How racist is Mary Poppins Returns?


How slippery and sad is our tribe?
We'll start by making an admission:

We've never seen Mary Poppins, the 1964 Disney film which includes a Julie Andrews dance number which "might seem like an innocuous comic scene if [the original Mary Poppins] novels didn’t associate chimney sweeps’ blackened faces with racial caricature."

That assessment appeared in Tuesday's New York Times, penned by Daniel Pollack-Pelzner, a youngish associate professor from Linfield College with degrees from both Harvard and Yale.

We've never seen the film in question. For that matter, we've never seen The Wizard of Oz, on TV or in a theater. Someone marveled at that admission just last week. But people! Given all the wars we've had to stop, who had that kind of time?

We've never seen Mary Poppins, the 1964 film. That said, we've read a lot of slippery language over the course of the past many years, and we couldn't resist the impulse to parse the professor's pleasing pronouncement.

Read again what the professor said. Did he say that the Andrews dance number shouldn't "seem like an innocuous comic scene," based upon material found in a 1943 novel? It almost sounds that way to us, even if you go ahead read his full rumination, which you'll have to decide to do on your own.

If that's what the professor said, what should he be taken to mean? Dis he mean that people who watch that movie shouldn't view that particular scene as "innocuous?" Did he mean that the makers of the 1964 film had some inappropriate race-based intent?

Dis he mean that readers can go ahead and enjoy the film while thinking poorly of the racial outlook of the people who made it? What did Associate Professor Pollack-Pelzner actually mean by that statement?

What did the professor mean? We found ourselves wondering that all through his peculiar piece in Tuesday's Times.

In our assessment, the professor seemed especially skilled at the dark art of pleasing the tribe though indistinct insinuation. For example, here's the way his report begins. What does he mean by this?
POLLACK-PELZNER (1/29/19): “Mary Poppins Returns,” which picked up four Oscar nominations last week, is an enjoyably derivative film that seeks to inspire our nostalgia for the innocent fantasies of childhood, as well as the jolly holidays that the first “Mary Poppins” film conjured for many adult viewers.

Part of the new film’s nostalgia, however, is bound up in a blackface performance tradition that persists throughout the Mary Poppins canon, from P. L. Travers’s books to Disney’s 1964 adaptation, with disturbing echoes in the studio’s newest take on the material, “Mary Poppins Returns.”
According to Pollack-Pelzner, a current film, Mary Poppins Returns, is an "enjoyable" film. He says the new film "seeks to inspire our nostalgia" for several states of affairs.

According to the Harvard/Yale scholar, the new film "seeks to inspire our nostalgia for the innocent fantasies of childhood." It also seems that the new film "seeks to inspire our nostalgia for...the jolly holidays that the [1964] film conjured for many adult viewers."

For ourselves, we're not entirely sure what that salad means. In our view, the professor's prose, at least in its edited form, is a bit hard to parse at that point.

For what it's worth, Manohla Dargis, the Times film reviewer, didn't seem to find the new film all that enjoyable. At the Washington Post, Michael O'Sullivan was underwhelmed as well.

That said, what does the professor mean when he offers the following tribally pleasing thought about "part of the new film's nostalgia?" We're not entirely sure what this puddle means:

"Part of the new film’s bound up in a blackface performance tradition that persists throughout the Mary Poppins canon."

What the heck does that mean? Generally speaking, nostalgia would be, in this context, a feeling experienced by someone who views this new film. It wouldn't be something possessed by the film, though the film might attempt to invoke nostalgia.

Generally speaking, nostalgia would be a feeling on the part of the viewer. If so, what does the professor mean when he says that "part of the film's nostalgia" is "bound up in a blackface tradition" that existed in the original novels and in the 1964 film?

Does he mean that the new film participates in that blackface tradition? If that's what he meant, he could have just said that, of course.

He seems to mean something much more complex. Or is he simply hustling Times readers, serving them tribal porridge?

We've never seen Mary Poppins. Beyond that, we won't be going to see Mary Poppins Returns.

But if we watched wither one of those films, would we be confronted with scenes which are racially insensitive? Would we be confronted with scenes which are explicitly "racist?"

As best we can tell, the professor never says that. Instead, his dainty soul gets triggered by "disturbing echoes" like this:
POLLACK-PELZNER: One of the more indelible images from the 1964 film is of Mary Poppins blacking up. When the magical nanny (played by Julie Andrews) accompanies her young charges, Michael and Jane Banks, up their chimney, her face gets covered in soot, but instead of wiping it off, she gamely powders her nose and cheeks even blacker. Then she leads the children on a dancing exploration of London rooftops with Dick Van Dyke’s sooty chimney sweep, Bert.

This might seem like an innocuous comic scene if Travers’s novels didn’t associate chimney sweeps’ blackened faces with racial caricature. “Don’t touch me, you black heathen,” a housemaid screams in “Mary Poppins Opens the Door” (1943), as a sweep reaches out his darkened hand. When he tries to approach the cook, she threatens to quit: “If that Hottentot goes into the chimney, I shall go out the door,” she says, using an archaic slur for black South Africans that recurs on page and screen.
Poor Pollack-Pelzner! When he watches the 1964 film, he's triggered by a disturbing flashback from a 1943 book!

In his judgment, does this mean that the 1964 dance scene was racially inappropriate, perhaps even racist? The professor never quite says. He simply insinuates throughout, pleasing morally pure Times readers with his ability to remember every inappropriate passage from a set of novels which date to 1934.

Indeed, there is no end to the string of triggers which haunt this fellow's dreams. For this overloaded soul, everything seems to suggest something else. Try the slippery language of this passage on for size, along with the strained association the slippery language permits:
POLLACK-PELZNER: When T.D. Rice, a popular white minstrel performer, crossed the Atlantic in the 1830s, his manager recalled that he inspired chimney sweeps and apprentices, who “wheeled about and turned about and jumped Jim Crow, from morning until night, to the annoyance of their masters, but the great delight of the cockneys.”

These chimney sweeps with minstrel dances were only a step in time away from Dick Van Dyke’s soot-faced Bert, needling the admiral on the rooftop, or Miranda’s lamplighter in “Mary Poppins Returns,” who worked for Bert as a child. The minstrel stage convention of the “pickaninny” rendered black slave children as cheery performers who, the historian Robin Bernstein argues, were “comically impervious to pain” inflicted by their labor. Similarly, the dark-lit grins and unflappable footwork of the lamplighters turn their dangerous labor into comic play; “smile and smirk,” they sing, is Cockney rhyming slang for “work.”
Rice, a minstrel performer from the 1830s, is "only a step in time away" from Lin Miranda's dance scenes in the new Poppins film.

Does that mean there is something racially insensitive, even racist, about Miranda's scene? Hiding behind more slippery locutions, this fly mother-frumper won't say.

This peculiar piece in Tuesday's Times sheds light on modern pseudo-progressive culture. It sheds light on major institutions—on the New York Times, on Harvard and Yale, on Tucker Carlson's nightly program on Fox.

Carlson loves to mock piddle like this. In recent months, all too often, his presentations haven't always exactly been wrong.

By normal standards, Pollack-Pelzner's obsessive piece belongs in some journal where it would be read by seven people, six of whom would fall asleep before his flashbacks were finished. By today's norms, his piece went straight to the front page of the Arts section of the New York Times, where it was placed by some flyweight editor who was rushing out the door to catch his ride to the edge of the Hamptons.

Concerning the children of Harvard and Yale, we will only say this:

Pollack-Pelzner displays a remarkable skill at the kind of slippery language which once was called "Clintonesque." When creeps like him emerge from such schools, we wonder if liberals shouldn't consider joining people like Carlson in asking if parents should still be sending their children to "college" at all.

Was something racially wrong with Mary Poppins? Is something racially wrong with the new Mary Poppins Returns?

We don't know, but there's something very wrong with the way this slippery fellow insinuates all the way through. He couldn't tell it straight if he tried. But in modern culture, slither like this is good enough for our desperate post-liberal tribe.

Others see this and roll their eyes. Again and again, more and more often, The Others aren't always so wrong. In these ways, the children emerging from Harvard and Yale find ways to let plutocrats rule.

Also this: In her Times review, Dargis reported no racial problem with the new film. As is appropriate, Times reviewers are rarely shy about reporting such problems.

Did Pollack-Pelzner say there was a problem? Given his slippery formulations, we can't really tell.

Can you?

Candidate Harris once dated Brown!


Malfunctioning minds want to know:
In a world which largely lacks talent among its elites, it has been an amazing thing to see new talent emerge.

Last year, we thought that campaign ad by Candidate Ocasio-Cortez was one of the greatest political statements we had ever seen. In part, its greatness lay in the way the candidate delivered the text of her ad.

We were thrilled to see her talent put on display once again when she spoke with Stephen Colbert last week.

More on that appearance below. To watch the first segment, click here.

