You say "subdual," he says "subdural!"


Let's call this gong-show off: In Saturday morning's New York Times, Tim Arango did a decent job reporting the Derek Chauvin trial.

What happened during Friday's court session? Arango's report starts like this:

ARANGO ET AL (4/10/21): In a trial where many key figures have spent hours on the stand, the prosecution whipped through one of their most anticipated witnesses, the doctor who performed George Floyd’s official autopsy, in a mere 50 minutes on Friday.

The reasons for their haste became clear as the witness, Dr. Andrew Baker, the Hennepin County medical examiner, refrained from placing the sole blame for Mr. Floyd’s death on the police as he testified in the trial of Derek Chauvin, a former officer charged with murder.

In his testimony, Dr. Baker said police restraint was the main cause of Mr. Floyd’s death, but he also cited drug use and heart disease as contributing factors, saying that Mr. Floyd died “in the context of” the actions taken by three police officers as they pinned Mr. Floyd to the street for more than nine minutes.

“In my opinion, the law enforcement subdual, restraint and the neck compression was just more than Mr. Floyd could take by virtue of those heart conditions,” he said.

Question: What the heck is "law enforcement subdual?" Your answer appears below.

For now, we ask that question for this reason—when Will Wright penned this companion report on the same page of today's New York Times, he quoted Dr. Baker saying something different:

WRIGHT (4/10/21): Mr. Floyd had a larger heart than most people, Dr. Baker said. It required more oxygen to continue pumping blood throughout the body, especially during a high-intensity situation like the one Mr. Floyd experienced when being pinned to the asphalt for more than nine minutes. “Those events are going to cause stress hormones to pour out into your body, specifically things like adrenaline. And what that adrenaline is going to do is it’s going to ask your heart to beat faster. It’s going to ask your body for more oxygen so that you can get through that altercation,” Dr. Baker said. “And in my opinion, the law enforcement, subdural restraint and the neck compression was just more than Mr. Floyd could take by virtue of those heart conditions.”

On the same page A11, on this very same day, Arango and Wright are quoting the same Dr. Baker as he makes a single (very important) statement in court. But they differ on one key word, and they even punctuate their quotations is dueling ways:

The statement according to Arango: “In my opinion, the law enforcement subdual, restraint and the neck compression was just more than Mr. Floyd could take by virtue of those heart conditions,” 

The statement according to Wright: “In my opinion, the law enforcement, subdural restraint and the neck compression was just more than Mr. Floyd could take by virtue of those heart conditions,” 

According to the one account, Floyd's death was partly caused by "law enforcement subdual." According to the other account,  Floyd's death was partly caused by "law enforcement," followed by a second cause—"subdural restraint."

In print editions, the dueling quotations sit side-by-side on the very same page. You'd think some editor might have noticed this by now, but the contradiction still exists online. Can't anyone here play this game?

With that, we return to our initial question: What the heck is "law enforcement subdual," the formulation Arango (correctly) placed in Baker's mouth?

"Subdual" is a word you won't see or hear every day. That said, it's almost surely the actual word Dr. Baker was using. 

In this context, the word "subdual" simply means "the act of subduing or of being subdued." Dr. Baker was saying that the death was caused, in major part, by the fact that Floyd was subdued by law enforcement that day.

How do we know that that's what Dr. Baker was saying? Simple! When he prepared the official autopsy report for the late George Floyd, he referred to "law enforcement subdual" in written form in his official Case Title. You can see the report right here:


That was the written title of Baker's written report. In this morning's New York Times, Wright bungles this language two separate times—first in quoting Dr. Baker, then in quoting the testimony of Dr. Lindsey Thomas.

Even by late in the afternoon, no editor has noticed this yet. We'll guess they're out at the Hamptons.

Our view? "Subdual" is a fairly hard word to parse. In our view, Baker might have been more understandable for the average Joe if he had referred to "law enforcement apprehension."

That said, our observations are these: 

Wright has been charged with recording the key "Takeaways" from each day of this extremely high-profile trial. Today, he misquotes two important witnesses and no one at the Times has noticed. 

No one has noticed, even though one of his bungled quotations flatly contradicts the corresponding quotation offered by Arango, which appears on the same page in the Times' print editions.

Meanwhile, how many readers understood the term "law enforcement subdual" when it appeared at the start of Arango's report? We're going to guess that many people were puzzled by the unexplained formulation. (Clearly, Wright seemed to have no idea what he was talking about.)

Finally, this:

"Subdural" is an actual word. It's even a medical term, but it makes no apparent sense in this context.

What did Wright think he was reporting? We have no idea. Meanwhile, at the very top of our upper-end food chain, no one at the New York Times has noticed this error. 

On the brighter side, what difference could it possibly make? It's only a super high-profile, highly-charged trial, with one person's life at stake!

These things can happen to you watching cable!


Major star, unabashedly bawling her eyes out: As our nation slides toward the sea—as Putin chuckles about all the winning—remarkable things can happen to you as you watch "cable news" broadcasts.

For starters, consider what seems to have happened on CNN yesterday afternoon. 

In Minneapolis, testimony was being taken from the medical examiner who conducted the official autopsy of the late George Floyd. Under direction examination by special prosecutor Jerry Blackwell, the medical examiner, Dr. Andrew Baker, said this:

BLACKWELL (4/9/21): You didn't mention either fentanyl or meth in Mr. Floyd's system—well, you mentioned those [in the official autopsy report], but you don't list either of them on the top line as causes of death. Why is that?

BAKER: Well, the top line of the cause of death is really what you think is the most important thing that precipitated the death. Other things that you think played a role in the death, but were not direct causes, get relegated to what's known as the "other significant conditions" part of the death certificate.

So, the "other significant conditions" are things that played a role in the death, but didn't directly cause the death. So, for example, you know, Mr. Floyd's use of fentanyl did not cause the subdual or neck restraint. His heart disease did not cause the subdual or the neck restraint.

BLACKWELL: So these are items that may have contributed, but weren't the direct cause?

BAKER: Correct.

BLACKWELL: No further questions, Dr. Baker.

Blackwell is a corporate lawyer who has been brought on to handle this one prosecution.

In that exchange, Baker rather clearly said that Floyd's "use of fentanyl," and his "heart disease," played a role in his death, but "didn't directly cause the death."

He said those factors contributed, or "may have contributed," to Floyd's death, but he said they weren't "the direct cause" of the death.

It was perfectly clear that that's what Baker said. Check that—it was perfectly clear until CNN  broke away from the courtroom. 

CNN broke away from the courtroom right where our excerpt stops. The prosecution had no further questions for Dr. Baker. Now it was time to discuss what Dr. Baker had said.

Instantly, CNN broke away from the courtroom. And when CNN broke away from the courtroom, Brooke Baldwin instantly said this:

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST (continuing directly): The piece, that legal piece at the very end, this whole crescendo to, you know, to this chief medical examiner, heart disease or drugs, you know, none of that with regard to Mr. Floyd contributed to his death, so says the chief there.

According to the CNN transcript, that's what Baldwin said. According to the CNN transcript, she instantly flatly misstated what the medical examiner had just said.

We can find no tape of this mid-afternoon broadcast. We're forced to rely on the CNN transcript with respect to what Baldwin said.

Surely, though, no one who has ever watched "cable news" would doubt that a howling error of this type could have occurred. That's especially true in a matter like this, where all three of our nation's "cable news" channels have well-established rooting interests in the way this case should be understood and discussed.

In our view, Baldwin is a (minor) cut above the typical cable news host. She isn't dumb, and she isn't a clown. 

At one time, those would have seemed like "left-handed compliments." In the current cable environment, they count as words of significant praise, if not as a full endorsement.

In our view, Baldwin is a cut above the typical cable news host. Still, assuming the CNN transcript is accurate, it's hardly surprising to see her make the comment in question, especially in a matter where her channel, and the whole of Our Town, has an obvious rooting interest.

At one time, round-the-clock cable news may have seemed like a good idea. In practice, round-the-clock news has turned out to be a journalistic and cultural disaster.

Instant error is one of its norms. So is the gigantic clowning which often substitutes for serious reporting and analysis as multimillionaire "cable news" hosts 1) struggle for ways to fill endless hours of time, and 2) try to make themselves even more popular with their tribal target audience.

Bungles like Baldwin's can happen to you as you watch cable news. That's especially true where a rooting interest is at play at some particular channel. The overpaid stars of these corporate channels will often have their thumbs and their butt-cheeks on the scale for twenty-four hours per day. 

Also, you may encounter the kind of clowning in which Baldwin rarely engages. For an example of that, consider what happened to people who watched Our Own Rhodes Scholar on her eponymous program last night.

The scholar hadn't appeared on her Thursday night program. Last night, we apparently found out why.

At the start of last night's show, the scholar devoted her first twelve minutes to a rambling discussion of the fact that she had received her Johnson & Johnson Covid shot the day before. 

As she frequently does, the cable star rambled on and on about her latest experience. "I I I I I I I," our angry young analysts constantly cried as the star discussed herself.

As she frequently does, the star talked down to her hapless viewers; presented herself like a 4-year-old child; and, most enjoyably, shared two of the photos she took of herself after she got her shot.

As viewers, we got to see two of the selfies. We got to see one of them twice! We even got to see the cable star affix her vaccination sticker to her own forehead! 

"Do I have it on straight?" the cable star childishly asked, making a face as she did. 

