent even five minutes thinking about these basic pandemic statistics.

Last week, Chris Hayes made several very strange presentations on the air. This afternoon, we'll finish our report on that topic. For now, consider the angriest dog in the world:

Assuming he wasn't simply lying during his angry performance last night, it seems that Cooper has no idea how these death-by-coronavirus statistics work. Presumably, he spends the bulk of his off-camera time in wardrobe, makeup and hair, and in workshops to help him master his angriest dog theatrics.

Simply put, you can't put your faith in the "discussions" you see on TV. More to the point, you can't put your faith in the people who conduct these "discussions"—in the Coopers, or in the Van Susterens, or even in their drinking pals.

How much are they paid to clown in such ways? You aren't permitted to know that.

This afternoon: A very strange pair of corrections

Tomorrow: "Discussing" public schools

Friday: "Discussing" police shootings

Drum says it's time for an explanation!


Explanations no longer exist:
On the whole, we agree with what Kevin Drum says in this new, sensible post. He says it's time for someone to explain why coronavirus "cases" keep going up while deaths keep going down:
DRUM (7/7/20): I’ve mentioned the divergence between cases and deaths in the United States before, but it’s gotten to the point where it really needs more than the handwaving that it usually gets on TV and in newspapers. When cases were going up back in April, we were told that deaths followed by 2-3 weeks. But our second wave of new cases is over a month old at this point and so far it’s had no effect on mortality at all. The death rate just keeps on dropping.

Maybe there’s an explanation for this. Maybe next week the death rate will finally start to rise. But we keep saying that, and next week never comes. Are there any epidemiologists out there who are really working to come to grips with this?
On balance, we agree with what Drum says. But he's asking for an explanation and, within our failing journalistic culture, we're not sure they still exist.

Our failing culture is all about "the handwaving [this question] usually gets on TV and in newspapers." It's also all about repeating standard storylines while moving steadily toward the next commercial break.

Today, we actually decided to check one probable part of this mystery. We decided to fact-check an obvious question:

To what extent has our daily testing, nationwide, actually been increasing?

Trump has turned this topic into a clown show, but it's obviously true—to the extent that you conduct more tests, you will confirm and report more "cases." We were surprised by the extent to which daily testing has increased nationwide in the past month, even as the number of nationwide "cases" has been rising.

We'll show you the data in the next day or two. But we've told you that our public discourse is narrative all the way down. To a surprisingly large extent, this mystery may comport to that basic rule.

Drum says it's time for an explanation. As we sinks beneath the waves, do such creatures still exist?

A famous saying: In Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein famously said: "Explanations must come to an end somewhere" (see passage #1).

We agree with the frequently puzzling sage. But this isn't what he meant!

Cable news folk say the darnedest things!


Two examples led to a third:
People who watch cable news will occasionally be exposed to rather strange presentations.

One such presentation was made last Monday night. It was made by Chris Hayes, speaking in the aftermath of the president's trip to Arizona.

The highlighted statements made no sense at all. This happened last Monday night:
HAYES (6/29/20): It comes less than ten days after that infamous Tulsa, Oklahoma rally, where even with the arena far from full, you still had thousands of people gathered in an indoor space cheering and screaming in a city that had just seen a spike in cases and in violation of every single recommendation for safety, again, from the Trump administration's own CDC.

And while we never know cause and effect exactly, particularly in the moment, it's hard to figure out what the exact impact of that [Tulsa] rally looks like. Look at this:

Yesterday in Oklahoma, they tested 352 people for the coronavirus and every single test came back positive. Today, they test another 178 people and all those tests came back positive too.

Now, if you can`t do the math in your head, that's a 100 percent positive rate. That's extremely bad.
That would be extremely bad! It really would be extremely bad if everyone tested for two straight days delivered a positive reading.

As we've noted in the past, everyone makes mistakes. That said, it made no sense to think that everyone tested in Oklahoma had tested positive for two straight days.

Obviously, that didn't make sense. It was the post-Tulsa story we wanted to hear, but it made no sense.

Two nights later, last Wednesday night, Hayes offered an explanation for this peculiar statement. On that same program, he also corrected something a guest had said on Tuesday night.

The guest had appeared as part of a special town hall about policing. That guest proceeded to make a presentation which was just totally wrong.

The guest in question was Michael Williams, president of the Memphis Police Association. We'll guess that Williams was sincere in what he said, but his presentation about police shootings was rather murky at points, and all in all totally wrong:
WILLIAMS (6/30/20): Police answered over 10 million calls last year. Out of those 10 million calls, I think you–the FBI said you had about 1,000-and-some individuals that were shot.

Out of that 1,000 individuals, you had 400 that were armed–or unarmed. I believe you had 19 Caucasians that were shot and killed by the police last year. You only had nine African-Americans that were killed by the police last year.

Now, don't get me wrong. Anybody that's killed needlessly, that's wrong, and it needs to be addressed. But at the same time, I think that we're definitely putting a lot of emphasis on the police when we have, in this city, 222 individuals were murdered in this city last year.

