Bafflegab from the Club for Growth!


Professors of the Times: The New York Times had a good idea for its new weekly section, the Sunday Review. Each week, it invites readers to take part in a dialogue about some particular topic.

It’s a darn good idea—but check out the way it’s being enacted this week!

Today, readers are invited to create a dialogue around a ridiculous, murky epistle from the Club for Growth. The letter concerns a rather mundane proposal for higher tax rates on upper-end earners.

This is the hopelessly murky letter around which we are invited to fashion a dialogue:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (11/30/11): President Obama and several Congressional Democrats have called for higher taxes on “the rich” as a way to help reduce the budget deficit. But we cannot ignore two negative byproducts that such a move would almost certainly entail.

First is the increased potential for tax avoidance. High-income earners, when faced with a higher tax liability, will go to great lengths to defer income, incorporate their businesses to take advantage of lower corporate tax rates, or simply stop working, among other things.

Second is the macroeconomic impact of higher taxes on the rich. Taking capital away from the very people who are most likely to create jobs will naturally result in fewer jobs.

This is no trivial matter. Even if the economic effect is ambiguous, lawmakers should “first, do no harm” when considering tax changes in a fragile economy.

Instead, the better course of action is comprehensive corporate tax reform. There is strong, bipartisan support inside and outside of Congress to lower corporate tax rates while getting rid of special-interest loopholes.

Such a proposal could be revenue neutral, but its effect on the economy would spur growth because the lower rates would increase production and innovation. And fewer loopholes would reduce the exorbitant compliance costs. Over all, such reform would create jobs, keep the United States competitive in the global economy and help lower the budget deficit.
This letter is from Andrew Roth, a VP at the Club for Growth. “This is no trivial matter,” Roth says, before pimping several trivial matters.

Might we note one basic point? Higher taxes on upper-end earners have been proposed as a way to produce additional revenue—“as a way to help reduce the budget deficit,” to quote Roth’s very words. In response, Roth advances a proposal which “could be revenue neutral.” Presumably, this means that Roth’s proposal would not produce any new revenue. Gobbledy-gook about growth to the side, this would also seem to mean that Roth’s proposal would not “help reduce the budget deficit.”

In normal lingo, that's what it means when proposals are "revenue neutral."

But so what! Roth proceeds to a contradictory claim, saying that his “revenue neutral” proposal would “help lower the budget deficit.” Does anybody understand how this works?

Here at THE HOWLER, we don’t.

What kind of dialogue are we supposed to conduct around this bafflegab? It’s hard to build a dialogue around such a murky initial offering. Of course, this is precisely the kind of murk which typifies the modern American discourse. The Times could have asked Roth to clarify his presentation.

But then, this is the Times.

We’ll also suggest that you read this op-ed piece, in which the Times enacts a familiar practice. Two professors with a new book are given the chance to present their claims and ideas.

Midway through, the professors ask an obvious but important question about our polarized Congress: “What enabled the uncompromising mind-set to dominate our politics?”

The question is quite important.

The professors try to address this question. We don’t know when we’ve seen a less illuminating answer to such a critical question.

The Times likes to publish the nation’s professors. We're often dismayed when they do.

DAZE OF OUR TIMES: By now, the Dowdism has burrowed!


Part 3—Explaining Mitt Romney’s non-temper: With great prescience, Katherine Boo complained about the “creeping Dowdism” all the way back in 1992, when Bill Clinton was still a governor. (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/29/11.)

Twenty years later, the fatuous mind-set Boo decried suffuses America’s “press corps.” At our dumbest newspaper, the New York Times, one of Dowd’s fatuous “research assistants” is currently spreading the nonsense around, by-lined as a reporter. You’re getting your creeping Dowdism straight when you read silly blather like hers.

The piece was written by young Ashley Parker. The piece appeared this Monday morning, right on the Times front page:
PARKER (11/28/11): Moments before the start of a recent presidential debate at Dartmouth College, Mitt Romney and Herman Cain flung open the doors to their closet-size green rooms and ran into Newt Gingrich.

“Oh my God,” Mr. Gingrich marveled. “I’m looking at the ticket right now.”

Then he went in for the kill. “I just don’t know how you’re going to feel about being vice president, Governor Romney,” Mr. Gingrich deadpanned.

Was that gentle teasing among friends? Full-out mockery? Or was Mr. Gingrich taking a dig at Mr. Romney, whom he is now battling in the polls for the top of the field?
Parker didn't observe these pointless events; she attributes her account to "a witnesss." Whatever! This was the start to her front-page “Political Memo” about friendships among the Republican candidates. As the fatuous youngster proceeded, she gave readers a pile of provisional knowledge about the various bondings.

"Mr. Perry and Mr. Huntsman are perhaps closer than any other pair of candidates," we are told (our emphasis). And not only that: "Mr. Cain is perhaps closest to Mr. Gingrich." Meanwhile, "perhaps because [Gingrich] has been a party stalwart for so long, he seems to have developed relationships with all the candidates."

As Parker continues, she keeps telling us how things seem and what is perhaps the case. Early on, she offers the requisite justification for all this front-page blather:
PARKER: So don’t always believe what you see. Politicians are, well, politicians, and their charm and glad-handing is sometimes driven more by expediency and ambition and less by true friendship. But having some sense of how candidates relate to one another can offer clues for the future—especially if one is elected president.

Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. said, famously, in 2007, that Senator Barack Obama was “not yet ready” for the presidency. But a year or so later, Mr. Obama pronounced the two of them fast friends from their days on the Foreign Relations Committee and picked him as his running mate. Was the choice based in friendship, calculation, policy passions—or maybe some sort of combination?
In a post-journalistic age, a person like Parker must be skilled at explaining why she's dispensing 1500 words of piddle. In this case, we are told that her observations may offer us “clues for the future,” apparently about presidential appointments. We are then offered a murky anecdote about Obama and Biden, complete with a “famous” statement by Biden—a statement so famous that we ourselves don’t recall ever having heard it. And no, she never answers the question which ends the passage we’ve quoted:

Does that alleged former friendship explain why Biden is now vice president? To this day, Parker has no idea. And yet, the empty child goes thrashing about, pretending that she is seeking new “clues” to such future transactions.

In truth, she’s wasting our time with this silly twaddle because it’s so silly, such fun. This is the essence of the Dowdism which has crept all through our world.

That said, the Dowdism has crept far and wide in the days since Boo introduced the complaint. For a taste of the inanity which pervades our nation’s “election coverage,” consider Alex MacGillis’ remarkably Dowdist report in the current New Republic.

Kevin Drum rolled his eyes at this piece at the start of the week (click here). The piece in question helps us see that the Dowdism hasn’t just crept. By now, it has burrowed, quite deeply.

The piece in question bears this headline: “Temperamental Journey: The peculiar anger of Mitt Romney.” As he starts, MacGillis describes the recent non-event in which Romney tried to make Rick Perry stop interrupting and talking over him at a debate. After recalling this pointless event, MacGillis provides the requisite rationale for the nonsense which is to follow:
MACGILLIS (11/23/11): Moments later, Romney returned to his usual stiff good cheer. Still, a flush lingered, as did the questions swirling among political commentators. What had just happened? How could Perry have so easily provoked the polished former CEO known for his robotic self-control?

The confrontation hinted that perhaps there was more to Romney’s emotional makeup than the reserved, overly programmed manner that is usually ascribed to him in the press. Indeed, there is considerable evidence that Romney has a genuine temper. “I’m always very surprised when people talk about Romney as stoic, because I never saw that,” says Brian Lees, the former GOP leader in the Massachusetts state Senate. “He got very animated about lots of things, impassioned, and sometimes angry.” Romney himself has acknowledged as much. In a June interview on CNN, he said his sons had come up with a name for any flare-up involving their father: They call it a “Mitt-frontation.”

A certain level of passion is a perfectly normal thing, of course. Yet Romney (whose campaign did not respond to questions for this article) has several times over the years found himself in embarrassing situations, ranging from confrontations with law enforcement officials to an altercation with a hip-hop star. These incidents raise the question of whether voters and journalists have completely misread the temperament of the likely Republican nominee.
Good lord! Have voters and journalists “completely misread” Candidate Romney’s temperament? Having advanced this provocative premise, MacGillis proceeds to burn up thousands of words discussing the “several times over the years” when Romney has “found himself in embarrassing situations” due to his troubling temper.

The key phrase is “over the years.” MacGillis’ first example occurs in June 1981, when Romney was 34 years old. He then skips forward some twenty-one years, to a thoroughly pointless, undocumented event at the Salt Lake City Olympics. If we accept MacGillis’ account of these two events, this would mean that Romney has had two bouts of troubling temper over the past thirty years. (According to MacGillis, these are “the most extreme indications that Romney might have a temper.”) But should we accept MacGillis’ accounts? Eventually, we get a look at his reportorial method in the case of the Utah incident:
MACGILLIS: In the days after the incident, the state’s top law enforcement official decided against an investigation. But the officer in charge of security at the downhill site, Weber County Sheriff’s Office Captain Terry Shaw, said a police sergeant from Colorado working under his command had corroborated Knopp’s account, and Shaw demanded an apology from Romney.

When I reached Shaw, who has since retired, he told me that he had not witnessed Romney’s fury; by the time Romney made it to Shaw at the front of the traffic jam, he had calmed down somewhat, though Shaw speculated that Romney’s softer tone may also have had to do with Shaw’s higher rank. Shaw told me he later demanded the apology anyway to back up his subordinates. Romney was initially unrepentant. “I won’t say it was exactly an apology. Things were left undecided,” Shaw told me. Subsequently, Romney attended a meeting with Shaw where he expressed regret for having lost his cool but still denied Knopp’s version.
For unknown reasons, MacGillis has interviewed Shaw, who didn’t witness this pointless incident but is willing to "speculate." MacGillis hasn’t interviewed the two people who actually witnessed the incident, nor does he explain why he didn’t.

(For the record, Knopp was 18 years old at the time—and he seems to have said that Romney used the F-word! With the emphasis on seems to have said.)

