BREAKING: Monumental attacks of The Dumb!


The Dumb which devoured the press:
Again and again and again and again, we think of what we've learned from Kevin Drum's work on lead exposure.

Until recent years, exposure was very high. Does that explain the amazing modern extent of The Dumb? Or does the remarkable sweep of The Dumb result from other causes?

We don't know how to answer your question, but in the last day or so, we'd say The Dumb has been everywhere. So we won't have to start with you-know-who, we'll start with a rather cruel, and weirdly unintelligent, Jonathan Chait:
CHAIT (1/16/18): It has been publicly known since last year that Trump cannot read a memo longer than a page, and any written material must be in bullet-point form. Trump himself admitted (or bragged) a year and a half ago that he does not read. “I never have. I’m always busy doing a lot. Now I’m more busy, I guess, than ever before.” By this point it is simply taken as a matter of course that people wishing to communicate with the president must treat him as though he is suffering a severe mental impairment.

Trump is not actually suffering a severe mental impairment.
White House doctor Ronny Jackson, who has served in the post since 2013, informed reporters on Wednesday that the president is in fine physical and mental health. The report comes as the national media has discussed whether Trump’s functional near-illiteracy, minuscule attention span, and narcissistic pathos are the symptoms of dementia or some other kind of cognitive incapacitation. We should take Jackson’s diagnosis at face value. Trump is just an idiot.
Jackson didn't test Donald J. Trump for possible dyslexia. Is it possible that Trump is dyslexic, like so many others before him? Is it possible that he always has been, back to his childhood days?

It certainly seems possible to us, and being dyslexic doesn't make you "an idiot." Especially for someone who likes to spout about schools, we think this post by Chait represents a major attack of The Dumb, and of the weirdly unkind concerning a widespread condition.

With that, let's move to you know who. Last night, she opened her TV show in this peculiar manner:
MADDOW (1/17/18): And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy to have you here.

It is now officially 51 hours until the federal government shuts down. The Republican Party controls the House and the Senate and the White House, so it is a little hard to believe that they, amongst themselves cannot come up with a way to keep the lights on, but not for the first time in the past year.

We are once again on the brink of the shutdown of the federal government, because, even though they mathematically don't need a single vote from a single Democrat to do it, Republicans appear to, at least at this point, they appear to not be able to agree amongst themselves on a plan to keep the government funded past Friday, again. So we are on the brink of that again.

In weirder news...
Republicans don't need a single vote from a single Democrat? Where on earth did Our Own Rhodes Scholar, along with her twenty-member staff, come up with a groaner like that?

When the press corps' Rhodes scholars function that way, The Dumb is devouring cable. Later today, we'll show you where Maddow went from there last night. We'll try to include her three (3) bizarre reports, starting last Friday night, about Dr. Jackson's misspelled first name and the possibility that his initial report about Trump's exam had been forged.

There was never any reason to think that Jackson's report had been forged. Seriously, how dumb does a person have to be to issue three such reports? And as with Trump, so too here:

Is there no one on her staff who's able to "talk her down?"

Of course, you haven't begun to encounter The Dumb until you open the Times. In a manner reminiscent of Chait, the headline on Gail Collins' new column says this:

"Donald Trump Gets His Sanity Grades"

In theory, Collins writes her own headlines. Surely, even she must know that none of the tests given to Trump were designed to test his "sanity." At this point, within this guild, does any distinction apply?

We've asked before how Linda Qiu can possibly be the official fact-checker for the nation's most famous newspaper. Qiu had a very strong premise today. We thought she butchered that very strong premise in an array of ways.

Most striking, though, was the headline atop Qiu's hard-copy report, which accused someone of "lying." After reading Qiu's report, we still weren't sure who the headline writer had in mind.

(Hard-copy headline: "Distorting Poll's Data, Then Lying About It.")

Qiu made no claim, in her report, that anyone had "lied." At one point, she referred to a "downright false" statement by Donald J. Trump. The editor who wrote the headline may have thought that such a statement has to be a "lie."

The New York Times works on that level. Do you read the daily hard-copy page A3?

There's much, much more all over the Times, but let's close with a second trip to last evening's cable. We refer to the discussion between Brian Williams and John Harris concerning the Clinton impeachment, which both men still seem to enjoy discussing.

