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WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 22, 2010

We’re the worst persons in the world/Meet the Dowds and the Fockers: This Christmas, film-goers meet the Fockers again—but in this morning’s New York Times, we visit another dysfunctional family. In her latest cry for help, Maureen Dowd turns again to her brother’s peculiar ways.

Courtesy of a Pulitzer-winner, meet a few more Fockers:

DOWD (12/22/10): Last Christmas I got a jolt.

I learned that my brother Kevin collects crèches. They were all over his house, crammed onto every mantle, table, counter, lawn and closet—17 in all, including the modest plastic stable our mom put over the fireplace when we were little.

I was perturbed. I knew Kevin, a salesman, was a fanatical guardian of the word Christmas, as opposed to the pagan, generic “holiday,” but I had no idea that he had such a monomaniacal hobby.

Maybe I was scarred by reading “The Glass Menagerie” as a teenager. But books and records aside, collections always struck me as vaguely creepy. I had shuddered for years as my sister accumulated clowns and Don Quixote objets. And the porcelain baby collection of an older cousin actually made me feel queasy.

I wondered why Kevin was so obsessive about crèches. Was it a way to stay close to our late mother? An homage to our old church, Nativity?

As a child, he treated St. Joseph, the shepherds and three kings as action figures, staging smack downs.

“The shepherd had an advantage because he was holding the lamb, and he could use it as a weapon,” Kevin recalled fondly.

Was Lady Dowd scarred by “The Glass Menagerie?” One theory’s as good as another. But in this latest cry for help, Dowd lets us visit her own gang of Fockers. Dowd herself has long been visibly nuts—but she’s honored within our upper-class “press corps.” So is her gruesome friend, Chris Matthews, whose latest act of cultural warfare is described below.

Truly, our “intellectual leaders” are store-bought, deranged—broken-souled, daft. This brings us to some silly words in today’s New York Times editorial.

People, meet several more Fockers! That highlighted claim is just sad:

NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL (12/22/10): Gov. Barbour’s Dream World

In Gov. Haley Barbour’s hazy, dream-coated South, the civil-rights era was an easy transition for his Mississippi hometown of Yazoo City. As he told the Weekly Standard recently, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an unmemorable speaker, and notorious White Citizens Councils protected the world from violent racists.

At some point, we liberals really have to decide: How much Pure Stupid do we permit? To what extent are we willing to be spoken down to this way?

A Weekly Standard profile of Haley Barbour has created some big buzz this week. Presumably, some of the ensuing discussion has been informative and/or helpful. (For those who wish to pursue these topics, we strongly recommend Bruce Watson’s book, Freedom Summer, which appeared earlier this year.) But a great deal of the ensuing discussion has been massively dumb—fake, phony, offensive, inane, delivered in perfect bad faith.

Consider the Fockers’ highlighted claim about that “unmemorable speaker.”

Wow! Did Haley Barbour really say that Dr. King was “an unmemorable speaker?” The editors make this claim in their opening paragraph—but actually no, he did not. As reported by writer Andrew Ferguson, Barbour said he once saw Dr. King speak in Barbour’s hometown—Yazoo City, Mississippi. Asked what Dr. King said, Barbour is quoted saying this: “I don’t really remember. The truth is, we couldn’t hear very well. We were sort of out there on the periphery.”

Of course, Ferguson includes a relevant point in his profile. According to Ferguson, Dr. King’s speech took place in 1962; Barbour was 14 years old at the time. (Birth date: 10/22/47.) Feigning and faking and playing the fool, the editors forget to mention this fact, even when they return to this utterly pointless matter. But then, so did the reliably fraudulent Lawrence O’Donnell, pimping and preening as he led with this point on last evening’s Last Word.

Why did Barbour say the various things he said? We’re not entirely sure. Not being the world’s dumbest Fockers, we’ve even noticed that we don’t know exactly what Barbour actually said to Ferguson; a magazine profile isn’t a transcript or a videotape. (We liberals will never quite master this point, even after all the destruction which rained on our heads in similar ways one decade ago.) That said, the fakers and frauds of the liberal world have swung into glorious action this week, posing, preening, posturing—faking—as if they held the high moral ground.

Actually, they don’t.

Our liberal “intellectual leaders” are exceptionally good at taking credit for past moral struggles—for deeply dangerous moral struggles in which they played no part. But the same Fockers who posture this way wouldn’t lift a baby finger to discuss the actual interests of actual black kids today; they wouldn’t discuss the interests of black kids if their own lives were at stake. (We first stated this obvious point about five years ago. Given the culture wars which have ensued, it’s even more true today.) They will pimp, preen, posture and novelize grandly, placing themselves at Dr. King’s side, pleasing their gullible viewers. But they relentlessly fail to address the central racial issues of this present day. They play the fool as they novelize several things Barbour said—and as they defer to the billionaire lords who shape today’s journalistic wars against teachers, unions, black children.

