EXPLOSIVE: Was Carter Page a Russkie agent?

SATURDAY, MAY 19, 2018

The Times pushes the story along:
Was Carter Page some sort of Russkie agent?

We have no way of knowing. By the time the Mueller probe is done, we may all get a clearer idea concerning questions like that.

In the meantime, certain people are going to push claims and insinuations along.

When it comes to insinuations and overstatements regarding Page, one major gigantic cable news star rarely misses a chance to "hang him high." In fairness, this was already part of her TV show's culture before Page shambled along.

Then too, we were struck by something we read in Thursday's New York Times. In a lengthy retrospective report, three Times reporters said this:
APUZZO, GOLDMAN AND FANDOS (5/17/18): Crossfire Hurricane began with a focus on four campaign officials. But by mid-fall 2016, Mr. Page’s inquiry had progressed the furthest. Agents had known Mr. Page for years. Russian spies tried to recruit him in 2013, and he was dismissive when agents warned him about it, a half-dozen current and former officials said.
Back is 2013, was Page "dismissive" when he was warned about the Russkie approach?

We have no way of knowing. We're not even completely sure we know what the statement means.

That said, we decided to check the prior news report to which the three scribes linked in that passage. That report appeared in the Times in April 2017. Here's the way it began:
GOLDMAN (4/5/17): Russian intelligence operatives tried in 2013 to recruit an American businessman and eventual foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign who is now part of the F.B.I. investigation into Russia’s interference into the American election, according to federal court documents and a statement issued by the businessman.

The businessman, Carter Page, met with one of three Russians who were eventually charged with being undeclared officers with Russia’s foreign intelligence service, known as the S.V.R. The F.B.I. interviewed Mr. Page in 2013 as part of an investigation into the spy ring, but decided that he had not known the man was a spy, and the bureau never accused Mr. Page of wrongdoing.
Interesting! Back then, we weren't told that Page had been "dismissive" when clued by the FBI. Instead, we were told this:
The FBI decided that Page hadn't known that he'd been approached by a spy!
As you can see, the Times has come a long way baby from that initial report. On Thursday, the Times reporters cited that initial report as their source. But here's how the Times has now a-changed:
April 5, 2017: The FBI interviewed Page and decided he hadn't known that he'd been approached by a spy.

May 16, 2018: The FBI interviewed Page and judged that he was "dismissive."
Questions:

Is it true? Did the FBI decide that Page didn't know that he'd been approached by a spy? If so, as a matter of fundamental fairness, should Times readers have been apprised of that fact in Thursday's retrospective?

If that's what the FBI decided, we'd say Times readers should have been told. We voice this judgment in the name of fundamental fairness (among other desirable traits).

At any rate, Thursday's report linked to the prior report as its source. We'd say it engineered a major change in tone—and a drift toward insinuation.

Was Carter Page some sort of Russkie agent? At present, we have no way of knowing. We hope some day to find out.

That said, regarding the age-old cult of insinuation and the unparalleled pleasures of hanging them high, we'd be inclined to say this:

A big cable star likes to play it that way. Should the Times follow suit?

Also this: This headline, in this morning's Times, is about as didactic as a headline on a front-page news report gets:
F.B.I. Used Informant to Investigate Russia Ties to Campaign, Not to Spy, as Trump Claims
The news report is shaky enough. (Example: Do you see Trump quoted anywhere using the key term "spy?")

The news report is shaky enough. The headline leaps beyond the report, and is a bit Pravdaesque.

Coming Monday: Big star's absurd toadyism

BREAKING: "I peddled a lot of oppo on Gore!"

FRIDAY, MAY 18, 2018

The extent of our tribe's degradation:
Way back when, we admired Nicolle Wallace's competence, back when she was pimping war and torture for Bush.

Today, she's one of our tribe's most admired stars! We have so few stars of our own!

We'll have to admit—despite past respect for her competence, we've come to despise the way she chuckles her way through her 4 PM program each day on MSNBC.

For Wallace, this whole Trump thing is loads of fun. It's an hour-long meeting of the club. If you can forgive a gendered remark, her daily show has the feel of a laugh-strewn kaffeeklatsch

This morning, Wallace filled in for Mika on Morning Joe; Willie Geist-Haskell was subbing for Joe. At one point, Nicolle said this:
GEIST-HASKELL (5/18/18): You've worked on campaigns, Nicolle Wallace. You've worked on a lot of campaigns.

WALLACE: I've worked on a lot of campaigns. I've peddled a lot of oppo, about a lot of people—Al Gore, John Kerry, President Obama, Joe Biden.

I have never, ever, ever been in receipt of anything from Russians...
At least she never did that! To watch this exchange, click here.

She peddled a lot of oppo on Gore! Today, she's our pitiful tribe's new number-one favorite star.

As we watched this exchange with Haskell-Geist Junior, we thought about all that oppo from Campaign 2000. In fairness, the Bush campaign barely had to bother, so dedicated was the mainstream press corps to this destructive task, which constituted two years of payback aimed at the loathed Bill Clinton.

For some reason, we thought about Ceci Connolly's pitiful con concerning Gore's enlistment in the army. An account of the episode can be found in our incomparable archives, but it went down something like this:

One day, at some event, Gore mentioned the fact that he had enlisted after college. In her news report in the next day's Washington Post, Ceci implied that Gore enlisted only because he got a bad number in the draft lottery.

Unlike millions of other slimings by Connolly, this sliming never took off. But it was especially phony, even by Connolly's standards.

Why phony? Gore enlisted in August 1969. The draft lottery wasn't conducted until that December. People with his birthdate did get a low draft number, but he'd already been in the army four months.

At the time, we wondered if this could have been an honest mistake. Apparently not! In other news reports about Gore's remarks that day, it turned out that he had explicitly described this chronology, in spite of which Ceci struck.

The Post and the Times played these games from March 1999 right through the November 2000 election (and beyond). Career liberal players, so silly and so fearless today, all knew they should keep their traps shut.

Connolly kept it up for two years. The liberal world sat there and took it.

Given this disappeared history, Wallace didn't have to peddle that much oppo back then. But she peddled it anyway, after which she peddled the war. Today, she's our pitiful tribe's number-one favorite new star.

She "peddled a lot of oppo on Gore!" But she didn't get it from the Russkies. She got it from Ceci and Kit!

Why not catch her program today? She'll laugh and chuckle and rollick her way right through the whole rollicking hour! For overpaid stars of the cable news game, opposition to Trump is good work for good pay and it's good solid fun.

As stated by Steve Martin: “I used to smoke marijuana. But I’ll tell you something: I would only smoke it in the late evening. Oh, occasionally the early evening, but usually the late evening—or the mid-evening. Just the early evening, mid-evening and late evening. Occasionally, early afternoon, early mid-afternoon, or perhaps the late-mid-afternoon. Oh, sometimes the early-mid-late-early morning. . . . But never at dusk.”

Also, he never got it from the Russians! Why not give credit where due?

BREAKING: Why the attacks go on and on!

FRIDAY, MAY 18, 2018

It only takes one:
On our daily and nightly cable entertainment spectacles, we liberals get to imagine the joy of seeing The Others on trial.

We also get to laugh about the foolishness of Don and Rudy's attacks. We do this because we may be slightly dumb. Consider part of what's happening.

We love to think about the way Manafort will spend the rest of his life in prison. Have we ever heard about the way a jury works?

If one juror decides the whole trial is a witch hunt driven by fake news from traitors within the deep state, then no conviction can be obtained. We have to assume that this is part of the strategy behind the ongoing attacks from twin terrors Don and Rudy.

Meanwhile, there was the New York Times yesterday, treating Rudy's latest claims like gospel. By night, the same reporters are on TV, helping our programs along.

Still and all, this is good entertainment. Nicolle laughs and laughs for an hour each day. Our next post will concern our new tribal love for her.

Also this: Coming soon to your TV machine, Real Barristers of Cable News!

Top-flight behind-the-scenes cable news fun! We'd say it works best at Bravo!

GAPS AND SCHOOLS: Everybody wants "good schools!"

FRIDAY, MAY 18, 2018

Part 5—No one knows how to create them:
This morning's New York Times helps us see why we can't have nice things.

Here at this site, we'd planned to focus on Richard Kahlenberg's attempts to "create public schools that are more integrated." More specifically, we'd planned to focus on his current efforts in Chicago.

The formulation that we've quoted comes from Anya Kamenetz, "NPR's lead education blogger." In March of 2017, Kamenetz interviewed Kahlenberg about his efforts in Chicago. Her report appeared beneath an unfortunate headline at NPR's web site:
Try This One Trick To Improve Student Outcomes
We don't know who composed that unfortunate headline. That said, its cheeky tone suggests the degree of concern upper-end news orgs tend to bring to the topic of education for low-income kids.

Cheeky headline to the side, what's the "one trick" NPR said we should try? Kamenetz explained it like this:
KAMENETZ (3/16/17): Richard Kahlenberg has spent decades stumping for a third way. His idea: Create public schools that are more integrated. He helped innovate the use of social and economic indicators to do that—instead of race and ethnicity, the use of which is prohibited by a 2007 Supreme Court decision.

His strategy could be summed up as: Give poor kids the opportunity to attend school with not-so-poor kids.
"Give poor kids the opportunity to attend school with not-so-poor kids?" In principle, and where possible, that is, at least theoretically, a very good idea.

We include a litany of qualifiers because there are so many ways this good idea can, in practice, go wrong. Also because of this sobering yet other-worldly exchange, which starts with a factual error by Kamenetz:
KAMENETZ: In New York City, where I live, as your report notes, 77 percent of students live in poverty. How do you create economically mixed schools if there aren't enough middle-class kids to go around?

