Archive for May 3, 2009

Delta 510

May 3, 2009 Leave a comment


Last week’s The Middle Seat column by Scott McCartney in the Wall Street Journal described the experience of Delta’s flight #510 from Turks and Caicos Islands (pictured above) to Atlanta one day last month. If you can’t resist horror stories, this one’s for you. Here are excerpts:
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Categories: Business, Travel


May 3, 2009 Leave a comment


Gail and I went to the Mariners baseball game last night. Our friend Judy invited us to join her and her niece Jacque (house/catsitter extraordinaire) in their family’s seats, which directly behind home plate, 18 rows up. It’s a superb location, and just behind that row are seats the team holds for family and guests of the players.

The evening had three story lines: the game itself, the special Turn Back the Clock Night activities, and our neighbors in the row in front. If you want the first story, you can see the article in the Seattle Times. That’s not what I’m here to tell you about. (But I will say that we lost 3-2, a very disappointing loss, as the A’s got the tying run in the top of the 8th and the go-ahead run in the top of the 9th.)
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Categories: Culture, History, Sports

Three-Fifths Rule Still Alive

May 3, 2009 Leave a comment


Byron York, the Washington Examiner’s chief political correspondent, had a column on Tuesday that received a lot of attention in the blogs. It’s an amazing example of implicit bias. In case you haven’t seen it, here is the key passage, the opening paragraph:

On his 100th day in office, Barack Obama enjoys high job approval ratings, no matter what poll you consult. But if a new survey by the New York Times is accurate, the president and some of his policies are significantly less popular with white Americans than with black Americans, and his sky-high ratings among African-Americans make some of his positions appear a bit more popular overall than they actually are.

As Scott Horton notes:

“More popular than they actually are?” Of course, this conclusion is reached after making the mathematical adjustment contemplated in the Constitution as adopted in 1789. In Byron York’s world, it seems, black Americans are still three-fifths citizens. They’re apparently not capable of making objective political judgments like whites, and particularly the (dwindling) number of whites who support the G.O.P. One of the most unintentionally revealing posts I’ve ever seen.

Or as David Weigel puts it, York is making “the point that Democrats wouldn’t be so popular if it wasn’t for the 14th Amendment. Or something.”

Two days later, York defended himself against what he described as “commentators on the left [who] are calling me a racist.” He appears entirely to have missed the point of the criticisms, as well as assigning the cheap label of leftist to them. He would do well to learn a bit about implicit bias and take a closer look at himself.

Categories: Politics

Luck, Hard Work, Success

May 3, 2009 Leave a comment


I don’t watch the Fox Business Network, but thanks to a tip from Ezra Klein on his blog, I found myself watching the six-and-a-half-minute clip from last Thursday in which Fox’s Stuart Varney interviews Cornell economist Robert Frank. (Among Frank’s books is a basic economics text written jointly with Ben Bernanke.) I started the clip out of curiosity, not anticipating watching it all. Soon I was transfixed. When you have a few minutes, do yourself a favor and watch. (Click here.) It’s extraordinary.

Who knew one would have to respond to a host who announces that he is insulted to be told that luck is a part of success? Varney turns that general statement into an attack on himself and insists that he succeeded because of his own hard work, talent, and risk taking. He further insists that success will come to anyone who does this. Along the way, he segues into a discussion of high marginal tax rates, asks Frank how much of his money should be taken away (seeming to suggest in passing a total lack of understanding of the notion of a marginal tax rate), and suggests that Frank return to his socialist New York Times and socialist Cornell. I have no idea whether Varney is serious or simply aiming to provoke and entertain. But entertain he certainly does. And Frank gets to observe in passing that Varney is proof that luck is required, since Varney clearly lacks anything else that could have produced such success.

Categories: Culture, Economics, Television

O Wise One

May 3, 2009 Leave a comment


I realize I need to let go when it comes to my continuing frustration (see here and here and here) with Thomas Friedman, but he pushed me over the edge once again in his column last Wednesday. In his opening sentence, we learn that “President Obama got it about as right as one could when he decided to ban the use of torture, to release the Bush torture memos for public scrutiny and to not prosecute the lawyers and interrogators who implemented the policy.” What follows, which fails in any sense to be a serious argument for this statement, reaches its crescendo with the passage below:

So President Obama’s compromise is the best we can forge right now: We have to enjoin those who confront Al Qaeda types every day on the frontlines to act in ways that respect who we are, but also to never forget who they are. They are not white-collar criminals. They do not care whether we torture or not — bin Laden declared war on us when Bill Clinton was president.

WTF? You’ve totally lost me here, Tom. Americans on the front line of the war on terror should remember who we are (and so not torture people?), but if our front-line people do torture, we shouldn’t prosecute because we should remember who they are (people without morals?) Is that it? Am I close? Now that you are the most famous and prestigious columnist in the country, with your three Pulitzers and your huge bestsellers and your enormous speaking fees, you get to write such drivel? Have you forgotten how to think?

Categories: Torture

Bad Line Break

May 3, 2009 Leave a comment


Danny O’Neil had a story in the Friday Seattle Times about the re-signing of Seattle Seahawk linebacker Leroy Hill to a new contract. Negotiations had broken down and last weekend the Seahawks had drafted another linebacker, Aaron Curry, with their first pick (the #4 pick overall). So this was big news, at least in the context of Seahawk news. But what caught my eye was an unfortunate line break. The story opened with:

Leroy Hill’s return to Seattle was more than just a metaphor Thursday.

The Seahawks linebacker actually returned to Seattle, flying back into town so he can participate in a voluntary practice this afternoon after he agreed to re-sign.

I was just skimming it Friday morning, not particularly interested in the news but wanting to make sure I understood the essentials, when I stumbled into the ambiguity of whether Hill had re-signed or resigned. Of course, it doesn’t make much sense to say a linebacker has resigned. Football players don’t resign. They sign elsewhere, or get traded, or retire. Still, given the little attention I was paying to the article, this ambiguity stopped me in my tracks and forced me to read the passage again. You see, the problem was that a line break occurred right in the middle of “re-sign.” The hyphen was there, with “re-” on one line and “sign” on the next line. So I could read the hyphen as an essential part of the word “re-sign” or as a break in the word “resign.” That’s why I re-read (reread?) the passage.

I can’t help but think that in the old days, a human typesetter would have found a way to avoid this.

Categories: Sports, Writing

Blog Klog

May 3, 2009 1 comment


I haven’t blogged in over a week, during which time my list of items has kept growing. I may not get to them all. But I was thinking just now, as I prepared to work my through the list, that maybe a weblog backlog should be called a blog klog. Yes?

Categories: Language