In the course of showing us the selfies, the cable star critiqued the clothes she had been wearing that day, not forgetting to tell us what a "dork" she is. She discussed the baseball cap she'd been wearing, not failing to lament the unsightly binder clip she had absent-mindedly attached to one side of its bill.

She also described the way she behaved when she got her hot. According to the cable star, she "just sat there crying for half an hour" after receiving her shot. 

"I sat there bawling my eyes out," the multimillionaire corporate-owned TV star said.

In fairness, the star attributed this reaction to her "wooziliness"—to  the fact that she gets "woozily" when she has to get a shot. Later, she said, again and again, that she and many others feel "oogie" about getting shots, using the kind of little girl language she often employs when speaking in her own voice.

(As employed, "oogie" rhymes with "boogie." She used the baby-talk term again and again as she discussed her long-standing favorite topic—as she discussed herself.)

"I don't know what they thought of me sitting there for half an hour crying like I was reading Old Yeller over and over again," the very strange star later said. To the cable star, we'll only say this:

We do know what they thought of her as she star there for half an hour bawling her eyes out. 

With respect to a similar point of concern, the cable star said this about the way she looks in one of her selfies: "If you'll notice, I look a little crazy in the photo, even beyond the weird hat." 

With respect to the cable star, we'll only say this:

We often that she seems a little crazy, given the things she says and does when she's on the air. We also know that her employers will never act on this obvious fact, but also that we cable viewers here in Our Town will never be able to notice or wonder about this apparent problem..

Maddow is widely loved in Our Town; Putin finds that fact hilarious. We plan to discuss this matter next week, although we'll do so understanding that nothing is going to change.

Rachel Maddow, Our Own Rhodes Scholar, seems to be unable to stop talking about herself. When she does discuss herself, she constantly construes herself as a little girl who feels "oogie" and "woozily" about this or possibly that.

Here in Our Town, we're so dumb that we find this conduct amusing, endearing and smart. The woods are lovely, dark and deep, and the autocrats think they will win.

Two selfies of Maddow happened to viewers who watched cable last bight. She burned away her first twelve minutes in this stupid but highly familiar way. From there, she wasted even more time in another remarkable way:

She burned away additional time discussing the apparent misdeeds of Matt Gaetz's friend. At this point, it's dumb and tabloid-level corrupt to burn major minutes on Gaetz himself. It's about a million times dumber to burn away time on his friend, and only Our Own Scholar does it.

What won't you hear on this cable star's show? Consider this news report from Thursday's New York Times. The news report appeared beneath this headline:

         A Novel Effort to See How Poverty Affects Young Brains

The news report discusses the deficits faced by kids who grow up in poverty. Discussions like that won't happen to you when you watch this cable star's TV show. You will never have to confront the boredom endemic to topics like that. The cable star doesn't care.

She bawled her eyes out for half an hour. Most likely, we do know what people thought, but she's too valuable to her employers to be helped, or removed from the air.

Who will help us cable viewers here in the failing world of Our Town? A world away, Putin feels he knows the answer—he suspects that nobody will!

We'd love to link you, but: No transcript is available yet.

But what did the parliamentarian say?


Cable star tries it again: Everybody seems to think that the Senate parliamentarian made an important ruling at the start of the week.

But what did the parliamentarian say? Also, can anybody play this game here in the streets of Our Town?

Yesterday afternoon, we showed you how the New York Times explained the ruling, or tried to explain the ruling, in Tuesday's print editions.

That attempt at explanation didn't go real well. Today, we're going to show you what Rachel Maddow said on this topic this past Wednesday night.

Two nights earlier, Maddow had made a ginormous hash of this topic. We expect to discuss that epic, 25-minute, gong-show performance next week.

On Wednesday, the star returned to the topic! Here's how her new discussion started, thirteen minutes into her Castro-length opening monologue:

MADDOW (4/7/21): The Republican side of things today was a little helter-skelter. [The] Democratic side of things today was sort of a supercharged day, and it marked what may be a new tone—a new, new tenor from President Biden and the Democrats?

There's reason for them to be making a little bit of a pivot right now because of something structural that just changed in politics this week. This week, the Democrats learned that they will be allowed, if they want, to use the Senate rules in such a way that they can pass legislation in the Senate with just a simple majority of votes, with votes from the 50 Democratic senators only, if that's what they have to do, plus a tie-breaking vote cast by Vice President Kamala Harris.

Now, that's a really, really big deal. They thought they might be able to do that one more time this year. Turns out, they can sort of do that when they want to.

That ruling from the Senate parliamentarian this week, that's a huge deal. If the Democrats had to hit a 60-vote margin in the Senate to pass anything, which is what's true with the filibuster rule in place, I mean, if they had to hit that 60-vote threshold, we could expect precisely zero new legislation, right? Nothing else on the Biden administration's agenda to pass into law.

In that passage, Maddow says the parliamentarian's ruling is "a big, big deal." Indeed, she says it's "a huge deal."

She also seems to say that Democrats will now be able to pass legislation in the Senate by a simple majority pretty much whenever they want. But can that possibly be what this new ruling has said?

About seven minutes later, Maddow returned to this topic. When she did, she seemed to double down on her sweeping assertion:

MADDOW: With Republicans standing uniformly against the [proposed] infrastructure bill, with the Republican Senate leader promising there will be no Republican votes for it, if they're going to pass an infrastructure proposal, Democrats will have to pass it using that same process they used for the COVID relief bill, which is the Senate rule that let them pass it with 50 votes instead of 60.

And we know now that they can use that process, not just one more time this year, but basically as many times as they want this year. And I'll tell you, it still hasn`t really caught on, I think, broadly, in terms of the way people are talking about politics, but this is going to end up being a defining thing about the Biden presidency and this first two years he's in office.

The cable star said it again! Thanks to the parliamentarian's ruling, Democrats will be able to avoid the filibuster "basically as many times as they want."

This realization hasn't caught on broadly, the cable star seemed to say. "But this is going to end up being a defining thing about the Biden presidency and this first two years he's in office."

Indeed, if the filibuster is basically dead, that would be a very big deal! That said, if the parliamentarian has actually issued some such ruling, it's hard to know why no one else had caught on to that fact as of Wednesday night.

But has the parliamentarian actually issued so sweeping a ruling? Moments later, Maddow performed a giant clawback with respect to her previous claims. Also, she seemed to tell us this—she hasn't actually seen the text of the important new ruling:

MADDOW: This new rule this week effectively seems to mean that there is a new exception to the filibuster, starting now, that means that you can't apply that 60-vote threshold to budget bills, to bills that affect government taxes and spending. 

That seems to be with this parliamentarian`s ruling—and we'll wait to see the exact language of it—but the way it`s been described, that seems to be what it means. And that will change what is possible in a big way with 50 Democratic senators and a Democrat in the White House.

And so, this 50-vote rule is how they will pass infrastructure in the end, mark my words. But in addition to that, what else are they going to pass using that rule? What else are they going to pass via these rules that don`t require them to get ten Republicans to cross some mythical line and side with Democrats, which they won't do on anything?

Well, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is now saying that they're working on a way to pass immigration reform under these same rules. Now, you probably can`t pass everything in immigration reform under these budget rules, but you can do a lot. 

That will mean if Democrats can agree among themselves on what to do, and they can come up with a list of things to do on immigration that fit within the budget rules, they will be able to pass immigration reform this year, even with unified Republican opposition and zero Republican votes.

And again, there are limits, as I said. Not everything in immigration reform can fit under the budget rules that allow for that 50-vote rule. In addition, almost nobody believes that voting rights writ large, or most civil rights legislation, can pass under those budget rules either. 

There probably also aren't great options under the budget rules for passing gun safety reforms. But they`re going to do everything they can, every way they can.

Sad. We were now more than 23 minutes into her opening monologue. Telling us to "mark my words," the cable star now seemed to say that she doesn't exactly know what she's talking about.

First, please note the extent of the clawback! She has already said, at two separate junctures, that Democrats will be able to sidestep Senate filibusters as many times as they want. Now she tells us different:

She says they won't be able to do so for bills involving voting rights, or most civil rights legislation.

Also, they won't be able to do so for bills involving gun safety reform. And of course, they won't be able to do so for "everything in immigration reform." So she now says, failing to explain how anything in immigration reform will count as a budget bill.

Just like that, the cable star has walked back the sweeping assessment she made at two earlier points. She has also dropped this bomb:

She says we'll have to "wait to see the exact language of" the parliamentarian's ruling! We'll have to wait to see the ruling before we know how far-reaching the ruling will turn out to be! 

A dirty little secret lurks in that pitiful statement. As of Wednesday night, Maddow still hadn't seen the text of this heralded ruling! 

Sad! As of Wednesday night, Maddow still hadn't seen the text of the ruling she'd been describing at great length! As she made her sweeping pronouncements about the ruling, she was only working from "the way it's been described."

The way it's been described by whom? The cable star didn't say! But she hadn't actually seen the ruling! Presumably, this explains why she kept telling us rubes what the ruling "seems to" say.

This is deeply embarrassing, below-D-minus work. What's most embarrassing is the fact that manifest bullshit of this type is so widely loved in Our Town.

This is genuinely stupid work by a huge corporate star. In the beginning, she was sold to us as Our Own Rhodes Scholar. Thirteen years later, this is the type of embarrassing piddle she serves Our Town night after night.

If Maddow hadn't seen the text of this ruling, on what basis had she been telling us what the ruling holds? She didn't explain that on Monday night, or on Wednesday night either. 