Why didn’t MacGillis interview Knopp, or the Colorado lieutenant, about this troubling matter? No word! The scribe did interview Fraser Bullock, a Romney associate who witnessed the non-event. Did Romney actually use the F-word? MacGillis gives us a thrill by quoting the old reports in which Knopp seems to say that he did. But he oddly fails to tell us what Bullock said about this central question.

This is Dowdism, pure and simple. And no—this isn’t “reporting.”

To which far planet do news orgs go to hire “journalists” of this type? In the case of MacGillis, TNR went to the Washington Post, a planet to which the Dowdism crept a good long time ago. At famous “newspapers” like the Post, “journalists” learn to compose such blather—silly twaddle in which they pretend to examine a candidate’s “temperament” or “character.”

You’ve seen this silly stupid shit through many White House cycles. It’s the artifact of a low-IQ, upper-class cohort which has replaced what was once called the “press corps.” You’ve seen Al Gore’s “character” thrashed in these ways; you’ve seen Dowdists worry why Candidate Obama would ask for orange juice in a bar. Why in the world did Candidate Kerry order Swiss cheese on his Philly cheesesteak? Why would he go windsurfing? You’ve seen this silly shit extended to almost all who walk on the stage, with especially low standards observed in the case of targeted candidates.

That said, MacGillis’ piece represents some of the purest Dowdism you’ll ever encounter. After wasting everyone’s time with his tiny number of alleged incidents, he then wastes your time some more, listing seven (7) different theories for Romney’s temper—the temper which has gone on display three or four times in the past thirty years. (Or not.)

How low is the IQ of this “press corps?” How low is our IQ as a nation? As the Dowdism creeps and surges and burrows, the question is asked by very few people. Even in the “liberal” world, it’s exceptionally hard to insult our intelligence, a fact we seem intent on displaying. And sure enough! In the massive dumbness which fills the news hole, our failing nation keeps sliding down Dowd’s Hill toward the wine-dark sea.

Tomorrow: Creeping Gail Collinsism

Seven attempts to explain: What explains Romney’s explosive temper? In a brilliant display of long-form Dowdism, MacGillis lists seven (7!) theories. We’ll give you a taste of each:

“One centered around his adolescence.”

“Another school of thought centers around Romney’s fixation on decorum.”

“There is the repression explanation.”

“Birmingham and others also point to another theory: the entitlement of an executive.”

“I heard a slight variation on this theory from someone who was a high-level Romney appointee in Massachusetts.”

“There is one final theory that might explain Romney’s occasional outbursts: He may simply be a genuinely quirky person.”

“This time around, Duprey says, Romney seems determined to stand up for himself...'He’s less programmed about letting it show, whether it’s anger or humor.’”

The Dowdism just keeps getting dumber. Few seem to notice or care.

Stormin’ the Mormon: Who doesn't like Romney's religion?


In this case, the bigots are us: In a rather typical post, Digby ponders the fact that “more than four in 10 American voters say they are uncomfortable with the idea of a Mormon in the White House.”

Digby states her conclusions. We think you can make out her point:
DIGBY (11/28/11): I think people have been misreading Romney's weakness as being his flip-flopping or his suspected moderation. In his case, the underlying suspicion that he isn't "one of them" meaning—Christian. And what's interesting about it is that it's politically incorrect to even mention it.

Has there ever been a more fascinating GOP primary? I don't ever want it to end.
Rachel thinks the process is fun; Digby thinks it’s fascinating. We marvel at people who react in such ways to our steady societal meltdown. Meanwhile, in a rather typical bit of analysis, Digby thinks that Romney’s electoral problem must reflect only one cause. It can’t be that some GOP voters don’t like his obvious ideological fraudulence while other GOP voters don’t care for his religion.

Why can’t these people consider his hair, the way a top analyst would?

Within the comments, our tribe got busy doing what we do best—attacking the other tribe as bigots. One commenter did offer a warning. But this is a type of glorying comment well known within our tribe:
COMMENT: That 42 percent includes about 80 percent of the right wing nut base. mormons are heretics according to most orthodox american forms of christianity, many of which american christianities are also heresies by old standards. The right wing nut rule is to talk generic christianity and avoid actual religion, but that rule does not apply to the mormons. The VSP rule is to ignore religion and its use a a tool of political manipulation, except for the right's complaints of religious discrimination. Voila.
Highly pleasing—and capped off in French! But uh-oh! The following passage occurs at the start of the report to which Digby refers. In this case, the bigots are us! Disproportionately, that is:
PUBLIC RELIGION RESEARCH INSTITUTE: A majority of voters (53%) report that they would be somewhat or very comfortable with a Mormon serving as President, although more than 4-in-10 (42%) say that a Mormon president would make them somewhat or very uncomfortable.

Significantly more Democratic voters (50%) report feeling at least somewhat uncomfortable with a Mormon serving as president than Republican voters (36%) or Independent voters (38%).
That’s what the survey says. Of course, every good liberal knows what to do now. We must say that many of the Republican respondents just weren’t telling the truth!

For ourselves, we can’t say that we find the GOP primary to be fun or fascinating. We’d say the meltdown in the GOP process is a canary in the coal mine. Our nation’s culture is coming undone. In our view, our own dumb, unpleasant tribe is very much part of the process.

The other tribe is worse than we are. But if you watch cable of a very dumb evening, you can see that our tribe’s catching up.

What explains the data: If you read the report with care, you will note a fact we white liberals often forget:

Blacks and Hispanics are heavily Democratic. And these groups tend to be socially conservative.

Uh-oh! When we liberals pleasure ourselves by trashing those white southern bigots, we are frequently trashing values held by many blacks and Hispanics. We’re just too clueless to know such a thing.

This seems to be one of those cases.

Credit where due: Bill Keller gets it right!


At long last, a big scribe goes meta: We didn’t know Bill Keller in high school; he had to go to Serra (click here). In fairness, so did Lynn Swann, Barry Bonds and Tom Brady in the years which followed.

Offering that full disclosure, we strongly recommend Keller’s piece from yesterday’s New York Times. We plan to discuss his piece next week, but it’s worth reading right now.

We have some quibbles, but they can wait. It’s rare that a major journalist goes this “meta” about our nation’s crumbling intellectual culture. We liberals will sometimes note how dumb “they” are. Keller takes in a larger picture.

Yesterday, we cited the passage where Keller quotes PolitiFact’s Bill Adair. Our culture is growing exceptionally dumb. Although we have a few objections, Keller’s piece pokes around at some of the big reasons why.

Good lord: Keller even takes a swipe at his newspaper's Deeply Entrenched Dowdism. No, he doesn't name any names. But there it is, quite early on!

DAZE OF OUR TIMES: The insights spread!


Part 2—The Dowdism creeps to Ruth Marcus: Things get silly very fast when the New York Times’ Ashley Parker gets her inner Dowd on.

Last Friday, Parker penned a front-page “news report”—a report about Mitt Romney’s hair. In line with High Pundit Law, she and her beard, Michael Barbaro, felt the need to construct an excuse for their mountain of silly-shit nonsense.

Why did Parker compile this mountain of bilge? Of course! She blamed her own rock-bottom IQ on pretty much everyone else:
PARKER (11/25/11): A certain segment of the political world seems riveted by the topic. During a Republican presidential debate in Michigan two weeks ago, blogs and Twitter feeds suddenly lighted up with commentary: a few errant strands of hair had appeared to drape over Mr. Romney's forehead.

''Switched to CNBC in HD to confirm a 7th Romney hair straying down,'' Rick Klein, a political analyst and senior editor at ABC News, posted on Twitter.

Esquire magazine registered its disapproval. ''Romney's hair has officially lost its glory,'' tut-tutted one of its bloggers.

Interviews with voters on the campaign trail suggest that, if anything, Mr. Romney's age-defying hair is an asset, especially with women.

At a recent campaign stop in Manchester, N.H., Caroline Cagan acknowledged a weakness for his lush locks.

''A lot of people would pay a lot of money to have hair like that,'' said Ms. Cagan, a local Chamber of Commerce member. ''It projects youth. And, honestly, you can't help but think that people with good hair are in good health.”
It isn’t that Parker enjoys this dumb shit. She’s forced to go there, thanks to “a certain segment of the political world.” And those silly-shit voters think this way too! Especially the women! At least, that’s what “interviews suggest”—“interviews” which may have involved as many as three or four people.

This is utterly fatuous work—the lowest of all pseudo-journalism. But this has been the norm at our dumbest newspaper for quite a few cycles now. In 1999, Melinda Henneberger composed a dumb-as-shit New York Times “news report” about Candidate Gore’s body language, which she found disturbing, distracting; in her case, she marveled at the way New Hampshire voters didn’t seem to care about this critical manifestation. (Click here, search on Henneberger.) But it’s much more common for these life-forms to pretend that they’re forced to discuss this dumb silly shit because of the way the voters think, or because “a certain segment of the political world seems riveted by the topic.” The Parkers never mention the fact that they themselves are part of that segment—that they themselves are “riveted” by dumb shit like Romney’s hair.

All the way back in 1992, Katherine Boo discussed this growing culture in a piece for the Washington Monthly. She coined a term, “Creeping Dowdism,” thus placing the blame for this vacuous culture on a well-known, vacuous source.

Today, Dowdism rules at the New York Times, especially when the great ex-newspaper talks about a new gang of White House candidates. Yesterday, Parker was back on the paper’s front page with this sad, silly “Political Memo” about friendship patterns among the GOP candidates. This morning, Trip Gabriel fumbles about, pretending to discuss the fact that Newt Gingrich started out as an historian. That topic might even be semi-worthwhile. But with remarkable speed, Gabriel is offering this:
GABRIEL (11/28/11): Mr. Gingrich taught college history before entering politics, and his historical references on the campaign trail are such a feature of his public remarks as to be nearly a rhetorical tic. They strike some as evidence that Mr. Gingrich is the smartest candidate in the room—and others that he is a man determined to let you know how much he knows.

