Joel Klein’s latest pitch, featuring Charlie Rose!


This time, he’s peddling MOOCs: We always let the analysts shower after they watch Joel Klein.

The former head of New York City’s schools now works for Rupert Murdoch. Last week, he appeared with Charlie Rose, selling on-line education.

We’re not opposed to on-line education—to on-line college classes, for instance. We are opposed to people who make grandiose claims like this:
KLEIN (4/25/13): I mean, you can get the greatest, take the ten best professors in the world— You know, take what Michael Sandel does on justice. If you have sat in on his class, it is a life-changing experience. Every kid in the world can now have access to Michael Sandel teaching justice. It is so powerful.
We always let the analysts check their pockets after Klein stops his pitch.

Is Michael Sandel’s course on justice really a life-changing experience? Is it really “so powerful?”

We will guess that Sandel’s course is not a life-changing experience. As a check, we looked through parts of his book of the same name, Justice, after hearing what Klein said.

We'll be candid. The book didn’t seem life-changing to us; very few books really are. If we’re allowed to be truthful here, its first chapter seemed rather pedestrian.

(We checked it out on-line!)

Having said that, let us ask a serious question about on-line college courses. Let’s say you let people around the world watch Sandel deliver his lectures on justice. Let’s say there were ten lectures in the MOOC—in the on-line course.

How is that different from letting those people read the ten chapters in his book? Why would watching his lectures be more life-changing than simply reading his book, which people can already do?

Presumably, some people are dynamic lecturers. Presumably, there are forms of feedback in on-line courses which don’t exist if you just read a book. But seriously: People have always been able to read the books of famous scholars. Why are we suddenly in a new realm if we can watch lectures instead?

(We used to ask ourselves such questions during our first year in college. We would sit in a room with 500 freshmen, all of whom were scribbling notes as Name Withheld lectured on a distant stage. Why don’t they just type up the lecture and hand it out, we would incomparably wonder. Why are we all sitting here?)

We’re not saying they shouldn’t put these lectures on-line. When it comes to Chancellor Klein’s latest pitch, we’re pretty much just saying!

Adding insult to injury: Thomas L. Friedman was also part of Rose’s mind-blown pro-MOOC coven. As always, he was mega-enthused about the way the world was about to change:
FRIEDMAN: In a MOOCs world, they could rent a room in Asyut, you know, in Upper Egypt, put in 50 computer terminals, rent—we will pay for a high-speed satellite Internet up link, hire an English Arabic speaking teacher to be a coach and an aide to students, and invite anyone who wants to come to take the best courses at Penn or at MIT.

And suddenly, for pennies on the dollar, we would be able to leverage, give these young people what so many young people around the world who have been either in revolution in the Middle East or not in their countries really want—the potential, the ability to realize their full potential.

ROSE: Exactly right. You can unlock the future.

FRIEDMAN: Yes. It can unlock the future. So I am, for that reason, I am very excited about it.
We’re not saying that’s a bad idea. But when it comes to unlocking the future, in what way are those MOOC lectures massively better than books?

Extending our themes for the coming year!


Your chance to impoverish yourself: Last week, we cited two themes we would continue to pursue in the coming year. As our fourth non-annual fund-raising drive continues, we thought we would mention one or two more.

As we mentioned last week, we plan to continue examining the development of the new liberal news organs, such as MSNBC. After all those years of liberal silence, this continues to be the most interesting development in American political media.

We also plan to keep exploring basic themes involving the public schools. We liberals quit on this topic a long time ago. It wasn’t a good decision.

Last week, we said there would be two more areas of focus, one of which would be painful. By that, we meant painful for us. Here it is:

If we can force ourselves, we plan to work on Chapter 7 of our companion site, How He Got There. (The research has all been done.)

Why is that area painful for us? It’s painful to spend so many years developing so much information and see so many careful careerists refuse to discuss the information you have developed.

Go ahead—click here, start reading! Our companion site is full of highly detailed information about a very important part of modern American history. Chronologically, it follows on the work Gene Lyons did in Fools for Scandal: How the Media Invented Whitewater.

Lyons’ book was published by Harpers, then ignored by careful careerists who refuse to discuss what the establishment press corps did during the Clinton-Gore years. So too with our work at How He Got There. We’ll try to extend that work this year, although we no longer believe that the history of the Clinton-Gore years will ever be un-disappeared.

Whatever! This is your chance to impoverish yourself as you support these worthwhile endeavors! Refresh yourself at How He Got There; consider our work on the public schools.

Analysts need a new pair of shoes! If you want to contribute to this big ball of wax, you know what to do:

Just click here.

David Brooks, describing Paul Krugman!


One phrase gives the Brookster away: In this morning’s New York Times, David Brooks writes as interesting if limited column about two kinds of policy writers.

One type of writer is “engaged;” the other type is “detached.” As he started, Brooks offered a description of writers he calls “engaged:”
BROOKS (4/30/13): Engaged or Detached?

Let’s say you are a young person beginning to write about politics and policy. You probably have some idea of what you believe, but have you thought about how you believe it? That is to say, have you thought about where you will sit on the continuum that stretches from writers who are engaged to those who are detached?

Writers who are at the classic engaged position believe that social change is usually initiated by political parties. To have the most influence, the engaged writer wants to channel his efforts through a party.

The engaged writer closely and intimately aligns with a team. In his writing, he provides arguments for the party faithful and builds community by reminding everyone of the errors and villainy of the opposing side. For the engaged writer, the writing is often not about persuasion. (Realistically, how many times does a piece of writing persuade someone to switch sides?) It’s often about mobilization. It’s about energizing the people who already agree with you.
Later, Brooks describes the mind-set of the “detached” writer, the type of writer who doesn’t “closely align with a team.”

This is simplistic but interesting. It was only in the column’s fourth paragraph that we realized that David Brooks was describing himself and Paul Krugman.

As he continues, Brooks is still describing the “engaged” writer. One small phrase provided our clue—Brooks is describing Paul Krugman:
BROOKS (continuing directly): The engaged writer often criticizes his own party, but from a zone of trust inside it, and he is usually advising the party to return to its core creed. The engaged writer is willing to be repetitive because that’s how you make yourself an unavoidable pole in the debate. The goal is to have immediate political influence, to provide party leaders with advice, strategy and policy recommendations.
“The engaged writer is willing to be repetitive!” At that point, we realized who Brooks was describing.

Krugman is very repetitive. He writed the same column again and again, the one about the lunacy of austerity policies at a time such as this. Sometimes we find the repetition annoying, but we think we know why he does it.

Years ago, when the topic was still highly current, people used to complain about the way we would repeat ourselves concerning the press corps’ treatment of Candidate Gore. In our view, we had a pretty good answer to these repetitive complaints:

Why did we keep saying the same (highly accurate) things? Because we couldn’t get anyone else to say them! The same situation obtains today when we mention the large score gains achieved by black kids on the NAEP.

Why do we keep citing those test scores? Because it’s virtually impossible to get anyone else to do so!

We often think of this problem when we see Krugman repeat himself. Even from a very high platform like Krugman’s, it is virtually impossible to get modern journalists to repeat an accurate statement or engage a valid analysis.

Career players cling to the safety of their existing stations. They are unwilling to say a single word until sixteen higher-ranking people have already said it.

They won’t repeat an accurate fact; they won’t address a valid argument. What is most true about modern journalists?

Endlessly, they work from the safety of tired old scripts. You can’t get them to state an accurate fact! It simply can’t be done.

Krugman writes the same column again and again. We think we know why he does that.

As we rarely ask, WWKS: Kierkegaard wrote a whole book called Repetition! Frankly, we don’t recommend it.

THE PROFESSORIATE FAILS US AGAIN: No one checked Reinhart and Rogoff’s work!


Part 2—The tale of the graduate student: We can think of two obvious questions about the latest giant bungle by the nation’s high-ranking professors.

Here’s the first question, and others have asked it: How did Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff manage to bungle so badly?

People do make mistakes, of course, especially Harvard professors. But some of the errors by Reinhart and Rogoff do seem just a bit strange.

If you’re averaging data from twenty countries, how do you manage to leave out five countries? (Answer: You make an Excel coding error.) Once you’ve made your coding error, how do you fail to notice that your results don’t seem quite right?

We have learned to expect the worst from our highest-ranking authorities. Even so, some of the bungling in this case does seem somewhat strange.

That said, our second question is harder to answer—and we haven’t seen other folk ask it. This is our second question:

Why did three years go by before someone checked Reinhart and Rogoff’s work? And why was this important task left to three graduate students?

Here’s why that question is puzzling:

According to Paul Krugman and others (see below), many people were skeptical of Reinhart and Rogoff’s results from the first. And uh-oh! The study by the two professors turned out to be quite influential.

Powerful interests used their results to support austerity policies. According to Krugman, their study “instantly became famous; it was, and is, surely the most influential economic analysis of recent years.”

Under the circumstances, wouldn’t you think that somebody other than graduate students would have double-checked Reinhart and Rogoff’s results—results which didn’t quite seem to make sense? How did three long years go by before someone checked their work?

If you’re willing to wonder about that question, the BBC’s report on this matter is especially worthwhile. Writing for the BBC, Ruth Alexander interviewed Thomas Herndon, the University of Massachusetts graduate student who took the lead in double-checking Reinhart and Rogoff’s work.

This interview helps us see the way our society’s intellectual elites tend to function. Because alas! Herndon’s account of his adventure does seem sadly familiar.

