Supplemental: Matthews and guests extend the confusion!


On Hardball, as the worms turn:
It’s getting more and more painful to watch our “press corps” as it crashes and burns.

As it endlessly spirals downward. As worms devour the last of its brains. As Enlightenment values and procedures increasingly cease to exist.

As a nation breaks apart into a collection of incoherent tribes.

We earned this gloom the old-fashioned way. Last night, we watched the first, short segment of Hardball.

In the old days, we watched the program’s horrific host as he savaged both Clintons and Gore over a span of roughly ten years. Last night, we watched the reinvented corporate employee as he bungled the anti-Planned Parenthood video story.

As he bungled the facts even further! Let's start with a quick bit of background:

As you may have heard, Candidate Fiorina has been lying her aspic off about what she saw on a certain videotape.

Initially, she misstated the contents of the tape at the recent GOP debate. After those initial misstatements were revealed, she initiated a round of overt lying—political lying of a type we’ve never quite seen before.

What did Fiorina actually see on the videotape in question? Did the tape have anything to do with the people at Planned Parenthood?

Yesterday, Matthews seemed to think that he had discovered the initial source of the footage Fiorina misdescribed at that debate. As his program began, he seemed to say that Fiorina had been watching videotape of Lexi Fretz’s stillborn child:
MATTHEWS (9/29/15): Finally, the truth!

Planned Parenthood had nothing to do with it. Let’s play Hardball!

Good evening. I’m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Carly Fiorina has been telling the world about watching pictures of a fully formed baby kicking and breathing after a Planned Parenthood abortion. Everyone has heard her—and not a word of what she said was true.

And why? Because what she saw was not true. Facts matter.

At 2:30 today on MSNBC, the mother of a child stillborn at 19 weeks came forward. She described holding him, along with her other children, after the delivery. It was not at a Planned Parenthood facility, nor did it have anything to do with Planned Parenthood. None of it did.

LEXI OLIVER FRETZ (videotape): They were able to see him, to hold him, to realize that he was real. And while, yes, he was technically stillborn, his heart was beating. I held him in my hands until his little heart stopped. I could see it clearly under his ribcage.

MATTHEWS: MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts asked the mother, Lexi Oliver Fretz, how she felt about seeing her son on the anti-abortion group’s video.
To watch the full segment, click here.

Matthews seemed to think that Fretz’s stillborn baby was the fetus in the videotape Fiorina misdescribed. After showing tape of Fretz speaking with Roberts, he seemed to make that point even more clearly:
MATTHEWS: Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina has insisted that the video showed an abortion being performed by Planned Parenthood. Will the truth matter? This attack video on Planned Parenthood being used to shut down the U.S. government is a fraud. Its only value has been to dupe a presidential candidate into mouthing its propaganda in a national debate before 24 million people.

But will the truth—that the baby was stillborn, that its birth and death had nothing to do with Planned Parenthood—count in this wild and angry conflict of values?
Matthews seemed to think that Fretz’s stillborn child was the figure seen in the videotape Fiorina misdescribed at the debate. In the rest of the segment, two guests—a journalist and a congresswoman—conveyed the same impression.

As best we can tell, that isn’t the case. But because of the way our “press corps” functions, we still aren’t precisely sure.

How did this latest confusion come into being? Yesterday afternoon, Thomas Roberts interviewed Fretz. But he never nailed down the basic facts of what had occurred.

To watch that segment, click this.

At 7 o’clock, Matthews came on fuming and railing, just as he used to do when lying about Candidate Gore or about the woman he routinely derided as “Eva Peron.” As usual, he didn’t seem to have any idea what he was talking about.

From the unprecedented Fiorina on down, the worms seem to have eaten all their brains. It’s getting harder and harder to misdescribe that fact.

FORBIDDEN STORY: Yglesias sees a pattern!


Part 3—In truth, the pattern is there:
Is there any truth to President Clinton’s story?

We refer to the story he told this weekend on CNN. His story is a forbidden story, though he tells it every now and again.

According to President Clinton, a familiar pattern can be seen in the ongoing coverage of Candidate Clinton. This pattern involves the GOP and the mainstream press.

According to Clinton, here’s the scoop:

The GOP wants Candidate Clinton to be “as mangled up as possible” if she’s the nominee. Toward that end, they have promoted the alleged scandal known as emailgate.

“I have never seen so much expended on so little,” the former president said.

(For ourselves, we’ve seen more expended on less. But that’s a minor quibble.)

Does the GOP want Candidate Clinton to be “as mangled up as possible?” Of course they do! Does that help explain their focus on emails? That seems fairly obvious too.

That said, Bill Clinton said the press corps is playing a role in the pattern he described. In this passage, he told a brutal but obvious truth:
CLINTON (9/27/15): The other party doesn’t want to run against her, and if they do, they’d like her as mangled up as possible. And they know that if they leak things, say things, that that is catnip to the people who get bored talking about what’s your position on student loan relief or dealing with the shortage of mental health care or what to do with the epidemic of prescription drugs and heroin out in America, even in small towns of rural America. Or how are you going to get jobs into coal country, given how much they’ve lost in the last twenty years?

So that just happens. It always happens. We’re seeing history repeat itself.
Oof! In Bill Clinton’s telling, the press corps has run with the alleged email scandal for an unflattering reason:

According to Clinton, the mainstream press corps hates to talk about matters of substance! He said they find such discussions “boring”—boring beyond all belief!

Can Clinton’s statement really be true? Do the people at the top of our press corps really “get bored talking about what’s your position on student loan relief?”

Crackers! If you’ve watched these life forms down through the years, no statement could be more obvious! That said, the former president omitted one basic part of this story. It’s the part in which the establishment press corps has been involved in a twenty-year feud with both Clintons, a feud which spilled over into their fateful war against Candidate Gore.

For reasons which seem fairly obvious, Clinton omitted that part of the tale. For reasons which can't be excused, so have a succession of liberal journalists as they’ve refused to examine this syndrome down through the past twenty years.

Is there any merit to Bill Clinton’s tale? Is his story actually true? Are we “seeing history repeat itself” in the way he described?

Two weeks earlier, Matt Yglesias basically said the same thing! According to Yglesias, the current coverage of Candidates Clinton and Bush is very similar to the coverage of Candidates Bush and Gore back in Campaign 2000.

According to Yglesias, the tax proposal of Candidate Jeb Bush was getting soft-soap treatment in the press—almost precisely the same soft treatment George Bush’s tax proposal received all through Campaign 2000.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton was getting swamped by relentless scandal reporting. Similarly, Candidate Gore had been “mercilessly persecuted over a series of trivial exaggerations and now-forgotten pseudo-scandals” sixteen years before.

Yglesias said the current coverage echoes that of Campaign 2000. His headline asked a sensible question:

“Why is the media more interested in Hillary’s email than in Jeb’s profoundly dishonest tax pitch?”

The gent was asking a sensible question. He finished his piece like this:
YGLESIAS (9/14/15): Obviously, a person is free to believe that delivering a large tax cut to owners of corporate bonds will do more to boost social mobility than providing preschool to poor children, or that reducing the tax burden on people who inherit $10 million estates is more morally urgent than reducing global malnutrition. The point is simply that Bush is proposing a very significant financial commitment—one whose rollout to the public was fundamentally dishonest, featuring sins of both omission and commission. The details and underlying rationale of this program are worthy of at least as much scrutiny as State Department email protocols. The precedent from 15 years ago is not encouraging, but a lot has changed in the media landscape since then, so it's too early for total despair.
“The precedent from 15 years ago is not encouraging?”

Without any question, that’s true.

“A lot has changed in the media landscape since then?”

On balance, we think it’s silly to say that. But Yglesias’ overall aim was true—and at its heart, he was telling the same forbidden story Bill Clinton would later tell.

Tomorrow, we’ll return to Yglesias’ peculiar opening claim—his peculiar claim that Campaign 2000 was “the formative experience of [his] political life.”

We regard that claim as very peculiar. Tomorrow, we’ll ponder its strangeness again.

For today, we’ll merely note that Clinton and Yglesias are telling slightly different versions of the same important story. How forbidden is the story? So forbidden that Yglesias seems to have avoided telling it over the past fifteen years!

Whatever! Clinton and Yglesias are telling the same basic tale. In this widely-disappeared syndrome, the mainstream press corps keeps mangling Democratic front-runners with sets of pseudo-scandals. As they approach the Dems in these ways, they approach the policies of Republican front-runners with barrels of extremely soft soap.

Is there any truth to this story—to the story Bill Clinton told? Not if you read the New York Times, where Amy Chozick got busy, the very next day, mocking what Clinton had said.

She did so in a “news report” in Monday morning’s Times. As we read her “news report,” we thought we heard the clanking chains of The Ghost of Campaign Reports Past.

(Was that Kit Seelye we briefly saw? We thought we saw Seelye’s ghost!)

Bill Clinton’s story is loaded with merit, but it’s virtually never told. In truth, his story is a forbidden story. For the past sixteen years, members of the career liberal world have agreed that it mustn’t be told.

Do you remember when Ezra told it? He told it exactly once!

Tomorrow: The young man’s (accurate) tale

Supplemental: Oh, what a tangled web we weave!


When Carly maxtuples down:
Last night, we watched a pitiful cable news event.

On CNN, John Berman was guest hosting for Anderson Cooper. On came a Fiorina spokesperson to support the greatness of Carly’s claims about the anti-Planned Parenthood videotape.

The story has advanced a step today. To set the stage for what has occurred, let’s review what Fiorina said at this month’s GOP debate, where this gong-show got its start:
FIORINA (9/16/15): As regards Planned Parenthood, anyone who has watched this videotape—I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.

This is about the character of our nation, and if we will not stand up in and force President Obama to veto this bill, shame on us.
Fact-checkers quickly noted some problems with Fiorina’s statement. Let’s run through the problems step by step:

What the technician said: The videotape in question turned out to be “file footage.” It had been spliced into a longer videotape in which a young technician, Holly O’Donnell, described a procedure she said she witnessed—a procedure which left her upset.

Let’s note again what we’ve noted before. As best we can tell, O’Donnell never says that the procedure in question was done by, or for, Planned Parenthood.

She tells her story at some length. As best we can tell, the name “Planned Parenthood” is never mentioned.

We’ve seen no fact-checker mention this extremely basic problem. We’ve seen no evidence that anyone has interviewed O’Donnell to ask her about this basic point.

