PROPOSED: Cognitive tests for the MSM!

SATURDAY, JANUARY 20, 2018

Times piece triggers request:
Is it time for a cognitive test for the upper-end mainstream press corps?

The unusual suggestion was triggered by a flawed analysis piece in today's New York Times. In hard copy, the piece appears on page A11, the first page of the paper's National section.

The piece was written by Gina Kolata, a highly experienced science reporter. On line, Kolata's report appears beneath this headline:
"Trump Passed a Cognitive Exam. What Does That Really Mean?"
Finally! Finally, or so we assumed, the New York Times would establish a basic point:

The Times would explain that the (rather basic) cognitive test the president aced is not a psychiatric assessment. Or at least, so we assumed.

The Times had already mangled this key distinction on at least three occasions. We assumed Kolata would articulate this basic point as she explained what that cognitive exam "really means."

Alas! Kolata made no attempt to articulate this point. Instead, it fell to a New York Times reader to clarify this basic point. He does so in a letter in this morning's Times. We present the letter as it appears in today's hard-copy Times:
TO THE EDITOR:

Re “After Exam, President Is Found to Be of Sound Mind and Body” (front page, Jan. 17):

It is worth noting that while a cognitive test such as the Montreal Cognitive Assessment that was used to test President Trump can detect signs of dementia, it in no way rules out most other mental illnesses, including major ones and especially personality disorders that some have speculated the president may suffer from.

I do not know whether Mr. Trump suffers from a mental disorder, but to imply that a normal score on a cognitive exam in any way rules this out would be like saying that if someone had a normal cardiac exam that would rule out the possibility of diabetes.

S— A— K—, PHILADELPHIA

The writer is a physician.
Indeed! This letter writer establishes the key distinction. Let's say it again, nice and clear:

"While a cognitive test can detect signs of dementia, it in no way rules out most other mental illnesses."

This isn't a difficult point. That said, the Times had already mangled this point in Gail Collins' Thursday op-ed column, then again in yesterday's guest column by Michael Goldfarb, an NPR alum.

Each column claimed or suggested that the test of cognition ruled out the possibility of mental illness. These were extremely dumb claims. Remarkably, Kolata skipped this basic point in her analysis piece.

By way of contrast, the Philly physician articulated this basic distinction with ease. Meanwhile, might we note a pitiful point about the way the physician's letter is presented?

On line, the letter links to this January 17 news report from the Times' front page. That said, it isn't clear if the Philly physician is criticizing that report.

In the body of his letter, the physician suggests that someone has "implied" that Trump's performance on the cognition test "rules out" the possibility that he "suffers from a mental disorder." But his letter, as presented, doesn't say who may have made that suggestion.

In fact, that front-page news report made that very suggestion. The problem started right in its opening paragraph:
SHEAR AND ALTMAN (1/17/18): President Trump’s White House physician said Tuesday that the president received a perfect score on a cognitive test designed to screen for neurological impairment, which the military doctor said was evidence that Mr. Trump does not suffer from mental issues that prevent him from functioning in office.
We're sorry, but that cognitive test is not a test of various possible "mental issues." Lead reporter Michael Shear muddied this point in his opening paragraph, then did so again later in his report.

"Can anybody here play this game?" So Casey Stengel once asked. With complete and total seriousness, we ask the same question of the "rational animals" who write for this puzzling newspaper.

On at least three occasions, the Times has now suggested that last week's test of cognition was a psychiatric test. This morning, the paper's science reporter passed on the chance to straighten this out, even as a letter writer articulated this key distinction with ease.

How is it possible that major upper-end journalists persistently function so poorly? We can't necessarily answer that question, but extremely poor cognitive functioning has long been a basic part of our upper-end journalism, with disastrous results.

Most simply put: this may simply be the best our journalists are able to do. That physician was able to establish a point which has persistently gone over the heads of our journalists.

We started this site twenty years ago in part because of this problem. Was the Gingrich Medicare plan merely "slowing the rate at which the program would grow?" Or was Gingrich actually proposing "Medicare cuts?"

For two solid years, this basic matter was too much for our journalists to handle. That said, they'd never been able to explain the way the Social Security trust fund actually works.

Persistently, they're overwhelmed by almost any statistical matter. They're completely unable to handle test scores. So too with issues of lead exposure, or with the much larger question of health care spending and costs.

Can our species do better on a regular basis? There's no clear sign that it can.

Still coming, though postponed now until Monday:

How it looks when a vaunted "Rhodes scholar" clowns.

BREAKING: Rational animal strikes again!

FRIDAY, JANUARY 19, 2018

The things you read in the Times:
In hard copy, this morning's New York Times op-ed page features a column, live and direct from London, written by Michael Goldfarb, a 67-year-old NPR alumnus.

