BREAKING: Cable star bows low to the Times!

MONDAY, MAY 21, 2018

Ludicrous all the way down:
In this morning's Washington Post, Margaret Sullivan discusses the increasingly Trumpian conduct of a certain bombastic barrister who's often seen blustering on cable TV.

This barrister has always struck us as transparently unhealthy. We mentioned his resemblance to Trump last week. Others have been catching up.

(In this case, Sullivan discussed the barrister's bumptious threat to sue a bunch of news orgs. He's like Trump in a great many ways—though he doesn't play tic-tac-toe!)

Then too, there's the major cable news star who was repeatedly out to lunch last week. Consider the way she kissed the ascot of the New York Times on Wednesday night's program.

The star was discussing the newspaper's "big, long new report titled Code Name Crossfire Hurricane: The Secret Origins of the Trump Investigation." The report appeared on the front page of Thursday morning's editions.

First, the cable star offered an absurd assessment in which she claimed that the Times had apologized for an error it allegedly made late in the 2016 campaign. Concerning the alleged apology, here's what she excitedly said:
MADDOW (5/16/18): This is sort of an important moment for us as citizens who depend on journalism for an important check and window into the exercise of American power, right? This is this Titanic force in the world of journalism. For the New York Times to do this a year and a half down the road, to sort of come clean and at least explain what happened around that incredibly consequential, misleading article which may have helped sway the election, because of what turned out to be a pretty wildly inaccurate implication and headline about a presidential candidate, it's just a remarkable thing to see. This is a big moment in American journalism.
We're sorry, but that was pure nonsense.

For starters, the "apology" wasn't an apology at all. Beyond that, the remarks in question appeared in paragraphs 67 and 68 of the 77-paragraph report.

The comments in question were buried near the end of a 3900-word report. It was absurd to say that the remarks constituted an apology at all, let alone "an important moment for us as citizens...a remarkable thing to see...a big moment in American journalism."

The comments in question were no such thing, but so it goes when cable stars serve us nightly excitement. But just to show what toadyism really looks like, here's what the star said next—and no, we aren't making this up:
MADDOW (continuing directly): But because this is the New York Times, and you should never underestimate them even when they've screwed up, they also break a ton of news in this new story that also functions as an apology. We get, for example, in this new story tonight, the code word that was used inside the FBI to refer to the Trump Russia investigation. We've never had this before. Apparently, their code name for it was "Crossfire Hurricane."
Because the New York Times is great, it had broken a ton of news! The first example—and there were only two—was this:

The code word for the Trump-Russia probe was Crossfire Hurricane! We'd never had that before!

By the edicts of Hard Pundit Law, people like this major star are required to kiss the ascot of the Times. It's part of the deal—they must toady to industry and social power, even in ludicrous ways.

Two nights later, the cable star was worse. We refer to her ludicrous, 25-minute rumination on (who and what else?) Richard M. Nixon and Watergate.

Her upbeat assessment made little sense. In fact, it made no sense at all—but as a gesture of moral greatness, we've decided to let it go.

At any rate, Trump will go out just like Nixon did. "We are living history, you guys!" At the end of 25 minutes, that's what the major star said!

BREAKING: Three thousand dollars for your thoughts!

MONDAY, MAY 21, 2018

The discourse falls apart:
Should the FBI have sent [NAME WITHHELD] to lure George Papadopoulos into a conversation? Through the use of a pile of cash and an airplane ticket to London?

(To see the name of NAME WITHHELD, click to Kevin Drum. Or click to Ken Dilanian of NBC News.)

Should the FBI have told NAME WITHHELD to do that? We can't voice a useful opinion. Basically, we lack the requisite experience.

That said, the behavior does begin to strike us as strange within the context of a presidential election. Beyond that, the general topic seems to be introducing The Total Crazy into the public discourse.

Julie Hirschfeld Davis is one of the sane ones at the New York Times. That said, her front-page report on this topic today strikes us as borderline nuts.

It reads like the work of someone who's trying to trigger a civil war. Morning Joe sounded the same way on this same topic this morning.

