GAIL COLLINS CARES: And wastes time! And dissembles!

TUESDAY, MAY 29, 2012

Part 1—The wages of sloth: Quite plainly, Gail Collins cares about dogs. And the New York Times acres about horses! (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/28/12.)

But does Gail Collins care about low-income kids? Consider the column she wrote last weekend about Mitt Romney’s “bold proposals” for the public schools.

Last Wednesday, Romney spoke to the Latino Coalition of the Chamber of Commerce about his proposals for public schools. Did he present a bold plan for the schools? We wouldn’t say that ourselves—but then, we aren’t the parent of a low-income kid whose situation might be improved by certain of his proposals.

For our money, Romney’s proposals are underwhelming. But when Gail Collins wrote a column about Romney’s plan, her work was substantially worse.

It’s hard for liberals to see who Collins is because she’s reliably tribal. She reliably takes the stand which is designed to make liberals feel good, as she did in her low-wattage piece about the Romney proposals.

In our view, Collins is about as lazy and uncaring as it gets. Consider some of the standards ways she clowned around in this column.

First, of course, she killed some time apologizing for the boredom to follow. This time-killing snark is a regular part of her columns:
COLLINS (5/26/12): Today, we’re going to talk about Mitt Romney’s education speech.

Whoa! Calm down. Of course, it’s exciting—policy, Mitt Romney, education, speeches. That’s why I brought it up at the start of a long weekend, so there would be plenty of pondering time.

This was Romney’s first foray into education since he became the presumptive nominee, but it had a quality of mushiness seldom seen outside of a six-week-old pumpkin. At one point, in a tribute to American entrepreneurs, Romney announced that “if every one of our small businesses added just two employees, Americans could pay more mortgages and buy more groceries and fill their gas tanks.”

Or, you know, if they each added one. Or if the guys in the third row each hired 46.

But about the schools...
There! Collins killed 126 words before she even pretended to talk about schools! As always, she apologized for the boredom to follow; this is an insult to her readers which her readers never quite get. And soon, Old Faithful exploded again! She cited Mitt Romney’s abused and dead dog, the one from the mid-1980s:
COLLINS: The Tea Party folk hatehatehate No Child Left Behind as a federal intrusion on states’ rights to screw up their schools in whatever way they see fit. Romney vaguely referred to it as not being “without some weaknesses,” then promised to end “that political logjam that has prevented successful reform of that law.” Are you with me so far? I kind of like the logjam. I am seeing Mitt, in lumberjack garb, in the middle of a river full of downed trees and the occasional committee chairman. Perhaps the Romney boys are along, singing family songs. Maybe the dog is strapped to a fallen sycamore.
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! That paragraph turns on two important points: 1) The fact that Romney used the term “logjam” in his speech, and 2) the fact that Romney once drove to Canada with his dog “strapped to the roof of his car.”

“In a cage,” as it turns out!

Collins cites Romney’s allegedly abused dog in roughly half her columns. In comments, readers then praise the brilliant way she worked the dog into the column. In return for this blind devotion, Collins treats her readers like fools, as she did in this passage:
COLLINS: Mitt is going for “bold policy changes.” He said “bold” almost as many times as “education crisis,” even though the Romney verbiage was un-bold in the extreme. Did he want vouchers so kids could use public money for private school tuition? The one brief mention in the prepared text of “private school where permitted” vanished in Mitt-speak.
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! But did Romney really say “bold” almost as many times as “education crisis?” Did he use these tiring phrases too much? Uh-oh! The word “bold” appeared in his speech only three times, though Collins knew enough not to use numbers. The term “education crisis” appeared only twice, though Romney did cite “the crisis in education” two more times beyond that.

If someone says the word “bold” three times, is that cause for comment? Only if you’re a tribal hack—a tribal hack who is killing more time in ways designed to please readers. And by the way, is that other claim true?

Is it true? Did “the one brief mention in the prepared text of ‘private school where permitted’ vanish” when Romney gave his speech? Yes, it did—but the proposal remains in Romney’s formal education plan. Though there is no sign that Collins bothered to read through this long, boring document, the way real analysts did.

Does Gail Collins care about low-income kids? Given 800 words to discuss a topic of towering concern, she clowned and dissembled in typical ways, making us liberals feel extra good about the other side's bad breath. But omigod! On this bright shining Saturday morning, the truly unthinkable happened!

Unheard of! One of her readers, a fellow from Boston, left a comment asking why Collins seemed to have so little to say! In a world where readers praise Collins for pap, this is a rare occurrence:
COMMENTER: Missing for me from this piece are any pragmatic suggestions for reform by the author other than a vague mention of throwing more money at the problem. You justifiably dump all over the empty suit for his disingenuous [claims] but then come up just as empty.