There's no distinction so basic and obvious that New York Times editors are able to recognize it. Here's how Goldfarb starts:
GOLDFARB (1/19/18): Well, it’s official. He isn’t crazy. “I’ve found no reason whatsoever to think the president has any issues whatsoever with his thought processes,” Dr. Ronny L. Jackson, the rear admiral who conducted President Trump’s physical, said this week.

That comes as no surprise to me. Because if you observe him through the filter of class, rather than the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders frame, you can reach some very different—and I think more apposite—conclusions.
Truly, that's amazing. The tests undergone by Donald J. Trump had nothing to do with the question of whether he's "crazy." Less colorfully, they had nothing to do with the types of diagnoses found in the DSM.

Does Goldfarb really not understand that? How about the editor who decided to publish this tripe?

Goldfarb goes on to spout and fume, in baldly unintelligent ways, about his own diagnosis of Trump. He diagnoses Trump as simply "a man of his class—the nouveau-riche, country-club class." Nailing down his diagnosis, Goldfarb offers two anecdotes about people he's met at country clubs. One anecdote comes from 1979, one from recent years.

This column is spectacularly stupid. Amazingly, it should come as no surprise that the New York Times didn't notice.

Is Donald J. Trump "a man of his class?" Yes, he almost certainly is, and that may explain some of his attitudes, beliefs and behaviors.

That said, it's possible for two different things to be true at one time. Trump could be "a man of his class," and he could have some sort of "mental illness" or psychiatric disorder.

Goldfarb seems too dumb to understand this. The New York Times didn't notice.

As Goldfarb ends this pitiful column, he makes an amazingly common plea. He begs us to please avoid discussing Trump's possible disorders. This is the way he ends:
GOLDFARB: As Year 2 of the Trump regime begins, it would probably be a good idea for everyone to stop looking for grand psychiatric theories about what makes Mr. Trump tick—it is insulting to people who suffer from real mental illness.

Those who want to resist Mr. Trump should accept that America is being governed by a country-club bore, backed up by other members of the club—a class that doesn’t worry that it will suffer if he makes a mistake.
Please stop discussing this possibility, Goldfarb dumbly says. He tells us that Trump doesn't "suffer from real mental illness," without attempting to tell us how he can possibly know that.

Is Donald J. Trump "a country-club bore?" In part, we'd say he surely is.

Then again, it takes one to know one, several young analysts said. If we lived in a rational world, it would be stunning to think that the New York Times would publish such drivel as this.

We live in a deeply un-rational world. Our floundering species is deeply not sharp. As our culture continues to crash and burns, we strongly advise you to view the world through this award-winning lens.

BREAKING: Drum explains why GOP needs Dem votes!

FRIDAY, JANUARY 19, 2018

Joins attack on Maddow:
Just exactly as we planned, the one-two punch prevailed.

Yesterday, we had a nervous breakdown about one of Rachel Maddow's latest groaners. Wednesday night, she started her true crime entertainment program as shown below:
MADDOW (1/17/18): It is now officially 51 hours until the federal government shuts down. The Republican Party controls the House and the Senate and the White House, so it is a little hard to believe that they, amongst themselves, cannot come up with a way to keep the lights on, but not for the first time in the past year.

We are once again on the brink of the shutdown of the federal government, because, even though they mathematically don't need a single vote from a single Democrat to do it, Republicans appear to, at least at this point, they appear to not be able to agree amongst themselves on a plan to keep the government funded past Friday, again. So we are on the brink of that again.
Say what? Republicans "mathematically don't need a single vote from a single Democrat" to avoid the government shutdown? Thoughtfully, we asked how Maddow, and her staff of thousands, had managed to come up with that.

Roughly three hours later, along came Drum to explain! This is why the GOP needs 60 votes in the Senate, though they only have 51:
DRUM (1/18/18): [A]ppropriations are normally handled via reconciliation, which allows the majority party to pass them with only 51 votes. This year, however, Republicans decided to use the 2017 reconciliation bill for repealing Obamacare and the 2018 reconciliation bill for passing their tax bill. So there’s nothing left, and that means they need 60 votes in the Senate.

This is the only reason they have to negotiate with Democrats in the first place. Their top priorities were taking away health insurance from poor people and giving a big tax cut to corporations and the rich. So now they’re stuck, and they’ve got a president who changes his mind so frequently that nobody can figure out what kind of deal he’d support anyway.
Even Drum didn't explain why Republicans don't do the tax bill and the currently needed appropriation (the "continuing resolution") under reconciliation, thereby requiring just 51 votes. Still and all, we liked the way he joined the attack on Maddow, to whom we'll return on the morrow.

That's right! Tomorrow, we promise to take you through the first five minutes of Wednesday night's show, where Maddow put her twin loves on display—her love of talking about herself, plus her love of playing tape of herself from some previous show.

