Patterico's Pontifications


Politifact: the Precise Meaning of Words Doesn’t Necessarily Make Warren and Harris Wrong

Filed under: General — JVW @ 9:23 pm

[guest post by JVW]

This blog has covered various rulings that the “fact-checking” site Politifact has issued over the years. At times, we’ve been critical of rulings that we think are ill-advised, such as with the government’s mixed-messages regarding the ebola virus, or their apparent squeamishness with the dining habits of a young Barack Obama, or their reluctance to concede that Obamacare can indeed be fairly characterized as a government takeover of the healthcare system. Occasionally though, they have surprised us by, for example, reversing four years of rulings to the contrary and finally confessing that “if you like your health care plan, you can keep your plan” was in fact a lie, or the time they acknowledged that Democrat claims that Republicans would end the Medicare program were based upon a willful misrepresentation of the GOP’s platform.

Sadly, today we are back at the head-scratching obstinacy of Politifact when searching for reasons to let progressives off the hook for their wild claims. Earlier this afternoon, the site announced in a post that Tweets from prominent Democrats that allege Michael Brown was “murdered” five years ago would not be subject to an official accuracy evaluation, as the meaning of the word “murder” is — get this — “subject to some dispute.” Here is what they had to say, emphasis in this case is added by me:

After these tweets came out, PolitiFact heard from numerous readers who asked us to check whether [Sen. Kamala] Harris and [Sen. Elizabeth] Warren were correct in calling Brown’s death a “murder.”

There is no question that Wilson killed Brown, and there’s strong evidence that it was not accidental.

In discussing the case with legal experts, however, we found broad consensus that “murder” was the wrong word to use — a legal point likely familiar to Harris, a longtime prosecutor, and Warren, a law professor.

Well now, Politifact acknowledges that a whole bunch of their readers called BS on the tweets issued by those two shameless demagogues. I guess that in and of itself forced them to respond. But instead of saving time by agreeing with the legal experts with whom they consulted and concluding that the word as everyone with a modicum of sense recognizes it is not an accurate description of what transpired between Officer Darren Wilson and Michael Brown, they start dissembling:

That said, experts who have studied police-related deaths and race relations said that focusing too much on the linguistics in controversial cases comes with its own set of problems.

“I don’t know if the legalistic distinction intensifies the anger, but it does feel like an attempt to shift the debate from a discussion about the killing of black and brown people by police,” said Jean Brown, who teaches communications at Texas Christian University and specializes in media representations of African Americans. “This is unfortunate, because rather than discussing the need for de-escalation tactics and relations between police and communities of color, this has become a conversation about legal terms. Quite frankly, it’s a distraction that doesn’t help the discussion.”

Yes, what this discussion really needed is an academic from the soft sciences who specializes in racially-charged cultural studies to try and argue that using accurate language is a distraction from the goals of perfect wokeness (or should that be wokenness?).

Politifact then instructs us that murder generally means the deliberate taking of a human life, but confides to us that according to Missouri law that definition doesn’t apply to law enforcement officers acting in the line of duty! Who knew? I wonder if there are any other states that exempt police, sheriffs, and other sworn peace officers while they are on the job. They then quote a University of Missouri law professor who astounds us by reporting that law enforcement is given a pretty wide latitude in using deadly force when they feel that their lives are in danger. The things we learn from media fact-checking sites!

Our source of all of this rich legal information is forced to acknowledge that both a Missouri grand jury and a United States Department of Justice investigation concluded that Officer Wilson did not commit an act that would subject him to prosecution. Unsurprisingly, Politifact makes sure to remind us that the federal investigation detected what they believed was systemic racial bias in the Ferguson, Missouri community where this incident took place. And then, after having written a post that pretty much conclusively establishes that Senators Harris and Warren had been irresponsible in using the word “murder,” Politifact grasps at the last straw available to them in an attempt to exculpate the two Presidential aspirants:

Some legal experts argued that there’s a difference between being legally precise and using language more informally.

“When my grandmother read the newspaper, she would sometimes blurt, ‘It’s a crime!’ in response to a story,” said Ben Trachtenberg, a University of Missouri law professor. “Everyone present realized that she did not literally mean that someone described in the article had violated a criminal statute. It seems at least possible that (Harris and Warren) wished to convey a sentiment like my grandmother once did and did not intend to apply the criminal law of Missouri as one might on a law school exam.”

