“ACADEMIA...PROBLEM?” Brooks (lightly) criticized academia!

THURSDAY, JUNE 3, 2021

Some academics responded: We humans! 

According to major anthropologists, once we get an idea in our heads, that idea will migrate into everything we say, think and do. This theory may explain this news report in today's Washington Post.

The report concerns a certain decision by the state of Arizona. The state has decided to "refurbish a gas chamber that hasn’t been used in more than 20 years," the news report says, and use it in executions ("to kill inmates on death row").  

In theory, that could be part of a major change in public policy concerning capital punishment. But that isn't the focus of today's news report. Hard-copy headline included, today's report starts like this:

KORNFIELD (6/3/21): Arizona prepares to carry out executions with gas Nazis used at Auschwitz

Arizona is taking steps to use hydrogen cyanide, the deadly gas used during the genocide perpetrated by the Nazis at Auschwitz and other extermination camps, to kill inmates on death row.

Corrections officials have refurbished a gas chamber that hasn’t been used in more than 20 years and have procured ingredients for the lethal gas, also known as Zyklon B, according to partially redacted documents obtained by the Guardian. Invoices show that the state purchased a brick of potassium cyanide, sodium hydroxide pellets and sulfuric acid, and a report details the considerable efforts taken to deem the gas chamber at a prison in Florence, Ariz., “operationally ready.”

Critics of the gas method say that in addition to hydrogen cyanide’s infamous use in the mass killings of Jewish people by the Nazis, it has produced some of the most botched, disturbing executions in the United States.

That's the way the news report starts. We were struck by the news report's focus.

The focus isn't on the fact that Arizona is planning to conduct executions.

The focus isn't on the fact that the state is planning to use its gas chamber in conducting these executions, perhaps as opposed to some other method of execution. 

The focus isn't even on the fact that the method the state is planning to use "has produced some of the most botched, disturbing executions in the United States." That isn't the news report's focus.

Quite literally, the possibility of botched executions is treated as an "addition[al]" problem in today's news report. The major problem is the fact that the state will be using the same type of gas the Nazis used at Auschwitz.

Let's be clear. We're not suggesting that anything in this news report is inaccurate. Instead, we're asking a basic question:

We're asking if the focus of this report makes sense, except as an an illustration of the thesis advanced by those anthropologists.

In our view, the focus of that news report is remarkably strange. Unkindly, we'll offer this account:

The news rep[ort seems to suggest that it would be pretty much OK if the state found a way to conduct executions—including executions which might be horribly botched—just so long as that method was less anti-Semitic.

If the state could find some other kind of gas which would produce botched executions, that would be more  OK. The major problem, this news report seems to suggest, is the fact that Nazis once used this gas—not to the effect this gas will have on executions in Arizona.

Just this once, we'll speak frankly. That focus strikes us as borderline crazy, but also as highly instructive.

We state that view from our perch as full-blown opponents of capital punishment. Also, though, we advance this thought:

The focus of that news report supports the claim those major experts are making. Once again, here is their claim:

The anthropologists' claim:
Once we humans get an idea in our heads, that idea will dominate everything we say, think and do.

Is that really the way we humans behave, especially at times of major tribal division? In private consultations with some of the world's most renowned top leading experts,  we've recently been exposed to extensions of that theory. 

According to these major scholars, we humans won't just insert our tribe's foundational idea into every known context. We'll actively perform our foundational idea. We'll enact our performative virtue.

Are such scholarly theories correct? We'll let you decide. 

That said, we'll offer a further point. Increasingly, this theory might seem to explain a great deal of the work we now meet, on a daily basis, in the Washington Post.

We refer to the newspaper's opinion columns, especially those which don't appear on the op-ed page—but we also refer to its news reports. 

We refer to opinion columns disguised as news reports. Consider an example of this rapidly spreading journalistic form from this morning's Post.

