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


  1. If the answer to each of Somerby's questions about Butler's account of Potter's beliefs and actions is "technically, yes" then what is he complaining about?

  2. "but Potter testified that it was the rookie officer, Anthony Luckey, who made that decision"

    As the official Training Officer, Potter is in charge of what happened, not the rookie. She is responsible and that is why she, not the rookie, was charged. Also, she is the one who shot Wright (with a gun, not a taser). Somerby's attempt to shift blame to the rookie is noted.

  3. "but "returned to the car" was quite strange"

    Butler is deliberately trying to describe what happened WITHOUT putting his thumb on the scales. It is Somerby who wants to say that Wright was trying to flee, something he does not know because he cannot mindread Wright any more than Butler can. So Butler describe Wright's observable actions, not his motives. That is the right way to be objective. Somerby's approach is not.

    Somerby starts his essay by complaining about liberal frameworks. But then he wants to impose his own, conservative framework instead. The choice cannot be between liberal and conservative when discussing journalism. It must be between objective and subjective descriptions. Butler has done that with this phrasing, yet Somerby calls it "strange".

  4. "...as a terrible year nears its end..."

    What, dear Bob? 'A terrible year'? Your liberal-hitlerian cult seized, snatched from the Others, control of the most powerful country on Earth. This has gotta be the best year for you in a decade.

    ...otherwise, as always, thank you for documenting this minor portion of the recent liberal atrocities...

    1. Mai, out of curiosity, just how did this "liberal-hitlerian cult" "seize[], snatch[]" control over the most powerful country on Earth (presumably the USA)? Which individuals carried this out? What are their names? How did they do it? What steps did they take? To me, such a broad charge needs evidence for it to be credited. What is the evidence?

  5. "That said, Butler doesn't seem to be concerned about what happened to Potter."

    Potter is not the victim in this situation. She is the person who killed an unarmed man in the context of a bogus traffic stop. Why should Butler be concerned about her? Further, Butler is talking about long-term implications for many people, so why should he be concerned about the single individual on trial in this specific case -- he is talking explicitly about precedents for future cases.

    Somerby misunderstands Butler's purposes because Somerby's agenda is to defend Potter for shooting Wright, a black man. Somerby claims this was a disastrous mistake, solely because Potter claimed it was a mistake, buying her story fully and not considering other sides of this case. That makes Somerby biased because he interprets every fact in the light of Potter's defense, not objectively.

    Tasers are designed to be readily distinguishable from guns. They are worn on the opposite side of the belt and they don't look or feel like guns. Wright simply went back to his car -- he didn't do anything menacing to cause Potter to fear for her life. If Potter were nevertheless so afraid that she mistakenly grabbed her gun and shot Wright (without pause to notice her error) that is another form of racial bias (racism), especially given that the warrant was for failure to appear at a hearing (Somerby puts a thumb on the scale by calling it something else). Wright's public defender said neither he nor Wright had been informed of the hearing and warrant issued.

    Somerby displays no concern that giving cops the freedom to shoot people and later get off by calling it accidental might lead to more unjustified shootings (like Wright's killing). Somerby only wants to defend a white woman who needlessly and wrongly killed an unarmed black man.

    My framework leads me to think that this is an extension of the belief by white people that they should be able to make such disastrous mistakes (taking another person's life) without consequences. That is a form of entitlement, since a black person who makes such a disastrous mistake is going to be locked up faster than Somerby can blink -- and I have never seen Somerby defend any mistake made by any black person, from George Floyd to Michael Brown, who made very minor mistakes (if any, in Floyd's case) and died for it.

    No one wants Potter to die for her mistake. We want her to be convicted so that the next white cop who reaches for a gun instead of a taser will be more cautious during their traffic stops for minor infractions.

    And I really do not understand why Somerby cannot recognize the hugely disproportionate nature of Potter's response to Wright's circumstances. Until Somerby recognizes that black people get killed for doing what white people do without peril, there can be no reasonable discussion of these topics. Somerby needs to question his own "framework" before he whines about Butler's.

    1. Pulling someone over for expired tags was not “bogus” , if you are driving with expired tags it’s likely to eventually happen. Nor was the warrant out on the suspect false or minor.

    2. He was first pulled over for the air freshener, then the expired tag and warrant were discovered. That is according to police statements. Somerby pretends that the police pulled him over because of the problems subsequently discovered. The air freshener was explicitly excluded as a reason to stop drivers, but the news hadn't apparently reached Potter and her rookie. So, there is motive for police and their defenders to shift the reason for the stop to something permissible according to police rules.

      The warrant was for a zoom hearing. Wright's attorney stated that neither Wright nor he himself had been notified of the hearing, which is why they missed it. The charge was not likely to be prosecuted because the witness herself claimed that Wright might not have been the person she thought had a gun. It wasn't minor but it also was probably not going to stick. In any case, there is no evidence that Wright knew about the warrant before Potter tried to arrest him, which may have contributed to his panic (if he was indeed trying to run away). There are other ways to look at the facts of this case than the ones Somerby has presented here previously. He omitted many details that would tend to exonerate Wright.