Finally, some cautioned that over-analyzing legal terminology can obscure the discussion of larger issues.

Melita M. Garza, author of the 2018 book, “They Came to Toil: Newspaper Representations of Mexicans and Immigrants in the Great Depression,” said that it’s common for people to talk past each other on matters of race and ethnicity. “That is doubly so when contemporary events have visceral past parallels whose indelible images are still rooted in our public memory,” she added.

Joy Leopold, an assistant professor of media communications at Webster University in Missouri who has studied the Brown case, said it’s not uncommon for smaller issues such as legal terminology to crop up in controversial cases like this.

“Focusing on the language opens up the opportunity for some to discredit the conversation about police brutality and the criminal justice system in general,” Leopold said.

So there you have it, helpfully distilled by the deep musings of three more academics: words, even those from famous politicians who are vying for the highest office in the land, should be taken colloquially, not literally; when speaking about race we have to understand that grievances from the past allow for narrative liberties to be taken in the present; and getting hung up on words, even when they are used irresponsibly, keeps us from achieving our perfect woke selves.

What an utter load of horse manure.


Mounted Police Under Fire For Leading Prisoner By A Rope

Filed under: General — Dana @ 6:00 pm

[guest post by Dana]


This is really ugly. Especially given that it’s 2019 and the prisoner didn’t resist arrest. But what makes the degradation even worse is that, according to the Chief of Police Vernon Haley, “the officers could have waited for a transport unit at the location of the arrest”. But instead they chose to humiliate the prisoner by walking him through the streets on a leash:

The Galveston Police Department has issued an apology after disturbing images of an arrest sparked outrage on social media. The photo, taken by a witness, shows white officers leading a black man through the streets of Galveston, on horseback, tethered to what looked like a leash.


Donald Neely, 43, was arrested by the Galveston Police Department on Saturday, August 3 and charged with criminal trespassing.

Police say Neely went into the Merrill Lynch building on the corner of 22nd and Mechanic Street and refused to leave.

Police say the officers led him around the corner of 21st and Market, where the mounted patrol unit was staging when the photo was taken.

Neely was also arrested at the same building three and a half weeks ago. According to court documents, on July 12, Neely entered the Galveston Park Board office on the second floor “without the consent” of a park board member. He was charged with criminal trespassing that day too.

You can see video here.

According to Neely’s sister, her brother is homeless and mentally ill. Neely has been been charged with criminal trespassing at least six times this year, including an arrest in Galveston.

After the video was released on social media, outrage followed. Galveston Police Chief Vernon Haley offered his apologies to Neely on behalf of the department, and said that the approved technique (the method of handcuffing someone and escorting them between two mounted officers is usually used in volatile situations) would be reviewed:

“First and foremost I must apologize to Mister Neely for this unnecessary embarrassment. Although this is a trained technique and best practice in some scenarios, I believe our officers showed poor judgement in this instance and could have waited for a transport unit at the location of arrest. My officers did not have any malicious intent at the time of the arrest, but we have immediately changed the policy to prevent the use of this technique and will review all mounted training and procedures for more appropriate methods.”

NAACP president James Douglas commented upon seeing a photo of the incident:

When I looked at the picture, I saw utter disrespect for another human being. The first thing that came to my mind was this is 2019 and not 1819.

Douglas said the image is disturbing because it harkens back to the dark days of the antebellum South when black people were forced to walk alongside mounted slave owners. During the Civil Rights Movement, mounted patrol units often evoked fear among peaceful protesters.

According to the police, the two officers were not facing formal disciplinary action. Neely’s family and attorney are asking for the body cams from the two officers. The body cams had been activated.

“If this individual had been white, this never would have happened,” Douglas said.

He’s right.

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)


Heartbreaking: Protesters In Hong Kong Apologize

Filed under: General — Dana @ 2:38 pm

[guest post by Dana]

This is so sad, and yet so courageous:

Antigovernment demonstrators apologized today after two days of disruptions at the city’s international airport, which said it would limit terminal access to ticketed passengers and airport workers.

“We apologize for our behavior but we are just too scared,” read one post that was widely distributed on social media. “Our police shot us, government betrayed us, social institutions failed us. Please help us.”

A Chinese government spokesman denounced the protests as “conduct close to terrorism.”

