Supplemental: Nicholas Kristof does it again!


Featuring his latest remarks about our dismal schools:
The first half hour of today’s Morning Joe was about as bad as punditry gets.

In their first chunk, the TV stars pretended to discuss the scene in Baltimore. In their second chunk, they staged their latest rant about the latest pseudo-scandal aimed at Clinton and Clinton.

Regarding the Clintons, Scarborough shouted down Howard Dean, with Mika eager to help. Truly, she is an awful TV pundit, one of the worst of all time.

Regarding Baltimore:

Mike Barnicle shot out of the gate, showing that he doesn’t know the difference between Baltimore City and Baltimore County, two separate and distinct jurisdictions.

That doesn’t amount to much. Next, though, the TV stars followed Scarborough’s lead. They took turns complaining that the autopsy for Freddie Gray isn’t available yet, even after “three weeks.”

As far as we know, autopsies aren’t be performed until after someone dies. Freddie Gray died on April 19. It hasn’t been close to three weeks, but all the pundits stood in line to repeat Scarborough’s error.

Translation: None of these people are actually following the Freddie Gray matter. They’re simply posturing on national TV, going after whoever is the official scapegoat that day.

For what it’s worth, we had no sense that any of the pundit stars had any idea how long an autopsy should take in a situation like this. They were simply parroting script, the one thing the TV star does.

They then began lamenting the fact that Gray had been forced to attend lousy schools. This script was still ringing in our ears when we read Nicholas Kristof’s latest ten-minute column in today’s New York Times, which is probably where they got their pseudo-idea.

It seems to us that Kristof has really gone haywire in recent months. At any rate, he started his column with another of his patented bogus facts:
KRISTOF (4/30/15): Conservatives have sometimes been too quick to excuse police violence. And liberals have sometimes been too quick to excuse rioter violence.

It’s outrageous when officers use excessive force against young, unarmed African-American men, who are 21 times as likely to be shot dead by the police as young white men. It’s also outrageous when rioters loot shops or attack officers.

So bravo to Toya Graham, the Baltimore mom captured on video grabbing her teenage son from the streets and frog-marching him home. The boy wilted: It must be humiliating to be a “badass” rioter one moment and then to be savagely scolded in front of your peers and sent to your room.
In a better world, we’d be spared those silly, unhelpful thoughts about Baltimore’s “badass” sons. But good lord! Four days after the most egregious cherry-pick we’ve ever seen, he repeated a discredited talking-point which was apparently built on a cherry-picked time span.

For a background report, click here.

Over the past few months, Kristof has seemed to put amazingly little effort into his columns. Back in January, we thought his piece about his noble high school friend was one of the strangest columns we’d ever read. But the work has gone downhill from that point.

For that reason, he had to go there! He knew exactly what to say about our lousy schools.

Below, you see script straight from the jar. It’s easily memorized by people who are too lazy and disconnected to know how to say something else:
KRISTOF: As Obama, [Carmelo] Anthony and other leaders also noted, there are crucial underlying inequities that demand attention. The rioting distracts from those inequities, which are the far larger burden on America’s cities.

That also represents a failure on our part in the American news media. We focus television cameras on the drama of a burning CVS store but ignore the systemic catastrophe of broken schools, joblessness, fatherless kids, heroin, oppressive policing—and, maybe the worst kind of poverty of all, hopelessness.


If wealthy white parents found their children damaged by lead poisoning, consigned to dismal schools, denied any opportunity to get ahead, more likely to end up in prison than college, harassed and occasionally killed by the police—why, then we’d hear roars of grievance.
Talk about “dismal, broken schools” always sounds high-minded. We’re sorry, but it isn’t.

Are kids in Freddie Gray’s neighborhood going to broken schools? A beautiful picture of some of those kids appears in today’s New York Times.

We strongly recommend checking it out. Those kids attend school about a half mile from our own sprawling campus.

They may be going to “broken schools.” But people like Kristof say such things to mask the fact that they don’t know squat about the topic, or because they don’t want to bother being truthful about a challenging subject.

When pundits say such schools are “broken,” they typically mean that test scores are low at such schools. But low test scores at low-income schools may not reflect “dismal” performance on the part of those schools or their teachers.

Those low test scores may reflect the fact that low-income kids are often far “behind” their middle-class peers by the time they’re three years old. Technically, Kristof knows this, of course. He just wrote another paint-by-the-numbers column about the need for expanded preschool.

But it’s easy, and it always sounds noble, to fulminate about “broken schools.” It also pleases the corporate men whose ugly conduct Kristof aped in Sunday’s grotesque cherry-pick.

How can we improve the schools those Sandtown kids attend? It starts in the first few days of life—unless you’re a hack on Morning Joe or in the increasingly pitiful Times.

By the time kids are seven years old, the question is more complex. In all his corporate-scripted complaints about the pathetic way “Johnny can’t count,” Kristof has never shown any sign that he knows anything about this topic.

Still, the gent keeps cranking script, usually straight from the experts. It’s what he did with that ugly remark about the way Johnny can’t count.

Final point—are young, unarmed African-American men really “21 times as likely to be shot dead by the police as young white men?”

As far as we know, the answer is no. Just a guess:

We know that, and Kristof doesn’t, because we spend more time on these topics than he lazily does. Based on recent evidence, he’s too busy sipping drinks on terraces high above Haiti with his movie star friends.

In our view, it’s time for Kristof to “take his hat and coat and leave.” Wealth and fame keep doing this to a wide array of climbers.

THE PSEUDOJOURNALISM RULES: Peter, Paul and Mary and Bill!


Part 4—The facts, they may be a-changin’:
What kind of journalism has the New York Times been performing?

Before we compare the paper to Rolling Stone, let’s review its recent “bombshell report” about that scary Cold War deal.

Back in 2010, the Obama administration did in fact reach a uranium deal with Vladimir Putin, a well-known evildoer. If you read the Times’ lengthy report, you may find yourself asking these questions:

Question One: Did the uranium deal with Dr. Evil turn out to be a bad deal?

We have no idea. Journalistically speaking, Becker and McIntire work at times to suggest that the deal turned out to bad. But on a journalistic basis, their presentation seems rather slick. They haven’t established the point.

Question Two: Did anyone think the uranium deal was a bad deal at the time?

We have no idea. Journalistically speaking, Becker and McIntire make no real attempt to examine or answer that question. They never report that anyone actually opposed this deal. But on a journalistic basis, they largely avoid this point.

Question Three: How many different federal agencies were involved in approving the uranium deal?

We have no idea. Becker and McIntire’s bombshell report was crammed with irrelevant filler material, often of a scary nature. But despite the length of their bombshell report, they never give a specific answer to that basic question.

In paragraph 38, they did explain that at least seven cabinet departments were involved in approving the deal. Despite the massive length of their report, they never got around to reporting the actual number.

Question Four: Did Hillary Clinton play any role in approving the bad, scary deal?

We have no idea. Certainly, Becker and McIntire never report that she did. If you read all the way to paragraph 67, they even quote an assistant secretary of state, Jose Fernandez, who seems to say that she didn’t.

They don’t establish the point either way. Plainly, they never found anyone in any of those cabinet-level departments who actually said that she was involved. Journalistically speaking, we’d say they largely avoid this point. On a journalistic basis, we’d call it slippery work.

On a journalistic basis, the withholding of Fernandez’s statement until paragraph 67 strikes us as an offense. As a matter of basic fairness, this statement should have appeared nearer the start of the piece, in the one paragraph (paragraph 11!) where the Times let the Clinton campaign say that the coming insinuations were a big pile of crap.

That said, it would have queered the bombshell report to put Fernandez’s statement up front. Here’s why we say that:

On a journalistic basis, Becker and McIntire have composed a novelized “tale” (their word). As a literary genre, it’s a scary Cold War tale, complete with frightening moves by the Russians and Chinese and an array of villains.

By insinuation, Hillary Clinton is the chief villain of the piece. By insinuation, she approved a scary uranium deal in return for big piles of cash. It would be hard to sustain that tale if readers were told, right up front, that the Times reporters don’t even know if Clinton took part in approving the deal at all. Or if readers were told that no one at any other agency thought it was a bad deal.

Presumably, this explains why Becker and McIntire slither past these basic issues in their endless “report.” Journalistically, their conduct strikes us as slippery. At times, it has made us think of Rolling Stone, the pseudo-journalistic magazine which provided a recent service.

What service did Rolling Stone provide in its recent astoundingly bungled report? It helped us see that our “journalists,” at the highest levels, will engage in ludicrous kinds of behavior—behavior which bordered on crazy in the case of the Stone.

They didn’t check even the most basic facts in their pursuit of a ripping good story. This brings us to one of the ways the Times’ latest piece made us think of the Stone.

We refer to the Times’ attempt to establish Frank Giustra as one of the villains of their tale. In particular, we refer to their claim about the jet plane.

Who the heck is Frank Giustra? According to the leading authority on his life, he’s a “Canadian business executive who has been particularly successful in the mining and filmmaking industries and is a noted philanthropist.”

Giustra is quite rich. At the same time, is it possible that he’s a genuine philanthropist with genuine progressive values?

Last week, Giustra issued a statement in response to the bombshell report. He criticized various aspects of the Times’ reporting. He also seemed to describe his own values.

