ELITE WATCH: Tell us how much you’re paid!


One key Q-and-A with Chris Hayes: We’re still looking forward to reading Chris Hayes’ new book. We were struck by one Q-and-A in this interview with Hayes, which was reprinted by Salon.

We’re somewhat unclear on Hayes’ view of the meritocratic elite. In part, that’s why we look forward to reading his book. But we were struck by the following answer in the interview, which Salon reprinted from Jacobin.

Jake Blumgart conducted the interview:
QUESTION: I want to circle back to something you said about reporting for the book. In contrast to Lasch and Michels, you come from a journalistic background. You’ve engaged with actual people while writing this book. How did that affect your perspective and work?

HAYES: It’s a methodological toolkit I’ve been trained in. It’s a huge part of how I learn about the world. There’s a certain form of content synergy in so far as, you know, if the problem is social distance...I mean, look, I’m a member of the elite I’m writing about. That’s a weird and uncomfortable thing for me to say, but there is no definition of the elite, no plausible, coherent one, that I don’t belong to. I’m just as subject to the same forces, so it’s really important for me to actually talk to people. And I think reporting makes it more compelling storytelling. The book’s form is weird in a way; it’s both a reported work and a work of theory.
First, let’s return to an earlier question: Who taught Chris Hayes how to talk? Progressives will never conquer the world talking about methodological toolkits and forms of content synergy.

People, you just can’t talk like that! See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/25/12.

Beyond that, we agree with Hayes’ assessment—he is part of the modern web of ruling elites. As all humans are (to varying degrees), he is subject to the same forces as others in those elites.

With that in mind, what’s our first reform? Tell us how much you’re paid! Also, tell us how much your spouse is paid. Tell us how much your colleagues are paid—at MSNBC, for example. (Their pay suggests the level of pay you may expect to receive—if you play by the company’s rules.)

We take it as obvious that the modern elite is organized around the idea that greed is extremely good. In writing Wall Street, Oliver Stone captured the central organizing principle of the modern age.

(Why do we live in fictitious times? In large part, we live in fictitious times because greed has become very good.)

Routinely, various branches of our elite work to protect one another. Again and again, the topics which get deep-sixed in the public debate are the ones which would shed light on the looting done by elites.

(To this day, have you seen anyone explain where all that extra money is going in American health care? Have you seen any major news org explain why we spend two to three times as much on health care, per person, as comparable nations? Why has that ginormously crucial topic been skipped? Plainly, this can’t be an oversight.)

Within the press corps, inflated salaries are presumably designed to purchase obedience. Next week, we’ll look at Rachel Maddow’s most recent attempt to play it very, very dumb about Cory Booker’s stirring defense of the great good work done by Bain Capital.

Frank Rich helped her out. Maddow and Rich still had no idea why Democratic Party elites leaped to Bain’s defense. Did their ignorance strike you as plausible?

At any rate, if you want to shed light on the modern elite, Tell us how much you’re paid! While you’re at it, include the incomes of your spouse and your colleagues.

Your press corps is sick with the stench of big cash. In part, those salaries are designed to produce obedience.

It looks to us like the system works. At any rate, salaries are simple. Content synergy is hard.

FURIOUSER AND CURIOUSER: Will Eban’s report be pursued in the press?


Or will her report disappear: Last night, NBC Nightly News featured a brief interview with William Newell, “the veteran ATF agent who ran” the Fast and Furious program.

Newell furthered the story-line which first appeared in Katherine Eban’s recent confounding Fortune report. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/28/12.

“To my knowledge, not one firearm was walked to anybody intentionally,” Newell told NBC’s Michael Isikoff during last night’s report. “The notion that we somehow intentionally let guns walk is insane. It never happened.”

To watch last night’s report, click here.

Isikoff’s brief report seemed a bit confused—nothing unusual there. But this interview extends the contradiction which came to light in Eban’s report.

Newell said the ATF agents in Phoenix wanted to arrest the “straw” gun buyers at issue in the Fast and Furious flap. They couldn’t do so, Newell alleged, because nit-picking U. S. attorneys wouldn’t give them permission to make arrests.

Newell flatly denied the basic premise behind the long-standing Furious narrative. He also contradicted the testimony Eric Holder gave to the House last November. “Instances of so-called gun-walking are simply unacceptable,” Holder said in his testimony. “Regrettably, this tactic was used as part of Fast and Furious.”

Holder said gun-walking did occur. The notion is “insane,” Newell said. Eban’s detailed report in Fortune brought this contradiction to light. (To read her report, click here.)

Before we get to today’s Big Question, let’s imagine a reason for the contradiction between Holder and Newell. We have no idea if it’s true.

When she appeared on CNN Thursday night, Evan speculated that Holder might be scapegoating ATF agents in Phoenix to protect “the political appointees.” She wasn’t asked, and didn’t say, who those “appointees” are.

Question: Could Holder be trying to protect some U.S. attorneys he himself may have appointed? The ATF agents say the U.S. attorneys wouldn’t let them make arrests. If that’s true, were some of those folk Holder men?

We have no idea. But there is a glaring contradiction at the heart of the puzzling tale.

Eban’s report turned a long-standing story-line right smack dab on its head. Newell has furthered this new account with his NBC interview. If Newell’s statements are accurate, Holder’s statement to the House was not.

That brings us to today’s Big Question:

Will Eban’s detailed report disappear? Or will your favorite liberal heroes push to ferret the truth?

Over the past twenty years, your favorite fiery liberal heroes have often let the truth walk. Dearest Darlings, careers are at stake! In come cases, Obama’s line must be served!

Surely, it’s nice to pursue the truth. But it can’t always be done! In such ways, Fools for Scandal was disappeared. Ditto for our own incomparable work regarding the war against Gore. Darlings, the rubes can't be told!

In this case, we can’t tell you where the truth lies. But we can pose today’s Big Question:

Will Eban’s report be pursued in the press? Or will her report disappear?

Bloomberg beats Reuters in race to the death!

FRIDAY, JUNE 29, 2012

How did it get this far: As Don Corleone so thoughtfully asked, How did things get this far?

(The Don's complete statement: “How did things ever get so far?”)

In this morning’s New York Times, Brian Stelter wastes everyone’s time discussing the news orgs which briefly miscast yesterday’s Supreme Court decision.

CNN’s misperception “lingered for six minutes,” he rather pointlessly reports. But good God! How did it get to this?
STELTER (6/29/12): Several wire services, in fact, reported correctly that the mandate had been upheld before CNN and Fox News [incorrectly] reported that it had been struck down. Bloomberg said that it broke the news 12 seconds before Reuters and 25 seconds before The Associated Press.
Did this country ever have a brain? “Bloomberg said that it broke the news 12 seconds before Reuters,” the dutiful Timesman reports.

Bloomberg beat Reuters by 12 seconds! Bloomberg is announcing this fact, and Stelter is putting it in the Times.

Just think of all the rank disinformation which never gets addressed at all! In the context of that dereliction of duty, Stelter (and the New York Times) wastes everyone's time with this!

As Don Corleone so thoughtfully asked, How did things get this far?

[Sorry: Late post, due to heat trumping connectivity.]

WHAT’S IN A WORD: Is a parking ticket a tax?

FRIDAY, JUNE 29, 2012

Ladies and gents, shall we parse: We had to laugh at one part of today’s New York Times editorial.

The Times was looking for the best way to praise Chief Justice Roberts. In a wonderfully amusing way, this is what they said:
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL (6/29/12): When Congress was struggling to pass the health care bill, lawmakers refused to use the word tax to describe the proposed penalties on those who did not obtain insurance. Instead, they used the words “mandate” and “penalty.”

The Obama administration went along with this purely political pretense but made a cogent argument to the Supreme Court that the taxing power was a strong ground for the law, and it sensibly carried the day.
We’re not joking—that’s what they said! Shall we parse?

According to the editors, lawmakers used the word “penalty” to describe the law’s proposed penalties! That would seem like a fairly obvious choice of words.

But so what! In the next paragraph, the editors describe this choice of words as a “purely political pretense!” Calling penalties by their name turned out to be a pretense!

Only in the Times! Somewhat funnily, the letters page includes a letter which pretty much called this shot:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (6/29/12): Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.’s legerdemain in finding what Congress clearly intended to be a civil penalty to be a tax seems the opposite of the old saw that if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck.

Good grief, what an act of judicial activism—one that I suspect the left will applaud.
The letter-writer, from Draper, Utah, had that last part right.

Having said that, is a penalty a tax? We’ll ask that question in the form of a different question:

Is a parking ticket a tax?

Most people think of a parking ticket as imposing a fine. Few people would think of that fine as being a “tax.” In part, that’s because you pay the fine by sending a check to the city government.

You don’t pay the fine for a parking ticket when you file your taxes, although in theory the payment of tickets could be handled that way.

Many other types of payment are handled through tax filings. This may disguise the nature of such transactions. One prime example:

A so-called mortgage deduction is really a government subsidy. Each month, the federal government helps the homeowner pay his monthly nut.

This transaction would look like a subsidy if the government simply sent a check to the homeowner every month. But the transaction isn’t handled that way. Instead, the transaction is handled through the homeowner’s annual filing of taxes.

For that reason, this subsidy comes to be seen as a “tax deduction.” The homeowner ends up saying that he’s been allowed to “keep more of his money.”

In one sense, that's true, of course; the homeowner did keep more of his money. But in essence, the federal government sent him a check. It just chose a genteel way to do it.

Parking tickets aren’t thought of as “taxes.” Neither are the penalties you may have to pay if you let your car registration lapse. These payments are referred to as penalties or fines. They are rarely thought to be “taxes.”

That said, should the penalty in the health care act be thought of as a tax?

Folk can judge that as they wish. Fines and taxes bear a bit of a family resemblance; in each case, a citizen is required to give the government some of his money. In this case, there may be some basis in technical legal reasoning behind the Roberts approach. The relevant passage in his decision is excerpted in today's Times.

But however you scan it, we did enjoy that clumsy attempt to shower praise on Roberts’ head. Only in the New York Times do you get that kind of amusement!

