END-OF-YEAR MANIFESTATIONS: A terrible tragedy in L.A....


...and the shape of a terrible year: Today, as a terrible year nears its end, we're willing to share an image. This image comes to mind many mornings as we first scan the day's journalism.

The image comes to us from childhood—from the days when it still snowed in Middlesex County, just outside Boston. There might be eight inches of powdery snow on the ground—and if you scrambled to get your boots on, you might be the very first person who got to make tracks through the snow.

Why was it fun to walk through new snow? We have no idea. But we're often struck by the new ideas, or lack of sane, which cover the ground in the morning. 

Such journalistic offerings tend to be hard to sort out. Walking through snow was much simpler.

Yesterday, we were struck by two opinion columns in the New York Times.  In this column, Michiko Kakutani offered a fascinating analysis of the late Joan Didion's work. 

On the same page, Professor Dyson seemed to say that we should direct more "forgiveness and grace" at people like Kim Potter, "the former cop who, by most accounts, mistakenly killed Daunte Wright, a young Black man in Brooklyn Center, Minn."

We expect to discuss those columns next week. We'll admit that each column seemed to us to cling to the frameworks, facts and Storylines preferred the author's own tribe. 

For today, we'll discuss Paul Butler's column in yesterday's Washington Post. 

Do we the humans ever step outside our tribal frameworks? Early on, Butler, a good, decent person, presented some slightly odd formulations:

BUTLER (12/30/21): At trial, Potter testified that the only reason she pulled over Wright was that she was training a rookie officer who noticed that Wright’s car had an air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror and that its registration was expired. Potter, who had been a cop for 26 years, admitted that ordinarily she would not have stopped someone for such minor infractions during the height of the pandemic.

A records check revealed that Wright, 20, had an outstanding warrant for a gross misdemeanor gun charge. As the officers tried to arrest him, Wright returned to his car and Potter said she believed he was trying to flee. She withdrew her gun, shouted “Taser” and shot him in the chest. Potter claimed that she mistook her gun for a Taser and had not intended to kill Wright.

Did Potter really claim "that she mistook her gun for a Taser?" Did she claim that she had not intended to kill Wright?

Technically, yes, she did—but the prosecutors "claimed" the very same things! Neither side in this high-profile trial disagreed with those "claims."

Even more oddly, did Wright "return to his car" at one point? Did Potter say that she believed he was trying to flee?

Technically, the answer to each question is probably yes; Wright did "return to his car." But why would any journalist present such odd formulations, given what happened that day?

(Also, was it really Officer Potter who "pulled Wright over?" The question played no apparent role in the trial, but Potter testified that it was the rookie officer, Anthony Luckey, who made that decision, and Luckey said the same thing. Potter said she probably wouldn't have done so had the choice, the decision, been hers.)

Did Butler perhaps have his thumbs on the scales as he opened his column? We can't read anyone's mind around here, but "returned to the car" was quite strange.

That said, Butler was soon warning readers about certain provisions of Minnesota state law. We found this part of his column instructive. This is what he said:

BUTLER: To convict Potter of first-degree manslaughter, which carries a sentence of up to 15 years, prosecutors had to prove only that Potter committed a misdemeanor—recklessly handling a firearm—that caused Wright’s death. This is the manslaughter version of the felony murder charge that prosecutors used to convict Chauvin.

Prosecutors often rely on these kinds of charges when they want the most severe punishment for people who have killed accidentally. But the charges are controversial because people get locked up for homicide when the underlying crime they committed was significantly less harmful. Felony murder and “misdemeanor manslaughter” operate to make it easier for prosecutors to win cases. The United States might have inherited the felony murder rule from England, which abolished it in 1957 because of its potential for unfairness.

Potter’s conviction was also advanced by another extreme prosecutorial power—this one unique to Minnesota. The jury heard emotional “spark of life” testimony from Wright’s father about how his son loved to play basketball and was a great dad to his own son. This was a page ripped from the Chauvin playbook, where Floyd’s brother and partner offered the same kind of gut-wrenching evidence. Minnesota allows such testimony because, according to a court decision, it presents “the victim as a human being.” This is especially important in cases with Black victims, in which the defense strategy is often to depict the victim as a thug who got what he deserved.

But this kind of testimony is problematic because it should be irrelevant to the jury’s determination of guilt or innocence. Whether the victim was a saint or sinner has no bearing on whether a crime was committed against him or her. That’s why Minnesota is the only state that allows such evidence during trial. The danger is that some people’s lives will be deemed more worthy of protection than others...

Interesting! According to Butler, prosecutors relied on the kinds of charges they use "when they want the most severe punishment for people who have killed accidentally." Butler said this type of charge was outlawed in England long ago "because of its potential for unfairness."

Also, Potter’s conviction was advanced by another extreme prosecutorial power—by so-called "spark of life" testimony. This kind of testimony also tilts the scales against a defendant, Butler seems to say—and Minnesota is the only state which allows it.

Should Potter have been convicted of a crime in this trial? We can't quite tell you that.

On the one hand, we weren't there to watch the whole trial. On the other hand, we've never seen a clear explanation of how, beyond being a disastrous mistake, Potter's mistake in this incident involved behavior which could be charged as "reckless."

At this point, it almost seemed that Butler was suggesting that a larger degree of forgiveness and grace should have been directed at Potter. But then, we read his column's conclusion.

Continuing from the passage above, we learned about the apparent parameters of Butler's concern:

BUTLER: But this kind of testimony is problematic because it should be irrelevant to the jury’s determination of guilt or innocence. Whether the victim was a saint or sinner has no bearing on whether a crime was committed against him or her. That’s why Minnesota is the only state that allows such evidence during trial. The danger is that some people’s lives will be deemed more worthy of protection than others. And it’s not hard to anticipate the racial impact of that calculus in a country that, as the Black Lives Matter movement likes to point out, remains tainted by white supremacy.

A racial-justice pragmatist might say that the Potter prosecutors did what they needed to do to secure a rare criminal conviction of a police officer for killing an unarmed Black person. Another racial-justice pragmatist might say that these kinds of prosecutorial power grabs will only come back to haunt people of color because “bad apple” cops will not be their primary targets. Both would have a point.

That's how the column ended.

Did prosecutors only "do what they needed to do" to secure a conviction? After watching former federal prosecutors on MSNBC for the past five years, we've come to assume that such highly principled thinking may tend to prevail in such regions.

That said, Butler doesn't seem to be concerned about what happened to Potter. He's concerned that these Minnesota laws might be used, at some later date, to secure convictions against people of color.

As such, his column seems to capture the principal drift of the society and the culture over the past year. 

This morning, the New York Times offers a deeply sympathetic profile of the police officer who unknowingly / mistakenly / accidentally shot and killed Valentina Orellana Peralta, age 14, in Los Angeles this week. Headline included, the profile starts like this:

Officer Whose Bullet Killed a 14-Year-Old Girl Wanted to ‘Change’ the Police

When he first moved to Los Angeles 15 years ago, William Dorsey Jones Jr. was like many others before him, hoping to find a career in the entertainment industry. He went so far as to start his own company, Entourage Entertainment Group.

But when those dreams didn’t pan out, Mr. Jones became a community relations specialist and patrol officer in the North Hollywood area—and he loved it. On social media, he seemed to have a sense of obligation, as a Black police officer, to confront head-on the issues of racism and policing.

He ran a nonprofit that mentored at-risk youth and helped coach a high school football team. Earlier this month, he drove a car filled with presents to hand out to children.

But on the day before Christmas Eve, Mr. Jones became the latest face of an all-too-familiar story of American policing: a rapid-fire tactical operation in a store, crowded at one point with holiday shoppers, that left two unarmed civilians dead.

In our view, Officer Jones is deserving of forgiveness and grace too. This morning, is "spark of life" journalism perhaps being directed his way?

Elsewhere, some Others will surely think so. How good are you at understanding the way the world may appear to Others, even if you don't agree with their views?

For ourselves, we favor the deployment of forgiveness and grace wherever humanly possible. That said, the tendency to demonize Others, then lock Others up, is now widespread in our culture. 

We divide into smaller and smaller affinity groups. More and more, then more and more, it can seem like the soul of the age.

Tomorrow: More whimsically, a best book pick in the New York Times—and our question of the year

END-OF-YEAR MANIFESTATIONS: "Little boxes, on the hillside..."


John Madden was very well-liked: NFL legend John Madden died this week at age 85. At the New York Times (and elsewhere), his death was front-page news.

Why was Madden so well liked? In that lengthy front-page obituary, the Times' Ben Shpigel explained it the way many others did:

SHPIGEL (12/29/21): As inclusive as he was beloved, Madden embodied a rare breed of sports personality. He could relate to the plumber in Pennsylvania or the custodian in Kentucky—or the cameramen on his broadcast crew—because he viewed himself, at bottom, as an ordinary guy who just happened to know a lot about football. Grounded by an incapacitating fear of flying, he met many of his fans while crisscrossing the country, first in Amtrak trains and then in his Madden Cruiser, a decked-out motor coach that was a rare luxurious concession...