We found his statement rather convincing, almost refreshing. This is part of what the international villain said:
GIUSTRA (4/23/15): I hope that the U.S. media can start to focus on the real challenges of the world and U.S. society. Focus on poverty, homelessness, infrastructure, health care, education, or fractious world politics. You are a great country. Don’t ruin it by letting those with political agendas take over your newspapers and your airwaves.

I am extremely proud of the work that we have done at the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership. Thousands of people, all over the world, have been helped by this initiative. I plan to continue that work long after the harsh glare of this week’s media stories has faded.
Frankly, it’s hard to imagine the U.S. media focusing on “the real challenges of the world,” especially those listed by Giustra. That said, Giustra has pledged to donate half his income to his philanthropic work around the world.

Is it possible that his interests are genuine? Not in the New York Times! In the paper’s bombshell report, Giustra was cast as a slippery international magnate working slippery international deals. And the whole thing started with that ride to Almaty on his corrupted jet plane!

As Peter, Paul and Mary sang, Jo and Mike typed this novelized passage. It appeared right at the start of their convoluted, selective and scary frightening Cold War tale:
BECKER AND MCINTIRE (4/24/15): The path to a Russian acquisition of American uranium deposits began in 2005 in Kazakhstan, where the Canadian mining financier Frank Giustra orchestrated his first big uranium deal, with Mr. Clinton at his side.

The two men had flown aboard Mr. Giustra’s private jet to Almaty, Kazakhstan, where they dined with the authoritarian president, Nursultan A. Nazarbayev. Mr. Clinton handed the Kazakh president a propaganda coup when he expressed support for Mr. Nazarbayev’s bid to head an international elections monitoring group, undercutting American foreign policy and criticism of Kazakhstan’s poor human rights record by, among others, his wife, then a senator.

Within days of the visit, Mr. Giustra’s fledgling company, UrAsia Energy Ltd., signed a preliminary deal giving it stakes in three uranium mines controlled by the state-run uranium agency Kazatomprom.
Can we talk? It isn’t clear what this has to do with the scary uranium deal of 2010. If you read the Times report with great care, you might have noticed this a few paragraphs later, where it was offered in passing:

“Through a spokeswoman, Mr. Giustra...said he sold his stake [in Uranium One] in 2007.”

He said he sold his stake! Apparently, our intrepid reporters didn’t quite fact-check this claim. At any rate, if Giustra left Uranium One in 2007, it isn’t clear how his earlier activities, or his later donations to Clinton Foundation affiliates, played a role in the approval of that deal in 2010.

In 2010, did Hillary Clinton approve a bad uranium deal to help Giustra, her benefactor and briber? Since Giustra had left the company in question three years before, that makes no apparent sense. But this is the kind of confusing piddle that floats by, under the radar, as Jo and Mike join Peter and Paul to sing about that jet plane ride, the one on which Frank and Bill left the land of the decent and flew off to darkest Almaty.

Did Hillary Clinton approve that deal in 2010? As noted, we have no idea. We read the New York Times! But the scary uranium deal in question didn’t benefit Giustra! As a basic (re)reading assignment, try to make sense of the bombshell report as you keep that fact in mind.

That said, another problem seems to lurk in the passage we’ve quoted above. It involves the Times’ repeated claim that Frank and Bill flew to Almaty on that corrupt jet plane.

The Times has made that claim before, in January 2008.
It made the claim more dramatically then. It came right at the start of an equally villainous tale.

Except uh-oh! It seems that Frank and Bill didn’t fly to Kazakhstan on that jet plane! Or so Giustra has now declared two separate times, including in last week’s statement.

In 2009, Forbes magazine reported that Giustra was right. For ourselves, we still have no idea, as is routinely the case when one reads the Times.

Does the New York Times check any facts? Certainly, Rolling Stone didn’t.

Does anyone care if the Times bungles facts? The evidence of the past seven days says that no one does!

In 2009, the Times original claim about the jet plane was debunked. But last week, there it was again—and in the week which has passed, the rest of the American press has politely averted its gaze.

This morning, as we read the Times, the facts, it seemed they may be a-changin’! But no one cares about actual facts, as we have told you for years.

What kind of person is Frank Giustra? Is it possible that he’s sincere in his description of his values and his intentions?

Is he doing good things all over the world? If so, would anyone at the New York Times know how to notice or care?

The Times doesn’t deal with such questions! Much more often, the Times presents selective novelized tales peopled with prearranged very bad villains.

They told quite a tale in 2008.
Tomorrow, we’ll jet back to that.

Tomorrow: The exact same kind of “reporting”

Still coming: Chris Hayes pimps the bombshell report

Supplemental: Today, Gene Lyons tackles the Clinton rules!


We were struck by two reader comments:
Yesterday, we showed you what Paul Krugman recently wrote about the so-called “Clinton rules”—about the destructive press culture which has long been directed against both Clintons and Gore.

For that rumination, click here.

Today, Gene Lyons discusses the same pseudo-scandal drenched topic. Back in 1996, Lyons wrote the original book on the subject—“Fools for Scandal: How the Media Invented Whitewater.”

In today’s column, Lyons discusses last Friday’s “bombshell report” in the New York Times, the same novelistic pseudo-report we’ve been trying to deconstruct.

He marvels at the way the Times has vouched for the work of Peter Schweizer, whose conservative-flavored journalism has had so many problems in the past. He closes with this observation:
LYONS (4/29/15): Look, there’s a reason articles like the Times’ big exposé are stultifyingly dull and require the skills of a contract lawyer to parse. Murky sentences and jumbled chronologies signify that the “Clinton rules” are back: all innuendo and guilt by association. All ominous rhetorical questions, but rarely straightforward answers.
As Krugman did last week, Lyons is warning readers to check their wallets when newspapers like the New York Times start discussing the Clintons. That’s why we were semi-dismayed by the last two reader comments we found when we just reread Lyons’ column.

As a general matter, the liberal world has never understood the nature of the long-running jihad Krugman and Lyons have challenged. In the first of the comments to which we refer, a reader says this:
COMMENT TO LYONS COLUMN: The Republicans are just putting more grass in front of the sheep and they will eat it up. The masses love a scandal, true or false, they love it. Don't let the facts get in the way. The truly sad part in all this is few will ever read the book. They will get the “facts” from places like Fox and the blogs. No one wants to read more than 120 words anymore. Sheep to be lead around by the goats.
Lyons wrote his column about the work of the New York Times. In a familiar manifestation, this reader seemed to think he had read a column about “the Republicans” and “places like Fox.”

Over here in our liberal world, that represents a very common disconnect. You’ll also note the contempt for average voters which tends to serve us poorly.

The second of the comments in questions errs in a complementary way. This commenter cites the New York Times, but doesn’t seem to comprehend the timetable which is involved here:
COMMENT TO LYONS COLUMN: Ahhhh NYT, how low you have fallen. You are no longer “The Gray Lady” that inspired respect and was considered to be the national newspaper of record. Now you are rolling in the same muck as any Murdoch publication.
Now the Times is in the muck? Fiery liberals, please!

As noted, Lyons’ original book bore the subtitle, “How the Media Invented Whitewater.” In the main, the media to which he referred were the Washington Post and the New York Times. He described their bungled reporting about Whitewater pseudo-scandal”—bungled reporting which originated on the front page of the New York Times in January 1992.

During the years of the Clintons and Gore, the liberal world has suffered from corrupt journalistic leadership. The “Clinton rules” to which Lyons refers have been in existence since 1992. Most destructively, the Clinton rules have been in existence at the Washington Post and the New York Times.

The Fox News Channel didn’t exist when the Clinton rules came into existence. Beyond that, Democratic candidates can survive Fox. The Post and the Times make their survival much harder.

Do you believe in the Clinton rules? If so, you believe in an artifact of the mainstream press corps, not primarily of Fox. But the liberal world’s journalistic leaders have long swum in a professional and social sea dominated by those major newspapers. Almost without exception, those journalists haven’t been willing to tell liberal readers the truth about the longstanding peculiar behavior of those major newspapers.

Those comments today struck us as highly familiar and troubling. As Krugman and Lyons have noted, the Clinton rules seems to be active again. In the current destructive manifestation, they’re active at the New York Times, not on the Fox News Channel.

Liberal journalistic leaders have long refused to tell us the truth about this remarkable long-running jihad. When we read comments by liberal voters, we often think it shows.

THE PSEUDOJOURNALISM RULES: Missing from the bombshell report!


Part 3—Basic questions the Times didn’t ask:
Has the New York Times published a “bombshell report” about the greedy Candidate Clinton?

Based on its length and its massive layout, that’s plainly the way the Times report was sold. Beyond that, many major mainstream pundits have viewed the massive report that way. Chris Hayes even called it “a bombshell report” on his cable program last week.

For ourselves, we very much wouldn’t call it a bombshell report. We’d be more strongly inclined to describe the report as the latest result of the pseudo-journalism rules which now direct much of our discourse.

Whatever one wants to call the report, the following point is clear. The report is built around an insinuation about a Cold War tale.

In the frightening Cold War tale, Vladimir Putin, cast as Dr. Evil, seizes control of the world uranium supply. He accomplished this in 2010. (We’re exaggerating, but only slightly.)

