Does Cathleen Black Even Exist?

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11/16/2010 9:53 AM |

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A close reading of two new Times articles suggests that Cathleen Black, Mayor Bloomberg’s new nominee for schools chancellor, is in fact an elaborately constructed hoax designed as the front for management of the city’s public school system by a shady cabal of hedge-fund billionaires. Consider:

This roundup of growing opposition to our Completely Unqualified Schools Chancellor notes that the Bloomberg administration hasn’t been able to set the terms of the debate, partly because Black hasn’t spoken to the press yet.

Eli Broad, a billionaire donor to education causes who supports Ms. Black’s appointment, said she would have to work to win over skeptics.

“She clearly has to do her homework,” billionaire Bloomberg ally Eli Broad (one of the charter-school billionaires) tells the Times, who note that the mayor “has dispatched his top deputies to help prepare Ms. Black for her debut… Ms. Black has been immersing herself in the issues of education, including budgets and reading curriculum, [an] individual close the process said. She is also spending time reaching out to elected officials, labor leaders, scholars and education leaders, including Michelle A. Rhee, a former Washington schools chancellor, in hopes of building a broader base of support.”

Now, at first, this would seem to suggest that Cathleen Black hasn’t met with the press yet because if she did she wouldn’t sound knowledgeable on the subject of public education, for the very good reason that she is not in fact knowledgeable on the subject of public education. In political “messaging” terms, this would be known as “losing the cycle.” (In actual policy terms, this would be known as “a terrible decision made in secret by a benevolent dictator accountable to no one,” but let’s leave that for the present.)

But a close examination of this City Room post suggests something more sinister may be afoot:

The doormen at 941 Park Avenue, where Cathleen P. Black occupies a penthouse apartment, have quickly transformed her morning ritual into an art form.

Determined to help Ms. Black elude the reporters who waited outside her building starting at 5:15 a.m. Monday, they orchestrated a seamless, starlet-worthy, question-dodging, cab-to-curb handoff of the woman poised to become New York City’s next schools chancellor.

At 7:05 a.m., a top-hatted valet emerged from the marble lobby, hailed a cab, opened its door and stood sentry by the passenger seat. A moment later, a second attendant appeared, carrying a very undoorman-like Longchamp handbag over his shoulder, and deposited it into the car.

Ms. Black, head down, trench coat buckled tightly, followed.

A reporter stood in her path. “Can we ask you a few questions?” he asked.

“No, you can’t,” she said, rushing by.

The cab door slammed shut. The vehicle took off.

The article continues:

Ten minutes later, [reporters] tried again, with the help of a heavily incentivized taxi driver, beating Ms. Black to the front of the Hearst Tower on West 57th Street.

The journalists, however, were not the only ones waiting for her there. Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson, the mayor’s top political adviser, stood in front of the building, sipping a Coke Zero, and looking surprised — and not especially thrilled — to see the reporters.

Soon enough, two of Mr. Wolfson’s City Hall colleagues arrived: Deputy Mayor Dennis M. Walcott, who specializes in education, and Micah C. Lasher, the city’s top lobbyist in Albany (where Ms. Black must obtain a waiver to take the chancellor’s job, given her slight background in education).

What were the three men doing there at such a tender hour? “I live around the corner,” Mr. Lasher said, mischievously, as they walked into the building to await Ms. Black so they could continue briefing her on all things education.

At 7:30 a.m. or so, Ms. Black, stone faced, marched toward the entrance. A reporter ventured another question, explaining she had been waiting to speak with Ms. Black since 5:15 a.m.

Ms. Black looked unmoved. “That’s great,” she said, stepping into the revolving door.

She did not respond to several inquiries, turning her back as she hopped onto one of the building’s distinctive escalators.

The relay of aides running interference? The “trench coat buckled tightly”? This is some real cloak-and-dagger JT LeRoy shit, no? I bet the reason “Cathleen Black” has to evade reporters is out of fear that her painted balloon head will roll off if you get too close.

We thought Bloomberg had just picked his friend and fellow rich media socialite because she’s a blank slate that his deputies can easily cram full of the union-busting, charter-promoting ideas currently in favor among billionaires who would never set foot in an NYC public school. But what if she’s not even a real person? What if underneath that trench coat, Micah Lasher is standing on Dennis Walcott’s shoulders like when Calvin and Hobbes tried to buy tickets to an R-rated movie?