Alas! Like a latter-day Joseph Campbell, Alexander seems to sketch the journey of the modern intellectual hero in her report on Herndon. As Herndon tells his story, Alexander records four stages on his journey:
His initial sense that something is wrong with some authority's findings: Herndon finds himself doubting Reinhart and Rogoff’s results.
His attempt to confirm that authority's findings: Herndon tries to replicate the professors’ findings but is unable to do it.
His assumption that his own lowly work must be wrong: Because Reinhart and Rogoff are famous professors, Herndon assumes that he, the graduate student, must be doing something wrong.
His eventual slaying of the dragon: Herndon asks the professors for their data, discovers that they have erred.
The most interesting part of Alexander’s report involves the third stage of this sadly familiar journey. Herndon describes a prevailing assumption—our highest-ranking intellectual elites simply can’t be wrong:
ALEXANDER (4/19/13): [W]hile US politicians were arguing over whether to inject more stimulus into the economy, the euro was creaking under the strain of forced austerity, and a new coalition government in the UK was promising to raise taxes and cut spending to get the economy under control, Thomas Herndon's homework assignment wasn't going well.

No matter how he tried, he just couldn't replicate Reinhart and Rogoff's results.

“My heart sank,” he says. "I thought I had likely made a gross error. Because I'm a student the odds were I'd made the mistake, not the well-known Harvard professors."

His professors were also sure he must be doing something wrong.

"I remember I had a meeting with my professor, Michael Ash, where he basically said, 'Come on, Tom, this isn't too hard—you just gotta go sort this out.’”
In this, the dark night of the grad student’s soul, everyone assumed that he, the lowly student, must be getting it wrong!

To his credit, Professor Ash finally urged young Herndon to ask Reinhart and Rogoff for their data. To their credit, Reinhart and Rogoff complied with this request.

When Herndon got the professors’ data, he spotted their mistakes. This brings us back to our puzzling question:

Why was it left to three graduate students to check the professors’ work? Since people had doubts about their study, why didn’t other professors ask to see their data?

Below, you see Krugman’s capsule account of these events. Why was the slaying of this dragon left to three graduate students?
KRUGMAN (4/19/13): [T]he truth is that Reinhart-Rogoff faced substantial criticism from the start, and the controversy grew over time. As soon as the paper was released, many economists pointed out that a negative correlation between debt and economic performance need not mean that high debt causes low growth. It could just as easily be the other way around, with poor economic performance leading to high debt. Indeed, that's obviously the case for Japan, which went deep into debt only after its growth collapsed in the early 1990s.

Over time, another problem emerged: Other researchers, using seemingly comparable data on debt and growth, couldn't replicate the Reinhart-Rogoff results. They typically found some correlation between high debt and slow growth—but nothing that looked like a tipping point at 90 percent or, indeed, any particular level of debt.

Finally, Ms. Reinhart and Mr. Rogoff allowed researchers at the University of Massachusetts to look at their original spreadsheet—and the mystery of the irreproducible results was solved. First, they omitted some data; second, they used unusual and highly questionable statistical procedures; and finally, yes, they made an Excel coding error. Correct these oddities and errors, and you get what other researchers have found: some correlation between high debt and slow growth, with no indication of which is causing which, but no sign at all of that 90 percent ''threshold.''
In Krugman’s account, the graduate students are described as “researchers at the University of Massachusetts.” This softens the blow as we ask once again:

Why didn’t other professors check Reinhart and Rogoff’s work?

There may be a good answer to that, but this pattern seems all too familiar. On the one hand, we think of the famous child who was able to spot his emperor’s lack of new clothes.

We also think of our own experience with a fraudulent test score-reporting practice affecting the entire state of Virginia. Tomorrow, in part 3 of this report, we will revisit that episode.

Three long and punishing years went by before anyone checked the professors’ work! In this badly fallen age, this is very much the way our intellectual elites tend to function.

Tomorrow: Nobody bothered to check. After we checked, no one tattled!

Tsarnaev beat: Mainstream journalists love writing novels!

MONDAY, APRIL 29, 2013

In this case, the facts didn’t fit: Mainstream journalists love to create novelistic frameworks.

On the front page of Sunday’s Washington Post, Marc Fisher constructed a familiar novelized framework, this time concerning the Tsarnaev family. But his novelistic framework pretty much didn’t make sense, given the facts of the case:
FISHER (4/28/13): America, the golden door, had already welcomed two of his brothers when Anzor Tsarnaev crossed the ocean with his family in 2002. Anzor's brother Ruslan, who had immigrated just a few years earlier, already had a law degree and was on his way to an executive job and a six-figure salary.

And at first, Anzor, his wife, Zubeidat, and their two sons, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar, seemed as energetic and brimming with initiative as their relatives had been. Anzor, a mechanic, fixed up cars. His wife turned a cut-rate apartment in affluent Cambridge into an improvised salon, offering facials at attractive prices.

The boys—who authorities believe are the Boston Marathon bombers, responsible for killing four people and injuring more than 250—took to their new home with gusto. The older one, Tamerlan, was sociable, even showy, dressing sharply, honing his body to become an Olympic boxer. He married an American WASP, daughter of a well-to-do Rhode Island family.

The younger boy, Dzhokhar, was almost instantly as American as they come: He fell for a blond beauty and won her over. He made the high school wrestling team and was popular and empathic enough to be named captain. He partied hard and studied when he had to.

But over the past four years, even as members of their extended family found their piece of the American dream, the Cambridge Tsarnaevs' experience in their new land curdled. Money grew scarce, and the family went on welfare. Zubeidat was accused of stealing from a department store. Anzor's business, never prosperous, faded.
That’s a familiar novel. At first, the new family was brimming with hope and was doing quite well! Then, things began to go sour.

Unfortunately, the facts don’t seem to fit the simple-minded framework into which Fisher tries to force them. To state the obvious, fixing up cars and offering facials “at attractive prices” (i.e., at low prices) doesn’t lead to six-figure incomes, the implied contrast offered by Fisher. There is no evidence that Anzor and Zubeidat were ever “as energetic and brimming with initiative as their relatives had been” in any relevant sense.

(Later in this piece, we learn that Uncle Ruslan was earning $216,000 per year—and that his brother Anzor had been earning $10 per hour. At no time was Anzor on Ruslan's track.)

Meanwhile, Fisher makes it sound like Tamerlane was still on track when he “married an American WASP, daughter of a well-to-do Rhode Island family”—that the experience only curdled later. Given the widely-reported chronologies, that seems to be a rather shaky characterization too.

This 4400-word report is full of information. Fisher couldn’t resist a tired old impulse: As he started, he tried to make the story more simple-minded and familiar than it actually is. He formed a simple-minded framework, the kind you might meet in a romance novel, or in a Lifetime movie.

A great deal of what passes for news is constructed this way. Journalists decide to cram complex facts into simple-minded, novelized frameworks. The journalist gives the reader an easy ride, thus ceasing to be a journalist.

That long report is full of facts. The opening framework created by Fisher pretty much doesn’t fit them.

On the other hand, don’t miss the photo.

Why not support the folk who are right!

MONDAY, APRIL 29, 2013

Our fund-raising drive continues: If you don’t mind our saying so, year after year we just keep getting it right.

In the last few weeks, the world has heard about the two latest Harvard professors. We have been telling you, year after year: The professors are constantly failing.

Yesterday morning, the front-page piece in the New York Times Sunday Review cited a few upbeat facts about the nation’s test scores. (Other basic facts were withheld.)

We have been telling you, year after year, about the way our “educational experts” and education reporters refuse to convey such facts.

This week, we’re going to blow our own horn just a bit. We’re going to remind you of the various ways we’ve been right down through the years.

But remember: In our upside-down intellectual culture, you will be punished for getting things right. The only sure route to success involves being conventionally wrong.

We were right about the press corps’ conduct during the Clinton-Gore years. We have been right since the dawn of time about various educational issues.

(More on our decades of public school brilliance tomorrow! We started warning about cheating on standardized tests in 1972. The nation's liberal and mainstream journalists started to notice last year.)

We’re even right (in general) about MSNBC, although our lizard brains keep telling us that the channel’s broadcasters are On Our Side. Which in some ways they are, of course! We’re telling you they should be on your side better.

Go ahead! Read the two posts we’ve offered this morning. The professors have broken down again, with many questions unasked and unanswered. And it’s still against the law to tell the full truth about test scores.

We have been right about these points, which means that we have seemed to be wrong. If you want to support a site which tends to be right, you know what to do:

Just click here.

Breaking: Stanford professor reveals real facts about American test scores!

MONDAY, APRIL 29, 2013

When will the New York Times agree to tell the whole truth: Yesterday, in the New York Times, the week of the professors continued.

In a front-page piece in the Sunday Review, Stanford professor Sean Reardon got a whole bunch of things right. At the end of a very lengthy piece, he argued a set of congenial lines.

How can we help low-income kids achieve more in school? Here’s what he said we should do:
REARDON (4/28/13): So how can we move toward a society in which educational success is not so strongly linked to family background? Maybe we should take a lesson from the rich and invest much more heavily as a society in our children's educational opportunities from the day they are born. Investments in early-childhood education pay very high societal dividends. That means investing in developing high-quality child care and preschool that is available to poor and middle-class children. It also means recruiting and training a cadre of skilled preschool teachers and child care providers. These are not new ideas, but we have to stop talking about how expensive and difficult they are to implement and just get on with it.
If his facts are right, his advice is right too. Reardon also suggests that we “find ways of helping parents become better teachers themselves. This might include strategies to support working families so that they can read to their children more often.”