In the insinuation about that tale, Hillary Clinton approves this deal because her husband has been paid big amounts of cash, largely in the form of donations to the Clinton Foundation.

To state the obvious, this is a startling insinuation. According to this scenario, a secretary of state disregarded or undermined the national interest in exchange for barrels of cash.

You’d almost think a major newspaper would be extremely careful in its journalistic practices when it decides to float such a suggestion. The New York Times isn’t that paper!

For today, let’s consider some basic information the Times' lengthy bombshell omits. Let’s also consider a type of writing we’d describe as “slippery disguised disclosure.”

Tomorrow, we’ll look at the bombshell report’s apparent errors, one of which seems completely remarkable. For today, let’s consider real information which is omitted or glossed.

To state the obvious, there’s no “there there” in the bombshell report unless the deal that Clinton approved was believed to be a bad deal at the time. If the deal seemed like a good deal, why would she have to be bribed?

There’s also nothing to this report if Clinton actually played no role in the deal’s approval.

So how about it? Back in 2010, did anybody think the deal in question was bad for the national interest? And is there any reason to believe that Clinton actually played a role in approving the deal?

What kind of deal are we talking about? Below, you see the way the Washington Post summarized the Times report in its featured editorial this Sunday.

In our view, the Post provides a fairly good summary of a lousy report:
WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL (4/26/15): According to a lengthy account published Friday by the New York Times, Bill Clinton accompanied a Canadian mining executive, Frank Giustra, to Kazakhstan in 2005, after which Mr. Giustra acquired valuable Kazakh uranium assets. Mr. Giustra donated millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation. The mining company merged and expanded, and it became known as Uranium One. It bought uranium exploration properties in the United States, and ownership was partially sold to a subsidiary of the Russian state atomic energy agency.

When the Russians sought to expand their holdings to 51 percent of the company, it required approval of the U.S. government, including the State Department, when Ms. Clinton was secretary of state. The transaction was approved in 2010. More donations to the Clinton Foundation—millions of dollars—flowed from people connected to Uranium One. The same month the sale went through, the former president gave a talk in Moscow sponsored by an investment bank for $500,000. The investment bank was promoting stock in Uranium One. Though there is no evidence of a quid pro quo, on the merits the deal was bad for U.S. interests: Vladimir Putin can now boast of control of more than a fifth of U.S. uranium reserves.
There you see the way the Post summarized the Times report. Let’s cut to the chase about this scary uranium deal, which was bad for U.S. interests:

To complete their transaction, the Post reports, the Russians needed “approval of the U.S. government, including the State Department, when Ms. Clinton was secretary of state.”

On the merits, the deal “was bad for U.S. interests.” But the Russians got that approval anyway, even as big major cash kept flowing to President Clinton!

“There is no evidence of a quid pro quo,” the Post explicitly says. As such, we’re dealing with an insinuation—a suggestion that conduct which is virtually treasonous may have occurred.

That first paragraph from the Post is a bit hard to follow. This is especially true if you know that President Clinton apparently didn’t “accompany Giustra to Kazakhstan in 2005,” an apparent error in the Times’ report which we’ll review tomorrow.

If that’s an error by the Times, it’s a stunning error. For today, let’s move right along.

In its editorial, the Post told readers that the deal which got approved in 2010 “was bad for U.S. interests.” The Post also seemed to suggest that Hillary Clinton approved this bad deal.

We’d say that’s a fair account of the story the Times seems to tell in its sprawling, bombshell report. But what if both claims are inaccurate?

Let’s start with the claim that the deal “was bad for U.S. interests.”

Was this scary uranium deal bad for American interests? We have no idea! In the Times, Becker and McIntire go to lengths to give that impression. But their journalistic techniques are slippery, and the point is in no way clear.

That said, even Becker and McIntire slip in a key distinction. Some experts rue the deal today, they say. But in real time, they seem to say, the deal may have seemed routine—a matter of basic policy.

Here we encounter the technique we’d describe as “slippery disclosure.” If you read the Times report with obsessive care, you may notice a few fleeting accounts which suggest that the uranium deal might have seemed routine in real time. The first such fleeting suggestion flies by in paragraph 14:
BECKER AND MCINTIRE (4/25/15): When the Uranium One deal was approved, the geopolitical backdrop was far different from today’s. The Obama administration was seeking to “reset” strained relations with Russia. The deal was strategically important to Mr. Putin, who shortly after the Americans gave their blessing sat down for a staged interview with Rosatom’s chief executive, Sergei Kiriyenko. “Few could have imagined in the past that we would own 20 percent of U.S. reserves,” Mr. Kiriyenko told Mr. Putin.
Interesting! At the time the deal was approved, the Obama administration was trying to create a partnership with Russia as a matter of basic policy.

That suggests a possible assumption, in real time, in favor of the deal. If you read all the way to paragraph 60, the reporters run that possibility by you again:
BECKER AND MCINTIRE: If doing business with Rosatom was good for those in the Uranium One deal, engaging with Russia was also a priority of the incoming Obama administration, which was hoping for a new era of cooperation as Mr. Putin relinquished the presidency—if only for a term—to Dmitri A. Medvedev.

“The assumption was we could engage Russia to further core U.S. national security interests,” said Mr. McFaul, the former ambassador.
Separated by 46 paragraphs, the reader receives those two suggestions—at the time, the deal may have seemed routine. That said, these suggestions are dwarfed by the silly twirling of Russian mustaches which lard the telling of the reporters’ frightening Cold War tale.

Even in paragraph 14 (see above), Becker and McIntire pair their first fleeting disclosure with an instant image of a “staged interview” in which Kiriyenko, Rosatom’s chief executive, boasts that Mother Russia has taken over the world. On balance, the suggestion that this deal may have seemed routine is overwhelmed, in this lengthy report, by such frightening Cold War images and by lengthy claims that the deal has turned out to be bad.

The Times report includes a few suggestions that the deal may have seemed routine. This allows a reporter to say that the idea was included in her report—but on balance, those suggestions are overwhelmed by the Times’ scary Cold War tale.

We’d call that a slippery disclosure. Let’s move on to the many issues the report omits and ignores.

When the Post summarized the report, it got a bit slippery itself. It said the Russians needed “approval of the U.S. government, including the State Department” (our emphasis).

The Post specifically says that “Clinton was secretary of state.” But uh-oh! It doesn’t say that she was the person who approved the deal at State.

With this, we reach one of the slickest parts of the Times’ very slippery report. We ask you to consider two basic questions:
Questions for your perusal
First, in what way was approval granted by the U.S. government?
Second, is there any reason to think that Clinton actually played a role in granting that approval?
The Times reporters are quite slippery concerning both these points. Consider an entity they finally name in paragraph 38—the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.

Alas! It is that entity which approved the scary uranium deal. In paragraph 38, the reporters finally name and describe this entity, but not without encasing it in a piece of silly misdirection, sometimes known as gorilla dust:
BECKER AND MCINTIRE: When a company controlled by the Chinese government sought a 51 percent stake in a tiny Nevada gold mining operation in 2009, it set off a secretive review process in Washington, where officials raised concerns primarily about the mine’s proximity to a military installation, but also about the potential for minerals at the site, including uranium, to come under Chinese control. The officials killed the deal.

Such is the power of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. The committee comprises some of the most powerful members of the cabinet, including the attorney general, the secretaries of the Treasury, Defense, Homeland Security, Commerce and Energy, and the secretary of state. They are charged with reviewing any deal that could result in foreign control of an American business or asset deemed important to national security.
Sad. Before they deign to describe the committee which actually approved the uranium deal, they tell another Cold War tale, this time about a scary deal involving the Chinese.

They described officials “killing the deal” in a “secretive review process.” Novelistically, this foreshadowing makes you gape when the next scary deal goes through.

Whatever! In paragraph 38, the reporters finally describe the entity which gave Putin control of the world. They say the committee includes, but is not limited to, the attorney general and the secretaries of six other cabinet agencies, including State.

They specifically say that “the secretary of state” is part of the committee. This begs a fundamental question, one the reporters postpone until paragraph 67.

In that 38th paragraph, it becomes clear that the State Department was only one of many agencies on the committee which approved the uranium deal. This raises an obvious set of questions—questions the Times reporters never quite manage to ask:

In what manner did the Committee on Foreign Investment decide to approve the deal? Was it done by majority vote? Did anyone actually vote against the scary uranium deal?

In their sprawling bombshell report, the reporters never address these blindingly obvious questions! They never even provide a full list of the members of the committee. Elsewhere, we’ve seen it said that the Committee on Foreign Investment has nine members. But in all their 4400 words, the reporters never get that specific.

More importantly, they never report that any agency on the committee actually opposed this uranium deal. They never report that the judgment of this committee was anything short of unanimous!

Did anyone oppose this deal? Because we get our “news” from the Times, we have no idea! Much later, in paragraph 63, the reporters offer this:
BECKER AND MCINTIRE: Two months later {in August 2010], the deal giving ARMZ a controlling stake in Uranium One was submitted to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States for review. Because of the secrecy surrounding the process, it is hard to know whether the participants weighed the desire to improve bilateral relations against the potential risks of allowing the Russian government control over the biggest uranium producer in the United States. The deal was ultimately approved in October, following what two people involved in securing the approval said had been a relatively smooth process.
“It is hard to know” what happened in the committee, the reporters sadly say. That said, they do report that two people say it was “a relatively smooth process.”

