Refuse to count the children well!

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2019

The Lincoln Bedroom returns:
By the time of the days of impeachment, upper-end American journalists had agreed on one basic idea.

Statistics were boring and hard, they said. Except when statistics could be embellished to drive home some preferred point.

By common agreement, journalists refused to cite data at all unless the data had been "enhanced." As one example, consider the photo report in today's (hard-copy) New York Times about that city's very large number of homeless school-age kids.

In print editions, the report fills the first four pages of the "New York" section. For reasons only the Times can explain, it doesn't even appear in the "Today's Paper" listing on line.

You can peruse the photo report here.
In print, the report appears beneath this large, bold banner headline:
114,000 Students in New York City Are Homeless.
That's a gigantic number of homeless kids—and no child should be homeless.

That said, are there really 114,000 homeless students in New York City? Eliza Shapiro was the reporter, so we were already checking our wallets.

We were on full red alert. As she started, Shapiro said this:
SHAPIRO (11/20/19): Darnell, 8, lives in a homeless shelter and commutes 15 miles a day to school.

Sandivel shares a bedroom with her mother and four brothers. She is 10 and has moved seven times in the past five years.

The number of school-age children in New York City who live in shelters or “doubled up” in apartments with family or friends has swelled by 70 percent over the past decade—a crisis without precedent in the city’s history.
Wait a minute! Just like that, it almost seemed like some of New York City's homeless kids may not exactly be homeless!

Some of these kids are living in homeless shelters. But some of these kids are living in apartments shared with family or friends!

For an upper-class legacy kid like Shapiro, living in a crowded apartment is apparently the same thing as being homeless. Before too long, a new number emerged in her photo report:
SHAPIRO: Sandy is one of over 73,000 homeless students who lived “doubled up” last year.
According to Shapiro, 73,000 of Gotham's homeless students actually live "doubled up." In other words:

Of Gotham's 114,000 homeless students, 41,000 are homeless!

Presumably, it isn't ideal to be "doubled up" in the manner described. That said, being "doubled up" doesn't exactly make you homeless.

In this particular case, Sandivel's mother pays $700 rent per month for the apartment her family shares. They aren't living on the street, nor are they in a homeless shelter. They're living in an apartment for which they pay monthly rent.

We're not sure why people like Shapiro like to toy with numbers. In our world, 41,000 homeless kids is an extremely large number of kids. We can't imagine why "journalists" seem to feel the need to goose such numbers up.

That said: As we saw these numbers float by, we thought all the way back to the Lincoln Bedroom pseudo-scandal of 1997.

We recalled the ugly, unconscionable way the Washington Post and the New York Times goosed the number of overnight guests the Clintons had housed, back in the days when the liberal world was sleeping soundly as a succession of journalistic scams just kept rolling on.

Long story short:

To make the number of overnight guests as large as inhumanly possible, the two newspapers added in the 72 teenage girls who had attended a set of White House slumber parties as guests of Chelsea Clinton. They also added in 35 overnight stays by assorted family members.

To goose the number as high as possible, these 107 overnight stays were added to the total. This was done to create the impression that Bill and Hillary Clinton were selling access to the Lincoln Bedroom, and on a massive scale.

We reported this unbelievably stupid and ugly story in real time. We revisited it in 2005, when it turned out that, on a per year basis, President Bush was hosting overnight guests at a rate which basically matched the number once deemed so heinous.

You probably know what happened. Under Clinton, this had been a giant pseudo-scandal. Under Bush, the same (utterly pointless) phenomenon came and went in barely a day.

You can review the whole story here, but yes, it's actually true. In order to hype a phony scandal well, the Post and the Times added Chelsea's slumber party guests to the allegedly scandalous number of Clinton "overnight guests."

There's a special hook involving the way the Post goosed the number up. The story goes like this:

At first, the Post had used the accurate number of non-family adult overnight guests. But when the Post saw everyone else using the phony larger number, they decided to go ahead and use the embellished number too!

This is the way the upper-end press was functioning 22 years before these current days of impeachment. By the time of these days of impeachment, kids who lived in crowded apartments were being listed as "homeless."