These are very dumb people. They’re also moral frauds. The stupidity with which many folk have approached the Ferguson profile recalls our stupidity ten to twelve years ago, when many liberal “intellectual leaders” mega-pimped similar novelized claims, aimed at that time at Al Gore. (O’Donnell actively poured it on right through October 2000.) To this day, our leaders haven’t acquired the intellectual skills which let them approach such profiles intelligently—and they’re still willing to treat you like fools as they novelize grandly. Who but a gang of outright frauds would lead an editorial as the Times does today—with a ridiculous claim about something somebody didn’t say, concerning a speech he semi-attended when he was 14 years old?

It takes real skill to be that fake. Today, these Fockers pound at the other side. For years, they pounded at yours.

Special report: Mr. Potter’s minions!

PART 3—MINION’S DAUGHTER (permalink): Sometimes, you just have to laugh at the things we get dished on TV.

Consider what happened at one point last week when Chris Matthews spoke with Michelle Rhee, former head of DC’s public schools.

Matthews and Rhee were pounding away in wholly predictable fashion. Matthews has always been a tool, a mouthpiece for billionaire owners and interests; he slaved for Jack Welch in the Clinton-Gore years, still slaves to power today. As such, he played the minion to billionaire power when he and Rhee spoke about low-income schools on his low-IQ cable “news” program.

All standard villains were named and blamed—especially the nation’s loathsome teachers, with their infernal unions (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/21/10). Per well-established establishment scripts, Matthews was sure that Rhee had done all the right things when she headed the DC schools—although he has never wasted a moment’s time on such lower-class topics.

This was a very dumb cable discussion. But at one point, Matthews achieved true hilarity, discussing his own daughter’s school.

Nothing we say here is meant as a criticism of Matthews’ daughter, a college student at Penn. But as Matthews ranted and railed against the nation’s worthless teachers, he took a moment to tell his guest about his own daughter’s outstanding schooling. He used this to form another indictment of the nation’s teachers.

This particular “minion’s daughter” attended a Catholic school in DC. Why can’t those lazy public school teachers achieve the same results, Matthews asked. The tool feigned anger with real skill—and achieved a point of maximum nonsense. In this statement, you see a truly ridiculous minion descend to clownish depths:

RHEE (12/15/10): You know, one of the—one of the most disturbing things that would happen to me on a regular basis is that kids who graduated from the D.C. schools would go off to college, would come back to me and say, “You know, I got all A’s, I was the valedictorian at my high school. But I went to college and now I’m in remedial classes.”

MATTHEWS: Right.

RHEE: “I thought I was doing everything right, but now, I’m going to college and they’re telling me that I don’t have, you know, the skills and knowledge that I need to be successful in college.” And so, we’re really not doing children a service by promoting them from grade level to grade level without actually knowing what you need to in that particular grade.

MATTHEWS: So my daughter went to a very good Catholic school in Washington, Georgetown Visitation. She goes to the University of Pennsylvania and realized she’s ahead of the kids there, at a great Ivy League school. So how come the Catholic schools can do better than the public schools?

Rhee described a sad situation, then drew a foolish conclusion about so-called “social promotion.” But Matthews’ response was cosmically clownish. His daughter had gone to school in DC—but she had attended a Catholic school! At college, she’s way ahead of the public school kids—even at a top school like Penn!

Why can’t Washington’s public schools do this well, a high-ranking minion now asked.

To her credit, Rhee semi-challenged Matthews’ premise, although her response was almost as dumb as her host’s presentation. Responding, she pushed a familiar theme of “education reformers:” It’s all about getting great teachers:

RHEE (continuing directly): Well, I mean, I wouldn’t just say it’s the Catholic schools. We have lots of public schools that do a great job, too. We have lots of public charter schools that do a great job. So, I don`t think it`s about the sector that the school is in. I think that it`s the ability to have a great principal, to have that principal have a great staff of teachers.

And if you talk to some the best schools, whether they’re private schools or charter schools or private schools, what they’ll tell you is that it is all about teacher quality.

That’s what they’ll tell you—but is it true? The minion was too dumb to ask. Instead, Matthews attacked those infernal teachers unions, producing the anti-union exchange we posted in yesterday’s HOWLER.

The pair of minions ranted from there about those infernal unions. But go ahead! Treat yourself to a good solid laugh concerning what the minion said about his daughter’s great school!

