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Terrible state of the public schools watch!

Posted by Hyuuga Cutezz On 7:23 AM 0 comments

Paul Krugman messes with Texas: Yesterday, the New York Times ran a news report about funding cuts to the Texas schools. Click here.

On his blog, Paul Krugman praised the Times report, then messed with Texas—bad:
KRUGMAN (4/9/12): A good article in the Times about the terrible state of Texas schools—followed by a truly awful comment thread, in which many readers rush to blame, you guessed it, teachers’ unions.

Folks, this isn’t an article about New York, where three-quarters of public-sector workers are unionized. It’s about Texas, where only one in five public workers belongs to a union. Blaming unions for the problems of Texas is like, well, blaming Jews for the problems of Japan: there aren’t enough of them to matter.

At THE HOWLER, we sighed too!

First, a matter of opinion: That was not a “good article.” It was journalistically weak in many ways. In our view, it was massively underfed work.

(Earth to the Times: That high school kid walking a mile to school was not an impressive focus.)

Having said that, let us also say this: Few comments in the Times comment thread “rushed to blame, you guessed it, teachers’ unions.” (At least as far as we could stand reading.) Many of the comments were uninformed, as comments about poublic schools always are. But what comments was Krugman reading?

We have no idea.

That said, the most significant comment in Krugman’s post would be his instant, extremely vague jibe about “the terrible state of Texas schools.”

Liberals enjoy reading such things about Texas, as can be seen from some of Krugman’s commenters. But how terrible are the Texas schools? A commenter, writing from London, reacted to Krugman’s post exactly as we had:
COMMENTER: As bad as Texas schools may be, it's interesting to note that white students in Texas outperform white students in Wisconsin on standardized tests, black students in Texas outperform black students in Wisconsin, and Hispanic students in Texas outperform Hispanic students in Wisconsin. Overall Texas comes out lower because it has many more Hispanic students, who perform worse for whatever reasons (language?).
“As bad as Texas schools may be?” Judging from years of scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, Texas schools don’t seem to be “bad” at all.

Last year, we discussed this topic in some detail. To see NAEP scores from Texas compared with those from a half dozen other states, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/25/11. For a simpler assessment of this general point, see Matt Yglesias’ short but accurate post in yesterday’s Slate.

In the Texas public schools, all three major demographic groups have tended to outscore their peers from around the nation. It may be that funding cuts will harm this statewide performance. But in recent years, there have been large funding cuts to public schools in other states too. In our view, the failure to compare the size of the Texas cuts to those in other states was one of the obvious, groaning flaws with yesterday’s news report.

Bottom line: Conservatives do enjoy blaming the unions. Liberals like to mess with Texas.

We live in highly tribal times. Such times may tend to lower comprehension among even the brightest players.

Final question, for extra credit: Do the lives of American children matter? Or are school children useful props for enjoyable upper-class war games?

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The biggest test for the modern liberal!

Posted by Hyuuga Cutezz On 12:06 PM 0 comments

Can you quit E. J. Dionne: For the modern liberal, it’s the biggest test of your ability to resist the tribal imperative.

Here’s the test: Can you quit E. J. Dionne?

He seems so rational, so decent, so good—so well-intentioned, so palpably honest! But here’s what Dionne said again last night, guesting on The Last Word:
DIONNE (4/9/12): You know, if I could just say something about all that stuff you ran before. I think there are Velcro candidates and there are Teflon candidates. Teflon candidates like Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, where nothing sticks, and then Velcro candidates like—Al Gore never even said that "I invented the Internet," and yet that stuck to him.

And Romney, from the ease with which you can play those reels, you know, “two Cadillacs,” you know, “the trees are the right height” and all of that, he is looking more and more like a Velcro candidate. And that I think is his core problem.
To gain the full effect of this dog-and-pony show, you have to watch the tape. Listen to the heartfelt concern with which Dionne expresses his point:

Al Gore never said, “I invented the Internet!” And yet, the bullshit stuck!

Of course, Dionne knows why the bullshit stuck. It stuck because people like O’Donnell kept saying such things during Campaign 2000—even as people like Dionne kept refusing to challenge their conduct.

Al Gore said he invented the Internet! The mainstream press corps pimped that tale for twenty months, from March 1999 through November 2000. And according to Nexis, Dionne never spoke up, not even once, to challenge this twenty-month war. The bullshit stuck because the “good people” did nothing while the very bad people—the folk like O’Donnell—conducted their twenty-month war.

