Home / General / Kristof Likes Saving Workers Superhero-Style, Opposes Them Standing Up for Themselves

Kristof Likes Saving Workers Superhero-Style, Opposes Them Standing Up for Themselves


Nicholas Kristof is all about protecting workers–if they can fulfill his white man fantasies of swooping into Cambodian brothels to save women of color from the sex trade.

If those sex workers were to form a labor union and demand better working conditions and pay though, it seems Kristof would oppose them. Yesterday, Kristof wrote an awful editorial attacking the Chicago Teachers’ Union, not for asking for more money which so many have talked about, but for trying to resist the idiotic standardized testing tied to job security. Once again, we have a supposedly liberal pundit talking about accountability in a profession where complete incompetence is rewarded with lifetime sinecures.

As Mike Elk reports, it seems that Kristof is just anti-union period. A former member of the Newspaper Guild and a man who has relied on the Times overseas employees on his sex worker swoop-ins, he refused to support the overseas workers organizing to protect their pensions. These are people who often risk their lives for stories, and in fact some have lost their lives. Over 600 Times employees signed a letter in support of the overseas workers. Kristof and all of the other columnists (except possibly Krugman, this is unclear) refused.

“I was one of the several authors of the letter. At the time, I wrote individually to all the columnists [except Krugman] asking them to consider signing it. Because some had been foreign correspondents and had depended on those people who were being unilaterally screwed out of their pensions and who had no union protection, I hoped they would step forward,” says New York Times science reporter Donald McNeil. “But not one signed. Not one even answered my note. Since then, I’ve hoped that at least one or two would weigh in on our struggle here. But nothing. Silence.”

In fact, the Times is not great on labor issues at all and could face some labor actions coming up, particularly over health insurance, for which they force their employees to pay nearly half the cost. But no one should expect Kristof to help unless he can swoop into the Philippines for another fantasy.

….So I deleted this briefly because people were so outraged that I applied basic psychology to Kristof’s saving brown women fantasies and suggested there might be a bit something more to it, if you know what I mean. And to be clear, I didn’t delete it because I was wrong. I deleted it because I didn’t want to have the next 24 hours taken up by people shaming me for making obvious observations. I decided to repost it because Kristof’s anti-unionism is so important. So I changed the wording. But basically, if you don’t like the suggestion that Kristof’s fantasies might have a dark side, you may want to read a bit deeper into these issues. Or not take yourselves so seriously. Whatever works for you.

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  • DrDick

    Unions are sooooo declasse and working class. Nickie far above such unseemly activities.

  • Steve H

    It could be that he is only motivated by a fantasy of saving brown people. Or, you know, he could actually think that teacher testing is a good idea so poor kids aren’t taught by teachers who suck.

    One can certainly disagree with him about that, but still, I am sickened by how many pro-CTU strike columnists are arguing that if you don’t support this particular strike, you are anti-labor.

    Anyway, even if Kristof is motivated by fantasies of saving brown people, he actually puts himself at risk to actually make that happen. That’s a hell of a lot more than most of us are doing.

    • Yeah, it’s funny how seemingly every single person who opposes the CTU strike but claims to not be anti-labor has never actually, you know, supported any strike ever.

      • Steve H

        And yet I (mildly) oppose this CTU strike, but have supported other strikes.

        • Yet the one time you choose to enter a public debate on labor (here at least) you are anti-labor. Imagine that.

          • Steve H

            Jeesus, man. Sorry I didn’t comment on the posts you made when the air traffic controllers walked out, or the ballplayers walked out, or various auto worker strikes, or the UPS strike.

            Anyway, I’m not posting here to be anti-strike, just anti-your unsupported attack on Kristof. I personally find your denigration of his motives to be unjustified and in really poor taste.

            If you want to slam his op-ed, fine. But this other stuff is nonsense.

        • Chet Murthy

          Clearly, you also spoke up when Grasso got a gazillion dollars for running the NYSE (yeah, that’s a job requiring real skill), and every single bonus-feeding-frenzy by the banksters, etc. Clearly, you personally picketed every single bankster’s house, and explained to their children what their daddy did in his day job.