HAYES: Memphis Police Association president Michael Williams, in the city of Memphis. Thank you so much, sir. I appreciate it.

WILLIAMS: Thank you.
According to Williams, only 19 white people and nine black people had been shot and killed by police in 2019. Along with the rest of his presentation, that claim was crazily wrong.

It certainly isn't a cable host's fault if a guest makes some wild misstatements. That said, no one corrected or challenged Williams' presentation in real time on Tuesday night.

Hayes offered a type of correction the following night, adding a somewhat odd explanation for his own wild misstatement from the Monday night program. Before he did, he tried to straighten out the wild things Williams had said.

On Monday, June 29, Hayes' statement about testing in Oklahoma had been crazily wrong. On Tuesday, June 30, Williams seemed to have no idea what he was talking about.

That said, Hayes' two-part correction on Wednesday night may have been the oddest presentation of all. Tomorrow, we'll show you what he said, starting with his correction of Williams.

On partisan cable, there are a million significant things you will never be told. Beyond that, some of the things you do get told will be crazily wrong.

Can't anyone here play this game? That's what Casey Stengel once asked. We might ask the same thing about cable news.

Tomorrow, we'll show you the rather peculiar things Hayes eventually said. In the meantime, you should be less than fully credulous when you watch cable news.

Tomorrow: The Wednesday night corrections

ANATOMY OF OUR ALLEGED DISCUSSIONS: We watched the angriest dog in the world!


But how many people will die?:
Last evening, starting at 8 PM Eastern, we had a chance to observe the angriest dog in the world.

Some readers may yelp in surprise. They may recall "The Angriest Dog in the World" as the comic strip created and drawn by a younger version of director David Lynch.

Fair enough! According to the leading authority on the subject, "the strip was conceived by Lynch in 1973 during a period when he was experiencing feelings of great anger. First published in the LA Reader, the strip ran from 1983 until 1992."

We recall The Angriest Dog from its days in Baltimore's City Paper. Today, though, the angriest dog has moved on. Last night, he was hosting on CNN, a so-called "cable news" channel.

We'd avoided the angriest dog for the past several weeks. We'd become appalled by his carnival act—by his posing, his endless pretense.

Last night, due to a bit of a misunderstanding, we went back and watched him again. The angriest dog was snapping and growling as he came rushing out into the yard:
COOPER (7/6/20): And good evening. Thanks for being with us.

If divisive inflammatory racist words could kill the coronavirus, the president of the United States would be heading to Stockholm right now to pick up his Nobel Prize in Medicine.

Instead, tonight, the same as every night, he is safe inside his biological bunker surrounded by people wearing masks and frequently getting tested. And from the safety of his biological bunker, he is encouraging the rest of us not to follow the best scientific advice.

He is trying to persuade the country that the virus is simply vanishing. Or if that won't work, he is trying to divert people's attention elsewhere to smearing a black NASCAR driver, supporting the Confederate flag and statues of traitors, which he claims is part of our proud heritage.

So, knowing it's a diversion, we begin tonight where attention ought to be, on the facts that we all have to face right now. Or as White House Task Force member Dr. Anthony Fauci put it today, quote, "We are still knee-deep in the first wave of this."

Today, the country crossed another milestone—130,000 lives lost. By tomorrow or Wednesday, it will surpass another three million known COVID cases, that milestone. Those are facts. So is this:

We now have more cases than any other country on Earth and more fatalities, again, than any other country on Earth. We're number one for cases and for deaths. America is first...
The angriest dog was very angry, and he was highly sarcastic.

Dogs like these still don't bother adjusting for size of population. As with Trump, so too here—any bow to intellectual regularity would be viewer as a sign of weakness.

Very frankly, we were sad to see the angriest dog this way. We think of what Elliott said to ET: "Look what they've done to you."

We remember how gentle the angriest dog used to be. Back in 2016, for example, when he twice rolled over for Candidate Trump, letting his stomach be rubbed.

(Candidate Trump was good for ratings. A certain remarkably well-trained dog seemed willing to sit and stay.)

Today, the angriest dog is full of antiracism. It's quite a change from the complete disinterest he and his "cable news" channel have displayed with respect to such topics in the past.

That said, the corporate showboats of cable news are all reciting these days. The angriest dog is visibly angry, and he wants you to know he (now) cares.

Last evening, the angriest dog never abandoned his sarcasm. At one point, he showed us tape of the man for whom he once played pool boy as that man spoke at Mount Rushmore.

He said the president had delivered his comments at Rushmore "by the gaslight's blue glare." The angriest dog is endlessly on the prowl these days, unlike the way he played fetch back then.

After watching the angriest dog, we stuck around for Cuomo. In our view, his work has been weirdly unskilled of late.

Last night, we watched him mansplain his way through an interview about parenting during the time of coronavirus. He delivered his speeches to Keisha Lance Bottoms, who strikes us as roughly a thousand times more competent, sane and disciplined than this cable host is.