      In my experience, people with expired tags get a ticket left on their windshield while their car is parked somewhere. Or if they have other problems, such as unpaid tickets, their car gets towed. No one gets shot for it. That's why Potter's use of her gun/taser was reckless.

    3. Greg, pulling over someone for expired tags is bogus, and cities are starting to pass ordinances preventing cops from doing so.

  6. A truck driver was convicted and sentenced to 140 years in jail for a disastrous accident on I-70 approaching Denver, when his brakes failed and created a huge crash that killed 14 people. The truck driver happened to be Mexican, driving for a Mexican business. He wasn't drunk, on drugs or negligent in his own driving.

    This disproportionate sentence resulted in an international uproar and protest, including by people in Denver CO, because the punishment seemed unjust given the truck driver's contribution to the accident -- it is hard to see what he could have done differently (unlike in Potter's case).

    Today, Governor Polis commuted the sentence to 10 years, a more fair sentence for 14 counts of manslaughter. No one in this case wanted to be so hard on the truck driver, but the sentencing was mandatory.

    That is an example of an actual disastrous accident, not what Potter did. It was corrected by the governor because it was unjust. It was protested by everyone because it was unjust. That is not happening in the Potter case, where those who are harassed by cops because they are black and fear death during every interaction with cops because of these too-frequent accidents (which are justified as valid by cops), because Potter had other choices and should have behaved differently (unlike the truck driver, who had no choice after his brakes failed). Potter was reckless. (I posted the definition of reckless yesterday and explained how it fits her situation).

    If something like Potter's mistake is possible regardless of her experience and the victim's behavior, then cops clearly cannot be trusted to carry both a taser and a gun and police procedure needs to change. Somerby has not argued this. Potter's mistake is individual but for some reason Somerby considers it not culpable. So, we have to ask, why does Soemrby think Potter should be excused? He has given us no reasons for that.

    1. Why do you think it’s justice that this trucker would go to jail because people were killed when his brakes failed?

    2. I'm not aware of all the details, and don't want to spend the time looking them up, but I'm pretty sure that the conviction was not based only on the fact that his brakes failed, leading to the tragedy. I'm sure there was some type of negligence on his part that was involved. If someone is driving, and their brakes fail without advance warning, and someone gets killed, that's not a crime (or even a civil tort).

    3. Apparently he was convicted because he failed to use a runaway truck ramp when his brakes failed. Instead he plowed into stopped cars under an underpass and killed 6 people, causing a 28-car pileup. It was his first time driving that route.

      His sentence was commuted because the governor said there were many people in jail who had deliberately committed heinous crimes and gotten similar sentences, so his was inappropriately harsh compared to them.

    4. I assumed that if it is true that this man was convicted that there was more to the story.

      The only way the anonymouse could find this germane to Potter’s fate is if his point is “See! The law is so strict it…” that’s why I asked how such a situation would be just or “more fair” in his book.

    5. Somerby has argued that it is wrong to convict Potter because the shooting was a horrible accident. The example of the truck driver and his unjust sentence was presented as an example of a true accident with an unjust sentence and a distinction was drawn between the truck driver's accident and Potter's where her own actions led to the wrongful death.

      Somerby was arguing that the degree of responsibility for the outcome should mitigate the crime. Others here were arguing that she was more responsible for her actions than Somerby wished to acknowledge, using the truck driver as an example of someone less responsible than Potter, receiving a much longer sentence (140 years), which many people felt really was unjust, as Potter's conviction was not.

      Somerby says he thinks crimes should be forgiven and he says he never wants to see people locked up. In that case, the specifics of either case are irrelevant. Presumably even Ted Bundy would receive forgiveness and grace, since Somerby states no criteria for either. But the glaring absence of any defense of people who become liberal causes suggests that Somerby is highly selective when it comes to arguing that people be forgiven. So far, he has very rarely if ever argued that anyone liberal consider unjustly accused be forgiven. Going back decades, they have all been conservative martyrs, even Chris Christie's Bridgegate minions (now working for Trump). Somerby's failure to defend anyone a liberal might care about suggests that he doesn't really want to see everyone forgiven -- just conservatives.

      Look for him to tell us Matt Gaetz didn't do anything wrong -- as soon as he is charged. For Somerby, crimes against women are the most illusory of all.

    6. Thus my question. . In the scenario offered up, how could even a mitigated sentence be “more fair” and also be an example of a…(here we go..)..,truly… unfair case that made Potter’s sentence look reasonable in comparison?

      There’s more to it, I’d wager, that might be more premeditated as to negligence than fits with Potter’s actions, and so does our resident attorney.

      Yours is quite bluster over a man arguing that manslaughter was too severe a sentence against someone who happens to be a WOMAN …so he can set up a precedent for excusing Matt Gatz.

      Lord, help anonymices.

      You’re the only one who can.

    7. And it doesn’t matter what political or social strata lived in those ticky tacky boxes

      Intellectual conformity to script is shoddy cheap thinking and not intellectual at all.