What the candidate said: Along came a presidential candidate, saying she was horrified by what she saw on the videotape. Fact-checkers quickly noted that Fiorina’s description was inaccurate in certain basic respects—and that she was describing file footage, not actual video of the procedure O’Donnell said she had witnessed.

Fact-checkers correctly noted that Fiorina's description had been wrong. Fiorina kept insisting that her description was accurate.

By now, we already had a layer of problems. The young technician hadn’t said that the alleged procedure had anything to do with Planned Parenthood.

Beyond that, there was no videotape of the alleged procedure. Instead, file footage had been spliced into a longer videotape where the young technician told her story.

Fiorina had then come along and misdescribed that footage. When people noted her errors—errors about a piece of file footage which she ascribed to Planned Parenthood—she kept insisting that her descriptions (of file footage) had been correct all along.

What the supplier of the file footage has now said: Today, a new disconnect has occurred. The person who supplied the file footage has gone on the record refusing to connect the footage to Planned Parenthood. At Time magazine, Michael Scherer did the report:
SCHERER (9/29/15): Cunningham, an anti-abortion activist, declined to identify the date, location or authors of the video in an interview with TIME Monday night, saying his group makes agreements of confidentiality in an effort to acquire images of abortions. He also made no claim that the images shown in the video had anything to do with Planned Parenthood, the organization that Fiorina and others have targeted for federal defunding. “I am neither confirming or denying the affiliation of the clinic who did this abortion,” Cunningham said.


The full source video, which is extremely graphic, lasts about 13 minutes, and shows a fetus being extracted from the mother, placed in a metal bowl, prodded with medical instruments and handled by someone in the room. At times the fetus appears to move, and at other times it appears to have a pulse. There are no images on the full video of any attempt to harvest the brain of the fetus, and there is no sound.
Despite what Fiorina said, “there are no images on the full video of any attempt to harvest the brain of the fetus, and there is no sound.” Might we add the obvious point?

Because there’s no sound, Fiorina couldn’t have heard “someone say[ing] we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.”

Let’s review:

In her usual state of rage, Fiorina misdescribed some footage. When her obvious errors were noted, she insisted that the news orgs in question were acting in bad faith.

The person who supplied the footage makes no claim that it came from a Planned Parenthood facility. On the longer videotape, the young technician who says she witnessed a procedure never seems to claim that the procedure was connected to Planned Parenthood.

What kinds of procedures does Planned Parenthood conduct? That’s a perfectly valid question.

Here’s another valid question. At what point does Fiorina stop emitting angry slanders against a wide array of people and orgs? At what point does she stop crazily lying to voters?

What the spokesperson said: Last night, Fiorina’s spokesperson showed up on CNN. Guest host Berman noted the obvious once again. Inspired by her fiery leader, the spokesperson kept misstating and attacking the people who got it right:
BERMAN (9/28/15): Joining me now, Sarah Isgur Flores, Carly Fiorina's deputy campaign manager. Thanks so much for being with us.

Sarah, as you know, it’s not just NBC or Meet the Press, it’s nonpartisan fact-checkers, other news organizations, including Fox News, which is hardly an enemy of many Republicans, they have all pointed out that Carly Fiorina is misrepresenting the videos. The clip she continues to reference doesn’t show what she says it shows. Wouldn’t it just be better to admit that she is getting it wrong about this clip?

FLORES: She’s not getting it wrong. It’s at the 5:56 mark. What’s so interesting is that Chuck Todd never showed the video. In fact, a lot of these folks have never showed the video. They don’t link to it. The Washington Post recently said that Carly wasn’t a secretary, either.

BERMAN: Let’s leave that aside for a second.

FLORES: My point is that non-partisan fact-checkers aren’t nearly as non-partisan as you pretend they are.
Berman was pretending!

Flores’ misstatements and accusations continued from there. But uh-oh! As with Chuck Todd and Chris Wallace before him, there was no sign that Berman had ever watched the videotape in question. For that reason, he was left with little to say when Flores kept insisting—falsely, of course—that her boss’ description was perfectly accurate while everyone else had it wrong.

There was no sign that Berman had ever watched the tape. There was no sign that CNN had ever tried to contact O’Donnell, the young technician in question.

Increasingly, American “news” is simply a TV show! Except for issues of makeup and hair, our most famous “news orgs” seem to expend the smallest effort possible.

Oh what a tangled web we weave: Surprisingly, the famous quotation actually comes from Sir Walter Scott!

People often attribute the famous quotation to Shakespeare. When corrected, they sometimes acknowledge the fact that they were just hopelessly wrong.

FORBIDDEN STORY: Yglesias speaks!


Part 2—Sixteen years later, the truth:
If we might borrow from our Springsteen:

In the summer of 02, Matt Yglesias was 21.

Several years earlier, Yglesias had undergone what he now calls “the formative experience of my political life.” Two weeks ago, he described that formative experience in a lengthy piece for Vox.

Mainly, Yglesias’ piece concerned the new tax plan proposed by Candidate Jeb Bush. His analysis has a lot to recommend it.

Yglesias discussed that new tax proposal. That said, this is the way he began:
YGLESIAS (9/14/15): The formative experience of my political life was the 2000 presidential campaign, in which the media mercilessly persecuted Al Gore over a series of trivial exaggerations and now-forgotten pseudo-scandals while giving George W. Bush a pass on the fact that the central premises of his economic agenda were lies.
Was Campaign 2000 really the formative experience of Yglesias’ political life? We have no way to assess that.

That said, Yglesias’ description of that fateful campaign focuses on its journalism. “Journalism failed in 2000,” he says at one point in a bit of an understatement.

Did journalism fail in 2000? We’d quibble with some of Yglesias’ formulations.

(Were those “trivial exaggerations” exaggerations at all? In pretty much every case, we’d say that Candidate Gore’s alleged exaggerations were actually journalistic inventions. The press corps invented Gore’s troubling lies, then agreed to pretend that he said them.)

We’d also challenge some of Yglesias’ emphases. We’d pick at points of chronology, including one which is basic.

(Did journalism fail “in 2000?” In fact, the journalistic war against Gore started in earnest in March 1999, as soon as Gore made his first trip to New Hampshire. The journalistic misconduct that year established the framework for everything which would follow. By December 1999, all the frameworks used against Gore had hardened, then turned to stone.)

One more quibble! Are those pseudo-scandals from Campaign 2000 really “long forgotten?”

Two days before Yglesias’ piece appeared, Dana Milbank typed this critique of Candidate Hillary Clinton in the Sunday Washington Post:

“And now comes the latest of many warm-and-fuzzy makeovers—perhaps the most transparent phoniness since Al Gore discovered earth tones.”

Good God! We promise—before the week is done, we’ll review the history of Candidate Gore’s infamous, ballyhooed “earth tones!” But Yglesias is dreaming if he thinks those pseudo-scandals are forgotten. As we’ve long told you, script never dies! Life-forms like Milbank are programmed, right in the shop, to retain all their guild’s inventions.

Yglesias gives an imperfect account of that campaign’s “journalism,” which was actually no such thing. That said, his account is well worth reviewing, especially in a world where the story he tells is forbidden.

Over the course of the past sixteen years, career liberal journalists have all agreed—the story of that “failed journalism” must simply never be told. As such, this story has been a forbidden story.

That stricture has helped create the current moment in time, as Yglesias semi-notes.

Liberal journalists have always agreed—they must obey a code of silence regarding Campaign 2000. In our view, Yglesias’ account of that campaign’s “failed journalism” is less than perfect.

Having said that, less us also say this:

In the fuller account which is shown below, Matt Yglesias is breaking a heinous and disgraceful professional code. In what follows, he briefly tells a two-part story, a story of heinous misconduct:
YGLESIAS (9/14/15): The formative experience of my political life was the 2000 presidential campaign, in which the media mercilessly persecuted Al Gore over a series of trivial exaggerations and now-forgotten pseudo-scandals while giving George W. Bush a pass on the fact that the central premises of his economic agenda were lies.

People too young to remember the campaign may wonder how Bush persuaded the country that budget-busting tax cuts for the richest Americans were the prescription the country needed. The answer is that he simply misdescribed his plan. In speeches, in televised debates, and in advertisements he represented his plan as consistent with a continued budget surplus and as primarily benefiting middle-class taxpayers.

Bush won the election and enacted hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts. Surpluses turned into deficits, and the promised economic boom never materialized.

None of this was surprising or unpredictable to anyone who cared to dig into the details. The problem was political reporters had found those details much less interesting than snarking about Al Gore's wooden speaking style and complaining that his “demeanor” was disrespectful during a debate exchange in which Bush repeatedly attacked Gore with bogus math.

Journalism failed in 2000

According to the conventions prevailing at the time, to offer a view on the merits of a policy controversy would violate the dictates of objective journalism. Harping on the fact that Bush was lying about the consequences of his tax plan was shrill and partisan. Commenting on style cues was okay, though, so the press could lean into various critiques of Gore's outfit.
In that, his opening passage, Yglesias tells a two-part story about the “journalism” of Campaign 2000.

According to Yglesias, journalists refused to tell the truth about the proposals of Candidate Bush. At the same time, they “mercilessly persecuted” Candidate Gore over a series of pseudo-scandals even as they pounded him about his alleged demeanor, his wooden style and his troubling wardrobe choices.

In our view, Yglesias slightly overstates the press corps’ deference to Candidate Bush. He understates the war which was waged against Candidate Gore.

That said, Yglesias is telling an astonishing story of journalistic misconduct. Beyond that, he says this story was the “formative experience of [his] political life.”

Yglesias makes an important point as his report continues. He notes that the current coverage of Candidates Clinton and Bush seems to be following the unholy pattern he observed during Campaign 2000.

We think he’s basically right about that. For that reason, we ask a basic question:

Yglesias describes grotesque journalistic misconduct in the coverage of Campaign 2000. If the conduct was so bad—if it was the formative experience of his political life—why is he telling this story now? Why hasn’t he told this remarkable story many times in the past?

To his credit, Yglesias tells a forbidden story at the start of that piece for Vox. It’s a version of the forbidden story Bill Clinton told on CNN last weekend.

This forbidden story helps explain why we may have a President Rubio in our future. If you can’t understand that simple fact, you need to stop following politics.

Bill Clinton tells this forbidden story at fairly regular intervals. When he does, career liberal journalists all agree—they must pretend not to notice.

Some sixteen years later, Yglesias spilled. Tomorrow, a fairly obvious question:

Why did the gentleman wait?

Tomorrow: In some ways, the same old conduct, Yglesias correctly says

Supplemental: Chuck Todd’s latest pitiful fails!