In fact, Trump asked for an investigation of the so-called informant/spy/embed. Rod Rosenstein said that would be fine with him; the IG can do it, he said. It's hard to see what's scary, upsetting or wrong about that. What explains all the hysteria?

Meanwhile, we've been struck by an apparent general reluctance to describe what NAME WITHHELD actually did. For starters, here was Matt Miller last Thursday night, speaking with Chris Hayes:
HAYES (5/17/18): I want to talk about this quote about the government informant because that has been what the President is sort of building this on, what Trump T.V. have talked about:

"At least one government informant met several times with Mr. Page and Mr. Papadopoulos, current and former officials said." That has become a politically contentious point of Mr. Trump's allies questioning whether the FBI was spying on the Trump Campaign or trying entrap campaign officials. What, how—what do you think?

MILLER: ...If there was an informant in the campaign who was talking to the FBI, it's because that informant presumably saw evidence of a crime and wanted to report it to law enforcement. You know, they're trying to twist that now and say that it's spying of some sort...
According to Miller, here's what happened:

If there really was an informant, it was because that person "saw evidence of a crime and wanted to report it to law enforcement."

But as the subsequent reporting has shown, that isn't what happened at all. Beneath a weirdly didactic headline, this is what the New york Times reported on Saturday morning:
GOLDMAN, MAZZETTI AND ROSENBERG (5/19/18):The informant is well known in Washington circles, having served in previous Republican administrations and as a source of information for the C.I.A. in past years, according to one person familiar with the source’s work.

F.B.I. agents were seeking more details about what Mr. Papadopoulos knew about the hacked Democratic emails, and one month after their Russia investigation began, Mr. Papadopoulos received a curious message. The [informant] inquired about his interest in writing a research paper on a disputed gas field in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, a subject of Mr. Papadopoulos’s expertise.

The informant offered a $3,000 honorarium for the paper and a paid trip to London, where the two could meet and discuss the research project.


Mr. Papadopoulos accepted the offer and arrived in London two weeks later, where he met for several days with the [informant] and one of his assistants, a young woman.
That isn't what Miller had imagined at all. In fact, the informant paid Papadopoulos $3000 to fly across the ocean to confer with him in London, pretending that he wanted him to write an academic paper.

Given the fact that a presidential campaign was involved, that strikes us as potentially shaky conduct. But however one may judge this behavior, it certainly isn't what Miller had imagined.

That said, so what? We've seen little attempt to describe this play, and some pundits on MSNBC continued to offer misleading, Miller-like accounts over the weekend. Meanwhile, Joy Reid kept telling us how dangerous it would be for anyone to name the informant, failing to say that her colleague Dilanian, and half the known world, had already done so.

(Dilanian employed some Times-like gorilla dust to seem to say that he wasn't naming the informant even as he did so. For background, see Drum)

More and more, day by day, our discourse seems to be moving toward a completely crazed two-tribe double muddle. Donald J. Trump is out of his head. Day by day, increasingly, we liberals may be too.

GAPS AND MAN AT YALE: The microaggressions of Ivy League life!

MONDAY, MAY 21, 2018

Part 1—As compared to the gaps of New Haven:
As far as we know, Andy Shallal had, and has, a perfectly decent idea.

Shallal is the founder of the Washington, D.C. restaurant-and-bookstore chain, Busboys and Poets, whose first location opened in 2005. Now there are six Busboys and Poets restaurants. Shallal has 600 employees.

Shallal's idea was to talk with his employees about race. In yesterday's Washington Post, Abha Bhattarai published a 2200-word portrait of the way the enterprise works.

From the report, it isn't entirely clear whether Shallal conducts these conversations as a way to improve the functioning of his restaurants, or just as a way to foster greater understanding. At any rate, Bhattarai sat in on several of Shallal's group discussions with new hires. One exchange went like this:
BHATTARI (5/20/18): [I]t is difficult, employees say, to chip away at intrinsic biases.

"As servers, we believe in stereotypes," a black woman in her 30s said during a recent training session. "Does that make us racist?"

