BREAKING: Three takeaways from Barr and Bee!

THURSDAY, MAY 31, 2018

Tom Arnold, Mara Gay speak:
First we heard from Roseanne Barr, then we heard from Samanthe Bee. We'll offer three takeaways:

The culture of the roast: To what extent are we dealing with the "lowest-IQ-possible" culture of the Comedy Central roast?

Like almost everything else on basic cable, comedy culture has grown dumber and dumber and dumber and dumber, which also means coarser and coarser.

Before these two, we had Louis C.K., not to mention Michael Richards. Then, along came Wolf.

We act like their dick jokes are bright and insightful. Guess what, people? They aren't!

Tom Arnold speaks: We were glad to see Tom Arnold on Anderson Cooper last night. As someone who knew Roseanne for a few days back in 1986, and liked her a lot, we were glad to see him raise a point we've been thinking about:
COOPER (5/30/18): When you were married to Roseanne, I mean, you also worked with her on the original "Roseanne" show did she display any signs of racism or xenophobia or conspiracy theory kind of beliefs?

ARNOLD: When I met Roseanne, I just worked in a meat packing plant for three years in Iowa. She was a little older. She was a feminist. I'd never met a feminist even.

She was so much more involved that I was. I mean, I was a meatpacker, and a bouncer, and a young comic. And I learned so much from her about, you know, about not just be a liberal, but about that kind of thinking...

COOPER: So what do you think it is that changed her?...Obviously, you know, she's talked about mental health issues before. But these conspiracy theories, and, obviously, these racist statements. What do you think it is?

ARNOLD: You know, I have mental health issues myself. Roseanne obviously does. It's something that—you know, right before we got married, I went to rehab. You know, I'm an alcoholic and drug—recovery from both of those. She was there for me.

And then after we got married, you know, we dealt with her mental health issues as a family. And she's done amazing with that. And, you know, it's something that she's dealt with and I can see that.

It's a thing about—I have to say this about the president we have and his gaslighting and lying. You can see him perpetuating mental health issues for the entire country...

Anyone with mental health issues, like Roseanne, is going to heighten things. And she is having mental health issues right now.
Back in 1990, we were disappointed and saddened when Roseanne, a person we'd very much liked, did that ridiculous national anthem thing, making people hate her. Arnold spoke about mental health issues. At the present time, as our culture dissolves, there seem to be a lot of such issues around.

(At present, our culture is dissolving in part because of Trump's apparent mental health issues. Twenty year ago, we went through years of similar lunacy from the biggest stars of the upper-end mainstream press corps. Do you believe that Candidate Gore really said he invented the Internet? That was their own deranged version of Spygate. They pimped it relentlessly, as a group, for the bulk of two years. mixing it in with various types of sexual insults. We liberals just sat there and took it.)

Mara Gay attempts to speak: Arnold's plea for understanding leads us back to Mara Gay's fine remarks on The 11th Hour. Gay is the newest and youngest member of the New York Times editorial board. She appeared with Brian on Tuesday night, after ABC cancelled Barr's show.

In our view, Gay delivered highly worthwhile remarks thoughts to Brian and Gene. Rather plainly, the titans weren't buying:
WILLIAMS (5/29/18): Mara, were you surprised at the speed with which today happened? This was a major television network, a big lumbering company, as they all are.

GAY: Yes. I was surprised but I also have to say that there was something special about what happened, what ABC did. And I think it's a big deal. I think they deserve a lot of credit for it. I think that so much of what's going on in the political realm that's toxic has actually started to pervade everyday life and the culture and the fabric, as you guys said, of the country.

...I also want to say that, even though what Roseanne Barr did was absolutely abhorrent, and I do believe that people should be treated like adults, and there hasn't been enough of that in political discourse frankly, it's also, I hope, a moment not to vilify her and her fans, and even Trump's base. Even though some of the things they're saying are abhorrent, I think it's a moment for both accountability, but also the offer of redemption and hopefully, as Valerie Jarrett said, a teachable moment.

I mean, you can't force someone to come to the table. But you know, we have to live with one another in this country. So there also has to be an opportunity to say, "Let me explain why this is really wrong and offensive and hurtful," and hopefully we can have that conversation. I'm afraid we`re not there yet. But that is where we need to go. We can't just cast off large swaths of American society.
In our view, Gay was a bit halting in her exposition. But she was expressing the wider vision we recently saw in some of the work she did as an undergraduate at The Michigan Daily.

"We don't have a person to waste," she was saying in effect. She spoke in favor of outreach and forgiveness and a search for broader understandings.

In our view, Brian and Gene weren't buying. Gay was speaking the language of Dr. King and Mandela and other sages of human history.

As a general matter, we humans don't like such ideas.

("I just think there's a way to hold folks accountable without vilifying them," Gay said again at a later point, as the boys grumbled and pushed back.)

These are heavily tribalized times. Everywhere you look, you'll see the extent to which our floundering species was built for the purpose of reflexively loathing The Others.

In prehistory, this served as a survival skill. Today, our instinctive desire to loathe Those People, the ones Over There, is a great deal less helpful.

Click here, move to the 5-minute mark. We think Gay had the right idea. She isn't likely to find a lot of takers, but we hope she can sharpen her game.

GAPS IN CHICAGO: Chicago's schools have been on the move!

THURSDAY, MAY 31, 2018

Part 3—A somewhat arcane report:
Based upon our most reliable data, it's easy to see that Chicago's schools have been performing much better.

We refer to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (Naep), the long-standing federal testing program which is often called "America's Report Card."

There have been rampant cheating episodes on some state testing programs. Some state testing programs have been poorly constructed.

In the forty-plus years since the Naep's inception, it has been assumed that the Naep is competently constructed—and that it's much less susceptible to cheating or technical manipulation than the various state-run tests.

The Naep is commonly called "the gold standard" of educational testing. And it's easy to see, from Naep results, that the much-maligned Chicago Public Schools seem to have been headed in the right direction—in the last decade, let's say.

Unless something's wrong with the basic Naep data, Chicago's eighth graders have been making great strides in math. Here are Chicago's most recent average scores from the Grade 8 Naep math test:
Average scores, Grade 8 math, Naep
All students, Chicago Public Schools

2017: 275.63
2015: 274.88
2013: 268.87
2011: 270.36
2009: 263.61
2007: 260.41
2005: 258.09
By 2017, the average eighth-grader in Chicago was scoring 17.5 points higher than her counterpart from twelve years before. Applying a standard, very rough rule of thumb, that represents a gain of something like 1.75 years in academic achievement.

That would be a massive improvement. Meanwhile, this is what the numbers look like for Chicago's Hispanic kids, the system's largest demographic:
Average scores, Grade 8 math, Naep
Hispanic students, Chicago Public Schools

2017: 276.14
2015: 275.31
2013: 270.18
2011: 271.48
2009: 268.46
2007: 264.52
2005: 262.55
By that very rough rule of thumb, Chicago's Hispanic eighth graders outperformed their counterparts from 2005 by roughly 1.35 academic years.

We'll offer depressing context tomorrow, but those would be very large gains. It's also true that these score gains are much larger than the corresponding gains recorded by the nation's kids as a whole.

Where Hispanic kids in Chicago gained 13.5 points in math, Hispanic kids nationwide gained only six points over that twelve-year span. If we accept the basic worthiness of Naep data, Chicago's kids have been making enormous strides in math. They've been substantially outgaining their peers in the nation as a whole.

Along the way, Chicago has risen toward the top of the charts on the Naep among the fifteen or so comparable city systems which participate in the program's "Trial Urban District Assessment." Tomorrow, we'll offer examples of what we mean.

How has Chicago done this? Before we leave this toddlin' town, we'll show you what the New York Times' Emily Badger saw when she visited Lavizzo Elementary School. The visit was part of her reporting for the lengthy news report which appeared last December.

Badger described activity in that school which would make a decent person's heart sing. You haven't heard about this on your favorite corporate cable channel because, within that corporate realm, the massively overpaid corporate denizens don't care about this sort of thing, or about the beautiful kids who attend Chicago's schools.

If we assume the basic worth of Naep data, it's easy to see that Chicago's schools have had something going on. If our tribal heroes cared about black and Hispanic kids, they'd want to let us know about this. They'd very much want to know what is producing these changes.

When that lengthy news report by Badger and Kevin Quealy appeared, it of course generated exactly zero discussion. That said, it appeared beneath a hard-copy headline which was perhaps misleading:
New Measure Shows Where Students Learn the Most
In truth, Chicago really isn't the place "where students learn the most." We'll offer a ton of depressing context tomorrow.

That said, Chicago really may be one of the places where test scores have risen the most, in recent years, for individual student cohorts—for groups which proceed from the end of third grade through the end of eighth grade, five years later. Headline to the side, that was the specific claim in the Stanford study which was discussed in that New York Times report.

That claim can't be checked through data from the Naep, which is administered in Grades 4 and 8, and which generates data for only a few dozen individual school districts. (The Naep generates data for every state and for the nation as a whole, and for a few dozen large school districts.)

That said, we've compared Chicago's Grade 4 Naep scores in recent years to its Grade 8 Naep scores four years later, and we've found the same phenomenon reported by Stanford's Sean Reardon. The score gains recorded from Grade 4 to Grade 8 (four years later) are much larger than the corresponding gains recorded by the nation as a whole.

