Timss talk: Post reporter succumbs to script!


Sees the glass ten percent full:
Emma Brown is a Washington Post education reporter with the soul of a Globetrekker host.

According to her official Post bio, Brown is "a latecomer to journalism who worked as a wilderness ranger in Wyoming and as a middle-school math teacher in Alaska before joining the newspaper in 2009." We'd say that capsule tends to overstate her age and to understate her apparent spirit.

Brown graduated from Stanford in June 2000. During the academic term, she absorbed four years of overpowering Pacific-10 dominance. In the summers, she worked in the Wind River Range!

From there, she followed the path laid out by Capucine in the feature film North to Alaska, the only major Hollywood film which paired the Parisian star with her single-name counterpart, Fabian. She got a master's degree in teaching at University of Alaska Southeast, then taught junior high math in Juneau for three years.

She transcribed interviews with Alutiiq elders. At some point, she kayaked Baja California.

During this time, she began to dabble in journalism. She returned to the Lower 48 to get a master's in journalism at Berkeley, then joined the Post in 2009.

Along the way, she'd been praised for her writing. In his introduction to American Nature Writing 2003, John Murray opined thusly:

"At twenty-three, Emma Brown is one of the most gifted young writers I have ever encountered, and that includes the over six hundred undergraduate and graduate students I taught during my years as a university writing professor." Murray went on to say that Brown's prose evokes "the best of such diverse writers as Edward Abbey and Norman MacLean."

A ranger in the Wind Rivers! You'll have to thumb quite a few resumes to encounter a greater sense of adventure. That's why it's so striking to see the way Brown succumbed this week to the upper-end journalist's curse—to the kryptonite of script.

Brown reported for the Washington Post about the new Timss scores from last year's quadrennial testing. We hadn't actually seen the scores when we read her news report, but her headline seemed to have blown in from the Narrative River Range.

As Brown began her report, she took the path more traveled by. Extending a mandated gloomy framework, she saw the glass ten percent full.

Hard-copy headline included. Presumably, Brown didn't write it:
BROWN (11/29/16): U.S. pupils still trail Asian peers in math, science

Eighth-grade students across the United States showed some improvement in math and science over the past four years, but fourth-graders’ performance was stagnant and students in both groups continued to trail many of their peers in Asia,
according to the results of a major international exam released Tuesday.

The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, or TIMSS, was administered to nearly 600,000 students in dozens of education systems across the globe in 2015. U.S. scores are likely to stoke renewed debate among politicians, educators and business leaders about why math and science achievement has not improved more quickly relative to other nations.
Darn those eighth-grade students across the country! Their performance was "likely to stoke renewed debate...about why math and science achievement has not improved more quickly!"

Let's be fair to Brown. She started with a few words about "some improvement."

Beyond that, her instant prediction will likely turn out to be true. Given the way our discourse works, these new data probably will "stoke renewed debate" about our students' alleged lack of progress. Given the way our elite mandates work, no other type of debate is allowed in the Script River Range.

Once again, let's be fair. Everything in those two grafs is true, as is the headline's assertion. On average, American students did "trail their Asian peers" on the Timss last year, by a substantial amount.

Still, we'd have to say that Brown went out of her way to see the glass empty—or at least, that's the way we'd review her report as published.

How well did American students perform as compared to their peers around the world? We'd say an obvious preference for gloom prevailed when Brown returned to that question. She named every system our students trailed, no one whom they surpassed:
BROWN: On TIMSS, the average score of U.S. fourth-graders in math put them behind students in 10 other systems: Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Russia, Northern Ireland and Ireland, Norway, and the Flemish portion of Belgium.

In Singapore, for example, 50 percent of students scored high enough to be considered advanced in math, compared with just 14 percent of U.S. students who reached that benchmark.

U.S. fourth-graders’ average score was indistinguishable from nine other systems and higher than 34 systems.

U.S. students ranked comparably in science.
All ten systems we trailed got named. Brown named none of the forty-three (43!) "education systems" our students matched or exceeded.

That strikes us as a peculiar choice. It becomes even more peculiar when we consider that slightly peculiar term—"education system."

Uh-oh! As you might note, some of the "education systems" which outscored our kids aren't exactly nations. This isn't a criticism of the Timss. We do regard it as a criticism of the Post.

What's a more significant piece of information? The fact that our students were outscored by the Flemish portion of Belgium? Or the fact that our students outscored their peers in such places as these:

Germany, Canada, Australia, Italy, France, Spain.

That's right! On the test in question, U.S. fourth-graders outscored their peers in those large, well-known nations. Beyond that, on the level of statistical significance, they matched the scores of their peers in England, even in miraculous Finland.

These triumphs were withheld from Post readers. Instead, Post subscribers were told that our perpetually disappointing kids got outscored by Belgium, at least in the Flemish region!

This strikes us as a weird, but highly familiar, approach to such data as these. Journalistic elites accepted the mandate long ago:

We must find a way for gloom to prevail whenever we report test scores!