We were also struck to see the way talent emerged when Kamala Harris held her initial rally in Oakland last Sunday. Harris displayed a rare command presence on stage—and the highly important ability to laugh and broadly smile.

When others liked Harris' lines of questioning in several Senate hearings last year, we found her a bit demagogic. That said, we were thrilled to see talent emerging last Sunday.

Because real talent is very rare, we've been thrilled to see it emerge. Then we found ourselves reading this, the start of a very short op-ed column by California honcho Willie brown, for whom we did radio spots for a number of months not that many years back:
BROWN (1/29/19): I've been peppered with calls from the national media about my "relationship" with Kamala Harris, particularly since it became obvious that she was going to run for president. Most of them, I have not returned.

Yes, we dated. It was more than 20 years ago...
That was the start of Brown's confession. Where we were thrilled to see talent emerge, the malfunctioning machines who constitute a large part of our upper-end press apparently wanted to talk about dating and sex.

These idiots simply can't help it. As we've told you again and again, this is the only type of topic they actually care about.

They care about who's zoomin' who. They also care about wardrobe and hair, and they acre a great deal about the phony quotations they choose as a group to invent.

These idiots simply can't help it. But neither can the corporate pseudo-progressives who are currently defining the scripts for our own floundering tribe.

We hate to criticize Monica Hesse again, but we think her new column in the Washington Post offers a case in point. Our analysis will run on this post-Aristotelian fuel:
"Man [sic] is the animal which lives by script alone."
We humans love to peddle our various tribal scripts. Under prevailing rules of the game, all the facts must be rearranged to fit these treasured narratives. It seems to us that this rule was in play even as Hesse got started:
HESSE (1/30/19): As of this week, women are running for president—multiple women—and lo, the country has been awarded the chance for a do-over. This time, we swear, we won’t order them to smile more if they really want our votes. This time, we’ll stop using phrases such as “likable enough?” when what we really mean is, “too many ovaries?”

Columnist, "sigh" right back at you! Hesse starts by pimping the silly idea that male candidates haven't been dogged, in recent decades, by the question of "likability." Beyond that, she pretends that Candidate Obama's giant smile wasn't correctly cited, again and again, as one of the secrets to his success.

Harris' completely believable smile and laughter will be an important weapon for her, just as large believable smiles have helped male pols in the past. Indeed, when we watched Ocasio-Cortez speaking with Colbert last week, we were struck by her amazing ability to bring the spirit of pleasure, enjoyment and fun to her discussion, as Bill Clinton did so long ago, agreeing to blow on his sax.

Beyond that, AOC's smile is very large, as was Obama's before her. This is a very large part of her talent, with which she's advancing important progressive ideas at an astounding rate.

A smile is a very important tool, in entertainment or politics. So is likability, even if the malfunctioning cyborgs of the upper-end press have massively overplayed likability in recent decades, routinely using it as a weapon against those pols they disfavor.

A smile is a very important tool but, in tribal journalism, the script is all there is. For that reason, we keep encountering inane discussions from everyone including Samantha Bee, in which progressives pretend that likability questions are visited on female candidates only.

Aristotle is said to have said that we human are "the rational animal." If he meant what he's often taken to have meant by that, it's clear that, for all his erudition, the great Greek never had cable.

All across the modern landscape, man [sic], including women, does little except peddle script. Every fact is made to fit the pre-existing story line. Distinctions will always be drawn to further the narrative, no matter how flimsy or tedious:
HESSE: Plenty of us have, after all, spent an awful lot of time discussing Bill Clinton’s willie and Anthony Weiner’s wiener: it’s not that we don’t talk about the sexual predilections of male candidates.

But we do talk about them in a different way.
We talk about men abusing power. We talk about women not even deserving power. The distinction matters...
These peddlers will always find a distinction designed to Keep Script Alive.

The idiots of the mainstream press have been chasing the sex lives of male pols ever since they literally hid in the bushes to take out Gary Hart. On liberal cable, the deranged Rachel Maddow just couldn't stop playing the Bentley telephone sex tape. She'd cover her ears and play "little girl" to pretend that she hated doing it.

These idiots have been doing this since 1987. They've changed the course of world history as they play their childish games. People are dead all over the world because they misfire this way and no, they don't plan to stop.

But in the mind of the reader of script, the current preferred tribal story line must always prevail. In the world of script-readers like Hesse, female pols have been attacked in unique, special ways—and that assertion must be the end of the story.

Citizens, can we talk? It isn't that these manifest idiots need to stop discussing the sex lives of female pols. They have to stop diddling themselves in this way in general.

They need to get their small, empty heads our of the nation's underwear drawers. But if you're the Washington Post "gender columnist," you will never say such a thing. Instead, you'll end your column peddling script in this way:
HESSE: [Willie Brown] wasn’t her boss. The relationship was consensual. Dating a technically still-married man 30 years one’s senior might not be the relationship choice that most of us would make, but it’s understandable that smart government officials in San Francisco’s political scene would end up socializing with each other. Was Harris supposed to date only morons with whom she had nothing in common?

Welcome to the 2020 campaign. I’m not saying there are easy answers to all of my questions. But the only way a woman is ever going to be elected to the top of anything is if we stop making insinuations about how she got there.
Hesse isn't claiming that there are easy answers to all her questions. That said, here's the last question she asked:
"Was Harris supposed to date only morons with whom she had nothing in common?"
Is Hesse so broken that she means to imply that we should be trying to answer that question? Aristotle's error is on full display whenever these script-readers scrawl.

Actual talent has been emerging, on TV and in the public square. As it does, the broken machines of the national "press corps" struggle to drag it on down.

Tomorrow: At the childish, Hamptons-based New York Times, script must now rule all

Thousands more children were separated!


How much did "cable news" care?
In hard copy, the report appeared atop the front page of the New York Times.

It appeared two Fridays ago. Beneath a double headline, the news report by Miriam Jordan started like this:
JORDAN (1/18/19): Many Families Split at Border Went Untallied / Report Says Thousands More Children Taken

The Trump administration most likely separated thousands more children from their parents at the Southern border than was previously believed,
according to a report by government inspectors released on Thursday.

The federal government has reported that nearly 3,000 children were forcibly separated from their parents under last year’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, under which nearly all adults entering the country illegally were prosecuted, and any children accompanying them were put into shelters or foster care.

But even before the administration officially unveiled the zero-tolerance policy in the spring of 2018, staff of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the agency that oversees the care of children in federal custody, had noted a “sharp increase” in the number of children separated from a parent or guardian, according to the report from the agency’s Office of Inspector General.

As of December, the department had identified 2,737 children who were separated from their parents under the policy and required to be reunified by a federal court order issued in June 2018.

But that number does not represent the full scope of family separations. Thousands of children may have been separated during an influx that began in 2017, before the accounting required by the court, the report said.

Thus, the total number of children separated from a parent or guardian by immigration authorities is “unknown,” because of the lack of a coordinated formal tracking system between the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the arm of Health and Human Services that takes in the children, and the Department of Homeland Security, which separated them from their parents.
The same situation was reported on the front page of that day's Washington Post. "IG estimates thousands more were separated at the border," the hard-copy headline said atop Amy Goldstein's report.

Did we mention the fact that this was reported at the very top of the New York Times' front page? According to this new report, the policy of separating immigrant children from their parents had been underway earlier than had previously been acknowledged.

The practice had resulted in thousands more separations than had been reported. Due to "the lack of a coordinated formal tracking system," the skillful minions of Donald J. Trump weren't able to provide an accurate account of the total number of separations.

The report appeared atop the front page of the hard-copy Times. It concerned one of the most heinous policies enacted by the Trump administration.

That said, we were struck by how little attention our corporate cable news channels devoted to the report. Simply put, our big corporate cable entertainment centers don't care about topics like this.

On CNN, this front-page topic received no prime time treatment at all. On the evenings of Thursday, January 17; Friday, January 18; and Monday, January 21, the topic wasn't mentioned by Anderson Cooper, Chris Cuomo or Don Lemon, the hosts who handle CNN's lineup from 8 PM Eastern till midnight.

It topped the front page of the New York Times, but CNN gave it a pass. The topic received a bit more coverage at MSNBC:

At MSNBC, the topic was completely ignored, over the three nights in question, by the programs hosted by Ari Melber, Chris Matthews and Lawrence O'Donnell. If you get your news from one of those programs, you didn't hear squat about this.

On Thursday, January 17, an extremely short mini-report appeared on the program hosted by Brian Williams, with Ali Velshi guest hosting. That same night, Chris Hayes explored the topic with Senator Merkley during his program's final segment.

On Monday, January 21, Rachel Maddow did a full report on the topic at the end of her show with Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU. As usual, Maddow seemed to go beyond some reported facts, making the story more thrilling. If only she had a telephone sex tape involving General Kelly!

Long ago and far away, Joe Scarborough said that this particular policy was so heinous that it stood to drive voters of various stripes away from Donald J. Trump. Despite this assessment, the general topic has been largely ignored by corporate anti-Trump cable.