Mayor Bottoms listened politely. So it went on CNN as consumers were handed the news.

Late in the evening, on MSNBC, we actually saw Dr. Nahid Bhadelia deliver a significant assessment. This is the way it went down:

Bhadelia spoke as one part of Brian Williams' three-pundit opening panel. Williams maintains this three-pundit procedure to ensure that the attention span of no consumer will ever be taxed or strained.

In this instance, the fact that Williams was discussing three or four different topics with three different guests meant that Bhadelia only spoke twice in the 21-minute opening segment. This is what "discussion" looks like on our cable "news" channels now.

The second time Dr. Bhadelia spoke, she spoke to a very important issue. How many people are likely to die in future weeks, given the nation's sudden increase in (confirmed/reported) coronavirus cases?

How many people are likely to die? As a general matter, cable hosts are too scattered, and perhaps too savvy, to zero in on such questions. On her second and final chance to speak, here's part of what Bhadelia said:
BHADELIA (7/6/20): The trouble is not the current numbers. What we're seeing is, hospitalizations generally are followed by deaths.

From a CDC surveillance from the end of May, what we know is that, of the people who were diagnosed, 14 percent got hospitalized, five percent died.

And maybe that's half of that now. Hopefully, we've done better.
That's still a lot of people of that number that we're seeing hospitalized that are going to follow and may unfortunately pass away.
(If MSNBC ever posts a transcript, it will show up here. Under the corporate channel's apparent new slow-walk procedures, you might check back next year.)

In that statement, Bhadelia seemed to say that something like 2.5 percent of our growing number of new "cases" may end up dying of Covid-19.

Plainly, that was only a rough assessment. But it was a start.

Is Bhadelia's assessment reasonably sensible? We have no way of saying. Needless to say, Brian—he was discussing three topics at once—didn't attempt to clarify, ask or assess.

Nor will he ever ask anyone else. Homey don't play it that way!

Bhadelia was offering a very rough assessment. But if her assessment is accurate, it means that we'll soon be returning to the days of more than one thousand deaths per day.

(As of this morning, our seven-day rolling average stands at 463.7 deaths per day.)

If Dr. Fauci's earlier unexplained assessment is correct—his assessment that we may soon be recording 100,000 new cases per day—Bhadelia's assessment would mean that we'll be experiencing roughly 2500 deaths per day. That would be a higher average than we ever attained in the bad old days of April and May.

Is that the actual shape of our "America carnage" to come? Are we headed for that level of daily deaths?

We have no idea, and it's unlikely that anyone will ever ask. Last night, we saw a snapping dog and some ardent mansplaining, but we saw no real discussions. On cable, it pretty much isn't done.

Williams jumped around among three opening guests, discussing three opening topics. Bhadelia got to speak just twice. He didn't follow up.

Ever since the visitations started, we've been forced to offer sour reports like this.

The visitations, of course, are from the experts who come to us late at night, advising us through the nocturnal submissions the haters refer to as dreams.

These experts keep saying that our species isn't built for real discussion. Scanning the globe in the past few days, we found ourselves forced to admit that these highly credentialed anthropologists may have the germ of a point.

Tomorrow: The Washington Post lets a college grad (class of 2019!) pretend to discuss public schools

Coming later: Cable stars, and everyone else, pretend to discuss police shootings

Cases still rising, deaths still decline!

MONDAY, JULY 6, 2020

Can we walk and chew gum at one time?:
When we read the reporter's identity line, we knew we were in good hands.

Her report appeared on July 3 at the New York Times. The report appeared online only. It never appeared in print editions of the Times.

Her report concerned a "counterintuitive" fact. Even as coronavirus "cases" are rising nationwide, coronavirus deaths continue a steep decline.

Below, you see the headlines which appear above her report. You also see the reporter's identity line:
U.S. Coronavirus Cases Are Rising Sharply, but Deaths Are Still Down

This seemingly counterintuitive trend might not last, experts said. But the nation can still learn from the decline.


[NAME WITHHELD] is a reporter for The Times, where she covers science and health. She holds a Ph.D. in microbiology and immunobiology from Harvard University.
With credentials like those, we could hardly go wrong! As it turned out, WITHHELD graduated from Stanford in 2014. She received her doctorate from Harvard four years later.
Today, she reports for the Times. Right in her first two paragraphs, she—or perhaps some meddling editor—decided to tell us this:
WITHHELD (7/3/20): After a minor late-spring lull, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States is once again on the rise. States like Arizona, Florida and Texas are seeing some of their highest numbers to date, and as the nation hurtles further into summer, the surge shows few signs of stopping.

And yet the virus appears to be killing fewer of the people it infects. In April and May, Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, led to as many as 3,000 deaths per day, and claimed the lives of roughly 7 to 8 percent of Americans known to have been infected. The number of daily deaths is now closer to 600, and the death rate is less than 5 percent.
Frankly, we were puzzled.