Let's review: Lawmakers used the word “penalty” when they referred to a law’s proposed penalties!

That was a scam, the Times quickly said! Where else do you get this much fun?


FRIDAY, JUNE 29, 2012

The war of liberal aggression: In Arizona’s famous state law, SB 1070, a good or a bad idea? How bad?

Long ago, we pretty much stopped trying to figure that out. Discussion of the famous law was heavily shaped by slogan and narrative. It was hard to find real reporting about what its provisions entailed.

Do you understand the three provisions shot down by the Supreme Court this week? In many ways, we don't. Consider what we read in the New York Times Tuesday morning, after the court's decision.

Do you understand the discarded provisions? With their usual thunder and roar, the editors started their rumination like this:
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL (6/26/12): The Supreme Court rejected the foundation of Arizona’s cold-blooded immigration law and the indefensible notion the state can have its own foreign policy. In a 5-to-3 decision, the court blocked three of four provisions in the statute and gave a significant, though incomplete, victory to the federal government.

The majority opinion, by Justice Anthony Kennedy, knocked out sections of Arizona’s 2010 statute, S.B. 1070, that made it a crime not to carry immigration papers in the state and a crime for an undocumented immigrant to apply for a job or to work there. The court also struck down a section that gave state officers power to arrest without a warrant anyone that they had “probable cause to believe” had committed a crime that could make that person subject to deportation.
Do you understand the highlighted passage? Frankly, we do not. If a police officer has “probable cause to believe” that someone has committed a crime, shouldn’t he arrest that person, whether the crime would make the person subject to deportation or not?

There may be an answer to our question—but no, we don’t understand that passage. (We’ll guess you don’t either.) That said, the passage served its obvious purpose. It let the editors thunder and roar about this “cold-blooded” law.

In the two years which have passed since SB 1070 came center stage, our public discussion of the law have been built around heat more than light. Explanations are few and far between; slogans and thunder are common. This helps explain the cluelessness which virtually defines the public discussion. This very week, Eugene Robinson still thought (or said) that officers are required to check the immigration status of everyone they stop under terms of this cold-blooded law. Meanwhile, his readers seemed to have no idea what “papers” we are talking about when we thunder about this terrible “papers please” law. (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/28/12.)

Also in the Washington Post, Kathleen Parker was still “imagining” what will happen when the upheld provision goes into effect—and what she “imagined” wasn’t good. It’s amazing how often the pundit corps turns to “imagination” (instead of reporting) as the way to critique this vile law.

Question: Do you understand the provision of SB 1070 which the court upheld? Do you understand what will happen under terms of that provision if a person is asked for his “papers” and he can’t provide them? Like you, we’re not real clear on that point. Here’s how the editors handled that central question:
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL: The one section the court did uphold requires officers to check the immigration status of anyone they stop, arrest or detain on some other legitimate basis—if the officer has a “reasonable suspicion” the person is in the country illegally. Justice Kennedy wrote that until that provision is put into operation, the court could not assume that it would be applied in ways that conflict with federal law.

But the intent of the law is to harass Hispanics and to drive out immigrants by “attrition through enforcement.” That section of the law, as it goes into effect, will promote racial profiling of all Hispanics, including American citizens and legal residents. By mandating verification of immigration status even when it is unlikely the federal government will deport the individual, the provision sows fear that any contact with law enforcement—even for a jaywalking ticket—could result in detention.
Unlike Robinson, the editors explained that an officer must have “reasonable suspicion” that the person who has been stopped is in the country illegally before he can ask for his “papers.” But how would “reasonable suspicion” be established? The editors didn’t say.

Beyond that, what sorts of “papers” must be provided in response to the “papers please” cry? They didn’t tell you that either. Instead, the editors proceeded directly to the claim that this provision “will promote racial profiling of all Hispanics, including American citizens.” That’s always possible, of course—any law in any state can be abused by bad police work. But the editors don’t tell you what Police Chief Garcia is doing to avoid such outcomes in Phoenix (and yes, the chief’s last name is “Garcia”). Nor do they tell you that the demand for “papers” is satisfied, under explicit terms of this law, by the production of a driver’s license—the same sort of “papers” a citizen has to present in all our traffic stops.

One last question: Under terms of this provision, what happens to a person who can’t produce adequate “papers?” We are rather unclear on that point; we’ll guess you may be too. On Monday and Tuesday nights, Lawrence O’Donnell kept insisting that this was actually a rather modest provision—that such immigration checks are already common in the case of such stops. Indeed, that seems to be what the New York Times said on Tuesday, in its front-page news report:
LIPTAK (6/26/12): In upholding the requirement that the police ask to see people's papers, the court emphasized that state law enforcement officials already possessed the discretion to ask about immigration status. The Arizona law merely makes that inquiry mandatory if the police have reason to suspect a person is an illegal immigrant.
Say what? Police officers already possess the discretion to ask? By the way: Under terms of the upheld provision, what happens if the officer asks and doesn’t get a convincing answer?

We’ll guess that you have no idea. Very few people do.

This provision of the law might end up being abused, of course—any law can be. We know that because such abuse of legal practice and constitutional rights is going on all over New York City, where these outraged editors live. In fairness, the editors have complained about “stop-and-frisk” for some time, going back at least one year before this detailed editorial in September 2011; in three recent editorials, the editors have even used the term “abusive” to describe the program’s practices. But on the whole, the editors are quite genteel when discussing this hometown program—a lawless program which is actually happening every day of the week. (No one has to “imagine” what might occur in the future.) Their gorge tends to rise when they picture what might occur in far-off Arizona, or when they think about Alabama. R- and B-bombs are often brought out to describe the folk in those red southern states; X- and N-bombs are sometimes dropped too. But as best we can tell, those terms have never been used about stop-and-frisk, where the abuses don’t have to be imagined.

R-bombs come out for those people down there. Up here in the north, all is civil.

Do you understand SB 1070? Can you explain what will happen when the upheld provision goes into effect? We’ll guess you cannot, but that’s because our parody of a public discussion has actually been a political war—a tiny small bit of a second war of northern aggression! People in Alabama and Arizona are denounced in the most aggressive terms; so are the “bigots” in North Carolina who oppose same-sex marriage. But the very genteel billionaire mayor is treated in a more suitable fashion. He throws extremely good parties, you see. Who cares what he does on the street?

Governor Brewer exists to be name-called. The great northern mayor does not.

Bring in the heat and send out the light! Give us the pleasure of shouting our slogans! The liberal world’s conduct is often appalling when it pretends to discuss this state law. Again, consider the “answer” Gene Robinson gave to one befuddled reader in Tuesday’s on-line discussion:
QUESTION: Imagine (and I am not talking about the song): Today right now someone demands that you have proof that you can be in the US legally. You are on your job and you have no way to prove your American citizenship right now. Geez whiz you never got a passport or is it at the bank in the safety deposit box? Where is your birth certificate? At home—well that's no help. Off to the pokey with you and no paperwork.

ROBINSON: If Gov. Brewer treats everyone in Arizona this way, she gets tossed out of office quicker than you can say "Sheriff Joe." If she only treats Latinos this way, the remaining fragment of her mean-spirited, un-American law gets tossed out by the courts.
That “answer” was simply astounding. Robinson’s reader was misinformed—and Robinson chose to extend his confusion. How would a responsible journalist have answered that question? He would have told that reader that a citizen need only present his driver’s license to satisfy the explicit terms of the provision in question, the one provision the court upheld. Instead, Robinson tickled the reader’s privates, helping him picture Governor Brewer locking up a whole state of Hispanics.

That is very bad behavior. It’s the way of the pseudo-lib world.

As we close, we’ll suggest you watch this tape to see some genuine world-class clowning. On Wednesday night, Ed Schultz invited Rep. Luis Gutierrez to play the fool about SB 1070.

Gutierrez played the cosmic fool. Here’s how Big Ed introduced the insulting, brain-dead segment:
SCHULTZ (6/27/12): You know, sometimes the best way to point out a serious problem is to just make fun of it. This morning, Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez used pictures of pop icons and basketball stars to rail against Arizona`s immigration policy.

Here’s his "Guess the immigrant" quiz.
Big Ed played tape of Gutierrez playing the fool on the floor of the House. Then, he let him play the fool right there in the studio.

Go ahead—watch the tape! You’re looking at dumb, ugly clowning. (In part, this clowning is aimed at Chief Garcia.) That said, we pseudos got our narrative tweaked! We were treated to the joy of sect.

Could SB 1070 lead to abuses? Yes, it actually could. But abuses have been going on all over New York for years—and Big Ed works right in that city.

Despite that fact, Big Ed had never mentioned stop-and-frisk until one night last week. Al Sharpton had led a march; this clued Ed to the problem! He brought Professor Peterson on to discuss the death of Rodney King. But first, he talked about stop-and frisk, about which he had no idea.

“Is this racial profiling?” he worriedly asked. We let the analysts laugh:
SCHULTZ (6/18/12): I want to start with New York’s stop and frisk law and that protest yesterday. Is this racial profiling? Is this necessary for law enforcement to do this in New York?

PETERSON: It is institutionalized racial profiling. I don’t believe it’s necessary to do this in the city of New York or the city of Philadelphia or any of the cities where the stop and frisk policies are in place now. And you cited the numbers there, initially, Ed. The bottom line here is that black and brown men are being subject to search, illegal search and sometimes seizure for no reason.

Now the mayor of New York City and other mayors of these big cities will tell you that these things have certain benefits in terms of reducing the crime rates. But there’s other data that show that there are factors in the reduction of crime rates over time.

SCHULTZ: Yes. Well you know, I live in New York City, I walk home, to and from work. I see black police officers all the time.

When the story came out, I thought, “I wonder what they’re thinking. Where are the black police officers?” Are they actually— And you’ve got this former sergeant, who obviously walked the beat, saying there’s illegal activity taking place. I mean, if that's the case, what does the city to have to do?
Big Ed was shocked—shocked—to learn that illegal activity was taking place! He walks back and forth to work each day. But until the story about Sharpton’s march, he simply hadn’t heard.