As we've noted, Maddow is extremely skilled at the process known as "selling the car." Basically, she's over her head when it comes to just about everything else.

She's quite a bit like the famous emperor, the one who boasted about new suit of clothes. That casts us in the role of the emperor's subjects, the one who couldn't see the dysfunction unfolding right before them. 

Here in Our Town, we love the D-minus work of this manifest corporate clown. As with dear Brutus, so too here:

The fault in this long-running "cable news" gong-show lies right here, with us.

TRIAL AND TOWN: The prosecution aired some unusual tape!


CNN blew past it: Was yesterday a turning point in the Derek Chauvin trial?

At this site, we have no idea. On the other hand, it's fair to say that that Storyline largely prevailed last night in the  "cable news" shows most widely seen in Our Town.

At issue was the testimony of a prosecution witness. In a front-page report in today's New York Times, his work is praised in this manner:

DEWAN (4/9/21): “I don’t think I’ve seen an expert witness as effective as this,” said Mary Moriarty, the former chief public defender of Hennepin County, who has been following the televised trial. “He appears to be the world’s foremost expert on this, and he explained everything in English, in layman’s terms.”

That's the assessment which was chosen to appear in today's news report.

On the merits, Moriarty's assessment of the expert witness may be perfectly right. Also, it may turn out that the testimony of this expert witness persuades the jurors—remember, it takes all twelve--to return a guilty verdict in the murder / manslaughter trial.

The expert in question is Dr. Martin Tobin, age 73, "a pulmonologist who specializes in the mechanics of breathing." Perhaps somewhat oddly, "this was his first time testifying in a criminal trial."

Moriarty's assessment of Tobin may be perfectly accurate. In saying that Tobin "appears to the worlds foremost expert," she may have overstepped a bit for those who may recall the ironic though time-honored description of Professor Irwin Corey, the famous comedian of the last century, as "the world's foremost authority" (full and complete total stop).

It may be that Tobin really is (something like) "the world’s foremost expert on this." He was certainly treated that way on "cable news" programs last night!

It may turn out that his testimony ends up producing a guilty verdict. As part of a more detailed report, Dewan gives this nugget account of what this witness said:

DEWAN: The prosecution used Dr. Tobin to pre-emptively poke holes in the defense’s argument that Mr. Floyd’s death was caused by his use of fentanyl, underlying heart disease and other physical ailments.

“A healthy person subjected to what Mr. Floyd was subjected to would have died as a result,” Dr. Tobin said.

It may well be that everything Tobin said was perfectly accurate. For ourselves, because we love our American values so much, we'd like to see more of our "cable news" pundits offer such context as this:

When the defense finally gets to present its case, it may produce other "expert witnesses" who say something different. How might the jury respond to some such dispute? There's no way to know that.

Full disclosure! Watching the pundits on our "cable news" channels as they discuss this trial, we sometimes get a certain impression. It seems to us that they may love Our Town's preferred Storylines more than they love our treasured American values.

(We've often received the same impression from our high-end columnists as they discuss this trial.)

Often, these pundits almost seem annoyed by the fact that the accused is allowed to defend himself within our legal system. They love love love the stories we love, but they don't seem enamored of that.

So far, every witness in this trial has been a prosecution witness. By our lights, our corporate-paid pundits sometimes seem a bit remiss in failing to mention this fact.

When the defense gets to make its case, will some other expert witness dispute what this expert  has said? We have no way of knowing. But because we love our American values—and because we love our Enlightenment values—we're prepared to wait a week or two in order to find out.

(Not so within Our Town's upper-end press, where Al Gore said he invented the Internet, Hillary Clinton did whatever it was they said she did with those troubling emails, and Bill Clinton had an affair with "a 21-year-old intern." Today, we're served by the same unreliable narrators who treasured those tales in the past!)

Will the defense be able to create "reasonable doubt" about the prosecution case? Because we all believe so deeply in our treasured American values, we will of course be quick to insist on a "not guilty" verdict if such doubt appears.

For ourselves, we don't know if any such doubt will appear. For today, we want to mention something we saw as we watched CNN last week.

It was Wednesday, March 31—the third day of the trial. The prosecution was running lengthy chunks of videotape from the day George Floyd died.

We were struck by one chunk of tape. That evening, on CNN, Erin Burnett accurately described what it showed:

BURNETT (3/31/21): Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. 

Outfront tonight, "I can't breathe," the three-word rallying cry across the country and the world after George Floyd's death. 

Today, we heard it again and again. Floyd himself uttering those haunting words during former Officer Derek Chauvin's trial. Some never before bodycam videos coming out today, revealing the moments that led up to Floyd's death.

Now, the videos are disturbing and graphic because you keep hearing Floyd repeating that painful phrase, all too familiar phrase, as he's being arrested and placed into a police car.

Burnett did play the videotape. Its contents weren't quite as new to the world as she may have suggested, but the tape did show exactly what she described:

During the horrible events of that terrible day, the tape showed Floyd repeatedly saying, "I can't breathe," as he aggressively struggled and resisted placement in a squad car. It showed Floyd repeatedly saying "I can't breathe" before he was placed on the ground and held down by Chauvin's knee.

The officers' bodycam videos were new to the world that day. We're fairly sure that other footage of those same events had appeared last summer. Such footage was largely disappeared, except by conservative pundits. 

At any rate, the content of the videotape was clear. A bit later, Burnett described it again:

BURNETT: I want to go now to [our CNN] legal team. They're going to be with us throughout the trial. Areva Martin and Elie Honig. Appreciate both of you.

And Areva, it is really hard to watch this footage, and you just keep hearing those same words again and again. It's so haunting as officers tried to get Floyd into the police car. Before he's even pinned down, he's screaming out he's claustrophobic, he can't breathe. 

For whatever it may be worth, that is what the video showed. Before the late George Floyd was pinned down; as the officers tried to get him to take a seat in a squad car; before Chauvin held him down with his knee, Floyd was already saying, repeatedly, "I can't breathe."

Burnett's description was perfectly accurate. Quickly, a bit of background:

As part of the channel's devotion to Storyline, CNN had played a leading role, back in May 2020, in telling people here in Our Town that Floyd never resisted arrest.

For quite some time, the corporate hirelings here in Our Town pleased us with that inaccurate claim. By now, everyone from Chief Arradondo on down has noted the (largely irrelevant) fact that he did resist arrest—for example, that he struggled, with substantial force, to avoid being placed in that squad car.

That obvious fact may not matter at all with respect to Chauvin's possible guilt. That fact does matter as we assess the way our "press corps" functions, including the way it functioned in the first few days of this horrible case.

The late George Floyd did struggle and resist that day. In itself, that fact may be wholly irrelevant. 

But as he struggled and resisted, he was in fact repeatedly saying, "I can't breathe." As Burnett noted, and as the tape showed, he was saying that well before he was placed facedown in the street, with Chauvin's knee initially holding him down. 

Why in the world was he saying that even before he was being held down? In a classic press corps performance, Burnett kept reporting that fact, but she also kept failing to note its possible oddness and its possible significance.

At that point, was Floyd merely pretending that he couldn't breathe? In Thursday morning's news report, the Washington Post said that possibility was raised during Wednesday's court session.

At that point, was Floyd pretending he couldn't breathe? Obviously, we have no way of knowing—but if we had to guess, we'd guess the answer is no.

If we had to guess, we'd make a different guess. We'd guess that he already was having trouble breathing—and we'd wonder what an expert witness might say about that next week.

At CNN, Erin Burnett blew right past the somewhat peculiar fact which she accurately described. Her legal experts blew past it too. This is the way such experts behave on Our Town's "cable news" programs.

(We regard Honig as one of the most extreme of Our Town's many "hangin' pundits." These are the kind of experts who kept telling us that Mueller had Donald J. Trump dead to rights and that he had surely obtained all of Trump's tax records. How we loved those pleasing stories, which we heard night after night!)

Erin Burnett stuck to Storyline. We'd guess that she did so honestly—that it simply didn't occur to her that the fact she was describing could in some imaginable way undercut Our Town's preferred Storyline.

Will some such argument be made when the defense gets to make its case? We have no idea, but because we love our American values so much, we're prepared to wait a few weeks to see what does get said.

Our Town's pundits frequently play by different rules; they've done so for three or four decades. They don't always seem to love our American values. Often, they don't even seem to remember what we all claim those values are.

We'll make one final point:

Temperamentally, we don't like seeing people go to prison, though we know it must sometimes happen.

We don't like to see people sent off to jail. Here in Our Town, our cable shows spill over with the ancient tribal desire to see The Others locked up.

Last night, Lawrence wanted to see Matt Gaetz locked up. He wanted to see Donald Trump locked up, and Derek Chauvin too.

After conducting those discussions, he broadened his brief a bit. Weeping experts say that this is the way our brains are wired.

This is never going to change, despondent top experts have said.

More on Professor Corey: According to the leading authority on Professor Corey's career, Mort Sahl once described him as  "one of the most brilliant comedians of all time." 

Corey's persona was designed to poke fun at reflexive deference to academic authority. Full disclosure! Our paternal grandfather, Rufus "Colonel Al" Somerby, sometimes appeared under the name Professor Wormwood, though in a slightly different context.