By this time, a general agreement had emerged. By general agreement, upper-end journalists refuse to cite any statistic unless the number in question has been embellished. We'll guess that they do this because of their exposure to lead in the years long before Flint, another situation they massively embellished.

Warning!

Your lizard brain is going to tell you that you should get mad about what we've written. Depending on your rate of exposure to "cable news" and social media, your lizard may be telling you things like that every day of the week.

Please tell your lizard well:

In New York City, it seems that 41,000 school-age kids are living in homeless shelters. That's a very large number of homeless kids. That very large number doesn't need to be goosed.

It's important to get homeless kids into homes. On the other hand, it's also important to stop all the upper-class dissembling and novelizing.

That said, alas! Due to the sickness of the times, the modern journalist won't publish a number unless the number is wrong!

Future Anthropologists Huddled in Caves contributed to this report through the auspices of their award-winning future news service, FAHIC News.

DAYS OF IMPEACHMENT: A funny thing happened to American discourse!

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2019

All silly, wherever you looked:
A funny thing happened to the American experiment on its way through the first few decades of the 21st century.

In November 2016, in part due to the nation's peculiar electoral system, Donald J. Trump was elected president. He had highly unusual views concerning America's role in the world and, on an alternate track, he often engaged in peculiar conduct and made extremely peculiar statements.

Roughly one year into his term,
it was decreed that the national press should not discuss the possibility that his behavior was caused by some form of mental illness, psychological disorder or cognitive impairment. Instead, the nation's influencers agreed to be "shock, shocked" on a daily basis by whatever peculiar thing the disordered president had most recently said.

The president's intellectual disorder tracked that which had prevailed in the upper-end press corps for decades. By the time of the days of impeachment, assessments of this type were commonly being made:
GIVHAN (11/20/19): The uniform did what uniforms are designed to do.

When Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman appeared before the House Intelligence Committee, his striking presence in his serviceable eyeglasses and his military uniform exuded authority, ferocity and patriotism. As one of the Democratic committee members noted admiringly, Vindman was wearing a Purple Heart on his uniform. He also had a Combat Infantry Badge pinned on the left side of his chest, indicating he’d been involved in active ground combat. For civilian viewers, it was helpful to understand the meanings of some of the insignia on his jacket. But even without the details, anyone looking at the vast collage of medals spread across his chest could understand the story they told: that Vindman is one of the many dedicated individuals who choose to stand guard so that others might sleep easily.
In the case of this particular witness, it wasn't just his military uniform which let the nation's influencers assess his character. His "serviceable eyeglasses" let hapless citizens "understand the story" too.

Normal intellectual standards had almost completely disappeared. On the highest-rated "corporate liberal" cable TV program, viewers put up with self-referential nonsense like this as the days of impeachment started:
MADDOW (11/14/19): Tomorrow will be a big day. Not only is tomorrow a Friday in the year 2019, tomorrow's going to be day two of the impeachment hearings.

Marie Yovanovitch, ousted as Ukraine ambassador, her testimony and that second impeachment hearing will start at 9:00 a.m. Eastern. Also tomorrow, a closed door deposition from somebody named David Holmes. He's the first of potentially two staffers from Kiev who heard President Trump on a phone call to Ambassador Gordon Sondland in a restaurant in Ukraine asking Sondland about the investigations into the Bidens that he wanted Ukraine to do.

I should also tell you that tomorrow, we will be awaiting a jury verdict in the Roger Stone trial. The jury is already out deliberating in that case.

It's going to be a big day tomorrow. We'll see you then. That does it for us tonight. Now, it's time for The Last Word, where Joy Reid is in for Lawrence tonight.

Good evening, Joy.

REID: Good evening, Rachel. So, I can tell you that as of tomorrow, you can officially class me as a shut-in. I will not leave my home. No one is to call me. Do not text me. I will not answer.

I am so ready for this. I'm so fascinated by it. I don't know if you've responded to it the same way. I cannot stop watching it.