For whatever reason, no transcripts are produced for Williams' 11 PM program. We don't intend to produce a full transcript for last night's exchange. Instead, we'll leave it at this:

Harris complained that voters disregarded "the facts" about the Lewinsky matter during the year of impeachment. He said "a clear majority of the people" had instead succumbed to this line of thought:

"Facts matter less than which side you are on."

Amazingly, it didn't seem to enter his head that the basic facts of a case don't, and can't, tell a person how to assess or judge those facts. For the record, Harris seems to have missed very few meals. This is surely part of the problem at the top of the press corps pile, where he now resides.

That said, Harris' formulation was just amazingly dumb. He seemed to think that knowing the facts about that affair determined how an honest person had to assess the situation. Is there any part of these post-humans' brains which The Dumb hasn't swallowed by now?

Western culture has been built upon the idea that we're the "rational animal." Meanwhile, our human wiring tells us to respect authority figures, like the people we see on TV.

That formulation by Harris was just amazingly dumb—but this is truly all we are. We advise you to adopt this framework as you look out at the world.

Beyond the valley of the dumb: In her column, Collins moved Beyond the Valley of the Dumb to The Land of the Deeply Gratuitous. We thought this particular zinger was truly rank:
COLLINS: “Amazing report, cognitive & otherwise,” cheered Donald Trump Jr. Have we ever before had a First Child rallying the troops around the president passing a mental test? We will refrain from saying anything mean about Junior because, after all, he was the one who grew up in a home where he broke his leg due to an inattentive babysitter and found his nanny dying in the basement.
She'll refrain from saying anything mean! Collins is endlessly clever!

At any rate, we have no idea what Collins is talking about in that passage, and she provides no link. That said, we thought that gratuitous passage truly took her to The Realm of the Ugly and Rank.

Does some such terrible childhood event help explain Trump Junior? If so, we feel sorry for him. That said, what explains the way Lady Collins turned out?

Later: Rachel Maddow discusses herself, then plays tape of her favorite anchor from the previous night

SEGREGATE THIS: A demographic message for Toto and Vox!


Part 3—We're not in 1968 any more:
Long ago and far away—actually, it was in the spring of 2011—we were told to read a story to a kindergarten class in Durham, North Carolina.

Teacher made us do it! Frankly, it was pretty scary. That crowd wasn't tough, but they were young. We'd never done that before.

In the front row sat one of the two little girls in the class who weren't yet speaking English. Other little girls who were bilingual—that included the delightful child, now much older, who'd brought us to visit her class—had scrambled over desks and chairs to whisper in those little girls' ears, helping them process various events in the day's first hour.

Those kids were eager to help. But we remember the face on the little girl in the front row who wasn't yet speaking English. Her face told a very old story:

It's no fun to be the 6-year-old who isn't yet speaking the language.

(To listen to a similar story about Anne Frank's first day in kindergarten, you can just click here. Her friend wasn't speaking Dutch yet. Truly, YouTube is powerful.)

We don't know the family history of that little girl in Durham. We don't know if she was born in the U.S., or if she'd recently arrived from somewhere else.

That said, the presence of those little girls tells part of a major story about our nation's changing demographics—more specifically, about the changing demographics of our student population.

In our view, it's a beautiful story. For the record, there is no law which says that everyone else has to agree, or which says that our judgments are right.

That said, the story is a major story about America's public schools. It was disappeared by Alvin Chang in his recent report for Vox about the alleged "resegregation" of those public schools.

The story is hugely relevant to the accurate factual claims around which Chang builds his highly fraught tale. But, despite its huge relevance, it went completely unmentioned by Chang. So these things tend to go.

To what demographic change do we refer? Before we answer that question, let's get clear about the accurate factual claim around which Chang based his fraught report.

For the third straight day, we present the highly fraught claims which anchor Chang's piece. The text shown below is perhaps a bit murky. But the graphic which appears beneath it helps us see what Chang means by his claims:
CHANG (1/8/18): The result is that schools today are re-segregating. In fact, schools in the South are as segregated now as they were about 50 years ago, not long after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision.

