Coming tomorrow: Reporting the Timss!

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 2, 2016

Today, some comic relief:
On Tuesday morning, the Washington Post reported the test results from the 2015 Timss. To read that report, click here.

The Timss is one of two international testing programs for the world's public school students. It's administered every four years.

Given the amount of propaganda which swirls around international test scores, you'd almost think our major newspapers would want to report these results.

So far, the New York Times hasn't published a word in its hard copy editions. On line, it has posted this somewhat comical AP report.

What's funny about the AP report? Why do we find it amusing?

As is required by Hard Pundit Law, the AP reports the American glass ten percent empty rather than ninety percent full. As we'll note tomorrow, the Post seems to have followed the gloomy AP down this mandated trail.

Still and all, the AP report by Jennifer Kerr offers some comic relief. After an initial dollop of doom, it offered an unintentionally funny third paragraph, relying on expert appraisal:
KERR (11/29/16): Eighth graders in the United States improved their scores in math over the last four years, up nine points. Scores for science, however, were flat. In fourth grade, scores were unchanged in the math and science tests.

"The results do suggest a leveling out in the most recent cycle," said Ina Mullis, an executive director of the TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center at Boston College, where researchers helped coordinate staff to administer the assessments. "One always prefers to see improvement, but holding one's own is preferable to declining."
If we're able to follow the logic there, it's better to show improvement than to "hold one's own." But it's better to hold one's own than to show a decline!

We get these data every four years. That was the AP's third paragraph. And no, the Times didn't leave something out. Here's the official AP version.

(By the way: Is a gain of "nine points" a lot or a little? Given four years to figure it out, the AP doesn't say.)

Tomorrow, we'll look at the Post's report, which strikes us as rich in both script and avoidance. For an overview of the results, see our own Wednesday report.

Journalists try to critique Donald Trump!

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 2, 2016

Journalists try and fail:
In our view, a fascinatingly weak discussion took place on Wednesday's Diane Rehm Show.

Three major journalists tried to discuss the challenges of covering Donald J. Trump. in various ways, we thought they did a poor job.

How well did this discussion go? How skillfully has it been critiqued? One exchange with Trump spokesperson Scottie Nell Hughes has produced a fair amount of reaction. We thought Rehm and her journalist guests handled it poorly, and that subsequent discussion has often been inept.

First, a note about Hughes. She is one of the many Trump spokespersons who have served as "minders" on CNN programs this year. That said, she is one of the less articulate major Trump spokespersons.

Kayleigh McEnany, who's straight out of Harvard Law School, is a very articulate spokesperson. Simply put, Hughes is not. This fact is relevant to the exchange on Rehm's show, and to the subsequent commentary.

Let's start with what Hughes said. Rehm's journalist guests had been discussing some of Trump's "lies." When Hughes was finally brought on the air, Rehm invited her to respond.

Below, you see the initial exchange. As always, Hughes is quite inarticulate.

Her presentation is so jumbled, it's hard to know what to highlight. We'll do the best we can. For tape and transcript, click here:
REHM (11/30/16): Now I know you've been listening since the top of the program, and I'm sure you've heard James Fallows talk about "lies" that Donald Trump has put out there in tweets, in things he's said. What do you make of that?

HUGHES: Well, I think it's also an idea of an opinion. And that's—

On one hand, I hear half the media saying that these are lies. But on the other half, there are many people that go, "No, it's true." And so one thing that has been interesting this entire campaign season to watch is that people that say facts are facts, they're not really facts. Everybody has a way—it's kind of like looking at ratings or looking at a glass of half-full water. Everybody has a way of interpreting them to be the truth or not true.

There's no such thing, unfortunately, any more of [sic] facts.
And so Mr. Trump's tweet amongst a certain crowd, a large—a large ma—a large part of the population, are truth. When he says that millions of people illegally voted, he has some fa—he, in his, amongst him and his supporters, and people believe they have facts to back that up. Those that do not like Mr. Trump, they say that those are lies, and there's no facts to back it up. So—
At this point, Rehm broke in. She threw to Politico's Glenn Thrush, who said he had to get his jaw off the floor.

"There are no objective facts? I mean, that is, that is an absolutely outrageous assertion," Thrush thundered, responding to what he apparently thought he had heard.

Is that what Hughes was saying in that (rather typically) jumbled oration? Was she trying to say "there are no objective facts?"

We don't get that impression. Like many people in cable news, Hughes is routinely unclear, bordering on incoherent. But it seems to us she was probably saying something like this:

Many people assert that certain "facts" contradict the things Trump says, but their alleged "facts" are often less than fully clear or less than fully dispositive. Unfortunately, everyone has a way of interpreting facts to suit their own purposes. When Trump's followers agree with his claims, they believe that they have facts which support his claims.

When she appears on CNN, Hughes is routinely jumbled. That said, she's no high theorist. In this case, we don't think she was making some sort of postmodern claim about the nature of truth. We don't think she was saying that there's no such thing as an objective fact.

We think she was saying that many critics of Trump overstate the case for their own basket of alleged "facts." And, without any doubt, that does sometimes happen.

This didn't settle the objective question to which Hughes referred. When Trump said that "millions of people illegally voted," was he making an accurate statement?

More precisely, was he making a statement whose accuracy he could demonstrate? Could he point to actual facts which demonstrate the accuracy of his statement?

Rehm and her journalist guests never established that point. Instead, they wandered the countryside, quickly moving on to a different question.

At one point, Hughes did offer "evidence" in support of Trump's claim about illegal voting, citing a study by four Old Dominion professors. This study has been widely discussed, as Rehm's guest should have known. Its relevance to Trump's claim has been widely challenged, including by at least one of its authors.