          Yeah. I see it now, man, you’re a paragon of leftist virtue.

    • Maybe he can be tested on how well he saves brown people, and if he fails because of massive societal structural issues, then he can be fired. Also, since all kids are magical blank slates, it only makes sense that testing the kids is 100% fail-proof in detecting bad teachers. I definitely think adding capricious and almost arbitrary mechanisms for teacher evaluation that basically do nothing but destroy any semblance of job security is the best way to recruit the best people for teaching. /this idea is all wack with poo brain

      • witless chum

        (Nods and tips imaginary cap as one is to do when meeting Nathan Fillion)


    • wengler

      Actually, endorsing standardized testing of students as a part of teacher evaluation doesn’t make you necessarily pro or anti-union. It just means you are fucking stupid.

      • DrDick


      • rea

        And maybe 10 year ago, you could have illusions about the efficacy of standarized testing for teacher evaluation, but by now it’s been tried quite enough to show that it’s a shitty idea.

        • PSP

          Really? That is not commentary, it is a

          I know that standardized tests have issues, although they have always worked to my benefit. Despite a lifetime of crappy grades, I did well. As a kid, the Iowa tests told teachers I was reading 5 years above grade level. In high school, a teacher wrote my parents that the next kid with my SATs was two quintiles above me in class rank. Doing well on the LSATs sorta screwed me, but who knows what they are supposed to test. So, the tests clearly have issues.

          But how else can you objectively measure improvement?

          • First we can question the entire idea of objectivity.

            • Aaron B.

              You know, that’s really not the best move in this debate.

              • Why?

                • Aaron B.

                  Because “There’s no objective method to test something as multifaceted as learning” is a much narrower claim than “objectivity is a lie,” and, from a rhetorical appeal standpoint, most people are intuitively naive realists and won’t be receptive to that line of argument.

                • Although objectivity is fundamentally a lie.

                • Aaron B.

                  That’s nice.

                • wengler

                  There is no spoon.

          • r. clayon

            the Iowa tests told teachers I was reading 5 years above grade level.

            Then I’d expect you’d understand that this thread involves using standard tests to evaluate teachers, not students. Your comment would have been germane had it read “the Iowa tests showed that my teacher advanced (or retarded) my reading skills five grades that year.”

    • Yes, it’s almost like these tests are woefully inaccurate, to the point where reliance on them will lead to increased turnover of teachers as we stand on the cusp of the baby boom’s retirement (who include a hell of a lot of teachers).

      You can’t just Taylorize-and-fire your way to success; if it was that easy, every job would involve it. Most don’t.

      • DrDick

        Almost makes you wonder why administrators are not evaluated on the same basis, doesn’t it?

      • Heron

        It’s simpler than that, and to explain how I’ll just describe how this has worked in Texas, which through TAAS was the trial-state for this particular Conservative grift. Every year the targets go up. If you hit your targets, they go up more. It really isn’t a complex con. They get the standardized testing in, then they set an arbitrary “score” to meet, then they keep raising it and demanding more of the calender be cannibalized for “teaching the test” until you can’t meet the score. Then our public schools are suddenly “failing schools”, there’s a reason to cut their budgets, a justification for “experimenting” and, oh hey!, a new pile of money sitting around that coincidentally just got freed-up for paying private contractors.

        You see, private ed can’t beat public in a stand-up fight and the privatizers have known that since the 70s; the academic research on this is and has been pretty clear. So they started a policy to stack the deck. That’s what standardized testing is; it’s that simple.

        • Cody

          Yes. Yes. And another Yes.

          Somehow charter schools are saving America, yet the significantly under perform public schools. At the same time, standardized testing is saving America yet Charter schools (that are also saving America!) are not subjected to it.

          This con seems pretty obvious to me.

    • Linnaeus

      One can certainly disagree with him about that, but still, I am sickened by how many pro-CTU strike columnists are arguing that if you don’t support this particular strike, you are anti-labor.