For more than 20 years, that bus shepherded Madden to and from his assignments, a fulfillment of sorts of a favorite book, “Travels with Charley,” by John Steinbeck, who had driven around America in a camper with his poodle. 

By common agreement, Madden was well liked—was even "beloved"—"because he viewed himself...as an ordinary guy." Also, because he conducted himself that way in his interactions with regular people. 

Giant fame and giant wealth didn't seem to have gone to his head. His tendencies may have tracked back to the circumstances of his youth:

SHPIGEL: Madden was born in Austin, Minn., on April 10, 1936, the oldest of three children, and the only son, of Earl and Mary (Flaherty) Madden. His father was a mechanic.

When John was 6, his family moved to Daly City, Calif., a working-class suburb of San Francisco whose proximity to the city offered adventurous escapes for sports-crazed boys. With his close friend John Robinson, who would become the head coach at Southern California and of the Los Angeles Rams, Madden hitched trolley rides into town and then sneaked into Kezar Stadium and Seals Stadium to watch football and baseball games.

His family was of modest means, but Madden was resourceful. He scrounged for gear in rummage bins and fashioned his baseball bats by taping together pieces found at semipro games. Opportunities for minor-league baseball beckoned—the Red Sox and the Yankees expressed interest—but Madden, from his time caddying for the well-heeled at the San Francisco Golf Club, had come to equate success with a college education.

Madden grew up in working-class Daly City, in a family of modest means. Roughly a decade later, Malvina Reynolds wrote a song about the little houses of that city's urban sprawl, and about the "ticky tacky" people said to be living inside them.

The Reynolds song became well known. Its lyrics started like this:

Little boxes, on the hillside
Little boxes made of ticky tacky
Little boxes, little boxes,
Little boxes all the same

There's a pink one and a green one
And a blue one and a yellow one
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same

And the people in the houses
All went to the university
Where they were put in boxes
And they came out all the same

And there's doctors and lawyers
And business executives
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same

We don't know why Reynolds would have thought that the people inside those little houses were a bunch of doctors and lawyers. In our experience, Daly City was much more a fog-infested working-class suburb, just as the New York Times said.

In fairness to Reynolds, she may have written her song that way so it wouldn't seem that she was mocking the working class. But our tribe sometimes tends to enjoy characterizing and mocking Others in extremely large groups.

Madden grew up in Daly City in the 1940s and the early 1950s. As of the summer of 1960, one of our  aunts was living in one of the very houses, in the highly visible Westlake development, which Reynolds described and mocked in her song.

Those houses were indeed quite small. Except for the various pastel shades they'd been painted, they did all look just the same.

That said, we'll venture a guess:

The people living inside those houses weren't all made of ticky tacky. Also, they didn't all look just the same!

Our question today is simple. Can you see a possible problem with Reynolds' well-known song? 

At the time, we probably couldn't. Opinions may differ today.

At some point, Tom Lehrer apparently described Little Boxes as "the most sanctimonious song ever written." That doesn't mean that Lehrer was right, but all too often, within our tribe, the possible problem lurking here may persist, even today.

The late John Madden was very well liked. For background on the Reynolds song, you can just click here

Tomorrow: Top question of the past year!

END-OF-YEAR MANIFESTATIONS: "Goddamn Karen" slaps old coot!


"Bitch" just wouldn't sit down: We'll admit that we've decided to treat this week as the Irish allegedly do—as a full-blown Christmas week. 

We expect to return to full services next week. At that time, we'll attempt to describe the novelization which has come to dominate the way our tribe behaves in many instances. 

We refer to a novelization—a devotion to Storyline—which has led our journalists to shed basic logic, and misstate basic facts, in a wide array of circumstances. Routinely, our tribal behavior has been very bad—and The Others are told about this.

We're going to wait until next week for that. We're handling this week like the Irish.

That said, our post on Friday will involve the topic which interested us most deeply this year. This topic plays exactly no role in the nation's daily discourse.

For today, we'll start by guessing that Patricia Cornwall, age 51, may have consumed a few extra cocktails during her recent Delta flight to Atlanta, or perhaps shortly before it.

Actually, we hope that Cornwall consumed a few extra cocktails that day. Otherwise, her conduct on this two-minute videotape doesn't make a lot of sense.

Eventually, Cornwall slaps a fellow passenger who has been calling her names. According to the Washington Post, the incident started like this:

BELLA (12/28/21): On Thursday, Cornwall was returning from the restroom when she saw a flight attendant conducting beverage service and blocking the aisle, according to the [official criminal] complaint. After Cornwall asked the flight attendant to help her find her seat, the flight attendant requested that she find an available seat until the conclusion of the beverage service, the complaint says.

“What am I? Rosa Parks?” said Cornwall, who is White, according to the complaint.

Upon hearing the comment, the complaint says, the male passenger sitting in seat 37C told Cornwall “it was an inappropriate comment and that she ‘isn’t Black … this isn’t Alabama and this isn’t a bus.’ ” He then called her a catchall term popularized in recent years to describe an entitled, demanding White woman who polices other people’s behavior.

“Sit down, Karen,” he said to Cornwall, according to the complaint.

Cornwall's alleged remark about Rosa Parks isn't recorded on the videotape. To see the full criminal complaint, just click here. Please note that it is largely based on the male passenger's allegations—on his account of what occurred.

Cornwall's initial alleged remark isn't recorded on the videotape. Given her subsequent ridiculous conduct, it isn't had to believe that it did occur.

What is recorded is the way the male passenger repeatedly addresses Cornwall by that "catchall term popularized in recent years"—by the "catchall term" which is used "to describe an entitled, demanding White woman who polices other people’s behavior." 

(For the record, he employs that catchall term as he polices her behavior.)

As reported by Timothy Bella, that catchall term is "Karen." In fact, the highly principled male passenger is shown on the videotape angrily saying this:

“Sit down, Karen! You're a goddamn Karen! Sit down!"

After repeatedly addressing Cornwall as "Karen," the male passenger proceeds to address her as "Bitch." At this point, she seems to slap him. 

The male passenger then starts saying that he's been punched. He sasses Cornwall, saying she'll soon be going to jail. 

That prediction may turn out to be sound! For what it's worth, we're hoping that the highly principled male passenger may have had a few extra cocktails that day too. 

(It seems he may be slurping one down as his name-calling starts.)

We note the following points:

Is the term in question best described as "a catchall term popularized in recent years?" In our view, the Post should be embarrassed for having published that dodge. 

In the criminal complaint, the term seems to be described as a "derogatory" term. In fact, it's a derogatory racial term—a race-based insult which has been "popularized" within our tribe in recent years. 

In the past, we've suggested that it may not be the best idea to invent and "popularize" new forms of racial name-calling. That said, our tribe increasingly seems to enjoy such behaviors—the kinds of behaviors which once belonged more exclusively to The Others, in the not-so-distant past.

In fact, the catchall term is a race-based insult. Let's review what can be seen on the tape:

The male passenger—for the record, he's an older "white" male—starts out by addressing Cornwall as "Karen." He then refers to her as "a goddamn Karen."

Quickly, he moves on. Before long, he addresses Cornwall as "Bitch," and/or directly calls her a "bitch," at least four separate times.

The gentleman is highly principled—and he quickly turns from the newly-popularized racial insult to the old misogynist standard. As a general matter, our tribe may be too self-assured, too morally pure, to notice a problem with this.

He started out with racial name-calling, then moved to the classic gender-based putdown. It seems to us that the Post's report may perhaps be obscuring these facts. 

In the past, we've suggested, on several occasions, that the popularization of new types of racial name-calling may not be the greatest idea. Beyond that, we've occasionally suggested that the self-assurance of our tribe—concerning matters of gender, let's say—may occasionally outstrip our real-life performance.

Watching this creepy old coot move directly from "Karen" to "Bitch" may serve as a case in point! Meanwhile, we think the Post should be embarrassed by the bowdlerized way it has chosen to report this possibly wine-soaked incident.

He addressed her by a catchall term, one which has been popularized! That's the way the Washington Post chose to describe his racial/sexual name-calling.

The Others are told about matters like this. This may help explain why we have trouble assembling working majorities out in the political realm.

Tomorrow: Some other passing matter

Friday: Our question of the year!

END-OF-YEAR MANIFESTATIONS: We agree with a pair of letters!


The novelization rules: As a general matter, we don't root for people to go to prison. 

Above and beyond that general framework, we tend to agree with a pair of letters in today's New York Times. The first letter says this:

To the Editor:

After seeing the videos of the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright by Kimberly Potter, I don’t believe that Ms. Potter should have been convicted of any crime. Clearly she made a terrible mistake, and it may seem inexcusable for a 26-year police veteran to mistake her gun for a stun gun. However, the sudden, unexpected, aggressive action by Mr. Wright—at close quarters—can cause an officer, even a veteran, to get fearful.