Might that mean that everyone voted yes? Don’t ask us—we read the Times!

Did anyone vote against the deal? If not, it’s hard to see why Clinton would have to be bribed to agree with the decision. But then, it isn’t even clear that Clinton took part in this process at all!

Below, you see a type of denial which the reporters, in a stunning journalistic decision, withheld from readers of the Times under paragraph 67. Did Clinton take part in this process at all? This is what we’re finally told in paragraphs 64-68:
BECKER AND MCINTIRE (continuing directly): Not all of the committee’s decisions are personally debated by the agency heads themselves; in less controversial cases, deputy or assistant secretaries may sign off.


The Clinton campaign spokesman, Mr. Fallon, said that in general, these matters did not rise to the secretary’s level. He would not comment on whether Mrs. Clinton had been briefed on the matter, but he gave The Times a statement from the former assistant secretary assigned to the foreign investment committee at the time, Jose Fernandez. While not addressing the specifics of the Uranium One deal, Mr. Fernandez said, “Mrs. Clinton never intervened with me on any C.F.I.U.S. matter.”

Mr. Fallon also noted that if any agency had raised national security concerns about the Uranium One deal, it could have taken them directly to the president.
Say what? In that highlighted passage, Fernandez seems to say that he, not Clinton, provided the State Department’s approval, if approval was actually given. As quoted, his statement is imprecise. But he seems to say that the scary deal didn’t rise to the secretarial level.

In the material we’ve deleted above, Becker and McIntire offer various speculations suggesting that Clinton simply must have made the decision. But these are pure speculations, of the type pseudo-journalists love. There isn’t a word in this endless report which directly challenges the suggestion by Fernandez.

Plainly, Becker and McIntire couldn’t find anyone who said that Clinton actually took part in this process. They also couldn’t find anyone who said that any department opposed this deal, despite how bad it was.

For all we can know from their “bombshell report,” every agency on the committee approved the scary Cold War deal, and Clinton didn’t take part. In our view, this isn’t “bombshell reporting.” On a journalistic basis, we’d call it the latest Rolling Stone-ish scam.

As we’ve noted, this bombshell report runs 4400 words. It’s crammed with useless gorilla dust and other confusing filler. It would have been easy to add more text, just by killing one of the seven photographs which let the piece devour two full pages inside the hard-copy Times.

Despite this, there is no sign that Becker and McIntire ever asked anyone if Clinton took part in this process. There’s no sign they asked those other departments if they opposed the deal.

(They may know that no one opposed the deal. If so, they aren’t telling.)

It’s amazing to think that Fernandez’s statement about Clinton’s role got pushed all the way to the end of this endless report. Rather, this decision would be amazing in an attempt at performing actual journalism.

Did anyone think this deal was bad? In the New York Times bombshell report, there’s no sign that anyone did!

Did Clinton take part in approving this deal? Aside from all those speculations, there is no sign that she did!

It’s possible that Clinton took part, of course. It’s also possible that someone opposed this deal.

But there is no evidence in this report that either thing occurred. The Times has provided no such reporting. Its 4400-word bombshell report largely ignores these stone-cold basic questions.

Instead, the reporters pushed ahead with insinuations of treason. The pseudo-journalism rules have made such work fairly routine.

Tomorrow: The scent of Rolling Stone

Supplemental: Krugman explains the Clinton rules!


Kristof insults the world:
We remain amazed by Nicholas Kristof’s latest attack on decency. As a portrait of the world of the “press corps,” we think his latest conduct deserves another brief look.

For background, see yesterday’s post.

Kristof did two remarkable things at the start of Sunday’s column. First, he performed the greatest cherry-pick a person could imagine. He then used his grossly misleading “examples” to pimp this remarkable slander:

“We know Johnny can’t read; it appears that Johnny is even worse at counting.”

That’s an astonishing thing to say. It’s also amazingly ugly. Let us add a basic point, one we chose to skip yesterday:

When people are told that Johnny can’t read, they’ll often think this mainly means that our black kids can’t read. These are the kinds of images a “journalist” like Kristof has chosen to peddle when he insists on playing these ugly, deceptive games.

For years, we’ve begged the Kristofs of the world to tell the public about the large gains in math and reading scores achieved by our black and Hispanic kids.

They not only refuse to tell the truth; they insist on pimping disinformation. Presumably, this makes them popular in the land of wealthy men.

As it turned out, yesterday was quite a day for this familiar deception to reach an ugly low point. People like Kristof refuse to share the encouraging truth with the public. In the absence of that information, days like yesterday will give many people a set of extremely negative understandings, ideas and impressions.

We really think the New York Times needs to explain why Kristof did what he did in Sunday’s column. They’ve been misleading the public for years about the dumbness of Johnny and the haplessness of his unionized teachers. Yesterday, Kristof took that propaganda campaign to the level of unfettered insult.

Moving right along:

What Kristof did is astoundingly strange—but so is the 23-year jihad waged against both Clintons and Gore. Many “liberals” are still unable to see that. This brings us to a mistaken impression Paul Krugman revealed in a recent post.

For starters, good for Krugman! In response to his newspaper’s latest “bombshell report,” he offered this sensible warning about “the Clinton rules:”
KRUGMAN (4/24/15): So there’s a lot of buzz about alleged scandals involving the Clinton Foundation. Maybe there’s something to it. But you have to wonder: is this just the return of “Clinton rules”?

If you are old enough to remember the 1990s, you remember the endless parade of alleged scandals, Whitewater above all—all of them fomented by right-wing operatives, all eagerly hyped by mainstream news outlets, none of which actually turned out to involve wrongdoing. The usual rules didn’t seem to apply; instead it was Clinton rules, under which innuendo and guilt by association were considered perfectly OK, in which the initial suggestion of lawbreaking received front-page headlines and the subsequent discovery that there was nothing there was buried in the back pages if it was reported at all.

Some of the same phenomenon resurfaced during the 2008 primary.

So, is this time different? First indications are not encouraging; it’s already apparent that the author of the anti-Clinton book that’s driving the latest stuff is a real piece of work.

Again, maybe there’s something there. But given the history here, we’d all be well advised to follow our own Clinton rules, and be highly suspicious of any reports of supposed scandals unless there’s hard proof rather than mere innuendo.
Quite correctly, Krugman warns readers about the decades of disinformation enabled by “the Clinton rules.” He also warns about Peter Schweizer, who he calls “a real piece of work.”

How about this: Are the authors of the Times’ new report about the Clintons also “real pieces of work?” For obvious reasons, Krugman couldn’t ask that question. So we’ll ask it for him.

(Is Nicholas Kristof a “real piece of work?” Increasingly, it seems clear that the answer is yes.)

As Krugman ended his post, we think he may have erred in his judgment. He suggests that our emerging progressive world will finally push back, after all these years, against the Clinton rules:
KRUGMAN (continuing directly): Oh, and the news media should probably be aware that this isn’t 1994: there’s a much more effective progressive infrastructure now, much more scrutiny of reporting, and the kinds of malpractice that went unsanctioned 20 years ago can land you in big trouble now.
We think Krugman is too sanguine here. No one is easier to con that the kind of self-impressed liberal/progressive who wrote the first letter in Saturday’s Times about its bombshell report.

That fellow swallowed the new story whole. For the text of his letter, click here.

No one is easier to con than us self-impressed liberals! We’re filled with a sense of our vast moral greatness. And for us to be morally great, long lists of The Others must be highly impure.

For many years, we’ve been told that the Clintons belong on this list. As with Gore, so too today—we tend to be happy to buy the tales “the news media” are selling.

We’re dumb and self-righteous and nobody likes us! We’re willing to swallow what Kristof sells. The chances are good that we’ll buy this latest tale too.

Alas! Last Thursday night, Chris Hayes embraced the new “bombshell report.” We’ll show you what he said by the end of our series this week.

THE PSEUDOJOURNALISM RULES: Right on time in paragraph 5!


Part 2—Howard Dean calls his shot:
Did the New York Times publish a “bombshell report” about the ethics of Candidate Clinton?

Regarding that question, we’d have to say that Howard Dean called his shot.

Dean discussed the alleged “bombshell report” on last Thursday’s Morning Joe. The report had just appeared on line.

None of that program’s major stars had actually read the Times report. But they were all too happy to engage in some standard behavior:

They started peddling the requisite insinuations about its ultimate meaning.

As usual, they were playing by the rules of modern pseudo-journalism. As we noted last week, Dean issued an unusual warning as they stampeded ahead.

Below, you see part of what he said. Be on the look-out for paragraph 5, Zeus’ winged messenger said:
DEAN (4/23/15): First of all, I haven’t seen the story and neither have you, right?...I will say, there is an epidemic of really sloppy reporting that goes from the top to the bottom...I’d like to see what all the facts are here, because so far we haven’t really seen—

SCARBOROUGH: Why don’t you read the story before accusing the New York Times of being sloppy?

