TWO DIFFERENT WORLDS: Our tribe's chimps, pursuing theirs!


Planet of the chimps: It happens every once in a while. By that, we mean "extremely rarely."

Every once in a while, in the 5 A.M. hour, we receive a tiny glimpse of the ultimate anthropology. It happened early this morning, as we executed our standard pre-Morning Joe rounds:

[W]e are living today in the aftermath of the Industrial Revolution and the Economic Revolution, which makes the world profoundly different from any previous era. And now, having barely mastered basic science and economics, we're barreling toward the Digital Revolution with hardly a thought about how that will change the world just as profoundly. Mass unemployment will prompt revolts that make the Luddites look like monks and will likely kill off liberal democracy. With luck, we'll avoid being too stupid and greedy about this transition and both liberal democracy and market economics 1.0 will be replaced with something better and far more rewarding for future generations. But there are no guarantees. It's usually not a good idea to bet against greed and stupidity whenever the overclocked apes h. sapiens are involved.

To peruse the full post, just click here

For the record, we don't have the slightest idea what our source was talking about. We don't know if our (highly-regarded) source knows what he himself was talking about!

That said, the analysts cheered. They rarely get to see our species analyzed / critiqued on the species level. They rarely get to hear it said:

The sheer stupidity of our species is one of its prime calling cards.

(With respect to the meaning of "overclocked," you can just click this.)

The power of the stupidification has been general this week. We'd start by citing the primal need to comment, endlessly and at length, about what happened on Oscar night.

We have the war in Ukraine to discuss. We have the death of Antarctica.

We have the report about Los Angeles schools, a report we'll cite below. But what do our "journalists" really want to discuss?

Our "journalists" really want to discuss the behaviors of famous celebrities. They'll talk about it, then talk and talk. It's all we humans care about. It's all we really know.

Let's move to something you'll never see discussed, except at this site next week. We refer to this report in the Washington Post by someone we've never met but are strongly inclined to admire.

We share the old school system tie with Jay Mathews—also the old college tie. When he was at Hillsdale, we were at Aragon, three miles up The Alameda. For a couple of years, we were enrolled at the very same college at the very same time.

We love his "born in California" vibe, and he's had an impressive career. We strongly tends toward opposite instincts. The headlines atop his report in the Washington Post say this:

Big urban school districts can improve, but it’s complicated and messy
Why did Los Angeles get better? Scholars say it’s because factions cooperated, sort of.

The report appeared in Monday's print editions. Because it doesn't deal with the minor behaviors of Tinseltown stars—because it deals with the actual lives of the nation's children and teenagers—you will never hear this report, or this topic, discussed.

The topic in question is public schools—the public school of our low-income kids. The report is based upon a new book. You can get the basic gist here:

MATHEWS (3/28/22): How are the schools doing in your neighborhood?... A meaningful account of what’s going on requires many more words than most readers have time for.

Still, it’s worth doing. The best new example is a project that unleashed several scholars on our nation’s second largest city and culminated with this book: “When Schools Work: Pluralist Politics and Institutional Reform in Los Angeles.” The author is Bruce Fuller, a professor of education and public policy at the University of California at Berkeley....

I was born in the Los Angeles area. I live there now. I have done many stories about schools in that big district, including one so intriguing I decided at age 43 to spend the rest of my life as an education reporter. But I have never seen any book dive as deeply as this one has into how Los Angeles achieved, at least for a while, an elusive goal: significant improvement in student achievement even among disadvantaged children.

Like all such gains, the results in Los Angeles over the last two decades have to be qualified. The book’s most interesting conclusion is that a combination of more spending, better lessons and new kinds of schools correlated with improved learning for all groups...


Fuller summed it up this way: “The behemoth institution of L.A. Unified, written off as hapless and ineffectual, came alive with a pulse, a beating heart. Reading and math scores for Latino and white students proceeded to climb (more than one grade level) over the subsequent two decades, as gauged by a careful federal assessment of learning in L.A., finally leveling off in 2019. 

The "careful federal assessment" in question is, of course, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (the Naep). See page 64!