Even for Maddow, we thought it was a rare display. Also featured: Maddow's transparently ridiculous claims about the way she simply hates discussing matters involving sex! In fairness to Maddow, this is the sort of thing which frequently happens when people get paid way too much and become massively famous.

For now, one additional service:

Above, we've shown you what Maddow said Wednesday night. Below, you see what she said last night, without any intermediate explanation:
MADDOW (1/18/18): Republicans control the White House, and the House and Senate. That's why it's weird we might have a government shutdown. But to pass any kind of spending bill, they do need 60 votes in the Senate. There's only 51 Republican senators.
It went on from there, with Maddow explicitly saying that the GOP would actually need fourteen Democratic votes. But if you get your news from Maddow's show, you heard the one thing Wednesday night, then you heard the contradiction one night later.

No intermediate explanation! This is odd, because as we've all been told a million times, this particular cable star loves correcting herself.

This is a failing of our corporate system more than a failing of Maddow. Wealth and fame are dangerous substances. Few people escape the maws of "cable news" intact.

SEGREGATE THIS: The New York Times does Tuscaloosa!

FRIDAY, JANUARY 19, 2018

Part 4—The 15 percent solution:
How about it? Is it true, what that recent Vox report said about These Schools Today!

Is it true that "schools today are re-segregating?" Is it true that "schools in the South are as segregated now as they were" in 1968?

If you made us give you a yes or no answer, we'd have to go with "no." If you wanted to think about what's being said, we'd recommend that we drop the fraught term "segregation" in favor of terms like "racial imbalance."

We'd also suggest that we acknowledge an obvious point. With America's student population now less than 50 percent white, there's no way to create the liberal world's apparent Eden, in which black kids get to go to school with oodles of so-called white kids.

There's just no way to do that. And no, you can't produce majority-white public schools in districts whose frequently adorable kids present like this, so-called racially speaking:
Student population, Durham Public Schools
African-American: 46.7%
Hispanic/Latino: 30.1%
White: 18.6%
Multiracial: 2.8%
Asian: 2.3%
That's the current alignment in that North Carolina district. Below, we'll show you the breakdown in New York City, where every school would be "segregated," according to Vox, if its kids were evenly distributed according to their so-called race.

In theory, is "racial exposure" a good thing? In theory, it certainly is.

In theory, good journalism is desirable too, but it can't be based on semantic cons and on the practice of disappearing essential data. Except as an example of tribal cheerleading, we thought the Vox piece was grossly misleading and quite unfortunate.

That said:

Perhaps for those very reasons, Chang's piece in Vox was quickly hailed by the New York Times. We refer to this series of tweets by Nikole Hannah-Jones, an award-winning journalist who now writes for the Times.

In April 2014, Hannah-Jones wrote a valuable, detailed report for ProPublica about the modern history of the Tuscaloosa City Schools. Her 10,000-word report was also published by The Atlantic. Its headline was perhaps exciting, eye-catching:
"Segregation Now"
If you care about topics like this, you should definitely read Hannah-Jones' report. Warning! We thought her detailed, nuanced history was absolutely fascinating. At the same time, we saw no sign that she has any real understanding of instructional issues for low-income kids from ow-literacy background who may be "years behind" their educationally advantaged peers.

Beyond that, we'd advise staying away from historically fraught terms like "segregation." In the present day, the term is almost guaranteed to produce more heat than light.

With those disclaimers, we strongly recommend Hannah-Jones' detailed report. That said, we thought she had both thumbs on the scale when we read her summary of that report on page A3 of last Thursday's hard-copy Times, perhaps the dumbest current page in all of American journalism.

It seemed to us that Hannah-Jones was picking and choosing from her own report as she praised Chang's effort. Below, you see the way her tweets appeared, after editing, on the Times' hard-copy A3:
HANNAH-JONES (1/11/18): This is such important work. I’ve long said that school attendance zone lines are as heavily gerrymandered as electoral districts. Someone sits down with a demographic map and draws these lines, more often than not to make schools more segregated, not less.

We showed this when I wrote Segregation Now for ProPublica. Tuscaloosa officials created an enirely black feeder system of schools, and blamed the all-black high school on residential segregation.

Except we asked for the attendance zone maps and then Jeff Larson showed that the high school was in an integrated neighborhood—but its noncontiguous attendance zone was drawn entirely around the black and poorest part of the city.

In fact, the white kids who lived near Tuscaloosa’s Central High were zoned to the most heavily white high school outside of their neighborhood. Some went to Central to catch a bus to the whiter school in order to avoid their “neighborhood” school.

When segregation persists no matter the conditions on the ground—in segregated communities, in integrated communities, with busing, without busing—we must admit that schools are segregated because people with power want it that way. THIS IS INTENTIONAL.
In that way, Hannah-Jones summarized the story she told in "Segregation Now." But uh-oh! As Chang left out the most basic facts about our nation's changing student demographics, we thought Hannah-Jones left out a great deal of the information from her 2014 report.

