Pottymouths in PJs

This James Wolcott post is especially delicious, given my fondness (snark) for LGF — JW quotes a Los Angeles Magazine article by RJ Smith (not online) about why Pajamas Media is having trouble attracting advertisers —

Smith hones in on the primary dilemma facing PeePee Media: how to attract affluent, upscale advertisers who tend to shy away from rabid controversy to a blog mall where there are always ugly brawls breaking out near the coin fountain. Smith quotes Roger L. Simon claiming that racism, sexism, and other “stuff universally disliked” will not be verboten in their camp.

Smith: “He must have forgotten about Charles Johnson, whose Little Green Footballs believes all Muslims are terrorists until proven innocent. Slangy, clever, the site is a dysfunctional mix of beautiful photos Johnson takes on coastal bike rides and constitutionally protected hate speech.”

Smith excerpts a choice batch from a LGF hate rally in the comments section, adding drolly, “The screech you hear is the sound of a Lexus backing over a Nikon camera. Is there any corporation in the would that would pay to have its log slapped alongside such calls for slaughter?”

Tee hee.

Update: See also Tom Tomorrow.

Adventures in Reading

Must-read editorial in today’s New York Times:

A bit over a week ago, President Bush and his men promised to provide the legal, constitutional and moral justifications for the sort of warrantless spying on Americans that has been illegal for nearly 30 years. Instead, we got the familiar mix of political spin, clumsy historical misinformation, contemptuous dismissals of civil liberties concerns, cynical attempts to paint dissents as anti-American and pro-terrorist, and a couple of big, dangerous lies.

The rest of the editorial goes over ground already covered by The Mahablog, but read it anyway. It’s a first-rate synopsis of the ongoing atrocity known as “the Bush Administration’s justification for warrantless wiretapping.”

When you are done with the editorial, head on over to Newsweek for “Palace Revolt” by Daniel Klaidman, Stuart Taylor Jr. and Evan Thomas. This provides new insight in how the above-mentioned ongoing atrocity came into being, and how some Justice Department attorneys — conservative Bush appointees, no less — stood their ground against the infamous “torture memo” and the White House’s circumvention of FISA.

Then, still at Newsweek, see Jonathan Alter’s “The Political Power of Truth.” A pinch:

For four and a half years, Bush has politicized 9/11. His political motto has been “The only thing we have to use is fear itself.” He was at it again last week, claiming with zero evidence that congressional scrutiny of the illegal NSA wiretapping would “give the enemy a heads-up on what we’re doing.” The media and the Democrats have both been intimidated by this devastatingly effective political strategy. It won the 2002 and 2004 elections for the Republicans and will continue to be their game plan for this November.

At first glance, making the Democrats seem soft on “terrorist surveillance” looks like another winner for the GOP. For Democrats to explain that they don’t oppose all eavesdropping but object to the way it was done is a two-step answer that’s too complicated to fly. A better approach would be to argue that Bush’s NSA program has been a failure because it has threatened civil liberties and violated the law without doing anything to catch Osama bin Laden. The NSA obviously hasn’t been eavesdropping on the right suspects.

This would fit with the Democrats’ idea of fighting fear with failure—Bush’s failure. New polls show his approval ratings in the dismal low 40s, with strong majorities believing he has failed on every score except keeping the country safe. (A majority of those polled not surprisingly support Bush on eavesdropping on terror suspects domestically. So do I. But when the constitutional questions are raised, his numbers drop.) To confront the security issue, Wesley Clark is chairing a PAC to help the nine Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans running for Congress as Democrats (versus one as a Republican). The idea is to adopt the Rovean strategy of attacking your opponent’s strength.

Will it work? In recent years, failure and incompetence have been trounced by fear at the ballot box. The former is based on reason and an examination of the facts; the latter on emotion, with 9/11 as a trump card. But now reality may be making a comeback, as Bush’s authority breaks into a million little pieces.

This sounds like a plan. General Clark’s WesPAC is doing a lot of good stuff and deserves more attention, IMO.

Another Rightie Myth Debunked

Diana Jean Schemo, New York Times:

A large-scale government-financed study has concluded that when it comes to math, students in regular public schools do as well as or significantly better than comparable students in private schools. …

… Though private school students have long scored higher on the national assessment, commonly referred to as “the nation’s report card,” the new study used advanced statistical techniques to adjust for the effects of income, school and home circumstances. The researchers said they compared math scores, not reading ones, because math was considered a clearer measure of a school’s overall effectiveness.

The study found that while the raw scores of fourth graders in Roman Catholic schools, for example, were 14.3 points higher than those in public schools, when adjustments were made for student backgrounds, those in Catholic schools scored 3.4 points lower than those in public schools. A spokeswoman for the National Catholic Education Association did not respond to requests for comment.

Now, for how many years has conventional wisdom been telling us that private schools are better than public schools? That the way to “save” public education was to give kids vouchers to pay for private schools? That parochial schools in particular were better because they could educate kids with lower per-pupil costs?

That last part always was a howler, because parochial schools generally don’t provide special education, and public ones must, and special ed programs are expensive. (Years ago I worked with a woman who had sent her children to Catholic schools, and only after her daughter had graduated high school did she learn that public schools would have worked with the girl to correct her speech impediment. Catholic schools didn’t bother. Boy, was she mad.) Also, parochial schools can bounce kids with behavioral problems, and as a rule public schools can’t until the little darlings get sentenced to juvenile detention.

Kevin Drum writes,

The study analyzed only the math portion of the NAEP test, and the results from the 4th grade test are shown below. The red line shows the average public school score, and the raw scores for most types of private schools (the black bars on the graph) are higher than the public school average. However, much of this difference is due to the fact that private schools attract better kids in the first place, not because the schools themselves are better.

So what would happen if both types of schools had similar student bodies? Those results are shown for private schools in the gray bars in the graph, where test scores are controlled for demographics, and they’re considerably lower than the public school average. In other words, if you took two similar kids and sent one to a public school and one to a private school, the kid in the private school would probably do a little worse than his public school twin. (Note that a difference of 10 points is roughly equal to one grade level.)

The 8th grade results are better, with most private schools scoring about the same as public schools. The only exception is the conservative Christian schools, which continue to score considerably lower than public schools — although the sample size is small enough that the results aren’t conclusive.

Worth bookmarking, I say.