The way we liberal rubes get played!

THURSDAY, APRIL 24, 2014

Intimations of what Rand Paul said: We know, we know—we already wrote about Joan Walsh today.

Still, we thought her piece about Cliven Bundy and Rand Paul was an instant, appalling classic.

Yesterday, Bundy offered some rather under-baked thoughts concerning forty million of his fellow citizens. This morning, Joan moved in.

We were struck by the things she said about Rand Paul. Every liberal gets to decide if he or she wants to be treated this way.

Joan was snorting and yelling again, as she constantly does in her new incarnation. Forget her remarks about Bundy himself, the easiest target in the west. Consider the things she says, or doesn’t quite say, about the vile Senator Paul:
WALSH (4/24/14): Surprise! Sean Hannity’s hero, whose cause has been embraced by Sens. Dean Heller of Nevada and Rand Paul of Kentucky along with Texas Gov. Rick Perry, turns out to be an old-time Republican racist, the kind that even Jonathan Chait recognizes, and Fox News and the GOP have a problem.

Until now I’ve ignored Bundy because he’s an extremist and a freak, and even Glenn Beck has denounced him. I was reluctant to use him against the GOP. But as he’s gotten support from the likes of Paul and Perry, two respected 2016 candidates, plus regular backing from Hannity and Nevada Sen. Heller, he’s become a huge problem for the right.

[...]

Asked about Bundy’s virulently racist remarks by the Times, Rand Paul was “not available for immediate comment.” What courage. At least Dean Heller’s office immediately condemned the “appalling and racist statements.” Here’s a tip for Rand Paul: You’re a libertarian. Give your staff the liberty to tell the media you abhor racist comments, even if you’re not around. (Update: Paul released a statement condemning Bundy’s remarks Thursday morning.)

It was only yesterday—literally—that National Journal was telling us that Paul was now the leading Republican tackling issues of poverty and race, after Paul Ryan stumbled, having pretended to care about the poor while his budget slashed programs that help them to give tax cuts to the rich. Unfortunately, as “Rand Paul’s Compassionate Conservatism” was being published, Paul was talking to Fox’s Megyn Kelly and blaming Chicago’s recent spate of violence on “thuggishness” and the inability of Chicago’s thugs to distinguish between “right and wrong.”

Let’s face it: Paul’s been a better ally to Cliven Bundy than to the inner-city poor. I’m not saying he would endorse Bundy’s remarks about “Negroes”; he knows better than that. At least I think he does. But culturally and politically, he’s quicker to empathize with the lawbreaker in Nevada than those thugs in Chicago.

[...]

Here’s hoping that Rand Paul denounces Bundy’s remarks early Thursday. It won’t change the sad fact that way too many people who think like Paul politically think like Bundy racially.
According to those passages, Bundy has “gotten support from” Rand Paul. Even worse, Paul has “embraced Bundy’s cause.”

Do you notice Joan offering any quotations to that effect by Paul? As we said, every liberal can decide if he or she wants to get played in these ways.

As she continues, Walsh snarks at Paul for “condemning Bundy’s remarks Thursday morning.” Her piece condemning Bundy’s remarks also appeared Thursday morning.

In that next paragraph, Walsh brilliantly cherry-picks Paul’s varied remarks to Megyn Kelly this Tuesday night. She does manage to quote four words, one of which is “and.”

(For the record, we don’t think we've ever referred to people as “thugs.” But the “thugs” to whom Paul briefly referred had shot and killed people in Chicago that weekend.)

In the penultimate quoted paragraph, we’re told that Paul has been “an ally to” Bundy. Joan says she thinks that Paul knows better than to endorse Bundy’s pitiful racial remarks.

In the last quoted paragraph, Joan’s Wisconsin background really came shining through. We get the famous, and very familiar, guilt by association.

We’re sorry, but this is the very familiar work of a very familiar type of figure. It’s truly puzzling to us that Walsh has descended this far.

That said, if you read the comments to Walsh’s post, including the long string of Mormon-hating remarks, you will see that Salon is creating an impressive tribe of low-IQ, pseudo-liberal cretins.

Walsh slimes Paul every step of the way, never quite managing to quote any of his actual statements. Why didn’t she offer the actual quotes in which Paul “embraces Bundy’s cause?”

The answer should be completely obvious, even to tribals like us.

Joan is just conning the rubes once again. Here is an anthropological fact, a fact about our human race:

Our ditto-heads, like their ditto-heads, seem to adore getting conned.


In search of Eduardo Porter!

THURSDAY, APRIL 24, 2014

Also in search of the very high cost of our American health care: Eduardo Porter is one of the nation’s most interesting journalists.

His “Economic Scene” analysis column appears in the New York Times every Wednesday. The column appears on the front page of the Business Day section.

Porter’s columns are rather lengthy and they’re always intelligent or intelligent-seeming. Perhaps for those reasons, we don’t think we’ve ever seen his name mentioned in the national discourse.

Consider yesterday’s piece, which ran 1255 words. As he started, Porter cited a troubling prediction about health care costs.

That said, there’s something else we want you to notice about that column.

The column bore an unhappy headline:
“Acceleration Is Forecast for Spending on Health.” As he started, Porter recalled an upbeat prediction about health care spending—an upbeat prediction from 1993 which turned out to be wrong:
PORTER (4/23/14): Standing before a roomful of economists, policy makers and health care experts earlier this month, Amitabh Chandra, director of Health Policy Research at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, closed a presentation about the slowdown in health care spending over the last decade by citing an article in The New York Times.

''Changes in the way doctors and hospitals are paid—how much and by whom—have begun to curb the steady rise of health care costs in the New York region,'' the article declared. ''Costs are still going up faster than overall inflation, but the annual rate of increase is the lowest in 21 years.''

Then came the punch line. The article, written by my now-retired colleague Milt Freudenheim, was published in December 1993, when the so-called managed care revolution promised for a few hopeful years to...curb the breakneck rise in health care costs for good.