That said, Thrush didn't seem to have heard of the widely-cited study, and no one else jumped in. As is typical in pundit discussions, another journalist changed the subject before this matter could be further resolved.

Hughes' presentation was barely coherent. On the other hand, Rehm and her journalist guests were rather undisciplined too. They jumped about from point to point, failing to demonstrate any point. To our ear, Rehm's guests were unprepared on the subject matter, under-skilled to boot.

For these reasons, Hughes' jumbled oration faded into the mist. Until Kevin Drum presented an edited version of what she had said-a version we'd consider describing as "doctored" had it come from anyone else.

Below, we'll show the full text of what Hughes said. Then, we'll show you the version of her remarks presented to Drum's readers. We'll include Drum's highlights:
FULL STATEMENT BY HUGHES: On one hand, I hear half the media saying that these are lies. But on the other half, there are many people that go, "No, it's true." And so one thing that has been interesting this entire campaign season to watch is that people that say facts are facts, they're not really facts. Everybody has a way, it's kind of like looking at ratings or looking at a glass of half-full water. Everybody has a way of interpreting them to be the truth or not true.

There's no such thing, unfortunately, any more of [sic] facts. And so Mr. Trump's tweet amongst a certain crowd, a large—a large ma, a large part of the population, are truth. When he says that millions of people illegally voted, he has some fa—he, in his, amongst him and his supporters, and people believe they have facts to back that up. Those that do not like Mr. Trump, they say that those are lies, and there's no facts to back it up.

EDITED VERSION BY DRUM: People that say facts are facts, they're not really facts....There's no such thing, unfortunately anymore, as facts. And so Mr. Trump's tweet, amongst a certain crowd, a large part of the population, are truth. When he says that millions of people illegally voted, he has some facts amongst him and his supporters, and people believe they have facts to back that up. Those that do not like Mr. Trump, they say that those are lies and there's no facts to back it up. [emphases, ellipses by Drum]
To us, that's a shaky editing job. It did let Drum ridicule Hughes for having made the ridiculous claim that there's no such thing as facts.

We liberals love being fed this gruel. As is true in the other tribe, many pundits are willing to be our suppliers.

As for our major journalists, they stage scattershot discussions all the time, even on the Rehm Show. Skill levels are remarkably slight atop our mainstream press corps.

People like Trump exploit this fact. Our tribe enjoys kicking down at the folk who get conned in the process.

LOSERS: Coming next week, "Comeyed again!"

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 2, 2016

Epilogue—The enemy will be Us:
Today, we complete our second week of award-winning election post-mortem reports.

We've added a week of "Losers" reports to our earlier "Teabagged" series. Next week, we'll offer a series which bears this working title:

"Comeyed (again)."

We're inclined to agree with Kevin Drum. We think James B. Comey's intrusion on the White House campaign may well have swung its outcome. For that reason, it's important to see how we fiery liberals dealt with the actions of this powerful insider god.

More specifically, it's important to see how our corporate liberal "journalists" dealt with the god's behavior. We'll pursue such questions as these:

How did they respond to Comey's original actions in early July? How did they respond to Fred Kaplan's instant challenge to Comey's potent claims?

What did they do when Candidate Clinton told Matt Lauer that she behaved exactly as she should have with respect to her emails? Also this:

To what extent did they tie Comey's remarkable conduct, which they surely must have challenged, to the Comeys who came before him?

Duh! James B. Comey was hardly the first high-ranking Republican to intrude on a modern White House campaign. Before Comey, we had Louis Freeh and Robert Conrad, conducting their high-minded probe of Candidate Gore back in Campaign 2000.

Before Freeh and Conrad, we had the move from Robert Fiske to the high-minded Judge Starr of the Baylor football program. This led to all those high-minded probes of Bill and Hillary Clinton.

When we got Comeyed this summer and fall, we utterly brilliant, super-smart liberals were in fact getting Comeyed again! How dogged were our multimillionaire corporate stars at handling this decades-old theme?

We'll focus on "our own Cantinflas" as we review this topic. How did we get to be teabagged losers? In part, by tolerating Hannityesque, orange-shoed TV star gong-shows like hers!

(We were "fastened to a dying animal," exactly as Yeats said!)

These new reports will begin on Monday. For today, let's finish our current series, skillfully adding an epilogue to Paul Krugman's new column.

In his new column, Krugman predicts the future. Quite reasonably, he predicts that roughly five million white working-class Trump supporters will lose their Obamacare-based health insurance under President Trump.

He further predicts that Trump won't be able to "bring back the manufacturing jobs that have been lost over the past few decades. Those jobs were lost mainly to technological change, not imports, and they aren’t coming back."

Beyond that, "there will be nothing to offset the harm workers suffer when Republicans rip up the safety net," Krugman sensibly says.

As journalists proved all year, predicting the future is hard. That said, Krugman's predictions are perfectly reasonable.

So is the further prediction shown below. In this passage, Krugman predicts what will happen when Trump's various campaign promises start to collapse:
KRUGMAN (12/2/16): Will there be a political backlash, a surge of buyer’s remorse? Maybe. Certainly Democrats will be well advised to hammer Mr. Trump’s betrayal of the working class nonstop. But we do need to consider the tactics that he will use to obscure the scope of his betrayal [of the white working class].

[...]

[I]f and when the reality that workers are losing ground starts to sink in, I worry that the Trumpists will do what authoritarian governments often do to change the subject away from poor performance: go find an enemy.

Remember what I said about Trump Twitter. Even as he took a big step toward taking health insurance away from millions, Mr. Trump started ranting about taking citizenship away from flag-burners. This was not a coincidence.
This was not a coincidence? We don't know how Krugman knows that.

