Public school watch: Texas creates grade-level math standards!

THURSDAY, MAY 26, 2016

How can such standards work:
Over at Slate, Sarah Garland reports about the new grade-level math standards adopted for the public schools in the state of Texas.

The new math standards aren't quite brand-new. But according to Garland, this is the first year that statewide tests on these new standards will count:
GARLAND (5/26/16): [T]his year, New Frontiers Charter School in San Antonio needed its best teachers to help younger students get ready for a new set of math standards Texas adopted in 2012, so Demore switched to elementary school. It’s the second year the standards are being tested but the first the scores will count for schools.

The Texas standards aren’t the same as the Common Core State Standards Initiative, adopted by more than 40 states.
It’s actually illegal to teach Common Core in Texas.

But even in a state that said an emphatic “No!” to Common Core, the new math standards here are pretty similar to the standards the state rejected, experts say. Across the Lone Star State, as in the rest of the nation, number lines are replacing pizzas in lessons about fractions and lectures are losing out to rambunctious lessons in which kids seem to run the show.
Texas refused to adopt the Common Core standards, then adopted new math standards which are quite similar. You may know what our question will be:

How can such standards work?

We returned to the first interactive graphic in that recent New York Times report. How can one set of fifth-grade math standards work for the wide range of kids in these Texas school districts?
Average achievement, two Texas school districts, grades 3-8:

Highland Park/Dallas: 3.0 grade levels above average
Laredo: 1.5 grade levels below average

Achievement gap: 4.5 grade levels
That's a vast achievement gap. We'll assume it obtains by the fifth or sixth grade. And remember:

Roughly half the kids in the Highland Park district will be more than 3.0 grade levels above average. Roughly half the kids in Laredo will be more than 1.5 grade levels below average.

Now we're discussing a gigantic gap. We'll ask our basic question again:

How can any set of grade-level "math standards" work for that wide range of good decent kids?


Fellow citizen watch: Don't ask, don't try to find out!

THURSDAY, MAY 26, 2016

Bruni's avoiding Trump voters:
Should the term "redskins" be regarded as an insult, a slur?

We wouldn't use the term ourselves. That said, the Washington Post recently conducted a survey of 504 Native Americans, seeking their views concerning the use of the term.

Many people found the survey's results surprising. This is the way the Post began its lengthy front-page report:
COX (5/20/16): Nine in 10 Native Americans say they are not offended by the Washington Redskins name, according to a new Washington Post poll that shows how few ordinary Indians have been persuaded by a national movement to change the football team's moniker.

The survey of 504 people across every state and the District reveals that the minds of Native Americans have remained unchanged since a 2004 poll by the Annenberg Public Policy Center found the exact same result...

Among the Native Americans reached over a five-month period ending in April, more than 7 in 10 said they did not feel the word "Redskin" was disrespectful to Indians. An even higher number—8 in 10—said they would not be offended if a non-native called them that name.
Many people found those results surprising. The Washington Post and the New York Times have each responded in a sensible way.

They've gone out to speak to more Native Americans. They're inquiring further about the way these questions are viewed.

In theory, it makes sense to talk to people if you want to know what they think about something. It seems obvious that this is the way a major news org should work.

That's why we were surprised by yesterday's column by the New York Times' Frank Bruni.

Might you have family or friends who are planning to vote for Donald J. Trump? "Don't ask them why and try not to know," the high-ranking Timesman advised:
BRUNI (5/25/16): I have many relatives who loyally vote Republican, regardless of their excitement about the particular nominee. There’s a definite chance that some of them back Trump. So I steer clear of talk about this election, though we’ve spoken plenty—and placidly—about every other election.

One of these relatives routinely pushes back at any Trump-negative columns I write, and I’ve convinced myself that he’s just baiting me and playing devil’s advocate. I’ve never said to him, point blank, “Are you actually voting for Trump?” And I won’t. It’s my goal to get to and through Election Day without learning the truth.
Just this once, let's be fair. Bruni is discussing his relatives here. Presumably, many people avoid discussions of politics and elections for the sake of family comity.

That said, it's odd to see a major journalist praising the goal of "getting through Election Day without learning the truth." Bruni's paper is trying to learn what Native Americans think about some significant topics. Meanwhile, he praises the goal of avoiding knowledge about the outlooks and views of Trump voters.

As he continues, Bruni stresses the fact that this is not his normal approach. We see the outlines of a societal problem here:
BRUNI (continuing directly): There are various measures of the chilling singularity of Trump’s candidacy, including the last two Republican presidents’ announcement that they won’t be attending their party’s convention, all the prominent G.O.P. donors who have publicly rejected Trump and the stubborn drumbeat among some Republicans for a third-party challenger, if only as a means to assure Hillary Clinton’s victory. These are extraordinary developments. We mustn’t forget that.

But another gauge of this freaky interlude is the number of us who are steadfastly avoiding conversations we’d normally have. We pride ourselves on not letting political arguments disrupt personal relationships. We have friends across the ideological spectrum. We esteem leaders from both parties. We value a healthy give-and-take.

