BREAKING: Rational animal strikes again!

FRIDAY, JANUARY 19, 2018

The things you read in the Times:
In hard copy, this morning's New York Times op-ed page features a column, live and direct from London, written by Michael Goldfarb, a 67-year-old NPR alumnus.

There's no distinction so basic and obvious that New York Times editors are able to recognize it. Here's how Goldfarb starts:
GOLDFARB (1/19/18): Well, it’s official. He isn’t crazy. “I’ve found no reason whatsoever to think the president has any issues whatsoever with his thought processes,” Dr. Ronny L. Jackson, the rear admiral who conducted President Trump’s physical, said this week.

That comes as no surprise to me. Because if you observe him through the filter of class, rather than the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders frame, you can reach some very different—and I think more apposite—conclusions.
Truly, that's amazing. The tests undergone by Donald J. Trump had nothing to do with the question of whether he's "crazy." Less colorfully, they had nothing to do with the types of diagnoses found in the DSM.

Does Goldfarb really not understand that? How about the editor who decided to publish this tripe?

Goldfarb goes on to spout and fume, in baldly unintelligent ways, about his own diagnosis of Trump. He diagnoses Trump as simply "a man of his class—the nouveau-riche, country-club class." Nailing down his diagnosis, Goldfarb offers two anecdotes about people he's met at country clubs. One anecdote comes from 1979, one from recent years.

This column is spectacularly stupid. Amazingly, it should come as no surprise that the New York Times didn't notice.

Is Donald J. Trump "a man of his class?" Yes, he almost certainly is, and that may explain some of his attitudes, beliefs and behaviors.

That said, it's possible for two different things to be true at one time. Trump could be "a man of his class," and he could have some sort of "mental illness" or psychiatric disorder.

Goldfarb seems too dumb to understand this. The New York Times didn't notice.

As Goldfarb ends this pitiful column, he makes an amazingly common plea. He begs us to please avoid discussing Trump's possible disorders. This is the way he ends:
GOLDFARB: As Year 2 of the Trump regime begins, it would probably be a good idea for everyone to stop looking for grand psychiatric theories about what makes Mr. Trump tick—it is insulting to people who suffer from real mental illness.

Those who want to resist Mr. Trump should accept that America is being governed by a country-club bore, backed up by other members of the club—a class that doesn’t worry that it will suffer if he makes a mistake.
Please stop discussing this possibility, Goldfarb dumbly says. He tells us that Trump doesn't "suffer from real mental illness," without attempting to tell us how he can possibly know that.

Is Donald J. Trump "a country-club bore?" In part, we'd say he surely is.

Then again, it takes one to know one, several young analysts said. If we lived in a rational world, it would be stunning to think that the New York Times would publish such drivel as this.

We live in a deeply un-rational world. Our floundering species is deeply not sharp. As our culture continues to crash and burns, we strongly advise you to view the world through this award-winning lens.

BREAKING: Drum explains why GOP needs Dem votes!

FRIDAY, JANUARY 19, 2018

Joins attack on Maddow:
Just exactly as we planned, the one-two punch prevailed.

Yesterday, we had a nervous breakdown about one of Rachel Maddow's latest groaners. Wednesday night, she started her true crime entertainment program as shown below:
MADDOW (1/17/18): It is now officially 51 hours until the federal government shuts down. The Republican Party controls the House and the Senate and the White House, so it is a little hard to believe that they, amongst themselves, cannot come up with a way to keep the lights on, but not for the first time in the past year.

We are once again on the brink of the shutdown of the federal government, because, even though they mathematically don't need a single vote from a single Democrat to do it, Republicans appear to, at least at this point, they appear to not be able to agree amongst themselves on a plan to keep the government funded past Friday, again. So we are on the brink of that again.
Say what? Republicans "mathematically don't need a single vote from a single Democrat" to avoid the government shutdown? Thoughtfully, we asked how Maddow, and her staff of thousands, had managed to come up with that.

Roughly three hours later, along came Drum to explain! This is why the GOP needs 60 votes in the Senate, though they only have 51:
DRUM (1/18/18): [A]ppropriations are normally handled via reconciliation, which allows the majority party to pass them with only 51 votes. This year, however, Republicans decided to use the 2017 reconciliation bill for repealing Obamacare and the 2018 reconciliation bill for passing their tax bill. So there’s nothing left, and that means they need 60 votes in the Senate.

This is the only reason they have to negotiate with Democrats in the first place. Their top priorities were taking away health insurance from poor people and giving a big tax cut to corporations and the rich. So now they’re stuck, and they’ve got a president who changes his mind so frequently that nobody can figure out what kind of deal he’d support anyway.
Even Drum didn't explain why Republicans don't do the tax bill and the currently needed appropriation (the "continuing resolution") under reconciliation, thereby requiring just 51 votes. Still and all, we liked the way he joined the attack on Maddow, to whom we'll return on the morrow.

That's right! Tomorrow, we promise to take you through the first five minutes of Wednesday night's show, where Maddow put her twin loves on display—her love of talking about herself, plus her love of playing tape of herself from some previous show.

Even for Maddow, we thought it was a rare display. Also featured: Maddow's transparently ridiculous claims about the way she simply hates discussing matters involving sex! In fairness to Maddow, this is the sort of thing which frequently happens when people get paid way too much and become massively famous.

For now, one additional service:

Above, we've shown you what Maddow said Wednesday night. Below, you see what she said last night, without any intermediate explanation:
MADDOW (1/18/18): Republicans control the White House, and the House and Senate. That's why it's weird we might have a government shutdown. But to pass any kind of spending bill, they do need 60 votes in the Senate. There's only 51 Republican senators.
It went on from there, with Maddow explicitly saying that the GOP would actually need fourteen Democratic votes. But if you get your news from Maddow's show, you heard the one thing Wednesday night, then you heard the contradiction one night later.

No intermediate explanation! This is odd, because as we've all been told a million times, this particular cable star loves correcting herself.

This is a failing of our corporate system more than a failing of Maddow. Wealth and fame are dangerous substances. Few people escape the maws of "cable news" intact.

SEGREGATE THIS: The New York Times does Tuscaloosa!

FRIDAY, JANUARY 19, 2018

Part 4—The 15 percent solution:
How about it? Is it true, what that recent Vox report said about These Schools Today!

Is it true that "schools today are re-segregating?" Is it true that "schools in the South are as segregated now as they were" in 1968?

If you made us give you a yes or no answer, we'd have to go with "no." If you wanted to think about what's being said, we'd recommend that we drop the fraught term "segregation" in favor of terms like "racial imbalance."

We'd also suggest that we acknowledge an obvious point. With America's student population now less than 50 percent white, there's no way to create the liberal world's apparent Eden, in which black kids get to go to school with oodles of so-called white kids.

There's just no way to do that. And no, you can't produce majority-white public schools in districts whose frequently adorable kids present like this, so-called racially speaking:
Student population, Durham Public Schools
African-American: 46.7%
Hispanic/Latino: 30.1%
White: 18.6%
Multiracial: 2.8%
Asian: 2.3%
That's the current alignment in that North Carolina district. Below, we'll show you the breakdown in New York City, where every school would be "segregated," according to Vox, if its kids were evenly distributed according to their so-called race.

In theory, is "racial exposure" a good thing? In theory, it certainly is.

In theory, good journalism is desirable too, but it can't be based on semantic cons and on the practice of disappearing essential data. Except as an example of tribal cheerleading, we thought the Vox piece was grossly misleading and quite unfortunate.

That said:

Perhaps for those very reasons, Chang's piece in Vox was quickly hailed by the New York Times. We refer to this series of tweets by Nikole Hannah-Jones, an award-winning journalist who now writes for the Times.

In April 2014, Hannah-Jones wrote a valuable, detailed report for ProPublica about the modern history of the Tuscaloosa City Schools. Her 10,000-word report was also published by The Atlantic. Its headline was perhaps exciting, eye-catching:
"Segregation Now"
If you care about topics like this, you should definitely read Hannah-Jones' report. Warning! We thought her detailed, nuanced history was absolutely fascinating. At the same time, we saw no sign that she has any real understanding of instructional issues for low-income kids from ow-literacy background who may be "years behind" their educationally advantaged peers.

Beyond that, we'd advise staying away from historically fraught terms like "segregation." In the present day, the term is almost guaranteed to produce more heat than light.

With those disclaimers, we strongly recommend Hannah-Jones' detailed report. That said, we thought she had both thumbs on the scale when we read her summary of that report on page A3 of last Thursday's hard-copy Times, perhaps the dumbest current page in all of American journalism.

It seemed to us that Hannah-Jones was picking and choosing from her own report as she praised Chang's effort. Below, you see the way her tweets appeared, after editing, on the Times' hard-copy A3:
HANNAH-JONES (1/11/18): This is such important work. I’ve long said that school attendance zone lines are as heavily gerrymandered as electoral districts. Someone sits down with a demographic map and draws these lines, more often than not to make schools more segregated, not less.

We showed this when I wrote Segregation Now for ProPublica. Tuscaloosa officials created an enirely black feeder system of schools, and blamed the all-black high school on residential segregation.

