THE COURIC SHOW (PART 1)! Trumans show turned out to be fake. How about Katie Courics? // link // print // previous // next //
MONDAY, JANUARY 30, 2006
PUBLIC SCHOOLS RULE, OTHER SCHOOLS DROOL: Do kids learn more in private (and charter) schools? This has been an article of faith among some conservatives—and test scores have sometimes seemed to suggest that its true. in Saturdays New York Times, for example, Diane Jean Schemo noted a long-standing fact about the performance of private school kids on the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress):
SCHEMO: [P]rivate school students have long scored higher on the national assessment, commonly referred to as the nation's report card.Those data include all private school students—kids from fancy-pants prep schools as well as those from Catholic schools. But over the years, test scores have often been used to suggest that even kids in Catholic schools learn more than their public school peers. Catholic schools rule! And public schools drool! Youve heard it, perhaps more than once.
But readers, hold the phone! Schemo reports a major, government-financed new study which suggests that, when it comes to math, students in regular public schools do as well as or significantly better than comparable students in private schools. The key phrase there is comparable students; according to Schemo, the new study used advanced statistical techniques to adjust for the effects of income, school and home circumstances. One result? When adjustments were made for student backgrounds, public school kids outscored their Catholic school counterparts in math, the only subject analyzed:
SCHEMO (1/28/06): The study, by Christopher Lubianski [sic] and Sarah Theule Lubianski [sic], of the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, compared fourth- and eighth-grade math scores of more than 340,000 students in 13,000 regular public, charter and private schools on the 2003 National Assessment of Educational Progress...The study also found that charter schools, privately operated and publicly financed, did significantly worse than public schools in the fourth grade, once student populations were taken into account, Schemo writes. Heres a highlighted passage from the studys Major Findings—a passage quoted by Schemo:
LUBIENKSI AND LUBIENSKI: Over all, demographic differences between students in public and private schools more than account for the relatively high raw scores of private schools. Indeed, after controlling for these differences, the presumably advantageous private school effect disappears, and even reverses in most cases.Hay-yo! After adjusting for family income and other factors, public school kids did somewhat better. Aside from family income, what sorts of factors did the study adjust for? You can read the authors explanation starting on page 21 of the report.
In this (large) study, public school kids came out better, after adjusting for income and family literacy indicators. This clearly doesnt end the debate about the value of charters or private school vouchers. But yes—when we compare test scores from various schools, we have to make some sort of effort to adjust for student demographics. Routinely, journalists fail to do so. This makes a sad joke of our public discussion. More on this topic tomorrow.
MUST-READ NYT: Mr. Sulzberger, tear down that wall! Today, Bob Herbert offers a must-read piece about the schooling of minority kids. Well discuss his piece later on in the week. We hope you have a way to peruse it.
PART 1—AS THE MILLIONAIRES FLOUNDER: How dumb is American political discourse? On Thursday mornings Today show, Katie Couric—paid millions a year—was clueless on the basic facts of a widely-discussed political matter. The facts in question had been flogged for weeks. They had been the center of a two-week flap involving Post ombudsman Deborah Howell, for example. But you know how those millionaire journalists tend to be! Couric—paid millions—seemed utterly clueless when she spoke with irate Howard Dean:
DEAN (1/26/06): The other thing is the corruption scandals in Congress. Tom DeLay; all these folks involved in getting money—all of whom are Republicans—from Jack Abramoff. We need to, an overhaul of Congress in the worst way.At this point, any reporter with an ounce of smarts would have known what Dean was talking about. (Well criticize Dean later on in our series.) But Couric—paid millions—did not seem to know. Heres how she proceeded:
COURIC (continuing directly): According—let me just tell you. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Abramoff and his associates gave $3 million to Republican and one—Republicans—and $1.5 million to Democrats including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. So this—Duh! Couric showed no sign of understanding the distinction involved in this matter. In reciting those CRP numbers, Couric was explaining how much money Abramoffs clients (Abramoff and his associates) had given to various Rep-and-Dem pols. Dean had referred to Abramoff himself. In a slightly more rational world, any reporter would have grasped this distinction. But Couric—paid millions—did not seem to do so. She ended with this hapless pledge:
COURIC: Well, we'll obviously have to look into that and clarify that for our viewers at a later date. Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Mr. Dean, Governor Dean, thanks for talking with us.Did Couric know the time of day? Dont go there! Quite plainly, she did.
