How blacks view weiner, plus alleged drops in scores!

SATURDAY, AUGUST 10, 2013

The end to a very poor week: In our view, the New York Times had a very poor week. Two final observations:

Apparently, fifteen op-ed columns about Anthony Weiner weren’t quite enough. On Friday, the Times published this front-page news report about the man who won’t be mayor.

Subject: How do black voters feel about weiner? Kate Taylor was called in to thrash this question, on the paper's front page.

The inanity of this coverage ought to be obvious. Have any actual issues emerged from the mayoral race? Not that we’re aware of! But then, we read the Times.

Also notable was Thursday’s editorial about New York City’s new test scores. As they began, the editors made a thunderous and truly remarkable set of claims:
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORAL (8/10/13): Over the last decade or so, most states deceived the public about the dismal quality of public schools by adopting pathetically weak learning standards that made children appear better prepared than they actually were. Not surprisingly, when states like Kentucky dropped the charade and embraced more challenging standards, scores dropped precipitously.

That same scenario is playing out in New York State, which, this week, released the first round of scores from tests linked to the rigorous Common Core learning standards, which have been adopted by all but a handful of states.
A remarkable trio of claims is made in that opening sentence. According to the editors, “most states” have done the following in recent years, including, it would seem, the state of New York:

Most states have adopted pathetically weak “learning standards.” In this way, those states have deceived the public about the dismal quality of their public schools.

As is often the case at the Times, it isn’t quite clear what the editors mean. For example, what do they mean by the murky phrase, “learning standards?”

As they thunder, do the editors mean that these states adopted pathetically weak curricula for the various grades, thus setting instructional goals which were easy to reach? Or is it possible that these states had perfectly good curricula but then constructed pathetically easy statewide tests?

Whatever! The editors make a remarkable barrel of thunderous charges, a hallmark of the Rosenthal era. Forgive us if we get the sense that these very loud people may not quite know what they’re talking about, even as they bring all that thunder.

As the editors continue, they extend the sense of confusion which suffused their paper’s reporting of these new test scores, which came from a brand new set of statewide tests.

“Since the new tests require different and stronger skills than the old ones, the state has discouraged direct comparisons of results from the two,” the editors write at one point. Actually, the state has noted that you can’t make such comparisons in any meaningful way, a different point which this thundering herd doesn’t quite seem to get:
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL: The new scores were bound to be controversial in New York City thanks to the mayoral race. Some candidates are trying to curry favor with the teachers’ union, which is taking a scorched-earth approach to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s educational policies.

Some candidates are looking for ways to blame Mr. Bloomberg for the drop in scores, even though the tests are overseen and managed by the state, and even though the city experienced less of a decline in scores than the state as a whole.
“Some candidates are looking for ways to blame Mr. Bloomberg for the drop in scores?” Pathetically, that seems to be true, but the editors don't seem to understand the key point—no one can be blamed “for the drop in the scores,” since there hasn’t been any “drop in scores” in any meaningful sense.

There is no way to compare this year’s passing rates to last year’s passing rates, since they emerged from completely different tests. That is a bone simple point, but the editors don’t quite seem to get it. Despite this, they demand that teachers improve the children’s reasoning skills!

(“The Common Core standards are aimed at helping children acquire sophisticated reasoning skills,” the editors note. Unsophisticated journalists, why not try healing thyselves?)

Dating back to the Gail Collins era, this board has done some horrible work with topics of this type. As the state of New York’s statewide tests got easier, driving passing rates up, they failed to discern what was happening, even when New York City teachers told them. When the problem was finally acknowledged at the highest levels, they joined their pitiful newspaper’s news division in failing to explain what had actually happened.

Now, they continue to thunder. They make sweeping claims about the nation’s schools, whose performance seems to have improved substantially in the period they are discussing. And they they continue to obscure the basic logic of this particular incident.

On line, readers are invited to “Meet The New York Times’s Editorial Board.” If you click the link you're offered, you will see bios of the “17 journalists with wide-ranging areas of expertise” who comprise this board.

Only one of the seventeen is said to have “expertise” in education. (He also seems to boast expertise in criminal justice and economics!) Is that claim about education justified? Here’s what his bio looks like:
Brent Staples, Education, Criminal Justice, Economics
Brent Staples joined The Times editorial board in 1990. His editorials and essays are included in dozens of college readers throughout the United States and abroad. Before joining the editorial page, he served as an editor of The New York Times Book Review and an assistant editor for metropolitan news. Mr. Staples holds a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Chicago and is author of "Parallel Time," a memoir, which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award.
Does Staples have expertise in education? There’s no sign that he ever covered education, or that he knows any more about the topic that your neighbor’s pet duck.