For starters, did Tuscaloosa officials create an "all-black high school" (Central High) in a way which was INTENTIONAL?

Based on Hannah-Jones' detailed report, it seems they plainly did, and that no one is saying different. But some of those officials were black, and last week's summary omits the reasons Hannah-Jones reported for their action.

Alas! The gruesome "world the slaveholders made" continues to haunt our dreams and decisions today! In ways Hannah-Jones described in detail, Tuscaloosa officials had long been looking for a way to keep their school system from becoming all black.

Ever since court-ordered desegregation, the city had been operating a single, both-races high school (Central High), along with three single-grade, both-races middle schools. From Grade 6 through Grade 12, there had been only one public school a Tuscaloosa child could attend. In this way, the system had been thoroughly integrated, in law and in fact, from the sixth grade on.

Perhaps you can guess what happened. As time went by, "white flight" was taking students out of the district. (Presumably, so did middle-class black flight. Today, the suburban Tuscaloosa County Schools operate a bevy of high schools with admirable black-white racial balance.)

At any rate, white flight was hitting the Tuscaloosa City Schools hard. In the passage shown below, Hannah-Jones described some of the thinking which led to the creation of the attendance zones which made Central High all-black and heavily low-income:
HANNAH-JONES (4/16/14): White students once accounted for a majority of the Tuscaloosa school district's students. But by the mid-1990s, they made up less than a third. Total enrollment had dropped from 13,500 in 1969 to 10,300 in 1995. Many white parents had decided to send their children to nearly all-white private schools or to move across the city line to access the heavily white Tuscaloosa County Schools.

Tuscaloosa’s business leaders and elected officials had witnessed the transformation of other southern cities after their school districts had reached a tipping point—the point at which white parents become unsettled by the rising share of black students in a school, and pull their children from the school en masse. School districts in cities such as Birmingham and Richmond had seen their integration efforts largely mooted: just about all the white students had left. As white families had moved out to the suburbs, eroding the tax base, both the schools and the cities themselves had suffered. Many officials in Tuscaloosa obsessed about the rippling consequences of continued white flight. “Money follows kids, and the loss of white students was very, very critical,” said Shelley Jones, who is white and served as a school-board member in the 1990s, and later as the chair.
According to Hannah-Jones' original report, school districts in cities like Richmond had become all black. For better or worse, every black child in those cities was thereby attending a school which was completely "segregated," if that's the term we like.

According to Hannah-Jones' original report, city officials were trying to keep that from happening in Tuscaloosa. They proceeded to make decisions which were flat-out realpolitik.

You may or may not agree with the decisions they made, but we don't think it's helpful or intelligent to omit the punishing context in which those decisions were made. You can read about those decisions in Hannah-Jones' detailed report.

Beyond that, it seemed to us that a reader might get a distorted idea from Hannah-Jones' reference last week to the way "the white kids who lived near Tuscaloosa’s Central High were zoned to the most heavily white high school outside of their neighborhood." (That refers to a zoning decision made in 2007.) In fact, Tuscaloosa created only two high schools other than Central High, and each of those schools was then, and remains today, majority black.

No white students were zoned or bused to majority-white high schools. No such schools were created. If we want to understand the actual world in which we actually live, we think that point is worth noting.

In her 2014 report, Hannah-Jones presented a detailed history of these decisions. (The successful attempt to secure a Mercedes-Benz plant for Tuscaloosa was also involved.) We think her history is highly instructive. We think her judgment is perhaps a bit faulty, in familiar ways, about various other matters, especially concerning instruction of kids from low-literacy backgrounds.

In our view, Hannah-Jones' original report was also weak in one other respect—her reliance on the word "segregation." In discussions of this type, the word produces enormous heat, perhaps not a whole lot of light.

Alas! Use of the word seems to make liberal adults feel morally pure; this seems to be one of the leading objectives of modern progressive journalism. On the down side, we think the nation's "minority" and low-income kids deserve better service from the adults who pretend to write about their interests and lives.

How silly can it sometimes get when progressive adults work from the "segregation now" mental framework? Consider the fascinating report Hannah-Jones wrote for the New York Times magazine in June 2016.

That piece was quite lengthy too; it too ran over 10,000 words. It was also semi-autobiographical. It appeared beneath this headline:
"Choosing a School for My Daughter in a Segregated City"
Hannah-Jones described the struggle she and her husband faced in picking a public school for their 4-year-old daughter to attend.