KAHLENBERG: I worked with Chicago Public Schools on their socioeconomic integration plan. The district is 85 percent low-income. My recommendation was not to ensure that every school was 85 percent low-income, because high-poverty schools are bad for students. In Chicago what they've done is to begin with magnet and selective-enrollment schools. You want to create a virtuous cycle where people can see examples of success.

KAMENETZ: It almost sounds like a chemistry experiment—you have to control the conditions very carefully and titrate your mixture until it hits that tipping point.

KAHLENBERG: The long-term aspiration is that, as you develop more socioeconomically integrated schools, that the overall demographics of the public school system could shift. We saw that in Cambridge: Over time, more middle-class and white people came back into the district, stopped using private schools and stopped moving away once their kids got to be a certain age.
In education parlance, "low-income" doesn't mean "poverty." It isn't true that 77 percent of New York City kids are living in poverty.

Setting that requisite groaner to the side, let's focus on Kahlenberg's thinking.

All things being equal, it's a good and decent idea to "give poor kids the opportunity to attend school with not-so-poor kids." That said, all things aren't equal around the country, not by the longest of long shots.

For example, all things aren't equal in Chicago, where, in Kamenetz's admirably direct formulation, "there aren't enough middle-class kids to go around." What do you do in a system like that, if you want to give low-income kids a better chance in school?

What do you do in a system like that? In our view, Kahlenberg's answer is other-worldly—and also, highly instructive:

What do you do in a city like that? According to Kahlenberg, you create a small number of "socioeconomically integrated schools," for example through the creation of magnet schools, which are typically aimed at the higher-achieving and more ambitious students.

In Kahlenberg's formulation, when people see how well those few schools operate, some sort of demographic miracle will occur—in a city whose student population is currently 85 percent low-income! (And 87 percent black and Hispanic.)

That's the "one trick" NPR said we ought to try! By our reckoning, this trick should erase our ginormous achievement gaps by some time in or near the start of the 23rd century.

In the meantime, first-graders are going to school today, and they'll also be going to school tomorrow. In the fall, their younger sibling will be starting kindergarten. What's going to happen to them?

These good, decent kids will be going to school in cities which are overwhelmingly low-income, and also black and Hispanic. While we wait for NPR's "one trick" to blossom in Chicago, what is going to happen to them? Who's going to serve those kids?

Anthropologically speaking, our upper-end news orgs are crammed with people who are skilled at ignoring such questions. Anthropologically speaking, experts say that it seems to be the nature of the beast.

The kids in question don't really matter, except to the extent that we can use them as pawns in our attempts to engage in old-fashioned moral posturing about our moral greatness. You won't hear the lives of these children discussed on your favorite "liberal" TV shows. Nor will you see their interests discussed at your favorite liberal sites.

We liberals quit on these kids long ago. To the extent that we bother posing and pretending at all, we bloviate about "integration" and "desegregation," racial and socioeconomic. We posture about possible academic gains for tiny handfuls of kids. We imagine magical outcomes, in centuries yet to come.

So it was in this morning's New York Times, where a reporter who isn't an education specialist conducted the latest magical mystery tour of the drive toward "desegregation" in New York City's schools. In her report, Winnie Hu focuses again on School 54, the "high-performing" Manhattan school which would be affected by the "desegregation plan" now under consideration for the middle schools in New York City's District 3.

Hu quoted a parent from School 54; his wife had been quoted by Elizabeth Harris in her own report about School 54 back on May 2. This parent had a sensible point of concern about the proposed plan, along with a tired old claim about where achievement gaps come from.

Hu quoted that family again. But in a democratizing flourish, she also quoted parents from all over the city. Few of them seemed to have any obvious idea what they were talking about.

Hu created a Babel of complaints and theories. Eventually, we hit upon this suggestion:
HU (5/18/18): Naila Rosario, a mother of two in largely working-class Sunset Park, recalled her frustration one year when even the top-performing student at her neighborhood elementary school was not admitted to [high-performing] M.S. 51. Meanwhile, she noted, Park Slope's prestigious Public School 321 sent many students to M.S. 51, year after year.

''It's not fair, it's not equitable,'' she said. ''All kids should have access to all the schools—and not because you live in a certain neighborhood and your parents have access to certain resources.''
Why did that "top-performing student" get turned down at high-performing School 51? We don't know, but then again, neither does Hu or this parent. It's possible that the Park Slope kids were simply better students.

That said, this parent's solution, while perfectly reasonable—all kids should have access to all the schools—leaves us where we began. Across the city of New York, the average child would be in a school which was 77 percent low-income.

All the schools would end up being New York City average. No one would be in a high-performing middle school whose students were high-performers coming in. There's nothing automatically wrong about this parent's suggestion, but these are precisely the kinds of schools Kahlenberg says he wants to avoid.

Meanwhile, each of those schools would have to deal with the giant achievement gaps found in New York City schools, where many kids achieve 1's on the state math exam and other kids achieve 4's. As you may recall, the river in New York City is wide, and it's hard to row over:
Average scores by percentiles, 2017 Naep
Grade 8 math, New York City Public Schools

90th percentile: 329.72
75th percentile: 303.23
50th percentile: 272.76
25th percentile: 245.27
10th percentile: 222.66
By standard methods of reckoning, the gaps in achievement are gigantic. And how would the typical middle school handle that wide range of achievement? Here's what Hu reports from another "high-performing" middle school in District 3:
HU: At the Computer School, which receives up to 1,000 applicants for 140 sixth-grade spots, about 19 percent of those admitted for the fall scored either 1s or 2s on the state tests. Once admitted, students with low and high test scores learn side by side. ''I see it as a challenge, but that's what we're supposed to do as educators—we're supposed to be the problem solvers,'' said Henry Zymeck, the principal.
Really? Once admitted, these students learn side by side? They don't get split into "advanced" and "regular" and "remedial" classes, where the racial patterns we liberals despise will tend to appear again?

Despite those giant achievement gaps, these students learn side by side? We'd love to know how that works—or why anyone thinks it would. Lacking a background in education, Hu didn't think to ask.

These students all learn side by side? Think about what that means.

Think back! When you were in middle school and high school, did the kids who were taking Latin 4 learn side by side with the kids who were taking first-year Latin? Did the kids who were acing calculus learn side by side with the kids who flunked Algebra 1 last year and were taking it over again?

Did everyone learn side by side? Would it even make sense to try? We don't know who would run a school that way, or why anyone would think that approach made optimal sense. Anthropologically speaking, though, we liberals seem to be unable to think rationally about our low-income kids, their needs and their actual interests.

And make no mistake—the reason we bumble ahead in this way is because nobody actually cares. Given our manifest lack of interest, few things could be more clear.

Back on May 2, Elizabeth Harris wrote a fascinating news report about District 3's proposed plan. Already, the chancellor had apologized for a racially inflammatory statement he made about white parents who didn't like the plan. This sort of thing routinely occurs when we try to square the public school race-and-achievement circle in ways which make no real sense in the end.

We like to pretend there's some magical way to desegregate our way out of our grinding achievement gaps. In the real world, there's no such exit ramp. But we aren't rational animals, and we like to pretend.

In Harris' report, one parent said she hoped that lower-achieving students might do better academically if they get to attend School 54. Another parent worried that lower-achieving kids might not be able to handle the work at the school. Each statement was perfectly sensible, absent further explanation.

A third parent was quoted at the end of Harris' report. Like Chekhov's desperate dreaming couple in The Lady With the Lapdog, here's what the third parent said:
HARRIS (5/2/18): [Chancellor] Carranza has not said whether he will ultimately endorse the plan, though he has called it ''well thought-out'' and ''very moderate.'' On Tuesday, after meeting with legislators in Albany, Mr. Carranza said that while communities should be part of the conversation about integration, ''at some point we have to act on our beliefs.''

He went on, ''My belief is that schools should be integrated.''

For Tracy Alpert, a white parent who has one child at P.S. 191, which was at the center of an earlier desegregation debate in the district, the answer was clear. ''They need more good schools. It's a scarce resource,'' she said. ''We need more good seats at good schools.''
The chancellor's declaration wasn't gigantically helpful. Everyone believes that public schools should be integrated. It all depends on what the meaning of "integration" is!

Meanwhile, to that third parent, the answer was clear. We need more "good schools," the parent said. We need more seats at such schools.

The parent offered no ideas about how these "good schools" would actually work. Nor did Harris seem to have asked her.

In that moment, a lesson was taught:

Everybody wants "good schools." But no one knows how to create them!

Next week: Gaps and solutions—good schools for struggling kids

BREAKING: How to get from maybe to is!

THURSDAY, MAY 17, 2018

How to play fast and loose:
In our last post, we showed you how they reason at the New York Times.

Now, let's review the way our biggest stars reason on cable.

The unnamed star we have in mind loves to "hang 'em high." If you've been accused or suspected of something, that almost certainly makes you guilty inside this major star's mind.

She especially loves to hang Carter Page high. Last evening, she read this passage from the latest New York Times report:
APUZZO, GOLDMAN AND FANDOS (5/17/18): Crossfire Hurricane began with a focus on four campaign officials, but by mid fall 2016, the Carter Page inquiry had progressed the furthest. Agents had known Mr. Page for years. Russian spies had tried to recruit him in 2013. And when agents warned him about that, he was dismissive.

That warning even made its way back to Russian intelligence, leaving agents suspecting that Carter Page had reported their efforts to Moscow.
We've highlighted only one word: "suspecting." With her usual lightning speed, our cable star made her usual move.