For the prior three days, the 7-day average of daily deaths—except for some specialized purpose, there's no other sensible way to report this statistic—had actually been closer to 500 than to 600.

More significantly, we were puzzled by the claim about the "3,000 deaths per day" which had sometimes been recorded in April and May.

We checked the New York Times database to which the reporter linked. When we did, we saw that those data included exactly zero days when the reported death count in the U.S. ever went as high as 3,000.

Then we clicked the other link in those two paragraphs. When we did, we were taken to this capsule report by David Leonhardt—a July 2 capsule report which actually said this:
"Coronavirus deaths in the U.S. have been falling for most of the last 10 weeks—to about 600 a day recently, down from more than 2,000 in late April."
Even Leonhardt may have been pushing it a bit with that "about 600 a day" statistic. But somehow, WITHHELD (or her editor) saw Leonhardt say "more than 2,000 in late April" and decided the story would be better if that accurate statement was changed to this more exciting claim:
"In April and May, Covid-19 led to as many as 3,000 deaths per day."
That wasn't what the Times database said. That wasn't what Leonhardt had said.

But now, it was what the New York Times said! Indeed, as Leonhardt's accurate statement was drowned in the harbor, the online report was executing the press corps' great motto and watchword:
No embellishment left behind!
No embellishment left behind! It's a time-honored way of life.

Do mainstream reporters always embellish? Actually, no, they don't.

That said, our own reporting at this site is "all anthropology now." And the world-class experts with whom we consult assure us that the impulse to exaggerate is very much bred in the bone of our war-inclined, tribal species.

They refer us to Professor Harari's endlessly best-selling book.
Our brains are wired to induce us to tell thrilling tribal tales, these despondent experts all say.

Concerns about "accuracy" are a much later cultural addition routinely honored in the breach. Or so these scholars insist.

Whatever! We offer this as an introduction to the latest actual data.

In his own July 3 post, Kevin Drum had once again noted the somewhat puzzling battle between cases and deaths, making this accurate statement:
"As we all know, the number of COVID-19 cases is skyrocketing but the COVID-19 death rate is continuing to decline."
So Drum correctly said. (Admittedly, he was referring to something which very few people know.)

We've been following these data too, in part due to our fascination with the way this topic is being reported:

On cable, deaths have virtually disappeared. Only "cases" are now discussed.

In print, "cases" has become the default statistic, replacing the previous "deaths." And everywhere, statistics tend to be overstated. Sometimes, if it weren't for all the overstatements, there would be no statements at all!

Are we humans able to walk and chew gum at the same time? As a species, could we handle a public discussion in which we were told about the rise in cases and about the decline in deaths, with possible explanations offered?

Would we be able to handle that? Anthropologists say we probably could—but they despondently add that this hypothesis will likely never be tested.

At any rate, here we go:

The rise in (recorded/confirmed) cases is indeed a major, significant fact. Will this rise in (recorded) cases eventually lead to a renewed rise in deaths?

Life is easier, and more exciting, when such questions aren't asked. But just for the record, here are some 7-day rolling averages, including the 7-day rolling average as it currently stands:
Daily deaths from covid-19, nationwide;
7-day rolling average

May 18-May 24: 1136.9
May 25-May 31: 916.1

June 1-June 7: 806.4
June 8-June 14: 713.6
June 15-June 21: 586.4
June 24-June 30: 538.7

June 29-July 5: 477.1
(We're using the Washington Post's numbers. We've gone back and made adjustments based on changes the Post has made in the numbers it originally posted.

(We've adjusted for the 1,854 retroactive "probable" deaths New Jersey dumped into the system on June 25. The current average may turn out to be artificially low due to reduced reporting over a 3-day holiday weekend.)

The 7-day average still exceeded one thousand deaths per day as late as May 25 (1093.7 deaths per day, May 19-May 25). Since then, it has dropped all the way down to the current 477.1 deaths per day. That number may be artificially low, though probably not by any giant amount.

Don't get us wrong! Even that reduced number is a sign of our rolling national failure.

Elsewhere, there are very few daily deaths at this point. That's true in Germany, and even in initially hard-hit Italy and France.

Elsewhere, daily deaths are few. Our own vastly reduced number of deaths remains a sign of our national failure, a failure which leads directly to the disordered person who currently sits in the White House.

All roads lead to Donald J. Trump, whose apparent cognitive and/or psychiatric impairment our "press corps" will won't discuss. Still, we'd like to see a serious attempt to analyze the "counterintuitive" coexistence of the rise in cases and the decline in deaths.

Why haven't nationwide deaths begun to rise again? We'd like to see that basic question discussed—but at such moments, despondent anthropologists rush to remind us of our species' inheritance:

"We simply weren't wired for such discussions," these despairing scholars exclaim, ominously referring to our specie in the past tense. At that point, they turn and shamble back into their caves. Soon, loud weeping is heard.

Is that death rate likely to rise again? We'd like to see the question discussed.