In this case, Brown listed all ten "systems" who humbled our kids, but none of the 34 they bested. She was refusing to see the glass largely full.

How aggressive was Brown's refusal? Consider the torture involved in her focus on those ten education systems.

Some of those systems aren't even nations. More significantly, some of those education systems serve populations which are rather small:
Total populations of four smallish entities:
Hong Kong: 7.2 million
Flemish region of Belgium: 6.5 million
Ireland and Northern Ireland: 6.4 million
Singapore: 5.6 million
It isn't that those populations aren't significant. It's just that they maybe possibly aren't as significant as these:
Total populations of eight major nations:
Germany: 82 million
France: 67 million
Italy: 61 million
England: 55 million
Spain: 46 million
Poland: 38 million
Canada: 36 million
Australia: 24 million
In what realm is the Flemish region of Belgium journalistically significant, while Germany, France, England and Canada aren't?

Answer: In a realm where the prevailing winds blow in from the Script River Range!

Just for the record, our fourth-graders also outscored their peers from The Netherlands, the Czech and the Slovak Republics, Hungary and Sweden, while matching their peers from Denmark. In what realm is Norway worth citing by name, while Finland and Sweden are not?

(Warning! Norway showed a very large score jump on last year's Timss, accompanied by a murky footnote which suggests that a change has occurred in the way "fourth grade" status is computed in that land. We'd be slow to stress Norway's score without determining what happened.)

Do our journalists ever tire of seeing the glass hugely empty? When it comes to our embarrassing, gruesome public schools, actually no—they do not.

We'd have to say that this claim is supported by Brown's gloomy framework—and sure enough! Inevitably, the Post's framework matched that of the AP, whose report bore a similar headline:
Washington Post headline: U.S. pupils still trail Asian peers in math, science

People, we're just saying! The glass largely empty is, by law, mandated, hugely preferred.

(Are points subtracted when Post editors copy off their neighbors?)

Those headlines are accurate, of course. American students do trail a set of Asian tigers on international tests. So does everyone else in the world—but that's only part of the story.

It's also true that American students outperformed most of the rest of the world on the 2015 Timss. Especially given the way this topic has been treated over the past twenty years, readers of the Washington Post deserve to have this surprising fact made clear.

When he discussed these Timss results, Kevin Drum coined a term; he talked about our "peer countries." He mentioned the success of the Asian tigers, but he also noted our students' relative success on this test as compared to almost every other large developed nation.

He also mentioned something important. Importantly, Drum said this:
DRUM (11/30/16): One other note. If you really want a takeaway from the latest TIMSS test, it's the same as the takeaway from every other test ever administered to American schoolkids: we do a terrible job of educating black children. The single biggest thing we could do to improve education in this country is to cut out the half measures and focus serious money and resources on poor, black school districts.
When we posted the scores for Grade 4 math, we "disaggregated" the American scores, showing our very large racial/ethnic "achievement gaps." Here's what Grade 4 math looks like when you talk about our "peer countries," and when you report those gaps:
Average scores, Grade 4 math, 2015 Timss
South Korea: 608
United States, Asian-American students: 605
Taiwan: 597
Japan: 593
Russia: 564
United States, white students: 559
England: 546
United States: 539
Finland: 535
Poland: 535
Germany: 522
Australia: 517
United States, Hispanic students: 515
Canada: 511
Italy: 507
Spain: 505
United States, black students: 495
France: 488
We didn't include the Flemish region of Belgium. We did include the developed world's larger nations—and we included the data which help us consider our own large achievement gaps.

Our domestic achievement gaps are very large. How did the Washington Post report this topic? Incredibly, this is the way Brown's report reaches its end:
BROWN: Among fourth- and eighth-grade students, the gender gap has narrowed or closed in math and science, according to TIMSS results. But there continues to be a yawning gender gap among the advanced high school seniors: Males scored 46 points higher than females in physics, and 30 points higher in math.
(Warning: those "advanced high school" scores involves results from a highly limited set of students who are taking advanced math courses. It's a very different type of measure than the Grade 4/Grade 8 scores.)

In Grade 4 math, the U.S. gender gap stands at seven points, with boys scoring higher than girls. In Grade 8, the gap is just two points. By way of contrast:

In Grade 4 math, the black-white achievement gap stands at 64 points, but so what? Brown's text discussed the gender gap. Race wasn't mentioned at all.

Especially given the endless propaganda, American kids scored surprisingly well on the 2015 Timss. In Grade 4 math, our students, even in the aggregate, outscored most "peer countries," even miraculous Finland.

Our white kids did better than that. Essentially, our Asian-American kids outscored the world.

Post subscribers weren't exposed to those facts. As is mandated by the Hard Pundit Law which blows off The Privatization Range, Post readers saw a gloomy headline, then learned a hard fact. Those Flemish kids kicked our asps! Our "leaders" will surely complain about the lack of progress!