Are there ways to help young parents from low-literacy backgrounds raise more highly literate kids? We have been asking that question for years. Reardon is asking it too.

Reardon asks one basic question in this lengthy piece. How can we address the widening academic gap between the society’s poorest and wealthiest kids?

The gap is widening, Reardon says—but it isn’t because low-income kids are doing worse in school. At one point, Reardon actually stated some basic facts—basic facts which almost never get stated in public.

Let’s dispel a few myths, Reardon said. At which point, he dispelled two:
REARDON: Before we can figure out what's happening here, let's dispel a few myths.

The income gap in academic achievement is not growing because the test scores of poor students are dropping or because our schools are in decline. In fact, average test scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the so-called Nation's Report Card, have been rising—substantially in math and very slowly in reading—since the 1970s. The average 9-year-old today has math skills equal to those her parents had at age 11, a two-year improvement in a single generation. The gains are not as large in reading and they are not as large for older students, but there is no evidence that average test scores have declined over the last three decades for any age or economic group.

The widening income disparity in academic achievement is not a result of widening racial gaps in achievement, either. The achievement gaps between blacks and whites, and Hispanic and non-Hispanic whites have been narrowing slowly over the last two decades, trends that actually keep the yawning gap between higher- and lower-income students from getting even wider. If we look at the test scores of white students only, we find the same growing gap between high- and low-income children as we see in the population as a whole.
Good lord! Reardon revealed a few of the nation's best-kept secrets, stating facts which are rarely spoken in public. Average test scores have been rising, he said, citing the National Assessment of Educational Progress (the NAEP). And the achievement gaps between white, black and Hispanic students have been narrowing!

Who knew?

The nation’s “educational experts” and education writers rarely reveal these secrets. They rarely tell us that average test scores are actually rising. They rarely tell us that the “achievement gaps” between our three major student groups have been narrowing, not growing.

American citizens are rarely allowed to hear such facts. That’s why we were disappointed when Reardon stopped where he did.

Let’s look again at something he said. Then, let’s consider a basic point, a point even Reardon skipped past.

In the passage we’ve cited, Reardon made the following revelation. Trust us: Readers of the New York Times do not understand this fact:

“Average test scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress have been rising—substantially in math and very slowly in reading—since the 1970s.”

Say what? Average test scores have been rising on the NAEP, the so-called “gold standard” of educational testing? We’ll take an extremely safe guess: Most readers of the New York Times don’t know that.

Our public discourse is built around gloom and doom—and steady deception—when it comes to such matters. But doggone it! Even in that upbeat statement, Reardon failed to “disaggregate” test scores.

He was describing average test scores for the full student population. If he had added a few more words, he could have stated some very important facts:
REARDON, REVISED AND EXTENDED: Average test scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress have been rising—substantially in math and very slowly in reading—since the 1970s.

But those are just the average scores among the student population as a whole. If we consider black students alone, their test scores have risen by very substantial margins in both reading and math. The same is true for Hispanic students. But test scores by white students have risen too, thus maintaining the achievement gaps.
What will it take before the public is told the whole truth about our students’ test scores?

In fairness, Reardon goes beyond the cherry-picked gloom and doom which is normally served to the public. This constant diet of gloom and doom is a massive, ongoing act of disinformation.

Reardon moves beyond the standard gloom. But even he fails to tell the whole truth to the New York Times’ readers:

Scores by all three student groups—black, white and Hispanic—are in fact substantially up.

Reardon moved beyond the standard gloom and doom. He ended up making good suggestions. But even in 2300 words, he didn’t manage to tell the whole truth: Test scores by all three major groups are substantially up!

When will the public be told about this? Who will tell New York Times readers?

Concerning the apparent paradox here: Wait a minute, your lizard brain may be saying. If test scores by all three groups are way up, why are average scores in reading rising “very slowly?”

It’s easy to explain that point. We’ve explained it many times. There is no mystery to it.

But year after year, the New York Times has failed to explain this basic point. The paper has even failed to tell its readers the underlying facts:

All three student groups—blacks, whites and Hispanics—have recorded major score gains. If you read the New York Times, they just keep refusing to tell you that.

Year after year after year after year, this famous newspaper fails its readers. Reardon rolled back a bit of the gloom.

Why not tell the whole truth?

THE PROFESSORIATE FAILS US AGAIN: Harvard professor will travel for cash!

MONDAY, APRIL 29, 2013

Part 1—Much as we have told you: Early in 2010, a pair of Harvard professors authored a bungled study.

There’s certainly nothing new about that! Did you notice the horribly cherry-picked column Harvard assistant professor Jal Mehta recently published in the New York Times?

We did! For part 1, click here.

There’s nothing new about the failure of the ranking professoriate. And as noted, the paper we’re discussing today appeared in early 2010. According to our calculations, that was three years back!

Unfortunately, the bungled study turned out to be extremely influential. Its findings have been used to advance the idea that austerity measures are just the ticket in the case of our floundering economy.

The bungled study came from the desks of Reinhart and Rogoff, a pair of Harvard professors. And uh-oh! According to Paul Krugman, the bungled work of these professors “played right into the desire of many officials to ‘pivot’ from stimulus to austerity.”

The paper “became famous” overnight, Krugman wrote in this recent column. “It was, and is, surely the most influential economic analysis of recent years.”

In short, the bungled paper helped advance a policy agenda which powerful interests already hoped to pursue. For reasons we haven’t seen explained, three long, bungling years passed.

And then, finally! At some point in the past year, three graduate students at UMass requested access to Reinhart and Rogoff’s data. Three years after the paper appeared, these graduate students have now revealed the professors’ groaning errors.

In Krugman’s April 19 column, he offered a shorthand account of the kinds of mistakes involved in the professors' work. This was his account of the Harvard professors’ mistakes:

“First, they omitted some data,” Krugman wrote. “Second, they used unusual and highly questionable statistical procedures; and finally, yes, they made an Excel coding error.”

We’re not experts on this type of work, but that sounds like a lot of mistakes to us! That said, the coding error has received the most attention, perhaps because it seems so clownish. Somehow, the Harvard professors failed to include five major countries (out of just twenty) in one of their major computations.

When Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada and Denmark were returned to life on earth, the findings of the professors’ study turned out to be substantially different, as the three graduate students showed. Omission of data is like that!

We’ll discuss the graduate students tomorrow. Just for today, can we talk?

For years, we’ve warned you about the rampant failures of our nation’s intellectual elites. We’ve often warned you about the errors of omission committed by the professoriate—about their endless failure to intervene in our bungled policy discussions.

We’ve warned you about the hapless performance of the nation’s “educational experts.” We’ve warned you about the unimpressive professors we sometimes get handed on The One True Channel.

This bungled study by Reinhart and Rogoff doesn’t involve a failute to speak when others are bungling badly. This is a case where a pair of Harvard professors engaged in affirmative bungling of a very serious type.

At any rate:

For reasons we don’t understand, three long, high-profile years went by before the professors’ bungles were spotted. And how strange! Even in the face of skepticism about their study’s conclusions, the professors themselves had never gone back and noticed that five countries were MIA from one part of their study!

After three long years, it took a trio of graduate students to reveal the professors’ mistakes—mistakes which drove “the most influential economic analysis of recent years.”

Before the week is done, we’re going to look at several reactions to this high-level bungling. We'll look at Ezra Klein's approach to this mess, and at Krugman's sardonic reaction to Klein.

For today, we’ll suggest that you look at something Matt Yglesias said.

Brother Yglesias went to Harvard! In the past, he has even gone so far as to refer to some Harvard professors as “smart.”

Despite these troubling manifestations, Yglesias has authored a tart insinuation about one of the profs now under review. His insinuation appears in a recent piece at Slate.

Who the heck is Professor Rogoff? For ourselves, we have no idea. But Yglesias caught our eye with the street-fighting passage we are happy to highlight:
YGLESIAS (4/26/13): [T]his isn't just some sad case of conservative politicians running around mischaracterizing a sober-minded study and then liberals overreacting in response. Ken Rogoff was writing op-eds drawing strong policy conclusions from this paper. He was delivering congressional testimony drawing strong policy conclusions from this paper. And it's not as if he's some political naif who stumbled down from the ivory tower into a partisan controversy he could never have predicted. He was research director at the International Monetary Fund and he knows how the game is played. He's signed up as a paid speaker for the Washington Speakers Bureau. His "fees vary based on event location" but they promise that in exchange for your money "Kenneth Rogoff reaches beyond the theoretical and delivers quantitative proof from his frequently cited research and best-selling book to explain why our financial history continues to repeat itself—and just where the US and global economies are heading."
Professor Rogoff has signed up with the Washington Speakers Bureau, where his fees “vary based on event location.” “In exchange for your money” (Yglesias’ term), he was willing to fly to the resort where you were holding your convention.

At this location, he would describe the deathless findings of his bungled research.

Just so you’ll know: The Washington Speakers Bureau tends to charge hefty fees. Austerity-friendly corporate groups are the types of folk who pay them. This seems to be the insinuation lurking in Yglesias’ profile.

To which, we say hurrah!

Why have our professors so constantly failed us? We’ve tried to get you to ask that question for many years.

We’ve asked you why our “educational experts” seem to churn so much bullshit and cant. We’ve asked you why our esteemed professors can’t seem to step up to the plate and challenge prevailing nonsense of various types.

(Was there really no professor of logic who noticed that Candidate Gore didn’t say he “invented the Internet?” With all the logicians in our employ, why didn’t one of them speak?)