In an election season rife with factual misstatements, deliberate and otherwise, Mr. Gingrich sometimes seems to stand out for exhibiting an excess of knowledge. It is hard to imagine him not knowing that the Battle of Lexington and Concord took place in Massachusetts, not New Hampshire, where Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota located it this year.
It’s hard to imagine Gingrich not knowing that fact? Our analysts chuckled, then cried.

Gabriel’s topic is less fatuous, on its face, than those pursued by Parker—but Parker comes straight from the cult. For five years, she served as “research assistant” to Dowd, whatever that assignment could possibly have entailed. This paper’s Dowdism comes to you straight when Dowd’s young assistants ascend to power. (The fatuous Parker is just 28. She’ll be around longer than Clarence Thomas—if your nation can survive her type.) Elsewhere, though, the Dowdism creeps, even to other newspapers.

Consider Sunday’s op-ed piece by Ruth Marcus in the Washington Post. (Click here, then click once again.)

Good lord. Marcus writes for the Washington Post, not for the New York Times. More significantly, she isn’t part of the throwback culture according to which the Times has assembled a gang of women who write as if they're back in the 1950s, composing the “women’s pages” which were so common during that pre-Friedan era. Dowd, Collins and Parker type like refugees from that mid-century. It’s hard to deny that this seems to be part of their newspaper’s strange, throwback gender culture.

By way of contrast, Marcus normally writes about serious topics. Whatever you may think of her views, she conducts herself like a grown person.

Sunday, Marcus wrote about Mitt Romney’s hair on the Washington Post’s op-ed page, discussing Parker’s inane report. Alas! As is clear in the highlighted passages, the crackpot “logic” of Creeping Dowdism has long since crept to the Post:
MARCUS (11/27/11): Then there is the unavoidable matter of hair-as-metaphor. As the Times reported, Romney’s “head of impeccably coiffed black hair has become something of a cosmetological Rorschach test on the campaign trail, with many seeing in his thick locks everything they love and loathe about the Republican candidate for the White House. (Commanding, reassuring, presidential, crow fans; too stiff, too slick, too perfect, complain critics.)”

It would be easy to dismiss this as back-seat barbering, over-interpreting trivial choices, but listen to Romney’s barber: “He wants a look that is very controlled,” Leon de Magistris told the Times. “He is a very controlled man. The hair goes with the man.” When he advises Romney “to mess it up a little bit,” de Magistris said, the candidate resists.

Sometimes a hairdo is only a hairdo. But in Romney’s case, it may also be an insight—into ourselves and what we are searching for in a president, no doubt, but also into the candidate himself.
“It would be easy to dismiss this” bullshit, Marcus writes. And then, searching for “insight,” the journalist dumbly resists.

By now, the dumbness of this Dowdist culture has crept all through the nation’s press. For the past twenty years, the “press” has been searching for insights in the various candidates’ hair, body language, wardrobe, preferred beverages and sandwich condiments, choices in spare-time sports. Sometimes they blame their dumbness on somebody else; sometimes, they pretend that real insights are involved. But can your nation survive this dumbness? The answer keeps tilting toward no.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at a quintessentially dumb new piece in the New Republic. And we’ll consider the way Gail Collinsism has crept to the Washington Post.

Tomorrow: Mitt Romney’s temper

A BASIC LACK OF SKILL: President Clinton buys Finland!


Tall tales about a school system: It seems to be the way our minds work. All the great stories are fake!

Even the most famous stories about public fakery turn out to be bogus, fake! In the Washington Post, Kathy Lally reviewed the new book about Catherine the Great:
LALLY (11/20/11): She cried when she quarreled with her lovers and cherished the ones who offered intelligent conversation. She wanted more than a pretty face. The favorite of the favorites was Gregory Potemkin, he who built the supposedly fake "Potemkin" villages to impress her. This, Massie argues, is a myth. The villages were real.

Today, 215 years later, the authorities are still promising enlightenment—now they call it modernization—and their people are still accusing them of building Potemkin villages.
Good lord! Potemkin’s villages were real! Only the story is fake!

Almost all the great stories are fake; it’s one of the basic ways our pitiful minds fail to work. For our money, the biggest fake story in modern times is the tall tale about Finland's schools. We were sad to see Bill Clinton recite the tale in his new book, Back to Work.

Below, we’ll show you what Clinton said about the state of our own nation’s public schools. But in a footnote, he offered this highly familiar story about the schools in Dear Finland:
CLINTON (page 99): One of the most interesting findings of the international student assessments is how well Finland is doing. Though it’s a small country, its students are a diverse lot. Forty-five languages are spoken in Helsinki schools. In the 1990s, Finland’s schools weren’t doing well. Instead of adopting a national testing program, Finland focused on defining excellence in teaching and learning. Every teacher has a master’s degree. Only one in ten applicants gets a teaching job. It’s the most respected, though not the highest-paid, profession. Though they don’t give any domestic tests, students do well on international tests. Only 4 percent of the schools are underperforming, and the country is rated among the very best in innovation and creativity, important twenty-first century skills. In the United States, the approach most like Finland’s is that embraced by the KIPP charter schools. They have also defined excellence in teaching and learning. Based on their test scores and the fact that their poor minority students succeed in college at a higher rate than white students, it works here too.
Oof. After reciting the tale about Finnish schools, he even folds in a familiar tale about the success of KIPP schools.

(For the record, “in the 1990s” may be a typo. The normal recitation of this massaged tale puts the alleged turn-around in the 1970s. Finland's schools were doing quite well by the late 1990s.)

We don’t mean to criticize the KIPP schools, or the schools in Finland. We’ll assume that the Finns do many good things in their high-scoring schools. But in the highlighted passage, Clinton even adopts a new standard hook which has been folded into this corporatist tale. He seems to say that Finland’s schools are highly “diverse”—not unlike our own.

As far as we know, this is utterly bogus. (For cultural reasons, relevant data are a bit hard to come by.) The analysts moped for a good solid day after seeing the president say this.

Are Finland’s students “a diverse lot?” As best we can tell, they are not. Clinton says that forty-five languages are spoken in Helsinki schools; on its own web site, the Helsinki schools set the number at “about 45.” But Helsinki is only one part of Finland, and this is a highly ineffective way of measuring the sort of diversity which may affect a nation’s educational outcomes. How many children speak each of those languages? And how many of those children come from high-literacy backgrounds? (Estonian and Russian are the top foreign lingos in Finland.) And by the way—is 45 a lot of languages for a city’s schools? The New York Times recently discussed the state of the schools in Gotham:
ROBERTS (4/28/10): While there is no precise count, some experts believe New York is home to as many as 800 languages—far more than the 176 spoken by students in the city’s public schools or the 138 that residents of Queens, New York’s most diverse borough, listed on their 2000 census forms.
If a student speaks a foreign language, does that make him or her an educational risk? Not necessarily, no. But almost surely, Finland’s schools aren’t anywhere near as “diverse” as that spreading factoid makes them seem. But then, silly fake stories often gain purchase from casual factoids like this.

On the whole, Finland is not a highly diverse nation—quite the contrary. (For a quick sampler, click and scroll. For the most part, those "Swedes" are the so-called "Finnish Swedes." They've been in the country for centuries.) Its immigrants often come from literate backgrounds—and the nation has little poverty. Beyond that, might we compliment the Finns? To their credit, they never decided to spend three centuries trying to stamp out literacy within a whole subset of their population, as our benighted ancestors did—with results which linger on within our public schools. (History’s effects can’t be wished away because we no longer welcome them.) It’s very, very, very silly to compare Finland’s educational outcomes to ours unless you make some modest attempt to “disaggregate” the data—to compare apples to apples within these two student populations, which are highly dissimilar.

But so what? Corporate forces have been pushing this tale for the past decade, helped by undiscerning liberals who seem to enjoy their free plane rides to Finland. For our money, this is the dumbest of all the fake stories which make up the current American song book. Our analysts moped for a good solid day after they saw President Clinton recite it. It’s rare to see Clinton, a very bright person, reciting a tale of this type.

Clinton’s overview: For the record, this is Clinton’s overview of our own public schools. He refers to a study involving 33 developed nations:
CLINTON (page 99): On comparative tests, U.S. students ranked sixteenth in science, twenty-second in math. Our high school graduation rate is eighteenth, as the next chart shows. Our problems in kindergarten through twelfth-grade education are well known. In elementary school, our kids match up pretty well with others. By the eighth grade, there’s a pretty wide gap between our students and those in the highest scoring countries. By the eleventh grade, the gap has grown into a chasm. Though our best students continue to do reasonably well compared with other nations’ best students, we also have a higher percentage of low-performing students than they do.
The study from which Clinton is working records U.S. scores in math and science. It omits the corresponding score in reading, where American students scored twelfth out of 33, their best comparative score.

For the record: In a wide array of ways, those “highest scoring countries” are not a great deal like our own. “We have a higher percentage of low-performing students than they do?” Does anyone really fail to grasp some of the basic reasons for this state of affairs?

For our money, this is Clinton’s least felicitous statement: “Our problems in kindergarten through twelfth-grade education are well known.” In fact, the state of our problems—and our successes—are very poorly known. To wit:

Again, we will guess that President Clinton has never heard that black fourth-graders are now scoring higher in math than their white counterparts did in 1992. Is that “problem” well-known? On its face, that represents an enormous success. But thanks to corporatist control of your nation’s facts, the American people haven’t heard it. We will guess that President Clinton has never heard that fact either.

One final comment: You really can’t discuss this topic without discussing the various chunks of our student population. Putting that another way, you can’t discuss this topic without discussing our brutal racial history, whose effects live on today in our “achievement gaps.” Without discussing our ciurrent immigration policy, which brings many delightful, deserving, low-literacy children to our schools—so that corporate entities can pay low wages and everyone else can get cheap lawn care. If those NAEP scores can be believed, some very strong gains have been recorded—gains we aren’t allowed to discuss. But on average, our black kids still trail our white kids—and this represents a very unique historical circumstance, one which can’t be matched in Finland, no matter how much fun it is to spend a week in that happiest land.

