But then, Sam Dillons news report in todays New York Times isnt gigantically smarter. Yesterday, we asked a basic question: When the mainstream press writes about low-income schools, what does a citizen have to do to get even the most basic facts This morning, Dillons data-free report on the Omaha schools brought that question to mind once again.
Law to Segregate Omaha Schools Divides Nebraska, the Times headline says. But uh-oh! As we start reading Dillons report, we quickly see that this eye-catching headline has its thumb on the scale just a tad. Has the state of Nebraska passed a law which would segregate Omahas schools? No doubt about it—that headlines a grabber. But when we start reading, we quickly learn where that exciting word comes from:
DILLON (4/15/06): The law, which opponents are calling state-sponsored segregation, has thrown Nebraska into an uproar...Oh! The laws opponents are calling it segregation! Dillon himself uses a different term—a term he never explains:
DILLON: Ernie Chambers is Nebraska's only African-American state senator, a man who has fought for causes including the abolition of capital punishment and the end of apartheid in South Africa. A magazine writer once described him as the ''angriest black man in Nebraska.''Yes, the headline says segregated—but Dillon himself says racially identifiable. If you read all through his piece, you may get some flimsy idea of what that phrase may mean. But no, he never really tells you:
He was also a driving force behind a measure passed by the Legislature on Thursday and signed into law by the governor that calls for dividing the Omaha public schools into three racially identifiable districts, one largely black, one white and one mostly Hispanic.
DILLON: [T]he legislation changed radically with a two-page amendment by Mr. Chambers that carved the Omaha schools into racially identifiable districts, a move he told his colleagues would allow black educators to control schools in black areas.But in what way are these districts racially identifiable? Dillon, snoring, fails to say. Meanwhile, does this new law change the racial composition of even a single Omaha school? Almost surely, these schools are racially imbalanced now, in a major way. Will any school become more imbalanced? Once again, Dillon doesnt say.
For ourselves, well guess that this law—whatever it does—wont improve anyones schooling. But Dillon doesnt bother explaining the law, or how it will affect Omahas children. We do get to read that exciting word, though. We see the word segregate up in the headline—and in Dillons high-minded closing paragraph:
DILLON: This is a disaster," said Ben Gray, a television news producer and co-chairman of the African-American Achievement Council, a group of volunteers who mentor black students. "Throughout our time in America, we've had people who continuously fought for equality, and from Brown vs. Board of Education, we know that separate is not equal. We cannot go back to segregating our schools."There—that felt especially good. We get to leave feeling high-minded.
And almost sureely, thats the reason for this information-free report. Why does the Times give such prominence to such vague, inept reporting? Duh—to showcase the newspapers high-minded ways! The paper wants to show you its vast moral goodness—but Dillon doesnt dirty his hands by explaining what this troubling new law even does. Were told that this new segregation is wrong—but not what it consists in.
Yes, the Times is deeply high-minded—and its always eager to let you know it. Indeed, this is the pretext behind a good deal of its reporting—and editorializing—about low-income schools. What they wont do—here as elsewhere—is waste their time inside such schools. Two weeks ago, Dillon didnt waste his time going inside Rubens three reading classes. Today, he doesnt waste his time figuring out what this law really does.
No, Dillon never explains this new law—but his report does let us know how deeply high-minded the New York Times is. The New York Times opposes segregation—wherever the term might be used.
Final note: Why does the Times include a large photo of Chambers? Duh—because it makes him look a bit outré too. (Chambers was once described as the angriest black man in Nebraska, were quickly told, in paragraph 1.) As with OConnor, so with Chambers. The Post—and the Times—know what you should think. And they know how to work your perceptions.
NOTE ON FACTS: Almost surely, Omahas elementary and middle schools are in deep racial imbalance today. Jonathan Kozols book, The Shame of the Nation, discusses this matter in great detail (on the national scale). Will this law to segregate Omaha schools change these facts in any way? Dillon never bothers to say—or to say what this law even does, or to say what the situation is now. When the Times deigns to write about low-income schools, where does a citizen have to go to get the simplest facts?
BEN-VENISTE RUNS THE RUBES: Last night, it was Richard Ben-Veniste. He showed up to play a few innings of Hardball—and put his thumb down hard on the scale. Theres a word for this offering—pathetic:
BEN-VENISTE (4/14/06): It`s a sad state of affairs. On important critical matters, the president has now been shown to not be accurate and now hypocritical in terms of this leak investigation. The political fallout from this is huge in my view.Pathetic. In February 2004, Bush was talking about the leak of Valerie Plames identity. And no, we have not found out that this leak was authorized by the president. Conflating slickly, Ben-Veniste was playing his viewers for fools—just like Fareed Zakaria before him, on last Sundays This Week:
The president says back in February of 2004, he said, I am very upset over this leak of this kind of sensitive information, classified information, I want to get to the bottom it, we are going to take steps if we find out who did it. And now we find it was authorized by the president and the vice president to and through Scooter Libby.