MADDOW: I have to tell you I'm already nervous now about how fast I need to sleep so I can be awake and do all my business, like have breakfast and have a shower and have a shower and walk the dog and do all the things I need to do so that I'm seated and paying attention by 9:00 because 9:00 a.m. is not my key time of day.

REID: I'm with you.

MADDOW: We're stressed about it.

REID: It's hard because I have insomnia, really bad insomnia.

MADDOW: I know you do.

REID: So I've been trying to trick myself to fall asleep at 11:00, so I can be up at 8:00. So, I'm like trying tricks. I've got like the calm app going because I'm like–my poor husband, I'm like I've got to be asleep. I need to sleep in like ten minutes. I've got to get up at 8:00.

You know, it's really bad. At least with me, it`s really not been easy this week.

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW: Also I love how you and I have the same approach to sleeping. Like, "Must sleep now, focus, sleep fast."

REID: Turn on Matthew McConaughey app where he reads me a story now. Like it`s really bad.

MADDOW: Yes, and then you scream at it and it's weird, it doesn't relax you but you just sleep. I know. We're terrible people. But at least you and I are in the same boat. Thank you, my friend.

REID: There are at least two of us. There are two of us. So, I don't feel alone.

MADDOW: I think there's more. You and I will both be awake all night and sleep on Saturday. Fair?

REID: There you go. Sounds good.

MADDOW: Fair, thanks, my friend. All right.

REID: All right, have a good night. Bye.
Just for the record, we'd have insomnia too, if we were willing to behave that way night after night, on national TV, for very large corporate pay checks.

You aren't allowed to know how large. But in such ways, the multimillionaire "chattering class" had long since agreed to chatter.

Nothing was clear as impeachment proceeded, except that Candidate Warren had flipped on Medicare for all. She had instead decided to propose a public option, even as she agreed to pretend that she still had a plan to pursue the original proposal in Year 3 of her term.

The gods on Olympus had long since stopped laughing at what was transpiring. It was embarrassing all the way down, as even these great gods acknowledged.

Tomorrow: Maria Butina's boyfriend to jail! Plus, NBC's Watergate theme song!

Long day's journey into toothache!

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 2019

Could someone buy Castor an ice cream?:
We're afraid that we've spent the bulk of the day watching the bulk of the hearings.

Our principal finding:

Watching Steve Castor interview anyone is a deeply painful experience. That may well be part of the plan.

Several days of this punishment lie ahead. We may be forced to rethink our approach.

It's been obvious for a long time!

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2019

No, we aren't making this up:
Earlier today, we discussed the so-called "dullard journalism" currently being popularized by the New York Times.

Principally, experts use that term to refer to a type of journalism which avoids facts and information in favor of novelized storylines—supersimplified renderings which may even border on fable and fairy tale.

Why is American health care spending so astoundingly high? Within the school of "dullard journalism," a question like that will never be answered, and the reason is simple:

In the world of "dullard journalism," the basic statistics defining that problem will never be reported!

Increasingly, the Times is becoming famous for its adoption of this Hamptons-based school, sometimes known as "the new anti-journalism." Basic data are never reported concerning even the most basic topics. Preconceived novelizations prevail.

How dumb can "dullard journalism" become? What effect can it have on a newspaper's readers?

You're asking important questions! This morning, on the Times' "reimagined" page A3, this feature appeared (print editions only):
The Conversation
FOUR OF THE MOST READ, DISCUSSED AND SHARED POSTS FROM ACROSS NYTIMES.COM

[...]

4. It Was Obvious from Day 1
This Vows column told the story of Ariel Shepherd-Oppenheim and Eliza Ladensohn, who were married Oct. 26 in California. The first time someone asked them how long they had been together, it was the very first day they met.
Key point! What follows isn't meant as a reflection on the couple in question. That said, consider this:

Consider everything which was reported over the weekend "from across NYTimes.com." Then, try to imagine how this item could possibly be one of "the most read, discussed and shared posts" from across the vast sweep of national and world events.

In truth, we find it hard to believe that the item in question actually was one of the most read, discussed and shared posts. We'll assume that someone within the New York Times structure selected this item as some sort of branding exercise.