First Clinton, then Fiorina:
Yesterday morning, on Meet the Press, Chuck Todd interviewed Candidates Clinton and Fiorina.

If what we saw is the best he can do, then heaven help our poor sub-standard grossly incompetent nation.

How bad was Todd’s performance? Below, you see his first question for Candidate Clinton, just as delivered, word for word.

This is actually what he said. As best we could tell, this was supposed to be English:
TODD (9/27/15): Let me start with a piece of sound, it’s Meet the Press. This is what you said on Meet the Press seven years ago about transparency.

CLINTON (videotape): I want to have a much more transparent government and I think we now have the tools to make that happen. I want to have as much information about the way our government operates on the Internet. So the people who pay for it, the taxpayers of America, can see that.

TODD: A year later, This server—started private server.

Had every government agency had did what you did at the State Department, there would be a lot of information that wasn’t in the public.
Do you see that now as a problem as far as the public is concerned?
To watch the whole interview, click here.

“Had every government agency had did what you did at the State Department, there would be a lot of information that wasn’t in the public?”

We swear to God, that’s what he said. We’ve edited the official transcript to make it more accurate. We think we’ve presented the sentence structure to reflect what was actually said.

Everybody gets tongue-tied now and again, but this was Todd’s first question of the entire program! Clinton went ahead and gave the same first answer she would have given had her host managed to ask a coherent question about this topic, which begs for clarification.

All in all, Todd did a very poor job formulating questions about this murky topic, which begs for clarification one way or the other. By the way, how well did Todd prepare himself? We were struck by this highlighted question:
TODD: I guess what I’m trying to figure out is, if you said in March that the e-mail system began in March of ’09 yet but we have the same e-mail address popping up in January, explain that discrepancy.

CLINTON: There was a transition period. I wasn’t that focused on my e-mail account, to be clear here.

TODD: Let me stop you there. You say you weren’t focused on it. Except this seemed to be— To put an e-mail server at your house is not a—it’s a complicated thing.

CLINTON: Yes, but it was already there. It had been there for years. It is the system that my husband’s personal office used when he got out of the White House. And so it was sitting there in the basement. It was not any trouble at all. I know there are a lot of people who are questioning that, but the fact is that it was there. I added my account to it.
Has Todd been watching too much Morning Joe? He seemed to think that Clinton created the private server from scratch when she got the job at State.

This doesn’t affect the charges which have been made, correctly or otherwise, about Clinton’s email practices. But does Todd have any idea what he’s talking about?

Todd managed to ask one coherent question about the email matter, concerning Clinton's possible interest in foiling FOIA requests. When Clinton gave a fuzzy answer, he didn’t follow up.

Later in the interview, Todd revived the traditional Meet the Press practice of playing tape of past statements by his guest to make her look like a flip-flopper.

Last week, he didn’t play any videotape of Candidate Trump’s years of grotesque birtherism. Yesterday, he helped us see that Clinton, like a string of major Dem pols from President Obama on down, holds a different position on same-sex marriage today than she did in 2004.

Last week, Todd ran and hid from Candidate Trump. He revived The Ghost of Russert Past when faced with Candidate Clinton. And when he interviewed Fiorina, his performance was that much worse.

Todd started with a series of bungled questions about the anti-Planned Parenthood tapes. At the last GOP debate, Fiorina made a gross misrepresentation of the now-famous tapes.

Since then, she has aggressively, weirdly doubled down on her glaring misstatements.

Like others before him, Todd asked Fiorina if she was willing to cop to the truth. Once again, her answer was puzzling, peculiar:
TODD: Let me start right in with the Planned Parenthood situation. At the debate, the most recent debate, you described the following scene, claiming it was on a tape, “a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.” Since then, when asked about the claim, your campaign has attacked Planned Parenthood. But there is no tape. There is no evidence that the scene you described exists. Are you willing now to concede that you exaggerated that scene?

FIORINA: No, not at all. That scene absolutely does exist, and that voice saying what I said they were saying, "we're going to keep it alive to harvest its brain," exists as well. Here’s the thing. Yesterday—

TODD: So you saw that moment on the tape?

FIORINA: —I was at a football game—

TODD: You saw that moment on the tape?

FIORINA: Yes, and I would challenge Planned Parenthood. Here’s the deal...
Fiorina proceeded to launch an attack on Planned Parenthood, introducing new misstatements while changing the subject from past misstatements about the videotape.

To watch the full interview, click this.

Todd tried, several more times, to make her address the question of the videotape. At the point we highlight below, she turned him into a puddle:
TODD: But you are ducking the specific of this question. And I guess I’m trying—

FIORINA: I’m not. I am not—am not ducking—

TODD: A Washington Post editorial is calling it a full-fledged falsehood, Ms. Fiorina. They're saying that it doesn’t excuse your mistruths. They say they understand you have a deeply held belief on abortion but that you're exaggerating this specific claim.

FIORINA: No. Well, first of all, the Washington Post also claims that I’m lying about being a secretary, so let’s get real. I mean I don't even know how to deal with that. I was a secretary part-time to put myself through college and full-time after I graduated. The Washington Post gave me three Pinocchios for claiming that I was a secretary. So honestly, I don’t think the Washington Post has a lot of credibility here...
Fiorina thundered further against the Post. Defeated, Todd gave up.

Citizens, can we talk? Presumably, Todd is paid a seven-figure salary. Does he have a telephone in his office? Access to the Net?

If so, he could have called Fiorina’s campaign and asked them to specify where the footage in question can be seen. After that, he could have played the videotape and watched the farking footage himself!

Lazily, incompetently, Todd didn’t bother with that. Instead, he fell back on what the Washington Post had said about the videotape. This let Fiorina denounce the Post as a gang of liars—liars who are presumably filled with liberal bias and hatred for the world’s children!

By now, the analysts were crying and softly consoling themselves. We turned to them and delivered a verdict:

“Had every Sunday host had did what he did at Meet the Press, there would be a lot of information that wasn’t in the public!”

No really! That’s what we actually said!

FORBIDDEN STORY: Bill Clinton speaks!


Part 1—So does Matt Yglesias:
For decades, the liberal world has almost uniformly agreed. When it comes to the mainstream press corps’ behavior, telling the truth is forbidden.

That said, there seems to be a great deal of truth to what Bill Clinton said.

Clinton spoke this weekend on CNN, a cable news channel. He told a forbidden story again, as he does every few years.

On this occasion, he didn’t tell every part of the forbidden story. On this occasion, he omitted one part of the apparently accurate tale.

That said, there seemed to be a great deal of truth to everything the ex-president said. He was interviewed by Fareed Zakaria, who let the ex-president speak at length, then played a tiny dumb.

What was Bill Clinton talking about? The former president's forbidden story began with this exchange:
ZAKARIA (9/27/15): There will be a new president in 2017, January. You're, some would say, the most skilled student of American politics. Why do you think Hillary Clinton is having a tougher time than many imagined? The lead in the national polls has narrowed. Iowa and New Hampshire seem tough.

CLINTON: Well, I think you know why. I think you know why.
Oof! That was a slightly rude way to start, with the suggestion that Zakaria was playing it just a bit dumb.

From there, Clinton proceeded to tell the story—the story we liberals have agreed not to tell. Our view? Because we’ve agreed to bury this story, we now have a very good chance of electing a President Rubio next year.

Clinton started by telling a story—a story he’s told before. It takes us back to 1991—to the start of the journalistic era we liberals have agreed to disappear:
CLINTON (continuing directly): In 1992, I received a call, before—in ’91, before I started running for president—from the Bush White House, from the man on duty. He said, “We’ve looked at the field. You're the only one that can win. The press has to have someone every election, we’re going to give them you. You better not run.”

So all of a sudden, something nobody thought was an issue, Whitewater, that turned out never to be an issue, went up to being at $70 million investigation.
And all the hammering happened and you ask voters, “Do you really believe this, this amounts to anything?”


“But do you trust him as much?”

“No. There must be something.”

So this is just something that has been a regular feature of our presidential campaigns—except 2008, for unique reasons. Ever since Watergate, something like this happens. So, I’d rather it happen now than later, and it was always going to happen.
Did that phone call actually happen as described? We can’t tell you that.

Has this sort of thing been a regular feature of our presidential campaigns? In some ways, it pretty much has. And uh-oh!

As Clinton continued, he told an unholy story involving the press—an unholy story that rings especially true this year. As he spoke, he chose to omit one basic part of the story:
CLINTON (continuing directly): The other party doesn’t want to run against her and if they do, they'd like her as mangled up as possible. And they know that if they leak things, say things, that that is catnip to the people who get bored talking about what’s your position on student loan relief or dealing with the shortage of mental health care or what to do with the epidemic of prescription drugs and heroin out in America, even in small towns of rural America. Or how are you going to get jobs into coal country, given how much they’ve lost in the last twenty years?

So that just happens. It always happens. We’re seeing history repeat itself. And I actually am amazed that she’s borne up under it as well as she has. But I have never seen so much expended on so little.
According to ex-president Clinton, the GOP wants to see Candidate Clinton get “as mangled up as possible.” For that reason, they’ve ginned up a scandal tale in which he has “never seen so much expended on so little.”

In certain basic ways, that part of the story seems obvious. Democrats would like to see Republican candidates get all mangled up too!

In the second part of that story, the former president told a tale which doesn’t derive from common sense and can’t be squared with what it says in civics texts. He said the press corps has pushed this overblown scandal tale because they’re empty, fatuous people—because they “get bored talking about what’s your position on student loan relief or dealing with the shortage of mental health care,” or about any serious issues at all.

According to eighth-grade civics textbooks, that can’t be the way the American press corps functions. But alas! If you’ve ever watched the corps in action, you know that Clinton had just expressed the most obvious fact in the world.

That said, the former president wasn’t yet done with his critique of the press corps. According to Clinton, the press corps has vastly overblown its treatment of the email matter. As he continued, he offered a second reason for their conduct:
CLINTON: You know, at the beginning of the year she was the most admired person in public life and she earned it. Why? Because she was being covered by people who reported on what she was doing. The New START treaty, the Iran sanctions, tripling the number of people on AIDS getting medicine for no more tax money. America was—when she left office, our approval rating was more than twenty points higher than it had previously been.

What happened? The presidential campaign happened. And the nature of the coverage shifted from issue-based to political.

