NOW TOO MUCH FOR US? Genius professor reads two grafs!


She also gets something right: Is there any hope for us the people? For us, the current American branch of "the rational animal?" 

We can't necessarily say that there actually is! 

Below, we plan to recommend something Professor Cottom says in her new opinion column for the New York Times. First though, consider this:

COTTOM (4/11/23): ...By the end of the day on Thursday, the Tennessee House had expelled Pearson and Jones. (Nashville’s Metropolitan Council voted unanimously on Monday to reappoint Jones to House District 52.)

This swift political action is the kind that the 71 percent of Americans who want stricter gun laws can only dream of happening.

We were concerned and surprised. Have we actually backslid to the point where only 71 percent of us Americans now "want stricter gun laws?"

That's what the professor said—and she won a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" just last year! 

For reasons which are blindingly obvious, that number struck us as surprisjngly low. For that reason, we decided to check. 

We clicked the link to Cottom's source. When we did, we found an AP report from last August which opened with this headline, but also with this claim:

AP-NORC poll: Most in US say they want stricter gun laws

Most U.S. adults want to see gun laws made stricter and think gun violence is increasing nationwide, according to a new poll that finds broad public support for a variety of gun restrictions, including many that are supported by majorities of Republicans and gun owners.

The poll by the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows 71% of Americans say gun laws should be stricter, including about half of Republicans, the vast majority of Democrats and a majority of those in gun-owning households.

Sure enough! According to the AP report, the new AP-NORC survey had found that "71% of Americans say gun laws should be stricter!" 

The professor read all the way to that second paragraph, then passed that finding along.

We decided to read a bit further. That percentage seemed surprisingly low. We wanted to see the fuller data set.

We scrolled to the end of the AP report. When we got there, sure enough! 

Under this heading—Majorities back tighter gun policies—the AP report said that 85% of respondents had said that they support "a federal law requiring background checks on all potential gun buyers, including private sales and gun shows."

Also, 83% of respondents had said they support "a federal law that bans those convicted of domestic violence from purchasing a gun." You can see those numbers right there, in that AP report.

That raises an obvious question. Where in the world—where on earth—did the AP reporter get that 71% percent figure? 

Having perused the entire report, we have no idea. That said, consider the plight currently faced by us the American people:

We're a nation whose major news org routinely deal with basic statistics in the way we've just described. Also, we're a nation in which recipients of our "genius grants" read the first two paragraphs of news reports, then apparently read no further.

We're a people whose major blue tribe newspaper waves claims like Cottom's into print, without wondering about the figure she was citing. The professor didn't think that her figure seemed low, and neither did her wonderfully erudite editor!

Surely, everyone knows that support for universal background checks had previously been over 90 percent, and not too long ago. On our part, that knowledge led to our skepticism concerning the figure Cottom cited.

No such question arose in the mind of the editor or editors who placed this column in print at our tribe's smartest newspaper.  This is the way our "genius professors," and our highest-end news orgs, function at this point in time. 

With that in mind:

How could anyone think that "rational animals" who function this way have any real hope of making it through our current travail, in which we're ostensibly trying to find a way "back out of all this now too much for us?"

According to the survey in question, 85 and 83 percent of us Americans favored those tougher gun laws! The AP rounded that off to 71 percent, and a genius professor passed that unexplained number along in the pages of the New York Times!

So it goes as we in our infallible tribe continue to flounder and flail. That said, the professor made an important observation before her column was done.

Professor Cottom, age 45 or 46, grew up in North Carolina. As you can see in her new column, she has quite a few views about the South. 

She's also a good, decent person.

It seems to us that some of her stated views are something less than totally helpful. Still and all, at one point, the professor offers this:

COTTOM: I keep my eyes on the South for a lot of reasons. This is my home. It is the region of this nation’s original sin. Nothing about the future of this country can be resolved unless it is first resolved here: not the climate crisis or the border or life expectancy or anything else of national importance, unless you solve it in the South and with the people of the South.

Just for the record, all regions in our nation are "the region of this nation's original sin." Among others, so said President Lincoln himself, right there in his second inaugural.

In our view, Cottom was working from a bit of unhelpful script at that point. But what she said next is important.

Given the way our creaky political system works, Cottom's larger assessment is almost surely correct. The various disasters we're currently facing—for now, let's focus on the growing, disastrous culture of crazy, suicidal mass shootings—are unlikely to be resolved "unless [we Yankees] solve it in the South and with the people of the South."

For many of us within our blue tribe, that is a daunting notion. As everyone knows, we're much, much smarter, and much more moral, than Those People are. And yet, this genius professor is trying to tell us that we have to deal with such lesser folk.

Frost began his poem, Directive, with the language we've been quoting—with the language about some person or persons who seem to be caught in a state of affairs "now too much for us."

Way back when, Randall Jarrell described Directive as "hard to understand, but easy to love." Your mileage about Directive may differ, but it seems to us that the poem includes a lot of language which might help direct us in our wanderings at this extremely perilous point in time.

We live at a time when our genius professors don't read past the second paragraph and our brightest news orgs don't notice. Also, when the clowns who spill from the clowncar each night can't stop pleasuring us by reusing the imagery which emerged from Mr. Lincoln's war, but also from the brutal history which preceded it.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but our vastly self-impressed blue tribe is basically "all too human," pretty much all the way down. 

