The New York Times (almost) gets it right!

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2016

The status of Gennifer Flowers:
Is Gennifer Flowers "one of Bill Clinton's former mistresses?"

Did Gennifer Flowers "have an affair with [Hillary] Clinton's husband?"

Last week, the Washington Post spilled with such claims, both in its hard-copy editions and in its endless array of blogs. All the children seemed to be saying it. For examples, see yesterday's post.

At the New York Times, things were somewhat different. First, a bit of background:

Excitement grew when Donald J. Trump suggested that he might ask Flowers to attend last Monday night's dance. Agreeably, Flowers announced that she would be in attendance.

The children simply love stories like this! But on the front page of the New York Times, Healy and Burns showed restraint:
HEALY AND BURNS (9/26/16): Mr. Trump mangled the name of the new National Museum of African American History and Culture and bragged about his respect for women, just hours after threatening to invite Gennifer Flowers, who accused Bill Clinton of having an adulterous relationship with her, to the debate.
Say what? Flowers accused Bill Clinton of having an adulterous relationship?

Two days before, in an on-line post, Parker and Haberman also seemed to cast themselves in the killjoy role:
PARKER AND HABERMAN (9/24/16): Donald J. Trump’s campaign moved on Sunday to squelch reports—set off by the candidate himself—that Gennifer Flowers, the woman whose claims of an affair with Bill Clinton imperiled his 1992 presidential campaign, would be Mr. Trump’s guest on Monday at his first debate with Hillary Clinton.
Her claims of an affair with Bill Clinton? Before we show you what else the journalists wrote, let's establish some basic facts.

Back in 1992, Flowers declared that she'd enjoyed a torrid twelve-year affair with Bill Clinton, the only man she ever loved. She received several six-figure paydays along the way as she told her story. All in all, she took in more than $500,000 for her thrilling claims, which she was never able to document in any discernible way.

Our roster of lazy pseudo-journalists will tell you that Bill Clinton eventually confessed to the affair. If we're still speaking the English language, we'd say that isn't true.

At any rate, it's easy enough to establish what Bill Clinton did say. In January 1998, he testified in the Paula Jones case. Under oath, here's what he said about the torrid, twelve-year affair. We've edited legal wrangling:
QUESTION (1/17/98): Did you ever have sexual relations with Gennifer Flowers?

[...]

CLINTON: The answer to your question, if sexual relations are defined as–

[...]

The answer to your question, if the definition is Section One there in the first piece of evidence you gave me, is yes.

QUESTION: On how many occasions?

CLINTON: Once.

QUESTION: In what year?

CLINTON: 1977.

QUESTION: Did you ever make sexual advances to Gennifer Flowers after that occasion which did not culminate in sexual relations?

CLINTON: No.
That's the way Clinton "confessed" to the twelve-year affair. But hold on—there's more to be said:

You'll note that Clinton referred, two times, to a legal definition of "sexual relations" under which he was forced to testify. That definition was very broad. People, here it is:

Deposition Exhibit 1 defines "Sexual Relations" as when a person knowingly engages in or causes "contact with the genitalia, anus, groin, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks of any person with an intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person."

Obviously, that definition encompasses behavior which falls well short of intercourse, or even oral sex. A Clinton spokesman later said that the one event in question was a bit of a grope-and-grab session, not a real case of "getting it on," as the younger people say among themselves.

There you see Bill Clinton's full formal confession. We have no way of knowing how accurate that statement is, but neither do the pseudo-journalists who excitedly tell us that Clinton admitted an "affair" with Flowers, his "mistress."

Let's get clear on the general state of play. Flowers sold the story of a torrid, twelve-year love affair. She offered no evidence of any kind, and some of her claims didn't seem to make sense.

Clinton testified to one interaction, not intercourse. On the basis of those facts, Frank Rich published the stupidest statement in the embarrassing journalistic history of the past 24 years:
RICH (3/21/98): We now know that the Clintons also got away with exceedingly disingenuous image-mongering in their famous '92 appearance on the show, during which the soon-to-be President responded to a question about a 12-year affair with Gennifer Flowers by saying "That allegation is false." This year, in a sworn deposition, Mr. Clinton conceded having an affair with her, disputing only its duration.
Could anyone except Frank Rich come up with something so silly, so fake and deceptive? According to Rich, Clinton and Flowers were in fundamental agreement. Clinton agreed that they'd had an affair, "disputing only its duration."

Disputing only its duration! Flowers said the duration had been twelve years; Clinton said five minutes. Rich gave his readers no way to know that the "dispute" was quite so large. It's behavior like that from people like Rich that has Trump on the edge of the White House.

Rich went on to assure the world during Campaign 2000 that Candidate Bush and Candidate Gore were indistinguishable peas in a pod. In 2002, he trashed Gore as a fake and a phony when Gore spoke out against going to war in Iraq.

He then trashed Gore as a fake and a phony when his film, An Inconvenient Truth, came out. It was like a high school instructional film, this big buffoon told his high-brow pal, Don Imus.

(In fairness, Rich did an instant 180 when Gore won the Nobel peace prize. Overnight, he ended a decade of Clinton-Gore trashing and began fawning to Gore instead.)

As for Flowers, she went on to spend full hours on cable TV discussing the Clintons' many murders, which were now the subject of her money-making web site. On Fox, she told the world that Hillary Clinton was the world's most gigantic lesbo. In the book from which she grabbed more cash, she recalled the first time she met the person who was now the nation's first lady:

“I was shocked,” she thoughtfully wrote. “She looked like a big fat frump with her hair hanging down kind of curly and wavy. She had big, thick glasses; an ugly dress; and a big, fat butt.” Is it possible that she's been writing Candidate Trump's recent stuff?