That said, will Trump "go find an enemy" if his promises start to collapse? It's entirely possible, but his designated enemy won't have to be flag-burners.

The enemy could simply be Us. Here's what will maybe happen:

Trump will say that Obamacare had to be repealed because it was imploding. In response to that, we'll say two things:

We'll say his claims about health care are wrong. We'll also say that his supporters only believe his claims because they're such racists and bigots.

We simply love that second play. Increasingly, it seems to be the only play we know; we rarely leave home without it. But because we'll make that second statement, his supporters won't even consider listening to us when we make the first.

We've been losing this way for a very long time. This pattern is deeply engrained in our broken political culture.

We "liberals" seem to love losing this way. We seem to love our sweeping claims more than any possible wins, more than life itself.

We can't seem to see this about ourselves. But until we decide to improve our game, it will remain who We are.

New York Daily News on our own Cantinflas: A self-described fan salutes a major star.

What, the New York Times report?

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2016

Try not to think of the popular vote:
The Post and the Times has been working quite hard to avoid the popular vote.

We had to laugh at today's hard-copy New York Times. At the very bottom of page A23, it offered this tiny report, attributed to Jonathan Weisman:
With 3 More States in the Books, Clinton's Lead Grows Even More

With Alabama and New Mexico certifying their votes, an update is in order.

Hillary Clinton’s popular vote lead over Mr. Trump climbed overnight to 2,370,700—or 1.8 percentage points. Eleven states and the District of Columbia now record a higher percentage of votes for Mrs. Clinton than President Obama received in 2012.
That was it! If you blinked, sneezed, shuddered or yawned, you were certain to miss it.

Several analysts laughed. An update is in order from what? one of the unpaid youngsters exclaimed.

"Clinton's lead grows even more" as compared to what?

We decide our elections through the electoral college, a small 18th century school which lacks a campus and a football team. That said, the state of the popular vote constitutes actual news, especially in the context of fake reports about illegal voting and ludicrous televised claims alleging "landslides" and "mandates."

Perhaps the Times and the Post will work this through at some later date. As of now, the papers seem to be working hard to avoid this topic.

Nothing to look at here! Subscribers, please move along!

Your update: According to the Cook Report site, Clinton's margin over Trump now stands at 2.53 million votes.

Subscribers, please! Move along!

Do we actually like other people?

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2016

Or do we live to loathe:
For starters, let's talk about Alysin Camerota.

In 2014, CNN hired Camerota away from Fox News. It was a superlative hire.

For years, we'd seen her on Fox & Friends. In general, she was cast as the sane, intelligent caretaker woman seated between the two chimpish, inane younger men.

After sixteen years, she escaped to CNN, where she now co-anchors the morning show with Chris Cuomo. We're often struck by how good her work is there. (Cuomo plainly exceeds cable news averages too.)

Today, you can see Camerota interviewing a small group of Trump voters. Kevin Drum posted part of the tape, without comment, thereby throwing a bone to his liberal herd.

The herdsters have responded gratefully with hundreds of comments, aggressively kicking down instead of kicking up.

Here's the start of the most striking interaction between Camerota and the Trump voters. It involves a claim of widespread illegal voting:
JOHNSON (12/1/16): Voting is a privilege in this country. And you need to be legal, not like California, where 3 million illegals voted.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about that.

JOHNSON: I'm glad I brought that up, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Me, too, Paula. So where are you getting your information?

JOHNSON: From the media. Where else would we get it?

CAMEROTA: Which media?

JOHNSON: Some of it was CNN, I believe, and—

CAMEROTA: CNN said that 3 million illegal people voted in California?

JOHNSON: Well, it was coming all across the media. All across. If CNN didn't do it, then they were being smart this time.
Already, this doesn't seem to make sense. First, Trump voter Paula Johnson says that three million people voted illegally in California. Within moments, she says that CNN "was being smart this time" if they didn't make such a report.

Hint! We the people aren't a gang of geniuses. Regular people will often say things, and reach judgments, which don't make a lot of sense. This is especially true where partisan desires are involved.

BREAKING! This sort of thing doesn't just happen among Them! The liberal web is crawling with the stupid shit we liberals churn every day. Our dumbness tends to take different forms, but We are often transplendently dumb, just like The Others are.

Let's return to the transcript. Here's what happened when Camerota questioned Johnson further:
CAMEROTA (continuing directly): Do you think that 3 million illegal people voted?

JOHNSON: I believe in California that there were illegals that voted.

CAMEROTA: How many?

JOHNSON: I don't—to tell you the truth, nobody really knows that number.

CAMEROTA: But do you think three dozen, or do you think 3 million?

JOHNSON: I think there was a good amount because the president told people that they could vote and it happened in Nashua we caught some people—

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

JOHNSON: That they went into Nashua and they said, "The president said I could vote. I'm here illegally."

CAMEROTA: Did you hear President Obama say that illegal people could vote?

JOHNSON: Yes, I did.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I did.

JOHNSON: I actually did hear it.

CAMEROTA: On what— Tell me where.

DIBARTOLO: On— You can find it. Google it. You can find it on Facebook.
Johnson ends up saying that she thinks "a good amount" of illegal voting happened in California. She and others say this happened because Obama said it was OK.

If you watch the rest of the tape, you will see Camerota track this claim to what she describes as a doctored report on Fox Business News. That report tracked to an interview Obama did with actress Gina Rodriquez. You can watch the interview here.

In fairness, Rodriguez asked Obama a jumbled, confusing question—a question Obama failed to clarify. Watching the tape, it almost sounds like Rodriquez is asking if undocumented people can vote.