One last note on Professor Corey. We don't know if this is true:
For an October 2011 interview, Corey invited a New York Times reporter to visit his 1840 carriage house on East 36th Street. Corey estimated its resale value at $3.5 million. He said that, when not performing, he panhandled for change from motorists exiting the Queens–Midtown Tunnel. Every few months, he told the interviewer, he donated the money to a group that purchased medical supplies for Cuban children. He said of the drivers who supplied the cash, "I don't tell them where the money's going, and I'm sure they don't care."..."This is not about money," [his agent] said. "For Irwin, this is an extension of his performing."
We don't know if that's true.

What did the parliamentarian rule?


A journalistic conundrum: At the start of this week, the Senate parliamentarian, by all accounts, made a very significant ruling. 

The ruling concerns the legislative procedure commonly known as "reconciliation." How important is this ruling believed to be?

The ruling is believed to be very important! But can anyone in the upper-end press explain what the ruling was?

Can anyone explain what the parliamentarian said? The answer seems to be no. 

For today, we'll look at the first attempt by the New York Times to explain this important new ruling. We direct you to Emily Cochrane's news report in Tuesday's print editions.

This was the New York Times' first attempt to explain what the parliamentarian had ruled. Was Cochrane able to handle that task? Hard-copy headline included, her news report started like this:

COCHRANE (4/6/21): Democrats Win Key Tool For Enacting Biden Plans

A top Senate official ruled on Monday that Democrats could use the fast-track budget reconciliation process for a second time this fiscal year, potentially handing them broader power to push through President Biden’s agenda, including his infrastructure plan, over Republican opposition.

The decision by the parliamentarian means that Democrats can essentially reopen the budget plan they passed in February and add directives to enact the infrastructure package or other initiatives, shielding them from a filibuster that requires 60 votes to overcome.

It came as Democratic leaders were contemplating how to use their slim majorities in the House and Senate to enact Mr. Biden’s infrastructure proposals, including a huge public-works plan he released last week and a second initiative to be released in the coming months to address economic inequities, provide paid leave to workers and support child care.

But the decision has potential significance beyond those plans, and even the current Congress. The guidance could substantially weaken the filibuster by allowing the majority party to use budget reconciliation—a powerful tool that allows measures related to taxes and spending to pass on a majority vote—multiple times in a single fiscal year. That would dilute the power of the minority to stall or block such legislation in the Senate, the latest bid by the party in power to chip away at the arcane filibuster rules.

That's the way Cochrane started. Let's summarize what's been said:

According to Cochrane's report, "budget reconciliation" is a powerful tool which "allows measures related to taxes and spending to pass on a majority vote."

As Cochrane notes, other measures can be filibustered in the Senate. Essentially, this means that they require 60 votes (out of 100) to be enacted into law. Under "budget reconciliation," a measure can pass into law with just a simple majority in the Senate—with just 51 votes.

That's the easy part. Now, we ask you to try to discern, from Cochrane's account, what the parliamentarian has ruled.

Cochrane starts by saying this, right in paragraph one: 

According to the ruling, Senate Democrats can use the reconciliation process "for a second time this fiscal year." She never explains why a parliamentarian's ruling was needed to let them do this.

Beyond that, she rather clearly seems to say that the Democrats' first use of reconciliation occurred in "the budget plan [the Democrats] passed in February." But as she continues, she proceeds to say this: 

COCHRANE (continuing directly): It was not clear how Democrats would use their newfound power, or for what. But the preliminary guidance from Elizabeth MacDonough, the parliamentarian, most likely gives them additional opportunities to push elements of Mr. Biden’s agenda through the 50-to-50 Senate without abolishing the filibuster or watering down their proposals to win at least 10 Republican votes.

Democrats had already used budget reconciliation to push through Mr. Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus last month without any Republican votes. But with some Democrats reluctant to dismantle the filibuster, the rest of Mr. Biden’s agenda risks stalling amid Republican objections.

Uh-oh! Now we're told that Democrats "already used budget reconciliation to push through Mr. Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus last month." This rather clearly seems to suggest that Senate Democrats have already used reconciliation twice this year—first for "the budget plan they passed in February," then again for the  "$1.9 trillion stimulus [they passed] last month" (in March). 

Confusion lurks elsewhere as well. In her opening paragraph, Cochrane says the parliamentarian's ruling means that Senate Democrats can use reconciliation process "for a second time this year." That would seem to suggest that they can use the procedure two times in all.

But in paragraph 4, she seems to say that the ruling means that the Dems can use reconciliation "multiple times" this year. Does that mean they could use the procedure more than twice? Go ahead! Try to figure that out!

Can Democrats use the procedure twice, or can they use it more than twice? Haven't they already used it twice—in February for the budget bill, then again in March for the $1.9 trillion Covid/stimulus package?

We're sorry, but we find Cochrane's explanation to be less clear than mud. And yet, this is the work of the New York Times, the smartest newspaper in Our Town—and here in Our Town, we constantly say that we're just extremely smart.

(For the record: In our view, the confusion only grows as Cochrane's report continues past these first six paragraphs.)

Cochrane is three years out of college (University of Florida, class of 2017). In our view, this makes her very young, as these things go—but her editor is surely older, and the lack of clarity in this report is quite typical of the work one finds in the New York Times.

In fairness to Cochrane, Rachel Maddow spent 25 minutes on Monday night, clowning and mincing as she pretended to explain this same ruling. Cochrane's report is a model of clarity compared to Maddow's string of self-contradictions, a ball of confusion buried inside an insipid entertainment / self-promotion package.

Maddow's performance was her latest ridiculous disgrace. Cochrane has simply presented work which is quite hard to decipher.

Can anybody here play this game? That's what Casey Stengel once asked about the hapless New York Mets.

Quite often, that same question comes to mind as we peruse the work of our upper-end press corps. Many have gone to the finest schools, but it doesn't much seem to have helped.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but we are in a boatload of trouble here in our floundering town. Anthropologists say this is likely the best that creatures like us can do.

(More on this topic to come.)

TRIAL AND TOWN: "Ridiculous," cable expert declares!


It could always turn out that she's right: Tuesday night, we were surprised by what Ali Velshi said.

Velshi was guest-hosting for Brian Williams on The 11th Hour. Teasing his upcoming segment, Velshi offered this:

VELSHI (4/6/21): Coming up, the defense has its best day yet at the Derek Chauvin trial. But is it enough to leave a reasonable doubt with the jury? A former federal prosecutor and a criminal defense attorney join us next.

Was the highlighted statement accurate? Had the defense "had its best day yet" at the Chauvin trial? 

Indeed, had the defense even had a good day? Had the defense had anything like a good day to that point in the trial?

We don't know how to answer those questions, but we can tell you this. On Tuesday, the prosecution had been making its case as part of the normal sequence in a criminal trial

AS of Tuesday, every witness who had appeared had been a prosecution witness. Any points the defense might have made would have been done in cross-examination of prosecution witnesses.

In the American system we all love, the prosecution makes its case first. After the prosecution is done, the defense is entitled to present its case.

Cable news hosts and cable news pundits rarely state that basic fact in discussing the events of this high-profile murder / manslaughter trial. On the "cable news" channels most widely viewed here in Our Town, pundits will often say that the trial is going well for the prosecution without noting a basic fact:

So far, every witness has been a prosecution witness. So far, the defense hasn't been able to put anyone on the stand.

At this point in our failing society's headlong decline, the dumbness of our upper-end press corps is remarkably general. We'll address that point this afternoon as we review the New York Times' latest attempt to explain the recent ruling by the Senate parliamentarian regarding "reconciliation."

This latest attempt is amazingly hapless. And yet, this is us. This sad skill level routinely prevails here in the streets of Our Town.

Returning to the Chauvin trial, we'll ask a basic question:

Has the defense had anything like a good day to this point? Like Velshi, we have no idea. 

That said, we were surprised by Velshi's statement that night. Obviously, sentiment on the "cable news" channels in Our Town runs very heavily—indeed, uniformly—in favor of conviction in this particular trial. And so it (somewhat comically) went when Velshi began the segment he had teased.

The defense had had "its best day yet," Velshi had surprisingly said. And not only that! Velshi had said that we'd be hearing from "a criminal defense attorney" as well as "a former federal prosecutor." 

In cable news lingo, this seemed to mean that Velshi's next segment would be "fair and balanced." Given prevailing sentiment about this trial, that would have been a departure from form on the TV shows in Our Town. 

That's where the unintentional humor starts! Velshi's criminal defense attorney turned out to be Yodit Tewolde, "a former prosecutor turned criminal defense attorney" who is currently "host of Making the Case on The Black News Channel."

Would this cable host from  The Black News Channel see this trial through a defense attorney's lens? Perhaps somewhat comically, when Velshi threw to Tewolde, this is the first thing she said:

VELSI: Yodit, let me start with you. The defense has, on a daily basis, either made some case of the fact that there were bystanders, onlookers, who you can hear in some of these videotapes, you can see in the video, and the fact that they were very frustrated with the police as part of their case, that that affected the judgment of Derek Chauvin and the other police officers. What do you make of that that argument?

YODIT TEWOLDE, FMR. PROSECUTOR: I think that that argument is falling flat. It's ridiculous. And I think that it's going to hurt them with the jurors...

Perhaps somewhat comically, the official MSNBC transcript identifies Tewolde as a "FMR. PROSECUTOR," not as a defense attorney. At any rate, her instant reaction was extremely friendly to prevailing views in Our Town:

The defense attorney's argument was "falling flat," Tewolde said. Indeed, it was "ridiculous." We recalled the first thing Laura Coates said to John King on the very first day of the trial. It was the first bit of expert reaction CNN viewers would hear:

KING (3/30/21): Just as a veteran attorney, your sense so far of the opening statements.