With lightning speed, she moved directly from "suspect[ed]" to "knew." She proceeded to several more of her favorite misleading and inaccurate claims which tilt the scale against Page, one of her favorite targets.

(He's just a little too weird for this star, who bought her first TV set by mistake when she got blackout drunk. No, really! True story!

This star has been doing this sort of thing for years. She simply loves to hang them high—and of course, to entertain us with her marvelous "cable news" jokes.

Marvelous jokes from this one segment: Crossfire Hurricane? "Come on! It's a great name for a squirt gun, but really?"

Also, Crossfire Hurricane? The New York Times was "breaking the news that FBI agents are a bunch of drama queens!"

People, she's going to be there all week—and she'll likely be hanging them high.

BREAKING: If Rudy says it, it must be true!

THURSDAY, MAY 17, 2018

So says the New York Times:
Does Robert Mueller believe he has the legal authority to indict Donald J. Trump?

According to Rudy Giuliani, Mueller has told the Trump legal team that he feels he cannot indict Trump. For reasons only the gods can explain, three reporters at the New York Times are acting as if they sgould simply assume that Giuliani's claims must be true.

We know—that sounds quite strange. Giuliani has seemed to make many odd statements of late. It has been widely noted that he isn't the world's most reliable source.

Still, in this morning's news report, three reporters treat his latest proclamations as gospel. Below, you see the passage in question. This strikes us as very strange:
SCHMIDT, HABERMAN AND SAVAGE (5/17/18): [T]he question of whether the president can be indicted is unsettled. Many legal experts and current and former Justice Department officials believed that Mr. Mueller would follow the conclusions of Justice Department lawyers, who argued during both the Nixon and Clinton administrations that an indictment would interfere with the president’s constitutional responsibilities and powers to run the executive branch.

Mr. Trump’s lead lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, said the special counsel’s office displayed uncertainty about whether Mr. Trump could be indicted. “When I met with Mueller’s team, they seemed to be in a little bit of confusion about whether they could indict,” Mr. Giuliani said. “We said, ‘It’s pretty clear that you have to follow D.O.J. policy.’”

Mr. Giuliani said that one member of Mr. Mueller’s office acknowledged that the president could not be indicted. Two or three days later, Mr. Giuliani said, Mr. Mueller’s office called another of the president’s lawyers, Jay Sekulow, to say that prosecutors would adhere to the Justice Department view.

“They can’t indict,” Mr. Giuliani said. “They can’t indict.
Because if they did, it would be dismissed quickly. There’s no precedent for a president being indicted.”
According to Giuliani, one member of Mueller's team told him, Giuliani, that Trump could not be indicted. Also according to Giuliani, Mueller's office telephoned Jay Sekulow a few days later to deliver the same message.

Given Giuliani's erratic behavior in recent years and his weird remarks of the past few weeks, it's hard to know why anyone would accept such claims as dispositive. But this is the peculiar way The New York Times Trio continued:
SCHMIDT, HABERMAN AND SAVAGE (continuing directly): It is not clear why Mr. Mueller has decided that he will not seek Mr. Trump’s indictment. A spokesman for the special counsel declined to offer clarity about the assertions of Mr. Giuliani, who since being hired last month by Mr. Trump has repeatedly made statements that were later clarified. In his most notable misstep, he mischaracterized how payments were made by Mr. Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, to a pornographic film actress who has said she had sex with Mr. Trump. The president has denied her accusation.
In the highlighted statement, the reporters treat Giuliani's claims as if they were dispositive. Weirdly, they then offer a list of reasons why his claims shouldn't be so regarded.

This odd report was written by three of the New York Times' heaviest hitters. Is any other newspaper quite as strange as the glorious Times?

Also this: The passages we've posted come from the middle of today's news report. The first two paragraphs of the report are rather puzzling too:
SCHMIDT, HABERMAN AND SAVAGE (5/17/18): The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, will not indict President Trump if he finds wrongdoing in his investigation of Trump campaign links to Russia, according to the president’s lawyers. They said Wednesday that Mr. Mueller’s investigators told them that he would adhere to the Justice Department’s view that the Constitution bars prosecuting sitting presidents.

The disclosure provides the greatest clarity to date about how Mr. Mueller, who is also investigating whether Mr. Trump tried to obstruct the inquiry itself, may proceed. If he concludes that he has evidence that the president broke the law, experts say, he now has only two main options while Mr. Trump remains in office: He could write a report about the president’s conduct that Congress might use as part of any impeachment proceedings, or he could deem the president as an unindicted co-conspirator in court documents.
In their opening sentence, the reporters say that Mueller will not indict Trump according to Trump's lawyers.

They then refer to this assertion as a "disclosure" and treat it as a settled point. Of course, if we're all still speaking English, the assertion only becomes a "disclosure" if the assertion is actually true. And where's the proof of that?

Please note: the reporters also make it sound like they're sourcing their own assertions to more than one Trump lawyer. They aren't! As the report unfolds, they quote Giuliani alone; they quote no one else. (There is no sign that they spoke to Sekulow themselves.)

Giuliani's statements could be true, of course. But especially given their later statements about his erratic behavior, why did these nitwits believe him?

Only the Times behaves this way. Does anyone know why it does?

GAPS AND SCHOOLS: "Nowhere to run to" in modern Detroit!

THURSDAY, MAY 17, 2018

Part 4—School 54, where are you?:
Like so many people around the country, Irene Butler, a Manhattan resident, is almost surely a good decent admirable person.

Almost surely, a novelizing journalist would describe Butler as "salt of the earth." Her grandson is a sixth-grader at West Prep Academy, a Manhattan middle school where Butler says students are struggling.

Butler thinks her her grandson might be better off academically at Manhattan's School 54, a higher-performing middle school located two blocks away from West Prep. It's possible that she's right about that. It's possible that she's wrong.

For the record, School 54's higher performance is based on the fact that its students were higher-performing back in fifth grade, before they set foot in the school. That said, it's possible that Butler's grandson would gain from attending a school with so many higher-performing, higher-income kids.

Then too, other things could happen:

It's possible that her grandson would be placed in a "remedial" math class, based on his relatively low math achievement level. This academic assignment might make perfect sense, but in this class, he wouldn't interact with the higher-performing kids who make the school higher-performing.

Here's something else which could happen:

It's possible that District 3's proposed "desegregation plan" might produce a bit of a backlash. School 54's higher-performing kids might look down on the lower-performing kids for whom seats at the school would be reserved under terms of the plan.

This backlash might even extend to the higher-performing black and Hispanic kids who already attend the school. As has sometimes happened elsewhere, white and Asian-American kids might start looking down on all their black and Hispanic schoolmates, assuming they all attend the school by dint of the proposed plan.

It's also possible that some families—white, black, Hispanic, Asian—might take their kids out of the New York City Public schools as a result of the plan. A certain number of higher-performing kids would end up at lower-performing West Prep as a result of the plan. Inevitably, a certain percentage of these kids would likely end up in parochial or private schools.

As everyone knows, these are the downsides which may sometimes tend to result from "desegregation plans" like the current District 3 proposal. Presumably, these are the sorts of downsides Mayor de Blasio had in mind when he spoke with the New York Times' Mara Gay, who proceeded to roast him for failing to "see the light" about "city-wide integration," as she herself has done.

Along the way, a deserving kid like Butler's grandson might end up doing better in class—or then again, he might not. But as we ponder all these possibilities, make no mistake about this:

Across New York City, across the nation, few such approaches can be taken with respect to our giant achievement gaps. In most urban settings, there is no School 54, just two blocks away, into which a small number of struggling kids can gain admission.

There's no such school in many of New York City's 33 other districts. Then too, consider Detroit:

New York City is a bit of an outlier among our big urban school systems. Its demographics make it stand out. According to Professor Reardon, those demographics looked like this in grades 3-8 during his recent nationwide study:
New York City Public Schools, grades 3-8
White kids: 15 percent
Black kids: 30 percent
Hispanic kids: 40 percent
Asian-American kids: 15 percent

Median family income: $42,000
Within the high-minded framework of the Times, New York City has an unusual number of "desirable" kids, as urban school systems go. In parts of the system like District 3, its schools retain an unusual number of middle- and upper-income kids. Most gloriously of all, the overall system is only 70% black and Hispanic!

The blinkered meliorists of the Times look on these data with pride. They rush to support "desegregation plans" which may save a few of the less desirable kids.

Whatever one thinks of District 3's proposed plan, such approaches are impossible almost everywhere else. Is Detroit, to cite one example, there's "nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide" for unhappy kids who are struggling in school. In Reardon's study, the Motor City's demographics looked like this:
Detroit Public Schools, grades 3-8
White kids: 2 percent
Black kids: 87 percent
Hispanic kids: 9 percent
Asian-American kids: 1 percent

Median family income: $27,000
School 54, where are you? There is no pool of higher-income white kids to draw on in Detroit. And the kids of Detroit need a lot of help. Below, you see some punishing data from last year's Naep math tests:
Average scores by percentiles, 2017 Naep
Grade 4 math, Detroit Public Schools

50th percentile: 199.23
25th percentile: 181.84

(National average: 239.16)

Grade 8 math, Detroit Public Schools
50th percentile: 244.25
25th percentile: 226.16

(National average: 281.96)
The river is very wide! Applying a very rough rule of thumb, the eighth-grader in Detroit who scored at the 50th percentile citywide was almost four years behind the nation's average eighth-grader in math.

That river is extremely wide—and twenty-five percent of Detroit's kids were substantially farther behind than that! Having said that, please understand:

Modern Detroit has no School 54's to which these kids can be sent. In Detroit, as in so many big cities, such schools simply don't exist.