Warning—these people are frauds. Yes, we know, they’re TV stars—but they’re also ridiculous people. In his Tuesday morning column, Robinson still didn’t know shit from shinola—or he simply chose to pretend. And Big Ed Schultz had no idea that gambling was going on!

It’s all about slogan and all about narrative. These people are paid to advance them.

These very bad people are in the Post, telling you they’re on your side. The problem is, that’s just the con. In truth, they’re corporate hirelings, paid to amuse and fellate you.

They imagine what might occur down there. That said, we live in the northern blue states.

What’s done up here is OK.

The conduct of corporate con men: On MSNBC, you constantly get your wieners pleased by discussions of SB 1070.

But how many times has stop-and-frisk been discussed on this fiery channel? Using Nexis, we checked the number of discussions involving the channel’s prime-time hosts, they of the fiery values:
Lifetime discussions of stop-and-frisk:
Chris Matthews: none
Al Sharpton: one
Ed Schultz: one
Rachel Maddow: none
Lawrence O’Donnell: none
Four of those liberals live in New York. Stop-and-frisk? They haven’t heard!

FAST AND FURIOUS: What Soledad said!


And what Maddow didn’t: Like Kevin Drum and others, we recommend Katherine Eban’s detailed report in Fortune concerning the Fast and Furious fury. For Drum’s take, just click this.

Eban’s piece is long and detailed—and it's deeply perplexing. If it’s accurate, it turns the Fast and Furious story completely on its head.

To read Eban’s piece, click this. It's fascinating, detailed and long.

Last night, when Eban appeared on CNN, Soledad O’Brien did the right thing. She asked the obvious question: Why the heck did Eric Holder say the things he said?
O’BRIEN (6/27/12): The premise of your article is that there was no gun-walking in Fast and Furious, which completely contradicts really the central argument that we've seen in the political sphere now for months.

EBAN: That's right. After six months of investigation, what became clear to me is that the things that Congress was holding up as centerpieces of proof that guns had been walked were, in fact, misconstrued, incorrect, resulted from other motives, other reasons, that there were alternate explanations and that really, this was a case of cherry picking, you know, small phrases, sentences, without any of the context really that you need in order to understand what actually happened in Phoenix Group Seven.

O'BRIEN: So why, back in November of 2011, would the Attorney General Eric Holder say that, in fact, the tactic happened and it was unacceptable?
At this point, O’Brien played tape of Holder testifying to Congress. “Instances of so-called gun-walking are simply unacceptable,” he was shown saying. “Regrettably, this tactic was used as part of Fast and Furious, which was launched to combat gun trafficking and violence on our southwest border.”

Why the heck did Holder say that if Eban’s reporting is accurate? If there was no gun-walking in Fast and Furious, why did he say there was?

We don’t know the answer to that. Neither did Eban, although she offered one possible explanation. (“I do say it appears that the Obama administration has basically caved or laid down on the railroad tracks in order to hold it at bay,” she said. “You know, let's not let it come up and get the political appointees. Let's hold it down in Phoenix.”)

If Eban’s reporting and explanation are accurate, Democrats should be the ones seeking Holder's head. That said, O’Brien did the right thing last night. She noted the obvious contradiction at the heart of this matter:

Eban says there was no “gun walking” in Fast and Furious. But Holder has said that there was.

Why did Holder say that? We don’t know. But if you watched Rachel Maddow interview Eban last night, you didn’t have to worry your pretty or handsome little head about that obvious question.

Maddow didn’t do the right thing. (Increasingly, this is her program’s trademark.) She simply accepted on faith that everything Eban wrote was correct. She never even mentioned the conflict with what Holder has said.

On Maddow’s show, Eban’s report unambiguously proved that the bad guys have been completely wrong. The fact that our guy has said they were right was sent to the ocean floor.

Maddow suppressed the contradiction which lies at the heart of this matter. But then, she seems to engage in this sort of conduct pretty much every night now. On Tuesday night, she pulled another one of her phony “quotation events,” this time involving Karl Rove.

Rove is a slippery player, of course. Increasingly, so is Maddow.

Maddow toyed with a statement Rove made on a recent Fox program. She made you think that she had played his answer to a particular question. But she hadn’t actually done so. In fact, she had clipped out the part of the session where Rove did give his actual answer, such as it was.

Maddow marveled at how unresponsive Rove was, after throwing away the part of the session where he gave his response.

(Other parts of this segment were equally awful. On a journalistic basis, Maddow’s program is sinking quite fast.)

To watch Tuesday night’s segment, click here. To us, that segment just didn’t sound right.

For that reason, we fact-checked what Rove had said. As usual, we found that Maddow’s presentation had pretty much been doctored.

When you watched that segment on Tuesday, could you pretty much tell?

Tomorrow: Maddow, Frank Rich and Bain Capital

BETTER PAPERS PLEASE: Robinson hates SB 1070!


Doesn’t mind stop-and-frisk: Do you understand Arizona’s famous state law, SB 1070?

More specifically, do you understand Monday’s ruling by the Supreme Court?

The Obama Admin had challenged four provisions of the law. On Monday, three provisions were struck down by the court. One provision was upheld.

Do you understand that ruling? Do you understand what the court struck down? Do you understand the workings of the provision which was upheld? On Tuesday morning, the Washington Post’s Gene Robinson offered the following thought about the provision which was permitted to stand:
ROBINSON (6/26/12): In a perfect world, the court would have definitively eliminated the most notorious section of the Arizona law: the requirement that police check the immigration status of anyone who is detained. Because of its chilling invocation of police-state tactics, this became known as the "papers, please" provision.
According to Robinson, the one provision the court upheld was the “papers, please” provision. According to Robinson, this provision includes “the requirement that police check the immigration status of anyone who is detained” (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/27/12).

That statement is blatantly false. But Robinson typed it anyway—and the Post put it in print! Later, in an on-line Q-and-A, he snarked about the way this provision will be put in effect:
QUESTION (6/26/12): How can you have a "reasonable suspicion" that someone is in the country illegally without some sort of racial profiling? I understand there are over 1 million illegal Irish immigrants in the country. I'm sure they stand out much more than do Hispanics, if any happen to be in AZ. Does a brogue make you suspicious? My elderly father-in-law came here from Norway in the 1960's and never returned. He qualifies for citizenship but just never bothered. I'm pretty sure he's safe, but you never can tell.

ROBINSON: Tell your father-in-law not to drive through Phoenix with a busted tail light. I'm pretty sure Jan Brewer and Sheriff Joe are singling out Norwegians for ethnic profiling.
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Across the pseudo-liberal world, various pundits have been staging similar displays of wit.

That said, the reader had asked a perfectly valid question. Unlike Robinson, he seemed familiar with the basic provision in question. He knew a basic fact: Under terms of SB 1070, a police officer must have a “reasonable suspicion” that someone is in the country illegally before he can ask for his “papers.”

Could Robinson get dumber and live? Under terms of this provision, an officer is not "required to check the immigration status of anyone who is detained." As the reader knew, he isn’t even allowed to check someone’s status in the absence of “reasonable suspicion.”

“Reasonable suspicion” is a legal term, like “reasonable doubt” or “probable cause.” There’s no precise way to establish that such standards have been met. But under SB 1070, “reasonable suspicion” is required before a jack-booted thug can pleasingly say, “Papers, please!”

Remarkably, Robinson didn’t know that fact when he wrote his column—or he simply decided to lie. His reader did know, and he asked a good question:

How could an Arizona policeman establish "reasonable suspicion" that someone is in the country illegally? Is there a way to do such a thing absent racial profiling?

In response to that question, Robinson offered some pleasing snark. But that very same day, a reporter had actually shed some light on this important question!

It doesn’t happen very often. But in Tuesday morning’s New York Times, Fernanda Santos did some real reporting about the provision which had been upheld.

Unlike Robinson, Santos isn’t a cable news star. But on Tuesday morning, she did an actual news report which included some actual information about SB 1070. In the hard-copy Times, her report appeared at the bottom of page A12. But she produced some real information concerning that reader’s question.

How might an officer establish “reasonable suspicion?” You aren’t required to like the provision which was upheld. But as opposed to Robinson’s error and snark, Santos reported some actual facts about what is going to happen:
SANTOS (6/26/12): Meanwhile, throughout the state, in an effort to avoid claims of racial profiling, police officers and sheriff deputies are being trained—through an updated version of a video made in 2010, when Governor Brewer signed SB 1070 into law—to understand what are considered reasonable signs that a person might be an illegal immigrant.

A lack of government-issued identification, a foreign vehicle registration or an inability to provide a residential address are among the objective causes for suspicion listed in the video. Others are more subjective, like a person's ''unexplained nervousness or inability to make eye contact,'' ''dress'' or ''significant difficulty communicating in English.''

The police chief here [in Phoenix], Daniel Garcia, said his department has gone beyond the training, posting messages to the community online and offering additional training to its officers ''in a manner to ensure equal justice under the law is provided to every person irrespective of race, color or national origin.''
That represents a fleeting attempt to describe the criteria which will be used to establish “reasonable suspicion.” Like you, we have no experience with such legal matters. Even if we saw a fuller report on the criteria being developed, we couldn’t assess this as a way to establish “reasonable suspicion.”

But suppose a policeman stops a speeding motorist who can’t produce an appropriate piece of ID; can’t produce a local address; is driving a car with foreign registration and is demonstrating ''unexplained nervousness.” Given the norms of American police practice, would it be reasonable to suspect that this driver was in the country illegally?

The passage above is just the start of a full report about the way “reasonable suspicion” might be established in these cases. But Santos did some actual reporting about a very basic part of this poorly-reported state law.

By way of contrast, Robinson pleased the rubes by snarking around in his on-line discussion, after misstating a bone-simple fact in that morning’s column.