And it happened. You can't complain. This is not—this is a contact sport. They're not giving the job away. And people who wanted a race wanted her to drop some. And people in the other party desperately wanted it because she’s already put out more positions on more issues and said how she would pay for them I think based on the others combined, based on the two—the Republicans based on the two debates I saw.
According to Clinton, “people who wanted a race wanted her to drop some.” Presumably, he referred to the press corps itself. Moments later, he said it again, clearing up any uncertainty as to who he meant:
CLINTON: I think that there are lots of people who wanted there to be a race for different reasons. And they thought the only way they could make it a race was a full-scale frontal assault on her. And so this email story became the biggest thing in the world.
Would our journalists really tilt their campaign coverage because they “want a race?” According to eighth-grade civics books, that sort of thing could never happen in the American press corps.

But alas! Not infrequently, major journalist have actually said that they tend to cover campaigns that way. In the current circumstance, the trashing of Clinton and the relentless selling of Biden neatly fit the pattern to which these scribes have copped.

The ex-president said some unflattering things about the American press corps. That said, there’s one part of the forbidden story he plainly chose to leave out.

He chose to omit a long-standing claim—the claim that the mainstream press corps has an animus against the Clintons. This brings us to a second person who recently told a version of this forbidden tale.

We refer to Matt Yglesias, a 34-year-old upper-end journalist who currently writes for Vox. Two week ago, he told a slightly different version of the forbidden story.

Has the press corps been conducting journalistic scams in our presidential elections? Has the press corps been doing so on a regular basis, as Bill Clinton said?

Two weeks ago, Yglesias said that one such journalistic scam was “the formative experience of my political life.” He described the war the press corps conducted in 1999 and 2000, the war against Candidate Gore.

Yglesias was telling a forbidden story—an extremely important story the liberal world has widely agreed not to tell. It was a version of President Clinton’s story—a story the American people have rarely been permitted to hear.

Yglesias said the press corps’ misconduct in Campaign 2000 was “the formative experience of my political life.” For us, this raised an obvious question:

Has he ever told this story before? We searched twenty-two pages of Google results. We haven’t found it yet.

Tomorrow: Telling the truth very slowly

Supplemental: But the NAEP conducts two high school studies!


Which study is correct:
Are high school seniors doing better in math? We have no way of knowing!

We do know where the data are. The best data, from the so-called “Main NAEP,” seem to suggest that high school seniors are doing better in math—have been recording score gains in math over the past twenty-five years.

“Hold on!” the dead-enders will cry. What about the other NAEP study? What about the smaller score gains on the so-called Long-Term Trend Assessment?

The question is perfectly valid. In the study that’s called the Main NAEP, the NAEP tests high school seniors in reading and math. In the study that’s called the Long-Term Trend Assessment, the NAEP tests 17-year-old students, no matter what grade they’re in. (Most are juniors or sophomores.)

The two NAEP studies use different math tests. Because we read American newspapers, we’ve never encountered a real attempt to explain the difference between the math tests.

It’s our impression that the Main NAEP test is geared to the math curriculum as it currently exists, while the Long-Term Trend math test has largely stayed the same over its forty-plus years of use.

Warning! That’s our impression, but it could be totally wrong. As noted, we read the American press corps, which uses the NAEP, almost exclusively, as a vehicle for driving narratives about our failing schools, which clearly ought to be charters.

(For the record, we aren’t opposed to charter schools in any way at all. We are opposed to ludicrous claims which get made on their behalf.)

Whatever! The Main NAEP tests students in Grade 12. The Long-Term Trend Assessment tests students 17-year-old students—mostly juniors and sophomores.

Here’s the conundrum—score gains have been larger in math on the Main NAEP. Indeed, 17-year-old black students have recorded no score gains in math at all on the Long-Term Trend Assessment.

Adjusting for a procedural change which occurred in 2004, this is what score gains look like on the Long-Term Trend Assessment:
Gains in average math scores, 1990-2012
Long-Term Trend Assessment, 17-year-old students
National public schools

White students: 6.74 points
Black students: -0.32 points
Hispanic students: 8.45 points
Asian-American students: 19.84 points
For whites and Hispanics, those score gains aren’t huge, though they also aren’t non-existent. For black kids, there are no score gains at all.

A different pattern seems to obtain for black kids on the Grade 12 Main NAEP. And just for the record, these are the score gains recorded by 13-year-old and 9-year-old students on the Long-Term Trend Assessment:
Gains in average math scores, 1990-2012
Long-Term Trend Assessment, 13-year-old students
National public schools

White students: 18.33 points
Black students: 19.17 points
Hispanic students: 18.22 points
Asian-American students: 41.43 points

Gains in average math scores, 1990-2012
Long-Term Trend Assessment, 9-year-old students
National public schools

White students: 19.31 points
Black students: 22.25 points
Hispanic students: 20.95 points
Asian-American students: 30.75 points
Judged by normal rules of thumb, those are large score gains. (Warning! There’s a very large Standard Error for Asian-American scores in 1990, when the “N” for that group was small.)

Thirteen-year old students have recorded large gains on the Long-Term Trend math test. The same is true for 9-year-old students.

That's true of black students in each group. This leads to some obvious questions:

Why have score gains on the Long-Term Trend been smaller among 17-year-old students? Why have 17-year-old black students shown no gains at all?

Black kids have shown substantial gains everywhere else, including at all grade levels on the Main NAEP. Why are scores for 17-year-old black students flat? Why are gains by white and Hispanic students relatively small at that age?

We don’t know how to answer those questions. We’ll stick with our standard excuse:

Such questions are never asked by the American press, which never presents a serious discussion of any such topics at all. Quite plainly, the American press corps uses the NAEP in exactly one way—to cherry-pick data in support of the claim that our schools are stagnant or failing.

Some journalists may be doing this deliberately. Almost surely, most of our “education reporters” have never looked at a set of NAEP scores in their lives. They simply channel the standard claims which come to them from “educational experts,” almost all of whom are on the dole from Bill Gates and the rest of the billionaire “education reform” funder class.

As far as we know, Gates is fully sincere in his efforts. But on the whole, the narratives which control our discourse about public schools serve corporate and political interests which are blatantly obvious. It’s all about spreading gloom and doom and refusing to report the overall, rather large gains in test scores.

Why are math scores somewhat flatter among high school students on the Long-Term Trend? We have no idea! It may be because of the nature of the math test used in that study. If we had an actual press corps, somebody would have asked!

Why have black students recorded large score gains in math at ages 9 and 13, but not at age 17? Just a guess—the effects of declining drop-out rates would be in effect at age 17. For various reasons, we’ll guess that the black student population might have been more affected by that (desirable) change than the other three groups. Why haven’t reporters asked?

We’ll finish with a basic point, the most basic point of all:

Our mainstream “education reporting” is largely propaganda. It has been that way for a very long time. Whatever anyone’s intentions may be, it’s clear what interests are served.

You’re gloomily told, again and again, that our schools are stagnant or failing. You’re told that miraculous Finland is just sooo much better.

You’re told that nothing has worked in our schools. You’re told that we need more charter schools and a whole lot more “reform!”

Overwhelmingly, the pattern on our “federal tests” is hard to square with that narrative. For that reason, you’re never told about the score gains which predominate in both NAEP testing programs.

Routinely, you’re told about the gaps; the gains go unreported. When reporters do talk about gains, they turn to the Long-Term Trend Assessment, 17-year-olds only.

That’s what Michael Petrilli did in that horrible blog post. And by the way, note this:

Above, we said we were “adjusting for a procedural change which occurred in 2004.” At that time, the NAEP introduced “accommodations” which let them test kids with certain types of challenges—a relatively small group of kids whose counterparts hadn’t been tested before that.

Even with “accommodations,” including these kids in the NAEP tends to drive average scores down a few points. If you forget to make the basic adjustments, you’re absent-mindedly making test scores look “flatter” over the years.

Michael Petrilli forgot! If you look at his graphic for 17-year-old students, you’ll see a superscript 1 (essentially, an asterisk) appended to the scores for years before 2004.

But he never explains what the asterisk means! What kind of “expert,” in any field, conducts his business like that?

The asterisk meant he was flattening scores, in line with standard procedure. For many years, that has been the primary business of our “education experts” and the reporters who peddle their scripts.

They won’t tell you about score gains. Instead, they happily say that we need charter schools.

For ourselves, we aren’t opposed to charter schools. We are opposed to scams.

Where do test scores come from: For all data from the Long-Term Trend Assessment, just follow these easy steps:

First, click this. Then, click on LTT NDE (Long-Term Trend NAEP Data Explorer).

Click on “I agree to the terms above.” From there, you’re on your own! It’s just like Dylan said!

BLACK KIDS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS: A fuller set of Grade 12 scores!


Part 5—In our view, black gains matter:
For the past several weeks, we’ve been reviewing the annual back-to-school gong-show performed by the mainstream press corps.

It happens every autumn! Incompetent, semi-literate journalists roll their eyes and wring their hands about the alleged semi-literacy of the nation’s 9-year-old public school kids.

Those scribes! They cherry-pick their statistics and bungle their logic—and they stick to approved elite scripts. This year, we the people been encouraged to enjoy these familiar old tales:
This year’s Dick-and-Jane narratives:
1) Our high school seniors are dumber than ever. We need more charter schools!
2) Black kids get suspended from school way too much. It’s mainly because of you-know-who in thirteen Southern states!
3) The switch to charter schools in New Orleans has produced amazing results! My wife works for a charter school org. We need more charter schools!
In fairness, it isn’t just the journalists who have produced these novelized tales:

In the past few weeks, we’ve visited two professors at Penn who produced an horrific study. We’ve reviewed a blog post by an “educational expert” whose expertise is largely confined to slippery sleights of hand.

That said, the journalists always seem to rise to the challenges posed by professors and experts. With regard to that bungled study of those thirteen Southern states, a range of journos at major news orgs leaped to advance the professors’ bungled suggestions.

In some cases, the journalists introduced stunning new errors into the pre-bungled work. But it occurred to none of these journalists to note one basic fact:

More than half the nation’s black kids attend school in those thirteen states! We saw no one cite that fact, which destroys the professors’ familiar and pleasing old tale.

Have worms been eating our journalists’ brains? If so, they’re skinny, wan.

At any rate, the astounding illiteracy of our press corps can’t be discussed in the press. For years, they’ve simply continued to cherry-pick facts to advance their controlling scripts:

Nothing is working in our schools! It’s all because of our public school teachers with their infernal unions!

Why can’t we be more like Finland? We need a lot more charter schools and a whole lot more “reform!”