    8. "Yours is quite bluster over a man arguing that manslaughter was too severe a sentence against someone who happens to be a WOMAN …so he can set up a precedent for excusing Matt Gatz."

      That isn't anything close to what I said.

      Somerby is not defending Potter as a woman, but as a cop who shot a black man. He is defending authority and arguing for a lack of accountability when cops shoot black unarmed men, because Potter made a mistake and is probably sorry about it.

      I am saying that when a man attacks a woman, Somerby will defend the man. In Potter's situation, she did all the attacking. Somerby might have defended the man if he had been white instead of black and the cop still female. Who knows? But Somerby will defend Gaetz when he is charged.

      I don't say this because of anything in Potter's situation but because Somerby has spent several decades here defending white miscreant conservatives who have been accused of assaulting women. He even defended Trump against Stormy Daniels, pretending Trump was the victim of her grifting when it was Trump who sought her out and coerced an NDA from her. Her lawsuit was to vacate the NDA, not for money or assault. And Somerby defended Trump! Of course he will defend Gaetz.

      As to your questions about Potter's case vs the truck driver's case, I explained myself fully. The truck driver couldn't stop gravity once his brakes failed. Potter never had to reach for her taser or her gun in that situation, which began with a violation of rules and got worse because of her actions. She shot Wright on purpose. Her supposed mistake was that she reached for her gun instead of her taser, experienced police officer, Training Officer! that she was. She made a whole bunch of mistakes, one after another, culminating in the purposeful shooting of an unarmed man who had committed no crime that would justify such a response. If he did get in his car and run away, they knew where he lived and could go arrest him properly (by not shooting him to death). He was not a danger to anyone -- Potter was the danger. That's why Potter is going to jail. The point of comparing her to that truck driver is that she will not get 10 years, much less 140 years. The truck driver's case is what a tragic accident looks like. The Potter case is what racial bias looks like and she won't get sentenced to much time because she claims the shooting was "accidental" when it clearly was not. Only the use of a gun instead of a taser was accidental. Everything else she did was deliberate -- and it was wrong.

    9. Oh, the Gatz take is exactly what you’re concerned about as you noted in your post.

      Otherwise it wouldn’t be a matter of a grave character flaw for Somerby to take the less severe stance that he takes in this, which coincidentally is one he takes frequently in such matters, any more than it should be horrific when he feels that bad behavior is bad behavior even when done by someone who escaped being esignated as a managerial “Karen”.

      The Gatz take (emblematic) is IT.

    10. Why do you keep spelling his name wrong?

    11. E should never come after A.

      I don’t like that asthetic.

    12. You probably think it is funny to spell aesthetic wrong too. Ignorance isn't cute, it is sad.

    13. This is why Cecelia loves Somerby. He too derides expertise while making ingorant mistakes in the guise of criticizing the media. She no doubt finds him funny and thinks he is owning libs, since she doesn't trouble herself to think about anything serious.

      Or maybe she doesn't want her comments about Gaetz to be tracked via a google search after he is charged with his crimes. It would be embarrassing to have defended him then.

      Or maybe, like Somerby, she just doesn't give a fuck.

    14. Yes, dear anonymices, I’ am simultaneously a bumpkin and a Bond villain.

    15. Cecelia is the Joe Biden of the Right.

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

    No, spark of life journalism is not being direct toward Jones because he is the defendant, the perpetrator of a shooting, not the victim of the crime. If the NY Times described the life and hopes and dreams of the 14 year old girl who was shot, that would be spark of life journalism.

    Is Somerby really so cognitively impaired that he confuses the victim and the perpetrator of a crime? Or does he want to turn things around so that the cops are perceived as the victims instead of those who were wrongly killed?

    This is the phenomenon described yesterday, in which conservatives try to portray the bully as the victim, when there are complaints about the bully's behavior. No matter how nice a guy Jones was, he shot an unarmed 14 year old girl and SHE is the victim, not Jones, who must be held accountable for his actions, whether they are ultimately judged to be an accident or reckless, as Potter's actions were judged to be, by a jury which considered all of the facts.

    Reversing the roles so that the wrongdoer becomes the wronged is part of every defense Somerby offers for right-wing miscreants. Somerby considered Roy Moore to be the victim, not the girls he harassed and may have assaulted. Somerby considered Rittenhouse to be the victim (because of his tender age and innocent intentions with his fire extinguiser and AR-15, and how does one use both at the same time?), not the two unarmed men he killed and the third man he maimed because the man was trying to stop Rittenhouse from shooting more people. Somerby considered Brock Turner to be the victim, not the woman he was witnessed assaulting while she was unconscious. Somerby considered his life to be ruined because the woman he assaulted drank too much.

    This is the Republican tactic of making the wrongdoer appear to be the victim, in situations where they are clearly themselves committing crimes. Trump is no victim but he whines about everything. Is Somerby's excuse of these horrible people "spark of life" essay-writing? No, because they are not the victims. They are the ones being charged with doing horrible things. Being dead makes one a victim, not being accused of a crime that they actually committed. That is called accountability and justice.