This law has been famous for more than two years. But as of Tuesday morning, Robinson’s readers were still being misinformed about the provision which was upheld. And many participants in his on-line discussion didn’t seem to know basic facts about SB 1070. In the questions which follow, two consecutive readers showcased a widespread point of confusion: How could an Arizona citizen prove his or her legal status? What sort of “papers” must a citizen provide when he hears an officer demanding, “Papers please!”
QUESTION: If you are a U.S. citizen, you don't need to carry papers. But how do you prove that you are a citizen? You have to carry papers (birth certificate). This law is just an excuse to harass anyone that doesn't look like the governor.

QUESTION: Today right now someone demands that you have proof that you can be in the US legally. You are on your job and you have no way to prove your American citizenship right now. Geez whiz, you never got a passport or is it at the bank in the safety deposit box? Where is your birth certificate? At home—well that's no help. Off to the pokey with you and no paperwork.
These readers were asking a valid question, even as they pleasured us rubes with their dystopian fantasies. But please note: After more than two years of mainstream reporting, these readers of the Washington Post still didn’t know an elementary fact: Under explicit terms of SB 1070, a driver’s license constitutes unassailable proof of citizenship. After more than two years of mainstream reporting, these readers still didn’t know that basic fact. Instead, they were dreaming pleasing dreams about the way the law was designed to harass “anyone [including citizens] that doesn't look like the governor.”

The “papers” a citizen has to show is his or her driver’s license! To state the obvious, you’re required to show those same “papers” in any sort of traffic stop anywhere in the U.S. In his answer to the first questioner, Robinson mentioned this deflating fact, though only in passing. But when he answered the second reader, he hurried back to his snark:
QUESTION: Today right now someone demands that you have proof that you can be in the US legally. You are on your job and you have no way to prove your American citizenship right now. Geez whiz you never got a passport or is it at the bank in the safety deposit box? Where is your birth certificate? At home—well that's no help. Off to the pokey with you and no paperwork.

ROBINSON: If Gov. Brewer treats everyone in Arizona this way, she gets tossed out of office quicker than you can say "Sheriff Joe." If she only treats Latinos this way, the remaining fragment of her mean-spirited, un-American law gets tossed out by the courts.
The reader seemed to be asking about American citizens. But so what? Just like that, Robinson returned to a pleasing picture in which Governor Brewer has everyone in Arizona “dragged off to the pokey.” He then imagines her having citizens of Hispanic heritage treated this way because their passports are in their safety deposit box. In fact, any citizen has satisfied the “papers, please” cry if he simply presents his driver’s license. A legal immigrant must present (for example) his green card, which he is already required to carry under terms of federal law, the same way you have to carry your license if you head off in your car.

One provision was upheld by the court. Is this provision a good idea? That's a matter of judgment, of course. This isn’t a matter of judgment:

After more than two years of pseudo-discussion, many citizens have little idea how this famous state law works. But then, can you really blame them?

On Tuesday morning, Robinson was still misstating a basic fact about this very famous law. One day later, Kathleeen Parker was still “imagining” how the upheld provision might work.

One day earlier, Santos had provided some facts. Parker preferred to imagine.

After more than two years, why did Robinson misstate that fact? We have no idea, but we will note this:

Robinson is quite upset at the idea that profiling might take place in Arizona. But racial profiling has been underway in New York City for years. Everybody knows this fact—and Robinson doesn’t seem to care about it.

Using Nexis, we find no sign that Robinson has ever mentioned stop-and-frisk in any of his columns. Stop-and-frisk has been under way in New York for some time. But for those who are playing the tribal game, blue states don’t seem to count.

Robinson is a tribal player. He worries, name-calls, declaims and snarks about the very bad people in Zona. But when profiling blatantly happens up north, this tribal star doesn’t say boo.

Does Robinson actually care about this? Or is this just a tribal game? Is this just a big excuse to shout our favorite slogans about that vile other tribe?

Tomorrow: More of the standard confusion

THE COLLINS RULES: A bit of a regional bigot!


What are Texans like: On Monday evening’s Charlie Rose, Gail Collins continued to pound away with her conceptions about the Texas public schools. At one point, she offered this:
COLLINS (6/25/12): And in Texas right now, for instance, my friends in Texas, they’ve been cutting the heck out of the school budgets in order to keep from raising taxes in the state. And Texas is not a place that can afford to have less resources for education. It’s terrible. They’ve got a huge, huge, huge growing population.

ROSE: O.K. But how about the Race to the Top? What do you think of that?
Her friends in Texas! Right!

For whatever reason, Collins has briefly stopped wringing her hands about Hispanic children in Texas. That said, what impression did she convey with those few remarks? In part, we would guess she conveyed the impression that Texas may have lousy schools.

How good are the Texas schools? For ourselves, we have no idea. But in every demographic group, Texas kids outscore their peers from around the nation. They often outscore their counterparts in our highest-scoring states.

We know that because we’ve looked at the data. It occurred to us that we should have included links to those data as part of yesterday’s post. (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/26/12.)

Yesterday, we discussed math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the testing program Collins has described as our most reliable. Within the NAEP Mathematics report for 2011, you can find the basic data for all demographic groups in all the states. Just click here, then move down to the “Appendix Tables.”

All the data we listed yesterday can be found in those tables.

If you want more detailed information—for instance, if you want to adjust for income—you need to use the NAEP Data Explorer. Click here, then click on MAIN NDE. From there, you’re on your own.

These are the country’s only real data. (We don’t recommend using data from the various statewide testing programs.) Within the “press corps,” everybody calls the NAEP the gold standard of educational testing—and no one ever clicks those links to see what the data are.

Has Collins ever looked at these data? Based on the statements she makes in her awful new book, we’d say there’s little chance. By the way, when Collins appeared on Charlie Rose, Charlie got himself a snootful and asked a variant of the question Mary Schmich had asked:
ROSE: What’s the longest amount of time you’ve ever spent in Texas?

COLLINS: I spent most of the summer there this summer.
We’ll assume she meant last summer. We think we might hear a second question lurking in Charlie’s words: Do you have the slightest idea what you’re talking about?

(At one time, Charlie lived in Texas, as he reminded Collins.)

Many people are complaining about the stereotypes which animate Collins’ book and discussions. Having said that, what are Texans like?

We pondered that question when we watched the NewsHour last night.

One full segment dealt with a student discipline program in some or all Texas school districts. Throughout the segment, Tom Bearden spoke with Deborah Fowler, a Texas attorney who has authored a report on this subject for Texas Appleseed, a public interest law center in Austin. To watch the full segment, click here.

We thought of Collins’ stereotypes as we watched Fowler last evening. Does Fowler think she lives in an empty place? Is she in thrall to the Alamo syndrome?

When Collins spoke with Schmich on C-Span, she very much stressed the idea that Texans all think they’re in empty places. (“They really do all think they’re in empty places,” she said. Emphasis hers.) Watching Collins with Schmich, we were struck by an unfortunate thought—she really did start to sound like a genteel regional bigot.

Over the past thirty years, the press has featured quite a few of these types, often drawn from among We Irish Catholics. One example: Quite plainly, Jimmy Breslin hated Al Gore because Gore came from Tennessee. But there has been a surprising amount of this—and yes, in the Clinton-Gore years, it helped change American history.

It’s plain that Collins was too lazy to do the requisite background work before offering her sweeping remarks about the Texas schools. But Collins truly does seem like a bit of a regional bigot.

On that C-Span tape, she laughs and laughs as she talks with Schmich. As she does, get a load of those lifeless eyes. We don't know why she seems to be lacking in joy.

But why take it out on us?

In conclusion: There are 28 million people in Texas. They don’t all think they’re in empty places. Watching the interview with Fowler, we were struck by the way we ourselves had been infected by exposure to Collins’ presentations.

Is it possible that other bright Texans like Fowler have played a role in producing those test scores—the scores in which Texas kids outscore their peers nationwide?

We don’t know, but the human brain is wired to believe stereotypical tribal claims. It’s really a shame that a person like Collins has been granted this role in our lives.

Collins has spent little time in Texas. She plainly hasn’t looked at the data. This is the way your “press corps” ends, not with a bang but a whimper.

BETTER PAPERS, PLEASE: It's a wonderful morning in the Times!


A look at the way bias works: Truly, it’s a wonderful morning in the New York Times—wonderful if you want to see one way bias can work.

But first, consider the remarkable work which has appeared in the Washington Post the past two mornings.

Gene Robinson is a Pulitzer Prize winner. (We know, we know—they all are!) But so what? Yesterday morning, he offered the highlighted thought in paragraph 3 of his column:
ROBINSON (6/26/12): By throwing out most of the anti-Latino Arizona immigration law and neutering the rest, the Supreme Court struck a rare blow for fairness and justice on Monday. Let's hope this is the beginning of a streak.

Let's also hope that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who sided with the 5 to 3 majority in this case, likes the view from the liberals' end of the bench. They could use his vote on the health-care-reform ruling, expected to be announced Thursday.

In a perfect world, the court would have definitively eliminated the most notorious section of the Arizona law: the requirement that police check the immigration status of anyone who is detained. Because of its chilling invocation of police-state tactics, this became known as the "papers, please" provision.
According to Robinson, the “papers, please” provision of SB 1070 includes “the requirement that police check the immigration status of anyone who is detained.”

That claim is baldly bogus, of course. But there it sat, in the Washington Post, penned by an award-winning “journalist”—tied to a designation derived from old Nazi films.

How does a major newspaper manage to print such a statement? We’re not sure, but in today’s Post, Kathleen Parker takes her turn at the helm.

Parker’s a Pulitzer prize-winner too—although, in fairness, they all are. On-line, her column bears the teaser, “Your papers, please:”
PARKER (6/27/12): One [provision the court left in place] allows state law enforcement officers to determine whether someone they stop, detain or arrest for some other reason is in the country legally. The obvious concern is that enforcement would lead to racial profiling. And of course it will because we can be pretty certain that Caucasians pulled over for, say, speeding won’t be required to produce proof of citizenship.

Unless, that is, state officials realize that treating everyone equally is the only way to avoid charges of racial profiling. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) has promised that mechanisms are in place to ensure that Hispanics are not singled out.