A suspect in physical contact with an officer who was attempting to handcuff him suddenly breaking free and jumping behind the wheel of his car is not committing a passive and harmless action. Mr. Wright’s sudden action surprised Ms. Potter, who is responsible for her fellow officers’ safety as well as her own. She made a horrible mistake, one that may disqualify her to continue as a police officer, but not one that should make her a convicted criminal.

We tend to agree with that letter. That includes the view it states concerning the role played by Daunte Wright's unfortunate decision to resist and flee arrest.

Even the prosecution agreed that Potter's action wasn't intentional—was a mistake. We haven't understood the logic by which this particular unintentional mistake turned into a crime—by which, for example, it was judged that her disastrously mistaken behavior was judged to have been "reckless."

The second letter expresses a similar view. In our view, its logic ends up wandering a bit far afield at the end:

To the Editor:

Kimberly Potter was convicted of manslaughter for killing Daunte Wright when she mistakenly used a handgun instead of a Taser. In contrast, Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd by compressing his airway, allowing about nine minutes to pass during which he could have reconsidered and potentially saved Mr. Floyd’s life.

Once Ms. Potter fired her handgun, she had no time in which she could have changed course and saved the life of Mr. Wright. Her tragic mistake was irreversible the second that she fired.

In addition, consider the difference in how society reacts to physicians and nurses who make mistakes that result in the death of a patient. Rarely are they arrested and tried for manslaughter. If Ms. Potter is sent to prison, our justice system will have failed to extend the same empathy to police officers that we generally extend to physicians and nurses.

Derek Chauvin's conduct was intentional; Kim Potter's wasn't. That said, Potter will be "sent to prison." Within our tribe, the way this unfortunate event has been viewed is tied to a long-running novelization.

Granting that Potter made a disastrous mistake, what did she do that was "reckless?" We haven't yet seen the logic of that. We have seen the process of novelization as it has unfolded over the past dozen years. 

Sadly, our novelizations have tended to run on claims about Skittles and air fresheners, and on claims about "crossing state lines." Increasingly, we're tying ourselves to novelizations which may start to seem like cartoons.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but our tribe has become increasingly dishonest, and The Others can see this about us. Warning:

In matters like these, The Others are routinely exposed to more information than we are.

We've mortgaged our souls for a novel we like, for a novel which lets us perform. At the top of the tribal heap, our silence about this matter is endless. Because the topic is so depressing, we're postponing it until next week.

Your lizard is telling you that we're wrong. Your lizard repeatedly does this.

When Edward O. Wilson said the wrong thing...


...it was major professors gone wild: Edward O. Wilson died yesterday at the age of 92. His stature is captured in the headline in the Washington Post:

Edward O. Wilson, Harvard naturalist often cited as heir to Darwin, dies at 92

Edward O. Wilson, a Harvard naturalist whose mapping of social behavior in ants led him to study social behavior in all organisms and who became one of the greatest naturalists of his generation, died Dec. 26 in Burlington, Mass. He was 92.

The E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation announced his death but did not provide a cause.

Often cited as Charles Darwin’s greatest 20th-century heir, Dr. Wilson was an eloquent and immensely influential environmentalist and was the first to determine that ants communicate mainly through the exchange of chemical substances now known as pheromones.

He discovered hundreds of new species by putting his hands in the dirt as a field biologist, synthesized evolving thinking in science and coined new terms, such as biodiversity and biophilia, to explain it. Of his many accomplishments in evolutionary biology, his biggest contribution was probably in the new scientific field of sociobiology, in which he addressed the biological basis of social behavior in animals, including humans.

This "heir to Darwin" had "addressed the biological basis of social behavior in animals." Even in us humans!

Apparently, some of us human didn't like that much. Later, Patricia Sullivan takes us back to 1975, when Wilson published his famous book, Sociobiology.

Uh-oh! Familiar conduct emerged:

SULLIVAN: The controversy came from the last chapter, on humankind. Dr. Wilson proposed that human behavior is genetically based, that humans inherit a propensity to acquire behavior and social structures, including a division of labor between the sexes, parental-child bonding, heightened altruism toward closest kin, incest avoidance, suspicion of strangers, tribalism, male dominance and territorial aggression over limited resources.

He later noted in “Naturalist,” his 1994 autobiography, that his was “an exceptionally strong hereditarian position for the 1970s.”

The response was furious, starting at his own school, where colleagues accused him of genetic determinism and tied the theory to Nazi eugenics, racism, sexism, sterilization and restrictions on immigration. Demonstrators disrupted the campus, calling his theory an apologia for the status quo.

The fact that sociobiology made the cover of Time magazine or that Dr. Wilson debated the proposition on the “Today” show and Dick Cavett’s talk show did not impress them. The protests culminated with a takeover of the stage at the 1978 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, where one demonstrator was said to have drenched him with a pitcher of ice water, declaring, “Wilson, you’re all wet!”

"Decades later, scientists now acknowledge that genes play some still undefined role in human nature," Sullivan writes.  But at that time, Wilson's last chapter had made him a Nazi! Some genius drenched him with ice water, then said he was all wet!

But did that actually happen? Sullivan provides no link, and she cites no source. Indeed, she only says that the drenching is "said to have" occurred.

When we googled around, we found a New York Times review of Wilson's 1994 book, Naturalist. Helen Fisher described the incident and even named some names, apparently citing Wilson's book:

FISHER (10/16/94): How did Edward O. Wilson, one of the foremost scientists of the century, so enrage his colleagues? ...[I]n his 1975 book "Sociobiology: The New Synthesis," Mr. Wilson had organized data about hundreds of animals and had discussed the biological underpinnings of their social behaviors. In his conclusion, he contended that many human behaviors, including altruism, hypocrisy and tribalism, also have biological underpinnings—they are part of our animal nature.

With this, Mr. Wilson revived the longest-running controversy in science, nature vs. nurture. Fifteen scholars in the Boston area, including two of Mr. Wilson's colleagues at Harvard, Stephen Jay Gould and Richard C. Lewontin, formed the Sociobiology Study Group. In November 1975 they denounced sociobiology in letter to The New York Review of Books, linking it to racism and Nazi ideology. Three years later Mr. Wilson was assaulted during a speech at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Demonstrators affiliated with the International Committee Against Racism carried anti-sociobiology placards (at least one displaying a swastika), seized the dais and dumped a pitcher of ice water on Mr. Wilson's head, chanting, "Wilson, you're all wet!" The episode "may be the only occasion in recent American history," Mr. Wilson writes, "on which a scientist was physically attacked, however mildly, simply for the expression of an idea." 

We're assuming that the ice water drenching incident actually happened. We're more struck by the two major names who rose to confront his Nazism.

We humans! Even at the highest levels, our brains are wired to produce such reactions, disconsolate experts insist, speaking to us from the future.

END-OF-YEAR MANIFESTATIONS: Onrushing cognitive capture!


Young Driver disappeared: Actually, no. 

As we noted last Friday, this actually isn't an accurate picture of what actually happened. And yes, it actually matters:

COBB (12/21/21): If you think about what ties [Kyle] Rittenhouse, [George] Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin case, and the death of Ahmaud Arbery together is that all three of these incidents involve people who were going out to protect property that was not theirs. So this is fundamentally about the idea that you can construe self-defense to mean anything. And you can proactively pursue people and still say you were defending yourself.

Actually, no! Kyle Rittenhouse wasn't pursuing Joseph Rosenbaum, the mentally ill man he shot and killed, on that unfortunate evening in Kenosha. As is perfectly clear from the videotape and as everyone testified, Rosenbaum—and yes, this unfortunate man was mentally ill—had been chasing Rittenhouse through Kenosha's streets.

Unfortunately, there's more! It isn't clear that George Zimmerman was pursuing Trayvon Martin at the time their paths finally crossed, and a fatal fight occurred, on that earlier unfortunate night.

In that earlier instance, it isn't clear who may have been pursuing who, and it likely never will be. But our tribe has a story we very much like, and it's fairly clear that nothing is ever going to stop us from telling it.

While we're at it, when did "protecting property that is not [one's own]" turn into something that's morally suspect or wrong? We don't know when that presumption took hold, but it strikes us as unfounded, peculiar, strange.

Professor Cobb is a good, decent person. For that reason, his presentation on last Tuesday night's All In strikes us as an example of "cognitive capture." 

What he seemed to be saying just doesn't seem to be accurate. And three hours later, as we noted last Friday, Ali Velshi chipped in with this mandated groaner as he hosted The Eleventh Hour:

VELSHI (12/21/21): You'd be forgiven for assuming that what you just saw here was some kind of WrestleMania introduction. That [videotape] was yesterday's carefully staged and overly elaborate introduction at an event for ultra-conservative young people for none other than Kyle Rittenhouse, the then 17-year-old who shot and killed two people and wounded a third last summer at a Black Lives Matter protest after crossing state lines with an AR-15 that was not obtained legally.

In an obvious instance of "cognitive capture," Velshi repeated the standard non sequitur in which Rittenhouse is said to have "crossed state lines" on his way to Kenosha. 

