Archive for July, 2007

There it (the New York Times) goes again!

July 24, 2007

Alexander Vinokourov is in the news again this week, first for his spectacular victories in Stages 13 (time trial) and 15 (Pyrenees) of the Tour de France, and again today because he was discovered to have benefited from an illegal blood transfusion. And once again the media, with the New York Times in the lead, refer to “Alexander Vinokourov, the Kazakh cyclist.”

When not dealing with Vinokourov, for the past few years media references to “Kazakh” have typically involved Borat. Now Borat Sagdiyev, the character invented and performed by Sacha Baron Cohen, is represented as a Kazakh, but in fact nothing about him has anything to do with the Kazakh people or Kazakhstan. His appearance, and that of the other supposedly Kazakh characters in the Borat film (most of whom are played by Romanians), is typically Southern European, and the supposedly Kazakh language that Borat speaks is in fact Hebrew. Real Kazakhs are Central Asians and their physical appearance is close to East Asian, or what in the United States is called simply Asian.

Vinokourov is blond and looks quite typically Russian. His name is Russian, as is his Russian Orthodox way of crossing himself. He is, in fact, a Kazakhstani Russian — that is, a citizen of Kazakhstan who is an ethnic Russian. Wikipedia gets it right by calling him “a Kazakhstani professional road bicycle racer.”

The fact that in Eastern and East Central Europe, and in most of Asia, nationality is defined by ethnicity and not by citizenship is something that the Western media seem to have a hard time with. I have written a number of essays on the subject. The issue affects me personally because I am a native of Poland, and my ancestors lived in Poland for hundreds of years, but my family and I are Polish Jews and we never regarded ourselves, nor were regarded by others (except ignorant Westerners), as Poles.

But there, again, goes the New York Times. In a recent article titled In Poland, a Jewish Revival Thrives — Minus Jews, the reporter, Craig S. Smith, tells us that “[b]efore Hitler’s horror… [o]ne in 10 Poles was Jewish.”

I sent Mr. Smith a message informing him of his error. Needless to say, there was no response. The high-and-mighty New York Times will publish misinformation, apologize for it if it is blatant enough, and keep on doing it. My nationality issue is minuscule when compared with Weapons of Mass Destruction.

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I got a comment!

July 3, 2007

To my surprise, I got a comment within two days of my first post!

Manuel Romero disagrees with my statement that Michelle Rhee has (as I wrote, based on what I heard on NPR) “absolutely no management experience.” He asks me to “note that Michelle Rhee did not join The New Teacher Project but rather founded the non-profit in 1997 and was the CEO until she recently left for DC.”

Since, as I wrote, I knew nothing about Ms. Rhee, I did a little rudimentary fact-checking. I found on Wikipedia that “Michelle Rhee is [sic] the founder and President of The New Teacher Project.” I followed the link to The New Teacher Project’s Web site and discovered the Michelle Rhee’s name is nowhere to be found. The page giving the history says simply that “The New Teacher Project was formed in 1997.” Has Michelle Rhee’s name been purged, Soviet style, from the organization’s history? (I know that the Soviets didn’t invent the practice — Egyptian pharaohs and Roman emperors did it too.)

On the page describing the Leadership Team, Ariela Rozman is listed as the CEO and Timothy Daly as the President, so that the two positions are distinct; either Wikipedia or Mr. Romero is mistaken.

The descriptions of the positions don’t make it clear what the CEO’s functions are, but the current holder “began her six-year tenure… as Vice President of Marketing,” a position that seems no longer to exist. It also seems that “TNTP’s largest business line and a growing staff of over 60 individuals” are under the supervision of the Vice President of Teaching Fellows Programs, a position that was also held by Ms. Rozman.

What the President does is manage “TNTP’s efforts to engage the wider educational community in teacher quality reforms, including recruitment, selection, training, and staffing rules.”

Neither the CEO’s nor the President’s position seems to involve the kind of management that even remotely resembles the supervision of thousands of unionized employees and scores of thousands. So, once again, I say: Good luck, DC!