Gail, if you're going to write on a topic as ubiquitous as education to an audience as wide as you realize as a New York Times' correspondent, you might want to consider offering some solutions of your own, or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof. Our nation turns it lonely eyes to you, woo, woo, woo; woo, woo, woo, or to Fish, or Dowd, or Blow, or Friedman, or Bruni, or Brooks, etc.

If the politicians have no great ideas, surely someone at the New York Times should have something credible to offer.
Good God! With his use of the phrase “throwing more money at the problem,” the commenter may have self-identified as a conservative-leaner. (Although he seemed to agree with Collins’ dismissal of Romney.) But good God! Quite correctly, this commenter noticed the lack of substance, knowledge or real concern in Collins’ waste-of-time effort.

Plainly, Collins cares about dogs. But does she care about low-income kids? For our money, this was a very lazy column—a fact we can see when Collins pretends to explain the shape of our “education crisis.” Her explanation is lazy and soft, like everything else in this waste-of-time piece. Does Collins know what she’s talking about? We find little sign that she does—or that she cares about any of this, one way or another.

For our money, that reader from Boston was basically right. Collins pretends to be disturbed by Romney’s disingenuous ways—but she is quite disingenuous too. And uh-oh:

Occasional insights to the side, Collins’ uninsightful commenters show us the wages of this sloth—a sloth which does pervade the Times, much as that reader suggested.

Tomorrow—part 2: Lady Collins (and her readers) explain the shape of the crisis

18 comments:

  1. part one of two:


    “Gail Collins Cares!” - sarcastically from b. somerbys headline

    >>> key to understanding the mishmash of media criticism or whatever this blog really is, is whether or not somerby indicates he knows the motivations of his subject. if he does, forget about any chance of gleaning value from it. what to him is insight is just *very* strongly held bigotry. if you are of collins 'group' by ethnic/religious origin you dont just sometimes do bad, you *are* bad . if you *are* bad, then no good can come from you and if it seems otherwise then somerbys subject has you conned. . . . well talk about lazy...this way of thinking is the epitome of laziness. projection central here.



    “But does Gail Collins care about low-income kids? “

    >>> highly bigoted himself, he projects that same attitude onto his subject.



    “Last Wednesday, Romney spoke to the Latino Coalition of the Chamber of Commerce about his proposals for public schools. Did he present a bold plan for the schools? We wouldn’t say that ourselves—but then, we aren’t the parent of a low-income kid whose situation might be improved by certain of his proposals.
    For our money, Romney’s proposals are underwhelming.“ - b. somerby

    >>> wait a minute. what about giving us *your* insights on the situation mr. somerby? its not like you have any column length restrictions here like I imagine collins does. isnt a lack of substance what you pretend your beef is with her? or dont *you* care about low income kids?



    “It’s hard for liberals to see who Collins is because she’s reliably tribal.” - b.somerby

    >>> and “who collins is” is an american of irish catholic heritage and that is all bob somerby needs to know.



    “First, of course, she killed some time apologizing for the boredom to follow.“

    >>> it *is* a very boring subject for most people. and collins and her editors are in much better position to gauge the papers readership as to their level of interest in this subject than somerby the magnificent is.

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    Replies
    1. Oddly, none of Somerby's criticisms of Collins have anything to do with being Irish or Catholic but rather focus on the content of her columns -- specifically that she wastes space talking about nonsense instead of saying something, anything, about education (in this case).

      The complaint about anyone who fawns on another is that they conceal themselves in order to please the other person. If she were reliably writing articles to please Catholics or those of Irish heritage her columns would be different and your complaint about Somerby would be grounded in something besides a need to defend Collins.

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    2. "Oddly, none of Somerby's criticisms of Collins have anything to do with being Irish or Catholic but rather focus on the content of her columns"

      thats not true.

      but of late he has limited himself much more to the more modern technique of continually rapping various americans with an irish catholic heritage for some bad deed, real or perceived. ... (somerby goes for the media types, but for most bigots they generally hammer over and over republican tools who were put there for this purpose such as joe mccarthy, paul ryan, ronald reagan etc.)

      however somerby is not above using the more blunt technique of the bigot which is to just say that this or that characteristic is bad about all or most of them. see this somerby column from a few years ago for the latter technique:


      http://www.dailyhowler.com/dh063008.shtml



      [and just for your information, being just "irish-american" or just "american catholic" are two very different things to being an american with an irish-catholic heritage. "irish catholic" implies a distinct ethnicity, wrongly as the latest gene based research shows, but people discriminate based on perceptions, not necessarily reality (see below)*.]

      * “Saxons, Vikings and Celts: the Genetic Roots of Britain and Ireland” by Bryan Sykes or “Origins of the British” by Stephen Oppenheimer.

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    3. whoops, a little too quick, the above comment is from lonely eyes, not quickdraw.

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    4. Hey quickdraw,

      Help me out here. What, precisely, about the blog post you linked to did you find "bigoted"?