The "news report" to which we refer was written by Hannah Natanson. Sitting atop page B1, it's the featured "news report" in today's Metro section.

The news report deals with an increasingly common type of dispute. Hard-copy headline included, the "news report" starts like this:

NATANSON (6/3/21): Racial equity sparks lawsuit

Top school officials in Loudoun County are again defending the district’s racial equity work, following complaints from some parents that Loudoun is indoctrinating students with “critical race theory”—allegations that have now spurred a lawsuit.

The controversy dates back to last summer, when angry mothers and fathers began seizing on tidbits—such as the nearly half-million dollars Loudoun spent on an equity consultant, or later, a minutes-long video recording of a classroomin which a teacher discusses critical race theory—to argue that the system is teaching White students to feel ashamed of being White, because their race means they have historically been part of an oppressive system.

Critical race theory is a decades-old academic framework that explores how policies and the law fuel systemic racism. The theory in part declares that racism is the product of systems, not individuals, and therefore interwoven into daily life and history in America.

But some critics have used the term to refer more broadly to efforts to address systemic racism.

That would be heavy-handed work at the start of a standard opinion column. At the start of a news report, it's the latest example of the way the intellectual standards of Our Town are disappearing from view.

From its headline on down, the opening of this "news report" is pure propaganda. 

The headline and the opening sentence assume that the policies at issue in Loudon County can best be described as "racial equity work." Meanwhile, the complaining parents are instantly mocked, as we're told that they "began seizing on tidbits" to fuel their complaints about the school system's work.   

(Tidbits! Are there any editors left at the Washington Post?)

That is horrible news reporting. It's also propaganda of the most dimwitted kind.  

But more and more, with each passing day, this is the way many journalists roll at the slipsliding Washington Post. Quite routinely, the opinion columnists are tragically awful. Sometimes, the news reporters are worse. 

Natanson's report does call attention to an ongoing point of dispute. Increasingly, "angry mothers and fathers" have, in fact, been lodging complaints about educational programs which, they say, are advancing "critical race theory."

It's also true that critical race theory (CRT) "is a decades-old academic framework." Almost surely, many critics are using the term rather "broadly" as they complain about the "tidbits" on which they've chosen to focus.

Semantics to the side, Natanson quickly settles the merits of any such questions for us. In her fourth paragraph, she asserts that, when these critics complain about CRT in the public schools, they're really complaining about "efforts to address systemic racism" on the part of the systems in question.

Critical race theory did, indeed, emerge from academia—from the very parts of academia which seem to teem with "prominent academics" who are, in fact, "ethnic frauds," according to Sarah Viren's lengthy report in Sunday's New York Times.

Most professors aren't ethnic frauds. Those who are may be producing sound academic work.

Or their work may not be good. But all such work has helped Our Town shape its current dominant frameworks and values.

A few weeks back, David Brooks wrote a column in which he lightly complained about certain aspects of that branch of academia. Right in his opening paragraph, he mentioned critical race theory.

Brooks offered a few light criticisms. A few academics wrote letters of reply to the New York Times.

Should we trust the judgment of the academics who till the soil in these highly important regions? Tomorrow, we'll show you what Brooks said, and how the scholars responded.

"Academia, do we have a problem?" The question emerged in last Sunday's New York Times. Viren, the writer who voiced the question, is herself an academic.

"Academia, do we have a problem?" We'd be well advised in Our Town to consider that possibility. 

No one is perfect, leading experts all say. Not even top stars in Our Town!

Tomorrow: The academics' tales


67 comments:

  1. "The major problem is the fact that the state will be using the same type of gas the Nazis used at Auschwitz."

    Good catch, dear Bob.

    But then, you know as well as we do that your brain-dead liberal comrades will swallow any bs published by your zombie rags, and ask for more.

    ReplyDelete
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  2. "According to these major scholars, we humans won't just insert our tribe's foundational idea into every known context. We'll actively perform our foundational idea. We'll enact our performative virtue."

