Patterico's Pontifications

5/14/2003

FASCINATING: Lest anyone posit that

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 10:35 pm

FASCINATING: Lest anyone posit that people are injecting race into the Jayson Blair story where it doesn’t belong, let them read this New York Times story about the town-hall-style meeting held by Howell Raines at the Times yesterday. The money quote from Raines: “Our paper has a commitment to diversity and by all accounts he appeared to be a promising young minority reporter. . . I believe in aggressively providing hiring and career opportunities for minorities. . . . Does that mean I personally favored Jayson? 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.

Duh.

DUMB COLUMN OF THE DAY:

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:38 am

DUMB COLUMN OF THE DAY: The award goes to Jack Shafer of Slate, for his silly column titled Defending Howell Raines: He didn’t catch Jayson Blair. You didn’t either. You know, he’s right. How could I have missed all the signs? They were all right there under someone else’s nose!

(And that nose belonged to Howell Raines.)

But here’s the quote I want to talk about: “So hate Raines as much as you want, and denounce the Times to your heart’s content, and demand as much genuflecting from the paper’s editors as you desire. Just remember the last time you were conned.”

Okay, I’ll play along and tell you the story of the last time I was conned, because I think there is a parallel. Several years ago, a lady on the street appeared to be in trouble. Her car had broken down, she said, and she needed money. She was very sincere about wanting to pay me back, and went to great lengths to write down my name, address, and telephone number. She only needed about $5 but I gave her $20. When I gave her the money I noticed that, despite her nice clothes, she had very rough hands. That gave me pause, but I felt committed, and gave her the money. Then I made myself believe that I knew all along it might be a con. (And of course it was.)

She took advantage of a belief I had about myself: that I was a generous person who would help someone genuinely in need. In applying that belief I used bad judgment. Rather than analyze the situation for what it was, I did a dumb thing because it made me feel good about myself. I got conned, but it was my fault too. Because I understand that about myself, it won’t happen again.

I think Jayson Blair took advantage of a belief Howell Raines had about himself: that he was a good guy who helped out minorities. After all, this is the guy who felt so strongly about affirmative action that he said about affirmative action in his newsroom: “This campaign has made our staff better and, more importantly, more diverse.” In applying his belief about himself, he used bad judgment. Rather than analyze the situation for what it was, he did a dumb thing, because it made him feel good about himself. He got conned — but it was his fault too.

Does he understand that about himself? And will it happen again?

FOR THE GRAMMAR NUTS: Here

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 12:02 am

FOR THE GRAMMAR NUTS: Here is an interesting story about a supposed error on the PSAT.

The disputed question: “Toni Morrison’s genius enables her to create novels that arise from and express the injustices African Americans have endured.” Is there something grammatically wrong with this sentence?

The PSAT folks (properly, in my view) initially said no. Some nut says yes. He has raised sufficient questions to cause the testers to throw the question out. The supposed problem: “Many grammar manuals insist that a pronoun such as ‘her’ should refer only to a noun, not, as in the case of the possessive ‘Toni Morrison’s,’ an adjective.” To which I say: what-ever.

My favorite line in the article requires you to know that the nut with the complaint is named Keegan, and that if you accept his nutty hypothesis, you should have answered “A.” Here’s the line: “Keegan’s success has given him some satisfaction — oh, wait. . . Keegan’s success has given the teacher some satisfaction that students kept from National Merit status only because of their ‘A’ answer may now make the cut.”

Cute.


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