Headline on graphic:

Percentage of black students in the South who attend schools that are at least 50 percent white
Is it true? Are schools in the South really "as segregated now as they were about 50 years ago," in 1968?

Because of that fraught term—"segregated"—that claim packs a punch. Beneath the claim, within that graphic, we see what Chang means by that claim.

As Chang notes, his graphic comes from Professor Orfield at UCLA (click here, see page 90. According to the graphic, 23 percent of black kids in the South were attending schools which were "at least 50 percent white" in 2011.

According to that graphic, the number had been the same in 1968. In that year, as in 2011, 23 percent of black kids in the South were attending such schools.

In the meantime, it hadn't been thus. As of the late 1980s, 44 percent of black kids in the South were attending such schools, according to the graphic Chang correctly attributes to Orfield. For better or worse, the percentage steadily dropped after that.

According to Chang, this means that our schools are "resegregating." In his report, he rather clearly attributes this change to deliberate action by school districts, who allegedly gerrymander their school attendance zones to heighten racial imbalance.

Do these claims make sense? They quickly make a lot less sense if you consider some information in Professor Orfield's report—information Chang blew past and disappeared.

For the record, Professor Orfield is the industry leader in claims of "resegregation." It's a wonderfully exciting claim, one which thrills us liberals every time.

We aren't big fans of Orfield's choice of language. But consider the information he provides in the iconic report to which Chang has linked, from which he has taken his graphic.

Why are so many fewer black kids attending white-majority schools? As is frequently the case, there may be more than one (demonic) reason. But Orfield includes the demographic information which Chang disappeared.

How has America's student population changed down through the years? In his iconic report, Orfield's discussion of that matter starts early, on page 6.

How has our student population changed? Under the heading included below, Orfield starts laying it out:
ORFIELD (2011): Changing Nature of Public School Enrollment

At the peak of the Civil Rights era, the U.S. was still a nation with a large white majority,
reaching the end of a massive baby boom, and at a historically low point in immigration...Though black population was growing rapidly, it was only the beginning of a fundamental social transformation that included the first great immigration of nonwhites in U.S. history, which followed the l965 passage of immigration reform laws.

In little more than four decades, enrollment trends in the nation’s schools (between l968 and 2011) show a 28% decline in white enrollment, a 19% increase in the black enrollment, and an almost unbelievable 495% percent increase in the number of Latino students...White enrollment was almost four times the combined black and Latino enrollment in l968, but only about a fifth bigger in 2011.
In that passage, Orfield describes "a fundamental social transformation;" he says it produced a massive change in student demographics. As he continues on page 7, Orfield describes the extent of the change as of 2011:
ORFIELD (continuing directly): The changes occurring throughout in the nation appear in even more dramatic form in some of its regions. By far the most populous regions of the country, where the great bulk of American growth is concentrated, are the South and the West. For generations, the growth of the country has been focused on these Sunbelt areas. Both of these regions now have substantial majorities of “minority” students. The West has only 40% white students and the South only 45%.
As of 2011, only 45 percent of public school students in the South were "white!" You may already have discerned what this does to Chang's presentation, but let's record the passage on page 9 where Orfield states the obvious:
ORFIELD: Given the vast changes in U.S. school enrollment, even if there were a perfectly even distribution of students from all racial groups, there would still be a decline in contact by students of other races with whites, because the share of the total who are white has declined substantially.
Duh. Now let's think about the harrowing metric Chang employs as he discusses "resegregation."

Laggards, let's stop and think. Even in 2011, only 45 percent of public school students in the South were white!

Suppose you'd waved a magic wand and created a world in which every public school in the South matched the region's overall demographic. In that case, no black students in the South—zero, none—would have been attending schools which were "at least 50 percent white."

Every black kid would have been in a school which was 45 percent white. According to Chang's harrowing lexicon, they'd all have been victims of "resegregation." The percentage of black kids on that graphic would have dropped to zero percent!

Does this mean that no school district is drawing attendance lines with the goal of increasing racial imbalance? No, it doesn't mean that.

It does mean that at least one other major cause explains Chang's thrilling graphic. At least in some substantial part, fewer black kids are in white-majority schools because there are many fewer white kids in the public schools, exactly as Orfield said:

"Given the vast changes in U.S. school enrollment, even if there were a perfectly even distribution of students from all racial groups, there would still be a decline in contact by students of other races with whites..."