Is it possible, she wondered aloud, to be a racist waiter but not a racist person?

(Shallal's answer: No.)

"How many of you have been surprised by a tip because you thought, based on a person's race, that it would not be good?" he asked. Almost every hand went up.

"We need to be more aware of what we bring to the table," Shallal said. "And what we bring is a lot of prejudice, a lot of preconceived notions and, yes, a lot of racism—whether we like it or not."
For ourselves, we almost surely would have answered that woman's questions differently. That doesn't mean that Andy Shallal doesn't have a good idea.

Is Shallal simply trying to foster understanding? Or is he also trying to reduce or eliminate the kinds of incidents in his restaurants which may be described as "microaggressions"—incidents which can turn into something much more serious, as occurred with the recent arrests of two men at a Philadelphia Starbucks?

We'll guess that he wants to do both. Regarding the desire to avoid possible microaggressions, we'll admit that we were slightly annoyed when we stumbled upon yesterday's report, which consumed the bulk of the front page of the Post's Business section.

We'll admit that we were slightly annoyed. It's because of the tedious research we'd been doing last weekend. And it's all because of Yale!

In the past few weeks, we've seen several more accounts of microaggressions committed against the poor abused students of Yale. It started when Yale police, rather politely, asked a graduate student to show them her college ID.

This led to an essay at Slate, in which a 2012 Yale graduate who now works for Google described the "unequal treatment" to which he was subjected when he was a student at Yale.

The writer described some undesirable experiences. That said, we'll have to be honest this once:

The writer had recently spent four years at Yale, gaining the highest type of credential our society provides. Given his current employment, we'll guess that he stands of the edge of admission into this country's economic elite.

We're going to be honest! Even after reading his account of life at Yale, he didn't exactly strike us as the wretched of the earth. This was especially true when we thought of the sacrifices made by those who came before him—by the people who suffered and died so that he could be one of the most privileged people in the history of life on the planet.

Such advantages don't mean that it's OK to be mistreated, or perhaps imperfectly treated, in some other way. But we'll have to admit—in the way he described his "unequal treatment" at Yale, his experience there didn't sound all that horrendous.

Meanwhile, in the face of his massive advantages, we couldn't help contrasting the microaggressions of which he complained to the situation of the black kids who are growing up in New Haven—the black kids who students at Yale may sometimes pass in the street.

Those generally low-income kids do not end up at Yale. Presumably, they deal with microaggressions too—but they're also saddled with this:
Where the average student stood
New Haven Public Schools, Grades 3-8, reading and math

White kids: 1.0 years above grade level
Hispanic kids: 1.6 years below grade level
Black kids: 1.6 years below grade level
Those data emerged from the recent nationwide study by Professor Reardon and two associates. According to Reardon's analysis, black kids in New Haven are performing 2.6 years behind their white counterparts, presumably by the start of sixth grade.

Those kids won't have to worry about going to Yale and being asked to show their ID on some lone occasion. They won't have to worry about microaggressions at Yale.

Instead, they have to worry about the major challenges facing their basic life prospects. These kids have a much tougher way to go than the poor abused students of Yale.

Once again, we need to understand what Reardon's numbers mean. Inevitably, his numbers are imprecise—but we should be clear about what the word "average" means:

In this context, it means that a substantial number of black kids in New Haven are more than 1.6 years below grade level at the start of sixth grade. (Elsewhere in Connecticut, the numbers for black kids are worse.)

They're more than 2.6 years behind the average white New Haven kid at the start of sixth grade. And in other parts of the Nutmeg State, white kids are substantially outscoring the white kids of New Haven, who comprised only twelve percent of the city's student population in Reardon's study.

When we read yesterday's report about Busboy and Poets, we thought about the endless supply of reports from our liberal and progressive world about the desire to eliminate various types of microaggressions. To the extent that Shallal can accomplish that task, he has a good idea, and he's running a good decent business.