It is a sobering reminder that the recent improvements could wither away just as they did two decades ago.
Alas! That upbeat prediction from 1993 turned out to be wrong. At the time, it looked like health care costs were being reined in. Then they took off again.

In yesterday’s column, Porter discussed some of the reasons why that ancient prediction failed. He also discussed the possibility that our current lull in health care spending might soon go away too:
PORTER (continuing directly): And that experience undergirds, in part, a fairly ominous forecast by Mr. Chandra, Jonathan Skinner of Dartmouth College and Jonathan Holmes of Harvard that spending on health care, which already consumes nearly 18 percent of the nation's gross domestic product, will continue to grow 1.2 percentage points faster than the economy over the next 20 years.

''It's very scary,'' Professor Chandra told me.

At the very least, it suggests that health care reform is by no means over. The Affordable Care Act may well be on track to meeting its primary goal of providing coverage for most uninsured Americans and protecting everyone against the risk of losing their insurance. But for all its innovative proposals to flush waste out of the system, reining in health care spending still appears well beyond the grasp of Obamacare.
For ourselves, we can’t judge these predictions and assessments. That said, no one else is going to judge them either. For whatever reason, Porter’s semi-egghead columns never seem to produce any external discussion.

Does Porter know what he’s talking about? In the case of this topic, we don’t know. But he’s in a somewhat gloomy mood as he considers the possibility that recent slowing in the growth of health costs may not continue long.

We think it’s interesting that Porter’s work is never discussed. We thought yesterday’s piece was intriguing for a second reason—because of that famous old hound, the dog that didn’t bark.

Porter wrote his usual lengthy, erudite piece. He talked about the terrible difficulties this country seems to have in controlling the costs of health care.

Here’s what Porter didn’t do—he never mentioned the baseline from which our growth in health care spending starts.

Per person, we already spend two to three times as much on health care as other developed nations. Starting from a baseline like that, you’d almost think it would be easy to find ways to reduce our health care spending, let alone rein in the growth.

But in an erudite seeming piece, Porter never mentioned the crazy baseline from which our growth in spending starts. Readers weren't asked to process the fact that we already spend twice as much per person (or more) as everyone else in the developed world.

As Humphrey Bogart once said: Our of all the health care systems in the world, we had to get born into ours!

Since we already spend so much, why should our health care spending continue to rise? We have told you many time—the data we post below seem to be carefully kept from American eyes.

A conspiracy theorist would say this: American citizens aren’t allowed to know about our nation’s rising test scores. And we also aren’t allowed to know about our crazy health care spending.

These are the craziest data we know about.
In big newspapers like the Times, these data are verboten:
Health care spending, per person, 2011:
United States: $8508
Canada: $4522
Germany: $4495
France: $4118
Australia: $3800
United Kingdom: $3405
Japan: $3213
Spain: $3072
Italy: $3012
All that extra money disappears from American pay checks. And remember, that figure’s per person.

Who knows? Maybe Eduardo Porter is nuts and that’s why no one discusses his work.

His columns never strike us that way. But even Porter doesn’t mention our highly exceptional level of American health care spending.

You’re allowed to discuss the way it goes up, pretty much not where it starts.


WAYS TO DIVIDE: Greatest method of all!

THURSDAY, APRIL 24, 2014

Part 4—Division through race: We liberals have a great many ways to divide the 99 percent.

When the 99 percent divide, the one percent tend to conquer. For that reason, it isn’t wise to split into tribes unless we really need to.

Alas! In emerging pseudo-liberal culture, we love to divide ourselves into tribes! Consider some recent reactions to something David Brooks said.

Last Sunday, Brooks appeared on Meet the Press. At one point, he engaged in this exchange with Chuck Todd concerning the challenge facing Obama due to Russian conduct in Ukraine:
TODD (4/20/14): There is this fear, as you know. [Obama] doesn't want this to become the rest of his presidency, you know. But in many ways, he is being tested here in some way on how he handles Ukraine.

So for instance, I'm about to hop on a plane in two days. We're going on this Asia trip. And oh, by the way, Japan has an issue with islands with China; Korea has some territorial issues. There are a lot of countries in Asia that have territorial issues with China. How is the United States, where are they going to sit when this decides to raise its head and become an issue there? So that's why this does matter globally, sort of how the White House responds to this. And they have no interest right now in doing sectoral things.

BROOKS: I mean, basically, since Yalta we’ve had an assumption that borders are basically going to be borders. And once that comes into question, if in Ukraine or in Crimea or anywhere else, then all over the world—

TODD: All bets are off.

BROOKS: All bets are off. And let's face it, Obama, whether deservedly or not, does have a—I'll say it crudely—but a manhood problem in the Middle East: Is he tough enough to stand up to somebody like Assad, somebody like Putin?

I think a lot of the rap is unfair. But certainly in the Middle East, there's an assumption he's not tough enough.
In the highlighted passage, Brooks spoke sixty words about a problem, “a rap,” Obama was said to be facing.

At two or three different junctures, Brooks made a key point. He said he didn’t necessarily agree with “the rap,” the “assumption he’s not tough enough.”

Brooks said Obama’s problem may not be deserved. He said he thinks a lot of the rap is unfair.

Meanwhile, as he described the rap against Obama, Brooks said he would put it crudely. He said Obama has “a manhood problem in the Middle East.” He said there’s an assumption on somebody’s part that Obama isn’t “tough enough to stand up to somebody like Assad [or] Putin.”

Who is making that assumption about Obama? David Gregory didn’t ask, and Brooks didn’t say.

Is anyone making that assumption? For ourselves, we have no idea—but rather plainly, Brooks was describing someone else’s assumption.