ZAKARIA (4/9/06): It does sound to me, George [Will], like what you're saying is reminiscent of that wonderful Richard Nixon line, "if the President does it, it is not illegal."But of course, that wasnt all Zakaria was saying. Quite plainly, Zakaria was saying that Bush had authorized the leak of Plames name. And guess what? When Stephanopoulos said that this hasnt been shown, Zakaria quickly acknowledged that he knew it. But if his host hadnt spoken up, the disinformation would have spread through the land.
WILL: That's not what I'm saying.
ZAKARIA: The point—
WILL: He classifies, he de-classifies.
ZAKARIA: Yeah, but the point, George, is making, is—then declassify. You can't take classified information, particularly the name of a CIA agent, and leak it. That does not—
STEPHANOPOULOS: There's no suggestion in this filing that he did that.
ZAKARIA: No, no, no, there isn't. But all I'm saying is the process of declassification as far as I understand was not followed.
But then, this conflation was widespread last weekend. John Kerry played it on Meet the Press, as did Chris Matthews on The Chris Matthews Show. Were reliably told that Joe Biden also did so, on Bill Mahers HBO program. (Biden was corrected by Maher, were told.) And yes, Ben-Veniste did it again last night. Like Zakaria, Ben-Veniste surely knows that hes conflating—just as Bush conflated Saddam with Osama. But so what? Youre the rube—and Ben-Venistes the runner.
By the way, Matthews—that unmitigated GOP whore—was also reinventing his facts last night. Here he was, just moments before Ben-Veniste played you:
MATTHEWS (4/14/06): So the president goes out and says to—according to the court filing this week in the Scooter Libby case, the filing was apparently done by the defense team—that it was the president of the United States who, through the vice president, leaked a particular piece of the national intelligence estimates from the fall of 2002, which made the case for a nuclear threat from Iraq, when we now know that was an isolated discernment, that many of the other agencies, including CIA and State did not share it, but yet it was portrayed to the reporter Judy Miller and Matt Cooper and the others apparently as the consensus belief.Matthews statement is total crap—as his factual statements typically are once hes decided which side hes on. In fact, the key judgments of the NIE did make the case for a nuclear threat from Iraq. This was, in fact, the consensus belief. Once again, the following material is from those key judgments. These were the consensus beliefs:
BEN-VENISTE: Consensus and a vigorous opinion being held and, again, once again, it`s shown when the true facts come out—and they will come out over time—that this was an exaggeration and misleading.
NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE: Although we assess that Saddam does not yet have nuclear weapons or sufficient material to make any, he remains intent on acquiring them. Most agencies assess that Baghdad started reconstituting its nuclear program about the time that UNSCOM inspectors departed—December 1998.Those were the NIEs key judgments—but Mathews as always, improved on the facts, with Ben-Venistes approval.
How quickly Iraq will obtain its first nuclear weapon depends on when it acquires sufficient weapons-grade fissile material.
If Baghdad acquires sufficient fissile material from abroad it could make a nuclear weapon within several months to a year.
You are rubes—and they are runners. By the way—enjoy a good laugh when youre told, at the lake, that Matthews is an unmitigated GOP whore. More of his whoredom next week—and more on the ridiculous way we rubes get run at the lake.
For the record: In the NIE, the State Department—not the CIA—dissented about uranium-from-Africa. (Finally, the claims of Iraqi pursuit of natural uranium in Africa are, in INR's assessment, highly dubious.) But the State Department, in a different wordy dissent, agreed that Iraq was pursuing nukes. Heres part of what State said there:
NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ASSESSMENT: The Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research (INR) believes that Saddam continues to want nuclear weapons and that available evidence indicates that Baghdad is pursuing at least a limited effort to maintain and acquire nuclear weapons-related capabilities. The activities we have detected do not, however, add up to a compelling case that Iraq is currently pursuing what INR would consider to be an integrated and comprehensive approach to acquire nuclear weapons. Iraq may be doing so, but INR considers the available evidence inadequate to support such a judgment. Lacking persuasive evidence that Baghdad has launched a coherent effort to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program, INR is unwilling to speculate that such an effort began soon after the departure of UN inspectors or to project a timeline for the completion of activities it does not now see happening. As a result, INR is unable to predict when Iraq could acquire a nuclear device or weapon.That was the dissent by State—not by the CIA. But the key judgments did say that Iraq was after nukes. If youre quoting the NIE, that was the consensus belief. Matthews—as always—was wrong.