Except we asked for the attendance zone maps and then Jeff Larson showed that the high school was in an integrated neighborhood—but its noncontiguous attendance zone was drawn entirely around the black and poorest part of the city.

In fact, the white kids who lived near Tuscaloosa’s Central High were zoned to the most heavily white high school outside of their neighborhood. Some went to Central to catch a bus to the whiter school in order to avoid their “neighborhood” school.

When segregation persists no matter the conditions on the ground—in segregated communities, in integrated communities, with busing, without busing—we must admit that schools are segregated because people with power want it that way. THIS IS INTENTIONAL.
In that way, Hannah-Jones summarized the story she told in "Segregation Now." But uh-oh! As Chang left out the most basic facts about our nation's changing student demographics, we thought Hannah-Jones left out a great deal of the information from her 2014 report.

For starters, did Tuscaloosa officials create an "all-black high school" (Central High) in a way which was INTENTIONAL?

Based on Hannah-Jones' detailed report, it seems they plainly did, and that no one is saying different. But some of those officials were black, and last week's summary omits the reasons Hannah-Jones reported for their action.

Alas! The gruesome "world the slaveholders made" continues to haunt our dreams and decisions today! In ways Hannah-Jones described in detail, Tuscaloosa officials had long been looking for a way to keep their school system from becoming all black.

Ever since court-ordered desegregation, the city had been operating a single, both-races high school (Central High), along with three single-grade, both-races middle schools. From Grade 6 through Grade 12, there had been only one public school a Tuscaloosa child could attend. In this way, the system had been thoroughly integrated, in law and in fact, from the sixth grade on.

Perhaps you can guess what happened. As time went by, "white flight" was taking students out of the district. (Presumably, so did middle-class black flight. Today, the suburban Tuscaloosa County Schools operate a bevy of high schools with admirable black-white racial balance.)

At any rate, white flight was hitting the Tuscaloosa City Schools hard. In the passage shown below, Hannah-Jones described some of the thinking which led to the creation of the attendance zones which made Central High all-black and heavily low-income:
HANNAH-JONES (4/16/14): White students once accounted for a majority of the Tuscaloosa school district's students. But by the mid-1990s, they made up less than a third. Total enrollment had dropped from 13,500 in 1969 to 10,300 in 1995. Many white parents had decided to send their children to nearly all-white private schools or to move across the city line to access the heavily white Tuscaloosa County Schools.

Tuscaloosa’s business leaders and elected officials had witnessed the transformation of other southern cities after their school districts had reached a tipping point—the point at which white parents become unsettled by the rising share of black students in a school, and pull their children from the school en masse. School districts in cities such as Birmingham and Richmond had seen their integration efforts largely mooted: just about all the white students had left. As white families had moved out to the suburbs, eroding the tax base, both the schools and the cities themselves had suffered. Many officials in Tuscaloosa obsessed about the rippling consequences of continued white flight. “Money follows kids, and the loss of white students was very, very critical,” said Shelley Jones, who is white and served as a school-board member in the 1990s, and later as the chair.
According to Hannah-Jones' original report, school districts in cities like Richmond had become all black. For better or worse, every black child in those cities was thereby attending a school which was completely "segregated," if that's the term we like.

According to Hannah-Jones' original report, city officials were trying to keep that from happening in Tuscaloosa. They proceeded to make decisions which were flat-out realpolitik.

You may or may not agree with the decisions they made, but we don't think it's helpful or intelligent to omit the punishing context in which those decisions were made. You can read about those decisions in Hannah-Jones' detailed report.

Beyond that, it seemed to us that a reader might get a distorted idea from Hannah-Jones' reference last week to the way "the white kids who lived near Tuscaloosa’s Central High were zoned to the most heavily white high school outside of their neighborhood." (That refers to a zoning decision made in 2007.) In fact, Tuscaloosa created only two high schools other than Central High, and each of those schools was then, and remains today, majority black.

No white students were zoned or bused to majority-white high schools. No such schools were created. If we want to understand the actual world in which we actually live, we think that point is worth noting.

In her 2014 report, Hannah-Jones presented a detailed history of these decisions. (The successful attempt to secure a Mercedes-Benz plant for Tuscaloosa was also involved.) We think her history is highly instructive. We think her judgment is perhaps a bit faulty, in familiar ways, about various other matters, especially concerning instruction of kids from low-literacy backgrounds.

In our view, Hannah-Jones' original report was also weak in one other respect—her reliance on the word "segregation." In discussions of this type, the word produces enormous heat, perhaps not a whole lot of light.

Alas! Use of the word seems to make liberal adults feel morally pure; this seems to be one of the leading objectives of modern progressive journalism. On the down side, we think the nation's "minority" and low-income kids deserve better service from the adults who pretend to write about their interests and lives.

How silly can it sometimes get when progressive adults work from the "segregation now" mental framework? Consider the fascinating report Hannah-Jones wrote for the New York Times magazine in June 2016.

That piece was quite lengthy too; it too ran over 10,000 words. It was also semi-autobiographical. It appeared beneath this headline:
"Choosing a School for My Daughter in a Segregated City"
Hannah-Jones described the struggle she and her husband faced in picking a public school for their 4-year-old daughter to attend.

For today, consider only one part of Hannah-Jones' report. In this passage, she described the student demographics of New York City's public schools:
HANNAH-JONES (6/12/16): In a city where white children are only 15 percent of the more than one million public-school students, half of them are clustered in just 11 percent of the schools, which not coincidentally include many of the city’s top performers. Part of what makes those schools desirable to white parents, aside from the academics, is that they have some students of color, but not too many. This carefully curated integration, the kind that allows many white parents to boast that their children’s public schools look like the United Nations, comes at a steep cost for the rest of the city’s black and Latino children.

The New York City public-school system is 41 percent Latino, 27 percent black and 16 percent Asian. Three-quarters of all students are low-income. In 2014, the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles, released a report showing that New York City public schools are among the most segregated in the country. Black and Latino children here have become increasingly isolated, with 85 percent of black students and 75 percent of Latino students attending “intensely” segregated schools—schools that are less than 10 percent white.
Should public school students be "racially isolated?" Presumably, no—they should not. That said, this was Hannah-Jones' account of the city's student demographics:
Student population, New York City Public Schools
White kids: 15 percent
Black kids: 27 percent
Hispanic kids: 41 percent
Asian-American kids: 16 percent
Note the craziness to which we fall prey when we adopt the conceptual framework we progressive seem to adore:

If New York City waved a magic wand and created "racially balanced" schools, all its black kids would attend schools which were 15 percent white. (Warning! In fact, subsequent "white flight" would probably reduce that number a bit.)

Under current realities, fifteen percent would be the best we could do! But according to Hannah-Jones' lexicon, anything under ten percent would count as "intense segregation!"

(Note: Across the nation, Asian-Americans kids outperform white kids academically. But according to "segregation" jockeys, exposure to them doesn't help black kids at school! Only white kids matter. Everyone else is losing out if there aren't enough white kids around!)

Fourteen percent would be the best; ten percent would be heinous. That's the conceptual hall of mirrors we enter when progressive thought leaders feed our fantasies with traditional, street-fighting talk of "segregation now."

What should we do with our public schools? To be perfectly honest, we doubt that Chang and Hannah-Jones have even the slightest idea. That question takes us Beyond the Valley of Racial Balance into the realm of successful instruction. Modern progressives tend to churn the "segregation" numbers, then take an immediate powder.

They're boldly fighting "segregation;" beyond that, they say little else. To them, it's still 1968. Heroically, they're fighting the battle which existed when the student population was something like 90 percent white, when we didn't know how hard it would be to eliminate the achievement gaps which so gravely affect the interests of low-income kids.

Fifteen percent would be ideal. Ten percent would be awful! So it goes when progressive leaders build their lives and their careers around making us adults feel morally pure, just like it was in the day.

At any rate, you probably know what happened after that New York magazine piece, which didn't explain how to avoid "segregation" in a city with New York's demographics. Of course! After that New York magazine piece, Hannah-Jones was named a Rockefeller genius! In these slightly comical ways, our liberal elites continue to throw the nation's black kids down the drain and under the big yellow bus.

None of this will ever be mentioned on MSNBC. The corporate multimillionaire hosts on that shameless corporate channel don't give a fig about black kids. Nothing could be more clear.

A bit of irony: On the whole, we thought Hannah-Jones' history of Tuscaloosa was superb. That said, here's a bit of irony from the leading authority on her life:
Hannah-Jones grew up in Waterloo, Iowa, to father Milton Hannah, who is African-American, and mother Cheryl A. Novotny, who is of Czech and English descent...Hannah-Jones and her sister attended almost all-white schools as part of a voluntary program of desegregation busing. She wrote for the high school newspaper and graduated from West High School in 1994.
First, all praise to those parents! But did Hannah-Jones "attend almost all-white schools as part of a voluntary program of desegregation busing?"

We don't know if Hannah-Jones actually gained from that approach. But in large part due to changed demographics, that approach is frequently unavailable today!

What the heck do we do instead? What do we do to make low-income kids feel happy in school? What do we do to eat away at those punishing achievement gaps?

Now that it isn't 1968, what do we do for our low-income kids? With regard to that obvious question, progressives who talk about "resegregation" rarely have much to say.

BREAKING: Monumental attacks of The Dumb!