That said, it has been two years since the New York Times reported on Reardon's nationwide study about racial achievement gaps. And right there where Busboys and Poets exists, his numbers looked like this:
Where the average student stood
D.C. Public Schools, Grades 3-8, reading and math

White kids: 2.7 years above grade level
Black kids: 2.2 years below grade level
Now that's an achievement gap—4.9 years at the start of sixth grade! That's the reality Reardon described, right there in our capital city, where we don't want restaurant-goers to encounter biased expectations concerning tips.

It's been two years since Reardon's study appeared in the New York Times. As always, the Times weirdly bungled its news report about the study. But the Times provided some fascinating interactive graphics which let us examine data from every school system in the country.

It's been two years since that report appeared in the Times. In that time, you have heard exactly nothing about what Reardon reported.

You haven't seen Reardon's report discussed on MSNBC. You have't seen it discussed at Slate.

Your favorite liberals don't discuss the burdens placed on the nation's low-income black kids. But those same favorite liberals won't stop talking about the indignities suffered by young black adults condemned to be students at Yale.

We read about every microaggression, every deeply offensive email concerning Halloween costumes. But what about the basic life prospects of the city's low-income kids?

If Andy Shallal can reduce microaggressions at Busboys and Poets, he has a good idea. That said, we progressives clearly care more about restaurant goers and Yale students than we do about struggling kids.

As the week proceeds, we'll look at the complaints which were voiced in that recent Slate piece. We'll also examine the achievement gaps which exist in our nation's liberal and progressive redoubts.

We liberals! We never hear about these gaps because we don't care about the people involved. We care about Yale and that's where it ends. Few things could be more clear.

Coming: The gaps on the streets where we live

Next week: Gaps and solutions

EXPLOSIVE: Was Carter Page a Russkie agent?

SATURDAY, MAY 19, 2018

The Times pushes the story along:
Was Carter Page some sort of Russkie agent?

We have no way of knowing. By the time the Mueller probe is done, we may all get a clearer idea concerning questions like that.

In the meantime, certain people are going to push claims and insinuations along.

When it comes to insinuations and overstatements regarding Page, one major gigantic cable news star rarely misses a chance to "hang him high." In fairness, this was already part of her TV show's culture before Page shambled along.

Then too, we were struck by something we read in Thursday's New York Times. In a lengthy retrospective report, three Times reporters said this:
APUZZO, GOLDMAN AND FANDOS (5/17/18): Crossfire Hurricane began with a focus on four campaign officials. But by mid-fall 2016, Mr. Page’s inquiry had progressed the furthest. Agents had known Mr. Page for years. Russian spies tried to recruit him in 2013, and he was dismissive when agents warned him about it, a half-dozen current and former officials said.
Back is 2013, was Page "dismissive" when he was warned about the Russkie approach?

We have no way of knowing. We're not even completely sure we know what the statement means.

That said, we decided to check the prior news report to which the three scribes linked in that passage. That report appeared in the Times in April 2017. Here's the way it began:
GOLDMAN (4/5/17): Russian intelligence operatives tried in 2013 to recruit an American businessman and eventual foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign who is now part of the F.B.I. investigation into Russia’s interference into the American election, according to federal court documents and a statement issued by the businessman.

The businessman, Carter Page, met with one of three Russians who were eventually charged with being undeclared officers with Russia’s foreign intelligence service, known as the S.V.R. The F.B.I. interviewed Mr. Page in 2013 as part of an investigation into the spy ring, but decided that he had not known the man was a spy, and the bureau never accused Mr. Page of wrongdoing.
Interesting! Back then, we weren't told that Page had been "dismissive" when clued by the FBI. Instead, we were told this:
The FBI decided that Page hadn't known that he'd been approached by a spy!
As you can see, the Times has come a long way baby from that initial report. On Thursday, the Times reporters cited that initial report as their source. But here's how the Times has now a-changed:
April 5, 2017: The FBI interviewed Page and decided he hadn't known that he'd been approached by a spy.

May 16, 2018: The FBI interviewed Page and judged that he was "dismissive."