By the summer of 1998, the mainstream press had adopted this appalling person as an unfailing vessel of truth. Pundits stood in line to say we now knew that she'd been telling the truth all along!

Did Bill Clinton ever have an "affair" with Gennifer Flowers? Given what we know, does it make sense to describe her as his former "mistress?"

If we're still speaking the English language, we know of no reason to say such things, except for the pleasure such statements provide. Also, it's easy enough to state the known facts. Haberman and Twoher came amazingly close to doing just that in their post for the Times:
PARKER AND HABERMAN: In 1992, Mr. Clinton denied Ms. Flowers's claim of an affair, but years later, when asked in a deposition whether he had engaged in ''sexual relations'' with Ms. Flowers, he admitted having done so one time, in 1977. Ms. Flowers, in recently broadcast interviews, has accused Mrs. Clinton of being an ''enabler'' and has said the scandal is a relevant issue in 2016.
You're right! In describing Clinton's testimony, they let readers think the term "sexual relations" carried its normal meaning. (Under the circumstances, their use of the quotations marks was especially slick. Slickly, they almost made it sound like Clinton had introduced the term.) That said, they reported that Clinton had copped to only one incident. For a pair of New York Times journalists, they came remarkably close to telling the truth about what's actually known.

In yesterday's post, we mentioned a range of privileged people at the Post who were spouting about this matter this week. They and their colleagues have acted this way for the past twenty-four years.

People are dead all over the world because of their horrible, terrible conduct. Nothing will ever make these life-forms understand what they have done—and they will continue to act this way, thanks to the smothering code of silence which keeps their conduct from being criticized or even discussed.

Did Bill Clinton admit to an "affair?" Was Gennifer Flowers really his "mistress?"

Admit it—you weren't familiar with the full range of facts about this exciting matter. Similar bullshit clogs the way the other Clinton sex tales get told. These very bad people have played these sick games for a very long time now.

Clinton and Flowers agreed on the facts. They only disputed the duration! Here's our question as we close:

How does Paul Krugman live with himself for letting this slide all these years?

Rip van Krugman arrives on the scene!

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2016

City Mouse finally squeaks:
You may remember Aesop's fable involving the City Mouse. He fails to put food away for the winter, unlike his more industrious cousin, the Country Mouse.

(Actually, the fable in question concerns an Ant and a Grasshopper. We prefer to tell the story with the characters played by mice.)

This morning, in the New York Times, a City Mouse has finally arrived on the scene. We refer to Paul Krugman's new column, which arrives sixteen, seventeen or even just ten or twelve years too late to serve its intended purpose.

Don't get us wrong! Krugman's column is perfectly accurate. We know that because it's fairly clear that he got his column from us.

The problem is this: Few readers will have any idea what Krugman is talking about. The City Mice of our own hapless team have refused to tell the story he tells for the past seventeen years.

With electoral winter 39 days away, Krugman is telling the story. But very few readers will have any idea what the Sam Hill he's talking about. His industry comes extremely late in a very long, death-dealing game.

Please note: Krugman's new column follows on this earlier column from September 5. Yesterday, we critiqued a new blog post by Krugman. As it turns out, that blog post was the basic framework for this morning's column.

Also note this: Krugman's column is basically accurate, at least as far as it goes. The problem is its extreme late arrival, which constitutes an indictment of every liberal or alleged liberal in the career mainstream press.

If you're a liberal, a progressive, a Democrat, a centrist or just a fair-minded American, you've been badly failed by the journalists who have refused to tell this tale. Krugman is telling the tale today, thus validating its accuracy and its obvious relevance.

Why is it being told so late? You need to consider that question today. Over the course of the past sixteen years, we've begged career writers to tell this tale. A wide range of high-living City Mice have refused to do so, and have thereby failed you, right to this very day.

In his column, Krugman complains about media treatment of Candidate Clinton. He's puzzled by her drop in the polls over the past few weeks.

What happened to her lead in the polls? Krugman asks the question, then starts his answer like this:
KRUGMAN (9/30/16): [A]s recently as August Mrs. Clinton held a commanding lead. Then her polls went into a swoon.

What happened? Did she make some huge campaign blunders?

I don’t think so. As I’ve written before, she got Gored. That is, like Al Gore in 2000, she ran into a buzz saw of adversarial reporting from the mainstream media, which treated relatively minor missteps as major scandals, and invented additional scandals out of thin air.

Meanwhile, her opponent’s genuine scandals and various grotesqueries were downplayed or whitewashed; but as Jonathan Chait of New York magazine says, the normalization of Donald Trump was probably less important than the abnormalization of Hillary Clinton.
Krugman says Candidate Clinton is "getting Gored." He says that's what happened to Candidate Gore. Few readers will have any real idea what Krugman is talking about.

Due to a massive code of silence, career liberals have barely written a word about the mainstream press corps's treatment of Gore in the two years of Campaign 2000. For that reason, few people have ever heard that the mainstream press corps "treated relatively minor missteps as major scandals, and invented additional scandals out of thin air" during that historic campaign.

Few people have ever heard a word about that. Many will wonder why they're hearing such unlikely-sounding claims now.

(Note to Krugman: The behavior of which you speak occurred over a twenty-month period in 1999 and 2000. When you use the term "in 2000," you start your brief by cutting the press corps' misconduct in half.)

Krugman's citation of Chait is especially galling. In his 2007 book, The Big Con, Chait gave a description of the press corps' coverage of Campaign 2000 that was about as disingenuous as anything we've ever read.

His account of the work by the New York Times was especially ludicrous. Given the fact that Chait is smart, it's very, very hard to believe that his work was done in good faith. On the brighter side, he occasionally gets things published in the Times, or gains the occasional scrap of citation, as he does today.