Corporate cable likes to spend its evenings with familiar figures ("some of our favorite reporters and friends") speculating endlessly about who will have to go to prison and how soon they'll have to report there. Two weeks back, this topic topped the Times' front page, but that was the anthill it died on.

How many of the children in question will never see their parents again? On corporate cable, there's little sign that anyone actually cares about minor piddle like that. For ourselves, we think it's important that liberals develop a slightly more jaundiced view about the way corporate cable works.

By the way, how much do those cable hosts get paid by their corporate owners? For reasons which are blindingly obvious, you aren't encouraged to think about that, and you aren't permitted to know!

The Washington Post is very upset!


They weren't real upset in real time:
Once more, we're forced to delay for a week the start of the new year at this awatd-winning site.

"Aristotle's error" begins next week. For today, we turn to the deep concern expressed by the Washington Post in yesterday's top editorial.

The editor are very upset with the past conduct of one Roger Stone. His behavior took place in 2016, an election year.

According to the editors, Stone's gross moral corruption concerned the well-known nature of WikiLeaks. Hard-copy headlines included, the editorial started like this:
WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL (1/27/19): Mr. Stone's indictment/The charges against the president's ally reveal gross moral corruption

Roger Stone was indicted Friday for lying to Congress and witness tampering, not for conspiring with Russian intelligence or WikiLeaks, Moscow’s partner in disseminating materials stolen from the Democratic National Committee. Yet if special counsel Robert S. Mueller III did not disclose evidence of criminal collusion, the indictment makes clear that senior officials of the Trump campaign—including, possibly, Donald Trump himself—reacted to the criminal intelligence operation of a prime U.S. adversary by secretly trying to take advantage of it.

By mid-June 2016, it was publicly known that the DNC’s computer systems had been hacked by Russian government agents. The following month, when WikiLeaks released a trove of DNC emails, it was clear the material had come from the Russians. Yet, according to Mr. Stone’s indictment, the response of the Trump campaign was to contact Mr. Stone and ask him to find out what other damaging material WikiLeaks might have and when it would be released.
By June 2016, "it was publicly known" that WikiLeaks was "Moscow's partner," the irate editors wrote. Despite this fact, Stone, and the Trump campaign, wanted to know what kind of material WikiLeaks might have.

Everyone knew that WikiLeaks was Moscow's partner! The editors stressed this point again as their editorial ended:
WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL: Perhaps there was nothing illegal in the campaign’s actions, though we won’t know that until Mr. Mueller completes his work. But, as in the case of Mr. Trump’s secret pursuit of a real estate deal in Russia while running for president, his campaign’s dealings with Mr. Stone evince gross moral corruption. If it had nothing to do with the hack of the DNC, the Trump campaign should have done its best to steer clear of an attack on the U.S. political system by a hostile foreign power. Instead, at the least, it secretly sought to learn more about it so as to make the best use of it.


Earlier this week we pointed out that, if Mr. Trump did not secretly cut a business deal with the regime of Vladi­mir Putin while praising him on the campaign trail, it was not for lack of trying. Mr. Mueller’s latest indictment shows that if the president’s campaign did not conspire with WikiLeaks, an organization designated as a hostile intelligence service by the Senate Intelligence Committee, it was not out of scruple.
WikiLeaks had been "designated as a hostile intelligence service by the Senate Intelligence Committee!" As they ended their editorial, the editors stressed this general point again!

How righteous, how pure the editors were as they railed again this gross moral corruption! For ourselves, we thought of all the gross moral corruption which has emanated from the Washington Post from the Whitewater pseudo-scandal on, including the reign of terror of Ceci Connolly as the Post punished Candidate Gore for the alleged sins of President Clinton.

In that way, the Washington Post put George W. Bush in the White House. Children are dead all over Iraq because of what the paper's designated Gore-destroyer relentlessly did in twenty months of remarkably gruesome campaign coverage—gruesome coverage all "career liberals" knew they mustn't condemn or discuss.

The Post started in on Candidate Hillary Clinton in mid-2014. They thus continued their long campaign against both Clintons and Candidate Gore. As a result of decades of such behavior, we are all able to see who's American president now.

Yesterday, though, the Post was upset about the way the Trump campaign cavorted with "Moscow's partner"—with "an organization designated as a hostile intelligence service by the Senate Intelligence Committee." The editors were very, very upset about what the bad people had done.

We thought you might want to see the way the Post cavorted with WikiLeaks during the time in question. We thought you might want to see the way the Post described this org until the 2016 race was done.

On October 7, 2016, WikiLeaks began releasing John Podesta's stolen emails. The Post mugged, clowned, cavorted and played with the pointless contents of those stolen documents, as only such children will do.

For our money, Dan Zak's clowning essay on the front page of Style took the entertaining nonsense to its ultimate low point. Along the way, though, consider the way WikiLeaks was described on the front page of the famous paper which is so irate now.

On October 12, WikiLeaks released yet another batch of pointless catnip of the type our "mainstream press corps" loves. Under a triple headline, the Post reported the dump on the front page.

Note the way "Moscow's partner" was described by the Post:
PHILLIPS AND WAGNER (10/13/16): Hacked emails show anxiety over Clinton candidacy/
Wikileaks releases likely to continue/
Trump seizes chance to attack opponent's integrity

WikiLeaks released yet another batch of hacked emails from inside Hillary Clinton's campaign Wednesday, and with them came another round of embarrassing headlines and new glimpses of internal anxiety over the candidate's weaknesses.

Republican Donald Trump and his allies seized on the emails, which reveal comments by an aide about Catholics, a line from a paid speech in which Clinton might be seen as playing down the threat of terrorism and an internal dispute over potential conflicts of interest posed by the Clinton Foundation.

The drip-drip-drip of damaging attention is likely to continue. WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy organization, began releasing new messages last Friday from the personal email account of Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta, and has promised to issue tens of thousands more.

The correspondence reveals a campaign that has struggled all year to improve a flawed candidate. As far back as March, aides were keenly aware that she was resistant to the media, perhaps out of touch with regular Americans and unable to convey a clear message to voters.
Back when the morally glorious Post was playing its campaign reindeer games, WikiLeaks wasn't "Moscow's partner" or a Russian front. WikiLeaks was an "anti-secrecy organization!" Or so it said on the front page of the Washington Post!

So the great newspaper described this org on the road to Hillary's Defeat. That said, WikiLeaks kept releasing its piles of bullshit, and the Post kept pimping their contents along.

On October 26, Rosalind Helderman's report appeared on the Post's front page. Sure enough—it happened again!
HELDERMAN (10/26/16): Leak shows turmoil on Clinton team over emails

On the day the news broke that Hillary Clinton had used a private email account as secretary of state, the man who would soon be named to chair her presidential campaign fired off a note of distress, venting frustration about some of Clinton's closest aides.

"Speaking of transparency, our friends Kendall, Cheryl and Phillipe sure weren't forthcoming on the facts here," John Podesta complained in the March 2015 note, referring to Clinton's personal lawyer, David Kendall, as well as former State Department staffers Cheryl Mills and Philippe Reines.

"Why didn't they get this stuff out like 18 months ago? So crazy," replied Neera Tanden, a longtime Podesta friend who also has worked for Clinton. Then, answering her own question, Tanden wrote again: "I guess I know the answer. They wanted to get away with it."

The exchange, found in hacked emails from Podesta's account and released Tuesday by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, provides a striking window into how the revelation of Clinton's email setup roiled her nascent campaign team in the weeks before its official April 2015 kickoff.
This time, WikiLeaks was identified as "an anti-secrecy group." One day later, again on page A1, the Post fluffed Moscow's partner again:
HELDERMAN AND HAMBURGER (10/27/16): Top aide's leaked memo details 'Bill Clinton Inc.'

When top Bill Clinton aide Douglas Band wrote the memo, he was a central player at the Clinton Foundation and president of his own corporate consulting firm. Over the course of 13 pages, he made a case that his multiple roles had served the interests of the Clinton family and its charity.

In doing so, Band also detailed a circle of enrichment in which he raised money for the Clinton Foundation from top-tier corporations such as Dow Chemical and Coca-Cola that were clients of his firm, Teneo, while pressing many of those same donors to provide personal income to the former president.

The system has drawn scrutiny from Republicans, who say it allowed corporations and other wealthy supporters to pay for entree to a popular former president and a onetime secretary of state who is now the Democratic presidential nominee.

Band wrote the memo in 2011 to foundation lawyers conducting a review of the organization amid a brewing feud with the Clintons' daughter, Chelsea Clinton, who was taking a stronger role in leading the foundation and had expressed concerns about Teneo's operations.

The memo, made public Wednesday by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, lays out the aggressive strategy behind lining up the consulting contracts and paid speaking engagements for Bill Clinton that added tens of millions of dollars to the family's fortune, including during the years that Hillary Clinton led the State Department.
The bullshit just kept rolling out. The Post kept putting it on page A1, complete with its suggestion that WikiLeaks should perhaps win a Nobel Prize for its "anti-secrecy" work.