This isn't hard to grasp. But we progressives love to put our thumbs on the scales when dealing with topics like this. This produce scary representations which establish the evil of Everyone Else and the great moral glory of Us.

Dearest darlings, here's the news—it's no longer 1968! Our student demographic has massively changed in the past fifty years. That change includes the two adorable little girls who sat in that kindergarten class in Durham, not yet speaking the language.

Math is hard, but the math works out like this. You can't produce a string of majority-white public schools if you don't have a majority gaggle of white kids to begin with!

Meanwhile, if you say that every other type of school is part of "resegregation," then you're going to find a whole lot of "resegregation" out there! This is what Chang and Vox have done. We think it's a horrible but fully typical look.

Before we quit for the day, consider a few more statistics. How much has the student population changed just since the late 1980s, when 44 percent of black kids in the South were in majority-white schools?

We can't give you an exact figure, but it has changed a lot! According to the NCES, these were the numbers in the Naep's Grade 4 math tests in two relevant years:
Students tested, all U.S. schools
Grade 4 math test, Naep


White kids: 72 percent
Black kids: 18 percent
Hispanic kids: 7 percent
Asian-American kids: 3 percent

White kids: 52 percent
Black kids: 16 percent
Hispanic kids: 24 percent
Asian-American kids: 5 percent
Over those nineteen years, white kids moved from 72 percent of the student population down to 52 percent. Three years later, the number of "minority" kids passed the number of "white" kids for the first time. You can read about it here.

Almost surely, you'll have fewer majority-white schools if you lack a majority of whites! Meanwhile, how about the Durham Public Schools? According to the system's web site, its current charges break down like this:
Student population, Durham Public Schools
African-American: 46.7%
Hispanic/Latino: 30.1%
White: 18.6%
Multiracial: 2.8%
Asian: 2.3%
How many schools which are "at least 50 percent white" can that school system produce? According to Chang's report, the whole darn system may be "segregated!" No gerrymandered zones need apply!

For various reasons, progressives often say that black kids are better off in majority-white schools. We also like to render exciting claims about the horrors of modern-day "segregation."

Is anyone more reliably faux than we are? We love "the browning of America," hate the schools it gives us.

That school in Durham struck us as a joy. To Chang, it's "segregated."

Tomorrow: In response to Chang's report, the Times does Tuscaloosa

BREAKING: This report won't get discussed!


Why do you think that is?
This morning's New York Times has a superb, horrific report about street violence in Baltimore.

Timothy Williams focuses on the death toll at one school. His report starts like this:
WILLIAMS (1/17/18): What happened to 19-year-old Markel Scott last March is increasingly common here: Someone walked up to him on the street and shot him six times. Two months from his high school graduation, he died on the sidewalk, still wearing his book bag.

“I grew up here and I’ve never seen crime like this,” his mother, Sharonda Rhodes, said recently. “These are not normal times. The guns are everywhere.”

Mr. Scott attended a small school for older students who had dropped out and were trying to get their lives on track. But his resolve was not enough to shield him from the dangers of the streets. Seven students at Excel Academy have been murdered in 15 months, so much violence that an empty desk might mean a skipped class—or another permanent absence.

Dealing with murder has become routine at Excel, with grief counselors called in with each fallen classmate. It has become difficult to focus on things like biology or math. With its shrinking student body, the school is a grim reflection of the difficulties facing Baltimore.
That whole report is well worth reading. We make a related point:

As with Ta-Nehisi Coates' portrait of the difficulties of life for a Baltimore kid, you won't hear a word about this on our liberal tribe's corporate "cable news" channel.

The TV stars on that corporate channel are paid millions of dollars per year. They're paid to keep us entertained and feeling tribally good.

In fairness, they'll pretend to get upset if a teen gets shot and killed by police. To help us see how much they care, they'll invent or disappear basic facts to make the event more heinous.

Otherwise, it's repetitive Fun With Crazy Old Trump, who's just so totally racist. Ain't getting played by the TV stars on corporate "cable news" grand?

SEGREGATE THIS: Which schools count as "segregated?"