Alas! Everyone knew how We the Liberals would react to Brooks’ statement. At Salon, an R-bomb was dropped. These exciting headlines sat atop a furious piece by Paul Rosenberg:
David Brooks’ twisted “manhood”: Questioning Obama’s masculinity isn’t just racist, it’s wrong
Obama foreign policy's rooted in successful realist tradition. Questioning his manhood is rooted in white supremacy
At Salon, headlines rarely correspond to the contents of the article. Keeping that basic point in mind, this is the way Rosenberg started his analysis, which we’d have to call unfortunate:
ROSENBERG (4/22/14): This just in: New York Times columnist David Brooks and NBC’s Chuck Todd want you to know that President Obama has “a manhood problem”—or at least the appearance of one. That’s the conclusion the two white men reached on “Meet the Press” on Sunday, following comments by another white man, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Corker warned, “I think we’re going to lose eastern Ukraine,” which would be “a geopolitical disaster,” resulting from “an era of permissiveness the U.S. has created around the world.”

But that perception doesn’t only belong to Republicans. No, it was international, Brooks claimed.
At this point, Rosenberg quoted the passage from Brooks which we highlighted above. After quoting Todd’s reply to Brooks, Rosenberg continued his analysis:

“There’s so much BS involved here, one hardly knows where to start. Because it can cloud out everything else, it’s best to hold back the black masculinity aspect, and start with foreign policy facts.”

Rosenberg saved “the black masculinity aspect” for later.

As Rosenberg started his analysis, he struggled to observe a distinction which was obvious in Brooks’ statement—Brooks was describing someone else’s view of Obama, not his own. Rosenberg even linked to Steve Benen, who had had the same problem.

But, more than anything else, Rosenberg ended up tossing his R-bombs around, just as the headline writer had done.

In Rosenberg’s view, three “white men”—Corker, Brooks and Todd—had been wallowing in an analysis which involved a “black masculinity aspect.” Before he was done, Rosenberg went through a long exegesis of the problem with what the three white men said, which seemed to be driven by “white male anxiety about black manhood.”

Or something. No sane person could hope to follow these latest ramblings at Salon.

Rosenberg’s racial approach to this exchange is typical of the new Salon. The approach is common elsewhere in the emerging pseudo-liberal world.

In our opinion, Rosenberg’s piece is amazingly dumb, in at least several ways. But it’s guaranteed to divide the 99 percent into those who can swallow this scripted approach to the three white men versus those others who can’t.

Rosenberg’s instant racial approach is common at the new Salon. It made us think of a recent post by Joan Walsh.

Bill O’Reilly had interviewed John Calipari, the University of Kentucky men’s basketball coach. In our view, O’Reilly seemed to be wildly out of touch with the world of contemporary college basketball. He painted an unflattering view of the culture of the sport, in a way which might easily reinforce a range of racial stereotypes.

In O’Reilly’s defense, his entire discussion proceeded from one of his basic frameworks, a framework which isn’t completely wrong. He kept assuming that “the coarsening of the culture” was affecting college athletes in extremely negative ways.

To us, O’Reilly’s interview was largely dumb and rather unfortunate. He seemed to think that college basketball players are being bestialized by the culture.

For what it’s worth, our own assessment of college basketball culture is quite different. It seems to us that college players have never been so disciplined and so amazingly hard-working, especially on defense.

We’re sorry, but college players bust their keisters in ways seldom seen in the past. Across the board, college players have rarely been such superb role models.

We thought O’Reilly’s interview was unfortunate. We thought Salon’s instant misquotation of Calipari was a sign of the times—times in which our college athletes are much more disciplined than our pseudo-journalists.

A day or so later, Walsh jumped into the fray, eager to call O’Reilly names and settle various scores. By now, Salon had corrected its misquotation, so she was spared the indignity of pushing that error in her own account of O’Reilly’s interview.

In our view, Walsh still overstated the extent of Calipari’s differences with O’Reilly. In our view, she mainly seemed interested in settling a pair of scores:
WALSH (4/16/14): It took me a day to catch Bill O’Reilly’s dreadful interview with University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari, which mainly consists of O’Reilly hectoring Calipari to tell him what it’s like to coach those people—you know, the ones raised on “hip-hop stuff.” Can we finally conclude, together, that O’Reilly no longer deserves the “presumption of innocence” when it comes to race? Can we all acknowledge that the essence of his show is racial fear-mongering? It’s been clear to me for a long time, but not to others. It ought to be now.

Poor Calipari was on the show to promote his book, “Players First: Coaching From the Inside Out,” which O’Reilly clearly didn’t read, since he set out to stigmatize the very players Calipari puts first.
Has Walsh read Calipari’s book? Of course she hasn’t! But she was settling scores with O’Reilly, who no longer deserves the “presumption of innocence when it comes to race,” and with Jonathan Chait, who had dared to criticize Walsh, saying that O’Reilly did deserve that presumption with respect to a different statement.

We don’t think much of Walsh’s current approach to such matters. We don’t think much of her heroic yelling, which follows a decade of silent ass-kissing aimed at the authority figures running the mainstream media.

We don’t know why Walsh has reinvented herself in this loud heroic manner—why she has gone from useful keister-kisser to loud racial archangel. That said, each approach has helped her advance, though we can’t say that’s why she adopted these poses.

We will say this:

Among the three million ways to split into tribes, race provides the easiest route. Walsh, who was such a quisling not long ago, is a very loud loudmouth now.

Can we tell you why we don’t think much of Walsh’s approach? It’s because she lives to trash O’Reilly, not to praise black kids.

Last weekend, by happenstance, we had the chance to sit around with some college athletes! They were in Baltimore for a two-day, dozen-school track meet at Morgan State. One of their coaches is married to our niece!

We were very impressed by those athletes. They’ll never make money from track and field. They aren’t competing in pursuit of a score.

One of them is a favorite of our 7-year-old great niece, who was along for the ride. After sitting around with that young woman and one of her teammates, it was pretty obvious why.

At one point, Calipari told O’Reilly that his athletes come from good homes. At the start of that exchange, O’Reilly is acting on his assumption that these kids today have been coarsened beyond belief:
O'REILLY (4/14/14): But do they act differently toward you [than in the past]? I mean, do they use four-letter words towards you?

CALIPARI: No, no, no, not—

O'REILLY: None of that. So you impose strict discipline on them?