We’ve asked you why our leading logicians don’t challenge our press corps’ relentless bungling. We’ve begged you to notice another fact: sometimes, our fiery progressive professors just aren’t all that sharp.

For years, we’ve asked you to note the way the professoriate continues to fail us. All week, we’ll look at the way these latest professors—from Harvard, no less!—failed in 2010.

We’ll also ask you why it took three years for someone to notice these latest howlers. We’ll ask why it took three graduate students to shoot down this latest crap.

Tomorrow: Where were all the other professors? Off in the south of France?

For extra credit, read ahead: After three long years, it took a trio of graduate students to reveal the professors’ errors.

The BBC has described their detective work. For extra credit, click here.

Just this once, we’re letting you ask us!

SUNDAY, APRIL 28, 2013

About our fourth annual fund-raising drive: Just this once, we’re letting you ask us about our conversations with sitting vice presidents.

See our new post, straight below.

We’re also letting you ask us about our fourth “annual” fund-raising drive—the fourth in fifteen years.

Yes, our fund-raising drive is still on. To join all the fun:

Just click here.

Days of Bush: Manufactured all the way down!

SUNDAY, APRIL 28, 2013

Was George Bush a good, decent person: Was President George W. Bush “more than a composite of swagger and smirk?” Was he “also a kind man with a gentle heart who should be remembered as such?”

We don’t know, although we certainly think that is possible. That said, we can’t say it hugely matters. The decisions and conduct of a president are more important than the question of what he was “really like.”

At any rate, Kathleen Parker is saying those things about Bush in this morning’s Washington Post. She draws upon this methodology:
PARKER (4/28/13): Everyone is familiar with Bush’s history and performance. What I offer is an anecdote or two that I think reveal what the cameras and critics could not. These recollections are simply recorded for the sake of biography in the interest of providing a more complete picture of a two-term, transformational president who changed our world in ways that won’t be fully understood or judged in our lifetimes.
Parker agrees that the “history and performance” come first. But she offers anecdotes about this president's conduct when no one was looking.

There’s nothing wrong with offering those anecdotes; Parker’s personal judgments about Bush may even be right. But those anecdotes made us recall a few of our own. They also tweaked our growing sense that our American public discourse is, and will continue to be, manufactured consent—manufactured consent all the way down!

Parker offers a few anecdotes about Bush’s behind the scenes conduct. We thought of a few glimpses we had of Candidate Gore during his run for the White House.

As you know, we never discuss our conversations with possible future American presidents. For that reason, we haven’t shared these anecdotes and we won’t do so today, although we have often wanted to.

We’ve wanted to share them because we thought it would be good to give the public a fuller picture of this particular candidate. In the last few years—in the past few weeks!—we’ve moved toward a different view.

We’ve come to see that nothing will change the way we Americans see the world. We’ve come to see that our understandings are the result of manufactured consent, pretty much all the way down—including the manufactured consent created within the liberal base by our own liberal leaders.

In truth, we think we may have discussed a few lesser anecdotes before, although these anecdotes don’t involve the good stuff. Examples:

At a cattle call Christmas party in December 1999, the candidate explained a puzzling news report by Katharine “Kit” Seelye. In this puzzling news report, Seelye seemed to have Tipper Gore aiming a snarky public shot right at Candidate Bush.

The story didn’t seem to make sense in the way Seelye told it, but the point of the story was clear—the Gores were nasty attack dogs. At the time, this was a principal talking-point of the Bradley campaign. People like Seelye were working quite hard to advance this line, even if they had to drop key facts from their “news reports.”

At that cattle call Christmas party, the candidate told us what Seelye had dropped from her news report. Through the miracle of electronic search engines, we were able to verify what he told us. Suddenly, the story made sense—but it no longer advanced the negative view of Gore which Seelye was trying to generate.

We may have discussed an anecdote from a second cattle call Christmas party, this time from December 2000. This party took place on the very night when the candidate formally dropped his challenge to the Florida vote count, thereby conceding defeat.

Earlier that evening, we had performed at the Washington Improv as part of the Funniest Celebrity in Washington contest. At that show, we had told a certain joke about this candidate. Presumably, the joke can be still be seen on C-Span, since that event at the Improv was taped and televised.

The joke went something like this: “In my view, Candidate Gore got the best of both worlds. Everyone knows that he won the election. Plus he doesn’t have to serve!”

We were glad that the joke got a laugh; this told us that people were actually starting to know that Gore had won the popular vote. We repeated the joke to Gore that night, and, if memory serves, he said something like this:

“There’s a great deal of truth to that joke.”

Later that evening, the candidate spoke telephonically to President Clinton, who was returning from Europe on Air Force One. He repeated the joke to Clinton—and yes, we have three sources to verify that claim:

First source: One week later, we were at a cattle call Christmas party right there at the White House. A lady who had accompanied us wanted to go through the receiving line. And so, we graciously did.

When we approached the president and the first lady, the president repeated our deathless joke to the entire line. “Y’all! Have you heard Bob’s joke?” Clinton incomparably cried. “How does it go, Bob? Everyone knows Al won the election, plus he doesn’t have to serve?”

There was a great deal of truth to that joke, Clinton told us, much as Gore had done.

Second and third sources: In his book about the 2000 campaign, Roger Simon describes Clinton emerging from his private cabin on Air Force One and repeating that joke after hearing it from Gore on the phone. Years later, in his own memoir, Clinton describes Gore telling him the joke that night. For maximum impact, he saved the story for page 934.

That joke seemed to ring a bell with both Clinton and Gore. The fun part was winning an election. Especially by the 1990s, the crappy part came after that.

Please note: To our mind, there is a much more revealing anecdote from that cattle call Christmas party in December 2000. But as you may know, we never discuss our conversations with possible or once-possible future American presidents.

From March 1999 through December 2000, we saw Candidate Gore, or spoke telephonically, on at least four occasions, which isn't very many. For years, we thought there were several anecdotes from those occasions the public would benefit from hearing.

Parker acts on that general notion today, but we have stopped believing such things. It all comes back to the basic idea of manufactured consent.

In recent years—in recent weeks—we have come to see that the public’s consent is manufactured pretty much all way down. Nothing can or will change the ways we the people get conned into seeing the world in certain preconceived ways.

Two recent events have heightened our sense of this problem. One such event was Jal Mehta’s recent column in the New York Times. The other was the reaction of some “liberal journalists” to the Boston bombing.

When Noam Chomsky speaks of “manufactured consent,” he is talking about the ways the power elite gets us the people to adopt their preferred views of the world. The public is allowed to hear certain facts; we the people are widely exposed to certain preferred story lines.

We are widely denied other facts. We don’t hear other viewpoints. (For the past several years, Paul Krugman has discussed the way this process works with respect to “austerity” policies.)

In 1999 and 2000, we the people were mercilessly exposed to certain tales about Candidate Gore. Seelye was one of the largest dissemblers. But she still has her job at the Times, and the liberal world hasn’t said boo about her disgraceful conduct. Nor do our liberal leaders plan to do so, even after years of work in which we gave them the information about her ridiculous conduct.

They simply weren’t going to talk about that! They’ve helped manufacture your consent in this historical area. This works extremely well for them and for their career plans.

Similarly, the public has been told selective stories for years about the state of our public schools. Mehta’s disgraceful New York Times column extended this cherry-picked view of the world.

Over and over, again and again, we’ve presented the fuller information about the test scores Mehta discussed. But the mainstream press, and your liberal leaders, are never going to give you those facts. Your consent in this area has been manufactured. This process will continue.

We’ll have to say we had a similar reaction to David Sirota’s column about the Boston bombing, and to the follow-up columns by Joan Walsh and Peter Beinart. In this case, though, consent is being manufactured among the nation’s liberals.

Average voters don’t read this crap. In this particular area, we liberals are given a manufactured view of the world by our own tribal leaders.

Sadly, we feel we know something now which we didn’t know in the past: None of this is going to change! We liberals love manufactured tales in which we are told that we are The Very Good People and the other tribe isn’t. (One example from last weekend: We're told that our leaders say the right things after terroristic attacks while their leaders don’t.) We don’t push back when our liberal leaders hand us these cherry-picked, misleading tales. Nor do we show any sign of caring when they refuse to challenge the bullshit which comes from the top, whether it was the manufactured consent about Gore or the ongoing manufactured consent about the public schools.

Our liberal leaders don’t seem to care about matters like that. Neither do we the liberal people. This seems to be the best we can do at this stage of human development.

In short, it isn’t simply the power elite which manufactures our consent. Our liberal leaders play very active roles in this process too. As Chomsky has endlessly said, the process is going on all around us, and the process is very powerful. As part of this powerful process, Chomsky’s discussions of this process are cut from the national discourse.

Your liberal leaders haven’t old you the truth and they never will! A few years ago, we began to understand a fact which Parker may not:

The Standard Stories will prevail, whatever the actual truth may be. Your discourse is novels all the way down, a bit like Lord Russell once said.

What were Bush and Gore actually like? In the end, that doesn’t hugely matter. But our society’s gods are its novels. Quite often, those novels are bogus.

Jal Mehta’s facts about the schools were heavily cherry-picked. But society’a adepts are sworn not to tell, and that includes the liberal leaders who manufacture your consent about the greatness of your tribe and the ugliness of those who don’t who don’t belong.

In truth, its novels all the way down. Those novels manufacture our consent and nothing is going to change them.

We used to think the public should know what a certain candidate said on Memorial Day Weekend, 2000. Now we don’t think it matters.