We love to pretend that our racial history simply doesn’t exist. It’s only black kids, after all! Why bother being forthright about them, or their life situations? It’s disappointing to see that even Bill Clinton wants to wipe away the facts which explain the real shape of our educational struggle. We're sorry, but the problems which still exist in Little Rock’s schools can't be reviewed in Helsinki's.

According to the NAEP, our black kids have come a long way—but you aren’t allowed to know that. And there’s nothing in Finland which lets us know how to proceed with this struggle.

On the other hand, all the great stories are fake! We love to concoct these Potemkin tales and repeat them to one another.

A question about Krugman’s column!


Which Clinton tax rates does he mean: Twice a week, Paul Krugman’s column appears. On those occasions, Americans actually have a chance to learn something from their daily newspaper.

Krugman is fundamental. That’s why we found this morning’s column frustrating. What exactly did Krugman mean by the highlighted passage:
KRUGMAN (11/2/8/11): The supercommittee was a superdud—and we should be glad. Nonetheless, at some point we’ll have to rein in budget deficits. And when we do, here’s a thought: How about making increased revenue an important part of the deal?

And I don’t just mean a return to Clinton-era tax rates. Why should 1990s taxes be considered the outer limit of revenue collection? Think about it: The long-run budget outlook has darkened, which means that some hard choices must be made. Why should those choices only involve spending cuts? Why not also push some taxes above their levels in the 1990s?

Let me suggest two areas in which it would make a lot of sense to raise taxes in earnest, not just return them to pre-Bush levels: taxes on very high incomes and taxes on financial transactions.
In that highlighted passage, Krugman proposes reinstating the Clinton-era tax rates—and he proposes going beyond them. But an obvious question came to mind: Which “Clinton-era tax rates” does Krugman have in mind?

Which Clinton tax rates does Krugman mean? Does he mean we should return to the Clinton tax rates on those who earn above $250,000? Or does he mean that we should return to all the Clinton tax rates?

On its face, Krugman seems to be talking about all the Clinton tax rates. But in the past few years, the debate about the Clinton tax rates has narrowed down to the tax rates on high earners. Ever since he was a candidate, President Obama has rejected the idea of letting the Bush tax rates expire on families which earn less than $250,000. Within the liberal world, discussion of the Bush and Clinton tax rates has thus collapsed into a discussion of tax rates on high earners only.

We’ll promise you this: Whatever Krugman may mean, many of his readers will think he’s talking about restoring the Clinton tax rates on just the top two percent.

Does Krugman want to restore all the Clinton tax rates? Or just those on the highest earners? We’ll guarantee that his readers don’t know.

We don’t know which he means either.

Visit our incomparable archives: In July, Krugman discussed his views about future taxation on a Charlie Rose program. This same point of confusion arose at that time. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/26/11.

One additional question: Have you ever seen a news report about what it would be like to return to all the Clinton tax rates? About how middle-income families would be affected?

Answer: Of course you haven’t! Your “press corps” writes about hair and friendship patterns. That other shit is so tedious, so boring!

Darlings! It can go fly!

DAZE OF OUR TIMES: The dawning of the age of Dowd!


Part 1—Hair, hair, glorious hair: Years ago, the young people sang about their glorious hair:
Hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair
Flow it, show it
Long as God can grow it
My hair

Let it fly in the breeze
And get caught in the trees
Give a home to the fleas in my hair
A home for fleas
A hive for bees
A nest for birds
There ain't no words
For the beauty, the splendor, the wonder
Of my

Hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair
Flow it, show it
Long as God can grow it
My hair
In those days, you had to go to Broadway to take in this twaddle. Today, it forms the basis for the front-page “news reporting” of our nation’s dumbest newspaper.

Last Friday, the New York Times let its freak flag show, as it so frequently does. Ashley Parker devoted a front-page “news report” to—what else?—Mitt Romney’s glorious hair. This is the way the Times’ empty child began her “news report:”
PARKER (11/25/11): Voters routinely ask about it on the campaign trail. Pundits chronicle the slightest changes in its presentation. There is a Facebook page devoted to it—not to mention an entire blog. “Has it always been this good?” read a recent online entry.

The subject of the unusually intense political speculation and debate?

Mitt Romney’s hair.
If it’s inanity you enjoy, we’ll suggest that you read the whole thing. Parker’s listed co-author is Michael Barbaro, though that may have been a clever attempt at some amusing word-play.

Did we mention the fact that this “news report” appeared on the Times’ front page?

We’ve mentioned the vacuous Parker before. She seems to be her newspaper's Next Big Thing—one of the tools by which the Times is spreading its fatuous culture. Super-comically, she spent five years as Maureen Dowd’s “research assistant,” whatever that could possibly mean (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/29/11). And this is fitting, since it was Dowd, more than anyone else, who made the various candidates’ hair a subject for front-line analysis.

Dowd obsessively focused on Al Gore’s bald spot during Campaign 2000. Before that, she had obsessed on Rudy Giuliani’s comb-over. In 2007 and 2008, she routinely called Candidate Edwards “the Breck Girl,” combining her obsession with hair with her throwback gender values. But then, these twin obsessions were also at play when she obsessed about Gore’s bald spot. Two days before the Bush-Gore election, the Times’ most famous broken-souled clown began her Sunday column like this:
DOWD (11/5/00): I Feel Pretty

I feel stunning
And entrancing,
Feel like running and dancing for joy . . .

O.K., enough gloating. Behave, Albert. Just look in the mirror now and put on your serious, I only-care-about-the-issues face.

If I rub in a tad more of this mahogany-colored industrial mousse, the Spot will disappear under my Reagan pompadour.
Dowd has been visibly crazy for years, but her paper is so pervasively stupid that no one has seemed to notice. At any rate, as Dowd obsessed about everyone’s hair, the dumbness spread all through Times culture.

(Two days after Dowd pictured Gore obsessing about his bald spot, the closest election in history occurred. Are you sure the outcome wasn’t tipped by Dowd’s two-year obsession with hair? She wrote seven columns in which she pictured Gore addressing his bald spot. Because the Times is our dumbest newspaper, this bilge was actually published!)

More than any other player, Dowd made hair—glorious hair!—a subject for political coverage. Last Friday, her fatuous 28-year-old former assistant drove this culture even further. Today, Parker offers even more nonsense—a pitifully sad “Political Memo” about friendships among the Republican candidates.

It too appears on page one.

We’ll review that latest pitiful piece within the next few days. But as the flyweight Parker keeps printing this garbage, your nation’s failing culture just gets dumber and dumber.

Your nation sinks beneath the waves as these upper-class clowns perform.

Hair, hair, glorious hair, was on the front page of Friday’s Times. But then, the Times invented this twaddle! Sadly, its upper-class, post-journalist culture is spreading far and wide.

The New York Times is devoted to dumb. Can your nation survive?

Tomorrow: Et tu, Ruth Marcus?

A BASIC LACK OF SKILL: Et tu, President Clinton?


Epilogue—His statement advances the script: Many parts of our national discourse are controlled by hard right-wing scripts.

One such controlling script involves our public schools. According to tenets of Hard Pundit Law, you aren’t allowed to tell the public that American test scores have been improving rather strongly on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, our most reliable measure. People! To say such a thing would undermine the Bloombergian desire to demonize the nation’s teachers. How can we privatize the schools if progress is being achieved?

Now, even Bill Clinton has swallowed this scam! Early last week, we racked our brains, trying to remember where we had seen him say it. And then, of course! We had it at last! He said it as part of his C-Span interview about his new book, Back to Work.

To watch the full interview, just click here. But this is part of the very first Q-and-A:
QUESTION: President Bill Clinton, in your new book, Back to Work, you talk about the fact that the U.S. “should get back in the future business.” What do you mean by that?

CLINTON: ...We still have a lot of enormous advantages in America, but we’ve lost ground relative to a lot of other countries in the percentage of our young adults with college degrees, in our performance in standardized tests, in the competitiveness of our health care system—what we get for what we pay, in our ability to generate manufacturing employment, in our ability to export, in our research and development capabilities in the areas that we know are growing in the years ahead. And I think it’s because we’ve been asking the wrong questions.
For the record, Clinton’s overall perspective is very strong in this part of his interview. But has the U.S. lost ground relative to a lot of other countries in our performance on standardized tests?

As far as we know, that’s inaccurate. (For one set of examples, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/20/10.) But in its tone, in what it seems to imply, President Clinton’s statement here advances those ubiquitous scripts:

Due to our lazy, god-awful teachers, we have just kept losing ground! Nothing has seemed to work!

Has the United States lost ground compared to other countries on standardized tests? If we’re not mistaken, the U.S. has tended to gain ground in the past decade on the major international measures. (We're willing to be corrected.) But what does it mean when even someone like President Clinton emits this careless talking-point without including the corresponding good news, including this remarkable fact:
BILL CLINTON, REWRITTEN: Now, do you want to hear the good news? According to our most reliable national testing program, black fourth-graders are scoring higher in math than white fourth-graders were scoring when I first ran for president, in 1992! The same is true of our Hispanic fourth-graders. That isn’t good enough. But it’s remarkable progress!
What force keeps a decent person like President Clinton from making this fact-based statement? Shouldn't the public be told about this apparent progress?

Just a guess: It may be that President Clinton has never heard those facts! In a discourse driven by hard pundit scripts, the bogus claims get repeated so often that people end up assuming they’re accurate. It doesn't even occur to them that other key facts are being withheld. In today’s New York Times, Bill Keller quotes Politifact’s Bill Adair describing one part of this gruesome process:

“The talking points drive the discourse,” Adair is quoted saying. “They repeat the talking points so often I think they start actually believing them.”

In context, Adair is describing the way political players end up believing their own bogus claims. But in a world where no one ever repeats certain facts, even a player like President Clinton may end up misled, disinformed.

Tomorrow, we’ll show you something Clinton says in his book about test scores from across the pond. In this instance, the president’s key statement seems to be just flat inaccurate. But it does advance the script!

Et tu, President Clinton? Even you have swallowed the twaddle about dear Finland’s schools?

The war on Thanksgiving down through the years!


Tomorrow, a possible special report: At the bagel joint we frequent, the Christmas decorations have already been up for two weeks.