Courics performance was utterly hapless—as would be the clarification presented to viewers the very next day. In a well-known recent movie, a fellow named Truman was deeply involved in an utterly fake TV show. In her hapless performance last week, was Katie just staging The Couric Show? Is her famous show real—or fake? Well ponder that question all week.
TOMORROW—PART 2: The next day, The Couric Show still floundered.
MUST-READ NYT: Mr. Sulzberger, tear down that wall! Today, Paul Krugman offers a must-read piece about this very matter. Well discuss it later on in the week. We hope you have a way to peruse it.
BUMILLER DELIVERS: Mr. Sulzberger, put up that wall! But this time, put Elisabeth Bumiller behind it! This morning, Bumiller performs her latest caddy journalism. Remember, her weekly letter mainly exists to transcribe the official White House self-portrait. With that basic thought in mind, here is todays first paragraph:
BUMILLER (1/30/06): President Bush's State of the Union address was well into its 20th draft on Saturday morning when William McGurn, the director of White House speechwriting, sat down in his windowless West Wing bat cave—his description—to talk about last-minute ''cram-ins'' and the pressures of writing a speech that is supposed to help Mr. Bush pivot from a bad 2005 to a better 2006.His description? Youre darn right it is! In this latest pseudo-journalistic transaction, McGurn offered a humanizing description of his office, and Bumiller rushed to type it on up. (She repeats it later in her column.) But then, todays White House Letter, like so many others, keeps churning the White Houses view of their man. As McGurn continues, he keeps presenting the familiar image of George W. Bush, our Bold and Wise Leader. Throughout todays letter, Bush is seen wisely directing his hapless staff as they assemble his State of the Union Address. In a glance, Wise Leader can see how stupid they are—and after the merest word from his humble mouth, they scurry off to correct their mistakes. We wont bother citing examples. You can read through and enjoy them yourself.
Bumillers letter is one of the oddest newspaper artifacts of our age. By the way, who wrote the equivalent weekly feature during the eight-year Clinton presidency? Who had the assignment, during those years, of typing the weekly White House self-portrait? Duh! No one had the job in those days. As far as we have been able to tell, clowning on this ludicrous scale had not yet been invented.
DEAN BLUNDERS: Yes, it really can be frustrating, watching Howard Dean put his foot in his mouth. Yesterday, on Fox News Sunday, he hauled off and did it again:
CHRIS WALLACE (1/29/06): So if we find—and I just want to—we have to wrap this up. But if we find that there were some Democrats who wrote letters on behalf of some of the Indian tribes that Abramoff represented, then what do you say, sir?Deans highlighted statement is endlessly foolish. (Fuller transcript below. A minute earlier, Dean had been forced to deny another dumb thing hed just finished saying.) And sure enough, Wallace did follow up, twenty minutes later, as is semi-appropriate:
WALLACE: For those of you who were watching earlier on when we were talking to Governor Dean, he said that no Democrats ever did anything in response to the money that they got from Abramoff or Abramoff clients like the Indian tribes, and if they did, they were in trouble: Well, the Washington Post reports, and we have it right here, that in—they reported in November that Senator Harry Reid, the Senate minority leader, wrote a letter to the interior secretary back in March 5th of 2002 opposing a casino that one of those Indian tribes opposed. In other words, he was taking the position of one of Abramoff's clients.Brit preferred to talk about Kerry. But all Dems and liberals ought to be asking why the Dems cant do better than this. Is this party trying at all? Often, their framing of issues is so inept that it seems they just cant be.
FULLER TRANSCRIPT: First, Dean makes a foolish statement about what Abramoff directed—and just like that, hes forced to pretend that he said something else. Then, he moves on to his unwise, hazy claims about Democrats delivering anything or wr[iting] letters on behalf of some of the Indian tribes that Abramoff represented. People who play the game this poorly ought to be assigned somewhere else:
WALLACE: I just want to ask you about this question of the Democratic involvement. I want to put up something from the non- partisan Center for Responsive Politics. This comes directly from their Web page, and it says, "Here is a detailed look at Abramoff's lobbying and political contributions from Abramoff, the tribes that hired him, and Sun Cruise Casinos, which is a company that Abramoff owned since 1999."Many liberals love Howard Dean. But hes utterly hapless at this task, and he shouldnt be sent out to do it.