For today, consider only one part of Hannah-Jones' report. In this passage, she described the student demographics of New York City's public schools:
HANNAH-JONES (6/12/16): In a city where white children are only 15 percent of the more than one million public-school students, half of them are clustered in just 11 percent of the schools, which not coincidentally include many of the city’s top performers. Part of what makes those schools desirable to white parents, aside from the academics, is that they have some students of color, but not too many. This carefully curated integration, the kind that allows many white parents to boast that their children’s public schools look like the United Nations, comes at a steep cost for the rest of the city’s black and Latino children.

The New York City public-school system is 41 percent Latino, 27 percent black and 16 percent Asian. Three-quarters of all students are low-income. In 2014, the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles, released a report showing that New York City public schools are among the most segregated in the country. Black and Latino children here have become increasingly isolated, with 85 percent of black students and 75 percent of Latino students attending “intensely” segregated schools—schools that are less than 10 percent white.
Should public school students be "racially isolated?" Presumably, no—they should not. That said, this was Hannah-Jones' account of the city's student demographics:
Student population, New York City Public Schools
White kids: 15 percent
Black kids: 27 percent
Hispanic kids: 41 percent
Asian-American kids: 16 percent
Note the craziness to which we fall prey when we adopt the conceptual framework we progressive seem to adore:

If New York City waved a magic wand and created "racially balanced" schools, all its black kids would attend schools which were 15 percent white. (Warning! In fact, subsequent "white flight" would probably reduce that number a bit.)

Under current realities, fifteen percent would be the best we could do! But according to Hannah-Jones' lexicon, anything under ten percent would count as "intense segregation!"

(Note: Across the nation, Asian-Americans kids outperform white kids academically. But according to "segregation" jockeys, exposure to them doesn't help black kids at school! Only white kids matter. Everyone else is losing out if there aren't enough white kids around!)

Fourteen percent would be the best; ten percent would be heinous. That's the conceptual hall of mirrors we enter when progressive thought leaders feed our fantasies with traditional, street-fighting talk of "segregation now."

What should we do with our public schools? To be perfectly honest, we doubt that Chang and Hannah-Jones have even the slightest idea. That question takes us Beyond the Valley of Racial Balance into the realm of successful instruction. Modern progressives tend to churn the "segregation" numbers, then take an immediate powder.

They're boldly fighting "segregation;" beyond that, they say little else. To them, it's still 1968. Heroically, they're fighting the battle which existed when the student population was something like 90 percent white, when we didn't know how hard it would be to eliminate the achievement gaps which so gravely affect the interests of low-income kids.

Fifteen percent would be ideal. Ten percent would be awful! So it goes when progressive leaders build their lives and their careers around making us adults feel morally pure, just like it was in the day.

At any rate, you probably know what happened after that New York magazine piece, which didn't explain how to avoid "segregation" in a city with New York's demographics. Of course! After that New York magazine piece, Hannah-Jones was named a Rockefeller genius! In these slightly comical ways, our liberal elites continue to throw the nation's black kids down the drain and under the big yellow bus.

None of this will ever be mentioned on MSNBC. The corporate multimillionaire hosts on that shameless corporate channel don't give a fig about black kids. Nothing could be more clear.

A bit of irony: On the whole, we thought Hannah-Jones' history of Tuscaloosa was superb. That said, here's a bit of irony from the leading authority on her life:
Hannah-Jones grew up in Waterloo, Iowa, to father Milton Hannah, who is African-American, and mother Cheryl A. Novotny, who is of Czech and English descent...Hannah-Jones and her sister attended almost all-white schools as part of a voluntary program of desegregation busing. She wrote for the high school newspaper and graduated from West High School in 1994.
First, all praise to those parents! But did Hannah-Jones "attend almost all-white schools as part of a voluntary program of desegregation busing?"

We don't know if Hannah-Jones actually gained from that approach. But in large part due to changed demographics, that approach is frequently unavailable today!

What the heck do we do instead? What do we do to make low-income kids feel happy in school? What do we do to eat away at those punishing achievement gaps?

Now that it isn't 1968, what do we do for our low-income kids? With regard to that obvious question, progressives who talk about "resegregation" rarely have much to say.

BREAKING: Monumental attacks of The Dumb!

THURSDAY, JANUARY 18, 2018

The Dumb which devoured the press:
Again and again and again and again, we think of what we've learned from Kevin Drum's work on lead exposure.

Until recent years, exposure was very high. Does that explain the amazing modern extent of The Dumb? Or does the remarkable sweep of The Dumb result from other causes?

We don't know how to answer your question, but in the last day or so, we'd say The Dumb has been everywhere. So we won't have to start with you-know-who, we'll start with a rather cruel, and weirdly unintelligent, Jonathan Chait:
CHAIT (1/16/18): It has been publicly known since last year that Trump cannot read a memo longer than a page, and any written material must be in bullet-point form. Trump himself admitted (or bragged) a year and a half ago that he does not read. “I never have. I’m always busy doing a lot. Now I’m more busy, I guess, than ever before.” By this point it is simply taken as a matter of course that people wishing to communicate with the president must treat him as though he is suffering a severe mental impairment.

