Supplemental: Will the real Kristof please stand up!

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2015

Like Brian Williams, a brand:
Once again, we find ourselves puzzled by Nicholas Kristof’s latest column.

It appears in this morning’s New York Times. The column starts like this:
KRISTOF (2/19/15): Like many Americans, I’ve been wary of labor unions.

Full-time union stagehands at Carnegie Hall earning more than $400,000 a year? A union hailing its defense of a New York teacher who smelled of alcohol and passed out in class, with even the principal unable to rouse her? A police union in New York City that has a tantrum and goes on virtual strike?

More broadly, I disdained unions as bringing corruption, nepotism and rigid work rules to the labor market, impeding the economic growth that ultimately makes a country strong.

I was wrong.
All through the column, Kristof says he’s been wrong, oh so wrong, about unions—at least about private sector unions.

What a guy! Here’s how the column ends:
KRISTOF: Lawrence F. Katz, a Harvard labor economist, raises concerns about some aspects of public-sector unions, but he says that in the private sector (where only 7 percent of workers are now unionized): “I think we’ve gone too far in de-unionization.”

He’s right. This isn’t something you often hear a columnist say, but I’ll say it again: I was wrong. At least in the private sector, we should strengthen unions, not try to eviscerate them.
In comments, the usual suspects rushed to praise his honesty and his courage. We had a different reaction to the puzzling fellow’s latest puzzling column.

Kristof is 55 years old. He went to Harvard, then to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. For all those reasons, we think this part of his column is rather hard to believe:
KRISTOF: I’ve also changed my mind because, in recent years, the worst abuses by far haven’t been in the union shop but in the corporate suite. One of the things you learn as a journalist is that when there’s no accountability, we humans are capable of tremendous avarice and venality. That’s true of union bosses—and of corporate tycoons. Unions, even flawed ones, can provide checks and balances for flawed corporations.
Really? Until he was 55, Nicholas Kristof hadn’t learned that “we humans are capable of tremendous avarice and venality”—and that that was even true of corporate tycoons?

We’re sorry, but we don’t believe that. It’s hard for us to avoid the suspicion that Kristof is semi-dissembling a tad.

In recent weeks, we’ve been repulsed by some of Kristof’s work. We’re still trying to decipher the Haiti segment from his PBS program, A Path Appears—a segment which seems to have been journalistically false and rather cruel to boot.

As we’ve watched this puzzling man seem to reinvent himself, we’ve often thought of Brian Williams. This is why we say that:

Williams was always more than an anchor. He was also a major brand—in effect, a corporation.

It seems he did a lot of embellishing in support of that brand. We’ve been getting a similar sense from Kristof’s recent work.

Kristof is a major international brand. In theory, he and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, support everything good and decent. But his work is getting sloppy and strange.

Quite often, his work doesn’t quite seem to make sense. We don’t trust Nicholas Kristof.

We’ll plan to return to this topic next week. That said, is Nicholas Kristof a journalist? Or is he a Williams-type brand?

Typical recent Kristof: As Kristof starts his latest column, he offers a jibe about “union stagehands at Carnegie Hall earning more than $400,000 a year.”

That’s a lot of money. That said, we wonder if Kristof understood that he wasn’t discussing salary alone—that the figure he cited included all compensation for those employees, including retirement and benefits.

According to NPR, the five stagehands he was discussing did not earn $400,000 per year, not in the way Kristof’s readers probably thought he meant. Beyond that, they averaged 60 hours of work per week, according to the New York Times.

Increasingly, Kristof’s work seems sloppy and strange. Maybe he’s simply over-extended. Do you believe he recently learned that corporate tycoons can be greedy?

We don’t believe that. Increasingly, we get a strange vibe from the work of this major brand.

40 comments:

  1. "Really? Until he was 55, Nicholas Kristof hadn’t learned that “we humans are capable of tremendous avarice and venality”—and that that was even true of corporate tycoons?"

    No, not really. Not what Kristof said at all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "I’ve also changed my mind because, in recent years, the worst abuses by far haven’t been in the union shop but in the corporate suite."

      He states he has recently changed his mind because "in recent years" he has realized the worst abuses are corporate. IN RECENT YEARS. If he is now 55 and he is announcing now he has changed his mind, he has just learned about those corporate abuses. He implies the recent corporate abuses are worse than in the past but anyone familiar with history knows that is not true.

