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THE TRIUMPH OF POLITICS! Liberal world to black kids: Drop dead! We’d call it the triumph of politics: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2010

Kid Pareene breaks all the rules: Last Friday, we said we’d go into more detail about Alex “Kid” Pareene’s recent dangerous conduct (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/3/10). Those details follow, along with a word of caution:

On September 1, at Salon, Pareene did two things which are never done. Maureen Dowd had written her latest inane column. In response, Pareene acknowledged two blatantly obvious facts. This was the start of his piece, including its punishing headlines:

PAREENE (9/1/10): Maureen Dowd phones in world's worst Obama speech reaction column/The New York Times columnist talks about the new Oval Office carpet, and makes ancient Al Gore jokes

Award-winning New York Times Op-Ed columnist Maureen Dowd wrote a political column about Barack Obama's speech last night! Of course the column had to be finished in time for this morning's paper, so it was obviously written in 10 minutes or so yesterday afternoon, before the speech was actually delivered. There is a joke about Al Gore and "earth tones" in the very first sentence of this column on Barack Obama's speech about the Iraq war.

An earth tones joke. In the year 2010.

The "earth tones" thing was a completely fictional story invented, almost simultaneously, by the entire 2000 campaign press corps, because the narrative everyone had decided on was that Al Gore was a phony and a wacko weakling liberal loser. MoDo led the charge, and has clung to that caricature, despite its basis almost entirely on complete fabrications, ever since.

As far as I know Maureen Dowd has never acknowledged—let alone apologized for—her relentless, inaccurate smearing of Al Gore. (In 2007 she pretended to apologize, in the voice of Clarence Thomas, but I'm not sure she's actually self-aware enough to get the real joke she ended up making.) And her blithe willingness to go back to the "earth tone" well illustrates both her lazy hackishness (it's been a decade, Maureen) and her complete disregard for any truth beyond the idiotic fantasies she constructs about public figures.

That, as I said, is only the very first sentence.

There was more; we suggest you read the full piece. But good grief! In just those opening paragraphs, Pareene discussed two blatantly obvious facts, facts which simply don’t get discussed by your nation’s “professional journalists:”

First fact: Award-winning columnist Maureen Dowd may be the world’s biggest fool.

Second fact: In 1999 and 2000, the national press corps staged a two-year war against Candidate Gore.

Each of those facts is blatantly obvious. And yet, all career “journalists,” including the “liberals,” know these facts mustn’t be uttered or typed! The public is simply never told about that twenty-month war against Gore. And the public never gets to consider an “emperor’s new clothes” type of fact: Maureen Dowd is a blatant simpering nut—an inanity of the first order.

Do you know how much saner your discourse would be if the public had heard these obvious facts discussed on a regular basis? How much more skeptical the public might be about the ongoing raft of deceptions which virtually define our world?

Go ahead—reread Kid Pareene’s piece! Like the youngster in that mythical empire, he stood up and stated two obvious facts. He showed the world how easy it is to state this pair of obvious facts. He helped us see an important fact—everybody else in the guild has sworn an oath not to do so.

Careful, though, Kid! the analysts cried. We want you to grow and prosper! Did you know that someone close to you (name withheld) peddled every bit of that crap back in November 2000? Try to believe that the following nonsense was published on November 6 of that year, one day before the nation voted. And omigod! Look where this passage ended—with phony wacko weakling Gore hiring that woman, Miss Wolf!

NAME WITHHELD (11/6/00): [L]et’s state the obvious: Al Gore is a flawed candidate who has presided over a troubled campaign. For me, the indelible image from the Democratic National Convention wasn't Al kissing Tipper, it was a photo Tipper shared of her Halloween-loving husband…dressed up like Frankenstein. I cringed: The image of Gore as Frankenstein captured his blockheaded otherworldly essence, the way he sometimes looks like a guy who's been torn apart and stitched back together, unnaturally. It's the perfect image to conjure up his synthetic feel, his mutability, the air of alienation from himself that sometimes feels almost poignant. It looked like a ready-made Republican campaign poster. I was sure I'd see it again.