(Meanwhile, check the first paragraph in Chait's most recent post, in which he declares that "the Clinton Foundation has created appearances of a conflict of interest, and the Clintons’ policy of accepting speaking fees from any source as long as the check would clear the bank has tarnished her image." This is precisely the type of imprecise, scripted attack about which Krugman's complaining.)

In Campaign 2000, did Al Gore "run into a buzz saw of adversarial reporting from the mainstream media?" If you peruse the comments to Krugman's column, you'll see that very few people show any sign of knowing what he's talking about. Presumably, that's because they've never heard a word about the twenty-month press corps war which sent George Bush to the White House.

As Krugman continues, his work becomes almost silly. To his credit, he names real names in the passage shown below. But his basic analysis is almost daft:
KRUGMAN (continuing directly): This media onslaught started with an Associated Press report on the Clinton Foundation, which roughly coincided with the beginning of Mrs. Clinton’s poll slide. The A.P. took on a valid question: Did foundation donors get inappropriate access and exert undue influence?

As it happened, it failed to find any evidence of wrongdoing—but nonetheless wrote the report as if it had. And this was the beginning of an extraordinary series of hostile news stories about how various aspects of Mrs. Clinton’s life “raise questions” or “cast shadows,” conveying an impression of terrible things without saying anything that could be refuted.

The culmination of this process came with the infamous Matt Lauer-moderated forum, which might be briefly summarized as “Emails, emails, emails; yes, Mr. Trump, whatever you say, Mr. Trump.”

I still don’t fully understand this hostility, which wasn’t ideological. Instead, it had the feel of the cool kids in high school jeering at the class nerd. Sexism was surely involved but may not have been central, since the same thing happened to Mr. Gore.
Did that AP report on the Clinton Foundation "roughly coincide with the beginning of Mrs. Clinton’s poll slide?" Yes, but so did a losing streak by the Baltimore Orioles!

The claim that some media onslaught "started" with that AP report resembles a piece of misdirection. The onslaught in the current campaign began in the early summer of 2014. The onslaught about the emails—an onslaught Krugman specifically cites in his admirable critique of Lauer, who he names—started in March 2015.

The onslaught about the Clinton Foundation was well underway when the New York Times published its 4400-word report about the scary uranium deal. That was easily the most ludicrous "news report" in the entire media onslaught against the Foundation.

It was published in Krugman's own New York Times—in April 2015!

Did that recent AP report help drag Clinton's numbers down? Everything is possible! But Krugman's evidence in support of that claim is slight, and he weirdly says he doesn't understand the hostility against Candidate Clinton.

Dude! It's part of a pattern which goes back decades, as your central reference to Candidate Gore rather plainly suggests.

At the end of that passage, Krugman again refers to the press corps' treatment of Candidate Gore. He says, correctly, that Candidate Gore was treated with "hostility" during Campaign 2000, with press corps conduct which "had the feel of the cool kids in high school jeering at the class nerd."

That is certainly true. After the first Gore-Bradley debate, three major journalists, Jake Tapper included, said the 300 reporters in the press room had hissed, booed and jeered at nearly everything Gore said!

"The reporters were hissing Gore," Tapper said a few weeks later on C-Span, "and that’s the only time I’ve ever heard the press room boo or hiss any candidate of any party at any event." The Hotline's Howard Mortman, a former staffer for Bush the Elder, offered a more sweeping description. "The media groaned, howled and laughed almost every time Al Gore said something," Mortman said on the Hotline's own cable program.

Krugman's statement about the "hostility" toward Candidate Gore is perfectly accurate, but very few people have ever heard this historical matter discussed. Just last week, we discussed that remarkable press room event with a group of federal managers in Aberdeen, South Dakota. As best we could tell, it was the first time any of them had heard of that astounding event, which would have been discussed for years (as it should have been) if the hissing, jeering and booing had been directed at Candidate Bush.

Conservatives would have screamed about that. Our corrupt pseudo-liberals did not.

It isn't Krugman's fault that liberals have refused to discuss that event, along with the million similar episodes from that historic campaign. That said, Krugman must share the mountain of blame, despite a few notes in his columns, down through the years, concerning the treatment of Gore.

On a few occasions, Krugman has briefly noted the press corps' treatment of Candidate Gore. That said, the "abnormalization" of Candidate Clinton started more than two years ago in its present iteration, not with that recent AP report, unfortunate as it was.

That incompetent AP report was the reliable norm, not the start of something new. The current wave started in June 2014. We began to sound the alarm at that time, but our City Mice—people like Krugman—twitched their tails and sat silent.

Krugman's column includes one more reference to Campaign 2000. Few readers will have the slightest idea what he's talking about:
KRUGMAN (continuing directly): In any case, those of us who remember the 2000 campaign expected the worst would follow the first debate: Surely much of the media would declare Mr. Trump the winner even if he lied repeatedly. Some “news analyses” were already laying the foundation, setting a low bar for the G.O.P. nominee while warning that Mrs. Clinton’s “body language” might display “condescension.”
Earth to Krugman: No one has the slightest idea what you're talking about. No one knows why someone "who remembered the 2000 campaign" would have expected that "much of the media would declare Mr. Trump the winner even if he lied repeatedly."

No one knows how Campaign 2000 relates to the claim that some journalists "were already laying the foundation" for that declaration by "setting a low bar for the G.O.P. nominee." (For the record: very few mainstream journalists proceeded to claim that Trump won this week's debate.)

With respect to Campaign 2000, we've described the lowering of expectations for Candidate Bush in great detail. Presumably, that's where Krugman got his hook. But people who read Krugman's column today had no idea what he was talking about. That's because of the code of silence which has long been observed by the likes of Chait and Josh Marshall and their numerous ilk.