    It remains to be seen whether a jury will consider Jones's actions criminal or not. The NY Times is far enough away from where the case will be tried, that perhaps their article won't affect that outcome. Vested interests, such as police public relations officers, tend to plant such articles in order to dampen public outrage over a wrongful death. Somerby today seems like the world's biggest sucker for his response to the article.

    1. He may not be charged with anything, pending a police investigation of what happened.

    2. It was a stray bullet. We'll see if he is prosecuted. What is likely is a lawsuit.

    3. No David, if this country were really racist, Wright would have been shot for a bogus traffic violation. Wait, that's what happened! Jones represents the power structure. If he were going about his life, such as shopping or playing in the park, he might be charged, but not while he represents authority as a member of the LAPD.

      What does that tell me? That the white supremacists missed a few -- but hey, nobody's perfect.

      Have you read any of the recent articles about the white supremacists embedded in police forces and the military nationwide? No? Why not?

    4. David,
      You really need your "economic anxiousness" looked at by a doctor, before it kills you.

  8. "For ourselves, we favor the deployment of forgiveness and grace wherever humanly possible."

    This isn't practical. For one thing, if a crime is deliberate, forgiving it encourages the criminal to continue in such bad behavior. If it is accidental but caused by bad police procedures, forgiveness prevents the examination of procedures to prevent future accidents. In terms of the person making such a mistake, some punishment often permits them to live with their own actions better than complete forgiveness. People who are good and kind do feel bad when they mistakenly harm others. Forgiveness by others doesn't always help them to forgive themselves.

    Forgiveness, according to Catholic doctrine, comes only after true contrition, remorse and restitution. Somerby never talks about those parts of the process, even though he can be presumed to have learned them via his experiences growing up Catholic.

    Somerby also mentions grace. In a religious or spiritual sense, it is:

    "It is understood by Christians to be a spontaneous gift from God to people – "generous, free and totally unexpected and undeserved" – that takes the form of divine favor, love, clemency, and a share in the divine life of God. It is an attribute of God that is most manifest in the salvation of sinners."

    But grace is something God gives to sinners. There is no requirement that people give it to each other. Indeed that would be usurping God's role, just as judgment is also God's. Secular justice is social in nature and has the purpose of regulating behavior to preserve harmony within communities. People are charged with crimes, tried and sentenced as a form of social control, because certain acts, deemed crimes, are disruptive of society and people's attempts to live with each other in peace. Interfering with that is not in society's interest -- and that is why Somerby's calls for forgiveness and grace, no matter what someone has done, are unworkable here on earth. I am not ready to believe that Somerby knows God's mind, much less is God, so his calls that we all let everyone go don't impress me much, especially since he only directs those calls toward conservative "martyrs" and men who have wronged women, not toward all wrongdoers, especially not black ones.

    But Somerby knows that liberals have bleeding hearts and empathy, so his calls for forgiveness and grace seem more like an attempt to shame liberals with their own hardness, to make his chosen "victims" seem more appealing to those on the left, who tend to feel that such wrongdoers should be tried and punished.

    We can fully expect that these same pleas for forgiveness and grace will be directed toward Trump and his accomplices, once he is charged with his crimes, which are manifest.

    1. Corby, which specific crimes did he commit that are "manifest?" I'm not saying there aren't any, but what statutory or common law crimes is he manifestly guilty of? What admissible evidence is there for each of these crimes can you cite? It's a fraught thing to prosecute a former president, and one who likely will be nominate to run for the position in the 2024 election, especially where the country is so divided (partly in my view by the dems off the rails approach on identity politics and many other things. I don't object to prosecuting him if there is very, very clear evidence for doing so, but there's a lot of danger in trying it. The way things are going, the dems may be in big trouble in 2022 and 2024. We should be careful about setting precedents.

    2. @AC/MA,
      what about a high official's son suddenly (as soon as his father gets a high government post) becoming a 'painter', selling his 'paintings' for $500k a piece to unidentified buyers?

      Does this sound like a manifest (or rather 'apparent'?) crime to you, worthy of investigation?

      This is a serious question.

      And if it doesn't sound like a crime, can we conclude that government corruption is perfectly legal?