Is it true? Has the Los Angeles Unified School District "achieved significant improvement in student achievement even among disadvantaged children?" Did a specific array of reforms really produce "improved learning for all groups" over the course of two decades?

You'll never see our media stars discuss such tedious questions. The reason is simple. Our media stars don't care about the good, decent kids who attend the Los Angeles schools.

They care about Will Smith and Chris Rock. They care about Jada Pinkett. They long to discuss minor events involving such wealthy and famous Tinseltown stars. In the end, were the truth to be told, they long to do nothing else.

We were surprised by Mathews' report, but also by Fuller's book. That said, we only attained that state after we'd fact-checked the explicit and suggested claim that the Los Angeles Unified School District has shown unusual test score gains over the past twenty years, caused by a specific web of reforms.

We'll report our specific findings next week. In the meantime, every media star you know is discussing Will and Chris and Jada and all the other angels and saints.

(Amy Schumer? She's still "triggered and traumatized," "in shock and stunned and sad." Or at least, so the modest Tinseltown star has been willing to admit. We learned these key facts at The Daily Beast, which then directed us here.)

Everywhere we looked in the 5 A.M. hour, we encountered the world of the chimps. We're going to avoid specific examples. Thanks to our powerful inner ear, we hear the way our overclocked species' voices howl whenever prime script is challenged.

Our media stars have been chattering about Will and Chris and Jada. As a general matter, they have little to say about these events, and a contractual obligation to say it. Inevitably, the New York Times assembled this ridiculous Gang of Four to beat this event half to death.

The chimps have been running through the streets, just as they did last week. This week, they're all about Will and Chris. Last week, it was the confirmation hearings.

At CNN, our chimps gathered in a group to chase their chimps around. Having watched large parts of the hearings, we thought our chimps very strongly tended to overstate the misbehavior exhibited by theirs.

Nowhere was this tendency put on display more than on CNN. Also, on The Last Word—though MSNBC has apparently pulled the plug on reporting what Lawrence has said. 

(As we type, it has been more than two weeks since the channel posted a transcript.)

Our source this morning spoke the truth—our comically self-impressed species is numbered among the apes. We humans have a hard time with "basic science." For our ranking journalists, statistics are boring and hard.

Tomorrow, we'll return to the quest of showing you what our chimps said last week.

This week, they're chattering about Will and Chris. Will and Chris are very rich and famous. Truth to tell, the high-ranking chimps of our own gong-show tribe care about no one else.

Tomorrow: First statements by our own tribe's chimps

Friday: "Help me understand"


  1. "The sheer stupidity of our species is one of its prime calling cards."

    Stupidity of your tribe that is, dear Bob.

    No normal ordinary humyn being would be caught dead watching your dembot shows, listening to that drivel.

    1. You are no ordinary humyn being, that's for sure. Does your boss fine you for misspellings?

    2. It's the same old song

  2. I don't know if I agree that the Oscar debacle is as meaningless as Bob thinks it is. But I give him credit, he is saving those he usually lives to disparage from scorn. Again, Kareem.
    Yet Bob thinks the attempt to overthrow the Government in the last Presidential Election is also unimportant, and he berates those who disagree.
    So his judgement on such things, which he touches on today, would have to be considered useless. And the gags about the shortcomings of the human race are way past thin.

    1. When did TDH ever say that the Jan. 6 event was "unimportant." I don't recall that.

    2. When someone ignores an event such as 1/6 and excuses Trump for his participation (based on his craziness and believing his own lies) and calls liberals bloodthirsty for wanting to lock up those who participated, it is safe to say that he doesn't regard the insurrection as important.

      Actions speak louder than words.

  3. "To peruse the full post, just click here. "

    And this is all the mention Somerby gives that this comes from Kevin Drum's blog and is an excerpt from a book written by Brad DeLong, an economist. If you didn't read carefully, you might think this came from Joe Scarborough.

    Yesterday Rationalist complained because some of the criticisms of Somerby concern how he references his sources. But these things matter. They matter especially to academics because giving credit for an author's work and ideas is important to careers there, but it matters here in political cyberspace because those writing here are also advancing identifiable ideas that contribute to their livelihood (e.g., job and pay). Drum seems to have retired but DeLong is still employed and he deserves credit for what he writes.

