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ENDLESS AMAZEMENT! We’re still amazed at the childish things our celebrity “journalists” do: // link // print // previous // next //
THURSDAY, MAY 6, 2010

History can make you sick: A large chunk of Chapter 5 has been posted at our companion site, How he got there. (Our chapter title, “A virtual wilding,” is drawn from Dan Kennedy’s spot-on description of the press coverage of Campaign 2000.)We strongly recommend this material—although, if you’re human, it may make you sick. For an overview of the material, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/4/10.

Chapter 5 will continue in a few weeks—at which point, the historical sickness only gets that much worse.

The wages of liberal indifference: As a quick follow-up to yesterday’s post (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/5/10):

The New York Times prints several letters today about standardized test scores and charter schools. In the first letter, one perfervid, know-little charter school teacher dreams of the glorious day when we will banish the use of these standardized tests:

LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (5/6/10): Since it does not seem that we will get rid of performance-based testing any time soon, a better way to determine the effectiveness of charter schools—and all schools—might be to look at the individual scores of students and how they progressed from year to year. If we did this, a lot of schools that now appear to be failing might actually be shown to have performed miracles.

Sigh. This teacher dreams of getting rid of such tests. This would be a disaster for low-income kids, as we explained in yesterday’s post. Beyond that, this teacher dreams of a type of test score analysis which has been underway for years.

Below that letter, we get this tripe from another charter school defender—the president of a think tank which supports charter schools:

LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (5/5/10): The state of education data in the United States makes it impossible to issue sweeping conclusions about the condition of charter schools.

The idea that a research organization’s conclusions regarding student achievement can be definitive in the absence of national, longitudinal data is folly. Yet your article highlights the deeply flawed research released last summer by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes.

In contrast to the methodology of that study, the only way to determine charter school success is to compare the achievement of students in a charter school with the achievement of students in the public school they would have otherwise attended.

As your article noted, Caroline Hoxby, an economist, conducted such a study. The conclusions were profoundly positive for charter school students in both reading and math. Additional data show that the longer a child is in a charter school, the better he or she performs.

But that is not “the only way” to determine charter school success—and there are obvious shortcomings with the method the writer recommends. (There is no perfect method.) In fact, the writer seems to mis-describe the nature of Caroline Hoxby’s study, which was described last September in this News York Times news report. Hoxby’s methodology was more sophisticated than the methodology the writer describes. That said, it too has a built-in shortcoming.

After all these years, why is our biggest newspaper full of such tripe about this important topic? In part, because we liberals, and our liberal journals, quit on low-income kids long ago. We contribute nothing to this debate—and the field of play is thus left to the others. We very much like to parade about, announcing our own racial greatness. We just don’t like to dirty our hands on matters affecting real kids.

Low-income children? At our various precious Salons, we simply don’t talk about children like that! We leave such tedious talk to the others! Darlings! What could you be thinking? That sort of thing just isn’t done!

ENDLESS AMAZEMENT (permalink): Twelve years after starting THE DAILY HOWLER, we never cease to be amazed at the cosmic childishness of our celebrity press corps. This particular thought came to mind as we read Gail Collins’ new column this morning. But Gail Collins didn’t start it this time. Her column tracks a clownish colloquy between Keith Olbermann and Lawrence O’Donnell on last evening’s Countdown.

In 1999 and 2000, all three of these people played major roles in sending George W. Bush to the White House. In those days, these childish ninnies clowned and pandered in support of Republican interests. Today, the trio continue to clown. But today, these childish ninnies clown and pander to you.

At issue is a proposal in Congress to close a new type of gun loophole—to forbid people on the FBI terrorist watch list from purchasing guns or explosives. The Obama administration supports this ban, as did the Bush admin before it. As Dana Milbank notes in this morning’s Washington Post, most pro-gun Republicans ducked yesterday’s hearing, not wanting to argue the point in public. (Pro-gun Democrat Jon Tester was also AWOL.) Milbank also notes this: “The bill to close the gun loophole isn't on the radar of Democratic leaders, making it unlikely that it will reach the Senate floor.”

