SHOULD DICK CHENEY SHUT HIS BIG YAP? Relying on uncertain facts, Schieffer told Cheney to stuff it: // link // print // previous // next //
MONDAY, MAY 11, 2009
Dittoing Digby: Digby is also getting annoyed when progressivesin this case, Olbermann and Alterrehabilitate Colin Powell. He was the worst chickenshit of the [Bush Admin] bunch, Digby says, since he had a separate power center and a special authority as an ex-general (click here). She also plumbs Powells longer recordmatters we skipped because we dont know the facts well enough. We focused on the sheer absurdity of the presentation O-and-A made (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/9/09). Digby took things in a different direction. We recommend what she wrote.
A few weeks ago, Digby noted Alters unexplained flip on torture (click here). Personally, we like Jonathan Alter. But it made us think of his unexplained flip on the most consequential bad paraphrase in U.S. history: Al Gore said he invented the Internet! To recall his flip on that disaster, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/13/07.
Ironically, its a bit like that Love Story bromide. Being an actor on TV news shows means never having to say youre sorry. Such actors never have to explain why theyve conveniently flipped.
Stalking the charter school miracle: Has an educational miracle occurred at Promise Academy 1, a relatively new middle-school charter in Harlem? Thats what David Brooks said in Fridays column. Headline: The Harlem Miracle.
Has a miracle really occurred? Like Brooks, we dont know. But in his account of this miracle, Brooks quickly used a word we learned, long ago, not to trust in these contexts. For us, on first reading, the key word was enormous. Based on long experience, we dont trust enormous gains:
Were not sure wed call that reading gain enormous, though the math gain would start to come close. But over the course of the past forty years, enormous score gains have, quite often, proven to be illusory or problematic. But alas! Meticulous economists rarely show signs of knowing this fact when they conduct their rigorous studies.
Brooks seems clueless too.
Are those apparent score gains real? If so, do they represent a miracle? At the GothamSchools web site, Aaron Pallas responded to Brooks under his own eye-catching headline. Just How Gullible Is David Brooks? the gentlemans headline asked.
Pallas is an education professor at Columbias Teachers College. You can read his whole post for yourselves (just click here)remembering that Promise Academy 1 is still quite new, and thus lacks an extended track record.
For ourselves, wed be inclined to assume that Promise is a good deal for the students who go there. But below, you see the part of Pallas post which jumped out at us. Pallas notes an awkward fact: The kids who scored so well on New Yorks mandatory statewide tests didnt score very well at all on the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, a well-known national battery.
HCZ refers to Harlem Childrens Zone, the well-respected entity which runs Promise Academy. ELA refers to English Language Arts, New York states version of reading:
In short, those same eighth-graders took the Iowa Tests of Basic Skillsand their scores were not impressive. Scoring at the 33rd percentile [in math] is no great success story, Pallas writes. He doesnt mention it, but this same group scored even lower in reading on the Iowa Tests, by a tad. Their NCE was 40. (To see the annual report to which Pallas refers, you know what to do: Just click this.)
Why would the same eighth-grade group achieve a miracle on the New York State tests, then perform weakly on the Iowa Tests? Pallas describes the Promise Academy explanations. If anything, we think hes a bit too soft in his assessment of these explanations.
Whats the real story about these tests scores? Like Brooks, we simply dont know. But its very silly to shout about miracles on the basis on a single set of tests, at a school which hasnt yet had the chance to establish a long-term track record. (Its also irresponsible and self-indulgentthings HCZ stands against.) And oh yes: Over the past forty years, enormous score gains of this type have often turned out to be illusory. Brooks seems clueless about this undeniable fact. Fryers apparent gullibility seems a bit more striking.