But that would require a serious discussion of an obvious question—and that had ceased to be a part of our culture back when Arianna sewed that fourth button on the disfavored candidate's deeply troubling suit. It represented a 33% increase in deeply troubling buttons!

Remember, our work at this site is all anthropology now! If you want to hear preapproved tribal tales, you'll have to go somewhere else.

Why haven't deaths been shooting up...: Why haven't deaths been shooting up, even in states where "cases" have been skyrocketing?

Provisional answers have floated around. Silly us! We wonder which ones may be correct!

At any rate, the doctorate came from Harvard itself. But sure enough! Right there in paragraph 2, the statistical claim was embellished!

Even after twenty-two years, we still find the pattern surprising. But its incidence never declines, and we're told that it never will!

Kevin Drum posts a beautiful photo...


Many others are seven years old:
Kevin Drum has posted a beautiful photograph. Behind that beautiful photograph lies a sudden medical mystery.

The photograph pictures Kevin's mother. As we've noted in the past, the human face is deeply expressive.

We're told that no one lives forever. This claim is notoriously hard to prove. For today, we'll accept it as fact.

Assuming that claim is actually true, Kevin's mother, like many others, is nearer the end of her lifespan, and farther from its beginning. With recovery, she may have many more years of painting and swimming and speaking with her son.

At the same time, many others around the world, and around the country, are only 7 years old. Barring unforeseen disaster, they have many years ahead.

Of all our reading in recent weeks, we continue to think, most above all, about the 7-year-old boy who was "terrified" by the things his mother had told him. More on that matter below.

Meanwhile, this was Lincoln, shortly before his own death, making one of the most unusual public statements in human history in his Second Inaugural Address:
Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained...Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding.

Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces; but let us judge not that we be not judged.

The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully.

The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man [sic] by whom the offence cometh!"

If we shall suppose that American Slavery is one of those offences which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offence came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a Living God always ascribe to Him?

Fondly do we hope—fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bond-man's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said: "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."
It's hard to edit that very short speech. You might want to read the whole thing.

We well recall the day we first read that Second Inaugural Address. We were standing inside the Lincoln Memorial, roughly 45 years ago, with a whole bunch of fifth grade kids.

We recall being shocked by what we saw Lincoln had said. Specifically, we remember thinking that Abraham Lincoln wasn't human—that Lincoln had come here from Mars.

Our side—we—did this too, this unusual person had said:

If we lose everything as a result, no one can say that this terrible outcome wouldn't be righteous and just.

As history teaches, no one who says such things out loud is ever permitted to live. Six weeks later, Lincoln was gone, and more brutal history followed.

That said, today's 7-year-olds played no part in any of those events. They deserve the chance to move on. They deserve not to be terrified.

Next week, as we hope for better news from Kevin's home, we plan to discuss the specific events which led to four people's deaths. We think there's a lot to learn from those awful events, and from some numbers too.

Should that 7-year-old be terrified in the way his mother described? Each person will decide that for him or herself. For ourselves, we think you should consider the possibility that the answer is no.

Lincoln knew that unspeakable harm had some, might continue to come, from the terrible offense he described. That terrible harm continues today. How might that harm be lessened?

We hope that Kevin's mother recovers. Concerning our many 7-year-olds, we'll hope they soon feel better too.

JOURNALISM OF THE SAINTS: Rules for the journalistic road!

FRIDAY, JULY 3, 2020

Diomedes visits the Times:
The overall point of the Atlantic essay was perhaps a bit hard to define. On the other hand, its intended point was perfectly clear.

The author opened by recalling the shooting deaths of four men. Each man had been shot and killed by a police officer.

Three of these deaths, readers were told, constituted a "gruesome cycle." The author's description of that cycle made it sound like the deaths had resulted from wanton, uncaring police conduct.

The author didn't offer evidence to that effect, but the implication was clear. As the essay continued, the author focused on shooting deaths in which black people were shot and killed by police.

That, of course, is a deeply serious topic. That said, the essay published by The Atlantic may have left something to be desired.

Before long, the author was referring to "a reality in which black people [are] routinely robbed of their livelihoods and lives by armed government agents."

Eventually, the thoroughly admirable activist around whom the essay had been constructed was quoted saying this:
LOWERY (6/10/20): “We want justice for George Floyd, but we know justice isn’t enough,” Noor said. “That’s why we’re demanding bigger and bolder things. Now is the time to defund the police and actually invest in our communities.

“These systems were created to hunt, to maim, and to kill black people, and the police have always been an uncontrollable source of violence that terrorizes our communities without accountability,
” Noor added. “Black communities have been and are living in persistent fear of being killed by state authorities.”

Many reformers, especially black reformers, have long viewed incremental policy changes as a way to reduce police abuse and killings in the short term while they work toward their true goal: fully remaking the entire criminal-justice system.
An obvious picture was being painted, with potential solutions included. As for the author himself, his identity line read like this:
WESLEY LOWERY is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and the author of They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement...
"They Can’t Kill Us All?" Journalistically, does that title suggest the possibility that some such plan is in effect? Is that what terrified children will hear?