For what it's worth, this item was the only "fluff" item included in today's "most read" listing. By way of contrast, the third item looked like this:
3. How FedEx Cut Its Tax Bill to $0
In the 2017 fiscal year, FedEx owed more than $1.5 billion in taxes, an effective tax rate of 24 percent. The next year, it owed nothing, thanks to the Trump administration's signature tax cut—and had not made good on its promises to invest in new equipment and other assets, this Times article found.
This article appeared on the front page of the Sunday Times. Assuming the reporting is accurate, it concerns a very serious topic—the decades-long attempts to rig the system in favor of American oligarchs.

Our questions:

What are the chances that this report will ever be discussed on "liberal cable?" In our view, it's much more likely that cable will continue with its standard diet of easy-listenin' topics—Trump Trump Trump, impeachment impeachment, polls polls polls polls polls.

Second, average citizens, red and blue voters alike, are undermined by this kind of rigging. Why can't liberals and Democratic pols use such topics as a way to build red/blue political coalitions?

This question will never be discussed at any time in any forum. With the modern liberal world, we're trained to avoid and loathe The Others, full-satisfying-stop.

That tribal training is another part of "dullard journalism." According to future experts, the practice of this style of journalism was very good for short-term profits, but helped bring on Mister Trump's War.

Just for the record: Below, you see an excerpt from one of the "most read, discussed and shared posts from across NYTimes.com:"
VARIAN (11/15/19): A few nights later, at Ms. Ladensohn’s suggestion, they met for drinks at Palihouse in West Hollywood. Ms. Shepherd-Oppenheim, just 23 at the time, was impressed by the hotel’s stylish lounge and rooftop view of Hollywood Hills. Ms. Ladensohn took notice of Ms. Shepherd-Oppenheim’s drink order.

“I was ordering a vodka club soda, but Ariel was ordering all these really fun drinks off the cocktail menu,” Ms. Ladensohn said. “I remember thinking this is cool, she’s adventurous.”
For ourselves, we don't believe that actually was one of the most-discussed posts. Remarkably, someone within the New York Times doesn't see what a slander they're performing against the newspaper's readers.

Our upper-end culture is hopelessly daft. Future experts sometimes refer to this culture as "the dumbnification of everything."

A modern society can't function this way. At the Hamptons-based New York Times, people aren't able to see this.

FLINT AND FICTITION: Terrify the children well!

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2019

Whole city poisoned, she said:
In July of 2018, their column appeared on the op-ed page of the New York Times.

Who wrote the column in question? According to the Times' identity line, "Dr. Gómez and Dr. Dietrich are experts in toxicology and environmental health." Indeed, where their column appears on line, the Times describes their credentials further:
Hernán Gómez, an associate professor at the University of Michigan, emergency medicine pediatrician and medical toxicologist at Hurley Medical Center, was the lead author of the study “Blood Lead Levels of Children in Flint, Michigan: 2006-2016.” Kim Dietrich, a professor of epidemiology and environmental health at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, is the principal investigator of the Cincinnati Lead Study.
None of this means that Gomez and Dietrich will automatically be right in every assessment they make. That said, their column appeared beneath a striking headline—a headline which sought to refute several years' worth of irresponsible, scary claims delivered on MSNBC:
The Children of Flint Were Not ‘Poisoned’
Outrageously, Gomez and Dietrich were stating an outrageous view. The children of Flint had not been poisoned, the pair of experts now said!

Are Gomez and Dietrich allowed to make such statements? Their thoroughly outrageous column outrageously started like this:
GOMEZ AND DIETRICH (7/23/18): Words are toxic, too. Labeling Flint’s children as “poisoned,” as many journalists and activists have done since the city’s water was found to be contaminated with lead in 2014, unjustly stigmatizes their generation.

Let’s be clear. It’s unacceptable that any child was exposed to drinking water with elevated lead concentrations. We know that lead is a powerful neurotoxicant, that there is no safe level, that the very young are particularly vulnerable and that long-term exposure to low to moderate levels of lead is associated with decreased I.Q.s and other cognitive and behavioral problems, including criminal behavior.