In short, almost everyone is ducking this issue, including a lot of big Democrats. But Lindsey Graham did show up at yesterday’s hearing, where he said he isn’t sure that the bill is the right way to go. On Countdown, before the clowning began, Olbermann’s producers made a mistake—they played tape of Graham citing an actual problem with the current proposal:

OLBERMANN (5/5/10): But in the hearing at Capitol Hill, the two Republican senators on the panel, Collins and Graham, worried that the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans would be, thus, infringed. Senator Graham correctly noted that in the past six years, 1,228 people on the terror watch list received background checks for firearm or explosive, 91 percent were allowed to proceed because there was no disqualifying legal factor. But to Senator Graham, that meant only that too many lawful Americans were on the terror watch list.

GRAHAM (videotape): The problem I have is that the watch list, when you look at the numbers, has so many problems with it that I think it’s not appropriate to go down the road that we’re going because a constitutional right is involved. And before we subject innocent Americans who have had done nothing but have the wrong name at the wrong time, to having to go into court and pay the cost of going to court to get their gun rights back, I want to slow down and think about this.

OLBERMANN: Whew!

We’re not experts on that FBI watch list. But like you, we’ve often heard that it’s clogged with the names of people who simply don’t belong on it; Graham’s data would seem to suggest, once again, that this is the case. If this is true, is it really crazy to “slow down and think” about the best way to address this (constitutional) concern? Especially in a world where pro-gun Republicans skip the hearing, while Democrats are faking their interest in passing this bill?

Actually, no—it isn’t that crazy. Except in the childish world of Potemkin journalism—the childish, tribal world of a clownish program like Countdown. In that world, a highly-skilled hack like O’Donnell is brought on the show to ridicule the guy who did show up at yesterday’s hearing—to pretend that his remarks are riddled with contradictions and inconsistencies. Alas! This is the way the tribal ninnies started last night’s discussion:

OLBERMANN (continuing directly): Whew! While Senator Graham fretted about Second Amendment rights, he repeated his prior call to end another constitutional right with regard to terror suspects.

GRAHAM (videotape): I want to stop reading these guys their Miranda rights.

OLBERMANN: On that strange note, let’s turn to MSNBC political analyst, Huffington Post contributor Lawrence O’Donnell. Lawrence, good evening.

O’DONNELL: Good to be here, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Let me start with the head-up-the-butt logic question here. Senator Graham is willing to say a terror suspect should have his Miranda rights suspended but somebody on a terror watch list should have the same rights as anybody else to buy a gun or some actually explosive that will blow up?

O’DONNELL: Well, what do you want here, Keith? Consistency?
OLBERMANN: Yes, something—

O’DONNELL: This is a United States senator, after all, and pandering is difficult, especially reactionary pandering in the aftermath of these kinds of tense events. And so, Lindsey Graham, once again, got desperately lost in his wanderings around the Constitution and what he feels like respecting in a given moment and what he feels like ignoring.

Just imagine! Imagine watching O’Donnell and Olbermann complain about people who pander! As we said, we never cease to be amazed by the way these people will embarrass themselves in pursuit of celebrity status.

(Quick reminder: As late as October 2000, O’Donnell was playing these clownish games in support of Republican interests, making clownish claims about Candidate Gore. Are you happy with how that turned out?)

Back to last night: By the rules of the tribal game, Graham’s presentation simply had to represent “strange,” “head-up-the-butt logic.” His presentation simply had to involves comical “inconsistencies.” In fact, whatever you think of Graham’s two positions, it isn’t clear that they’re “inconsistent” in any particular way. (One distinction, out of several: The ban on gun purchases seems to involve a large number of people who simply don’t belong on the list. Whatever one thinks of the Miranda issue, it’s much less likely that you’re depriving a person who is wrongly accused. Other distinctions obtain.)