About our candidates, about our schools, it’s fairy tales all the way down! At this stage of human moral development, we can't seem to escape this system.

Concerning that joke: Concerning the joke we told to Gore and Gore then relayed to Clinton, on the night he conceded defeat:

In mid-December 2000, these fellows were swapping jokes on the phone. Soon, though, the press corps was telling a preferred story about an alleged shouting match, a shouting match which helped us see how much they hated each other.

That story has been told to this day. Mainstream journalists love that story, which they have memorized.

Who knows? Some part of that shat story may even be true! But whenever we hear it, we remember this additional fact: They were also swapping jokes on the phone! And yes, we have three sources, two of them published, for this additional fact.

As a matter of fact, the answer is yes!


Our fund-raising drive is still on: As a matter of fact, the answer is yes! Our fourth “annual” fund-raising drive is still going strong.

On Monday, we will start praising ourselves again. For now, if you want to do the right thing, you know what to do:

Just click here.

RED AND BLUE WITH RACE ALL OVER: At several junctures, Kaur gets it right!


Epilogue—Tries a little tenderness and a larger chunk of the truth: Three years ago, in South Carolina, a wonderful thing occurred:

Tim Scott became the Republican nominee for the House in the state’s first congressional district.

In November 2010, Scott won the general election. Today, he represents South Carolina in the United States senate.

Don’t get us wrong! We wouldn’t have voted for Scott ourselves; we don’t share his politics. But South Carolina Republicans do. Here’s why it was a wonderful thing when he won that primary.

In that Republican primary, Scott was running against Paul Thurmond, son of the late Strom Thurmond. But Republican voters liked Scott better. And good God!

If you want to score things this way, Senator Scott is black!

Let’s review what happened. Those voters could have elected the son of Strom—but they liked the black guy better! We wouldn’t have voted for Scott ourselves. But that was a tremendous triumph for our improving Americanism.

Could Dr. King have imagined a day when white voters in that southern state would have cast their votes that way? Our civil rights martyrs died for the day when voters would function that way.

That said, very few liberals spoke words of praise for those South Carolina voters. We are more likely to find ways to insult Republican voters when they vote for black candidates.

To us, that seems like a dumb way to do politics and to advance our values.

In the wake of the Boston bombings, we thought of how stingy we liberals had been with our praise when those voters selected Tim Scott. As in the 60s, so too today:

Sometimes, we liberals like to display our own superior values through odd displays of denigration and overstatement. We refuse to praise our fellow citizens and we refuse to take yes for an answer! We revert to our tired old habit of talking down the Amerikan people.

We thought of these things when David Sirota built a potentially useful column around the framework of “white male privilege.” That framework didn’t fit the circumstance all that well, but Sirota went with it anyway.

In the process, Sirota’s extremely valid concern came out just a bit jumbled. This week, he is still being mocked on Fox. In truth, his tribalized approach to a basic concern made his piece easy to mock.

When it comes to matter of race, we liberals rarely have kind words to say for the rest of the American people. We don’t spell “Amerika” with a k, but it sometimes may seem that we want to.

We thought of these things when we watched Melissa Harris-Perry speak to Valerie Kaur on TV last Saturday morning.

Kaur had been introduced as “a writer and filmmaker and a fellow at seminary.” It also seems that she is a Sikh, although this was never clearly explained.

We thought Kaur got several things right in her appearance on Saturday’s program. But during this early exchange, we thought of the way we liberals tend to err in matter involving race:
HARRIS-PERRY (4/21/13): Valerie, I know your work after the Oak Creek shooting of a Sikh temple, one which many people believe to have been basically a case of American ignorance, misunderstanding about the Sikh religion versus Islam, right, gets right at that core. What can we learn about how to recover?

KAUR: Well, let’s remember that the Oak Creek mass shooting was actually the last incident of domestic terrorism in this country. And it was committed by a white supremacist who walked into a Sikh house of worship and opened fired. In the wake of that tragedy, we did not hear calls for white people to be profiled, we did not hear Christianity denigrated, we did not see Christians living in fear. The way that our country diagnoses a problem when it’s a white perpetrator, it’s an individual problem. When it’s a person of color, suddenly an entire community is deemed dangerous.
The shooting to which Kaur referred occurred in August 2012. The white supremacist in question had recently broken up with his white supremacist girl friend. She worked down the street from the Sikh house of worship the shooter attacked.

The gunman had been active in several white supremacist bands. In his madness and his fury, he seemed to hate everyone who wasn’t Aryan and Christian. Reading major reports on the case, we find no evidence that the gunman’s attack on the Sikhs involved a case of mistaken identity, or that he would have had any trouble hating Sikhs as much as Muslims.

It may be that the shooter mistook these Sikhs for Muslims. But in the reporting, we find no sign that this was found to be true.

Whatever! Here’s why we were struck by that exchange between Kaur and Harris-Perry:

First, we were struck by the casual way Harris-Perry referred to this “case of American ignorance.” The killer was an American, of course. It's possible that he was ignorant of the diferrence between Muslims and Sikhs.

That said, we were struck by Harris-Perry’s casual reference to “American” ignorance. She didn’t spell Amerika with a k, but these casual, snooty denigrations have littered progressive speech since the 1960s.

This was a minor matter, but such casual denigrations were widely sprinkled through the discussion this day. We will suggest that such denigrations have never helped progressives connect with a wider audience and that they never will.

We were struck by that casual denigration. We were more struck by Kaur’s reply. Let’s look again at what she said:
KAUR: In the wake of that tragedy, we did not hear calls for white people to be profiled, we did not hear Christianity denigrated, we did not see Christians living in fear. The way that our country diagnoses a problem when it’s a white perpetrator, it’s an individual problem. When it’s a person of color, suddenly an entire community is deemed dangerous.
Part of that statement is plainly accurate. In the wake of the Oak Creek killings, we didn’t hear calls for white people (in general) to be profiled. We didn’t hear Christianity denigrated. We didn’t see Christians living in fear, afraid that they might be collectively blamed for the conduct of one disturbed killer.

We didn’t see those manifestations, and of course we shouldn’t have.

That part of Kaur’s statement was plainly true—but how about the rest of her statement? Is it true that “our country” deems entire communities dangerous when a person of color commits such a crime?

Was Kaur perhaps overstating? We’ll ask again: Were African-Americans collectively blamed in the wake of the Beltway sniper killings? Was the entire black community “deemed dangerous” at that time?

We’d have to say the answer is no—and as with the election of Scott, that was a very good thing. But quite often, something keeps us progressives from noticing outcomes like that.

As we watched this particular program, we saw several instances where “America” was collectively blamed or denigrated in ways which were inaccurate, overstated, dated, embellished. But we started with Kaur, and we thought she stood out at several junctures.

A fair amount of collective blame was being directed at “America,” “our country” and “the nation” as the liberal panelists showcased their plainly superior values. But at one point in the proceedings, Kaur tried a bit of tenderness and a wider dose of the truth.

As part of the exchange with Harris-Perry we've already quoted, Kaur discussed the way a wide range of people responded to the Oak Creek killings last year. This was her fuller statement:
KAUR: Well, let’s remember that the Oak Creek mass shooting was actually the last incident of domestic terrorism in this country. And it was committed by a white supremacist who walked into a Sikh house of worship and opened fire. In the wake of that tragedy, we did not hear calls for white people to be profiled, we did not hear Christianity denigrated, we did not see Christians living in fear. The way that our country diagnoses a problem when it’s a white perpetrator, it’s an individual problem. When it’s a person of color, suddenly an entire community is deemed dangerous.

But that said, I want to speak to this issue of how we have recovered. The kind of love and outpouring that we experienced, Sikh and Muslim and South Asian Americans across the country, from all kinds of Americans of all backgrounds, was so overwhelming. It was an experience where our fellow Americans were not looking at us as foreigners or suspects, where they were seeing us as neighbors, as colleagues as friends, as patriots. And that is the kind of hope, that’s the kind of vision of unity that I’m hanging on to in the days to come. That’s our higher self.
Millions of people have learned many things in the days since Dr. King died. Sometimes, we liberals like to pretend that none of this has happened.

We thought Kaur showed a brighter, wiser instinct as she praised the outpouring she observed last year. We think she gave viewers more of the truth, offered a wiser politics.

Kaur looked on the brighter side at one other juncture—but good lord, there we went again! In the statement which follows, she said the nation has changed for the better since 2001. But in some ways, her statement suggested that our crabbed liberal instincts have not:
KAUR: You know, this week, I experienced as a crisis in two different ways. I was north of Boston when the explosions went off. I lived in the city of Boston for three years. I was terrified, as were my friends and family who were held up in Watertown on Friday. I was breathing a sigh of relief as were all Americans when the terror finally ended.

But, like millions of Muslim, Arab and Sikh Americans, I have been waiting, praying, hoping that we wont see the fear and violence and hate that we have seen many times before, after Oklahoma City and after September 11th, regardless of who the perpetrator was in those moments.


But when I take stock of this last week, the one thing that gives me hope is that we are not the nation we were in 2001.


KAUR: President Obama has come out asking our nation to stay true to unity and diversity, words we did not hear after 9/11. Deval Patrick, governor of Massachusetts, said if we are to heal and recover as a nation, we need to turn to each other rather than on each other. I’m going to hang on that hope, I believe there, as we navigate the next few months.
As she started, Kaur defined the deeply legitimate concern Sirota jumbled in his column. But then, she acknowledged positive change! She said we’re a wiser, better nation that we were in 2001.