"Can't forget the Motor City," Martha Reeves sang long ago. By now, it's much too late for any such thought as that.

By now, the struggling kids of Detroit have been completely forgotten. More accurately, they've been disappeared within our self-involved, upper-end "liberal" frameworks.

Their classroom struggles don't get discussed, and certainly not by seven- and eight-figure corporate stars like Rachel, Chris and Lawrence. Those kids don't count, don't even exist. Neither do millions of kids in other systems which have no School 54's.

We liberals! At the New York Times, we like to strut about District 3's plan. We like to fret about the mayor who hasn't yet "seen the light."

We posture about the handful of kids who might end up at School 54. All those other kids "across the nation" can just go hang in the yard.

Whatever one thinks of the District 3 plan, we can't "desegregate" our way out of our giant gaps! Tomorrow, though, we'll visit Chicago, to see what this peculiar type of posturing currently looks like there.

We'll recall de Blasio's crazy remark, in which he said that you could have good schools with just black and Hispanic kids! And we'll quote a third parent from District 3—a parent who, like everyone else, says we just need more "good schools."

Tomorrow: Everyone wants "good schools!"

Can so forget the Motor City: Reeves emerged from the Motor City in the early 1960s. To see her list the cities whose children have been abandoned by our big liberal stars, you can just click here.

In our view, that young person's smile, which couldn't be taught, was a statement about human greatness. On the other hand, Rachel has some wonderful entertainment product to fob off on you tonight.

BREAKING: Nothing but the Russians is coming!

WEDNESDAY, MAY 16, 2018

Dems unhappy with Rachel:
We recommend two recent reports about the program content of pseudoliberal cable news, especially MSNBC.

We refer to this post by Erix Levitz at New York Magazine ("The Democratic Party Has an MSNBC Problem"), and to an earlier report at The Daily Beast which Levitz quotes.

That earlier report is by Gideon Resnick and Sam Stein.
Stein is a frequent presence on cable news. But the content of the Beast report is captured by its headlines:
Dems Give Up on Trying to Get Cable News to Care About Anything but Russia
The party wants to talk health care. They really do. But they can’t get cable bookers or programmers to care.
The basic premise of these reports is this: Congressional Democrats want to talk about important policy issues—more specifically, about the Trump administration's "war on the middle class." But all Rachel and them are willing to discuss is Russia and also Russia, Russia the whole freaking time.

The Russians are coming, and also the Russians are coming! It's the Russians the whole freaking time!

We refer to Rachel Maddow because she's the top star on MSNBC. But each of these reports suggests that Democratic election prospects are being harmed by the way MSNBC is selling its one and only TV show, The (explosive) Chase:
RESNICK AND STEIN (5/14/18): Eager to move a message that focuses on things like minimum wage hikes and health care premiums, [Democrats] have been overtaken by a steady stream of stories of Russian meddling, porn star payoffs, and shady Trump-world figures. Ultimately, many offices and aides have come to the conclusion that they should simply give up on trying to break through on cable news at all.

“It’s impossible,” said one Senate aide, “unless you want to talk about Russia.”

...[N]umerous other aides echoed this point, sharing stories of fruitless calls and emails to bookers and abrupt cancellations on pre-existing bookings. Jessica Post, executive director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, said she was bumped three times from a prime-time MSNBC show due to Trump scandals.
Is this relentless diet of Russia trivia harming election prospects? That's a matter of judgment, but the diet is unrelenting and largely beside the point, absent eventual action by Mueller.

When it comes to her Russia obsession, Maddow is often so deep in the weeds that you can't see the swamp from there. With that in mind, we were struck by Levitz's claim, based on a study by The Intercept, that Maddow "devotes more air time to 'Trump-Russia' developments than to all other issues" combined.

The Intercept had studied Maddow's programs from February 20 through March 31. By their reckoning, Maddow had devoted 640 minutes to "Russia issues" during that period, but only 552 minutes to "Total Non-Russia Issues."

We couldn't help wondering—did Maddow really devote that much time to non-Russkie issues? What other issues does she ever discuss, we incomparably wondered.

We decided to run a quick check. Below, you see the summaries of Maddow Show highlights from the middle week in March. These summaries run on Nexis with transcripts of each night's program. We assume they come from the Maddow staff, but we don't know that for sure.

From these summaries, there's no way to assess The Intercept's statistical breakdown. But you may start to get an idea of what those "other" issues were in Maddow's Trump-obsessed issue palate. We highlight a few topics which aren't "Trump Russia" but come from the same family tree:
Monday, March 12:
HIGHLIGHT: David Corn and Michael Isikoff discussed with Rachel Maddow some of the insights explored in their new book, "Russian Roulette," including the unusual presence of people like Paul Manafort, Carter Page, and George Papadopoulos on the Trump campaign team, and how many of the ingredients of the Russian attack on the 2016 election were known to the U.S. intelligence community without the realization of the overall plot. Congressman Adam Schiff talked with Rachel Maddow about the Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee shutting down their Trump Russia investigation with witnesses yet to interview and questions left unanswered.

Tuesday, March 13:
HIGHLIGHT: Andrea Mitchell, NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent, talked with Rachel Maddow about the circumstances of Donald Trump's firing of Rex Tillerson and the foreign policy stakes around Trump administration upheaval. Senator Ron Wyden talked with Rachel Maddow about his objections to the elevation of Gina Haspel to director of the CIA and his concerns about the secrecy of the U.S. torture program and Haspel's role in it.

Wednesday, March 14:
HIGHLIGHT: Britain is to expel 23 Russian diplomats allegedly operating as undeclared intelligence officers after Moscow ignored a midnight deadline to explain how its nerve weapon was used in the attempted assassination of a former double agent on U.K. soil. Caleb Melby, financial investigations reporter for Bloomberg News, talked with Rachel Maddow about a hundred million dollar real estate deal the Jared Kushner's family company did with a Japan-backed company. Sarah Chadwick, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, talked with Rachel Maddow about National Walkout Day and how the national response has increased

Thursday, March 15:
HIGHLIGHT: Donald Trump secretaries Ben Carson and Steven Mnuchin are garnering the kind of embarrassing scandal headlines that seem likely to draw the ax-wielding attention of Donald Trump. "The New York Times" reports that Robert Mueller has sent a subpoena to the Trump Organization for Russia-related documents over a time that extends to before Donald Trump declared his candidacy. Nicole Perlroth, cybersecurity reporter for "The New York Times", talked with Rachel Maddow about new details of Russia's efforts to hack vital U.S. infrastructure accompanying new sanctions on Russia. Ashley Parker, White House correspondent for "The Washington Post", talked with Rachel Maddow about Donald Trump being prepared to fire his second national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, as soon as he arranges a suitable replacement and a non-humiliating departure. Rep. Eric Swalwell talked with Rachel Maddow about evidence House Intel Democrats say they've seen that shows the Trump Organization negotiating a deal with a sanctioned Russian bank during the election season.

Friday, March 16:
HIGHLIGHT: Andrea Mitchell, NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent, talked with Rachel Maddow about the circumstances of Rex Tillerson's firing in contrast with the story the White House is trying to push about it. Donald Trump has hired attorney Charles Harder to represent him in the Stormy Daniels legal case, and filed to move the case to a federal court, showing a new seriousness about the situation. Ellen Barry, international correspondent for The New York Times, talked with Rachel Maddow about British authorities treating the death of Russian exile Nikolai Glushkov as a murder and re-examining more than a dozen past suspicious Russian deaths in the UK.
It wasn't all "Trump Russia" after all! It was also Kushner/Japan, plus the dumping of Tillerson and McMaster, along with the Stormy Daniels case and the embarrassment called Ben Carson!

In other words, it's basically nothing but "Trump scandal and embarrassment." As Maddow socks millions of dollars away, little else ever intrudes, including major policy issues.

Last night, Maddow returned from vacation with one of her higher-energy evenings. It occurred to us that, when dealing with a dangerous president who seems to have mental health issues, it may be better to avoid having cable news anchors who have spoken about their own mental health issues, and who seem to exhibit such difficulties on a regular basis.

That said, it's now "Trump scandal and embarrassment" pretty much all the way down. Corporate cable is raking in bucks selling us an exciting "true crime" tale. We're perhaps a bit too enthralkled to see that we're being entertained, stroked, fluffed, talked down to and played.

Nothing matters except That Bad Man. Nothing affecting regular people need apply, let alone struggling children!

Corporate doesn't care about them. Neither do we, or at least that's what corporate guesses.

GAPS AND SCHOOLS: The river is wide!

WEDNESDAY, MAY 16, 2018

Part 3—The size of the gaps inside Gotham:
What will happen at School 54 if the plan goes into effect? Quickly, let's review:

The plan to which we refer is the proposed "desegregation plan" for middle schools in Manhattan's District 3, one of the 34 districts which constitute New York City's humongous public school system.

(Over one million students!)

School 54 is one of District's 3's "sought-after" middle schools. Last September, at least 88 percent of its incoming sixth-graders had passed the state of New York's fifth-grade math exam.

If the proposed desegregation plan is adopted, School 54 will be required to set aside 25 percent of its sixth-grade seats for kids who didn't pass the fifth-grade state exams. This would lead to greater racial mingling, at least in the school's highly sought-after lunchroom. But how would the plan affect academics, let's say in reading and math?

How would the plan affect academics? So far, we've heard two ideas:

In Elizabeth Harris's news report about the proposal,
a grandparent named Irene Butler said the plan might lead to higher achievement for some affected kids. Kids who failed the state exam might do better at the "higher-performing" School 54, as opposed to at West Prep Academy, the lower-performing school two blocks away where she said, no doubt correctly, they some kids are "struggling."