THURSDAY, JANUARY 18, 2018

The Dumb which devoured the press:
Again and again and again and again, we think of what we've learned from Kevin Drum's work on lead exposure.

Until recent years, exposure was very high. Does that explain the amazing modern extent of The Dumb? Or does the remarkable sweep of The Dumb result from other causes?

We don't know how to answer your question, but in the last day or so, we'd say The Dumb has been everywhere. So we won't have to start with you-know-who, we'll start with a rather cruel, and weirdly unintelligent, Jonathan Chait:
CHAIT (1/16/18): It has been publicly known since last year that Trump cannot read a memo longer than a page, and any written material must be in bullet-point form. Trump himself admitted (or bragged) a year and a half ago that he does not read. “I never have. I’m always busy doing a lot. Now I’m more busy, I guess, than ever before.” By this point it is simply taken as a matter of course that people wishing to communicate with the president must treat him as though he is suffering a severe mental impairment.

Trump is not actually suffering a severe mental impairment.
White House doctor Ronny Jackson, who has served in the post since 2013, informed reporters on Wednesday that the president is in fine physical and mental health. The report comes as the national media has discussed whether Trump’s functional near-illiteracy, minuscule attention span, and narcissistic pathos are the symptoms of dementia or some other kind of cognitive incapacitation. We should take Jackson’s diagnosis at face value. Trump is just an idiot.
Jackson didn't test Donald J. Trump for possible dyslexia. Is it possible that Trump is dyslexic, like so many others before him? Is it possible that he always has been, back to his childhood days?

It certainly seems possible to us, and being dyslexic doesn't make you "an idiot." Especially for someone who likes to spout about schools, we think this post by Chait represents a major attack of The Dumb, and of the weirdly unkind concerning a widespread condition.

With that, let's move to you know who. Last night, she opened her TV show in this peculiar manner:
MADDOW (1/17/18): And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy to have you here.

It is now officially 51 hours until the federal government shuts down. The Republican Party controls the House and the Senate and the White House, so it is a little hard to believe that they, amongst themselves cannot come up with a way to keep the lights on, but not for the first time in the past year.

We are once again on the brink of the shutdown of the federal government, because, even though they mathematically don't need a single vote from a single Democrat to do it, Republicans appear to, at least at this point, they appear to not be able to agree amongst themselves on a plan to keep the government funded past Friday, again. So we are on the brink of that again.

In weirder news...
Republicans don't need a single vote from a single Democrat? Where on earth did Our Own Rhodes Scholar, along with her twenty-member staff, come up with a groaner like that?

When the press corps' Rhodes scholars function that way, The Dumb is devouring cable. Later today, we'll show you where Maddow went from there last night. We'll try to include her three (3) bizarre reports, starting last Friday night, about Dr. Jackson's misspelled first name and the possibility that his initial report about Trump's exam had been forged.

There was never any reason to think that Jackson's report had been forged. Seriously, how dumb does a person have to be to issue three such reports? And as with Trump, so too here:

Is there no one on her staff who's able to "talk her down?"

Of course, you haven't begun to encounter The Dumb until you open the Times. In a manner reminiscent of Chait, the headline on Gail Collins' new column says this:

"Donald Trump Gets His Sanity Grades"


In theory, Collins writes her own headlines. Surely, even she must know that none of the tests given to Trump were designed to test his "sanity." At this point, within this guild, does any distinction apply?

We've asked before how Linda Qiu can possibly be the official fact-checker for the nation's most famous newspaper. Qiu had a very strong premise today. We thought she butchered that very strong premise in an array of ways.

Most striking, though, was the headline atop Qiu's hard-copy report, which accused someone of "lying." After reading Qiu's report, we still weren't sure who the headline writer had in mind.

(Hard-copy headline: "Distorting Poll's Data, Then Lying About It.")

Qiu made no claim, in her report, that anyone had "lied." At one point, she referred to a "downright false" statement by Donald J. Trump. The editor who wrote the headline may have thought that such a statement has to be a "lie."

The New York Times works on that level. Do you read the daily hard-copy page A3?

There's much, much more all over the Times, but let's close with a second trip to last evening's cable. We refer to the discussion between Brian Williams and John Harris concerning the Clinton impeachment, which both men still seem to enjoy discussing.

For whatever reason, no transcripts are produced for Williams' 11 PM program. We don't intend to produce a full transcript for last night's exchange. Instead, we'll leave it at this:

Harris complained that voters disregarded "the facts" about the Lewinsky matter during the year of impeachment. He said "a clear majority of the people" had instead succumbed to this line of thought:

"Facts matter less than which side you are on."

Amazingly, it didn't seem to enter his head that the basic facts of a case don't, and can't, tell a person how to assess or judge those facts. For the record, Harris seems to have missed very few meals. This is surely part of the problem at the top of the press corps pile, where he now resides.

That said, Harris' formulation was just amazingly dumb. He seemed to think that knowing the facts about that affair determined how an honest person had to assess the situation. Is there any part of these post-humans' brains which The Dumb hasn't swallowed by now?

Western culture has been built upon the idea that we're the "rational animal." Meanwhile, our human wiring tells us to respect authority figures, like the people we see on TV.

That formulation by Harris was just amazingly dumb—but this is truly all we are. We advise you to adopt this framework as you look out at the world.

Beyond the valley of the dumb: In her column, Collins moved Beyond the Valley of the Dumb to The Land of the Deeply Gratuitous. We thought this particular zinger was truly rank:
COLLINS: “Amazing report, cognitive & otherwise,” cheered Donald Trump Jr. Have we ever before had a First Child rallying the troops around the president passing a mental test? We will refrain from saying anything mean about Junior because, after all, he was the one who grew up in a home where he broke his leg due to an inattentive babysitter and found his nanny dying in the basement.
She'll refrain from saying anything mean! Collins is endlessly clever!

At any rate, we have no idea what Collins is talking about in that passage, and she provides no link. That said, we thought that gratuitous passage truly took her to The Realm of the Ugly and Rank.

Does some such terrible childhood event help explain Trump Junior? If so, we feel sorry for him. That said, what explains the way Lady Collins turned out?

Later: Rachel Maddow discusses herself, then plays tape of her favorite anchor from the previous night

SEGREGATE THIS: A demographic message for Toto and Vox!

THURSDAY, JANUARY 18, 2018

Part 3—We're not in 1968 any more:
Long ago and far away—actually, it was in the spring of 2011—we were told to read a story to a kindergarten class in Durham, North Carolina.

Teacher made us do it! Frankly, it was pretty scary. That crowd wasn't tough, but they were young. We'd never done that before.

In the front row sat one of the two little girls in the class who weren't yet speaking English. Other little girls who were bilingual—that included the delightful child, now much older, who'd brought us to visit her class—had scrambled over desks and chairs to whisper in those little girls' ears, helping them process various events in the day's first hour.

Those kids were eager to help. But we remember the face on the little girl in the front row who wasn't yet speaking English. Her face told a very old story:

It's no fun to be the 6-year-old who isn't yet speaking the language.

(To listen to a similar story about Anne Frank's first day in kindergarten, you can just click here. Her friend wasn't speaking Dutch yet. Truly, YouTube is powerful.)

We don't know the family history of that little girl in Durham. We don't know if she was born in the U.S., or if she'd recently arrived from somewhere else.

That said, the presence of those little girls tells part of a major story about our nation's changing demographics—more specifically, about the changing demographics of our student population.

In our view, it's a beautiful story. For the record, there is no law which says that everyone else has to agree, or which says that our judgments are right.

That said, the story is a major story about America's public schools. It was disappeared by Alvin Chang in his recent report for Vox about the alleged "resegregation" of those public schools.

The story is hugely relevant to the accurate factual claims around which Chang builds his highly fraught tale. But, despite its huge relevance, it went completely unmentioned by Chang. So these things tend to go.

To what demographic change do we refer? Before we answer that question, let's get clear about the accurate factual claim around which Chang based his fraught report.

For the third straight day, we present the highly fraught claims which anchor Chang's piece. The text shown below is perhaps a bit murky. But the graphic which appears beneath it helps us see what Chang means by his claims:
CHANG (1/8/18): The result is that schools today are re-segregating. In fact, schools in the South are as segregated now as they were about 50 years ago, not long after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision.

Headline on graphic:

Percentage of black students in the South who attend schools that are at least 50 percent white
Is it true? Are schools in the South really "as segregated now as they were about 50 years ago," in 1968?

Because of that fraught term—"segregated"—that claim packs a punch. Beneath the claim, within that graphic, we see what Chang means by that claim.

As Chang notes, his graphic comes from Professor Orfield at UCLA (click here, see page 90. According to the graphic, 23 percent of black kids in the South were attending schools which were "at least 50 percent white" in 2011.

According to that graphic, the number had been the same in 1968. In that year, as in 2011, 23 percent of black kids in the South were attending such schools.

In the meantime, it hadn't been thus. As of the late 1980s, 44 percent of black kids in the South were attending such schools, according to the graphic Chang correctly attributes to Orfield. For better or worse, the percentage steadily dropped after that.

According to Chang, this means that our schools are "resegregating." In his report, he rather clearly attributes this change to deliberate action by school districts, who allegedly gerrymander their school attendance zones to heighten racial imbalance.

