April 8, 2001
comments powered by Disqus
This morning's New York Times magazine is a special "How To" issue that offers a wonderful illumination of the Times mindset. The article about "How to Run a Successful Silicon Valley Business" turns out to be a primer on being a prostitute. Another article is titled "How to Rob a Bank."
The same issue of the Times magazine carries a question-and-answer style interview with Denise Rich that is an example of the same kind of softball treatment the Times gave Denise Rich last Sunday. As Smartertimes.com said last Sunday, "If this Times reporter was allowed to hang out with Denise Rich and interview her on the condition that no questions be asked about the pardons and the donations, then the Times should disclose it to readers. If the Times asked about the pardons and Denise Rich refused to answer, then that, too, should be disclosed to readers. Otherwise the newspaper looks like it is buttering up Ms. Rich in the hope of obtaining a more substantive interview with her in the future. Or the newspaper looks like it is displaying a strange lack of curiosity about the Rich pardon and Denise Rich's involvement in winning it."
As it is, Denise Rich's relationship with the Times looks like it is coming uncomfortably close to that described in an explanation elsewhere in today's Times magazine of why President Bush has been accessible to regional reporters who do not cover him regularly: "it helps him reach niche-market constituencies, and it's also pretty safe. They're not likely to pepper him with uncomfortable questions."
Arsenic in the Water: The lead editorial in today's New York Times accuses President Bush of taking a position on "poisoned drinking water" that is "aggressively hostile" and "politically suicidal." The editorialists might check out a more sensible news article in today's Times Week in Review section, which notes that arsenic "occurs naturally in soil, rocks, water, plants and animals." The news article says the change Mr. Bush plans to roll back -- a Clinton arsenic standard of 10 parts per billion would revert to 50 parts per billion -- would prevent an estimated 21 to 30 deaths per year, and cost $32 per year "per household that needed treatment." The article doesn't say how many American households would need the treatment, so it's hard to assess the total cost. The Mercatus Center at George Mason University put the cost at $1.4 billion a year for moving the standard down to 5 parts per billion from 50. The Mercatus Center actually has a nifty analysis of the arsenic issue available for downloading at regradar.com (search for the word arsenic.)
But a few additional points are worth marking. First, you didn't hear any squealing out of the Times editorial page while the Clinton-Gore administration went the first seven years of its administration without changing this standard from 50 parts per billion. Second, you didn't hear any squealing out of the Times editorial page when the Clinton-Gore administration, in the last year of its administration, backed away from its proposed new standard of 5 parts per billion to a more lax 10 parts per billion. Third, you didn't hear any squealing out of the Times editorial page about the high levels of arsenic downstream from the zinc mine on Al Gore's family property in Carthage, Tennessee. (You would have to read the Wall Street Journal to find out about that.)
Finally, beyond the cost-per-life-year analysis of the Mercatus Center and the partisan hypocrisy analysis of Smartertimes.com, the Times approach to clean water is suspect even on the environmentalist terms of the Times itself. The extensive filtration and treatment required by the Clean Water Act and the cleaner-than-nature-itself arsenic standard makes it pretty much pointless for water authorities to maintain large tracts of forested land around reservoirs. After all, the water is going to end up being treated, anyway, so why worry about protecting the watershed? If the Times policies and logic had obtained a few decades ago, the land surrounding the Quabbin Reservoir in Central Massachusetts (a major supplier of drinking water for Boston) would today be filled with parking lots instead of bald eagles and old growth trees.
Tenure Track: An article in the Education Life section of today's New York Times reports on women scientists in universities. The Times reports: "Professor Steitz never believed there was discrimination until she became a department chairwoman and realized how easy the system is to manipulate, how many subjective decisions by a department head affect a person's work -- whether to grant tenure, certainly, but also whether to give someone a secretary; who to award the extra lab space, research assistant or grant; who to send to conferences, where presenting papers can confer prominence and the right networking can lead to recommendations for the big prizes, even the Nobel." It's hard to imagine that tenure at any serious university can be granted or denied merely as the result of a subjective decision by a department head. In some cases there is a department-wide vote; in other cases there are deans and presidents and provosts and ad hoc committees involved.
Note: Smartertimes.com is in Massachusetts and operating this morning off the New England Final edition of the New York Times.
Subscribe to the Mailing List
© 2017 FutureOfCapitalism LLC