Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

Archive for March 3rd, 2007

CEO greed and the commercialization of the Smithsonian

Posted by metaphorical on 3 March 2007

The Washington Post had a report last week on the over-the-top greed of the head of the Smithsonian Institution. Yet they missed the heart of the story, or willfully avoided reporting it. Congress is outraged, yet Congress is largely to blame, not that there isn’t plenty to go around. And in the ultimate irony, the conservatives who would like to commercialize the Smithsonian are the first to run afoul of the hired gun carrying that insane idea out. Let’s start with the greed.

Lawrence M. Small, the top official at the Smithsonian Institution, accumulated nearly $90,000 in unauthorized expenses from 2000 to 2005, including charges for chartered jet travel, his wife’s trip to Cambodia, hotel rooms, luxury car service, catered staff meals and expensive gifts, according to confidential findings by the Smithsonian inspector general.

In a masterpiece of understatement, the Inspector General wrote to the audit and review committee that “Some transactions might be considered lavish or extravagant.”

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Quis custodit ipsos custodis?

Posted by metaphorical on 3 March 2007

After going after the NY Times a second time in one week, it occurred to me that it’s not the first occasion I’ve chided my hometown newspaper, and it’s surely not going to be the last.

The Times shows up on my doormat every morning (on the weekends not early enough); I read a fistful of stories on an average day. I’m going to have some issues when the newspaper of record has a big scratch on either its logic side or its accuracy side.

Wikipedia notes that the title question to tonight’s post was first asked by the Roman satirist Juvenal not in reference to tyrannies but “to the impossibility of enforcing moral behavior on women when the enforcers (custodes) are corruptible.” I suppose that’s appropriate when we’re talking about the morals of the Grey Lady.But more seriously, if don’t want government to restrict the press, we have to help it restrict itself—to all and only the news that’s fit to print, reported accurately and fairly.

So to help the Times guard itself against itself, and in case any of my readers are similarly interested when the paper blows it, I’ve created a new tag, Times-watch and gone through the archive. As it turns out, five stories get the tag (not counting this self-referential one), and, to introduce it, I’ve listed them here.

  • Newspaper, heal thyself

    In which a Times editorial decries the basic skills of U.S. high school students as insufficient for our glorious information age, without noticing its own contribution to that decline.
  • The enemy within

    In which the Times falls for what’s by now virtually an urban legend, that the Bush administration back in October “passed yet another of its laws ‘in the dead of night’ that ‘strike to the heart of American democracy,’ this one making it ‘easier for a president to override local control of law enforcement and declare martial law’.”
  • Where are the journalist reorientation therapies?

    In which the Times somehow overlooks the fact that sexual orientation therapies deserves no more respect than intelligent design theories – even though it quotes an expert who makes that very point.

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