A note about small populations: The Asian tigers outperform everyone else in the world. That basic fact should be reported. Beyond that, though, please understand this fact:

You can always find some small jurisdiction which has achieved good scores. For years, middle-class Finland (population 5.5 million) was the club the press corps used against our ratty public school teachers and their fiendish unions and their slacker approach to our embarrassing kids.

This year, American kids outscored miraculous Finland in math. Rather than mention this fact, the Washington Post moved to to the Flemish region of Belgium.

Regarding small regions, please note:

In the 2011 Timss, the state of Massachusetts (population 6.8 million) participated as an independent "education system." Massachusetts is larger than Finland. It's even larger than the Flemish region of Belgium.

Massachusetts students scored extremely well in math on the 2011 Timss. They approached the Asian tigers, smoked the rest of the world. If you want to go hunting for successful small regions, you can find such regions right here! In 2011, the United States got outscored in math by eight of its own small regions, as you can see by clicking here.

Brown's report was highly selective. For that reason, it was also strikingly uninformative. Based upon her earlier life, we'll assume she handed in something better—that her editors took things from there.

Or did she succumb to the power of script? Within our propagandistic press corps, script has functioned like kryptonite for many free thinkers down through the years.

Certain frameworks are heavily favored. Human nature takes over from there.

Coming tomorrow: Reporting the Timss!


Today, some comic relief:
On Tuesday morning, the Washington Post reported the test results from the 2015 Timss. To read that report, click here.

The Timss is one of two international testing programs for the world's public school students. It's administered every four years.

Given the amount of propaganda which swirls around international test scores, you'd almost think our major newspapers would want to report these results.

So far, the New York Times hasn't published a word in its hard copy editions. On line, it has posted this somewhat comical AP report.

What's funny about the AP report? Why do we find it amusing?

As is required by Hard Pundit Law, the AP reports the American glass ten percent empty rather than ninety percent full. As we'll note tomorrow, the Post seems to have followed the gloomy AP down this mandated trail.

Still and all, the AP report by Jennifer Kerr offers some comic relief. After an initial dollop of doom, it offered an unintentionally funny third paragraph, relying on expert appraisal:
KERR (11/29/16): Eighth graders in the United States improved their scores in math over the last four years, up nine points. Scores for science, however, were flat. In fourth grade, scores were unchanged in the math and science tests.

"The results do suggest a leveling out in the most recent cycle," said Ina Mullis, an executive director of the TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center at Boston College, where researchers helped coordinate staff to administer the assessments. "One always prefers to see improvement, but holding one's own is preferable to declining."
If we're able to follow the logic there, it's better to show improvement than to "hold one's own." But it's better to hold one's own than to show a decline!

We get these data every four years. That was the AP's third paragraph. And no, the Times didn't leave something out. Here's the official AP version.

(By the way: Is a gain of "nine points" a lot or a little? Given four years to figure it out, the AP doesn't say.)

Tomorrow, we'll look at the Post's report, which strikes us as rich in both script and avoidance. For an overview of the results, see our own Wednesday report.

Journalists try to critique Donald Trump!


Journalists try and fail:
In our view, a fascinatingly weak discussion took place on Wednesday's Diane Rehm Show.

Three major journalists tried to discuss the challenges of covering Donald J. Trump. in various ways, we thought they did a poor job.

How well did this discussion go? How skillfully has it been critiqued? One exchange with Trump spokesperson Scottie Nell Hughes has produced a fair amount of reaction. We thought Rehm and her journalist guests handled it poorly, and that subsequent discussion has often been inept.

First, a note about Hughes. She is one of the many Trump spokespersons who have served as "minders" on CNN programs this year. That said, she is one of the less articulate major Trump spokespersons.

Kayleigh McEnany, who's straight out of Harvard Law School, is a very articulate spokesperson. Simply put, Hughes is not. This fact is relevant to the exchange on Rehm's show, and to the subsequent commentary.

Let's start with what Hughes said. Rehm's journalist guests had been discussing some of Trump's "lies." When Hughes was finally brought on the air, Rehm invited her to respond.

Below, you see the initial exchange. As always, Hughes is quite inarticulate.

Her presentation is so jumbled, it's hard to know what to highlight. We'll do the best we can. For tape and transcript, click here:
REHM (11/30/16): Now I know you've been listening since the top of the program, and I'm sure you've heard James Fallows talk about "lies" that Donald Trump has put out there in tweets, in things he's said. What do you make of that?

HUGHES: Well, I think it's also an idea of an opinion. And that's—

On one hand, I hear half the media saying that these are lies. But on the other half, there are many people that go, "No, it's true." And so one thing that has been interesting this entire campaign season to watch is that people that say facts are facts, they're not really facts. Everybody has a way—it's kind of like looking at ratings or looking at a glass of half-full water. Everybody has a way of interpreting them to be the truth or not true.

