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Rich Goes Quayle-Hunting Again - August 11, 2003

Times Watch for August 11, 2003

Rich Goes Quayle-Hunting Again

Times editor Frank Richs Sunday Arts & Leisure column, And Now, the Queer Eye For Straight Marriage," devoted to the issue de jour, conjures up the spirit of Murphy Brown. After criticizing social conservatives Sen. Rick Santorum, Bill Bennett and the Family Research Council, Rich mocks those who argue that child-rearing requires male and female parents. He says: Then there are those who in 1992 cheered Dan Quayle's argument that TV's Murphy Brown was unfit to raise children; they must now illogically argue that the single mothers they once vilified are preferable to two-mom or two-dad households.

Is it really that illogical of an argument?

For the rest of Frank Richs column on gay marriage, click here.

Gay Rights | Parenting | Dan Quayle | Frank Rich

Serious Gap in WMD Coverage

Gregory Djerejian found a serious contrast in seriousness between the Financial Times and the New York Times in their coverage of Iraqs weapons of mass destruction.

First, heres how the FT treats the issue: On Friday the paper ran an op-ed on Iraqs WMD program coauthored by Curt Mileikowsky, former head of Asea's nuclear power division and Evelyn Sokolowski, former head of the joint analysis group for Sweden's nuclear utilities. They note concern over Husseins WMD program: If the US had yielded to UN pressure to give [U.N. inspectors] more time, it is unlikely the inspectors would have found significant WMD. The troop concentrations around Iraq would have been dispersed and the pressure on Mr Hussein to co-operate would have diminished accordingly. Ultimately economic sanctions would have been lifted -and a rehabilitated Mr Hussein could have resumed his quest for WMD. That would have been disastrous for global security.

The New York Times Friday also ran an op-ed on Iraqs WMD program. For their view, they turned tocomedian-turned-novelist Steve Martin. Martin, whose WMD expertise goes modestly unremarked, uses the whole thing as comic relief: So if you're asking me did Iraq have weapons of mass destruction, I'm saying, well, it all depends on what you mean by have. See, I can have something without actually having it. I can have a cold, but I don't own the cold, nor do I harbor it. Really, when you think about it, the cold has me, or even more precisely, the cold has passed through me.

And the Times wonders why its journalistic reputation is on the wane.

For the rest of Steve Martins um, snotty comments on Iraqi WMD, click here.

Gaffes | Iraq War | Steve Martin | WMD

Puffing Up Huffington

Two stories on Californias surreal governors race attempt to make a more appealing candidate out of Arianna Huffington, the most popular liberal running.

When candidates Bill Simon and Arianna Huffington filed their election papers, the Times saw only one millionaire, a Republican. Dean Murphy and Charlie LeDuff write: The first candidate to arrive in Norwalk came well before Mr. Schwarzenegger, the columnist Arianna Huffington or Bill Simon Jr., the millionaire Republican who lost to Mr. Davis in last November's election, they write on Sunday. Yet Huffington is the former wife of wealthy former Republican Congressman Michael Huffington and currently resides in a 9000-square-foot house in posh Brentwood.) They also observe: Ms. Huffington, the one-time darling of the Gingrich revolution turned populist crusader, is engaging in a stalking campaign against Mr. Schwarzenegger in an effort to draw out the actor's positions on the issues. (The clause describing Huffingtons politics is strangely absent from some editions of the paper)

Mondays story by LeDuff and Alan Feuer labels Huffington not as a liberal but as a progressive, whatever that means: And then there is Arianna Huffington, who has taken to tailing Mr. Schwarzenegger at news events to draw him out and bask in his glow. She has joined [Sen. Dianne] Feinstein and other progressives in demanding an end to bare-knuckle politics. She has also pledged to cap her campaign spending at $10 million and promised not to run negative advertisements or conduct opinion polls. I think the people of California are sick of demolition derbies, she said on This Week.

Speaking of demolition derbies, Huffington seems to dislike SUVs, judging by her co-founding of The Detroit Project, an advocacy campaign that likens driving SUVs to supporting terrorism. Yet according to the Times, such stands (and interviews) attacking the outrageous fiscal irresponsibility that Bush and his cronies have unleashed on America merely make Huffington populist and progressive. Would it kill the paper to call the liberal Huffington liberal?

For the rest of LeDuff and Murphys Sunday story on California, click here.

For the rest of LeDuff and Feuer Monday story on California, click here.

California | Gov. Gray Davis | Arianna Huffington | Labeling Bias | Recall | Arnold Schwarzenegger

Weird Science On the Times Copy Desk

California to Ban Chemicals Used as Flame Retardants, the headline to Sundays story from environmental reporter Jennifer Lee, is innocuous enough. But the subhead tells a more ominous tale: Agent Tied to Learning Disorders in Children.

One reads on, to find that Lees actual story makes no such claim. On California Gov. Gray Davis plan to ban polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs,) Lee writes: California will become the first state to ban the chemicals, which are suspected of contributing to learning disorders, attention deficit and hyperactivity in children.The levels in some American women and babies are close to levels harmful to newborn mice.Tests on mice at Uppsala University in Sweden show that the chemicals can harm their brains in ways similar to the harm from PCB's.

Thats as far as Lee gets as far as evidence of harm to children. In fact, she admits No studies of the effect of the chemicals on human health have been published, but researchers are extrapolating their concern from animal studies and knowledge about how PCB's harm humans.

PBDEs could indeed be tied to learning disorders in children (though the embattled Davis sudden concern encourages cynicism on the matter). But Lees story offers no evidence of the assertions made by the Times headline writers.

For the rest of Jennifer Lees story, click here.

California | Gov. Gray Davis | Environment | Jennifer Lee | PBDEs