      I can accept the argument that one can be generally pro-labor, but may disagree with a particular strike for any number of reasons.

      I do support the CTU strike, though. I am sickened by the comments in elite media by people who likely wouldn’t last a week in CPS schools that suggest that the CTU (and by extension, its supporters) don’t *really* care about CPS students. I’m sickened by the poisonous narrative, advanced by charlatans like Michelle Rhee, that blames teachers and their unions for everything that ails some schools (as an aside, I don’t accept the notion that U.S. schools are generally in “crisis”.). I’m sickened by the fact that our country can’t shovel money to the banks fast enough to get them out their own (self-made) crisis, but when it comes to not only education, but a whole host of social supports that make for healthier people, communities and therefore learning environments, well gosh darn, there just aren’t the resources.

      That’s what sickens me.

      • Laobaixing


    • Heron

      even if Kristof is motivated by fantasies of saving brown people, he actually puts himself at risk to actually make that happen. That’s a hell of a lot more than most of us are doing.

      Do you actually believe that? You actually think he’s in any danger of physical harm when he and a bunch of police goons swoop into a brothel and throw all the women there they’ve just confused and frightened in a paddy wagon before shipping them off to some sweatshop to be “reformed by labor”(why, that’s an idea that’s never led to anything terrible historically)? Don’t be so naive. He’s gallivanting around South East Asia with a police escort and probably a stern-faced government official putting those silly women in their place by using his manly manfulness to force them into a “righteous” life, whether they want one or not.

      • Ever seen/heard Kristof? “Manly” is not the first word that springs to mind.

      • Steve H

        I was referring primarily to the reporting from the Arab Spring clashes.

  • thebewilderness

    Why shouldn’t your job performance be based on how the children you teach who have the least resources available to them compare to the children with the most resources available to them.
    Is that too obvious? Cuz this just seems incredibly stupid and obvious to me.

  • Jamie Mayerfeld

    “Half the Sky” is a great book. I’d vote for focusing criticism on Kristof’s op-ed this morning.

    • Gabriel Mares

      It’s a great narrative, but I’m not sure that’s the same as a great book. And look at how Kristof defends other White Saviors – when 3 Cups of Tea was shown to be wildly exaggerated, and some sections wholly made up, Kristof’s column started with “whatever the problems associated with this guy’s claims, just remember he’s done more for the poor than you ever will.” Except that the question was how much that author had done vs. made up. So when it was entirely unclear whether this dude was a fraud, Kristof wanted the dirty masses to shut their traps about his White Savior friend.
      Unions tend to be filled with dirty masses – they aren’t clean, well-bred folks like the ed. reform crowd. When you see patterns like this across an author’s work, they’re worth pointing out.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks

        I haven’t read Half the Sky…but I did notice that Katha Pollitt, who was very critical of Kristof in the past for precisely the sorts of things that Erik criticizes him above, gave it a quite positive review.

        • Incontinentia Buttocks

          None of which excuses Kristof’s hostility to teachers, about which I agree 100% with Erik.

          • Doug Gardner

            O/T, but I must commend you on your user name! Biggus D-ckus would be proud.

  • arguingwithsignposts

    the Times is not great on labor issues at all

    Why is this surprising? The Times is just like any other large corporation. All that bullshit about comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable came as a caution about the power of newspapers.

  • tt

    Does anyone have a response to the actual substance of Kristof’s column? Most of the response I can find online is pretty superficial. Kristof cites a lot of research and, checking it out, most of what he cites seems to say what he says it says.

    • thebewilderness

      In my opinion his biggest error is disregarding the diversion of funds from public schools to private for profit schools that has been partially responsible for the problem in the first place.
      His last bit about how this is not between garment workers and greedy corporations is just plain wrong. That is exactly what it is. The corporations who have been at the forefront of privatizing public education.
      Had he done his research he would know that.
      Or he knows and does not care that his piece ignored the elephant in the room.