Part 2—The weaponization of virtue:
Is it true that American public schools have been "resegregating?"

Is it true that "schools in the South are as segregated now as they were about 50 years ago, not long after the Brown decision?"

Alvin Chang makes both those claims at the start of this recent report in Vox. These may seem like startling claims. They concern a very important part of modern American life.

That said, these apparently startling claims are also quite familiar. Progressive journalists and academics make such claims all the time.

Celebrated progressive journalists frequently say that our schools are "resegregating." This leaves us with our original question:

Are these familiar claims true?

You won't be surprised if we start by saying this: it all depends on what the meaning of "resegregation" is! With that in mind, let's start by getting clear on what Chang isn't alleging.

Claims like Chang's aren't intended to mean that we're returning to the days when school districts operated two separate sets of schools—one set for children deemed to be "white," the other for children deemed to be "black."

School districts operated that way under legal, or de jure, "segregregation." This involved the active separation of these two groups of kids as an explicit requirement of law.

Alvin Chang is not asserting that some school districts have returned to this practice. That practice was outlawed in 1954, in the famous Supreme Court decision to which Chang refers.

As you probably could have guessed, that isn't the sort of "segregation" to which Chang refers. So what does Chang mean by "segregation?"

That point is never made perfectly clear in Chang's report, although his claim gets lots of juice from the fact that the term "segregation" is historically fraught.

What does Change mean by "resegregation?" Essentially, he's referring to types of "racial imbalance" in public schools, including substantial imbalance.

He's referring to a state of affairs in which individual schools may be heavily black, white or Hispanic—even entirely black, white or Hispanic—especially in ways which don't reflect the overall student population of the district, or even of some particular school's immediate neighborhood.

Let's return to the part of Chang's report where he makes his basic claims about "segregation" and "resegregation."

Yesterday, in Part 1, we showed you the passage in question. Below it, Chang presents a graphic which helps us see what he means by his use of these heavily fraught terms:
CHANG (1/8/18): The result is that schools today are re-segregating. In fact, schools in the South are as segregated now as they were about 50 years ago, not long after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision.

Headline on graphic:

Percentage of black students in the South who attend schools that are at least 50 percent white
If we weren't nice guys around here, we might be tempted to describe that as perhaps a bit of a con. That said, yes—it's true:

When Chang refers to "segregated" schools in the South, he's talking about schools which aren't "at least 50 percent white." According to Chang's quixotic usage, if a black kid in Tuscaloosa attends a school which is 49 percent white, he is thereby attending a "segregated" school!

Are we being fair to Chang? Yes, we think we are. Right below the graphic bearing that headline, he returns to his claim about gerrymandered school attendance zones, making this statement:
CHANG: But this exact strategy—gerrymandering school districts to include certain kinds of students and exclude others—can also be used to integrate a school, rather than [to] segregate them.
Chang seems to be saying that gerrymandering has been used to create segregated schools, rather than to create integrated schools. Those schools in the South—the ones which aren't "at least 50 percent white"—seem to be the "segregated" schools he has in mind.

Does this framework make sense? To test Chang's logic, imagine a school in some Southern city with this student population:
Student population of some school in the South
White kids: 33 percent
Black kids: 33 percent
Hispanic kids: 33 percent
Imagine a school with that student population. In recent years, we visited one such public school, in Durham, on three separate occasions.

In the spring of 2011, we read a story to a kindergarten class in that neighborhood school. In January 2015 and January 2017, we attended the annual schoolwide spelling bee in this same Durham school.

The demographics of that school resembled those shown above. Largely because of the cheerful bustle we saw at that (overall) low-income school, we thought that school was a miracle.

Chang has a different name for that school. He says that school is "segregated"—and no, we aren't making this up!

Are you possibly starting to feel at least a tiny bit misled? Let's make sure you understand that this is what Chang is saying.

You need to click to Chang's report to review the graphic whose headline we posted above. From that graphic, you will see that 23 percent of black kids in the South currently attend public schools which are "at least 50 percent white."

By any normal interpretation, it's clear that Chang is describing schools which don't meet that criterion as "segregated." If a black kid attends a public school which is less than 50 percent white, he's attending a "segregated" school, according to Chang's great notion.