Is it true? Did the FBI decide that Page didn't know that he'd been approached by a spy? If so, as a matter of fundamental fairness, should Times readers have been apprised of that fact in Thursday's retrospective?

If that's what the FBI decided, we'd say Times readers should have been told. We voice this judgment in the name of fundamental fairness (among other desirable traits).

At any rate, Thursday's report linked to the prior report as its source. We'd say it engineered a major change in tone—and a drift toward insinuation.

Was Carter Page some sort of Russkie agent? At present, we have no way of knowing. We hope some day to find out.

That said, regarding the age-old cult of insinuation and the unparalleled pleasures of hanging them high, we'd be inclined to say this:

A big cable star likes to play it that way. Should the Times follow suit?

Also this: This headline, in this morning's Times, is about as didactic as a headline on a front-page news report gets:
F.B.I. Used Informant to Investigate Russia Ties to Campaign, Not to Spy, as Trump Claims
The news report is shaky enough. (Example: Do you see Trump quoted anywhere using the key term "spy?")

The news report is shaky enough. The headline leaps beyond the report, and is a bit Pravdaesque.

Coming Monday: Big star's absurd toadyism

BREAKING: "I peddled a lot of oppo on Gore!"

FRIDAY, MAY 18, 2018

The extent of our tribe's degradation:
Way back when, we admired Nicolle Wallace's competence, back when she was pimping war and torture for Bush.

Today, she's one of our tribe's most admired stars! We have so few stars of our own!

We'll have to admit—despite past respect for her competence, we've come to despise the way she chuckles her way through her 4 PM program each day on MSNBC.

For Wallace, this whole Trump thing is loads of fun. It's an hour-long meeting of the club. If you can forgive a gendered remark, her daily show has the feel of a laugh-strewn kaffeeklatsch

This morning, Wallace filled in for Mika on Morning Joe; Willie Geist-Haskell was subbing for Joe. At one point, Nicolle said this:
GEIST-HASKELL (5/18/18): You've worked on campaigns, Nicolle Wallace. You've worked on a lot of campaigns.

WALLACE: I've worked on a lot of campaigns. I've peddled a lot of oppo, about a lot of people—Al Gore, John Kerry, President Obama, Joe Biden.

I have never, ever, ever been in receipt of anything from Russians...
At least she never did that! To watch this exchange, click here.

She peddled a lot of oppo on Gore! Today, she's our pitiful tribe's new number-one favorite star.

As we watched this exchange with Haskell-Geist Junior, we thought about all that oppo from Campaign 2000. In fairness, the Bush campaign barely had to bother, so dedicated was the mainstream press corps to this destructive task, which constituted two years of payback aimed at the loathed Bill Clinton.

For some reason, we thought about Ceci Connolly's pitiful con concerning Gore's enlistment in the army. An account of the episode can be found in our incomparable archives, but it went down something like this:

One day, at some event, Gore mentioned the fact that he had enlisted after college. In her news report in the next day's Washington Post, Ceci implied that Gore enlisted only because he got a bad number in the draft lottery.

Unlike millions of other slimings by Connolly, this sliming never took off. But it was especially phony, even by Connolly's standards.

Why phony? Gore enlisted in August 1969. The draft lottery wasn't conducted until that December. People with his birthdate did get a low draft number, but he'd already been in the army four months.

At the time, we wondered if this could have been an honest mistake. Apparently not! In other news reports about Gore's remarks that day, it turned out that he had explicitly described this chronology, in spite of which Ceci struck.

The Post and the Times played these games from March 1999 right through the November 2000 election (and beyond). Career liberal players, so silly and so fearless today, all knew they should keep their traps shut.

Connolly kept it up for two years. The liberal world sat there and took it.

Given this disappeared history, Wallace didn't have to peddle that much oppo back then. But she peddled it anyway, after which she peddled the war. Today, she's our pitiful tribe's number-one favorite new star.

She "peddled a lot of oppo on Gore!" But she didn't get it from the Russkies. She got it from Ceci and Kit!

Why not catch her program today? She'll laugh and chuckle and rollick her way right through the whole rollicking hour! For overpaid stars of the cable news game, opposition to Trump is good work for good pay and it's good solid fun.