Krugman has to share a bit of that blame. At long last, he's naming names and directly complaining about mainstream press conduct. But he's complaining about a long-running syndrome which has already done enormous damage around the world, with barely a peep from him or from the many careerist colleagues who have kept their pretty traps shut.

The code of silence has been astonishing down through these many years. The Chaits, the Dionnes, the Marshalls, the Robinsons, the Maddows, the Hayeses and so many more—all of them have played this game, thereby preserving and sustaining their precious, all-important careers.

Today, their silence has us within a few points, and within a few weeks, of a President-elect Trump. Very, very late in the game, one of the City Mice has thereby started to stir.

That particular City Mouse has been the press corps' MVP over a great many years. But he too failed to prepare for the current mess, which is in part the obvious fruit of decades of "liberal" sloth and self-dealing.

Just this month, he has started to stir; that puts him ahead of the other fine mice. The other Corporate Mice are still quiet, and they always will be. Rachel was laughing and having great fun on her program this week.

WHERE THE ACHIEVEMENT GAPS ARE: Part 4!

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2016

Part 4 postponed until Monday:
Part 4 in our current series will appear on Monday.

At that time, we'll examine the size and shape of the international achievement gaps—the achievement gaps which appear within the latest TIMSS and PISA results. We'll also provide demographic breakdowns concerning American scores on those international tests.

That will conclude the third week in our four-week series, Where the Test Scores Are.

In our fourth week, Where the Con Games Are, we'll list the basic ways the American public gets misled and misinformed about public school test scores. We'll speculate about the sources of the punishing narratives which have shaped mainstream press coverage of this important topic for the past many years.

For Part 3 in our current series, click here. We strongly recommend that depressing report, which contains the basic punishing facts about the apparent size of our current domestic achievement gaps.

Despite large score gains, those gaps remain. As we've noted again and again, you'll hear one part of that two-part story from the mainstream press.

Your favorite liberal corporate stars won't discuss these topics at all.

Kevin Drum names journalist's name!

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2016

But doesn't go far enough:
Kevin Drum did something constructive today. He named a journalist's name.

The journalist is Mary Hagen, of The Hill. Drum quoted her writing this:
HAGEN (9/28/16): Donald Trump on Wednesday criticized the media for saying online post-debate polls “don’t mean anything,” as he continues to brag about winning the surveys many consider unscientific and unrepresentative.

At a rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa, the GOP presidential nominee cited online polls from Time magazine and the conservative Drudge Report that showed him leading Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton following Monday night’s presidential debate. “I’m winning all of these polls, hundred of thousand of votes,” Trump said. “I have to sit back and you have to sit back and hear these polls don’t mean anything.”
"I love how reporter Lisa Hagen carefully says that 'many' think online polls are unscientific," Drum writes. "I think the phrase she's searching for is 'everyone with a three-digit IQ.' These polls are clickbait, nothing more."

Drum is right, of course. And he actually named the reporter's name, something liberals almost never do.

Darlings, it simply hasn't been done! Over the course of the past thirty years, this is one of the (many) ways we got in our current mess.

That said, Drum didn't go far enough. This is what an honest reporter would have said in The Hill:
HAGEN, REWRITTEN: Donald Trump on Wednesday criticized the media for saying online post-debate polls “don’t mean anything,” as he continues to brag about "winning" some of the on-line surveys which are, in fact, unscientific and unrepresentative.
It isn't that many people say they're unscientific. It isn't that everyone says they're unscientific.

Such surveys are unscientific, full stop! We were glad to see Drum name a name. But why all the joshing around?

Top journalists lay out the facts about Flowers!

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2016

An "affair" to misremember:
On paper, Alyssa Rosenberg had all the advantages.

Rosenberg writes for the Washington Post. Not long ago, she graduated from Yale, Class of 2006.

(Dad is editor of Harvard Magazine. Mom is executive director of the Lexington Historical Society, a nonprofit organization in Lexington that works to preserve buildings from the Revolutionary War.)

Earlier this week, Rosenberg was explaining what was up, back in the day, between Bill Clinton and Gennifer Flowers. She was reacting to blustery threats from Donald J. Trump. But even after all these years, this is the best they can do:
ROSENBERG (9/26/16): Gennifer Flowers is probably not coming to the first debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump tonight, but that's not really the point. When Clinton invited Mark Cuban, a businessman and sharp critic of Trump, to the debate, Trump responded (whatever his campaign says now) not by inviting someone who questions Clinton's credentials to be president, like Patricia Smith, whose son died in Benghazi, to join him. Instead, he suggested that he might bring along a woman who had an affair with Clinton's husband. The point wasn't to debate Clinton but to reduce her, yet again, to being nothing more than Bill Clinton's wife.
According to Rosenberg, Gennifer Flowers is "a woman who had an affair with [Hillary] Clinton's husband."

Does Rosenberg know if her statement is true? If we're all still speaking the English language, we'd have to suggest that she doesn't.

Other scribes at the Washington Post have been saying such things about Flowers. Mary Jordan is a Pulitzer winner. On Monday, she began a report in the Post by saying this:
JORDAN (9/26/16): Donald Trump's threat to seat Gennifer Flowers, who had an extramarital affair with Bill Clinton, in the front row at Monday night's presidential debate focuses new attention on Trump's own history of infidelity and could further weaken his support among female voters.
You're right! It's the same thing Rosenberg said!

Other writers at the Post have sliced the baloney with slightly more care. Yesterday, Aaron Blake described Flowers as someone "with whom Bill Clinton in 1998 acknowledged having extramarital relations in the past." On September 25, he had described Flowers as someone "who revealed a sexual relationship with Bill Clinton in the 1990s."