When it actually counted, the Post was happily pushing Moscow's line along with Trump and Stone. If someone steals a person's mail and shows it to the world at large, they're doing "anti-secrecy" work, or so the Post kept saying.

"Man [sic] is the rational animal," Aristotle is routinely said to have said. As part of this overall gestalt, we liberals tend to think that major orgs like the Washington Post behave with basic intellectual skill and in morally defensible ways.

We love it when they hand us pleasing fluff like that found in yesterday's editorial. Their conduct has been gruesome for decades, but boys and girls who seek press corps careers agree not to tell you that.

Ceci kept it up for twenty months. Our very favorite liberal stars knew they mustn't say so.

Later this week: Things "career liberals" may possibly do to get hired by the New York Times

Emba, Loofbourow get it right!


No pointless event left behind:
For our money, Christine Emba does a decent job with a certain recent random event in today's Washington Post.

Emba plays the Rashomon card as she discusses the recent interactions between the MAGA hat-wearing high school kids, the group of slur-slinging obvious crackpots and the Native American elder with the drum who, as the novelized matter turned out, isn't a Vietnam vet.

Because they tend to be simple-minded and tribal, our journalistic elites had big fun with this peculiar random event. We think Emba basically gets it right as she ends today's column:
EMBA (1/25/19): By the end of Kurosawa’s film, only two things are certain: A samurai is dead, and truth can be elusive. The same is true of the moment on the Mall: An ugly confrontation occurred, and for all our camera angles and polarizing debate, it will be impossible to truly know who, exactly, was most at fault.

Our time would be better spent turning the lens on ourselves.
For ourselves, we wouldn't call that peculiar random event an ugly event. It seems to us that the impulse to do so is part of the overwrought novelization which has come to dominate the way we now routinely hijack our failing American discourse.

We'd also advise against instantly trying to determine which people are "most at fault," especially if the people in question are a bunch of teenagers. Maddow wants everyone thrown in jail. It isn't an admirable instinct.

That said, in the end, Emba gets it right! The next time an unusual event like this occurs, our time would be well spent trying to figure out why we rush to build novelized narratives in which Our Own Tribe turns out to be morally good and flawless, with The Other Tribe evil and bad.

The impulse is everywhere at this point. It's also deeply childish.

Over Here, in our own liberal world, we've been playing this game for years now. We manufacture morality tales in which we've almost always invented a bogus fact; disappeared a relevant fact; or emphasized a fact which is totally irrelevant to the matter at hand. In these ways, we improve the story, in which Our Side is flawless.

This tribal impulse, which dates to prehistory, is presumably bred in the bone. Liker many instincts bred in the bone, it's also destructive and stupid. Over at Slate, we think Lili Loofbourow pretty much gets it right:
LOOFBOUROW (1/24/19): This is just the latest instance of a phenomenon you could call “event politics”—that familiar flurry of knee-jerk responses sparked by a single image or clip that a little too perfectly illustrates one side’s worldview. There was the notorious Melania jacket that launched a feverish outrage cycle as soon as she appeared in it. There was the photograph of the little girl crying at the border that went viral and ended up on the cover of Time because it put a face and a feeling to the cruelty of Trump’s family separations. The problem: She herself wasn’t separated from her mother.


This is motivated reasoning, the kind everyone uses when an image that seemingly proved something—whether it’s that antifa is a danger to society or that Kavanaugh-lite teens are entitled and racist—collapses into irresolution. To the people circulating it, that the image doesn’t portray exactly what they thought it did matters little. They knew the truth it demonstrated before and still know it after the image is debunked.
We could suggest better examples than the ones Loofbourow presents in that passage. That said, she's willing to complain about "motivated reasoning" (in the form of dimwitted novelization} by players from various political tribes, including her own.

In this passage, she comes back to the most recent event, and she floats a sagacious one-word critique:
LOOFBOUROW: This is where event politics always seem to wind up: A ton of energy gets spent, but there’s no cognitively satisfying conclusion—no understanding, resolution, or shared meaning that helps the country progress in its conversations with itself. “It’s a jacket” might be the White House equivalent of the “it’s just a hat” defense of the Covington Catholic teens’ MAGA caps. It’s not true, and everyone knows it, but it seems dumb to overlegislate such petty terrain.
In our view, Loofbourow tends to overthink a bit, but something she floats in that passage is right. It's dumb to beat up on a bunch of high school kids because thy're wearing MAGA hats. And yes, it's tremendously petty terrain—the only kind the tribal mind wants to stampede upon.

Dumb and petty is what we do. Increasingly, it's what we are. This is the tribal mind in action, and as Aristotle forgot to say, "Man [sic] is the tribal animal."

Professor Harari explores that terrain in the early chapters of his widely-praised best-seller, Sapiens. When the new year finally starts at this site, we'll be reviewing Harari's presentation.

According to Harari, our species runs on "gossip" and "fiction." Such conduct tends to be petty and dumb, but dear lord, how good it can feel!

Also this, of course:

In the age of "cable news" and the Net, petty and dumb are big business. People are selling you petty and dumb. It's up to you to just say no—to resist, to step back, to move on.

Nick Sandmann's Mona Lisa smile!


Mad love for the random event:
Breaking! Roughly 330 million people live in the United States.

That's a large number of people. At any given point in time, someone is doing something stupid, unfortunate or even imperfect concerning whatever particular topic floats your particular boat.

Then too, there are the weird random events, in which people are suddenly forced to react to some highly unusual circumstance. This used to be known as Candid Camera. Now we pretend it's the news.

Sometimes the people thus importuned are even high school students. At such moments, our only dumber demographic—upper-end mainstream professional journalists—will find themselves compelled to determine the "meaning" of such events. This has been happening all week long as a string of professional journalists have been playing Rashomon with a new Mona Lisa smile.

That smile belongs to one Nick Sandmann, and Sandmann's a high school junior. In this morning's Washington Post, the newspaper's identity columnist cites the youngster's mysterious smile, then starts unpacking its meaning:
HESSE (1/24/19): It's the smile that we've been dissecting all week.

Sandmann meant it to defuse the situation, he told [NBC's Savannah] Guthrie. He said he was trying to communicate to Phillips that, “This is the best you’re going to get from me.”

That was an interesting sentence. It implied Sandmann thought a senior citizen with a drum was trying to “get” something more from him.
In Sandmann’s mind, Phillips had come to provoke, rather than bring peace.

Is provocation a chant and a drum, or is provocation a flat smile and a decision not to move? (“As far as standing there, I had every right to do so,” Sandmann said.) Which one of them is the peaceful act, which one could be misinterpreted?
According to the ballyhooed journalist, the 16-year-old junior in high school had uncorked "an interesting sentence." She began to crawl inside his head, entertaining us rubes as she went.

Sandmann, who is 16 years old, had been thrown into one of those weird random events which force people to react. A bunch of crackpots had been yelling homophobic slurs at the high school students, and then a Native American elder showed up beating his drum.

There is basically zero significance to this once in a lifetime event. But our journalists, who live off amusement and distraction, have been skillfully trained to do this:
HESSE: How do we talk about kids? How do we talk about the distinctions between teenage cluelessness, and bad behavior, and bad behavior that's really racism?

How do we use that word, “kid,” when we’re talking about white boys and white girls and black boys and black girls and rich kids and poor kids?

The Covington Catholic students were minors who were apparently mature enough to participate in the abortion debate
—one of the most complicated issues of our time, and what brought them to Washington—but not mature enough to walk away from hecklers.

“I wish we could have just walked away,” Sandmann said a few times Wednesday,
while saying he wished Phillips “would have” walked away: a tiny linguistic quirk implying he didn’t have the option to leave, but Phillips did.

But I quibble.
That writing—more accurately, that navel-gazing—is so dumb it squeaks. This time, Hesse has found "a tiny linguistic quirk" in which the 16-year-old is seen to be implying something, something he shouldn't imply.

"But I quibble," Hesse intones, as she does throughout the piece, in which she endlessly quibbles, in this case about a quirk. Next, she offers this:
HESSE (continuing directly): How do we parse out blame, when some of the players were minors and some were adults? Does it matter that the Black Hebrew Israelites were shouting awful, homophobic things (anyone in D.C. knows these men are trolls), but there were only five or six of them, and dozens of Covington students in MAGA hats?

Does it matter that they were in MAGA hats? It’s hard for me to imagine anyone wearing them now, in 2019, wouldn’t understand they’re not just a sartorial choice.

But I quibble. I know I quibble.
Self-flagellating about her quibbles, the columnist quibbles on. There were dozens of high school students, she observes, but only five or six crackpots shouting homophobic slurs.

Then we get to the MAGA hats. Allegedly, it's hard for her "to imagine anyone wearing them now, in 2019, wouldn’t understand they’re not just a sartorial choice."