We take it as obvious that Wesley Lowery is a good, decent person. That said, we can't say that we're giant fans of his journalism, or of its possible effect on the world.

That said, this style of journalism is currently hot, as is Lowery's topic. In the upper-end mainstream press, the children are always prepared to stampede in some preapproved direction, and the impetus for the current stampede is the sudden desire to exhibit vast interest in racial justice.

In the current stampede, journalists and news orgs race to display a heartfelt interest in racial justice—a heartfelt interest rarely put on display in the recent past. Other journalistic stampedes have turned out extremely poorly in recent decades.

One of these journalistic stampedes sent George W. Bush to the White House and the United States army into Iraq.

A second related journalistic stampede—the one in which our high-minded journalists and orgs sat around as Hillary Clinton was derided by their colleagues in openly misogynistic terms—helped send Donald J. Trump to the White House and covid-19 all over the U.S.

This new stampede may turn out better. But skepticism should be advised.

We didn't think much of Lowery's essay when we initially read it. Personally, we thought the instant reference to Michael Brown was a (very familiar) mark of the current purveyor of novelized news designed for the liberal audience.

It's certainly true that everyone is currently telling these novelized stories, at least within our own blue tribe. On a journalistic basis, that doesn't make it right.

In our view, editors at The Atlantic should have challenged Lowery as early as paragraph 2. After that, they should have challenged paragraphs 3 and 4, and much that came after that.

That said, it wasn't until we read Lowery's essay in last Sunday's New York Times that we thought of Nestor, the seasoned charioteer, and his rebuke to headstrong Diomedes not far from the walls of Troy.

"How young you are," Nestor famously said. For now, we'll just leave it at that.

In his essay for the Times,
the fiery young journalist tried to write some rules for the future road of his craft. Were we grading, we'd be forced to grade his essay as D-minus work.

Inevitably, this meant that Lowery's lengthy essay had to be the featured piece in last weekend's Sunday Review. That's how they play at the Times.

What was wrong with Lowery's essay? Let us count just a few of the ways:

In one strand of his essay, Lowery makes a claim for which he presents no real evidence. He says the powers-that-be at major news orgs don't listen to their black employees enough.

That may well be the case. That said, Lowery makes no real attempt to offer evidence in support of the claim. For that reason, we have no way to assess it.

Lowery makes a larger claim which also could be correct. He claims that news orgs are mainly concerned with seeming to be objective—with "the neutral objectivity model."

According to Lowery, news orgs would rather seem objective than tell the actual truth. And when they try to seem objective, he says, they are trying to seem objective to their white readers.

Once again, these claims could be true. But no serious evidence or discussion is offered.

Do news orgs try to seem objective, even at the expense of stating basic facts and telling the basic truth? It would be interesting to hear first-person accounts of such decision-making, but Lowery doesn't provide them.

For the most part, Lowery proceeds to offer a list of overall do's and don'ts for the modern journalist to follow. In some ways, the advice he provides borders on the comical.

He starts by citing journalistic advice offered by Alex S. Jones way back when, in a 2009 bool. Lowery agrees with these basic ideas—but then again, who doesn't?:
The stated views of Alex S. Jones:
Journalists should make a genuine effort to be honest brokers when it comes to news

Journalists should play it straight without favoring one side when the facts are in dispute, regardless of their own views and preferences

Journalists shouldn't create the illusion of fairness by letting advocates pretend that there is a debate about the facts when the weight of truth is clear
Would anyone on the face of the earth disagree with those principles? We don't offer this as a criticism of Jones, but already several analysts were crying as Lowery ladled this stew.

From there, Lowery began to adumbrate his own journalistic principles. As with the stated views of Jones, we'll eschew the use of quotations marks, but a simple review of the text will show that we're basically cutting-and-pasting.

Lowery offered his do's and his don'ts. Let's list some of the things the modern journalist should do:
Four things Lowery says journalists should do:
We should be telling hard truths

Reporters should focus on being fair and telling the truth, as best as one can, based on the given context and available facts

We should devote ourselves to accuracy

We should stop doing things like reflexively hiding behind euphemisms that obfuscate the truth
Would anyone disagree with those views? As before, we're just asking!

Below, we list two more things the journalist ought to do. We'll return to these points below:
Two additional things Lowery says journalists should do:
We should diligently seek out the perspectives of those with whom we personally may be inclined to disagree

We should ask hard questions of those with whom we’re inclined to agree.
Did Lowery honor these fair-and-balanced ideas at any point in his Atlantic essay? Did the magazine ask him to do so? More on these questions below.

We've listed six things the new, improved journo should do. Here is a list of some don'ts:
Several things Lowery says journalists shouldn't do:
We shouldn't deprive our readers of plainly stated facts

We shouldn't find ways to avoid telling the truth.