All around the nation, a war on Thanksgiving has been declared. And wouldn’t you know it? Bill O’Reilly doesn’t seem to notice or care!

While we're on the subject, where was the first Euro-American Thanksgiving held? Was it in Massachusetts, or in Virginia?

(Frost: "But we were England's, still colonials.")

Last week, the New York Times did a fascinating report about Jamestown, written by Theo Emery. Tomorrow, we expect to start a new special report, though travel plans may intrude. If we do, we’ll begin it right there.

Whatever! Perhaps you can sniff out our theme from Emery's intriguing report.

A murky front-page explanation!


Concerning those dueling tax rates: Jonathan Chait has been explaining a certain state of affairs for at least the past year. E. J. Dionne cited Chait’s work in this area just last week.

Here goes. This isn’t complex:

The Bush tax rates are scheduled to expire at the end of 2012. If nothing is done by the Congress, the nation will return at that time to the Clinton-era tax rates and policies.

If we return to the Clinton-era tax rates, projected deficits shrink by a large factor. Our projected debt-and-deficit "crisis" suddenly disappears.

We’re not saying that it’s a good idea to return to the Clinton-era tax rates. But these simple facts should have been explained to the public long ago.

Sadly, we live in an idiocracy. Few things ever get explained.

This morning, as everyone runs for the airports and highways, Binyamin Applebaum finally explains these basic facts on the front page of the New York Times. Or does he? We’d call his work extremely murky, and limited besides.

But then, this is the New York Times. Do they know how to explain?

A BASIC LACK OF SKILL: Why do we hate black kids so?


Epilogue—State of the NAEP: Good lord! Over the weekend, a rational discussion almost broke out concerning the nation’s low-income schools!

First, Gene Lyons wrote this piece at Salon. Among other things, he noted that today’s black kids score better on the NAEP math test than their white counterparts did in the not-too-distant past. (Black fourth graders scored higher this year than white fourth graders in 1990.)

This Sunday, in response to Lyons, Kevin Drum offered this post at Mother Jones. He then offered this second, follow-up post. A discussion had almost broken out! Such things simply aren’t done!

Might we offer a point about liberal interest in low-income schools? On Sunday, Drum’s two posts about the NAEP received 17 and nine comments. That same day, his post about left-eared versus right-eared hearing attracted 53 comments; a post about democracy in Europe garnered 36. As has long been clear, the liberal world pays little attention to low-income schools or the kids who attend them. We quit on black kids a long time ago—although we love to bleat and bray about all those conservative racists.

To his vast credit, Drum does pay attention to such topics. We thought we’d offer a few reactions to his twin Sunday posts.

How happy should American be about the state of NAEP scores? We’re not sure, but we do think Kevin tends to tilt toward gloom a tad when he reviews these data. Before explaining that impression, let’s establish a few basic points:

The NAEP runs two separate studies: Just so you’ll know, the National Assessment of Education Progress (the NAEP) conducts two parallel studies—the so-called “Main NAEP” and the “Long-Term Trend” study. At the NAEP’s central site, you can choose which study you want to review.

The “Main NAEP” tests students in reading and math (and some other subjects) in fourth, eighth and twelfth grades. The “Long-Term Trend” study tests 9-year-olds, 13-year-olds and 17-year olds in the same basic subjects.

Which study is more valuable? We have no idea. If education reporters ever chose to report on this “gold standard” testing program, they might even ask NAEP officials and other experts about the rationale for running twin studies.

In the past, we have presented the results from both studies. We know of no particular reason to favor one over the other.

The problem with 17-year-olds: In its own “Main NAEP” reports, the NAEP stresses the scores of fourth- and eighth-graders while downplaying or ignoring the scores of twelfth-graders. We’ve never seen anyone explain this practice. But then, “education reporters” rarely explain anything in our failing culture.

For ourselves, we stay away from the scores of the oldest students in these twin studies; we do so because of the drop-out factor. Consider the Long-Term Trend study. At ages 9 and 13, almost all kids are still in school. But by the age of 17, a lot of kids have dropped out of school—and the NAEP only tests the student population.

But uh-oh! Over the years, the drop-out rate has changed, in ways which are hard to measure. This means that an “apples to oranges” factor may be in play when we compare average scores over time at this age level.

If education reporters ever did real reporting, they might ask NAEP officials and other experts to speak to this general issue. But as far as we know, more kids remain in school at age 17 than was the case in the past. If true, this complicates any attempt to compare average scores over time.

A one-time change in procedure: During the 1990s, the NAEP instituted a basic, one-time change in its testing procedure. It began permitting “accommodations”—allowing “students with disabilities and English language learners” to take the tests under special conditions. Plainly, this creates a bit of an apples-to-oranges problem if we want to compare average scores from before and after the institution of these procedures.

In our own past work on NAEP scores, we have tried to adjust for this one-time change. On the surface, this can make a difference in the size of score gains.

(For the most part, student populations recorded lower average scores when the “students with disabilities and English language learners” were first added into the mix. The NAEP measured this change in the years when this change in procedure was instituted.)

Having made these observations, we would offer these reactions to Drum’s recent posts on this topic. We’ve gained a lot from reading Kevin’s post on education topics over the years. But in our view, he tends to tilt a tad toward gloom when he assesses the NAEP. A few more observations:

The score gains in math count as news: Math and reading are the two basic skills measured by the NAEP. On both NAEP studies, gains in math scores have been larger than gains in reading scores.

But please note: The gains in math scores have tended to range from very large to enormous. If there were no score gains in reading at all, the apparent gains in math skills would be a massive news story. At a time when citizens are constantly told that nothing has worked in the public schools, it’s simply astounding that these score gains have gone unremarked, unreported.

How big are the gains in math scores? On Drum’s second post from Sunday, his graph shows black eighth-graders scoring 2.5 years higher in math in 2011 than their counterparts from 1992. If those apparent gains are real, they represent an astounding success story, even if no gains have been accomplished in reading at all. That said, your nation’s “education reporters” have persistently failed and/or refused to report these score gains, even as they robotically refer to the NAEP as the “gold standard” of testing.

But then, you live inside a hall or mirrors. Your “press corps” is run by chimps.

Here’s where Drum’s tendency toward gloom surfaced in a third recent post, although he isn’t one of the chimps. He did his first report on the latest NAEP scores a few weeks ago (click here). But he only cited the reading scores, completely skipping math.

Over the past ten to twenty years, NAEP math scores seem to indicate very large progress. This is a very large news story. In even a modestly rational world, the public would have been told.

How large are the score gains in reading: How large are the score gains in reading? It depends on which study you use and when you start your comparison. As Drum noted in his second Sunday post, the reading gains look a bit better on the “Main NAEP” than in the “Long-Term Trend” study. In neither case are the score gains in reading as large as the score gains in math.

That said, let’s do the following: Let’s look at the gains in reading on the Main NAEP starting in 1998, the first year “accommodations” were permitted. This permits a clean, apples-to-apples assessment of the two student populations. These are the gains in reading scores recorded by black and Hispanic kids over that 13-year period:
Score gains, NAEP reading tests, 1998-2011
Black fourth-graders: 12 points (1.2 years)
Hispanic fourth-graders: 13 points (1.3 years)

Black eighth-graders: 5 points (0.5 years)
Hispanic eighth-graders: 9 points (0.9 years)
You can assess the size of those score gains yourself. But here are the corresponding gains in math scores. In this case, we’ll measure from 1996, the first year accommodations were permitted in math:
Score gains, NAEP math tests, 1996-2011
Black fourth-graders: 26 points (2.6 years)
Hispanic fourth-graders: 22 points (2.2 years)

Black eighth-graders: 22 points (2.2 years)
Hispanic eighth-graders: 19 points (1.9 years)
Those score gains are extremely large. It’s astounding that your nation’s “education reporters” haven’t told the public about these apparent gains in math skills—especially at a time when public school teachers are under relentless attack, from the nation's irate billionaires, for their inept performance.

But then, we don’t live in a functioning democracy. We don’t have a functioning intellectual or journalistic culture. We live in a balls-out idiocracy, just as Mike Judge showed us. Significant facts almost never get reported in this idiocratic world.

What do those NAEP scores really mean? Have math skills really improved that much? We don’t know, and there is no chance that the actors hired to pose as “education reporters” will ever try to find out. But one other group must be named at this time:

That would be us liberals.

We liberals must be the most horrible people found on the face of the earth. When it comes to insults to black kids, we’d put Lawrence and Rachel among the worst—but we do seem to function quite well as a group. We love to parade about the land, bragging about our vast racial greatness. But we quit on black kids a long time ago. With the rare exception of people like Drum, you couldn’t make us discuss their interests if you had a big can of orange spray aimed at our grandmothers’ faces.

What have black kids ever done to make us liberals hate them so? We can’t answer that question. But were the shoe on the other tribal foot, R- and B-bombs would fall on the land, causing vast destruction.

Dear lord, how good it would make us feel! How we love to announce our own greatness!

What happens when people like Anderson Cooper are forced to take second jobs!


The wages of greed include ignorance: Anderson Cooper already had a rather important job.

He was host of an hour-long evening program on a cable “news” channel. His CNN program airs at 8 PM, then again at 10 PM, Monday through Friday nights.

No, his ratings aren’t very good, but it isn’t like nobody watches (click here). Last Thursday, 496,000 people watched his show at 8 PM. At 10 PM, 732,000 people watched.

That's a very important job. It’s hard to be well-informed in this world. You’d think people like Cooper would use their daytime hours making sure they were well-informed for the jobs they do at night.

Not Cooper! Recently, Cooper said this to the New York Times: “I am personally happiest when I do multiple things, and I think people understand that we all have multiple interests." And so, to make himself personally happiest—and to stuff a big load of cash in his pants—Cooper started a daytime show! On that daytime tabloid show, he wastes his time and rots our brains discussing the joys of plush toilet paper as opposed to the scratchier stuff. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/16/11.

He also creates a situation where he goes on the air at 8 PM clueless and uninformed. Even more so than in the past!