Given the fact that the "anyones" in question are a bunch of high school kids, the sheer stupidity of that statement says a great deal about the columnist, nothing about the "kids." If that's an acceptable word!

The attitudes of boys and young men are very, very important. Among boys and young men who are straight, are they being helped to know how to love and respect the girls and women their inner beings will want them to love throughout the course of their lives?

When it comes to matters of "race," are they being helped to see past the idea that there are different kinds of people within our society—an idea we liberals now promote with all our hearts, thus enabling the hyper-racial mentality which lies at the heart of "the world the slaveholders made?"

Those are deeply important questions. At this site, we'd like to think that 16-year-old boys are being taught that their happiness in life will depend on their ability to love and respect girls and women. We'd like to think that they're being helped to see beyond the concepts which form the world those destructive past citizens made.

We'd love to see such topics explored in our journalism. But in the world of upper-end scribes, the love of the quibble is endless. So is the love of the off-the-wall random event, the kind of event which lets us dissect the meaning of a single teenager's mysterious smile.

Over the years, these same criminals have shown their love for earth tones, bald spots, email flaps, and every possible distraction from the questions which actually matter. Beyond that, they've hailed every flimflam man in the firmament for his obvious moral greatness, from Paul Ryan on down.

They quibble, invent and entertain, and they destroy the world. They've mugged and clowned and entertained us for the past forty years. Finally, in November 2016, they succeeded in giving us our President Donald J. Trump.

They want us to think we're the rational animal. Big picture gestalt and framework-wise, is it possible that Aristotle, at least as understood, was in some basic way wrong?

Just for the record: Just for the record, Guthrie was one of the people at NBC who didn't have the slightest idea about what their colleague, Matt Lauer, had been doing down through the years.

Everyone knew but no one had heard! Guthrie was rushed on the air the next day to join Hoda in proclaiming sheer and total ignorance about their colleague's conduct. As it turned out, Norah and them had no idea concerning Charlie Rose!

These are the careerist graspers and grabbers who have made an endless joke of our public discourse, to the point where we now have Herr Trump in the White House. Meanwhile, was sex with the Donald the best she ever had?

That was Diane Sawyer, speaking with Marla Maples, as she created her own multimillion dollar career. Not long after, in June 1999, she mugged the newly-announced Candidate Gore, on network TV, in all the scripted ways. Years later, Sawyer complained that Candidate Hillary Clinton seemed to have too much money!

They've done this and done this and done this again. Right to this day, all our favorite careerist liberals are still unwilling to say so.

Lead exposure, then and now!


The tribal rejection of facts:
Excitement builds as we approach the new year, which starts at this site next week. We'll be focusing on "Aristotle's error," by which we mean the time when the greatest logician is said to have said this:

"Man [sic] is the rational animal."

Because Aristotle knew no English, it's hard to be sure what he actually meant. But in the current colloquial sense, are we humans essentially "rational" in some observable way?

Gossips and fiction filberts, please! We'd be inclined to rewrite that famous old bromide like this:

"Humans are the tribal animal, the creature which runs on script."

We humans! We construe events in novelized ways, then recite our stories in groups. If you doubt that, you can check the many ways the tiny minds of our tortured tribes have chosen to interpret last weekend's events from the D.C. mall.

Dear God, it was hashtag heaven! There were high school kids in MAGA hats, mixed with a bunch of Black Hebrew Israelites and one Native American elder. To what extent have various tribes and guilds chosen to massage this tale? On the front page of today's Washington Post, the lineups were rattled like this:
SELLERS AND WILLIAMS (1/23/19): The viral video showed a large group of Covington Catholic High School boys on the memorial steps in Washington, where students travel annually for the antiabortion March for Life. One of the boys stands inches away from the face of Nathan Phillips, a Native American elder, who was beating a drum during the Indigenous Peoples March. The boy’s classmates stood nearby, laughing and gesturing — what many interpreted as mocking.

But longer versions of the encounter soon appeared, showing it began when a group of Hebrew Israelites hurled offensive language at the teens. And the students said they were dancing and singing along with the Native American music, not mocking it.
In two different news reports this morning, the Post was too dainty to let readers know that the "Hebrew Israelites" to which that text refers is actually a small African-American group more commonly known as the Black Hebrew Israelites.

Because the "offensive language" dispensed by this group involved a lot of "racial" smack, this is a basic part of the story. Unless you read today's Washington Post, where the story got perhaps just a bit massaged.

That said:

Teen-aged Trumpists, a Native elder and epithet-yelling blacks! In the past few days, everyone has been retelling this wonderful story, often in ways designed to drive a particular tribal narrative.

Increasingly, this is what we the people are strongly inclined to do. Such conduct is wired deep in the bone, reaching back into prehistory, and we now have major corporate entities dedicated to the proposition that tribal fiction is all.
Increasingly, we're tribal all the way down! Our nation's offshoot of the human race now runs on vast arrays of dimwitted tribal stews pushed by various corporate entities and by journalistic "elites."

Just as it ever was, each tribe can see that The Others tend to perform such acts. But we strongly tend to be blind to our own tribe's tribal behavior.

To see our own liberal tribe in action, we recommend a recent post by Kevin Drum. Drum summarized a report in the Washington Post magazine about Professor Marc Edwards, one of the original heroes of the Flint water crisis.

According to the Post report, Edwards has now become a liberal pariah. Headline included, Drum starts off like this:
DRUM (1/20/19): Marc Edwards Is a Sad Victim of Our Modern Political Era

This is very sad: Marc Edwards, the Virginia Tech professor who first exposed toxic levels of lead in the water supply of Flint, Michigan, was initially a hero to the Flint community. Thanks to him, Flint became the target of nationwide outrage, and steps were finally taken to reconnect Flint to the (safe) Detroit water supply. In less than a year, lead levels in Flint water had dropped to safe levels.

So what did Edwards do? Well, he’s a scientist, and just as he had honestly exposed Flint’s problems in the first place, he also continued to honestly report the results of the intervention. When the water was once again safe, he said so—and that turned him from a hero into a pariah.
For the record, Drum has done a lot of work on the effects of exposure to lead and on the boons of lead abatement. For his 2016 cover report for Mother Jones on these topics, you can just click here.

Concerning Drum's recent post, we'll ask you to notice a startling pair of facts—the type of facts we in our our increasingly brain-dead liberal tribe now reflexively disappear from our frequently brain-dead jihads.

The pair of facts we'll ask you to note are drawn from a graphic in Drum's post, the graphic which carries this title:
Lead Poisoning in Flint
Children under 6 with elevated blood lead levels
Note the following pair of facts from that graphic.
During the worst of the Flint water crisis, fewer than 10 percent of children in Flint were showing elevated blood lead levels (above 5 micrograms per deciliter).

As recently as 1998, 50 percent of children in Flint were showing that degree of exposure.
As Drum has repeatedly pointed out, the recent degree of exposure in Flint would have been considered a public health miracle as recently as a decade or so ago. When baby boomers were growing up, almost everyone had that degree of exposure to lead. And everybody understands how well we boomers turned out!

This doesn't mean that it was good that some kids in Flint were exposed to that degree of lead. It means that our brain-dead liberal world, including newspapers like the New York Times, were aggressively disappearing basic facts in order to heighten the thrill we could take from the alleged water crisis.

No one scared more Flint kids sh*tless than our own Rachel Maddow. In real time, we noted the fact that Maddow, despite her obsessive focus on Flint, never had Edwards on her show for a stand-alone interview segment. As we noted, the reason for this seemed obvious—she was selling the notions of "poisoning" and "crisis," and Edwards, a responsible scientist, tended to undercut these pleasing tribal cries.

Maddow proceeded to scare parents and children sh*tless. Eventually, the New Yorker ran a report citing the kids in Flint who inaccurately believed that their lives had been ruined by the water event. You aren't allowed to know how many millions of dollars Maddow is paid each year for such rating-boosting behavior.

The liberal world has begun to ape the conservative world over the past dozen years. We've begun to screech and yell about manufactured crises and over-emphasized random events. We almost always disappear or invent facts to drive our tales along. Or we play the Skittles card, endlessly citing wholly irrelevant facts.

The sheer stupidity of this conduct is a blight on the soul of the world. That said, our press corps lives for bullshit like this. This very clearly explains why we now have a thoroughly disordered and dangerous president, namely Donald J. Trump.

Go ahead—review Drum's graphic! As our own tribe's silly screamers tell us that We are the rational animals, just ask yourself how many other basic facts you aren't being told.

Man [sic] is the rational animal? Drawing on Harari's work, we'll go with "tribal" instead.

Our new year starts next week.

What might a "cornered" Donald Trump do?


Krugman's point of concern:
Next week, the new year will finally start at this award-winning site. The year will be built around an exploration of the famous old bromide now being called "Aristotle's error" in all the major salons.

Man [sic] is the rational animal? Ladies and gentlemen, please!