What those mechanisms might be isn’t clear, but one can imagine at least one possible scenario—a reiteration of the sort of willy-nilly, random granny-search ops we’ve witnessed since 9/11.

Taking a stroll through probability, let’s say that Officer Smith pulls over Paco Ramirez and asks for proof of citizenship, and it turns out that Paco is descended from three generations of U.S.-born, tax-paying Ramirezes. Paco is probably going to be annoyed. He may be sufficiently annoyed to file a profiling (or harassment) complaint with the courts. After all, why, except that he looked Hispanic, would the officer have asked for his papers?
Parker allows herself to “imagine” how this provision may be carried out. As she does, she lets her imagination run free.

Parker says it isn’t clear what the actual mechanisms of enforcement will be. But how odd! In yesterday’s New York Times, reporter Fernanda Santos did an excellent job reporting what some of those mechanisms may actually be.

In our hard-copy Times, Santos’ informative report was buried at the bottom of page A12. That said, the little-known Santos reported real facts which came to her from the real world.

One day later, a Pulitzer winner was still “imagining.”

This brings us back to today’s New York Times. In the letters column, a writer from Denver says “it doesn’t take too much imagination” to predict the way this provision will be enforced.

In fairness, he’s certainly right about that. When imagination is our method, there’s little real effort required.

The letter which really grabbed us, though, was one from New York City itself—the letter which sits right at the top of today’s letters pile.

This letter was written by Malika Dutt, described as “president of Breakthrough, a human rights organization.” Dutt is concerned about the Arizona law, as well she might be. That said, her letter starts like this:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (6/27/12): The Supreme Court has upheld the most damaging element of SB 1070, Arizona’s cruel anti-immigrant law. The “show me your papers” provision allows law enforcement to profile people based on the color of their skin.

A community in which racial profiling is permitted—even invited—is a community deprived of its basic right to safety and dignity. And such laws have a particular impact on women and families. Under the constant threat of police harassment and possible detention, even simple daily outings—running errands, driving to work, grocery shopping, taking your child to the doctor—become fraught with fear and very real risk.
This letter tops the letters page. In its opening paragraph, it simply states, as a matter of fact, that the provision upheld by the court “allows law enforcement to profile people based on the color of their skin.”

Is that claim even dimly accurate? The provision hasn’t gone into effect; reporters like Santos to the side, papers like the Times have made little effort to explain the criteria which will be involved in its execution. This allows people like Parker, Dutt and the reader in Denver to put their imaginations to work, producing the dystopian musings which make our tribe feel good.

Dutt imagines a world in which Arizonans will live “under the constant threat of police harassment and possible detention.” Indeed, the world she and Parker imagine would be a very bad world indeed.

The irony is, we already have such a world within our national borders! It’s found right there in New York City, where various people screech and wail about the things they can imagine in Arizona.

Why is today’s New York Times a delight? For this reason: Right there on the paper’s front page, reporter Wendy Ruderman describes the world Parker and Dutt are forced to imagine. Ruderman writes a highly respectful but detailed report about New York City’s stop-and-frisk procedure, in which blacks and Hispanics are treated in precisely the way Parker and Dutt imagine.

No one has to imagine this. As Brother Gaye once sang, this is what’s goin’ on:
RUDERMAN (6/27/12): Last year, city police officers stopped nearly 686,000 people, 84 percent of them black or Latino. The vast majority—88 percent of the stops—led to neither an arrest nor a summons, although officers said they had enough reasonable suspicion to conduct a frisk in roughly half of the total stops, according to statistics provided by the New York Police Department and the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Behind each number is a singular and salient interaction between the officers and the person they have stopped. In conducting the interviews, The New York Times sought to explore the simple architecture of the stops—the officers’ words and gestures, actions, explanations, tones of voice and demeanors.

What seems clear is that there is no script for the encounters, or that if there is one, it is not being followed. Under the law, officers must have a reasonable suspicion—a belief that a crime is afoot—to stop, question and frisk people. One thing an officer cannot do is stop someone based solely on skin color. Yet many of those interviewed said they believed that officers had stopped them because of race—and race alone.
Rachel, Lawrence and Big Ed all broadcast from the city where this is occurring. Question:

As these corporate pseudos screech and wail about the things they imagine in Arizona, have you ever seen them do a segment about this practice right there in New York?

Go ahead! Search your recollection!

Tomorrow, we’ll look at that informative news report by Santos, who is or was Phoenix bureau chief for the Times. We’ll also discuss a few basic facts about the provision of SB 1070 which the Supreme Court didn’t strike down—the provision which lets us have our fun yelling slogans from old Nazi movies.

But it’s just as we’ve told you in the past: The New York Times very much enjoys dropping R-bombs on “those people” in Arizona and Alabama. Also, B-, X- and N-bombs (xenophobe and nativist.)

That said, the paper adopts a strikingly different tone with respect to the brilliant work of its very rich billionaire mayor. If you want to understand more about the different ways “bias” can work, we’ll suggest that you spend some time pondering this double standard.

We’ll also suggest that you ask yourself this: How can Robinson still be employed? After more than two years of this discussion, he’s still writing that pure, perfect pap? In what world can that happen?

Truly, we live in a broken world, a world which boasts a Potemkin “press corps.” Little-known reporters are sometimes allowed to introduce a few stray facts. Other than that, it’s slogans and narrative:

Narrative all the way down.

Tomorrow: Santos' report. Also, what "papers" are we discussing?

THE COLLINS RULES: An intriguing session!

TUESDAY, JUNE 26, 2012

Discussing the hordes to the south: After the holiday, we’ll be taking a detailed look at Gail Collins’ “fastly-written” new book (her term).

More specifically, we’ll look at the chapter in which Collins discusses No Child Left Behind and the Texas public schools.

Collins plays by some very strange (and unpleasant) rules at various points in this book. But in certain ways, we think her treatment of the Texas schools constitutes a portrait of the age.

What’s involved in the Collins rules? Next week, we’ll review that question in some detail. But if you’re intrigued by this high-ranking journalist, we’d recommend an interview which aired on C-Span last weekend.

To watch that session, just click here. Then click once again.

The session was part of the Chicago Tribune festival of books. Collins was interviewed by Mary Schmich, a Tribune columnist who asked some very good questions, all without offending the rules of professional courtesy.

Good grief! Somewhat pointedly, Schmich asked Collins if she has ever spent much time in Texas. (Answer: No.) She asked her why she jokes so much while Paul Krugman pretty much doesn’t. She asked her if her Catholic upbringing helps explain her work.

She asked her if she jokes around because she’s a woman. At one point, Schmich asked if Collins “worries about playing to stereotypes” in her (stereotype-laden) book.

We thought Schmich asked some very good questions. For today, we’ll note one part of what Collins said.

Early on, Schmich asked about the fact that Texas will soon be majority Hispanic. In response, Collins conflated “Texas” with white Texas, as she frequently does. She also offered a complaint about Hispanic children in Texas:
COLLINS: Texas is more sane when it comes to Hispanic integration than many parts at least of the border part of this country. But what it’s not done is to integrate—two things, what it’s not done.

It has not integrated its Hispanic residents into its political and business power structure in the way you would expect by now. And two, it’s not doing the job of educating young Hispanic children that it needs to do if they’re going to become critical skilled workers for the next generation.

Right now, Texas imports college graduates. It imports as many as it creates on its own. So when you are paying to help make the universities in Illinois top-tier universities, you are paying to help staff businesses in Texas because a lot of your graduates are going to wind up down there.

Now, unless Texas antes up and really, really, really steps up to the education plate—

In the future, ten percent of the work force of America is going to be Texas born, bred and educated. And unless they do a better job than they’re doing now, that’s when we all go south.
Texas is going to take us all down with it! (That's certainly possible, of course.) For whatever reason, that’s when Schmich asked if Collins is worried about playing to stereotypes.

Let’s discuss one stereotype which was lodged in that presentation.

Collins warned the Illinois crowd about the way the rubes in Texas are failing to educate young Hispanic kids. She played to a sense of regional grievance as she offered this plaint.

Here’s what her audience almost surely didn’t understand:

In almost all parts of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (the NAEP), Hispanic kids in Texas outscore their Illinois counterparts, often by fairly wide margins. (Collins recently cited the NAEP as our most reliable measure of educational achievement.)

Consider math in grades 4 and 8 on the 2011 NAEP. (Those are the grades that get tested.) Hispanic kids in Texas outscored their peers in Illinois, where Collins was stirring resentment. Here are the average “scale scores” for Hispanic kids in Texas and Illinois and in the nation as a whole:
Average scores, Hispanic kids, 2011 NAEP:
Grade 4 math:
Texas 235, Illinois 226
United States 229

Grade 8 math:
Texas 283, Illinois 272
United States 269
Ten points on the NAEP scale is often said to equal one academic year. In our view, that’s a very rough rule of thumb. But it gives you some rough sense of what we’re talking about.

Let’s be clear: Hispanic kids in Texas are not doing well enough. Their scores lag behind the scores of white kids in Texas. But by the way, white kids in Texas outscore their Illinois counterparts too. So do black kids in Texas. See the data below.

Does Collins ever know what she’s talking about? In this recent session, she warned Illinois residents that we’re all “going south” if the rubes in Texas can’t get their okra together regarding young Hispanics. Very few people in that Chicago audience would have guessed that Hispanic kids in Texas outscore their Illinois peers.

Is something “wrong” with those NAEP data? Are Texas kids really ahead of their peers in Illinois? We have no way of knowing. But thanks to the withered soul of our "press corps," our discussions never reach that point. Our discourse is driven by people like Collins, who rarely seem to have any idea what they’re talking about.

Our discourse is driven by preferred tribal narrative. Genteel regional bigots that we are, we enjoy the tales Gail Collins tells.

The other math scores: Here are the other math scores from the 2011 NAEP:

In fourth-grade math, black kids in Texas outscored their Illinois peers, 232-219. White kids in Texas outscored Illinois, 253-249.