We think that is probably true—but we were struck by the selective way Kaur praised Obama and Patrick. In fact, President Bush did make similar statements shortly after 9/11. And uh-oh! So did a certain Republican governor in the wake of Oak Creek.

Kaur described the great outpouring which followed the killings at Oak Creek. In a news report, the New York Times described one part of that reaction:
YACCINO (8/11/12): People of a range of races and faiths wore colored head scarves out of respect for the Sikh religion. Some were red-eyed from crying. Others clutched rosary beads. It was the most recent example of the outpouring of support from a community that has held vigils, sent comforting e-mails, and helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the victims' families over the past week.

''I don't see how we can forget this,'' said Barbara Henschel, 41, of who lives in nearby Milwaukee and took time off work to attend the service. ''There's a lot of healing that will have to begin.''

Representatives of the victims' families, Sikh religious leaders and government officials spoke during the memorial service, among them Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.

''No matter what country your ancestors came from, no matter where you worship, no matter what your background, as Americans, we are one,'' said Mr. Walker. ''When you attack one of us, you attack all of us.''
Attorney General Holder spoke that day—but so did Governor Walker. For ourselves, we wouldn’t vote for Walker. But just as Obama and Patrick did last week, Governor Walker came to the service and made statements which expressed our improving American values. Kaur praised the statements of Obama and Patrick, skipped those of Walker and Bush.

How quickly, how tribally, how determinedly we liberals sometimes arrange to forget! To us, this seems like a bad way to do politics and to advance our improving values. But on its face, this kind of thing is selective, inaccurate. False.

The analysts have never been to New Orleans!

FRIDAY, APRIL 26, 2013

Nor do they plan to go, fund-raising drive to the side: Later today, we’re taking the analysts to Penn Station for their weekly outing.

They’ll enjoy the nation’s cheapest happy hour, although we really limit their intake. As they do, they get to hear the station master call the 5:14 Crescent.

The Crescent runs all the way to New Orleans. The analysts love to hear the master call its station stops. But no, they’ve never taken that train. Nor do they expect to.

You see, the analysts want to continue their work about the growth of our new liberal media and about our public schools. We may get cranky about certain things—but that’s hardly their fault.

Should the analysts be punished for our own occasional blast of bad air? Youthful analysts need a new pair of shoes! If you want to help with our annual fund-raising drive, you know what to do:

Just click here.

A postponement: We plan to offer a fuller pitch about the work we’ve done in the past. In part, we think that review will be somewhat instructive.

Today, though, we spent too much time on Salon’s nut-picking. We’ll have to postpone that blowing of horns until the start of next week.

The New York Times’ best letter ever!

FRIDAY, APRIL 26, 2013

It expresses a simple point: A letter in today’s New York Times may be the smartest we’ve ever read in that paper.

The letter may not seem to be smart. But it massively is.

The letter comes from Deanna Kuhn, a professor at Teachers College, Columbia University. As Kuhn starts, she is discussing the “Common Core standards” which many states are adopting for use in their public schools.

Adopting new standards and testing for them isn’t enough, Kuhn says:
KUHN (4/26/13): Hope runs high that the new Common Core learning standards will fix American education. A risk is thinking that the standards alone can do the job.

The intention of the standards, the editorial says, “is to help students develop strong reasoning skills earlier than is now common,” with students by fifth grade “required to produce essays in which they introduce, support and defend arguments.”

These are objectives hard to argue with. But simply adopting the standards will not make it happen. Nor will widespread testing to gauge whether they’ve been met.
Kuhn makes a very important point. It’s easy to institute new standards. It’s easy to administer tests to see if students have met them. (Although such testing often gets bungled at this point in time.)

But these two steps aren’t enough, Kuhn says. This is what we still have to do after adopting new standards:
KUHN (continuing directly): Tellingly, it is “the states and localities” that are charged with the more formidable task of figuring out how to achieve these standards.

How does one develop strong reasoning skills in students, and exactly what do these skills look like across different kinds of content?

Teachers can’t be expected to come up with answers to these critical questions on their own. Instead, we need to recognize the standards as only a first step, not a final one. The mission is one that will require significant, sustained investment in research on how children learn, if we are to find out what we need to know to meet such standards.
It isn’t enough to demand higher standards. Someone has to figure out how to do the teaching—how to help students reach those standards! And no, you can’t simply stamp your feet and insist that teachers figure it out!

This is unbelievably basic, but it never gets said. It echoes the point we’ve often made about Michelle Rhee’s tenure in Washington.

Rhee was constantly threatening teachers and demanding that learning increase. We liked the way she insisted that Washington's kids deserved better outcomes. But did you ever see her explain how to produce increased learning?

Education departments have to do more than simply invent higher standards. Someone has to figure out how to help our actual students reach those higher standards.

The people in charge rarely do that. They simply dream up their brilliant new standards. After that, they name-call the teachers if the new standards aren’t met.

Kuhn makes a stunningly basic point. Despite our many “educational experts,” this point is rarely made.

We fondly recall Mrs. Young: Long ago, teaching fifth grade in Baltimore, we were supervised by the wonderfully upbeat Elizabeth Young.

We’ll never forget the time she read The Hundred Dresses to our class. Truly, it’s a brilliant book. But Mrs. Young had 35 kids hanging on every word about the unfairness visited on a Polish immigrant girl in 1940s Pittsburgh.

None of our students were Polish immigrants. Despite that, they hung on every word, as if they were clinging to life itself.

(If the children of the world ever form a virtual nation, the motto on their coat of arms will say: “But that’s not fair!”)

One day, we told Mrs. Young about our textbook problem. Our students weren’t reading at traditional grade level, or even within a few years of same. They simply couldn’t read the textbooks we were supposed to work with.

Mrs. Young was wonderfully upbeat. We can still hear her response: “Well, Mr. Somerby, you can write your own textbooks!”

Well actually, no—we couldn’t do that! In part, that is Kuhn’s point.

Walsh’s nut-picking got even worse!

FRIDAY, APRIL 26, 2013

Bo Sears shares his thoughts on cock-Asians: In our last post, we described the nut-picking Joan Walsh did in order to drive a bogus claim about what “the right wing” was saying.

In her column about the Sirota piece, Walsh referred to “conservatives’ insistence [that] the Tsarnaevs are absolutely not white.” In fact, very few people have said any such thing on any end of the spectrum.

Major conservatives have said various things which ought to be criticized or challenged. But truly, they weren’t saying that.

Essentially, Walsh invented that claim, then did some nut-picking to drive it along. How bad did her nut-picking get before she finished her column?

This bad! Walsh found the nation’s craziest man, then wasted our time with his thoughts about cock-Asians:
WALSH (4/22/13): So conservatives’ insistence the Tsarnaevs are absolutely not white is curious, to say the least.

Coincidentally or not, this weekend I got an email from Bo Sears, the head of Resisting Defamation, a conservative organization lobbying for the rights of white Americans as a “diverse demographic affinity group,” with the subject line “No to Caucasian.” Sears wrote:

Now that the diverse white American peoples are becoming a minority in many states, counties, and cities, we wanted to let you know that we have the right to name and label ourselves. And we don’t like being called a word that sounds like “cock-Asian.”

It would be easier to take Sears’ request seriously if he wasn’t appearing to take offense at the “Asian” part of Caucasian (with the kind of juvenile reference to “cock,” which had frankly never occurred to me), and also if he wasn’t regularly complaining about an “anti-white narrative” in the mainstream media and calling me personally an anti-white racist. But I wrote him back to ask what he thought whites should be called, whether he sent his broadside against the term “Caucasian” because of the Tsarnaevs, and whether considered the Tsarnaevs “white.” He answered:

We are far too small an organization to attempt to speak affirmatively about a precise name & label for the diverse white American demographic affinity, we’ve been working on the anti-Cock-Asian message in that email for a couple of weeks. Purely coincidence…based on an upsurge here and there to smother our diversity and nationality with “Cock-Asian.”...To answer your question: the only people who could say that the brothers Tsarnaev were among the diverse white American people would be the Tsarnaevs. You don’t quite understand that Resisting Defamation is not in the border-drawing, definition-making business...we merely resist the campaign of hate speech that we see coming at us.

Interesting enough. But Sears also included a long exegesis of what it meant that that Tamarlan Tsarnaev had the name of the bloody 15th century central Asian-Muslim warlord Tamerlane, which he said was akin “to naming an American child ‘Stalin-Mao-Hitler.” Which seemed to indicate he considered the Tsarnaevs more Asian, or maybe “Cock-Asian,” than good old fashioned American white.
“Interesting enough,” Walsh said. If God was all-powerful and all-good, would Salon feature nonsense like this?

As you can see, Sears may be the craziest person on earth. In part for that reason, he isn’t an important figure in our national discourse. Wikipedia hasn’t even heard of Brother Sears!

But when it comes to matters of race, Walsh can’t seem to help herself. She finds herself drawn to the nuttiest people to no apparent good end. In this case, she led us through one gentleman’s thoughts about the term, cock-Asian.

As Walsh went on and on with this crap, the claims of major conservative players were going unchallenged, uncriticized. On the bright side, we liberals got to learn that we’re less crazy than Sears.

(To cite the old Carol Leifer joke: How far down the evolutionary scale do we have to go to prove we're smarter than someone? Leifer referred to the practice of fooling dogs by pretending to throw a ball.)

As she pondered Sirota’s column, Walsh cited her craziest e-mails, then wasted everyone’s time quoting Sears. This is nut-picking at its worst.

Is this what we want from Salon?