Before the year is done, we'll even explore Professor Horwich's essay about the philosophy establishment in some detail. And not only that! We'll offer instruction in a useful type of analysis which emerges from the jumbled, difficult work of the later Wittgenstein.

Also, Professor Harari will star.

Starting next week, we'll be providing these services as we all await Mister Trump's Inevitable Dispositive War. For today, we'll restrict ourselves to Paul Krugman's point of concern.

Krugman states an important point of concern in his new column; just last week, we stated the same basic point. Here's what Krugman says about the way "a cornered Trump" might behave in the face of impending defeat:
KRUGMAN (1/22/19): Most of Reagan’s political success reflected not fundamental economic achievement but good luck with the timing of the business cycle. And Trump almost certainly won’t experience comparable luck.

Combine this lack of a strong economic upside over the next two years with Trump’s extreme current unpopularity, and his chances for re-election—if he even makes it to the end of his first term—don’t look too good. Which raises the question of what he and his party will do if defeat is staring them in the face.

I don’t know the answer to that question, and if you aren’t scared about how a cornered Trump might lash out, you haven’t been paying attention.
What might "a cornered Trump" decide to do? A Trump who's facing re-election defeat? A Trump who's facing indictment?

Krugman says we should be scared. Major wars being easy to start, we said the same thing last week.

That said, Donald J. Trump is the danger our press corps has chosen. They chose this danger through thirty years of earth tones, emails, low IQs and the need to be dumbly amused.

With whom did Trump have consensual sex back in 2006? In the end, it's the only thing these rationals want to explore!

Full disclosure: We could have turned to Bandy Lee for advice about a cornered Trump. But major elites shut down the discussion she had been trying to start.

Ruminations on Donald J. Trump!


Dr. King's outlook included:
Dr. King will be included to today's rumination. But we'll start with something George Will wrote concerning Donald J. Trump.

Will's column appeared in Sunday's Washington Post. At one point, he offered this:
WILL (1/20/19): Dislike of [Trump] should be tempered by this consideration: He is an almost inexpressibly sad specimen. It must be misery to awaken to another day of being Donald Trump. He seems to have as many friends as his pluperfect self-centeredness allows, and as he has earned in an entirely transactional life. His historical ignorance deprives him of the satisfaction of working in a house where much magnificent history has been made...

Which is why this fountain of self-refuting boasts (“I have a very good brain”) lies so much. He does so less to deceive anyone than to reassure himself.
"It must be misery to awaken to another day of being Donald Trump!" We think of Bob Dylan's prescient portrait of Trump, the one he wrote in 1968:
I pity the poor immigrant
Who wishes he would’ve stayed home
Who uses all his power to do evil
But in the end is always left so alone

That man whom with his fingers cheats
Who lies with every breath

Who passionately hates his life
And likewise fears his death


Who eats but is not satisfied
Who hears but does not see
Who falls in love with wealth itself
And turns his back on me.
"Poor immigrant" is metaphorical here. It seems to us that Dylan was describing a person who has journeyed far away from his own self, from his own soul, from his capacity for basic decency and goodness.

Dylan counseled pity for such unfortunate persons; Will comes close to doing the same. Dr. King was there to remind us of the greatness of the hundreds of millions of people whose names you'll never hear:
DR. KING (2/4/68): Everybody can be great. Because everybody can serve.
For the fuller quote, see below.

For the record, no one is required to be great, and few of us will ever reach any such level. But the world is full of good decent people who don't exist in the fallen state described in Dylan's song.

How did Trump become the way he is? We can't answer your question.

Through the ultimate accident, that of birth, he was saddled with a father who seems to have had terrible values. Who knows what else may have helped make him the person he is?

That said, we're all inclined to the imperfect state which Trump has clearly perfected. With that in mind, we're forced to suggest that Will may also be basically right in this earlier part of his column:
WILL: By his comportment, the president benefits his media detractors with serial vindications of their disparagements. They, however, have sunk to his level of insufferable self-satisfaction by preening about their superiority to someone they consider morally horrifying and intellectually cretinous. For most Americans, President Trump’s expostulations are audible wallpaper, always there but not really noticed. Still, the ubiquity of his outpourings in the media’s outpourings gives American life its current claustrophobic feel. This results from many journalists considering him an excuse for a four-year sabbatical from thinking about anything other than the shiny thing that mesmerizes them by dangling himself in front of them.
We think that's largely accurate. Our mainstream press and our liberal world are largely driven by the impulse to define oneself as morally superior to the fallen fellow known as Trump.

In this way, our journalists may start to resemble Donald J. Trump himself. There is one major difference, of course:

Donald J. Trump holds the nuclear codes. Our journalistic elites do not.

In the next few days, we'll be looking at some recent fails within our self-impressed liberal world. Next week, our new year will at last begin at this site, with the suggestion that we need a whole new gestalt or picture or paradigm as we think about the basic way our species tends to function.

Donald J. Trump is the poor immigrant we've chosen. We've been choosing him over the course of at least the past thirty years. During that time, our journalists have floundered and failed, with no help from our cosseted coterie of elite logicians.

(For personal reasons, we no longer say "from our professors." We always hated saying that. In the last year, we stopped.)

The world of Dr. King was full of good decent people. By way of contrast, our modern elites have by and large largely failed.

Might the functioning of these elites be described as a chastening example of the misperception called "Aristotle's error?" Our new year starts next week.

The fuller quotation: Few of us will ever rise to the level of being "great." Nor should we feel that greatness is required.

With that in mind, here is Dr. King's fuller quotation:
DR. KING (2/4/68): Everybody can be great. Because everybody can serve.

You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don't have to know Einstein's theory of relativity to serve. You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve.

You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.
For Dylan's full lyrics, click this.

"No people are uninteresting," Yevtushenko said in his poem, People. We will assume that includes Trump's voters, even the pitiable Trump himself.

"Whom we knew as faulty, the earth's creatures." For Yevtushenko's full text, click here.

Completing our Golden State public schools file!


We have several topics to hit:
Did California have "great public schools" in the decades before 1978? So said Miriam Pawel, while offering zero evidence, in Tuesday's New York Times.

How about it? Did California have "great public schools" during that alleged golden age? More specifically, did the state's schools do a fabulous job serving low-income and "minority" kids?

We know of no reason to think so. As far as we know, there are no data which would lead us to such a belief. That said, our pseudo-journalistic elites simply adore fairy tales of that kind, and the Hamptons-based losers who run the Times never tire of selling the tales which constitute modern pseudo-liberal belief.

At present, California kids in all major demographic groups score roughly at the national average as compared to their peers nationwide. For an overview, see Kevin Drum's recent graphology

That said, good grief! As we noted on Wednesday, here's the way scores improved for two groups of "minority" kids over a recent span of 39 years, dating back to the golden age in question:
Average scores, Long-Term Trends study, Naep
13-year-old students nationwide, math

Black students:

1973: 228
2012: 264

Hispanic students:
1973: 239
2012: 271
Over those 39 years, black and Hispanic 13-year-olds apparently advanced roughly three years in math as compared to their predecessors. If we accept Naep data (and rules of thumb) as reliable, does anybody really think that California's Hispanic kids were scoring better, during that alleged golden age, than their counterparts are scoring today?

In Tuesday's New York Times, Miriam Pawel was selling that dream, though in the absence of evidence. The dream she was selling is very familiar, but it's a pipe dream—a con.

Test scores can't be the sole measure, of course. But helping kids learn how to read and how to do math are basic functions of public schools. If we assume that Naep data (and rules of thumb) are real, it's very, very hard to believe that Pawel's unsubstantiated bundle of claims was anything but the usual dreck served by the usual non-specialists.

With that, an obvious question arises. Should we regard Naep data (and rules of thumb) as reliable? Should we assume that black and Hispanic kids actually gained as much in math as those Long-Term Trend data suggest?

We can't exactly answer that question, in part because we read the New York Times. Simply put, that famous newspaper will never attempt to address such basic questions. It won't do so because, in actual point of fact, its club members don't care about basic questions like these, or about kids in general. Few things could be more clear.

We thought there were two more points to touch upon in Pawel's column. We'll start with the tiny "glimmers of hope" she managed to spot in the Golden State's ratty schools:
PAWEL (1/15/19): This [Los Angeles teachers] strike comes at a pivotal moment for California schools, amid recent glimmers of hope. Demographic shifts have realigned those who vote with those who rely on public services like schools. Voters approved state tax increases to support education in 2012, and again in 2016. In the most recent election, 95 of 112 school bond issues passed, a total of over $15 billion. The revised state formula drives more money into districts with more low-income students and English learners. Total state school aid increased by $23 billion over the past five years, and Governor Newsom has proposed another increase.
Pawel's "glimmers of hope" involve nothing but funding issues. Because she isn't an education specialist, we'll guess that she has never set eyes on "glimmers of hope" like these:
Average scores, Main Naep
California public schools, Grade 8 math

Black students, 1990: 231.46
Black students, 2017: 254.55

Hispanic students, 1990: 235.89
Hispanic students, 2017: 262.25
For all Naep data, start here.