    Beyond that, it is disrespectful to pretend that ideas don't come from somewhere, are not originated in the minds of specific people. Somerby's ongoing failure to credit people properly is either an uncivil instinct, or he does it on purpose, to further his attempts to demean and undermine expertise and knowledge in academia and among other experts, especially in journalism.

    It is not OK to fail to credit people for what they write. It is not OK to borrow without acknowledging the source, as Somerby often does, and it is not OK to treat intellectual property as if it means nothing to anyone else and can thus be grabbed at will and used for one's own purposes.

    It may be that Somerby never learned how to give proper to credit, to anyone for anything. But that seems unlikely given that he is a Harvard graduate, where he was surely taught such things. That's why I believe he is deliberately misusing other people's work to trample on ideas in ways that others find offensive, even destructive. If so, he is no better than the right wing assholes who think it is great fun to mess with others, to tie up traffic and burn fuel for no reason, the destroy what others care about, just because they can. And then play the victim.

    I am sick of the way Somerby behaves and I am especially sick of the way Trump and his followers trample on the things that those on the left care about.

    And today Somerby calls the left "chimps" with an oblique reference to planet of the apes, as if he owns that too and it were not the product of other people's minds and work. Not even a chimp would be so oblivious to his own intellectual thuggery.

    1. Maybe Somerby just doesn't want to promote DeLong's new book. That would make him a different kind of asshole.

    2. The quote in question is from Kevin Drum, not DeLong or Larry Summers or Ezra Klein, also mentioned in Drum's post. Somerby is very lazy about attributions.

    3. anon 11:24, maybe you could save yourself being sick about how TDH "behaves" and stick to something that would be more comforting for you, there are plenty of sites out there.

    4. If you were the author of a new book, or even that quote, wouldn't you care about getting your name on it? Unlike the many anonymous commenters around here, you go to the trouble of naming your remarks AC/MA, which suggests you want to be associated with them yourself.

      If someone were stealing from a neighborhood market, on a regular basis, would you tell me to visit a different store (i.e., ignore what is happening) instead of telling the store owner about it? Intellectual property theft is still theft.

      If my complaint about Somerby's anti-social acts bothers you, you can visit some of those alternative sites yourself.

    5. AC/MA has no interest in justice, he would rather make up stories about punching and black jurors.

      GTFO AC/MA you fucking loser.

  4. "The sheer stupidity of our species is one of its prime calling cards."

    Somerby italicizes this as if it were a quotation, but doesn't say who said it or where it came from. Perhaps he himself made it up and is making it appear to be a quote in order to shift responsibility for it, or to make it appear that someone else, someone published, agrees with his opinion of liberals and humanity.

    If Somerby made up this sentence, then he is being dishonest about its origin and that is a form of lying to people, a form of disinformation.

    Anthropologists in general do not agree with Somerby about the venality of humanity. If people were as bad as Somerby claims, our society would not be able to function because there would be no trust possible and communities operate on trust. So this continuing theme of his is idiocy from a social science perspective. I consider it an ongoing libel of humanity.

    Somerby may be depressed, or cynical, but that doesn't excuse his making shit up. This is still disinformation. Educated people might just laugh and brush this off as Somerby's eccentricity, but not that he is using these assertions for political purposes and that makes them far from innocent.

  5. "Let's move to something you'll never see discussed, except at this site next week. We refer to this report in the Washington Post by someone we've never met but are strongly inclined to admire."

    As mh has tirelessly pointed out, first Somerby says this will never be discussed anywhere by anyone, then he quotes from the Washington Post, demonstrating that it has already been discussed there.

  6. "You'll never see our media stars discuss such tedious questions. The reason is simple. Our media stars don't care about the good, decent kids who attend the Los Angeles schools."

    This book is undoubtedly being discussed in the field of education, among those who work at improving their own schools. That is who should be reading the book and discussing it.