On the front page of this morning's Post,
Shawn Boburg's writing almost seemed to be slightly "Clintonesque." He described the matter as follows:
BOBURG (9/29/16): Hillary Clinton's support for her husband [in 1992] was crucial, and she sat by his side during a crucial "60 Minutes" interview, saying she was not like the victim in Tammy Wynette's "Stand By Your Man." Campaign pollster Stan Greenberg said at the time that the public would disregard the allegations if they believed he had been truthful to his wife.

Six years later, Bill Clinton acknowledged a sexual encounter with Flowers.
According to Boburg, Bill Clinton "acknowledged a sexual encounter with Flowers." He seemed to be picking his words with great care. We'll guess that he may know the facts, such as they actually are.

Last week, Donald J. Trump threatened to bring the eternal Flowers to the first presidential debate. As a result, our "journalists" began making feeble attempts to explain who Flowers is.

Words like "affair" and "mistress" were thrown around. Our question: How many of these flyweights knew what they were talking about?

In our view, there is no evidence—none at all—that Clinton and Flowers ever had an "affair." There is no evidence that Flowers was Clinton's "mistress." (These statements are based on the presumption that we're all speaking English.)

That said, our "journalists" have always loved the juicier story. And when our journalists love a tale, that tale will never expire.

It seems to us that Boburg was choosing his words with great care. We thereby get the impression that he may even know what he's talking about, even if he isn't trying real hard to let Post readers know.

It seems to us that Rosenberg and quite a few others were basically spouting this week. Tomorrow, we'll quote a few other accounts of this matter, and we'll post the source of what's actually known about this famous "affair."

WHERE THE ACHIEVEMENT GAPS ARE: Large achievement gaps remain!

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2016

Part 2 in this series

Part 3—Where the NAEP gaps are: Way back when, in an essay for Slate, Richard Rothstein, an actual education expert, described the "truly spectacular gains" which had been recorded on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (the NAEP), our one reliable domestic testing program.

To all appearances, Rothstein isn't a public relations expert. His remarks appeared in paragraph 15 on an 18-paragraph report. Because of the way our press corps works, few people have heard a single word about these "spectacular gains:"
ROTHSTEIN (8/29/11): The only consistent data on student achievement come from a federal sample, the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Though you would never know it from the state of public alarm about education, the numbers show that regular public school performance has skyrocketed in the last two decades to the point that, for example, black elementary school students now have better math skills than whites had only 20 years ago...The reason test score gaps have barely narrowed is that white students have also improved, at least at the elementary and middle school levels. The causes of these truly spectacular gains are unknown, but they are probably inconsistent with the idea that typical inner-city teachers are content to watch students wrestle on the classroom floor instead of learning.
Say what? "The numbers show that...black elementary school students now have better math skills than whites had only 20 years ago?" Was there any possible way that could have been correct?

Rothstein was referring to scores on the NAEP's Grade 4 math test. (In its most widely-cited component, the NAEP tests students in Grade 4 and Grade 8 in reading and math.) And sure enough! As of 2007, black fourth-graders were scoring higher in math than white fourth-graders had scored in math in 1990 and in all the years before that. See our previous report.

Rothstein also seemed to be right in his subjective assessment. Unless something is "wrong" with the NAEP data, black fourth-graders actually had recorded "spectacular gains" over the previous twenty years. That said, very few people have ever heard any such facts, mainly because because of the way the contemptuous, incompetent the press corps handles such facts.

Unfortunately, Rothstein was also right about another fact. Despite the "spectacular gains" recorded by the nation's black kids, "test score gaps had barely narrowed" in the years under review. As Rothstein noted, that was because the nation's white kids had also recorded large score gains in Grade 4 math in the years since 1990.

The black-white "achievement gap" had narrowed in the years since 1990. But because both groups had recorded large gains, the black-white achievement gap had only narrowed a bit. The black-white achievement gap remained, though at a substantially higher achievement level.

If you read the national press, you will be exposed to one part of that story. You'll hear about the achievement gaps. You will hear nothing—nothing at all—about the "spectacular gains."

Did black kids record "spectacular gains" in the twenty years under review? An unpleasant person would say that your national press corps displays contempt for those good, decent kids, and for its adult readers, who are provided half the news about those deserving children.

Very few people have ever heard about those "spectacular gains." To all appearances, Bill Keller had never heard a word about them. In a New York Times column which appeared two weeks before Rothstein's essay, he wrote that the United States had recently experienced "decades of embarrassing decline in K-12 education."

Keller's claim was hard to square with Rothstein's account of "spectacular gains." What explains his gloomy claim?

Keller had been executive editor of the Times during much of the period under review. His puzzling account of those "embarrassing decades" reflected the way his paper reports, and also hides, the basic facts about our public schools.

Alas! In a remarkable sleight-of-hand, the New York Times, like other news orgs, reports the gaps—but disappears the gains! Readers are told about the persistence of the gaps; their persistence is said to show that the public schools have failed.

Readers aren't told about the "spectacular gains" which underlie this dynamic. In an era of script-driven "journalism," this constitutes one of the mainstream press corps' most striking sleights-of-hand.

Make no mistake! Yes, the score gains have been large. But the achievement gaps are large and very important too. The gaps represent only one part of a two-part story. But if we care about all our kids, those gaps are a very important part of our world.

How large are the achievement gaps? The achievement gaps are large. Below, you see the average scores recorded by our three largest student groups in the most recent administration of the NAEP. For simplicity's sake, we'll show you Grade 8 only.