CALIPARI: Oh, yes, yes. But here's what I would tell you. These kids come from good homes. You know, people will say, “Well, he doesn't have a father.” Some of the best kids I coached were raised by a grandmother who was so firm that they understood.

O'REILLY: So, you evaluate their character before you give them the scholarships.

CALIPARI: If I walk in a home and a young man disrespects his mother or grandfather, grandmother in front of me, I'm out. Because if that's the case, he respects no one. He's not going to respect me.
In our view, O’Reilly was unfortunate throughout. But we’ll promise you this:

The high jumper our great niece likes doesn’t come from an economically upper-end home. (This year, several of Calipari’s star players did.) But she does come from a very good home. Sitting and talking to her and her teammate, it would have been hard to draw some different conclusion.

The city of Baltimore is full of impressive black kids. We see them every day, in various locations and settings.

And not only that—black kids’ test scores are way up. In reading and in math, black kids all over the country are scoring much better than their parents and grandparents did.

Other data all point in good directions. But people like Walsh never stoop to the task of conveying good news to the public.

They live to call O’Reilly names. They refuse to tell the public about those rising test scores.

Joan Walsh doesn’t seem to like black kids. After years of astonishing silence, few things could be more clear.

In our view, people like Rosenberg are the bane of progressives’ existence. It feels so good to drop those bombs. It makes us liberals feel so much better than all the rest.

Walsh, who may be worse than O’Reilly, “earns” her living dogging him down. But have you ever seen Salon inform the country about the rising test scores of black kids?

We don’t mean to sound condescending here. In the end, each college athlete, each third-grader, is just him- or herself.

But citizens are constantly being told that nothing works in our public schools, especially in the cities. Walsh, who has a very high platform, refuses to challenge this.

She refuses to tell the world the good news. She’s too busy trashing O’Reilly, thus affirming her own moral greatness.

Many people would be happy and impressed if someone bothered to tell them about our black kids’ greatness. Long ago, Langston Hughes imagined such a day in a very short, famous poem.

Hughes’ poem bounced around in our heads after we talked to those college athletes. But the new Salon seems to live to divide the world, thus helping the one percent conquer.

Coming next week: Tuscaloosa

Update: We’re sure that Walsh means well, or something like that. Then too, on many occasions, we’ve seen O'Reilly get things right.

Might a little tenderness, a little praise, perhaps a bit of understanding, move us into the future?


Watching Us become more like Them!

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 23, 2014

The new Salon, misquoting Sean: In the last two nights, Sean Hannity responded to criticism of his coverage of the Cliven Bundy matter.

Last night, he repeatedly stated his position. He repeatedly said that the BLM showed a “lack of proportionality” in the way they approached the situation two weeks back.

We can’t necessarily say that’s untrue.

On Monday night, at the end of his show, Hannity did a shorter segment in which he pushed back against criticism from Big Ed Schultz and Al Sharpton. Below, you see part of what he said.

For the record, we’ve watched the tape and proofread the transcript, including the part we’ve highlighted.

This is what Hannity actually said. If you want to double-check what was said, you can watch the tape too:
HANNITY (4/21/14): Welcome back to Hannity. I’ve had enough with NBC News. Over the past couple of weeks, they’ve spent countless segments attacking little old me. Here is just one example of leftwing loudmouth—kind of a buffoon—Ed Schultz criticizing this show’s coverage, of which I’m proud of, of the Bundy ranch standoff with the feds. Take a look:

SCHULTZ (videotape): Fox News and Sean Hannity should be ashamed of their coverage of this lawbreaker and this law-breaking Nevada rancher and his family. I think Sean Hannity is cheerleading for armed conflict with the federal government. Hannity and Fox News are playing with fire.

HANNITY: No, the federal government, their lack of proportionality and sense over a bill—are they going to send 200 armed agents to everybody’s house? Snipers to everybody’s house? Really?

Well, we’re not ashamed of our coverage. We’re actually proud of our coverage.

Now, there’s not one thing that Ed Schultz said was true. But guess what? If I was a network exec over at NBC News, I might be ashamed of having this man work for me.
At that point, Hannity played tape of some of Big Ed’s greatest hits of the past few years, including his famous denunciation of Laura Ingraham as “this right-wing slut,” “a talk slut.” Fuller transcript below.

We’ve highlighted the significant part of what Hannity said—and yes, we’ve proofread our transcript against the tape. We cite this matter because of what Salon readers have now been told about Hannity’s statement.

At Salon, Richard Eskow has posted this piece about Hannity’s coverage.

You can’t blame Eskow for Salon’s excited front-page headlines, which are now part of the way the site functions. (“BLOOD ON SEAN HANNITY'S HANDS/Cliven Bundy’s ‘range war’ is only getting more tense—and Fox News seems determined to touch off the tinderbox.”) In our view, Salon’s excited, premature talk about blood is hard to distinguish from the charges being made against Hannity.

You can’t blame Eskow for Salon’s headlines. But this is the way Eskow reports what Hannity said Monday night:
ESKOW (4/23/14): Now Hannity has responded to criticisms of his Bundy coverage by MSNBC’s Ed Schultz and Al Sharpton Jr. by attacking them personally. He also made a cryptic comment in response to Schultz’s claim that “I think Sean Hannity is cheerleading for armed conflict with the federal government.”

Hannity responded: “Now, the No. 1 thing that Ed Schultz said was true, but guess what? If I was a network exec at NBC News I might be ashamed of having this man work for me.”

However you interpret those words, it’s clear that Hannity will not be held accountable to a reasonable ethical standard. But what about his corporate bosses either at Fox, or the Koch brothers? Who’ll hold them accountable?
According to Eskow, Hannity made “a cryptic comment” in which he agreed with Schultz’s claim that he is cheerleading for armed conflict. As you can see from our transcript, or from watching that tape, that simply isn’t true.

Where did Eskow get the idea that Hannity said that? He may have worked from the Nexis transcript, which misreports what Hannity said.