Journalists love these memorized tales! At the Washington Post, Nick Anderson and his unnamed editors pimped this general script with a September 3 front-page report about the dumbness and decline of our high school seniors.

It wasn’t just those average SAT scores, Anderson said—failing to note an obvious reason why those scores have shown a small decline in recent years. It’s also the “generally stagnant results from high schools on federal tests.”

Or so Anderson wrote. Good God, but these high school seniors are dumb! What the heck explains the mess in These High Schools Today?

As noted, Anderson was explicitly writing about high school seniors. The “federal tests” to which he referred were, one might thereby assume, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which tests twelfth-graders as part of the study which bears this name:

“Main NAEP.”

Have Grade 12 scores been stagnant on the Main NAEP? Last week, we showed you the score gains in Grade 12 math over the past decade. We also explained a basic shortcoming of the Grade 12 Main NAEP in math:

The math test was changed in 2005, creating a statistical gap. Changes in average scores can be observed from 2005 forward. But the NAEP provides no way to compare those scores to scores obtained on the previous math test, which was last given in the year 2000.

That said, we thought we’d give you a larger look at Grade 12 scores down through the years. As Ed McMahon might have said to Johnny:

How stagnant have they been?

Below, you see the score gains recorded from 1990 through 2000 on the original Main NAEP math test. Then, you see the score gains recorded from 2005 through 2013 on the new math test.

We then total the score gains for the eighteen years, over two time spans, which we can review. Important context follows:
Gains in average scores, 1990-2000
Main NAEP, Grade 12 math
National public schools

White students: 7.10 points
Black students: 6.11 points
Hispanic students: 6.61 points
Asian-American students: 6.86 points

Gains in average scores, 2005-2013
Main NAEP, Grade 12 math
National public schools

White students: 4.32 points
Black students: 5.24 points
Hispanic students: 7.67 points
Asian-American students: 11.08 points

Overall gains in average scores, two time spans
Main NAEP, Grade 12 math
National public schools

White students: 11.42 points
Black students: 11.34 points
Hispanic students: 14.28 points
Asian-American students: 17.94 points
A basic bit of context:

Ten points on the NAEP scale is often compared to one academic year. We regard that as a very rough rule of thumb. But it provides a very rough way to imagine what score gains of this size might suggest.

(If some newspaper would break the code of silence and report and discuss the NAEP score gains, we might end up learning more about all such questions.)

A second important point:

These score gains were being recorded as the nation’s drop-out rate was declining.

In the blog post to which we referred, Michael Petrilli explained how this desirable trend might tend to depress average scores over time:
PETRILLI (9/3/15): One explanation [for allegedly stagnant high school achievement] could be America’s rising graduation rate. Students who would have previously dropped out are now staying in school and remaining in the NAEP sample, thereby dragging down the scores. That sounds plausible to me...
Our view? Those Grade 12 score gains look substantial to us as they are. Beyond that, the actual size of the academic achievement may have been disguised by the improved graduation rate, which tends to “drag down” average scores.

Please note: These are the only “federal tests” which measure the achievement of high school seniors. Interpretation of these data has always been made complex by the likely effect of the changing drop-out rate. But let’s note two points about these data:

First point: Even in Grade 12, the Main NAEP seems to record substantial score gains in math. In Grade 4 and Grade 8, the recorded score gains have been larger.

Second point: The public isn’t allowed to know that these score gains exist. Very few people have ever heard about these large score gains.

What follows is an important fact—an important fact you’ve virtually never seen in the national press:

In the past several decades, black kids have shown large score gains in reading and math. (Hispanic kids have shown large score gains too.) Our “achievement gaps” still exist because white kids have also shown significant score gains, although their gains haven’t been as large.

That almost sounds like important good news—but the public isn’t allowed to hear it. Mainstream reporting on public schools is driven by mandated narratives:

Nothing is working in our schools! High school achievement is pitifully stagnant!

It’s all the fault of our public school teachers! Charter orgs need to expand!

Is achievement by high school seniors stagnant? That’s what Anderson gloomily said, on the front page of the Post.

Before long, Kevin Drum was saying it too. For reasons the analysts can’t understand, their Uncle Drum always seems to revert to that line, which would be a decent point to examine as part of as well-balanced meal.

As the analysts wail, they choke out a claim: He’s cherry-picking his federal tests!

There’s a bit of truth to what they say, we’re glumly forced to admit. Why run straight to the Long-Term Trend Assessment when the Main NAEP is right there for review?

Do America’s high school seniors know more math than their counterparts did in the past?

We don't have the slightest idea, but the Grade 12 score gains seem to suggest that they do. And good God! At Grades 4 and 8, the score gains have been larger!

Do black kids’ score gains actually matter? Aside from the need to make lots of money while busting up the last major unions, why can’t the public be told about what these great kids have achieved?

Black kids are doing better in school. Do facts about black kids matter?

Supplemental: Things you won’t hear on Morning Joe!


Along with the bullshit you will:
It’s amazing to watch the way the multimillionaire corporate pundit corps functions.

A case in point would be last evening’s Hardball. Chris Matthews had assembled a rather strange panel for a discussion about Candidate Clinton—Republican strategist Matt Schlapp; center right columnist Kathleen Parker; and Michelle Bernard, the all-time anti-Clinton dead-ender in June 2008.

(Bernard is very attractive and very personable. In early 2008, she flipped from being a conservative activist to being a pro-Obama crusader. By that June, she had become the ultimate anti-Clinton dead-ender.)

The overall tilt of last night's panel was perhaps a bit strange. That said, the discussion of Clinton produced a grotesque moment from Matthews himself.

Matthews asked his panel for “the worst scenario” which could emerge from the email mess. Parker mentioned Benghazi. Eventually, this exchange occurred:
MATTHEWS (9/23/15): What did she do in Benghazi?

SCHLAPP: She lied on every Sunday show right after—

MATTHEWS: What does that have to do with what happened?


MATTHEWS: I know your trick. Somehow because they didn’t come clean afterwards, that—

SCHLAPP: But do you think it’s okay to go on the Sunday shows and came up with a lie?

MATTHEWS: No! But it didn’t cause anyone to get killed!
In that exchange, you see Matthews agreeing with a Republican strategist—agreeing with him about a major, three-year old propaganda point.

What did the administration do in the aftermath of Benghazi? “They didn’t come clean afterwards,” Matthews affirmatively said.

He also plainly agreed with this: They “went on the Sunday shows and came up with a lie.”

Of one thing you can be certain. Matthews hasn’t spent ten seconds in his whole life examining these claims. He doesn’t know what was said on those Sunday programs. He doesn’t know anything about the current state of the intelligence as regards what actually happened in the Benghazi attacks.

He doesn’t know if anyone “lied.” He doesn’t know what anyone said. He doesn’t know what the intelligence community eventually judged about the genesis of the attack. For whatever reason, he has merely come around to thinking that the stance he adopted last night is the best way to proceed.

Here’s the pathetic part in all this—Matthews actually thought he was defending Clinton in that exchange. Even after the reinvention which let him continue at MSNBC after the channel went pseudo-liberal, Matthews is, without any question, one of the worst of all time.

Currently battling him for that title are the horrible tandem of Mika and Joe. Their conduct this week has been astounding, disgraceful, surreal.

On the one hand, the pair has spent the entire week pimping a new Republican line, according to which the claim that Obama was secretly Muslim was actually started by Hillary Clinton. The claim is absurd, but the twin assassins began to pimp it on Monday morning. They’ve kept it up all week.

(Mika was “away” this morning.)

The claim that Clinton started this whisper campaign turns in large part on her 60 Minutes appearance from early March 2008. For whatever reason, Steve Kroft kept asking her, again and again, if she thought Obama was Muslim.

She kept saying no. He kept asking, again and again. Eventually, Clinton said “no” in a way which could be used against her.

It’s being exploited again this week. As you know, script never dies.

You’re seeing parts of that 60 Minutes tape on Morning Joe, along with a lot of accusations. Here’s what you haven’t seen on Morning Joe this week:

Any footage of Donald Trump’s endless birther tirades from 2011 and 2012. You haven’t even heard any quotations from those repeated tirades, in which Obama's place of birth and his religion were questioned.

We’re not sure that Mika and Joe have even mentioned the fact that those repeated tirades occurred. For whatever reason, Mika and Joe have been deeply in the bag for Candidate Trump this week.

For a quick idea of how this looks, we’ll recommend that you watch this tape from Monday’s Morning Joe.

As the segment starts, the panel is pounding Candidate Carson for his anti-Muslim remarks on the previous day’s Meet the Press. But uh-oh! Around the three-minute mark, the producers actually play some tape of Candidate Trump from the same Meet the Press. Trump is shown making these unfortunate remarks:
TODD (9/20/15): Can you imagine supporting or being comfortable if a Muslim ever became president of the United States?

TRUMP: I can say that, you know, it’s something that at some point could happen. We will see. I mean, you know, it’s something that could happen. Would I be comfortable? I don't know if we have to address it right now, but I think it is certainly something that could happen.

TODD: You said you had no problem putting a Muslim in our cabinet.

TRUMP: I mean, some people have said it already happened, frankly. But, of course, you wouldn’t agree with that.
Oof! Trump was performing an obvious dog whistle. And then, omigod! Right after playing that tape, the producers turned the cameras on Mika!

Mika completely freezes. Everyone has been savaging Carson; suddenly, Mika can’t think of a single thing to say about Candidate Trump! An awkward, peculiar silence ensues as she tries to figure what to do.

Finally, Heilemann steps in to save the day! He simply goes back to trashing Carson, thereby taking this cup from Mika, who is one of the worst of all time.

We’re sending the analysts out of the room so we can speak in the first person singular:

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a “cable news” program where the propaganda has been so naked, so thoroughly undisguised. An undisguised assassination is being attempted on Morning Joe. And even as this campaign occurs, Mika and Joe are deferring to Trump in a similarly undisguised way.

Did Hillary Clinton start the claim that Obama is Muslim? The claim is absurd, as Dave Weigel explained to Chris Hayes last night.

Still, Establishment Washington’s Clinton-loathing goes back a very long way. It’s being enacted on Morning Joe in a remarkably naked way.

You may recall a similar episode from the War Against Gore in 1999. These horrible people all stood in line to say it was really Candidate Gore who started the Willie Horton race-baiting episode in 1988, not the Bush campaign or any supporter or surrogate.

That was a ludicrous claim; this is ludicrous too. But these are deeply horrible people. In November and December 1999, they stood in line to say it.

