November 27, 2001
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An article in the metro section of today's New York Times reports that Carl McCall will emphasize education in a speech he gives campaigning for governor. The speech, the Times reports, "goes on to make some bold pledges. 'I guarantee that within four years of taking office, 75 percent of students in this state will pass the standardized tests in English and math,' the speech says."
What is "bold" about a pledge that basically sets as a goal the idea that five years from now, a quarter of the students in the state still won't be able to read or do math? Talk about your soft bigotry of low expectations. It might be "bold" to guarantee that 100% of students will pass the tests, or to call for 90% of the students to not simply pass but excel.
Besides calling Mr. McCall's pledge "bold" -- a tradeoff for getting a copy of the speech a day before it was to be delivered? -- the Times has this to say: "The pledge to have 75 percent of students pass standardized tests is also likely to raise eyebrows. On the assessment tests that all New York fourth graders take, 60 percent passed the English portion this year, and 69 percent passed in math."
There is no explanation in the Times article of why that pledge is "likely to raise eyebrows." Is it because it is too ambitious? Or is it because it is not ambitious enough? By its use of the word "bold," the Times seems to be suggesting that it is too ambitious to suggest that the math performance of the city's fourth graders be raised six percentage points over five years. If so, the defeatism -- and this in a news article -- is remarkable.
Neediest Cases: The New York Times launched a charitable appeal after the September 11 attacks for a special New York Times 9/11 Neediest Fund. In an news article on September 13, the New York Times reported, "The New York Times Company announced yesterday that it had begun a special campaign to raise money for the victims of the attack on the World Trade Center." The September 13 article reported, "This special campaign is intended to help families of the victims, said Jack Rosenthal, president of The New York Times Company Foundation, which created the fund and each year runs an appeal for The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund, a charity that provides money to seven social service agencies in the city." It seemed clear enough at the time. The 9/11 Neediest Cases Fund effort has raised $46.8 million so far, the Times says.
Today's New York Times reports that the fund has given grants of $300,000 each to the Legal Aid Society and to Legal Services New York "to provide help to poor families." The Times Web site specifies further that the grants are for "Legal assistance to low-income people affected by the 9/11 attacks." According to the Legal Aid Society's own Web site: "The Society's Immigration Unit, consisting of six attorneys and three paralegals, provides comprehensive legal assistance to immigrants, including routinely interviewing New Yorkers accused of immigration violations. Sometimes the Unit represents wrongfully accused immigrant detainees; in other cases Society staff arrange for private counsel to be appointed. Neither the Immigration Unit, nor the Society's Civil Division of which the Unit is a part, ever represents persons whose detention is predicated on issues other than alleged immigration violations. After September 11, the Immigration Court asked the Society's Immigration Unit to interview a number of detainees of Arab or Middle Eastern descent because they had no legal counsel. The Society complied with the Immigration Court's request, conducted some interviews, and referred most cases to the private bar. Society Immigration Unit staff accepted three cases for representation and facilitated a settlement for one of these cases. We have recently learned that the other two cases involve issues beyond immigration violations, and our Immigration staff therefore cannot provide further immigration assistance. Accordingly, these two remaining cases have been reassigned to private counsel. The Legal Aid Society's civil staff has not represented and would not represent anyone on matters related to perpetrating the World Trade Center attacks."
Money is fungible; the money donated by Times readers to the newspaper's fund for "victims of the attack on the World Trade Center" is thus being used, at least indirectly, by an organization which also spends money representing people of Arab or Middle Eastern descent detained for immigration violations in the wake of the attack. The New York Times may wish to argue that these detained people are "victims of the attack on the World Trade Center," or that they are "low-income people affected by the 9/11 attacks." Or the Times may argue that its money is being used to help the families of those killed win benefits, fight eviction and obtain death certificates, and that what the Legal Aid Society does with its other, non-New York Times 9/11 Neediest Fund money, is irrelevant. But Smartertimes.com would wager that when most Times readers sent in their checks to the 9/11 Neediest Fund intending to help "families of the victims," they did not think their money would be used, even indirectly, to offset the costs of defending Arabs charged with immigration law violations in the wake of the attacks.
Some Conservatives and Saddam: A front-page article in today's New York Times reports, "Mr. Bush has been criticized by conservative Republicans for not moving forcibly against Mr. Hussein." The article goes on later to say, "Mr. Bush has been criticized by some conservatives for what they consider his hesitation in dealing with Mr. Hussein." The Times article never says who these conservatives are and it never quotes them, which is a bit odd, given that it is a fairly long article and the other sides of the dispute pretty much get their say in their own words.
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