Can you spot the glimmers of hope in those data? By apparent rule of law, you'll never be told about such glimmers in the Times or the Washington Post. As our nation slides toward the sea, its elites are too lazy to examine elementary data and too detached to care.

(Similar score gains have been recorded in the Los Angeles schools, though the Naep can only track that progress back to 2003. If you're a reader of the Times, you'll never be told about such matters. Instead, you'll be told that things were great in 1973.)

Our final point concerns the funding which has Pawel so concerned. In this passage, she says that California's schools have never recovered from the revenue losses following 1978's Proposition 13. She then compares California's spending to spending in the state of New York:
PAWEL: Public education in California has never recovered, nowhere with more devastating impact than in Los Angeles, where a district now mostly low-income and Latino has failed generations of children most in need of help....The underlying question is: Can California ever have great public schools again?


California still ranks low in average per-pupil spending, roughly half the amount spent in New York. California legislators have already filed bills proposing billions of dollars in additional aid, one of many competing pressures that face the new governor, Gavin Newsom, as he begins negotiations on his first state budget.
We state no view on the funding measures which are now being considered. But since Pawel compared California to New York, we decided to look at the two states' current Naep scores.

As best we can tell,
the state of New York does spend roughly twice as much as California per pupil. Below, you see one set of results:
Average scores, Main Naep
California and New York State
Grade 8 reading, 2017

Black students, California: 249.96
Black students, New York: 251.27

Hispanic students, California: 251.24
Hispanic students, New York: 252.81

White students, California: 278.11
White students, New York: 271.68
How much bang has the Empire State received for its bucks? We report, you decide. Comparative math scores are roughly similar.

Pawel isn't an education specialist. Uncaring newspapers like the Times don't worry themselves about that.

That said, might those data perhaps suggest that funding isn't a determining factor in public school performance? You'll never see such questions explored by uncaring rags like the Times!

Here's something else you'll never see. You'll never see a serious discussion of educational methods. What might help California's 6-year-old "minority" kids enjoy their lives in their public schools? What might heighten their love of the world? What might increase their various forms of learning?

The Times doesn't bother with bullshit like that. They serve you pleasing pseudo scripts, after which they light out for the Hamptons.

Our "elite" news orgs have behaved this way for decades. Why on earth should we be surprised to see a Trump in the White House?

Ellis also worked from script!


"Tiny, desperate, unwell:"
Did California have "great public schools" back in the good old days?

That's what Miriam Pawel recently said. She said it in an op-ed column in Tuesday's New York Times.

(For details, see yesterday's post.)

Pawel said California's schools were "great" way back when, in the golden age which covered the decades before 1978. She seemed to say that California's fabulous schools lured people into the state.

She offered no evidence in support of her claims. But then, they never do, and their editors never complain!

The notion that public schools were great Back Then is a standard, know-nothing script of the many front-line reporters who parrot conventional press corps lines about our allegedly failing public schools and their ratty teachers.

The schools were always great Back Then. By rule of law, they must be said to be terrible/awful today.

NBC News, whose cable arm was born in consort with Bill Gates, was long inclined toward this billionaire-sponsored party line. Back in 2010, Rehema Ellis told Lester Holt what's shown below as NBC kicked off one of its pro-"reform," party-line weeks—events in which it then participated on an annual basis:
ELLIS (9/26/10): Good evening, Lester. It was an exciting event. For two hours today, the teachers who joined us were inspiring, some even emotional, about the job that many say is stressful and extremely demanding.

Right now, the teacher's job is under critical review because of what is and what is not happening in the classroom. America's public school students are in trouble. On nearly every major ranking, the results are disappointing.

Forty years ago, American students were first. Now, among 30 developed nations, our students rank 24th in math, 17th in science and 10th in reading. Sixty-eight percent of American eighth graders cannot read at grade level.
Ellis had been a decent, personable NBC reporter for sixteen years at that point. That said, she wasn't an education specialist. Nor must a person have specialized knowledge to get thrown on the air by network news orgs to tell us the stories about pubic schools they very much want us to hear.

Did Ellis understand the familiar basic claims found in that short report? Could she have supported her claims and insinuations?

In each case, we'll guess that the answer is no.

Some of Ellis' claims were misleading; others seem to be false. But you don't have to know any actual facts to go on the air and say things like that. You simply have to know the scripts about public schools, the ones preferred by major news orgs like NBC News and the New York Times.

"Forty years ago, American students were first" in the world? We know of no basis for that claim, pleasing though it may be. Indeed, it seems clear that that claim just isn't true. Meanwhile, Ellis was picking and choosing her international data in the requisite way these people always do.

She cited results from the Pisa, the major international testing program on which American kids perform less well. As is required by "billionaire boys club" law, she omitted results from the Timss, the second major international testing program, the one on which American kids perform better.

Ellis was picking and choosing her data in the way then required by law. Her claim about our kids once having been best seemed to come from thin air.

That said, how good were American public schools during the golden age Ellis recalled or invented? As we watched Ellis recite for Holt, we recalled a once-famous text.

(For our real-time reaction, click here.)

Ellis said our kids were best in the world back in 1970. Three years before that, in 1967, Jonathan Kozol had published a once-famous book, Death at an Early Age.

Kozol described the year he'd spent teaching fourth grade in a low-income Boston school. His once-famous book won a National Book Award during the golden age cited by Ellis. Chapter 2 started like this:
KOZOL (page 9): Many people in Boston are surprised, even to this day, to be told that children are beaten with thin bamboo whips within the cellars of our public schools and that they are whipped at times for no greater offence than for failing to show respect to the very same teachers who have been describing them as ni**ers.
Oh, that glorious era! Indeed, Kozol started his opening chapter with some of the most memorable persuasive writing of that or any day. This was his real-time account of an age when, according to NBC News, “American students were first:”
KOZOL (page 1): Stephen is eight years old. A picture of him standing in front of the bulletin board on Arab bedouine shows a little light-brown person staring with unusual concentration at a chosen spot upon the floor. Stephen is tiny, desperate, unwell. Sometimes he talks to himself. He moves his mouth as if he were talking. At other times he laughs out loud in class for no apparent reason. He is also an indescribably mild and unmalicious child. He cannot do any of his school work very well. His math and reading are poor. In Third Grade he was in a class that had substitute teachers much of the year. Most of the year before that, he had a row of substitute teachers too. He is in the Fourth Grade now but his work is barely at the level of the Second. Nobody has complained about the things that have happened to Stephen because he does not have any mother or father.
We know of no evidence that American students were ever "first in the world." As far as we know, the limited international testing conducted during that era never showed any such thing.

Meanwhile, we would have thought that everyone knew that American schools often did very poorly, during that era, by kids who were low-income or perceived as "minorities." That said, Ellis recalled a golden age, as they always do.

In Tuesday's New York Times, Pawel described a similar golden age in California. Its public schools were "great" before 1978, she repeatedly said. She closed her piece by wondering if the Golden State will ever have such wonderful schools again.

Yesterday, we showed you data which might sensibly make you wonder about the claims Pawel unloosed. Tomorrow, and again next week, we'll offer additional data concerning various basic points.

Like Ellis, Pawel isn't an education specialist. That said, education reporting at our big news orgs is largely recitation of script. Alas! Our news orgs routinely work on "gossip" and "fiction," much as Professor Harari has said.

That's the way our journalistic elites typically work in this, the dumbest and most fictional of all possible worlds.

Are we really "the rational animal," as sacred Aristotle said? When the new year finally starts at this site, we'll be chasing that old chestnut down.

Might that claim perhaps be seen as "Aristotle's error?" When the new year finally begins, we'll make it our business to ask.

Tomorrow: Again with the actual data!

How good were California's schools?


Back in the good old days:
How good were California's schools back in the good old days?

According to Miriam Pawel, they were very good. Her op-ed column in yesterday's New York Times started off like this:
PAWEL (1/15/19): For decades, public schools were part of California’s lure, key to the promise of opportunity. Forty years ago, with the lightning speed characteristic of the Golden State, all of that changed.
According to Pawel, the public schools in California were very, very good as late as 1978. According to Pawel, "all of that changed" starting in June 1978 when voters passed Proposition 13, substantially reducing funding to those public schools.

There was more! According to Pawel, desegregation-based busing that fall led white parents to remove some 30,000 kids from the Los Angeles public schools. The decline in the schools proceeded from there.

The decline proceeded from there. A bit later in her piece, Pawel describes it thusly:
PAWEL: Public education in California has never recovered, nowhere with more devastating impact than in Los Angeles, where a district now mostly low-income and Latino has failed generations of children most in need of help. The decades of frustration and impotence have boiled over in a strike with no clear endgame and huge long-term implications. The underlying question is: Can California ever have great public schools again?
For decades before 1978, California actually had "great" public schools! Pawel proceeds to a question: Can the state have such great schools again?