      • Linnaeus

        This line from Kristof stands out to me:

        Still, some Chicago teachers seem to think that they shouldn’t be held accountable until poverty is solved.

        I don’t see where he gets this. Arguing that a particular method for enforcing accountability is too flawed is not the same as saying there should be none.

        • thebewilderness

          There was a lot of straw in his arguments.

          • thebewilderness

            I am always skeptical of people who tell you what you think in order to tell you how wrong you are to think it. They are almost always wrong about what you think but by the time you are about half way through correcting their misunderstanding you come to the realization that you are being worked over.
            Unfortunately it has become the go to tactic of lazy journamalists.

            • firefall

              Which is to say, journalists.

        • DrDick

          The reality is that there are already long established methods for evaluating teacher performance in the Chicago schools. The reality is they are trying to blame the teachers for all of the problems in the schools. This is absurd, since most of the problems are either a result of policies decisions by administrators or caused by external factors (poverty, dysfunctional families, violent neighborhoods) over which the teachers have absolutely no control.

        • Sly

          It’s the standard refrain from the ed reform movement. “What? You mean you don’t want to make massive concessions in your job security, satisfaction, and effectiveness? That must mean you don’t want to solve any problems at all. Why do you hate children so much?”

          Fuck him.

      • Mea

        The thing that really strikes me about the charter school movement is how HIDDEN the for-profit component can be. Arizona charter schools actually went to court and lost the battle for for-profit schools to directly suck up federal dollars. BUT there is nothing that prevents setting up a non-profit school that then subcontracts everything to a for profit entity. So that is what happened. I dont analyze financials, but i bet the teachers in those schools make crap wages.

        It looks from the outside like a bunch of independent stand alone non-profit schools, but then look closely. Heh, isn’t that the same set of names running School A that runs School B? And School C? And each of those schools reports their financing back as the independent not for profit charter school, so I bet there isn’t one place.that shows the full salaries being pulled down by some of the charter school administrators. I have noticed this pattern, and keep waiting for a journalist to dig in and report the story. But it takes digging and – here is the important qualifier that makes the grifters so clever – there are simple good hearted folks running stand alone nonprofit schools that are honest (which is different from being effective) and make it impossible to make sweeping generalizations about all players. But there are multi-state for profit entities contracting with the supposed non-profits and sucking money out of local communities. It looks like local control. It looks like diversity. But look closer.

    • sparks

      Isn’t dealing with the substance of a Kristof column rather like mucking out a stable with your hands?

    • Linnaeus

      On one point of Kristof’s – his lauding of testing (particularly “value added”), here’s a critical view.

      • tt

        Thanks, I found this after I made my post. Seems pretty convincing. In particular, the point about proving programs with small scale pilot tests before implementing city-wide is strong and consistent with a lot of the research Kristof mentions.

        • Linnaeus

          Maryland is trying a peer-review based system. Here’s an NYT op-ed about it.

        • djw

          See also this. It’s not at all implausible that some of the causality the study finds runs in the opposite direction.

          • tt

            Also interesting. The authors seem to agree (contrary to some in this thread) that value-added in terms of test score is measurable and coherent, but that it hasn’t been proven that these score improvement have measurable lifetime impacts.

            As someone who hasn’t followed the edu reform debate very deeply, the conclusion I would come to based on these papers is that we still don’t really know whether some version of education reform would be beneficial.

            • R Johnston

              And the conclusion either way is that the people saying “reform or die” are sociopathic liars who are full of shit and need to stay the fuck away from educational policy.

  • Gabriel Mares

    Maybe I’m reading this wrong, Erik, but the final paragraph sounds like you’re insinuating something about sex. The White Knight narrative I’m familiar with (and utilize in my own work) is certainly chauvinist, but I’m not sure it includes (in Kristof’s case nor in many others) a desire to have sex with the victims one is supposedly saving…I think we’re on more solid ground when we talk about the fantasy as being a savior as opposed to observing and championing people who empower themselves (in part because in the latter scenario they don’t “owe” you anything). In this way it’s a fantasy of self-importance, rather than sexual gratification.
    Like I said, I may have misread your final paragraph.