    3. 1. Numerous FEC violations during campaign, including receipt of foreign contributions to his campaign.
      2. Corruption in soliciting and using inauguration funds from which he personally benefitted financially.
      3. Failure to divest in order to prevent conflict of interest, continuing to profit financially from government activities he controlled, such as through his DC Hotel and Scottish golf course, but many other examples.
      4. Appointment of incompetent firm run by cronies to repair electrical system in Puerto Rico, for his own financial gain.
      5. Collusion with Russia to win election and then to run government in a manner that continued to benefit Putin and his allies.
      6. Nepotism, from which his children benefitted financially from government activities. Example: Ivanka's patents granted by China to curry favor with Trump himself.
      7. Obstruction of justice by interference with Comey, then Mueller, as documented in Mueller report.
      8. Pressuring Ukraine to find dirt on Biden, by withholding funds owed to Ukraine. See impeachment.
      9. Appointment of cronies to positions of authority from which they personally benefitted. Failure to control graft and conflict of interest in cabinet and other appointees.
      10. Attempt to rig election by undermining postal service delivery of absentee ballots.
      11. Interference in vote counting by pressuring Sec of States in GA and other states, and election certification in states (personally and via Guiliani and others).
      12. Lying to the public about the seriousness of covid, leading to needless deaths.
      13. Deliberately attempting to infect Biden during the presidential debate by lying about his personal test results and failure to comply with precautions (himself and his entire entourage) such as wearing masks.
      14. Appointment of an incomeptent firm owned by a crony in Montana to repair electrical infrastructure in Puerto Rico after hurricane, for financial gain.
      15. Directing covid relief funds to his own golf course in Scotland for personal financial gain.
      16. Refusal to supply tax returns and respond to subpoenas (himself and staff) to evade accountability for how funds were used and who gained from his actions. (More obstruction of justice and Congress.)
      17. Plotted to stay in office following a valid election by encouraging his supporters to mount an insurrection involving breaking into the Capitol building while in session and physically attacking those defending the building and congress members. He is now obstructing the investigation of that act.
      18. Attempted use of the military and other government resources to achieve political goals and his personal aim of staying in office after losing an election. Use of FBI to investigate and pressure political enemies, ongoing throughout his term in office.
      19. Dereliction of duty by not stopping the rioting, not reading documents given to him in the course of his duties, not listening to intelligence briefings, not working a full work day but using his time to play video games and eat, use of federal funds to fly to Mar a Lago and his various golf courses (at government expense) in excess of any previous president's vacation and travel expenses. Failure to perform duties such as meeting with fallen military families, attending Kennedy Center honors, and anything else he didn't want to do that was part of his job.
      20. Temper tantrums and tirades against staff in the performance of their jobs, firing people via twitter, inclusion of women as personal staff because they were eye candy, discussing classified matters with phone friends such as Sean Hannity and business cronies, refusal to disclose his health status but instead using fake medical reports delivered by incompetent (compromised?) medical staff.
      21. Lying about everything to the American people. That becomes a crime when the lies have grave consequences and lead to deaths of hundreds of thousands.

    4. Continuation from above:

      There is much more, including specifics, but there is neither space nor time to dive into that. For example, Trump's staff and cronies sold pardons to people for cash during his final month in office.

      Proving this stuff is a work in progress, but the proof exists because Trump is too stupid and too overconfident to have covered his tracks. Much of this is in the public record. That conservatives deny it doesn't mean anything. Facts are facts.

      I doubt they will go after him for everything he has done, but it will be sufficient if they can just keep him from continuing his death grip on the Republican party, most of whom have been complicit in his grifting.

    5. Mao, in order for there to be bribery, there must be a quid pro quo. In the case of Biden (and Hillary too) there was no quo, no favor done for money, so the purchase of Hunter's pictures could not have been bribery.

      If you consider every success of the adult child of a president to be graft, then it would be impossible for the children of officials to earn a living. If Trump's associates had sold pardons but Trump never delivered, there would be no quo for the quid and Trump would be not guilty. However, his cronies who sold false pardons were be subject to prosecution for fraud.

    6. @4:08 PM "in order for there to be bribery, there must be a quid pro quo"

      Suppose a high-level official openly receives, from an unidentified person, a suitcase full of 100-dollar bills.

      Would that sound like a apparent crime worthy of investigation to you?

    7. Mao, nearly all organizations define the limits of gift acceptance for staff or officials. If they violate that, no bribery conviction is necessary. They will be dismissed for corruption simply because they accepted the gifts.

      This applies to the President of the US as well. In the days before Trump left office, people who met with him were photographed leaving the building with art treasures that are the property of the American people. That is a crime, in my opinion, since the president does not have the authority to give such things away.

      Gifts given to Trump, whether cash or goods, go into a repository of the government and do not remain the property of Trump himself. His various grifts were a way to evade such restrictions.

      As to your question, if the official were the Secretary of the Treasury and there were an official reason for his receipt of the cash (such as being prototypes of new bills or money to be officially destroyed or to be transferred for some legitimate purpose) then there would not automatically be a crime worthy of investigation.

      Trump signaled his intent to steal with his refusal to divest, as was required of previous presidents no matter how wealthy. Go look up what % of money contributed by Trump supporters actually went to stopping the steal, as opposed to going into Trumps pockets or being applied to his debts. Ask yourself why the RNC is paying his legal fees.

    8. @4:56 PM
      Sorry, we don't usually read long word-salads. A simple 'yes' or 'no' would do.

    9. If you don't want an answer, don't write the comment.

    10. There was never any collusion with Russia as the Mueller report and the Senate intelligence report repeatedly iterate.

    11. Mueller was a Republican but even so, the most he could say was that he wouldn't charge Trump. The evidence for his obstruction of justice and collusion was all there in the unredacted Mueller report. Mueller at least had the integrity to present the case, if not draw the conclusion (being Republican and all).