Pawel ends her pieces on a gloomy note. That said, she returns to the idea that Cali had great schools Back Then:
PAWEL: [The current Los Angeles teachers] strike comes at a pivotal moment for California schools, amid recent glimmers of hope. Demographic shifts have realigned those who vote with those who rely on public services like schools. Voters approved state tax increases to support education in 2012, and again in 2016. In the most recent election, 95 of 112 school bond issues passed, a total of over $15 billion...

If Los Angeles teachers can build on those gains, the victory will embolden others to push for more, just as teachers on the rainy picket lines this week draw inspiration from the successful #RedforEd movements around the country. The high stakes have drawn support from so many quarters, from the Rev. James Lawson, the 90-year-old civil rights icon, to a “Tacos for Teachers” campaign to fund food on the picket lines.

If this fight for public education in Los Angeles fails, it will consign the luster of California schools to an ever more distant memory.
When Pawel cites "recent glimmers of hope," she refers to funding issues alone. As she closes, she reminds us again of "the luster" of California's public schools Way Back When, in the decades preceding 1978.

People who seem to know nothing about public schools routinely recite some version of this "past golden age" story. Routinely, such people are routinely asked to discuss public schools in the New York Times. (Pawel has no apparent background in public education reporting.)

Pawel keeps saying, early and often, that California's public schools were "great," "a lure," back in The Good Old Days. At no point does she offer any statistical evidence to this effect.

That said, script-readers love to recite such claims, especially when asked to peddle pleasing tales in the New York Times. Readers have heard these tales so often that they will almost surely assume that they are true.

How good were Cali's public schools in 1971? More specifically, how well did low-income kids do in those schools? How about black kids? How about Hispanic children?

How good were California's schools back then? Like you, we don't have the slightest idea, and Pawel doesn't offer a stitch of evidence in support of her familiar claim, the one the hacks always recite.

Nor did her editors ask or require her to produce actual evidence. But then, this is the way our upper-end mainstream press corps rolls in this, the best of all possible failing democracies.

How good were the Golden State's public schools back in this golden era? We know of no reliable state-by-state statistical evidence dating from the decades in question. But just for the record, here are some data from the Long-Term Trends study, one branch of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (the Naep), the federal program which is typically regarded as our one reliable source of education data:
Average scores, Long-Term Trends, Naep
13-year-old students nationwide, math

Black students:

1973: 228
2012: 264

White students:
1973: 274
2012: 293

Hispanic students:
1973: 239
2012: 271
In the area of math, 1973 was this federal testing program's inaugural year. Testing was last administered in 2012. For all available data, you can just click here.

How good were the nation's public schools in the era under discussion? Those scores from 1973 are nationwide average scores. The Naep can provide no data from individual states, including California, for those happy golden years.

That said, the nationwide scores from 1973 would be considered disastrous today. According to a very rough rule of thumb which is routinely applied to scores from the Naep, black and Hispanic 13-year-olds scored roughly three years lower in math in 1973 than their counterparts scored in 2012, the last time the Long-Term Trends assessment was administered.

Those nationwide scores from 1973 would be nightmares today. According to Pawel, it was totally different in California, though she and her editors present exactly zero evidence in support of this golden claim.

Tomorrow, we'll look at data from the past few decades for public school students in Los Angeles and California both. As we do, we'll return to Pawel's use of the phrase, "glimmers of hope."

For today, we'll only say this: We know of no reason to believe the familiar bedtime story with which Pawel put us to sleep in her column. Nor did she offer any evidence in support of her claim.

That said, Pawel's claims about Those Happy Golden Years are a familiar convention in the low-IQ world of know-nothing public school pseudo-reporting. If you wonder how it can possibly be that a person like Donald J. Trump currently sits in the White House, we'll suggest a related story:

Why is someone like Trump in the White House? In part, because people like Pawel have clogged our upper-end newsrooms for many decades now. Despite our species' comical status as Aristotle's "rational animal," we live inside a culture built on scripted tales and tribal dreams. Our culture runs on Chomsky's "manufactured consent," on Harari's "gossip" and "fiction."

That column was a tribal bedtime story in the form of journalistic exposition. It was also completely typical of New York Times public school work, and of the deeply disordered era which gave us our President Trump.

Please don't discuss his mental state. The Times has said we mustn't!

Krugman savages Mister Trump's team!


Discussing California's schools, the Times is just as bad:
In this morning's New York Times, Paul Krugman savages the economic team assembled by President Trump.

He uses one word we ourselves would have skipped. That said, here's his basic assessment:
KRUGMAN (1/15/19): [N]o man is an island, although Trump comes closer than most. You can’t fully make sense of his policy pratfalls without acknowledging the extraordinary quality of the people with whom he has surrounded himself. And by “extraordinary,” of course, I mean extraordinarily low quality. Lincoln had a team of rivals; Trump has a team of morons.

If this sounds too harsh, consider recent economic pronouncements by two members of his administration.
Predictably, these pronouncements involve bad economics; that’s pretty much a given. What’s striking, instead, is the inability of either man to stay on script; they can’t even get their right-wing mendacity right.

First up is Kevin Hassett, chairman of Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers...
Krugman savages the intellectual quality of Trump's highest ranking advisers. Presumably, his assessments are correct. That said, we were struck by a certain irony as we read his column.

Right next to Krugman's piece on the Times op-ed page is this discussion of California's public schools, especially those in Los Angeles. The piece is written by Miriam Pawel. Her identity line says this:
Ms. Pawel, a contributing opinion writer, is the author of “The Browns of California: The Family Dynasty That Transformed a State and Shaped a Nation.”by Miriam Pawel.
Pawel may be a superb biographer. There is no sign, at any point, that she knows a single significant thing about our nation's public schools, no matter what city or state they're in.

Even at her own web site, we find no sign that Pawel has any expertise about public schools or any background in reporting about them. Within the culture of the Times, this makes her the perfect person to opine about low-income schools.

The Times' reporting on public schools has been a disgrace forever. Do Trump's advisers display a disdain for average people in the ways Krugman's column claims?

Presumably, yes! But then again, so does the New York Times in the way it discusses the schools.

In this morning's column, Pawel works from a predictable array of know-nothing scripts about the state of the schools:

She tells us that California's schools were "great," a "lure," in the good old days, without offering the slightest bit of evidence to that effect.

She criticizes California because it "ranks low in average per-pupil spending, [spending] roughly half the amount spent in New York." She fails to note that test scores from the two states can barely be distinguished from each other.

Most absurdly, she offers the passage shown below, the type of passage which will always appear from the know-nothing pseudo-liberal who knows nothing about public schools but wants to opine about them.

This is terrible work. It's typical of the scripted work about public schools constantly churned by the Times:
PAWEL (1/15/19): For 20 years, Katie Safford has taught at Ivanhoe Elementary, a school so atypical and so desirable that it drives up real estate prices in the upscale Silver Lake neighborhood. Ivanhoe parents raise almost a half million a year so that their children can have sports, arts, music and supplies. But parents cannot buy smaller classes or a school nurse. Mrs. Safford’s second-grade classroom is a rickety bungalow slated for demolition. When the floor rotted, the district put carpet over the holes. When leaks caused mold on the walls, Mrs. Safford hung student art to cover stains. The clock always reads 4:20.
To her credit, Pawel doesn't say that Ivanhoe is one of the "best" schools in Los Angeles. She merely says that it is "atypical" and "desirable," so desirable that it drives up real estate prices.

That said, everyone knows why a school like Ivanhoe is so "desirable." It's full of kids from "upscale" families who are good students coming in. They go on to produce the high test scores which will very rarely emerge from our low-income schools.

The school itself has little to do with this. As everyone but a Times writer knows, it's this demographic factor which makes schools like this so high-scoring and so desirable. Pawel shows no sign of ever having given a thought to the basic question here—how can we create a world where kids from low-income schools can have the kind of academic success "upscale" children routinely achieve?

In Krugman's profile, the president is surrounded by a failed "elite"—by a team of incompetent hacks. That's precisely the kind of know-nothing pseudo-elite which has been writing about our public schools in upper-end newspapers like the Times for the past million years.

Tomorrow, we'll show you some basic data about the direction of the public schools in California and in Los Angeles over the past several decades. From Pawel, you get the standard old happy talk about how good things were in the good old days when California's schools were just so amazingly good.

We know of no data which suggest any such thing about Cali's schools in the good old days. Nor does Pawel provide any.

Trump is served by a hapless pseudo-elite, but so are subscribers to the Times. That said, our upper-end journalistic elites have functioned this way for decades now. As a result, Donald J. Trump is in the White House and little is right with the world.

The New York Times almost seems to hold low-income kids in contempt. In its lazy, scripted, incompetent work, the paper has suggested this possibility again and again through the years.

We humans are "the rational animal," a famous logician once said. Did that famous Greek get it right, or should his famous assessment perhaps be listed as "Aristotle's error?"

Tomorrow: The word on those happy golden years, the ones which didn't exist