I’m Isaac Saul, and this is Tangle: an independent, nonpartisan, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum on the news of the day — then “my take.”

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Today's read: 12 minutes.

Today, we're covering Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's pardon of Daniel Perry. Plus, a reader question about our use of AI, and a hearty welcome to all our new readers from 1440.

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Yesterday, I interviewed two political strategists — one Democrat and one Republican — who are working together to implement a proposal to have the national popular vote determine the president. They made a surprising argument to me: The 2024 election will be our last election that isn’t determined by a popular vote. In tomorrow’s members-only post, I’ll be sharing a transcript of our interview about why they think they are so close to radically changing how elections are won. 

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Quick hits.

  1. Former UN Ambassador and Republican nominee Nikki Haley said she plans to vote for former President Donald Trump in November. (The comments)
  2. Daily marijuana use has now outpaced daily alcohol consumption in the U.S. for the first time, according to a new study. Daily or near-daily marijuana use grew by 269% from 2008 to 2022. (The study)
  3. The city of Uvalde, Texas, agreed to police training reforms as part of a $2 million settlement with the families of children killed by a gunman at Robb Elementary School in 2022. (The settlement)
  4. The centrist attorney general candidate Nathan Vasquez, who ran on a tough on crime platform, defeated the incumbent progressive in the race to be Portland, Oregon’s top prosecutor. (The result)
  5. The House will vote today on a GOP bill to repeal a Washington, D.C., law that allows non-citizens to vote in local elections. (The bill)
  6. BREAKING: The Supreme Court issued a 6-3 ruling that found South Carolina did not unlawfully consider race when legislators drew a congressional district that removed thousands of black voters. (The ruling)

Today's topic.

The Daniel Perry pardon. Last Thursday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) pardoned Daniel Perry, a former U.S. Army sergeant who was convicted of murdering Black Lives Matter protester Garrett Foster in Austin, Texas, in 2020. Abbott’s decision came shortly after the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles recommended a full pardon for Perry. Perry’s firearm rights will be fully restored as part of the pardon, though he still faces a misdemeanor deadly conduct charge for the shooting. 

Back up: In 2023, a Texas state district judge sentenced Perry to 25 years in prison for the murder of Garrett Foster, a U.S. Air Force veteran. In July 2020, Foster was participating in a protest against police violence and racial injustice when Perry, who was working for Uber at the time of the shooting, drove down the street where the protest was happening, honking his horn and drawing a group of protesters (including Foster) to the vehicle. As a crowd formed around his car, Perry opened fire, striking Foster, who was legally carrying an AK-47 (Perry was also legally armed). 

At his trial, Perry said that Foster pointed the rifle at him, but witnesses contested this retelling, saying Foster never raised the rifle. In his initial interview with the police, Perry told officers, “I believe he was going to aim [his rifle] at me. I didn’t want to give him a chance.” The defense argued Perry acted in self-defense and maintained his actions were justified under Texas’s “stand your ground” law. 

Court records unsealed after the trial showed social media posts and texts from Perry that expressed a desire to harm protesters and used racist language when discussing them. Both Perry and Foster are white, but prosecutors argued the posts and texts were proof that Perry intended to commit violence on the night of the shooting.  

One day after the jury convicted Perry, Abbott announced that he had asked the state parole board to review Perry’s conviction on an expedited basis, saying he intended to pardon Perry pending the board’s recommendation. Abbott also criticized Travis County’s Democratic district attorney José Garza, alluding to him as a “rogue District Attorney” who needed to be reined in. 

The state parole board said its evaluation of the case “encompassed a meticulous review of pertinent documents, from police reports to court records, witness statements, and interviews with individuals linked to the case,” and it voted unanimously to recommend a full pardon and restoration of firearm rights for Perry. The members of the board were all appointed by Abbott

Critics of the pardon quickly voiced their disapproval. 

“Today, a convicted murderer will walk the streets of Texas. Texas Republicans have once again proven that they cannot keep the public safe, they are not the party of ‘tough on crime,’ and they are not the party of ‘law and order,’” said Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa. “Make no mistake: Daniel Perry is a murderer who was on a mission to commit violence against Texans, and today our justice system was hijacked for political gain.”

