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The murder of George Floyd

Riding my elevator

News shows

A Very Wrong Quote

Date: 5/2/07
Show: Morning Edition (NPR)

In an interview with former CIA Director George Tenet, NPR's Mary Louise Kellyİprovided a quote from Vice President Cheney to illustrate how misinformed the Bush administration was before the war:

We know has been absolutely devoted to acquire nuclear weapons. We believe in fact that he has reconstituted nuclear weapons.

The quote is from an interview with Tim Russert, NBC, on Meet the Press, from March 16, 2003.

Now, it is clear that Saddam Hussein did not have nuclear weapons. So was Cheney wrong when he claimed that he had reconstituted nuclear weapons?

Well, the answer to the question is rather banal: Cheney misspoke. He said so in an follow up interview with Tim Russert, but it is also very clear from the rest of the interview what Cheney wanted to say: Saddam has reconstituted a nuclear weapons program. Cheiny talked about the desire of Saddam to acquire nuclear weapons, but he certainly did not want to say that the dictator had nuclear weapons, threw them away, and, then, reconstituted the weapons.

This, of course, had to be known to Kelly, NPR's very own Intelligence Correspondence. By wrongly citing the Vice President when he misspoke makes the administration look even less informed than it actually was, a fact not easily discernable by the average NPR listener.

Riding my elevator

The Murder of George Floyd

Date: 6/9/20
Show: Morning Edition (NPR)

Based on the Washington Post’s timeline report, there can be no doubt that Police Officer Derek Chauvin is guilty of killing George Floyd, a person of color, and, moreover, that his colleagues, who all-the-while stood by without any attempt of stopping him, are guilty of assisting and abetting. In the end, of course, it will be up to the judicial system to adjudicate the case, such as to whether his actions were intentional, or if there is possibly any circumstance that might explain his behavior as an overreaction to Floyd’s refusal to get into the car.

Anyway, I won’t be asked to sit on the jury and I am quite glad of it. After all, this is just the kind of thing that divides the American public, such as the O.J. Simpson trial or the equally futile prosecution of the neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman. What may explain the ever-lasting fascination with these cases is the circumstance that perpetrator and victim are of different races or, as in the Simpson case, that one of the actors is outrageously famous.

Most blacks are killed by other blacks. Insofar, the murder of a black man by a white police officer can be seen as an outlier, thus attracting all the attention. Police departments everywhere have tried to fight racial bias and, perhaps more importantly, the use of mobiles phones with video recording capability have all but put an end to it. Surely, I would have participated in one of the protests, had I not some experience from Germany that taught me that there is no such thing as a “mostly peaceful” demonstration. Any demonstration in which people try to demolish cars, throw rocks, ransack stores or try to set fire to businesses is in my mind not peaceful.

Nevertheless, the fact that two weeks after the event the US is still in turmoil and demonstrations have reached Europe and other parts of the world is fascinating in itself. Perhaps the never-ending discussion of the pandemic has finally reached a saturation point. Who really cares about the number of people dying in retirement homes, presumed or real shortages of testing supplies, the timely re-opening of businesses, or the many foolish beach parties of younger folks? On the other hand, the world-wide discussions of police brutality in Minneapolis may be a sign that other countries still care about us.

Below is a sampling of NPR shows (Morning Edition and others) that deal with the untimely death of George Floyd:


More shows…

Riding My Elevator

Date: 6/26/20
Not from NPR: A Personal Observation

When I entered the elevator of my high-rise, there were already four young persons of color in there that did not wear a face mask. A few floors down, another black person came in, again, not wearing a mask. Now, we were six people in the elevator, with nobody talking, no chance of socially distancing, I thought that I might start a conversation with the following remark:

Isn't it strange that I, who is white, is the only one wearing a mask?

For a few seconds no one replied, but then a young, intelligent looking young man answered:

You can take off your mask. Masks don't do anything for you, in fact, they can be dangerous, as you rebreathe the carbondioxide that you are trying to get rid off.

I was surprised that he mentioned carbondioxide, though I knew, that he got this wrong. With a face mask you are likely to rebreathe only 1 or 2% of the carbondioxide you are exhaling, an amount too small to be of significance in any such calculation. Thus, I replied, admittedly sounding a bit haughty:

I am a physiologist. I studied these things for all my life, and I can tell you with absolute certainty, you are dead-wrong.

When we arrived on the first floor, we all left, everybody scattering in different directions.

Clearly, you can't say much about the attitudes of young blacks in Atlanta, based on this single observation. Yes, my high-rise is very close to Georgia Tech and many of the young black men that I met in the elevator may study there, or not. The one or the other might be a member of a basketball team, just judging by their athletic build and great height.

As we often walk in the neighborhood, my wife and I, we meet blacks that behave very much like those in the elevator, no masks. When we pass each other, they nevertheless give us plenty of space, as we give them. Asians, in our non-scientific study, are almost always wearing a mask, Whites more often than not wear a mask, as are Indians.


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Revised 6/11/20