Reardon's metric in this recent study is perhaps a bit arcane or eccentric. Like almost everything else on earth, it has some obvious shortcomings, at least as it was reported in the Times piece.

In principle, the reliance on "aggregate" scores can hide a lot of sins. (We'll note an example tomorrow.) Meanwhile, the desire to work with Grade 3 scores requires use of the state testing programs on which massive cheating has sometimes occurred.

It's also true that no student cohort goes through five years intact. Some students will leave a big urban system during the five years after Grade 3. Other students will move into the system. The group you're testing in Grade 8 is not the same group you tested in Grade 3, five long years before.

Reardon's metric may not be the best for popular journalistic purposes. It's easy to show that Chicago's schools seem to be making major strides in the more straightforward, old-fashioned way, through comparisons llke this:
Average scores, Grade 8 math, Naep
White students, Chicago Public Schools

2017: 305.81
2015: 317.35
2013: 293.92
2011: 296.03
2009: 288.87
2007: 286.88
2005: 281.07
Those darn white kids have been rocking the world! With a bit of statistical jumping around, we're looking at very large score gains.

If we accept Naep data as basically valid, the city of broad shoulders seems to be taking long strides. That said, is Chicago really the place "where students learn the most?"

You may already have noticed at least one problem. Tomorrow, we'll bring the note of sadness in, much as the poet described.

As we do, we'll point to the problem we all live with today. We'll point to a major challenge.

Tomorrow: Not even close to the most

You'll find few journalists there: For all Naep data, just click this. From there, you're on your own.

BREAKING: We're being played from both sides now!


The New York Times refuses to repeat its own report:
Yesterday morning, the featured report on the New York Times' front page concerned "Confidentialinformantgate."

The "News Analysis" piece was written by Davis and Haberman. In hard copy, it appeared beneath a triple headline. The headline which appears online captures the drift of the piece:
With ‘Spygate,’ Trump Shows How He Uses Conspiracy Theories to Erode Trust
According to the two reporters, Trump has been using another conspiracy theory to erode trust in the institutions which are probing his conduct. In their actual text, the scribes tried to define their complaint:
DAVIS AND HABERMAN (5/29/18): Last week, President Trump promoted new, unconfirmed accusations to suit his political narrative: that a “criminal deep state” element within Mr. Obama’s government planted a spy deep inside his presidential campaign to help his rival, Hillary Clinton, win—a scheme he branded “Spygate.” It was the latest indication that a president who has for decades trafficked in conspiracy theories has brought them from the fringes of public discourse to the Oval Office.

Now that he is president, Mr. Trump’s baseless stories of secret plots by powerful interests appear to be having a distinct effect. Among critics, they have fanned fears that he is eroding public trust in institutions, undermining the idea of objective truth and sowing widespread suspicions about the government and news media that mirror his own.
According to the reporters, Trump has pimped "unconfirmed accusations" to push his "political narrative." Overall, this narrative about the "spy" seems to be his latest "baseless story."

Later, the scribes refer to "Trump’s willingness to peddle suspicion as fact." Since they ;later seem to say that Trump's story isn't completely baseless, we'd say that's their best account of what Trump is doing.

Alas! From the very day Trump announced his campaign, reporters have had a hard time paraphrasing his fuzzy claims and explaining what's wrong with his sweeping, unfounded accusations.

In this case, Trump is making a fuzzy, inflammatory charge which seems to go well beyond anything which is actually known to be true. That doesn't mean that his claim is wrong; it's virtually impossible to prove that something didn't happen. It means that he's gone beyond the known facts again, by his usual country mile.

Trump has made a sweeping accusation which he isn't prepared to define, let alone defend. This is gruesome conduct from a person in his position. It's also bad citizenship when voters let themselves get swept up in believing such unfounded claims, even from a politician they are inclined to support.

Trump is behaving badly, as always. But so, it seems to us, is the New York Times, along with the massive bulk of the mainstream press and pundit corps.

What's wrong with Davis and Haberman's analysis piece? Even as they assail Trump for going beyond the known facts, they refuse to report the known facts—or at least such facts as have been reported on the front page of their own newspaper. This strange journalistic behavior has been going on for eleven days.

Trump is embellishing the known and reported facts; in not quite equal-but-opposite fashion, Davis and Haberman seem to be hiding such facts as might help his political case. A bit later on in their piece, they offer this absurd attempt to recount what their own newspaper has reported:
DAVIS AND HABERMAN: Like most conspiracy theories, Mr. Trump’s latest has a kernel of truth many Republicans have latched on to. Several news organizations, including The New York Times, have reported that an F.B.I. informant contacted Trump campaign aides who evidence suggested had had suspicious contacts with Russians in 2016 as part of a counterintelligence investigation into possible efforts by Moscow to meddle in the election.

In Mr. Trump’s telling, however, the informant was a spy sent by Mr. Obama and a cabal inside his Justice Department and the intelligence community who were bent on stopping his candidacy.
Remarkably, the reporters say there's "a kernel of truth" to Trump's sweeping accusation. They then make sure that you won't hear what that kernel is.

Let's be fair! The highlighted statement is accurate as far as it goes—but it omits the less attractive parts of what the Times has reported about the FBI's conduct. It's hard to avoid an obvious thought:

By eliminating basic details, Davis and Haberman are presenting the most innocuous version of what their own newspaper has reported, on page one, concerning what the FBI did. Trump, meanwhile, is embellishing the known and/or reported facts.

Davis and Haberman are cleaning things up. As they proceed, they quote three different Republican figures who say they have concerns about what the FBI did—but their concerns are never explained. Consider this example:
DAVIS AND HABERMAN: During the 2016 campaign, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, denounced Mr. Trump’s talk of the government hiding the real story about Sept. 11. “That’s something that really only comes from the kook part of America,” Mr. Graham said at the time.

Mr. Graham said he had also been highly skeptical when Mr. Trump insisted last year that Mr. Obama had tapped his phones in Trump Tower, a stunning assertion for which he offered no proof.

“I thought, ‘Well, that doesn’t seem right to me,’” Mr. Graham said last week. But, he noted, it was later revealed that one of Mr. Trump’s former campaign associates, Carter Page, had in fact been under surveillance. And on “Spygate,” the senator added, “There seems to be something to this one. I want to find out: Did it happen? Is there a good reason?”
Graham says he wants to find out if "it" really happened. He also says he wants to know if there was a good reason for "it."

That said, what's the "it" to which he refers? There's no sign that he was asked; if he said, his statement was disappeared. We'll guess that Graham is referring, among other things, to the reported conduct in which one Trump aide was paid $3000 to fly across the Atlantic Ocean on a totally bogus premise so he could have his brain picked for several days by an undercover agent.

Within the context of a presidential campaign, does that behavior have Graham concerned? There is no sign that he was asked. If he said what has him concerned, the reporters didn't report it.

That possibly unattractive conduct was reported on the front page of the New York Times, and also by the Washington Post. But that report has been disappeared for eleven days by the entire mainstream press corps. It can't be found in the sanitized version of these events the two Times scribes presented in the passage we posted above.

For the last week and a half, the mainstream press has been sanitizing the FBI's reported conduct. As Trump embellishes the reported facts, the nation's pseudo-reporters have been hiding behind extremely fuzzy language of their own.

One of the principals talks about "spies;" the others talk about "informants." No one, not even the New York Times, is willing to repeat what the New York Times has reported for all the world to see!

Trump is embellishing what's been reported. Our "journalists" have their Windex out.

Trump is behaving like a Putin. The press is behaving like Pravda. Each part of this grisly pas de deux suggests the culture of an authoritarian state, in which the public hears nothing but massaged accounts of reality.

We're being played from both sides now! Is Judy Collins available for the soundtrack?

GAPS IN CHICAGO: Can Sean Reardon's claim be right?


Part 2—A quick trip back through the years:
Could it really be true? Could Chicago be the place "where students learn the most?"

That's what the headline seemed to say on the New York Times report. The report appeared in mid-December of last year. Needless to say, it has generated exactly zero discussion.

It has generated zero discussion because nobody actually cares. As is blindingly obvious, no gives a flying flip about Chicago's low-income kids who, or so it seemed we were told, are the students who "learn the most."

No one cares at your liberal journals. Rachel and Lawrence don't care. They would greedily gulp the hemlock before they'd deign to discuss Chicago's kids. We know that because more than five months have passed—and no one has said a single word about the high-profile Times report, which seemed to say that Chicago's kids are the ones who "learn the most."

Briefly, let's be fair. For those who read the Times report—for those who got past the headline and the photograph of the six beautiful little girls in a Chicago elementary school—for those who actually read the report, the Times report didn't exactly say that Chicago's largely low-income, "minority" kids are the students who "learn the most."

That isn't exactly what the Times said. More specifically, the Times report said this:
BADGER AND QUEALY (12/13/17): It’s true that children in prosperous districts tend to test well, while children in poorer districts on average score lower. But in this analysis, which measures how scores grow as student cohorts move through school, the Stanford researcher Sean Reardon argues that it’s possible to separate some of the advantages of socioeconomics from what’s actually happening in schools.