COATES: I give no weight to the defense's opening statement whatsoever...

As we noted yesterday, King hadn't even explained what the defense attorney had said in his opening statement. Instantly, up jumped Coates to say, perhaps a bit heatedly, that she gave his statement no weight.

Briefly, let's be clear! The statements by Tewolde and Coates are perhaps lacking in nuance. But that doesn't mean that their assessments may not be basically right. 

It may be that the defense attorney won't be able to support the claims he seemed to make in his opening statement. (We remember, of course, that the defense doesn't have to prove any claims within our American legal system—the system we all deeply love.)

It may also be that Tewolde was right in her somewhat heated assessment. It may be that jurors will reject the idea that Chauvin was distracted, in some legally relevant way, by the behavior of the crowd which formed during the events in question. 

Full disclosure:

To our eye and ear, that allegedly "angry crowd" didn't seem to be posing much of a threat that day. Indeed, to our eye and ear, the group of onlookers was so small that it barely qualified as a "crowd" at all.

For such reasons, it may turn out that the jurors don't accept this defense claim at all. In that sense, Tewolde's assessment may be correct—but we were struck by the heated way the "defense attorney" threw down against the defendant's case. 

It reminded us of the heated way the expert Coates had quickly thrown down on Day One of the trial—even before she and King bothered explaining what the defense attorney had said.

Admiringly, let's be fair! As Tuesday evening's segment continued, the segment turned out  to be much more "fair and balanced" than most such segments have been in Our Town.

Incredibly, Tewolde went on to identify a claim being made by the defense which might have some actual merit. After that, "former federal corruption prosecutor" Paul Butler did in fact provide the source for Velshi's surprising tease. 

"The defense had its best day since the trial started," Butler said, though he went on to offer this overall assessment:

"But make no mistake, the prosecution is presenting an exceptionally strong case."

Is that true? Is the prosecution "presenting an exceptionally strong case?" We can't really answer that question—and like everyone who loves our American legal system, we're even going to wait to hear what the defense has to say when it gets to make its case.

Having said that, we'll also say this, and this has been a surprise:

We would have found it hard to believe that a (legal) case could possibly be made in defense of Chauvin's conduct on the day in question. 

Some of Tuesday's events at the trial made us start to doubt that prior certainty. Tomorrow, we'll review a bit of videotape which surfaced on Tuesday, March 31—and we'll show you the way one CNN anchor blew right past the role it might play in this trial.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but we just aren't super-sharp in Our Town. Our cable stars are corporate hires, and we love the stories they tell us.

Tomorrow: Tragically, an accurate statement, uttered early on

Carlson describes the insurrection!


This is Their Town on Deranged: Yesterday was Tuesday, April 6. It had been exactly three months since the January 6 attack on the Capitol Building.

Last night, right at 8 o'clock Eastern, Tucker Carlson observed the three-month anniversary. He spoke ironically throughout. As he did, he created a portrait of the human brain on deranged, or perhaps on disordered.

How bad has it gotten in the various towns of our failing nation? We strongly suggest that you watch the videotape of Carlson's presentation so you can hear his mocking, ridiculous tone.

Right at 8 o'clock sharp, Carlson began as shown. Again, we'll suggest that you watch the tape so you can take in Carlson's tone:

CARLSON (4/6/21): Good evening, and welcome to Tucker Carlson Tonight.

Today is the three-month anniversary of January 6th. For those of you who aren’t good with dates or don’t have calendars, this is the day that we pause to remember the White supremacist "QAnon insurrection" that came so very close to toppling our government and ending this democracy forever. 

You saw what happened. It was carried live on television, every gruesome moment. A mob of older people, from unfashionable zip codes, somehow made it all the way to Washington, D.C., probably by bus. 

They wandered freely through the Capitol, like it was their building or something. 

That's the way he started. As he continued, so did his deranged account of what had happened:

CARLSON (continuing directly) They didn’t have guns, but a lot of them had extremely dangerous ideas. They talked about the Constitution, and something called "their rights." 

Some of them made openly seditious claims. They insisted, for example, that the last election was not entirely fair. 

The whole thing was terrifying. And then, as you’ve been told so often, they committed unspeakable acts of violence. 

By the time thousands of soldiers arrived to restore order, an unarmed woman, an Air Force veteran, lay dead. To this day, that woman is the one completely verified casualty of the insurrection, the only person whose death we can say definitively was caused by specific events on January 6th.

We know how she died. The funny thing is, you almost never hear that woman’s name. Possibly that’s because she wasn’t a Democratic member of Congress, or even a Joe Biden voter. She was a protestor. Her name was Ashli Babbitt. She was 35.

We still don’t know who shot Ashli Babbitt, or why. No one will tell us. But then, when you’re fighting insurrectionists, you don’t have to explain yourself. You just hyperventilate about QAnon, and then you do whatever you want. When a group of sad, disenfranchised people who have been left out of the modern economy show up at your office, you don’t have to listen to their complaints, not for a second. Why would you? 

You thought listening to people’s complaints was democracy? No, these people threaten democracy. You can even shoot one of them, if you want, and get away with it. 

Killing people without explaining yourself is an established part of counterinsurgency. If you don’t believe it, check out what happened in the Second World War.

It's true that Ashli Babbitt was shot and killed that day. Carlson didn't mention what she was doing when she was shot and killed.

According to Carlson's presentation, Babbitt was simply "showing up at [some Congressional] office," trying to get some member of Congress to "listen to [her] complaints." According to Carlson, that's what Babbitt was doing when she was shot that day.

By now, you think we're making this up—but we aren't making this up. This is the actual way Carlson started last night's program. This is the actual way he described that day's events.

Last evening, we stopped watching at that point, but Carlson continued from there. You can see how he continued by watching the Fox News videotape. 

You can even read an approximate transcript of Carlson's presentation. This was one of the very rare occasions when Fox News thought a segment was worth transcribing.

Carlson said nothing about the violence committed by the "mob of older people from unfashionable zip codes" who had "somehow made it all the way to Washington, D.C., probably by bus." 

He said nothing about the threats to hang Mike Pence. He said nothing about the physical destruction or about the beating of police officers. 

He mentioned the death of Babbitt, but he didn't mention what she was doing when she was shot. He didn't mention the deaths of anyone else.

All in all, Carlson's presentation was a form of journalistic porn. By way of contrast, Rachel Maddow's opening segment the night before was a 25-minute piece of deeply disrespectful pseudo-journalistic clowning.

In our view, Charles Blow's column this past Monday  was an example of the traumatization which often results from the brutal history which has prevailed around the world, including right here in this country. These are three samples of the places to which our profit-based pseudo-journalism has taken us at this point.

We regard Maddow's performance as an insult to the world. We regard Carlson's performance as a form of illness.

Divided into tribes as we are, we the people have a hard time seeing the way our journalistic culture currently functions. Because of the role she plays in Our Town, we're inclined to regard Maddow's endlessly stupid clowning as perhaps the most destructive behavior of all.

We still plan to run through Maddow's comically awful performance; we hope we can get there tomorrow. As for Carlson, we suggest that you understand this:

People who watch the Fox News Channel may end up thinking that he is offering a "fair and balanced" account of what happened on January 6. Here in Our Town, we have quite a few semi-Carlsons of our own. We pay the price for their conduct.

Our corporate journalism lies in rubble. In our nation's various towns, our upper-end press corps is unintelligent, overpaid, silly, dumb, stupid, unwell.

Two attempts to explain: Maddow was pretending to explain the Senate parliamentarian's apparent ruling about the possible uses of the legislative process known as "reconciliation."

Whoever prepared the text she read was thoroughly overmatched by the topic. But then, the New York Times seems to be overmatched by the topic too.

In yesterday morning's print editions, Emily Cochrane authored this attempt to explain the ruling. In this morning's print editions,  Carl Hulse authored a second attempt to explain.

Did either one of these reporters know what they were talking about? It seems to us that they didn't. An amazing amount of (apparent) journalism adheres to this well-concealed pattern.

What did the parliamentarian say? Can anyone clearly explain?

TRIAL AND TOWN: Defense attorney outlines his claims!


Top pundit quickly reacts: Yesterday may have been an unusual day in the Derek Chauvin trial.  Then again, it may not have.

Was yesterday an unusual day in the Chauvin trial? That speculation arises from a statement by guest host Ali Velshi on last evening's 11th Hour. 

Velshi was subbing for Brian Williams. At the end of the program's first segment, he teased the next segment as shown:

VELSHI (4/6/21): Coming up, the defense has its best day yet at the Derek Chauvin trial. But is it enough to leave a reasonable doubt with the jury? A former federal prosecutor and a criminal defense attorney join us next.

Say what? The defense had had its best day yet? On this campus, when the analysts hear something like that on MSNBC, they sit up and take notice.

That said, did the defense have its best day yet? Did it have a good day at all? Did it plant the seeds of "reasonable doubt" even in the mind of one juror?

Like Velshi, we have no idea—we have no way of knowing. 

Was some sort of reasonable doubt being planted in some juror's mind? We have no way of answering that question. Just to be honest, neither did Velshi, and neither did Velshi's guests.

Tomorrow, we'll share the assessment which apparently triggered the copy Velshi read. But that assessment was pure speculation, like so much of the commentary one encounters on "cable news" programs.