RED AND BLUE WITH RACE ALL OVER: Our blue tribe develop its own tribal culture!

FRIDAY, APRIL 26, 2013

Part 4—Walsh nut-picks: In 1861, it was blue versus gray.

Today, it’s increasingly red versus blue. To watch the way our own blue tribe has been inventing its own private tribal culture, you should consider David Sirota’s now-famous piece for Salon.

When the column appeared on April 16, no one knew who would emerge as the Boston bomber. Sensibly enough, Sirota was worried about what could happen “if the bomber ends up being a Muslim and/or a foreigner from the developing world.”

This was a perfectly valid concern—and the concern is easy to state. But how odd! Sirota stated his valid concern in a clumsy, turgid way.

In part for that reason, his column continues to be mocked on Fox as an example of crackpot liberal thinking. Millions of people keep hearing it mocked—and, to some substantial degree, Sirota invited the mockery.

Consider the following passage, in which a fiery leader of our blue tribe continues the process by which we invent an unhelpful and dumb tribal culture:
SIROTA (4/16/13): If recent history is any guide, if the bomber ends up being a white anti-government extremist, white privilege will likely mean the attack is portrayed as just an isolated incident—one that has no bearing on any larger policy debates. Put another way, white privilege will work to not only insulate whites from collective blame, but also to insulate the political debate from any fallout from the attack.

It will probably be much different if the bomber ends up being a Muslim and/or a foreigner from the developing world. As we know from our own history, when those kind of individuals break laws in such a high-profile way, America often cites them as both proof that entire demographic groups must be targeted, and that therefore a more systemic response is warranted. At that point, it’s easy to imagine conservatives citing Boston as a reason to block immigration reform defense spending cuts and the Afghan War withdrawal and to further expand surveillance and other encroachments on civil liberties.
That passage is chock-a-block full of perfectly valid concerns. It’s also full of the kinds of tribal embellishments which work to defeat progressive interests during the eras when folk like Sirota favor us with their presence. One example:

Does “America” often cite law-breaking by Muslims and/or foreigners as proof that entire demographic groups must be targeted? Some Americans certainly do. But does “America” do that?

To Sirota’s credit, he didn’t spell Amerika with a “k”—but in a rather reflexive way, he took the bad conduct of some and extended the blame to the entire nation. But this kind of thing is fairly typical as our blue tribe re-emerges in all its fiery greatness.

Our fiery blue tribal leaders are often inclined to extend their denunciation in ways which 1) make us feel outrĂ© and daring and 2) signal to those from outside the tribe that we have large bugs up our keisters. In this way, tribal culture is created—and progressive concerns may come to seem strange to those in the wider society.

Consider also the fiery claims about “white privilege,” the slightly unfamiliar concept around which Sirota built his entire column. In this passage, Sirota says that this type of “privilege” insulates whites from collective blame when people like Lanza, Loughner and Holmes commit horrendous crimes.

It’s true that whites (and white males) don’t come in for collective blame when such people commit their crimes. But to the non-tribal ear, it will sound strange to ascribe this to “privilege,” since whites shouldn’t be slimed with collective blame. And by the way:

In 2001, Muhammad and Malvo, the Beltway snipers, committed a famous series of murders. Were black Americans victimized by “collective blame” in the wake of those illings?

We’d have to saythey were not—that the society had become smarter than that by the year 2001. Did blacks escape collective blame because of their black male privilege? Or is Sirota over-extending a favorite concept, in ways which will (correctly) seem strange to those from outside the tribe?

The term “white (skin) privilege” largely derives from so-called “critical race theory.” In some contexts, the term may even have useful applications, though it largely serves as a make-work project for hordes of useless professors whose names and claims are never heard outside a small tribal world.

In this case, why did Sirota build his column around the concepts of “white privilege” and “white male privilege?” His valid concern was easily stated in more conventional ways—conventional ways which would have made sense to a wide array of citizens.

Why did he express his valid concern in a way which would (justifiably) sound strange to many ears? Before we speculate about that, let’s consider what happened when Salon’s Joan Walsh mused about his column.

At this point, let’s introduce a theological question: If God is all-powerful and all-good, why does He or She allow Walsh to write about racial topics? An omnipotent God could stop this conduct, and yet the conduct continues.

In the current instance, Walsh swung into action with a column bearing this headline: “Are the Tsarnaev brothers white?” In her opening paragraphs, Walsh flung herself into tribal nut-picking and demonization, helping us see the unhelpful ways in which civil wars get created.

Note the way Walsh invents her tribal demons in her second paragraph:
WALSH (4/22/13): Are the Tsarnaev brothers white?

In the wake of David Sirota’s hot-button essay last week, “Let’s Hope the Boston Marathon Bomber Is a White American,” conservatives swarmed to trash Sirota and Salon. I’m not here to defend or criticize Sirota’s piece–I get in enough trouble on these issues myself—but the storm it provoked was revealing, especially once we learned the identity of the two suspects: Tamarlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, ethnic Chechens who grew up in Russia and came legally to the U.S., who were also Muslim.

Hate mail and punditry targeting Salon and Sirota declared that Sirota was not only morally wrong in hoping the terrorists would turn out to be white—but that he was proven spectacularly incorrect, because the Tsarnaev brothers are not white. “Sorry David Sirota, looks like Boston Bombing suspects are not ‘white Americans,’” wrote the folks at Newsbusters. “Is David Sirota crying uncontrollably because the Boston bombers weren’t whites??” one conservative emailed Salon. There was a lot of other email in the same tedious vein.

But are we sure the Tsarnaevs aren’t white? They are quite literally Caucasian, as in from the Caucuses: Rebecca Eisenberg helps with this handy map. And ethnically in this country, we count Americans of Russian descent, as well as Chechens, as white. Dzhokhar was a naturalized American citizen; Tamarlan had applied for citizenship but reportedly didn’t get it because of FBI concerns about his possible ties to Islamic radicals.

So why are the Tsarnaev brothers not white, at least to right-wingers?
By the end of her column, Walsh is discussing “the right wing’s determination to say” that the Tsarnaev brothers aren't white. But where does her sweeping claim come from?

Obviously, the Tsarnaev brothers are white. As Walsh helpfully notes, that judgment comes straight from the Census Bureau, which officially classifies people of their ethnicity as white.

The Tsarnaev brothers were white. But by the time we reach her fourth paragraph, Walsh is saying, without qualification, that “right-wingers” think they aren’t! Her sources for this claim are presented in paragraph two. She quotes one minor blogger at Newsbusters, who she describes as “the people at Newsbusters.” She also quotes a mocking question she says she received from one conservative emailer.

Walsh then says “there was a lot of other email in the same tedious vein.” This provides the full evidence for her sweeping claim.

This is classic “nut-picking,” of the type we liberals used to denounce before we decided the practice is fun. Walsh is telling her readers about (alleged) e-mails because, just as a matter of fact, very few published conservatives have said that the brothers aren’t white.

Here’s how this nut-picking worked:

Walsh managed to find one minor blogger at Newsbusters who seemed to make the sad, stupid claim that Muslims can’t be white. (Or something. See part 2 in this series.) She transformed him into “the people at Newsbusters,” then filled out her tribal complaint by talking about a bunch of e-mails from an unknown number of unquoted, unnamed people who may or may not exist.

This is classic nut-picking. Major conservatives have said other things about this case which deserve to be challenged or criticized. But the “right wing” actually hasn’t been claiming that the Tsarnaevs aren't white.

Walsh's soft sourcing tells you that. Essentially, Walsh made her claim up.

This is dumb and very dishonest—but it helps create the exciting new war between the red and the blue. Walsh tells her tribe that the other tribe is making the most ridiculous claims. This is the way tribal warfare is formed, whether here or in the Caucasus.

Back to Sirota:

Down through the annals of time, all the way back into prehistory, we humans have always been inclined to invent and stoke tribal division. There is no aspect of human life we can’t turn into a point of tribal fury. Yesterday, the New York Times described one such conceptual system:
HERSZENHORN (4/25/13): At his mosque in Cambridge, Mass., Mr. Tsarnaev had shown a preference for a strict Salafist interpretation of Islam, objecting to a sermon that approved the celebration of Thanksgiving and saying that he would not celebrate the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. While those views seemed out of place in the university town of Cambridge, in the wind-swept villages of Dagestan they are a part of the daily discourse, and of a legacy of violence going back decades.
Violent division extends for decades as warring tribes fight about such celebrations. If you want to be very sad, we strongly recommend that full New York Times report.

For whatever reason, many of us human beings enjoy stoking tribal division. So it was with Sirota’s column as our war between red and blue grew.

Sirota could have expressed his valid point in a very familiar way: Millions of Muslims shouldn’t be blamed for the violent crimes of these two brothers!

Everyone would have understood the logic of that statement. That may have been the problem.

You see, those who long for tribal war seek to heighten tribal division. They may adopt murky logic and language because the logic and language are ours. They don’t want to express an idea using the logic and language of others. A tribe will often develop their own private language. Use of that tribal language is a way to prove one's love for the tribe.

The concept of “white privilege” may be quite useful in other settings. But it wasn’t a useful way to advance Sirota’s perfectly valid concern.

So what? Sirota used that framework anyway, producing a murky column. His column featured unfamiliar, outré language and peculiar logic.

We liberals got to revel in his denunciations of “white male privilege.” That said, most Americans would (justifiably) find his piece rather strange, hard to parse, hard to follow.

Most Americans would find his piece strange. When hardheads seek to stoke tribal war, that is often the point.