Because Obama doesn't clean up the confusion lodged in her question, it almost sounds like he is saying that such people can vote.

So it goes when Democrats ask movie stars and comedians to help out at election time. You can watch the jumbled Q-and-A at the 3:20 mark of that tape.

Over the past thirty years, the rise of partisan propaganda orgs has taught us a powerful lesson. We've learned that people will believe all kinds of improbable claims, especially where the improbable claims helps advance partisan scripts.

Over here in our liberal tents, we pretend that this only happens with conservatives. In posting the tape without any comment, Drum gave his droogs a chance for hours of pleasure kicking down at Them.

In fact, our liberal comment threads teem with all manner of bullshit. Folk like Drum don't have the courage or the integrity to tell their readers this.

We liberals often enjoy kicking down at the regular people who get conned by disinformation. We're less inclined to kick up at the people who deliberately deceive them, or at other powerful entities which enable the endless deception.

For years, we've said the following: When major figures deceive the public, that in itself is news. Back in 2011, it was news when Donald J. Trump paraded around peddling all that birther bullshit. The New York Times and the Washington Post should have been aggressively reporting his conduct as news.

Right to this day, those big newspapers have run away from this problem, which started long before Trump. Sadly, people like Drum would jump off the Golden Gate Bridge before they'd challenge such gutless conduct on the part of the Post and the Times—before they'd insist that the New York Times report the deliberate spread of disinformation as front-page news.

Today, Drum gave the herd a day of free play. Our unimpressive, loathing-fueled "liberal" team is part of this nightmare too.

What Yevtushenko said: As it turns out, we the people are extremely gullible. That's why we have an FDA, in case you didn't realize.

(When music men would come around, we people would buy their trombones.)

People believe the darnedest things! This seems to be the nature of people—"whom we knew as faulty, the earth's creatures," as Yevtushenko said.

Our liberal herd can be very dumb too. At some point, you have to make a decision:

Do I actually like other people? Or do I live to loathe?

LOSERS: Krugman gets it right three times!

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2016

Part 4—Getting it right from the start:
How did we liberals manage to turn ourselves into the world's biggest losers?

Paul Krugman's remarkable column helps answer that question. We refer to last Friday's column, in which Krugman said, two separate times, that white working-class voters "imagine" that they're looked down upon by us liberals.

We regard that as one of the strangest statements we've ever seen in print. It also helps us spot the traits which make us such massive losers.

Do white working-class voters "imagine" our condescension, our sneering disregard? Liberals, please! For an example of what such people actually see, consider a new post by Kevin Drum, our long-time favorite blogger.

Also, consider some instant comments to Drum's brand-new post.

Late last night, Drum offered a post about the new Timss scores. He ended his post with this:
DRUM (11/30/16): One other note. If you really want a takeaway from the latest TIMSS test, it's the same as the takeaway from every other test ever administered to America schoolkids: we do a terrible job of educating black children. The single biggest thing we could do to improve education in this country is to cut out the half measures and focus serious money and resources on poor, black school districts. But I guess the white working class wouldn't be very happy about that.
As we write, Drum's midnight post has produced few comments. Truth to tell, we liberals aren't drawn to topics like this.

That said, several commenters noted the gratuitous snark lodged in the highlighted comment. "I have a lot of respect for Kevin Drum, but this is a cheap shot at the white working class," the fourth commenter wrote.

That commenter seemed to be a liberal. A few comments later, an apparent conservative imagined that he had detected an attitude on Drum's part:

"If you can't get a cheap virtue signal in by back-handing workin whitey every now then, then what's the point of having your own blog. am I right Kev? Well done."

According to Krugman, that person was just imagining that! Other commenters offered jibes about the stupidity of the white working class.

Our liberal world now runs on snark; we hate it when the practice spreads even to Drum. That said, we weren't just struck by Drum's gratuitous remark about the evil of the white working class, full stop.

Yes, we were struck by Drum's comment. But we were also struck by the astounding array of clueless assessments contained in the handful of comments to his post about the Timss.

Tell the truth—does anyone on the planet know less than we self-impressed liberals? Is anyone more deeply sunk in pleasing tribal script?

Drum's comments were a thing to behold. Within the first two dozen, we encountered a rich array of bungled assessments, including these:

Inevitably, two commenters praised the greatness of Finland. They didn't seem to know that American kids matched their counterparts in miraculous Finland in these new Timss results.

(Devotion to the Finland script is found across the ideological spectrum. It represents a remarkably successful propaganda campaign.)

One commenter insisted that poor black kids score just as well on achievement tests as poor white kids do. That claim is pleasing to us liberals, but it comes from Fantasyland.

(On our one reliable domestic test, the Naep, lower-income white kids tend to outscore higher-income black kids. This depressing fact can be explained in various ways, of course. If we gave a hoot about black kids—as a group, we plainly don't—we'd be aware of such facts.)

One commenter seemed startled when another commenter said that some school districts which are heavily black "have spent heavily on a per student basis."

The first commenter's statement was plainly accurate, of course. The second commenter seemed fairly sure that this couldn't be true. We liberals tend to be like that, just as conservatives are.

As we type, Drum's post has produced 33 comments, some of which have nothing to do with the subject Drum discussed. Those comments are marked by the high degree of cluelessness displayed by a fair number of commenters—and by simultaneous comments assailing the dumbness of the white working class!

Alas! On balance, the cluelessness of this small group of commenters is matched by their arrogance and condescension. It you want to know how we liberals managed to become such losers, this small selection of self-impressed comments might start to provide a small hint.

Krugman seems to think that white working class voters are "imagining" condescension on the part of us liberals. You'll rarely see a person who is so smart—a person whose work is so invaluable—make such a ridiculous statement.