For the record, Rittenhouse wasn't actually transporting that gun when he "crossed state lines;" the gun was already in Kenosha. But that's a minor factual error, joined in this instance to the utterly irrelevant, braindead claim about "crossing state lines" our tribunes insist on reciting.

Velshi and Cobb are good, decent people. On the other hand, because they're also very smart, we feel we should tell you this:

When people misstate in the way Cobb did, you should be careful about taking anything else they ever say at anything like face value. 

You see, "cognitive capture" is a fact, and our tribe is sick with the illness. We expect to discuss this concept at the start of the new year. For today, we'll limit ourselves to teasing one more example.

This example is drawn from the way our tribe's major news orgs have covered the shooting death of Daunte Wright and the subsequent trial of Kim Potter. For today, we're going to mention a name you don't know:

The name is Emajay Driver.

Driver has been mentioned several times as the New York Times has reported, or has perhaps pretended to report, this unfortunate topic. In print editions, the first citation occurred on April 14, in the Times' news report about an unfortunate event—the funeral of Daunte Wright:

MARTINEZ AND SANDOVAL (4/14/21): Before Sunday, Mr. Wright had been a young Black man unknown to the world, but known and loved by his friends and relatives in the Minneapolis area. He was a young father of a toddler who was almost 2, Daunte Jr. He loved basketball. As a freshman at Thomas Edison High School, he was voted a “class clown.”


Mr. Wright attended Patrick Henry High School in Minneapolis in 2018, said the school principal, Yusuf Abdullah.

“He was just like any other kid,” Mr. Abdullah said.

He had also attended Edison High School in Minneapolis, where he was voted class clown as a freshman, according to the school’s 2015-16 yearbook.

“He loved to make people laugh,” said Emajay Driver, a friend of Mr. Wright. “He was just great to be around. There was never a dull moment.”


Mario Greer, a cousin, said Mr. Wright was also a sensitive soul who enjoyed lighting Roman candles with him.

That was the New York Times' first mention of Driver. In the paper's December 2 print edition, young Driver was mentioned again:

BOGEL-BURROUGHS (12/2/21): Many who knew Mr. Wright have said he was a man who had made mistakes but had been improving his life.

A friend, Emajay Driver, said that Mr. Wright had “loved to make people laugh.” As a freshman in high school in Minneapolis, Mr. Wright had been voted a class clown. “There was never a dull moment,” Mr. Driver said.

In the eulogy at Mr. Wright’s funeral, the Rev. Al Sharpton called Mr. Wright the “prince of Brooklyn Center” and said the police had not known how many lives Mr. Wright brightened.

On this occasion, Bogel-Burroughs recalled a bit of what Sharpton said in April's eulogy. The police had not known how many lives Wright had brightened, Sharpton had said at that time.

Six days later, Bogel-Burroughs cited Driver again. This citation appeared in a brief online post which bore the headline, "Who Was Daune Wright?" 

This brief post only appeared online; it never appeared in print. Bogel-Burroughs quoted Driver again—and he went into more detail from Sharpton's eulogy:

BOGEL-BURROUGHS (12/8/21): Many who knew Mr. Wright have acknowledged that he had made mistakes but had been trying to improve his life for his son.

A friend, Emajay Driver, said that Mr. Wright had “loved to make people laugh.” As a freshman in high school, Mr. Wright had been voted a class clown. “There was never a dull moment,” Mr. Driver said.

Delivering a eulogy at the funeral, the Rev. Al Sharpton said he was told that Minneapolis had not seen a funeral procession so large since Prince, the musician who was born and raised in Minneapolis, died in 2016.

“You thought he was just some kid with an air freshener,” Mr. Sharpton said at Mr. Wright’s funeral, referring to the air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror, which prosecutors said was one reason that the police stopped Mr. Wright’s car. Mr. Sharpton added: “He was a prince, and all of Minneapolis has stopped today to honor the prince of Brooklyn Center.”

Within our captured tribe, that air freshener has never stopped being useful. At any rate, Wright had been "the prince of Brooklyn Center," Sharpton had said.

Also, there had never been a dull moment. "He loved to make people laugh," Driver had said.

(Last Thursday, John Heileman read those excerpts from Sharpton's eulogy at the start of Deadline White House, which he was guest-hosting. In this way, people like Heileman reinforce our mandated Storylines.)

Emajay Drive is a young person. So was Daunte Wright. He was only 20 years old when he was shot and killed.

That said, reporters and editors at the Times are often somewhat older. Reasonable people may assume that they exercise appropriate journalistic judgment as they report on such important events and topics.

We may assume that high-end journalists exercise sound judgment. By way of contrast, it seems to us that the Times' citations of Driver—and the paper's reporting of this case overall—have been prime examples of the syndrome known as "cognitive capture."

Let's be much too fair! On two occasions—in that December 2 print report, and in that brief post on December 8—the Times finally described, if only in passing, a few of the "mistakes" Wright may have made in his young life.

Many young people make lots of mistakes. People might hope for better performance from experienced journalists.

That said, it seems to us that the New York Times increasingly exists in a state of "cognitive capture." In our view, its cheerful references to Driver's statements can perhaps be viewed in this light.

Alas! The New York Times now lives in a world where it is considered morally suspect to seek to protect property which isn't one's own. Also, in a world where highly regarded professors and journalists—high-IQ people like Velshi and Cobb—will routinely go on the air and say things which are flatly untrue or grossly misleading.

Our tribe has badly lost its way. In that way, Our tribe is a great deal like Theirs.

We plan to try to lay that out at the start of the new year. For the rest of this week, we plan to visit some intriguing manifestations as the dying year reaches its end.

Today, we'll make one last point:

Emajay Driver is a young person. We aren't inclined to go around trashing young people, especially those who may have been forced to grow up in challenging surroundings.

That said, people in the conservative world know much about Driver (and about Wright) than we liberals do. All the way back in April, a high school senior in Arizona was describing some basic facts of this case in her high school newspaper!

She reported the facts in a slightly jumbled way; we'd be inclined to disagree with the opinions she hotly stated. But even way back then, this high school journalist reported (relevant) facts to which readers of the New York Times have never been exposed! 

(For a clearer statement of those facts, mixed with a comically biased framework, see this report by Snopes.com from that very same week.)

Alas! This is one of the many cases in which people who follow conservative media may actually know much more than we porridge-fed liberals do. It's so bad that, if you can ignore her insulting conceptual frameworks, Ann Coulter has basically gotten it right concerning the work of the Times!

Our floundering tribe is deeply sunk in a version of cognitive capture. We've been sinking in this quicksand for roughly a decade now. 

No one's interests are well served by this remarkable state of affairs. It's also pure anthropology—anthropology all the way down.

Coming this week: Oliver Stone; the Genghis Gutfeld; that public school librarian in D.C.; Kurt Godel cited again?

The old and new West Side Story—who knows? So many intriguing manifestations, so little available time!

Script and Storyline never die!


But also, e. e. cummings: We were a bit surprised, and perhaps disappointed, when Ali Velshi said it:

VELSHI (12/21/21): You'd be forgiven for assuming that what you just saw here was some kind of WrestleMania introduction. That was yesterday's carefully staged and overly elaborate introduction at an event for ultra-conservative young people for none other than Kyle Rittenhouse, the then 17-year-old who shot and killed two people and wounded a third last summer at a Black Lives Matter protest after crossing state lines with an AR-15 that was not obtained legally.

As we've been noting for several decades, script, like rust, never sleeps. Hosting Tuesday's 11th Hour, Velshi pictured Rittenhouse "crossing state lines" again! 

(For the sake of brevity, we'll ignore the other misstatements and mis-formulations found in that brief presentation.) 

The youngster had crossed state lines again—and while we're at it, good grief! Earlier that evening, on All In, Professor Cobb had offered this:

COBB (12/21/21): If you think about what ties Rittenhouse, [George] Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin case, and the death of Ahmaud Arbery together is that all three of these incidents involve people who were going out to protect property that was not theirs. So this is fundamentally about the idea that you can construe self-defense to mean anything. And you can proactively pursue people and still say you were defending yourself.

For today, set aside the professor's claim about the unfortunate death of Trayvon Martin. According to that strange formulation, Rittenhouse had been "proactively pursuing" Joseph Rosenbaum on that unfortunate night in Kenosha!

Rosenbaum hadn't been chasing Rittenhouse through the streets of Kenosha that night, cable viewers were now being told. Within our Storyline-driven tribe, we've somehow managed to reach the point where Rittenhouse was chasing him!

Velshi and Cobb are both good, decent people. That said, Script and Storyline never die. Neither does undisguised, unvarnished tribal invention, and that's even true Over Here.

Recommended on Christmas Eve: Cummings wrote it; we've endorsed it. We refer to the poem in which two children experience feeling for a tree, a tree which is rather small:

little tree
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower

who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?

All these years later, the poem continues from there.

At 14, he took a young person's life!