In Chicago, third graders collectively test below the second-grade level on reading and math. But this data shows that over the next five years, they receive the equivalent of six years of education.
By the eighth grade, their scores have nearly caught up to the national average.
The headline had overstated what the report really said. According to the actual report, Chicago's kids "test below the second-grade level" at the end of third grade. But over the next five years of school, the average student in Chicago records six years of academic growth.

Badger and Quealy go on to say, partly through the use of a graphic, that this is the largest amount of growth recorded in any of our nation's 200 largest school districts. In one of their interactive graphics, the reader can see that only a limited number of smaller school districts record more growth from Grade 3 through Grade 8 than the Chicago Public Schools, the nation's third-largest school system.


According to the Times report, kids in Chicago don't exactly "learn the most." But on average, they record nearly the largest academic gains of any group of kids in the nation during the five-year period from the end of third grade to the end of eighth grade.

The record six years growth in five years time—or at least, so says Stanford's Sean Reardon. The Times report is based on the data from his latest nationwide study.

We've cited Reardon's work many times at this site. Way back when, in April 2013, he became the first person we ever saw break the code of silence concerning this nation's Naep scores—more specifically, concerning the large score gains which have occurred on this "gold standard" of domestic educational testing over the past several decades.

Because no one cares about any of this, no one mentioned what Reardon said. Let's recall the jailbreak he staged away from that noxious silence code. We enter his essay in progress, as he dispels a few myths:
REARDON (4/28/13): Before we can figure out what's happening here, let's dispel a few myths.

The income gap in academic achievement is not growing because the test scores of poor students are dropping or because our schools are in decline. In fact, average test scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the so-called Nation's Report Card, have been rising—substantially in math and very slowly in reading—since the 1970s. The average 9-year-old today has math skills equal to those her parents had at age 11, a two-year improvement in a single generation. ...

The widening income disparity in academic achievement is not a result of widening racial gaps in achievement, either. The achievement gaps between blacks and whites, and Hispanic and non-Hispanic whites have been narrowing slowly over the last two decades.
Say what? Average test scores have been rising—for example, by two years in math by the age of 9? Our public schools are not in decline? As the overall scores go up, the racial gap is narrowing? Could Sean Reardon say that?

Here at this site, we'd been attempting to "dispel those myths" for years when this essay by Reardon appeared—and we'd learned that it can't be done. And sure enough:

Inevitably, no one mentioned what Reardon said when he broke the code of silence that day. That's because no one actually cares about any of this—and certainly not about the lives and interests of Chicago's low-income kids.

In that five-year old essay, Reardon wasn't focused on "racial" achievement gaps. He was focused on the gaps between kids from higher- and lower-income families.

That said, if you read between the lines in the passage we've quoted, you could discern another fact from what Reardon wrote. The average Naep scores of black and Hispanic kids had been growing rapidly too. That explains how "racial gaps" had been narrowing, even as the average American fourth-grader was two years ahead of where her parents had been in math.

When he broke the code of silence, Reardon took a permanent place our radar screen. Five years later, just last month, the Washington Post let an amazing thing occur—the editors let Arne Duncan state the same basic facts:
DUNCAN (4/2/18): Since 1971, fourth-grade reading and math scores are up 13 points and 25 points, respectively. Eighth-grade reading and math scores are up eight points and 19 points, respectively. Every 10 points equates to about a year of learning, and much of the gains have been driven by students of color.

It should be noted that the student population is relatively poorer and considerably more diverse than in 1971. So, while today's kids bring more learning challenges, they perform as much as 2 1/2 grades higher than their counterparts from half a century ago.
Displaying the inevitable ineptitude, Duncan understated the amount of academic growth recorded since 1971. He did so by failing to "disaggregate" those test scores, which also come from the Naep. Had he sifted the data that way, he could have described such apparent advances as these:
Average scores, Grade 8 math, Naep
Nationwide, public schools
Black students only:

2013: 262.73
2011: 261.84
2009: 260.28
2007: 258.90
2005: 254.19
2003: 251.75
2000: 243.27

Hispanic students only:
2013: 271.02
2011: 269.45
2009: 265.90
2007: 264.36
2005: 261.09
2003: 258.13
2000: 251.75
Why have we omitted results from 2015 and 2017? Simple! In the past few years, at the height of Duncan's miraculous reforms, average scores have dropped back a few points for both groups of kids!

We'll post those disappointing scores below. But over the thirteen-year time span we're displaying, Duncan's (standard) ten-point rule suggests that black and Hispanic eighth-graders improved in math achievement by almost two academic years! Unless there's something wrong with those data, black kids were (and still are) way ahead of the black eighth-graders who had come before!

Simply put, the American public has almost never been allowed to hear such facts. Nor have you ever seen anyone inquire as to why that steady academic growth has seemed to come to an end in the past few years.

You've never seen that question raised or discussed! Most simply put, Rachel and Lawrence and other top stars don't care about low-income "minority" kids, and certainly not in Chicago!

The indifference of our corporate elites kept the public from hearing about those very large score gains. That same contempt for low-income kids has kept the public from being told that years of impressive academic gains now seem to have stalled.

Last December, along came Reardon again, this time making a surprising claim about the kids of Chicago. You haven't heard a word about that because, as an obvious matter of fact, nobody actually gives a flip about those non-elite kids. Your favorite stars care about students at Yale!

From the end of grade 3 to the end of grade 8, do Chicago's public school kids really record academic growth which almost goes off the charts? On the other hand, if Chicago's schools are so goldarn good, why were the city's kids scoring so poorly at the end of third grade to begin with?

You've asked two very good questions! Tomorrow, we'll examine the large growth displayed by recent Chicago cohorts on the Naep, from the end of the Grade 4 to the end of Grade 8.

On Friday, we'll offer you some gloomier news. We'll show you why it was almost obscene when a headline told us, in typical fashion, that Chicago is the place "where students learn the most."

You'll hear none of this from Rachel, Lawrence or Chris. Their handlers want you entertained by the nightly excitement of The Chase. When it comes to Chicago's kids, they feel quite sure you don't care.

Tomorrow: From Grade 4 to Grade 8 on the Naep!

The end of an era: Here are the average Grade 8 Naep math scores from the last two test administrations:
Black students only:
2017: 259.60
2015: 259.85

Hispanic students only:
2017: 268.49
2015: 269.47
Why have those scores slid back a few points? We don't have the slightest idea. Also, nobody cares!

BREAKING: Donald J. Trump donnt spel reel gud!

TUESDAY, MAY 29, 2018

Liberal world tries to help:
Donald J. Trump donnt sppel reel gud. Plus, his use of capital letters can sometimes seem eccentric.

That's all it takes for us the liberals to find new ways to lose votes. The most recent episode started with some unsolicited instruction from a retired English teacher, then jumped to the New York Times.

The teacher had written a letter to Trump—and she'd received a reply! Inevitably, she decided to correct the letter's perceived grammatical errors, then return it to Trump, insults and snark appended.

Over at the New York Times, this somehow seemed like news. The excitement led to this sad "news" report in yesterday's editions.

All too often, we modern liberals can't seem to grasp the way we look to Others. As a courtesy, we'll tell you how this episode looks:

To many people, it looks like the latest reason to vote for Donald J. Trump!

In fairness, this smarty-pants instinct didn't begin with that retired teacher. On our favorite corporate cable news channel, our favorite millionaire liberal stars keep schooling us in this game.

Brian loves to play! On May 11, he read one of Trump's tweets on the air. We'll highlight just a couple of words. Everyone knew what they meant:
WILLIAMS (5/11/18): Allow me to read the President's tweet of this evening. Along these same lines, he says, "Why doesn't the fake news media"—capitalized—"state that the Trump administration's antitrust division has been and is opposed to the AT&T purchase of Time Warner in a currently ongoing"—capital T—"trial? Such a disgrace in reporting."
Everyone knew what Brian meant! Four nights earlier, on May 7, he'd read another Trump tweet, saying this:

"Again, the capitalizing remains a mystery."

The key word there would be "again." He does this all the time.

Nor is Brian alone in this practice. Last Thursday night, Chris Hayes displayed his superior learning as he discussed that Korean summit commemorative coin:
HAYES (5/24/18): When news broke today that President Trump had canceled the summit with Kim Jong-un, there was a mad rush to a White House website, not for more information of Trump's decision, but of course, to the gift shop for the commemorative summit coins where, lo and behold, the coin that had been designated the deal of the day, selling for the low, low price of just $19.95.

And thank goodness, the shop had posted a disclaimer to dispel any concerns about the fate of the coins. In true Trump fashion, written with almost but not quite all the words unnecessarily capitalized and missing some punctuation, saying the coin will be made whether or not the summit occurs as scheduled, because the theme is coming closer to peace and celebrates the act of communication among countries.
To enjoy all the fun, just click here.

Wonderfully, Hayes put his superior education on display. Three nights earlier, Our Own Rhodes Scholar had of course done the same thing.

As she started the show, she engaged in her favorite pastime—talking about herself. Then, she dropped the misspelling bomb:
MADDOW (5/21/18): You know, Susan has long threatened that if I ever really start taking this show for granted, if I start taking this job for granted, if I stop appreciating it, she's going to come in one day and bigfoot it and she's going to take a burner cell phone, she's going to put it here on the desk and she's going to take on-air gardening calls for an hour to make me appreciate how good it is to have this job.