Clint Broden, Perry’s attorney, called the case “tragic” but welcomed the pardon, saying Perry “acted in self-defense when confronted with an angry crowd and a person with an assault rifle in the low ready position."

Today, we’re going to explore reactions to the pardon from the right and left. Then, I’ll share my take.

What the right is saying.

  • The right is mixed on the pardon, though many say the left’s depiction of the case is skewed.
  • Some criticize Abbott’s rationale for the pardon.
  • Others say Abbott and the pardons board need to share more about what informed their decision. 

In PJ Media, Rick Moran said the pardon put Perry’s actions “in context.”

“There were many twists and turns in this case. It was not a cut-and-dried case of self-defense, nor was it a racist attacking a Black Lives Matter protest,” Moran wrote. Perry’s social media posts and texts don’t “matter materially. He could have posted anything on Facebook, including any racist writings, and the jury could only give it the same weight as they would any other evidence. What was important was his state of mind at the time of the shooting. And Perry claims he was in fear for his life.”

“Perry's pardon will upset supporters of Black Lives Matter and the family of Garrett Foster. But you have to view what happened in the context of the times. The hysteria that Black Lives Matter generated during these protests made people feel threatened,” Moran said. “Was Foster advancing toward Perry's care in a menacing fashion? Was the crowd surrounding his car getting out of hand? Whatever went through the mind of Daniel Perry, it almost certainly wasn't racism. Garrett Foster was white.”

In Reason, Billy Binion argued “Perry's pardon makes a mockery of self-defense.”

“That there are government officials who politicize the law is about as foundational to the discourse as any complaint I can think of. The criticism is sometimes quite fair. And for the latest example of a soft-on-crime politician flouting law and order, we can look to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott,” Binion wrote. “Abbott, of course, is no self-styled progressive. But his recent decision to pardon Daniel Perry, who was convicted last year of murdering Garrett Foster, channels the spirit of the progressive prosecutors he criticizes for allegedly refashioning the law to suit their ideological preferences.”

“So what about that stand-your-ground defense Abbott alleges the jury nullified? Core to Perry's case and trial was whether he reasonably feared for his life that July evening. Foster indeed had a rifle on him—because open carry is legal in Texas. The Second Amendment does not solely exist for people with conservative views,” Binion said. “That the jury reached the conclusion they did is not a mystery, nor is it an outrage. What is outrageous, however, is that a governor who claims to care about law and order has made clear that his support for crime victims is at least in part conditional on having the ‘right’ politics.”

In Bearing Arms, Cam Edwards shared a “contrarian take” on the pardon.

“It may very well be that Perry was railroaded by Garza, but I don't think the case was ever a slam dunk in Perry's favor. Video from the scene shows [Foster] approaching the car with his rifle in a low-ready position, but there's no footage that showed him pointing the gun at Perry before he was shot. There were two individuals exercising their Second Amendment rights that night, and one of them ended up dead,” Edwards wrote. “So what did [the Board of Pardons and Parole’s] investigative efforts uncover? What was the compelling evidence that convinced every member of the board to recommend a full pardon and the restoration of Perry's rights?

“I'm not saying that the board made the wrong call. Based on their statement, it's impossible to determine that one way or the other. That's why I believe the board, as well as the governor, should explain and outline the evidence that led them to essentially overturn the jury's decision,” Edwards said. “Government is best when it operates in the sunlight, not the shadows, and we'd all benefit from learning what facts the board obtained that led them to conclude that justice was best served by freeing Perry and granting him a full pardon.”

What the left is saying.

  • The left is outraged by the pardon, calling it meritless and disturbing.
  • Some say the decision undermines confidence in the rule of law. 
  • Others suggest the pardon legitimizes political violence.

The San Antonio Express-News editorial board wrote “with pardon of murderer, Abbott shows all lives don't matter to him.”