Krugman, please! Our own tribe's sneering condescension has been an obvious fact of life for a very long time. So has the dumbness we routinely display as we assail The Others, decrying how stupid they are.

(We'll offer one comment: Sad!)

Liberals, can we talk? We're stupid and ugly and nobody likes us! This has been true for a very long time, but we ourselves grasp this fact very slowly. This remarkable lack of self-awareness helps explain how we became the biggest losers.

Krugman has been the most important journalist of the past sixteen years. We assume this will continue. When a person as smart as Krugman is so clueless about some point, it helps us see how blind we can be to our team's shortcomings.

Our tribe's sloth and cluelessness extend back many years. In the next few weeks, we'll be discussing the ways this slacker behavior has played out over those decades, helping send Donald J. Trump to the White House next year.

We plan to focus on several areas in which our world-class cluelessness helped doom our chances:

Next week, we plan to examine the way we failed to respond when James B. Comey—Comey the God—intruded on the presidential campaign on July 5, then again two days later.

James B. Comey, and the emails, will be our focus next week. In other weeks, we'll focus on the various ways Candidate Clinton got "defined" as corrupt and dishonest in the past few years. We'll recall the various ways Candidate Trump got a pass on those same themes, with a giant assist from corporate stars like our own Cantinflas, Rachel Maddow.

Alas! We'll also venture back through the years, examining the ways our ineptitude and sloth got started. This brings us back to the recent columns in which Krugman, as is his wont, got it very much right.

The defining of Candidate Clinton didn't start this July. It didn't start this year, or in this election cycle.

On the national level, the defining of Candidate Clinton started in 1992. Relentlessly, we liberals have agreed to enable this process, or even to help it along.

On three occasions since Labor Day, Krugman made a belated attempt to note this remarkable history. His attempts came much too late, of course. But we'll note them today all the same, for a particular reason.

On three occasions since Labor Day, Krugman tied the press corps' conduct toward Candidate Clinton to its earlier conduct toward a previous Democratic nominee. Even though his comments were fleeting, he was right every time.

Below, you see his first statement of this theme. Accurate headline included:
KRUGMAN (9/5/16): Clinton Gets Gored

Americans of a certain age who follow politics and policy closely still have vivid memories of the 2000 election
—bad memories, and not just because the man who lost the popular vote somehow ended up in office. For the campaign leading up to that end game was nightmarish too.

You see, one candidate, George W. Bush, was dishonest in a way that was unprecedented in U.S. politics. Most notably, he proposed big tax cuts for the rich while insisting, in raw denial of arithmetic, that they were targeted for the middle class. These campaign lies presaged what would happen during his administration—an administration that, let us not forget, took America to war on false pretenses.

Yet throughout the campaign most media coverage gave the impression that Mr. Bush was a bluff, straightforward guy, while portraying Al Gore—whose policy proposals added up, and whose critiques of the Bush plan were completely accurate—as slippery and dishonest. Mr. Gore's mendacity was supposedly demonstrated by trivial anecdotes, none significant, some of them simply false. No, he never claimed to have invented the internet. But the image stuck.

And right now I and many others have the sick, sinking feeling that it's happening again.
Guess what, dumb-asses? It was happening again! In the end, it produced the same result.

We're revisiting this for a reason. Pardon us while we quickly record Krugman's other statements:
KRUGMAN (9/30/16): [A]s recently as August Mrs. Clinton held a commanding lead. Then her polls went into a swoon.
What happened? Did she make some huge campaign blunders?

I don't think so. As I've written before, she got Gored. That is, like Al Gore in 2000, she ran into a buzz saw of adversarial reporting from the mainstream media, which treated relatively minor missteps as major scandals, and invented additional scandals out of thin air.

Meanwhile, her opponent's genuine scandals and various grotesqueries were downplayed or whitewashed; but as Jonathan Chait of New York magazine says, the normalization of Donald Trump was probably less important than the abnormalization of Hillary Clinton.

KRUGMAN (10/21/16): Hillary Clinton is a terrible candidate. Hey, that's what pundits have been saying ever since this endless campaign began. You have to go back to Al Gore in 2000 to find a politician who faced as much jeering from the news media, over everything from claims of dishonesty (which usually turn out to be based on nothing) to matters of personal style.
We agree with Krugman's assessment on September 30. ("The normalization of Trump was probably less important than the abnormalization of Clinton.")

On October 21, though, he offered this assessment: "Mrs. Clinton won the Democratic nomination fairly easily, and now, having pummeled her opponent in three successive debates, is an overwhelming favorite to win in November, probably by a wide margin."

As you may have heard, that didn't exactly work out.

We've requoted Krugman for a reason. When he recalled the mainstream press corps' earlier war against Candidate Gore, he was taking the longer view of what happened this month. When we discuss Comey the God next week—inevitably, Rachel ignored what he did!—we'll be taking a shorter view of the process.

That said, Krugman was discussing a very important fact. The "abnormalization" of Candidate Clinton was accomplished through the repeated pimping of certain themes over the course of twenty-five years. In part, this "defining" of Clinton was fueled by Comey this year. In part, it was fueled by the earlier media wars which were aimed at her husband, then at Candidate Gore.

All across the liberal landscape, career liberals took a pass on that longer, destructive series of wars. Quite correctly, Krugman tried to evoke the war against Gore in three citations this fall. By way of contrast, we began discussing that war in March 1999. We began discussing that war the week that war began!

We were right about that war in real time, about the war which continued this year. We mention that to suggest that you listen to what we'll be telling you now. To suggest that you listen to someone who was right about this from the start.