    Why would a national political pundit or media personage on cable news care about a local issue? There are no national policy implications and this is a historical book about ongoing reforms over two decades. In that sense, it is not breaking news or current events -- the focus of cable news.

    If Somerby wants to see who is discussing this, he needs to read some of the education blogs and trade papers, such as the monthly publication of the California Teacher's Association. They review such books.

    Washington Post is behind a paywall, but I would wager that the article is a book review and not directly about the Los Angeles school district's progress. The Washington Post most likely focuses on local school issues, not what is happening in LA.

    1. "Our media stars don't care about the good, decent kids who attend the Los Angeles schools."

      Why should they care about those chimps on the west coast?

  7. "They care about Jada Pinkett."

    If Somerby cared about Jada Pinkett, he would know that her name is Jada Pinkett-Smith, and has been since she married Will Smith.

    A basic mark of respect is to get someone's name right, including spelling it correctly. You can tell who cares about Ketanji Brown Jackson by who spells her first name correctly.

  8. I haven't seen Somerby this worked up, since Christopher Rufo played him into believing CRT was being taught in elementary schools.

  9. "The chimps have been running through the streets, just as they did last week. This week, they're all about Will and Chris. Last week, it was the confirmation hearings."

    Thus Somerby puts the nomination hearings on a par with the performance by Chris Rock and Will Smith, equating them as chimp-like behavior.

    I realize that Somerby has been expanding his idea of chimpiness to the entire human species, but he comes perilously close to unacceptable behavior when he calls the questioning of Ketanji Brown Jackson and the dispute between Will Smith and Chris Rock "chimpish". The use of monkeys and apes to refer to African Americans has a long and ugly history in our country. Although Somerby seems to call us all chimps, he has singled out three black people as exemplars of chimpishness.

    I don't think it is reaching to find this offensive. Given the way associations work in mental representation, it isn't a stretch to believe that Somerby's entire imagery today was inspired by a dark connection between apes and black people lurking in Somerby's unconscious. The sudden appearance of chimps today doesn't make any sense otherwise.

    I think Somerby should walk this one back a bit. If he continues, he is revealing too much of how he thinks about fraught race relations. He may be disinterested in the adventures of Will Smith and Chris Rock, but using words like stupidity and chimps as a rhetorical device is bigoted to a T in an essay like this one. But Somerby readers on the right will no doubt appreciate it.

    Somerby might say "no, no, I was talking about Rachel and Joy Reid (oops, not her) and Don Lemon (not him either) and Blow (well, maybe not him) and Bouie (among the four listed, but not in this case), not black people. Or maybe he will just skip any apology, given that he considers it his right to call those beautiful black children he singles out for their low scores, his personal cause.

    1. Racism leaks out, even when you are pretending that you don't see color.

  10. "For our ranking journalists, statistics are boring and hard."

    Also for Somerby. He generally admits that those ranking journalists are "technically correct" in what they said, but then complains because they haven't used his preferred statistic. Other times, Somerby himself gets things wrong, either through ignorance or to deceive his readers.

    Because he never reads his comments, he continues making the same errors using statistics. He is the last person who should be complaining about the media's use of stats.

  11. "Truth to tell, the high-ranking chimps of our own gong-show tribe care about no one else."

    "No one else" refers to Will and Chris, who likely have not been mentioned by any high ranking cable news host or journalist before the Oscars. But who cares about truth on this blog? Not Somerby.

  12. Why doesn't Somerby come clean and talk about the mud people in our liberal tribe? We all know that's who he means.

  13. The Law of Triviality also known as Bikeshedding states that "within an organization commonly or typically give disproportionate weight to trivial issues."

    The terms bicycle-shed effect, bike-shed effect, and bike-shedding were coined based on Parkinson's example of a meeting between management at a nuclear power plant where the topic that the most time was spent on discussing was the new planned bike shed, where to put it, what color should it be... while agenda items of much importance (but complexity) that the engineers wanted to discuss received far less input from management.

    I think it also explains why "journalists" as Somerby puts it gravitate to covering trivial issues. The other reason being, sadly, they bring in more revenue in terms of clicks and views.