There's no such thing, unfortunately, any more of [sic] facts.
And so Mr. Trump's tweet amongst a certain crowd, a large—a large ma—a large part of the population, are truth. When he says that millions of people illegally voted, he has some fa—he, in his, amongst him and his supporters, and people believe they have facts to back that up. Those that do not like Mr. Trump, they say that those are lies, and there's no facts to back it up. So—
At this point, Rehm broke in. She threw to Politico's Glenn Thrush, who said he had to get his jaw off the floor.

"There are no objective facts? I mean, that is, that is an absolutely outrageous assertion," Thrush thundered, responding to what he apparently thought he had heard.

Is that what Hughes was saying in that (rather typically) jumbled oration? Was she trying to say "there are no objective facts?"

We don't get that impression. Like many people in cable news, Hughes is routinely unclear, bordering on incoherent. But it seems to us she was probably saying something like this:

Many people assert that certain "facts" contradict the things Trump says, but their alleged "facts" are often less than fully clear or less than fully dispositive. Unfortunately, everyone has a way of interpreting facts to suit their own purposes. When Trump's followers agree with his claims, they believe that they have facts which support his claims.

When she appears on CNN, Hughes is routinely jumbled. That said, she's no high theorist. In this case, we don't think she was making some sort of postmodern claim about the nature of truth. We don't think she was saying that there's no such thing as an objective fact.

We think she was saying that many critics of Trump overstate the case for their own basket of alleged "facts." And, without any doubt, that does sometimes happen.

This didn't settle the objective question to which Hughes referred. When Trump said that "millions of people illegally voted," was he making an accurate statement?

More precisely, was he making a statement whose accuracy he could demonstrate? Could he point to actual facts which demonstrate the accuracy of his statement?

Rehm and her journalist guests never established that point. Instead, they wandered the countryside, quickly moving on to a different question.

At one point, Hughes did offer "evidence" in support of Trump's claim about illegal voting, citing a study by four Old Dominion professors. This study has been widely discussed, as Rehm's guest should have known. Its relevance to Trump's claim has been widely challenged, including by at least one of its authors.

That said, Thrush didn't seem to have heard of the widely-cited study, and no one else jumped in. As is typical in pundit discussions, another journalist changed the subject before this matter could be further resolved.

Hughes' presentation was barely coherent. On the other hand, Rehm and her journalist guests were rather undisciplined too. They jumped about from point to point, failing to demonstrate any point. To our ear, Rehm's guests were unprepared on the subject matter, under-skilled to boot.

For these reasons, Hughes' jumbled oration faded into the mist. Until Kevin Drum presented an edited version of what she had said-a version we'd consider describing as "doctored" had it come from anyone else.

Below, we'll show the full text of what Hughes said. Then, we'll show you the version of her remarks presented to Drum's readers. We'll include Drum's highlights:
FULL STATEMENT BY HUGHES: On one hand, I hear half the media saying that these are lies. But on the other half, there are many people that go, "No, it's true." And so one thing that has been interesting this entire campaign season to watch is that people that say facts are facts, they're not really facts. Everybody has a way, it's kind of like looking at ratings or looking at a glass of half-full water. Everybody has a way of interpreting them to be the truth or not true.

There's no such thing, unfortunately, any more of [sic] facts. And so Mr. Trump's tweet amongst a certain crowd, a large—a large ma, a large part of the population, are truth. When he says that millions of people illegally voted, he has some fa—he, in his, amongst him and his supporters, and people believe they have facts to back that up. Those that do not like Mr. Trump, they say that those are lies, and there's no facts to back it up.

EDITED VERSION BY DRUM: People that say facts are facts, they're not really facts....There's no such thing, unfortunately anymore, as facts. And so Mr. Trump's tweet, amongst a certain crowd, a large part of the population, are truth. When he says that millions of people illegally voted, he has some facts amongst him and his supporters, and people believe they have facts to back that up. Those that do not like Mr. Trump, they say that those are lies and there's no facts to back it up. [emphases, ellipses by Drum]
To us, that's a shaky editing job. It did let Drum ridicule Hughes for having made the ridiculous claim that there's no such thing as facts.

We liberals love being fed this gruel. As is true in the other tribe, many pundits are willing to be our suppliers.

As for our major journalists, they stage scattershot discussions all the time, even on the Rehm Show. Skill levels are remarkably slight atop our mainstream press corps.

People like Trump exploit this fact. Our tribe enjoys kicking down at the folk who get conned in the process.

LOSERS: Coming next week, "Comeyed again!"


Epilogue—The enemy will be Us:
Today, we complete our second week of award-winning election post-mortem reports.

We've added a week of "Losers" reports to our earlier "Teabagged" series. Next week, we'll offer a series which bears this working title:

"Comeyed (again)."

We're inclined to agree with Kevin Drum. We think James B. Comey's intrusion on the White House campaign may well have swung its outcome. For that reason, it's important to see how we fiery liberals dealt with the actions of this powerful insider god.