But we can’t fit Trump into that. He’s a disagreement too far,
an enthusiasm too bizarre. So we’re treading lightly and maneuvering around him. We’re Trumping on eggshells.
Now he's avoiding discussions with friends! Bruni has every right to adopt this approach, of course. But it's a strange approach for a journalist—or for a spirited citizen.

More and more, the liberal world is adopting simple-minded, insulting approaches to those who dare to be Other. We don't ask them what they think. Instead, we tell them they're bigots.

This is deeply unimaginative. We'll guess that it makes lousy politics.

Why do (some) Native Americans hold the views which emerged from that survey? We don't know. We'd like to hear what people have to say.

Why are people supporting Trump? "Don't ask, don't try to find out," one major scribe seems to say.

It's a strange approach from a journalist, perhaps worse from a mere human.

RESURGENCE OF THE MUSIC MEN: A music woman named Gennifer Flowers!

THURSDAY, MAY 26, 2016

Part 3—The role of the mainstream press:
History teaches that Professor Harold Hill was the original "music man."

In fairness, Professor Hill wasn't a "snake-oil salesman" in the literal sense. He wasn't selling elixir remedies or other ersatz health cures which could actually kill you.

He was working a gentler scam when he went to River City in July 1912. He was going to sell trombones to the people of that town—real trombones which the people of the town were actually going to get.

As the leading authority has explained, he was just going to skip out of town without teaching the children how to play their new trombones. This scam broke down when he fell in love with the local librarian—who had learned, in another plot twist, that the so-called Professor Hill wasn't a real professor.

Uh-oh! Marian the librarian had researched Hill's claim to professorial status. Professor Hill had claimed to hold a degree from the Gary Conservatory, Class of 1905. But uh-oh! When she checked this claim, she learned that the Gary school hadn't opened its doors until 1906!

So it went when Meredith Willson told the story of the nation's original "music man." Already, you'll note a similarity to the first national-level Clinton accuser—to Gennifer Flowers, who arrived on the scene with thrilling claims in January 1992.

As it turned out, Gennifer Flowers was a music woman. As it turned out, she had made all sorts of fantastical claims which turned out to be—what's the term?—untrue!

The list of her fantastical tales was actually quite impressive. But just consider one of the claims which Jonathan Alter, writing in Newsweek, immediately shot down.

In January 1992, Flowers told the tale of her torrid 12-year affair with Arkansas' governor, a fellow named Bill Clinton. She told her thrilling tale in the pages of the tabloid Star.

She was paid $150,000 by the Star, with a lot more money yet to come. At the time, her salary as an Arkansas state worker was $17,000 per year.

Beyond the shadow of a doubt, Flowers' tale was thrilling. But uh-oh! One week after her story appeared, Newsweek’s Alter noted some problems with her thrilling claims. Among Alter's various fact-checks, you must consider this:

“Flowers claims she met Clinton at the Excelsior Hotel in 1979 or 1980. The hotel didn’t open until late 1982.”

Newsweek had been a bit genteel in its description of that alleged "meeting." In the Los Angeles Times, Lauter and Shogan described the problem a bit more directly in a news report which appeared that very same week:
LAUTER AND SHOGAN (1/24/92): Flowers' story includes several questionable points in addition to her previous denials. She alleges, for example, that beginning in 1980, while she was living in Tulsa, Okla., she and Clinton frequently would meet and have sexual relations at the Excelsior Hotel in Little Rock. The hotel was not built until two years later.
Oops! According to Flowers, she had been rutting with her lover in a hotel which hadn't yet been built. Seventy years earlier, the original "music man" said he'd received a degree from a conservatory which hadn't yet opened its doors.

So it goes when the music men—and the music women—spread out across the land.

It's important to understand several points about the way these matters work. These points will involve the role of the mainstream press corps in creating a discourse within which our contemporary music men have thrived.

First point:

By the time Flowers arrived on the scene, the music men were already back in force. Hill may have settled down with Marian, but his successors had swarmed on the land.

By the time Flowers arrived on the scene, our political culture was awash in bogus claims about major topics—substantive claims which had come to us straight from the mouths of our music men.

To what claims do we refer? For today, consider one set of substantive claims—the set of claims which led millions of people to think that the Social Security trust fund was a fraud, and that the venerable program "wouldn't be there for them" by the time they retired.

How widespread was this belief—a belief which had been manufactured by waves of bogus claims by waves of music men? In 1994, the Associated Press reported a now-iconic survey of voters aged 18 to 34.

“Young Americans find it easier to believe in UFOs than the likelihood Social Security will be around when they retire,” the AP reported. Among respondents, 46 percent said they believed in UFOs. Only 34 percent said they believed that Social Security would still exist by the time they retired.

In the past, we've endlessly discussed the carefully constructed claims which led so many people to this manufactured misperception. Today, we note an essential fact:

Those slippery claims came from a generation of music men. But those claims gained widespread purchase because the "mainstream press corps" averted its gaze from the relentless scamming in which the bogus, misleading claims were spread across the land.