That editorial was loud and unintelligent. When it comes to the public schools, this highly self-impressed board has been and remains a long-running joke—a long-running public disgrace

The Times is a fatuous, low-IQ paper. Powerful forces in our culture work to obscure that key fact.

30 comments:

  1. "On line, readers are invited to “Meet The New York Times’s Editorial Board.” If you click the link you're offered, you will see bios of the “17 journalists with wide-ranging areas of expertise” who comprise this board.
    Only one of the seventeen is said to have “expertise” in education. (He also seems to boast expertise in criminal justice and economics!) Is that claim about education justified?"

    >>> it could be that the editorial board needs more education expertise. but i prefer an even simpler explanation. although none of the board seem to have irish type names, dowd and collins may have infected them with "death in life". . . . they are now like the walking dead, zombified, and so unconcerned about the up and coming, or likely any form of societal renewal.

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    1. Honestly, you're just not that clever.

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    2. I read this comment twice to find if I missed something the first time, but I have no idea what the comment represents other the being sarcastic.

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  2. It matters that the public perceives education as a failing enterprise. For some reason, if the schools are doing poorly, that seems to be an excuse to pay teachers less and defund education from K-12 and at the college level, turn schools over to profit-making and charter organizations, and pretend that education is no longer necessary to a better life in our society. I think there is a direct connection between the illogic of providing fewer resources to a supposedly failing education system and the illogic shown by editors of the NY Times and elsewhere. When nothing people say makes sense anymore, then any proposal is possible and our politicians cannot be held accountable for anything they do. When the public gives up trying to think clearly, those in power win. What better way to accomplish that than defunding the institutions charged with teaching children how to reason?

    If entrenched elites don't want us to think clearly, can individuals claim that ability despite attempts to muddle them? The silliness of our local trolls illustrate the purpose served by equally silly editorial statements and confusing news articles. A 1984-style bureaucracy could effectively ensure control of people by seeding popular discourse with trolls expressing nonsensical and garbled opinion, derailing any coherent discussion on any important topic. I wish the internet community could figure out what to do about trolls besides close moderation.

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    1. An interesting and important comment, but as for trolls what can easily be done is to simply stop them from posting and I really, really wish Bob Somerby would do just that.

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    2. AnonymousAugust 10, 2013 at 12:15 PM says,

      "I wish the internet community could figure out what to do about trolls besides close moderation."

      >>> if youre referring to my comment here, i just wont have you slyly disagreeing with bobs theories by slagging me off, *while i support them*, without standing up on my hind legs and shining a light on what youre really doing.

      but as to what to do with whoever you deem a troll, my thought would be that as a start you could eliminate any people who are not really alive anyway, those who exhibit "death in life". but as i see it, the problem would be how exactly to determine who has the malady. you could probably safely get rid of all the americans with irish catholic heritage. nobiody will stand up for an inherently unpatriotic group like that.

      but then you have two other problems. what about the those not of irish catholic heritage who have been infected by them and which group then becomes the white scapegaot in america?

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    3. Yes, a moronic troll who can and should be easily gotten rid of and would be on other blogs. The nice thing is that trolls are less and less tolerated on blogs. Really a sickness there.

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    4. Zombis are the quintessential bully, and trolls are the Internet version of bullies. Trolls are the Walking Dead.

      Troll don't just wish you to know that they are trolls, they'll positively turn themselves into babbling idiots dropping hints that they're trolls, They'll drop little tidbits as to multiple identities, their purpose ("Made ya blink!"), and what a doofus they've made of you.

      Since they don't have a physical presence to use for intimidation these are their methods of punishing you for not being carbon copies of ...well...them.

      Oh, they'll tell themselves that they troll for the cause of social justice....getting out the truth...exposing enemies (anyone who doesn't walk the line) and they believe it. In fact they believe it to the point that civil concepts such as "agreeing to disagree", honesty, and "live and let live" are examples of compromise and relativism to them.

      This they must do (they tell themselves) in order to fight for the good.

      What they really are is petty tyrants and petulant bullies.

      They truly are the Undead. Animated only by their extreme narcissism and roiling rage.

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    5. @student

      Really, not that clever.