Last Friday evening, Cooper burned the first half of his show with more talk about Penn State. Five minutes in, he said the following to an interview guest. His ignorance seemed completely genuine. No, this doesn’t actually matter—except that it actually does:
COOPER (11/17/11): The news today that Paterno has lung cancer, was this information out there under the radar, or is this in fact new information?

GANIM: Well, specifically lung cancer, yes, that's new information. I think it's surprising to a lot of students on campus. However, Joe Paterno is 84 years old. He's been the subject of speculation and health rumors for a long time because of his age and because last season he had kind of an intestinal kind of illness and he also had some bumps with players during practice that left him with health problems. So people like to talk about Joe Paterno's health. But this is one of the first really serious allegation—it's not an allegation, but really serious assertions of a health problem.

COOPER: Where did this story surface? Was this something his family released? The university released? How did people learn of this? Do you know?

GANIM: His son released it today and really asked just that people respect his privacy. Well, because he is going to have to go through some treatment.

COOPER: OK. Sara Ganim, appreciate it. Thanks.
Cooper is paid millions of dollars per year. Last Friday night, he chose to spend his first half hour discussing Penn State. By 8 PM, every news org on the face of the earth had reported the source of that medical report. Everyone watching his program already knew. But Cooper himself had to ask!

In fairness, he was just talking about silly shit. But he was unprepared.

As noted, Cooper burned up half his show with the sexy-time Penn State excitement. In the second half of his show, he discussed the sexy-time death of Natalie Wood; he also discussed the court’s decision in that crucial sweat lodge incident. In other words, Cooper is a tabloid clown even during the evening. But what a shock! Perhaps because of his daytime job, he was pretty much unprepared to discuss the Penn State matter.

The medical report about Paterno didn’t matter that much. But soon, Cooper was talking with Jeffrey Toobin about what it says in the grand jury report, and this is the kind of stuff that could still get people killed. Despite this, he and Toobin made misstatements about what that report says.

Like several other cable hosts, Cooper isn’t the brightest bulb to begin with. But when they spend their daytime hours failing to prepare, we’d have to say it shows.

Many millionaire cable stars moonlight during the daylight hours. On the bright side, it’s a nice way to supplement their incomes, which are often stuck in the low seven figures. On the down side, this helps explain why these TV stars know so little when they drag themselves onto the air.

The Washington Post’s truly terrible child!


Petri thinks those people smell/Occupy Petri's nostrils: The Washington Post’s enfant terrible is eighteen months out of Harvard herself. In her latest weekly column, she scolded the youngsters who have chosen to Occupy Harvard.

Darlings! Please! It smells in those tents, this horrible hatchling said:
PETRI (11/19/11): Don’t occupy the Yard. Occupy the libraries. Occupy the classrooms. You have just four years to devote to getting a grip on some small portion of the vast array of human knowledge. Do not spend any of them in a tent, surrounded by other people who have no better ideas than you, “engaging in dialogue.” It smells peculiar there, and you could be in a red-brick building next to a bust of John Adams, learning something.
By our reckoning, Petri has gone from 21 to about 85 in sixteen months at the Post. To read her column as it appeared in the hard-copy Post, click here, then click once again.

Where do they find young people like this? Earlier, the horrible child had also offered us this:
PETRI: A tent city has sprung up in Harvard Yard, with people chanting, “We are the 99 percent.”

Cue a nationwide rolling of eyes.

The tents aren’t there because of any definite grievance. Sure, the movement lists several. It is possible to generate a grievance no matter where you turn up. Harvard, for instance, does not pay its janitors enough, or at least this is what I hear from the protests. But pay the janitors $300,000 a year and I guarantee you that within minutes another protest will form to decry that Harvard pays its janitors more than what some Americans make their whole lives, or that it is not doing enough to make certain that the world’s janitors make $300,000 annually—or perhaps, that the janitors still only make one-twelfth of what the college’s fund managers make.
Good God! Alexandra Petri, 22 or 23 years of age, knows that these complaints are silly, invented, so bogus. Darlings! You can always make something up!

As we’ve noted, the Post is cultivating Petri in the line of Collins and Dowd. When it comes to matters of gender, the elite press corps’ throwback values are startling to behold. By the way, we were shocked by something we read in that one high lady’s column this weekend.

Dearest darlings! We were shocked! Have you ever heard this before?
COLLINS (11/19/11): In 2010, Mitt earned somewhere between $9.6 million and $43.2 million, according to The National Journal’s calculation of his financial reports. I believe I speak for us all when I say that there seems to be a lot of room in the middle of that estimate, but you get the idea. Much of that came from investments, but Romney also gets quite a bit of cash for making speeches. He once made $68,000 for one appearance before the International Franchise Association in Las Vegas.

People, if you were raking in more than $9.6 million a year, would you waste your time talking to the International Franchise Association? Perhaps you would if international franchises were especially close to your heart. But, in that case, why charge them $68,000? There are a lot of mysteries in the Mitt saga. For instance, if you were a very wealthy father of five energetic young boys, would you choose to spend your vacation driving the whole family to Canada with the dog strapped to the roof of the car? Wouldn’t it be more fun to take a plane to Disneyland?
She’s closing in on thirty cites. We’ll try to count over the break.

A BASIC LACK OF SKILL: Drums along the NAEP scores!


Epilogue—Krugman and Lyons and Drum oh my! What real discussions look like: Don’t get us wrong! Almost surely, you will never see a real discussion of your nation’s NAEP scores.

The NAEP is the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the widely-ballyhooed “gold standard” of American educational testing. As we have noted for years, everybody swears by the NAEP—every “educational reporter” and “educational expert.” And no one ever tells the public what the NAEP scores show!

This is a deeply irrational state of affairs. That said, it typifies the way your society "discusses" major issues.

In this morning’s New York Times, Paul Krugman sketches the way this gong show works. Krugman isn’t writing about educational policy; he’s writing about international economics and finance. But in the remarkable passages we will post, he describes the way the western world pretends to conduct its most important discussions of these seminal topics.

“Let’s start with the creation of the euro,” Krugman writes:
KRUGMAN (11/21/11): If you think that this was a project driven by careful calculation of costs and benefits, you have been misinformed.

The truth is that Europe’s march toward a common currency was, from the beginning, a dubious project on any objective economic analysis...

So why did those “technocrats” push so hard for the euro, disregarding many warnings from economists? Partly it was the dream of European unification, which the Continent’s elite found so alluring that its members waved away practical objections. And partly it was a leap of economic faith, the hope—driven by the will to believe, despite vast evidence to the contrary—that everything would work out as long as nations practiced the Victorian virtues of price stability and fiscal prudence.

Sad to say, things did not work out as promised. But rather than adjusting to reality, those supposed technocrats just doubled down—insisting, for example, that Greece could avoid default through savage austerity, when anyone who actually did the math knew better.
In that passage, Krugman describes a remarkable state of affairs. According to Krugman, the architects of European policy haven’t made their key decisions through “careful calculation of costs and benefits,” through “objective economic analysis.” Instead, these pseudo-experts have chased after a dream, taking ill-advised leaps of faith in situations where “anyone who actually did the math knew better.”

According to Krugman, our most important policy makers are, at their core, hapless faith-healers. As he continues, he continues to describe the intellectual processes put on display by these non-rational players.

Simply put, these major European elites aren’t rational players—and at the end of the following passage, Krugman offers a very important description. He describes the way our own “intellectual leaders” have persistently behaved in the past several decades, across a wide array of major subject areas:
KRUGMAN (continuing directly): Let me single out in particular the European Central Bank (E.C.B.), which is supposed to be the ultimate technocratic institution, and which has been especially notable for taking refuge in fantasy as things go wrong...

And now, with Europe in crisis—a crisis that can’t be contained unless the E.C.B. steps in to stop the vicious circle of financial collapse—its leaders still cling to the notion that price stability cures all ills. Last week Mario Draghi, the E.C.B.’s new president, declared that “anchoring inflation expectations” is “the major contribution we can make in support of sustainable growth, employment creation and financial stability.”

This is an utterly fantastic claim to make at a time when expected European inflation is, if anything, too low, and what’s roiling the markets is fear of more or less immediate financial collapse. And it’s more like a religious proclamation than a technocratic assessment.

Just to be clear, this is not an anti-European rant, since we have our own pseudo-technocrats warping the policy debate. In particular, allegedly nonpartisan groups of “experts”—the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, the Concord Coalition, and so on—have been all too successful at hijacking the economic policy debate, shifting its focus from jobs to deficits.

Real technocrats would have asked why this makes sense at a time when the unemployment rate is 9 percent and the interest rate on U.S. debt is only 2 percent. But like the E.C.B., our fiscal scolds have their story about what’s important, and they’re sticking to it no matter what the data say.
According to Krugman, here’s what happens in our own country: Here in America, our alleged experts “have their story” about these important budget matters. And they’re sticking to their story “no matter what the data say.”

This is the pattern we have described, for the past dozen years, among our malfunctioning “press corps” elites. Here is the process we’ve often described:

The children adopt a preferred group narrative, then stick to that story no matter what. Facts are reported, disappeared, massaged or invented in order to to keep their group story going. We’ve called this process novelization, and please understand:

This is the way your failing culture actually works.

It’s surprising to see this culture in action; its practices fly in the face of everything we’ve been told in the west for the past 2500 years. Man [sic] is the rational animal! Aristotle is commonly said to have said it, and everyone else has agreed to believe it.

Man [sic] is the rational animal! It’s a wonderfully self-flattering portrait—and it’s massively bogus. Rationality plays little role in our society’s public discussions. This brings us back to the non-discussion discussion of those “gold standard” test scores.

Everybody swears by the NAEP—and no one says what the NAEP scores show! This nonsensical situation could only obtain in the world Krugman describes—a world in which pseudo-elites adopt a Preferred Group Story, then “stick to it no matter what the data say.”

No one ever discusses those NAEP scores—but this past weekend, two writers did! Over the weekend, two major liberal writers discussed the kinds of points we have been making about these scores for years.