For all NAEP data, just click here. You'll have to proceed on your own:
Average scores, Grade 8 reading, 2015 NAEP
White students: 273.12
Black students: 247.17
Hispanic students: 252.53

Average scores, Grade 8 math, 2015 NAEP
White students: 291.06
Black students: 259.85
Hispanic students: 269.47
For people who want all our kids to succeed, those gaps are distressingly large.

According to a very rough rule of thumb, ten or eleven points on the NAEP scale is often equated to one academic year. We regard that as a very rough rule of thumb, but it gives us the start of a rough idea concerning the size of those gaps.

Those gaps persist despite the gains which all three groups have shown. If we want all kids to succeed in school; if we want all kids to feel good about themselves in school, then those gaps define a yawning social problem, a problem which persists today, though at a higher achievement level than in the past.

Other types of achievement gaps are defined by the NAEP data. Below, you the see the gaps which obtain between lower-income and higher-income kids—between kids who qualify for the federal lunch program and kids who don't:
Average scores, Grade 8 reading, 2015 NAEP
Higher-income students: 276.36
Lower-income students: 252.55

Average scores, Grade 8 math, 2015 NAEP
Higher-income students: 295.75
Lower-income students: 267.97
Those are large achievement gaps too. In the United States, as in other countries, academic performance tends to correlate with family income.

(Who qualifies for the federal lunch program? Roughly speaking, a student's family income must be less than twice the federal poverty line.)

We're going to show you a third set of gaps. These painful numbers display the size of the achievement gaps which obtain between higher- and lower-income kids of the three population groups:
Average scores, Grade 8 reading, 2015 NAEP
Higher-income white students: 279.06
Lower-income white students: 260.89

Higher-income black students: 259.07
Lower-income black students: 243.75

Higher-income Hispanic students: 264.58
Lower-income Hispanic students: 249.00

Average scores, Grade 8 math, 2015 NAEP
Higher-income white students: 298.32
Lower-income white students: 275.94

Higher-income black students: 273.58
Lower-income black students: 255.82

Higher-income Hispanic students: 282.24
Lower-income Hispanic students: 265.86
Those numbers describe a painful reality, in which lower-income white students slightly exceed the average scores of higher-income black kids.

On their face, those are terrible gaps. You've never seen these numbers laid out in this degree of detail. That's because, if the truth be known, the national press corps shows little interest in the lives of the nation's black and Hispanic children.

(In fairness, indifference about this state of affairs isn't limited to the the mainstream press. Judging from appearances, liberal and progressive journalists would rather jump off the Golden Gate Bridge than spend their precious time on the daily school lives of black and Hispanic kids. You've never seen these topics discussed on MSNBC, the corporate pseudo-liberal channel. You've never seen its multimillionaire hosts stoop to consider these topics.)

The gains have been large, but the gaps are large too. If you read the New York Times, you'll encounter one part of this story. You'll read about the very large gaps. The "truly spectacular gains" will be disappeared.

Even at that, the gaps will sometimes be sensationalized, in familiar ways. In that recent New York Times report about the Bridgeport schools, readers were instantly handed an anecdotal claim about the way the city's (black and Hispanic) fifth graders "often read on kindergarten level."

As we noted in Part 1 of this week's report, the data from a serious study seemed to show that Bridgeport kids in grades 5-8 are, on average, working 1.7 grades below traditional grade level. That would suggest that the city's fifth graders are, on average, working on traditional third or fourth grade level.

The anecdote about "often reading on kindergarten level" gave readers an instant exciting jolt. It also came from a very old, highly disparaging playbook.

Black kids have shown "spectacular gains" on the NAEP over the past twenty years. They also stand on the minus side of some large achievement gaps.

Why do those large gaps exist? Various possible explanations exist, involving our brutal racial history and a range of current practices.

For today, we wanted to sketch the size of those gaps, gaps which persist in spite of the gains. In Part 4 of this week's report, we'll return to the international scene for detailed applications.

Next—part 4: The international achievement gaps, on both the TIMSS and the PISA

The gods are laughing at us on Olympus!

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2016

What we "humans" are like:
Donald J. Trump's debate performance was truly amazing. Suggested reading:

In this morning's featured editorial,
the Washington Post details Trump's astounding cluelessness, his "ludicrous assertions," about an array of foreign policy matters.

In this essay at Vox, Ezra Klein explains how clueless Trump is about NAFTA, and about trade in general. (Key statement: "It’s a simple fact that none of this is true.")

In this column in today's New York Times, Jim Dwyer explains how clueless Trump is about stop-and-frisk, and about the whole recent history of crime in New York City.

Trump's cluelessness is astounding. It extends to a wide array of deeply serious topics. A great many misstatements and misconceptions are waiting to be untangled. And what is being discussed on cable? Whether it was nice, twenty years ago, to call a young woman "Miss Piggy."

Answer: No, it wasn't nice! But Anderson Cooper would crawl on his knees over broken glass for the chance to spend hours with ludicrous guests discussing this powerful topic. What will Kayleigh say?

Just for the record, it wasn't nice to call that young woman "Miss Piggy." It also wasn't nice to call her "Miss Housekeeping."

This morning, Mika was pretending to be extremely upset about the fact that Trump did that. Of course, she kissed his ascot all last year. What did she think her idol was doing during the birther years?

The hustlers and grabbers you see on TV are terrible, horrible people. Meanwhile, the gods are laughing about how stupid we are as they lounge on their hill.

We'll also have fun with this: Meanwhile, Howard Dean to the rescue—to the rescue of Trump. The gods are laughing very hard at how unimpressive we are.

Has Krugman been alive on the planet?

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2016

Both sides have a point:
We continue to be amazed at Paul Krugman's recent reports on the press corps' campaign coverage.

For the most recent example, see this blog post from yesterday. In his headline, Krugman asks a highly sensible question:

"How Did The Race Get Close?"