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    6. CeceliaMc,

      You seem to know quite a bit about trolls, not only how to spot them, but also what they think: you know what they wish, their purpose in trolling, what they tell themselves about their activities, what they presume about compromise and relativism, how they're animated by narcissism and rage.

      Pretty impressive. How do you do that? I'm assuming we have the same definition of troll -- someone online who baits you into discussion but not in good faith: said troll has no argument to make or position to defend, in other words just a provocateur.)

      "Since the don't have a physical presence," then they can't really be bullies, now can they? A bully will beat you up and take your lunch money, which is hard to ignore. A troll, not so much. On one site I've frequented, regular commenters post recipes for pie in response to a troll; on another, they give urls to pictures of kittens.

      When a troll says "Made ya blink!" who's the bigger doofus, you or the troll? How hard is it to make someone "blink" in a medium that blocks inflection, tone, and body language? People have all sorts of boring, pointless hobbies. I know people who play golf. When they try to talk to me about their handicaps, I hand them a postcard with a picture of a kitten dressed up as a cowboy. On the back, I've printed a recipe for peach pie.

      You can deal with trolls without imputing to them powers they don't have: just don't feed them.

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    7. ceceliamc, you have things backwards, at least to the extent you are referring to me in your meditation on trolls. for example ive used multiple identities but never with the intent to conceal my identity, which i could obviously have done. ive made a point of making my style very distinctive to compensate for my name changes, so anyone who regularly read the comments would know that it was 'me'. and I never post as anonymous or in any different style to conceal my identity. also, i only use the one name per day -- the same name on all articles of that day. do you always post as ceceliamc?

      and another thing, you address me indirectly or directly far more than i do you. im actually very leery of engaging you because of the win at all costs, dishonest and often ambiguous nature of your arguments

      i was away from this site between a couple weeks ago and just after pres. obama was reelected, so i hesitate to speak authoritatively for those who i considered to be fellow liberal commenters to this site, but from the beginning of last year to november of last year they always struck me as the ones who were by far the more mannerly of the commentators here, including myself.


      you and your fellow conservatives here much more often resort to the ad hominem and straw man arguments. as another commenter on this thread indicated by other words, you mind-read, and i would say you do so more than any other commenter i have read at this blogs comment section. ive called you on it several times in the past when youve done it to me. but it seems to me you really do believe you are clairvoyant. talk about “extreme narcissism and roiling rage.”


      ***imo you are projecting yiour own psychological hangups onto those you disagree with it.***

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    8. First, DavidinCA on how to report on race; now, lowercase guy on avoiding mindreading!

      It truly does beggar the imagination.

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    9. The best thing to do about the troll problem, and it isn't a solution, is to either ignore them or ridicule them, but not to let them get you off-track from what you wanted to discuss about Somerby's post. Anyway, otherwise a great comment, it nicely sums up the point of dailyhowler.

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    10. You've accused me of being something I'm not, Student. Let me tell you what else I am not.

      What I'm not is someone who came here to demand that the guy who pays the bills, blog on the subjects I wish him to address, and from the standpoint I want them addressed.

      What I'm not is someone who coyly pretends to find the blogger's heartfelt opinions; articulately argued. solidly referenced to facts, and thoughtfully illustrated by literary analogy, to be the incongruent ranting of a crank.

      What I am not is dishonest and ambiguous, as you accuse me of being.

      What I am not is a stereotype, and that would be enough to count as ambiguity to you.

      What I am is a conservative, a real one, rather than the people here you just coyly referenced as being my "fellow conservatives" because they are people who agree with Somerby's conclusions.

      I copped to my political stance from jump, and have expressly disagreed with Somerby's implications on the cultural and political relevance of the Weiner and Clinton scandals.

      Despite this, I have been called a Somerby sycophant, and now-dishonest snd ambiguous!

      You, on the other hand, have come here and offered up coy bon mots on the blogger's literary allusion to Dubliners, and to his references to an Irish-Catholic ethos. All in the non-ad-homonym, non-strawman, non-troll effort to insist that he realize that it's more important for him to be warring against non-libs, than shooting the shit on the general state of affairs. Anything other than partisan war, makes him an irrelevant crank who is wasting his talents by not focusing solely on the people you hate.

      Of course you've waged this war against under other screen names. And of course, you've made an effort to reveal that they are all really YOU. Trolls generally do, and they often do it even when at their sock puppet or strawman sock puppet thespian best. How else could they insure that we see their creative brilliance.

      Student, common sense is often the most obvious thing in the world, and far from it being pernicious or squelching, it's common sense that you leave a blog that has priorities other than your own. Not opinions that differ from yours, but priorities and focus that do.