We shouldn't make decisions that potentially let powerful bad actors off the hook and harm the public we serve.
Journalists shouldn't avoid telling the truth. They shouldn't deprive readers of facts.

Also, journalists shouldn't harm the public. They shouldn't let bad actors off the hook!

We're going to guess that Lowery will find wide agreement within the profession concerning these basic ideas. The problem comes when Lowery attempts to apply these comically obvious principles to actual questions which may arise when news orgs report on painful events—events which occur in the dead of night in a complex, murky world.

His first example is utterly trivial. He says news orgs should stop using the allegedly euphemistic phrase, "officer-involved shootings."

Few suggestions will be more pointless—or more jumbled. This is the full presentation:
LOWERY: Neutral objectivity trips over itself to find ways to avoid telling the truth. Neutral objectivity insists we use clunky euphemisms like “officer-involved shooting.” Moral clarity, and a faithful adherence to grammar and syntax, would demand we use words that most precisely mean the thing we’re trying to communicate: “the police shot someone.”
If that doesn't bring on the revolution, nothing ever will!

Question: Did "the police" shoot the late Michael Brown, or did Officer Darren Wilson? Even when he tries to be high-minded in pursuit of "telling the truth," Lowery defaults to a suggestion of collective action and collective (alleged) guilt.

That first suggestion is just basically sad. Lowery's second suggestion makes zero sense when applied to the four incidents with which he started his Atlantic essay:
LOWERY: In coverage of policing, adherents to the neutral objectivity model create journalism so deferential to the police that entire articles are rendered meaningless. True fairness would, in fact, go as far as requiring that editors seriously consider not publishing any significant account of a police shooting until the staff has tracked down the perspective—the “side”—of the person the police had shot. That way beat reporters aren’t left simply rewriting a law enforcement news release.
It's certainly true that official accounts of police shootings will sometimes be grossly inaccurate. But with respect to this new rule, what if the person "the police" shot was actually shot and killed?

In these, the most serious cases, the perspective of the person "the police" shot will in fact never be heard. Somehow, editors have to soldier on. Presumably, editors can do the same, where necessary, in shootings which aren't fatal.

Those are Lowery's first attempts to apply the new principles, and so far we're pinning our wheels. With his third attempt, the rubber finally met the road—and we thought we heard Nestor calling:
LOWERY: Moral clarity would insist that politicians who traffic in racist stereotypes and tropes—however cleverly—be labeled such [sic] with clear language and unburied evidence. Racism, as we know, is not about what lies in the depths of a human’s heart. It is about word and deed. And a more aggressive commitment to truth from the press would empower our industry to finally admit that.
When politicians traffic in racist stereotypes, news orgs should step up and say so! To the mind of the child, this will seem to make perfect sense—but the child may not realize that the question of what constitutes "racist" speech will always be a matter of judgment.

Lowery provides no examples of real reporting he would change in line with this new rule. Nor does he seem to realize that some reporter's "racist stereotype" may be some editor's "racial insinuation," or possibly something else.

Who will decide what it actually is? In the end, these will always be matters of judgment. We can state our principles as much as we like; there will never be a scientific formula which tells a news org what to decide in matters of this type.

To some extent, this obvious fact doesn't seem to have entered the fiery author's head. That said, he may know who's best equipped to be making such judgments:
LOWERY: Black journalists are speaking out because one of the nation’s major political parties and the current presidential administration are providing refuge to white supremacist rhetoric and policies, and our industry’s gatekeepers are preoccupied with seeming balanced, even ordering up glossy profiles of complicit actors. All the while, black and brown lives and livelihoods remain imperiled.

Ideally, the group of journalists given the power to decide what and whom to give a platform in this moment would both understand this era’s gravity and reflect the diversity of the country. Unfortunately, too often that is not the case.
As always, Lowery makes a striking charge while offering no examples. He says the industry's gatekeepers have been "preoccupied with seeming balanced, even ordering up glossy profiles of complicit actors."

He says the industry has been doing this even as the Republican Party and the Trump administration are "providing refuge to white supremacist rhetoric and policies."

So far, so pleasing! But who has been writing these glossy profiles? Who are these profiles profiles of? Where have these profiles been appearing? No information is given.

Meanwhile, what are the white supremacist policies being proposed by these bad actors even as they're glossily profiled in the manner described? Even as he makes a thrilling charge, Lowery offers no example.

Lowery seems to say there'd be less of this mess if the (largely white) gatekeepers consulted with a more diverse group of decision makers—and who'd want to argue with that! At some point, though, someone has to decide. Why not name the names of the current gatekeepers who are creating this mess?

We're sure that Lowery is a good person, but this is semi-loudmouth work. On the brighter side, it's the type of loudmouth work mainstream orgs are now rushing to offer, much as they once stood in line to invent the latest weird statement by the very weird Candidate Gore.

This the way these idiots play. This may not turn out to be more helpful even when it's applied to this thoroughly recent new cause.