But there is no reason to expect that what happened for a year and a half in Flint will inevitably lead to such effects. The casual use of the word “poisoned,” which suggests that the affected children are irreparably brain-damaged, is grossly inaccurate. In a city that already battles high poverty and crime rates, this is particularly problematic.
"Words are toxic too," the pair of alleged experts said. In their most outrageous statement, they even said this:
With regard to the children of Flint, the casual use of the word “poisoned” is grossly inaccurate.
So the experts said. And as you can see from what we posted, they also said this, right at the start of their column:
There's no reason to expect that the Flint water problem will inevitably lead to "decreased I.Q.s and other cognitive and behavioral problems, including criminal behavior.
As President Trump himself might have asked, where do they get these jokers? But uh-oh! As Gomez and Dietrich continued, they began presenting some of the basic data which seem to be relevant here. If we care about the children of Flint, we need to consider these data:
GOMEZ AND DIETRICH (continuing directly): In the mid-1970s, the average American child under the age of 5 had a blood lead level of 14 micrograms per deciliter. The good news is that by 2014 it had fallen dramatically, to 0.84 micrograms per deciliter, largely because of the banning of lead in paint and the phaseout of lead in gasoline, among other measures.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now considers a blood lead level in children of 5 micrograms per deciliter and higher to be a “reference level.” This measure is intended to identify children at higher risk and set off communitywide prevention activities.
Good grief! As recently as the mid-1970s, when many cable news watchers were young, the average American child had a blood lead level of 14 micrograms per deciliter. Today, though, thanks to improved environmental factors, the average reading, nationwide, is less than 1 microgram per deciliter.

Today, the experts seemed to say, kids are considered to be at higher risk if their reading goes above 5 micrograms per deciliter. That's way below the average reading for the average American child in the 1970s—and as they continued, Gomez and Dietrich reported what happened in Flint:
GOMEZ AND DIETRICH (continuing directly): After Flint’s water was switched from Detroit’s municipal system to the Flint River, the annual percentage of Flint children whose blood lead levels surpassed the reference level did increase—but only from 2.2 percent to 3.7 percent. One of us, Dr. Gómez, along with fellow researchers, reported these findings in a study in the June issue of The Journal of Pediatrics, which raised questions about how risks and statistics have been communicated regarding this issue.
Before Flint's water problem started, 2.2% of the city's kids had readings above the 5 micrograms per deciliter "reference level." As a result of the water crisis, that percentage did indeed increase—but only to 3.7 percent of the city's kids.

Ideally, you wouldn't want any kids to display such blood/lead levels. But might we repeat the basic point of comparison offered by Gomez and Dietrich? In the mid-1970s, the average reading, across the whole country, was almost three times that high!

Might these data help us put the Flint water problem in in some sort of perspective? As they continued, Gomez and Dietrich tried to make it so clear that even the modern "cable news star" would be able to puzzle it out:
GOMEZ AND DIETRICH: For comparison, consider the fact that just 20 years ago, nearly 45 percent of young children in Michigan had blood lead levels above the current reference level. If we are to be consistent in the labeling of Flint children as “poisoned,” what are we to make of the average American who was a child in the 1970s or earlier? Answer: He has been poisoned and is brain-damaged. And poisoned with lead levels far above, and for a greater period, than those observed in Flint.
Gomez and Dietrich were making a basic point. They were suggesting that people were overstating the actual situation when they kept saying that the children of Flint had been "poisoned." As they continued, they made their most outrageous statement of all—and they tried to inform the public about some basic facts:
GOMEZ AND DIETRICH (continuing directly): People were understandably dismayed by the government’s apparent failure to act quickly to switch back the water once concerns were raised in Flint. But based on this more comprehensive view of the data, we are forced to admit that the furor over this issue seems way out of proportion to the actual dangers to the children from lead exposure.