As it happened, nobody made much of the Frankenstein photo, but I saw it again every time I watched Gore lurch from issue to issue, debate to debate, trying to reinvent himself anew. The trouble with Gore is his failure to tell a convincing story about what's at stake in this election, from start to finish, to communicate a sense of calm conviction and unswerving values on core issues, the way he instead remakes himself when he's in trouble and, in his worst moments, looks stitched together like Frankenstein's monster, kind of sad and scary.

So it's tempting to say, "It's the likability, stupid," and blame Gore's troubles on Gore. Maybe the best assessment of Gore's personality problem comes from our own Jake Tapper, who sums it up in two words: "Dingell-Norwood." That's the HMO reform bill Gore wasted time trying to explain in the last debate, instead of hammering Bush hard for vetoing a patients’ bill of rights in Texas, and capitalizing on the fact that voters support Gore's approach on healthcare in most polls by connecting with the issue viscerally and emotionally.

Likewise, he's run a mediocre campaign, beset by squabbling leadership and an inability to stay on message. Gore was in trouble right away, trailing Bush substantially in most polls by the summer of 1999. Criticized for his K Street campaign digs and his Rose Garden-and-motorcades strategy, he moved his operations to Nashville, and hired former Richard Gephardt/Jesse Jackson operative Donna Brazile as campaign manager to complete the populist overhaul. But the slight bounce he got from moving to Nashville's Mainstream Drive was leveled out by his first big campaign blunder—the revelation that he'd hired Naomi Wolf to coach him on being an alpha male

There was more—much more. (We didn’t make up that Frankenstein sh*t.) But good God! The unnamed writer even stressed the Dingell-Norwood nonsense (in fact, a bit of Sam-and-Cokie blather), even before she got to the way Candidate Gore had hired that woman to make him an alpha male.

(The New York Times officially corrected a version of that claim—in July 2007! See THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/30/07. We have made none of this up.)

Careful, Kid! Earlier in that same piece, the unnamed writer had cited this, attributing the critique to a “suspicion [which] still persists” among Gore’s critics:

UNNAMED WRITER: But the suspicion still persists that it's Gore's fault the race is this close, that he's trailing Bush in the final days. It's something about Al, his critics say, it's gotta be: his smarmy know-it-allness, the serial exaggerations, his hydra-headed campaign, those doomed efforts to be an earth-toned "alpha male," his unforgiveable failure to be President Clinton.

Careful, Kid! The writer played every card in the “fictional” deck you described in last week’s piece!

Go ahead! Read that full piece from November 2000! Has anyone ever written 3700 words on any topic while so thoroughly avoiding the truth? In this case, the truth avoided was the following: As a later writer would put it, “the entire 2000 campaign press corps” decided on “a narrative” in which Candidate Gore was “a phony and a wacko weakling liberal loser.” From March 1999 on, they invented a series of “completely fictional stories” to drive this narrative home.

Careful, Kid! You told the truth! In your line or work, it isn’t done! Instead, the hacks line up to kiss each others’ keisters—to wipe away what they’ve all done.

Special report: Who cares about black kids!

Be sure to read each thrilling installment (permalink): Today, we finish our three-week back-to-school series—a series in which we’ve considered the interests of black and Hispanic kids.

Why not read each thrilling installment? For part 1, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/23/10. From there, you can click through parts 1-8. You can read our three additional “interlude” posts—and today’s thrilling conclusion. To click forward, just use the incomparable service marked “next,” right at the top of each column.

To judge from their repeated behavior, your nation’s mainstream and liberal elites despise black and Hispanic kids—don’t give a flying fig about them. Why not read each thrilling installment? Why not take it all in?

CONCLUSION—THE TRIUMPH OF POLITICS: In 1985, David Stockman wrote a famous, barely readable book about President Reagan’s first term. “The Triumph of Politics,” it was called. As Reagan’s economic policies were hatched, politics constantly trumped good policy, Stockman rudely alleged.