Can you feel pity and sorrow?: Rashaun Weaver was only 14 years old at the time of the killing.

Tessa Majors was only 18. She was a freshman at Barnard. Two years ago, she was stabbed to death in Upper Manhattan's Morningside Park. 

This terrible incident returned to the New York Times last week when Weaver, who's now 16, became the third teenager to plead guilty to this terrible murder. The Times reported these facts:

CLOSSON (12/17/21): The three teenagers charged in the crime were middle school classmates who were between the ages of 13 and 14 at the time.

Rashaun Weaver, now 16, was charged as an adult and was the attacker who prosecutors said wielded the knife that killed Ms. Majors in December 2019. In court, Mr. Weaver, who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and first-degree robbery, admitted to delivering the series of strikes to Ms. Majors’s chest that ended her life.

As part of the deal with prosecutors, Mr. Weaver, who wore a green long-sleeved shirt and face mask in court, also pleaded guilty to two similar robberies. 

This was a terrible, heinous act The three assailants were between the ages of 13 and 14.


Can you feel sorrow and pity for Weaver as well as for the young woman he killed? We're prepared to say that we can. The news report also said this:

CLOSSON: Mr. Weaver’s lawyer, Jeffrey Lichtman, said that his client was “deeply remorseful.”

Mr. Lichtman and prosecutors both noted that Mr. Weaver’s upbringing was marred by struggles. His mother had her first child when she was 13, his father was incarcerated at the time of his birth and several other immediate family members had been convicted of crimes, they said.

“Sometimes I think it gets lost when we talk about all these horrific things. We forget that this doesn’t just happen out of the blue,” Mr. Lichtman said. “It takes a village, so to speak, to make what happened here.”

Our own father, who lived a fascinating life, died when we were 11. He had been sick, and out of the home, for three years before that.

Our mother wasn't an especially skillful raiser of children; her many virtues lay elsewhere. But she wasn't 13 when we were born, and our father wasn't incarcerated when we were brought home.

There but for fortune, we're strongly inclined to say. We can't say we know how we would have fared in the circumstances which seemed to surround this young person, dating perhaps from the first day of his life.

There but for fortune, we're inclined to say. That said, it seems that things had gone very wrong in this young person's life:

CLOSSON (continuing directly): The prosecutors considered Mr. Weaver’s troubled childhood when crafting a sentencing recommendation, Mr. Bogdanos said. But the teenager had also been involved in more than a dozen assaults of counselors and other incidents at his detention center since April 2020, he said, which needed to be weighed as well.


The teenager’s own statements also tied him to the killing. In a recorded conversation with his father, who was in prison, Mr. Weaver said that he stabbed Ms. Majors because “she was hanging on to her phone” as the group tried to steal it, according to the criminal complaint.

His father was still in prison, or possibly he had returned there. We weren't forced to grow up that way. There but for fortune, we have always claimed.

Warning! As we've noted in the past, we feel the same way about Donald J. Trump. We may revisit that concept tomorrow. But should we possibly learn how to oppose in the absence of loathing and hate?

Final point:

Tessa Majors' loss was a terrible loss. This was a terrible crime.

FURY V. FORGIVENESS: Kirsten Powers apologized!


The germ of a good idea: We experienced a lightly comical manifestation as we read this morning's newspapers. It came to us courtesy of Ben Ritz—and the New York Times.

Ritz is director of the Center for Funding America’s Future at the Progressive Policy Institute (the PPI). For the record, the PPI is an organization which generally wouldn't get scored as "progressive," given current conventions.

More generally, the PPI would be scored as centrist, New Democrat, neo-liberal. Needless to say, that doesn't mean that the things its directors say automatically have to be wrong. 

In a guest essay in the Times, Ritz is urging Democrats to go back to work with Senator Manchin. He recommends passing a version of Build Back Better which satisfies Manchin's demands. 

"I believe abandoning Mr. Biden’s agenda would be a massive mistake," Ritz writes. But even within the Manchin frameworks, Ritz also says this:

"There is a clear path forward to deliver a historically significant, fiscally responsible bill that supports working families, expands access to affordable health care and combats the climate crisis."

We don't know if some such outcome is possible. If it is, we'd support that outcome too. Still and all, we had to chuckle when we came to this:

RITZ (12/23/21): Unlike those on the left now unleashing their righteous wrath on Mr. Manchin, I have long sympathized with his objections to this approach, as well as his concerns about inflation and the unsustainable growth of our national debt.

Ritz has "long sympathized with" Manchin's concerns about inflation and the national debt? Since Ritz is only seven years out of college (George Washington, class of 2014), we allowed the analysts to chuckle at that a bit.

The chuckles turned to outright guffaws when we clicked Ritz's link. How long has he sympathized with Manchin's concerns?

This long! The link he provides leads back to this column in The Hill. The column was published less than two months ago, in late October of this very year!

Ritz has long sympathized with Manchin's concerns, dating to late October! Sometimes, it helps to laugh at the silly posing which finds its way into print.

Thumbs are routinely placed on the scales as elite insiders debate. For our money, the New York Times should have asked the talented Mr. Ritz to clean up that one silly statement.

None of this means that Ritz is wrong in his basic view—in the way he says we should move on from here. Among other suggestions, he seems to suggest that "those on the left" should stop "unleashing their righteous wrath on Manchin."

We're inclined to agree with that view. But we thought we'd share that bit of humor before we turned to the sorrow and the pity—the sorrow and pity a person might feel in reviewing events of the day.

In part, we refer to this news report, in today's New York Times, concerning the deaths by suicide of college freshmen at West Virginia University and at Yale.

We refer to the limited judgment of the conservative group which recently featured Kyle Rittenhouse in a sprawling stage production.

We refer to the ways our own liberal tribe keeps moving on with our demonizations of Rittenhouse—demonization which are often based on bogus factual claims.

We also refer to the unfortunate behavior of Bette Midler, a good, decent person who recently tweeted this:

MIDLER (12/20/21): What #JoeManchin, who represents a population smaller than Brooklyn, has done to the rest of America, who wants to move forward, not backward, like his state is horrible. He sold us out. He wants us all to be just like his state, West Virginia. Poor, illiterate and strung out.

Forty minutes later, Midler apologized. That said, this has long been part of our tribe's DNA. This is the way we routinely refer to The Others, the "scum."

Midler is a good, decent person who made an unhelpful remark. According to experts, the tribal loathing she expressed is wired within our human brains—and is encouraged by our new technologies and by our profit-based corporate arrangements.

Also in this morning's Times, Samuel Earle opines that our modern-day Internet is more destructive than anything pictured in the 1999 film, The Matrix.

The tribalized nature of Internet / social media culture is a large part of that problem. So is the tribalized nature of "cable news," in which we segregate ourselves into two warring tribes and persistently demonize Others. 

Two years ago, Kirsten Powers apologized for her previous role in that system. She did so in her regular opinion column in USA Today.

Powers lamented the various ways she'd behaved. In our view, she was expressing the germ of a good, sound, decent idea.

What had been wrong with Powers' conduct?  You can assess her full column here, but this is the way she started:

POWERS (2/19/19): I recently took a hiatus from social media to reflect on what role I might be playing in our increasingly toxic public square. I was not proud of what I found.

During this time, I reflected not just on my behavior on social media, but also in my public expressions both on TV and in my columns. I looked back over the past decade of my work with a clear eye to assess whether I was shedding light on issues or just creating heat. 

I cringed at many of the things I had written and said. Many I would not say or write today, sometimes because my view has changed on the issue and sometimes just because I was too much of a crusader, too judgmental and condemning. 

What’s interesting is that at the time, I was convinced that I was righteous and “speaking truth” and therefore justified behaving as I did, and that anyone who didn’t like it just “couldn’t handle the truth.”

According to Powers, she had felt sure that she was right, and that everyone else was wrong. More to the point, she had been entirely sure that The Others were simply bad people.

From 2007 to 2016, Powers appeared on Fox News as an outspoken liberal commentator. In 2016, she moved to CNN, where she can still be seen. 

In September of this year, Powers published a book, Saving Grace, in which she discusses her views on "our increasingly toxic public square" in much greater detail. 

In our view, she still hasn't thoroughly sorted out her views on these matters. After reading the book, it seems to us that her views on these matters are still substantially jumbled.

That said, we think her regrets about her own role in this maelstrom provide a good model for others.

"I was too much of a crusader, too judgmental and condemning." Powers wrote in that column. Her book supplies much more detail.

In the column from which we're quoting, Powers also said this:

POWERS: When I took to Twitter Monday to apologize for my lack of grace in the public square, many people expressed concern that I would stop speaking with moral clarity on important issues. This is not my goal. I will continue to stand on the side of equality and justice, but also mercy and grace. My goal is to speak in a way that remembers the humanity of everyone involved.

...[That] includes Trump supporters whom I, in an attempt to raise awareness of the issue of white privilege, not too long ago regrettably characterized as uniformly racist for voting for him. Not exactly a conversation starter.