The black, white and Hispanic children we saw in those spelling bees? The two little girls in that kindergarten who weren't yet speaking English, with other little (bilingual) girls scrambling over desks and chairs to help them understand what was being said?

According to Chang, those kids were attending a "segregated" school in the South! They were part of their nation's "resegregation"—even though their cheerful school looked so much like the new America that it virtually shouted in glee, as we've described in the past.

In fairness to Chang, let's restate an important point. This young Vox journalist didn't invent this rather peculiar semantic framework. As we'll see in our next two reports, progressive academics and journalists have been working from such frameworks for years.

Their frameworks let them make eye-catching claims. That said, these frameworks strike us as grossly misleading, bordering on the ugly and vile.

Where do such frameworks take us? Imagine public schools with the demographics shown below. According to Chang, black kids in any such school are victims of "resegregation:"
Public School A
White kids: 33 percent
Black kids: 33 percent
Hispanic kids: 33 percent

Public School B
White kids: 49 percent
Black kids: 51 percent

Public School C
White kids: 45 percent
Black kids: 30 percent
Hispanic kids: 25 percent
In 1954, those schools would not have been permitted by law.

In 1968, those schools would have been seen as miraculous models of integration, though it would have been hard to find that many Hispanic kids in most parts of the South.

According to Chang, it's different today. According to Chang, all three schools fit under the rubric of "resegregation." All three schools are "segregated." We're asked to be shocked and concerned that schools like this exist.

In such ways, our liberal world routinely puts its thumb on the conceptual scale. As we do, we pleasure ourselves with our favorite tool, the weaponization of virtue.

In fairness, Chang is discussing a very important topic, one which deserves thorough examination. That said, is anything gained by the adoption of this peculiar conceptual framework?

We would say that nothing is gained, and that a great deal is lost. Meanwhile, what about Chang's most troubling and yet familiar claim, the one which goes like this:

"In fact, schools in the South are as segregated now as they were about 50 years ago."

Is that true in any significant sense? Are schools in the South "as segregated now as they were" in 1968?

Chang's graphic shows what he means by that claim. Tomorrow, we'll discuss his accurate factual statements, after which we'll present the hugely important factual point Chang has disappeared.

Do we liberals ever discuss race and gender without inventing or disappearing highly relevant facts? On balance, we'd say the answer is no.

We don't mean that as a compliment.

Tomorrow: A very large change in demographics! (We'll start with those two little girls in that kindergarten class.)

BREAKING: What do Trump voters think about Cotton?


No one is going to ask them:
We live in a nation which is now fighting the shithole versus shithouse wars. Meanwhile, in her review of the action for New York magazine, Margaret Hartmann makes this accurate point:

"Throughout the long weekend, the national conversation focused on whether or not the president said something racist, not the underlying policy issues."

When was it ever not thus? Meanwhile, discuss:

Is it possible that this continuing focus fits under our award-winning rubric, No Bait Left Behind?

However one assesses that point, this episode has had everything. Consider a few key junctures:

Last Tuesday, President Magoo said he'd favor a "clean" DACA bill (a bill involving no other provisions). He also said he'd sign whatever the heck Congress gave him.

Neither statement made any sense from the Trump perspective. For that reason, Magoo was forced to walk his statements back, perhaps with the help of distractions.

Two days later, he authored his "shithole or possibly shithouse" remarks, perhaps with a purpose in mind. Two Republican senators, Cotton and Perdue, have apparently built their defense of Donald J. Trump around the claim that he was misquoted, since he really said "shithouse," not "shithole," the way the Democrats said.

Trump's Magoo-like behavior is, by now, a given. We can't help wondering what Republican voters think of the distinction being sold by Cotton and Perdue. That said, it's long been clear that there's nothing so stupid that it can't be said as a major part of our discourse. Example:

In November 1999, Candidate Gore came under withering criticism for wearing suit jackets with three buttons, not the preferred number, two. That criticism was insane all by itself—but it led to escalating, crazy claims about what the three buttons meant. (Chris Matthews was especially crazy on that troubling point.)