      As far as I can tell, Somerby makes the pretty anodyne observation that, the Kennedy's notwithstanding, there is a deep conservative streak in Irish-American culture. He sums up with the following:

      "There’s nothing evil about such a heritage. But it isn’t “liberal.”

      Now, if you take issue with this sociological characterization, then by all means, present your counter evidence. But please knock it off with the charges of bigotry.

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    5. "Now, if you take issue with this sociological characterization, then by all means, present your counter evidence." -cacambo

      >>> what somerby describes is anecdotal, not sociology.



      "...the Kennedy's notwithstanding..." - cacambo

      >>> how can you do that? the kennedys were largely elected and reelected by americans with an irish catholic heritage.



      "...there is a deep conservative streak in Irish-American culture. He sums up with the following: "There’s nothing evil about such a heritage. But it isn’t “liberal.” Now, if you take issue with this sociological characterization, then by all means, present your counter evidence. " -- cacambo


      >>> youre wrong.

      note particularly the last sentence of the last paragraph of this quote in the last paragraph from page 96 of annual review of sociology, volume 5,1979:

      “Irish Catholics, incidentally, are the most politically liberal Gentile
      ethnic group in the country; they are the most pro-integration of any Gentile
      group.”

      from page 96 of annual review of sociology, volume 5,1979:

      Four NORC articles monitoring racial integration (Hyman & Sheatsley 1964; Greeley &
      Sheatsley 1971; Greeley & Sheatsley 1974; Taylor, Sheatsley & Greeley
      1978) have demonstrated that Catholics are more likely to support racial
      integration than other white groups, even outside the South. Taylor,
      Sheatsley & Greeley (1978) could find no evidence of the alleged white
      ethnic backlash against racial integration. They also found that Irish, German, and Italian Catholics outside the South continued to be above the
      Anglo-Saxon Protestant average in their support for racial integration. In-
      deed, Irish Catholics were even more likely than Jews to be willing to accept
      for their children a school where most of the students were black. More than
      70% of the Catholic parents in the country, according to Greeley, McCready
      & McCourt (1976), report their children are in integrated schools. A positive
      correlation exists between Catholic school attendance and support for racial
      integration, as well as opposition to anti-Semitism.

      Reviewing the present state of the literature, Greeley (1978b) concluded
      that on the average Catholics remain where they were a quarter of a century
      ago-slightly to the left of center in the Democratic coalition, less leftist on
      most issues than blacks and Jews but more leftist than white Protestants,
      even white Protestants of the North who describe themselves as Democrats.
      Nie, Petrocik & Verba (1976) reported the same findings.

      In summary, despite conviction to the contrary in many quarters,
      Catholics continue to be moderate Democrats; more strongly than other than other Democrats and other white northern Americans, they support racial integra-
      tion. Irish Catholics, incidentally, are the most politically liberal Gentile
      ethnic group in the country; they are the most pro-integration of any Gentile
      group.

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  2. “Collins cites Romney’s allegedly abused dog in roughly half her columns. In comments, readers then praise the brilliant way she worked the dog into the column.“ – b. somerby

    >>> the dog story points to character which is a huge part of what people try to judge when voting for president. its emblematic of his lack of empathy, whether the story itself is fair or not.


    “If someone says the word “bold” three times, is that cause for comment? Only if you’re a tribal hack—a tribal hack who is killing more time in ways designed to please readers. “ - b. somerby

    >>> collins is saying its dishonest for romney to characterize his proposals as bold, not tiresome. honesty is a very important character question in electing a president.


    “Though there is no sign that Collins bothered to read through this long, boring document, the way real analysts did.“ b. somerby

    >>> just the fact that she wrote a column is on the face of it a sign to fair minded people that she may have read thru it. not proof or anything close to proof, but it is a sign.



    "Tomorrow—part 2: Lady Collins (and her readers) explain the shape of the crisis." - b. somerby

    >>> of all people to associate with royalty, an american with an irish catholic heritage, as he does dowd as well. Rovian.

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  3. IMHO Romney's proposal wasn't bold in terms of what it did. As I understand it, he merely wanted to re-start a small voucher program in Washington D.C. However, Romney's proposal was perhaps politically bold, because it took on the powerful teachers' unions, who are so strongly opposed to any sort of voucher program.

    Of course, Romney doesn't lose much by taking on the teachers' unions, because they're going to support Obama in any case.

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  4. I once chased a cat off my porch. The same cat, many times, sometimes in a not nice manner.

    Am I still the same person? Not by a long shot. I have come to be a different person. So if you want to judge me by my past incidents instead of how I treat animals now, then I have no use for you.

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  5. I consider Somerby's scathing critiques of Irish-Catholic liberals to be a form of self-criticism, in which the author is toughest on those closest to himself with the goal of strengthening the most important beliefs of his political cohort, or alternately, stripping away what distracts or diverts from those core tenets.