      It is more than fair to conclude he is either an idiot or he didn't recently learn that corporations commit abuses out of avarice. How could anyone who is a journalist be unfamiliar with the muckraking tradition that led to regulation of corporate abuses in the past? How could they be unfamiliar with the reporting of corporate abuses caused by avarice in the 80's and 90s?

      Somerby has fairly characterized what Kristof said. It is mind-boggling that he could represent himself as any kind of liberal and not understand the depth of corporate avarice.

      You do not seem to understand inference. You might want to consult your physician about that. It could be a symptom of mental illness, brain injury or perhaps Alzheimer's, much as excessive literalism can be.

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    2. Always grateful to a Bob fan to explain what he really, really means as opposed to what he actually wrote.

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    3. It was for @4:48, who cannot read.

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    4. Your fascination with projecting your mental problems onto anyone who disagrees with Somerby is as pathetically predictable as the spellcaster spam.

      Delete
    5. "I know you are but what am I?" to quote Peewee.

      Nothing but name calling, much like your persistent criticism of Somerby no matter what he posts. "Mental problems" is the only possible explanation for the obsession with taunting Somerby and others here using juvenile insults. Your forgot to mention poo. Off your game today?

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    6. "It is mind-boggling that he could represent himself as any kind of liberal and not understand the depth of corporate avarice."

      I wonder how much longer it will take Kristof to attain the self-revelation that the reason unions are being so decimated in this country is because people like himself, who "disdained unions", have been playing the role of progressive liberal in the paper of record for so long. What a horse's patoot.

      Delete
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  2. In comments, the usual suspects rushed to praise his honesty and his courage.

    But not before he did. "This isn’t something you often hear a columnist say, but I’ll say it again: I was wrong."

    Good lord.

    ReplyDelete
  3. 1. Their work is indispensable and difficult to duplicate; 2. they work 80 hours for the $300+ K they actually are "paid," 3. Carnegie Hall at the top of performance venue prestige in the world; 4. it's Manhattan, and they almost hve to live there.

    It takes two to tango. There must be a reason why they are paid so much. Emphasizing it (and exaggerating it) is standard divide-and-conquer propaganda. So are the other horror stores Kristof cites as gospel.

    I'll bet "best boys" are well paid in Hollywood, too.

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    Replies
    1. Actors, directors, producers and writers have unions too. Some of them are paid millions. Therefore all unions are bad. Professional athletes have unions. They must be bad because they get paid a lot more than I do.

      I don't understand the distinction between public and private unions. Most people don't seem to understand that people who work in the public sector are paid much less than those in private industry. Their better pensions and other benefits are the way the public sector is able to compete for labor. The extra rules are largely because a public institution must adhere to fairness and equal opportunity because taxpayers should have a fair chance at jobs being funded by their own taxes. How is there more nepotism when there are greater rules limiting it? Are people perhaps confusing political staff positions with civil service?

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    2. Begs the existential question of unions: If their work is indispensable and difficult to duplicate then why do they need a union to guarantee their $300+ K? Carnegie will have to pay market price for such rare talent and effort whether the representation comes from a union or otherwise.

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    3. anon @6:21

      "Most people don't seem to understand that people who work in the public sector are paid much less than those in private industry."

      Well now I've seen my daily howler.

      Delete
    4. Because markets don't work like that. Corporations use unfair tactics to control how much is paid and what working conditions are like. Corporations have more power than individuals. It is only when individuals act together that they can achieve fair pay related to the actual skill and scarcity of their labor.

      Delete
    5. @6:37 You can howl at whatever you want, but there are actual salary surveys that compare public and private sector salaries.

      Delete
    6. 6:33 -- They "need" a union because they are employees who have the right to have one and they want one. It's not for you or anyone else say who may or may not have one because you think they could compete in a non-unionized environment.

      Delete
  4. Kristof is deceptive and math-challenged. He wrote: A full-time construction worker earns about $10,000 less per year now than in 1973, in today’s dollars, according to Rosenfeld. One reason is probably that the proportion who are unionized has fallen in that period...