First, Gene Lyons wrote this piece at Salon. Two days later, Kevin Drum reacted to Lyons’ piece at his Mother Jones blog. Drum also commented on some of the claims we’ve often made about those NAEP scores. Crackers! This is what a discussion would look like if we lived in a world where real discussions were actually held about the most important subjects—and if we lived in a world where white liberals cared about black kids.

Alas! We don’t live in a rational culture—and white liberals don’t seem to care about black kids. For those reasons, you will probably never see a real discussion of NAEP scores. But over the weekend, you started to see what such a discussion would look like if it ever occurred. First, one major writer discussed those scores. And then, another jumped in!

Tomorrow, we’ll offer three or four basic points about a few of the things Drum said in his post. We think Drum tends to underplay the progress indicated by those scores, though none of us will ever really know until that imagined discussion breaks out.

There is little reason to think that will happen. Tomorrow, let’s imagine all the people doing that sensible thing.

Tomorrow: Three or four clarifications

An update as we post: Yikes! We see that Kevin has already made one of the technical adjustments we had in mind in this later follow-up post. (He cites results from the “Main NAEP” study as well as from the NAEP’s “Long Term Trend” study.) He says he is responding to complaints from “several commenters.”

This is what a discussion looks like. In our world, they rarely exist.

A BASIC LACK OF SKILL: When no one reports basic facts!


Epilogue—Mr. O sounds off about test scores: In yesterday’s post, we noted two basic facts:
Fact 1: Test scores are way up on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the widely heralded “gold standard” of educational testing.

Fact 2: No one reports this fact.
Last night, we saw what happens when an entire nation agrees that no one will ever make accurate statements. Bill O’Reilly, a former school teacher, started his program like this:
O’REILLY (11/18/11): Hi, I'm Bill O'Reilly. Thanks for watching us tonight.

Once again, Congress hoses the folks. That is the subject of this evening's Talking Points Memo.


So here is the real deal. The super-committee should triple the amount of spending cuts and should forget about tax increases for the moment. Next year, if the government shows the taxpayers it's serious about not wasting money, then some targeted tax hikes might be considered.

But I'll tell you what; I don't want my substantial tax check paying for Solyndra. I don't want to pay for $16 muffins and I don't want to continue funding programs that don't work.

For example, per-student spending on education, more than $10,000 per kid, 47 percent higher than it was 20 years ago. And the kids are dumber, the test scores lower. That's because discipline is broken down in the schools. And the family unit is under siege in America. So all the money in the world is not going to help the public school system until they impose standards and discipline in the classroom.

I could give you hundreds of examples of federal dollars going down the drain day after day.
Mr. O is still complaining about those $16 muffins—the over-priced muffins which didn’t exist. But in that highlighted passage, note what four million people were told about the public schools.

Test scores aren’t lower, but liberals agree not to say this in public. We liberals luvv to criticize Bush—so we can’t say that test scores went up, by a lot, during the time he was president. (As in the years before that.)

Black kids’ test scores are massively better. White liberals don’t care about black kids enough to waste their time on such a fact. We prefer to parade around calling the tea party racist.

No one ever reports basic facts. Mr. O steps into the void, telling the public about those horrible test scores.

For the record, we will assume that Mr. O actually thinks that test scores are lower. This claim is advanced again and again, by everyone up to Barack Obama.

Career liberal leaders agreed long ago—our side will not tell the truth. Black kids' test scores? People! How boring!

Black kids? Darlings! Who cares?

Look who has a reading problem: Yesterday, at Salon, Gene Lyons noted many of the points we have been discussing. All the analysts cheered:
LYONS (11/18/11): Despite melodramatic pronouncements to the contrary by sundry politicians, tycoons, tycoon/politicians and media-enhanced “reformers” like former Washington, DC schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, the available evidence shows American students performing steadily better on standardized assessments of educational progress over the past 30 years.

“The only longitudinal measure of student achievement that is available to Bill Gates or anyone else,” writes Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute, “is the National Assessment of Educational Progress.” Scores on the NAEP have trended steadily upward to where the most underprivileged African-American children do better in 8th grade reading and math today than white students did back when the measurements began in 1978. But no, they haven’t caught up because white kids’ scores have improved too.
Someone actually stated some facts! Now, go ahead and read the comments.

Over and over, people are told that test scores are lower. Commenters quickly started bruiting this claim in response to the Lyons piece. In most cases, these commenters didn't seem to have understood the basic things Lyons had said.

They didn't dispute his factual statements. They simply skipped right past them.

Our “career liberal” leaders are worse than useless. Our “educational experts” are anything but. Everyone praises the NAEP test scores—but no one reports what those test scores show!

You live inside a hall of mirrors. Disinformation rules the waves when Potemkin “elites” act like that.

Jerry Sandusky, meet Thomas L. Friedman!


Offenders mustn't be named: We’re often surprised by the work of the youngsters. So it was when Steve Benen and Alex “Kid” Pareene wrote about Krugman’s new column.

It does seem that Krugman was criticizing Thomas L. Friedman in today’s piece. But he doesn’t do so by name. Benen, a reliable sycophant, compliments Krugman for the good solid fun to be had from this no-name technique:
BENEN (11/18/11): There’s a great deal to enjoy in Paul Krugman’s work, but one of the lesser-appreciated aspects of his pieces is his willingness to take not-so-subtle shots at his own colleagues.

A few weeks ago, it was sly mockery of David Brooks. In Krugman’s print column today, it was someone else. See if you can read between the lines.
Benen goes on to help us see that Krugman must be discussing Friedman. He prasies Krugman's "willingness" to engage in this sort of tthing. In Benen’s view, Krugman is taking a “not-so-subtle shot” at the pompous pundit.

Maybe it all depends on what the meaning of “not-so-subtle” is! Let’s put it this way: Krugman’s shot is subtle enough so that most readers today had no idea who the heck he was talking about. It’s subtle enough so that he didn’t name his target by name!

In context, this failure-to-name was slightly odd, since Krugman had just finished criticizing other journalists for being less than forthright: htt
KRUGMAN (11/18/11): So the supercommittee brought together legislators who disagree completely both about how the world works and about the proper role of government. Why did anyone think this would work?

Well, maybe the idea was that the parties would compromise out of fear that there would be a political price for seeming intransigent. But this could only happen if the news media were willing to point out who is really refusing to compromise. And they aren’t. If and when the supercommittee fails, virtually all news reports will be he-said, she-said, quoting Democrats who blame Republicans and vice versa without ever explaining the truth.
Granted, it isn't quite the same thing. But in that passage, Krugman criticizes “the news media” for failing “to point out who is really refusing to compromise.” But dag! In the very next paragraph, he criticizes a bunch of pundits—while failing to point out who he's talking about!

Pareene says Krugman is following a protocol according to which you aren’t allowed to criticize colleagues by name. We agree that this may be the case. That said, neither Benen nor Pareene says how peculiar this practice is. In point of fact, this is a very strange way to conduct a national discourse. We’re talking about important journalistic errors—and Krugman isn’t allowed to name the folk who create this dreck!

Funny, ain’t it? At Penn State, you couldn’t tattle on Jerry Sandusky. Within our press corps, Thomas L. Friedman gets treated the same darn way!

It can’t happen here, not this time!


Lawrence and Howard transformed: As we’ve often said, it pretty much couldn’t happen again:

No Democrat will ever be mugged by the mainstream press in the way Candidate Gore was.

That isn’t entirely true, of course. Hillary Clinton was mugged quite hard in the fall of 2007, and very few liberals even noticed. But for the most part, it’s hard to imagine a Democratic nominee getting lied about in the way Gore was all through Campaign 2000.

Last night, the opening segment on the Last Word showed why that couldn’t happen.

As you may know, several Republican have been making stupid, bogus claims about Barack Obama. In one example, they have pretended that Obama said that we Americans have been lazy in recent years.

Having established this bogus premise, they have pretended to be upset at Obama’s repulsive, vile statement.

For twenty straight months during Campaign 2000, this was done to Candidate Gore. Last night, two players who engaged in this war against Gore rose in full-throated defense of Obama. Lawrence O’Donnell was in standard high dudgeon about the current misconduct. Soon, he invited Howard Fineman to help him express his vast rage.

Howard Fineman!

O’Donnell went through a careful exposition about what it means to quote someone out of context. He forgot to tell you that this is exactly what he and Fineman did to Gore during Campaign 2000.

Ah, Campaign 2000! Fineman did this endlessly, playing a nasty second banana to the disgraceful Chris Matthews. O’Donnell did it in an especially outrageous way just a few weeks before the election (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/3/05).

Last night, the lads were helping us see how awful it is when people engage in such conduct. They were truly outraged!

To watch this 16-minute segment, click here. In fairness, Lawrence’s lesson was quite well explained. Just understand this as you watch him: He is describing his own conduct from Campaign 2000. And his helpmate, the graying but still agile Fineman, engaged in this conduct endlessly.

Soon, Alex Wagner was brought on to smile her winsome smile and agree with everything everyone said. Team players like Wagner will never say, “Wait a minute! Isn’t this the same damn thing you baboons did during Campaign 2000?”

Wagner isn’t allowed to say that—and you aren’t allowed to know.

The basic background:

As of March 1999, the mainstream and conservative press corps had come together in their loathing for Bill Clinton, who had escaped removal from office. There was no longer an ounce of difference between these groups when it came to this tribal agreement. Sally Quinn had described the state of affairs in her important report for the Washington Post in November 1998.

Quinn’s 3200-word report is an important historical document.

Candidate Gore represented their last shot at Clinton. From March 1999 through November 2000, they engaged in the very type of conduct O’Donnell described in last night’s segment. They invented a string of ridiculous statements by Gore, then pretended to be outraged and disturbed by these troubling statements.

No one—and we do mean no one—rose to challenge this group misconduct. It went on for twenty straight months.

Today, things are different. The mainstream press has separated from the conservative press corps again (see example below). Beyond that, we now have a liberal web—and we even have a liberal news channel! It’s hard to imagine a Democratic nominee being treated the way Gore was. Last night, we saw why this could never happen:

Two of the ugliest anti-Gore hacks have been paid to come back to your side.

