Companion site:


Google search...


Markos Moulitsas was shocked, just shocked, to think that the Times could be wrong
Daily Howler logo
MARKOS DISCOVERS GAMBLING! Markos Moulitsas was shocked, just shocked, to think that the Times could be wrong: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, MAY 21, 2010

Grey lady backslides: We’re always stunned by the technical incompetence of the great/brilliant/smart New York Times.

This morning, Sharon Otterman reports the new NAEP reading scores for the New York City schools. “Reading Test Gives City Mixed Marks,” the headline says. Here’s how Otterman starts:

OTTERMAN (5/21/10): New York City's fourth graders are doing significantly better in reading since Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg took control of the schools, but eighth graders have shown little improvement, according to the results of a national reading test released on Thursday.

The data, part of the benchmark test known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, show that New York City fourth graders have made progress in closing the gap between their scores and the state and national results in reading, despite the higher percentages of poor and minority students in the city. In particular, scores rose among low-achieving city students from 2007 to 2009.

The test, known as the NAEP, is administered to groups of students randomly chosen throughout the country every two years. It is seen by experts as an important way to compare student performance across states, which have their own standards and definitions of proficiency.

Fourth graders “are doing significantly better,” she writes. But what exactly does that mean? Otterman makes no attempt to explain, though she does include a graphic which shows the raw scores fourth graders have achieved on the NAEP reading test. As best one can tell from the graphic, New York’s fourth graders achieved an average raw score of 207 in reading in the year 2002. The average raw score rose to 217 in 2009.

But is that score gain large, or is it trivial? Otterman makes no attempt to say—and readers have no way to know.

Pathetic. In the past year, the Times had finally begun to offer a rough rule of thumb for interpreting these raw scores. Here it is: A gain of ten points on the NAEP scale is said to be equal, very roughly, to one academic year. (To see the Times’ Sam Dillon articulate this rule of thumb, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/25/10.) If we apply that very rough rule of thumb, that score gain by New York’s forth graders would seem to be very “significant.” Roughly speaking, it would mean that New York’s fourth graders are perhaps a whole year ahead of their peers from 2002. That would be remarkable progress.

Are Gotham’s fourth graders really gaining that quickly? We’d like to see NAEP officials asked to offer their thoughts on this matter. (When will you see that in the Times? You’ll see that when “the real housewives of New York City” renounce their wealth and sign up as nuns.) But one thing is certain—absent some sort of interpretive rule, those raw scores mean nothing at all to Times readers. What is a reader supposed to gain from seeing those raw scores expressed on that graphic? The typical reader will have no way to estimate the size of the gain. You might as well present the raw scores in Babylonian numerals. Readers won’t have the slightest idea what that means either.

Alas! It’s a bit like working with the slowest child in a big city school’s slowest class. Once in a while, you’ll see a small advance at the Times—and then, the back-slide occurs. After years of coaxing, Dillon has finally started telling Times readers what those NAEP raw scores might mean. But today, the assignment was handed to Otterman, and the Times slid back down the hill.

Does the New York Time have editors? Do they have institutional memory? From one month to the next?

How reputations persist: How does the Times maintain its reputation, given its endlessly sad, inept work? Check today’s letter from Erica Jong, calling Maureen Dowd’s new column “brilliant.” Jong’s insightful letter was rushed into print—and some day, her back may get scratched in return. Yesterday, a similar transaction occurred, when Anne Bernays (described as “the novelist”) offered an inept affirmation of the Times’ latest bungled reporting.

So it goes, as your nation’s most hapless “elites” scratch backs, kiss ass, pimp reputation.

MARKOS DISCOVERS GAMBLING (permalink): How frequently has Richard Blumenthal misstated his military record? Like the New York Times’ Raymond Hernandez, we don’t know.

On the one hand, the Stamford Advocate has now reported one previously unreported incident (from 2009) when Blumenthal seems to have spoken in a way which was inaccurate or misleading; just click here. The Advocate cites a second incident, from 2008. But this seems to be one of the incidents originally cited by the New York Times; click this. For the record, both these incidents rely on quotations from news reports—and quotations are not always accurate.

In standard pseudo-journalistic fashion, the Advocate refers to these one or two events as “a trove of material.” Perhaps the paper took its lead from Joe Scarborough, who turned “eight” reports into “hundreds” on yesterday’s sad Morning Joe.

Remember when you thought that Imus was inept in the morning?