    In this situation, what is that foundational idea? Apparently, it is that what was done at Auschwitz was wrong. Is that such a bad idea?

    Somerby says that he too is against the death penalty. The article says that the gas in question was used in botched executions. And the Nazis used that gas to execute people who shouldn't have been killed. It seems to me that this article is against the gas, not against Auschwitz or whatever Somerby claims is the liberal foundational idea.

    And what is wrong with that? Supposedly Somerby is railing against the fixedness of an idea, but he has presented no evidence of fixedness, just a single essay about Arizona buying gas to use in executions. That makes it hard to see exactly what Somerby's point is today.

    Supposedly we are "inserting" our foundational idea into every context, but it is hard to see how any extraneous idea was inserted into the context of Arizona buying this particular gas. Frankly, I don't see what liberals have supposedly done wrong today.

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    1. Actually, what the article is doing is to imply that the leaders in Arizona are a bunch of Nazis.

      That was Job #1 for this report.

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    2. Please quote from the article to support this contention. Simply mentioning that the same gas is being used doesn't amount to calling anyone a Nazi.

      The swastika used by the Nazis exists as a symbol in other religions. Does that make them Nazis and would someone stating that fact be calling them Nazis? I don't think so.

      If you reason that way, Somerby should be addressing his essay to you, not liberals.

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    3. Unfortunately, the gas chamber was utilized for decades in this country. It’s still used as jargon for capital punishment.

      The utilization of anything resembling a pernicious symbol is dependent upon who can slandered by it.

      As in the design of the dais at C-PAC or the hand gesture signifying “ok” or holding three fingers after winning three bouts of Jeopardy.

      Don’t be coy.

      Delete
  3. Stupid. It's not a liberal or conservative issue. It's a symptom of paid news orgs trying to generate clicks and views. They'll always focus on details that accomplish that over actually trying to inform their readers/viewers or attempting to create useful dialog (that takes far too much work too).

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    1. This is a facile viewpoint that permits you to dismiss anything and everything without thinking about it. Can you speak specifically to how Somerby's claims are true about these particular articles?

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    2. “ KORNFIELD (6/3/21): Arizona prepares to carry out executions with gas Nazis used at Auschwitz”

      This statement is the story lead. This is paragraph one in the news report.

      Yet it’s “facile” to describe that as clickbait. Clickbait red-meat.

      You’re facile, Anonymouse 10:57am. You’re facile and flaccid.

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    3. Not ALL Republicans are Nazis, is probably true. Just don't ask me to prove it.

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    4. Believe it or not, you look better with the mask off.

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    5. Don't use words that you don't know the meaning of, Cecelia. It makes you look foolish.

      Flaccid: "(of part of the body) soft and hanging loosely or limply, especially so as to look or feel unpleasant; lacking vigor or force"

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    6. That is the definition and you illustrate it by being so characteristically unaware that the word is used to describe abstract traits as well.

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    7. 10:29 AM here again.

      So you were asking "Can you speak specifically to how Somerby's claims are true about these particular articles?"

      Cecilia supplied the obvious answer. Then you tried a gotcha on her use of "flaccid". Even though clearly your comments did lack vigor and force (hint: they were low effort).

      So let's change now to some cheap shots at Republicans to shine the spotlight the other way. Good times. You're probably ready for a job in mainstream media, you've passed the exam!

      Delete
    8. I feel sorry for Somerby. These people are the Left and so are the best and brightest. They'll tell you that every day of the week and twice on Inca holidays.

      How he must feel to see that they truly are.

      Delete
  4. "We'll actively perform our foundational idea. We'll enact our performative virtue."

    What exactly was being performed or enacted in the essay Somerby singled out? An essay consists of words, not actions.

    Calling a report of an action by Arizona "performative" strikes me as ridiculous when the reporter is doing a job that requires using words to report current events, and that is what the reporter has done. This is not about picketers or protesters (who might be called performative or enacting virtue), but about a news report. Does Somerby think news shouldn't report such things? This has to be one of his most ridiculous essays.