How times have changed: In 1999 and 2000, the New York Times led the way in the lying about Candidate Gore. Yes, the Washington Post was worse. But the Times ran a close second.

Today, allegiances are different. In this morning’s Times, Richard Oppel offers a full news report about the GOP’s recent nonsense. In our hard-copy Times, the headline on his report is astounding:

“Perry’s Latest Attacks on Obama Depart From Reality”

That headline is accurate, of course. But all during Campaign 2000, the Times played on the other side.

Katharine “Kit” Seelye kept departing. George Bush went to the White House.

When Fineman was still just a pup: In December 1999, a punishing theme locked into place—the theme that Candidate Gore was a LIAR.

The press corps used a story Gore told some high school students to lock this theme into place. The story concerned the work he had done, two decades before, on the toxic waste problem at Love Canal. The “press corps” misquoted Gore’s story in four different ways. They also adopted the RNC’s mocking paraphrase of Gore's remarks, on a straight word-for-word basis. (“Al Gore said he discovered Love Canal!” It came straight from the RNC’s press releases on the first day of this nonsense.)

Over at our companion site, we’ll soon be posting our chapter 6, which deals with this deeply significant episode. It's an astonishing story. Matthews played a very key role in the matter. Fineman sat by his side, stroking his inner thigh, helping the great man recite all his lines.

Today, Joan and David are always on hand to tell you how upright and fine Chris is. The winsome Wagner is brought on the air to agree with what everyone says.

A BASIC LACK OF SKILL: Rachel and Lawrence hate black kids!


Part 4—Suppressing a truly remarkable fact: It was hardly surprising to see Sam Dillon reporting the latest NAEP data.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress is universally described as the “gold standard” of educational testing. The program had just released the data from its 2011 tests.

Dillon penned a news report in the New York Times—a news report which was very short and substantially flawed. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/17/11.

Dillon pretended to discuss student progress over the past twenty years. As usual, Times readers were given a false impression. They were led to believe that they’d been exposed to the basic facts.

That said, consider a truly remarkable fact, a fact which didn’t make Dillon’s report. Richard Rothstein reported this fact last August, in Slate. Even Rothstein buried his stunning fact near the end of a lengthy report about Rhee-style educational "reform."

All praise to Richard Rothstein, whose astonishing fact was of course allowed to die a quiet and dignified death. We don’t think we’ve ever seen this fact reported anywhere else. Few Americans have ever heard this truly remarkable fact:
ROTHSTEIN (8/29/11): Central to the reformers' argument is the claim that radical change is essential because student achievement (especially for minority and disadvantaged children) has been flat or declining for decades. This is, however, false. 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.
Say what? Let’s repeat that astonishing fact, updated to include the new NAEP scores:

In 2011, black fourth-graders scored higher in math than white kids did in 1990! Anyone can see this is true. Click here to access the new NAEP report, then scroll to page 12, Figure 4.

Let’s repeat that astonishing fact, the fact you’ve never seen reported. In this year’s NAEP math test, black fourth-graders scored higher than their white counterparts scored in 1990. In fact, black fourth-graders scored substantially higher than those white kids of yore. Their four-point advantage over yesteryear’s white kids may not seem like a giant amount. But according to norms which are routinely applied when “reporters” or “experts” have come up with something gloomy to tell us, that four-point advantage represents a differential of almost half a school year.

If those NAEP scores can be trusted, today’s black kids know more math than white kids did in 1990! And everyone, “reporters” and “experts” alike, swears by the value of NAEP scores. (More on that question below.)

In this year’s testing, black fourth-graders scored higher in math than white kids scored in 1990! And while we’re at it, let’s note this fact: Hispanic fourth-graders scored even higher! They outscored yesteryear’s white kids by nine points—by almost a full school year! (See page 12, Figure 5.) At the eighth-grade level, the comparisons aren’t quite as remarkable—but in this year’s testing, Hispanic eighth-graders matched the average score achieved by white kids in 1990. (See page 37, Figure 22.) Black eighth-graders still trail that norm, although they scored much higher than their black counterparts in 1990. At the eighth-grade level, today’s black kids are massively exceeding the average score once achieved by their parents.

Let’s repeat that astonishing fact: In this year’s testing, black and Hispanic kids scored higher in math than white kids did in 1990. That is a truly remarkable fact—but you have never seen it reported! It wasn’t reported, or hinted at, in Dillon’s report in the Times.

Why not?

Why haven’t you seen that astonishing fact in your nation’s newspapers? Why isn’t that fact widely reported and widely discussed? Why haven’t you ever seen that fact in Gotham’s glorious New York Times? Why don’t “liberals” cite such facts every day of the whole goddamned week?

We’ll offer two possible answers:

First, your nation suffers under a deeply Potemkin press culture. Whatever you might want to call it, the New York Times isn’t a real newspaper. This fact is evident in many ways. (Have you ever read a Gail Collins column?) But if the New York Times really was a newspaper, is there any way it could write news reports about NAEP testing in recent decades without including such facts?

Second, the “career liberal” world is a major confection. Whatever you might want to call the people who star on your liberal cable news channel, it’s fairly hard to regard them as “liberals.” On what planet would “liberals” fail to report the facts we've just cited? (We’ve been citing similar facts for years.) At a time when public school teachers are under attack—when privatization is widely advanced in all areas; when government itself is under constant attack—those data from the “gold standard” testing program suggest that a stunning success has occurred in the public schools, one of our largest public programs. What kind of “liberal” would fail to trumpet the fact that the public schools have achieved this success? Even more disgracefully, what kinds of people would keep you from hearing that the nation’s black and Hispanic kids have achieved this startling success?

Who would keep you from knowing these things? Who else? The horrible, low-IQ, self-dealing cretins who pose as journalists, experts and liberals within our Potemkin culture! The kinds of folk who are cast as “editors” at the New York Times! Most disgustingly, the kinds of people who would rather attack George Bush than heap much-deserved praise on the nation’s black children. In other words, the horrible, terrible, low-IQ people you see each night on your “TV machine thingy!” The self-adoring, clowning buffoons who stuff millions of bucks in their pants as they walk all over the interests of black kids.

Earth to readers: These people and their “producers” know something. They know that we, the target audience, don’t give a flying fig about black kids—and so, they don’t bore us with those facts. Instead, they feed us pleasing tales about the bigots over there—the racist and bigots over there, in the other tribe. At the Times, a low-IQ legacy pimps you a pile of embarrassing shit about all the bigots in Bama.

For today, let’s leave it there, with two more observations:

Regarding advances in reading: The National Assessment of Educational Progress tests kids in math and reading. Over the past twenty years, the recorded gains in math are astounding—not that you would ever know it from reading your nation’s “newspapers.” The gains in reading aren't as large, perhaps for the types of reasons cited in Dillon’s report:
DILLON (11/2/11): Mr. Driscoll and other officials and experts [sic] put forward several hypotheses to explain the trends. Children learn most of their math in school, and even though math instruction in the United States in general lags behind that in some high-performing countries, the experts said, it has improved over the past two decades. Reading achievement, in contrast, reflects not only the quality of reading instruction in school classrooms, they said, but also factors like whether parents read to children and how much time students read on their own outside school. And many children in the United States are spending less time reading on their own.


"I'm disappointed but not surprised by these results," said Sharon Darling, founder of the National Center for Family Literacy, a group based in Kentucky that works to help parents support their children's educational efforts at home. "Children spend five times as much time outside the classroom as they do in school, and our country has 30 million parents or caregivers who are not good readers themselves, so they pass illiteracy down to their children."
For the record: Our nation spent centuries actively trying to eliminate literacy in the black community. And when we look at reading scores among Hispanic kids, we must remember that many of those deserving kids come from low-income, low-literacy backgrounds; many of these delightful kids are in this country to serve the interests of corporate employers, who enjoy paying low wages. Despite these factors, reading scores are strongly improved in the past twenty years once you “disaggregate” the data. The gains in reading don’t match those is math. But that's because the gains in math are vast.

You have never been told these facts in your major “newspapers.” For a summary of results from the NAEP’s two major programs, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/1/10. (Career liberals wouldn’t discuss such facts if their grandmothers’ lives were at stake.)

Regarding the NAEP itself: On November 1, Kevin Drum did a post about the new NAEP scores. We thought his post was oddly truncated in several respects, though that's the nature of blog posts; for example, he cited reading scores, skipped math. But to his great credit, Drum consistently posts about such topics. He is one of the only major career liberals who discusses such topics at all.

That said, white liberals don’t care about black kids. Drum’s post produced a predictably small number of comments—and we were struck by the way one commenter authored a cynical, uninformed claim about the NAEP itself.

Maybe it’s a type of progress! Progressives have learned to be cynical about all educational testing. Decades after the problem developed, we have finally been allowed to hear about cheating on educational tests. Since our “intellectual leaders” never discuss the NAEP at all, we’ve never heard any assessment of that program’s credibility.

We’ll only repeat what we’ve said in the past. Until recently, no one has ever had an incentive to cheat on the NAEP. In recent years, state superintendents have developed such an incentive as state results have started to be widely discussed. If state superintendents can manipulate the sample of their student population which gets tested by the NAEP, then some superintendent somewhere has probably done so by now.

Is that possible? We have no idea. Given the way they our “education reporters” typically work, they will start to explore this possibility somewhere around the year 2080. If some sort problem is discovered, your nation’s “educational experts” will be caught by surprise.

As far as we know, the NAEP really is the gold standard of testing. As far as we know, its data are basically credible. But please understand our basic point:

Everybody swears by the NAEP. And no one reports what it says!

Black kids have made astonishing gains, as Richard Rothstein reported in Slate. Rachel would rather judge off a bridge than tell you that; ditto for the posturing Lawrence, who has now been cast in a scene from “About Schmidt” for one of his gruesome promotional ads.

Black kids have made astonishing gains. Hispanic kids have done so too. But these “liberals” will never tell you these facts.

Neither will the hapless Times. That said, have you heard the one about Mitt Romney’s dog?

Coming: Rachel and Lawrence and black kids