DEAN: Because in general, the New York Times has been sloppy, particularly their political writers. I use the New York Times as an example in journalism classes, because by the fifth paragraph in any political story—we can probably find one right here, whatever the political story on the front page is. By the fifth paragraph, they’re substituting their judgment for news.
He uses the Times in journalism classes? Is Dean allowed to say that?

In our view, Dean was possibly generous in saying the Times is “sloppy.” As we may see in the course of this week, the kind of pseudo-journalism to which he referred doesn’t necessarily result from carelessness or error.

Whatever! In essence, Dean said the Times would be advancing its own point of view by paragraph 5 of its bombshell report. He seemed to suggest that the Times would be “substituting” that point of view for actual news reporting.

Whether through sloppiness or by design, we’d say that Dean called his shot. That’s pretty much the way it turned out when we read the bombshell report.

For today, let’s restrict ourselves to the start of the bombshell report. During their first sixteen paragraphs, Becker and McIntire establish the insinuation which lies at the heart of their effort.

We’d have to say Dean called his shot. It showed up in paragraph 5!

On Friday morning, the report appeared on the front page of the hard-copy Times. It appeared beneath a pair of murky headlines.

For better or worse, insinuation lay at the heart of those headlines. Then, in the report's first three paragraphs, the New York Times began to tell a frightening Cold War tale.

Hard-copy headlines included:
BECKER AND MCINTIRE (4/24/15): The Clintons, The Russians And Uranium/Foundation Got Gifts as Deal Was Pending

The headline on the website Pravda trumpeted President Vladimir V. Putin’s latest coup,
its nationalistic fervor recalling an era when its precursor served as the official mouthpiece of the Kremlin: “Russian Nuclear Energy Conquers the World.”

The article, in January 2013, detailed how the Russian atomic energy agency, Rosatom, had taken over a Canadian company with uranium-mining stakes stretching from Central Asia to the American West. The deal made Rosatom one of the world’s largest uranium producers and brought Mr. Putin closer to his goal of controlling much of the global uranium supply chain.

But the untold story behind that story is one that involves not just the Russian president,
but also a former American president and a woman who would like to be the next one.
As if in an outtake from The Americans, the Times penned a bit of a throwback Cold War tale.

Putin had staged his “latest coup,” the Times reporters said. Displaying his nationalistic fervor, he had “taken over” a Canadian company, coming closer to “his goal of controlling much of the” [world].

In their first 16 paragraphs, Becker and McIntire provide the overview to their lengthy report. In dramatic fashion, they begin and end this introductory section with this scary Cold War tale—and right there in paragraph 3, they said there is an “untold story” about the way Putin conquered the world.

According to Becker and McIntire, this untold story involves an unnamed woman who wants to be the next president—and as it turned out, they didn’t mean Carly Fiorina! At any rate, by paragraph 5, their central insinuation had rather plainly appeared:
BECKER AND MCINTIRE (continuing directly): At the heart of the tale are several men, leaders of the Canadian mining industry, who have been major donors to the charitable endeavors of former President Bill Clinton and his family. Members of that group built, financed and eventually sold off to the Russians a company that would become known as Uranium One.

Beyond mines in Kazakhstan that are among the most lucrative in the world, the sale gave the Russians control of one-fifth of all uranium production capacity in the United States. Since uranium is considered a strategic asset, with implications for national security, the deal had to be approved by a committee composed of representatives from a number of United States government agencies. Among the agencies that eventually signed off was the State Department, then headed by Mr. Clinton’s wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Warning! When journalists say they’re telling a “tale,” you might want to check your wallets!

At any rate, by paragraph 5, the central insinuation of this bombshell report had become rather clear:

A bunch of moguls—Canadians, no less!—had given big cash to the Clintons. After that, one of the Clintons “signed off” on the deal which gave Putin control of the world!

We’re exaggerating their tone a bit, though not really all that much. At its heart, that actually is the novelized “tale” the two reporters are telling.

At the end of their opening segment, they return to their scary Cold War tale. Below, you see paragraphs 14-16, which conclude their introductory passage. (The full report includes 75 paragraphs in all.)

Warning! In this passage, look out for a hidden disclaimer!
BECKER AND MCINTIRE: When the Uranium One deal was approved, the geopolitical backdrop was far different from today’s. The Obama administration was seeking to “reset” strained relations with Russia. The deal was strategically important to Mr. Putin, who shortly after the Americans gave their blessing sat down for a staged interview with Rosatom’s chief executive, Sergei Kiriyenko. “Few could have imagined in the past that we would own 20 percent of U.S. reserves,” Mr. Kiriyenko told Mr. Putin.

Now, after Russia’s annexation of Crimea and aggression in Ukraine, the Moscow-Washington relationship is devolving toward Cold War levels, a point several experts made in evaluating a deal so beneficial to Mr. Putin, a man known to use energy resources to project power around the world.

“Should we be concerned? Absolutely,” said Michael McFaul, who served under Mrs. Clinton as the American ambassador to Russia but said he had been unaware of the Uranium One deal until asked about it. “Do we want Putin to have a monopoly on this? Of course we don’t. We don’t want to be dependent on Putin for anything in this climate.”
As they close their introductory, overview chapter, the authors are quoting Ambassador McFaul about how scary the deal really is. This opening chapter begins and ends with this scary Cold War framework.

The insinuation is clear—Clinton “signed off” on a really bad deal! Novelistically, this heightens the sense that there must be some sort of motive which explains her strange approval of this ridiculous deal.

(That said, did you spot the disclaimer? We’ll discuss it tomorrow.)

Did Hillary Clinton approve a bad deal because she’d been given big cash? That’s the insinuation the Morning Joe team were pumping last Thursday, even before they’d had a chance to read the Times’ bombshell report.

Like most of the chimps who inhabit the cage, this is the way these farkwads work. Until Dean piped up with his unusual warning, Joe and Mika and Willie and them were screeching and flinging their poo all about, happily playing by the rules of modern pseudo-journalism.

Did Hillary Clinton approve a bad deal because she’d been handed big cash? Plainly, that insinuation provides the framework to this bombshell report and to the many discussions which have followed.

For that reason, it must be said that Becker and McIntire explicitly say, though not very often, that they can’t make such a claim. In paragraphs 10 and 11, they offer an explicit disclaimer and a denial:
BECKER AND MCINTIRE: Whether the donations played any role in the approval of the uranium deal is unknown. But the episode underscores the special ethical challenges presented by the Clinton Foundation, headed by a former president who relied heavily on foreign cash to accumulate $250 million in assets even as his wife helped steer American foreign policy as secretary of state, presiding over decisions with the potential to benefit the foundation’s donors.

In a statement, Brian Fallon, a spokesman for Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign, said no one “has ever produced a shred of evidence supporting the theory that Hillary Clinton ever took action as secretary of state to support the interests of donors to the Clinton Foundation.” He emphasized that multiple United States agencies, as well as the Canadian government, had signed off on the deal and that, in general, such matters were handled at a level below the secretary. “To suggest the State Department, under then-Secretary Clinton, exerted undue influence in the U.S. government’s review of the sale of Uranium One is utterly baseless,” he added.
Did those donations play any role in Clinton’s approval of the deal with Dr. Evil?

Explicitly, Becker and McIntire say that’s “unknown.” That is yet another way of saying it may be true.

In the second paragraph shown above, they finally let a Clinton spokesman issue a type of denial. Tomorrow, we’ll show you what the reporters didn’t include until paragraph 67.

The insinuation at the heart of this tale is completely obvious. As is true of almost all suggestions, it could of course be true.

As every putative journalist knows, it’s very, very hard to prove that something didn’t happen. Inside the cage, all the chimps know that this is what makes insinuation so valuable.

Did Clinton approve a rotten deal because she’d received big cash? Like Becker and McIntire, we have no way of answering that—and everything is possible!

Here’s another question:

Were Becker and McIntire paid by forces on the right to compose a “sloppy” report? We can’t answer that question either! Tomorrow, though, we’re going to show you some features of their work.

Their insinuation is clear. How sound in their basic reporting?

As we continue, we won’t be asking you to judge the motives of Secretary Clinton. Instead, we’ll ask you to judge the actual published work of these New York Times journalists, whose report may be a “bombshell” or may be “sloppy” or may be something worse.

For once, let’s abandon our normal framework. Let’s assess the reporters instead of the pol.

In our view, their work this day was quite familiar and it was quite bad. We’d have to say their work was fashioned in accord with a largely invisible set of strictures:

We’d have to say their work was fashioned in accord with the pseudo-journalism rules. Alas! People are dead all over the world because of the hold these invisible rules have long held on our discourse.

Tomorrow: A string of omissions

Supplemental: Nicholas Kristof, music man!

MONDAY, APRIL 27, 2015

Biggest journalistic hoax concerning test scores yet:
In today’s first post, we discussed the “pseudo-journalism” which is so common at the New York Times.

For a truly stunning example, consider the way Nicholas Kristof started yesterday’s column.

Life-forms like Kristof have spent many years running down American students and their public school teachers. Some journalists do this out of sheer ignorance. Others do it because they want to help their upper-class minders and masters privatize public schools.