In this way, the mainstream press corps enabled that scam. Before long, they were performing the same favor for the luscious Flowers.

They decided they loved her thrilling claims; they agreed to forget about her many clownish misstatements. By the year of Bill Clinton's impeachment, they were offering her as an heroic truth-teller—and of course, as a thrilling, ginormous babe (see below).

This brings us to the music men with the names Matthews and Fineman. Also, to the enabler who wrote this post, just this past week, about the source of all the false beliefs which now constitute Trumpism.

In fairness, Kevin Drum told part of the truth; he just wasn't willing to tell the whole truth.

You've been scammed this way for many years. Is Drum, who has the right name for the job, perhaps a "music man" too?

Tomorrow: Drum's post, plus the horrible Maddow

Just how luscious was Flowers: By the year of impeachment, a wide range of mainstream players were treating the music man Flowers as history's most reliable source.

We're speaking here about mainstream and liberal "journalists." We aren't discussing Republicans. We aren't talking about the Koch brothers.

Flowers was now assumed to be wonderfully truthful; she was also wonderfully luscious. Here's a tiny taste of Chris Matthews, AKA Trump-before-Trump, in August 1999:
MATTHEWS (8/2/99): I gotta pay a little tribute here. You're a very beautiful woman, and I— And I have to tell you, he knows that, you know that, and everybody watching knows that; Hillary Clinton knows that. How can a woman put up with a relationship between her husband and somebody, anybody, but especially somebody like you that's a knockout? I don't quite get this relationship...It's an objective statement, Gennifer. I'm not flirting.
Flowers proceeded to tell Chris all about the Clintons' many murders. In fairness, she was a knockout. It was an objective statement! Everybody knew that!

During these years, Matthews was building the world of Trump, with the trusty Fineman by his side. Drum would walk straight into the sea before he'd be willing to tell you.

In these ways, we liberals remain barefoot, silly, disarmed, clueless. On the bright side, careers remain safe. The music men rampage on.

Public school watch: Professor spills beans on Common Core test!

WEDNESDAY, MAY 25, 2016

Why we can't have nice things:
How bad were those fourth-grade questions on that newly controversial Common Core test?

In this morning's New York Times, Tamar Lewin tries, and doesn't try, to answer that basic question.

Lewin is discussing a flap which has arisen about an ongoing national standardized test. Repeat—this particular national test is still being administered to students across the country. Despite this fact, a professor at Columbia got herself a snootful and posted some of the questions on line, making it very hard to evaluate students' performance on the test.

The professor had been sent the test questions by a public school teacher. Was something actually wrong with the questions? This is Lewin's full attempt to evaluate that claim:
LEWIN (5/25/16): The teacher who leaked the questions said in the original post that she was providing the material anonymously over concerns about “intense legal ramifications,” but felt compelled to tell others how “the high-stakes accountability system has deformed teaching and warped learning in many public schools across the United States.”

The teacher said the questions were inappropriate for fourth graders, exceeding any reasonable grade-level standards.

For example, the teacher wrote, one question prompted children to write an essay using passages from a book on sharks that is considered at sixth- or seventh-grade reading level, and of interest to students in the ninth to 12th grade.

[A spokesperson for the test publisher] said that, although the book in question was for older children, the passage was grade appropriate.
That represents Lewin's full attempt to evaluate the matter at hand. As she continued, Lewin reported the thoughtful, sagacious approach taken by the professor:
LEWIN (continuing directly): Professor Oyler said in an interview that she had not thought much about the fact that the test was still in use when she posted the questions.

“I was so angry when I saw the items that I wasn’t thinking about protecting the company. I was thinking about the importance of the public knowing what is going on in the name of accountability,” she said.

“These tests can determine which middle school you get into, whether you graduate, whether you’re retained for a year, so people need to know that the criteria we’re using for these huge life decisions are valid,” she said.
Professor Oyler was so mad that she went ahead and posted the questions. She didn't stop to think that the questions were still in active use around the country.

If she's been quoted fairly, Professor Oyler can only see her fiery conduct as causing possible harm to the test publisher. She doesn't consider the various school systems which may be trying to administer this test for perfectly valid reasons.

Professor Oyler got a snootful and posted the questions on line. Lewin made little attempt to investigate the basic question at issue. According to Lewin's report, furious partisans are now engaged in this latest culture war skirmish.

We live in an age of partisan fury. We don't speak for Paula Poundstone, but some say this helps explain why we can't have nice things.

A note on difficulty: Were the test questions really "inappropriate for fourth-graders?" We have no idea, and Lewin made little attempt to find out.

She quotes Michael Petrilli, an educational expert, saying the exams at issue are of "exceptionally high quality." As with all things, that may or may not be true.

At any rate, publication of the items will tend to invalidate results of the test. Inevitably, some students will be able to review the questions before they take the test.

This isn't supposed to happen with exams of this type. This is what teachers and principals have sometimes done down through the years when they've decided to cheat on standardized tests. (But only for the good of the children!)

