CSotD: Polarization about polarization

I was surprised to hear yesterday’s news about the dip in NAEP reading and math scores over the past year, not because of the dip itself but because it was being discussed as if there were something surprising about it.

Anyone who thought you could achieve the same results with 30 kids on Zoom that you would get with 30 kids sitting in front of you is downright foolish. That’s not to say you should put those 30 kids in danger of covid by holding class in person, and it’s also not to say you should abandon attempting to hold the line with some kind of distance learning.

But you shouldn’t have to be a teacher to know that holding the line was the best anyone could have hoped for and that we’re doing well to not have had things turn out worse.

And, as Matt Davies points out, we’ve seen far more troubling dips — I use the term advisedly — over the same period.

Whatever you think of NAEP’s testing, response to Biden’s national address demonstrate an inability not simply to read — and competent journalists know how quickly whitehouse.gov posts transcripts for their benefit — but apparently an inability to understand when it is read aloud by the president.

Or perhaps an unwillingness to listen.

Davies also pulled a bit of humor out of the pearl-clutching that followed the address. There are reasons to criticize Biden’s use of Independence Hall and its Marine guard as a backdrop, but, then again, Republicans were silent when Trump broke precedent by staging a political speech in front of the White House and all sorts of presidents have employed the military as a background audience for speeches.

One Republican president even landed on an aircraft carrier in a military jet and made a nationally televised speech on the deck, surrounded by cheering sailors and in front of a banner announcing “Mission Accomplished,” five weeks into an eight-year war.

He was criticized by the opposition for grandstanding, and the resulting contortions to justify the move were magnificent.


This time around, rightwingers have gone bananas in denouncing the speech without, apparently, having heard it or read it, relying perhaps on the reports of Trump lickspittles — notably Gym Jordan and Marsha Blackburn — who have flooded Twitter and Facebook with the sort of misleading remarks Dear Leader is no longer allowed to make there.

Dana Summers, for instance, totally missed, or deliberately ignores, a point Biden made and emphasized just 450 words into a 3,000 word speech:

Leaving open the question of whether Summers is more intent on attacking the president or on denying the existence of moderate Republicans.


By contrast, even Andy Marlette (Creators)‘s full-throated attack on screwballs, bigots and nutjobs is plainly aimed at them and not at normal conservative voters.

But even when Biden clarified the plain language of his speech, the conservative NY Post reported, instead, that he was “walking back” his remarks.

“Do you consider all Trump supporters to be a threat to this country?” a reporter asked Biden at the end of his only scheduled public remarks of the day.
“Come on, look, guys, you keep trying to make that case. I don’t consider any Trump supporter to be a threat to the country,” Biden said. “I do think anyone who calls for the use of violence, fails to condemn violence when it is used, refuses to acknowledge when an election has been won, insists upon changing the way in which they can count votes, that is a threat to democracy.”

Pretty clear distinction, unless you are absolutely determined to misunderstand him.


Juxtaposition of the Day

(Dr. MacLeod)


(Gary Varvel)

The contrast between MacLeod and Varvel’s visions of divisiveness is both striking and telling. Like Marlette, MacLeod is careful to define the people being singled out for criticism by the president, while Varvel circles the wagons in solidarity with the extremists, perhaps obeying the slogan “Where We Go One, We Go All.”

Solidarity has its limits, though maybe that’s just me.


Juxtaposition of the Day #2

(Ann Telnaes)

(Ruben Bolling)

Ann Telnaes notes not only the presence of classified documents at Mar A Lago but Trump’s continuing refusal to come clean, replaying his denial of blame for hundreds of thousands of covid deaths.

This time around, his shifting explanations seem more damaging than the obvious fact that he wasn’t legally allowed to have any of it in the first place. One of his lawyers compared the purloined documents to overdue library books, but it’s as if he’d taken home not just reference books, which are not permitted to be checked out, but materials from Special Collections, which must be handled with white gloves under supervision.

Taking classified materials is clearly illegal, and Trump would not be the first person charged with the offense, though the outcome might rely on the degree of cooperation he exhibited, which, so far, is none at all, plus a heapin’ helpin’ of denial, obstruction and false declarations.

While some highly classified documents have turned up in his boxes, the question remains of whether he also kept empty folders as souvenirs or whether they were not empty when he packed them up and took them home.

Tom the Dancing Bug jumps the evidentiary gun in accusing Trump of acting as an actual spy, and if Varvel can be criticized for his blanket accusation, perhaps Bolling should also be held accountable.

On the other hand, Varvel does not offer a wink to soften his piece, while Bolling is clearly making an outrageous joke, backed up only by Trump’s history of passing along Top Secret information to Russian officials and otherwise disclosing classified material against the wishes of the intelligence community and the best interests of the nation.

It’s all in the attitude: In the Virginian, the title character ignores his pal Steve calling him a son-of-a-bitch, but famously declines to take it from Trampas:

You can’t get a whole lot more All-American than the classic novel that defined the Western.

And it’s true that you can get away with some mighty offensive language, if you smile when you say it.

It’s also true that this isn’t the only bit of wisdom in that book.


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