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EXPLORING THE OUTRÉ LIMITS! The Times is high-minded—and largely fact-free— about the Omaha schools: // link // print // previous // next //
SATURDAY, APRIL 15, 2006

EXPLORING THE OUTRÉ LIMITS: Pathetic. There’s no other word for this front-page Post profile of fiery blogger Maryscott O’Connor. We assume that many others will discuss this pathetic report, so we won’t bother doing so here. But it’s hard to imagine a more transparent attempt to “frame” the current lib web discussion. Liberal bloggers are deeply outré ! Here—we’ll show you a foul-mouthed ex-drinker! This is one of the more pitiful efforts we have seen in our eight press-limning years.

But then, Sam Dillon’s news report in today’s New York Times isn’t 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, Dillon’s 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 Dillon’s 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 Omaha’s schools?” No doubt about it—that headline’s 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 law’s 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.''

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.

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:
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 doesn’t say.

For ourselves, we’ll guess that this law—whatever it does—won’t improve anyone’s schooling. But Dillon doesn’t bother explaining the law, or how it will affect Omaha’s children. We do get to read that exciting word, though. We see the word “segregate” up in the headline—and in Dillon’s 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, that’s the reason for this information-free report. Why does the Times give such prominence to such vague, inept reporting? Duh—to showcase the newspaper’s high-minded ways! The paper wants to show you its vast moral goodness—but Dillon doesn’t dirty his hands by explaining what this troubling new law even does. We’re told that this new “segregation” is wrong—but not what it consists in.

Yes, the Times is deeply high-minded—and it’s 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 won’t do—here as elsewhere—is waste their time inside such schools. Two weeks ago, Dillon didn’t waste his time going inside Ruben’s three reading classes. Today, he doesn’t 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,” we’re quickly told, in paragraph 1.) As with O’Connor, 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, Omaha’s elementary and middle schools are in deep racial imbalance today. Jonathan Kozol’s 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. There’s 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.

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.

Pathetic. In February 2004, Bush was talking about the leak of Valerie Plame’s 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 Sunday’s This Week:
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."

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 of course, that wasn’t “all Zakaria was saying.” Quite plainly, Zakaria was saying that Bush had authorized the leak of Plame’s name. And guess what? When Stephanopoulos said that this hasn’t been shown, Zakaria quickly acknowledged that he knew it. But if his host hadn’t spoken up, the disinformation would have spread through the land.

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. We’re reliably told that Joe Biden also did so, on Bill Maher’s HBO program. (Biden was corrected by Maher, we’re told.) And yes, Ben-Veniste did it again last night. Like Zakaria, Ben-Veniste surely knows that he’s conflating—just as Bush conflated Saddam with Osama. But so what? You’re the rube—and Ben-Veniste’s 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.

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.

Matthews’ statement is total crap—as his factual statements typically are once he’s decided which side he’s 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:”
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.

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.

Those were the NIE’s “key judgments”—but Mathews’ as always, improved on the facts, with Ben-Veniste’s approval.

You are rubes—and they are runners. By the way—enjoy a good laugh when you’re 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. Here’s 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 you’re quoting the NIE, that was the “consensus belief.” Matthews—as always—was wrong.