Trump is not actually suffering a severe mental impairment.
White House doctor Ronny Jackson, who has served in the post since 2013, informed reporters on Wednesday that the president is in fine physical and mental health. The report comes as the national media has discussed whether Trump’s functional near-illiteracy, minuscule attention span, and narcissistic pathos are the symptoms of dementia or some other kind of cognitive incapacitation. We should take Jackson’s diagnosis at face value. Trump is just an idiot.
Jackson didn't test Donald J. Trump for possible dyslexia. Is it possible that Trump is dyslexic, like so many others before him? Is it possible that he always has been, back to his childhood days?

It certainly seems possible to us, and being dyslexic doesn't make you "an idiot." Especially for someone who likes to spout about schools, we think this post by Chait represents a major attack of The Dumb, and of the weirdly unkind concerning a widespread condition.

With that, let's move to you know who. Last night, she opened her TV show in this peculiar manner:
MADDOW (1/17/18): And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy to have you here.

It is now officially 51 hours until the federal government shuts down. The Republican Party controls the House and the Senate and the White House, so it is a little hard to believe that they, amongst themselves cannot come up with a way to keep the lights on, but not for the first time in the past year.

We are once again on the brink of the shutdown of the federal government, because, even though they mathematically don't need a single vote from a single Democrat to do it, Republicans appear to, at least at this point, they appear to not be able to agree amongst themselves on a plan to keep the government funded past Friday, again. So we are on the brink of that again.

In weirder news...
Republicans don't need a single vote from a single Democrat? Where on earth did Our Own Rhodes Scholar, along with her twenty-member staff, come up with a groaner like that?

When the press corps' Rhodes scholars function that way, The Dumb is devouring cable. Later today, we'll show you where Maddow went from there last night. We'll try to include her three (3) bizarre reports, starting last Friday night, about Dr. Jackson's misspelled first name and the possibility that his initial report about Trump's exam had been forged.

There was never any reason to think that Jackson's report had been forged. Seriously, how dumb does a person have to be to issue three such reports? And as with Trump, so too here:

Is there no one on her staff who's able to "talk her down?"

Of course, you haven't begun to encounter The Dumb until you open the Times. In a manner reminiscent of Chait, the headline on Gail Collins' new column says this:

"Donald Trump Gets His Sanity Grades"


In theory, Collins writes her own headlines. Surely, even she must know that none of the tests given to Trump were designed to test his "sanity." At this point, within this guild, does any distinction apply?

We've asked before how Linda Qiu can possibly be the official fact-checker for the nation's most famous newspaper. Qiu had a very strong premise today. We thought she butchered that very strong premise in an array of ways.

Most striking, though, was the headline atop Qiu's hard-copy report, which accused someone of "lying." After reading Qiu's report, we still weren't sure who the headline writer had in mind.

(Hard-copy headline: "Distorting Poll's Data, Then Lying About It.")

Qiu made no claim, in her report, that anyone had "lied." At one point, she referred to a "downright false" statement by Donald J. Trump. The editor who wrote the headline may have thought that such a statement has to be a "lie."

The New York Times works on that level. Do you read the daily hard-copy page A3?

There's much, much more all over the Times, but let's close with a second trip to last evening's cable. We refer to the discussion between Brian Williams and John Harris concerning the Clinton impeachment, which both men still seem to enjoy discussing.

For whatever reason, no transcripts are produced for Williams' 11 PM program. We don't intend to produce a full transcript for last night's exchange. Instead, we'll leave it at this:

Harris complained that voters disregarded "the facts" about the Lewinsky matter during the year of impeachment. He said "a clear majority of the people" had instead succumbed to this line of thought:

"Facts matter less than which side you are on."

Amazingly, it didn't seem to enter his head that the basic facts of a case don't, and can't, tell a person how to assess or judge those facts. For the record, Harris seems to have missed very few meals. This is surely part of the problem at the top of the press corps pile, where he now resides.

That said, Harris' formulation was just amazingly dumb. He seemed to think that knowing the facts about that affair determined how an honest person had to assess the situation. Is there any part of these post-humans' brains which The Dumb hasn't swallowed by now?

Western culture has been built upon the idea that we're the "rational animal." Meanwhile, our human wiring tells us to respect authority figures, like the people we see on TV.

That formulation by Harris was just amazingly dumb—but this is truly all we are. We advise you to adopt this framework as you look out at the world.