A note on the difficulty of test items:

On some types of standardized tests, some test items are deliberately made very hard. This was true on the old "norm-referenced" tests like the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, which were designed to show how well a student performed as compared to a national norm group of students in his grade.

On tests like those, some questions would be designed to be very easy. These were included to draw distinctions among the kids at the lower end of the achievement range—among the kids in (let's say) the lowest twenty percentiles.

Meanwhile, some questions were designed to be so hard that very few students would get them right. Those questions were designed that way to draw distinctions among the highest-achieving students.

Presumably, these Common Core tests weren't designed that way. But if they were, the New York Times would surely never find out.

At any rate, Professor Oyler says she got mad and screwed the pooch on this occasion. Our "educational experts" tend to play it that way.

Demonization watch: Presidents Clinton and Obama!

WEDNESDAY, MAY 25, 2016

Were they treated alike or different:
This past Sunday, Isaac Chotiner moderated a discussion featuring Slate's Jamelle Bouie and the New Yorker’s Jelani Cobb. In a new post at Slate, Chotiner describes the session thusly:
CHOTINER (5/25/16): The panel, “Race, Politics, and the Obama Presidency,” was initially intended as a look back at how the current president has discussed race during his two terms in office. But given the political earthquake that is Donald Trump...we ended up talking primarily about the ways in which race has shaped this year’s contest for the White House.
In what ways has race "shaped this year’s contest for the White House?" Below, you see an excerpt from the first Q-and-A with Bouie.

We think Bouie's comments tee up an intriguing question. Has President Obama been treated differently than President Clinton? Or were these two Democratic presidents treated in much the same manner?
CHOTINER: How has the presence of a black president for the past eight years played a role in Trump’s rise?

BOUIE: My theory of the case here is I think that Obama, as a person, represents for a nontrivial number of white Americans a sense of diversion from the political order, as they commonly understood it. And I almost have a bit of empathy for that perspective. One day the president of the United States is George W. Bush, most of the country’s political leadership looks like you, has similar cultural experiences as you, and then, all of a sudden, it’s completely different, and it’s completely different in what feels like a radical way. And it feels like a radical way, in part, because of all the rhetoric around Obama, both from the right—that he is a socialist, that he is someone who is undermining our [right to our] guns—but also from the left—from this idea that this now demonstrates that we don’t need a traditional voting base to win national elections; that we can win on the strength of minorities, and young women, and just a smattering of white voters. And if you look at the social science, what you find—in concrete terms—is an increase in the amount of what political scientists call “racial resentment” towards Obama.

So: Donald Trump, in some way, is almost spontaneously generated out of all this anxiety and fear and sense of dislocation among some number of white voters. He kind of captures their feelings; he captures their sense of loss that they’re no longer at the top of a status hierarchy that they just assumed had always existed. And I’m not sure if people are understanding this in conscious ways—I think it’s a very visceral and very emotional thing...
We'll try to paraphrase in a reasonable way. To our ear, Bouie seems to think that Obama received a unique type of treatment, at least from some "nontrivial number of white Americans," based upon his race.

He seems to be saying that the presence of a black president destroyed these people's sense of the political order. Here's his sense of this nontrivial number of people's experience:

"One day...most of the country’s political leadership looks like you, has similar cultural experiences as you, and then, all of a sudden, it’s completely different, and it’s completely different in what feels like a radical way."

It may be that some number of people did have that reaction to Obama. When Cobb follows Bouie's answer with his own, he quickly cites the birther movement which was dumped on Obama's head.

All through the Obama years, we've seen people express this sense—the sense that Obama was treated in something like a unique way because of his race. We tend to find this view frustrating, because we're so old that we can remember the way the last white Democratic president was treated when he ascended to office.

Thanks to Candidate Donald J. Trump, we're starting to get a reminder of the lunatic conduct directed at President Clinton during those years. Over at The Daily Beast, John Avlon recalls those lunatic days in a new post, which features an excerpt from his book, Wingnuts.

Has the treatment of Obama been crazier than the treatment of Clinton? Headlines included, Avlon starts like this:
AVLON (5/25/16): Donald Trump Revives the Crazy Clinton Conspiracies/
Hillary is about to face the same scorched-earth attacks that Clinton haters first fired a generation ago.

Hating Bill and Hillary Clinton has been a conservative cottage industry for a quarter-century. But ever since Bill’s self-inflicted sex scandals overtook dark talk about shadowy schemes in his second term, the most unhinged ideas about the Clintons faded into the fringe. Until now.

Donald Trump has grabbed hold of Clinton conspiracy theories with both of his tiny hands, shaking loose names like Vince Foster and introducing them to a new generation. There’s more where this garbage came from—festering heaps of paperbacks and VHS tapes that had been rotting in partisan landfills.

So let’s air the old accusations out and expose them to sunlight to show how ugly and absurd the work of the Clinton conspiracy entrepreneurs has been. In the second edition of my book Wingnuts, I added a new section on the unhinged Clinton haters and how they foreshadowed the era we’re living in now. Many of the names echo on in our politics today, from Roger Ailes to Citizens United to WorldNetDaily to an unexpected cameo by then-conservative Ariana Huffington. An edited excerpt is below.
That edited excerpt is worth reading, although it just scratches the surface of the craziness of the Clinton/Gore years.