Are Trump supporters "uniformly racist?" They are if you read a lot of the work our own angry tribe presents. According to many of our own tribe's "thought leaders," Those People Are All Just Alike.

For the record, much of our tribe's mandated work is also factually bogus. Our tribunes play those games all day, even Over Here.

In her column, then in her book, Powers has apologized for many things she said and did down through the years. We've been sorry to learn about the amount of turmoil she has experienced during her years in the cable news wars, but ugly, deeply stupidified discourse takes a toll on us all.

We assume that Bette Midler is a good, decent person. By way of contrast, her recent tweet was the deeply unhelpful product of a long, ongoing war.

Tomorrow, we're going to ask you to think about the ways we may get misled Over Here. In the process, we'll suggest the possibility of rethinking Kyle Rittenhouse—who's just 18, after all.

Beyond that, we'll ask you to think about the late Joseph Rosenbaum, the first person Rittenhouse shot and killed in Kenosha that night. Rosenbaum, a human being, was also a mentally ill, presumably dangerous person who was chasing Rittenhouse through the streets, having earlier threatened to kill him.

(One was lugging a fire extinguisher. Do we know which one that was?)

Two nights ago, we saw Professor Cobb seem to say that Rittenhouse had been chasing Rosenbaum through the streets that night. In such ways, the people we're inclined to trust may be inclined to mislead us, perhaps in the unthinking, reflexive ways Powers has discussed.

Our tribes are invested in churning out demons. Such conduct is bogus, unhelpful. It's the stuff of an onrushing war, an onrushing war which decent people are perhaps unlikely to win.

Tomorrow: There but for fortune! Rosenbaum, Rittenhouse, Trump

What President Biden has wisely said!


Solon cites Trump and O'Reilly: In our view, Joe Biden made an excellent, very wise statement yesterday afternoon.

As recorded by the White House, the statement in question was this:

BIDEN (12/21/21): Folks, the booster shots are free and widely available.  Over 60 million Americans, including 62 percent of eligible seniors, our most vulnerable group, have gotten their booster shots.

I got my booster shot as soon as they were available.  And just the other day, former President Trump announced he had gotten his booster shot.  It may be one of the few things he and I agree on.

People with booster shots are highly protected.  Join them.  Join us.  It’s been six months or more since my second shot.  If it’s been six months or more for your second shot—when I got my booster—you can get yours today if you’ve been six months or more since your second shot. 

He even referred to Trump by name! We think it was smart to do that.

Meanwhile, did Donald J. Trump really say that he has gotten his booster? Yes, as a matter of fact, he did—and so did Bill O'Reilly.

The gents staged a public event in Dallas last weekend. At one point, the titans said this:

O'REILLY (12/19/21): Both the president and I are vaxxed. And did you get the booster?


O'RELLY: I got it too.

This came at the end of a longer exchange in which Trump seemed to be endorsing vaccination against Covid-19. We think that Biden showed very good judgment by citing this public statement.

Do we want the "scum" to get vaccinated, as we often allege? If so, the fact that Trump made this public statement seems like a potentially useful tool. We're glad that Trump said this.

Tribal loathing will produce the inevitable result, of course. Tribal warriors will snarkily stress the minor pushback against vaccination which came from the crowd in Dallas. In our view, Biden showed much better sense by citing Trump's endorsement of vaccination, including the need for boosters.

Tribal loathing—and our lizard brains—will tell us not to cite this thing that Donald J. Trump has now said. We hope Biden cites Trump's statement day after day—or would we rather "have the issue" than increase vaccination rates?

Tribal loathing has sometimes led our tribe to abandon useful material. Do you remember when Lindsey Graham—choking up in the back seat of a car—said that Joe Biden, then the vice president, was "as good a man as God ever created?" 

Graham said that in June 2015, and he said it on videotape. Here's a fuller excerpt:

GRAHAM: The bottom line is, if you can't admire Joe Biden as a person, then it's probably—you've got a problem. You need to do some self-evaluation, because what's not to like?....He's the nicest person I think I've ever met in politics. 

INTERVIEWER: Is that right?

GRAHAM: He is as good a man as God ever created. 

Years later, Graham flipped on that, as on virtually everything else. In the meantime, we were amazed by how little use the liberal world was inclined to make of that plainly heartfelt piece of videotape.

As of today, Donald J. Trump has endorsed vaccination. He even said that he got his booster—and so did Mr. O!

We think President Biden showed excellent sense by highlighting the fact that Trump said that. Decent people will turn off the loathing, and the peddling of frameworks, at least every once in a while.

Donald J. Trump got all his shots. He even got his booster!

In our view, The Others—the "scum"—should be given the chance to hear that. 

CNN offers more detail: CNN has offered more detail about this magic moment:

VAZQUEZ AND CARVAJAL (12/22/21): During Tuesday's speech, Biden also praised the Trump administration for its efforts to develop a Covid-19 vaccine before he took office.

"Let me be clear. Thanks to the prior administration and our scientific community, America was one of the first countries to get the vaccine," Biden said. "Thanks to my administration and the hard work of Americans, we led a roll-out, made America among the world leaders in getting shots in arms."

Trump told Fox News later on Tuesday that he appreciated Biden's comments.

"I was surprised to hear it," Trump said. "I think it was a terrific thing, and I think it makes a lot of people happy."

The 45th President said he hoped Biden's comments will "help a lot" in bridging political divides in the country.

"Hold back, men of Ithaka, from the weariness of fighting..." We believe sacred Homer first said that!

FURY V. FORGIVENESS: Should people be furious with the "scum?"


How about with Romney and Thune?: Mitt Romney is a Republican senator from Utah.

He opposes the Build Back Better bill. Have you ever seen anyone ask him why?

How about Senator Collins (R-Maine) or Senator Murkowski (R-Alaska)? They oppose Build Back Better too. Has anyone asked them why?

How about Senator Thune (R-South Dakota), a "nice guy" Republican, the second highest-ranking member of the GOP Senate leadership.

In this morning's New York Times, a profile of Thune suggests that he may retire next year, at the age of 60, in part because of fatigue with Trump-era politics. 

"[Mr. Trump] lashed out at Mr. Thune early this year when the senator rejected his attempts to overturn the election," the Times notes at one point.

In that sense, Senator Thune is a "nice guy" Republican—but he flatly opposes Build Back Better too. Has anyone ever asked Senator Thune why he opposes the bill? Have you ever heard anyone say how angry they are with him?

In fact, over half the United States Senate opposes Build Back Better, at least as the bill currently stands. (Is Senator Sinema now on board? Have you seen any discussion of this point?)

More than half the Senate opposes Build Back Better! But the anger, indeed the fury, is all directed at Manchin. Depending on the way you teach it, this may or may not make sense. 

This may or may not make good sense. (As with most things, it probably doesn't.) All in all, we're trying to sketch a basic point—a basic point about anger.

Does it make sense to be angry at Manchin about his current stance? While we're at it—see yesterday's report—does it make sense to be "furious" at the "scum" who still aren't getting vaccinated?

Charles Blow didn't use the term "scum" when he declared that he was now expressly "furious" at all such people. For ourselves, we thought he may have been a bit slippery at one point, or possibly even slick, in identifying who those people are, the people concerning whom he is now proudly "intolerant."

We thought he may have been a bit slick. At any rate, does it make sense to be furious at those people? Does it make sense to be intolerant?

Getting back to Build Back Better, does it make sense to be furious with Manchin? Does it make sense to be furious with him while no one says the first freaking word about the fifty (50) other senators who flatly oppose the bill, with no hope of breakthrough concessions?

Does it make sense to be so angry about Manchin's stance on this bill? For today, we're going to quote at length from Kevin Drum's latest post.

Drum makes a series of points about Build Back Better. We're not sure why he has chosen to speak in the past tense, since the bill may not be dead. At any rate, he starts with the sweep of the bill:

DRUM (12/21/21): I've made this point before, but I want to say it again to bang it into people's heads: BBB was wildly unprecedented. Nothing like it has ever been done in American history.

There were three things that made it so. First, depending on how you count, it created seven or eight big new programs in a single bill. Child care. Pre-K. Climate. Obamacare. Paid leave. Long-term care. Expanded, work-free child tax credit. Hearing and vision in Medicare.

In the past, any one of these would have been a major victory for liberals. The prospect of getting half a dozen of them in one go was breathtaking.

The sweep of the (original) bill was "breathtaking," Drum says. We can't speak to the perfect accuracy of every statement we're going to post, but we're willing to ask you if you actually know that any of Drum's assessments are wrong.

The sweep of the bill was breathtaking, Drum says. As he continues, he speaks to its very large cost:

DRUM (continuing directly): Second, it was expensive. The initial version of the bill probably would have cost more than $500 billion per year, though that number depends a lot on what assumptions you make. Even the cut-down final bill, using realistic assumptions instead of smoke and mirrors, probably would have come to $300 billion or so.

This amounts to 1-2% of GDP compared to less than 1% of GDP annually for FDR's New Deal during its first decade. So the plan was to pass a bill that was astonishing in scope and cost more than the New Deal.