We researched this matter in 2010, when Dionne first made this statement about Gore and the Internet in a column (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/27/10). We found no sign that Dionne ever spoke up.

It’s how George Bush reached the White House.

Last night, Dionne seemed so good, so pure, so sincere. He was playing you, right to the core.

To this day, are you able to quit him?

What O'Donnell did: As the conversation continued, O’Donnell played the stupidity card, with Jonathan Capehart serving the crepes. Eventually, O’Donnell pimped some SNL jive concerning Candidate Gore.

Can you spot the flaw with O’Donnell’s story?
O’DONNELL (continuing directly): And, Jonathan Capehart, [Romney] spent Easter weekend at his southern California beach mansion, the place I guess where he’s trying to put in the elevator for the four cars. But he apparently did body surfing, which my guess is, that`s a less politically damaging than wind surfing was for John Kerry.

CAPEHART: Yes, because lots of people do body surfing. I've never done it, but I know people who have done it and I've seen people do it. It looks fun, but it's not for me.

O’DONNELL: And, Jonathan, to the SNL thing, I think E.J. raises an important point in that in 2000, Saturday Night Live did some penetrating stuff on Al Gore that I think gave the electorate a vocabulary in a certain sense for what made them uncomfortable about Al Gore. And it seems like they’ve zeroed in on the essential defect in the Romney candidacy, which is that pandering, which is that willingness to say anything...
When a person like O’Donnell talks about wind versus body surfing, he’s treating you like a low-IQ fool. Which is exactly what you are if you're willing to tolerate this in the name of tribal unity.

Regarding Gore, please understand:

O’Donnell refers to a SNL skit on the first weekend of October 2000, after the first Bush-Gore debate. At that point, Dionne’s colleagues had been pushing the “invented the Internet” tale for nineteen solid months, without a single word of rebuttal from Dionne, who feigns such concern today. And omigod:

That very same weekend, O’Donnell appeared on the McLaughlin Group where he pushed another bogus “lie” by Gore. Sitting in one of the program’s “liberal” chairs, he said the lie—which Gore never told—was “one of his most ridiculous and his most relevant untruths.”

To review O’Donnell’s disgraceful conduct, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/3/05. This is how Bush reached the White House.

Bad people then, awful people today! Dionne was playing you last night.

Lawrence O’Donnell? Much worse!

Regarding that SNL skit: In April 2003, we took part in a panel discussion of political humor at the University of Virginia.

Larry Sabato chaired the event. Also appearing was James Downey, kingpin of SNL.

At one point, Downey aired tape of that very skit, the one which featured the “penetrating stuff” about Candidate Gore. We expressed our views regarding its quality.

In our view, the young college kids got a lively discussion. To see what you think, just click this.

But just for the record:

Dionne had been refusing to speak for nineteen months by the time that worthless skit aired. That is how George Bush reached the White House, despite the things these very bad people tell you on TV today.

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CHILDHOOD’S END: MSNBC needs to explain!

Posted by Hyuuga Cutezz On 6:36 AM 0 comments

Part 2—Is someone doctoring photos: For decades, we liberals got to roll our eyes at those gullible ditto-heads.

They would phone Rush Limbaugh to state their full allegiance. When they did, they would recite the mélange of bogus, false and doctored facts El Rushbo had been spewing.

If we lower the tax rate, we get higher revenue! Global warming is all about sunspots! No claim was too bogus to be recited. If Rush said it, it was true!

It was good for liberal self-esteem to see these pitiful public displays. Surely, we liberals are the smart, “nuanced” people, we told ourselves down through the years.

Today, comment threads in liberaldom offer similar displays. Liberals burning with true belief recite the scripts they’ve been served by their own cable masters. One example:

Last Wednesday, Kevin Drum offered this perfectly sensible post about the George Zimmerman case. Drum’s view: Given the nature of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, it’s unlikely that Zimmerman will be convicted of a crime. Drum based his judgment on a report about the law in the Tampa Bay Times.