HAYES: That's good of her. You can lose sight sometimes. I'm happy to hear that.

MADDOW: Well done, my friend. Thank you.

And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. If you'd like to vote for Susan to host the next Rachel Maddow Show, taking your calls live on the air about gardening tips, you can vote—you can't!

All right. Happy Monday! You know, there's been a lot of complaining, public complaining by the president. There's been a lot of all-capital-letters misspelled tweeting by the president...
So cool! First, we got to hear Rachel talking about herself. Then, we got to hear her talk about Donald J. Trump's
spelling errors!

Back in April 2009, Rachel's two weeks of "tea-bagger" dick jokes helped establish this general culture at The One True Channel. That said, we liberals frequently can't seem to understand 1) the ways we appear to Others, and 2) how amazingly dumb our sense of superiority is.

We just can't seem to get over ourselves. We can't see the ways we convince many people to reject every word we say.

(Obvious Mandated Lizard Response: That just shows how amazingly dumb The Others actually are!)

By the way, according to the Times report, the English teacher was actually wrong in some of her corrections. This doesn't explain why the Times ever thought this bullshit was worth reporting in the first place. Maybe Caroline Ryan came leaping over her desk at one of those rollicking brainstorming sessions!

In closing, we'll float a conspiracy theory:

Maybe Donald J. Trump is right! Maybe the big news orgs want to keep him in office because his constant disordered behavior is making them oodles of cash!

Nobody's perfect: In fairness, Brian has superb grammatical skills. On the other hand, he got himself fired from NBC Nightly News for inventing various crackpot stories about his own heroic deeds.

Before that, he spent two years complaining about Candidate Gore's troubling wardrobe and the possible psychiatric problems the wardrobe seemed to suggest. We liberals just sat there and took it. Oh, what bright children are we!

GAPS IN CHICAGO: But also the gains!

TUESDAY, MAY 29, 2018

Part 1—Familiar upbeat reporting:
It was a highly familiar, decades-old type of upbeat report.

This familiar type of news report has been around since at least the early 1970s. We refer to the familiar upbeat report about low-income "schools that work."

In the recent report to which we refer, the low-income schools that work were those of an entire school system. The news report, in the New York Times, offered a remarkably upbeat appraisal of the Chicago Public Schools.

The report appeared last December. In print editions, it consumed the entirety of page A13, the first page in that day's National section.

The report appeared beneath a large, familiar photo of six adorable children. Beneath the upbeat photo, this hard-copy headline appeared:
New Measure Shows Where Students Learn the Most
At this point, we still didn't have the standard report about low-income schools that work. But then, at the start of the actual news report, we were told where our nation's students learn the most.

As it turns out, they learn the most in Chicago! In that city's once-maligned public schools, the nation's third-largest school system!

The news report to which we refer was written by Emily Badger and Kevin Quealy. Neither is an education specialist. Their upbeat report starts like this:
BADGER AND QUEALY (12/13/17): In the Chicago Public Schools system, enrollment has been declining, the budget is seldom enough, and three in four children come from low-income homes, a profile that would seemingly consign the district to low expectations. But students here appear to be learning faster than those in almost every other school system in the country, according to new data from researchers at Stanford.

The data, based on some 300 million elementary-school test scores across more than 11,000 school districts, tweaks conventional wisdom in many ways. Some urban and Southern districts are doing better than data typically suggests. Some wealthy ones don’t look that effective. Many poor school systems do.

This picture, and Chicago’s place in it, defy how we typically think about wealth and education in America.
Can that basic claim really be true? Are kids in Chicago really "learning faster than those in almost every other school system in the country?" Has a new study from Stanford actually shown such a thing?

To some extent, it all depends on what the meaning of "learning faster than those in almost every other school system in the country" is. As they continue, the reporters explain what they mean:
BADGER (continuing directly): It’s true that children in prosperous districts tend to test well, while children in poorer districts on average score lower. But in this analysis, which measures how scores grow as student cohorts move through school, the Stanford researcher Sean Reardon argues that it’s possible to separate some of the advantages of socioeconomics from what’s actually happening in schools.

In Chicago, third graders collectively test below the second-grade level on reading and math. But this data shows that over the next five years, they receive the equivalent of six years of education. By the eighth grade, their scores have nearly caught up to the national average.
As it turns out, kids in Chicago are learning so fast that, by the end of eighth grade, they're almost scoring at the national average! It would be easy to mock this formulation. On the whole, that might be a mistake.

Badger and Quealy are reporting a study by Professor Sean Reardon, whose work we've cited many times in the past. The reporters say his study shows the following:

When they're tested in third grade, Chicago's kids are performing below second-grade level. But five years later, by the time they're tested in the eighth grade, they've made up a lot of ground.

By the end of eighth grade, those same Chicago students are scoring near the national average, though they haven't quite reached it yet. According to Reardon's data, they've gained six year of learning in five school years—one of the largest average amounts of growth Reardon can find in any school system in the country.

Is that what Reardon's study says? You're asking a sensible question.

Perhaps more significantly, does Reardon's study make sense? For popular journalistic purposes, we're not sure it does.

At least as described by Badger and Quealy, the study has some obvious shortcomings. Meanwhile, for popular journalistic purposes, it's possible to demonstrate an important fact—Chicago's schools seem to be performing quite well as compared to those in other big cities—in ways which are much more straightforward.

In the next few days, we'll present basic, straightforward data about the way Chicago's students are performing in reading and math by the end of eighth grade. In particular, we'll show you how Chicago's black and Hispanic eighth graderss are performing in reading and math.

Spoiler alert:

When compared to their counterparts in comparable cities, Chicago's "minority" and low-income kids seem to be doing well. That said, Chicago's black and Hispanic kids may not be doing nearly as well as the Times report may seem to suggest. And then there's the case of those beautiful, smiling kids in that photograph and the particular school they attend.

That photograph shows you only six children. They attend only one school in a very large city school system.

Still, that photograph establishes the tone and the feel of this whole report. Beneath the photo of those children, this upbeat caption appears:
Students in gym class at Mildred I. Lavizzo Elementary School in Chicago. “Whatever kids come in here, we know we can grow them,” the school’s principal, Tracey Stelly, says.
Before subscribers read a single word of the Times report, they're offered that upbeat caption.

In that caption, Stelly is cast as the highly confident, upbeat principal, a standard figure in this type of report. In the past, we've found that you can't necessarily believe these highly confident persons!

Toward the end of their report, Badger and Quealy visit Lavizzo Elementary, which they describe in glowing terms. That said, it's very hard to match their description to the picture painted in this depressing official report—in Lavizzo Elementary's official "Illinois State Report Card."

Glowing descriptions of floundering schools? This is one of the journalistic horses we rode in on, more than four decades ago.

Such descriptions have been a weirdly standard part of these familiar reports. In the current circumstance, this seems to tell us more about New York Times journalism than about Chicago's very large school system.

Have Chicago's students registered very large gains in reading and math—among the largest in the country? To some extent, it may depend on how you slice and dice it.

As the week proceeds, we'll show you basic, straightforward data about the city's eighth graders as of the spring of last year. We'll also ponder Lavizzo Elementary School—and our nation's upper-end journalism.

Tomorrow: Chicago's important eighth-graders in the spring of last year

Who is the Chicago Public Schools: Let's establish a bit of background information. The leading authority on Chicago's schools offers this overview:
Chicago Public Schools (CPS), officially classified as City of Chicago School District #299 for funding and districting reasons, in Chicago, Illinois, is the third largest school district in the U.S....For the 2014–2015 school year, CPS reported overseeing 660 schools, including 484 elementary schools and 176 high schools; of which 517 were district-run, 130 were charter schools, 11 were contract schools and 2 were SAFE schools. The district serves over 396,000 students.
As of 2015, there were almost 500 public elementary schools in the Windy City.

Six of Chicago's beautiful children were shown in that New York Times photograph. Out of all the elementary schools in all the neighborhoods in all parts of their sprawling city, our nation's most influential newspaper decided to walk into theirs!

BREAKING: Breakaway pundits stage late-night revolt!

SATURDAY, MAY 26, 2018

Kornacki triggers jailbreak:
It's one of our most frequently-asked questions:

Does it embarrass us when the accolades come rolling in, even from a wide array of international experts? When the experts say, for the ten millionth time, that our incomparable judgment has been proven right again?

Our answer, quite simply, is yes. For that reason, let's go straight to the late-night cable revolt triggered by Steve Kornacki.

First though, a bit of the same-old same-old, as performed by Jake Tapper and guests. We start with what Kirsten Powers told Tapper yesterday, just after 4:30 PM.

Yesterday's dramatics began when Kristen Soltis Anderson engaged in a standard play. She told Tapper what the FBI didn't do during "Informant-gate," as opposed to what the FBI actually did.

What they did was "not the same thing as the FBI sort of paying someone who was a senior-level campaign official working in Trump Tower," Anderson said. In this way, she helped us memorize one more thing the FBI hadn't done.