For liberals, that's the key question of the age, but Krugman's answer makes almost no sense. Has Krugman been alive on the planet? Opinions differ. Here's part of what he wrote:
KRUGMAN (9/27/16): [H]ow did the race get so close? Why, on the eve of the debate, did polls show at best a narrow Clinton lead? What happened to the commanding lead Clinton held after the conventions?

You might say that Clinton ran a terrible campaign—but what, exactly, did she do? Trump may have learned to read from a TelePrompter, but was that such a big deal?

Well, my guess is that it was the Goring of Hillary: beginning in late August, with the AP report on the Clinton Foundation, the mainstream media went all in on “abnormalizing” Mrs. Clinton, a process that culminated with Matt Lauer, who fixated on emails while letting grotesque, known, Trump lies slide.
What happened to Clinton's commanding lead? Such things are hard to measure. In large part, we would be inclined to say that the "commanding lead" was built upon ludicrous conduct by Trump, especially his war with the Khan family.

When he fired Manafort and brought on Conway, these deeply ludicrous episodes largely stopped. The polls crept back to their pre-convention status.

Is that what happened to Clinton's lead? It's always hard to say. But surely, any sentient human being can see how crazy this analysis is:

"My guess is that it was the Goring of Hillary: beginning in late August, with the AP report on the Clinton Foundation, the mainstream media went all in on 'abnormalizing' Mrs. Clinton."

Can Krugman possibly be serious?

Once again, Krugman uses his recent analytical term, "the Goring of Hillary." The term suggests an obvious fact—the treatment to which Krugman refers didn't begin in late August!

Can we talk? The Goring of Gore began in March 1999. The Goring of Hillary Clinton started in 1992, perhaps with Pat Buchanan's famous convention speech about the fiendish "Clinton and Clinton."

Can anybody possibly think that the abnormalization of Hillary Clinton somehow started in late August with that AP report? We ask our basic question again: Has Paul Krugman, a New York Times columnist, been alive on the planet?

In its current iteration, the press corps' hunt for Hillary Clinton was well underway by the summer of 2014, with the Washington Post's astounding "coverage" of her speaking fees. That AP report to which Krugman refers was extremely small potatoes compared to the earlier ludicrous report about the scary uranium deal—an astounding, 4400-word report which appeared in Krugman's own newspaper, the New York Times.

We understand that the great professor doesn't want to damage his immediate interests; self-dealing has always been like that. But the idea that anything started with that AP report is a notion a skilled careerist would have to pull out of his ascot.

Might we review the history here? The Goring of Gore began in March 1999. From that day to this, self-dealers like the lofty Krugman have refused to pursue the truth about their guild's astounding behavior during this episode.

All of a sudden, Krugman has been throwing this concept around—referring back to journalistic misconduct which occurred in 1999. But as Krugman certainly knows, the Goring of Gore—and he now admits that there was such a thing!—emerged from the earlier Goring of Clinton and Clinton. As Krugman surely knows, the Goring of Hillary in this campaign is just the latest manifestation of this very old, deeply destructive, demented press corps campaign.

The Goring of Hillary Clinton! Telling the truth by half measures so late, Krugman should be ashamed.

(He blames it on the vile AP, thus letting the Times slip away.)

A truly pitiful tweet: In this truly pitiful tweet, Krugman explains why he failed to discuss the press corps' cataclysmic Goring of Gore until September 5 of this year.

No one would have listened to him! He wanted to speak, but just couldn't! (Commenters buck him up, unaware of the ways they've been played.)

Truly, that's pathetic. The truth? For reasons of social connection and career, the entire pseudo-liberal world let this important journalistic history go. Now it may be about to happen again, and people like Krugman are scared.

Not scared enough to tell you the truth. But deeply scared nevertheless.

WHERE THE ACHIEVEMENT GAPS ARE: American students against the world!

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2016

Part 1 in this series

Part 2—The international gaps: On major international tests, how well do American students perform, as compared to their peers from around the world?

How well do they do in reading and math? How well do they do as compared to their peers in the major developed nations?

If you read the American press, you're treated to a steady stream of gloomy accounts. In May 2011, you may have read the passage shown below in the Washington Post.

It appeared beneath a suitably gloomy headline: "Is the U.S. doing teacher reform all wrong?"

Originally, Dana Goldstein posted her gloomy piece at her own site under a fuller headline ("Is the U.S. Doing Teacher Reform All Wrong? Lessons from Finland and Shanghai"). At each location, readers were quickly handed this gloomy assessment:
GOLDSTEIN (5/31/11): [M]any American education reformers spent the past decade demanding that districts and states get tough with teachers and provide them with more prescriptive advice on how to improve their practice...

But what if the United States is doing teacher reform all wrong?

That’s the suggestion of a new report from the National Center on Education and the Economy, a think tank funded mostly by large corporations and their affiliated foundations. The report takes a close look at how the countries that are kicking our academic butts—Finland, China and Canada—recruit, prepare and evaluate teachers.
According to Goldstein, three countries—Finland, China and Canada—were "kicking our academic butts." It was the latest gloomy account in the Washington Post, an anti-Wobegon publication where our American kids are persistently below average.

Readers of our major news orgs are persistently handed such gloomy accounts. But that very same year, students in Canada and the U.S. participated in one of the world's two major international testing programs.

Students in the neighboring countries took part in the latest administration of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), one of the two major testing programs in which the world's developed nations take part. Canada didn't participate on a national basis, but three of its provinces—including its two most populous provinces—participated as independent entities.

The United States, and miraculous Finland, did participate on a national basis. Nine states from the U.S. also participated as independent entities.