There's no truck scale which can be used to answer our question, but we'll ask it again:

Has the treatment of President Obama been crazier than—different from—the treatment of President Clinton? Or was the crazy treatment of Clinton similar to that which occurred with Obama?

We've always seen more similarity than difference. Having said that, please note:

When Bill Clinton came to office, the new president of the United States wasn't "all of a sudden...completely different" from the white folk in question. Still, that new president was met with massive craziness. It's hard to argue that the reaction to Obama was really crazier than the reaction to Clinton.

For ourselves, we've always seen more similarity than difference. That said, many liberals don't seem to have been awake or alive during the Clinton/Gore years.

After driving the birther movement, Donald J. Trump is now reviving the craziness of those earlier years. We're also seeing how poorly equipped the liberal world is to respond to such matters.

As Candidate Trump rampages on, our basic question remains unanswered:

How about it—more alike, or more different? Unless we love narrative all the way down, the answer may actually matter.

RESURGENCE OF THE MUSIC MEN: One, two, many music men!

WEDNESDAY, MAY 25, 2016

Part 2—It started with Matthews and Fineman:
Is Donald J. Trump a "music man?"

That's a matter of judgment. Below, we'll describe the conduct of the original "music man," a professor named Harold Hill.

Donald J. Trump may or may not be in Professor Hill's class. But last night, Howard Fineman seemed to offer an even tougher description of Trump on the Hardball "cable news" program.

The gang had been discussing some of Trump's array of crazy semi-claims: the claim that the Clintons helped murder Vince Foster; the claim that Obama was born in Kenya; the claim that Ted Cruz's father shot JFK and JR.

To Fineman, this goes beyond being a mere "music man." He offered a tougher assessment:
FINEMAN (5/24/16): Michelle [Bernard] put her finger on the way to go after Trump, at least according to the Democrats, the smart Democrats, I talk to, which is that he's dangerously crazy.

MATTHEWS: Ha!!

FINEMAN: I'm serious, Chris. The conspiracy things [peddled by Trump] are not tied to any provable reality. They have an element of hothouse nuttiness about them.

MATTHEWS: Call-in radio feeds on that stuff.

FINEMAN: Right. I know it does. But that's only one part of the country.

MATTHEWS: I know, but they're all listening and talking. Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us. And up next, these three will tell me something I don't know.
Fineman offered the possibility that Candidate Trump is just "crazy." When he did, Matthews offered his trademark laugh. For many of these terrible people, this whole thing is still a big joke.

(On yesterday's Morning Joe, Katty Kay authored the official approved trademark chuckling when Trump was quoted crazily discussing the death of Foster. To people like Kay, the advance of the ludicrous Candidate Trump remains an entertainment event, a source of amusement and laughter, and of course a few ratings points.)

"I'm serious," Fineman said in the face of Matthews' trademark laugh. He cited the "nuttiness" of Trump's behavior, seeming to endorse the claim that the candidate may be crazy.

We've been suggesting a variant of that idea for some time now. If true, it means that Trump is more than a mere "music man."

We'll explain that term below. First, let's talk:

As a general matter, it's a very good idea to keep psychiatry and pseudo-psychiatry away from discussions of politics. But Trump's behavior is so strange, this possibility keeps forcing itself on the world.

Is Candidate Trump "dangerously crazy?" After Fineman spoke, Matthews noted the fact that talk radio feeds on the types of claims whose "nuttiness" Fineman derided.

Matthews then went to commercial break and the discussion ended.

Is Candidate Trump "dangerously crazy?" Is he "crazy" at all? It's hard to answer a question like that, although we'd say it's an obvious question.

That said, Candidate Trump is clearly a type of "music man." Let's discuss the meaning of that colorful term.

History's original "music man" was Professor Harold Hill. The good professor wasn't crazy. Instead, he was a con man and swindler, though also a lovable rogue.

According to Meredith Willson, Professor Hill showed up in an Iowa town called River City in July 1912. He had a minor con in mind.

Professor Hill was going to sell the townfolk a bunch of trombones, along with some band uniforms. The trombones were real, but the scam was this:

Professor Hill planned to skip town without teaching the local children how to play their new trombones. Instruction had been part of the original deal.

(Professor Hill had told the rubes that he would teach the kids how to play the trombones through use of his "think system." This claim was so manifestly absurd that Candidate Trump may adopt it, perhaps to explain how he'll get Mexico to pay for the wall.)

Professor Hill was planning to run a standard small-scale scam. He would have been able to pull it off because of the force of his personality, which made him an excellent con man.

Along the way, though, he fell in love with the local librarian, who looked just like Shirley Jones. For this reason, he decided to stay in River City and take his just desserts. When he did, it turned out that his think system actually worked!

When Meredith Willson revealed this history, a memorable term was born. That memorable term is "music man." It's just another name for a type of likable con man who's good at selling his cons.