At that point, Powers jumped in, eventually saying this:
POWERS (5/25/18): It's a perfectly straightforward thing that happened. They had been warned by the FBI that they could possibly be infiltrated. So why is it so surprising that the FBI would be talking to people?

TAPPER: By Russians, you mean.

POWERS: Oh yeah, by the Russians.
What happened was "perfectly straightforward," Powers said. The FBI was just "talking to people!"

To help establish her point, she executed a standard play. She didn't mention the various things which happened which weren't "straightforward" at all!

(At the start of her own remarks, Anderson had done the same thing. "It sounds like, from what we've learned, that you had a professor who contacted some of the folks in the campaign. They had some correspondence." So Anderson said, omitting the part "we've learned" in which this contact was surreptitious, with one of the "folks in the campaign" being paid $3000 to fly across the Atlantic Ocean and waste a load of his time, all under false pretenses.)

Tapper, Powers and Anderson were playing the game which has now been played for a week. They were omitting the parts of the FBI's conduct which weren't "perfectly straightforward." This let them tell you how straightforward the FBI's conduct had been!

Over on Fox News, viewers are now being shown videotape of such clownish deceptions. Quite correctly, this conduct is being ridiculed. Last night, Tucker Carlson even described this repetitive tribal bullshit as "lying," Ironically, it's one of our tribe's favorite words!

At any rate, that's what happened in yesterday's 4 PM hour. Later, just after 11 PM, a cable news jailbreak occurred.

Steve Kornacki was guest hosting, permitting Brian to head for the Hamptons one day early on his latest vacation. And it's starting to seem that Kornacki has possibly had enough of the general rolling deception.

Good God! In a question to Ken Dilanian of NBC News, Kornacki did the unthinkable. He said the FBI had contacted members of the Trump campaign "under false pretenses."

(Earlier, Kornacki has used the same phrase while guest-hosting on Hardball. This allowed Chris Matthews to get to Nantucket one day early. Internationally, experts speculated that he'd drawn the phraseology from us!)

The FBI had contacted members of the Trump campaign "under false pretenses!" To his credit, Kornacki didn't tell viewers what he meant by this astounding statement. But he referred to the FBI's "false pretenses" at two separate points as he tossed to Dilanian, and Dilanian, suitably triggered, ended up saying this:
DILANIAN (5/25/18): Actually, it is important. I think we shouldn't minimize what happened here.

The FBI ran at least one informant at three Americans who work on a presidential campaign. That is a big deal,
and it properly should be examined.

Republicans should be asking how that happened, who approved it, on what basis.
But you know, knowing the way the FBI operates, and knowing the sensitivity of investigating a presidential campaign, you have to believe that that decision was approved at the highest levels, even by the attorney general of the United States...
Can Ken Dilanian say that?

Using murky but unflattering language, he said the FBI "ran an informant at" those three folks in the Trump campaign. Given "the sensitivity of investigating a presidential campaign," he even said that the agency's conduct should be examined!

He went on to say that the FBI had "very good reason" to do what it did. He said he was sure that the agency had "followed every procedure." After all, when has former director James B. Comey ever broken protocols?

Still and all, good lord! Kornacki actually told cable viewers that the "perfectly straightforward thing that happened," in which a professor "contacted some folks," had been done "under false pretenses!" Dilanian had then crazily said that this conduct should be examined, given the sensitivity of investigating a presidential campaign!
For the record, Dilanian got a bit more excited than we ourselves would have. It's also true that the nature of those "false pretenses" was never detailed or described.

Still, Kornacki and Dilanian had staged a cable news jailbreak. They'd inched past the apple pie version of these events, the version trusting cable viewers have been sold for a week.

Presumably, the breakaway pundits have already been summoned to dungeon-like cable classrooms for reeducation services. With their arms pulled back behind them, they've received a scolding review of last evening's DFS—their appalling Departures From Script.

On the other hand, who knows? As liberal conduct is mocked on Fox—as Trump's approvals keep inching up—maybe the bosses at our sad cable channels will decide to be a bit less dishonest about matters like this. Maybe viewers will be told what those "false pretenses" actually were when the infallible Comey the God exercised his infallible judgment.

Our liberal team has been getting killed on this endless bullshit. In the process, our favorite corporate stars have been treating us like fools every step of the way.

Last night, two breakaway pundits donned life vests and abandoned script. Earlier, Tapper, Powers and Anderson had continued to behave.

They served their viewers the tapioca demanded by tribal script. Their viewers were treated like viewers of Fox. We almost thought we heard Dylan singing, "Liberals! How does it feeeeeeel?"

A note on method: We'd like to show you fuller versions on what was said on these programs. Unfortunately, neither CNN nor MSNBC has posted its transcripts yet. This lets their employees start their holiday weekend early, but it means that we have had to do all the transcribing ourselves.

We'll only do so much of their scutwork for them. They're lazy, indolent, worthless, no good—and as you may have noticed by now, they don't even know how to win!

BREAKING: Gene Robinson's total tribal war!

FRIDAY, MAY 25, 2018

You aren't allowed to know:
What did Stefan Halper do?

At this point, we the people have no ultimate way to know. We do know what the Washington Post and the New York Times have reported that Halper did—unless we're liberals, that is.

We liberals aren't allowed to know what Halper apparently did! This has been going on for a week. The deception is just getting deeper.

We liberals are now engaged in a great semantic war. Their team says that Halper "spied," and ours says "not so." But we aren't allowed to hear what Halper actually did, as reported by the two newspapers we normally treat as gospel.

(He or someone else may have done more, of course.)

How do we know that we liberals can't know? Last night, one of our tribe's most trusted corporate minders thought we should hear only this:
MADDOW (5/24/18): Today, there was an absolutely unprecedented meeting in Washington...

I mean, there was the president's chief of staff and the president's lead lawyer in the Russia scandal convening what ended up being two meetings today, because the White House and Republicans demanded to see information from a confidential source who'd been used by the FBI to gather evidence in the early days of their still ongoing investigation. Specifically, that source was sent by the FBI to talk to three people in the Trump campaign that the FBI believed were in contact with Russian agents who were in the process of interfering in the election.
Amazing, isn't it? You aren't allowed to know!

"Specifically," Maddow said, "that source was sent by the FBI to talk to three people in the Trump campaign." It all sounds so conventional, so innocent, unremarkable, normal and pure!

Unfortunately, this brings us to the specific actions Maddow didn't mention.

"Specifically," the Post and the Times have both reported that the FBI's source didn't simply "talk to three people." Each paper has reported that he spoke to three people in a surreptitious manner, even going so far as to pay Papadopoulos $3000 to fly across the Atlantic Ocean to discuss a research paper in which the source was feigning interest.

(According to the two newspapers, Papadopoulos was even sent to have drinks a "young woman assistant." Did anyone ever interact with this guy without this familiar old story element floating around?)

This surreptitious behavior helps explain why the source's conduct will strike some people as being a kissin' cousin to "spying." For that reason, you aren't allowed to know what the source's apparently did.

You're allowed to hear that he "talked to" three people. You aren't allowed to know that he deceived them when he did.

(As to what else he might have done, we of course can't know about that.)

Maddow blew right past the basic facts in the Post and Times news reports. More typically, she now stages extended public readings of the Times' latest explosive report—but only if the explosive report is favorable to our glorious "resistance."

In this case, she didn't think you needed to know what the source apparently did. And in this morning's Washington Post, Gene Robinson carried this rank deception to a point of pure Pravdaism.

Maddow pretended to explain what Halper "specifically" did. Robinson pretends to tell us what "really happened." Please say hello to Big Brother:
ROBINSON (5/25/18): Witness how Trump is trying to use the word “spy” as a weapon against the FBI, the Justice Department and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of Russian interference in the election. The president’s performance this week has been totally dishonest—and, let’s be honest, quite effective.

Here is what really happened, as far as we know: In 2016, the FBI saw what it believed were Russian attempts to interfere with the U.S. election, including contacts with three Trump campaign advisers. Alarmed and needing to know more—but not wanting to publicly investigate the campaign, which could be prejudicial against Trump—agents asked a retired college professor named Stefan A. Halper to touch base with those advisers to see what he could find out. Halper did so. Two of the advisers, Carter Page and Sam Clovis, have spoken publicly about the encounters and described them as innocuous.
Halper "touched base" with three advisers! After scolding Trump for being "totally dishonest," Robinson takes his turn at the ancient game.

"Here is what really happened, as far as we know," Robinson says. He goes on to tell us much less than his own newspaper, the Washington Post, says it knows.

Like Maddow and everyone else before him, Robinson omits the deceptions and the duplicitous conduct of the "retired college professor" who "touched base" with the three advisers, none of whom were approached in a forthright manner. In this way, Robinson is able to swear on a stack of Pravdas that no "spying" occurred:
ROBINSON (continuing directly): Here is what happened, according to Trump: “Spygate!”

Trump has consistently and cleverly referred to Halper as a “spy,” rather than an “informant,” which is what he really was.
According to this second minder, Trump says Halper was a spy—but he really was just an informant!

That is a semantic claim—a claim about the most accurate way to describe what occurred. That said, Robinson pimps his claim by refusing to tell you what his own newspaper has reported about what really happened.