If Zimmerman is charged, will he be convicted? Should he be convicted under terms of that much-maligned law? In each case, we have no idea. But rather quickly, Drum’s comment thread spilled with tortured tribal reasoning—and with bogus facts. This comment came quite quickly:
COMMENTER (4/4/12): Where "near your size" is defined, from Trayon Martin's perspective, to be “100 lbs. heavier and chasing me in an SUV.”
Was Zimmerman 100 pounds heavier than Martin? The commenter was advancing a “fact” which had proved to be bogus. But so what? Soon, another commenter recited the same bogus claim. This commenter was armed with the modern-day liberal’s weapon of choice—a pleasing dollop of snark:
COMMENTER: Zimmerman weighs 250 lbs. Trayvon weighs 140.

The video shows NOT A MARK on Zimmermman. I've actually seen the REAL one.

Trayvon keeps getting bigger and uglier every time you losers post. First he was 6'; now he's 6'3"; what next? 9 feet? Keep your story straight, at least.
Within the context of the thread, this commenter seemed to think that conservative “losers” were embellishing Martin’s height to gain a tribal advantage. In fact, it was Charles Blow, seeming to cite Martin’s parents, who first said Martin was 6-foot-3. And no:

Zimmerman doesn’t weigh 250 pounds, a fact which was quite clear by last week. (For more information, see below.) But that was the “fact” we had been fed by our “liberal” post-journalistic machines. And alas:

As Limbaugh’s ditto-heads have done for decades, we liberals have been marching forth to repeat our own tribe’s bogus claims. We laughed at them when they played it this way.

Now, the ditto-heads are increasingly us.

In this case, Drum’s conservative commenters seemed better informed on the question of height and weight. His liberal commenters had cast themselves in the ditto-head role, faithfully repeating the bogus claim they had heard from people they trusted. Just a guess:

It may not have entered these commenters’ heads that they were possibly being played by the high-profile people they trusted. That Sharpton, O’Donnell and Schultz had been feeding them reams of bullroar—had perhaps been feeding them lies.

Alas! A stream of bogus factual claims has been advanced on MSNBC over the past three or four weeks. In some cases, the bogus claims were false; in other cases, the claims were unknown, unproven. But just as in the Limbaugh/Fox years, so too in this brave new corporate world: A steady stream of true believers have been prepared to repeat what they hear.

They’ve heard a lot of bogus claims—as in the Fox/Limbaugh years.

Last night, matters got worse. On Politics Nation, Al Sharpton was interviewing Kendall Coffey and Ken Padowitz, a pair of Florida “legal experts” who can be relied upon to echo Sharpton’s views and claims. As in the Fox/Limbaugh years, this leads to the state we liberals have mocked as “epistemic closure.”

As usual, Sharpton, Coffey and Padowitz were echoing each others’ views. To watch the full segment, click here.

For us, a rather shocking moment occurs around 11:45 on this tape.

At that point, without comment from Sharpton, new videotape of Zimmerman appears. It offers a very large close-up of the back of his head as he arrives at the Sanford police station on the night of the killing.

This close-up isn’t grainy. And wow! In this close-up image, the back of Zimmerman’s head seems to be completely pristine. There isn’t the slightest sign of any blemish or injury.

There isn’t a stub of a hair out of place. There is no sign of any injury. To judge from this new close-up view, Zimmerman didn’t suffer the slightest wound or abrasion on the night of the killing—just exactly as we libs have been told. (See the second comment to Drum, above.)

Does that close-up represent an accurate picture of Zimmerman’s head on the night of the killing? We have no idea. But this close-up photo is impossible to reconcile with two earlier close-up shots, including one close-up which was aired by MSNBC on March 29. That close-up seemed to show an obvious goose-egg on the back of Zimmerman’s head, crowned with an obvious abrasion.

Later, ABC produced another close-up of Zimmerman’s head. This close-up was grainer, and more distant, than the image aired by MSNBC. But it seemed to show two abrasions on the back of Zimmerman’s head.

Which of these three close-up views is not like the others? In fact, none of these images seems like the either one of others! But last night’s close-up completely contrasts with the close-up this same cable channel showed on March 29.

On March 29, Zimmerman had an obvious wound on the back of his head. Last evening, his head was pristine. (For a link to that earlier close-up, with viewing instruictions, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/4/12.)

Question: What exactly does it mean when news orgs tell us that we’re looking at “enhanced” photos? We don’t know, but as non-experts, we would say this: One of the close-ups shown by MSNBC simply has to be doctored.