If we actually care about these topics, a few facts should be respected. And yes, we think these are facts:
When kids produce enormous gains on a high-publicity test, a question is automatically raised about the way the test was administered. Is it possible that some sort of inappropriate test preparation, or some sort of inappropriate test administration, helped produce such enormous gains? (Deliberately or otherwise?) Like Brookspresumably like Fryerwe have no way of knowing in this particular case. But in our current research culture, meticulous economists routinely accept such data with no questions askedtest scores produced on high-stakes tests administered by interested parties. Its easier to talk about miracles than to acknowledge the obvious problem with this non-meticulous practice.
Put it another way: Its easy to produce Big Research if youre prepared to accept the validity of such data with no questions asked. Its harder to conduct Big Research if researchers have to test children themselves, thereby assuring the validity of the test procedures.
Brooks says Fryer is meticulous. Wed say the gent may be a bit careless. How gullible is Brooks? Were not sure. But adopting the language of school kids worldwide, wed have to say he didnt start this. Wed say an economist did.
SHOULD DICK CHENEY SHUT HIS BIG YAP: Should Richard Cheney shut his big yap? Bob Schieffer seemed to suggest as much on yesterdays Face the Nation:
Schieffer to Cheney: Yes, we invited you here to speak. But why dont you shut your big yap?
Many liberals have said what Schieffer suggestedthat Cheney should put a sock in it. Were not inclined to think that ourselves, and so we recently checked the claim Schieffer made on yesterdays program. Is it true, what Schieffer said? Is it very unusual for someone to run his mouth just after leaving the VP office? In truth, there are very few cases to check. But we did find one other loudmouth.
People dont leave the VP office every day; in the past thirty years, there are only three examples other than Cheney. (Excluding VP Bush, who became president.) Two of the three kept their big yaps shut. One of the three played loudmouth.
The well-mannered fellows were an odd couple: Al Gore and Dan Quayle. Quayle said little in public in 1993, choosing instead to work on a book. Gore also worked a book in 2001. He too offered few critiques of the sitting president.
For the record, not everyone was pleased with Gores silence. By March 29, 2001, Richard Cohen was devoting this column to a plea for Gore to pipe up about the Bush Admins environmental policies. Gore is needed, Cohen said. We dont fault Gore for his early approach; his situation was unique. But were not sure why Cohens view was wrong:
By April, Katherine Kit Seelye was writing this political memo, saying that [s]ome of Mr. Gore's former campaign staff and allies shared Cohens view about Gores silencethough she quoted no one by name. In fairness, this extended a trademark theme for Seelye: Whatever Gore Does Must Be Wrong.
At any rate, Quayle and Gore kept their yaps shut at first. But was Schieffer right in what he said? One former VP did run his mouth. That was the original Rude Punditthe un-mannered Walter Mondale.
Mondale left his VP post in 1981, replaced by Reagan/Bush. By April 30, he was running his mouth:
By graduation time, he was complaining about Reagan on torture and terror!
Four days later, Mondale was sticking his big long nose into other foreign policy matters:
By July, he was even derid[ing] Reagan values, according to a Times headline:
In short, Mondale spoke early and often. To be honest, there is no real historical record which makes Cheneys conduct very unusual, the formulation Schieffer chose. Departed presidents almost always stifle themselves; the rule is less clear for departing VPs. As usual, Schieffer was overstating the facts a tad, in line with prevailing sentiment.
Should Cheney shut up? We dont really see why. If he thinks the country is less safe now, we cant see why he wouldnt say that. In recent years, we libs have frequently offered variations on a sissified theme: Will someone please make these bad men stop talking? We think wed be much better off learning to fight, and win, these debates. The public tends to agree with our positions, by the way.
(In todays column, E.J. Dionne says something similar about the coming Supreme Court debate. By way of contrast, many liberals have already been complaining: How dare these Republicans speak?)
As usual, Schieffer was overstating a tad. Times have changed in the mainstream press, though. Yesterday, he tilted some weak, uncertain facts against Cheney. For many years, he tended to tilt his uncertain facts in favor of Bush Admin ploys.