Do these claims make sense? They quickly make a lot less sense if you consider some information in Professor Orfield's report—information Chang blew past and disappeared.

For the record, Professor Orfield is the industry leader in claims of "resegregation." It's a wonderfully exciting claim, one which thrills us liberals every time.

We aren't big fans of Orfield's choice of language. But consider the information he provides in the iconic report to which Chang has linked, from which he has taken his graphic.

Why are so many fewer black kids attending white-majority schools? As is frequently the case, there may be more than one (demonic) reason. But Orfield includes the demographic information which Chang disappeared.

How has America's student population changed down through the years? In his iconic report, Orfield's discussion of that matter starts early, on page 6.

How has our student population changed? Under the heading included below, Orfield starts laying it out:
ORFIELD (2011): Changing Nature of Public School Enrollment

At the peak of the Civil Rights era, the U.S. was still a nation with a large white majority,
reaching the end of a massive baby boom, and at a historically low point in immigration...Though black population was growing rapidly, it was only the beginning of a fundamental social transformation that included the first great immigration of nonwhites in U.S. history, which followed the l965 passage of immigration reform laws.

In little more than four decades, enrollment trends in the nation’s schools (between l968 and 2011) show a 28% decline in white enrollment, a 19% increase in the black enrollment, and an almost unbelievable 495% percent increase in the number of Latino students...White enrollment was almost four times the combined black and Latino enrollment in l968, but only about a fifth bigger in 2011.
In that passage, Orfield describes "a fundamental social transformation;" he says it produced a massive change in student demographics. As he continues on page 7, Orfield describes the extent of the change as of 2011:
ORFIELD (continuing directly): The changes occurring throughout in the nation appear in even more dramatic form in some of its regions. By far the most populous regions of the country, where the great bulk of American growth is concentrated, are the South and the West. For generations, the growth of the country has been focused on these Sunbelt areas. Both of these regions now have substantial majorities of “minority” students. The West has only 40% white students and the South only 45%.
As of 2011, only 45 percent of public school students in the South were "white!" You may already have discerned what this does to Chang's presentation, but let's record the passage on page 9 where Orfield states the obvious:
ORFIELD: Given the vast changes in U.S. school enrollment, even if there were a perfectly even distribution of students from all racial groups, there would still be a decline in contact by students of other races with whites, because the share of the total who are white has declined substantially.
Duh. Now let's think about the harrowing metric Chang employs as he discusses "resegregation."

Laggards, let's stop and think. Even in 2011, only 45 percent of public school students in the South were white!

Suppose you'd waved a magic wand and created a world in which every public school in the South matched the region's overall demographic. In that case, no black students in the South—zero, none—would have been attending schools which were "at least 50 percent white."

Every black kid would have been in a school which was 45 percent white. According to Chang's harrowing lexicon, they'd all have been victims of "resegregation." The percentage of black kids on that graphic would have dropped to zero percent!

Does this mean that no school district is drawing attendance lines with the goal of increasing racial imbalance? No, it doesn't mean that.

It does mean that at least one other major cause explains Chang's thrilling graphic. At least in some substantial part, fewer black kids are in white-majority schools because there are many fewer white kids in the public schools, exactly as Orfield said:

"Given the vast changes in U.S. school enrollment, even if there were a perfectly even distribution of students from all racial groups, there would still be a decline in contact by students of other races with whites..."

This isn't hard to grasp. But we progressives love to put our thumbs on the scales when dealing with topics like this. This produce scary representations which establish the evil of Everyone Else and the great moral glory of Us.

Dearest darlings, here's the news—it's no longer 1968! Our student demographic has massively changed in the past fifty years. That change includes the two adorable little girls who sat in that kindergarten class in Durham, not yet speaking the language.

Math is hard, but the math works out like this. You can't produce a string of majority-white public schools if you don't have a majority gaggle of white kids to begin with!

Meanwhile, if you say that every other type of school is part of "resegregation," then you're going to find a whole lot of "resegregation" out there! This is what Chang and Vox have done. We think it's a horrible but fully typical look.

Before we quit for the day, consider a few more statistics. How much has the student population changed just since the late 1980s, when 44 percent of black kids in the South were in majority-white schools?

We can't give you an exact figure, but it has changed a lot! According to the NCES, these were the numbers in the Naep's Grade 4 math tests in two relevant years:
Students tested, all U.S. schools
Grade 4 math test, Naep

1992:

White kids: 72 percent
Black kids: 18 percent
Hispanic kids: 7 percent
Asian-American kids: 3 percent

2011:
White kids: 52 percent
Black kids: 16 percent
Hispanic kids: 24 percent
Asian-American kids: 5 percent
Over those nineteen years, white kids moved from 72 percent of the student population down to 52 percent. Three years later, the number of "minority" kids passed the number of "white" kids for the first time. You can read about it here.

Almost surely, you'll have fewer majority-white schools if you lack a majority of whites! Meanwhile, how about the Durham Public Schools? According to the system's web site, its current charges break down like this:
Student population, Durham Public Schools
African-American: 46.7%
Hispanic/Latino: 30.1%
White: 18.6%
Multiracial: 2.8%
Asian: 2.3%
How many schools which are "at least 50 percent white" can that school system produce? According to Chang's report, the whole darn system may be "segregated!" No gerrymandered zones need apply!

For various reasons, progressives often say that black kids are better off in majority-white schools. We also like to render exciting claims about the horrors of modern-day "segregation."

Is anyone more reliably faux than we are? We love "the browning of America," hate the schools it gives us.

That school in Durham struck us as a joy. To Chang, it's "segregated."

Tomorrow: In response to Chang's report, the Times does Tuscaloosa

BREAKING: This report won't get discussed!

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 17, 2018

Why do you think that is?
This morning's New York Times has a superb, horrific report about street violence in Baltimore.

Timothy Williams focuses on the death toll at one school. His report starts like this:
WILLIAMS (1/17/18): What happened to 19-year-old Markel Scott last March is increasingly common here: Someone walked up to him on the street and shot him six times. Two months from his high school graduation, he died on the sidewalk, still wearing his book bag.

“I grew up here and I’ve never seen crime like this,” his mother, Sharonda Rhodes, said recently. “These are not normal times. The guns are everywhere.”

Mr. Scott attended a small school for older students who had dropped out and were trying to get their lives on track. But his resolve was not enough to shield him from the dangers of the streets. Seven students at Excel Academy have been murdered in 15 months, so much violence that an empty desk might mean a skipped class—or another permanent absence.

Dealing with murder has become routine at Excel, with grief counselors called in with each fallen classmate. It has become difficult to focus on things like biology or math. With its shrinking student body, the school is a grim reflection of the difficulties facing Baltimore.
That whole report is well worth reading. We make a related point:

As with Ta-Nehisi Coates' portrait of the difficulties of life for a Baltimore kid, you won't hear a word about this on our liberal tribe's corporate "cable news" channel.

The TV stars on that corporate channel are paid millions of dollars per year. They're paid to keep us entertained and feeling tribally good.

In fairness, they'll pretend to get upset if a teen gets shot and killed by police. To help us see how much they care, they'll invent or disappear basic facts to make the event more heinous.

Otherwise, it's repetitive Fun With Crazy Old Trump, who's just so totally racist. Ain't getting played by the TV stars on corporate "cable news" grand?

SEGREGATE THIS: Which schools count as "segregated?"

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 17, 2018

Part 2—The weaponization of virtue:
Is it true that American public schools have been "resegregating?"

Is it true that "schools in the South are as segregated now as they were about 50 years ago, not long after the Brown decision?"

Alvin Chang makes both those claims at the start of this recent report in Vox. These may seem like startling claims. They concern a very important part of modern American life.

That said, these apparently startling claims are also quite familiar. Progressive journalists and academics make such claims all the time.

Celebrated progressive journalists frequently say that our schools are "resegregating." This leaves us with our original question:

Are these familiar claims true?

You won't be surprised if we start by saying this: it all depends on what the meaning of "resegregation" is! With that in mind, let's start by getting clear on what Chang isn't alleging.

Claims like Chang's aren't intended to mean that we're returning to the days when school districts operated two separate sets of schools—one set for children deemed to be "white," the other for children deemed to be "black."

School districts operated that way under legal, or de jure, "segregregation." This involved the active separation of these two groups of kids as an explicit requirement of law.

Alvin Chang is not asserting that some school districts have returned to this practice. That practice was outlawed in 1954, in the famous Supreme Court decision to which Chang refers.

As you probably could have guessed, that isn't the sort of "segregation" to which Chang refers. So what does Chang mean by "segregation?"

That point is never made perfectly clear in Chang's report, although his claim gets lots of juice from the fact that the term "segregation" is historically fraught.

What does Change mean by "resegregation?" Essentially, he's referring to types of "racial imbalance" in public schools, including substantial imbalance.

He's referring to a state of affairs in which individual schools may be heavily black, white or Hispanic—even entirely black, white or Hispanic—especially in ways which don't reflect the overall student population of the district, or even of some particular school's immediate neighborhood.

Let's return to the part of Chang's report where he makes his basic claims about "segregation" and "resegregation."