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    1. Oh, so for today “performative” must be an action. It can’t describe speech or a speech meant to convey and to elicit sentiments.

      Nope. That’s bullshit.

      Delete
    2. It comes from the meaning of the verb, to perform:

      "carry out, accomplish, or fulfill (an action, task, or function)."

      We have always made a distinction between talking about doing something and actually doing it. For example:

      "to show that something is true by your actions rather than your words: We're at this meeting because we're environmentalists who walk the walk."

      When someone uses the word "performative" they are complaining because someone only talks the talk but doesn't walk the walk.

      I agree that a journalist is engaging in an action when they write a news report. That is why they cannot be "performative" as Somerby keeps claiming they are being.

      Liberals who are marching with BLM, for example, are not being performative because they are walking the walk, engaging in action to change society. If someone gives a speech at a demonstration, they too are walking the walk. If they tell a friend "I really wanted to go to the BLM march but I didn't want to miss my soaps," they are being performative, even though they are speaking to someone else.

      Is life really this complex for you, Cecelia?

      Delete
    3. No I complex enough to understand that your argument is prefaced on the ridiculous stand that actions are merely things such as writing or walking rather than also being acts such as emoting, feigning, pretending and loading “news” pieces with presuppositions.

      Delete
  5. Somerby objects to: (1) calling the singling out of classroom activities "tidbits", and (2) referring to school district policy as "racial equity work". He calls that propaganda.

    If the school district itself refers to its attempts to incorporate racial equity into its curriculum as equity work and has hired an equity consultant, on what basis is it incorrect for the reporter to use the same terms? And if parents have videoed and complained about specific instances that have occurred in the classroom, instead of addressing the policy or curriculum as a whole, why are these not "tidbits"?

    Finally, how can Somerby know whether the intent of the writer was to report what is going on, as opposed to manipulating the reader's views or convincing the reader of some preferred opinion (as occurs with propaganda)? He cannot know that, given the examples he has chosen to present today.

    Somerby dislikes the slant chosen by a reporter, but that doesn't make it propaganda, absent those motives. It doesn't even make the report more convincing (or less so). It is just the choice made by the reporter, who is a trained and experienced journalist following a news organization's policies and most likely under editorial supervision.

    These attacks by Somerby are so petty as to be imaginary. His use the term critical race theory echoes the right wing crusade against teaching racial history and promoting equity. It is hard for me to see how Somerby can be against any efforts to achieve social justice, but I am actually a liberal and clearly Somerby is not, given his adoption of yet another cause from the right, together with its language and memes. A group of right-wing parents in Loudoun VA are attacking the schools for trying to incorporate diverse students into its teaching. Big surprise, Somerby joins the right by objecting to how that effort is being reported. Just as he attacks an article on gas used for executions in AZ by objecting to the mention of Auschwitz. Who does that? Not liberals.

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    1. That’s an interesting way to defend the reporter of this article as not using biased language in reporting on the controversy the school is having over this curriculum with some parents.

      I would have thought that the “tidbit” of spending half a mil on any program should be a matter of vast interest and debate among the locals.

      I would think that the term tidbit is rather hilariously biased word for what the reporter only describes as being the cost of a video and a consultant.

      It almost sounds like a piece from The Onion.

      It’s interesting too that you argue that the reporter shows no tilt in this story. but then use the information and the reporter’s words to say that Somerby is not a liberal because he hasn’t endorsed every expression in this journo’s unslanted report ... down to the tidbits.

      Delete
    2. The half million was not spent on any program. It was spent on an equity consultant. Presumably they would give input on how diversity affects a variety of school issues.

      How much is fair treatment of minorities worth to you Cecelia?

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    3. Not enough to give up her white grievances, that's for sure.