Abbott “cited Texas’ ‘Stand Your Ground’ law, which allows people to avoid criminal prosecution if they respond to threats when they are in a place where they have a right to be. But that doesn’t apply if a person provokes a threat, which is what prosecutors and witnesses said Perry did. Jurors agreed,” the board said. “Beyond this, in several social media posts Perry had expressed his desire to harm Black Lives Matter protesters… These messages speak to the character of the man Abbott believes was worthy of a pardon and wronged by the criminal justice system.

“If Lady Justice is supposed to be blind (she is not), can anyone imagine a scenario in which Abbott would have pardoned Foster had he shot and killed Perry? Of course not,” the board wrote. “How tragically ironic that the murder of a Black Lives Matter protester, who was white, illustrates that all lives don’t matter for Abbott, that they don’t have equal meaning. Apparently, the value of a life is situational and dependent on how it aligns with political ideology. This is who Greg Abbott is. This is his character. These are his values.”

In The American Prospect, Hassan Ali Kanu called the pardon “an attack on multiracial democracy.”

“The decision represents official government sanctioning of deadly violence against people advocating against white supremacy, a phenomenon with a long history that stretches back to the Ku Klux Klan’s extrajudicial and unprosecuted lynchings, and which has always also targeted white allies of racial equality movements,” Kanu said. “Abbott overturned a jury verdict that determined Perry had not fired his gun legally, even under Texas’s shoot-first self-defense regime, and without any new findings of fact nor new analysis that calls that verdict into question.”

“Texas governors have traditionally issued pardons only for decades-old, nonviolent convictions, typically after an individual has served their time and demonstrated their rehabilitation and value to the community… But in Perry’s case, Abbott took the unprecedented step of requesting review himself, before Perry had a chance to appeal the verdict, and even preempting the judge’s sentence,” Kanu wrote. “Abbott’s pardoning of Perry is yet another thumbs-up from the GOP to extremists that our national-security apparatus has identified as the ‘most persistent and lethal threat’ to the country.”

In MSNBC, Frank Figliuzzi said the pardon “sends [a] chilling message.”

Perry “wasn’t set free because DNA analysis determined he was innocent. Nor was there some legal technicality successfully raised on an appeal… Rather, Perry was pardoned by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott as Abbott promised to do the day after the jury issued its verdict,” Figliuzzi wrote. “Witnesses say they never saw Foster raise his firearm at Perry. Yet, those details mattered neither to Abbott nor his pardon board.”

“This wasn’t about Foster’s skin color, just as it wasn’t about a legally accepted self-defense claim. For both Perry and Abbott, this murder and subsequent pardon were about Foster’s cause, Black Lives Matter, and whom Foster chose to associate with,” Figliuzzi said. “The governor setting Perry free suggests that in Texas, it’s open season on protesters whose cause isn’t approved by the governor. Texans are known for valuing at least two things — their freedoms and their guns. Yet, with this pardon, Texans should wonder whether their constitutional right to peacefully protest and to lawfully carry a weapon depends on what they’re protesting and who’s carrying the gun.”

My take.

Reminder: "My take" is a section where I give myself space to share my own personal opinion. If you have feedback, criticism, or compliments, don't unsubscribe. Write in by replying to this email, or leave a comment.

  • Even giving Perry’s actions a charitable read, Abbott’s decision is hard to justify.
  • Perry got a fair trial, and it doesn’t seem like Abbott or the pardon board had any new information that could have justified overruling the jury’s decision. 
  • This entire saga hasn’t sat right with me from the start. 

I’ll start by giving Daniel Perry, the now-pardoned shooter, the most charitable read I can:

He went to this protest, whether he was looking for a fight or not (some news outlets reported he was driving for Uber, though he did not have a passenger in his car), and found himself in the thick of the marching protesters. Perry, already aware of protests that had devolved into riots and violence in several cities, was suddenly surrounded. One of the protesters, Foster, was carrying an AK-47 and wearing a bandana that covered his face. This alone could make any person feel threatened, and whether Foster actually pointed his weapon at Perry (as his lawyers contended) is not something we have any hard evidence for or against. Footage of the shooting certainly doesn’t clear up that question. Perhaps Foster didn't raise his weapon but made a movement that looked like it? That alone could give Perry some level of justification for his actions.