    Kristof reports the change, but not the actual before and after income of unionized construction workers. I believe it's the case that unionized construction workers' incomes were greater than average. If so, reducing the income of this class of employee doesn't add to inequality of income. On the contrary, it reduces that inequality.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. This is a ridiculous comment. Where is it written that all employees regardless of skill or training must make the same amount of money and that it must be equal to the average? Income inequality refers to 1% of the population making hugely disparate amounts (millions and billions) as CEOs or board members while the people in their corporations make a tiny fraction of that amount, it refers to the wealthy who do not work at all but derive their income from investments and financial manipulations that produce nothing except wealth. It is obscene that you equate a skilled unionized construction worker's salary advantage, derived from what he or she produces, with the inequality of the top 1% who freeload on the labor of those who do real work.

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    2. Kristof doesn't say what he means by the term "income inequality." Anon, if "income inequality" is defined as something like the difference between average income for the top 1% vs. average income for the other 99%, then you are correct. I was assuming it represented some statistical measure of spread, such as standard deviation.

      Delete
    3. Yes, I am aware that I'm agreeing with something mentioned by David in Cal.

      RE "Kristof doesn't say what he means by the term "income inequality.""

      Exactly.

      RE "if "income inequality" is defined as something like the difference between average income for the top 1% vs. average income for the other 99%, then you are correct."

      Exactly.

      That political-media class Democrats such as Kristof have decided as a cohort to use this malleable phrase "income inequality" instead of, say, "oligarchy" or "state and corporate elites" speaks to an unspoken, yet shared ideological framework that's mostly unrecognizable to 99% of the rest of us.

      Delete
  5. Jen Psaki's new promotion will dissuade her from joining ISIS.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hahahahahaha!

      Delete
    2. L. Brent Bozell IIIFebruary 20, 2015 at 7:24 PM

      Eminently troll-worthy comment!

      Check's in the mail.

      Delete
  6. "Income inequality." What a horrible, commie phrase.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Income redistribution is touted in the Communist Manifesto. Income inequality is what the Obama White House practices.

      "Analysis: Men still make a lot more than women in Obama’s White House"

      http://dailycaller.com/2014/01/16/analysis-men-still-make-a-lot-more-than-women-in-obamas-white-house/

      Delete
    2. Hey guys with large foreheads, the new Newsmax is on the stands at Walmart, better go get it...

      Delete
    3. 8th Dimension ciceroFebruary 20, 2015 at 7:01 PM

      Rumor has it the the Daily Caller pays its staff squadoodle!

      Delete
    4. Well. 8th D cicero, what do they expect to earn since they don't know squat from squadoosh?

      Delete
  7. I'm not sure Bob is being honest when he matches Kristof's epiphany, is he really only new starting to find him suspect? Or is that sarcasm.
    Kirstof is using an old troupe usually brought from the mothballs by conservatives: "I am a convert. I have seen the error of my ways. I was blind but now I see." Pretty boring stuff.

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    Replies
    1. I wonder how old Bob was when he discovered liberals were dumb, lazy, and disliked.

      Delete
  8. I find it odd to think of Kristof as a liberal. He has long been full of sympathy for the downtrodden of foreign countries and cultures, but indifferent to the misery in an America that has been being dismantled for the last 30-odd years

    Kristof is of the same ilk as Thomas Friendman, who thinks millions of Americans should be happy to give up their livelihood so that some kid in India or China will be able to work for Microsoft or Apple.

    But all of this compassion is a lie. When there are beggers on your doorstep, it behoves you to ask, "How are all these people who are willing to spend hours a day begging not in real jobs? How did poverty become such an everyday thing in the richest country in the world? How is it that we 'can't afford' to keep the promises we could afford to keep even in the wake of the Great Depression?"

    There is nothing liberal about a man who can make excuses for his country when honest workers are being cheated out of honest pay.

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    1. Signed.

      But also: it is a strange "sympathy" for the downtrodden that so often demands that we must bomb, inevitably creating more horrors than we solve. Rather like the supposed "feminism" that once demanded we attack Iraq.

      Both were shams, useful perhaps to seduce some unwitting or deluded souls.

      Delete
    2. Indeed. I always wondered if any of those chickenhawks who talked about the condition of women in Iraq as a pretext for going to war actually had themselves convinced that their concern was real, or if they all knew well that the concern was a lie and that war in Iraq could only make things worse for the women there.

      Delete
  9. I kinda doubt Kristoff's parents were unionized so he has that going for him.

    ReplyDelete
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