It had been a right-wing line since 1992, when George Will had unveiled it. Now, a long line of mainstream press figures stood in line to recite.

These are horrible people, figures straight out of I Claudius. If you doubt that, just watch Mika any morning as she plays the role of “reluctant liberal” in her program’s undisguised attempt to take Clinton out.

These are deeply horrible people—false and faux all the way down.



Part 4—New Orleans allegedly rising:
We were struck by a fleeting remark in yesterday’s New York Times. It appeared in Eduardo Porter’s weekly column in the weekly Business Day section.

The headline on Porter’s column said this: “Education Gap Widens Between Rich and Poor.” Gloomily, Porter noted a fact we’ve discussed before—according to Stanford’s Professor Reardon, achievement gaps are widening between kids at the very top of the family income scale and kids at the very bottom.

Porter always digs into matters of substance. This explains why his weekly columns are never discussed. At the very start of yesterday’s piece, we were struck by these passages:
PORTER (9/23/15): The wounds of segregation were still raw in the 1970s. With only rare exceptions, African-American children had nowhere near the same educational opportunities as whites.

The civil rights movement, school desegregation and the War on Poverty helped bring a measure of equity to the playing field. Today, despite some setbacks along the way, racial disparities in education have narrowed significantly. By 2012, the test-score deficit of black 9-, 13- and 17-year-olds in reading and math had been reduced as much as 50 percent compared with what it was 30 to 40 years before.


For all the progress in improving educational outcomes among African-American children, the achievement gaps between more affluent and less privileged children is wider than ever, notes Sean Reardon of the Center for Education Policy Analysis at Stanford. Racial disparities are still a stain on American society, but they are no longer the main divider. Today the biggest threat to the American dream is class.
We were struck by this part of Porter’s column. Here’s why:

We’ll take a guess! Very few New York Times readers have ever heard about the alleged “progress in improving educational outcomes among” black kids to which Porter refers. They’ve never heard that the achievement gaps between white and black kids, in both reading and math, “have been reduced as much as 50 percent compared with” where they stood in 1975 or 1985.

Has the Times ever published a news report concerning these little-known statistical facts? Has the Times ever provided a basic analysis of these facts, which seem to describe very important news?

Our questions continue. Has the New York Times ever reported the reason why those achievement gaps still exist? (Even as black kids’ test scores improve, white kids’ test scores have risen too, although not as much.) Has any columnist at the Times ever discussed these facts?

Do New York Times readers have any knowledge of these basic facts? Overwhelmingly, we would assume that they don’t.

Within the organs of our mainstream press, these basic facts are almost never reported or analyzed. That’s true at the New York Times—and it’s true everywhere else. People don’t hear about black kids’ score gains. Their score gains have been disappeared.

Mainstream reporting about public schools has been dominated by gloomy narratives for a very long time. Encouraging facts get disappeared. Gloomy facts get invented.

Nothing is working in our schools! This gloomy narrative has controlled mainstream “reporting” for many years at this point. But an equal-but-opposite, miracle narrative has also been popular down through the years.

Jonathan Chait went there last month when he discussed the current state of the New Orleans schools.

Please understand! We’re not saying that Chait was wrong in what he wrote about New Orleans, although he certainly may be. We’re saying that he offered a very familiar tale—a tale we’ve heard many times through the years—and that this familiar type of tale has routinely turned out to be wrong.

Did Chait really pen a miracle tale about the public schools of New Orleans? We think he was flirting with such pixie dust. This is the way he started:
CHAIT (8/24/15): The creation of high-achieving urban charter schools is one of the most impressive triumphs of American social policy. For all the success of the New Deal and the Great Society in ameliorating the hunger and deprivation of deep poverty, it has had but modest success breaking the power of social systems that allow affluent families to sustain their children in the same social class, while poor children cannot escape theirs. In a short period of time, urban charters have yielded impressive, even astonishing, success at closing the academic achievement gap between the poorest children and more privileged ones. The management of charter schools varies widely, but in urban centers, where education reformers have concentrated most of their energy, their performance has been especially strong. A major study earlier this year, carefully comparing equivalent student populations, found that urban charters on the whole produce an extra 40 days of classroom learning—eight weeks—in math, and 28 days of extra classroom learning in reading per student per year.

Nowhere has this revolution had a more dramatic impact than in New Orleans, because nowhere has reform been carried out with such breadth. Ten years ago, Hurricane Katrina wiped out huge swaths of the city’s infrastructure and displaced its population, a disaster that paradoxically gave the city the chance to redesign its failing school system. Rather than re-create the neighborhood-based schools that had recapitulated generations of poverty, the city created a network of public charter schools. The charters, which have open admission and public accountability, have produced spectacular results.
We’ve read many such stories in the past forty years—sometimes about individual schools, sometimes about whole systems. Again and again, such miracle tales have turned out to be wrong.

Again and again, it has turned out that credulous, true-believing non-specialists had fallen for some sort of con. We can’t say that Chait is the latest such rube. But we also can’t say that he isn’t.

(Remember when we examined one such claim and discovered that the whole state of Virginia was posting embellished test scores? We do remember that!)

Have the charter schools of New Orleans produced “spectacular results?” As he continues, Chait refers to score gains by News Orleans students on Louisiana’s statewide tests—and he relies on a study by local educational experts.

Historically, each strategy is fraught with peril. As a non-specialist, which is not to say rube, Chait may not be aware of such facts.

Black kids have produced major score gains at public schools all over the nation. This fact is almost never reported, but we know of no reason to doubt that this has occurred in New Orleans too.

That said, we know about score gains in other big cities because their school systems take part in the National Assessment of Education Progress (the NAEP). More specifically, they take part in the NAEP’s Trial Urban District Assessment (the TUDA), in which representative samples of public school students from twenty-one cities are tested on the NAEP.

For whatever reason, New Orleans doesn’t take part in the TUDA. A prudent person will regard that as a possible point of concern.

So far, Chait isn’t that person. In his semi-miraculous tale, he simply isn’t sufficiently wary of state-run tests and the educational experts who take their data at face value.

Why must a prudent analyst exhibit these types of caution? In this passage, Chait proved to us that he doesn’t know:
CHAIT: Researchers studying the enormous gains registered in New Orleans have been able to rule out the usual sources of skepticism. The schools are not using stricter discipline to expel higher numbers of troublemakers—the city’s suspension rate is lower than it was before 2005, and also lower than the statewide average. (The system has a citywide process for major discipline, eliminating even the ability of principals to use suspensions to push out low performers.) Nor is New Orleans shortchanging students with disabilities, whose graduation rate in the New Orleans system (60 percent) dramatically exceeds their graduation rate statewide (43 percent). Nor is there any reason to believe the gains have come from schools “teaching to the test”—student performance on tests that have no accountability measures for the staff (such as the ACT) have also risen, as have graduation and college entry rates.
Personally, we’re not opposed to charter schools. We favor all sorts of experiments and efforts. We’re glad that people in New Orleans are trying hard to improve urban schools. It’s our impression that admirable people have done such things all around the nation.

New Orleans may have produced the cure with its new regime of charters. It’s possible that our admirable black kids are making more progress in Big Easy schools than they are anywhere else.

But it’s also possible that they aren’t. And that one highlighted sentence by Chait made all the analysts wail.

Good God! Even after all these years—even after all these cheating scandals—we can’t stop non-specialist true believers from writing about “teaching to the test!”

Those giant scandals in Atlanta and D.C. were not about “teaching to the test.” Those giant scandals were about outright cheating on standardized tests—widespread outright cheating in the pursuit of “spectacular results.”

Those giant cheating scandals involved elaborate “erasure parties.” Teachers and administrators erased wrong answers on students’ answer sheets and replaced them with the right answers.

In our own experience, outright cheating on standardized tests has been occurring for more than forty years. As far back as the early 1980s, the big test companies would scan answer sheets for suspicious erasure patterns if a school system was willing to pay them for the service.

But even after D.C. and Atlanta—even after Superintendents Rhee and Hall—it’s impossible to get potential rubes to confront the nature of the problem. In that passage, Chait added his name to that list.

“Teaching to the test” can be a problem, depending on what you mean by the term. But the scandals in D.C. and Atlanta (and elsewhere) were actually about outright cheating! A scribe who still can’t grasp that fact is offering himself as a rube.

In our public school reporting, we often see education reporters disappear important facts to build tales of gloom and doom. Black kids’ test scores are way up, but you aren’t permitted to know that.

In that familiar narrative, “nothing has worked” in our public schools. Routinely, reporters disappear important facts in order to pimp this claim.

That said, miracle tales have always been popular too. That’s especially true in certain settings, in the case of favored programs.

Remember when we heard those tales about the brilliant work of Rhee? The analysts wailed and tore their hair when they saw that Chait does not.

Tomorrow: One last dose of score gains

Not that there’s anything wrong with it: We can’t say that this full disclosure left us reassured:
CHAIT: Full disclosure: My wife (and chief intellectual influence on education reform), Robin Chait, has worked as a public-school teacher and an education-policy analyst, and works for a public charter school network in Washington.
We’re not opposed to charter schools. We’re opposed to inaccurate claims about same, and to true belief.

Supplemental: Chuck Todd rolls over and dies for Trump!


We live in astonishing times:
We live in remarkable times.

On a major morning show—Morning Joe—an utterly naked propaganda campaign is being waged against Candidate Clinton.

At the same time, the press corps is giving remarkably wide berth to the statements of other candidates. As an example of what we mean, consider the way Chuck Todd rolled over and died on Sunday’s Meet the Press.

Todd was speaking with Candidate Trump, who tosses off howlers in much the way other alleged people breathe. Once again, recent examples:

At last week’s nationally televised debate, he invented “twenty-five stories”—newspaper reports—about the way he says he opposed the war with Iraq.

Those news reports don’t seem to exist. But no one is going to say this to Trump, or ask the great man to provide them.

He has also invented six people who died in the search for Bowe Bergdahl. Last week, he invented “hundreds of thousands” of members of a veterans group—a veterans group which had seemed to endorse him.

On the down side, this alleged veterans group doesn’t exactly seem to exist. And it seems to have no members.

Candidate Trump tosses off howlers in much the way journalists breathe. But even for him, he made a remarkable statement to Todd on Sunday’s Meet the Press.

Our old pal Chuck was asking Trump about the fellow who said, at a town hall last week, that Obama is a Muslim and isn’t even an American. When Todd popped the following question, Trump made a remarkable statement:
TODD (9/20/15): Can you imagine supporting or being comfortable if a Muslim ever became president of the United States?