This notion isn't crazy! (We'll examine it further tomorrow.) For today, let's focus on a second idea which isn't crazy. Let's consider something a gloomier parent said.

Truly, it's always somethin'! According to Harris, the gloomier parent said this:
HARRIS (5/2/18): [Some people] have questioned how the schools will adapt their teaching to meet the needs of students who come in at such different [academic] levels.

Deborah Kross, who lives on 118th Street and is white, has three children at District 3 public schools, including one at School 54. She shares some of those concerns. “A question I’ve asked twice in these meetings is, ‘What’s the plan for middle schools to bring together in the same classroom people with the very broad abilities?’ And there’s no response to that,” she said.
In a slightly better world, Kross would have said "achievement levels" rather than "abilities." But Kross is asking a sensible question, though she seems to have an unlikely picture in her head.

If School 54 ends up enrolling kids with a wider range of achievement levels, will these widely-varying kids end up "in the same classroom?" We'll guess that they would not.

We'll guess that the kids who got 4's on the math exam—the highest possible score—would typically be assigned to "accelerated" math classes. We'll guess that the kids who got 1's—the lowest possible score—would typically be assigned to some sort of (hopefully challenging) "remedial" math class.

This would, of course, tend to recreate the "racial segregation," relocating it within the classrooms of School 54. As liberals, we all know that we must denounce such an obvious evil.

But liberals, the river is very wide, and the river is hard to get over.

At present, School 54 is full of kids who got passing grades—3's and 4's—on the fifth-grade math exam. Within the context of New York City, how elite is this group?

Not all that super-elite! According to explosive official records, 41% of New York City fifth-graders scored 3 or 4 on the test in question. As kids who passed the test could tell you, this means that 59% of Gotham's fifth-graders got a 1 or a 2 on the test:
Scores on Grade 5 math exam
New York City, 2017

4: 16.5 percent
3: 24.3 percent
2: 24.5 percent
1: 34.7 percent
This, of course, doesn't tell us how wide the achievement gaps may be between these groups of kids.

For better or worse, the gaps seem to be quite large. Consider the scores New York City kids produced on that same year's Naep, the widely-praised "gold standard" of domestic educational testing.

The Naep tests kids in Grade 4 and Grade 8. For that very reason, we can't show you results from Grade 5.

That said, the results from Grade 4 seem to tell a familiar story, a story our experts tend to avoid as they sleep their way through life. Judging from results on the Naep, achievement gaps within Gotham seem to be very large:
Average scores by percentiles, 2017 Naep
Grade 4 math, New York City Public Schools

90th percentile: 269.09
75th percentile: 251.60
50th percentile: 230.43
25th percentile: 207.50
10th percentile: 186.80
Good grief! Fourth-graders who scored at the 90th percentile outscored their 10th-percentile peers by more than 80 points!

At such times, very rough rules of thumb may start breaking down on the Naep. But according to one familiar rule of thumb, that gap would mean that the higher-scorers are "ahead" of their lower-scoring peers by roughly eight academic years! At the end of fourth grade!

That doesn't exactly make sense. But even at the intermediate 25th and 75th percentiles, the river seems quite wide. Just as a frame of references, this is the way the numbers looked among New York City's eighth-graders:
Average scores by percentiles, 2017 Naep
Grade 8 math, New York City Public Schools

90th percentile: 329.72
75th percentile: 303.23
50th percentile: 272.76
25th percentile: 245.27
10th percentile: 222.66
The rivers seem to be wide.

Based upon these data, our gloomier parent seemed to have a germ of a point. Almost surely, District 3's proposed plan would introduce larger "achievement gaps" to the hallowed halls of "sought-after" School 54.

That doesn't mean that the school's teachers would be wrestling with these achievement gaps within individual classrooms. Presumably, the kids who aced the state math exam with scores of 4 wouldn't be in the same math class with the "struggling" kids who got 1's.

Deborah Kross has a germ of a point. That said, her specific fear—the indiscriminate mixing of 1's with 4's—is likely unfounded.

On the other hand, our more sanguine grandparent may be brought back down to earth by this rumination. Here is the unfortunate question a skeptical person must ask:

What makes her think that teachers at School 54 are better at teaching remedial math than the teachers at West Prep, two blocks away? Also, sadly, this:

Is she sure that the teachers at School 54 might not look down on her grandson—on the kid who is struggling with math? Is it possible that the teachers at West Prep might be more likely to see him for the decent kid he is?

Would lower-achieving kids end up doing better in math if they went to School 54? Tomorrow, we'll discuss that possibility in a bit more detail.

Having said that, let us also say this once again. It's a very important point:

People! Most struggling, lower-achieving kids don't have a nearby School 54! If we're going to help those kids succeed, we won't be able to help them succeed through s magical transfer to a sought-after, higher-performing school!

We'll have to figure out ways to make the West Prep Academies work. Luckily, you're never asked to think about this by Rachel, Lawrence or Chris.

They don't care about struggling kids like Irene Butler's grandson. On their entertaining cable programs, struggling kids in New York or Detroit aren't mentioned, don't matter, don't count.

You won't be shown the size of the gaps. You won't be asked how to address them.

Tomorrow: "Integration" in Chicago—and what de Blasio said

Location of Naep data: The federal government provides mountains of data from the Naep. Unfortunately, there is no way to make upper-end journalists access or discuss them.

For all Naep data, just start here, with The Naep Data Explorer. From there, you're on your own. Scores achieved at different percentiles can be accessed under the STATISTIC heading.

Tons of information are available at that site. It's just that no one ever goes there, mainly because, as is perfectly obvious, nobody actually cares and no one ever has.

BREAKING: Anthropology powers ahead!

TUESDAY, MAY 15, 2018

Depressing new findings emerge:
As happenstance would happen to have it, we clicked to The Daily Beast at almost exactly the moment when this childish headline appeared as top item on the Beast's ten-item "Cheat Sheet:"
UNCOVERED
Anne Frank Made Dirty Jokes in Newly-Revealed Diary Pages
Experts tell us that this Daily Beast headline constitutes a major anthropological find. Beneath the headline, The Beast provided a childish summary of this New York Times report, to which a link was provided.

As we've told you, "it's all anthropology now!" It no longer makes sense to expect that we the humans will be able to find our way to the "rational" conduct which was once said to define our species.

As we await Mr. Trump's War, the only remaining task is a search for a more accurate rendering of what our species was secretly like all along. Almost surely, future anthropologists will seize upon this Daily Beast effort as an example of the awful anthropological truth which explains the decades-long run-up to the aforementioned war of the aforementioned disordered American president.

Given our mental and moral limitations, it's clear that we never really had a chance to escape the future conflagration. According to leading anthropologists, today's Beast headline helps prove this important point.

In fairness, Michael Avenatti had nothing to do with this. Or at least, that's what several major experts are telling us at this time.

While we're at it: While we're at it, we strongly recommend Francine Prose's 2010 book, Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife.

In our view, it's the deepest, most instructive book we've read in years.
For background, just click here.

BREAKING: New York Times Sunday Review gets it right!

TUESDAY, MAY 15, 2018

This morning, Page A3 fights back:
In the rarest of all journalistic events. the New York Times Sunday Review got it right this weekend.

It did so on the section's front page, in the section's featured essay!

This morning, whoever writes the Times' reimagined page A3 (hard-copy only) decided to come fighting back. In the daily section called The Conversation, the anonymous editor/presumptive nephew chose to say this about that:
The Conversation
FOUR OF THE MOST READ, SHARED AND DISCUSSED POSTS FROM ACROSS NYTIMES.COM

[...]

2. Liberals, You're Not as Smart as You Think
Gerard Alexander's Op-Ed, which argued that liberal smugness will push people into an opposing coalition and get President Trump re-elected, drew plenty of debate. "Just what do you suggest liberals do?" asked one highly recommended comment. "Be super respectful and tolerant of ignorance? Invite the other side to a dialogue? In my little town, we tried that and they refused."
Leave it to the New York Times to reprint and highlight that "highly recommended comment!" Leave it to us liberals to compose and fall in love with a comment like that, in which we immediately identify what The Others think and say as "ignorance!"

Full stop! End of story!

What does Alexander suggest that we liberals do? He offers a long list of suggestions all through his essay. Stunningly accurate headlines included, his essay started like this:
ALEXANDER (5/13/18): Liberals, You're Not As Smart as You Think/
Self-righteousness is rarely attractive, and it's even more rarely rewarded.


I know many liberals, and two of them really are my best friends. Liberals make good movies and television shows. Their idealism has been an inspiration for me and many others. Many liberals are very smart. But they are not as smart, or as persuasive, as they think.

And a backlash against liberals—a backlash that most liberals don’t seem to realize they’re causing—is going to get President Trump re-elected.

People often vote against things instead of voting for them: against ideas, candidates and parties. Democrats, like Republicans, appreciate this whenever they portray their opponents as negatively as possible. But members of political tribes seem to have trouble recognizing that they, too, can push people away and energize them to vote for the other side. Nowhere is this more on display today than in liberal control of the commanding heights of American culture.
Do we liberals "make good movies and television shows?" Is it true that many of us many liberals "are very smart?"

Alexander should have given examples. Those early exaggerations aside, we'd say that Alexander's essay was basically right on target. He says a lot of things that have been said before, but the bulk of what he says strikes us as wholly accurate:

He says our tribe's obnoxiousness creates a lot of Republican voters. He says we could get Trump re-elected if we don't make ourselves stop.

We don't know what will happen in the year 2020, but we'd say that, on balance, he's right.

For today, we'll leave it there—though once again, we'll ask you to consider the comment the Times chose to feature today.