Yesterday, Kristof created one of the most remarkable incidents yet. As journalistic deception goes, we’d call this passage jaw-dropping:
KRISTOF (4/26/15): I am afraid you’re eligible to read this column only if you can answer this question faced by eighth graders around the world:

What is the sum of the three consecutive whole numbers with 2n as the middle number?

A. 6n+3
B. 6n
C. 6n-1
D. 6n-3

More than three-quarters of South Korean kids answered correctly (it is B). Only 37 percent of American kids were correct, lagging their peers from Iran, Indonesia and Ghana.

We know Johnny can’t read; it appears that Johnny is even worse at counting.

That’s the way Kristof started yesterday’s column. Before he was done, he offered two similar examples of Johnny’s astonishing dumbness.

For simplicity sake, let’s stick to this one example. In it, Kristof’s reflexive dishonesty reached an astounding new level.

Reading that example, a reader may get the impression that American students perform more poorly in math than their counterparts from Iran, Indonesia and Ghana, which are clearly meant to be seen as deeply embarrassing countries.

As Kristof surely knows, that impression would be grossly inaccurate. The test in question is the 2011 TIMSS, one of the two major international test programs in which most developed nations take part.

Along with a few other Asian tigers, Singapore tends to outscore the world on these international tests. But American kids scored fairly well on the 2011 TIMSS as compared with everyone else. Here are the relevant scores, with endlessly-ballyhooed Finland included as a point of comparison:
Average scores, Grade 8 math, TIMSS, 2011
Singapore 611

Finland 514
United States 509

Iran 415
Indonesia 386
Ghana 331
For all average scores, click here.

Eighth-graders in Iran, Indonesia and Ghana didn’t perform nearly as well as their counterparts in the United States. How did Kristof manage to tie that false impression to his ugly, stupid remark about the way pitiful Johnny can’t read or even count?

Simple! Kristof links to this site, where the TIMSS has posted 88 questions from the 2011 math test which won’t be used again.

In a remarkably deceptive way, Kristof cherry-picked through that long list of questions. The question about the three consecutive numbers is, quite literally, the question on which American kids did least well out of all 88 as compared to the rest of the world.

Let’s make sure you understand that! Quite deliberately, Kristof chose the least representative example out of 88 possible items.

He led his column with that unrepresentative example. He then pretended it shows that stupid-ass Johnny “can’t count.”

Assuming the TIMSS data are accurate, why did American kids perform so poorly on that one question? We have no idea. We also can’t explain why American kids outscored every nation, including Singapore, on the question called “Median number of staff members.” But, by God, they did!

In fact, they outperformed all nations, including Singapore, by a wide margin on that one question. An equally dishonest person could cherry-pick that one example to advance the false impression that U.S. eighth-graders lead the world in math.

Why in the world would a life-form like Kristof deceive his readers this way? Beyond that, what makes him so eager to denigrate American kids?

We can’t answer that question, but several commenters thought they could. They said Kristof had once again cast himself in the role of tool to his corporate masters, who want to destroy teachers unions and privatize public schools:
COMMENTER FROM NEW JERSEY: Mr. Kristof has been consistently anti-teacher, anti-public schools. He frequently trots out misleading information, perhaps out of ignorance (he has no expertise or skin in the game in education), or perhaps because he has a vested interest in privately funded education.
Other comments drifted along that line. Meanwhile, quite a few comments show the things people end up believing when they’re subjected to a steady stream of disinformation from Kristof and his merry band of gong-show propagandists:

“As long as the US has teachers that do not have a master’s degree in the subjects they are teaching—especially in math and natural sciences—we’ll never catch up to other advanced nations,” one gloomy reader said.

“I could not agree more with Mr. Kristof about our nation’s poor performance in math. It starts early,” another reader wrote.

“The scandal is not that students in Iran, Indonesia, Ghana...would perform better on these questions than their counterparts in the US,” another reader wrote, possibly having swallowed the false impression. “There are bright individuals everywhere and nothing to say that Americans have a birthright to superior scores.”

The readers shown below agreed—it’s done much better Over There! In a slightly rational world, these would be seen as embarrassing comments:
COMMENTER FROM ISRAEL: The key is having good math teachers. Unfortunately those who are capable of doing so can usually find more lucrative jobs so often the math teachers are second tier (except of course for countries like Finland which pay teachers well). If you want students to succeed, then make sure there are good teachers and pay for them.

COMMENTER FROM MICHIGAN: As for the main point of this column, as a teacher I share your dismay. I truly think our system needs strong structural reform, and we should probably look to the Swedish model.

COMMENTER FROM VIRGINIA: I remember a statement by Larry King decades ago on his show where the pitfalls of the US public school system compared the ones in other advanced nations were described, including discipline. King said that in Germany teachers were so greatly respected that their pupils addressed them as doctors. Well, heck, I yelled at the TV, that's because a large number of them have Ph.D. in the subject they teach.
Please. On the test to which Kristof referred, American kids basically matched their counterparts in Finland. They outscored glorious Sweden by 25 points, with its average score of 484.

Germany didn't take part on the eighth grade level in 2011. It did participate at the fourth grade level, where its kids were outscored by kids from the U.S.

(Other scores in Grade 8 math: Great Britain 507, Australia 505, Italy 498, Norway 475.)

“We know Johnny can’t read; it appears that Johnny is even worse at counting!” It’s hard to imagine why someone like Kristof would want to write such a thing. But such deceptions are completely routine within our upper-end press corps. This has been the reliable norm for a very long time.

We know of no topic on which Americans are so persistently disinformed by American pseudo-journalists. Yesterday, Kristof took the dissembling and the deception to a remarkable low.

Kristof seems to get stranger by the month. As Shakespeare thoughtfully asked, “On what meat doth this our Times pseudo-journalist feed?”

Just for the record: The other examples Kristof presents are also cherry-picked. He had to sift through 88 examples to mislead his readers so.

THE PSEUDOJOURNALISM RULES: Ways to win friends and influence voters!

MONDAY, APRIL 27, 2015

Part 1—Described as a bombshell report:
In the normal course of affairs, a “bombshell report” in the New York Times may influence many voters.

Last Friday morning, the famous newspaper is said to have published that type of report. The piece began on the Times’ front page, under this hard-copy headline:

“The Clintons, The Russians And Uranium”

Inside the paper, the continuation of the report filled two entire pages—A20 and A21.

In itself, the lengthy report contained 4400 words of text. On those interior pages, it was accompanied by six photographs and one large timeline, along with one additional chart.

As any voter could see, the Times report was voluminous. That said, was it truly a bombshell report? Or was it perhaps the latest example of New York Times pseudo-journalism, a possibility Howard Dean raised last Thursday morning?

Was it really a bombshell report? Or was it pseudo-journalism? All week long, we’ll be exploring that question. We’ll also examine the way the Times report was handled by others in the upper-end press—for example, on Chris Hayes’ MSNBC program.

On line, the sprawling report was published early Thursday. That evening, Hayes described the piece, two separate times, as a “bombshell report.”

In one of his teases, the young performer offered the excited statement shown below. We’d have to say the young cable star was way out over his skis:
HAYES (4/23/15): All right. The Clinton campaign fires back after a bombshell report alleges a major conflict of interest that led to a flood of cash. That’s next.
In truth, the front-page report doesn’t exactly “allege” a conflict of interest at all, let alone a “major” conflict.

Everyone on earth has noted some version of this fact, starting with the Times itself. But so what? Young Hayes was quite excited this night, just as he was in 2012 when he threw Susan Rice under the bus.

Fellows like Hayes don’t challenge the Times, as we’ve endlessly told you.

In our view, Hayes was wildly overstating the shape of the “bombshell report.” That said, his credulous performance that night illustrates a familiar part of the upper-end press corps’ “pseudo-journalism rules.”

In our view, Hayes’ performance that night was just extremely bad. It may have been even worse than the clowning on that day’s Morning Joe, where pundits excitedly discussed a report which, as they were happy to note, none of them had read.

Later this week, we’ll review the terrible analytical work performed by Hayes and many others. For today, let’s consider the ways a report of this type may influence voters.

How will some American voters react to a sprawling “bombshell” report? Consider the letters the New York Times published Saturday morning.

The Times had killed a lot of trees to present its sprawling report. Quite plainly, its massive lay-out gave the impression that bombshells had exploded.

On Saturday morning, four letters in the Times discussed the bombshell report. In the very first letter, a troubled liberal made a very significant statement.

He won’t be voting for Clinton next year, this troubled reader said:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (4/25/15): I am a well-educated professional living in a major metropolitan area. I strongly support Barack Obama’s presidency. I am a compassionate liberal on most social issues. I am invigorated by the idea of a woman as president. I have been a registered Democrat for over 20 years, and I have never given serious thought to supporting a Republican presidential candidate.

Despite all this, I will not vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton. I simply don’t trust her. Email records, foundation money conflicts and so on. The list is simply too long, and a vast right-wing conspiracy is not to blame. Presumably the Republican nominee will be loathsome in other ways, so I will likely abstain from the 2016 presidential election.

If people like me won’t vote for Mrs. Clinton, the Democratic Party should be very concerned.

R— J—
Burlingame, Calif.
Let’s be fair. As he started, the troubled liberal admitted that he’s well-educated. Beyond that, he admitted that he’s a compassionate person with quite a few other fine traits, including the fact that he “lives in a major metropolitan area.”