He tells you that Halper just "touched base." So aboveboard, innocent, pure!

This has now been going on for just under a week. Robinson was willing to use Halper's name today, but you simply aren't allowed to hear what Halper apparently did. (As far as we know, no one has denied the accuracy of the account in the Post and the Times.)

If the reports by the Post and the Times are correct, did Halper do something wrong? That is a matter of judgment.

By now, though, we are engaged in a great tribal war, and our tribe no longer has use for judgment. Instead, we want to insist that "spy" is just crazily wrong, and that "informant" is perfect.

As with Pravda, so too here. The party line must prevail, even if elementary facts must be disappeared.

Robinson's column should shock the senses. (Trump, of course, is disordered, ill, deranged.) Because we're engaged in a great tribal war, there's no real chance that it will.

That said, how about it? Did Halper "spy" on Papadopoulos? As far as we know, not exactly, but we'd say he came somewhat close.

He misled Papadopoulos, paid him money, lured him across the ocean and burned his time, all on false pretenses. Rather than explain why the FBI did that, Big Brothers like Gene are simply going to keep you from hearing what he did.

Rachel told you what the informant "specifically" did. Robinson told you what "really happened."

At that point, each of the corporate liberal stars proceeded to play you. This is where the discourse goes when one side knows it has lost a large chunk of the public's trust and can't win a debate straight up.

Robinson has done this sort of thing before. Absent full-court supervision, Maddow shouldn't be on the air.

Just like on The Americans: A third party is floating around during the trip to London. This is what Robinson's paper reported about the trip, which was arranged on false pretenses:
COSTA, LEONNIG, HAMBURGER AND BARRETT (5/19/18): The professor invited Papadopoulos to come to London later that month to discuss the paper, offering to pay the costs of his travel. "I understand that this is rather sudden but thought given your expertise, it might be of interest to you," he wrote.

Papadopoulos accepted. While in London, he met for drinks with a woman who identified herself as the professor's assistant, before meeting on Sept. 15 with the professor at the Traveler's Club, a 200-year-old private club that is a favorite of foreign diplomats stationed in London, according to the emails described to The Post.
This is what the New York Times reported:
GOLDMAN, MAZZETTI AND ROSENBERG (5/19/18): Mr. Papadopoulos accepted the offer and arrived in London two weeks later, where he met for several days with the academic and one of his assistants, a young woman.

Over drinks and dinner one evening at a high-end London hotel, the F.B.I. informant raised the subject of the hacked Democratic National Committee emails that had spilled into public view earlier that summer, according to a person familiar with the conversation. The source noted how helpful they had been to the Trump campaign, and asked Mr. Papadopoulos whether he knew anything about Russian attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Mr. Papadopoulos replied that he had no insight into the Russian campaign—despite being told months earlier that the Russians had dirt on Mrs. Clinton in the form of thousands of her emails. His response clearly annoyed the informant, who tried to press Mr. Papadopoulos about what he might know about the Russian effort, according to the person.

The assistant also raised the subject of Russia and the Clinton emails during a separate conversation over drinks with Mr. Papadopoulos, and again he denied he knew anything about Russian attempts to disrupt the election.
Just a question:

Do you feel sure you understand the role of that "young woman assistant" with whom Papadopoulos met for drinks even before meeting Halper? Just what makes you feel so sure? Because you believe in Rachel and the specificity she stands for?

Could this have been like on The Americans? What makes you feel so sure?

GAPS AND MAN AT YALE: The city too busy to go to Yale!

FRIDAY, MAY 25, 2018

Lemon does Atlanta:
Don Lemon has seen rivers.

Lemon called attention to this situation on Monday, first in a graduation speech at Clark Atlanta University, then by playing part of the speech on his nightly cable news program.

Lemon hosts his own program on CNN for two hour each weekday night. Still, that's less than the three or four hours Lemon should be on the air, just in terms of pure greatness.

We assume that's what Lemon meant when he spoke at Clark Atlanta. He's a major member of a major elite—but he isn't major enough, as he at last disclosed.

Below, you see the part of the speech which aired on CNN. Here's how Lemon chose to end Monday night's two-hour program:
LEMON (5/21/18): Before we leave you tonight, I want to share a great experience that I had today. I was honored to give the commencement address at Clark Atlanta University, a historically black university. Those graduates are amazing.

And I wanted to speak to them about the world we live in and why they matter, especially when we so often see the incidents of blatant outright racism, even coming from the White House.

I wanted each of those graduates to know the power they have and the history that makes them the strong men and women they are. Listen:


LEMON: Are you ready? Are you ready? OK, well, let's go. I came here to tell you that slavery was not a choice.


No matter who tells you slavery was a choice, no matter what exalted names that they may bestow upon themselves. Jesus, whoever, slavery was not a damn choice. I came in to tell that your blackness is so beautiful that it almost hurts my eyes to look out at you.


That I almost have to look away because you are so stunningly beautiful, all of you. The skinny to the thick. The short to the tall. The brother with the Afro and the one with the fade, OK? And not a day goes by that I am not underestimated, still at 52 years old, that I am not—

There you go. All right, black don't crack.

That I am not underappreciated, that I am not undervalued, and still I rise and still I rise and still I rise. And you want to know why? You want to know why? Because I had no choice. And you have no choice.

Even with everything I just said, there is no excuse for you and there is no excuse for me either. You built this. We built this. And when I say we built this, I'm talking about our ancestors. I'm not just talking about Clark Atlanta University. I'm not just talking about Atlanta. I'm not just talking about Georgia. I'm talking about America.

This is America. Don't catch you slipping up. Don't catch you slipping up. Look what I'm whipping up. This is what I'm whipping up. This speech that you need to hear. All right?

According to Lemon, enslavement wasn't a choice. no matter what You-Know-Who said!

And not only that! Not a day goes by that Lemon isn't underestimated, undervalued and underappreciated! He's on the air two hours each night, when it ought to be three or four!

According to Lemon, this is the way he helped those Clark Atlanta graduates understand "the world we live in and why they matter." In the part of the speech he chose to air, he told them the grads that they look good—and that he, CNN celebrity Don Lemon, is grossly underappreciated and undervalued!

Anthropologically speaking, we might draw a lesson from this somewhat peculiar event. We humans may be inclined toward self-importance, and towards a possible disregard for the larger needs and interests of others.

This may be especially true the more we move up the ladder. As we've told you again and again, no one escapes the maws of "cable news" with their heart and head intact.

Lemon didn't tell the college grads how much he's paid by CNN. For ourselves, we were left wondering if his compensation even satisfies federal minimum wage requirements.

But as we watched that excerpt from Lemon's address, we thought again about the microaggressions of Yale. We thought about the low-income students of New Haven, Hartford, Stamford and Bridgeport—and even of the low-income students of metro Atlanta, which is often described as "the city too busy to go to Yale."

That moniker has never made a lot sense, but then again, neither did Lemon's address. But as we listened to Lemon bellyache, we thought about the large achievement gaps of Atlanta, the city in which he spoke and the home of CNN.

We tried to think if we've ever seen Lemon talk about those very large gaps. We tried to recall: Have we ever seen him discuss the deserving kids who struggle beneath their yoke? That said, does anyone at CNN address this aspect of its home city? The channel likes to show footage of lava flows, but what about discussions of Atlanta's low-income kids?

We'll let you conduct the search for those discussions! For today, let's take a quick look at the data with which you won't hear discussed in the increasing number of shouting matches conducted by Lemon on "the cable channel too busy to give a goshd*m."

The sprawling region called Metro Atlanta is served by some of the nation's largest school systems, including the Atlanta Public Schools itself. Without attempting to pick and choose, let's limit ourselves to three of these systems, then consider the state as a whole.

The gaps are very large. The burdens they impose are great.

Granted, none of what we'll show you today can compare to the offenses visited upon Lemon, who is, after all, a member of an elite. Still, we would be inclined to suggest that even mistreated people like Lemon might set aside a few crumbs of their time for the less significant problems faced, let's say, by the little girl who will be starting first grade in these school systems this fall.

Once again, we're using the data from Professor Reardon's nationwide study.
If Lemon could briefly get over himself, he might ask his corporate owners to spend a tiny bit of time on this modern version of "the problem we all live with:"
Where the average student stood
Grades 3-8, reading and math
Atlanta Public Schools:

White kids: 2.9 years above grade level
Black kids: 1.5 years below grade level
According to Reardon's data, the gap there stood at 4.4 years—presumably at or near the start of sixth grade!

That's a gigantic gap. We'll guess the district's relatively small white population (12 percent) is unusually affluent. This would help explain the high average score by white kids—but the river there is wide.

That said, The DeKalb County School District is larger than the Atlanta Public Schools, and it contains something like ten percent of Atlanta. The data there looked like this:
Where the average student stood
Grades 3-8, reading and math
DeKalb County School District:

White kids: 2.2 years above grade level
Black kids: 1.5 years below grade level
Not bad! Only 3.7 years at the start of sixth grade! For the record, this system's student population in grades 3-8 was 70% black, only ten percent white, according to Reardon's data.