Newsflash: Official TV transcripts are often inaccurate! If you want to be right in what you present, you actually have to watch the tapes in order to proofread the work.

We’ve spent years of our life double-checking official transcripts. But this is the second time in a week in which we’ve found a writer at Salon misreporting what somebody said at Fox, apparently because they didn’t bother double-checking a transcript.

(In the first instance, Elias Isquith misreported something John Calipari said to Bill O’Reilly. Needless to say, his error created a negative inference about how vile O’Reilly is. To his credit, Isquith filed a correction after we noted his error. Our comment appears early in Isquith’s comment thread.)

Everybody makes mistakes. Some people may not realize that you have to double-check transcripts.

But the new Salon is busy creating a deeply unreliable journalistic culture. Fox News has treated its viewers this way for years. The culture is spreading to us.

We don’t think you can build a progressive culture by aping the conduct of Fox. The suits are going to try it though.

Where does each reader stand?

The sayings of Big Eddie: This is the fuller transcript from the Hannity presentation:
HANNITY: Well, we're not ashamed of our coverage. We're actually proud of our coverage.

Now, there’s not one thing that Ed Schultz said was true. But guess what? If I was a network exec over at NBC News, I might be ashamed of having this man work for me:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: The Republicans lie! They want to see you dead! They’d rather make money off your dead corpse!

You’re damn right Dick Cheney’s heart is a political football! We ought to rip it out and kick it around and stuff it back in him!

Do you know what they're talking about? Like this right-wing slut, what is her name, Laura Ingraham? Yes, she’s a talk slut.

Well you’re a freaking [bleep], how about that? Get the [bleep] out of here. How about that? I mean, gimme a—I'm sure they hit the seven-second delay on that one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)

HANNITY: Well, that tape speaks for itself.
Tapes don’t really speak for themselves. They also don’t transcribe themselves.

We don’t know why Big Ed called Ingraham a slut. It’s not a word we’d expect him to use.

We do know that the new Salon needs to start fact-checking transcripts. Or is Salon is run by the same types of suits who run the very old Fox?


The way Standard Misinformation spreads!

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 23, 2014

At the Times, everyone pitches in: It’s fascinating to watch the way Standard Misinformation spreads.

At our big newspapers, Standard Misinformation may spread through the letters column. Consider the letters in today’s New York Times about the so-called Common Core.

Five letters appear on this subject. Each of the first three letters spreads a atandard piece of apparent misinformation.

The second letter comes from a doctoral student studying educational policy. At one point, the future professor says this:
SECOND LETTER (4/23/14): The era of accountability and choice is fading as curriculum and instruction come into greater focus. Through a strengthening of curriculum, standards and teacher practice, we may finally improve student performance. While hardly a panacea, the Common Core may help us examine more closely what we teach and how we teach it.
Say what? We may finally improve student performance?

Our most reliable testing data have been strongly improving for decades. That said, it’s plainly against the law to report this fact in the Times.

Letters to the New York Times will often convey the opposite impression, which is Standard Lore among our press corps “elite.”

Our basic test scores are massively better—but readers of the Times can’t be told! Indeed, today’s third letter conveys the same sad-sack impression:
THIRD LETTER: Speaking of a “circus,” how about addressing the elephant in the room, which is that the Common Core standards have never been tested. No one disputes the fact that our educational system is broken. But what I find disturbing is that the same people who are trying to raise the rigor of our nation’s academics based on metrics have developed a program without that same standard.
Say what? “No one disputes the fact that our educational system is broken?”

In reality, many people dispute that fact, starting with Diane Ravitch, to cite one well-known example.

That said, the notion that the system is broken is Standard Elite Press Corps Cant. For that reason, this notion is widely asserted in letters, despite the large score gains Ravitch describes in her current book.

Thanks to our ratty teachers and their unions, our public schools are an unholy mess! This is Standard Elite Press Corps Cant. It was most directly stated in today’s first letter, which came from an associate professor and two of her graduate students:
FIRST LETTER: The emphasis is on the politics of the Common Core standards in “As G.O.P. Wedge, the Common Core Cuts Both Ways” (front page, April 20) and David Brooks’s column “When the Circus Descends” (April 18). Let’s focus instead on the policy’s substantive problems.

First, decades of standards-based reforms have not improved high school achievement, according to trend data from the National Assessment of Education Progress. Therefore, the Common Core’s pledge to graduate all students “college and career ready” rests on wordplay, not reality.
Say what? High school achievement hasn’t improved, according to data from the National Assessment of Education Progress?

The professor is perhaps being a bit selective. She refers to scores by 17-year-olds on the NAEP’s Long Term Trend Assessment.

Even there, scores are up in the past few decades, once you disaggregate to adjust for changing student demographics. But due to changing drop-out rates, those NAEP scores are the hardest to assess.

Among 9-year-olds and 13-year-olds, the score gains have been very large in recent decades. Example: Among the nation’s 9-year-old black kids, average scores rose by 34 points in math from 1982 through 2012.

(Click here, scroll to page 38.)

By normal rules of thumb on the NAEP, those are gigantic score gains. Note the minor statistical adjustment in 2004.

“Through a strengthening of curriculum, standards and teacher practice, we may finally improve student performance!”

That’s what you read in today’s New York Times, where Standard Misinformation is spread through all available forums.

Important procedural point: Career liberals don’t give a rat’s asp about our public schools or their ratty teachers or students. That’s why you see so little pushback or clarification concerning these endless claims.


WAYS TO DIVIDE: On the basis of region!

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 23, 2014

Part 3—The infernal South: We humans!

We love to divide ourselves up into tribes. Quite often, we imagine our own imagined tribe as the one which is morally good.

The other tribes? Not so much!

There are a million ways to divide ourselves. At present, we live in a time of high tribal impulse—and alas:

As we divide ourselves up in these ways, the one percent continues to conquer! For evidence of this ongoing process, see the report in today’s New York Times about the decline of American middle-income groups.