In researching this story, I came across a reenactment of the incident that showed the same model AK-47 that Foster had shooting the same ammo through the same type of car door from a “low level” position 18 inches from the car. Unsurprisingly, the bullets rip through the door, demonstrating the threat Perry could have faced if Foster wanted to harm him without raising the rifle. 

My "charitable" read ends there.

What we got from witness testimony at the trial was near unanimous consensus that Foster did not raise his weapon and that Perry did not have cause to shoot him under Texas's stand your ground laws. Further, Perry seemed intent on looking for trouble. He drove to the protests despite not wanting to participate in them, his Google searches made it clear he had been researching where protests were happening, and he repeatedly told his friends that he desired some kind of violent confrontation with protesters.

Perhaps most importantly, though, is that the jury examined video of the altercation, police body camera footage after the incident, interview footage of Perry in the Austin Police Headquarters interrogation room, 3D renderings of Foster’s proximity to Perry’s car, 911 calls, cell phone records, witness video, photos and more, and then decided — unanimously — that Perry could not claim self-defense under Texas law and was guilty.

To put that more plainly: A jury of Perry's peers had all the relevant facts to make a determination in this case, and they came to the conclusion he was guilty. All of this, of course, is on top of the information found on Perry’s phone during the trial that has since become public, which painted a picture of a person who loathed BLM protesters and was looking for an opening to engage with them. 

Pardons are a smart tool in our justice system, and they can be helpful when the proper use of the law produces an unjust outcome. Perhaps the release of a video showing a new angle of the altercation could have provided good cause to free Perry. Maybe an exonerating piece of evidence getting dismissed at trial on some technical grounds could have provided good reason to pardon him. Or what if the law changed in Texas, and under some new framework for self-defense Perry would have been innocent? In any of those hypotheticals, a pardon could be more appropriate.

But Abbott promising to pardon Perry immediately after the trial (and before he was sentenced), then following through on that promise before he even appealed the verdict is not how this tool is supposed to work. Abbott had used his pardon authority sparingly up until this point, but in Perry’s case, he pushed it to its absolute limit. And while the parole board authorized the pardon, Abbott handpicked that board, and their decision seemed pre-ordained

I can’t shake the sense that, as many on the left have argued, this entire ordeal boils down to the cause Foster represented and Abbott’s desire to placate conservative media (and potentially local police) who wanted to send a message to Black Lives Matter protesters. 

Finally, let me just add one more thing: I really appreciated Cam Edwards’s piece in Bearing Arms (under “What the right is saying”). Edwards, a staunch Second Amendment supporter who spoke to me on our podcast today, takes an honest look at the case despite his biases, and I think he comes to the right conclusions: 1) There were two people exercising their right to carry a firearm, and one ended up dead. This was not a slam-dunk self-defense case. 2) Neither the Governor nor the parole board explained what details or evidence made them recommend a pardon, which is troubling. 3) This lack of transparency is only going to make the situation worse.

I agree with all of those points. Unless the parole board or Abbott presents new evidence or information we don’t have, I’m going to stick with the conclusion of the jurors. I also think it’s worth saying that this entire ordeal is the predictable outcome when we have civilians walking the streets openly carrying AK-47s and handguns at tense and often heated political protests.

From where I sit, the case played out this way: A man killed someone, faced a fair trial and jury, got convicted, and is now being bailed out by a governor who wants to score political points. Abbott or the parole board could change my mind, but they’ve chosen not to try. Rather than produce any evidence, framework, or details that might have been missed by the jury or judge, they’ve simply told us that they looked in great detail at this case and determined a pardon is appropriate. Nothing about that process should sit right with anyone, and it doesn’t with me. 

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Your questions, answered.

Q: Does Tangle currently use AI to generate or edit any of its text? Would you ever use it, and if so, would you disclose that/how you are using it to your readers? What is your opinion on news outlets using AI to write articles, along with the biases or inaccuracies AI can introduce — is this a net detriment or gain to journalism?