Tomorrow: On Melissa Harris-Perry’s show, one upbeat progressive voice

Beinart wants to make you like him again!


To do so, he treats you like fools: Just this once, we’re going to let you ask us about our business!

No, we aren’t big fans of Peter Beinart. We don’t refer to the war-mongering Beinart did in the run-up to Iraq. We’re talking about a minor slight the gentleman extended our way just about ten years back.

Some of the children are quite naughty children. It’s our impression, from that one incident, that Peter may be such a child.

That said, we were struck by the phoniness of his piece at The Daily Beast, “Are the Tsarnaevs white?” Since Beinart is technically bright, and since the piece itself is quite dumb, we assume he’s continuing the long, slow process of recreating himself as a liberal in the wake of his fervent pleas for a long, ugly war in Iraq.

Peter may want you to like him again. That may explain the way he fawns to you in his Daily Beast piece.

How about it? Are the Tsarnaevs white? As we noted yesterday, the answer is easy: Yes! And this isn’t even a matter of judgment. As Joan Walsh noted at Salon, the Census Bureau officially classifies folk of their ethnicity as white.

Beinart’s headline question was easy to answer—but remember, Peter may be trying to make you like him again. For that reason, he started his piece with a simple-minded approach to David Sirota’s recent piece at Salon and its conservative critics:
BEINART (4/24/13): Are the Tsarnaevs white?

The day after last week’s attack in Boston, David Sirota wrote a column for Salon entitled “Let’s Hope the Boston Marathon Bomber Is a White American,” arguing that this would limit the resulting crackdown on civil liberties. At first, conservatives were appalled. Then, when police fingered the Tsarnaev brothers, they were triumphant. “Sorry, David Sirota, Looks Like Boston Bombing Suspects Not White Americans,” snickered a headline in Newsbusters. “Despite the most fervent hopes of some writers over at,” added a blogger at Commentary, “the perpetrators of the Boston Marathon bombing are not ‘white Americans’.”

But the bombers were white Americans. The Tsarnaev brothers had lived in the United States for more than a decade. Dzhokhar was a U.S. citizen. Tamerlan was a legal permanent resident in the process of applying for citizenship. And as countless commentators have noted, the Tsarnaevs hail from the Caucasus, and are therefore, literally, “Caucasian.” You can’t get whiter than that.
We’re sorry, but that’s just stupid. We'll also assumne it's dishonest. Adding insult to injury, Beinart even includes the instantly hackneyed comment about being Caucasian from the Caucasus. In this way, he lets you know that he’s talking down to your ass.

Beinart simply isn’t that dumb. Let’s return to our basic question:

Yes, the Tsarnaevs are white. But are they “white Americans,” as Beinart also says? More to the point, are they “white Americans” in the way intended by Sirota’s column?

Remember, Sirota wasn’t predicting that the bombers would be “white Americans.” Instead, he said that would be his preference, “arguing that this would limit the resulting crackdown on civil liberties.”

In that sense, it isn’t clear in any way that the Tsarnaevs are “white Americans” in the sense intended by Sirota. In his column, Sirota worried about what might happen “if the bomber ends up being a Muslim and/or a foreigner from the developing world.” He seemed to contrast that possibility to his (understandable) preference that the bomber be "a white American."

But the bombers did end up being foreign-born Muslims. The older brother spent six months last year seeming to further his Muslim identity in the developing world.

In all honesty, the Tsarnaevs pretty much weren’t “white Americans” in the sense Sirota had hoped for. Indeed, their background made E. J. Dionne “worry that hundreds of thousands of law-abiding Muslim citizens could become the victims of our anger—much as Italian Americans were stereotyped in the days of Sacco and Vanzetti.”

That is precisely the kind of backlash Sirota had hoped to avoid.

So yes, Peter Beinart, the Tsarnaevs are white—but no, they really aren’t “white Americans” in the way Sirota intended. Treating his liberal readers like fools, Beinart ignored this fact—and he even conned you about the comment made by one of the conservatives he mocks.

To show us how dumb conservatives have been, Beinart quotes the hapless fellow at Newsbusters who seems to think that a person can’t be both white and Muslim. But the person he quotes from Commentary is Peter Wehner—and this is what Wenher actually wrote, until Beinart did a bit of creative “editing;”
WEHNER: Despite the most fervent hopes of some writers over at, the perpetrators of the Boston Marathon bombing are not “white Americans”–a classification Salon used to exclude Islamists...
In our view, Wehner is basically right in that highlighted passage. When Sirota said he hoped the bomber would be “a white American,” he did seem to be excluding Muslims. The Tsarnaevs really aren’t the people he said he was hoping for.

Our guess? Beinart wants us liberals to like him again. Toward that end, he treats us like fools. All is fair in love and war, as the careerists and war-mongers say!

As the fourth “annual” fund-raising drive turns!


We survey The One True Channel and the public schools: What will MSNBC be like in the coming years? How about Salon?

We think it’s important for liberals to badger the news orgs which are starting to define the liberal world. We’re going to try to be more polite about the work we see at such outposts.

But liberals need to fight for better performance from these entities. If you agree with us on that point, we will ask you to impoverish yourself as part of our fourth or fifth annual fund-raising drive.

After some fifteen years!

In the coming year, we will continue to critique the new liberal news organs. Those who want to see their mugs on TV will forget to perform this key function.

We will also continue to talk about the public schools. In part, we have a bit of minor expertise in this area, based on our dozen years in the Baltimore City schools (long ago). We even share the old school tie with Baltimore's Ta-Nehisi Coates! (Lemmel Junior High, different years.)

But good God! It’s stunning to see the way the liberal world has abandoned the topic of public schools. At one time, this was a major part of the liberal play list.

True no more! Liberal leaders don’t discuss the interests of low-income children. We don’t discuss their public schools. We don’t discuss or defend their teachers.

All in all, we stand aside and let the elites have their way in this area. We let the manufactured consent run wilroughshod over the land.

Tomorrow, we’re going to give you a short account of our history in this area. Why do we get so unpleasant about this topic? Tomorrow, we’ll deftly explain.

For today, we’re going to ask you to sell your car and transfer the proceeds to our analysts. They’re studying NAEP data as we speak.

We cant make them look up from their desks! To help them along, just click here.

Breaking: A striking report from Dagestan!


A portrait of life lived in tribes: A few days ago, we read something which almost made us feel sorry for poor Joseph Stalin.

How many different peoples can one man be asked to subjugate? That was our question after reading a detailed Wall Street Journal profile of the Tsarnaev family.

Anzor Tsarnaev is the father of the alleged Boston bombers. As it turns out, he crossed an ethnic line when he married his wife:
CULLISON (4/22/13): Back in the 1940s, Anzor Tsarnaev's parents were deported to Kyrgyzstan from their native Chechnya after Josef Stalin's regime accused the Caucasian Muslim ethnic group of being Nazi collaborators. Anzor was born and raised in Tokmok, a city not far from the capital of Bishkek. He was one of 10 siblings, many of whom went on to become lawyers.

He met his wife, Zubeidat, in Elista, the provincial capital of the Kalmykia region, where they were both students. Zubeidat, an ethnic Avar, came from Dagestan.
Say what? The mother of the accused bombers is “an ethnic Avar?” We’ll admit that we had never heard of the ethnic Avars. As it turns out, their story goes back into the mists of time, according to this authoritative report.

It’s no one’s fault that life was lived in tribes dating back into prehistory. But until we teach ourselves not to do so, we humans are very strongly inclined to break ourselves up into tribes.

There is no way to split into Us-and-Them that we humans won’t eagerly cultivate—until we train ourselves to see that this way lies disaster.

This morning, the New York Times presents a fascinating news report about one type of tribal division which is dogging Dagestan, the Tsarnaevs’ home region.

In this case, the tribes aren’t red and blue, the tribes we’re cultivating here. In this case, the tribes are Sufi and Salafist.

We’d never heard of Salafist either. David Herszenhorn takes it from there:
HERSZENHORN (4/25/13): [I]t is clear from interviews with friends and relatives in Dagestan and in the United States that Tamerlan Tsarnaev had firm views about the violent split between moderate Sufi Muslims supported by the Russian government and adherents of Salafism, an orthodox form of Sunni Islam—a tug of war that has driven the religious politics in the North Caucasus for two decades.

Mr. Tsarnaev sided squarely with the Salafist camp, which includes the jihadist rebels for whom violent revenge and score-settling are a way of life developed through years of anti-Russian insurgency. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, many of the Salafists studied at religious universities in the Middle East, forming a cadre of young ideologues who returned with strong objections to the more tolerant forms of worship they found in their homeland.


At his mosque in Cambridge, Mass., Mr. Tsarnaev had shown a preference for a strict Salafist interpretation of Islam, objecting to a sermon that approved the celebration of Thanksgiving and saying that he would not celebrate the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. While those views seemed out of place in the university town of Cambridge, in the wind-swept villages of Dagestan they are a part of the daily discourse, and of a legacy of violence going back decades.
Apparently, one group celebrates the prophet's birthday. The other tribe will not.

We strongly recommend this report, which documents the endless fights that will be created when tribes agree to despise. Before you’re done, you will read about 39 people being killed in Moscow “in revenge for the deaths, months earlier, of villagers picking wild garlic in a forest.”

Were those villagers killed because they were picking wild garlic? Because they were doing so in a forest? Herszenhorn doesn’t say. But when tribes agree to despise, everything can become a basis for angry and violent division.

People born in Dagestan inherit terrible tribal divisions. Today, in our country, red and blue players are working quite hard to give us a form of this world.