At any rate, we had to chuckle at what happened when Velshi's segment began. His tease might have suggested that he'd be presenting a "fair and balanced" pundit panel, with a criminal defense attorney countering the "hang 'em high" views of a former federal prosecutor.

Tomorrow, we'll show you what the "criminal defense attorney" said as she started the segment's discussion. First, let's consider what happened on the trial's first day, when the prosecution, and then the defense, presented their opening statements.

The opening statements were made last Monday morning—on Monday, March 29. Such statements don't constitute actual evidence in a trial, but they preview of the claims and arguments each side will attempt to make.

Given the love we all have for our American legal system, you'd almost think that American journalists would want to report the content of those presentations before they started telling us rubes what we should think about them. 

You'd almost think our journalists would want us the people to know what each side actually said!

Good news! At the New York Times, we thought John Eligon took that approach in his front-page news report on Tuesday morning, March 30.

There's no such thing as a perfect report, and Eligon's report wasn't perfect. That said, we thought he tilted toward professionalism in the way he described the opening statements—the opening statements of both sides.

Displaying a bit of Americanism, Eligon was even willing to report what the defense had said! He may have done so imperfectly, but there's no such thing as perfection.

With that in mind, what claims had defense attorney Eric Nelson made in his opening statement? 

Perhaps surprisingly, Nelson had said that the evidence was going to show that Chauvin had followed department procedures in his use of force against the late George Floyd. 

("You will learn that Derek Chauvin did exactly what he had been trained to do over the course of his 19-year career.")

That claim may have surprising. Given our love of American values, we're all going to wait to see the evidence Nelson presents in support of that claim.

Nelson made an additional claim about the actual cause of death. This takes us in a technical direction, but the attorney;s key statement was this:

"The evidence will show that Mr. Floyd died of a cardiac arrhythmia that occurred as a result of hypertension, his coronary disease, the ingestion of methamphetamine and fentanyl and the adrenaline flowing through his body, all of which acted to further compromise an already compromised heart."

What was the actual cause of death? How should a juror's assessment of that question affect his or her verdict in this case?

Like you, we aren't medical specialists at this site. Were we jurors in this case, we'd have to listen, with great care, to the medical evidence presented during the trial. 

Showing his love of American values, Eligon went so far as to report what Nelson had said about the cause of death. Here in this country, journalists want to get the information out before they start announcing their views—their views about a murder trial in which no evidence had been presented as of last Monday at noon.

Because we love our American values, we the people always insist that our journalists provide information first. But is that what happened at CNN right after those opening statements?

You can judge that question for yourselves by reviewing the CNN transcripts (such as they are). The channel's discussion started late in the 11 A.M. hour, then continued on past noon.

The opening statements had been delivered; CNN now began its discussion. We would describe what happened as follows:

John King made an extremely modest attempt to report what had been said. We'd be inclined to say that his selection of details favored the prosecution.

King then threw to legal analyst Laura Coates, and the following exchange occurred. Could a person possibly think that it was somewhat clownish? 

KING (3/30/21): Mr. Floyd's final pleas of "I can't breathe" mushrooms, of course, into a national, indeed an international, conversation on race and on policing. Millions marching in a summer of discontent and disruption here in the United States after watching Mr. Floyd, a black man, being restrained with a white police officer's knee on his neck.

Today, that Officer Derek Chauvin faces multiple charges second degree, unintentional murder, third degree murder and second degree manslaughter. It is a diverse jury hearing this case one black woman, two multiracial woman, two white men, three black men and four white women. They will decide his fate over a trial that could last up to a month.

Let's bring in right now our key contributors on this. CNN contributor Laura Coates, and Charles Ramsey, the former chief of the Philadelphia and D.C. Police Departments. 

Laura, let me start with you and what you heard in the courtroom. This is just the opening statements. It is the beginning. Mr. Jerry Blackwell, the lead prosecutor, I thought making a very effective, methodical presentation about the nine minutes and 29 seconds, the final nine minutes and 29 seconds to Mr. Floyd's life, essentially saying that, whatever you think happened here, what you see with your own eyes is indefensible.

Mr. Nelson, Eric Nelson, the defense attorney, they're trying to say this is about a lot more than that. Mr. Floyd was there for a long period of time, he lied to police officers, he was high, he struggled with police officers and you have to take into account the officers were dealing with a crowd that they at least perceived to be a threat. 

Just as a veteran attorney, your sense so far of the opening statements.

COATES: I give no weight to the defense's opening statement whatsoever...

Perhaps a bit heatedly, Coates proceeded from there. Day after day, we'd be inclined to describe her work as that of a "hangin' pundit."

King had made the barest attempt to report what the two sides had said. At this point, he hadn't even mentioned the fact that there would be competing claims about the cause of death.

Does King love our American values, or is he just another hireling of tribal corporate media? We ask that question for this reason:

He threw to Coates, and she made a statement we would regard as perhaps and possibly just a tiny bit clownish. Last evening, Velshi's  segment about the trial proceeded in a somewhat similar way, even in spite of his tease. 

Do we love our American legal system and our Enlightenment values? Or are we perhaps a somewhat comical mob, possibly milling about in the streets, vastly pleased by the chance to hear the preapproved tales we prefer?

Almost all our "cable news" works that way. Has trial coverage been different? 

Tomorrow: CNN pundit blows right past a bit of videotape

Scarborough, Maddow flounder and flail!


This is Our Town on Stupid: This past Sunday, just two days ago, Michael Osterholm appeared on Meet the Press, a well-known TV news program.

Dr. Osterholm is the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. On this day, he shared some bad news about the way the new strain of the virus might affect the desire to reopen our public schools.

Osterholm spoke about the B117 variant, the so-called U.K. strain of the virus. He seemed to say that he's changed his mind about opening schools. This is what he said:

OSTERHOLM (4/4/21): Please understand, this B117 variant is a brand new ballgame. In fact, right here in Minnesota, we're now seeing the other aspect of this B117 variant that hasn't been talked much about, and that is the fact that it infects kids very readily. 

Unlike the previous strains of the virus, we didn't see children under eighth grade get infected often, or they were not frequently very ill. They didn't transmit to the rest of the community. That's why I was one of those people very strongly supporting reopening in-class learning. 

B117 turns that on its head. These kids now are really major challenges in terms of how they transmit. The fact that I can sit here and talk about 749 schools in Minnesota in the last two weeks now having B117 activity, so I the message is we have to get through this surge

TODD: So you would, right nowyou would close schools?

OSTERHOLM: And this means we're going to have to reconsider what we're doing... 

Has Osterholm changed his mind about reopening schools at this point? With a commercial break looming, Todd didn't push through and get a clear-cut statement.

That said, Osterholm seemed to be saying that he's changed his mind about opening schools because of the new B117 strain. That's what he seemed to say two days ago, on an extremely well-known program produced by NBC News.

Jump ahead to the last two mornings. Each morning, we've watched Joe Scarborough rant and rave about the need to reopen schools. 

As is the norm on this "cable news" channel, Scarborough's various guests stood in line to agree with what he was saying. In two straight mornings, neither Scarborough nor any of his guests showed any sign of being aware of what Osterholm had said.

Osterholm could be wrong, of course—but does Scarborough even know what Osterholm has said? There's no particular reason to assume that he does:

You see, Scarborough was in Boston over the weekend, taking in the first three Red Sox games. There's a very good chance that he didn't watch Meet the Press or catch up on what he missed. 

There's a very good chance he doesn't know what Osterholm has said. And as for his compliant guests, contradicting the host just isn't done on the tribally pleasing "cable news" shows broadcast here in Our Town.

These performances in the past two days have been examples of the phenomenon known as "Our Town on Stupid." That said, you haven't seen the most aggressive strain of this intellectual virus until you find a way to watch the first 25 uninterrupted minutes of last night's Maddow Show.

It doesn't get dumber than what Maddow did last night. Her performance was the Platonic form of Our Town on Stupid.

Maddow was clowning hard last night—clowning hard, but also instructing us in the proper ways to fully love and adore her. If you want to see Our Town on Stupid, that is the place to go.

What was Maddow discussing last night? She was pretending to discuss the new ruling of the Senate parliamentarian concerning the possibility of passing bills through the Senate, this year and next, with fewer than 60 votes.

The parliamentarian has apparently issued a new ruling about this highly consequential matter. To see Kevin Drum explain the matter in roughly a hundred words, you can just click here.

Maddow devoted 25 minutes to this topic, but mainly she mugged and clowned.  The humblebragging was general throughout. She seemed to contradict herself at an array of points. 

By the time her performance was done, we had no earthly idea what she had actually said. Neither, of course, did this endlessly devolving cable news clown.

For today, we're going to add Maddow's clownish performance to Charles Blow's recent column in praise of Living in the Deeply Painful Past and Nowhere Else. 

We'd be inclined to call Blow's column Our Town on Traumatization. Maddow's clowning was Our Town on Dumbest in Show.

It's stunning to see the kind of behavior we tolerate here in Our Town. Tomorrow, we'll try to summarize Maddow's clowning as she pretended to talk about the parliamentarian's ruling. Before the week is done, we'll return to Blow's column, which drew its inspiration from the Chauvin trial.

But of one thing you can be sure—any time you activate your TV, there's a very good chance you'll encounter Our Town on Stupid. 

It might be Scarborough, back from Fenway with his soapbox and his compliant guests. It might be Our Own Rhodes Scholar, telling us she's a policy geek and a nerd and a dork and that dummies like us just aren't.