      You and who you say you consider to be your "fellow liberal commenters at this site" won't though. You'll stay and spend time deriding the unworthiness of it all. You'll stay and ridicule the crank blogger for not writing about your druthers in the manner you wish.

      That is what makes you a bully. That is what makes you a troll.








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    11. Dead Rat, oh it's not at all hard to profile the psychology of trolls. It's quite easy, particularly when you've had the honor of seeing them in action on smaller blogs like this. It doesn't take mind-reading or tarot cards, and is worth the time and the effort of anyone who engages others on a comment board.

      To suggest that it requires a physical presence to bully someone is nonsense. That would disallow any notion of emotional duress in the non-ether world.

      The "made you blink" reference is an analogy. No, trolls don't literary engage in blinking contests, but they do use the psychological warfare of sock puppets and strawman sock puppets in order to reek chaos on a blog. They do make sincere commenters "blink".

      As for not feeding trolls, that generally good advice, but it's also pertinent to call them out on occasion. In the midst of snark, recriminations ('you used to be great...'), and insults (now you're a crank), it's important to point out just what is being demanded of the target blogger and the methods that are being used.

      I understand and have admired your adherence to and facility for unemotional and fact based analysis. However, that shouldn't be so much a calling card that it prevents you from acknowledging abstractions and the rational judgments and conclusions we make about people with particular behaviors.

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    12. CeceliaMc,

      I don't mean to suggest that it's difficult to psychoanalyze trolls. As you point out, it's quite easy. It's just impossible to do with any certainty and accuracy. At best you're guessing and at worst you're projecting. It's hard enough to know people's intent and motivation when they're standing in front of you.

      I don't mean to suggest that all bullying is physical. As you point out, there's such a thing as emotional duress. But that requires some emotional attachment or at least dependency on the abuser. I think it a mistake to cede that kind of power to a cyberpresence.

      I don' t mean to suggest that unemotional, fact-based analysis is the only tool for reaching conclusions about people with particular behaviors. Those who study these things tell us that a surprisingly large percentage of the communication in face-to-face dialog is nonverbal. But all we've got here are words. Now nobody loves a little snark, recrimination, and insult as much as I do, but if that's all there is, why engage? Unlike in the real world, in cyberspace, the anonymous insulter has only the power granted by the anonymous insulted.

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  3. The New York Times is parochial. They see the world as centered around New York. It's part of the reason their education reporting and opinion is so incredibly horrible. They continue to make these ridiculous overly broad claims about how "public schools" are dismal, and they adopt an idiotic, boilerplate "unions versus reformers" narrative even when it makes absolutely no sense. In HUGE parts of the country, there are no real teachers unions. Whoever is opposing "reform" in the south or Texas, for example, it isn't "teachers unions" because they don't HAVE teachers unions in the south and Texas, they have powerless "professional associations". Facts don't matter! To the NYTimes, whether we're talking about Brooklyn or Tennessee, it's always those darn teachers unions!
    The New York Times starts to make sense when you realize it isn't really a national paper. They simply take what happens in New York and lay that over the rest of the country. The funniest part of the whole thing is, this narrow view passes for sophistication and savvy.
    The Washington Post does a better job on education and the Washington Post was OWNED by a for-profit education company. It's incredible, really.

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    1. "The New York Times is parochial. They see the world as centered around New York."

      [...]

      "The New York Times starts to make sense when you realize it isn't really a national paper. They simply take what happens in New York and lay that over the rest of the country."

      >>> interesting take.

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  4. Bob makes several important points in this post. Regarding the front page article on how blacks feel about Weiner, that's laziness, typical not only of media but of many academics. If they don't know what else to do, they simply break out results by ethnic group, and voila they have a front page story or an academic publication, as the case may be.

    This Times story is even lazier than normal. First of all, it merely reports the result of a survey, the easiest news to gather. Then, it looks only a one ethnic group. Blacks are not even the largest minority. Hispanics are 16.9% nationwide, blacks are 13.1% and Asians are 5.1%. If they're going to look at minority voters, why not look at all of them?

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    1. David,

      You're not "wrong" -- But it really is HILARIOUS to read you giving advice on how to report on racial matters, not one week after your own farcical attempt to characterize "black" response to the Martin/Zimmerman tragedy.

      Do you really have no humility at all, no recognition of your own very compromised authority to speak on such matters?