    In some ways it's similar to what Republicans do when they enforce conformity to message or party line behind closed doors. If anything, I get the distinct impression that Somerby sees Irish-Catholics as more similar to his ancestral identification than different.

    I'm grateful for Somerby's insight and conviction, even as I'm sometimes personally (and thankfully, privately) rebuffed by it.

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    Replies
    1. "I consider Somerby's scathing critiques of Irish-Catholic liberals to be a form of self-criticism, in which the author is toughest on those closest to himself..." -volt61

      >>>first, *self* criticism? do you know that? he says his mother was "irish catholic". does that mean he self identifies with his mothers side of the family? some of the worst anti-types ive seen had that ancestry in their own ethnic heritage. . . . second, i don t know about you , but my parents being born and raised in ireland make *them* irish-catholics. i was born and raised in america. i'm an american, period full stop.

      youre entitled to yiour opinion of course but i would just advise you to refresh your memory of the pre-comments-section somerby in particular. [google: ... site:http://dailyhowler.com irish catholic]

      he is an anti-americans-with-irish-catholic-heritage bigot and he has likely done "us" a lot of harm over the years by shifting blame onto "us" for the medias failings.

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    2. Lonely eyes, I appreciate the material you cited from the Annual Review of Sociology. That shows a commitment to facts and evidence that I respect. Nevertheless, I still think your are being overly tendentious and willfully missing Somerby's point. In the blog post you linked to, he argues that there are conservative "tendencies" in Irish American culture in addition to the liberalism that "casual observers" often point to:


      "Often, casual observers of American politics think of We Irish as liberals; it’s an association that began with the rise of Jack and Bobby Kennedy. But a deeply conservative social strain has long run through Irish-American culture, especially in the angry enclaves of the East Coast. According to McCurry (we’ll expand his list a bit), Dowd/Matthews/Kelly/Margaret Carlson/Russert/Brian Williams/Connolly/Barnicle/Gail (Gleason) Collins/Shields (not to mention Noonan/O’Beirne (not so bad)/Hannity/William Bennett/O’Reilly) “thought Clinton's sins were beyond the pale.” This aspect of this group’s “Irish sensibilities” does not tilt them toward “liberal” or “left-wing” politics. Few of these people have ever shown any serious liberal tendencies. As a group (and as individuals), they have often shown the conservative social tendencies of their ethnic heritage."

      Let's try a thought experiment: Imagine a Black blogger who pointed out that despite the fact that Blacks overwhelmingly vote Democratic, there are deep currents of social conservatism in the Black community, especially around homosexuality. Would it be legitimate to accuse this blogger of racism?

      (Actually, you don't even have to do the experiment, you can go here and find a pretty analogous example: http://www.thenation.com/article/167857/no-backing-marriage-equality-wont-cost-obama-support-black-voters).

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    3. “I still think your are being overly tendentious and willfully missing Somerby's point.“ - cacambo

      >>> interesting you put it that way because you appear to be willfully missing somerbys *intent*.

      first his reasoning varies from one post to the next to suit the story. so dont make him out to be some kind of an expert on americans with an irish catholic heritage.

      second there is the other tool of the bigot which he uses as well. if he only occasionally bluntly said irish catholic americans have this or that bad characteristic, then that would be one thing. but what makes him so obviously bigoted is his additional use of the second tool of the bigot, i.e. the continual highlighting of specific people of that group for some misdeed or other... in this case all out of proportion to their involvement in the media.

      and then on top of that hes done it with such venom in his voice, denigrating them in a way unnecessary to make any formal point. but his point is an emotional one: irish catholic americans are (inherently) bad people, because he knows that his target audience wants to believe that and so they then will go along with his arguments more generally, whereas they likely otherwise would be less likely to. . . . just as fox and right wing hate radio cater to the bigotries of their audience in order to slip in the pro-corporatist messages.

      i dont know how much of this blog he actually believes and how much is pure public relations work. what I have concluded though is that his main purpose is to shift blame away from some party or parties. (using my 'group' as the patsy).

      who benefits from this? the media generally who fell down on the job in the last several decades, the vast majority of whom are actually not of irish catholic heritage. . . . also the new 'left' who displaced the irish catholic american northern big city bosses and who have become *effectively* like an arm of the right wing. perhaps others as well.

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    4. cacambo, if your question is whether black people can practice white racism, then the answer is of course they can, and they have.

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    5. That's not my question. My question is whether it would be legitimate to characterize the author of the Nation article as racist.

      Delete
  6. Oh God, no.....no.....the Clintons also have a dog named Seamus.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/30/nyregion/as-new-phase-looms-for-clintons-chappaqua-ny-ponders-future-of-great-neighbors.html

    How long before Gail Collins notices?

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