Yesterday, in Part 1, we showed you the passage in question. Below it, Chang presents a graphic which helps us see what he means by his use of these heavily fraught terms:
CHANG (1/8/18): The result is that schools today are re-segregating. In fact, schools in the South are as segregated now as they were about 50 years ago, not long after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision.

Headline on graphic:

Percentage of black students in the South who attend schools that are at least 50 percent white
If we weren't nice guys around here, we might be tempted to describe that as perhaps a bit of a con. That said, yes—it's true:

When Chang refers to "segregated" schools in the South, he's talking about schools which aren't "at least 50 percent white." According to Chang's quixotic usage, if a black kid in Tuscaloosa attends a school which is 49 percent white, he is thereby attending a "segregated" school!

Are we being fair to Chang? Yes, we think we are. Right below the graphic bearing that headline, he returns to his claim about gerrymandered school attendance zones, making this statement:
CHANG: But this exact strategy—gerrymandering school districts to include certain kinds of students and exclude others—can also be used to integrate a school, rather than [to] segregate them.
Chang seems to be saying that gerrymandering has been used to create segregated schools, rather than to create integrated schools. Those schools in the South—the ones which aren't "at least 50 percent white"—seem to be the "segregated" schools he has in mind.

Does this framework make sense? To test Chang's logic, imagine a school in some Southern city with this student population:
Student population of some school in the South
White kids: 33 percent
Black kids: 33 percent
Hispanic kids: 33 percent
Imagine a school with that student population. In recent years, we visited one such public school, in Durham, on three separate occasions.

In the spring of 2011, we read a story to a kindergarten class in that neighborhood school. In January 2015 and January 2017, we attended the annual schoolwide spelling bee in this same Durham school.

The demographics of that school resembled those shown above. Largely because of the cheerful bustle we saw at that (overall) low-income school, we thought that school was a miracle.

Chang has a different name for that school. He says that school is "segregated"—and no, we aren't making this up!

Are you possibly starting to feel at least a tiny bit misled? Let's make sure you understand that this is what Chang is saying.

You need to click to Chang's report to review the graphic whose headline we posted above. From that graphic, you will see that 23 percent of black kids in the South currently attend public schools which are "at least 50 percent white."

By any normal interpretation, it's clear that Chang is describing schools which don't meet that criterion as "segregated." If a black kid attends a public school which is less than 50 percent white, he's attending a "segregated" school, according to Chang's great notion.

The black, white and Hispanic children we saw in those spelling bees? The two little girls in that kindergarten who weren't yet speaking English, with other little (bilingual) girls scrambling over desks and chairs to help them understand what was being said?

According to Chang, those kids were attending a "segregated" school in the South! They were part of their nation's "resegregation"—even though their cheerful school looked so much like the new America that it virtually shouted in glee, as we've described in the past.

In fairness to Chang, let's restate an important point. This young Vox journalist didn't invent this rather peculiar semantic framework. As we'll see in our next two reports, progressive academics and journalists have been working from such frameworks for years.

Their frameworks let them make eye-catching claims. That said, these frameworks strike us as grossly misleading, bordering on the ugly and vile.

Where do such frameworks take us? Imagine public schools with the demographics shown below. According to Chang, black kids in any such school are victims of "resegregation:"
Public School A
White kids: 33 percent
Black kids: 33 percent
Hispanic kids: 33 percent

Public School B
White kids: 49 percent
Black kids: 51 percent

Public School C
White kids: 45 percent
Black kids: 30 percent
Hispanic kids: 25 percent
In 1954, those schools would not have been permitted by law.

In 1968, those schools would have been seen as miraculous models of integration, though it would have been hard to find that many Hispanic kids in most parts of the South.

According to Chang, it's different today. According to Chang, all three schools fit under the rubric of "resegregation." All three schools are "segregated." We're asked to be shocked and concerned that schools like this exist.

In such ways, our liberal world routinely puts its thumb on the conceptual scale. As we do, we pleasure ourselves with our favorite tool, the weaponization of virtue.

In fairness, Chang is discussing a very important topic, one which deserves thorough examination. That said, is anything gained by the adoption of this peculiar conceptual framework?

We would say that nothing is gained, and that a great deal is lost. Meanwhile, what about Chang's most troubling and yet familiar claim, the one which goes like this:

"In fact, schools in the South are as segregated now as they were about 50 years ago."

Is that true in any significant sense? Are schools in the South "as segregated now as they were" in 1968?

Chang's graphic shows what he means by that claim. Tomorrow, we'll discuss his accurate factual statements, after which we'll present the hugely important factual point Chang has disappeared.

Do we liberals ever discuss race and gender without inventing or disappearing highly relevant facts? On balance, we'd say the answer is no.

We don't mean that as a compliment.

Tomorrow: A very large change in demographics! (We'll start with those two little girls in that kindergarten class.)

BREAKING: What do Trump voters think about Cotton?

TUESDAY, JANUARY 16, 2018

No one is going to ask them:
We live in a nation which is now fighting the shithole versus shithouse wars. Meanwhile, in her review of the action for New York magazine, Margaret Hartmann makes this accurate point:

"Throughout the long weekend, the national conversation focused on whether or not the president said something racist, not the underlying policy issues."

When was it ever not thus? Meanwhile, discuss:

Is it possible that this continuing focus fits under our award-winning rubric, No Bait Left Behind?

However one assesses that point, this episode has had everything. Consider a few key junctures:

Last Tuesday, President Magoo said he'd favor a "clean" DACA bill (a bill involving no other provisions). He also said he'd sign whatever the heck Congress gave him.

Neither statement made any sense from the Trump perspective. For that reason, Magoo was forced to walk his statements back, perhaps with the help of distractions.

Two days later, he authored his "shithole or possibly shithouse" remarks, perhaps with a purpose in mind. Two Republican senators, Cotton and Perdue, have apparently built their defense of Donald J. Trump around the claim that he was misquoted, since he really said "shithouse," not "shithole," the way the Democrats said.

Trump's Magoo-like behavior is, by now, a given. We can't help wondering what Republican voters think of the distinction being sold by Cotton and Perdue. That said, it's long been clear that there's nothing so stupid that it can't be said as a major part of our discourse. Example:

In November 1999, Candidate Gore came under withering criticism for wearing suit jackets with three buttons, not the preferred number, two. That criticism was insane all by itself—but it led to escalating, crazy claims about what the three buttons meant. (Chris Matthews was especially crazy on that troubling point.)

This lunacy was being authored by mainstream and liberal figures, not by the right-wing machine. Fairly quickly, along came Arianna. In effect, she sewed a fourth button on Gore's suit jackets, saying this to Geraldo Rivera on his nightly CNBC program:
HUFFINGTON (11/9/99): Frankly, you know, what is fascinating is that the way he's now dressing makes a lot of people feel disconnected from him. And there was this marvelous story in one of the New Hampshire papers saying, “Nobody here—nobody here in Hanover, New Hampshire, wears tan suits with blue shirts.” You know, it's just—and buttons—all four buttons! You know, it's not just—it's just not the way most American males dress.
Aside from the pre-existing craziness, there were no four-button suits. There was also no pushback from our liberal world about this whole insane discussion, which persisted for months. (Brian Williams played a leading role.)

Today, two senators are arguing shithouse v. shithole. They seem to be calling Senator Durbin a liar on the basis of this imagined distinction. For the record, there is no evidence supporting their apparent claim that Trump really said shithouse, not shithole. The entire discussion is patently nuts, and they may have invented their factual claim.

On its face, the behavior of Cotton and Perdue is insane. We can't help wondering what Trump voters think about this transparent lunacy, to the extent that average voters have heard about it.

That said, no one on cable is going to ask any voters. On cable, cable stars listen to cable stars talk. They virtually never ask Trump voters what they think, feel or believe about anything that happens.

They prefer to tell us what Trump voters think. They never quite bother to ask.

One last point. That talk about Gore's disturbing buttons was totally crazy too. But it happened in 1999, and it was performed by mainstream and liberal players, not by the right-wing press.

To this day. it's Hard Tribal Law. No career liberal will ever tell you that that lunacy occurred. That said, our culture turned crazy a long time ago, and our own tribe was deeply involved.

You will never hear those facts from our favorite corporate cable stars. They'll tell you that Cotton and Perdue are behaving crazily, which is perfectly accurate. They won't tell you that they themselves invented this culture of The Big Crazy quite a few years ago.

Our modern press culture is totally nuts. It's been that way for a very long time. It's low-IQ all the way down.

Many long years ago: The press corps spent November 1999 deconstructing Candidate Gore's deeply significant clothing.

His suits, his boots, his polo shirts? The number of buttons he wore on his suits? The color of that one brown suit? The height at which his pants were hemmed?

No part of the wardrobe went unfrisked. The motto of these giants was clear:

No Lunacy Left Behind

A few inane players extended this theme beyond that one crazy month. (On the whole, it gave way to December 1999, the month of Love Canal, the month which decided the race by cementing the GORE LIAR theme.) Brian Williams was one such wardrobe obsessive. Why not read Chapter 5 at How He Got There, our companion site?

You will never be told about this; it's neither allowed nor done. That said, this is what our species is like. Our species simply isn't real sharp, and that's at its less crazy moments.