TRUMP: I can say that, you know, it’s something that at some point could happen. We will see. I mean, you know, it’s something that could happen. Would I be comfortable? I don't know if we have to address it right now, but I think it is certainly something that could happen.

TODD: You said you had no problem putting a Muslim in our cabinet.

TRUMP: I mean, some people have said it already happened, frankly. But, of course, you wouldn’t agree with that. And—
Good God! That was a stunning pair of remarks!

“Some people have said it already happened? But, of course, you wouldn’t agree with that?”

Trump was making no attempt to hide his loud dog-whistles. Even as he spoke to Chuck, he was whistling right in Chuck’s face!

Given his ugly, stupid history as the all-powerful King of the Birthers, it was an astounding pair of remarks. Since it was Sunday, he made them on Meet the Press!

At first, Chuck was almost willing to go there! Trump had played Birther King for years. Chuck almost semi-acknowledged that fact—and Trump answered one part of his question:
TODD (continuing directly): Actually, let’s get to that. Why won’t you concede that the president is a Christian and that the president was born in the United States?

TRUMP: Because I don’t talk about people’s faith. Now, in all fairness, he said he was a Christian and he said he is a Christian. He attended the church of Reverend Wright. And so, you know, I am willing going to take him at his word for that. I have no problem with that.
With Reverend Wright to fall back on, why not concede that point? That said, Trump had served the nation as birther king. He had mainly challenged Obama’s place of birth, not his religious affiliation.

Chuck noticed that Trump had skipped that part of the question. But when he posed that part of his question again, the birther king refused to reply, and Chuck rolled over and died:
TODD (continuing directly): Well, why not take the birth certificate at its word?

TRUMP: Well, I just don’t want to discuss it. I mean frankly, you know, when you get in to these subjects, I want to talk about jobs. I want to talk about the military, I want to talk about the vets and frankly how bad they’re treated. They’re treated like third class citizens. We’re treating the illegal immigrants better than we treat our vets.

And those are the things that I want to talk about. The other is a long, complex subject that I just don’t like talking about, and I won’t talk about it.

TODD: Don’t you think you will have people more open to your message on jobs and the economy if you sort of put that other thing to rest?

TRUMP: No, Chuck I don’t think—I think we have, you know, two things that are totally different. I just don’t discuss it and really it has not been brought up for a long time. You’re bringing it up this morning, but I am into the world of jobs. I’m into the world of military and vets. And frankly I discuss Obamacare because you see what is happening with the premiums—they’re going through the—a lot of problems with Obamacare.

TODD: Two quick questions. This week we’re going to see a lot of world leaders come to the United States, come to Manhattan and hanging out at some of your buildings that you own. Let me start with Vladimir Putin...
After whistling rather loudly again— the subject of Obama’s birth is long and complex, Trump said—he said he didn’t want to discuss it. So Chuck politely moved on.

We think that was a stunning exchange. Here’s why:

For several years, Trump talked and talked—in dishonest, disgraceful ways—about Obama’s place of birth. He even claimed that he had sent investigators to Hawaii. He said the things his agents had found were going to curl our hair.

That was all a lie, of course. But now, as the nation reaps the wages of Trump’s misconduct, Todd never even mentioned the fact that this conduct ever occurred!

Do you remember how Todd’s predecessor, the late Tim Russert, got famous? He got famous by playing tape of various things politicians had said in the past!

Now, Todd refused to even mention one of the most egregious lying campaigns any candidate ever waged. Trump said he wanted to talk about jobs, so Chuck rolled over and purred.

Todd’s refusal to even mention the past was little short of amazing. That’s especially true when you consider the way his highly professional millionaire colleagues are savaging Candidate Clinton.

Do you know who else wants to talk about jobs? Candidate Clinton wants to! But the press is refusing to let that occur. It’s all emails, all the time—or at least it was before the current week.

The week, a propaganda campaign has rolled out in which the questions about Obama’s birth are said to be Clinton’s doing.

The claim is simply absurd on its face. But even as Todd refuses to so much as mention the fact of Trump relentless birtherism, there are Mika and Joe, playing doctored tape of Clinton, accusing her of the crime.

Baby boy Todd rolled over and died. Presumably, he can’t afford to take the risk of losing Candidate Trump as a guest!

But even as Chuck rolls over and dies, Mika and Joe are waging a naked, undisguised war on the other front-runner. Willie Haskell Junior is always there to help.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at tape from their program this week. Especially with those two monsters around, we live in astonishing times.



Part 3—The corps buys a bogus old tale:
On August 25, two professors at Penn—it’s an Ivy League school!—released an important new study.

On the one hand, the study detailed an important state of affairs—an important state of affairs which has long been well known.

On the other hand, the study also seemed to advance a theme which was familiar and tribally thrilling, but was also bogus. Result?

All over the press corps, at major news orgs, American journalists rushed to pimp this familiar, well-memorized tale—a familiar old tale which was pleasing but false.

Nothing will turn on this bungled study, or on the hapless journalism which followed. That said, the episode lets us marvel at the incompetence of the domestic American press corps—more precisely, the incompetence of figures in the press who write about black kids in public schools.

Black kids seem to be doing much better in reading and math. Why is it that we never hear this important fact reported, analyzed or discussed?

In part, it’s because of the gross incompetence of the nation’s education reporters. In part, it’s because of a second obvious fact—nobody cares about black kids!

Quite plainly, nobody care!

In the current episode, let’s start with the Penn professors, who somehow managed to produce one of the worst studies we’ve ever seen.

Penn distributed the press release for the study on Monday, August 25. Two days later, Professor Harper spoke with Frank Stasio of NPR.

For many years, Stasio was a familiar voice on the national program, All Things Considered. Today, he hosts a program, The State of Things, for North Carolina Public Radio.

In his new study, Professor Harper had compiled suspension rates for black kids in our public schools—but he had restricted himself to thirteen Southern states. When Stasio asked him why that was, he received a peculiar reply:
STASIO (8/27/15): You looked at suspension rates of black students across the country, and found— You were focusing on the South. Why was that?

HARPER: We focused on the South because my co-author and I, in looking at the national statistics on black student suspensions, we discovered that 1.2 million black students were suspended from public schools nationally, which in and of itself is a bit of a crisis. But when we got even further into our analyses, we discovered that 55 percent of those suspensions occurred in just thirteen states. And they were in the South.

I’m a Georgia native, and I went to public schools, and was once suspended from a public school that I attended. So, you know, this has both academic and personal implications for me.
He got suspended from a public school in the South, so this was personal for him! We wonder if the poobahs at Penn think that’s an appropiate statement of purpose.

Whatever! Professor Harper’s statement seemed fairly clear—or was it? It sounded like he was saying that he and his co-author had “discovered” an unusually high rate of suspensions in those thirteen Southern states.

“We discovered that 55 percent of those suspensions [of black students] occurred in just thirteen states,” the Ivy League professor said. “And they were in the South.”

It sounded like the professor was saying that black kids get suspended at higher rates in the South than in other parts of the country! It sounded that way, but please parse closely! In fact, Harper didn’t explicitly make that claim that in that stirring remark.

Two days earlier, in the press release, the assertion seemed clearer. Even here, the language was somewhat muddy. But the claim seemed much more clear:
PENN PRESS RELEASE (8/25/15): In schools across the United States, Black students are punished more severely than their peers. But nowhere are Black students suspended or expelled more than in the South. Fifty-five percent of the 1.2 million Black students suspended in the U.S. live in just 13 Southern states.

In a new report, the Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education offers a state-by-state, school district-by-district examination of school discipline for Black students in the South.

Researchers Edward Smith and Shaun Harper found Black students were consistently suspended and expelled at higher rates than their peers across the region. This held true in urban, suburban, and rural districts, for both Black boys and Black girls. The study is an analysis of every public school district in the South, over 3,000.

“The findings in our report point to the residual effects of Jim Crow, slavery, and unequal schooling,” Harper said. "They are further explained by poverty trends, structural inequities in the education workforce, and a longstanding history of racial injustice that cyclically reproduces itself, especially across these 13 Southern states."
It’s true! In absolute numbers, black kids are “suspended or expelled more” “in the South” than in other regions. Having said that, it’s time to note a basic fact which didn’t appear in Harper’s study—or in any of the journalism we've seen about the study, from the New York Times on down.

As far as we know, it’s true! As Professor Harper noted, fifty-five percent of the black students who got suspended in the 2011-12 school year “lived in just 13 Southern states.” But here’s another fact which is true:

Roughly fifty-five percent of the nation's black kids lived in those thirteen states! To all appearances, it never occurred to Professor Harper that he ought to research and report that basic fact.

(For a review of the student population data, see our September 2 report.)

Do American “education reporters” know anything about black kids? Do they know that their math scores are vastly improved? Do they know that, in disproportionate numbers, they attend public schools in the South?

If they know about those math scores, they’ve sworn that they’ll never tell! They’ll simply continue to rattle the preferred elite scripts about our failing schools, our ratty teachers, and our need for more charter schools and more “education reform.”

If they know where black kids actually live, they agreed not to mention the fact when they discussed Professor Harper’s bungled, embarrassing study. Instead, they ran to repeat a tired old tale, a tale they memorized long ago:

Those crackers down South are abusing black kids! That’s where black kids get suspended!

In this case, their pleasing old tale was stupidly wrong. But they showed they knew how to recite!

As we noted yesterday, the journalistic problem began in the New York Times. Like the two professors at Penn, the underwhelming Motoko Rich reported the one basic fact while failing to mention the other.

She noted that “half of all the suspensions and expulsions of black students nationwide occurred” in the “13 Southern states” included in the new study. She failed to note that more than half of all black students nationwide live in those thirteen states.

A thrilling impression was created, right outta In the Heat of the Night. “Education reporters” have seen that film. Soon, they began to type.

Doggone it! At the Christian Science Monitor, staff writer Henry Gass went for the con. We’ll post a large chunk of his report, whose basic claims are simply wrong:
GASS (8/27/15): Black students in Southern states are suspended and expelled at a rate much higher than anywhere else in America, a new report finds.

Of the 1.2 million black students suspended from K-12 public schools across the country, 55 percent occurred in 13 Southern states, according to a report by Edward Smith and Shaun Harper, researchers at the Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

While public schools in those states average more black students than the rest of the country, black students were suspended or expelled at a disproportionately higher rate than black students in other states, according to this analysis of data from the 2011-12 academic year.