Specifically, here is the government spokesman’s full denouncement of the protesters:

“These atrocities, which are lawless, trampling on human rights and inhumane, have completely gone beyond the bottom line of civil society, and is no different to terrorists,” China’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong said in a statement on Wednesday. In a separate statement, the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office strongly condemned the “almost-terrorism behavior” of the protesters and called on them to be severely punished.

After having been shut down for two days due to being occupied by pro-democracy protesters, Hong Kong International Airport resumed normal operations today.

There are also frightening reports of the Chinese military assembling on the border with Hong Kong:

As sweeping protests persist in Hong Kong, satellite imagery purports to show Chinese military vehicles gathering in Shenzen, near Hong Kong’s border with mainland China.

Recently-arrived vehicles can be seen at the Shenzen Bay Sports Center, just across the harbor from Hong Kong.

Trump unhelpfully raised fears by tweeting about the border activity:

When asked by a reporter whether the Chinese should use moderation against the protesters, Trump responded:

“We’ll see what happens. But I’m sure it’ll work out. I hope it works out for everybody, including China, by the way. I hope it works out for everybody.”

And then there is this:

Our deepest prayers and highest hopes for Hong Kong and their quest for freedom.

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)


Trump Postpones Tariffs To Protect Americans From Having To Pay More…

Filed under: General — Dana @ 12:28 pm

[guest post by Dana]

Oh brother:

The Trump administration said Tuesday that it would wait until Dec. 15 to impose tariffs on Chinese goods that were supposed to go into effect in September. Other items were removed from the tariff list due to health, safety and national security concerns.

Many of the items on the tariff list are popular holiday gifts. That’s a relief to retailers, which would either eat the added costs or pass them onto shoppers – neither a palatable outcome.

It also means Americans won’t see higher, tariff-inflated prices during their holiday shopping. Those who are traditionally last-minute holiday shoppers may want to skip procrastinating this year, though, and wrap up the shopping before the Dec. 15 deadline.

Why does Trump have to protect consumers from paying more money for popular items during the holidays and *back-to-school season if its the Chinese, and not Americans that are paying billions of dollars, as he claims?

This isn’t hard.

Anyway, here’s what the Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics had to say about the decision:

I think the president wanted to avoid being the Grinch who stole Christmas. These delayed tariff hikes would have landed squarely on American consumers.

Here is the government’s list of items that will be facing tariffs on December 15, which includes cellphones, laptops, video game consoles, toys, shoes and clothing.

Note: Estimates are that an Apple iPhone would be $75 to $100 higher with the tariffs.

(*h/t Gawain’s Ghost)

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)


Trump pushes for More Gun Regulations

Filed under: Politics,Second Amendment — DRJ @ 11:00 am

[Headlines from DRJ]

Trump in talks with key senators on gun control legislation:

Meetings between White House officials, Senate aides appear to signal the most substantive talks the Trump administration has had to date on gun control policy.

Trump Advisors Wary As President Considers Gun Control Proposals:

Campaign advisers asked White House officials for at least a week to gauge how various options—including background checks and taking no action—would fare among the president’s base of supporters before the administration decides on an official course of action, a person close to the White House said.

Who can save gun control opponents from Trump’s desire to reach across the aisle? Only Mitch McConnell.

(What happened to yesterday’s Trump who warned Republicans to never help Democrats?)


Tulsi Gabbard Leaves Campaign Trail For National Guard Training

Filed under: General — Dana @ 9:00 am

[guest post by Dana]

[Ed. I thought JVW might post about his Little Aloha Sweetie but maybe the thoughts of her going to such a far away place makes him too sad to post…]

Tulsi Gabbard announced that she was leaving the campaign trail for two weeks to participate in National Guard training in Indonesia:

“While some people are telling me, ‘Gosh, this is a terrible time to leave the campaign. Can’t you find a way out of it?’ That’s not what this is about,” the Hawaii Democrat said in a news release. “I look forward to joining my fellow soldiers for a joint-training exercise with the Indonesian military, focused on counterterrorism and disaster response.”

“I love our country,” Gabbard said Monday. “I am grateful to be able to serve our country and the American people in many ways, including as a soldier.”

Gabbard has demonstrated her love of country and a willingness to serve wherever, whenever. While politics certainly played a part in her decision-making, I think ultimately she is honoring a commitment that she takes very seriously, in spite of her political campaign. And yet, a huge part of what draws supporters to her is her military service and experience. And she makes no bones that it is what anchors her in the quest for the presidency:

…her military experience has become a central selling point to her campaign. During the second night of July’s debates — wherein Gabbard finished the night as Google’s most-searched candidate — she wielded her credentials as an Iraq War veteran to speak about foreign policy decisions with a personal tone.

