Friday, February 18, 2005

New York Times has one powerful story on the front page to be proud of, otherwise they send in the Elite Fluff Patrol

Let's start by noting a worthy story on the front page of this morning's New York Times -- Sharon LaFraniere's " AIDS and Custom Leave African Families Nothing:"

There are two reasons 11-year-old Chikumbutso Zuze never sees his three sisters, why he seldom has a full belly, why he sleeps packed sardinelike with six cousins on the dirt floor of his aunt's thatched mud hut.
One is AIDS, which claimed his father in 2000 and his mother in 2001. The other is his father's nephew, a tall, light-complexioned man whom Chikumbutso knows only as Mr. Sululu.
It was Mr. Sululu who came to his village five years ago, after his father died, and commandeered all of the family's belongings - mattresses, chairs and, most important, the family's green Toyota pickup, an almost unimaginable luxury in this, one of the poorest nations on earth. And it was Mr. Sululu who rejected the pleas of the boy's mother, herself dying of AIDS, to leave the truck so that her children would have an inheritance to sustain them after her death.
Instead, Chikumbutso said, he left behind a battery-powered transistor radio.
"I feel very bitter about it," he said, plopped on a wooden bench in 12-by-12-foot hut rented by his maternal aunt and uncle on the outskirts of this town in the lush hills of southern Malawi. "We don't really know why they did all this. We couldn't understand."
Actually, the answer is simple: custom. Throughout sub-Saharan Africa the death of a father automatically entitles his side of the family to claim most, if not all, of the property he leaves behind, even if it leaves his survivors destitute.
In an era when AIDS is claiming about 2.3 million lives a year in sub-Saharan Africa - roughly 80,000 people last year in Malawi alone - disease and stubborn tradition have combined in a terrible synergy, robbing countless mothers and children not only of their loved ones but of everything they own.
"It is the saddest, saddest story," said Seodi White, who heads the Malawi chapter of Women and Law in Southern Africa, a nonprofit research organization. "People are cashing in on AIDS. Women are left with nothing but the disease. Every time you hear it you get shocked, but in fact it is normal. That's the horror of it."

And that's pretty much it on the front page that's praise worthy. You have some okay writing elsewhere but you also have the Elite Fluff Patrol running manuevers to ensure that John Negroponte get the full spin treatment. Squad leader Elisbeth Bumiller's teamed up with Douglas Jehl (a non squad member so one can only assume she's there to ensure that the Fluff Patrol control the dialogue). Those who remember the Honduran death squads damage will never forget it, no matter how much Elite Fluff Patrol members Bumiller and David E. Sanger attempt to spin and minimize.

Sanger's pulling double duty on the front page. With Jaques Steinberg, his byline runs on "Schieffer Brothers' New Jobs Won't Strain Bonds, They Say" which attempts to act as though Tom Schieffer's nomination by the Bully Boy is being handled among Tom and brother Bob (useless host of Face the Nation and due to briefly sub as anchor for CBS's Evening News after Rather steps down) in such a way to make sure there's no appearence of conflict of interest for "news" personality Bob.

There's never been a conflict for Bob Schieffer -- he's always been firmly in the Bully Boy's camp. Let's go to The Daily Howler on Bob Schieffer:

The person running tomorrow's debate comes from Texas, just like Bush. In the past, he and Bush went to ball games together. He and Bush played golf together. He and Bush even took in spring training together! And not only that -- his brother was Bush’s close business partner; later, Bush named him ambassador to Australia. And not only that -- the moderator roots for people from his part of the country, and roots against those northeastern snobs! It's hard to believe that a man as accomplished as Schieffer would say some of these silly things in public. But this is a partial profile of the "liberal journalist" who will be hosting Wednesday's crucial debate. Would you want to be John Kerry faced with this boo-hooing Sun Belter? Poor Schieffer! He had to go to Texas Christian! Forty years later, he still cries in his beer, humiliated by the cruel slight.
Schieffer is old, close friends with Bush. And yes, despite what he said to Kurtz, he has given "favorable treatment" to Bush. At times, he's given very favorable treatment, a point we'll incomparably revisit tomorrow. Is your press corps driven by liberal bias? Who knows? In a world where George Will represents liberal bias, we suppose that Bob Schieffer does too.

Daily Howler readers learned of that on October 12, 2004. Months later, the Times is kind-of-sort-of-maybe aware that there might be some sort of special relationship between a Schieffer and a Bush. Days late, dollars short and always sucking up, the New York Times: more useless every day.

There's much to know about Bob Schieffer, you just won't find it in the Times. Check out The Daily Howler for what the New York Times isn't interested in telling you.