We lack that knowledge about ourselves. That doesn't make it untrue.

Are our tribunes taking us, to use Frost's language, toward "a house that is no more a house / Upon a farm that is no more a farm / And in a town that is no more a town"—but also into a public discourse which has ceased to be any such thing?

Under the guidance of Lawrence and them, have we possibly found our way to a discourse which is no more a discourse? To a discourse in which we read two grafs, then start calling the tired old names?

Professor Cottom is a good, decent person. Does anyone think that's enough?

Tomorrow: Gun control, mental health / Distinguishing characteristics


  1. Democrats are tearing at the fabric of society.

  2. "That raises an obvious question. Where in the world—where on earth—did the AP reporter get that 71% percent figure?

    Having perused the entire report, we have no idea. "

    She got it from the AP-NORC Report itself. If you click the link in the AP report and then read that AP-NORC report itself, that figure is clearly stated. She didn't make it up to fit some preconceived narrative, as Somerby accuses her of doing.

    And what is with the attitude about her MacArthur Foundation grant? Calling her a "genius" as a form of mockery because she received an honor seems unnecessarily spiteful this morning. It is the MacArthur Foundation who calls these genius grants, not Cottam. Is she supposed to refuse the grant money out of humility?

    Somerby seems to not understand the concept of a composite statistic, one that summarizes a series of questions on a survey about one overall topic. This is the same problem he had with that pain survey he complained about for several weeks. If you look at the AP-NORC report, it shows that some questions received very low %s of people endorsing them. That is going to reduce an average produced across all of the questions on the survey from the 85% and 83% of the higher scoring questions.

    But the point of today's essay is not to understand that large numbers of people support gun control. It is to mock a professor who has done nothing wrong, because Somerby is envious that someone gave her a prestigious grant. And that makes Somerby a huge asshole.

    I expect Somerby to be back tomorrow to actually talk about the content of her opinion piece. Professor Cottam is of course black and female, as well as a professor. Those are Somerby's favorite targets. Today's attack is made up, specious, fatuous and mean-spirited. He should be ashamed to let his animus show so clearly. And then he will argue that the r-word is used to freely by the left. This is what bias looks like.

    1. In Bob's defense, he had to forget everything he knows about mathematics and economics in order to get in the Red tribe.

  3. So Bob looks at the endless slaughters
    way right politics has insisted on nothing
    being attempted to put a stop to them,
    and he finds the major problem is
    Somerby should be in straight

  4. C'mon. Even deep South Georgia voted for Biden. The South will rise again, by throwing off the economic shackles the GOP has put them in. Us Liberal Yankees support them 100%.

  5. "Professor Cottom is a good, decent person. Does anyone think that's enough?"

    Professor Cottam's 71% figure is accurately cited from the poll she discussed. That should be enough for anyone.

    Somerby is trying to pretend that a black female professor who has won a pretigious grant cannot read a research report. Don't be fooled by his pretended obtuseness and failure to understand what is clearly stated. He tried the same trick on Einstein.

    1. Digby said Professor Cottam's 71% figure was inaccurate.

    2. From Digby's blog:

  6. Since a huge majority wants stricter gun controls, someone needs to explain why a lot of those people vote for politicians who don't want stricter gun controls.

    1. They are not single-issue voters. Or they are single-issue voters but their main issue is something Republicans support, such as anti-abortion laws or covid denial.

    2. It’s fair to speculate many Trump voters don’t really understand what they are voting for. And Bob is correct their is
      some blame for this to go around,
      but he only wants to blame the
      Leftish side of the corporate


  7. tl;dr, and professors of course are fools, no quarrel here.

    ...however. If you want to know the percent of the population that "say gun laws should be stricter", you need to ask the population exactly that: 'should gun laws be stricter?' The thing with "...federal law requiring background checks... blah, blah" won't do.

    1. If the essay is too long and you didn't read it, you shouldn't be commenting on it.


    2. ...and of course, dear Bob, "stricter gun laws" could mean many different things. Different things to different people.

      ...for example, some might want criminals involved in illegal gun trafficking to be punished by death. Surely this isn't what you mean by "stricter gun laws"?..

    3. Making it illegal for cops to sell their guns on the black market (after claiming the guns were "stolen" from their cruisers) is the kind of "stricter gun laws" everyone supports.

  8. Digby hunts antelope.

  9. Bob Somerby -- if you do not read your blog comments and you do not wish to edit out the spam and vandal trolls, then why don't you just turn off the comments on your blog?

    1. Thank you!!!!

    2. IT's a safe bet that he reads them from time to time. My theory is he jumps on occasionally too. He doesn't' pay enough attention to clean up after whoever is vandalizing the comment sections, or he just doesn't care that much....

    3. He removed today’s batch. I’m happy.

  10. Thanks to whoever did clean up after the vandal today.

    1. Speak to the invisible hand!

      (None of the analysts were willing to take on the assignment.)

    2. Hey, Bob!

      If this is really you, please know that you’re a mensch and your blog is outstanding! Keep it coming!