Over at the New York Times, Blow will be writhing in agony as he rehearses what happened in 1811. He has absolutely nothing to say about the needs of the children who are busy being born today. Instead, he wants to focus on the gruesome flaying of flesh which rules his own traumatized brain.

The children being born today? They can take care of themselves!

In our view, Maddow should be humanely led away, never to be heard from again. As for the rest of us here in Our Town, we're the ones who insist on letting this nonsense continue.

We love love love our favorite star's "performance of the Rachel figure." According to major anthropologists, this is the way it's always been, and there's no reason to think it will change.

Tomorrow: Let's count the times this fool referred to "nerds," "dorks," "geeks" and "boring." ("Boring" means that there's no sex and no one's going to jail.)

TRIAL AND TOWN: Flawless police chief appears in court!


It seems hard to deny what he said: Medaria Arradondo, age 54 or 55, is chief of the Minneapolis Police Department.

Arradondo has served in the MPD since 1989. He became chief of the department in the summer of 2017.

Yesterday, Arradondo testified in the trial of Derek Chauvin. For the record, he testified as a witness for the prosecution. 

On the face of things, it's hard to disagree with the various points Arradondo made. On the front page of today's New York Times, this summary starts the news report about his testimony (hard-copy headline included):

BOGEL-BURROUGHS ET AL (4/6/21): Chief Condemns Chauvin and Says He 'Should Have Stopped'

The prospect that a police chief would take the witness stand against a fellow officer is exceedingly rare. But there was the chief of the Minneapolis Police Department on Monday, condemning the actions of Derek Chauvin, the officer charged with murdering George Floyd, as wrong by every imaginable measure.

“To continue to apply that level of force to a person proned out, handcuffed behind their back—that in no way, shape or form is anything that is by policy,” said the chief, Medaria Arradondo. “It is not part of our training. And it is certainly not part of our ethics or our values.”

The chief’s appearance, following testimony by two other Minneapolis police officials last week, underscored the difficulty that Mr. Chauvin and his lawyers will have in persuading the jury that the officer was just doing his job when he pinned Mr. Floyd to the ground with his knee for more than nine minutes last May.

Chief Arradondo said Mr. Chauvin’s actions might have been reasonable in the “first few seconds” to get Mr. Floyd “under control.” But, he said, “Once Mr. Floyd had stopped resisting, and certainly once he was in distress and trying to verbalize that, that should have stopped.”

Videotape of Chauvin's behavior has been widely viewed. As far as we know, very few people who have watched the tape have been inclined to disagree with Chief Arradondo's basic assessment:

“Once Mr. Floyd had stopped resisting, and certainly once he was in distress and trying to verbalize that, [Chauvin's behavior] should have stopped.”

That's what Arradondo said. As far as we know, very few people have been inclined to disagree with that basic assessment:

At some point, the late George Floyd, rather plainly, was indeed "under control." At some point, all too plainly, he had "stopped resisting."

At some such point, Chauvin should have stopped "pinn[ing] Mr. Floyd to the ground with his knee?" That's the way it has looked to us. As far as we know, that's pretty much the way it has looked to pretty much everyone else.

(For the record, we'll note that this statement by Arradondo affirms the fact that Floyd had in fact resisted arrest during the tragic events of the day. Over the course of the past year, many organs in Our Town have struggled to deny or disappear that fact. Such efforts by major press organs help define the current state of life here in Our failing Town.)

On the face of things, very few people have been inclined to disagree with Arradondo's basic assessment. In the statements quoted in that passage, Arradondo was describing the way these events have looked to us, and to pretty much everyone else.

That said, it's worth recalling a basic point about our alleged American values. Chief Arradondo was appearing as a prosecution witness in a murder / manslaughter trial. And according to our American values, the defendant in any such trial will be afforded the chance to make his case—to offer a defense.

Also according to our alleged values, the defendant in any such trial is presumed innocent until he's proven guilty! In Our Town, everyone is able to state such facts, but our highly excitable corporate pundits rarely show the slightest sign of understanding or respecting these lauded American values.

Our pundits tend to jump to conclusions. They tend to run in mobs.

Sometimes they chase down political figures when they excitedly run in their mobs. Sometimes they chase down despised defendants, but of one thing you can be sure:

They will rarely show any sign of respecting our alleged American values. They will rarely show any sign of respecting the basic standards of their own profession.

Instead, our American pundits tend to run in packs. Under current arrangements, one pack runs on the Fox News Channel. A second pack of corporate performers runs on the other two "cable news" channels—on the channels which are most widely viewed in Our Town.

To our eye, Derek Chauvin's behavior that day seems quite hard to defend. That said, we're also aware of facts such as these:

Chauvin is on tril for murder and manslaughter, not for "behavior hard to defend." We're also aware of this:

Within the legal system we all pretend to love, the prosecution makes its case first. After that, the defense gets its turn.

Sometimes, our highly excitable corporate pundits seem to rush past such facts. Tomorrow, we'll offer a possibly clownish early example. For now, we'll only say this:

From the start, we've been puzzled by Chauvin's behavior that day. We say that for this reason:

Suppose a police officer did what Chauvin did at 3 A.M., with no one looking, out behind a deserted warehouse. Suppose a videotape of that behavior then somehow turned up.

(Essentially, that's what happened in 1991, when Rodney King was mercilessly beaten by an array of Los Angeles police officers. Almost surely, those officers thought they were operating under cover of darkness.  The era of the videotaped police event basically started that night.)

Had Chauvin behaved the way he did out behind a deserted warehouse, we'd be inclined to assume that his (surreptitious) behavior was an example of the way he behaved (under cover of darkness) as a regular matter. 

But Chauvin didn't do what he did under cover of darkness. He did it right out in the public square, as his behavior was being captured on videotape.

That doesn't mean that his behavior was appropriate or even legal. In our view, it does mean that his behavior was a bit puzzling that day.

Why in the world would Chauvin think that he could behave that way right out in the open, with phones and cameras running? It's easy to create a novel in which that question gets answered. Many in our pundit class have.

That said, we've seen little curiosity in our pundit class about Chauvin's peculiar conduct. When our pundits work as a group, they tend to disappear elementary facts and elementary pieces of tape. 

They also tend to create simple stories, which they repeat as a group.

This is the way these monsters have behaved for the past many years. People are dead all over the world because these hirelings have behaved this way, on so many occasions

To our eye, Chauvin's behavior seems very hard to defend. It also strikes us as puzzling.

Having said that, we'll also say this:

Because we believe in our American values, we're planning to wait to hear what gets offered in his defense.

Just for the record, Chief Arradondo is an interested party in the events of that day. His assessments make perfect sense to us, but we're so in love with American values that we're willing to wait a week or two to see what the defense says.

The monsters of our pundit class don't tend to behave that way. People are dead all over the world because of the ways they do behave—and here  in Our Town, we cheer them on. They tell us the stories we like!

The defense will get to make its case after the prosecution is finished. At this site, we're so in love with American values that we plan to see what they say before we join the mob.

That said, the prosecution and the defense made opening statements last Monday. Tomorrow, we'll show you what the defense attorney said that day—and we'll we'll show you the possibly comical way one major pundit reacted.

These Corporate Pundits Today! Despondent experts keep telling us that this is pretty much the best we humans are able to do.

Tomorrow: A possibly comical statement

Concerning masks in Minneapolis!


Concerning Charles Blow's column: Our first observation this afternoon has no bearing on any question arising from the trial of Derek Chauvin.

It's simply based on an observation concerning life in Minneapolis on the day of George Floyd's death. More specifically, it's based on a point of puzzlement. The question we'd ask was this:

On May 25, 2020, was anyone in Minneapolis actually wearing a mask?

We've watched the videotape from inside Cup Foods—the videotape played last week at the trial. No one, employees and customers both, seemed to be wearing a mask.

We've looked at this photo from outside Cup Foods as roughly a dozen observers lingered after the events of the day. (The photo appeared in yesterday's New York Times.) Yes, those people were all outside. Still, no one was wearing a mask. 

As best we can tell, none of the police officers who responded that day were wearing masks. The pandemic had been (officially) underway for almost three months at that point. Is it possible that we're all just living inside some sort of a dream?

That was merely an observation about mask use in Minneapolis in late May of last year. As a second point, we'll suggest that you give some thought to Charles Blow's new column. 

We'll discuss the column tomorrow. We'll also discuss this comment to the column, which comes from a good, decent person who lives somewhere in Our Town:

COMMENT FROM RHODE ISLAND: I have been researching the 18th and 19th century enslavement of Black men, women and children in my small New England town.  As I dig through records to try and find their names and write their biographies, I grapple with the fact there is no record of their births, though many were born here, nor their deaths, whether they died here or at Valley Forge, the Battle of Rhode Island or Yorktown.  Advertisements for runaway slaves tell the story of  young men and women trying to escape from their captors and we rarely know their fates. That disregard for Black lives echoes through the centuries. Start at the beginning, read the history and then you will begin to understand what this country has done to the people kidnapped and brought to this country to build it at the cost of their own lives and generations that followed.

In our view, Blow's column serves as an (unhelpful) attempt to create an enshrinement of traumatization. 

It strikes us as spectacularly unhelpful. People create such enshrinements all over the world. But in our view, a serious newspaper wouldn't necessarily want to keep running such columns.