As stated by Steve Martin: “I used to smoke marijuana. But I’ll tell you something: I would only smoke it in the late evening. Oh, occasionally the early evening, but usually the late evening—or the mid-evening. Just the early evening, mid-evening and late evening. Occasionally, early afternoon, early mid-afternoon, or perhaps the late-mid-afternoon. Oh, sometimes the early-mid-late-early morning. . . . But never at dusk.”

Also, he never got it from the Russians! Why not give credit where due?

BREAKING: Why the attacks go on and on!

FRIDAY, MAY 18, 2018

It only takes one:
On our daily and nightly cable entertainment spectacles, we liberals get to imagine the joy of seeing The Others on trial.

We also get to laugh about the foolishness of Don and Rudy's attacks. We do this because we may be slightly dumb. Consider part of what's happening.

We love to think about the way Manafort will spend the rest of his life in prison. Have we ever heard about the way a jury works?

If one juror decides the whole trial is a witch hunt driven by fake news from traitors within the deep state, then no conviction can be obtained. We have to assume that this is part of the strategy behind the ongoing attacks from twin terrors Don and Rudy.

Meanwhile, there was the New York Times yesterday, treating Rudy's latest claims like gospel. By night, the same reporters are on TV, helping our programs along.

Still and all, this is good entertainment. Nicolle laughs and laughs for an hour each day. Our next post will concern our new tribal love for her.

Also this: Coming soon to your TV machine, Real Barristers of Cable News!

Top-flight behind-the-scenes cable news fun! We'd say it works best at Bravo!

GAPS AND SCHOOLS: Everybody wants "good schools!"

FRIDAY, MAY 18, 2018

Part 5—No one knows how to create them:
This morning's New York Times helps us see why we can't have nice things.

Here at this site, we'd planned to focus on Richard Kahlenberg's attempts to "create public schools that are more integrated." More specifically, we'd planned to focus on his current efforts in Chicago.

The formulation that we've quoted comes from Anya Kamenetz, "NPR's lead education blogger." In March of 2017, Kamenetz interviewed Kahlenberg about his efforts in Chicago. Her report appeared beneath an unfortunate headline at NPR's web site:
Try This One Trick To Improve Student Outcomes
We don't know who composed that unfortunate headline. That said, its cheeky tone suggests the degree of concern upper-end news orgs tend to bring to the topic of education for low-income kids.

Cheeky headline to the side, what's the "one trick" NPR said we should try? Kamenetz explained it like this:
KAMENETZ (3/16/17): Richard Kahlenberg has spent decades stumping for a third way. His idea: Create public schools that are more integrated. He helped innovate the use of social and economic indicators to do that—instead of race and ethnicity, the use of which is prohibited by a 2007 Supreme Court decision.

His strategy could be summed up as: Give poor kids the opportunity to attend school with not-so-poor kids.
"Give poor kids the opportunity to attend school with not-so-poor kids?" In principle, and where possible, that is, at least theoretically, a very good idea.

We include a litany of qualifiers because there are so many ways this good idea can, in practice, go wrong. Also because of this sobering yet other-worldly exchange, which starts with a factual error by Kamenetz:
KAMENETZ: In New York City, where I live, as your report notes, 77 percent of students live in poverty. How do you create economically mixed schools if there aren't enough middle-class kids to go around?

KAHLENBERG: I worked with Chicago Public Schools on their socioeconomic integration plan. The district is 85 percent low-income. My recommendation was not to ensure that every school was 85 percent low-income, because high-poverty schools are bad for students. In Chicago what they've done is to begin with magnet and selective-enrollment schools. You want to create a virtuous cycle where people can see examples of success.

KAMENETZ: It almost sounds like a chemistry experiment—you have to control the conditions very carefully and titrate your mixture until it hits that tipping point.