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    4. So you’re arguing that the reporter should call half a mil a tidbit because it’s for a worthwhile cause AND simultaneously arguing that the report wasn’t slanted against parents who don’t see it that way?

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    5. The reporter is clearly taking sides by approvingly declaring that CRT is "racial equity work". She's providing her opinion, not reporting news. Some, not just Republicans, although I have no way of knowing if objections are only by Republicans, would think that making students feel ashamed about their skin color is not the best way to approach education.

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  6. Why does Somerby object to the mention of Auschwitz in a news report which includes a fact, that the same gas used there has been acquired by AZ for its own executions?

    Does Somerby think that unpleasant historical events should never be mentioned anywhere, not in schools and not in news reports? Jews think Auschwitz should never be forgotten so that the atrocities of the past are never repeated. They want history to remember what was done to their ancestors. Black people want our nation to remember what was done in Tulsa too. Somerby apparently thinks all of these events should be allowed to slip into the dustbin of history. But it wasn't Somerby's ancestors who were killed in Auschwitz or Tulsa.

    I don't understand how Somerby can claim any moral or other sort of virtue in forgetting about unpleasant historical events that are important to other people. But he has recruited a whole cadre of so-called experts and anthropologists to support whatever crackpot idea he calls his own. Never mind that there are no actual experts on his side in this. Today he has the nerve to call reporters propagandists for disagreeing with him. Whatta guy!

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    1. The Nazis put gas in their vehicles. You put gas in your vehicle. OMG you're a Nazi.

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    2. The Nazis wanted to live under a system of white supremacy. You want Americans to live under a system of white supremacy.
      OMG you're a Nazi.

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    3. Way to connect you two, this conversation is surely going places!

      You did unintentionally accomplish one thing however, you proved the article's focus does not lend itself well to generating good discussion or debate.

      Delete
    4. And they proved who it is that the reporter is signaling with her rhetoric.

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  7. 'We state that view from our perch as full-blown opponents of capital punishment'

    Except that Somerby has not spent 1% of time writing against capital punishment in this blog as he has defending DOnald Trump, Roy Moore, Ron Johnson, Devin Nunes and Matt Gaetz, like the Trumptard that he is.

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  8. Bob, like all Right-wingers, supports "cancel culture". Any time something is reported that hurts the feelings of white people, they want to shut it down.

    Sure you have heard it was "liberals who support cancel culture", but that's because of the truth of the axiom: Every Right-wig accusation is really a confession.

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    1. Every leftwing confession (be it of innate racism, sexism, or paternalism) is really an accusation.

      It doesn’t matter how willing you are to denounce yourself in anti-bias training classes, we all know it’s performative and you’re really just pointing your finger at your political contrarians.

      Delete
    2. Cecelia,
      Thanks for the babble.
      Conservatives are still too tied to their cancel culture.

      Delete
    3. Anononymices are still too tied to Peewee Herman.

      Delete
    4. Saying you'd never try to overthrow the USA just because black people's votes counted in an election, is being performative about not being a Right-winger.

      Delete
    5. Your post isn’t performative of anything.

      You truly are a one-trick pony.

      Delete
    6. For a group of lazy thinkers, the Right sure can multi-task; legally treating women like second class citizens AND suppressing the votes of black people at the same time.

      Delete
    7. All Conservative roads lead to bigotry.
      It's the one wheel on their unicycle.

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    8. And here you are careening around in a car packed with Bozos.

      Delete
    9. And here you are careening around in a car packed with Bozos, not trying to suppress the votes of black people and keeping women in their place.

      Fixed it for you.

      Delete
    10. You mean you fixed it for you and the other clowns.

      Delete
    11. The real racism in America is pointing out that Right-wingers are racists.

      Signed,
      Almost 74 million assholes.

      Delete
    12. Give yourself some credit. I'm sure your fellow a-holes are more numerous than that.

      Delete
    13. "You truly are a one-trick pony."

      I'd be happy to support or criticize Right-wing ideology, other than bigotry, if they had one.