    12. How do you claim to know what is in an unredacted report??

    13. This part of the report was not redacted "the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities."

    14. Corby - I have to give you credit for coming up with so much ammunition (though largely blanks) in such a short time. Impressive, though not particularly convincing. For something to be a crime, it has to violate a statute or common law precedent, and the government has to be able to prove it. You haven't cited any statutes or precedents. A large part of your lengthy list is speculation, politically slanted, and opinion without citation of authority. It would take me hours to addres each of your point, and it isn't worth it. Examples of your doing this is inclusion on your list of: hiring women because they are eye candy, "lying about everything to the American people . . . causing hundreds of thousands of deaths" [presumably due to Covid - it's absurd to think he could be convicted on this theory). You are too carried away in your thinking loops to see that things aren't as simple as you think they are.

    15. Corby/mh is a total liar.

    16. Mao, I'm not deeply into the whole controversy with Hunter's new career as a highly paid artist, so I'm not really in a position to expound on it with substantial knowledge. I get the impression that "liberals" tend to ignore or downplay the whole thing, maybe being somewhat hypocritical, in that if it was, say Donald Trump Jr., they'd be all over it, and there may be something skeevy about or worse or just the way the world works; while it is apparently a major scandal from the "MAGA", or GOP point of view, though I think maybe even more hypocritical on their part given the incredible slack they are willing to give to Orange Man and his associates. Glad you asked.

    17. Something can exist as a crime without being proven to be one. For example, a murderer kills a string of people but makes it look accidental. Are those killings crimes? Of course they are.

      I don't have to personally prosecute Trump to hope that someone else will, and end his influence on our country. He hasn't been good for our nation.

    18. For the record, I am Corby and I am not mh. mh is a separate person. I am not all of the anonymous commenters either. I am sometimes one of them but there are other people commenting who I know are not me.

      Lumping us all together and then slandering us as a group seems kind of lazy to me.

    19. It isn't against the law to be a painter, no matter who your daddy is.

    20. @6:09 When I say unredacted I am referring to the report itself, not the version that Barr created. I am not referring to the one that conceals sensitive material from those without a need to know. But there has been a version that maintains those sorts of redactions but removes the politically motivated redactions that Barr added.

    21. If that unredacted version has evidence of collusion then show it.

    22. We don't care about your different 'points of view', dear AC/MA. It was a simple, straightforward question.

      Same goes, by the way, for former officials getting rich from giving 'speeches' to various companies and organizations, mostly financial. Or selling their 'books' to the abovementioned entities.

      And based on your non-answer, it sounds like you don't see any legal problem with it at all. You just view it as a subject for political point-scoring.

      So, in other words, government corruption is perfectly legal, nicht wahr?

    23. Connect the dots yourself.

    24. You seem to think that reality depends on who proves what. It doesn't. It exists separately from what I say and what you say. My claims are only bullshit if they are untrue. That truth exists separate from my statements and yours. It resides in what Trump did during his presidency. There are facts and they will be uncovered because motivated, intelligent people are working to discover the truth. When they do, Trump will get his. Meanwhile, you believe what you want, but realize that no one here is going to believe your big lies, just because you say them repeatedly. They will believe the facts, when they come out, as they will soon for the 1/6 insurrection and perhaps a bit later for Trump's fraud in New York. And that may be sufficient to stop him without having to prove that he stole from his own supporters repeatedly and plundered the USA like no one was watching.

    25. The claim that Trump "colluded with Russia to win election and then to run government in a manner that continued to benefit Putin and his allies" is untrue bullshit. Pointing that out is not a lie. Your claim is false bullshit. That's all. Man up about it girl.

    26. Again, read the Mueller report and note the numerous people convicted as the result of the evidence Mueller produced, including Paul Manafort.

    27. Anyone who isn't a bigot, or isn't completely okay with bigotry, left the Republican Party more than two decades ago.

    28. Trump attempted collusion with Russia in 2016 to win that election, but was denied that avenue in 2020, largely due to Covid, resulting in a historic loss.

      Trumps wants to do us progressives a favor and run in 2024, more power to him (if he is still alive).

      The games we played in Vietnam, Central and South America, and Iraq were, in a way, worse than being pals with Putin and grifting working Americans, at least in the short term.

      As democracy fades and our society crumbles into neo feudalism due to right wing values, even Trump may look quaint compared to the horrors the future likely holds, but probably not - he is pretty awful.

    29. ...on the second thought, dear AC/MA, that government corruption is perfectly legal is not really in doubt.

      Here's your own fair state: Howie Carr: Massachusetts hacks enjoy end-of-year shakedown bonanza.

      ...nevertheless, selling Family's 'abstract paintings' for $500K a piece is, of course, a significant innovation...

    30. Who did Howie Carr plagiarize today?

  9. The Others who stormed the Capitol on 1/6 are criminals and they deserve to be investigated, charged, tried and convicted if guilty, just like anyone else who commits a crime. When that happens, it isn't a matter of political targeting. It is a matter of preserving order.

