January 4, 2001
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The New York Times this morning reports as follows in a news article in the national section about the opening of Congress. "Some of the day's most poignant moments belonged to Mr. Gore, who was gracious, funny and impassioned as he swore in new members of the Congressional Black Caucus and called them the 'conscience of the Congress.'"
The descriptions "gracious" and "funny" seem like subjective judgments more suited to an editorial than a news article, especially when you look down the page at another story reporting what Vice President Gore actually said to the Congressional Black Caucus.
"The next time you see a crumbling school with desks crowded into hallways and rain dripping through the roof, vote C.B.C.," Mr. Gore said, according to the Times. "The next time anyone argues that even the most vicious and violent hate crimes are just like any other crimes, or that racial profiling is just a price that has to be paid, vote C.B.C."
These remarks, at least, strike Smartertimes.com as not "gracious" or "funny" but bizarre, misguided and verging on cynical demagoguery. For one thing, no one votes "C.B.C." The Congressional Black Caucus isn't a political party; it's a group of overwhelmingly liberal congressmen who happen to be black. A voter could get the same policy results by voting for white liberal Democrats like Rep. Barney Frank or Rep. Rosa DeLauro. Another irony is that many members of the Congressional Black Caucus, by voting against school vouchers even though their constituents support vouchers, are actually keeping poor black children trapped in those very crumbling schools that Mr. Gore is speaking about. And the idea that "anyone" argues that the most vicious and violent hate crimes are just like any other crimes is just a straw man. The argument isn't about whether the crimes are alike, but over the wisdom of laws that further toughen the penalties for crimes, like murder, for which criminals in states like Texas already face the death penalty. Mr. Gore seemed to be alluding to an NAACP ad aired during the presidential campaign that associated George W. Bush with a brutal racist murder in Texas. That hardly counts as "gracious" or "funny."
Golda and Minner: An article in the national section of today's New York Times reports on the swearing-in of the new governor of Delaware, Ruth Ann Minner. Ms. Minner is quoted in the Times as saying, "A lot of people say to me that when I was first elected in 1974, it was before women even started to make a move into politics. But I point out to them that in that very year, Golda Meir was retiring in Israel after 50 years' public service to her country. Now that's really something, 50 years -- I'm only approaching 30 years of public service myself." As astute Smartertimes.com reader Michael Globetti points out in an email this morning, Meir could hardly have contributed 50 years of service to Israel, since the country only won its independence in 1948. And, as he puts it, Golda Meir hardly "was retiring" but was unable to form a government in 1974 and resigned.
Tax Cut: The New York Times can't seem to get its figures straight on the cost of President-elect Bush's proposed tax cut. The front-page lead news story today refers to "his $1.6 trillion tax cut proposal," while the editorial refers to "the proposed 10-year, $1.3 trillion tax cut." The truth is, it's difficult to project the costs or revenue gains of a tax cut 10 years out; it depends on the assumptions made about economic growth and the effects of the tax cut on growth.
Stroking Saddam: The New York Times today deals with the possibility that Saddam Hussein has had a stroke by reprinting a Reuters dispatch from Baghdad that quotes Iraqi government officials dismissing the possibility. The dispatch quotes no opposition figures or American officials, only an Iraqi government official and the official Iraqi News Agency. The government official is quoted as saying that Saddam "fired more than 140 shots one-handed, something that most young people are unable to do -- this alone is enough as a reply to this absurd news." The Reuters doesn't mention the possibility that the one-handed firing -- also depicted in a Reuters photograph that runs alongside the dispatch -- could support the notion that Saddam had a stroke and that his other arm is immobilized as a result. The Reuters dispatch also reports that the U.N. sanctions on Iraq "ruined Iraq's infrastructure and caused a plunge in living standards." In fact what has caused the plunge in living standards and ruined the infrastructure is Saddam's refusal to comply with U.N. weapons inspections and his decision to spend the country's oil revenues on constructing castles for himself and his cronies rather than on benefits for the people of Iraq. Iraq restricts freedom of the press, but the Times makes no disclosure to its readers of the fact that the Reuters reporter in Baghdad was probably operating under either Iraqi censorship or threat of violence.
Largest: An article in the New York Times metro section today about Orthodox women in the working world reports, "The largest Zionist women's group in the United States, Americans for Israel and Torah, is a 75-year-old charity that operates largely on volunteer help from its 82,000 members." In fact, the largest Zionist women's group in the United States is Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, which claims more than 300,000 members.
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