In fairness, Lowery finally gives one semi-example of what he's talking about. He becomes the ten millionth member of the tribe to complain about the fact that the New York Times published that column by Tom Cotton, concerning which Lowery says this:
LOWERY: Perhaps the most recent controversy to erupt because of such thoughtlessness and lack of inclusion was provided by The New York Times Opinion section, when it published an essay by Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, calling for, among other things, an “overwhelming show of force” by the American military in order to quell civil unrest at protests that, while at times violent, have largely been made up of peaceful demonstrations.

A method of moral clarity
would have required that leadership think very hard before providing the section’s deeply influential platform to any elected official—allowing him or her to opine, without the buffer of a reporter’s follow-up questions, using inflammatory rhetoric. It would require, at the very least, that such an article not contain several overstatements and unsubstantiated assertions.
Absolutely! Because here's no one who hates "overstatements and unsubstantiated assertions" in New York Times opinion columns quite the way Lowery does!

Lowery's piece was classic New York Times-level work. Along the way, it made us think of Nestor. It struck us as very unimpressive work—as the journalism of unearned confidence and true belief.

In closing, let's return to two of Lowery's principles which we've listed above. We refer to the principles which emerge from his "fair and balanced" side:
We should diligently seek out the perspectives of those with whom we personally may be inclined to disagree

We should ask hard questions of those with whom we’re inclined to agree
We should ask hard questions of those with whom we’re inclined to agree?

Question: Do you think Lowery challenged Noor with hard questions when she made the statements posted above from the Atlantic essay?

We're not saying that Noor's statements were wrong. We're asking if her statements were challenged, in the manner Lowery recommends for everyone but himself.

Did Lowery challenge Noor's sweeping representations? Did Lowery, for example, ask Noor to talk about this?
People shot and killed by police officers in Minnesota,
2015 to the present

White victims: 37
Black victims: 10
Every progressive knows what to say when presented with data like those. Chris Hayes said it on Wednesday night. Next week, we'll spend time exploring such data.

That said, do you think, for even one minute, that Lowery asked Noor to justify her overall presentation in the face of data like those? We're going to guess that the answer is no. We'll also make this guess:

We'll guess that The Atlantic didn't challenge Lowery's instant reference to Michael Brown's unfortunate death. We'll guess they didn't challenge his citation in light of the findings within the formal Justice Department report about that unfortunate incident.

We'll guess he wasn't asked to explain why the shooting death of Robert Christen—in which a female police officer stopped a former Big Ten fullback from killing his former girl friend—should be presented in The Atlantic as part of a "gruesome cycle."

Did it make sense to present that incident that way? We'll guess Lowery wasn't challenged with hard questions about any such topic as that.

We'll guess that Lowery wasn't challenged with respect to his presentation of the shooting death of Jamar Clark. Did the police officer who shot and killed Clark that night actually do something wrong?

We don't know how to answer that question, and we feel fairly sure that Lowery doesn't know either. But Lowery wasn't really performing journalism for The Atlantic.

He was telling a preapproved "story." He was telling a story his readers would recognize and feel that they very much liked.

Last Sunday, Lowery's piece in the New York Times was straight out of Nestor and Diomedes. His earlier essay for The Atlantic was novelized tribal story-telling pretty much all the whole way down.

Our journalism has routinely been "novelized news" over the past several decades. Our journalists have staged stampedes in which certain preapproved stories get told and retold and retold once again, with formulations becoming more pleasing and more simple-minded every step of the way.

One of these novelized group stampedes sent the U.S. army into Iraq. Another set of novelized stories helped put Donald Trump where he is. He was running against Nurse Ratched! Major figures had said such things for years, and none of these news orgs complained.

Lowery writes with youthful ardor; where others are now derided as "Karens," he's a Diomedes. That said, his story is currently selling quite well, and you will continue to hear it.

It also could be that no real change occurs within the help of this "journalism of the saints"—without a bunch of self-impressed lunkheads inducing the public to stampede off in a way which may turn out well. (Or not.)

That may be the only way revolutionary change ever occurs. For the record, many revolutions of the saints have turned out quite poorly around the globe, and other journalistic stampedes in recent decades haven't turned out real well at all.

Next week: Numbers

What Professor Cobb said:
The number of killings in Minnesota make us think of what Professor Cobb recently said.

We'll revisit his statement next week. His statement—it concerned police shootings—went exactly like this:
COBB (6/10/20): One other point that I have been making a lot, I have been making all the time, is that one of the reasons that this problem has been allowed to persist is that people have the perception that this is a black and brown problem.

But if you were to discard all of the incidents involving black and brown people
, what you would find is, there are a heck of a lot of white people, unarmed white people, who are killed by police each year.

We have a fundamental problem with policing in this country
, whose most extreme violent forms are witnessed in how we see black and brown people treated by law enforcement.
Did Lowery ask Noor to respond to that statement? Did editors at The Atlantic present some such comment to Lowery?

Dearest darlings, use your heads! That just isn't the way "story" work, and the news you see each night on TV is novelized all the way down.