The proposed bill was very expensive, Drum says. We can't speak to the perfect accuracy of those statements, and we can think of at least one quibble. But can you actually say that those statements are factually wrong?

The original bill was breathtaking in its scope. It was also very expensive. Now, Drum suggests that it was always a stretch to think that any such bill could have passed through the Senate. We'll place one of these claims in context:

DRUM (continuing directly): Third, this was to be done in a Senate with precisely 50 Democrats, not FDR's 60 in 1933 (soon to be 70 in 1935).

This was crazy! What on earth convinced liberals that they could pass something like this? And why did so many of them consider it a vast betrayal as it eventually got cut down to "only" three or four big programs? Even that would have represented the biggest boost to the liberal program in decades. It would have been cause for celebration no matter which programs eventually made the cut.

So why did it go down the way it did? This isn't really about taking sides in the endless and tedious portioning of blame between centrists and lefties. After all, the vast majority of both supported the full bill. In the end, just as political science and common sense suggests, it was brought down by the two or three most conservative Democrats in the Senate.

Under the circumstances, was it "crazy" to think that the original bill could have been passed by the Senate? Given the fact that the Democrats hold a 50-vote pseudo-majority, was it crazy to think that?

We don't know how to answer that question. Within the realm of professional politics, a competent White House would have proceeded based on indications from the more conservative Democratic senators. We don't have the slightest idea what those private communications may have been like at the start of this process, assuming they even existed.

That said, it can certainly seem like the Democratic leadership was taking a bit of flier in thinking it could pass the original bill: And by the way:

When FDR had those 60 senators, that was 60 votes out of a mere 96! Alaska and Hawaii didn't even exist at that time! There were only 48 states—and soon, he had 70 votes!

(On the other hand, the Senate didn't march in partisan lockstep to the same extent at that time.)

Were Democrats whistling past the graveyard when they advanced the original bill? We don't know how to assess that possibility—but we do agree with Drum's final point, if his one speculation makes sense:

DRUM: Long story short, we should all stop feeling like the world has collapsed around us—and drop all the circular firing squad crap while we're at it. Manchin says he's open to further talks in January, and I wouldn't be surprised if they finally produce a compromise of three or four fully funded programs along with enough offsetting tax hikes to make the bill more-or-less revenue neutral.

And if this happens? "Only" three or four programs? Then pop the champagne. No other president in recent memory has done anything like this. And by any reasonable standard, it would make Joe Manchin quite a liberal senator.

Will Manchin ever vote for anything? We have no way of knowing.

But how about Romney, Thune and Murkowski? How about Sasse and Susan Collins? 

How about Senator Shelley Moore Capito, the other senator from West Virginia? How about their votes against the bill? Why doesn't anyone ever say a word about them?

At least half the United States Senate is flatly opposed to this bill! That said, our fury is all being aimed at one person—at a person who, unlike The Untouchable 50, "also believes that the rich should pay higher taxes, the government should modestly expand social services, and Medicare should impose price controls on prescription drugs."

No one is asking a single question about the fifty senators who stand in flat opposition. In part, this is because of the mountains of bullshit which get shoveled at us in the liberal world each night by our "cable news" stars.

We live in a world of Storyline, and also of "corporate capture." The children feed us neatly sculpted tales. As with the "scum" when they watch Fox News, we tend to believe every word.

We live in a world of (profit-driven) corporate capture. We also live in a world of anger—a world of anger and fury. 

We live in a world of anger and fury, but also of limited judgment. Our favorite stars play us every night. Their thumbs are all over the scales.

We loathe the "scum" who get played on Fox. We're unable to see how this syndrome works with ourselves and our own cable stars.

Tomorrow: That column from 2019

Friday: There but for fortune (two cases)

Has Manchin's "no" turned into a "maybe?"


Also, star's clowning disappears: Has Manchin's "no" turned into a "maybe?" 

That seems to be Kevin Drum's assessment. For ourselves, we have no real idea.

It all depends on whether Manchin is negotiating in good faith. We don't know if he actually is—and there's no way for us to find out.

Meanwhile, should Biden "take Manchin's deal right now?"

That is Jonathan Chait's advice. For ourselves, we would quickly agree—if there actually is a Manchin deal, and if it's actually being offered in good faith.

The way this thing has dragged on and on has turned into a bit of a clown show. Here's the truest thing anyone said during this long ordeal:

I don't fault any of them who are much more progressive or more liberal. God bless 'em! And all we have to do, for them to get theirs—elect more liberals!

That was Manchin, saying what liberals and progressives need to do to get certain types of bills passed. 

His statement makes achingly perfect sense. Yesterday, though, we showed you the punishing logic of Senate math. Under current arrangements, it's very hard to elect a liberal / progressive Senate.

Indeed, it's hard to elect a Democratic Senate. The system tilts against that.

We hope that Manchin's deal exists. If it does, we hope it gets passed.

Meanwhile, we wanted to show you what Rachel Maddow said and did in last Wednesday night's opening segment. At MSNBC, the results are in, and this is what has happened:

As of last Friday, the slacker channel had only posted transcripts up through last Monday night. For that reason, the transcript of last Wednesday's program wasn't available yet.

Yesterday, the slacker channel finally added more transcripts—but good God! They posted transcripts for last Friday night's programs, but they passed over—completely skipped—Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights!

It looks like transcripts for those nights won't be appearing. There goes the chance to discuss the appalling thirteen minutes of clowning (and sloppy though crowd-pleasing misstatement) with which Rachel opened her show.

First, Maddow's site didn't post the video of that appalling segment. Now, there's going to be no transcript! Our assessment would be this:

Rachel is a very good person with extremely bad judgment and extremely bad instincts. Down through the years, she has turned into a stone-cold clown. She's extremely good at "selling the car," but she's stunningly self-indulgent.

Our tribe is completely unable to see this. In this way, we're a lot like The Others are with their favorite stars at Fox.

Our further analysis: Our further analysis would turn on the famous phrase from Conrad: "the fascination of the abomination."

It seems to us that Rachel is gripped in a certain way by that fascination. We may explain that some day.

For now, just go to the site and look:

At the One True Liberal Channel, three solid days of missing transcripts! Star's clowning disappears!

FURY V. FORGIVENESS: Charles Blow says he's (proudly) furious!


It's perfectly understandable: Last night, the fury continued on cable. We refer to the fury aimed at the widely reviled Senator Manchin and at nobody else. 

During the 10 o'clock hour, Lawrence did something very unusual. He joined former senator Bob Kerrey in expanding the possible field of play for those expressing their anger.

No, Virginia! Senator Manchin hasn't made himself into a "one-man" firewall blocking Build Back Better. Fifty other United States senators are flatly opposed to the bill, including senators with names like Romney, Murkowski, Collins and Sasse, but also with names like these:

Blunt, Burr, Cassidy, Cornyn, Ernst, Fischer, Lankford and Portman! 

What about names like Toomey, Thune, (Tim) Scott? Why don't those names get mentioned? What shields them from the fury, the anger?

Fellow citizens, can we talk? Each of those fifty Others could become the 50th vote passing Build Back Better! 

At present, Build Back Better is bottled up because it's opposed by (at least) 51 United States senators. Believe it or croak, more than half the United States Senate opposes Biden's bill!

Senator Murkowski is a "one person" firewall; so is Senator Romney. But their names are almost never mentioned as the anger rolls. 

The fury is aimed at Senator Manchin. He's the one-man band defeating the bill, according to the current prevailing framework / Storyline.

As the enjoyable fury spreads, The Others go unmentioned. Democrats restrict themselves to attacking one of their own.

Last night, Rep. Jayapal came on TV and Rachel enabled her passive / aggressive approaches. In turn, Lawrence enabled Rachel before he and Kerrey expanded the scope of the discussion.

(Kerrey, once a major Democratic governor / senator, effusively praised Manchin's overall work in the Senate.)

Should people be angry with Senator Manchin? It's pretty much as you like it.

Anger is a familiar human reaction. According to Psychology Today, it's "one of the basic human emotions, as elemental as happiness, sadness, anxiety, or disgust." 

In a wide range of circumstances, anger may even save lives. That said, anger can also appear in situations where it isn't especially helpful. 

This brings us the letters in yesterday's New York Times. Those letters referred to a recent column by Charles Blow.

For starters, let's say this—the recent column by Blow is fully understandable. Yesterday, under a slightly softened headline, the Times published seven (7) letters about it.

All seven writers hailed Blow for his wisdom and his insight. Blow's column had carried this headline:

I’m Furious at the Unvaccinated

The column wasn't about Joe Manchin. It wasn't about Build Back Better. The column was about the pandemic, and about those who still refuse the vaccines. 

Blow didn't say that he was angry at such people. In his headline, but also in his column, he said that he was "furious."

(It's our understanding that regular columnists in the Times compose their own headlines.)

Charles Blow is often furious, as New York Times readers will know. That doesn't mean that his column was "wrong" in some obvious way, or that the fury he expressed wasn't perfectly understandable. 

