Tag Archives: New York Times

What a feeling

“Race? It is a feeling, not a reality. Ninety-five per cent, at least. Nothing will ever make me believe that biologically pure races can be shown to exist today.”

That was Benito Mussolini in 1932.    I suppose that the idea that some races are superior to others has never gone away.  Just today, for instance, the New York Times seems to have hired a science columnist who thinks such a proposition worth pursuing.  Here’s Gawker’s take:

Khan’s writing elsewhere hardly rejects the doctrines on which these outlets are based. He merely treats what white racists taken for granted—that non-whites, and especially blacks, are intellectually inferior—as an open question worth exploring in the name of scientific inquiry. Still, Khan is careful with his actual words; he never says black people are less intelligent. But his willingness to treat black intelligence as a matter of debate has not hampered his career in the slightest. He’s written for Slate, The Daily Telegraph, and The Guardian. Indeed, he’s already placed twoop-eds, about the evolution of cats and abortion politics, in The New York Times.

The accusation here is that Khan iron mans racist science: it’s worth looking into whether these (historically inferior) “races” are inferior because inquiry, or science.

I guess I thought we were beyond this (in part for the reasons Mussolini mentions), but then again, I’ve had more than one student who basically affirms old-fashioned racial theory.

I guess we can’t handle it

I don't have the print edition of the New York Times, so I 'm not sure where this article is placed on the page.  It purports to cover last night's Presidential debate.  But I don't know how you can cover a debate about facts and counter facts by mentioning the word "truth" only once ("fact" and "false" don't even appear):

Mr. Obama’s campaign released a video called “Mostly Fiction,” in which it accuses Mr. Romney of playing “fast and loose” with the truth during the debate.

So they said, did they.  I find this omission somewhat odd, because the NYT had a huge fact-check section.

In a related matter, here is fact-check.org on Romney's Tax Cut:

To be clear, Romney has proposed cutting personal federal income tax rates across the board by 20 percent, in addition to extending the tax cuts enacted early in the Bush administration. He also proposes to eliminate the estate tax permanently, repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax, and eliminate taxes on interest, capital gains and dividends for taxpayers making under $200,000 a year in adjusted gross income.

By themselves, those cuts would, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, lower federal tax liability by “about $480 billion in calendar year 2015” compared with current tax policy, with Bush cuts left in place. The Obama campaign has extrapolated that figure out over 10 years, coming up with a $5 trillion figure over a decade.

However, Romney always has said he planned to offset that massive cut with equally massive reductions in tax preferences to broaden the tax base, thus losing no revenue and not increasing the deficit. So to that extent, the president is incorrect: Romney is not proposing a $5 trillion reduction in taxes.

Read that carefully.  Romney says that he will offset his tax cuts with unnamed reductions in deductions.  They're not part of his plan.  So Obama therefore is lying about his plan.   

Sincerity

Here is something from the New York Times's "The Stone" (Jason Stanley of Rutgers writing) worth considering:

It is naïve not to expect that the practice of politics demands some amount of assertion that is for purposes other than conveying the truth. But reasoned debate presupposes mutual knowledge of sincerity.

(Read the rest).   I'd agree on both counts.  The piece focused on the problem of insincere speakers, but the same point might have been made about listeners who won't accept others' claims to sincerity.  In a lot of ways, that would be worse. 

Taking sides in a political dispute

Water boarding, which sounds like a kind of national sport, used to be called "water torture."  Well, according to a recent study, it did when other people did it and before we needed to excuse ourselves of it:

In the NY Times, 85.8% of articles (28 of 33) that dealt with a country other than the U.S. using waterboarding against an individual called waterboarding torture or implied it was torture. Yet when the U.S. was the perpetrator, only 7.69% (16 of 208) articles said or implied that waterboarding was torture. Just 0.8% of the articles (1 of 133) dealing with the War on Terror where the U.S. was the perpetrator said or implied that waterboarding was torture.

The LA Times follows a similar pattern of avoiding the label of torture when the U.S. is responsible for using waterboarding. In articles that considered other countries using waterboarding, 91.3% of articles (21 of 23) called waterboarding torture or implied the practice was torture. When the U.S. was the violator, only 11.4% of articles (9 of 79) used this classification.

Why the change?  Must be liberal media bias: 

But the New York Times doesn’t completely buy the study’s conclusions. A spokesman told Yahoo! News that the paper “has written so much about the waterboarding issue that we believe the Kennedy School study is misleading.”

However, the Times acknowledged that political circumstances did play a role in the paper's usage calls. “As the debate over interrogation of terror suspects grew post-9/11, defenders of the practice (including senior officials of the Bush administration) insisted that it did not constitute torture,” a Times spokesman said in a statement. “When using a word amounts to taking sides in a political dispute, our general practice is to supply the readers with the information to decide for themselves. Thus we describe the practice vividly, and we point out that it is denounced by international covenants and in American tradition as a form of torture.”

The Times spokesman added that outside of the news pages, editorials and columnists “regard waterboarding as torture and believe that it fits all of the moral and legal definitions of torture.” He continued: “So that's what we call it, which is appropriate for the opinion pages.”

There really was no actual political dispute that it was torture–that is, that it met the definition.  The question was whether it was morally permissible for Jack Bauer to do it.  

One can only dream

If you haven't seen the Yes Men in action, then I recommend you do.  Since explaining what they do would ruin it, here's an example of their latest work.

Go read it here.  Enjoy the op-eds especially.  Here's an excerpt from "Tom Friedman's":

In any case, I have made a decision: as of today, I will no longer write in this or any other newspaper. I will immediately desist from writing any more books about how it’s time for everyone to climb on board the globalization high-speed monorail to the future. I will keep my opinions to myself. (My wife suggested that I try not to even form opinions, but I think she might have another agenda.)

Baffled? I don’t blame you. So I’ll cite some facts to support my decision — a practice, I must admit, I have too seldom followed.

Let’s start with the invasion itself. I was pretty much all for it. Mind you, I was not one of the pundits, reporters, or public figures who said that Saddam Hussein was a threat to the United States. I knew better — but I said it didn’t matter!

Back in February of 2003, I wrote in this space: “Saddam does not threaten us today. He can be deterred. Taking him out is a war of choice — but it’s a legitimate choice.” In other words, we should invade a sovereign state and replace its government in order to remake the world more to our liking.

Now the simple fact is, an unprovoked attack on a sovereign state is a war crime, even when linked to grand ideas of the future of mankind. In fact, that’s exactly what Hitler did, for exactly the same reasons. The Nuremburg War Crimes Tribunal called it the “the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

What was I thinking? And more importantly, why didn’t anyone stop me?

One can only dream.