Furthermore, the focus on Flint seems to be distracting the public from a far more widespread problem.
Although blood lead levels have long been declining nationwide, there remain many trouble spots. Right now in Michigan, 8.8 percent of children in Detroit, 8.1 percent of children in Grand Rapids and an astounding 14 percent of children in Highland Park surpass the C.D.C. reference level. Flint is at 2.4 percent. A comprehensive analysis of blood lead levels across the United States reveals at least eight states with blood lead levels higher than Flint’s were during the water switch.
Are Gomez and Dietrich permitted to say such things? The experts claimed that "the furor" over the problem in Flint seemed to be "way out of proportion to the actual dangers to the children." And ohourgod, they even said this:
Blood lead levels are substantially higher in other cities, and are even higher across entire states.
Does anyone give a flying fig about the children who live in those places? The answer to that question is obvious, as has been for a long time. That said, this is the way our species functions, anthropologists have glumly said.

In their article from July 2018, Gomez and Dietrich were reporting remarkable data about lead exposure in the recent American past—in the decades before leaded gasoline was outlawed. They explained that the lead exposure in Flint had been dwarfed, across the country, by the exposure to lead of that recent past.

They were also reporting that undesirable lead exposure exists in many communities. "It is clear that lead exposure is not one city’s problem, but the entire nation’s," they said.

For the record, none of this information was new when this column appeared. Kevin Drum had reported similar data, again and again, in his blog at Mother Jones. We'll link you to this one post again. You can google up many more such discussions by Drum.

All that said, so what? On MSNBC, the corporate channel's leading star kept saying that the entire city of Flint had been "poisoned" during the water crisis. Despite her status as Our Own Rhodes Scholar, she never told her misused viewers about the wider range of actual facts which Drum and others had bruited.

In our view, that cable star's judgment is so poor that she shouldn't be on the air. Her treatment of Flint was especially gruesome because it was so obvious that she was mainly interested in using the topic as a way to get the Republican governor of Michigan thrown into jail.

(In such ways, we liberals get pandered to, tribally pleasured, on this particular TV show.)

Along the way,
a reporter for the New Yorker had reported the way the children of Flint were being affected by all the exciting hyperbole. This is part of what happens people like Maddow sift facts in the way Maddow does:
STILLMAN (1/15/17): Key shared a personal story about the son of a family friend who had begun acting out in school. The boy’s mother had come to Key for help. When Key asked the boy what was going on, he replied, “Well, they said I’m not going to be smart anyway.”

“These kids are internalizing the messages about how the lead is affecting them,” Key said.


[...]

As their last day in Flint drew to a close, Shankar and Tucker-Ray hurried to a final meeting. They had arranged to talk with a disabled Gulf War veteran and community activist named Art Woodson, who didn’t think much of the federal government. At a local municipal building, where an enlarged photograph of corroded lead pipes adorned one wall, Woodson told Shankar about his worry that local kids would give up when lead’s symptoms surfaced, or even before. “What I see,” he said, “is hopelessness.”
Thanks to people like Maddow (and her corporate bosses), the public was being massively misinformed—and children were becoming convinced that they were irreparably damaged. Gomez and Dietrich finished their column by raising this basic point:
GOMEZ AND DIETRICH: In the case of Flint, even when taking into account the change in the water supply, the decrease in blood lead levels over the last 11 years has actually been a public health success. The Journal of Pediatrics study found that between 2006 and 2015, the percentage of Flint children testing above the reference level decreased substantially, to 3.7 percent from 11.8 percent.

It is therefore unfair and inaccurate to point a finger at Flint and repeatedly use the word “poisoned.” All it does is terrify the parents and community members here who truly believe there may be a “generation lost” in this city, when there is no scientific evidence to support this conclusion.
We should stop scaring the children well, the experts outrageously said.

That said, our upper-end journalism runs on fictitions; it has done so for many years. Our journalists love their simpleton story lines and their studied avoidance of information. At present, they especially seem to enjoy pretending that they care about black kids.

The New York Times is the leading proponent of this so-called "dullard journalism." And so, it came to pass, as the gods of fictition decreed that it must:

There's nothing but damaged kids in Flint! So this ridiculous newspaper said, atop its front page, on Thursday, November 7.

As we await the start of Mister Trump's war, information and data no longer exist. It's nothing but silly fictitions now, or so leading experts have said.