Did the brilliant Canadian kids "kick our academic butts?" How about the Finns? In truth, American butts did not get kicked. These were the average scores recorded in Grade 8 math:
Average scores, Grade 8 math, 2011 TIMSS
Massachusetts: 560.58
Minnesota: 544.73
North Carolina: 536.90
Quebec: 531.56
Indiana: 521.51
Colorado: 517.79
Connecticut: 517.62
Finland: 514.03
Florida: 513.30
Ontario: 511.63
United States: 509.48
Alberta: 505.14
California 492.62
Alabama 465.93
Did Finland "kick our academic butts?" Actually no, it didn't. On the TIMSS scale, a 4.5 point difference in average scores amounts to a minor blip.

Did Canada kick our butts? Ontario, Canada's largest province, barely outscored the United States; it did so by the tiniest sliver. The U.S. slightly outscored Alberta, Canada's fourth largest province.

Meanwhile, states like Massachusetts and Minnesota came close to kicking Finland's butts! The score differentials were rather large. Massachusetts came very close to kicking the butts of Quebec. (Five years later, you've never heard a word about these results.)

Final question: Was the country of China kicking our butts? Then as now, China had never taken part, on a national basis, in any international test. In lemming-like fashion, Goldstein was responding to the very strong scores recorded by kids in the city of Shanghai, which had participated as an independent entity in the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), the world's other major international testing program.

Shanghai's scores went off the charts on the 2009 PISA. In response, American journalists staged their latest gloom-ridden nervous breakdowns. But it soon emerged that Shanghai's schools serve a highly selective student population. For that reason, Shanghai's scores provide no indication of what is actually happening "in China."

Actual experts eventually said that China's nationwide schooling falls far short of that provided in Shanghai. But not before our journalists had penned their latest mandated gloomy tales, in which our hapless kids are constantly getting their butts kicked by their peers from around the world.

Let's be clear. The 2011 TIMSS was just one international test. For the most part, such testing can only give large, imprecise indications of the academic achievements of students in the world's developed nations. But no one kicked our academic butts on that Grade 8 TIMSS math test—at least, no one in the three countries Goldstein hailed.

What general picture does emerge from international tests? Before we answer that general question, let's make sure we're clear about the two testing programs in question.

The TIMSS (the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) has been in operation since 1995. As such, it's the grand-daddy of them both. Systematic international testing is a fairly new critter.

The TIMSS tests students in Grade 4 and Grade 8 in both math and science. (An affiliated program, the PIRLS, tests fourth-graders in reading.) It operates on a four-year cycle. Results from the most recent testing, in 2015, haven't yet been released.

The PISA (the Program for International Student Assessment) was first administered in the year 2000. As such, it's the new kid on the international testing block.

The PISA tests 15-year-old students in reading, math and science. It operates on a three-year cycle. As with the TIMSS, so too with the PISA: Results from last year's testing haven't been released.

No nation is required to take part in these testing programs. That said, the United States has regularly participated in both. Other developed nations take part in one or the other or both.

Finland shot to international stardom as a result of its strong results on the inaugural 2000 PISA. In 2011, it took part in the TIMSS for the first time, with results which were less impressive.

What general picture emerges from the TIMSS and the PISA? Let's break our international tournament down into two heats:

Asian tigers versus the world: Without question, a set of Asian nations tend to outperform the world on the TIMSS and the PISA. We refer to three major nations—Japan, South Korea, Taiwan—and to a pair of smaller entities, Singapore and Hong Kong.

These Asian polities do tend to kick the academic butts of the rest of the world. At one point, Finland seemed to be in their class. All in all, that no longer seems to be true.

Students in those Asian states do "kick our academic butts" on these international tests. That said, they kick everyone's else's butts too.

It's worth noting the facts that a price may get paid for this kind of academic success. South Korea's education minister has begged the United States not to emulate his country's manic education culture, in which kids go to school all day, then spend all night in their evening academies. We'll have more on this next week.

United States versus everyone else: Students in those Asian states do "kick our academic butts" on international tests. That said, American kids actually don't get their butts kicked by the rest of the world's developed nations. That is especially true if the United States is compared to large, diverse developed nations, rather than to smaller middle-class boutique states.

At the start of the century, a journalistic tulip craze formed around miraculous Finland. Journalists flew off to enjoy their free week in the enjoyable middle-class nation, then returned to spout the nostrums they'd been successfully fed.

Finland is a small corner of Europe; especially on the PISA, it has tended to outscore its larger European neighbors. That said, Massachusetts is a larger corner of the U.S., and in the most recent test administrations, Massachusetts tended to outscore Finland on the TIMSS, match it on the PISA.

Our journalists have fed the nation a steady diet of propaganda about international tests. In next week's reports, "Where the Con Games Are," we'll consider the provenance of these ubiquitous story-lines.

The gloom and doom have been general over the past many years. Americans have been trained to think that our students' performance is embarrassing, as compared to the performance of their international peers.

We're supposed to think, in knee-jerk fashion, that something is horribly wrong with our schools. For ourselves, we often wonder what's wrong with other countries' schools when we examine the full range of scores on the TIMSS, the PIRLS and the PISA.

On the international scene, the achievement gaps can be large. But that's mainly true if we look at the gaps between those Asian nations and the rest of the world.

When we compare our kids to the rest of the world, the gaps just aren't that big. Often, there are no gaps at all. Often, the United States is on the winning side of the gaps, although you'll simply never hear that from our gloom-ridden, script-typing press corps.

Massachusetts kids kicked Finland's butts on that TIMSS math test! Minnesota kids pretty much kicked their butts too. We'll return to the international gaps in part 4 of this week's report. Tomorrow, though, we'll bring it on home in a sobering way:

We'll look at where the achievement gaps are on our domestic tests.

Tomorrow: Where the gaps are on the NAEP