This lunacy was being authored by mainstream and liberal figures, not by the right-wing machine. Fairly quickly, along came Arianna. In effect, she sewed a fourth button on Gore's suit jackets, saying this to Geraldo Rivera on his nightly CNBC program:
HUFFINGTON (11/9/99): Frankly, you know, what is fascinating is that the way he's now dressing makes a lot of people feel disconnected from him. And there was this marvelous story in one of the New Hampshire papers saying, “Nobody here—nobody here in Hanover, New Hampshire, wears tan suits with blue shirts.” You know, it's just—and buttons—all four buttons! You know, it's not just—it's just not the way most American males dress.
Aside from the pre-existing craziness, there were no four-button suits. There was also no pushback from our liberal world about this whole insane discussion, which persisted for months. (Brian Williams played a leading role.)

Today, two senators are arguing shithouse v. shithole. They seem to be calling Senator Durbin a liar on the basis of this imagined distinction. For the record, there is no evidence supporting their apparent claim that Trump really said shithouse, not shithole. The entire discussion is patently nuts, and they may have invented their factual claim.

On its face, the behavior of Cotton and Perdue is insane. We can't help wondering what Trump voters think about this transparent lunacy, to the extent that average voters have heard about it.

That said, no one on cable is going to ask any voters. On cable, cable stars listen to cable stars talk. They virtually never ask Trump voters what they think, feel or believe about anything that happens.

They prefer to tell us what Trump voters think. They never quite bother to ask.

One last point. That talk about Gore's disturbing buttons was totally crazy too. But it happened in 1999, and it was performed by mainstream and liberal players, not by the right-wing press.

To this day. it's Hard Tribal Law. No career liberal will ever tell you that that lunacy occurred. That said, our culture turned crazy a long time ago, and our own tribe was deeply involved.

You will never hear those facts from our favorite corporate cable stars. They'll tell you that Cotton and Perdue are behaving crazily, which is perfectly accurate. They won't tell you that they themselves invented this culture of The Big Crazy quite a few years ago.

Our modern press culture is totally nuts. It's been that way for a very long time. It's low-IQ all the way down.

Many long years ago: The press corps spent November 1999 deconstructing Candidate Gore's deeply significant clothing.

His suits, his boots, his polo shirts? The number of buttons he wore on his suits? The color of that one brown suit? The height at which his pants were hemmed?

No part of the wardrobe went unfrisked. The motto of these giants was clear:

No Lunacy Left Behind

A few inane players extended this theme beyond that one crazy month. (On the whole, it gave way to December 1999, the month of Love Canal, the month which decided the race by cementing the GORE LIAR theme.) Brian Williams was one such wardrobe obsessive. Why not read Chapter 5 at How He Got There, our companion site?

You will never be told about this; it's neither allowed nor done. That said, this is what our species is like. Our species simply isn't real sharp, and that's at its less crazy moments.

SEGREGATE THIS: "Segregation" in public schools!


Part 1—Must every discussion be faux?
Must every one of our public discussions be tilted, flimsy, fake/phony/faux, overwrought, substantially bogus?

By some diktat of Hard Pundit Law, has this become a basic part of modern journalistic and academic culture?

We often ask such questions when we read discussions of increased "segregation" in the public schools. For a recent case in point, consider this January 8 report for Vox, written by Alvin Chang.

Chang graduated from NYU in 2009. He describes himself as "Senior Graphics Reporter at Vox," not as an education specialist—though it hardly matters.

We'll assume that Chang is good at graphics, even though this particular piece may suggest a different conclusion. In fairness, his presentation about "segregation" is thoroughly standard, given the norms of modern progressive culture.

Nothing Chang says or claims in his piece is novel or new. That said, his presentation seems to make little sense, except as an example of tribal devotion to script.

All this week, we'll consider basic parts of Chang's presentation, which treats a very important topic. We'll also consider the high-profile academic source from which he draws his basic data.

Beyond that, we'll consider the reaction to Chang's presentation by a major liberal/progressive journalist who has written extensively on the topic at hand. As for Chang's report at Vox, it appears beneath these headlines:
We can draw school zones to make classrooms less segregated. This is how well your district does.

Is your district drawing borders to reduce or perpetuate racial segregation?
The key term there is "racial segregation." As everybody surely knows, the term is heavily fraught.