SEGREGATE THIS: "Segregation" in public schools!

TUESDAY, JANUARY 16, 2018

Part 1—Must every discussion be faux?
Must every one of our public discussions be tilted, flimsy, fake/phony/faux, overwrought, substantially bogus?

By some diktat of Hard Pundit Law, has this become a basic part of modern journalistic and academic culture?

We often ask such questions when we read discussions of increased "segregation" in the public schools. For a recent case in point, consider this January 8 report for Vox, written by Alvin Chang.

Chang graduated from NYU in 2009. He describes himself as "Senior Graphics Reporter at Vox," not as an education specialist—though it hardly matters.

We'll assume that Chang is good at graphics, even though this particular piece may suggest a different conclusion. In fairness, his presentation about "segregation" is thoroughly standard, given the norms of modern progressive culture.

Nothing Chang says or claims in his piece is novel or new. That said, his presentation seems to make little sense, except as an example of tribal devotion to script.

All this week, we'll consider basic parts of Chang's presentation, which treats a very important topic. We'll also consider the high-profile academic source from which he draws his basic data.

Beyond that, we'll consider the reaction to Chang's presentation by a major liberal/progressive journalist who has written extensively on the topic at hand. As for Chang's report at Vox, it appears beneath these headlines:
We can draw school zones to make classrooms less segregated. This is how well your district does.

Is your district drawing borders to reduce or perpetuate racial segregation?
The key term there is "racial segregation." As everybody surely knows, the term is heavily fraught.

For many years, public school systems throughout the South—and in border states like Maryland—were legally segregated by race. Black kids went to one set of schools. White kids went to another.

In theory, this practice was declared unconstitutional by the 1954 Brown decision (Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka). That said, compliance with the decision was slow in some places; "white flight" to private academies took place in many others. Beyond that, housing patterns meant that many schools remained racially unbalanced, even after separation-by-law had ceased to exist.

In the language of the time, de jure segregation was over; de facto segregation remained. But the term "segregation" remains highly fraught, for these historical reasons.

Presumably for that reason, "segregation" is the word we progressives prefer when we discuss demographic patterns within today's public school. This reflects one of the basic laws of flailing human culture:

Especially in heavily partisan times, elbows and thumbs must be on the scales in all public discussions—and especially in discussions of topics which are very important.

That's the background to the fraught term which appears in those Vox headlines. Reflexive use of such terms tends to produce a familiar reaction, with one tribe feeling morally pure while the other tribe feels inclined to push back.

Whatever! Below Chang's headline, he starts his argument in the manner shown below. After the text we provide, he presents his initial graphic:
CHANG (1/8/18): Think about your elementary school.

If you attended an American public school, chances are you went to that school because your family lived in that school’s attendance zone. You probably didn’t think twice about it.

We tend to assume these are neutrally drawn, immutable borders. But if you take a step back and look at the demographics of who lives in each attendance zone, you’re faced with maps like this:

[Graphic: "Demographics of school attendance zones"]
Chang's graphic shows maps of school attendance zones in three cities—Omaha, Milwaukee and Houston. The graphic is coded to show us what percentage of the student population in each zone is black or Hispanic.

In each of the cities, some of the attendance zones seems to be more than 90 percent black or Hispanic. Other attendance zones are less than 10 percent black or Hispanic.

That said, we aren't sure what conclusion we can reach from looking at those maps. On their face, none of the attendance zones seem to be crazily "gerrymandered." Presumably, the racial composition of the zones largely or primarily reflects residential patterns.

We don't know what conclusion we can reach just from observing that graphic. But as he continues, Chang tells us:
CHANG (continuing directly): Once you look at the school attendance zones this way, it becomes clearer why these lines are drawn the way they are. Groups with political clout—mainly wealthier, whiter communities—have pushed policies that help white families live in heavily white areas and attend heavily white schools.

We see this in city after city, state after state.
Just this once, we'll be honest. It may well be that those attendance zones were drawn to help white families send their kids to heavily white schools. But we don't see how Chang can know that just from surveying those maps.

No matter! As if to strengthen his point, Chang then presents attendance zone maps for six additional cities. After that, he states his main idea. It involves a familiar claim:
CHANG: And often the attendance zones are gerrymandered to put white students in classrooms that are even whiter than the communities they live in.

The result is that schools today are re-segregating. In fact, schools in the South are as segregated now as they were about 50 years ago, not long after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision.
Our public schools are "resegregating," Chang says. In fact, this is a highly familiar claim. It gets the lift of a driving dream from its use of a highly fraught term.

Are American public schools actually "resegregating?" Are schools in the South "as segregated now as they were about 50 years ago, not long after the landmark Brown decision?" (At this point, Chang presents a graph in support of the latter claim.)

Because of their use of a highly fraught term, these claims involve a lot of heat; they often produce a lot less light. According to many major experts, this is the way our species reasons at highly fraught times like these.

American schools are resegregating! Over here in our progressive realm, this represents pretty much the only way we talk about public schools.

More specifically, it represents one of the only ways we talk about the experiences of "minority" and low-income kids in our public schools. As with almost everything we do, the claim helps us progressives feel morally pure. In our view, it also betrays our standard lack of interest in the actual lives and interests of actual black and Hispanic kids.

"Are we here to play golf? Or are we just going to [BLANK] around?" So Moses says to the Holy Trinity in the famous old golfing joke we famously learned from Paul Reiser many years ago.

We sometimes think of that famous old joke when we read reports like Chang's. All week, we'll poke and prod at his basic claim—the only claim our tribe ever seems to make about those good, decent, deserving kids.

Those good decent kids are highly deserving. Is it possible that they deserve more help than we adults provide?

Tomorrow: Basic rule: always omit key facts

BREAKING: We've got your intelligent species right here!

MONDAY, JANUARY 15, 2018

Chotiner and Sullivan on Trump and mental illness:
In our current state of evolution, are we humans capable of conducting a serious discussion?

More and more, we'd have to say the answer seems to be no. Consider this discussion at Slate, in which Isaac Chotiner asks the Washington Post's Margaret Sullivan about the wisdom of discussing the possibility that Donald J. Trump may be in the grip of some form of "mental illness."

In our view, Trump has behaved so strangely for such a long time that the question can't sensibly be avoided. This doesn't mean that reporters or op-ed columnists should start spouting off about technical matters they don't understand.

It does mean that they should be asking qualified specialists to discuss the possible sources of the president's bizarre behavior. After all, among other obvious problems, the gent holds the nuclear codes.

Should reporters speak with qualified specialists in the way we've described? As a starter, that's what you'd do if someone in your family was behaving in remarkable ways. It's crazy to think that it shouldn't be done in the case of someone with so much power in the public realm.

That said, go ahead—read the discussion between these two upper-end thought leaders. Neither person ever establishes the basic distinction we've just outlined—the distinction between 1) journalists spouting off with their own uninformed views about mental illness, and 2) journalists interviewing experienced professionals as to what this powerful person's behavior might conceivably indicate.

It isn't that Chotiner and Sullivan didn't agree with our own conclusions. The problem is different—Chotiner and Sullivan never managed to establish this obvious distinction.

Midway through the Slate discussion, Chotiner and Sullivan go through a five-part Q-and-A on this topic. Sullivan makes five separate statements. She ends up saying this:

"I don’t think that speculating about it or interviewing psychologists about what they see from a distance is a good way to go."

Concerning that first possibility—"speculating about it"—we might be inclined to agree with Sullivan, depending on what she means. But why shouldn't a reporter "interview psychologists [or other experienced specialists] about what they see from a distance?"

Chotiner never asks; Sullivan never explains. So it goes, again and again, if you read the American press.

"Man [sic] is the rational animal," Aristotle is said to have said. Maybe it's just the lead exposure which took place in the last century, but the lunacy of that famous claim is apparent almost any time our upper-end journalists gather.

We humans donnt seme to reezun reel gud. Could it just be how we're made?

BREAKING: Charles Blow explains what racism is!

MONDAY, JANUARY 15, 2018

No bait left behind:
In this morning New York Times, Charles Blow takes a brave, lonely stand.

His headline says, "Trump Is a Racist. Period." Within the column, his declaration to that effect goes like this:
BLOW: Trump is a racist. We can put that baby to bed.

“Racism” and “racist” are simply words that have definitions, and Trump comfortably and unambiguously meets those definitions.
In his next sentence, Blow says "racism" is a word with a "simple definition." At the very start of his column, he defines the term as shown below, hard-copy headline included:
BLOW (1/15/18): Trump Is a Racist. Period.

I find nothing more useless than debating the existence of racism, particularly when you are surrounded by evidence of its existence. It feels to me like a way to keep you fighting against the water until you drown.

The debates themselves, I believe, render a simple concept impossibly complex, making the very meaning of “racism” frustratingly murky.

So, let’s strip that away here. Let’s be honest and forthright.

Racism is simply the belief that race is an inherent and determining factor in a person’s or a people’s character and capabilities, rendering some inferior and others superior. These beliefs are racial prejudices.
In that highlighted statement, Blow defines the term "racism." We're inclined to disagree with his "simple definition," and with his basic instincts regarding such matters as this.

Is racism really a simple concept? It all depends on what the meaning of "simple concept" is!