KAHLENBERG: The long-term aspiration is that, as you develop more socioeconomically integrated schools, that the overall demographics of the public school system could shift. We saw that in Cambridge: Over time, more middle-class and white people came back into the district, stopped using private schools and stopped moving away once their kids got to be a certain age.
In education parlance, "low-income" doesn't mean "poverty." It isn't true that 77 percent of New York City kids are living in poverty.

Setting that requisite groaner to the side, let's focus on Kahlenberg's thinking.

All things being equal, it's a good and decent idea to "give poor kids the opportunity to attend school with not-so-poor kids." That said, all things aren't equal around the country, not by the longest of long shots.

For example, all things aren't equal in Chicago, where, in Kamenetz's admirably direct formulation, "there aren't enough middle-class kids to go around." What do you do in a system like that, if you want to give low-income kids a better chance in school?

What do you do in a system like that? In our view, Kahlenberg's answer is other-worldly—and also, highly instructive:

What do you do in a city like that? According to Kahlenberg, you create a small number of "socioeconomically integrated schools," for example through the creation of magnet schools, which are typically aimed at the higher-achieving and more ambitious students.

In Kahlenberg's formulation, when people see how well those few schools operate, some sort of demographic miracle will occur—in a city whose student population is currently 85 percent low-income! (And 87 percent black and Hispanic.)

That's the "one trick" NPR said we ought to try! By our reckoning, this trick should erase our ginormous achievement gaps by some time in or near the start of the 23rd century.

In the meantime, first-graders are going to school today, and they'll also be going to school tomorrow. In the fall, their younger sibling will be starting kindergarten. What's going to happen to them?

These good, decent kids will be going to school in cities which are overwhelmingly low-income, and also black and Hispanic. While we wait for NPR's "one trick" to blossom in Chicago, what is going to happen to them? Who's going to serve those kids?

Anthropologically speaking, our upper-end news orgs are crammed with people who are skilled at ignoring such questions. Anthropologically speaking, experts say that it seems to be the nature of the beast.

The kids in question don't really matter, except to the extent that we can use them as pawns in our attempts to engage in old-fashioned moral posturing about our moral greatness. You won't hear the lives of these children discussed on your favorite "liberal" TV shows. Nor will you see their interests discussed at your favorite liberal sites.

We liberals quit on these kids long ago. To the extent that we bother posing and pretending at all, we bloviate about "integration" and "desegregation," racial and socioeconomic. We posture about possible academic gains for tiny handfuls of kids. We imagine magical outcomes, in centuries yet to come.

So it was in this morning's New York Times, where a reporter who isn't an education specialist conducted the latest magical mystery tour of the drive toward "desegregation" in New York City's schools. In her report, Winnie Hu focuses again on School 54, the "high-performing" Manhattan school which would be affected by the "desegregation plan" now under consideration for the middle schools in New York City's District 3.

Hu quoted a parent from School 54; his wife had been quoted by Elizabeth Harris in her own report about School 54 back on May 2. This parent had a sensible point of concern about the proposed plan, along with a tired old claim about where achievement gaps come from.

Hu quoted that family again. But in a democratizing flourish, she also quoted parents from all over the city. Few of them seemed to have any obvious idea what they were talking about.

Hu created a Babel of complaints and theories. Eventually, we hit upon this suggestion:
HU (5/18/18): Naila Rosario, a mother of two in largely working-class Sunset Park, recalled her frustration one year when even the top-performing student at her neighborhood elementary school was not admitted to [high-performing] M.S. 51. Meanwhile, she noted, Park Slope's prestigious Public School 321 sent many students to M.S. 51, year after year.

''It's not fair, it's not equitable,'' she said. ''All kids should have access to all the schools—and not because you live in a certain neighborhood and your parents have access to certain resources.''
Why did that "top-performing student" get turned down at high-performing School 51? We don't know, but then again, neither does Hu or this parent. It's possible that the Park Slope kids were simply better students.

That said, this parent's solution, while perfectly reasonable—all kids should have access to all the schools—leaves us where we began. Across the city of New York, the average child would be in a school which was 77 percent low-income.