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    14. It's a fair question actually.

      But we can also be critical of Left-wing ideology, specifically the media's role in it, without the simplistic response of simply pointing to the Right and saying "They're worse".

      Agreed?

      Delete
    15. Cecelia doesn't hate you because you're beautiful.
      She hates you because you think black people should have equality.

      Delete
    16. Unknown.
      Agreed.
      Unfortunately, TDH isn't a media criticism blog. Its a place to see Right-wing grievances repeated.

      Delete
  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  10. “The news report seems to suggest that it would be pretty much OK if the state found a way to conduct executions—including executions which might be horribly botched—just so long as that method was less anti-Semitic.”

    It does no such thing. It is not a pro- or anti-death penalty opinion piece.

    In other words, the reporter is reporting facts. Otherwise, she would have said “Arizona restarts death penalty, which is a terrible thing that ought to be banned.”

    The reporter is not calling Arizona officials Nazis, either. That is a leap made by active imaginations.

    There is a long history of opposition to Zyklon B, particularly from Jewish groups. The reporting would be the same if California, where the death penalty still exists, started using this gas.

    Here is the reporting in the Times of Israel:

    https://www.timesofisrael.com/arizona-said-looking-to-restart-executions-with-gas-used-by-nazis-at-auschwitz/

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    1. Oh, no, who could possibly think that the optics of cynics gas executions, and that Arizona officials were behaving like Nazis, were the factors foremost on the minds of reporters who invoke Nazis in the first sentence of their reports and who end with this quote:

      “You have to wonder what Arizona was thinking in believing that in 2021 it is acceptable to execute people in a gas chamber with cyanide gas,” Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, told the Guardian. “Did they have anybody study the history of the Holocaust?”

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    2. Oh, no, who could possibly think that the optics of cynics gas executions, and that Arizona officials were behaving like Nazis, were the factors foremost on the minds of reporters who invoke Nazis in the first sentence of their reports and who end with this quote:

      “You have to wonder what Arizona was thinking in believing that in 2021 it is acceptable to execute people in a gas chamber with cyanide gas,” Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, told the Guardian. “Did they have anybody study the history of the Holocaust?”

      Delete
    3. Oh, no, who could possibly think that the optics of cynics gas executions, and that Arizona officials were behaving like Nazis, were the factors foremost on the minds of reporters who invoke Nazis in the first sentence of their reports and who end with this quote:

      “You have to wonder what Arizona was thinking in believing that in 2021 it is acceptable to execute people in a gas chamber with cyanide gas,” Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, told the Guardian. “Did they have anybody study the history of the Holocaust?”

      Delete
    4. “Who could possibly think?” Why, Cecelia, of course.

      “Who could possibly think?” Why, Cecelia, of course.”

      “Who could possibly think?” Why, Cecelia, of course.”

      I think people ought to be allowed to object to a particularly notorious poison gas due to its association with Nazism/the Holocaust without being accused of calling the state officials Nazis. Cecelia wants to gaslight the discussion into absurdity.

      Delete
    5. I think people ought to be able to object to gas chamber executions too. I object to capital punishment PERIOD.

      What I don’t think that Anonymices can logically do is to argue that the reporter is just doing straight news and then when countered, switch to saying that reporters should have the right to editorialize upon the method of execution in such ways if they wish.

      No, she wasn’t writing a straight news report and no, she did not focus on the factual problems inherent in the method of execution, she let them play second fiddle to the optics of Nazis.

      In other words, she did neither of the contradictory things that you inexplicably claim in her defense.

      You can’t have it all ways from Sunday simply because you want to yell “up!” after particular people say down”.

      Delete
    6. "Republicans are morons and bigots."

      Opinion?
      News?
      Both?

      Good luck answering that.

      Delete
    7. What kind of person can't see that the Right are Nazis?
      Don't let the objections of the Right fool you into thinking they don't know it too.

      Delete
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