“Doctored.” Not enhanced.

We could be wrong in that assessment. But the contrast between the two close-ups is remarkable. If you thought that “journalism” was still being practiced on our cable “news” channels, you might say the contrast was shocking.

In tribal times like these, people tend to extend true belief to their side’s tribal leaders. In the case of Limbaugh, the ditto-heads have done this for decades. As we form our own “news orgs,” we liberals are moving in this same direction.

It’s natural, if unwise, to place full faith in tribal leaders. But what the heck happened on Politics Nation last night?

Was the back of Zimmerman’s head injured that night? We have no first-hand knowledge. Last night’s close-up may be a faithful representation of the state of his head when he arrived at the police station that night. But if that is so, what explains the earlier close-up aired on this same cable channel?

And what explains Sharpton’s endless silence in the face of such contradictions? Our tribe’s true believers recite what he says.

Why won’t Sharpton explain?

Again, the tape of the tape: Regarding height and weight, the New York Times reported on April 2 that Zimmerman was 5-9, 170; Martin was 6-1, 150.

One day later, the Orlando Sentinel offered this fact-check:
STUTZMAN (4/3/12): Trayvon was trying to defend himself against a man who outweighed him by 100 pounds.

Outweighed, yes. By 100 pounds, no. George Zimmerman, the Neighborhood Watch volunteer who says he killed Trayvon in self-defense, outweighed him by 30 or 40 pounds, according to family members. A Sanford police incident report says Trayvon was 6 feet tall and weighed 160 pounds. A spokesman for the family's lawyers gave a slightly different set of numbers: 6 feet 1 and 150 pounds. Zimmerman is 5 feet 9 inches tall, according to the police report, but it is silent about his weight. A family member says he currently weighs about 190 pounds. Zimmerman used to be far heavier. A 2005 police report put his weight at 250 pounds, but security-camera video released last week by Sanford police show him to be much trimmer.
Obviously, we don't know the precise figures. In best New York Times fashion, the newspaper simply gave us our data, didn't say how it knew.

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Mike Wallace and a change in press culture!

Posted by Hyuuga Cutezz On 7:24 AM 0 comments

Promoting the great Saint McCain: We have no overall view of the career of the late Mike Wallace.

Presumably, he did a lot of good work. Presumably, no one is perfect.

This morning, the New York Times presents a long history of his career. Since Wallace is thought of as an iconoclast, we thought it was worth recalling an instance in which he betrayed a different impulse.

By 1998, the upper-end press corps was increasingly becoming the equivalent of a small, upper-class social club—a wealthy fraternal/sororal order with shared views and rigid group narratives. By 1998, one such narrative involved the moral greatness of the great saint, Saint John McCain.

John McCain was morally great. Bill Clinton and Al Gore were not—were the opposite. Everyone voiced these standard group tales, including a famous iconoclast.

In June 1998, Howard Kurtz reported the swoon for the sainted McCain, a group phenomenon which would soon be known by that name:
KURTZ (6/8/98): The media's fascination with McCain transcends his maverick style. Nor can it be fully explained by his cheerful accessibility...

The plain truth is that a growing number of journalists want John McCain to run for president. The fact that he's just flirting with the idea makes him all the more desirable.

Mike Wallace, who turned down the chance to be Richard Nixon's press secretary, says of McCain: "I'm thinking I may quit my job if he gets the nomination. . . . I'm impressed by his independence, by his willingness to take on the tough ones. By his honesty about himself. As I look at the current crop, there's something authentic about this man."
Wow. Kurtz went on to quote other major press figures who were caught in the swoon. (“Al Hunt has written in his Wall Street Journal column that McCain ‘is the most courageous and one of the most admirable men I've ever known in American politics.’”) But Wallace had actually said that he might quit his job to work for McCain if he got the GOP nomination.

By 1998, the upper-end press corps had become a small, corrupt mafia—an inbred group which was devoted to its silly, novelized tales.

John McCain was the world's greatest saint. Starting in March 1999, Gore was the world's biggest liar.

The liberal world still won’t discuss most of this remarkable story. Darlings! Careers hang in the balance! Some things must be ignored!

But Wallace was pushing these fairy tales too. By now, at its upper ends, this was no longer an actual “press corps.”

What was it instead? We've reported for years. You decide!

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