Sports fans have heard of Fulton County because of the Atlanta Braves. According to Reardon, the gap in the Fulton County School System looked like this:
Where the average student stood
Grades 3-8, reading and math
Fulton County School System:

White kids: 2.2 years above grade level
Black kids: 1.0 years below grade level
According to the system itself, the district's current student population is 42% black, 29% percent white.

These three systems aren't the largest in Metro Atlanta. The Gwinnett County Public Schools and the Cobb County School District, the two largest in the region, were among the nation's 25 largest in 2014.

That said, you can't get the fullest picture of the situation on a district-by-district basis. Here's one of the gaps which existed statewide on the 2017 Naep:
Average scores, 2017 Naep
Georgia, Grade 8 math

White kids: 293.28
Black kids: 264.03
Hispanic kids: 274.67
Asian-American kids: insufficient sample
Those gaps are smaller than the statewide gaps in Connecticut. It's also true that black and Hispanic kids in Georgia outscored their counterparts from The Nutmeg State, a state in which we liberals mainly worry about the experiences of students forced to go to Yale.

Meanwhile, back in Atlanta, it was all about Lemon and Clark. By his own admission, he's underappreciated and undervalued every day; after watching his speech excerpt, we weren't entirely sure that he gets paid at all. Meanwhile, his channel devotes tons of time to lava flow, none to the struggling kids of its home city and state.

Dr. King would have understood. We humans! The closer we get to the mountaintop, the more we may be inclined to forget about our lessers so far below.

The gaps are vast in metro Atlanta. When will Don Lemon, huge cable star, rise above his own misuse and remind his owners to get off their ascots and pretend that they actually care?

Still coming: Gaps and pseudo-solutions

BREAKING: Widespread refusal to speak continues!

THURSDAY, MAY 24, 2018

A fascinating event:
On this, the fifth full day of the episode, we continue to be fascinated by the pundit corps' refusal to engage in normal journalistic behavior.

We refer to the studied refusal to discuss what the New York Times and the Washington Post have reported in major news reports. Their reports concern the way the FBI went about gathering information from George Papadopoulos.

Journalists are refusing to discuss what the Post and the Times have reported. This morning, for example, Joe Scarborough made this statement early on, at 6:07 AM:
SCARBOROUGH (5/24/18): It's really remarkable, listening to the president of the United States going out there lying about quote "Spygate," and then lying and saying "That 's what you all are calling it." Nobody is calling it that because there was no Spygate. Everybody knows what happened, and David Ignatius, talk about, if you will, just how peculiar, how strange and I think many people would say how dangerous this is...
We were especially struck by the highlighted phrase. But let's start with this statement:

"There was no Spygate."

Was there a Spygate? Since nobody knows what such a claim even means, it's hard to know how to answer. That said, the idea that "everybody knows what happened" is especially striking under the circumstances.

We refer to the way the entire liberal punditry has refused to discuss the reports in the Times and the Post which describe what the FBI's informant actually did. To this day, we've seen no one on CNN or MSNBC explain what has been reported in those major papers. Nor has anyone offered a contrary account of what the FBI's informant actually did.

In an amazing break from normal cable behavior, no one is discussing the account which appeared in the Post and the Times. Perhaps there's some sort of reason for that, but with everyone behaving this way, it's especially silly to see Scarborough say that "everybody knows what happened."

In fact, nobody knows what happened! If you didn't read the reports in the Times and the Post, you don't even know what has been reported. We have read the Times and the Post, and we feel quite sure that there's a great deal which we don't know at this time.

Last night, on The Americans, we saw a remarkable bit of action. An FBI agent called an American citizens in Buenos Aires. He identified himself as an FBI agent, then told the man he wanted to ask him some questions!

According to the Post and the Times, that isn't what the FBI did with respect to Papadopoulos. But for some reason, two major cable channels are committed to 1) not telling you what the newspapers have reported; 2) insisting that everyone knows what actually happened; and 3) robotically insisting that the FBI did nothing wrong.

In fact, no one really knows what happened. Also, this is a very strange journalistic event.

In a spin-off of the refusal to speak, consider yesterday's post by Kevin Drum. It ran beneath a headline carved from the liberal world's current script:
Stop It. Stefan Halper Wasn’t Spying on Trump
In the bulk of his post, Drum explains why Donald J. Trump is excitedly pushing his "Spygate" line. But as Drum starts, he says this:
DRUM (5/23/18): Why is Donald Trump using the word SPY every ten minutes or so even though there’s zero evidence that Stefan Halper was spying in any normal definition of the word?
Is that true? Is it true that there’s "zero evidence that Halper was spying in any normal definition of the word?"

"Spying" is a somewhat imprecise term. We wouldn't rush to use the term ourselves in this circumstance, but it seems to us that what Halper did is in the general neighborhood.

According to the Post and the Times, he approached Papadopoulos on false pretenses. He then paid him money to fly across the Atlantic so he could engage him in surreptitious questioning, keeping his true motives hidden.

We wouldn't rush to call that "spying." It's also true that millions of people have no idea that Halper is said to have done those things because everyone from Scarborough on down is refusing to repeat what the Post and the Times have reported. In that sense, it wasn't just Papadopoulos! The public is getting played too!

By the way, what is the normal definition of "spying?" We did something which normally isn't smart or helpful—we decided to "look it up." Here are four online definitions of "spy" used as as a verb:
to observe secretively or furtively with hostile intent

Cambridge English Dictionary:
to secretly gather and report information about another country or organization

Merriam Webster:
to watch secretly usually for hostile purposes

Oxford Dictionaries:
Work for a government or other organization by secretly obtaining information about enemies or competitors.
Was Halper "spying" on Papadopoulos? That wouldn't be the first word we'd use.

That said, Halper was gathering information in a secretive, furtive manner. That will strike a lot of people as an odd thing to have done in the context of a presidential campaign—and stating the obvious, none of us has any way of knowing what else Halper or the FBI might have been done.

Last night, Stan Beeman called Pastor Tim and identified himself as an FBI agent. In this other real =world circumstance, an FBI functionary lured Papadopoulos across the ocean in a clandestine manner.

Why didn't the FBI take a less "furtive" approach? As long as every cable pundit agrees to disappear what has been reported, you'll never have to wonder if the FBI used good judgment, and had clean motives, in this particular case.

In one sense, doing this may have been dumb because it's so easy to demonize this conduct in the way Trump has done. Agent Stan IDed himself. Why didn't moneybags Halper? No one is answering the question because the conduct behind the question is being disappeared.

This is strange journalistic behavior. Also this, concerning Scarborough's silly claim:

None of us has any way of knowing what else the FBI may have done. When did liberals start to believe that agencies like the FBI are always smart and honorable? Does opposition to Donald J. Trump require that we too must he defiantly dumb?

GAPS AND MAN AT YALE: The state of play across the state!

THURSDAY, MAY 24, 2018

Part 4—Where only elite children count:
It would be a better world if young people—young people at Yale, let's say—were never viewed or assessed on the basis of their "race."

(Note: The concept that people have a "race," and that their race defines their identity, is a destructive idea which comes to us live and direct from The World the Slaveholders Made.)

It would be a better world if young people were never assessed in such ways. It would also be a better world if young people didn't even think they were being so viewed and assessed, sometimes in situations where their judgment may be imperfect.

It would be a better world if young people—even young people at Yale!—weren't confronted with such situations. On the other hand, it would also be a better world if the students of the state of Connecticut didn't produce academic data like these:
Average scores, 2017 Naep
Connecticut, Grade 8 math

White kids: 295.01
Black kids: 257.73
Hispanic kids: 263.00
Asian-American kids: 311.18
By a standard, very rough rule of thumb, the average white student in the Nutmeg State was 3.7 years ahead of the average black student in Grade 8 math. It would be a better world if the many black kids in the state of Connecticut weren't asked to deal with the consequences of that kind of achievement gap.

That said, the kid who gets looked at sideways at Yale is elite. On that basis, that person is worthwhile in the mind of our high liberal class.

The young person who's struggling in the Bridgeport schools comes from a much lower class. All in all, those Bridgeport kids can go drown in the Sound as far as our high liberal news orgs are concerned. The microaggressions of Yale are a serious deal to our liberal elite. The macro-burdens of Bridgeport are essentially never discussed.

It has now been more than two years since the New York Times, as part of a bungled news report, presented the voluminous, gruesome data from a nationwide study by Professor Reardon and two associates.

The data are there for all to assess. The data have been there for more than two years, but our big corporate stars just don't care.

Rachel and Lawrence and Chris and the gang would drown in the Long Island Sound themselves before they'd stoop to discussing such a topic—though they might be more likely to end it all in the ocean surf found in the Hamptons.

Just south of Bridgeport, we find Fairfield, the city's wealthy next-door neighbor. Using Readon's data, we explored the gaps between the students of these two school systems in yesterday's award-wining report.

That said, while New Haven is known as The Elm City, Fairfield is gateway to the Gold Coast. Meandering through the county toward New York City, the traveler hits such school systems as these (Professor Reardon's data):
Where the average student stood
Grades 3-8, reading and math

Westport: 2.6 years above grade level
Ridgefield: 2.6 years above grade level
New Canaan: 2.7 years above grade level
Darien: 2.6 years above grade level

Black kids, Bridgeport: 1.9 years below grade level
Granted, those are some of the wealthiest communities in the nation. That said, kids from those communities will sometimes head off to spend their college years at Harvard or even at Yale.