But so what? Despite his many fine traits, the writer said that he won’t be voting for Clinton next year. He even included her middle name in a bit of a throwback.

“I simply don’t trust her,” this voter said. “The list is simply too long.” He cited two examples from this long list. Each example was recent.

What is the nature of the “foundation money conflicts” which led this writer to make this statement? His letter doesn’t say.

He seems to say that the GOP nominee may be even worse than Clinton. But thanks in part to that “bombshell report,” he has decided that he won’t vote for Clinton next year, no matter how bad the Republican may be.

In that letter, we see one possible reaction to that bombshell report. For whatever reason, the Times chose it as the first reaction its readers would see.

Three more letters discussed the report. The second letter also showed the effect a Times bombshell may have:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (4/25/15): Is there just smoke here, or fire? The way money washes around the globe among the rich and the powerful is disturbing, and this article illustrates that very well. But if one reads between the lines, it’s not at all clear that your reporters found any direct connection between the uranium mine transaction and Hillary Rodham Clinton or the State Department during the relevant periods. Either way, the whole thing makes my head hurt.

On the upside, let’s recognize that the Clintons are among the most scrutinized and investigated prominent politicians in American history. Decades of poking into every nook and cranny by their political enemies have produced little. Is it that they’re made of Teflon, or that the stuff thrown at them was not strong enough to stick?

W— S—
Mount Pleasant, S.C.
This writer doesn’t think it’s clear that the Times found Clinton doing anything wrong! (That said, he’s already hedging his bets when he says that Times reporters found no direct connection.)

To this voter, it isn’t clear that Clinton has done something wrong. But so what? “Either way, the whole thing makes my head hurt,” he says.

There’s a familiar term for that malady. For many years, it’s been known as “Clinton fatigue.” The first letter writer won’t vote for Clinton. The second will be less enthusiastic about her, as he’ll explain to his friends.

In what other ways can a Times report influence American voters? The third letter writer says the report “raises troubling questions.”

He doesn’t say what those questions are. But he says he now hopes, all over again, that Elizabeth Warren gets into the race.

Finally, the fourth letter writer says he’ll be sticking with Clinton. Clinton is forced to “bend the rules,” he says, thereby seeming to assume that she has actually done so.

Those letters are intriguing. Obviously, they don’t represent a scientific sample of voter reaction. The New York Times chose to publish those letters, selecting them from the many others they surely received.

For today, we’ll note two points:

First, those letters help us see the ways a bombshell report may influence an array of voters. Second, none of those letters challenge the journalism performed by the New York Times.

Neither did Hayes, last Thursday night, on The One True Channel. Dearest darlings, it just isn’t done! For decades, that simply hasn’t been allowed by the rules of a largely invisible game.

Those rules were on display in the New York Times’ sprawling report, which was a journalistic mess. Those rules were also on display in Hayes’ pseudo-analysis.

Those rules have guided American life for a very long time. Within the guild we still call the press, everyone who plays for large pay knows to obey those rules.

Just as Howard Dean suggested, that bombshell report by the New York Times was a journalistic mess. Tomorrow, we’ll start to show you why we say that.

It’s what Hayes should have done.

Tomorrow: The anatomy of a pseudo-report

Supplemental: At the Post and the Times, they get letters!


What Richard Cohen said:
Two weekends ago, we ascended the stage at Benny’s Bar and Grill in Potomac, Maryland. We were taking part in the establishment’s “Journalists in comedy” night.

We followed Clarence Page, the sanest person in journalism today. But why was he subjecting himself to the miseries which could ensue?

“We’re just here to find out why you’re here,” we told him when he arrived. “When we learn why you’re here, we’re leaving.”

Page couldn’t exactly explain his presence. And so we ascended the stage.

Eventually, we discussed the “Problems in philosophy” class we took in our freshman year in college. Masterfully, we offered our thoughts about one of the six “problems” we studied:

“How do you know that 7 plus 5 equals 12?”

“Who are these problems problems for?” we recalled ourselves masterfully wondering. But first, we shared a few observations about that day’s “Free for All” page in the Washington Post.

Each Saturday, the Post devotes a special page to letters from its readers. We sometimes imagine that they pick those letters which will portray us the readers at our nit-picking, overwrought worst.

Is “Free for All” really a portrait of readers as hecklers? We’ll let you decide:

That morning, a reader had scolded the Post for a politically-charged spelling choice. In a recent news report, the Post had referred to the “Dnepropetrovsk region” of Ukraine, he scoldingly said.

The reader said the Post should have used this spelling: “Dnipropetrovsk region.” And that wasn’t all! “Also, please don't begin using ‘Slavyansk’ for Sloviansk, ‘Makeyevka’ for Makiivka, ‘Gorlovka’ for Horlivka and so on,” he pre-emptively warned.

We weren’t even saying the reader was wrong. We were simply saying!

Today, the “Free for All” page spills with reader outrage. Why did the Post describe a graffiti vandal as a graffiti artist? What did a headline refer to Elizabeth II as the queen of England?

Why can’t Warren Brown’s car column have a regular space? One reader even offers a narrow complaint about a crossword puzzle:

Aleve is not an “Alternative to Tylenol,” as the 2 Down clue suggested. If one is allergic to aspirin, one cannot take Aleve.

For ourselves, we were struck by the letter shown below. A reader batters Richard Cohen for his sexist, misogynist comments about Candidate Clinton.

The letter appears at the top of the “Free for All” page. Here it is, headline included:
LETTER TO THE WASHINGTON POST (4/25/15): Hillary Clinton is no victim

Richard Cohen’s description of Hillary Clinton in his April 14 op-ed column, “A campaign where she is the message,” was sexist and misogynistic.

He implied that Clinton’s main problem is being “a woman of some years of womanly experiences.” This insulted all women,
but especially those of us “of some years.” To stress his point, he added “a woman of some years who has led a hell of a life.” In case we misunderstood, Cohen commented, “She has been around.” (Did he not realize this may imply promiscuity?) To emphasize further, he wrote, “She has been walloped. She has been publicly betrayed and damaged and hurt.” Was he trying to evoke images of Hester Prynne? Anne Boleyn? Uppity women in general?

Cohen used highly charged language, language often used to disempower women in general.
Like so many hackneyed crime dramas and old-fashioned fairy tales, he tried to portray Clinton as a victim, and not the strong, intelligent, goal-directed woman who is successful in her own right and resilient in the face of a flawed husband.

In the end, Clinton’s biggest problem may be the inability of men “of some years” like Cohen to overcome the old stereotypes of women—the very sexist cliches they grew up with.

B— A— F—
We recalled scanning Cohen’s column last week. We didn’t remember it as an insult to Clinton, let alone to all women.

Incomparably, we reread the piece. In the end, this was Cohen’s assessment of Clinton and her Republican rivals:
COHEN (4/14/15): Hillary Clinton has been a lawyer. She has been an advocate for the poor, especially children. She’s been the first lady of Arkansas and of the United States of America. She’s been a senator from New York and Obama’s secretary of state. Her record in all those positions is worthy of a fair critique, but the fact remains that she’s unique in American political life.

Scanning the mob of Republicans now seeking the White House, there’s no one who approaches Clinton in experience or standing.
Jeb Bush comes close. He was the governor of a major state and he impresses with his fidelity to some distinctly un-Republican positions on immigration and education. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is interesting, but he has the “lean and hungry look” that Caesar noted in Cassius. He is not quite ready. As for the rest of the field, it is a political bedlam, quarreling, quibbling and kvetching over same-sex marriage, abortion and immigration, and in general waging the good fight against social progress.
In our view, Cohen led his piece with the standard, silly criticism with which a gang of other pundits led their Post columns that week: Candidate Clinton hasn’t laid out an agenda!

To us, that criticism is utterly silly at this early date. But everyone at the Washington Post recited that script that week.

Basically, Cohen proceeded from there to an endorsement of Clinton. But so what? In Arlington, one reader was outraged by the insulting, misogynist way in which he endorsed her for president.

Our guess? Such cluelessness from Clinton supporters may represent her “biggest problem.” As Cohen was writing his endorsement, the New York Times was fashioning the very large puddle of front-page piddle which we’ll review all next week.

This very morning, the Times has published four letters about its front-page report. Alas! Those hand-picked letters may well represent a great deal of the public reaction to that Rolling Stone-flavored report.

Does the reader in Arlington know what’s wrong with that front-page report? Because we’re so clueless about such matters, we the liberals have long been easy to roll.

We liberals! We do know that seven plus five equals twelve. Beyond that, a great deal seems to escape us, thanks in part to the corporate hustlers we accept as our tribal leaders.

That fill us with our narrow rage. As they do, the plutocrats who pay their fat wages just keep rolling along.

We haven't forgotten: Coming Monday, what Brooke Gladstone says she has heard

EVERYBODY LOVES A CHARADE: Howard Dean says what the New York Times does!

FRIDAY, APRIL 24, 2015

Part 5—Everyday people push back:
Paul Krugman’s portrait is sad but true in today’s New York Times.