Blow's anger is understandable. After saying that one of his friends is still avoiding vaccination, he offered his overview:

BLOW (12/8/21): I am angry, not just with my friend but with all the people who are choosing not to get vaccinated.

There was a point, earlier on in the pandemic, when vaccines were still scarce, when I tried to be tolerant with the holdouts, tried not to shame them, tried not to be angry with them, tried to allow them time to educate themselves about the benefits of getting vaccinated.

But that time has long since passed for me. Call me one of the intolerant. That’s what I am. I will not coddle willful ignorance anymore. I will not indulge the fool’s errand of “I’m still doing my own research” anymore, either.

Earlier in the pandemic, Blow had "tried to be tolerant." As it turns out, those days are now long gone:

BLOW: I have heard all the reasons for resistance. There are the people who have politicized the virus and see getting vaccinated through a partisan lens. There are the people who view government pressure, and especially mandates, to put something in your body as overreach and anathema to the American ideal of independence and freedom. There are people who don’t trust the government, sometimes with good reason.

I have heard it all. And I reject it all.

There are just too many fresh graves pocking the land to entertain these objections. And too many lives disrupted, as people grieve lost loved ones, alter their employment, and keep their children home from school.


So yes, I am furious at the unvaccinated, and I am not ashamed of disclosing that. I am no longer trying to understand them or educate them. Barriers to access have fallen. The only reason for remaining unvaccinated that I now accept is from people who have medical conditions that prevent it.

All others have a choice to either be part of the solution or part of the problem. The unvaccinated are choosing to be part of the problem.

That's the way his column ended. He's not just furious at The Others, he is proudly so. 

He's "no longer trying to understand." He's now expressly "intolerant."

Anger is a normal human emotion. It's built into the human system, the system we all allegedly share.

Sometimes, an angry reaction will actually save a person's life. But anger isn't always helpful. For that matter, neither is fury.

That said, seven letters appeared in yesterday's Times. "Bravo, Mr. Blow," one of the letters said. 

As it turned out, all seven letter writers are furious at the unvaccinated too. As we noted on Saturday, the second caller to C-Span's Washington Journal that day described these Others as "scum."

We're not sure that anger like this is helpful. Similarly, we're not sure that the anger being aimed at the Senate's alleged "one-man band" is especially helpful either.

Tomorrow, we'll look at a column from 2019 suggesting that we might try, a bit more often, to "beat back our great anger." Might a different approach to such matters perhaps produce better results?

Should we "try a little tenderness?" Might that produce better outcomes for our flailing political tribe? 

Warning! In the end, which may be approaching fast, there will be no way to be sure.

Tomorrow: Recommending a little tenderness back in 2019

The Democrats' uphill climb in the Senate!


A rough account of a difficult task: Under current arrangements, how hard is it for Democrats to win a majority in the Senate?

Judging from appearances, it's hard! Consider the results of the last two presidential elections.

In 2020, Candidate Biden defeated Candidate Trump by roughly 7.1 million votes—by roughly 4.4% of the total vote. 

That said, Biden won only 25 states. Using that election as a (very rough) model, Democratic victories of that fairly decent magnitude would tend to produce a 50-50 Senate instead of some sort of Democratic majority.

The climb looks even more uphill based on 2016. In that election, Candidate Clinton defeated Candidate Trump by roughly 2.9 million votes—by roughly 2.1% of the total vote.

Candidate Clinton won the national vote—but she won only 20 states! Using that election as a very rough model, Democratic wins of that magnitude would tend to produce a 60-40 Republican Senate!

This is a very crude way of quantifying this problem. That said, everyone knows how this unfortunate sinkhole works:

The smaller states get two senators each, just as the larger states do. But at the present time, the smaller states tend to tilt conservative. 

This creates a situation in which it's hard for Democrats to assemble a serious Senate majority, even as the party keeps winning the nationwide vote in Senate and White House voting.

Biden has only 50 senators—and one of them hails from bright red West Virginia! For the past year, our daydreaming tribe has preferred to whistle past the graveyard which has been built at the foot of this uphill climb!

The last Republican victor: The last Republican to win the nationwide popular vote was George W. Bush, and he did so only once. In 2004, he defeated Candidate Kerry by roughly 3.0 million votes—by roughly 2.4% of the total vote.

That was a fairly modest win—but Bush won 31 states that year! With respect to so-called "Senate math," you can take it from there.

For the record, Bush won 30 states in November 2000, when he narrowly lost the popular vote to Candidate Gore. This has been a short, extremely rough account of a difficult Senate climb.

STARTING TOMORROW: Fury versus forgiveness!


A tale of two dueling columns: This morning, it's Kim Potter who we want to lock up.

No one alleges that she intended to shoot Daunte Wright. The prosecutors want 25 years all the same.

A few weeks back, it was the teenager, the one who lives "across state lines" from nearby Kenosha. Having been forced to drop his fire extinguisher, he'd shot and killed a mentally ill man who was chasing him through the streets, having threatened to kill him.

From there, we moved on to the 15-year-old in Michigan, but also to his parents. We're hoping to lock all three of them up. Can we possibly charge the high school counselor too? 

Increasingly, more and more, this is the way we function. We've been drifting in this direction for years. Along the way, a lot of disappeared information helps keep our anger on track.

Also this morning, it's Joe Manchin who is the focus of our tribe's righteous anger. It isn't clear that this makes perfect sense, in part because he represents (massively pro-Trump) West Virginia, but also because of this:

COCHRANE AND EDMONDSON (12/20/21): Mr. Manchin outlined the conditions for his vote in a July 28 memo signed with Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, which became public in late September, saying that [the Build Back Better bill] must be fully paid for and that any revenue over $1.5 trillion must go toward lowering the federal budget deficit. That memo also included limits on who could benefit from new programs and a ban on repealing fossil-fuel tax credits—and a warning that his vote would not be guaranteed if his conditions were exceeded.

However, Mr. Manchin has largely focused his attention on what he does not want in the package and has been vague about what programs and policies he might support.

In recent weeks, he has continued to insist that the bill shrink, and that it refrain from short-term budget gimmicks, which would most likely require lawmakers to fund fewer programs over the long term.

So it says, though only as a reminder, in today's New York Times. You can see the detailed memo here—but it was duly delivered, and jointly signed, way back in July.

That formal memo constituted a fair amount of notice. With respect to those "short-term budget gimmicks," yes, they're very much there, though you may have not heard a lot about them at our favorite liberal sites, or from our tribe's cable news stars.

Despite these facts, Manchin is being widely name-called today—except by AOC. For our money, the tweet she offered makes more sense than some others do:

OCASIO-CORTEZ (12/19/21): People can be mad at Manchin all they want, but we knew he would do this months ago.

Where we need answers from are the leaders who promised a path on BBB if [the infrastructure bill] passed: Biden & Dem leaders. They chose to move [the infrastructure bill] alone instead of w/ BBB, not Manchin.

So they need to fix it.

In fairness, no one "knew" that Manchin was going to do this, but there were plenty of reasons to think so. If people feel the need to be mad at someone today, we think AOC's suggestion may be worth considering.  

(In the larger sense, it does seem that someone misjudged this whole shebang from the start. Sometimes that can happen.)

By the way:

Why are we name-calling Manchin alone, when 50 other senators—including the other senator from his state—have opposed every part of this thing every step of the way? That includes the less reliable Republicans who sometimes vote with the Democrats. Why aren't we yelling at them?

Given the unfortunate way our electoral system works, it's increasingly hard for Democrats to assemble an actual Senate majority. That isn't anybody's fault, but along the winding road to this day, have we possibly chosen to keep ignoring that fact?

Have we perhaps been living in a bit of a fantasyland? If so, why aren't we mad at ourselves?

A lot of anger has been floating around; we'd call it free-floating fury.  As our system comes apart at the seams, it's understandable that this anger exists, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it's helpful or right.

This week, we want to suggest that we within our struggling tribe should take a look at our anger. Should we really want to lock everyone up? Should we loathe so many Others?

Tomorrow, we'll start with a pair of columns. One of them appeared last week; one appeared a few years back. 

Earlier this month, Charles Blow said he was "infuriated," as he frequently is. Back in 2019, Kirsten Powers suggested that our fury might not be helpful.

Blow spoke in favor of fury; Powers spoke for forgiveness. We'll also speak in favor of pity this week.

That includes pity for the apparently dangerous man who threatened to kill Kyle Rittenhouse, then chased him through the streets. Joining the ghost of Christmas past, we'll show you the history of his childhood. We'll show you how his very substantial difficulties seem to have gotten their start.

There but for fortune, we may even say! Along the way, we'll show you some of the actual facts, about various issues, which were talked about on Fox more than on our own channels.

Under current arrangements, information is frequently withheld from our tribe too. Whichever side of the current divide you may be on, it's happening every day of the week. This tends to make all of us angrier, and perhaps less helpful and wise.

Tomorrow: Fury v. regrets