Sara Rimer and Patrick D. Healy weigh in on Lawrence Summers remarks in "Furor Lingers as Harvard Chief Gives Details of Talk on Women." From the article:

Bowing to pressure from his faculty, the president of Harvard University, Lawrence H. Summers, on Thursday released a month-old transcript of his contentious closed-door remarks about the shortage of women in the sciences and engineering. The transcript revealed several provocative statements by Dr. Summers about the "intrinsic aptitude" of women, the career pressures they face and discrimination within universities.
Dr. Summers's remarks, which have only been described by others until now, have fueled a widening crisis on campus, with several professors talking about taking a vote of no confidence on the president next week. That idea alone is unprecedented at Harvard in modern times.
Among his comments to a conference of economists last month, according to the transcript, Dr. Summers, a former secretary of the United States Treasury, compared the relatively low number of women in the sciences to the numbers of Catholics in investment banking, whites in the National Basketball Association and Jews in farming.
He theorized that a "much higher fraction of married men" than married women were willing to work 80-hour weeks to attain "high powered" jobs. He said racial and sex discrimination needed to be "absolutely, vigorously" combated, yet he argued that bias could not entirely explain the lack of diversity in the sciences. At that point, the Harvard leader suggested he believed that the innate aptitude of women was a factor behind their low numbers in the sciences and engineering.
. . .

Several Harvard professors said they were more furious after reading the precise remarks, saying they felt he believed women were intellectually inferior to men.
Everett I. Mendelsohn, a professor of the history of science, said that once he read the transcript, he understood why Dr. Summers "might have wanted to keep it a secret."
"Where he seems to be off the mark particularly is in his sweeping claims that women don't have the ability to do well in high-powered jobs," said Professor Mendelsohn, part of a faculty group that sharply criticized Dr. Summers's leadership at a meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences on Tuesday. "There's an implication that they've taken themselves out of that role. But he brings forward no evidence."

Summers' remarks are certainly to gather more attention now that the transcript has been released. There's much to raise an eyebrow over. At one point, sounding very much like the aged relic advising J.C. Wiatt (Diane Keaton) in the movie Baby Boom, Lawrence Summers declared (among other things):

And the relatively few women who are in the highest ranking places are disproportionately either unmarried or without children, with the emphasis differing depending on just who you talk to. And that is a reality that is present and that one has exactly the same conversation in almost any high-powered profession. What does one make of that? I think it is hard-and again, I am speaking completely descriptively and non-normatively-to say that there are many professions and many activities, and the most prestigious activities in our society expect of people who are going to rise to leadership positions in their forties near total commitments to their work. They expect a large number of hours in the office, they expect a flexibility of schedules to respond to contingency, they expect a continuity of effort through the life cycle, and they expect-and this is harder to measure-but they expect that the mind is always working on the problems that are in the job, even when the job is not taking place. And it is a fact about our society that that is a level of commitment that a much higher fraction of married men have been historically prepared to make than of married women. That's not a judgment about how it should be, not a judgment about what they should expect. But it seems to me that it is very hard to look at the data and escape the conclusion that that expectation is meeting with the choices that people make and is contributing substantially to the outcomes that we observe.

Is it really all that different from what the relic Fritz says to J.C. in Baby Boom? "Do you understand the sacrifices? A man can be a success. My wife is there for me whenever I need her. I'm lucky. I can have it all." Don't we expect more than acceptance of bias tossed off as convention wisdom from people running institutions like Harvard?

And what's Fritz, er Summer's answer (he says he'll deal with his three theories later in the speech)?

What should we all do? I think the case is overwhelming for employers trying to be the [unintelligible] employer who responds to everybody else's discrimination by competing effectively to locate people who others are discriminating against, or to provide different compensation packages that will attract the people who would otherwise have enormous difficulty with child care. I think a lot of discussion of issues around child care, issues around extending tenure clocks, issues around providing family benefits, are enormously important. I think there's a strong case for monitoring and making sure that searches are done very carefully and that there are enough people looking and watching that that pattern of choosing people like yourself is not allowed to take insidious effect. But I think it's something that has to be done with very great care because it slides easily into pressure to achieve given fractions in given years, which runs the enormous risk of people who were hired because they were terrific being made to feel, or even if not made to feel, being seen by others as having been hired for some other reason. And I think that's something we all need to be enormously careful of as we approach these issues, and it's something we need to do, but I think it's something that we need to do with great care.

Great care, he wants. No rushing. He cribs from Baby Boom and that's the best he can come up with? Here's Susan Faludi in Backlash commenting on the notions in Baby Boom:

[O]ne might expect that the film would set out to challenge this unjust arrangement -- and argue that the corporation must learn to accomdate women, not the other way around. [p. 129]

Yes, according to Summers, "with care."

Note the question and answer section. Note the topic of the speech. Note that the only time he goes into great length (his longest response) is when he talks about basketball players. Anybody else got a problem with that? Anyone else bothered?

Note the basic comments of: Here are my prepared remarks on the topic now I'll take questions and answers. Here's a short reply, here's another, oh basketball! Let me talk about this!

To put it bluntly, the response suggests where his interests lie and where they don't. To underscore it, he goes through the motions on the designated topic but comes alive when he can discuss sports.