All the schools would end up being New York City average. No one would be in a high-performing middle school whose students were high-performers coming in. There's nothing automatically wrong about this parent's suggestion, but these are precisely the kinds of schools Kahlenberg says he wants to avoid.

Meanwhile, each of those schools would have to deal with the giant achievement gaps found in New York City schools, where many kids achieve 1's on the state math exam and other kids achieve 4's. As you may recall, the river in New York City is wide, and it's hard to row over:
Average scores by percentiles, 2017 Naep
Grade 8 math, New York City Public Schools

90th percentile: 329.72
75th percentile: 303.23
50th percentile: 272.76
25th percentile: 245.27
10th percentile: 222.66
By standard methods of reckoning, the gaps in achievement are gigantic. And how would the typical middle school handle that wide range of achievement? Here's what Hu reports from another "high-performing" middle school in District 3:
HU: At the Computer School, which receives up to 1,000 applicants for 140 sixth-grade spots, about 19 percent of those admitted for the fall scored either 1s or 2s on the state tests. Once admitted, students with low and high test scores learn side by side. ''I see it as a challenge, but that's what we're supposed to do as educators—we're supposed to be the problem solvers,'' said Henry Zymeck, the principal.
Really? Once admitted, these students learn side by side? They don't get split into "advanced" and "regular" and "remedial" classes, where the racial patterns we liberals despise will tend to appear again?

Despite those giant achievement gaps, these students learn side by side? We'd love to know how that works—or why anyone thinks it would. Lacking a background in education, Hu didn't think to ask.

These students all learn side by side? Think about what that means.

Think back! When you were in middle school and high school, did the kids who were taking Latin 4 learn side by side with the kids who were taking first-year Latin? Did the kids who were acing calculus learn side by side with the kids who flunked Algebra 1 last year and were taking it over again?

Did everyone learn side by side? Would it even make sense to try? We don't know who would run a school that way, or why anyone would think that approach made optimal sense. Anthropologically speaking, though, we liberals seem to be unable to think rationally about our low-income kids, their needs and their actual interests.

And make no mistake—the reason we bumble ahead in this way is because nobody actually cares. Given our manifest lack of interest, few things could be more clear.

Back on May 2, Elizabeth Harris wrote a fascinating news report about District 3's proposed plan. Already, the chancellor had apologized for a racially inflammatory statement he made about white parents who didn't like the plan. This sort of thing routinely occurs when we try to square the public school race-and-achievement circle in ways which make no real sense in the end.

We like to pretend there's some magical way to desegregate our way out of our grinding achievement gaps. In the real world, there's no such exit ramp. But we aren't rational animals, and we like to pretend.

In Harris' report, one parent said she hoped that lower-achieving students might do better academically if they get to attend School 54. Another parent worried that lower-achieving kids might not be able to handle the work at the school. Each statement was perfectly sensible, absent further explanation.

A third parent was quoted at the end of Harris' report. Like Chekhov's desperate dreaming couple in The Lady With the Lapdog, here's what the third parent said:
HARRIS (5/2/18): [Chancellor] Carranza has not said whether he will ultimately endorse the plan, though he has called it ''well thought-out'' and ''very moderate.'' On Tuesday, after meeting with legislators in Albany, Mr. Carranza said that while communities should be part of the conversation about integration, ''at some point we have to act on our beliefs.''

He went on, ''My belief is that schools should be integrated.''

For Tracy Alpert, a white parent who has one child at P.S. 191, which was at the center of an earlier desegregation debate in the district, the answer was clear. ''They need more good schools. It's a scarce resource,'' she said. ''We need more good seats at good schools.''
The chancellor's declaration wasn't gigantically helpful. Everyone believes that public schools should be integrated. It all depends on what the meaning of "integration" is!

Meanwhile, to that third parent, the answer was clear. We need more "good schools," the parent said. We need more seats at such schools.

The parent offered no ideas about how these "good schools" would actually work. Nor did Harris seem to have asked her.

In that moment, a lesson was taught:

Everybody wants "good schools." But no one knows how to create them!

Next week: Gaps and solutions—good schools for struggling kids