That said, we think the definition requires two parts, and that Blow has fudged the first. After consulting with experts and Hollywood stars, we would expand Blow's definition as shown below:
Racism is the mistaken belief that people belong to different "races" and that membership in some "race" is an inherent and determining factor in a person’s or a people’s character and capabilities, rendering some inferior and others superior.
Having defined the term that way, we'll perform an additional service. We'll advise you to be careful in applying the term to various people you loathe.

In the current instance, is Donald J. Trump a racist? We'd recommend a more constructive term, a term Bob Dylan coined. Beyond that, we'll recommend pity over loathing, even as a political strategy:
I pity the poor immigrant
Who wishes he would’ve stayed home
Who uses all his power to do evil
But in the end is always left so alone

That man whom with his fingers cheats
Who lies with every breath
Who passionately hates his life
And likewise fears his death

I pity the poor immigrant
Whose strength is spent in vain
Whose heaven is like Ironsides
Whose tears are like rain
Who eats but is not satisfied
Who hears but does not see
Who falls in love with wealth itself
And turns his back on me.
We'd recommend pity over loathing. We'd further suggest that you try viewing Trump as a "poor immigrant," in Dylan's sense.

Even here, we'd recommend that you be careful in the accusations you make involving terms like "evil" and "lies," unless you secretly long for war and all the destruction it brings.

Is Donald J. Trump best seen as a "racist?" Is he possibly better seen as a "poor immigrant," in Dylan's sense of the term, in which he "eats but is not satisfied" and turns his back on thee?

We recommend pity over loathing as the sounder moral stance. But also, as the stance which is more likely to change the world.

Dr. King wrote and spoke, again and again, about "the love ethic of Jesus." Dylan offered a deeper insight into people who speak and behave in the manner of Donald J. Trump.

In his Second Inaugural, Abraham Lincoln basically said, Our side did this too. These are the people the world admires. By way of contrast, fiery people who "leave no bait behind" tend to produce more war.

Last Thursday night, cable was full of brave people who dared stoke the call for endless cultural war. In this morning's Washington Post, Margaret Sullivan hails their wisdom and courage:
SULLIVAN (1/15/18): Lisa Mascaro of the Los Angeles Times provided meaningful context in her immediate news story: “While cruder and blunter than his past public statements, the president’s comments were in keeping with his long-standing position that the United States should shift its immigration policy away from poorer, developing countries, and instead focus on carefully selecting educated immigrants, especially from Europe.”

[...]

By evening, some cable newscasters had become far more blunt. Don Lemon of CNN flatly declared: “The president of the United States is racist.” His colleague Anderson Cooper went there, too: Trump’s words were not just “racially charged” but simply racist.

David Leonhardt of the New York Times quickly wrote a ­well-argued opinion piece, “Just Say It: Trump Is a Racist.”
Everyone was bravely willing to say it! We would have been inclined to say something different. Of course, we also wouldn't have played the role of Trump's pool boy all through Campaign 2016, as the newly brave and forthright Cooper horrifically did.

That said, our flailing species is heavily wired for war. We're heavily wired to see the world as Us and Them. Perhaps because of that elemental wiring, Blow accompanies his column today with a graphic headlined like this:
'Deplorable' Sounds About Right
So cool! Our species is wired to spot The Others and to call them names. In such ways, we strongly tend to "study war much more."

In closing, let's return to our clarified, two-part definition of "racism." We'll close by asking a question:

Do you believe that our floundering species is divided into "races?" We modern progressives have purchased that concept in much the way the townfolk of River City rushed to purchase all those phony trombones.

Do you believe that so-called blacks and so-called whites really belong to different "races?" That destructive belief is a major part of "the world the slaveholders made." No one pushes that destructive idea more than our tribe currently does.

Our tribe is deeply invested in that idea, and is strongly inclined to feel no pity for people like Donald J. Trump. Does that latter fact mean that we secretly long to be like him? Anthropologists have told us it does!

Blow says the R-word has a simple definition. We'd call that a simple-minded idea, but our species is wired for that!

BREAKING: We're watching a species attempt to reason!

SATURDAY, JANUARY 13, 2018

It's all anthropology now:
Recently, we made a major announcement:

"It's all anthropology now."

By that, we meant the following:

Especially at times like these, there's no point in trying to offer facts, information or analysis to our floundering species. Especially when our species is in the grip of moral panics, our species will have no use for such proffers.

Our current moral panics mainly involve issues of "race" and gender. All you can do, at a time like this, is observe and describe the way our floundering species behaves—the way we're programmed to act.

Still, we'll try to be helpful:

In the general area of "race," we would advise our floundering species to stop believing in the concept, which is such a prominent part of "the world the slaveholders made." We expect to explore this award-winning idea this year, building from Professor Gates' question last fall:

"What difference does it make?"

In the general area of gender, we compliment the Washington Post for the three letters it ran today. The letters concern a gruesome opinion piece the paper ran in last Sunday's Outlook section—a piece which shows how horrific the "reasoning" gets at times of moral panic and cultural stampede.

Last Sunday's piece was written by Richard Morgan. In hard copy, the Post identified Morgan as "a journalist" and as "a writer in New York." Online, the Post identifies him like this:

"Richard Morgan, a freelance writer in New York, is the author of 'Born in Bedlam,' a memoir."

Morgan's piece concerned the alleged contents of Woody Allen's mind. Whatever a person may think or imagine about the contents of Allen's mind, Morgan's journalism on the topic was just horrifically awful.

It showed the instincts of our species at its most incompetent. According to experts and anthropologists, work this bad only appears at times of moral panic and cultural stampede.

We researched several of Morgan's claims, but we'll link you to the three letters and pretty much leave it at that. As a piece of analysis, Morgan's piece is amazingly bad. The fact that the Post chose to publish the piece is the most striking fact of all.

And by the way, did the Post ever choose to publish the piece! In hard copy, it ate about 80 percent of Outlook's front page. Inside the section, it ate the top two-thirds of page B4.

In short, the Post devoted gigantic space to work which is horrifically poor. According to an assortment of experts, those are the judgments our species makes when panics and stampedes are on.

What is a moral panic? you ask. You're asking a very good question. For today, we'll answer in circular fashion:

A moral panic is a time which gives way to work like Morgan's—to horrible, horrific work about important topics.

For what it'd worth, Morgan's essay wasn't his first for the Post. In June 2015, he penned another lengthy, front-page piece for Outlook. Hard-copy headlines included, that Father's Day essay started off like this:
MORGAN (6/21/15): When 'dad' is a four-letter word/ How Richard Morgan learned to love the idea of fatherhood despite his own awful dad

Not everyone celebrates their father on Father's Day. I recently Googled mine for the first time—to double-check that he was still alive. He was not a good dad; we are not close. He taught me one crucial lesson, though: that fatherhood is not about his way of being a dad.

During a trip to Disney World when I was 13, one night I decided to sleep in my swim trunks at the hotel. I hadn't gotten them wet because I didn't know how to swim (still don't). He scolded me at bedtime, then he yelled at me, then, when I didn't remove the suit, he beat me on my arms and legs. Finally, he stripped me. All in front of my younger siblings and our mom. The youngest, my brother, was 8.

In the dark of that room, naked and bleeding, only the sound of my sobs filled the silence—until I began putting my trunks back on. My father heard the hushed rustles, got out of bed, pulled me up by my hair until he could lift me by my neck and dragged me to the parking lot, throwing me against the car door and telling me to get in. He drove so furiously as he swerved onto the main road that I tried, unsuccessfully, to open the door and roll out. I saw my mother, in tears, chasing after the car and pictured the taillights glaring at her like the taunting eyes of a fleeing demon.

"Bastard," my father muttered. He was enraged that night, as he often was, at me more than my siblings, because I, the firstborn, had made my father a father. I was the proverbial 98-pound weakling, so I hurled words over fists, mostly half-plagiarized takedowns from trashy soaps like "Days of Our Lives" and "Melrose Place."
It sounds like Morgan, and his younger siblings, received some truly horrible parenting. In payment, Post readers have received some truly horrible journalism, on perhaps two occasions.

"Man [sic] is the rational animal?" So sacred Aristotle is widely said to have said.

Despite his alleged brilliance, Aristotle didn't speak any English. Whatever he actually may have meant by whatever it was he actually said, it seems to us that he might have misfired in this instance.

"Man [sic] is the animal which can't fashion an argument?" All over cable, all through the opinion pages, our species seems to be fulfilling that alternate claim at this highly fraught juncture.

Man [sic] seems to have a very hard time with "race" and sex. Especially with topics so fraught, the wiring of our misfiring species just isn't especially strong.

One recent application: It seemed to us that Professor Miles and some audience members were having a fairly hard time handling the concept of "race." (The concept is a large part of the deeply noxious "world the slaveholders made.")

This difficulty seems to be leading them to seek their "identity" in the stories of a small number of people numbered among the honored dead. As they engage in this overwrought search, they and everyone else in our tribe ignore the 48,000, who are found among the living.

"Man [sic] is the rational animal?" Tell that to the 48,000, whose "chances at life" crash and burn as cable stars entertain us with talk about Trump and the porn star.

Was Morgan mistreated as a child? So are the 48,000! They live in a world whose misfiring adults continue to "walk on by."