“For too long, we had leaders who have been arbitrating foreign policy from ivory towers in Washington without any idea about the cost and the consequence, the toll it takes on our service members, on their families,” Gabbard said. “We have to do the right thing. End the wasteful regime change wars and bring our troops home.

“The leadership I will bring to do the right thing, to bring our troops home within the first year in office, because they shouldn’t have been there this long.”


“It’s impossible to separate the experience that I have serving on the Foreign Affairs Committee, on the Armed Services Committee, as we’re going through these exercises and I think it’s an added value in bringing these two different perspectives together — those of the policymakers in Washington and that of a soldier.”

Gabbard is clearly in an uphill battle on the campaign trail. While she has met the threshold of 130,000 contributions from individual donors, she still hovers at 1% support in the polls, which makes her short of the “two percent in four surveys” polling criteria. She is also rightfully facing scrutiny for her meeting with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Here she is being interviewed by (ironically) Chris Cuomo on CNN, where he demanded she denounce Assad (at the 1:23 mark):

Anyway, Assad aside, Gabbard clearly loves America, and I’m grateful for her willingness to serve our country.



Breaking News & Off-Topic Links (8/14/2019)

Filed under: General — DRJ @ 8:48 am

[By DRJ]

This post is for everyone who wants to share a link to a breaking news story or to an interesting news story/blog post that is not related to a current post. Put your link in the comments.

Discussion about any links is welcome here, too.


San Antonio: Shots Fired At ICE Offices

Filed under: General — Dana @ 6:48 am

[guest post by Dana]

There were people in the office when the shots were fired:

Police in San Antonio arrested a man early Tuesday morning in connection with gunshots fired through the windows of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in the city, according to the agency.

Local law enforcement responded around 3 a.m. CT Tuesday to shots fired at the ICE field office located north of Interstate 410 near Brookhaven Drive, the FBI confirmed in a statement provided to the Washington Examiner.

“Shortly before or after, shots were also fired at a nearby building. Both buildings also house businesses completely unrelated to ICE operations. No injuries were reported. The FBI has opened an investigation into the shootings and is currently processing the crime scenes and reviewing surveillance footage,” the FBI continued.


Police told News 4 the man is believed to have fired the shots from across the highway into the windows of the building. The building does not have bulletproof windows, and at least one shot penetrated a window.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs told reporters that the federal offices were specifically targeted:

“All the shots that we have found are on the floors where ICE had offices,” said Combs, adding that there’s no question it was “a targeted attack.”

Combs said federal employees were there when shots shattered the windows, and “by the Grace of God, had the bullets gone two inches in another direction, we would be here today talking about the murder of a federal official.”

The FBI is handling cases involving threats against ICE facilities in other parts of the country. Combs said to fire at a federal building is not a protest, it’s an act of violence.

“In this case, it’s an act of violence against the federal government that could have resulted in the assassination of a federal employee,” said Combs.

Political rhetoric is being blamed for encouraging violent acts against ICE:

“This attack at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Field Office in San Antonio is completely without justification,” said Bible. “Political rhetoric and misinformation that various politicians, media outlets and activist groups recklessly disseminate to the American people regarding the ICE mission only serve to further encourage these violent acts. ICE officers put their lives on the line each and every day to keep our communities safe. This disturbing public discourse shrouds our critical law enforcement function and unnecessarily puts our officers’ safety at risk.”

Note: This is the fourth incident that has taken place at an ICE facility/office (Washington, DC-July 16, Tacoma, WA – July 14, and Aurora, CO -July 12).

I was unable to locate any condemnation of the incident from San Antonians Joaquin or Julian Castro, which is surprising given Joaquin adamantly claiming after outing Trump donors that he (nor his brother) want anyone on the left or the right to be a target of any crazy person or any person that means them harm at all. But perhaps they’ve been focused on, um, more pressing matters:

The ad will speak to Trump directly — linking his rhetoric toward immigrants and people of color to that of the shooter in El Paso who killed 22 and left more than two dozen wounded. A spokesman for Castro’s campaign told The Texas Tribune that the ad — a small buy of $2,775 — will air throughout the day on Fox News in Bedminster, N.J. That is where Trump is spending the week at his private golf club, according to The Washington Post.

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)


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