For many years, public school systems throughout the South—and in border states like Maryland—were legally segregated by race. Black kids went to one set of schools. White kids went to another.

In theory, this practice was declared unconstitutional by the 1954 Brown decision (Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka). That said, compliance with the decision was slow in some places; "white flight" to private academies took place in many others. Beyond that, housing patterns meant that many schools remained racially unbalanced, even after separation-by-law had ceased to exist.

In the language of the time, de jure segregation was over; de facto segregation remained. But the term "segregation" remains highly fraught, for these historical reasons.

Presumably for that reason, "segregation" is the word we progressives prefer when we discuss demographic patterns within today's public school. This reflects one of the basic laws of flailing human culture:

Especially in heavily partisan times, elbows and thumbs must be on the scales in all public discussions—and especially in discussions of topics which are very important.

That's the background to the fraught term which appears in those Vox headlines. Reflexive use of such terms tends to produce a familiar reaction, with one tribe feeling morally pure while the other tribe feels inclined to push back.

Whatever! Below Chang's headline, he starts his argument in the manner shown below. After the text we provide, he presents his initial graphic:
CHANG (1/8/18): Think about your elementary school.

If you attended an American public school, chances are you went to that school because your family lived in that school’s attendance zone. You probably didn’t think twice about it.

We tend to assume these are neutrally drawn, immutable borders. But if you take a step back and look at the demographics of who lives in each attendance zone, you’re faced with maps like this:

[Graphic: "Demographics of school attendance zones"]
Chang's graphic shows maps of school attendance zones in three cities—Omaha, Milwaukee and Houston. The graphic is coded to show us what percentage of the student population in each zone is black or Hispanic.

In each of the cities, some of the attendance zones seems to be more than 90 percent black or Hispanic. Other attendance zones are less than 10 percent black or Hispanic.

That said, we aren't sure what conclusion we can reach from looking at those maps. On their face, none of the attendance zones seem to be crazily "gerrymandered." Presumably, the racial composition of the zones largely or primarily reflects residential patterns.

We don't know what conclusion we can reach just from observing that graphic. But as he continues, Chang tells us:
CHANG (continuing directly): Once you look at the school attendance zones this way, it becomes clearer why these lines are drawn the way they are. Groups with political clout—mainly wealthier, whiter communities—have pushed policies that help white families live in heavily white areas and attend heavily white schools.

We see this in city after city, state after state.
Just this once, we'll be honest. It may well be that those attendance zones were drawn to help white families send their kids to heavily white schools. But we don't see how Chang can know that just from surveying those maps.

No matter! As if to strengthen his point, Chang then presents attendance zone maps for six additional cities. After that, he states his main idea. It involves a familiar claim:
CHANG: And often the attendance zones are gerrymandered to put white students in classrooms that are even whiter than the communities they live in.

The result is that schools today are re-segregating. In fact, schools in the South are as segregated now as they were about 50 years ago, not long after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision.
Our public schools are "resegregating," Chang says. In fact, this is a highly familiar claim. It gets the lift of a driving dream from its use of a highly fraught term.

Are American public schools actually "resegregating?" Are schools in the South "as segregated now as they were about 50 years ago, not long after the landmark Brown decision?" (At this point, Chang presents a graph in support of the latter claim.)

Because of their use of a highly fraught term, these claims involve a lot of heat; they often produce a lot less light. According to many major experts, this is the way our species reasons at highly fraught times like these.

American schools are resegregating! Over here in our progressive realm, this represents pretty much the only way we talk about public schools.

More specifically, it represents one of the only ways we talk about the experiences of "minority" and low-income kids in our public schools. As with almost everything we do, the claim helps us progressives feel morally pure. In our view, it also betrays our standard lack of interest in the actual lives and interests of actual black and Hispanic kids.

"Are we here to play golf? Or are we just going to [BLANK] around?" So Moses says to the Holy Trinity in the famous old golfing joke we famously learned from Paul Reiser many years ago.

We sometimes think of that famous old joke when we read reports like Chang's. All week, we'll poke and prod at his basic claim—the only claim our tribe ever seems to make about those good, decent, deserving kids.

Those good decent kids are highly deserving. Is it possible that they deserve more help than we adults provide?

Tomorrow: Basic rule: always omit key facts