Professor Hill wasn't crazy; it may be that Donald Trump is. But Trump is plainly a "music man." As it turns out, he's highly skilled at peddling ridiculous tales.

Could that skill get Trump elected? Yes, it actually could! But Trump is hardly the first "music man" to invade our political/journalistic culture in recent decades and years.

Over just the past thirty years, a wide of array of "music men" have helped create the nutty, crazy crackpot culture Candidate Trump is now exploiting. Many of these "music men" are well-known. Some of them are music women, with names like Maddow and Dowd.

Around the time that Professor Hill went straight, American culture was organizing itself against the depredations of the music men. To cite just one example, the FDA came into existence in 1906. This protected average citizens against all types of cons.

In theory, sets of political and journalistic gatekeepers were put in place to keep these nutty music men away from our highest political realm. Eventually, though, the music men found ways to start fighting back.

Candidate Trump didn't start this powerful resurgence, which now has him dangerously close to the White House.

Candidate Trump didn't start this disastrous resurgence. Along with quite a few others, though, Matthews and Fineman did.

Call-in radio feeds on that stuff? At one time, so did the cable show Hardball! That went on for quite a few years!

Fineman is singing the blues today. What was he doing back then?

Tomorrow: The stories you still can't be told

One pundit who doesn't do it: Joy Reid doesn't chuckle and shake her head about the amusements of Candidate Trump.

Reid seems to know that this is real. We respect her for it.

Public school watch: Concerning the role of Advanced Placement classes!

TUESDAY, MAY 24, 2016

Lexington versus Detroit:
On May 3, Motoko Rich wrote a puzzling report in the New York Times about the state of the public schools.

She focused on a new Stanford study; the study compares academic achievement by public school students with a measure of their socioeconomic status. At one point, Rich tickled the keys of one of our top pet peeves.

In what follows, Rich makes an important point about a type of relative disadvantage faced by some middle-class black and Hispanic kids. In our view, she's also working from script in the highlighted passage:
RICH (5/3/16): What emerges clearly in the data is the extent to which race and class are inextricably linked, and how that connection is exacerbated in school settings.

Not only are black and Hispanic children more likely to grow up in poor families, but middle-class black and Hispanic children are also much more likely than poor white children to live in neighborhoods and attend schools with high concentrations of poor students.

These schools can face a myriad of challenges. They tend to have more difficulty recruiting and keeping the most skilled teachers, and classes are more likely to be disrupted by violent incidents or the emotional fallout from violence in the neighborhood. These schools often offer fewer high-level classes such as Advanced Placement courses, and the parents have fewer resources to raise extra money that can provide enhanced arts programs and facilities.
According to that passage, middle-class white kids are likely to attend schools with other middle-class students. Middle-class black and Hispanic kids are likely to attend schools with a larger proportion of low-income kids.

For middle-class or low-income kids, this represents a possible form of disadvantage. "Schools with high concentrations of poor kids" may well confer serious disadvantages on a wide range of good decent kids.

That said, we're always annoyed by the scripted passage in which the writer notes that low-income schools "often offer fewer high-level classes such as Advanced Placement courses."

That's almost surely true, of course. But it tends to be offered as a snarky criticism of those schools. This type of criticism makes little sense.

Should anyone be surprised when low-income schools offer fewer Advanced Placement courses (or "gifted and talented" classes)? Consider the profile of two systems from the first interactive graphic within Rich's report:
Average achievement levels, two school systems, grades 3-8:

Lexington, Mass.: 3.8 grade levels above average
Detroit: 2.3 grade levels below average

Achievement gap: 6.1 grade levels
Lexington is a high-SES suburb of Boston. Detroit is a large, low-income city which is struggling just to hang on.

The achievement gap between the two student populations is both huge and disastrous. In grades 3-8, the average kid in Lexington is 6.1 grade levels ahead of the average kid in Detroit, according to the metrics of the new study by Stanford.

That's a gigantic, disastrous gap. And remember, that's just a comparison of the average students in those two school systems:

Roughly half the kids in Lexington (grades 3-8) are more than 3.8 grade levels above average! Meanwhile, roughly half the kids in Detroit are more than 2.3 grade levels below average.

For those kids, the achievement gap is even wider than 6.1 grade levels. That represents a tragic societal disaster.

That said, should anyone be surprised if Lexington offers more "gifted and talented" courses in grades 3-8 than Detroit? If those districts offered the same number of such courses, wouldn't someone be committing educational malpractice somewhere?

The relative absence of Advanced Placement classes may well disadvantage the higher-achieving students in a low-achieving school district. But it's obvious why such districts offer fewer such courses and classes.

That said, you'll often see showboating journalists snark about this state of affairs. It's an easy way to play the game. It makes us liberals feel good.

Markers of socioeconomic status: According to the first New York Times graphic, Lexington's students come from families whose median family income is $163,000. The corresponding figure in Detroit is $27,000.

Remember, income is only one measure of SES used in the Stanford study. Family structure and parental educational attainment were also used by Stanford in assessing students' SES.