We have no illusions, of course. Our tribe has made one point quite clear—we treasure and prize our right to be clueless. We treasure our tribal hauteur.

Our identity very much turns on the way we look down on The Others. When this sense of superiority is mixed with our trademark dumbness, it tends to produce a highly poisonous brew.

Trump voters don't have to "imagine" these things. Everyone can see these phenomena. Everyone but Us, that is. We're the world's most self-impressed losers.

Candidate Clinton's lead keeps growing!

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 2016

Big star can't figure it out:
Let's make this a day of data!

According to the Cook Report site, Candidate Clinton's lead in the popular vote has continued to grow:
Popular vote, 2016 election
Candidate Clinton:
64.9 million votes (48.2 percent)
Candidate Trump: 62.5 million votes (46.4 percent)
Oof! Candidate Clinton now leads Trump by almost two full points.

If Clinton got so many more votes, how in the world did the other guy win? Incredibly, the "wasted votes" in California now exceed four million:
Popular vote, California, 2016 election
Candidate Clinton:
8.34 million votes (62.1 percent)
Candidate Trump: 4.31 million votes (32.1 percent)
The "sorting" of the population has produced a giant cache of excess votes in the Golden State. As we noted last week, Obama only won the state by margins of roughly three million!

For reasons which strike us as blatantly obvious, we think the public should be told about these results. They undermines the impression that Candidate Trump won a walloping "mandate," even some sort of "landslide."

The Trumpist-elect doesn't seem to want people to think he lost the popular vote. One big cable star was utterly baffled by this fact Monday night:
UNNAMED CABLE STAR (11/28/16): Just in terms of what is going on right now, right, the president-elect is behind now in the popular vote by about 2.2 million votes.

That would be the largest losing margin in the popular vote by any incoming president in 140 years and that may be trivia to civics dorks at some level but that fact appears to be driving the president-elect a little bit nuts, to the point where he's now insisting that actually he won the popular vote. He says he won the popular vote, quote, "if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally."

The millions of people who voted illegally? A, There's no evidence that that is true. B, Why would you say that if you're the person who won the election? Are you questioning the validity of the election that you just won?

I mean, who knows?
One day earlier he was enraged about the recount effort in Wisconsin, saying the results of the election should be respected instead of being challenged. That was Saturday. By Sunday, the whole election was a scam and it was millions of fraudulent votes.
This unnamed star just couldn't imagine why Trump would want to do that! Soon she returned to her mugging and clowning and the whole world seemed OK.

Concerning our hapless American kids!

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 2016

They outscore miraculous Finland:
Last year, students from the developed nations took part in both of the world's major international testing programs.

We refer to The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (Timss), which is administered on a four-year cycle, and to The Program for International Student Assessment (Pisa), which is administered every three years.

Results from the 2015 Pirls are now available. Yesterday, the Washington Post offered this striking report about the new scores in its hard-copy editions. The New York Times has posted this AP report on-line, but has so far ignored these new results in its hard-copy editions.

We'll review the news reports at the end of the week. For today, we'll post some of the new results and link to the rest of the data.

The Timss tests students in Grade 4 and Grade 8 in both science and math. A larger number of nations take part at the Grade 4 level, so we'll show you those results. (We'll post links to Grade 8 scores below.)

Below, you see selected average scores in Grade 4 math. We're including the three Asian tigers and other large nations. We're also including miraculous Finland, star of our upper-end press.

We've "disaggregated" American scores to help bring our challenges into focus. You'll note that, in the aggregate, American kids (slightly) outperformed their peers from miraculous Finland:
Average scores, Grade 4 math, 2015 Timss
South Korea: 608
United States, Asian-American students: 605
Taiwan: 597
Japan: 593
Russia: 564
United States, white students: 559
England: 546
United States: 539
Finland: 535
Poland: 535
Germany: 522
Australia: 517
United States, Hispanic students: 515
Canada: 511
Italy: 507
Spain: 505
United States, black students: 495
France: 488
It's hard to reconcile those scores with the press corps' standard gloom-and-doom about our ratty American schools with their fiendish teachers unions and their hapless students.

Those scores don't seem to support those scripts. That said, American performance may have been somewhat better in Grade 4 science:
Average scores, Grade 4 science, 2015 Timss
United States, Asian-American students: 598
South Korea: 589
United States, white students: 570
Japan: 569
Russia: 567
Taiwan: 555
Finland: 554
Poland: 547
United States: 546
England: 536
Germany: 528
Canada: 525
Australia: 524
United States, Hispanic students: 518
Spain: 518
Italy: 516
United States, black students: 501
France: 487
Uh-oh! In Grade 4 science, Asian-American kids outscored the rest of the world! White kids outscored two of the three Asian tigers, trailing South Korea.

These test scores are hard to reconcile with preferred elite narratives—narratives which have been drummed into everyone's heads down through the many long years.

That said, those narratives form one part of the scripted "fake news" our big newspapers support and adore. Our newspapers love their own fake news. They just hate it from everyone else!

At the end of the week, we'll examine the way these test results have been reported in the American press. Of one thing you can be fairly certain; we liberals won't hear a word about this on our own "cable news" channel.

The stars of our own cable shows prefer to offer entertainment and suitable tribal porridge. Lawrence discusses the needs of children in Malawi, as he very much should. Our own students and teachers go undiscussed. They simply don't matter to our stars, with their well-schooled corporate minds.

Those test scores show the achievement gaps which lie at the heart of our public school challenge. As far as MSNBC is concerned, the kids on the short end of those gaps can just go play in traffic. On our fiery liberal channel, those kids' interests don't count.