Are we liberals "very smart?" Are we able to see ourselves as we are? Alexander's essay is full of suggestions as to things we should stop doing if we want to be smarter and better and if we want to win.

The commenter didn't seem to have noticed the existence of these suggestions. Instead, he said The Others are the problem, due to Their enormous ignorance, ignorance We can't repair.

Inevitably, that comment was "highly recommended." Inevitably, the Times reprints it today, on the daily page it reserves for its most simple-minded content..

What sorts of things are we liberals doing, right now, to make people find us obnoxious? We'll present some examples in the next day or two.

Examples aren't real hard to find. And yes, Trump really could win.

GAPS AND SCHOOLS: Concern about one school's new gaps!

TUESDAY, MAY 15, 2018

Part 2—The second parent's tale:
Is District 3's proposed "desegregation" plan a good idea?

We can't tell you that! According to Elizabeth Harris' report in the New York Times, the proposal would affect middle schools in New York City's District 3, "a swath of Manhattan that includes the Upper West Side and a bit of southern Harlem."

Unlike many of the 34 districts in the giant New York City school system, District 3 "is a mix," racial diversity-wise. "A little more than half the students are black or Hispanic," Harris reports, "and about 40 percent of them are white or Asian."

"They just don’t generally go to school together," Harris writes. Hence the proposed desegregation plan.

Is that plan a good idea? That's a matter of judgment! From Harris' report, it's fairly clear that there are two possible effects of the proposal.

There's a social aspect to the proposal. In District 3's middle schools, kids would attend school, to a greater degree, with kids of other "races."

It's also clear that many parents see possible academic effects of the proposal. As we noted yesterday, Irene Butler has three grandchildren in District 3 schools. She thinks the plan might help struggling students do better in school, even avoid dropping out.

Today, we'll look at a quote from a second parent who may have a different view. As quoted by Harris, this parents wonders if the proposal might lead to academic confusion as kids of widely-varying achievement levels are thrown together in class.

We'll look at that second parent's tale at the end of today's report. First, let's get clear on the effects this proposal would have on the pair of middle schools on which Harris capably focused.

As noted yesterday, the Goofus in this tale of two schools was West Prep Academy. Last fall, only 14 percent of incoming sixth-graders at West Prep had passed the state of New York's fifth-grade math exam the previous year.

Irene Butler seemed to say that many of these kids were "struggling" in their classes at West Prep. She thought these kids might do better in the second middle school under review.

That second school, School 54, was the Gallant of the tale. It's located just two blocks from West Prep, but on an academic basis, it's a bit of a world away.

At least 88 percent of School 54's incoming sixth-graders passed that same fifth-grade math exam last year. Kids at this "sought-after, higher-performing" school got 3s and 4s on the state math exam.

Two blocks away, the chowderheads at West Prep mainly got 1s and 2s.

Perhaps you can see what this means. Thanks to current admission procedures, these schools are operating under a type of "achievement apartheid."

The higher-achieving kids get admitted to the the higher-achieving School 54. Their lower-achieving peers get shunted off to nearby West Prep. Thanks to the tragedies of our American history, this also creates a racial disparity between the student bodies of the two schools:

According to Harris, School 54 is 69 percent white and Asian, 31 percent black and Hispanic. Two blocks and a world way, West Prep is 97 percent black and Hispanic—and that's the way Harris called the roll. Don't blame this census on us!

What would happen to these two schools under the proposed plan? According to Harris, the proposed plan "would give priority for 25 percent of the seats at all the district’s middle schools to students who score below grade level on the state tests."

Those seats would go to kids who scored 1 or 2 on the state math exam. Under this proposed arrangement, the racial mix at the two schools would end up looking something like this:
School 54:
50 percent white and Asian
50 percent black and Hispanic

West Prep Academy:
20 percent white and Asian
80 percent black and Hispanic
The academic mix at each school would change too. Most likely, 75 percent of School 54's students would have passed the state exam in math, with an increased tilt toward kids who got 4s. The other 25 percent of the kids would have failed the exam.

Two blocks away, a bunch of kids who passed the exam might end up attending West Prep instead of School 54. Or their parents night pull them out of New York's public schools. In the district called the real world, this is something which happens—and no, not just with white kids.

That's the way the proposed plan would likely work out. Would the plan lead to better results on an academic basis?

Irene Butler said that struggling kids from West Prep might do better at School 54. On its face, that might seem to make perfect sense.

That said, a second parent asked a fairly sensible question. In a search for context, we'll quote Harris at some length:
HARRIS (5/2/18): Historically, in drawing school zones and allowing parents choice in which schools their children attend, the city has been seen as trying to keep white families in the public schools.

District 3 is now trying to redress some of its inequities, though this plan may not ultimately be adopted...[Some people] have questioned how the schools will adapt their teaching to meet the needs of students who come in at such different [academic] levels.

Deborah Kross, who lives on 118th Street and is white, has three children at District 3 public schools, including one at School 54. She shares some of those concerns. “A question I’ve asked twice in these meetings is, ‘What’s the plan for middle schools to bring together in the same classroom people with the very broad abilities?’ And there’s no response to that,” she said.
Where Butler voiced a reasonably sensible hope, Kross has asked a reasonably sensible question.

She pictures kids from vastly different academic levels thrown together in the same classrooms at School 54. Some of the kids will have aced the state math exam. Some of the kids will have achieved the lowest possible score.

"What's the plan" for dealing with this? Kross says she has asked this question at two pubic meetings. She says she's received no answer.

Almost surely, Kross is right. Almost surely, she has received no answer.

That said, everyone knows what the answer will be. Tomorrow, as a bit of background, we'll take a look at the size of the gaps which are involved in this second parent's tale.

Tomorrow: Achievement gaps in New York City, among kids we don't care about

BREAKING: You can't believe a thing you read!

MONDAY, MAY 14, 2018

The New York Times covers the schools:
How poorly does the New York Times report on public schools?

Put another way, can you believe a thing you read in the hapless, Hamptons-based newspaper?

We're going to say the answers are these—very poorly, and no. Consider the lengthy report in today's editions about the decline of music programs in the city's high schools as large, comprehensive high schools have been replaced by large numbers of much smaller specialty high schools.

Fewer marching bands and orchestras! This is the focus of today's report on Gotham's schools.

The report is more than 1800 words long. We await the day when the paper spends any time examining the way reading and math are taught to first- and second-graders.

That said, can you believe anything you read in the Times, no matter how straightforward and basic? We'd have to say the answer is no. The simplest intellectual standards are notable by their absence. Consider this absurd presentation, which appears fairly early in today's report:
BLOCH AND TAYLOR (5/14/18): The new schools chancellor, Richard A. Carranza, himself a mariachi musician, has said that he plans to focus on the arts, which can especially benefit low-income or socioeconomically disadvantaged students, according to the National Endowment of the Arts. A 2012 analysis of longitudinal studies found that eighth graders who had been involved in the arts had higher test scores in science and writing than their counterparts, while high school students who earned arts credits had higher overall G.P.A.s and were far more likely to graduate and attend college.
Do high school music programs "especially benefit low-income or socioeconomically disadvantaged students?" We have no idea, but it's a popular thing to say. We do know that the authors' citation of that 2012 study constitutes a near-perfect example of correlation apparently being offered as causation.

Who offers journalism that bad except the New York Times?

Right at the start of the report, another possible groaner appeared. In the passage shown below, the reporters refer to the now defunct Columbus High School in the Bronx, a large high school which was closed in 2014.

The authors make an upbeat claim which they call "inarguable." Warning lights were flashing brightly. We decided to check the claim out:
BLOCH AND TAYLOR: Between 2002 and 2013, New York City closed 69 high schools, most of them large schools with thousands of students, and in their place opened new, smaller schools. Academically, these new schools inarguably serve students better. In 2009, the year before the city began closing Columbus, the school had a graduation rate of 37 percent. In 2017, the five small schools that occupy its former campus had a cumulative graduation rate of 81 percent.
As experienced readers of the Times (and of the Washington Post), we knew a potential howler when we saw it.

Wow! Columbus High only graduated 37 percent of its seniors in 2009! The smaller schools which now occupy its building are graduating 81 percent!

We wondered: is it possible that Columbus was an "open admission" school full of struggling students? By way of contrast, is it possible that the five smaller schools are special interest, "admission" schools designed for a different class of students?

We googled a bit, and there it was, over and over and over again. Among reports in the New York Times, the New York Daily News, Education Week and WNYC online, this passage from Crain's New York Business may have boiled the basic history down best:
TRAGER (10/13/13): In Columbus' case, the beginning of the end came in 2003. It began with the spinoff of a college-prep program, one of the school's two rigorous academic initiatives, into a small public high school called Pelham Preparatory Academy, which remained in Columbus' building. A second new high school, called the Bronx High School for the Visual Arts, also opened in the building that year, providing another specialized option for students zoned for Columbus.

The following year, a third institution opened within Columbus, when another highly regarded program spun off as the Collegiate Institute for Math and Science. In just their first year, Pelham Preparatory and Collegiate Institute each siphoned off about 100 honor students from Columbus.
In short, honors programs within Columbus High were turned into new, smaller specialty high schools operating within the Columbus building. This meant that, as a book-keeping matter, Columbus was losing its honors students. They were being transferred to the new admissions-based schools which now boast the better graduation rates.