And no—Lexington isn't at or even near the top in median family income around the country. You can see this by clicking around in the Times' first graphic.

Nor is Detroit at the bottom in median family income. Click around; check out our struggling world.

Possible alien life-form watch: "Josh Marshall" tries to explain Trump's attacks!

TUESDAY, MAY 24, 2016

What have they done with Josh Marshall:
Down through the years, we've occasionally asked a fairly obvious question.

Anyone who watches the press corps would end up asking this obvious question. Here's the question to which we refer:

Are the life forms known as "mainstream pundits" actually human? Is it possible that we're surrounded by some form of alien beings? Is it even possible that we're here all alone?

Eventually, everyone who follows the press corps ends up asking such questions. Their incompetence is so overwhelming that the question asks itself.

Today's post by "Josh Marshall" raises this question again. "Marshall" is trying to discuss Candidate Trump's new wave of attacks against Candidate Clinton. That said, "Marshall" shows no sign of understanding what Trump has been alleging.

Could an actual human be this clueless? We don't know how to answer your perfectly obvious question:
MARSHALL (5/24/16): As I mentioned yesterday, the three big networks and in fact the major national dailies continue to blast out Donald Trump's charges that Hillary Clinton's husband raped or assaulted other women. And yet, CNN, MSNBC, let alone Fox refuse to discuss that at least twice Trump has himself been accused of sexual assault or rape in sworn statements—once by his wife and again a decade ago in a lawsuit brought by a woman named Jill Harth. But in discussing how to approach the issue of how to approach Trump's history of accusations of sexual violence or harassment the question came up, what exactly is Trump trying to accomplish by using Bill Clinton's past against Hillary?

[...]

The simple fact is that there's no evidence or logic to the idea that anyone who doesn't already hate Hillary Clinton with a passion will believe that she is culpable in some way for her husband's acts of infidelity against her. Even if you think Clinton is not simply a chronic philanderer but some sort of sexual abuser—a claim for which there is really little or no evidence, that's Bill Clinton, not Hillary Clinton. Holding her responsible for her husband's acts, for which she is if anything a victim, is as logically ridiculous as it is morally sickening.

You don't have to take my word for it. Consider the fact that Hillary Clinton enjoyed a wave of renewed popularity in the wake of the Lewinsky/Impeachment scandal. It was no trivial part of how she was able to win her first Senate run in New York. You may say this was sympathy for what she went through or admiration for the stoicism with which she persevered through the crisis. But they all come back to the obvious point: people don't blame a guy's wife for his infidelities.
"Josh Marshall" continues from there. That said, can that analysis be the work of an actual human?

As you probably know, this is why we ask:

"Josh Marshall" closes that passage with a perfectly sensible point. As a general matter, people don't "blame a guy's wife for his infidelities," just as "Josh Marshall" says.

That said, Candidate Trump isn't suggesting that voters should do that. He also isn't doing this:

He isn't saying that Candidate Clinton "is culpable in some way for her husband's acts of infidelity against her." He isn't "holding her responsible for her husband's acts, for which she is if anything a victim." He isn't trying to "use Bill Clinton's past against Hillary."

Candidate Trump hasn't been saying and doing those things. As you know, he has been saying and doing something quite different.

Like many other major pundits, "Josh Marshall" still doesn't seem to know this. For this reason, sensible people are forced to wonder if "Marshall" is actually human.

Not too long ago, everyone believed that there was an actual person named Josh Marshall. He was believed to be a bright person who had received a doctorate in American history at Brown.

At some point, his one-person blog was transformed into a dumbed-down news org for liberals—a dumbed-down entity designed to make money while making us liberals feel tribally superior. By now, "Josh Marshall" can't even describe something as basic as Candidate Trump's recent string of allegations against Candidate Clinton.

Candidate Trump isn't saying that voters should blame Hillary Clinton for Bill Clinton's (alleged) infidelities (and alleged violent acts). By now, every human being knows this, including wide swaths of the electorate.

Why doesn't "Josh Marshall" know those things? Second question:

Can we liberals hope to prevail despite work of this type from the money-grubbing stars at the top of our pile?

More fuel for the fire: According to the leading authority, Marshall "started Talking Points Memo during the 2000 Florida election recount."

Exactly! Just too late to be of assistance or help!

RESURGENCE OF THE MUSIC MEN: Just for starters, Maddow and Trump!

TUESDAY, MAY 24, 2016

Part 1—Along with the Washington Post:
Two striking reports in the Washington Post point to an existential threat—an existential threat which has been posed by the nation's resurgent "music men."

Tomorrow, we'll define the term. For today, let's consider those two reports in the Post. Also, let's consider the way the reports have been treated by two of our top "music men."

Is Donald J. Trump a "music man?" As always, that's a matter of judgment.

That said, Joe Scarborough denounced Candidate Trump this morning for his "reprehensible" discussion of the death of Vince Foster. (In 1993, Foster committed suicide. In 1997, the original findings to that effect were confirmed by Kenneth Starr.)