(Headline: The American Middle Class Is No Longer the World’s Richest)

People in those declining income groups come from red states as well as blue. Those people vote for both parties. As we picture ourselves in warring tribes, we’re all getting heavily screwed.

On Monday, we mentioned the new Salon’s fascination with dividing us by generations. Yesterday, we briefly considered the tendency to divide ourselves by our zealotry—by the way we welcome the hate of those Others.

Today, let’s consider division on the basis of region. In particular, we’ll recommend the fascinating piece in the current Atlantic about the “resegregation” of the Tuscaloosa public schools.

The piece was written by ProPublica’s Nikole Hannah-Jones.

Warning! When we say the piece is “fascinating,” we don’t necessarily mean that as a compliment. Since we plan to discuss that piece all next week, we won’t discuss it much now.

That said, Hannah-Jones is discussing a process of white and black flight which has happened all over the nation. At one point in her very long piece, Hannah-Jones basically states this obvious fact, though in a fleeting fashion:
HANNAH-JONES (4/6/14): Schools in the South, once the most segregated in the country, had by the 1970s become the most integrated, typically as a result of federal court orders. But since 2000, judges have released hundreds of school districts, from Mississippi to Virginia, from court-enforced integration, and many of these districts have followed the same path as Tuscaloosa’s—back toward segregation. Black children across the South now attend majority-black schools at levels not seen in four decades. Nationally, the achievement gap between black and white students, which greatly narrowed during the era in which schools grew more integrated, widened as they became less so.

In recent years, a new term, apartheid schools— meaning schools whose white population is 1 percent or less, schools like Central [High in Tuscaloosa]— has entered the scholarly lexicon. While most of these schools are in the Northeast and Midwest, some 12 percent of black students in the South now attend such schools—a figure likely to rise as court oversight continues to wane. In 1972, due to strong federal enforcement, only about 25 percent of black students in the South attended schools in which at least nine out of 10 students were racial minorities. In districts released from desegregation orders between 1990 and 2011, 53 percent of black students now attend such schools, according to an analysis by ProPublica.
The term “apartheid school” is of course designed to excite. That said, Hannah-Jones notes, in a fleeting aside, that most of the nation’s “apartheid schools” are in the Northeast and Midwest.

We’ll guess that many readers of her piece didn’t completely ingest that fact. Various aspects of her piece may give us the feeling that we are considering an artifact of the South.

The portion of the piece we’ve quoted was also quoted by Ta-Nehisi Coates, in this blog post about the piece. Coates’ post appears beneath the headline, “Segregation Forever.”

That headline’s meaning is fleshed out by a photo of George Wallace, who famously stands in the schoolhouse door.

“[F]or right now, the struggle for integration is largely over,” Coates says at the end of his post, which we’ll discuss next week. The first commenter said this:
COMMENTER: It might be over, for now, in the south. It MUST continue in other places. I live in Pittsburgh PA. It's pretty awfully segregated now. I can only hope—and apply work toward—the idea that it is crucial for all colors of people (which mostly means convincing fellow whites) that integration, voluntary integration, is critical for our success.
Is the struggle for “integration” largely over? Is it largely over in the South?

Is the struggle more over in the South than in our own more enlightened regions? Is it possible that there is more of a struggle going on in the South?

Every time we divide ourselves into tribes, we help the plutocrats conquer. Sometimes, such division or opposition is necessary, of course.

When it isn’t, we the superior beings are committing a type of “own goal.” Our conduct makes us feel good about ourselves—and it helps the plutocrats conquer.

In the current political environment, we liberals and progressives are strongly inclined to divide. Our multimillionaire TV stars strongly recommend this process. In part, it may be their way of puffing us up, thus keeping ratings alive.

When we divide without good cause, we help the plutocrats win. And we’re strongly inclined to tribal division on the basis of region. Just consider that news report in the New York Times.

At the University of Mississippi, a couple of undergraduates had done a pitifully stupid thing. They defaced a statue of James Meredith, who bravely integrated the school when a different governor stood in a schoolhouse door.

The New York Times doesn’t care for the South. The great newspaper swung into action, helping us learn to divide.

The report was written by Alan Blinder (headline included). Sometimes, God perhaps may send us messages through real people’s real names:
BLINDER (2/21/14): Racist Incidents Continue to Stir Ole Miss Campus

[...]

By many measures, the university, which hosted a presidential debate in 2008, is an entirely different place from the one Mr. Meredith entered, one that combines contemporary ambition with seductive charm. Nearly 41 percent of its undergraduates are from outside Mississippi, up from 33 percent a decade ago. Minorities make up nearly a quarter of the student body, and the university's average ACT score is at its highest level ever.

But reminders of the university's Jim Crow past continue to permeate its idyllic campus, set among oaks and magnolias and fabled for the Grove, perhaps the most hallowed football tailgating spot in a region full of imitators.

An epithet-saturated demonstration in the aftermath of President Obama's 2012 re-election resulted in the arrests of two students.

More recently, a September production of ''The Laramie Project,'' a play about the 1998 murder of a gay college student in Wyoming, gained notoriety after an outbreak of homophobic heckling by audience members.

University officials readily acknowledge the residual intolerance that has so often called attention back to a place where the federal authorities had to force Mr. Meredith's enrollment. And even as administrators note their successes, they concede that they are confronting a challenge with deep and difficult roots.

''There are some people who see this institution through the eyes of the '60s and forever will,'' said Donald R. Cole, the university's assistant to the chancellor for multicultural affairs.
Was Cole talking about those pitiful teens? Or was he thinking of Blinder?

We’re just asking! Let’s return to the heart of this news report:

Is Blinder’s basic premise true? Do reminders of this school’s Jim Crow past continue to permeate its campus?

To appearances, Blinder had so few “racist incidents” to cite that he had to turn to a homophobic incident as the second example of this campus’ fallen nature.

(In its original reporting on that incident, the Times said the heckling had come from varsity football players who had been told to attend the play. This at least suggests the possibility that the unfortunate heckling—which could have happened on many campuses—may at least have been a case of “black and white together.”)