    Why on earth should the misbehavior on the right be forgiven simply because they are The Other? With this, Somerby implies that liberals only want to lock people up because they are The Other, not because they are criminals. In that sense, he joins Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Goetz in calling the 1/6 insurgents political prisoners. That too is an attempt to convert them from wrongdoers into victims -- and they are not victims of anything but their own foolishness and Trump's perfidy. If they now feel they were misled by Dear Leader, that is no excuse for their actions, which were criminal no matter what they thought they were doing.

    1. Anonymices can gather up more straw men than a Wizard of Oz convention.

    2. I don't think you know what a strawman argument is.

    3. "A straw man (sometimes written as strawman) is a form of argument and an informal fallacy of having the impression of refuting an argument, whereas the real subject of the argument was not addressed or refuted, but instead replaced with a false one.[1] One who engages in this fallacy is said to be "attacking a straw man"." from Wikipedia

      Disagreeing with Somerby's argument, and explaining why, is not a straw man argument. A strawman consists of raising a different point than that addressed by Somerby and then refuting that.

      However, there is no rule that says that commenters must stick to Somerby's points or that says they cannot raise their own issues for discussion. If someone wants to discuss some other aspect of a situation, they are permitted to do that without it being a straw man, as long as they do not claim to have rebutted Somerby's point(s).

      For example, discussing the Little Boxes song doesn't refute any point Somerby might have made about liberals dissing working class people, unless Somerby is mistaken about the purpose of the song, which he was. The people saying other things about the song, such as that Madden didn't live in a Little Box, are not trying to refute Somerby necessarily, even though their suggestion does address Somerby's point that working class people lived there when Malvina Reynolds wrote her song.

      You don't seem to follow anyone's arguments well enough to identify a straw man, should one appear. You seem to think that it is a refutation to call people names, such as accusing them of building straw men when they are in fact addressing what Somerby said using facts that prove him mistaken in his claims.

      You don't belong here. In the first place, you rarely understand what Somerby saying. In the second place, you rarely say anything substantive about anything anyone has said. And thirdly, you degenerate into senseless nonsense when anyone tries to pin you down. Yet you think it is ok to name-call others here simply for being liberal.

      Go back to your own sandbox.

    4. I like this sandbox, so I’ll continue commenting when I want and you can continue pasting definitions from Wikipedia on straw man arguments and cognitive capture and doing ten paragraph concrete screeds on what ee cummings really..really…meant and then call THAT substantive argument.

      It’s all good.

    5. Yes, you stop attacking others here gratuitously and we will leave you alone in return.

      If you don't care about e.e. cummings, that is your problem. But ignorance is positively valued over where your friends hang out. People here care about stuff that is described in Wikipedia. Somerby assumes that his readers are as ignorant as conservatives like yourself, so he makes mistakes and distorts the facts and assumes it will all go through without anyone noticing. If we were all like you, that would be true. But many of us here actually care about Woody Guthrie, Malvina Reynolds, even e.e. cummings, so Somerby can't play that game without getting caught.

      You don't know what anyone is talking about when these criticisms go around, but that is your problem, not ours, and it has nothing to do with straw men.

    6. This is a discussion board for goodness sakes. I plan to continue to use it. Who wants to leave who alone? Why would anyone comment at all if they wanted to be left alone?

      Admiring cummings or Guthrie does not make you an expert on them and it certainly shouldn’t keep you from seeing the forest for the trees rather than being able to ascertain whatever overriding principle their particular works convey.

      That you ignore their broader points is intentional because because it’s easier to argue who….really….lived in those boxes and this facilitates your reason for being here which is to yell “up” whenever the blogger says”down”.

      Why? Because he has the temerity to be embarrassed by the vaunted mensches on his own team.

      When, oh when, will Somerby shut up and leave YOU alone.

    7. What forest do you think I am missing? Some technically correct nitpick that Somerby thinks represents storyline but is actually just a cable news host doing his job as best he can?

      I have explained repeatedly that narrative and storyline are how ALL people think, even Somerby and even you. If Somerby were claiming that liberal storyline is somehow wrong, that would be a different matter, but that isn't what he is saying.

      You, meanwhile, contribute nothing to this commentariat, with your drive-by quips that may be hilarious on conservative blogs but make no sense here.

      Somerby has no valid "broader point" and I have explained why so often that I bore myself. And still you persist in thinking that he is "brilliant". I was gone for a week and several others took up where I left off. mh dislikes Somerby's lazy mistakes as much as I do. Others have their own points to make. None of us considers Somerby a liberal. We are on to his game. You are not, but applaud him because you like what he says. That should tell you that Somerby is one of you, not one of us (to use Somerby's tribal speak). I am not a curmudgeon because I have a consistent world view and values and I am informed about current events and politics, beyond what Somerby says here. You are stuck in your little corner of the conservative cesspool.