The Advocate thus seems to have located one new instance in which Blumenthal may have misstated. On the other hand, the Hartford Courant’s Colin McEnroe contacted a wide range of Connecticut political reporters about the Blumenthal matter (click here). McEnroe says he “asked reporters, anchors and columnists” to tell him “whether they could remember Blumenthal ever claiming to have served in Vietnam” and “whether they had been under the impression...that Blumenthal had served in Vietnam.” Again and again, these experienced reporters told McEnroe that they had never seen Blumenthal misstate his record, and that they never believed that he had served in Nam. This tracks the earlier statement by Christopher Keating, the Courant’s Hartford bureau chief. On Tuesday evening’s NewsHour, Keating told Judy Woodruff that he had attended many veterans events at which Blumenthal spoke, but he never heard him misstate his record (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/20/10).

One experienced observer after another say that he has never heard Blumenthal misstate his record. If the New York Times was trying to present a full picture of this marginal matter, it’s hard to know why evidence like this was missing from its original, massive front-page hit piece. But then, how awful does that original report by Raymond Hernandez seem to be? This awful:

In our own original treatment of this matter, we cited the peculiar passage in which Hernandez seemed to suggest that Blumenthal had lied about being on the Harvard swim team (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/18/10). “Records at the college show that he was never on the team,” Hernandez haplessly wrote. Yesterday, the Hartford Courant quoted a captain of the Harvard swim team saying that Blumenthal was on the team. And not only that! “A photo from the 1964 Harvard College yearbook... shows Blumenthal participating in a Harvard swim meet his freshman year,” the Courant further reported.

As we noted on Day One, the inclusion of that swim team blather always seemed fake, inane, slimy. As it turns out, Hernandez couldn’t get the simplest facts right about this pointless affair.

Hernandez’s work seems stunningly bad. But this has been par for the course at the New York Times, dating back to Jeff Gerth’s inexcusable work in 1992 and 1993. At that time, Gerth and the hapless—or dishonest—New York Times invented the Whitewater “scandal.” Gene Lyons debunked Gerth’s gruesome work in his 1996 book, Fools for Scandal—a crucial book which was published and promoted by Harper’s, one of the nation’s most honored sources. But so what? The “liberal” world refused to care, and the onslaughts against Clinton, then Gore, continued. So did the New York Times serial depredations. Focusing on the paper’s most inexcusable character attacks, here are a few highlights:

In 1999 and 2000, the paper helped lead the way in the savage war against Gore, in which Candidate Gore was portrayed as a hopeless liar. In one profoundly consequential “error,” Katherine Seelye “accidentally” “misheard” what Gore about Love Canal. George Bush went to the White House.

In 2008, the paper ran a front-page hatchet job aimed at Candidate McCain, in which the paper implied—with nothing that dimly resembled real evidence—that McCain was having a sexy-time love affair. The Times had to backtrack; their public editor scolded them. For our own four-part treatment, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/29/08.

And now, in 2010, the Times is at it again, this time targeting Candidate Blumenthal. On the front page, Hernandez carves up a major Democrat—and the scribe is so stunningly inept, or so dishonest, that he couldn’t even figure out whether Blumenthal was on the college swim team. Nor did he bother to let you know that a long list of experienced reporters can’t recall a single instance in which Blumenthal has misstated his record.

But then, the Times has worked this ways for decades. Unless you’re Markos Moulitsas.

Question: Is there any way our liberal team could possibly get any dumber? On Wednesday, Markos was shocked, just shocked, to learn that the Times might have erred in some way in its takedown of Blumenthal. We strongly suggest that you read his whole post. But this is the very picture of modern cluelessness, pseudo-liberal style:

MOULITSAS (5/19/10): I trusted the NY Times to get the story right, and believed the paper when it claimed Blumenthal had a history of misrepresenting his service history. As a veteran, it pissed me off.

Now I'm pissed at the NY Times for not properly doing its job, and denying its readers the available information necessary for its readers to properly assess the situation.

I trusted the newspaper. You'd think I would've learned my lesson after Judith Miller.

“I trusted the NY Times to get the story right,” Markos writes. Even worse: “You'd think I would've learned my lesson after Judith Miller.”

Is Markos Moulitsas three years old? How old does that make his readers? There are few words to capture the dumbness displayed by that post—few words to capture the feckless way the “progressive” world still tends to function.

As we’ve long told you: For many in the new progressive army, the world began in 2003. Will these children ever learn the larger patterns involved here?