In its rather obvious hatred of the South, we think the Times often acts as a regressive force. By the way: Did you ever imagine that the weird Clinton/Gore hatred which emerged from the Times was, in part, perhaps inspired by this regional bias?

It almost surely was, of course—and it had demonic effects. Did it cross your mind that the regional bias of our favorite journalists could end up producing deaths all over the world?

Can we talk? In our view, Blinder didn’t seem to have many “racist incidents” to trumpet. But, as is the norm at the Times, the thrilling phrase found its way into a pleasing headline.

We saw a lot of unwise regionalism in that fascinating piece at the Atlantic. We’ll discuss that piece next week, along with Coates’ (admittedly brief) assessment.

But lord, how we humans love to think that our tribe is morally better than theirs! Very often, that isn’t the case—and the mistaken belief just helps the plutocrats win!

Tomorrow: Attempting some tenderness

Classic Times reporting: Note the classic New York Times reporting:
BLINDER: By many measures, the university, which hosted a presidential debate in 2008, is an entirely different place from the one Mr. Meredith entered, one that combines contemporary ambition with seductive charm. Nearly 41 percent of its undergraduates are from outside Mississippi, up from 33 percent a decade ago. Minorities make up nearly a quarter of the student body, and the university's average ACT score is at its highest level ever.
By many measures? Blinder’s first (apparent) example is not a measure of the way the university differs from the one Meredith entered.

The second example is a measure of the difference. Today, the student body is 25 percent “minorities.” Back then, the corresponding percentage was of course zero percent.

Has someone been trying to do the right things even here, in the state we most love to hate? Is it possible that a little tenderness would let us find allies in Mississippi, even perhaps in locations we didn’t perhaps suspect?


The Post reports on Meet the Press!

TUESDAY, APRIL 22, 2014

Statistics can be hard: David Gregory’s Meet the Press has become unwatchably dull and cosmically pointless.

Yesterday, the Washington Post’s Paul Farhi supplied the ratings numbers for the current year. Incredibly, Meet the Press is now running dead last among the three major Sunday programs:
FARHI (4/21/14): [F]airly or not, Gregory's "Meet the Press" still gets measured against the lofty peaks scaled by Tim Russert, his predecessor. Russert, the folksy inquisitor, ruled the ratings for more than a decade until his death in June 2008. He often attracted an audience 40 percent larger than his rivals, an unheard-of margin in television.

But now—to paraphrase Russert's famous sign-off—if it's Sunday, it's not necessarily "Meet the Press" that Americans are watching.

These days, the leader is "Face the Nation," hosted by Bob Schieffer, the grandfatherly 77-year-old newsman. Schieffer not only attracts the largest overall audience (a weekly average of 3.35 million during the first three months of 2014, 5 percent more than "This Week," 8 percent more than "MTP" and 61 percent more than "Fox News Sunday") but the largest audience among the coveted 25-to-54 set, too.
As Farhi continues, Schieffer is quoted saying that Sunday morning is “the smartest morning on TV.”

Good grief!

Granted, the competition from the other six mornings is light to non-existent. But if you’ve watched the Sunday shows in recent years, you’ll know that Schieffer’s self-flattering statement is straight outta Fantasyland.

Meet the Press has fallen fast. Eventually, as if by fiat, the Post threw in the required statistical groaner:
FARHI: The good news for all three shows is that they remain among the most durable on TV, if perhaps less influential than they once were. Even as everything else on TV has lost viewers over time, the Big Three have held steady and even gained viewers. Collectively, about 9.6 million people watched them each week during the first three months of this year, about the same number that watched Russert in 2005. This doesn't count the audience for innumerable Sunday-morning competitors, from Fox News Sunday (hosted by former "Meet the Press" moderator Chris Wallace) to "Al Punto" on Univision.
We don’t understand that highlighted passage. It seems to say that roughly 9.6 million people watched Meet the Press—Meet the Press alone—on a weekly basis in 2005.

Presumably, that isn’t what Farhi meant, given his other claim about the Big Three gaining viewers over time. But that’s what the passage says.

Meet the Press is hard to watch. The Post is no picnic either.


At the Washington Post, they do it again!

TUESDAY, APRIL 22, 2014

Can’t get the simplest facts right: How broken is our intellectual culture?

This morning, the Washington Post has done it again!

In a bungled news report, Ovetta Wiggins discusses a very large DC-area school system. In the process, she and her unnamed editor make a ham-handed factual error concerning a basic statistic:
WIGGINS (4/22/14): The Prince George’s County school system has experienced a slight bump in enrollment for the first time in a decade, with nearly 2,000 more students attending the county’s schools this year than last.

County leaders have trumpeted the increase as a sign that the long-struggling school system, which has lost an average of 1,000 students a year during the past 10 years, is moving in the right direction. Increased enrollment means increased funding, and, they said, the additional resources will help as the district continues to turn itself around.

But along with the increased enrollment comes a sobering statistic: About 1,300—or 65 percent—of the new students in Prince George’s are eligible for free and reduced-price meals, a federal measure of poverty. The percentage of new students who are eligible for free and reduced-price meals is slightly higher than the overall average percentage of county students coming from poor families.
As we’ve noted many times, eligibility for free and reduced-price meals is not “a federal measure of poverty.”

Wiggins misstates this point all through her piece, creating an erroneous and unfortunate picture of Prince George’s County, a large, majority-black jurisdiction in DC’s Maryland suburbs.

(Prince George’s County is the nation’s 21st largest school district. For a full list, click here.)

How many times does it have to be said? Eligibility for free and reduced-price meals is not a measure of “poverty.”

Eligibility for the program extends to families whose incomes are roughly twice the federal poverty level. When education writers don’t know that, it’s like a sports writer who doesn’t know the number of outs in an inning.

(Answer: Three for each team.)

Eligibility for free and reduced-price meals is not a measure of “poverty.” But the Washington Post, which proselytizes about public school policy, routinely misstates this basic, bone-simple fact.