In eighth grade math, black kids in Texas outscored Illinois, 277-260. White kids in Texas followed suit, 304-294.

What explains those scores? We don’t know. Thanks to “news orgs” like the Times, we never learn that these scores exist.

We all say we care about schools and minority kids. Plainly, no one does.


TUESDAY, JUNE 26, 2012

We are a primitive people: Intellectually, we are a primitive people.

Just consider the chaos which reigned on cable TV last night. This chaos concerned the Supreme Court’s decision on the Arizona immigration law.

This famous state law, SB-1070, has been center stage in the national discourse for more than two years. Four provisions of that state law were under review by the Court.

Four is not a large number. And yet, when three provisions were struck down and one provision was upheld, chaos reigned in the land of cable. (This morning’s newspapers aren’t much clearer.) All night long, multimillionaire TV stars struggled to explain what had happened. The greatest joke of them all came into play, the joke called “Goldberg’s Law:”

The man with one watch always knows the time. The man with two watches is never quite sure.

If you watched two cable shows last night, you may have been thrown into high confusion. In some cases, you may have been thrown into high confusion if you watched just one cable show, so eager were some of the hosts to recite conflicting narratives.

But one basic point was clear: Given two years to examine this law, the folk who play journalists on TV had a very hard time explaining what had happened. We are a primitive people.

If you watched The One True Liberal Channel, your evening began in a lachrymose way. As soon as his program began, Chris Matthews played tape of Harry Reid on the floor of the senate.

Reid described the part of the law the court did not strike down:
MATTHEWS (6/25/12): Gentlemen, I want you to look at this bit now. It’s a quote from Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader. He had strong words about the provision the court left standing today. Let's listen to the leader.

REID (videotape): I just say to you, Mr. President, and to anyone within the sound of my voice, someone with my skin color or yours, I don’t think you’re going to be carrying your immigration papers with you every place you go. But if you’re in Arizona and you speak with a little bit of an accent or your skin color’s brown, you better have your papers with you. That’s unfortunate.
For us pseudo-liberals, that felt very good. But what in the world was Reid talking about? Most people in Arizona (or in Reid’s own state of Nevada) can’t “carry their immigration papers with them every place they go.” Being American citizens, they don’t have “immigration papers.”

That’s true for citizens with Reid’s “skin color” and for those whose “skin color’s brown.” That’s true for the person to whom Reid was speaking, the senate’s presiding officer. (We don’t know who that was.)

On its face, Reid’s lachrymose statement doesn’t parse real well. But it drives a favorite narrative, the “papers please” narrative in which our tribe has taken so much delight. The rules controlling use of this narrative are known by all:

You must never use Hitler allusions. Unless you’re discussing SB-1070, in which you must utter phrases from Hollywood Nazi movies.

What exactly did Reid mean in making that lachrymose statement? Because newspapers have done a very poor job explaining the workings of SB-1070, we would guess that very few people could work their way through his statement. Under terms of SB-1070, what sorts of “papers” must citizens carry? How about non-citizens who are in the country legally? Under terms of SB-1070, what sorts of “papers” must they carry? And is there any normal sense in which you’d refer to those “papers” as papers?

We think we know how to answer those questions. But we can’t say we’re entirely sure.

You see, our major news orgs are very bad at explaining things. They’re even bad at explaining topics which have been center stage for two solid years. And in the midst of all the confusion, people like Reid issue murky statements designed to spread loathing and fear.

Back to what we learned on cable last night:

At 8 PM, Big Ed came on. Within the first few minutes of his show, he seemed to make contradictory assessments of the day’s events. Governor Brewer’s law had been left for dead. And the Nazis were in control:
SCHULTZ (6/25/12): Right-wingers can no longer hide behind states’ rights when it comes to creating radical immigration laws. A ruling from the highest court in the land proves states can only go so far. The Supreme Court ruled 5-3 in favor of striking down most of the provisions in Arizona’s controversial immigration law, Senate Bill 1070...But the ruling also keeps intact the most controversial part of the law, the “papers please” provision, allowing law enforcement to check the immigration status of people they detain.


Republican Governor Jan Brewer jumped into face-saving mode late this afternoon. The law she champions basically got smoked by the Supreme Court. She put on a happy face today… I mean, Jan Brewer is the Baghdad Bob of right-wing immigration laws. I mean, she says the court upheld the heart of Senate Bill 1070, but it only upheld the right for the law enforcement to ask for documentation. Brewer is proud of one key achievement, the ability to racially profile suspected undocumented immigrants.


I want to start with the Arizona law and this ruling by the Supreme Court. It still says racial profiling is going to happen and it doesn’t do anything to curb that. Are you troubled by that?
“Right-wingers can no longer hide behind states’ rights when it comes to creating radical immigration laws,” Big Ed triumphantly said. And not only that! The ruling by the Court “says racial profiling is going to happen and it doesn’t do anything to curb that!”

Why was Big Eddie so unclear? You had to sympathize with the big lug! Last night, hosts on the One True Channel were in the grip of competing narratives, all of which they wanted to shout to the heavens:

They wanted to slam the Roberts court as being hopelessly politicized. But the Roberts court had just struck down three out of the four provisions.

They wanted to say the provision which wasn’t struck down reminds them of Hollywood Nazi films. But that provision had been upheld by a unanimous vote.

They wanted to say that Brewer was nuts for claiming success—a genuine Baghdad Bob. But they also wanted to say that her “racial profiling” stands.

We thought Big Eddie was hard to follow. But good lord! By the end of the evening on this channel, Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell were authoring these assertions:
MADDOW: The Supreme Court ruling on that case today, on Arizona's SB-1070 is described in the Beltway press like a mixed bag or a compromise ruling, both sides getting something. Despite spin to that effect from the right, that is not at all what this ruling was...This was not a mixed bag of a ruling. This was a ruling striking down the Arizona “papers please” law.

O’DONNELL: The provision that is on thin legal ice is not the so-called "show me your papers" provision...The most egregious of the provisions, the "show me your papers" provision was, indeed, struck down completely by the Supreme Court today.
Say what? And did Goldberg just check his third watch?

Four provisions were under review—and four is not a large number. But by the end of the evening, this channel’s hosts couldn’t even agree on which of the four provisions was the “papers please” clause!

At 8 PM, Big Eddie said the “papers please provision” had been left intact. At 9 PM, Maddow said the court had struck down “the papers please law.”

At 10 PM, Lawrence said the provision which was upheld wasn’t the “show me your papers provision.” That provision had been struck down, he loudly said.

So it goes when your “press corps” takes two years to study a topic—to study an extremely high-profile law in which only four parts were at issue.

We are a very primitive people. We know how to posture and pose and shout slogans. In our degraded current state, we know how to do little else.

Tomorrow: On Fox, “The Five” are confused. Also, this morning’s newspapers

LATEST IN THE TWILIGHT SERIES: Twilight of the philosophers of math!

MONDAY, JUNE 25, 2012

Who taught Chris Hayes how to talk: On Sunday, the New York Times did a profile of Chris Hayes, who hosts an MSNBC show on weekend mornings.

Hayes strikes us as a smart, sincere person. We look forward to reading his new book. But in our reaction to the following news, we differed from Kevin Drum, who normally serves as our lodestar:
WILLIAMS (6/24/12): At a table of wonks, Mr. Hayes, who studied the philosophy of mathematics at Brown, came off as the wonkiest as he deconstructed the budgetary implications of tax arbitrage.
Drum thought that was a cool field of study, perhaps even the coolest. Here at THE HOWLER, our reaction differed. Incomparably, we focused on what surrounded that news:
WILLIAMS: Mr. Hayes, who studied the philosophy of mathematics at Brown, came off as the wonkiest as he deconstructed the budgetary implications of tax arbitrage. Opinions were varied and passionate, but there was no sniping, no partisan grandstanding.

“I like the fact that it’s dialogic, small-d ‘democratic,’ ” Mr. Hayes said of his show. “We’re all sitting at the same table, we’re creating the public sphere in miniature. I was going to say, ‘We’re going to model Habermasian communicative action,’ but that’s excessively pretentious.”
Is “dialogic” even a word? Yes it is, but just barely. In the Times, the word has appeared only one other time in the past twelve months; it hasn’t appeared in the Washington Post during that time at all. Meanwhile, what about Hayes’ crack about modeling Habermasian communicative action?

Hayes said the thought was pretentious; rolling our eyes, we quickly agreed. And sure enough! Things only got worse when we clicked the Times link, which whisked us to this destination.

Before long, we were observing Habermasian communication in action! This is the opening paragraph of the book to which the Times linked:
HABERMAS (1981): The rationality of beliefs and actions is a theme usually dealt with in philosophy. One could even say that philosophical thought originates in reflections on the reason embodied in cognition, speech and action; and reason remains its basic theme. From the beginning, philosophy has endeavored to explain the world as a whole, the unity in the multiplicity of appearances, with principles to be discovered in reason, and not in communication with a divinity beyond the world nor, strictly speaking, even in returning to the ground of a cosmos encompassing nature and society. Greek thought did not aim at a theology nor at an ethical cosmology, as the great religions did, but at an ontology. If there is anything common to philosophical theories, it is the intention of thinking being or the unity of the world by way of explicating reason’s experience of itself.
Habermas is right. You could say that, and others things like it. But you probably shouldn’t.

(You may think we’ve mistranscribed some of that passage—for example, the final sentence. We haven’t. In fairness, we’re dealing with a translation.)

Is philosophy of any kind a cool field of study? It can be, but there is a downfall to reading a text like this—you may end up talking like that! This is an occasional problem for Hayes, although some of us liberals mistake this sort of thing for the big major smarts we insist that our tribe possesses. When Hayes got in trouble on Memorial Day, it wasn’t simply because he chose a strange time to have an extremely narrow discussion with a very poorly-selected panel. It was partly due to the Habermasian way he chose to be dialogic:
HAYES (5/27/12): Thinking today and observing Memorial Day. That will be happening tomorrow. Just talked with Lieutenant Colonel Steve Burke, an officer with the Marines. Had to tell people— “Beck,” sorry.