More specifically, it's important to see how our corporate liberal "journalists" dealt with the god's behavior. We'll pursue such questions as these:

How did they respond to Comey's original actions in early July? How did they respond to Fred Kaplan's instant challenge to Comey's potent claims?

What did they do when Candidate Clinton told Matt Lauer that she behaved exactly as she should have with respect to her emails? Also this:

To what extent did they tie Comey's remarkable conduct, which they surely must have challenged, to the Comeys who came before him?

Duh! James B. Comey was hardly the first high-ranking Republican to intrude on a modern White House campaign. Before Comey, we had Louis Freeh and Robert Conrad, conducting their high-minded probe of Candidate Gore back in Campaign 2000.

Before Freeh and Conrad, we had the move from Robert Fiske to the high-minded Judge Starr of the Baylor football program. This led to all those high-minded probes of Bill and Hillary Clinton.

When we got Comeyed this summer and fall, we utterly brilliant, super-smart liberals were in fact getting Comeyed again! How dogged were our multimillionaire corporate stars at handling this decades-old theme?

We'll focus on "our own Cantinflas" as we review this topic. How did we get to be teabagged losers? In part, by tolerating Hannityesque, orange-shoed TV star gong-shows like hers!

(We were "fastened to a dying animal," exactly as Yeats said!)

These new reports will begin on Monday. For today, let's finish our current series, skillfully adding an epilogue to Paul Krugman's new column.

In his new column, Krugman predicts the future. Quite reasonably, he predicts that roughly five million white working-class Trump supporters will lose their Obamacare-based health insurance under President Trump.

He further predicts that Trump won't be able to "bring back the manufacturing jobs that have been lost over the past few decades. Those jobs were lost mainly to technological change, not imports, and they aren’t coming back."

Beyond that, "there will be nothing to offset the harm workers suffer when Republicans rip up the safety net," Krugman sensibly says.

As journalists proved all year, predicting the future is hard. That said, Krugman's predictions are perfectly reasonable.

So is the further prediction shown below. In this passage, Krugman predicts what will happen when Trump's various campaign promises start to collapse:
KRUGMAN (12/2/16): Will there be a political backlash, a surge of buyer’s remorse? Maybe. Certainly Democrats will be well advised to hammer Mr. Trump’s betrayal of the working class nonstop. But we do need to consider the tactics that he will use to obscure the scope of his betrayal [of the white working class].


[I]f and when the reality that workers are losing ground starts to sink in, I worry that the Trumpists will do what authoritarian governments often do to change the subject away from poor performance: go find an enemy.

Remember what I said about Trump Twitter. Even as he took a big step toward taking health insurance away from millions, Mr. Trump started ranting about taking citizenship away from flag-burners. This was not a coincidence.
This was not a coincidence? We don't know how Krugman knows that.

That said, will Trump "go find an enemy" if his promises start to collapse? It's entirely possible, but his designated enemy won't have to be flag-burners.

The enemy could simply be Us. Here's what will maybe happen:

Trump will say that Obamacare had to be repealed because it was imploding. In response to that, we'll say two things:

We'll say his claims about health care are wrong. We'll also say that his supporters only believe his claims because they're such racists and bigots.

We simply love that second play. Increasingly, it seems to be the only play we know; we rarely leave home without it. But because we'll make that second statement, his supporters won't even consider listening to us when we make the first.

We've been losing this way for a very long time. This pattern is deeply engrained in our broken political culture.

We "liberals" seem to love losing this way. We seem to love our sweeping claims more than any possible wins, more than life itself.

We can't seem to see this about ourselves. But until we decide to improve our game, it will remain who We are.

New York Daily News on our own Cantinflas: A self-described fan salutes a major star.

What, the New York Times report?


Try not to think of the popular vote:
The Post and the Times has been working quite hard to avoid the popular vote.

We had to laugh at today's hard-copy New York Times. At the very bottom of page A23, it offered this tiny report, attributed to Jonathan Weisman:
With 3 More States in the Books, Clinton's Lead Grows Even More

With Alabama and New Mexico certifying their votes, an update is in order.

Hillary Clinton’s popular vote lead over Mr. Trump climbed overnight to 2,370,700—or 1.8 percentage points. Eleven states and the District of Columbia now record a higher percentage of votes for Mrs. Clinton than President Obama received in 2012.
That was it! If you blinked, sneezed, shuddered or yawned, you were certain to miss it.

Several analysts laughed. An update is in order from what? one of the unpaid youngsters exclaimed.

"Clinton's lead grows even more" as compared to what?

We decide our elections through the electoral college, a small 18th century school which lacks a campus and a football team. That said, the state of the popular vote constitutes actual news, especially in the context of fake reports about illegal voting and ludicrous televised claims alleging "landslides" and "mandates."

Perhaps the Times and the Post will work this through at some later date. As of now, the papers seem to be working hard to avoid this topic.

Nothing to look at here! Subscribers, please move along!

Your update: According to the Cook Report site, Clinton's margin over Trump now stands at 2.53 million votes.