All through her piece, Wiggins misstates the number of kids in PG County who are “poor” or “in poverty.” Here is one such passage:
WIGGINS: Enrollment last year was down 14,000 students from a decade earlier, when in the 2003-2004 school year there were 137,000 students. As enrollment dropped over the years, the percentage of students from poor families increased. In 2008, 44 percent of the students qualified for free or reduced-price meals. That will be closer to 63 percent by the end of this year, estimates Joan Shorter, the system’s director of food and nutrition services.

Of the 125,000 students attending county schools as of Oct. 31, a little more than 61 percent come from poor families, Shorter said. A year earlier, the number was a little more than 59 percent.
It’s true that Prince Georges County is less affluent than other nearby subdivisions. But eligibility for free or reduced price is not a measure of poverty. Here are some basic facts:

According to NAEP testing data, 52 percent of U.S. fourth graders were eligible for free or reduced price lunch in 2011. (Click here, scroll to page 75.)

That doesn’t mean that 52 percent of U.S. fourth-graders were living in poverty.

The Prince George’s percentage is somewhat higher than that. That isn’t a measure of poverty either!

It’s amazing that the Washington Post keeps making this bone-simple error. But other publications make it too. In one area after another, that’s how our discourse works.

This report is wrong on its basic facts. It spreads a stereotypical, unhelpful picture of Prince George’s County.

In one area after another, that’s the way our discourse works. In the year 2014, we’re a very low-IQ people.

Our “press corps” is barely alive.


WAYS TO DIVIDE: Through zealotry!

TUESDAY, APRIL 22, 2014

Part 2—Baiting the Romans: When Salon interviewed Reza Aslan, we thought we saw some good news and we thought we saw some bad.

Aslan is the author of Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, which was published last year. Lauren Green, who normally isn’t crazy, conducted a ridiculous interview with him for a Fox News webcast, repeatedly asking why a Muslim would want to write about Jesus.

Needless to say, the ridiculous session went viral. In an interview this week for Salon, Michael Schulson asked Aslan about the mess.

We would say some good news was lurking here:
SCHULSON (4/20/14): Your interview on Fox News was painful to watch, but it also pushed you to the top of the bestseller lists. How do you come to terms with that kind of bittersweet PR boost? Do you ask for an apology? Do you write a thank you note?

ASLAN: [Laughs] Well, just to set the record straight, the book was already a massive bestseller. But you’re absolutely right: the Fox News interview shoved it to No. 1. Obviously, I’m grateful for that, but mostly what I’m grateful for is the way that the interview launched a much-needed public conversation about who gets to speak for Jesus. I think Fox News watchers, conservative Christians, were outraged by that interview, as many of them have emailed me to say. This idea that there are only these gatekeepers who get to speak for Jesus—that’s something that’s obviously absurd, and a lot of people reject that.
For the record, the book was not “a massive bestseller” at that point. But you can’t exactly blame an author for overstating a tad.

Aslan said that many Fox watchers, conservative Christians, have emailed him to say they didn’t agree with the tone of the interview.

To the extent that’s true, we’d call that very good news. Schulson followed up on the comment:
SCHULSON (continuing directly): So you’ve gotten a lot of support from regular Fox News viewers?

ASLAN: Of the thousands of emails I’ve gotten about that interview, I think 99 percent of them were positive, and many of them were from regular Fox News watchers who said they would never watch Fox News again. Many of them were from conservative Christians who said that, while they disagree with my interpretation of Jesus, they were horrified by the blatant bigotry that was shown in the interview.
Aslan may still be overstating, of course. But to the extent that he isn’t, we would call his report good news.

We think it’s good when people from the other tribe find ways to agree with our own tribe’s approaches. Getting people to agree with your point of view is what politics and other forms of persuasion are all about.

To the extent that Aslan was telling the truth, we would call his comments good news. On the other hand, we thought there was something like bad news lurking in these later comments, where Aslan tilts toward division and ultimate conquest:
SCHULSON: On your Twitter feed, the background picture is of Glenn Beck looking distressed. I have to ask: Do you enjoy being the bane of these right-wing media personalities?

ASLAN: Am I allowed to say yes? I mean, look, when someone like Glenn Beck puts you on his chalkboard of crazy, I think it’s a moment to be proud of. When designated hate-group leaders like Robert Spencer or Pamela Geller spend all of their days Googling you and writing articles about things you’ve said or written, I think you should be proud of that, because these guys are clowns. They are racist, bigoted individuals, and you want people like that to hate you.

So, listen, I’m guilty of baiting these guys sometimes; it’s not a professional thing to do, I’m not proud of it, to be honest with you. At the same time, there is something to be proud of when Glenn Beck and Pamela Gellar and Robert Spencer and magazines like First Things hate you.
Really? On his Twitter feed, Aslan features a picture of Glenn Beck? Aslan says he sometimes “baits” such figures, though “it’s not a professional thing to do” and he isn’t “proud of it.”

(Aslan wants people like Beck to hate him? Really? Why? What’s the point?)

In our view, Aslan should possibly listen to the inner voice which is saying his instincts may be wrong here.

In our highly tribalized culture, we’re constantly rewarded for name-calling the other tribe+for heightening the contradiction. Unfortunately, there are three million ways to define and locate The Other—three million ways to divide the public against itself.

Sometimes, Salon seems devoted to helping us pursue each one.

Yesterday, we noted the way Salon enjoys urging generational division. As the week proceeds, we’ll look at one or two more.

In our view, every time we divide the 99 percent without need, we’re just helping the one percent win. Divide and conquer! It’s the oldest play in the plutocrat play book!

The liberal world was asleep for decades. Today, it’s alive and snarling, not necessarily in completely constructive ways.

This revived liberal world loaded for bear. On a political basis, is that the best route to success?

If Aslan can be believed, many conservatives took his side after Green’s unfortunate, uncharacteristic interview. Helping others learn to see things your way—mightn’t that be the route to success?

Tomorrow: Good morning, Tuscaloosa!

Thursday: Name-calling Mr. O