BREAKING: Concerning the children of Baltimore!

FRIDAY, JANUARY 12, 2018

Nobody cares about this:
Concerning the 48,000, what's up among their peers in Baltimore? Possibly about some of their peers who may have lost their way?

Yesterday, the Washington Post ran this report as a human interest story.

Former councilwoman Rikki Spector is 81 years old. The report concerns what she decided to do after getting mugged in her parking garage in December 2016.

On line, the headline says this:
‘A beacon of hope’: Former Baltimore councilwoman becomes mentor to teens who attacked her
Kids can get lost along the way, especially when surroundings are poor. According to this report, Spector is trying to help.

On "cable news," these kids don't exist. Nothing could be more clear.

CONCERNING THE 48,000: Disdaining the living in Detroit!

FRIDAY, JANUARY 12, 2018

Conclusion—In Baltimore and in Flint:
How good are the "chances at life" of the 48,000?

Those kids are numbered among the living, so nobody actually cares! In fairness, it's probably good that nobody cares, since their chances don't seem super-great.

We refer to the 48,000 kids enrolled in Detroit's public schools. We're drawn to remarkable data sets. As we noted yesterday, these numbers qualify:
Average scores, Grade 8 math, 2015 Naep:
Detroit, black students: 242.03
Chicago, black students: 262.09
United States, black students: 259.85
United States, white students: 291.06
Washington, D.C., white students: 315.72
Those are horrible numbers. In 2015, at the eighth grade level, the average black kids in Detroit was scoring maybe four years below the average American white kid. For white kids who come from professional backgrounds, just look at that number from D.C., whose white students tend to come from homes with double advanced degrees.

"Chances at life" don't seem super-great for the 48,000! As we noted yesterday, neither do the living conditions inside their rat-infested schools.

On Sunday, December 10, we thought about the 48,000 for the better part of an hour. We thought about them as we watched Professor Miles weep for the 85, or perhaps the 200—for members of the honored dead who lived and died in bondage in way-back early Detroit.

Those people are no longer with us. They can't be helped at this point. The 48,000 are living today—and it's plain that nobody cares.

In particular, no one cares about those kids on our liberal tribe's corporate "cable news" channel. On that entertaining channel, the 48,000 don't exist. Instead, multimillionaire cable stars feed us the porridge which marketing research tells them we very much like.

Apparently, it's been found that we don't like to hear about the 48,000. For that reason, they're never mentioned by cable stars. Instead, we get the type of manifest bullshit we were handed last night.

On CNN and MSNBC, last night was an evening of world-class moral posing. That said, do we the audience have two brain cells to rub together? Our favorite star began her evening of moral posing with roughly seven minutes of quality blather—blather concerning typos.

Below, you see the way she began. This lengthy passage constituted the first seven-plus minutes of last night's show. Later, we'll recall the one lone time, long ago, when she turned to the 48,000:
MADDOW (1/11/18): [We'll post this dreck this afternoon, if the transcript appears]
Someone typed "Normay" when they meant to type "Norway!" To watch that consummate bullroar unfold, you can just click here.

Someone typed "Normay" when they meant to type "Norway!" And not only that! Someone typed "peach" when they meant to type "peace!" The piddle continued from there.

Have we in this generation become "inured to the presence" of Donald J. Trump in the White House, as Rachel so thoughtfully said? It's possible! But in this generation, we've also become inured to the presence of people like Maddow as the liberal world's "thought leaders."

Does Maddow feel bad about the current situation "as someone who talks about the news for a living?" Actually, Maddow is someone who talks about herself for a living, as she showed in that passage.

She never discusses the 48,000. In fairness, neither does anyone else on her profit-driven corporate channel. For better or worse, career liberals number the 48,000 among the dead.

Do rank-and-file liberals care about the 48,000? That's a whole different question. But it's abundantly clear that our career players don't.

Consider two other examples:

In July 2015, Ta-Nehisi Coates published a best-selling memoir, Between the World and Me. Liberal thought leaders stood in line to say how brilliant it was. After they had postured this way, the book produced exactly zero discussion.

Let us relate that book to the plight of the 48,000.

We were struck, in reading Coates' book, by its portrait of the travails of growing up in Baltimore in the 1980s. Coates described no circumstance in which he was mistreated by police. But he described endless circumstances in which he had to deal with the bad conduct of other Baltimore kids who had lost their way in the world. Also, for whatever reason, he repeatedly described the ways he was physically punished by his father.

We taught school in Baltimore during that general period. We can think of other kids who had to endure all that unfortunate conduct "in the streets."

No discussion of that burden emerged in the wake of Coates' book. In fairness, there's an obvious reason for that. Nobody cares about the 48,000, or about their counterparts in other locales. Nothing could be more clear.

Now, let's journey to Flint. Remember how our corporate leaders pretended to care about Flint?

This brings us back to the Maddow Show. No one yelled about Flint any more than Maddow did. At the same time, no one developed less information about the actual danger faced by that city's actual kids, peers of the 48,000.

Maddow played it as she typically does—as a chance to get Somebody Bad locked up. For that reason, she kept caterwauling about way those kids had been "poisoned" by Governor Snyder. She never tried, as Kevin Drum did, to explain the actual state of play.

Rachel got everyone good and scared, stroking herself as she did. In January of last year, Drum posted the tragic excerpt shown below, taken fromthis report by Sarah Stillman in The New Yorker.

We'll now admit it! We were the ones who recommended this part of Stillman's report to Drum, who had done yeoman work on the topic of lead exposure. In this passage, Stillman describes the burden people like Maddow had dropped on Flint's parents and kids:
STILLMAN (1/23/17): Key shared a personal story about the son of a family friend [in Flint] 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
….It wasn’t immediately clear what had come out of the gathering. But, as she and Tucker-Ray left for their next appointment, Shankar began contemplating aloud the possibilities. She said to Tucker-Ray, “Did you see how my eyes widened when he said that thing about the kids giving up because they think they’re going to be dumb?”

….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.”
People like Maddow convinced the world that Flint's kids had been "poisoned." They'd been poisoned by her latest Very Bad Person, who she childishly hoped to lock up.

In her standard repellent way, she never shared the reams of information which Drum relentlessly presented. Viewers got a pleasing morality play, but almost no real information.

Meanwhile, the children of Flint got scared within an inch of their lives. According to Stillman, some of them were now feeling that they might just as well give up.

To what extent had Flint's kids actually been "poisoned?" According to Drum's many reports, they were recording levels of lead exposure which were entirely commonplace when hustlers like Maddow were growing up in the suburbs. In that same post, Drum explained it like this:
DRUM (1/26/17): This is yet another tragedy. Children in Flint had mildly elevated levels of lead in their bloodstream for about a year or two. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, but the effects of this are fairly modest. To put it in terms most people will recognize, it means that some children in Flint will lose about one IQ point. Maybe two. That’s a tragedy, but it’s an even bigger tragedy if kids and their parents respond to this by thinking their lives are permanently ruined. The truth is that in nearly all children, the effects will be only barely noticeable.
Were Drum's analyses perfectly accurate? We don't know, largely because no one but Drum ever cared enough to tackle this technical topic.

As usual, Flint's kids were used as a tool. Maddow persistently used those kids to generate tribal excitement and pleasure. In a decent, slightly intelligent world, she would have been dragged off the air.

In fairness, Maddow discussed the 48,000 at least one time in the past. On this rare occasion, she actually stooped to the level of talking about the nation's good decent kids.

We were struck by the school she chose to discuss. Her brief report started like this:
MADDOW (6/19/12): This is a great best new thing in the world today. This is a high school graduation, typical sight this time of the year. But these young women are graduates of a school set up specifically for girls who are pregnant or who have already had young kids. It`s a school that supports its young moms with day care and with parenting classes, along with the traditional fall academic load. It is not an easy school to run, enrollment is never predictable, the student body obviously needs more support than any traditional school.

But at this school, the Catherine Ferguson Academy in Detroit, it is very much needed. And that is a fact that the Detroit school board recognized when they kept it open when it would have been cheaper to shut down Catherine Ferguson. This time last year, the very existence of this school was in doubt, and an emergency financial manager in charge of the Detroit schools decided that Catherine Ferguson Academy was going to be closed.
Maddow discussed a small number of the 48,000; she has never bothered with those rat-infested schools. In fairness, Maddow assured us last night that she doesn't have a racist bone in her body. And that's good, because otherwise people might think that black kids only become real to her when they seem to be transgressive in the familiar old ways.

How are the "chances in life" of the 48,000? Their chances doesn't seem all that great, what with their rat-infested schools, their horrible test scores, and the fact that they don't exist within career liberal thought.

By the way, how did that 2016 lawsuit turn out, the one about the rats in the schools of the 48,000? We don't know and you don't either! That's because topics like that are never discussed in the self-indulgent realm created for us by our cable multimillionaires and their corporate owners. Instead of boring us with that, they entertain us with talk about "Normay."

Last fall, a professor wept for the honored dead. As she did, the 48,000 struggled ahead in their crumbling schools.

They're never discussed on our "cable news" channel. On corporate liberal cable, the living no longer exist.

For the record: Lawrence discusses the plight of deserving kids, but just if they live in Malawi.