Subscribers, please! Move along!

Do we actually like other people?


Or do we live to loathe:
For starters, let's talk about Alysin Camerota.

In 2014, CNN hired Camerota away from Fox News. It was a superlative hire.

For years, we'd seen her on Fox & Friends. In general, she was cast as the sane, intelligent caretaker woman seated between the two chimpish, inane younger men.

After sixteen years, she escaped to CNN, where she now co-anchors the morning show with Chris Cuomo. We're often struck by how good her work is there. (Cuomo plainly exceeds cable news averages too.)

Today, you can see Camerota interviewing a small group of Trump voters. Kevin Drum posted part of the tape, without comment, thereby throwing a bone to his liberal herd.

The herdsters have responded gratefully with hundreds of comments, aggressively kicking down instead of kicking up.

Here's the start of the most striking interaction between Camerota and the Trump voters. It involves a claim of widespread illegal voting:
JOHNSON (12/1/16): Voting is a privilege in this country. And you need to be legal, not like California, where 3 million illegals voted.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about that.

JOHNSON: I'm glad I brought that up, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Me, too, Paula. So where are you getting your information?

JOHNSON: From the media. Where else would we get it?

CAMEROTA: Which media?

JOHNSON: Some of it was CNN, I believe, and—

CAMEROTA: CNN said that 3 million illegal people voted in California?

JOHNSON: Well, it was coming all across the media. All across. If CNN didn't do it, then they were being smart this time.
Already, this doesn't seem to make sense. First, Trump voter Paula Johnson says that three million people voted illegally in California. Within moments, she says that CNN "was being smart this time" if they didn't make such a report.

Hint! We the people aren't a gang of geniuses. Regular people will often say things, and reach judgments, which don't make a lot of sense. This is especially true where partisan desires are involved.

BREAKING! This sort of thing doesn't just happen among Them! The liberal web is crawling with the stupid shit we liberals churn every day. Our dumbness tends to take different forms, but We are often transplendently dumb, just like The Others are.

Let's return to the transcript. Here's what happened when Camerota questioned Johnson further:
CAMEROTA (continuing directly): Do you think that 3 million illegal people voted?

JOHNSON: I believe in California that there were illegals that voted.

CAMEROTA: How many?

JOHNSON: I don't—to tell you the truth, nobody really knows that number.

CAMEROTA: But do you think three dozen, or do you think 3 million?

JOHNSON: I think there was a good amount because the president told people that they could vote and it happened in Nashua we caught some people—


JOHNSON: That they went into Nashua and they said, "The president said I could vote. I'm here illegally."

CAMEROTA: Did you hear President Obama say that illegal people could vote?

JOHNSON: Yes, I did.


JOHNSON: I actually did hear it.

CAMEROTA: On what— Tell me where.

DIBARTOLO: On— You can find it. Google it. You can find it on Facebook.
Johnson ends up saying that she thinks "a good amount" of illegal voting happened in California. She and others say this happened because Obama said it was OK.

If you watch the rest of the tape, you will see Camerota track this claim to what she describes as a doctored report on Fox Business News. That report tracked to an interview Obama did with actress Gina Rodriquez. You can watch the interview here.

In fairness, Rodriguez asked Obama a jumbled, confusing question—a question Obama failed to clarify. Watching the tape, it almost sounds like Rodriquez is asking if undocumented people can vote.

Because Obama doesn't clean up the confusion lodged in her question, it almost sounds like he is saying that such people can vote.

So it goes when Democrats ask movie stars and comedians to help out at election time. You can watch the jumbled Q-and-A at the 3:20 mark of that tape.

Over the past thirty years, the rise of partisan propaganda orgs has taught us a powerful lesson. We've learned that people will believe all kinds of improbable claims, especially where the improbable claims helps advance partisan scripts.

Over here in our liberal tents, we pretend that this only happens with conservatives. In posting the tape without any comment, Drum gave his droogs a chance for hours of pleasure kicking down at Them.

In fact, our liberal comment threads teem with all manner of bullshit. Folk like Drum don't have the courage or the integrity to tell their readers this.

We liberals often enjoy kicking down at the regular people who get conned by disinformation. We're less inclined to kick up at the people who deliberately deceive them, or at other powerful entities which enable the endless deception.

For years, we've said the following: When major figures deceive the public, that in itself is news. Back in 2011, it was news when Donald J. Trump paraded around peddling all that birther bullshit. The New York Times and the Washington Post should have been aggressively reporting his conduct as news.

Right to this day, those big newspapers have run away from this problem, which started long before Trump. Sadly, people like Drum would jump off the Golden Gate Bridge before they'd challenge such gutless conduct on the part of the Post and the Times—before they'd insist that the New York Times report the deliberate spread of disinformation as front-page news.

Today, Drum gave the herd a day of free play. Our unimpressive, loathing-fueled "liberal" team is part of this nightmare too.

What Yevtushenko said: As it turns out, we the people are extremely gullible. That's why we have an FDA, in case you didn't realize.