I think it’s interesting, because it is, I think very difficult to talk about the war dead and the fallen without invoking valor, without invoking the word “heroes.” And why do I feel so uncomfortable about the word “hero?”

I feel uncomfortable about the world “hero” because it seems to me that it is so rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war. And I don`t want to obviously desecrate or disrespect the memory of anyone that's fallen and obviously there are individual circumstances in which there is genuine tremendous heroism, you know, in a hail of gunfire, rescuing fellow soldiers and things like that.

But it seems to me we marshal this word in a way that’s problematic. Maybe I’m wrong.
For ourselves, we don’t think he was wrong in his basic reaction. But that was a poorly selected time to have this very narrow discussion. And good God! The way he expressed himself!

Given the way our culture works, that probably wasn’t the best time for this discussion. But people! When Hayes said that calling the fallen “heroes” was “rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war,” he absolutely guaranteed that people were going to land on his ass.

Translation: He guaranteed that he’d seem like an elitist.

You may think that isn’t fair. But that is basic reality in the real world of actual people.

People don’t talk like Habermas, nor would we recommend that they start. Sometimes, Hayes tends to talk that way when he goes dialogic.

As for the philosophy of mathematics, Drum’s comment and those of his readers caused us to pull out the most recent such work we have perused—Mario Livio’s 2010 page-turner, Is God a Mathematician?

By all accounts, Livio is a superb mathematician—but he simply isn’t a competent “philosopher.” That said, a great deal of the philosophy of mathematics comes remarkably close to recalling the debate about that tree which falls in the forest when you have your ear plugs in. As Wittgenstein basically said, the reason to study such disciplines is to learn how to make them stop.

Chris Hayes seems like a good decent smart sincere person. Aside from all those professors at Brown, who taught Chris Hayes how to talk?

This isn’t the way to win: We don’t agree with the following judgment. But again, this is what a (favorable) Times reporter thought about a recent Hayes program, apparently the one of May 26:
WILLIAMS: An hour later, as the cameras rolled, Mr. Hayes and his guests waded thigh-deep into an analysis of private equity and whether it is bad for the economy. At a table of wonks, Mr. Hayes, who studied the philosophy of mathematics at Brown, came off as the wonkiest as he deconstructed the budgetary implications of tax arbitrage. Opinions were varied and passionate, but there was no sniping, no partisan grandstanding.
After reviewing the transcript, we don’t necessarily agree with that judgment. But however much we liberals like to flatter ourselves about our brilliance, coming off as the wonkiest wonk in the tank is not the way to win.

WHO YOU CAN BULLY: At long last, the Times does Bain!

MONDAY, JUNE 25, 2012

Investors count, working stiffs don’t: Saturday morning, on the front page, the New York Times reported in detail on the past workings of Bain Capital.

We were left with an unfortunate thought. At the New York Times, it almost seems that investors count, while working stiffs possibly don’t.

Here’s how the Times report started:
LUO AND CRESWELL (6/23/12): Cambridge Industries, an automotive plastics supplier whose losses had been building for three consecutive years, finally filed for bankruptcy in May 2000 under a mountain of debt that had ballooned to more than $300 million.

Yet Bain Capital, the private equity firm that controlled the Michigan-based company, continued to religiously collect its $950,000-a-year “advisory fee” in quarterly installments, even to the very end, according to court documents.

In all, Bain garnered more than $10 million in fees from Cambridge over five years, including a $2.25 million payment just for buying the company, according to bankruptcy records and filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Meanwhile, Bain’s investors saw their $16 million investment in Cambridge wiped out.
Finally, the Times found something to worry about! Forget what happened to looted workers. In several instances, Bain’s investors got a bum deal!

Are we being unfair? That "Creswell" is the same Julie Creswell who hurried past the “underfunding” of the pension funds at GS Steel. Did working stiffs get their pensions looted?

In the lengthy report where she buried this matter, Creswell and/or her editors didn’t much seem to care (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/24/12). But suddenly, things seem different when it’s the investor class which finds itself getting tooken! In Saturday’s front-page report, Luo and Creswell went into much more detail about the way that class got treated by Bain at several points of call.

Here at THE HOWLER, we’d still like to know about those “underfunded” pensions at GS Steel. Reuters did a detailed though murky report on this matter in January. David Cay Johnston said there were other instances in the Bain record. (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/13/12.)

But to this day, the upper-class American press corps hasn’t bothered to explain what happened. How did Bain walk away with so much cash while workers’ pensions and health care got shorted? To this day, the New York Times doesn’t seem to care.

Is it just our imagination? It sometimes seems that topics get withheld, or stressed, depending on whose ox got gored. You can underfund pensions as much as you want.

Do not shortchange your investors!

BULLY WATCH: Point of reassurance!

MONDAY, JUNE 25, 2012

We’re glad we clicked this link: We were glad we clicked this YouTube link concerning the school bus bullying incident. (See our previous post.)

In this tape, a 16-year-old girl thinks her way through what she saw on the tape. We’d have to say her aim is true and her expression is wonderfully pure.

It’s often inspiring to be exposed to the moral reasoning of younger people. At some point around 1975, we were lucky enough to watch a roomful of so-called black kids in Baltimore as a visiting teacher read The Hundred Dresses to them.

We’ll never forget the way those kids sat on the edge of their seats, hanging on every word in Eleanor Estes' famous book. They were transfixed by the thought that a (Polish-American) girl in Pittsburgh could have been teased in the ways they were hearing described. Afterwards, they wanted to think through every aspect of what they had heard.

On arrival, our moral vision is often quite pure. As time goes by, things can get cloudy.

BULLY WATCH: Blow is a terrible columnist!

MONDAY, JUNE 25, 2012

Our tribe likes him for it: Charles Blow is a terrible columnist.

Our tribe likes him for it! The latest evidence of this liberal dysfunction appeared in Saturday’s New York Times.

Blow began by describing the taunting of Karen Klein, a school bus monitor who was tormented by four seventh-grade boys on the way home from school last Monday.

The taunting of Klein was captured on tape, then posted on Facebook. Quickly, the tape went viral. (To watch the full tape, click here.)

Blow’s mind has a viral quality too. By Saturday morning, he had spotted a “metaphor” in the conduct of those seventh-graders:
BLOW (6/23/12): But what, if anything, does this say about society at large? Many things one could argue, but, for me, it is a remarkably apt metaphor for this moment in the American discourse in which hostility has been drawn out into the sunlight.

Those boys are us, or at least too many of us: America at its ugliest. It is that part of society that sees the weak and vulnerable as worthy of derision and animus.

This kind of behavior is not isolated to children and school buses and suburban communities. It stretches to the upper reaches of society—our politics and our pulpits and our public squares.
Children have always behaved in such ways. We hope this turns out to be a weird, anomalous event in the lives of the boys on Klein’s bus. But Blow says this kind of behavior infests our adult society too.

And that part is true! We’ve seen it!

We’ve seen a multimillionaire TV star shower dick jokes on the heads of average people for more than a week—while pretending that she was embarrassed by what and her guests were doing, of course.

We’ve seen a Hollywood actress go on TV and say that anyone who doesn’t vote her way is a “redneck racist” whose limbic brain doesn’t work right. (She was cheered on by a misogynist cable news blowhard.)

We’ve even seen a New York Times columnist go on TV and invent bogus facts about a possible murder trial. When it became clear that he had misled the public, he absent-mindedly failed to correct his appalling, absurd misstatements!

But how weird! On Saturday, that same New York Times columnist was passing judgment on the apologies of four 12-year-old boys. And he was spotting a metaphor in their unfortunate conduct.

How odd! Here at THE HOWLER, we’ve seen lots of adults behave in ridiculous ways in the past several years. We’ve seen ridiculous conduct from people on Fox—and from people in Hollywood, and from people who make their money at our major “mainstream” news organizations.

But because Charles Blow is a terrible columnist, he only sees one type of error. When he unpacked his metaphor, these were the (three) rivers he’d seen:
BLOW: This kind of behavior is not isolated to children and school buses and suburban communities. It stretches to the upper reaches of society—our politics and our pulpits and our public squares.

Whether it is a Republican debate audience booing a gay soldier or Rush Limbaugh’s vicious attack on a female Georgetown law student or Newt Gingrich’s salvos at the poor, bullying has become boilerplate. Hiss and taunt. Tease and intimidate. Target your enemies and torture them mercilessly. Maintain primacy through predation.


Women are under attack. Hispanics are under attack. Minority voting rights are under attack. The poor are under attack. Unsurprisingly, those doing the attacking in every case are from the right.
Truly, Charles Blow is absurd.

Might we make a few quick points? In the first instance comprising Blow’s metaphor, that gay soldier wasn’t booed by “a Republican audience.” As you can clearly hear on the tape, he was booed by two or three people.

Regarding Blow’s other examples, Limbaugh’s conduct has of course been atrocious for years. In a long array of instances, so has Gingrich’s. But with regard to Gingrich, just which “salvos at the poor” does Blow have in mind? We’ll have to admit that we aren’t really sure. And yet, these are the only examples the columnist can conjure.

Later, as his metaphor unspools, he actually says that the adults of whom he was reminded last week “in every case are from the right.” That’s the work of a hopeless intelligence.

For ourselves, we weren’t reminded of any adults when we watched the tape of those boys on that bus. We may have thought of Lord of the Flies—and of Eleanor Estes’ brilliant 1944 children’s book, The Hundred Dresses. (Still in print—and still morally brilliant.)

At one point, we wondered how the one boy got an image in his head of slipping a knife through Klein's body “like through butter.” We don’t know where he got that violent image, of course. We don’t even know if he got that image from any external source.

But various Hollywood factions and stars peddle violence and misogyny as highly marketable products. They get rich and famous in the process—and these people are not all Republicans.

Some of these people rush rush rush to donate to Big Major Dems.