— Alicia from Dayton, OH

Tangle: Great questions. I’ll take them in order, and I can keep my answers short and sweet.

Have we generated text with it? No. We do not use ChatGPT or any AI generative language tool at all, and if we did then we would certainly cite it. 

Would we ever use it, and if so would we disclose it? If it’s generative, then we certainly would. For example, for a video we did where we tried to build the perfect president based on demographics and historical trends, we used ChatGPT to help generate the name. We also tried using DALL-E for image generation, then decided it was cheaper, faster, and ultimately better to use public domain images instead. These are all experiments, but we’re generally open to exploring generative AI tools if they could save us time and money and produce something of quality.

My opinion on AI writing news articles? Maybe if you asked it to just regurgitate facts from an article the AP already wrote it’d be fine, but covering something new? Presenting a political debate? I think it is pretty awful. And I’ve tried. Go ask ChatGPT to read a few Tangle articles then answer some silly debate like “does 1 + 1 = 2?” or “were dinosaurs real?” in the style of Tangle and see how it does. It’s just… really bad at it.

So no, I don’t see AI as a harbinger of doom for journalism, at least not until the next technical leap. There are some use cases Google is exploring that could seriously harm news organizations by diverting search traffic to AI-generated responses, but that is different from AI models stealing jobs from writers. Natural language processing models are extremely sophisticated word association engines, but that’s all they can be right now; they don’t actually understand the world at all. Google has already implemented AI answers into its search, and from what I’ve seen so far it’s been wrong basically half the time. That’s not a great hit rate. So anything I’d ask an AI to write, I’d have to thoroughly double-check against my understanding of how things actually are — at which point it would be faster if I just wrote it myself. 

Let me be clear: I think AI tools can be helpful as creative assistants, and they can do some genuinely incredible and highly productive things. I just don’t think covering the news is one of them. Summarizing, maybe, but that’s it. But I’m not worried they are going to steal my job, and I don’t think AI can be — or will ever be — better at communicating human thoughts, feelings, and reflections than my colleagues and me. I even asked ChatGPT to proofread a Tangle article recently, thinking that would be a potentially useful task. It gave me eight tips on my article, and every single one of them was either wrong or totally useless:

A screenshot of Chat-GPT "proofreading" Tangle.

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Under the radar.

Rising fast-food prices could be key to persistent unhappiness with the economy under President Biden. Fast food restaurants have had some of the sharpest price hikes during the Biden administration, rising more than grocery bills or gas prices. In 2020, Biden won with the help of a coalition of working-class voters — many of whom often rely on quick, cheap fast food throughout their week. Now, with average fast food prices up 31% (hourly earnings have risen 25% for those workers), polls show Biden is losing or splitting lower-income voters. Axios has the story.


  • 372. The number of days Daniel Perry spent in prison before his pardon. 
  • 70. The approximate distance (in miles) from Perry’s military station at Fort Hood to Austin, where the shooting took place. 
  • 17. The number of hours the jury deliberated before finding Perry guilty of murder. 
  • 13. The total number of pardons issued by Gov. Greg Abbott between 2021 and 2023. 
  • 67%. The share of the vote won by Travis County District Attorney José Garza in the county’s Democratic primary in March 2024.
  • 58%. The percentage of Americans who support “stand your ground” laws allowing people in a public place to kill or injure a perceived attacker, according to a May 2023 NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.
  • 81%. The percentage of Republicans who support “stand your ground” laws.
  • 60%. The percentage of Democrats who do not support “stand your ground” laws.

The extras.

  • One year ago today we wrote about Tim Scott running for president.
  • The most clicked link in yesterday’s newsletter was the new Biden student loan cancellations.
  • Nothing to do with politics: No one is buying chocolate chip ice cream anymore.
  • Thursday’s survey: 529 readers answered our survey on the death of Iran President Ebrahim Raisi with 68% saying Iran will not significantly change. “I eagerly hope Iran's new leadership causes a lot of change for the better; that human rights are supported and peace reigns. But it won't,” one respondent said.

Have a nice day.

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