(When music men would come around, we people would buy their trombones.)

People believe the darnedest things! This seems to be the nature of people—"whom we knew as faulty, the earth's creatures," as Yevtushenko said.

Our liberal herd can be very dumb too. At some point, you have to make a decision:

Do I actually like other people? Or do I live to loathe?

LOSERS: Krugman gets it right three times!


Part 4—Getting it right from the start:
How did we liberals manage to turn ourselves into the world's biggest losers?

Paul Krugman's remarkable column helps answer that question. We refer to last Friday's column, in which Krugman said, two separate times, that white working-class voters "imagine" that they're looked down upon by us liberals.

We regard that as one of the strangest statements we've ever seen in print. It also helps us spot the traits which make us such massive losers.

Do white working-class voters "imagine" our condescension, our sneering disregard? Liberals, please! For an example of what such people actually see, consider a new post by Kevin Drum, our long-time favorite blogger.

Also, consider some instant comments to Drum's brand-new post.

Late last night, Drum offered a post about the new Timss scores. He ended his post with this:
DRUM (11/30/16): One other note. If you really want a takeaway from the latest TIMSS test, it's the same as the takeaway from every other test ever administered to America schoolkids: we do a terrible job of educating black children. The single biggest thing we could do to improve education in this country is to cut out the half measures and focus serious money and resources on poor, black school districts. But I guess the white working class wouldn't be very happy about that.
As we write, Drum's midnight post has produced few comments. Truth to tell, we liberals aren't drawn to topics like this.

That said, several commenters noted the gratuitous snark lodged in the highlighted comment. "I have a lot of respect for Kevin Drum, but this is a cheap shot at the white working class," the fourth commenter wrote.

That commenter seemed to be a liberal. A few comments later, an apparent conservative imagined that he had detected an attitude on Drum's part:

"If you can't get a cheap virtue signal in by back-handing workin whitey every now then, then what's the point of having your own blog. am I right Kev? Well done."

According to Krugman, that person was just imagining that! Other commenters offered jibes about the stupidity of the white working class.

Our liberal world now runs on snark; we hate it when the practice spreads even to Drum. That said, we weren't just struck by Drum's gratuitous remark about the evil of the white working class, full stop.

Yes, we were struck by Drum's comment. But we were also struck by the astounding array of clueless assessments contained in the handful of comments to his post about the Timss.

Tell the truth—does anyone on the planet know less than we self-impressed liberals? Is anyone more deeply sunk in pleasing tribal script?

Drum's comments were a thing to behold. Within the first two dozen, we encountered a rich array of bungled assessments, including these:

Inevitably, two commenters praised the greatness of Finland. They didn't seem to know that American kids matched their counterparts in miraculous Finland in these new Timss results.

(Devotion to the Finland script is found across the ideological spectrum. It represents a remarkably successful propaganda campaign.)

One commenter insisted that poor black kids score just as well on achievement tests as poor white kids do. That claim is pleasing to us liberals, but it comes from Fantasyland.

(On our one reliable domestic test, the Naep, lower-income white kids tend to outscore higher-income black kids. This depressing fact can be explained in various ways, of course. If we gave a hoot about black kids—as a group, we plainly don't—we'd be aware of such facts.)

One commenter seemed startled when another commenter said that some school districts which are heavily black "have spent heavily on a per student basis."

The first commenter's statement was plainly accurate, of course. The second commenter seemed fairly sure that this couldn't be true. We liberals tend to be like that, just as conservatives are.

As we type, Drum's post has produced 33 comments, some of which have nothing to do with the subject Drum discussed. Those comments are marked by the high degree of cluelessness displayed by a fair number of commenters—and by simultaneous comments assailing the dumbness of the white working class!

Alas! On balance, the cluelessness of this small group of commenters is matched by their arrogance and condescension. It you want to know how we liberals managed to become such losers, this small selection of self-impressed comments might start to provide a small hint.

Krugman seems to think that white working class voters are "imagining" condescension on the part of us liberals. You'll rarely see a person who is so smart—a person whose work is so invaluable—make such a ridiculous statement.

Krugman, please! Our own tribe's sneering condescension has been an obvious fact of life for a very long time. So has the dumbness we routinely display as we assail The Others, decrying how stupid they are.

(We'll offer one comment: Sad!)

Liberals, can we talk? We're stupid and ugly and nobody likes us! This has been true for a very long time, but we ourselves grasp this fact very slowly. This remarkable lack of self-awareness helps explain how we became the biggest losers.

Krugman has been the most important journalist of the past sixteen years. We assume this will continue. When a person as smart as Krugman is so clueless about some point, it helps us see how blind we can be to our team's shortcomings.

Our tribe's sloth and cluelessness extend back many years. In the next few weeks, we'll be discussing the ways this slacker behavior has played out over those decades, helping send Donald J. Trump to the White House next year.