Trump's conduct is described today in this morning's news report in the Washington Post. DelReal and Costa wrote the report. Please note the highlighted passage:
DELREAL AND FOSTER (5/24/16): One issue on Trump’s radar is the 1993 death of Foster, which has been ruled a suicide by law enforcement officials and a subsequent federal investigation. But some voices on the far right have long argued that the Clintons may have been involved in a conspiracy that led to Foster’s death.

When asked in an interview last week about the Foster case, Trump dealt with it as he has with many edgy topics—raising doubts about the official version of events even as he says he does not plan to talk about it on the campaign trail.

He called theories of possible foul play “very serious” and the circumstances of Foster’s death “very fishy.”

“He had intimate knowledge of what was going on,” Trump said, speaking of Foster’s relationship with the Clintons at the time. “He knew everything that was going on, and then all of a sudden he committed suicide.”

He added, “I don’t bring [Foster’s death] up because I don’t know enough to really discuss it. I will say there are people who continue to bring it up because they think it was absolutely a murder. I don’t do that because I don’t think it’s fair.”
Scarborough denounced Trump today for those quoted remarks—and indeed, the quoted remarks are true "music man" material. That said, please note the passage we have highlighted, which appears to say that Trump made his remarks only after being asked about the death of Foster.

Why would an inexperienced youngster like DelReal ask Trump about that subject? This raises a question the liberal world has ignored, avoided and disappeared for the past twenty-four years.

Why on earth did the Washington Post raise that topic with Trump? We can't answer your question, which is perfectly sensible. For now, let's consider that second report in this morning's Post.

This report was written by Matt Zapotosky, the fresh-faced scribe who guested last night as Rachel Maddow played music man in support of some hot new excitement.

The hot new topic has arrived just in time to serve as a type of fodder in this year's White House campaign. The murky claims involve Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe, a long-time Clinton aide.

Zapotosky's report in the Post starts as shown below. As anyone but a corporate Rhodes scholar could see, the claims in Zapotosky's report are extremely murky. For anyone but a naif, a partisan, an inexperienced youngster or a hopeless "music man," the timing of these murky claims would rouse a bit of suspicion:
ZAPOTOSKY (5/24/16): Federal prosecutors are investigating campaign contributions to Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), and what they consider to be suspicious personal finances, as part of a public integrity probe that has lasted for more than a year, according to two officials familiar with the inquiry.

Justice Department officials would not confirm or deny the investigation. Many details, including what prompted it, remain unclear, and one official said there is skepticism among prosecutors about whether it will lead to charges.

That official said investigators have been scrutinizing McAuliffe’s finances—including personal bank records, tax returns and public disclosure forms that date back many years—and are interested in foreign sources of income.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing and those who discuss it might face discipline. CNN first reported the probe and said that investigators were interested in a contribution to McAuliffe from a Chinese businessman, Wang Wenliang, through his U.S. businesses.

A McAuliffe spokesman referred questions to lawyer Marc Elias, who said in a statement: “We cannot confirm the CNN report. Neither the Governor nor his former campaign has knowledge of this matter, but as reported, contributions to the campaign from Mr. Wang were completely lawful. The Governor will certainly cooperate with the government if he is contacted about it.”
The Post's report cites two anonymous sources. The Post's information is very murky, to the extent that it qualifies as "information" at all.

According to the Post, the new report got its start with CNN. By last night, the music man known as "Rachel Maddow" was pimping it very hard, in line with frameworks which are familiar on her clowning, low-IQ, corporate-owned TV show.

Maddow offered an entire segment on the murky report about corruption in the great state of Virginia. As usual on the Maddow Show, an indictment was taken as equal to guilt and the rumor of an investigation was taken as equal to an indictment.

As usual, Maddow already had McAuliffe convicted of the corruption charges which don't yet exist. She didn't evince an ounce of suspicion about the timing of this exciting and unsourced report.

Maddow's segment included an interview with the fresh-faced Zapotosky. It didn't include the tiniest hint of the types of concerns which anyone with a hint of sense or historical knowledge would have brought to this hot new report.

If we assume that she behaves in good faith, Maddow is one of the stupidest people ever invented by the bosses who run our corporate "cable news" channels. Trump is a candidate like no other candidate in either major party in the recent past.

Are these players "music men?" As always, such judgments are subjective. But Trump's response when asked about Foster was par for his deeply disordered course. So was Maddow's behavior last night as she gamboled and played with the murky, anonymous hot new report.

Candidate Trump is like none before him. To a large extent, neither is Broadcaster Maddow. Here's a major part of the problem:

Our tribe is able to picture Trump as a modern "music man." We can't see the problem with Maddow, and our leaders have spent decades disappearing the role played by entities like the Post in these death-dealing matters.

Trump's response to the Post was an unholy mess. So was Maddow's segment. Each performance was par for the course for these possible "music men."

Tomorrow: Maddow's ridiculous conduct

What the Sam Hill is a music man: As usual, the professors are involved!

We refer to Professor Harold Hill. For background from the leading authority, just click here.

Our culture's "music men" are resurgent. In the narrow sense, this has been true for the past twenty-four years.