Politics yes, good policy no! So it went in the Reagan years as ideologues bungled fiscal policy. And so it goes in the present day, as the nation’s journalistic and liberal elites refuse to give a flying fig about the interests of black kids.

But first, some thoughts about Kevin Drum’s brief review of this topic. To read Kevin’s post, just click here.

The analysts were pleased to see Kevin react to our review of Robert Samuelson’s column—a column which grossly misled readers of the Washington Post about the apparent state of progress in the nation’s schools. But the analysts also gnashed their teeth about Kevin’s limited framework. Following Samuelson’s example, he restricted himself to 17-year-olds in reviewing test scores on the NAEP, simply ignoring the test results for 9-year-old and 13-year-old students. In reviewing 17-year-olds alone, Kevin chose to feature the one age group where drop-out rates make it somewhat hard to assess score changes over time. (We have no idea what the degree of relevance may be, if there’s any relevance at all. That’s the problem with using this age group.) More significantly, Kevin ignored the massive test score gains recorded by elementary and middle-school kids over the past dozen years—gains which have been recorded on each of the NAEP’s two major testing programs.

For ourselves, we’re surprised by these test score gains; we wouldn’t have thought that an increasing focus on testing, “standards” and accountability would have produced this type of result. But these large score gains exist—and they simply beg for analysis, unless you don’t give a flying fig about the kids who achieved them. Your assignment, if you should choose to accept it: Try to reconcile those large score gains with Samuelson’s disgracefully cherry-picked claim that educational “reform” has been a huge howling pitiful failure. Let’s review the score gains which have been recorded on each of the NAEP’s major studies:

The “long-term trend NAEP:”
In this study—the study whose data Samuelson worked from—the NAEP tests 9-year-old, 13-year-old and 17-year-old students, regardless of what grade they’re in. (To review all data, click here.) Starting in 1999, the score gains have been very large among the two younger groups. From 1999 to 2008, 9-year-old black kids gained 21 points in reading, 16 points in math. Over that same period, 9-year-old Hispanic kids gained 20 points in reading, 22 points in math.

Among 13-year-olds, black kids gained 14 points in reading, 16 points in math. Hispanic kids lost one point in reading, gained 10 points in math. (Remember: Given immigration patterns, language issues may be involved in the average performance of Hispanic kids.)

Kevin states that, “as a rough rule of thumb, ten points on the NAEP test equals one grade level.” If that rough rule of thumb is dimly accurate, those score gains represent astounding progress over a nine-year-period. (We regard it as a very rough rule of thumb.) Like Samuelson, Kevin seems to suggest that these score gains don’t really matter that much, since they haven’t been matched among 17-year-old students. Of course, the 9-year-olds who racked up those massive score gains aren’t 17 yet. How will they score when they’re 17? At this point, no one knows—and it seems that nobody cares.

Sorry. It was inexcusable—a journalistic scam—when Samuelson withheld these remarkable data, even as he told the world that educational “reform” has been a massive failure. It’s disappointing to see Kevin take a similar approach—to see him dump two-thirds of the data—especially since those large score gains have been matched on the other major NAEP study, the so-called “Main NAEP.”

The “main NAEP:”
In this study, the NAEP tests fourth-graders and eighth-graders, regardless of their age. A different set of tests is used—but over the past decade, the score gains recorded by black and Hispanic kids have been similar to those recorded on the “long-term trend” study. (To review reading data, click here. For math scores, just click this.)

From 2000 to 2009, black fourth-graders gained 15 points in reading, 19 points in math. Hispanic fourth-graders gained 15 points in reading, 18 points in math. (That ten-point rule of thumb still applies.)

Score gains have also been strong in eighth-grade math. From 2000 to 2009, black eighth-graders gained 17 points; Hispanic eighth-graders gained 13. The one sore spot in the “main NAEP” scores involves eighth-grade reading. From 1998 to 2009 (no test in 2000), black eighth-graders gained only 2 points in reading. Hispanic eighth-graders gained 6.