We plan to focus on several areas in which our world-class cluelessness helped doom our chances:

Next week, we plan to examine the way we failed to respond when James B. Comey—Comey the God—intruded on the presidential campaign on July 5, then again two days later.

James B. Comey, and the emails, will be our focus next week. In other weeks, we'll focus on the various ways Candidate Clinton got "defined" as corrupt and dishonest in the past few years. We'll recall the various ways Candidate Trump got a pass on those same themes, with a giant assist from corporate stars like our own Cantinflas, Rachel Maddow.

Alas! We'll also venture back through the years, examining the ways our ineptitude and sloth got started. This brings us back to the recent columns in which Krugman, as is his wont, got it very much right.

The defining of Candidate Clinton didn't start this July. It didn't start this year, or in this election cycle.

On the national level, the defining of Candidate Clinton started in 1992. Relentlessly, we liberals have agreed to enable this process, or even to help it along.

On three occasions since Labor Day, Krugman made a belated attempt to note this remarkable history. His attempts came much too late, of course. But we'll note them today all the same, for a particular reason.

On three occasions since Labor Day, Krugman tied the press corps' conduct toward Candidate Clinton to its earlier conduct toward a previous Democratic nominee. Even though his comments were fleeting, he was right every time.

Below, you see his first statement of this theme. Accurate headline included:
KRUGMAN (9/5/16): Clinton Gets Gored

Americans of a certain age who follow politics and policy closely still have vivid memories of the 2000 election
—bad memories, and not just because the man who lost the popular vote somehow ended up in office. For the campaign leading up to that end game was nightmarish too.

You see, one candidate, George W. Bush, was dishonest in a way that was unprecedented in U.S. politics. Most notably, he proposed big tax cuts for the rich while insisting, in raw denial of arithmetic, that they were targeted for the middle class. These campaign lies presaged what would happen during his administration—an administration that, let us not forget, took America to war on false pretenses.

Yet throughout the campaign most media coverage gave the impression that Mr. Bush was a bluff, straightforward guy, while portraying Al Gore—whose policy proposals added up, and whose critiques of the Bush plan were completely accurate—as slippery and dishonest. Mr. Gore's mendacity was supposedly demonstrated by trivial anecdotes, none significant, some of them simply false. No, he never claimed to have invented the internet. But the image stuck.

And right now I and many others have the sick, sinking feeling that it's happening again.
Guess what, dumb-asses? It was happening again! In the end, it produced the same result.

We're revisiting this for a reason. Pardon us while we quickly record Krugman's other statements:
KRUGMAN (9/30/16): [A]s recently as August Mrs. Clinton held a commanding lead. Then her polls went into a swoon.
What happened? Did she make some huge campaign blunders?

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

Meanwhile, her opponent's genuine scandals and various grotesqueries were downplayed or whitewashed; but as Jonathan Chait of New York magazine says, the normalization of Donald Trump was probably less important than the abnormalization of Hillary Clinton.

KRUGMAN (10/21/16): Hillary Clinton is a terrible candidate. Hey, that's what pundits have been saying ever since this endless campaign began. You have to go back to Al Gore in 2000 to find a politician who faced as much jeering from the news media, over everything from claims of dishonesty (which usually turn out to be based on nothing) to matters of personal style.
We agree with Krugman's assessment on September 30. ("The normalization of Trump was probably less important than the abnormalization of Clinton.")

On October 21, though, he offered this assessment: "Mrs. Clinton won the Democratic nomination fairly easily, and now, having pummeled her opponent in three successive debates, is an overwhelming favorite to win in November, probably by a wide margin."

As you may have heard, that didn't exactly work out.

We've requoted Krugman for a reason. When he recalled the mainstream press corps' earlier war against Candidate Gore, he was taking the longer view of what happened this month. When we discuss Comey the God next week—inevitably, Rachel ignored what he did!—we'll be taking a shorter view of the process.

That said, Krugman was discussing a very important fact. The "abnormalization" of Candidate Clinton was accomplished through the repeated pimping of certain themes over the course of twenty-five years. In part, this "defining" of Clinton was fueled by Comey this year. In part, it was fueled by the earlier media wars which were aimed at her husband, then at Candidate Gore.

All across the liberal landscape, career liberals took a pass on that longer, destructive series of wars. Quite correctly, Krugman tried to evoke the war against Gore in three citations this fall. By way of contrast, we began discussing that war in March 1999. We began discussing that war the week that war began!

We were right about that war in real time, about the war which continued this year. We mention that to suggest that you listen to what we'll be telling you now. To suggest that you listen to someone who was right about this from the start.

We have no illusions, of course. Our tribe has made one point quite clear—we treasure and prize our right to be clueless. We treasure our tribal hauteur.

Our identity very much turns on the way we look down on The Others. When this sense of superiority is mixed with our trademark dumbness, it tends to produce a highly poisonous brew.

Trump voters don't have to "imagine" these things. Everyone can see these phenomena. Everyone but Us, that is. We're the world's most self-impressed losers.