(Unless someone gets shot and killed by a policeman. At such times, we'll invent false facts about the shooting. It's our way of showing we care.)

Why won't we hear about these scores, or about those gaps, on our cable channel? The suits don't think that Those Children produce good ratings. Given the very large sums at stake, our big stars do as they're told.

Lawrence discusses Malawi each year. This makes us liberals feel good.

For full data at both grade levels: Relative American performance is roughly the same at the Grade 8 level. It's just that more nations participate at the Grade 4 level.

(The Pisa tests 15-year-old students. For students in this general age range, some nations settle for that.)

For other Grade 4 scores and for Grade 8 scores, you should start by clicking here.

At that point, you're on your own. Everything we've posted is there.

LOSERS: How we liberals became such losers!

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 2016

Part 3—Maddow and Krugman explain:
How did we liberals get to be such manifest, world-class losers?

We just lost a White House race to the craziest person who ever sought the office. This outcome will change history for generations. What forces conspired to make us such consummate losers?

You're asking a very good question! For today, let's consider the work of two influential journalists. We refer to Rachel Maddow, a consummate corporate "cable news" clown, and to Paul Krugman, the most important American journalist of the past sixteen years.

Let's start with our own Cantinflas. More specifically, let's consider the dumbness-delivering way she started last evening's program.

Good God! Our own Rhodes Scholar started her program with her favorite topic, the sex tape from Alabam'.

She took the throw from the great Chris Hayes. Within minutes, liberal brain cells were dying all over the land:
MADDOW (11/28/16): Thank you, friend. And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

Of all the attractive and in some cases alluring governors that we have in these 50 fine states in our country—and honestly, they're an unusually handsome bunch of governors that we have in this country. Of all the governors that we've got in this country, you would not necessarily expect that the one governor of all the 50, the one governor who would be living through an ongoing, raging sex scandal right now, complete with sex tapes, you wouldn't expect that the one with the sex scandal would be this handsome devil.

But he is the governor of Alabama. And his ongoing lurid sex scandal continues to be one of the weirder sidebar stories in American politics right now. It's fairly lurid stuff.

His amorous discussions with one of his top advisers were published, were broadcast by the Birmingham News website earlier this week [sic]. They're all about what he'd like to do with her and how he hoped his secretary couldn't hear too much from outside the governor`s office door when they were in there doing. Yech.

You might remember the tapes. I don't really feel like playing them any more. But last night, we reported on a new wrinkle in this story, a new unlawful dismissal lawsuit that was filed against the governor and against his alleged mistress. This is a lawsuit that the governor is dismissing as street gossip and Internet rumors. But this new lawsuit from his former body man, his former chief of security, says that his former chief of security was basically fired from the governor's administration in Alabama because basically he wouldn't go along with the governor`s effort to cover up this affair and to cover up the illegal use of state resources that were being employed to perpetuate the affair.

The lawsuit alleges that one of the ways this alleged affair came to light is that the governor's staff had the bright idea that they should have Governor Bentley start using an iPad for some of his work. And the governor, according to the lawsuit, he didn't understand that his new iPad would be linked to his iPhone. And so, darn that Cloud, his sexy messaging with his alleged mistress ended up popping up in plain view on the iPad, which apparently other people had access to besides just the governor. He thought it was private and just on his phone, but it was not private.

Now, the governor's marriage is over. We know from his own words on the sex tape exactly what he likes to do with his hands even when he's in his office. The governor's facing possible impeachment in Alabama. He's facing a state investigation by the attorney general even as that same attorney general is trying to get the governor to appoint him to the U.S. Senate seat that's about to be vacated by Senator Jeff Sessions when Jeff Sessions goes to Washington to join Donald Trump's cabinet. Yuck.

So it's just this lurid story that continues to spin out in Alabama. It now has national implications because of its links to the Trump administration. And one of the truly strange lingering storylines in that whole sordid, ongoing story in Alabama is the question of how exactly the alleged mistress got into the governor's office in first place. Because by all accounts, she was the top adviser to the governor, traveled with him everywhere, was at all of his events. Multiple legal complaints that have arisen around this affair have described her as the de facto governor, described her as the person who was actually making decisions in Governor Bentley's office while Bentley was allowing her to run the place behind the scenes.

And all along through this story, there's been this interesting question of where exactly she came from. Who was paying her salary? Because it's undisputed that she was working with the governor's office every day, undisputed that she was his closest staff member, at all of his events, involved in all his high ranking decisions, but she was never a government employee.

It's really weird fact in this lurid story. The taxpayers of Alabama were not paying her salary. And whether or not she was shtupping the governor, that's kind of weird, right? To have somebody working in the governor's office every day who was not a government employee?

Well, the group that apparently was paying her is called the Alabama Council for Excellent Government. ACEGov.com was their website. But when the alleged relationship between the governor and this mysterious aide became a national sex scandal, they disappeared their website. This is their website today. It's just nothing. It's just a little placeholder, in case you might want to build something at ACEGov.com because there's nothing there now.

So in the middle of this raging story with national implications, there's this black hole, there's this group that was apparently paying this woman who was in the governor's office every day, this group does not answer its phones, they don't have a physical presence anywhere. You can knock on the door. They don't respond to requests for comment. If they were paying her that money, we have no idea where that money comes from, or what the group was trying to do.

We have no idea what gave them the right to pay somebody to be in the governor's office working full time alongside the governor, let alone allegedly shtupping him. We just have no idea, except for one thing—we do have one piece of information. We do have one thread to pull.

Because we can see, thanks to a bunch of do-gooder, modern-day librarians a thousand miles away, we can see today how this mysterious group that tried to disappear itself once the scandal broke, we can see how they used to represent themselves to the world before they suddenly went dark. We can see how they used to present themselves when they use to have a public face before this sex scandal happened and they decided that they better go away.