The report, released earlier this week, finds that black boys made up 47 percent of suspensions and 44 percent of expulsions from K-12 public schools across those 13 Southern states, while they represented only 35 percent of suspensions and 34 percent of expulsions from those schools nationally.

The initial figure of 1.2 million black student suspensions in a school year was “horrifying,” says Dr. Harper, executive director for the center and a professor at the university's Graduate School of Education.

“But what surprised us most is that 55 percent of those suspensions occurred in just 13 states, and those states were in the South,” he adds.
Professor Harper was most surprised by the fact that “55 percent of those suspensions occurred in just 13 states, and those states were in the South.” He failed to note that 55 percent of the nation’s black kids go to school in those same thirteen states.

Apparently, it didn’t occur to Gass to research this basic fact.

Everybody makes mistakes, but our “education reporters” make this practice their specialty. At a long list of major news orgs, journalists followed this pattern. They reported the one fact with an air of shock and concern while failing to mention the second.

At the Atlantic, a promising young reporter who’s right out of college went for the con in the following way. She specifically cited what she thought she had read in the New York Times:
GREEN (8/26/15): Taken as a whole, white students in the U.S. account for the largest share of one-time suspensions and expulsions. Still, discrepancies emerge when considering how the numbers compare to enrollment...

The discrepancies are particularly egregious in certain parts of the country. As The New York Times reported on Tuesday, a new analysis of the federal data finds that black students in 13 Southern states are suspended or expelled “at rates overwhelmingly higher than white children.” In 132 of the districts analyzed, for example, black students were suspended at rates at least five times greater than their representation in the student population.
What did she think she had read in the Times? She seemed to think that she had read that the discrepancies in suspension rates were “particularly egregious” in the South!

Green seems like a promising young journalist. Should a publication like the Atlantic use folk who are just two months out of college as front-line education reporters? Should an editor perhaps have thought to research that second fact?

Or does the Atlantic simply exist to hand us tired, canned old stories? Are black kids just a vehicle for telling these pleasing old tales?

Especially in the South, many major newspapers reported on the study. We saw no one who noted that the number of black suspensions in the region actually correspond to the number of black students.

At NPR, Ari Shapiro and Claudio Sanchez got flat-out conned on that point. In an interview on All Things Considered, this exchange occurred:
SHAPIRO (8/25/15): For years, there has been mounting evidence that schools across the country suspend and expel black students at a much higher rate than white students. Today, a study by the University of Pennsylvania singles out 13 Southern states where the problem is worst. Here's NPR's Claudio Sanchez:


SANCHEZ: Now, Harper says most people presume that because these schools are in the South, they enroll more black kids than anywhere else, and that's why their expulsion and suspension rates are higher. Wrong, says Harper.

HARPER: Blacks are only 24 percent of the students enrolled in public schools in those states, yet they are 48 percent of students suspended and 49 percent of students expelled.
Is the problem worst in those Southern states? The disproportion in those states seems to match that in the nation as a whole. Meanwhile, Sanchez specifically suggested that “suspension rates are higher” in the South because “they enroll more black kids than anywhere else.”

He quoted Harper saying that is wrong! He then presented Harper offering a statistic which doesn’t speak to the point at hand. That represents complete incompetence—by Shapiro and Sanchez and the team at NPR.

You’d think the education press would be equipped to get this sort of thing right. You’d think that, but of course you’d be wrong! At Education Week, Evie Blad wrote the following, under a headline which went for the con:
BLAD (8/27/15): Black Students’ Discipline Rates Are Especially High in the South, Study Finds


Researchers Edward Smith and Shaun Harper attribute the findings in this week’s report to a legacy of disparate treatment in the South.

“The findings in our report point to the residual effects of Jim Crow, slavery, and unequal schooling,” Harper said.
“They are further explained by poverty trends, structural inequities in the education workforce, and a longstanding history of racial injustice that cyclically reproduces itself, especially across these 13 Southern states.”
Based on the data in this study, black students’ discipline rates aren’t “especially high in the South” as compared to other regions. Blad didn’t seem to understand this fact—and neither did Professor Harper, who provided a list of regional historical factors to explain a regional deviation which doesn’t seem to exist.

Meanwhile, Blad included this horrific howler in a list of additional findings:

“In 84 districts, 100 percent of the suspended students were black. The report does not say what percentage of these districts’ enrollment is made up of black students.”

Just for the record, many of those “100 percenter” districts aren’t school districts at all in the normal sense. They are stand-alone charter schools, quite a few of which enrolled no white students at all.

These “districts” only suspended black kids? They had no white kids they could suspend! Meanwhile, the report does say “what percentage of these districts’ enrollment is made up of black students.” Blad apparently didn’t look at the study’s voluminous district-by-district data.

Nowhere was the bungling worse than at the august National Journal.

Good God! At the august National Journal, Alexia Campbell fashioned a list. Her list appeared beneath this headline:

“These 10 Districts Lead the Nation in Black-Student Suspensions”

The study had covered just thirteen states. What made Campbell think she could name the ten leading districts in the nation?

Someone else will have to figure that out. Meanwhile, Campbell completely misunderstood one of the basic statistics provided for each of the more than three thousand districts covered by the study. When the professors’ charts said that 50 percent of suspended students in a given district were black, Campbell thought the statistic meant that 50 percent of all black students in the district had been suspended that year.

That wasn’t what the statistic meant! At any rate, out of all this confusion, which school district was said to “lead the nation in black-student suspensions?”

Good God! Campbell named the South Side School District in Bee Branch, Arkansas—a tiny rural district with 528 students in all, only six of whom were black.

According to the professors’ data, exactly two of South Side’s black students got suspended that year; the other four did not. At the National Journal, this meant that this tiny rural district “leads the nation in black-student suspensions.”

From a press corps which functions in these ways, does anyone think we’ll ever see a serious discussion of black kids’ rising math scores? Will the public ever be told about this apparent good news? Or will this “press corps” keep repeating the “easy reader” stories they so deeply love?

In those easy reader narratives, Southern crackers are suspending black kids at rates unlike those in the rest of the nation! Also, our schools are either in decline or are stagnant, thanks to our ratty public school teachers with their infernal unions!

Neither story seems to be true. But when you see the way these news orgs handled this thoroughly bungled study, do you think our imitation “press corps” will ever try to deduce and report the truth about the rising test scores produced by the nation's black kids?

Given its role in the overall discourse, the standard fail by the New York Times was the most significant journalistic fail in this whole embarrassing episode. By way of contrast, the fail which we find most instructive happened at the elite pseudo-news site, Slate.

We say that because of the “education reporter” who fashioned it.

Jacob Weisberg must have been off at his tony weekend place. At his elite pseudo-news site, Laura Moser reported the professors’ study in a piece which carried this headline:

“Schools in the South Suspend and Expel Black Students Way More Than White Ones”

Technically, that’s accurate, if a bit jumbled. But by the end of her first paragraph, the inexperienced, unqualified Moser was out on some very thin ice:
MOSER (8/25/15): A new study has found that black students in Southern states get suspended and expelled at exponentially higher rates than white ones, an imbalance that experts have warned against for years. The “Disproportionate Impact of K–12 School Suspension and Expulsion on Black Students in Southern States” report, released Tuesday by the Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education at University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, found that 55 percent of the 1.2 million black students who are suspended nationwide every year (and 50 percent of them who are expelled) are concentrated in just 13 Southern states. As if the statistic weren’t lopsided enough, black students constituted just over 20 percent of the total student population in these states.
“55 percent of the 1.2 million black students who are suspended nationwide every year...are concentrated in just 13 Southern states?” Plainly, Moser seemed to be suggesting that that was more than the region’s appropriate share.

In her next sentence, she made that suggestion perfectly clear—and she made an analytical blunder. “As if the statistic weren’t lopsided enough, black students constituted just over 20 percent of the total student population in these states,” she wrote, failing to offer the relevant fact and drawing a bungled comparison.

Do black kids “constitute just over 20 percent of the total student population in these states?” It’s a little hard to say! The professors offer two different percentages at two different places in their study. (See below).

Whatever! Let’s assume Moser’s statistic is right. Are black kids just twenty percent of the student population in those thirteen states? That isn’t the relevant figure!

Using the relevant statistic, we note that black kids in those thirteen states constitute roughly 55 percent of the national black student population. If those states produce 55 percent of nationwide black student suspensions, this means that black kids are being suspended at the same rate in the South as in other regions.

Moser had gone for the con. But just so we’d know that she’s down with the cause, she was soon snarking in this tweet as she offered a link to her piece:

“Black students get suspended way more than white ones in the South. Big surprise.”

Moser has plainly seen rivers. What she hasn’t done is education reporting.

At the age of roughly 37, Moser has had a substantial career, but it has been in the writing of Young Adult novels, not in education reporting. But so what? Today, for reasons which go unexplained, Slate has Moser bungling a series of education reports—in conjunction with the Columbia Journalism School, no less! According to Slate, Moser’s reports are part of a project called SCHOOLED, produced in conjunction with the Columbia Journalism School’s Teacher Project.

Why is a long-time writer of Young Adult novels suddenly off doing that? When Jake comes back, he'll explain.

Contempt for black kids is written all over the way these news orgs function. Weisberg was off at his weekend retreat. In all likelihood, he’s never heard about the math scores his site declines to report.

There’s much more to say about that bungled study from Penn. The bungling within it was epic, sometimes comical, legion. In a rational world, Penn would be forced to explain how it ever got published.

You don’t live in that rational world. Every day of the week, your “press corps” helps prove it.

Of one thing you can feel fairly sure. Your press corps doesn’t care about black kids, or about their fucking score gains.

They don’t care what those rising scores mean. They don’t care about how we might reduce our achievement gaps.

Your press corps cares about easy readers, stories they’ve memorized and know how to type. In this case, they rushed to report the way Those Crackers way down South are still abusing black kids.

They’ve never heard about black kids’ test scores. Beyond that, they plainly don’t care.

Tomorrow: Chait discusses New Orleans

The Penn professors do it again: How many kids in those thirteen Southern states are black? Thanks to two professors at Penn, you can take your pick!
COVER SHEET: Despite comprising only 20.9% of students in the 3,022 districts analyzed, Blacks were suspended and expelled at disproportionately high rates.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: On average, Blacks were 24% of students in the 3,022 districts we analyzed, but rates at which they were suspended and expelled are disproportionately high.
Four weeks after the study appeared, these dueling statistics remain unreconciled. Do they care about black kids at Penn?