Is Pinch a cinch?

A mostly political Weblog.
May 19 2003 5:36 AM

Is Pinch a Cinch?

Plus: Anarchists in Arlington.

(Continued from Page 3)

Just a Reminder: Still Not Enough Troops in Iraq, argues NY Post's Ralph Peters. ... Peters is in favor of giving the troops a freer hand than seems wise, but he's good at ridiculing Rumsfeld's apparent almost anarchistic assumption that once the initial military battle was won, order would spontaneously and organically emerge from the leaderless Iraqi people.. ... 8:34 P.M.

Guilty Southern White Boy confesses. Stop the presses! I'm reluctant to draw grand conclusions based on a brief news flash on Drudge, but it would seem that Howell Raines himself has now admitted that he cut Jayson Blair extra slack because Blair is black. Update: Drudge's quote differed from the one in the NYT's own story by only a couple of inconsequential words. Here's the NYT account:

"Our paper has a commitment to diversity and by all accounts he appeared to be a promising young minority reporter," Mr. Raines said. "I believe in aggressively providing hiring and career opportunities for minorities."

"Does that mean I personally favored Jayson?" he added, a moment later. "Not consciously. But you have a right to ask if I, as a white man from Alabama, with those convictions, gave him one chance too many by not stopping his appointment to the sniper team. When I look into my heart for the truth of that, the answer is yes."

Doesn't that statement definitively end the attempt of affirmative action defenders (e.g., and e.g.), as well as the NYT's official spokesperson, to deny the bleeding obvious? ... Has Raines cleverly realized that if it's not (a) affirmative action's fault, then it's (b)his fault--so he's choosing the self-preservationist explanation (a)? ... I tend to think he's just telling the truth, but it's a truth that serves him well. ... P.S.: But isn't he a little old to still be stuck in the identity-politics 'I'm-a-white man from Alabama irrevocably defined by my race and backgound' mindset? ... More: Here's a  colorful, no-BS take on the Blair affair by Ciro Scotti that actually adds value even at this late date. (I'm ignoring Scotti's ritual, half-hearted exculpation of "diversity efforts"--this in a piece that partly blames the NYT's "frantic pursuit of diversity.") ... 7:47 P.M.

TomPaine.com steps in to fill the blog-vacuum on the left. ... Instapundit (citing Bryan Preston) thinks they should avoid the anonymous posts. I tend to agree--anonymous posts reinforce the impression that some institutional party line is being enforced. (That causes dissonance when it isn't--i.e., when the blog-line contradicts the probable magazine-line, as with the TNR blog's recent straw-grasping defense of affirmative action. Who at TNR likes race preferences--bet it's not Marty!--and why won't they tell us their name, or at least their initials?). ... But TomPaine seems to be focusing less on windy opining and more on linking--a good move, since the real need is for anInstapundit-like one-stop clearing house for liberals. They're almost there already. ... Update: While I wasn't looking TAPPED got fairly comprehensive as well. ... 4:37 P.M.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Breaking: Raines calls emergency (job-saving?) meeting. (See second-to-last graf.) ... Drudge has  the e-mail. ... Suggested closed-door line for Pinch: 'Howell, isn't there a book you want to write?' ... Update: Boy, do I wish somebody had been a blog on the wall at this meeting. Was it a) cathartic venting, b) kumbaya-bonding (Lucianne's prediction) or c) East German Party Rally? America wants to know. If anyone has news please email kausfiles. Thanks. ... More: Drudge has a flash summary. ... More: Reuters  indicates it was (a). ...  4:21 P.M.

More evidence of the dynamic that might threaten NYT editor Howell Raines in the Blair scandal:The alternative for those on the left who don't want to "blame affirmative action" is rapidly becoming "blame Raines."  The New Republic travels down that road  here. Mnoosweek falls in line here.  ...

P.S.: Isn't this what we neolibs used to somewhat murkily call a "false choice," since both factors are obviously to blame? TNR argues Raines went beyond simple "affirmative action" and indulged in something it calls "the fetishization of diversity," defined as the "monomaniacal fixation on a single goal, whether the goal is diversity or proper grammar or having a certain type of Danish at editorial meetings."  But this is hardly the bright line, good/bad distinction TNR seems to think it is. Any time you promote an employee, you're taking some risk he or she will screw up, and weighing that risk against the evidence of the their competence. The whole point of affirmative action, as advocated by TNR's blog (though I doubt by at least two of TNR's three owners) is to tilt this multi-factor calculus in favor of candidates of certain races. That means un-tilting other competing factors, like the risk of screw-ups, which means they will sometimes be outweighed. With Blair the risks just came to fruition. ...

P.P.S.: The Times' own defense of affirmative action--that many minorities weren't promoted  the way Blair was--suggests that race was one factor competing with other factors, not a monofactor. That doesn't get race off the hook when the other factors turn out to have merited more weight. It does mean TNR's big distinction between "a slight boost" and "monomania" is artificial and inapposite.  ...(Not only is the distinction a matter of degree, but the slope involved is slippery. If a "slight boost" for minorities doesn't produce the desired numbers, then maybe a slightly less slight boost is called for, etc.)

P.P.P.S.: If affirmative action only gives a "slight boost" to minorities is it really worth all the stigma it generates? The stigma would seems to come from the preference itself, not the degree of preference (whether it's a "boost" or "fetish"). TNR, arguing against this idea, suggests that suck-ups who followed Alabama football games might get promotions from editors who follow Alabama football. How true. (I remember getting a call from an aspiring young reporter I knew, asking for a xerox of an article Howell Raines had written about Alabama football. The reporter needed to read the article in order to suck up to Raines in a job interview. The reporter is now on the national staff of the Times.) That's just life in all its human idiosyncracy, TNR seems to argue--only monomaniacal pursuit of Alabama fans would be bad. But TNR stacks the deck by picking a quirky, non-widespread bias. If 12 percent of the nation's population were Alabama football fans, and they were readily identifiable by their skin color, and employers across the country had programs in place to promote Alabama fans ahead of other more qualified applicants, then Alabama fans everywhere would operate under the same affirmative-action stigma African American reporters must now operate under at the Times and elsewhere,. That would be true even if the pro-Alabama bias was but one factor among many, and not pursued "to the exclusion of almost everything else." ... The fact that it's only a "slight boost" that generates this nationwide stigma is an argument against giving the boost, not in favor of it. ...

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