Gross Generalizations OK For Liberal Causes? - August 1, 2003

Times Watch for August 1, 2003

Gross Generalizations OK For Liberal Causes?

Thursdays A1 Danny Hakim story, Big and Fancy, More Pickups Displace Cars, takes a moralistic look at the increasing popularity of pickup trucks. The trend toward bigger-than-ever pickups has broad implications for the safety of American drivers, the environment, oil consumption and the financial health of the auto industry. Big pickups, which can cost $40,000 and up, are the most dangerous vehicles on the road for people riding in other vehicles-much more dangerous than large sport utility vehicles, according to federal crash statistics. The average pickup uses more gasoline than the average S.U.V. and therefore produces more gases that contribute to global warming.

Besides taking as fact the liberal assumption that humans contribute to global warming, Hakim allows Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen, to criticize pickup trucks without noting the Ralph Nader-founded groups liberal agenda. Hakim simply calls Public Citizen a consumer advocacy group.

Hakim also makes some rather critical and un-Timesian generalizations regarding truck drivers: Pickup drivers as a group tend to be less careful than people behind the wheels of cars, according to insurance industry data. They tend to drink more and use their seat belts less often, figures show.

While its OK to generalize about the often-rural drivers of pickups, its verboten to characterize the driving habits of other groups. A Wednesday story, Traffic Tips for Los Angeles Best Taken With a Pinch of Kimchi, makes that clear in a story about Korean-American driving habits.

Reporter Charlie LeDuff sniffs: According to [Korean-American radio personality] Dr. Driving, 34 percent of the general population are traffic violators, but the number hovers around 70 percent for Korean immigrants here. How does the doctor know that? Not through any statistics or science, he admits, but simply from his observations of the carousel of characters who rotate through his office and from what he has seen in 20 years behind the wheel.One should accept his mathematics with a quart of skepticism.

For Danny Hakims story on pickup trucks, click here.

For Charlie LeDuffs story on L.A. radio host Dr. Driving, click here.

Asians, Automobiles, Charlie LeDuff, Environment, Danny Hakim, Labeling Bias, Pickup Trucks, Stereotypes, SUVs

Krugmans Dubious Proposition

Fridays op-ed by Paul Krugman, State of Decline, is on Californias recall vote and the states massive deficit. According to Krugman, the deficit has nothing to do with Democratic Gov. Gray Davis leadership, but everything to do with Proposition 13, the tax-limiting measure Californians passed a quarter-century ago.

Krugman claims the key factor in rising California spending has been the effort to rebuild a crippled education system. Proposition 13, the 1978 cap on property taxes, led to a progressive starvation of California's once-lauded public schools. By 1994, the state had the largest class sizes in the nation; its reading scores were on a par with Mississippi's. Voters wanted this shameful situation remedied. Indeed, much of the recent growth of education spending was mandated by a rather complex measure called Proposition 98. So when conservatives denounce runaway government spending in California, what they're really talking about is the effort to hire more teachers and repair decrepit school buildings.

Since Proposition 13 has been blamed by big-government liberals for everything but the heartbreak of psoriasis, some perspective is in order. A report from the California-based Pacific Research Institute shows that per-pupil spending in real [inflation-adjusted] terms was significantly higher in 1994 (the year Krugman cites) than it was before Proposition 13. The report by Lance Izumi argues (according to a summary by the Chicago-based research group Heartland Institute): The reason for the widespread failure of the state's public school system is not lack of money, says the report, but the way education services are delivered. In fact, real per-pupil spending in California was 60 percent higher in 1994-95 than in 1969-70.

For the rest of Paul Krugmans California column, click here.

California, Gov. Gray Davis, Deficit, Paul Krugman, Proposition 13, Recall

Times Editor Admits To Media BiasOn the Right

Times editorial page editor Gail Collins appeared on the C-SPAN call-in show Washington Journal Friday morning and defended her paper from attacks from the left and right.

To a caller who accused the paper of socialism, Collins said: We do not have a socialist agenda. No one who is a socialist would certainly ever accuse the New York times of having a socialist agenda, Im sorry. Collins completed her thought with a jab against Bushs tax cuts: Demanding that Congress cut taxes is like demanding that a two-year old child eat candy if its given to them.

Responding to a caller who complained NBC was a branch of the GE-military contractor, Collins addressed the differences between American journalism and European journalism and then argued the American right has developed an advocacy media that doesnt try to be objective: [Americans] treasure the idea of objectivity in our news report, and in general most papers, including the Times on their opinion pages, strive to present all sorts of different voices. So its very frustrating for people on the left, I think, when theyre told that the New York Times, for instance, is their paper or the Washington Post is their paper when-but what they see is something thats sort of in the middle, trying to just provide all kinds of different information. The right in this country has been so much more successful in developing over recent years an advocacy media, a media that doesnt try to be objective, a media that tries to push its own agenda, which is completely within its rights. But theres not much on the left side that balances that out, and that throws all the people on the left into suddenly being told that we or the New Republic or the Washington Post are supposed to be their media. So I understand the frustration that your caller has about that."

Gail Collins, C-SPAN, Editorial, Liberal Bias