Here's the way Sharon Otterman described the same general process in the newsppaer known as the New York Times. Otterman's report appeared in 2010:
OTTERMAN (1/25/10): From the classrooms of Columbus, the last seven years have felt like forging ahead though a snowstorm, said Karen Sherwood, an English teacher since 1993. In 2003, for example, its honors programs were peeled off and became separate small schools in its large brick building on Astor Avenue in the Pelham Parkway neighborhood. Three other small schools moved in. (One is now on the city’s closing list for poor performance.) The result was severe overcrowding for Columbus’s 3,400 students, who had classes on the auditorium stage and attended in split shifts between 7 a.m. and 5:45 p.m.

As the Department of Education sent fewer students to Columbus, enrollment began to decline, but so did the academic level of its entering student body. By 2005, only 6 percent of the entering eighth graders were reading at grade level, and the proportion of special education students rose to nearly a quarter. Another reorganization led the school to create small clusters with names like “Equality” and “Justice,” and to form work-study and other structured programs that give students on the verge of dropping out a second chance.

[...]

The Columbus student body is in constant flux. Because the school has unscreened admissions, it takes children expelled from charter schools, released from juvenile detention, and others on a near-daily basis: last year, 359 of its 1,400 students arrived between October and June. Even after the city proposed the school’s closing in December, it received 27 more students. Lisa Fuentes, the Columbus principal since 2002, said she believed that her school was succeeding, considering its challenges. Her feeling is that city wants the space her school occupies, for small schools and charters.
For better or worse, the honors students were siphoned off into the new, smaller high schools. Columbus itself was left with kids expelled from charter schools, mixed with other kids live and direct from juvie.

This general process has been described in a wide array on publications. Today, two reporters for the Times offer you a silly account in which you're asked to marvel at the "inarguable" way the smaller schools are doing better than the bigger school did, back when the bigger school had been left with only these challenging students.

Also, high school students who earn arts credits have higher overall G.P.A.s! We know that because of a study! Bring back the marching bands!

It's very hard for people to grasp how bad the work is at the Times. That said, the work at the Times is very poor. Anthropologically speaking, it's almost impossibly bad—a mixture of sheer incompetence and apparent contempt for its readers.

On the bright side, it will soon be Thursday morning. Let's head out for the Hamptons for a weekend with Muffie and Biff!

A former teacher's account: Here's the way a former Columbus High teacher described the slow decline for Education Week. Her report appeared shortly after Columbus High formally closed:
GARON (7/8/14): Columbus...eventually became the de-facto "dumping ground" for all types of late enrolling students—kids missing credits, transferring due to disciplinary issues at other schools, or newly arriving in the United States. Understandably, these students came with a lot of difficulties that hindered their credit accumulation and passing of state tests, thus making the graduation rates further sink. The trend of placing students like these in "failing" schools isn't unique to Columbus; a study by the Annenberg Group showed that in fact, overwhelmingly, these late-enrollers are placed almost exclusively in failing schools, perpetuating the intractably low graduation rates, and thus giving Department of Education higher-ups seemingly air-tight reasons to close down these schools for low performance.

And in fact, this is what happened at Christopher Columbus High School, which closed its doors at the end of June. Several small schools exist on what is now the Columbus Campus, jockeying for resources and bickering over classroom space. But "Big Columbus" is no more.
The honors students got siphoned out. These challenging students were left behind. The Times served us cotton candy today, telling us how much better the smaller specialty schools are now doing, graduation-wise.

This is the way of the New York Times, a foppish, upper-class pseudo-paper which manifestly doesn't know and rarely seems to care.

BREAKING: Yale kids taught to play more, worry less!

MONDAY, MAY 14, 2018

Times, Post broadcast message:
Last Monday, Kevin Drum told the kids to get off his lawn when they engage in their juuling.

Well, that isn't exactly what he said, along with which you may not know just what this "juuling" is. But after he finished his juuling chunk, Drum expressed his main point.

His main point concerned the young people whose lives and interests actually count within our upper-end press corps. He said that, when it comes to the youth, the press corps [HEART] the elite:
DRUM (5/7/18): I don’t actually have any comment to make about Juuling. But this article was a reminder of something that’s long bothered me about reporting on kids: too much of it is focused not just on college kids, but on elite college kids. In this article, the main message from America’s youth is that everything is ironic and “we’re ready to die.” In political writing more generally, it’s about how liberals need to appeal to kids by supporting college loan forgiveness, urbanization, and bicycle lanes.

That’s fine if your goal is to appeal to about 10 percent of young people. But what about the rest of them? The ones who went to state colleges, or community colleges, or no college at all? On average, they probably don’t care much about college loans, urbanization, or bicycle lanes. They work, they raise children, they pay rent, they buy groceries, and they just generally lead lives that are unironically dedicated to making ends meet.
As it turned out, Drum was possibly being perhaps a tiny bit Machiavellian. He said we liberals can't persuade young people to vote if we focus on the ten percent while ignoring everyone else.

That said, we'll recommend his larger point. Our big newspapers do seem to focus on the often perhaps not hugely talented but sublimely elitist tenth. It's a noxious habit and, as a general matter, it reeks at the New York Times.

(We'll add a note to Drum's political brief. This noxious habit broadcasts a message, loud and clear, to a wide array of voters.)

That said, is Drum right in his specific assertion? In its reporting on youth, does the upper-end press really concentrate on the unimpressive elite?

We'll only say that the New York Times delighted readers on Saturday with these college admission essays, written by five high school seniors who will be attending Yale, Harvard, Yale, Chicago and even lowly Colgate. On the front page of Sunday's Times was a tragic report from Hamilton College.

Meanwhile, on the front page of the Washington Post,
we were asked to care about the deep thoughts which appeared beneath these hard-copy headlines:
Yale course is all about getting an A in life
Wildly popular psychology class teaches simple lesson: Play more, worry less
Who knows? The course may be worthwhile! On line, the headline says this:
Less cramming. More Frisbee. At Yale, students learn how to live the good life.
Just so unbelievably cool! People, we're just saying!

Dr. King has a different idea: "Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve."

That was Dr. King's central point. Along the way, he stressed the fact that you didn't necessarily have to have gone to Yale:
Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s “Theory of Relativity” to serve. You don’t have to know the Second Theory of Thermal Dynamics in Physics to serve...
We're omitting where that ended up, because we don't want to be embarrassing. But Dr. King knew he was being helped by people who were morally great but who hadn't been to any college, let alone Harvard or Yale.

Speaking of Yale, let's add this: We're asked today to be deeply upset about an experience a graduate student had last week. We'd have to say that's part of the syndrome to which we refer.

We expect to discuss that incident further at some point. We're trained to shriek at the racial insult while missing the class condescension involved in the overall tale.

That said, the world is full of deserving kids who are struggling in public school and in their chance for a full life. Increasingly, though, we're asked to worry about some of the most overprivileged malcontents in the history of the world, even as we throw fifth graders by the millions under a leaky bus.

We care about the one social class, not about the other. How hard is that to see?

Back to yesterday's headline. Do Yale students really just wanna have fun? We doubt that, but one thing is clear:

Our "journalists" wanna write all about them and their wonderfulness. This preference broadcast a noxious message. That message comes through loud and clear.

A few last thoughts on juuling: We recall the values of Cornelia Africana, greatest of all Roman matrons, as described by the leading authority on her life:
An anecdote related by Valerius Maximus in his Factorum ac dictorum memorabilium libri IX (IV, 4, incipit) demonstrates Cornelia's devotion to and admiration for her sons. When women friends questioned Cornelia about her mode of dress and personal adornment, which was far more simple and understated than was usual for a wealthy Roman woman of her rank and station, Cornelia indicated her two sons and said, haec ornamenta mea [sunt], i.e., "These are my jewels."
True story!

GAPS AND SCHOOLS: One school is the "good school" of the piece!

MONDAY, MAY 14, 2018

Part 1—But what would a "good school" look like?
As presented, it was a tale of two middle schools—one a "good school," one not.

It was also a tale of three parents.

We refer to a fascinating news report by the New York Times' Elizabeth Harris, a report we cited last week.

Harris was reporting on a "desegregation plan" for a fairly small number of middle schools in Manhattan's District 3, one of 34 different districts within the giant New York City school system. Her report appeared in the hard-copy Times on May 2.

In the main, Harris' report is a tale of two middle schools, one of which is considered a good school by all concerned.

One school is seen as a good school. The other school pretty much isn't.

Let's call the roll of the players. The "good school" in this age-old story was described in this passage from Harris' report:
HARRIS (5/2/18): [T]here is sharp disparity in performance between the district’s middle schools—which have different admissions criteria, often based on test scores—as well as a stark racial divide.

The sought-after Booker T. Washington school, Junior High School 54, a middle school on West 107th Street, looks at scores on the state exams, essentially requiring the passing grades of a 3 or a 4, and at a student’s performance on an in-house test. Sixty-nine percent of the students are white or Asian, and last year 88 percent of them passed the state English and math exams.
The widely sought-after School 54, whose kids had passed the state exams, is the "Gallant" in this story.

Meanwhile, the middle school widely cast as "Goofus" can be found just two blocks away:
HARRIS (continuing directly): Two blocks away, at West Prep Academy, many students enter with 1s or 2s, failing grades, on the state tests, and 97 percent of the students are black or Hispanic. Just 14 percent of them passed the math test last year, while 30 percent scored on grade level in English.
That's the school which isn't "sought-after." It's located two blocks away from the good school of this rather familiar piece.

Quickly, let's review:

At West Prep Academy, just 14 percent of incoming sixth-graders had passed the state math exam the previous year. But two blocks away, at School 54, at least 88 percent of the incoming sixth-graders had passed the same math test!

Which would you see as the good school? The question seems to answer itself! But all week long, we'll suggest that there may be more to this familiar story than may appear on the surface.

Before we say another word, let's note an important point. Those incoming sixth-graders had passed or failed that state exam at their elementary schools, when they were still in fifth grade.

