The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Hey, Remember Common Core?

A hidden point in a New York Times article about how children are being taught writing:

Poor writing is nothing new, nor is concern about it. More than half of first-year students at Harvard failed an entrance exam in writing — in 1874. But the Common Core State Standards, now in use in more than two-thirds of the states, were supposed to change all this. By requiring students to learn three types of essay writing — argumentative, informational and narrative — the Core staked a claim for writing as central to the American curriculum. It represented a sea change after the era of No Child Left Behind, the 2002 federal law that largely overlooked writing in favor of reading comprehension assessed by standardized multiple-choice tests.

So far, however, six years after its rollout, the Core hasn’t led to much measurable improvement on the page. Students continue to arrive on college campuses needing remediation in basic writing skills. . .

The Common Core has provided a much-needed “wakeup call” on the importance of rigorous writing, said Lucy M. Calkins, founding director of the Reading and Writing Project at Teachers College, Columbia University, a leading center for training teachers in process-oriented literacy strategies. But policy makers “blew it in the implementation,” she said. “We need massive teacher education.”

Maybe this is the simpler and more persuasive argument against Common Core: Never mind whether it’s a vast progressive effort to indoctrinate children . . .  maybe it just doesn’t work.

A Key Point to Consider About that Bombshell Lawsuit Against Fox News

The allegation in a new lawsuit that individuals in the White House and Fox News employees worked together to spread a false story about slain Democratic National Committee intern Seth Rich is jaw-dropping, but there a few reasons for wariness about the explosive charges.

The false story that Fox News subsequently retracted was an all-too-perfect conspiracy theory for Trump defenders. The report contended Seth Rich had been in contact with WikiLeaks and was the most likely source for the e-mails that were hacked during the 2016 campaign, getting the Russians off the hook. The report implied that Rich was murdered as a result of his contact with WikiLeaks, that the DNC was somehow connected to Rich’s shooting death, and the Washington, D.C., metropolitan police were complicit in a cover-up. It’s a plot that belongs in a John Grisham novel.

The central figure in that Fox News report was Rod Wheeler, a former District of Columbia cop, private investigator, and longtime paid commentator for the news network who is now suing his former employer.

Yesterday, NPR reported on Wheeler’s lawsuit that claims that the network made up quotes and attributed them to him, that the network always knew that there was no evidence to support the theory, that Sean Spicer was involved, and that President Trump himself read a draft of the article and urged its immediate publication.

We have replaced an all-too-perfect conspiracy theory for Trump defenders with Rod Wheeler as the central supporting witness with an all an all-too-perfect conspiracy theory for Trump and Fox News critics with Rod Wheeler as the central supporting witness.

Wheeler’s account suggests that not only did the president and Fox News contributor Ed Butowsky conspire to spread this conspiracy theory, but that Sean Spicer, Steve Bannon, and Department of Justice spokeswoman Sarah Flores were all in regular contact with Butowsky in his efforts to portray Rich’s death as a murder to retaliate for leaking the DNC e-mails.

Wheeler, of course, made appearances on Fox News and its affiliates discussing the story, giving what are now obviously false statements. He told the local Washington, D.C. affiliate that he had uncovered “a possible underground corruption, organized crime corruption group that may be operating in the district” and that “this case may open up a can of worms about what’s happening here in D.C.”

You can watch Wheeler’s appearance on Sean Hannity here, where Wheeler says, “There was a federal investigator that was involved with the inside, a person that is very credible. Very credible, and he said he laid eyes on that computer and he laid eyes on the case file. And he came across very credible. When you look at that with the totality of everything else that I found in this case, it’s very consistent for a person with my experience to begin to think, ‘Well, perhaps there were some email communications between Seth [Rich] and WikiLeaks.’”

The FBI said that they were never involved in the investigation of Rich’s murder.

In that Hannity interview, Wheeler also contended that a short time after he called the D.C. police, an unnamed official from the DNC contacted the family, suggesting the police force was particularly concerned with keeping the committee in the loop on who was asking about the investigation. Wheeler went on to say that Seth Rich had “problems” with that particular DNC official before his death. (Some may interpret Wheeler’s meandering, complicated answers as an indication that he’s not comfortable with the answers he’s expected to give; others may find it standard-issue evasiveness about making false statements on national television.) At no point is there any indication that Wheeler’s false statements are being coerced.

Yet Wheeler’s lawsuit audaciously suggests he never quite lied in his television appearances:

At no point in time did Mr. Wheeler say that his investigation revealed that Seth Rich sent any emails to WikiLeaks, nor did he say that the DNC, Democratic Party or Clintons were engaged in a cover-up. In fact, the only purported source saying that Seth Rich sent any emails to WikiLeaks was Butowsky and Zimmerman’s supposed source within the FBI. Mr. Wheeler had never even spoken with this individual, to the extent he or she even exists. In fact, when Mr. Wheeler was interviewed by a Fox affiliate on the evening of May 15, 2017, he made sure not to confirm as fact the proposition that Seth Rich sent emails to WikiLeaks, instead confirming only that a “source” (i.e., Zimmerman’s and Butowsky’s alleged source) had information that could link Seth Rich to WikiLeaks.

Wheeler’s suing his former employer for defamation, and he wants damages, including “compensation for his mental anguish and emotional distress, emotional pain and suffering and any other physical and mental injuries” as well as punitive damages and attorney’s fees.

It’s not often that you see someone involved in a conspiracy to mislead the public turn around and sue his co-conspirators for getting him involved.

Which Democrats Will Run in 2020? How About All of Them?

What does the already-announced presidential campaign of little-known congressman John Delaney mean for 2020? It means we’re likely to get a stampede of candidates, including quite a few never-had-a-chance wannabes who are angling for book deals and television gigs in 2021. This might be good for President Trump’s reelection odds, but I’d contend it’s not particularly good for democracy. I go through the coverage and buzz and find 18 Democratic lawmakers at various levels that have indicated they’re thinking about running in 2020, and that’s not even counting all the celebrity gadflies who could end up jumping into the race.

For what it’s worth, Hugh Hewitt thinks California senator Kamala Harris is going to cut through the field the way Sherman marched through Georgia.

ADDENDA: If you’re feeling glum, check out your retirement savings if you have them in the stock market; it’s been a very good year so far.

Apple’s latest results pushed global technology shares higher Wednesday, fueling expectations that the Dow Jones Industrial Average could rise above 22000 for the first time when the U.S. market opens.

The Dow has climbed 11.14 percent year-to-date, fueled by signs of global growth and strong corporate earnings. Futures pointed to a 0.2 percent opening gain for the index.

And if you don’t have an individual retirement account, maybe it’s worth scraping together the funds to set up one . . .  there’s no minimum. You could start with 50 dollars if you wanted.

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