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Friday, October 28, 2011

Charles Blow, "America’s Exploding Pipe Dream": Blow's Exploding Op-ed

How low can the op-ed page of The New York Times go? Today it plumbs new depths.

In an exceedingly brief opinion piece entitled "America’s Exploding Pipe Dream" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/29/opinion/blow-americas-exploding-pipe-dream.html?_r=1&hp), Charles Blow informs us of America's "woeful state":

"We have not taken care of the least among us. We have allowed a revolting level of income inequality to develop. We have watched as millions of our fellow countrymen have fallen into poverty. And we have done a poor job of educating our children and now threaten to leave them a country that is a shell of its former self. We should be ashamed."

Blow supports his allegations by reference to a report released last week by the Bertelsmann Stiftung foundation of Germany, which, according to Blow, "analyzed some metrics of basic fairness and equality among Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries and ranked America among the ones at the bottom." Blow's op-ed links to a chart prepared by The New York Times using the foundation's statistics, encaptioned "Bottom of the Heap" (http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2011/10/29/opinion/29blow-ch.html?ref=opinion), for simplicity in comparing the various OECD countries' "fairness and equality."

What doesn't Blow tell us?

The Bertelsmann Stiftung foundation was founded in 1977 by Reinhard Mohn, a German publishing magnate, who died in 2009. According to a 2009 New York Times article (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/05/business/media/05mohn.html) written after Mohn's death:

"An officer in Hitler’s Wehrmacht, Mr. Mohn was briefly a prisoner of war in the hands of the United States Army before returning to help run his family’s publishing business in Gütersloh, a sleepy town in northeastern Germany.

. . . .

In the postwar years, Mr. Mohn was known as having few sympathies for the Nazi regime. One chief executive of Bertelsmann, Thomas Middelhoff, even repeated the company lore, during a 1998 speech in New York, that it was shut down in 1944 for printing banned books.

That later proved false. A commission of historians appointed by the company with Mr. Mohn’s approval established in 2002 that Bertelsmann had extensive dealings with the Nazi regime, and that Jewish slave labor was probably used in some of its plants. Heinrich Mohn, Mr. Mohn’s father, belonged to a group that donated money to the Nazi squadron SS."

Cute.

And what about Bertelsmann Stiftung? The foundation's website (http://www.bertelsmann-stiftung.de/cps/rde/xchg/SID-137F8C05-82AFDD37/bst_engl/hs.xsl/269.htm) spells out its objective:

"In keeping with the longstanding social commitment of its founder, Reinhard Mohn, the Bertelsmann Stiftung is dedicated to serving the common good."

Ah, yes, another champion of "the common good."

Let's have a look at the "Bottom of the Heap" table prepared using the Bertelsmann Stiftung statistics, which is used by Charles to conclusively demonstrate America's depravity. Among the table's categories: "overall social justice rating" (which establishes the position of a given country in the overall ratings), "overall poverty prevention rating," and "overall poverty rate."

At the very top of the table is Iceland. Needless to say, there is no mention of the fact by Blow that Iceland is still in the throes of a devastating financial crisis, which has seen all three of its major commercial banks collapse, and which has wrecked economic and social havoc.

Five slots from the bottom of the table is the US, which, we are made to believe is only superior to, in descending order, Greece, Chile, Mexico and Turkey. America's "overall poverty prevention rating" is scored at 3.85, which is considerably worse than Turkey's 4.26. America's "overall poverty rate" is scored at 17.3, which is slightly worse than Turkey's 17.0.

This is truly remarkable. Notwithstanding the number of journalists currently languishing in Turkish prisons, America's "overall social justice rating" is little different from that of Turkey. And at a time when an earthquake has struck Turkey's predominantly Kurdish southeast province of Van, and Turkey is struggling to provide members of its Kurdish minority with tents and blankets, we are being told that Turkey has a better "overall poverty prevention rating" than the US.

I challenge Blow to travel to southeastern Turkey to witness the poverty which has crushed Turkey's Kurdish minority. Not up to the trip? Then merely compare Turkey's infant mortality rate, 23.94 deaths/1,000 live births, and life expectancy at birth, 72.5 years, with that of the US, 6.06 deaths/1,000 live births and 78.37 years, respectively. I can assure you that the figures relating to Turkey's Kurdish minority are worse than Turkey's national average.

I can hardly wait for the next assault on our common sense from the op-ed page of The Times. Sorry, Charlie, but I'm not partial to baloney with my morning coffee.

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