WHERE THEY START: Digby! Digby! Dig-ster! Mr. Digg! This is the type of self-pitying piffle that can make a mass movement seem silly:
DIGBY: What I learned on Press the Meat this morning:That summary—mainly of the roundtable segment—is too silly for words. Clearly, people who say that we Dems arent religious havent watched as we preach to the choir.
For ourselves, well lodge a specific complaint about a fairly innocuous panel. At one point, Russert and Broder recited a new and familiar group tale:
RUSSERT (1/29/06): Let me turn to the race for the White House. You heard Senator Frist suggest that hes considering running for president. The Gallup poll went out this week about Hillary Clintonand drew a lot of comment around the country—Would you vote for Hillary Clinton for president? Definitely, 16 percent. Maybe, 32 percent. Definitely not, 51 percent. Does that tell us anything at this point of the race, David?Poor Hillary! She doesnt start at the same place as everyone else! Indeed, just moments later, Russert and Kelly ODonnell found themselves sharing a typical Darling Condi Moment:
RUSSERT: The president said the other day that this is a wide open race, the most wide open hes ever seen. Does he have any kind of wink, or nudge towards any Republicans?Why did ODonnell get this site a-runnin? Because we know that Rice was also polled when Hillary cranked those baggage-like numbers. In fact, Gallup polled just these two women—and their numbers were very similar! You can barely find this fact in the press, and Gallup has now moved the poll behind its subscribers-only wall. But in the poll, 46 percent of voters said that they would definitely not vote for Condi! Yes, the difference is within the margin of error. But the consummate hacks who make up your press corps keep reciting the Hillary number—and theyve deep-sixed the number for Rice. Meanwhile, they just keep saying how great it would be if Condi would run for the White House.
Here is the single paragraph Gallup still gives us for free. David Moore does the honors:
MOORE: A new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll finds the two women who are most frequently mentioned as potential presidential candidates for their respective parties are each opposed by about half the electorate. Registered voters are about evenly divided as to whether they might vote for New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton or definitely vote against her. Registered voters are also evenly divided in their views of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, though Rice fares slightly better.Well go ahead and restate those numbers. 51 percent say they wont vote for Hill—and 46 percent say they wont vote for Condi. But so what? One of the numbers has been pimped to the skies—while the other number has been sent to the dumpster. Indeed, so it went yesterday as a panel of scribes staged the famous, real-or-fake Russert Show.
WHAT CLOWNS WE MORTALS BE: According to Nexis, only one newspaper has printed the number for Rice. And just to enjoy a good, hearty laugh, check the way Michael McAuliff (New York Daily News) stressed the startling contrast between Hillary and Darling Condi:
MCAULIFF (1/25/06): There's one giant roadblock standing between Sen. Hillary Clinton and any hopes she may have of moving back to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in 2008.Can human beings get any dumber? If humanly possible, surely our journalists will yodel from that mountaintop first.
LET US SAY THIS ABOUT THAT: On one point (and only one), Kevin Drum has been over-thinking. Is TVs President Charles Logan a Republican? Kevin has now asked the question two times. But Logan isnt just any Republican—its fairly clear which one he is. David Zurawik, in the Baltimore Sun:
ZURAWIK (1/15/06): Gregory Itzin's depiction of President Charles Logan as a shifty political creature representing many of the culture's worst characteristics also has great resonance. From the angry glares under furrowed brows to the herky-jerky arm movements of a martinet, Itzin has the late President Richard Nixon down cold.A half-dozen TV critics have noticed—and theyve also noticed that Logans wife seems to be very much like Martha Mitchell. For our money, Itzins opening-weekend impression was so heavy-handed that it damaged the program.
For himself, Itzin is offering a limited hang-out. Recently, he shook his jowls for Alex Strachan of the Ottawa Citizen:
STRACHAN (1/21/06): In real life, 24's President Charles Logan, a.k.a. President Scaredy-Cat, has a wife and two children, three dogs and four cats, and golfs with an 11 handicap.Im not doing Nixon, Itzin says—reminding us of the former Republican president who said we werent bombing Cambodia.