Those larger patterns include the New York Times, dating back at least to Jeff Gerth. They also include the sniveling children who stand in line, waiting for jobs, at the hapless on-line magazine, Slate. Just consider:

Hernandez’s utterly bungled report appeared in Tuesday morning’s Times. In part, it referred to a profile of Blumenthal which appeared in Slate, in 2000. (In one of its many bungles, the hard-copy Times misstated the date, saying the profile appeared in 2006. And yes, this tilted the story.) Having apparently erred in 2006 in its treatment of Blumenthal, you’d almost think that Slate might be extra-careful in the way it responded to Hernandez’s piece. Sorry! Shortly after noon that same day, Slate posted this ridiculous digest of know-nothing comments, in which nine different staffers took turns endorsing Hernandez’s bungled report. Plainly, none of these people had yet had sufficient time to evaluate what Hernandez had written. But so what? The children at Slate respond to scripts. They stampeded off, like the fools they all are, to endorse what the great Times had written.

Of course, the children at Slate are part of the “mainstream.” They long to eat crumbs from the Times’ groaning table. If the Times says it, they run to repeat it. We strongly suggest that you read that whole piece, a remarkable digest of “press corps” bad faith. Don’t miss the way Slate plays the victim, saying that it too got “snookered” somehow in its bungled 2006 report. Rather plainly, Slate’s unsigned synopsis implies that Blumenthal somehow misled its own brilliant scribe, David Plotz.

Please note that this piece fails to say how Plotz managed to get himself “snookered.” Can you not see what that silence means—that Plotz fucked things up on his own?

Why did Blumenthal become a target this week? We have no idea. But last night, Bill O’Reilly kept pounding away at this juicy new target, courtesy of Hernandez’s incompetence. Millions of people got to hear, once again, that Blumenthal lied about the swim team—the swim team it now seems he was on. Here was Mr. O, in his first segment about this consummate nonsense:

O'REILLY (5/20/10): Should Blumenthal quit today because of what he did?

LAURA INGRAHAM: Well, I don't—I don't see how you can go from being attorney general, where you're supposed to be the state's chief, you know, advocate on legal matters to senator of the state if, on this issue, you have a very, a muddled record and have clearly said things repeatedly. According to Chris Chase, the story has gotten worse over time. Not better.

O'REILLY: And it's not the only one. I'm tending to agree with you. I don't know Blumenthal myself. I'm tending to agree with you. The Harvard swim club team thing. Slate, Slate magazine on the Internet—a bunch of kooks—they wrote that he was captain of the Harvard swim team. Turns out Blumenthal can hardly swim.

Actually, according to yesterday’s Hartford Courant, it turns out that Blumenthal may have been a 51.0 free-styler. (Though that could be wrong too.) Later, in his “Great American News Quiz,” O’Reilly, joined by two consummate hacks, drove the nonsense even harder:

O'REILLY: According to the New York Times, what else did Blumenthal bend the truth about? A, being an accomplished concert pianist; B, getting elected Harvard swim team captain; C, speaking fluent Mandarin Chinese; D, being the inspiration for Robert De Niro's character in "The Deer Hunter."

STEVE DOOCY: Maybe "Beer Hunter."

O’REILLY: All right. Cards up, please. The answer is, yes. And according to friends of Blumenthal, he doesn't even know how to swim but somehow—

MARTHA MACCALLUM: Oh, boy. It just gets worse.


O’REILLY: Blumenthal can't even swim, but somehow he was the Harvard swim team captain.

MACCALLUM: Swimming not required.

This is precisely how it was done to Gore. The bogus claims get their start at the Times, then get repeated, embellished. (At Morning Joe, “eight” turns into “hundreds.”) Earlier, Laura Ingraham had helped explain what’s at stake in this jihad:

O'REILLY: The Harvard swim club team thing. Slate, Slate magazine on the Internet—a bunch of kooks—they wrote that he was captain of the Harvard swim team. Turns out Blumenthal can hardly swim.

INGRAHAM: Yes, well, that's not that important. But he was ranked by the Competitive Enterprise Institute as the worst attorney general in the United States because he's so anti-business and heavy handed.

Blumenthal is a tough progressive—perhaps the worst, the CEI said. And sure enough! He’s being taken down, with half the hosts at our “liberal” channel insisting that he step aside. By way of contrast, Rachel and Keith are asleep in the woods, maintaining their roles in the cosmos.

Serious People don’t tell the truth about the great grand New York Times.

Elsewhere on-line, some are calling him Spitzer II. They’re noting the way anti-business crusaders become the targets of odd attacks. In fairness, Spitzer really did provide the ammo. But so did David Vitter.

Markos doesn’t know about such things—it just wouldn’t enter his head. He was shocked that the Times got it wrong—though he should have recalled Judith Miller! Meanwhile, the boys and girls at Slate just dream about landing good jobs at good wages.

This is the way your discourse works. This is how your society’s narratives spread. Our advice? Go back and reread yesterday’s letters, as we fools, all around the country, cheered the great New York Times on. Anne Bernays even roused her great snide self, lounging just off Harvard Square.