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  5. Bob,
    I read Kate Taylor's report in Thursdays NYTimes titled "Among Blacks, Spitzer and Weiner Find a More Forgiving Crowd"-(8/8/13)-and posted the following comment:

    Congratulations to your reporter and her editors:
    "..a crowd of men and women still picking at their breakfast of fried chicken, sausage, eggs and grits...".

    Not an audience but a "crowd". Not eating breakfast but "picking" at "..fried chicken, sausage, eggs and grits".
    You lead your readers to exactly where you want them to go.
    Nice.

    You cite polls that show (roughly) 6 of 10 white voters do not support Weiner or Spitzer. The same polls show (roughly) 4 of 10 black voters are not supportive of either candidate. Not close to unanimous in either case.

    What are the percentiles for Jewish voters? Latinos? Italians? Irish? Asians?

    Black voters have forgiven people such as George Wallace and Strom Thurman who both started their political careers with a malevolent hatred of black people.
    A large number of Jews have supported black people in their drive for equality.
    A shared history of enslavement perhaps.

    I am a black New Yorker who will NOT vote for either Spitzer or Weiner. But your patronizing, disgraceful report is repugnant.

    The NYTimes a "great" newspaper? Mediocre is a better adjective.

    My comment was not published.

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    1. Anonymous writes:

      >>>>>Black voters have forgiven people such as George Wallace and Strom Thurman who both started their political careers with a malevolent hatred of black people.<<<<<

      I think Wikipedia fairly sums it up as to what became of his plans to lead a broad based populist movement which Wallace started with when he first went into politics:

      >>>>>Failed run for governor

      In 1958, Wallace was defeated by John Malcolm Patterson in Alabama's Democratic gubernatorial primary election. At the time the primary was the decisive election; the general election was then a mere formality. This was a political crossroads for Wallace. Patterson ran with the support of the Ku Klux Klan, an organization Wallace had spoken against, while Wallace was endorsed by the NAACP. After the election, aide Seymore Trammell recalled Wallace saying, "Seymore, you know why I lost that governor's race?... I was outn[****]red by John Patterson. And I'll tell you here and now, I will never be outn[****]red again."

      In the wake of his defeat, Wallace "made a Faustian bargain," said Emory University professor Dan Carter. "In order to survive and get ahead politically in the 1960s, he sold his soul to the devil on race."
      <<<<<

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    2. Anonymous at 5:34P,

      Perhaps I'm being obtuse, but what are your objections to Taylor's wording? Is crowd pejorative? I took it to mean that the place was packed. Is there a slight in saying "picking" instead of eating? Doesn't that mean that breakfast was about over, and the speeches were about to begin? Or is the recitation of the menu offensive? Where was this language supposed to take me?

      Between black and white voters, there's a 20% gap in the approval rating of the two candidates. Why isn't that a story? And what makes the treatment patronizing, disgraceful, and repugnant?

      FWIW, I think "mediocre" is a higher grade than the NYT deserves.

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  6. Poo Poo Platter (Bad Week in the Howling Land)

    I'll stick with the first NYT article pooh poohed here, and start by acknowledging Mr. Somerby was right, the
    piece was pathetic. I'm touching on it not for any of the reasons Mr. Somerby cites in his short, dismissive
    treatment, but for what it displays about the intellectual paralysis of Mr. Somerby and his tendency to
    demonstrate this by practicing exactly that he deplores.

    The subject of the article, Mr. Somerby says, is how do black voters feel about Anthony Weiner, the man who won't be Mayor.

    Bob once again practices the art of disappearing facts.

    The article was about how and why black voters seem, based on polls, to have a different attitude toward both Anthony Wiener and Eliot Spitzer. In fact Mr. Spitzer is the lead in the article and he has been hit with vanishing cream by Somerby. And, based on polls, Mr. Spitzer might get elected Comptroller.

    Why would Mr. Spitzer be given the hook? Because he doesn't fit the narrative..

    How difficult would it have been to briefly add Spitzer's name to the subject sentence. Not difficult at all, but it wouldn't fit with the past and present focus here on the notion that covering Weiner is a waste of time and proof the NYT is in the ditch like Dubliners of a century past.

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  7. I'm waiting to see if Bob comments on the flap over the Obama rodeo clown at the Missouri State Fair. Probably won't know about it unless someone on MSNBC or the New York Times does something with the story, since that's where Bob seems to point his ammunition these days.

    And of course, it will be to say, "There go those liberals using the 'R' word again!" as he recalls all the mean things said about Gore in 2000.

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