As for the comment, the commenter refers to the "disregard for Black lives" which "echoes through the centuries." We'll admit that we had an instant reaction to the commenter's current project, a reaction we'll discuss tomorrow. Our reaction involved some thoughts about the interests and the needs of the real and actual children who are actually being born today, out here in the real world.

We think columns like Blow's are spectacularly hackneyed at this point and are spectacularly unhelpful. That doesn't mean that Blow's a bad person. In fact, we're quite sure he isn't.

Go ahead, though—read his column. What would you say has been gained? 

(More on this tomorrow.)

Starting tomorrow: TRIAL AND TOWN!


The role of American values: Yesterday morning, on CNN's Reliable Sources, national correspondent Sara Sidner engaged in some unusual conduct.

Sidner was asked to describe what it's like to cover the Derek Chauvin trial. In the course of giving her answer, Sidner actually cited some basic principles of the American legal system—of "Americanism" itself.

Surprisingly, Sidney said this:

SIDNER (4/4/21): Inside of that courtroom, it is about the rule of law, and it is about the prosecution trying to prove their case. And we have to remember, they must prove their case.

Derek Chauvin doesn't have to prove anything. The prosecution has to prove its case and his defense attorney, Derek Chauvin's defense story, has to poke holes in it and that's what's been happening back and forth. This is our legal system. You inside that courtroom are innocent until proven guilty.

Say what? We're sure that Sidner is well-intentioned. But can any of that be true?

Sidner made her unusual claims early in yesterday's program. Here on our campus, the young analysts glanced about, befuddled, in startled surprise. 

According to Sidner, Derek Chauvin—the defendant in this murder / manslaughter case—"doesn't have to prove anything." 

Sidner claimed that it's the prosecution which has to prove its case. She seemed to be saying that Chauvin, as the defendant, is regarded as "innocent until proven guilty," at least "inside that courtroom."

"This is our legal system," she even surprisingly said.

For ourselves, we were surprised, yet not surprised, by the young analysts' reactions. 

On the one hand, the analysts are young and inexperienced. It's entirely possible that they've never heard anyone make such claims.

Also, the youngsters have been exposed to a great deal of punditry about the Chauvin trial. To the extent that this punditry has emerged from the major news orgs within Our Town, it was likely to have betrayed little awareness of, or allegiance to, our basic American system.

Is someone accused of a crime "presumed innocent" within our legal system? Is it really up to the prosecution to prove the claims it's making?

Can it really be true that the prosecution has to prove its case "beyond a reasonable doubt?" Even more incredibly, do all twelve jurors have to agree on a guilty verdict? 

Is it even possible that our system is based on the extremely weird precept known as Blackstone's ratio (but also as Blackstone's formulation)? According to the leading authority on that musty formulation, the precept goes like this:

It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent person suffer.

Who could ever think something like that? Surely none of us liberals!

At any rate, according to that leading authority, this formulation was published in the 1760s. Surely, the analysts said, the formulation no longer holds!

We can't blame the analysts for being surprised by Sidner's unusual statements. 

They'd watched a lot of cable news pundits during the first full week of the trial. Beyond that,  they'd read the work of the "hangin' columnists" who stand in line, at the Washington Post and the New York Times, to express the values of Our Town when it comes to this high-profile event.

Watching those pundits and reading those columnists, a youngster would rarely get the idea that our system is based on the values Sidner described. Watching those pundits and reading those columnists, a person would almost surely end up thinking something else.

We pause for this quick note:

It has long been known that we the people may not be amazingly well informed about the basic precepts of our (admittedly failing) American system.

Other surveys have sometimes shown that we the people may not always agree with some of those basic precepts. Also, of course, there's no requirement, within our system, that anybody has to agree.

That said, it may be a bit surprising to see the way our cable pundits treat the basic principles of Americanism when they go on TV and perform for us the cable subscribers—more generally, for those who live in Our Town.

This week, we'll take a quick look at the way our upper-end pundit class has been discussing this high-profile trial. 

In our view, the work has tended to be poor. Every so often, up pops someone like Sidner, leaving our staffers confused.

We'll now confess to something we thought as we read this morning's newspapers. This is Our Town on Stupid, we thought on several occasions.  More charitably, we also thought this:

This is Our Town on Traumatization.

(We've rarely thought, in the past week, that we were looking at Our Town on Adult Expertise.)

However a person might assess the charges against Chauvin, it seems to us that this trial has deeply challenged the pundit class in Our Town's finer locations. Anthropologists have told us this about the  work we've observed:

This is the way our brains are wired, these top scholars and experts have told us. For the most part, all in all, this is the best we can do.

Tomorrow: Pundit reacts to last Monday's opening statement

Congressman boasted about nude pics!


The greatest team of all time: We're newly returned from receiving our first vaccination shot. 

Let's just say that a fair amount of confusion prevailed, mainly concerning which were the red seats and which were the orange seats, along with which were the black seats and which were the blue.

These questions arose as people were told where to sit as they waited to schedule their second appointments. That said, nothing's perfect, and a whole lot of good got done. 

We sat in various seats, waiting for our second appointment to be scheduled. As we did, our eyes fell upon this front-page headline in our hard-copy Washington Post:

         Boasts by Gaetz said to include nude photos

That was, and is, a front-page headline in today's Washington Post. BREAKING! A (visibly creepy) junior congressman had boasted about some nude pics!

Such is the world we live in. On Thursday evening, the final segment of MSNBC's All In included such embarrassing clatter as this:

MATT FULLER, SENIOR POLITICS EDITOR, THE DAILY BEAST (4/1/21): This actually started for me almost exactly three years ago. We had a tip that he was dating an intern not in his office, in another office. 

I sat across from that intern. I asked her questions. She later confirmed to me that yes, she was dating him. She was over 21 at the time.


I can tell you that yes, I know that he dated women who were much younger than him in histheir early 20s. But with that, you know, the Justice Department probe, that that still remains to be unverified at least by us at this point.

No, we haven't dreamed that up. You can see the transcript right here.

Fuller said he's devoted three years to this problem—to the problem which arose when he learned, in 2017, that a (then) 35-year-old congressman was known to be dating women who were in their early 20s. 

He sat across from one of those women, and he asked her questions! On Thursday night, this senior politics editor went on MSNBC and admitted to these facts. A leering, tabloid-ready substitute host urged him to tell us more. 

This is happening as a pandemic continues to sweep the globe, attacking people in seats of many colors. There may be more pandemics to come—but in the meantime, we'll always have Florida, and those boasts, to publish headlines about. 

Also, major journalists at the Washington Post are putting their thumbs and their elbows on the scales about the conduct of a couple of first-week rookie cops. We humans! It's much as it has always been:

The more powerful are willing to consign the less significant, their lessers, to early cancellation or death.

When we saw that headline in the Post, we made a split-second decision. If Kevin Drum was able to "take a break and talk about" the greatest college basketball team of all time, we were going to take a break and discuss that subject too!

Kevin closed the post in question wondering about the identity of the greatest such team of all time. Today, we answer the question his post implied.

The greatest team of all time:

The greatest college team of all time? It was the 1965-66 UCLA freshman team, the only freshman team to win the NCAA championship.

How did a freshman team manage to win the national championship? Let's take a look at the record:

In the fall of 1965, the UCLA varsity was coming off two straight national championships—the first of the ten the school would win over a 12-year span. 

At the start of the new season, the UCLA varsity was ranked #4 in the nation. Sadly, though, they faced one game they couldn't possibly win—the annual preseason game against the UCLA freshmen.

(Note: According to this Sports Illustrated article, the UCLA varsity was rated #1 in the nation in a poll of coaches when they played the freshmen that year.)

Sure enough! The freshman team whipped the varsity, 75-60, thereby wrapping up the national championship. Freshman center Lew Alcindor scored 31 points while amassing 21 "boards."

The NCAA decided to stage its regular season and its post-season tournament just as if nothing had happened. Starting in the 1966-67 season, those freshmen were eligible to play on the varsity level, and they proceeded to win three more national championships, operating under normal procedures.

Just for the record, the greatest college team with upperclassmen may have been the 1971-72 UCLA varsity. With Bill Walton as its sophomore center, that team somehow managed to win these early-season, non-conference games:

Early-season UCLA wins:
12/3/71: Defeated The Citadel by 56 points
12/4/71: Defeated Iowa by 34
12/10/71: Defeated Iowa State by 29
12/11/71: Defeated Texas A&M by 64
12/22/71: Defeated Notre Dame by 58
12/23/71: Defeated TCU by 38
12/29/71: Defeated Texas by 50
12/30/71: Defeated #6 Ohio State by 26

Despite the presence of upperclassmen, the team was off to a decent start. They went 30-0 that year, part of an eventual 88-game winning streak. 

Depth was good on that varsity team. Sven Nater, the team's back-up center, was the 16th player chosen in the 1973 NBA draft.

Nater went on to become the only player to lead the ABA and the NBA in rebounding. In his senior year at UCLA, he'd averaged 3.2 points per game as a second-stringer. 

Could the team which beat Notre Dame by 58 have handled that earlier freshman squad? There's no way to answer your question.

In modern times, we're denied the pleasure of such unparalleled greatness. On the other hand, we get to read, on a regular basis, about a congressman's boasts.

A philosophical puzzle: Coach Wooden was known for his attention to detail. This creates a philosophical puzzle about the imaginary game between those two UCLA squads.

The question goes like this: 

If each team had been taught how to put on its socks, could either team have won?