Beyond the valley of the dumb: In her column, Collins moved Beyond the Valley of the Dumb to The Land of the Deeply Gratuitous. We thought this particular zinger was truly rank:
COLLINS: “Amazing report, cognitive & otherwise,” cheered Donald Trump Jr. Have we ever before had a First Child rallying the troops around the president passing a mental test? We will refrain from saying anything mean about Junior because, after all, he was the one who grew up in a home where he broke his leg due to an inattentive babysitter and found his nanny dying in the basement.
She'll refrain from saying anything mean! Collins is endlessly clever!

At any rate, we have no idea what Collins is talking about in that passage, and she provides no link. That said, we thought that gratuitous passage truly took her to The Realm of the Ugly and Rank.

Does some such terrible childhood event help explain Trump Junior? If so, we feel sorry for him. That said, what explains the way Lady Collins turned out?

Later: Rachel Maddow discusses herself, then plays tape of her favorite anchor from the previous night

SEGREGATE THIS: A demographic message for Toto and Vox!

THURSDAY, JANUARY 18, 2018

Part 3—We're not in 1968 any more:
Long ago and far away—actually, it was in the spring of 2011—we were told to read a story to a kindergarten class in Durham, North Carolina.

Teacher made us do it! Frankly, it was pretty scary. That crowd wasn't tough, but they were young. We'd never done that before.

In the front row sat one of the two little girls in the class who weren't yet speaking English. Other little girls who were bilingual—that included the delightful child, now much older, who'd brought us to visit her class—had scrambled over desks and chairs to whisper in those little girls' ears, helping them process various events in the day's first hour.

Those kids were eager to help. But we remember the face on the little girl in the front row who wasn't yet speaking English. Her face told a very old story:

It's no fun to be the 6-year-old who isn't yet speaking the language.

(To listen to a similar story about Anne Frank's first day in kindergarten, you can just click here. Her friend wasn't speaking Dutch yet. Truly, YouTube is powerful.)

We don't know the family history of that little girl in Durham. We don't know if she was born in the U.S., or if she'd recently arrived from somewhere else.

That said, the presence of those little girls tells part of a major story about our nation's changing demographics—more specifically, about the changing demographics of our student population.

In our view, it's a beautiful story. For the record, there is no law which says that everyone else has to agree, or which says that our judgments are right.

That said, the story is a major story about America's public schools. It was disappeared by Alvin Chang in his recent report for Vox about the alleged "resegregation" of those public schools.

The story is hugely relevant to the accurate factual claims around which Chang builds his highly fraught tale. But, despite its huge relevance, it went completely unmentioned by Chang. So these things tend to go.

To what demographic change do we refer? Before we answer that question, let's get clear about the accurate factual claim around which Chang based his fraught report.

For the third straight day, we present the highly fraught claims which anchor Chang's piece. The text shown below is perhaps a bit murky. But the graphic which appears beneath it helps us see what Chang means by his claims:
CHANG (1/8/18): The result is that schools today are re-segregating. In fact, schools in the South are as segregated now as they were about 50 years ago, not long after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision.

Headline on graphic:

Percentage of black students in the South who attend schools that are at least 50 percent white
Is it true? Are schools in the South really "as segregated now as they were about 50 years ago," in 1968?

Because of that fraught term—"segregated"—that claim packs a punch. Beneath the claim, within that graphic, we see what Chang means by that claim.

As Chang notes, his graphic comes from Professor Orfield at UCLA (click here, see page 90. According to the graphic, 23 percent of black kids in the South were attending schools which were "at least 50 percent white" in 2011.

According to that graphic, the number had been the same in 1968. In that year, as in 2011, 23 percent of black kids in the South were attending such schools.

In the meantime, it hadn't been thus. As of the late 1980s, 44 percent of black kids in the South were attending such schools, according to the graphic Chang correctly attributes to Orfield. For better or worse, the percentage steadily dropped after that.

According to Chang, this means that our schools are "resegregating." In his report, he rather clearly attributes this change to deliberate action by school districts, who allegedly gerrymander their school attendance zones to heighten racial imbalance.

Do these claims make sense? They quickly make a lot less sense if you consider some information in Professor Orfield's report—information Chang blew past and disappeared.

For the record, Professor Orfield is the industry leader in claims of "resegregation." It's a wonderfully exciting claim, one which thrills us liberals every time.

We aren't big fans of Orfield's choice of language. But consider the information he provides in the iconic report to which Chang has linked, from which he has taken his graphic.

Why are so many fewer black kids attending white-majority schools? As is frequently the case, there may be more than one (demonic) reason. But Orfield includes the demographic information which Chang disappeared.

How has America's student population changed down through the years? In his iconic report, Orfield's discussion of that matter starts early, on page 6.

How has our student population changed? Under the heading included below, Orfield starts laying it out:
ORFIELD (2011): Changing Nature of Public School Enrollment

At the peak of the Civil Rights era, the U.S. was still a nation with a large white majority,
reaching the end of a massive baby boom, and at a historically low point in immigration...Though black population was growing rapidly, it was only the beginning of a fundamental social transformation that included the first great immigration of nonwhites in U.S. history, which followed the l965 passage of immigration reform laws.

