An Executive Order
January 1, 2001
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The lead news story in today's New York Times reports that, "Acting on an executive order issued by President Clinton, the federal government will begin today to offer its nine million employees improved mental health benefits equal to those for physical ailments."
There was no such executive order. At least, not in the sense that the phrase executive order is commonly understood by those in government and by those journalists who closely track the White House. An executive order means a formal, numbered policy statement from the president. The action the Times is writing about was a simple instruction that Mr. Clinton gave to the Office of Personnel Management in June of 1999.
Unconditional Acceptance: A front-page dispatch from Bethlehem in today's New York Times reports, "The Palestinians, in turn, say, Mr. Barak appears to be backpedaling from his unconditional acceptance of Mr. Clinton's proposal." Even though this statement is attributed to "the Palestinians," its premise is so obviously false that the Times shouldn't let it pass unchallenged. Prime Minister Barak never issued an "unconditional acceptance" of Mr. Clinton's proposal. He identified some areas where further clarification was necessary but said he would agree to negotiate on the basis of the proposal if the Palestinian Arabs would also do so. The Times itself reported it that way at the time. That is not an "unconditional acceptance."
Sexist Interviews: In an article about discrimination against women in the hiring practices of Japanese businesses, today's New York Times quotes a 23-year-old Japanese woman job applicant. "One recruiter even asked me if I knew how many convenience stores there are in Japan," the woman tells the Times.
This woman may have been discriminated against, but the fact that this question was asked in a job interview is pretty thin evidence. Those sorts of questions are standard fare in recruiting interviews for entry-level business analyst or brand manager jobs at many American consumer products companies and management consulting firms. Such questions are designed to measure not a candidate's knowledge of trivia but the candidate's ability to think on his or her feet and make quick numerical estimates. Such questions in America are asked of both men and women.
New State Laws: An article in the national section of today's Times reports on new state laws. "About a dozen states nationwide have passed laws against racial profiling, many of them including anti-bias training and the gathering of statistics on every driver who is stopped," the Times reports. "Massachusetts's new law, which takes effect today, requires police to record the race and gender of each person issued a traffic citation."
That sounds like a law not "against racial profiling," but requiring racial profiling. The offensive thing about racial profiling, after all, was that police were paying undue attention to race. The new law apparently requires the police to take race into account. The Times, naturally, sees nothing strange in this.
The same Times article on new state laws refers to the possibility that states will move to ban new automotive technologies "that can distract a driver," like "mapping systems." The Times gives no indication that this might be seen as odd. After all, the whole point of these onboard computerized mapping systems in cars is that they are safer and easier and less distracting than driving around with an open paper map in one's lap. The next thing, no doubt, will be a state law banning a driver from consulting a paper map while driving.
Abortion: An editorial in today's New York Times reports that "the majority of Americans favor women's right to choose without government interference." All of a sudden, the Times discovers an aversion to government interference. There are plenty of arguments to be made for or against abortion rights, but there's a whiff of hypocrisy about the Times, which favors just about every big government scheme imaginable, grounding its rhetorical case for abortion rights on the grounds of opposition to "government interference."
Counting Schools: An article in the metro section of today's New York Times about Edison Schools reports that critics of the privately operated schools accuse Edison of double-counting the number of schools it now runs. "Because those 113 schools are housed in 90 buildings and employ only 88 principals, the actual number of schools is far less than the company claims," the Times reports. But the New York public schools do the same thing, counting schools separately even if they are housed in the same building. The only difference is that the New York public schools would never try to economize on non-classroom administrative personnel like principals. But no one ever accuses the New York public schools of double-counting the number of schools the system operates. It makes it look like what these Edison "detractors" the Times so diligently records the objections of are really against isn't double-counting, but any challenge to New York's government-run public schools.
Infinitive: An article on the front of the "Business Day" section of today's New York Times reports, "Too get rid of their 'dogs,' publishers often resort to paying booksellers a few dollars extra for each copy they move out the door at a discount." There's one too many "o"s in what should be a "to."
Opera Premier: An opera review in the arts section of today's New York Times reports that a director was booed when he appeared on stage after the "premier" of his new production. The word the Times is looking for is "premiere"; the noun "premier" means a prime minister. Ehud Barak is a premier; the director took a bow at the conclusion of the premiere.
Note: Smartertimes.com is in Boston and is operating off the New England Final edition.
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