At the end of his latest column, Krugman looks into the future. As he does, he employs a key word:

“Pundits will try to pretend that we’re having a serious policy debate, but, as far as issues go, 2016 is already set up to be the election of the living dead.”

The key word there is “pretend.” We’ve been using that word all week. Here’s why:

In an astounding amount of our public discourse, our “journalists” seem to be pretending. Sometimes, they pretend that they’re discussing real issues. On other occasions, they pretend that they’re telling us what they think.

In our view, a lot of pretending seems to exist in Jo Becker’s front-page report in today’s New York Times. The exciting piece, which was instantly famous, is 4400 words long.

In it, Becker pretends to examine past conduct by Candidate Clinton.

The last two mornings, we’ve watched the gang on Morning Joe pretend to discuss this front-page report. Yesterday morning, they all acknowledged that they hadn’t yet read the exciting report which they were pretending to discuss.

In our view, Becker does a lot of pretending in her long “news report.” So did Willie Haskell-Geist as he ridiculed the absurd idea that the New York Times, of all publications, could possibly have an anti-Clinton animus.

Mika and Joe also pretended to find that idea absurd. These are the wages of twenty-three years of silence by our top corporate pseudo-liberals.

Alas! All next week, we expect to discuss Becker’s front-page pseudo-report. We also expect to review the palaver churned on Morning Joe, where Howard Dean’s unusual comments went to the remainders bin.

Uh-oh! Yesterday morning, Dean made some unusual comments about the glorious Times! He didn’t seem to know the rules—comments like his are not allowed when high-ranking pundits pretend to discuss the news.

Dean said the things you mustn’t say about the New York Times! As a result, he fought off complaints from Times reporter Jeremy Peters, who pretended to be offended by Dean’s offensive remarks.

In the part of the segment shown below, Scarborough pretends to be offended by Dean’s remarks. To watch the fuller exchange, click here:
DEAN (4/23/15): First of all, I haven’t seen the story and neither have you, right?...I will say, there is an epidemic of really sloppy reporting that goes from the top to the bottom...I’d like to see what all the facts are here, because so far we haven’t really seen—

SCARBOROUGH: Why don’t you read the story before accusing the New York Times of being sloppy?

DEAN: Because in general, the New York Times has been sloppy, particularly their political writers. I use the New York Times as an example in journalism classes, because by the fifth paragraph in any political story—we can probably find one right here, whatever the political story on the front page is. By the fifth paragraph, they’re substituting their judgment for news.

SCARBOROUGH: Howard, I just got to say. I consider you a good friend of mine. I think it is unbecoming for you to come on this show and, and to just reflexively attack everybody who tries to bring up any information that goes against what you want people to hear about Hillary Clinton.

DEAN: They did it to George W. Bush! That’s what they do.
To state the obvious, that is what the New York Times does! In 2008, we spent a week on the topic when they somehow got it into their heads that Candidate McCain was having a steamy sex affair.

To read those reports, click here. But that is what the New York Times does. They do it all the time!

Let's review:

The rest of the gang was pretending to discuss a report they hadn’t yet read. Spoiling the fun, Howard Dean made some accurate statements.

He didn’t seem to understand—within the business, you aren’t supposed to make accurate statements about the New York Times. Rachel, Chris and Joan won’t do it. Yesterday, Howard Dean did!

Next week, we expect to review that front-page “news report.” We’ll also take a fuller look at the pseudo-conversations which occurred when Mika, Willie and Joe pretended to voice their heartfelt concerns about the deeply troubling things they hadn’t yet actually read.

For now, we’ll only say this:

Over the course of the past several decades, everyone within the guild has obeyed the rules Dean broke. They’ve agreed to withhold the basic truth about the ridiculous work of the Times, especially about its long, peculiar war against both Clintons and Gore.

Rachel won’t discuss it with you; she's too busy clowning. Hayes won’t tell you. Joan Walsh spends most of her time folding Matthews’ ascots.

None of those people are going to teach you how to push back against the terrible, ludicrous people who type for the New York Times.

On Sunday, Bruni and Dowd wrote ridiculous columns about Candidate Clinton. As they did, they kicked off the new charade, in which the press will pretend to discuss our election for the next nineteen months.

Bruni pretended that he was “confused” by the least confusing term on earth. Dowd continued the visibly crazy gender-lunacy she has directed at Democrats for the past twenty years.

Your favorite “liberals” have never pushed back against any of this. Within the business, such pushback isn’t allowed.

Grasping stars like Rachel Maddow will not defend your interests. More specifically, they won’t criticize the ludicrous work done by this empty “newspaper.”

Climbers like Maddow have always played you. Last Sunday, some others pushed back.

In comments, an assortment of “everyday Americans” pushed back against the clowning of Bruni and Dowd. There certainly weren’t enough of these people. Too many people simply can’t see that these famous columnists are typing away with no clothes.

That said, some everyday people have heard enough, even if Rachel hasn’t. From New York City, a reader of Bruni’s drivel said this:
COMMENT FROM NEW YORK CITY: The meaning of “everyday Americans?” This, in the Sunday edition of the most important op-ed page in the world? With so much at stake? I don't get it.
Others thought that important newspaper wanted to be something else:
COMMENT FROM NEW MEXICO: If you want to criticize her, pick something substantive. Her credentials deserve better than nitpicking over her eating at Chipotle and driving in a “Scooby van.” Does the NYT really need to be the People Magazine of politics?

COMMENT FROM FLORIDA: When I saw the security camera footage of Sen. Clinton in a Chipotle, I knew the media had lost its collective mind...How can we take the news media's stewardship of our election process seriously if they can't stop acting like they are TMZ?
Quite a few commenters made a foolish request. Foolishly, they asked Bruni to focus on matters of substance:
COMMENT FROM NORTH CAROLINA: How many daze (pun intended) left until the presidential election and how many pundits’ columns do with have to endure outlining their personality traits? Who cares?

COMMENT FROM CALIFORNIA: Let's assume that everything Bruni says about the potential nominees is true. What then do we learn about them? Precious little. Reading Bruni won't help you to understand anything about their politics, their plans and agendas, their understanding of the many serious problems that Americans, of the everyday kind and all others, must deal with...If you want to know what's wrong with the way journalists write about American politics, read columns like this one.

COMMENT FROM ARIZONA: This is just another tedious look at a viable candidate who happens to be a very qualified woman, but is taken apart by various NYTimes columnists for superficial issues like her gender, her age, and the goofy name of her bus. Where are the substantive discussions about the real problems that plague us in 2015?

COMMENT FROM WISCONSIN: Frank, you and your colleagues are not helping matters by focusing on the theater of the campaign and not on the issues. It is a long campaign, and I am sorry that we have this sort of system for electing a president. But it is made more exasperating by columns like this one and others.

COMMENT FROM NEW YORK: As John Lennon sang: “Just give me some truth.” Please no more personality driven columns. We need a discussion of the issues first and foremost.
Commenters, please. Fat chance! Upper-end slackers like Bruni and Dowd don't care about matters of substance!

Many readers tore their hair at the thought of reading such columns for nineteen more months. Others lobbed the nastiest insult of all. They said Bruni’s column made them think they were reading a column by Dowd:
COMMENT FROM MASSACHUSETTS: Frank, I thought I was reading a continuation of Maureen’s column until you finally got to comparing presidential candidate debut weeks across both parties...But what your column, as well as Ms. Dowd's, has done for me is this: get already good and fed up with campaign coverage.

COMMENT FROM VIRGINIA: Bruni, why don't you talk about the issues instead? You're just as bad as Maureen Dowd in your focus on trivial campaign stuff.

COMMENT FROM VIRGINIA: Good grief, now Mr. Bruni proclaims that he doesn't know what Hillary meant by saying she would work for “everyday Americans!”...Next up, must reading for me: Maureen Dowd's Granny Get Your Gun. I am quite sure that her guns are loaded with acid galore, with an added coating of poison.
Beneath Dowd’s column, many readers complained about her reference to Obama as “a feminized man.” Others complained about the relentless repetition of her Hillary-hatred.

One reader tried to be clever. Given the craziness of the target, this will never work:
COMMENT FROM CALIFORNIA: Surely this must be a prank by the editors. It is inconceivable that Ms. Dowd could actually write yet another column bashing Hillary Clinton. It just cannot be that Ms. Dowd has no one and nothing else to blow curare darts at except Mrs. Clinton. The "Bash Hillary" column by Dowd has become a never-ending Mobius strip that we all have ridden in circles for years now. This must be a belated April Fools' Day prank by Dowd.
Actually, it’s a long-running rat-fuck by the peculiar life-forms who run the New York Times. They’re terrible people, if they’re actually people at all. But they do have a great deal of power.

They’ve been running their assorted rat-fucks for decades now. For twenty-three years, they’ve had an unexplored, unchallenged animus against the Clintons and Gore.

Everyone knows that this is the case. But Willie, Joe and Mika also know that they must pretend. They must pretend it's utterly silly to suggest such a thing!

It’s very, very, very rare to see someone like Dean speak up. Your darling Rachel won’t tell you the truth. Walsh and Hayes know they must be quiet.

Four cycles back, this gave us George Bush. The growing self-parody that is Dear Rachel is willing to do it again.

Tomorrow: What Gladstone thinks she’s been hearing