Simple story: Among elementary and middle school students, very large score gains have occurred on both NAEP studies in the past decade. Samuelson simply ignored these data in declaring reform a disaster; Kevin followed suit. We can’t tell you what these score gains “mean”—what conclusions should be reached about current educational policy. We can tell you this: By normal standards, it’s very strange when data like these are simply deep-sixed—buried; hidden; disappeared; tossed away—by so many people, of both the “left” and the “right.”

We tend to regard this pattern as a “triumph of politics.” We’d also say it raises a question: Does anyone care about black kids?

What makes this persistent data dump a triumph of politics? This:

Dour conservative figures like Samuelson live to ridicule liberal reforms. In Monday’s column, he treated himself to his favorite dessert by withholding a wide range of data—by stressing two cherry-picked pieces of data which were grossly misleading.

In this way, Samuelson got to mock the very notion of educational reform. That’s a triumph of politics “on the right.” But how does this work “on the left?”

We don’t mean to ascribe motives to Kevin in what follows; as far as we know, he has had no “motives” in his reactions to this topic. But as a general matter, “school reform” came to mean “George W. Bush” in the wake of No Child Left Behind—especially to those on the left. “School reform” came to mean testing, accountability, standards. When the Nation published its education issue in June, it too cherry-picked data from the NAEP, refusing to let its readers know about the remarkable score gains recorded by black and Hispanic kids in the past decade.

Just like the inexcusable Samuelson, the Nation kept its readers barefoot and clueless about the progress of black kids.

It’s hard to display sufficient contempt for “progressives” who behave in this manner. And yet, the entire “liberal” world has agreed to keep its ratty trap shut about the score gains achieved by black and Hispanic kids over the past dozen years. For the most part, we liberals don’t dirty our upper-class hands talking about such low-class topics. Examples? Rachel Maddow has never done a segment about low-income schools in the two years of her clowning, self-adoring TV show. At Salon, have you ever seen the great Joan Walsh stoop to the point of assigning a piece about the lives or the interests of black kids?

(Again: When the Nation discussed this topic in June, it actively disinformed its readers about the achievements of black kids.)

Normally, we liberals simply ignore black kids. When we do stoop to discuss such proles, we tend to hide their recent progress, just like Samuelson did.

Does anyone care about black kids? We’d say the answer is clear. After all, if the public knew about these score gains, the public might be more enthused about what’s happening in our schools; the public might be more enthused about supporting the lives and interests of black kids. The public might begin to feel that there are real reasons to support our teachers and schools. The public might even begin to feel pride when they see their nation’s black kids on their way to school in the morning.

The public might begin to think that they actually like those kids. That they respect their work, their achievements.

Alas! For the modern pseudo-liberal, such support would come at a troubling price. You see, we “liberals” mainly enjoy denouncing George W. Bush—and these remarkable test score gains largely occurred on his watch. The testing/standards/accountability movement largely predated No Child Left Behind, of course. But in the wake of No Child Left Behind, such reforms became synonymous with Bush in the public discourse. If we “liberals” discussed those large score gains, this would rob us of the pleasure we get in denouncing George Bush.

For that reason, we’ve sent a thoughtful message to black kids: You can take your damn score gains and fry!

For ourselves, we’re surprised by those score gains—and yet, the data are there. Because we spent a good many years in public school classrooms with deserving black kids, we’d like to know what those score gains mean. We’d like to see black children get credit.

At this point, we’ll go ahead and name Joan Walsh—a person who like to parade about naming the nation’s tens of millions of bigots. It’s hard to be a bigger racial fraud than to engage in this preening type of behavior, even as the triumph of politics instructs you to never publish a word about the achievements of black kids. Instructs you to never ask liberal readers to consider the interests of black kids.

Salon to black kids: Drop dead! But then, that headline rings out, loud and clear, all across the “liberal” world. How little do we liberals know (or care) about black kids? Just recall what happened when Jonathan Chait, a smart liberal writer, tried to challenge Robert Samuelson’s pile of garbage. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/8/10.

Does anyone care about black kids? One part of the answer rings out loud and clear:

No one in our ratty tribe!