The kids who passed the fifth-grade exam got admitted to School 54. But those kids had passed that state exam before they ever set foot in the sought-after school.

In other words, nothing happened at School 54 to produce those 3s and 4s—those passing grades on the test. By the same token, nothing anyone did at West Prep produced the lower math scores which Harris correctly reported.

When those fifth-grade students recorded those scores, they'd never set foot in either school! And yet something seems clear all through Harris' report:

School 54 was widely seen as the "good school" on the basis of those passing scores—on the basis of test results its teachers and principal did nothing to produce. West Prep was seen as the lousy school—as the school you want to avoid—on the exact same basis!

How do we know that School 54 was seen as the "good school?" Let's start with one of the middle school parents quoted in Harris' report.

In this case, the middle school parent is actually a grandparent. First, a quick bit of background:

Under the proposed "desegregation" plan, School 54 would reserve 25 percent of its seats every year for incoming sixth graders who got failing grades—1s or 2s—on those fifth grade state exams. Delicately, Harris explained how this proposed procedure would produce "desegregation:"
HARRIS: The new plan would give priority for 25 percent of the seats at all the district’s middle schools to students who score below grade level on the state tests. Because test scores closely track socioeconomic status and race, the plan would likely increase the number of poor and minority students at schools that are now out of reach for many disadvantaged families.
Because black and Hispanic kids tend to get the lower scores, the proposed plan would bring additional black and Hispanic students to the hallowed halls of School 54! The school might end up being 50 percent black and Hispanic, not the current 31 percent.

(Similarly, West Prep might end up being 20 percent white and Asian, not the current 3 percent. Basically, West Prep would receive an influx of white sixth graders who got 3s on the fifth-grade test.)

This is the aspect of the plan which gets called "desegregation." This might, or might not, have positive effects on the lives of the children involved.

But in the main, the grandparent Harris quoted wasn't discussing that part of the plan. In the main, she didn't seem to care about the fact that her grandson could be attending a school with a different demographic mix.

She seemed to think, rightly or wrongly, that her grandson would do better in math at the sought-after school. She seemed to think that he'd be more challenged, and learn more, at the sought-after locale.

The grandparent's child is a sixth grader at West Prep. When this boy's grandmother spoke with Harris, she seemed to suggest that he might be "struggling" in his classes at West Prep.

The grandmother seemed to think that he'd do better at a school like School 54. Here's what the grandmother said:
HARRIS: Irene Butler, who has four grandchildren in the district’s public schools, welcomed the idea. Her grandson is in sixth grade at West Prep, but she said she would have considered other schools if the plan had been in place for him.

“A lot of kids are struggling to get through their classes and need help
, but are not getting the help they need,” Ms. Butler, who is black, said. Having an opportunity to go to some of the higher-performing schools, she added, “will also help children from getting frustrated and dropping out.”
We only know part of what Butler said. We can't say what she was thinking with any degree of certainty.

But as this situation is pictured by Harris, the grandmother seems to see School 54 at the "higher-performing school." She seems to think that kids who are struggling at West Prep would likely do better two blocks away at the more sought-after school.

If they went to the higher-performing school, they might not get frustrated and drop out of school. On its face, this line of reasoning may seem to make perfect sense.

There is, of course, no way of knowing how the sixth-grader in question is going to fare in the years ahead. He may or may not be struggling or frustrated at West Prep. That said:

Based on Harris' report, the odds are good that he didn't pass the state math exam last year, when he was in fifth grade. His grandmother seemed to suggest that he's struggling now in sixth grade.

That said, understand this:

Our country is full of deserving sixth grade kids who are "years behind" in math. Large numbers of these kids are "struggling" in their sixth grade classes.

Would Butler's grandson likely do better at the higher-performing School 54? As we'll discuss all week, there's no real way to answer that question. But beyond that, understand this:

The vast majority of struggling kids don't have a high-performing School 54 two blocks away. The vast majority of struggling kids are going to sink or swim at schools which look a great deal like West Prep.

Large numbers of our sixth graders are "years behind" in math. What would a "good school" actually look like for them?

From reading the New York Times, or from watching MSNBC, it's abundantly clear that no one actually gives a flying fig about questions like this. Despite this problem, we'll be discussing that question all week:

What would a good school really be like for the kids we're leaving behind?

Rachel, Lawrence and Chris don't care. But what would "good schools" really be like for the kids who get disappeared as our big silly corporate stars mug, clown, entertain us, produce good ratings, perform?

Tomorrow: A second parent speaks

BREAKING: Chozick addresses Chelsea's hair!

SATURDAY, MAY 12, 2018

The Dowdism crept, then took hold:
In recent weeks, we've done a series of reports about Amy Chozick's horrific but revealing new book. Chasing Hillary.

The book is gruesome, but it provides a fascinating look at the intellectual and moral horizons of the Hamptons-based coven which produces the New York Times. Just consider the last pair of questions Isaac Chotiner posed.

Isaac Chotiner's aim was true when he interviewed Chozick for Slate. He zeroed in on her remarkable portrait of the Times politics editor, Carolyn Ryan, who would leap across her desk in excitement when confronted with "gossip" and "unsubstantiated tidbits" about earth-shattering topics like travel arrangements for Natalie Portman's pet dog.

Despite its total irrelevance, the Yorkie stayed in the news report about the Clinton Foundation! According to Chozick, Ryan actually wanted the Yorkie to be the news report's lede!

The sheer inanity of the New York Times' political coverage comes to life in auch anecdotes. That said, Chozick doesn't seem to see the way these anecdotes may look to sensible observers, of whom, in fairness, there will be very few, whether in the mainstream press or in the book-buying public.

As Chotiner said in his interview. Chozick seemed to think that these anecdotes paint Ryan as some sort of astute observer. "How do you respond to that?" the Slatester fruitlessly asked.

In the last week, we've taken a break from this book's inanity, but we hope to return to its pages. We've only begun to scratch the surface of the portrait this book provides—a portrait of the inanity which has long ruled at the Times.

We hope to return to Chozick's book before too many days have passed. As an example of the types of material it contains, consider the last pair of question Chotiner posed to Chozick.

He closed with a pair of questions about Chelsea Clinton. Unfortunately, his questions, as posed, sounds almost as frivolous as Chozick's remarkable book.

Here's the first question he asked:
CHOTINER (4/27/18): Chelsea Clinton has been tweeting about your book, saying a couple facts are wrong, like that she has never gotten “hair keratin treatment.” You have said the book was fact-checked. Do you know if the fact-checker reached out to Chelsea Clinton in the course of the fact check?
We'll be honest! As presented, this question makes Chotiner seem almost as frivolous as Chozick.

Manifestly, he isn't. But that question makes it sound like Chotiner thinks it actually matters whether Chelsea Clinton got hair keratin treatment or not.

Manifestly, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if she did or if she didn't, except within the Hamptons-based coven which composes the New York Times.

Within that coven, snide observations about people's hair have long been coin of the realm. A few quick examples:

In the last few months of Campaign 2000, Maureen Dowd composed a series of columns in which she focused on Candidate Gore's bald spot. On the Sunday before that disastrous election, her column began with Gore standing before a mirror, singing "I Feel Pretty" to himself as he anxiously spoke with The Spot.

Dowd was widely read in Florida. Four years later, her work was peppered with insightful analyses containing references to Candidate Edwards as, who else, The Breck Girl. In this 2007 revival, The Breck Girl stood opposed to Barack Obama, AKA "the dumb blond."

(Headline: "Obama, Legally Blonde?")

In such ways, the culture of the modern Times was invented. Do you remember the newspaper's front-page profile of Candidate Romney's hair stylist? Sadly, Pepperidge Farm does!

Way back when, in 1992, Katherine Boo warned the nation about this emerging journalistic framework, which she memorably described as "Creeping Dowdism." But alas! As the years passed, the Dowdism crept, then took hold.

Dowd was awarded a Pulitzer prize. Boo left the world of journalism for the world of serious books—for the type of book which wins major awards, but never gets read or discussed.

Dowdism crept and conquered. The sheer inanity of that framework suffuses the first hundred pages of Chozick's book, in which she describes the intellectual frameworks which guided her work at the Wall Street Journal, then at the New York Times, in the course of pretending to cover Hillary Clinton's two White House campaigns.

Her snide remarks about Chelsea Clinton's hair constitute one small part of this depressing portrait. That said, her book is rank with the culture of Snide, and with the delight she seems to take in her own relentless cluelessness about all serious topics and issues.

In his surprisingly acerbic interview with Chozick—this sort of thing just isn't done!—Chotiner refers to the New York Times as "the most important newspaper in the world." He says this as he expresses his surprise at Chozick's portrait of the gossip-seeking Ryan.

Is the Times really the world's most important newspaper? We don't know, but it largely defines journalistic standards Over Here, and Chozick's book is an unintentionally punishing portrait of the inanity now in the catbird seat at the silly-bill and hair-observant Times.

The human mind begs for release from the task of reading this book. But within the next week or so, we're going to try to force ourselves to return to its pages.

Chozick's book reeks of the catty and snide. Chelsea's hair is just one stop along this road to perdition.

This fatuous culture got its start as the Dowdism crept in on little cat's feet. Long ago, the culture took hold. Chozick's deeply ridiculous book takes it to a new level.

Concerning that pair of questions: As noted, Chotiner asked two questions about Chozick's work with Chelsea Clinton's hair. Incredibly, Chozick asked permission to read from her book, seeming to think that a fuller dose of her prose about Chelsea's looks at various points would serve her in good stead.

It didn't. The book's full snide is worse.