In little more than four decades, enrollment trends in the nation’s schools (between l968 and 2011) show a 28% decline in white enrollment, a 19% increase in the black enrollment, and an almost unbelievable 495% percent increase in the number of Latino students...White enrollment was almost four times the combined black and Latino enrollment in l968, but only about a fifth bigger in 2011.
In that passage, Orfield describes "a fundamental social transformation;" he says it produced a massive change in student demographics. As he continues on page 7, Orfield describes the extent of the change as of 2011:
ORFIELD (continuing directly): The changes occurring throughout in the nation appear in even more dramatic form in some of its regions. By far the most populous regions of the country, where the great bulk of American growth is concentrated, are the South and the West. For generations, the growth of the country has been focused on these Sunbelt areas. Both of these regions now have substantial majorities of “minority” students. The West has only 40% white students and the South only 45%.
As of 2011, only 45 percent of public school students in the South were "white!" You may already have discerned what this does to Chang's presentation, but let's record the passage on page 9 where Orfield states the obvious:
ORFIELD: Given the vast changes in U.S. school enrollment, even if there were a perfectly even distribution of students from all racial groups, there would still be a decline in contact by students of other races with whites, because the share of the total who are white has declined substantially.
Duh. Now let's think about the harrowing metric Chang employs as he discusses "resegregation."

Laggards, let's stop and think. Even in 2011, only 45 percent of public school students in the South were white!

Suppose you'd waved a magic wand and created a world in which every public school in the South matched the region's overall demographic. In that case, no black students in the South—zero, none—would have been attending schools which were "at least 50 percent white."

Every black kid would have been in a school which was 45 percent white. According to Chang's harrowing lexicon, they'd all have been victims of "resegregation." The percentage of black kids on that graphic would have dropped to zero percent!

Does this mean that no school district is drawing attendance lines with the goal of increasing racial imbalance? No, it doesn't mean that.

It does mean that at least one other major cause explains Chang's thrilling graphic. At least in some substantial part, fewer black kids are in white-majority schools because there are many fewer white kids in the public schools, exactly as Orfield said:

"Given the vast changes in U.S. school enrollment, even if there were a perfectly even distribution of students from all racial groups, there would still be a decline in contact by students of other races with whites..."

This isn't hard to grasp. But we progressives love to put our thumbs on the scales when dealing with topics like this. This produce scary representations which establish the evil of Everyone Else and the great moral glory of Us.

Dearest darlings, here's the news—it's no longer 1968! Our student demographic has massively changed in the past fifty years. That change includes the two adorable little girls who sat in that kindergarten class in Durham, not yet speaking the language.

Math is hard, but the math works out like this. You can't produce a string of majority-white public schools if you don't have a majority gaggle of white kids to begin with!

Meanwhile, if you say that every other type of school is part of "resegregation," then you're going to find a whole lot of "resegregation" out there! This is what Chang and Vox have done. We think it's a horrible but fully typical look.

Before we quit for the day, consider a few more statistics. How much has the student population changed just since the late 1980s, when 44 percent of black kids in the South were in majority-white schools?

We can't give you an exact figure, but it has changed a lot! According to the NCES, these were the numbers in the Naep's Grade 4 math tests in two relevant years:
Students tested, all U.S. schools
Grade 4 math test, Naep

1992:

White kids: 72 percent
Black kids: 18 percent
Hispanic kids: 7 percent
Asian-American kids: 3 percent

2011:
White kids: 52 percent
Black kids: 16 percent
Hispanic kids: 24 percent
Asian-American kids: 5 percent
Over those nineteen years, white kids moved from 72 percent of the student population down to 52 percent. Three years later, the number of "minority" kids passed the number of "white" kids for the first time. You can read about it here.

Almost surely, you'll have fewer majority-white schools if you lack a majority of whites! Meanwhile, how about the Durham Public Schools? According to the system's web site, its current charges break down like this:
Student population, Durham Public Schools
African-American: 46.7%
Hispanic/Latino: 30.1%
White: 18.6%
Multiracial: 2.8%
Asian: 2.3%
How many schools which are "at least 50 percent white" can that school system produce? According to Chang's report, the whole darn system may be "segregated!" No gerrymandered zones need apply!

For various reasons, progressives often say that black kids are better off in majority-white schools. We also like to render exciting claims about the horrors of modern-day "segregation."

Is anyone more reliably faux than we are? We love "the browning of America," hate the schools it gives us.

That school in Durham struck us as a joy. To Chang, it's "segregated."

Tomorrow: In response to Chang's report, the Times does Tuscaloosa