Because his mind is somewhat constricted, Blow could think of Republicans, no one else, as his metaphor worked itself out. If we’d been forced to think of adult bullies, we would have thought of Blow himself, along with a wide range of others.

But check the comments to Blow's column! Some readers complained about his metaphor. But many members of our liberal tribe simply loved his piece. Truly, Charles Blow is a terrible columnist.

Our tribe likes him for it.

For a point of inspiration: See our next post

Only in America: Piers Morgan was fully appalled by the 12-year-olds’ conduct. “I think every one of those kids who abused bus monitor Karen Klein should be expelled,” he bravely tweeted. “Let them pay the ultimate price for their behaviour.”

Let them pay the ultimate price? Why not put them to death? Has stoning gone out of fashion?

“Real Americans don't behave like that,” the high-minded import declaimed on his Thursday night program. Well guess what? At age 12, sometimes they do!

Gaze on the wisdom and judgment of the multimillionaire “press corps!” Setting aside Karen Klein for the moment:

What did Americans ever do to justify treatment like this?

CREEPING HANNITYISM: Maddow tells a favorite tale!


And clips a favorite quote: When people tell stories on cable news shows, should their stories be accurate?

On Thursday night, Rachel Maddow told one of her favorite tales. But the story wasn’t true on February 1, when she built a long opening segment around it. And it wasn’t true Thursday night.

In and of itself, this particular story isn’t hugely important. Maddow likes the story because it lets her roll her eyes at Those Impossibly Stupid Republicans.

That said, the story just isn’t accurate. Back in February, it took us about two minutes to determine that fact.

Background: In 1994, satirist Lalo Alcaraz created a very funny character as a way of opposing California’s Proposition 187, the ballot measure which sought to deny state services to undocumented residents. The character’s name was Daniel D. Portado.

Supposedly, Portado was head of a conservative anti-immigration group, Hispanics Against Liberal Takeover (HALTO). The goal of the group was to supervise the self-deportation of California Hispanics.

On February 1, Maddow spent a great deal of time on this topic. (Alcaraz appeared for an interview.) Last night, she revisited the topic during her program’s first segment.

Her premise was the same each time. According to Maddow, Alcaraz invented a satirical term, “self-deportation,” in 1994. But Governor Pete Wilson was so clueless that he didn’t get the joke, which was aimed at himself.

As a result, he began using the satirical term himself!

Last night, Maddow rolled her eyes, once again, at Wilson’s pitiful cluelessness. To watch this full segment, click here:
MADDOW (6/21/12): It’s political satire at its very best, right? And like all of the very best political satire, it’s close enough to something that seems like a perversion of the truth that some people actually didn’t get the joke—like for example California’s Republican governor Pete Wilson, who was a specific target of that satire. He did not get the joke.

In an interview with the New York Times columnist William Safire in 1994, Mr. Wilson explained without irony that the goal of Prop 187 was, in fact, self-deportation. “You will self-deport.” He used exactly the phrase that was being used as satire about him without understanding its satirical origins.
Wilson failed to understand the satirical origins of the term, “self-deportation!” And sure enough! Last night, as she neared the nine-minute mark, Maddow played tape of Candidate Romney using the same term this year.

Incredibly, Romney has missed the joke too! How dumb, how clueless can these people be? In her standard mega-self-confident way, Maddow drove home the shiv:
MADDOW: “Self-deportation!” Invented by brilliant Latino satirists in California making fun of anti-immigrant Republicans, now being embraced, apparently completely without irony, by anti-immigrant Republicans. Pete Wilson was that guy in the 1990s. Mitt Romney is that guy right now.
These fellows have no sense of irony! In February, Maddow built her entire opening segment around this snark-laden premise. Last night, her first nine minutes were based on this idea.

Sadly, her premise is wrong. Alcaraz did some very funny work in 1994—but he didn’t invent the term “self-deportation.” The term had been in use since at least 1988, when it first appears in the current Nexis archives.

In February, it took us about two minutes to establish this fact, though we didn’t do a post on the topic. How did we come by this arcane knowledge? We engaged in a practice called “fact-checking.”

This practice was devised long ago. The practice is routinely avoided on Maddow’s fact-challenged program.

Was “self-deportation” invented in 1994, as a satirical term? Did Pete Wilson fail to get the joke? Sorry. Within the current Nexis archives, the term first appears in February 1988, used in an AP report about a Taiwanese dissident. (“Immigration officials said Hsu agreed to self-deportation, meaning he would be free to return to the Philippines.”)

In September of that year, the term appeared in the Boston Globe, used by Frank Sharry, an immigration rights activist in Boston. ("The Immigration and Naturalization Service in this area is not nearly as aggressive as it is in other areas," Sharry was quoted saying. "They seem to hope employer sanctions will squeeze people out of work and force them to self-deport.")

In 1990, the term appeared in the New York Times, in a report about a Canadian NHL player who had immigration problems in the United States. (“If he leaves the United States to play a game in Canada, his action will constitute voluntary self-deportation, and he will not be allowed to return, said James Montgomery, district director of the Detroit office of the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service.”)

By 1992, the term was being used in the Washington Post in a report on Marlene Chalmers Cooke, the flamboyant, Bolivian-born wife of Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke. (“Cooke ran into a problem, however, when she left the country briefly on a trip before that appeal was resolved, the sources said. ‘It was in effect a self-deportation,’ said one source.”)

Duh. “Self-deportation” was part of official immigration-speak long before 1994. (We’ve presented four examples from a larger selection.) Earlier this year, it took us about two minutes to establish this fact.

But Maddow has a story she likes. Perhaps believing her story is true, she told it again last night.

In her story, Wilson and Romney are laughable dummies who didn’t know that the term was invented for satirical use. In fact, it’s Maddow herself who has erred about the origins of this term, in two long presentations in which she poured on the snark and displayed vast self-assurance.

In itself, this doesn’t hugely matter—but Maddow always has to be fact-checked. And uh-oh! In the course of Thursday’s report, she made a more significant error. She quoted Romney in a way which was plainly misleading.

The short, clipped quote was cadged from a GOP debate on February 22. Below, you see the tape Maddow played from that debate, which was hosted by CNN’s John King live and direct from Arizona.

As she introduced the tape, Maddow told viewers that Romney praised Arizona’s controversial immigration law as a model for the nation:
MADDOW (6/21/12): That hugely controversial, hugely divisive legislation in Arizona, constitutional or not, is seen by presidential candidate Mitt Romney, he says, as a model for the nation.

(Start of videotape)

KING: Should there be aggressive, seek-them-out, find them and arrest them, as Sheriff Arpaio advocates?

ROMNEY: You know, I think you see a model here in Arizona.

(End of videotape)
If you believe what you see on this program, that was the end of Romney’s statement. As presented, the tape makes it seem like Romney was endorsing Arpaio’s draconian approach. Maddow specifically said that Romney was endorsing the controversial Arizona law as a model for the nation.

But if you review Romney’s full statement, that just isn’t what he said. Below, you see his full response to King. What was he praising as “a model?” He was referring to the use of E-Verify, a federal program which Obama semi-endorses:
KING: Should there be aggressive, seek them out, find them and arrest them, as the Sheriff Arpaio advocates?

ROMNEY: You know, I think you see a model here in Arizona. They passed a law here that says—that says that people who come here and try and find work, that the employer is required to look them up on E-Verify. This E-Verify system allows employers in Arizona to know who's here legally and who's not here legally.

And as a result of E-Verify being put in place, the number of people in Arizona that are here illegally has dropped by some 14 percent, where the national average has only gone down 7 percent. So going back to the question that was asked, the right course for America is to drop these lawsuits against Arizona and other states that are trying to do the job Barack Obama isn't doing.

And I will drop those lawsuits on day one. I'll also complete the fence. I'll make sure we have enough border patrol agents to secure the fence. And I will make sure we have an E-Verify system and require employers to check the documents of workers, and to check E-Verify. And if an employer hires someone that has not gone through E-Verify, they're going to get sanctioned just like they do for not paying their taxes.

You do that, and just as Arizona is finding out, you can stop illegal immigration. It's time we finally did it.
Implicitly, Romney endorsed the Arizona law, saying he’d drop the lawsuit against it. But when he said “I think you see a model here in Arizona,” he was talking about the use of E-Verify, not the controversial Arizona law.

(Beyond that, he wasn’t endorsing Arpaio’s draconian approach. In theory, E-Verify leads to so-called self-deportation as it becomes hard to find work. This replaces the need for Arpaio’s approach, the method King asked about.)

Whatever you think of Romney’s immigration views (or lack of same), that’s what he said that night. Maddow routinely plays the shortened quote; she then tells viewers that Romney was recommending the controversial Arizona law as a model for the nation.

(How tightly clipped is Maddow’s quote? On her videotape, you can see Romney’s lips continuing to move as he’s cut after just eleven words. This is often a clue.)

On Wednesday night, Lawrence O’Donnell did a very good segment in which he savaged Sean Hannity for clipping a quote of Obama’s in a similar way. Granted, he mainly played tape of Jon Stewart nailing Hannity for the clip job.

Hannity’s clip job was worse than Maddow’s. But as MSNBC keeps chasing Fox, it seems the leaders of our warring tribes may be reaching some points of agreement.

In each tribe, our leaders enjoy telling us things which aren’t true, preferably with plenty of attitude. And they like to clip the quotes of the other tribe’s leaders.

Alcaraz didn’t invent the term “self-deportation,” although his work was very sharp and very funny. But so what! It feels good to say that he did—to mock the dummies who are so dumb that they didn’t and still don’t realize.

Fact-checking is a major pain. Increasingly, this is a third major point on which warring leaders agree.

The greatest love of all: Maddow’s strangest segment Thursday night was her last, in which she rampaged through the fields chasing Scott Brown again.

Segments like this are very strange. This kind of work is very bad for our tribe’s intellectual health.

Also, note the way Maddow continues to name-drop her own name in this segment. (This seems to be her favorite pastime.) In the segment, she hammers Brown for disguised forms of bragging.

Further agreement! We’d have to say that she was engaged in a form of this practice herself!