      Somerby criticizes cable news and reporters and the professors who write opinion pieces or appear as guests on such shows. These people are not "vaunted mensches" on Somerby's team (since he is not part of the mainstream media), nor on my team (being liberal). They are other people with opinions of various types who are trying to communicate about topics I am interested in. I value that. I do not consider them tribe members speaking approved storyline, nor shills for corporate interests, nor liberal media, since the media is not particularly liberal (look what they did to Hillary). Somerby's attempts to undermine faith in the media as an information source is contributing to the death of democracy in our country, and that is a big deal to me. His nihilism is offensive in someone who once worked with youth. His attached to Gore is embarrassing (to him, not me) and should cause him to review his feelings about the man and acknowledge whys he hates gay cable hosts. I think you are the one who is missing the bigger picture here, no doubt because your own prejudices align so closely with Somerby's. I could write a blog. I could write a parody of Somerby's blog. I have other ways to spend my time, doing things that are more important to me, as I did last week.

      You would do everyone a huge favor if you took your friends Mao and David and AC/MA and walked off into the sunset yourselves.

    8. No. Not happening.

      Who you are is someone who can’t even ascertain how the twisting of Somerby’s allegiance to his friend and your last sentence belies every word above it and exposes YOU as being creepy and militant.

      That you’re utterly suited (and likely recruited) for your task here is indisputable, but the only way you’re going to see the exit of people who are here because they actually enjoy the blogger is if he shut it down.

      Good luck with that.

    9. And you didn't address a single word of what I wrote, much less describe whatever the forest is that you claim I am missing.

    10. Cecelia, Mao, David, AC/MA etc. express their feelings here, they are not interested in anything else. Research shows that their cohort suffer from differences in size in parts of their brain that explain their behavior, and that those brain differences are likely due to unresolved childhood trauma; this does not excuse their misbehavior or ameliorate any punishment they should receive, it is just an explanation.

  10. I was reading a transcript of a panel that Somerby was on, where he was attempting to describe how the press mistreated Al Gore, while being mocked by the host. He did a poor job, in my opinion, because he seemed unprepared and had no statistics or examples to make his case, much like the hapless cable guests who he sometimes mercilessly mocks here.

    I found myself wondering what that Somerby would have thought about present-day Somerby, who argues in support of conservative talking points and promotes a right-wing agenda. Does he realize that the people he now serves are the ones who were behind press attacks on Al Gore then?

    Somerby today defends The Others because he has become one. It is dishonest to present himself as liberal when he is not one.

    1. anon 1:13, you and the other anons here (how many different anons there are isn't clear, maybe all one person) - don't seem to realize that you can disagree with the Trump, Trumpist, Republicans, Fox, that whole class or tribe of others, and at the same time also point out flaws in the reasoning of so-called liberal pundits, publications and their followers. Both sides can be wrong about different things and both sides can be putting their thumbs on the truth. Which is glaringly obvious, and is all that TDH is pointing out. H

    2. Somerby doesn't merely point out liberal flaws. He does it by promoting conservative memes. Most of us can tell the difference between self-criticism and Republican propaganda. Somerby is not criticizing the left from the left -- he is doing so from the right.

      There is quite a bit of disagreement on the left about many things. None of that sounds like what Somerby has been doing here.

    3. Ah the Hunt for Hunter. How could Trump’s ever so impartial DOJ miss all the evidence Mao is making up?

  11. "We divide into smaller and smaller affinity groups. "

    It seems likely that we are dividing into smaller affinity groups because there are a lot more people on earth today than in the past. Also, there are ways to find the people you want to associate with now that didn't exist before. Easy for white supremacists to find like minds, for example. Incels don't even have to leave their basements.

    In the past, white people helped black people find their "affility group" by restricting them to ghettos and barrios. Now you can join the NAACP, just as white women used to join the DAR or its equivalent.

    Somerby doesn't seem to like it when people form groups with others whom they have an affinity for. Why? Who knows? Maybe he is a hermit himself and it goes against his nature to see people happy hanging with smaller and smaller groups. Or perhaps he is sad because there are Trump Republicans and non-Trump Republicans and who knows where the Libertarians fit in, among those secessionists (aka national divorce supporters). Maybe he just finds it all too confusing.

  12. He wants to…. He wants to go full psycho and start preaching compassion for Trump, but Bob isn’t quite there yet…. And we can’t forget all the even tempered fair play Bob had extended Rachel Maddow…..Happy New Year!!

  13. Love your work, but wish you'd drop this recent habit of referring to almost everyone you disagree with as "a good and decent person." I guess you're trying to put in practice your idea that we shouldn't demonize those we disagree with, but the fact is that you don't know whether any of these people are good and decent, so the descriptions are meaningless distractions. Worse than meaningless--they seem hypocritical, coming from someone who is often rightly asking journalists to provide evidence to back up their claims.

    Love your work, though.

    1. "the descriptions are meaningless distractions"

      Oh please, why not. It's a stylistic choice.

      There are, in dear Bob's head, two kinds of talking heads/journos: 'good, decent persons' (those who belong to the liberal cult), and 'crazies' (those who don't).

      And once you understand dear Bob's rather primitive hieroglyphs, there is no problem; it's all clear.

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