First, you just have to laugh when you see the way this famous host gathers his “information.” His daughter told him that she was ahead of the public school kids at Penn. The minion simply assumed that was true, then railed about public school teachers.

That said, let’s consider what kind of Catholic school this minion’s daughter attended.

If you didn’t know who Matthews was, you might have assumed that his daughter had gone to a typical, working-class, urban Catholic school. Plainly, that was the sense of the minion’s complaint: If the nuns do this well with our Catholic kids, why can’t public school teachers do the same? But this minion is paid $5 million per year to pimp the views of our billionaire lords—and his daughter’s particular Catholic school reflected his high social standing.

In fact, Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School is one of the toniest private schools in DC. It’s attended by daughters of various swells. That doesn’t mean there’s anything “wrong” with the school; we’d assume it’s a wonderful place, with lots of decent students and teachers. But a quick glance at the school’s web site shows us that this is no typical Catholic school. “The campus is located on over 20 wooded acres in the heart of Georgetown,” the web site solemnly states. And people! That isn’t all!

Not that there’s anything wrong with it! But you know how these minions are! Bellowing, wailing and pouring out thunder, Matthews wondered why teachers at Washington’s public schools can’t produce the kinds of outcomes produced at Visitation Prep!

As noted, sometimes you just have to laugh out loud at the evil you’re dished on TV.

Georgetown Visitation Prep is a fancy, upper-class prep school. How much does it cost to go there? The Washington Monthly estimated tuition at $12,300 per year—nine years ago, in 2001! The school’s students come from high-literacy, upper-class backgrounds—and “college counselors with a broad network of connections with college admissions directors guide students and their parents through the college selection process.”

Can we talk? It isn’t especially hard to succeed with students like these. You have to be a real horse’s ass to pose the questions Matthews posed—to ask why teachers in Washington’s public schools can’t produce similar outcomes.

Matthews asked the world’s dumbest question; Rhee pretended the question made sense. In this way, the actual interests of low-income kids get driven down into the soil, as minions of billionaire “school reformers” behave like perfect tools.

We’ll return to Matthews’ question tomorrow, when we review the problems faced by one Washington public high school—problems which became worse after one of Rhee’s much-pimped “reforms.” For today, let’s treat ourselves to one more look at the presumably excellent school to which a tool sent his daughter.

Five years ago, the Washingtonian published an article on an unusual subject (click here). The article described what it’s like to be a low-income, scholarship kid at Washington’s toniest private schools. In one of several sidebar pieces, a young woman named Stephanie Salas described her experience as a scholarship kid at Georgetown Visitation.

Salas’ memoir is not a condemnation of Visitation. It does help us consider the monstrous clowning of one of the school’s minion fathers:

SALAS (9/05): "Not Having Money Can Make You Feel Like An Outsider”

[…]

I was two when my father came to the United States from Bolivia. He was arrested at the border and held overnight in a California prison. When he was released, he flew to Washington to see my uncle.

He got a job in the kitchen of the Childe Harold in Dupont Circle, where he still works. The restaurant helped him become a citizen. Then he sent for me and my family. I was four.

In America, my parents wanted me in a private school. My mother passed Georgetown Visitation after cleaning houses nearby. When we went to the open house, my father didn't talk much—he's self-conscious about his English. My mother pointed out that many of my soon-to-be classmates' parents were doctors and lawyers.

When I was accepted and awarded scholarship money, my parents promised, “We will do anything to keep you in this school.”

No one at Visitation knew I was on scholarship when I started. Anyone who came over to my house probably figured it out—we lived in a three-bedroom duplex in Silver Spring. My brother and I shared rooms with our younger siblings.

Not having a lot of money can make you feel like an outsider. I considered transferring to a more diverse school.

When my history teacher told us that many families live one paycheck away from homelessness, my classmates were in shock. I considered raising my hand and telling them I'd been homeless once. When I was in eighth grade, my family was kicked out of a rental house after the landlord decided to sell it. We moved into a one-bedroom apartment in Rosslyn with my aunt, uncle, and cousin.

I decided to stay at Visitation when I heard my mother in my head. She often says, “The best gift you can give me is to graduate from college.”

God bless Stephanie Salas—and the classmates who may have been shocked to learn about homeless families. We’d tend to judge one parent more harshly—the minion father who went on TV to batter the lazy teachers in DC’s public schools.

We Irish! Once, we gave the world Ryan’s daughter; today, we’re reduced to this! It has been a point of disgust this year to watch Joan Walsh kiss this big tool’s keister. As always, the interests of black kids get thrown down the stairs as the minions pursue their own greatness.

Tomorrow—part 4: Washington’s Dunbar High—and those “disgusting” international test scores