And we can see that because this is an old version of their website from before they took it down and tried to disappear it from memory. And these screen shots of their old website were taken by the Wayback Machine. By the Internet Archive, which is a nonprofit based in San Francisco that's been around since 1996. The Wayback Machine.

It is a national treasure. It's an international treasure. We've used it hundreds, probably thousands of times in the preparation of this show...
Maddow burned her first six minutes with this lurid, raging story about the sordid sex scandal. The sordid story involves the alleged mistress who may have been shtupping the governor, who wasn't handsome but liked to do things with his hands.

Brain cells were dying all over the country as Maddow killed time with the lurid tale she can't seem to stop discussing.

We'll advise you to ignore every substantive point she stated or suggested until you can confirm it. We'll especially note that this pretty much isn't a "national story...with national implications," except inside the very strange head of the person a bunch of corporate suits picked to serve as one of our liberal intellectual leaders.

Just so you'll know, this was the third time in the past two weeks that Maddow has discussed this sordid story. On Monday night, she started her report on the sordid topic by correcting a ridiculous error she made on November 18, when she offered the first in her latest series of pointless reports on this shtupping-inflected affair.

(On those first two occasions, Yuck! We were treated to excerpts from the lurid sex tapes all over again! BREAKING: He would put his hands on his girl friend's breasts! And he isn't even handsome!)

Liberal brain cells screamed in pain as Maddow burned time in this manner, as she endlessly did earlier in the year. Just in passing, might we offer some possible context?

In the past year, Maddow has begun to discuss her Catholic upbringing in an open way. We'll suggest this may provide some context for understanding her weirdly obsessive puritanism and her desire to see people get punished, especially people of whom she doesn't approve, if possible with their children dragged in.

That said, Maddow has been playing her "sex tape" throughout the year, seeking ways to justify her own obsessive behavior. Liberal brain cells wither and die every time she does this.

Maddow was picked by the corporate suits to serve as a star liberal journalist. Years ago, it was reported that she was being paid $7 million per year. When "journalists" are paid such huge sums, it rarely turns out well.

In the next few weeks, we'll explore the topics Maddow has ducked in the past few years as she kept scratching her various itches with her various gong-show distractions. How did we liberals become such losers? In our view, Maddow's first six minutes last night provide one tiny clue.

It's very hard for liberals to see this, but Maddow has turned out to be a corporate-selected disaster. By way of contrast, Paul Krugman has been the most important American journalist over the past sixteen years.

For unknown reasons, Krugman has missed the lurid sex scandal which Maddow can't stop discussing. Last Friday morning, he opened his New York Times column with the question every liberal, progressive and Democrat should be pondering:
KRUGMAN (11/25/16): Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by more than two million, and she would probably be president-elect if the director of the F.B.I. hadn't laid such a heavy thumb on the scales, just days before the election. But it shouldn't even have been close; what put Donald Trump in striking distance was overwhelming support from whites without college degrees. So what can Democrats do to win back at least some of those voters?
Did Comey the God defeat Hillary Clinton? There's a very good chance he did! But how weird! As we'll note next week, Maddow never so much as mentioned Comey's name all through the summer months and very deep into the fall. (Comey's intrusion on the election started on July 5.)

As we'll discuss in some detail, our own corporate creation is highly skilled at playing it very safe. We'll turn to this general topic with a focus on Comey next week.

In that opening paragraph, Krugman was asking a very good question. As we've noted, he has been the most important journalist in the nation over the past sixteen years.

That said, Krugman's vast strength lies in policy matters. To be perfectly honest, he has no comparable political insight. There's no reason why he should.

That said, we noticed his lack of political chops all through last Friday's column. How can Democrats win white working-class voters back? How can they do so in coal country—in struggling places like Clay County, Kentucky?

That was the subject of Krugman's column. The subject is very important, but yikes! The column ended like this:
KRUGMAN: Maybe a Trump administration can keep its supporters on board, not by improving their lives, but by feeding their sense of resentment.

For let's be serious here: You can't explain the votes of places like Clay County as a response to disagreements about trade policy. The only way to make sense of what happened is to see the vote as an expression of, well, identity politics—some combination of white resentment at what voters see as favoritism toward nonwhites (even though it isn't) and anger on the part of the less educated at liberal elites whom they imagine look down on them.

To be honest, I don't fully understand this resentment. In particular, I don't know why imagined liberal disdain inspires so much more anger than the very real disdain of conservatives who see the poverty of places like eastern Kentucky as a sign of the personal and moral inadequacy of their residents.

One thing is clear, however: Democrats have to figure out why the white working class just voted overwhelmingly against its own economic interests, not pretend that a bit more populism would solve the problem.
Truly, that's astonishing. White working-class voters imagine that they're looked down on by liberal elites?

Krugman says that two different times. It's one of the most striking political statements we've seen in a long time.

To his credit, Krugman acknowledges the fact that he doesn't understand this white working-class resentment. From Maddow, we liberals get a better deal—she'll never pay the slightest attention to any such voters, to their perceptions or interests.

Instead, she will continue scratching her itch by discussing "that whole sordid, ongoing story in Alabama." This may not be the greatest way to go after those wandering voters.

In our view, we liberals must face a basic fact—this month's appalling defeat says something quite large about us. We managed to lose to the craziest candidate who ever went after the White House.

We're skilled at blaming this outcome on Them, perhaps on the puzzling things they imagine.

We're skilled at blaming this outcome on Them. We're sorry, though. At some point, it has to come down on Us.

Tomorrow: Krugman gets it right