    1. Here's a broader "law": Sayre's law

      "In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake."

      Links for both:

    2. It may be that such trivial issues become symbolic of larger ones that are more abstract and thus don't have concrete representation. Rosa Parks refusal to sit in the back of the bus could be called a trivial issues but it was representative of civil rights and the position of black people in society more broadly. One could not say that the feelings of black people (and white) were not engaged by broader civil rights issues or that the seating issue was important in its own right.

      It may be that rules developed to explain behavior in organizations (corporations) do not translate to other types of behavior. Matters of complexity can only be grasped through the specifics and those specifics are perhaps easily portrayed as more trivial and less important than the entire complex issue.

      I think this may be a misunderstood phenomenon. Psychologists find that the strongest emotions are evoked by situations with the greatest survival consequences. That seems to contradict Parkinson/Sayre.

    3. Bike-shedding and Sayre's law should probably be viewed in the context of a situation where people don't feel threatened, and thus survival instincts are not the factor when looking at what is discussed in either an organization, or in this case the media where the members are certainly comfortable and not reacting to issues by whether it threatens their survival or not. The corollaries to middle management at a corporation are fairly strong in that comparison IMO.

      I've seen the phenomenon occur in meetings quite a lot, managers remain largely silent during the technical discussions that are of huge importance, and then when something trivial comes up, like the color of the background in a user interface prototype, suddenly everyone is throwing out opinions and becoming active in the conversation.

      One reason for this is that it is risky to take a position on issues of large importance, and it also requires a technical understanding that they often just don't have. So they opine the strongest about the trivial things... the bike shed.

    4. Quoting myself... "risky to take a position"

      I just realized this does cross over into sort of a survival instinct, so that's interesting. In this case the instinct drives them to remain quiet.

    5. Manager often do not have the same level of technical knowledge as their staff. They may remain quiet about technical matter not because they are important but because they don't want to display their lack of knowledge by making a technical mistake. They don't want to look foolish -- this happens in most classrooms too.

      Laws should emerge from observations of behavior, not be formulated by someone who then seeks out examples to support the rule/law. After you inductively formulate a law, you test it by trying to disconfirm it, not by trying to confirm it through experience.

    6. "They may remain quiet about technical matter not because they are important but because they don't want to display their lack of knowledge by making a technical mistake."

      The importance and the technicality of the topics are linked. Very much so in the example of the nuclear power plant.

      "Laws should emerge from observations of behavior..."

      I'm not familiar with the details of their development. They are offshoots of Parkinson's Law which is widely accepted.

    7. Widely accepted in business perhaps.

    8. Other "trivial issues" Bob has bemoaned getting attention:
      The attempted overthrow of our Government by insane people who lead a lethal riot on the
      Capital of the United States of America,
      and said riot's passive approval by one of
      our two major political parties who were trying
      to install the mental case who loss for another
      You know, piddling stuff like that....

    9. It's more generally about bureaucracy than business.

      Hard to comment on your skepticism, unless you provide examples of critique, which I think will be hard for you to find.

    10. Oh yeah sorry, Greg. Back on topic: Bashing Bob

      I'll be checking out at this point.

    11. These "laws" mentioned are not backed by evidence or studies that indicate they are meaningful, but thanks for trying.

      On the other hand, the Dunning-Kruger effect is backed by evidence and studies, and perhaps we are seeing in action.

    12. We were talking about what's considered trivial. We are on Bob's blog. So what Bob considers trivial is relevant.

  14. Will Smith and Chris Rock have been discussed by the right wing media too. They are putting a different spin on it.

  15. Somerby is wrong that people on the left are busily discussing Will and Chris. On the left, we are discussing whether Cawthorn is a liar about those orgies and drug use among his political heroes, or whether he might be telling the truth.

    We are also debating whether it makes Trump a traitor to have asked Putin to reveal info about Hunter Biden in order to meddle with the next presidential election.

  16. I suppose that' Kevin Drum is telling the riffraff not to get too greedy during the coming societal upheaval that he predicts.

    Otherwise, if he were addressing that advice to the oligarchy, Drum might be a lost boy too.