Bridgeport's kids will rarely have to worry about something like that. According to Reardon's data, the average black student in Bridgeport was 4.5 years behind the average student in those communities, presumably at or near the start of sixth grade!

We liberals! We care a great deal, as we basically should, about microaggressions at Yale. But what would it take to make us consider the average black kids across the whole state of Connecticut?

They're much more numerous than Yale students, and they face a much tougher road through life. What keeps us from briefly considering their plight as we rage, rage against the torments faced by the students of Yale?

We'd planned to discuss the ultimate dream—the kind of "desegregation" which might result if the Bridgeport schools and the schools of next-door neighbor Fairfield just up and decided to merge.

We liberals love to dream such dreams. They make us feel like good, moral people—and they throw the little girl who will start first grade in Bridgeport this fall deeper off into the Sound.

We'd planned to discuss that impossible dream, but let's leave that for another day. Before moving on to Atlanta, "the Yale of The South," let's finish our ruminations about gaps and man [sic] at Yale:

In an ideal world, young people at Yale would never be assessed on the basis of their "race." Also in an ideal world, they might occasionally care a bit more about the young people of Bridgeport.

In an ideal world, our multimillionaire corporate cable stars would stop selling The Chase long enough to talk about the gaps which exist all over the state of Connecticut.

Granted, they'd have no idea what to say, so long has it been since they've considered such problems. And, of course, they'll never do that because their owners know something about us:

We liberals! We weep for the poor elite children of Yale. As for the low-income kids of New Haven, Hartford, Bridgeport and Stamford, we quit on those kids a long time ago.

We're rarely asked to consider their plight. Lawrence and Rachel, and their handlers, know that we don't really care!

Tomorrow: Lemon and Clark

BREAKING: Chait calls spy theory completely insane!


Forgets to say what happened:
The headline on Jonathan Chait's post this morning said this:
Trump's FBI Spy Theory Is Completely Insane
For a good time, click there.

Almost everything Trump says and does tends to lean toward the insane. (Chait, of course, is using the term in its pleasing, metaphorical sense. As far as we know, he's never taken a stand on whether the press corps should discuss the possibility that Trump's behavior reflects actual mental illness.)

If it's ever fully fleshed out, Trump's "spy theory" will make little or no sense. Here's something else that doesn't make a boatload of sense:

In a fairly lengthy post, Chait doesn't describe the part of the FBI's conduct which most needs explanation and justification. Like everyone else on our lazy, floundering team, he blows past the basic facts of the FBI's conduct. Having blown past the shakiest facts, he's free to say that the other guy's reaction to the facts is completely insane. Pleasing!

Why did the FBI go surreptitious in its approach to Papadopoulos (and Page)? Was it a good idea to adopt this technique within the context of a presidential campaign?

We'd like to see someone like Chait speak to these simple-minded questions. But as our panicked pseudo-liberal culture keeps trending toward the totally tribal, people like Chait grant themselves the right to disappear the possibly inconvenient facts which they'd otherwise have to explain. In this way, the basic facts about the FBI's conduct in this matter have been disappeared.

Chait used to be a smart policy analyst who was considered a bit of a squish on the left. In the past year, he has turned himself into a hackneyed, hysterical anti-Trump blogger. No obvious snark left behind!

He now spends the bulk of his time in the land of useless bashing of Trump. It's probably good for his career. It seems to us that it isn't real good for basic American interests.

BREAKING: Three thousand clams have disappeared!


A bizarre journalistic event:
In this post, for the third straight day, we'll be discussing the disappearance of the clams.

More precisely, three thousand clams have gone missing in our high-profile public discussion! Also, a plane ride to London! That too has been disappeared!

We refer to the $3000 reportedly paid to George Papadopoulos by Stefan Halper, the FBI's now-famous, though sometimes still-unnamed, "informant." In the endless discussions of this event, those three thousand clams—and that plane ride to London—have been disappeared.

Was there any such payment at all? On each of the past two days, we've shown you the way the New York Times reported this payment to Papadopoulos—a payment which was made under false, phony pretenses. (For yesterday's post, click here.)

That said, the Washington Post also reported the payment last Saturday, in even more detail than the Times. Below, you see the Post's account of the matter, part of a 1550-word report by four of the Post's top reporters. In this passage, the reporters refer to the FBI informant as "the professor:"
COSTA, LEONNIG, HAMBURGER AND BARRETT (5/19/18): People familiar with [the informant's] outreach to Papadopoulos said it was done as part of the FBI’s investigation. The young foreign-policy adviser had been on the radar of the FBI since the summer, and inside the campaign had been pushing Trump and his aides to meet with Russian officials.

“Please pardon my sudden intrusion just before the Labor Day weekend,” the professor wrote to Papadopoulos
in a message described to The Post.

He said he was leading a project examining relations between Turkey and the European Union. He offered to pay Papadopoulos $3,000 to write a paper about the oil fields off the coast of Turkey, Israel and Cyprus, “a topic on which you are a recognized expert.”

It is a long-standing practice of intelligence operatives to try to develop a source by first offering the target money for innocuous research or writing.

The professor invited Papadopoulos to come to London later that month to discuss the paper, offering to pay the costs of his travel. “I understand that this is rather sudden but thought given your expertise, it might be of interest to you,” he wrote.

Papadopoulos accepted.
While in London, he met for drinks with a woman who identified herself as the professor’s assistant, before meeting on Sept. 15 with the professor at the Traveler’s Club, a 200-year-old private club that is a favorite of foreign diplomats stationed in London, according to the emails described to The Post.

After Papadopoulos returned to the United States and sent his research document, the professor responded: “Enjoyed your paper. Just what we wanted. $3,000 wired to your account. Pls confirm receipt.”
Some people will refer to that approach as "tradecraft." Rightly or wrongly, others will be inclined, and not completely crazily, to describe it as "spying." Meanwhile, the New York Post has reported the payment too. To read that report, click here.

In short, three major newspapers, but mainly the Washington Post and the New York Times, have reported this incident. But we've still seen no one on CNN or MSNBC describe these reported events.

We'll assume that these channels have adopted a policy under which this report can't be mentioned, perhaps because the report hasn't been confirmed by their own reporters. We say this because pro-Trump commentator Jason Miller referred to "entrapment" several times on Monday night's Anderson Cooper show.

Presumably, that was a reference to this clandestine procedure. But even Miller, a CNN contributor, didn't cite the clandestine payment, or explain why he was using the term.

Was this approach to Papadopoulos really a form of "entrapment?" Not really, although the informant was imaginably hoping that Papadopoulos would cop to inappropriate or even illegal behavior.

At any rate, these high-profile reports by the Post and the Times have gone down the memory hole on CNN and MSNBC. And not only there! In this morning's Washington Post, David Ignatius wrote a column about the informant, but even he skipped past this episode—an episode which has been reported in substantial detail in his own newspaper!

Why does this matter? Here's why:

We'd like to see a specialist like Ignatius answer a simple-minded question. Why did the FBI have this informant approach Papadopoulos under false pretenses, in a surreptitious manner?

They'd been told that Papadopoulos had said that the Russkies had Clinton's emails. Why didn't they simply send an agent to ask him, in the full light of day, what he'd actually heard?

We'd like to see analysts answer that simple-minded question. But in the current climate, no one is willing to say that the clandestine approach occurred!

The FBI's surreptitious approach helps explain why it's easy to sell this as an example of "spying." Indeed, even James Clapper seemed to possibly fumble the language yesterday on The View:
BEHAR (5/22/18): So I ask you, was the F.B.I. spying on Trump’s campaign?

CLAPPER: No, they were not. They were spying on—a term I don’t particularly like—but on what the Russians were doing. Trying to understand were the Russians infiltrating, trying to gain access, trying to gain leverage or influence, which is what they do.
Oof—and oops as well!

Don't get us wrong! Given the totally tribalized nature of our current political world, our two tribes have already created hardened narratives about what Clapper meant by what he said. But, tribal imperatives to the side, Clapper came awkwardly close to saying that the FBI actually was spying in its approach to Papadopoulos—but they were only trying to spy on what the Russkies knew, not on what the Trump campaign was doing.

Whatever! People can call this approach whatever they like. But in a traditionally rational world, the facts come before the semantics.

The recitation of basic facts comes before the semantics! But in this episode, everyone is arguing semantics, and no one is stating the reported facts! It's amazing to see the way those high-profile reports by the Post and the Times have been disappeared wherever anti-Trump viewpoints are sold. Even Ignatius, a Post columnist, won't mention what the Post itself said!

This is one of the weirdest journalistic episodes we've ever seen at this site. It represents a descent into a Pravda-istic, post-Enlightenment type of discourse.

We have a deeply disordered president—and an increasingly tribalized mainstream press. In this case, our two most important mainstream newspapers have published similar, high-profile news reports. It's amazing, and deeply bizarre, to see our floundering career liberal world refusing to discuss what these famous newspapers have said.

We liberals! We're staging a fight about the semantics—and refusing to state the known facts! As our deeply corporatized tribe descends into its own form of madness, we liberals won't even be asked to hear the known facts about what has occurred!