Sorry. Whatever you think of Graham’s two positions, it isn’t clear that they’re “inconsistent” in any obvious way. But to O’Donnell, such vast illogic had never been seen anywhere in the whole land! “This one is about as funny and simple-minded as it gets,” he simple-mindedly said, speaking as someone who seemed to know his subject matter. “To catch him on tape that close together, with conflicting thoughts, is a particularly fun day in those Senate hearings,” this big clown stupidly said.

But then, Olbermann and O’Donnell are millionaire tribal clowns. In her column on this same topic this morning, Collins is considerably worse. She never even lets you know what Graham’s stated objection was. No, wait! If you examine her next-to-last paragraph carefully, in your very best Pravda-watch fashion, you might be able to guess!

In our view, it’s hard to find a passage in Collins’ column where she doesn’t stage leaps of logic in pursuit of a simplified story line. Beyond that, Collins is a more sophisticated hack than Olbermann’s producers. Note the way she shapes what you’re allowed to know about those disturbing gun sales:

COLLINS (5/6/10): The Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing on ''Terrorists and Guns: The Nature of the Threat and Proposed Reforms,'' concerned a modest bill sponsored by Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey. It would allow the government to stop gun sales to people on the F.B.I. terror watch list the same way it does people who have felony convictions. Because Congress has repeatedly rejected this idea, 1,119 people on the watch list have been able to purchase weapons over the last six years. One of them bought 50 pounds of military grade explosives.

Clever! Collins tells you that many people on the watch list have been able to buy guns—without stooping to let you know why there were allowed to do so. (Go back and re-read what Olbermann said, thanks to his hapless producers.) She keeps you from knowing that there is a problem with that FBI watch list. She even seems to equate being on that list to having a felony conviction!
That’s slick! But Collins has always behaved this way; these days, she simply plays on a different team. In 1999 and 2000, her cohort was serving Republican interests, extending the mainstream press corps’ decade-long war against Bill Clinton, then against Gore. Collins endlessly lied in your faces, treating Gore in much the same way she treats Graham this morning.

O’Donnell took this war even further. In October 2000, just weeks before the Bush-Gore election, he was still calling Gore a big liar on The McLaughlin Group (sitting in a “liberal” chair), citing one of the many ridiculous claims which had long been made against Gore. Given the popularity of this TV show, are you sure that this one performance, all by itself, may not have tripped the feather-thin outcome in Florida?

(Keith of course had fled the scene, crying real tears in 1998. Talking about Miss Lewinsky upset him, so he begged his darling, Roger Ailes, to give him a high-paying job doing sports for Fox. He thus sat out Campaign 2000, and its destructive war against Gore. Three years later, he returned to the scene, angry about the war in Iraq this election had brought us. What a shame that he ran off and took his big bucks from Darling Roger rather than speak in real time! This big fat bozo cut-and-ran. Today, he clowns on your side.)

This are truly hideous people, the scum of modern, big-bucks corporate culture. But mainly, they’re amazingly childish. Collins’ column is stunningly clownish—and therefore, it’s pleasing for readers, and it was easy to type. In truth, these people will do and say anything to maintain the tribal game of the moment. And they seem to be sure that your low IQs won’t let you spot their game.

Final point about tribal narrative: The “watch list” story has special appeal because it fits treasured New York Times themes about southerners, guns and religion. Make no mistake: This is part of the basis on which Frank Rich savaged Gore for so many years. (Beyond that, this is part of the reason why High Manhattan Pseudo-Liberal Journalists never quite accepted the cracker, Bill Clinton, and thus made up stories about him.) As late as 2006, Rich bitched and whined to his pal, Don Imus, that Gore had briefly mentioned owning a gun as a child (on his family’s Tennessee farm) in his “high school” movie, An Inconvenient Truth. Rich was of course brilliantly able to see what this brief statement so plainly meant: Gore was pandering to the NRA in preparation for his 20008 White House run.

As we’ve long told you: It’s impossible to be dumber than Rich. And yet, we liberals love his jive. Final question for the day:

What does that say about us?