    • Gabriel Mares

      to clarify: it’s chauvinist because it views women as weak and victimized and in need of saving. That saving does not redound to sexual favors for the savior because the fantasy is about self-aggrandizement through the uplifting of the miserable. The miserable are often ugly and dirty, and not sexually desired by the savior (though perhaps such a great deed will lead to sexual favors from the saviors compatriots who are impressed by his heroism.)

    • tt

      Read the post Erik links to at the top of this post. It’s deeply weird, particularly in contrast to the main subject here. Agustin, who Erik Loomis cites approvingly, is basically arguing that we should take a more nuanced view of women in the third world who sell sex for money under what Kristof would call “slavery.” But normally Loomis is the last person to take nuanced views of worker/boss relationships! You’re either with us–the worker–or against us–on the side of the bosses. If there was one area I would take the neoliberal view that trade is liberating and mutually beneficial and therefore not be interfered with by well-meaning egalitarians, the sex trade would not be it.

      • DrDick

        You obviously were not around for the original Kristoff post a while back (which Erik References in this one).

      • It gets a bit more complicated, tt, when the same third world women start pushing for sex worker unionization rather abolition and Christian missionary work.

  • shah8

    hmmm, 300 Pakistani garment workers just died the other day in a Triangle Shirtwaist style fire.

    I am in no mood to tolerate Kristoff’s petty fantasy and No True Scotsman ploys.

  • R Johnston

    Rich asshole bemoans the fate of the horrifically poor, wants to solve it by fucking over the not-quite-so-horrifically poor and the middle class. News at 11.

    The routine is tired as all hell. Personally involving oneself in the fate of the horrifically poor is a not particularly interesting twist on the routine once one realizes what’s going on.

    • Steve H

      Good Lord. This reflexive labeling of dissenters as “anti,” this sitting at the computer mocking those who actually go into the world to make it better – this feels like the Keyboard Kommandos all over again.

      • DrDick

        So please provide some substantive reasons to be against this strike? Otherwise, you are simply reflexively union bashing. I note that you have provided nothing to support Kristoff.

        • Steve H

          Like Erik, you are proving my point. You accuse me of “union bashing”? Where and how have I bashed unions? I have simply responded to a personal attack on Kristof that I find offensive.

          I’m not going to support Kristof’s op-ed, because I don’t know enough about teacher testing to consider myself an expert. (Though I will say that I used to be anti-testing, but now that I have had kids in the public school system for eight years, I think testing could be useful.)

          But as someone who was appalled watching the right wing chicken hawks attack anyone who dissented from the hard line on Iraq, I am troubled to see a similar approach being taken on this issue by people I usually agree with.

          • thebewilderness

            Are you seriously claiming that you never speak your views on anything you are not an expert in, cuz I am inclined to call bs on that.

            • Steve H

              I’ll never say never, but at least I try not to post unless I know enough to know what I’m talking about. (Which prevents me from posting on most topics around here.)

              Have a good night, all.

          • DrDick

            In other words you are simply talking out your ass, since you cannot show that Erik’s comments are actually unfair, and on the available evidence objectively anti-union.

            • Steve H

              I *can* point out that Erik’s comments about Kristof’s inner motivations are completely unsupported and irrelevant to the merits of the CTU strike. No specialized knowledge is necessary to analyze the argument in that way.

              And if you want to equate pointing that out with being “objectively anti-union,” whatever. Just be careful not to get Cheeto stains on your keyboard.

              • DrDick

                When you say this:

                It could be that he is only motivated by a fantasy of saving brown people. Or, you know, he could actually think that teacher testing is a good idea so poor kids aren’t taught by teachers who suck.

                One can certainly disagree with him about that, but still, I am sickened by how many pro-CTU strike columnists are arguing that if you don’t support this particular strike, you are anti-labor.

                Anyway, even if Kristof is motivated by fantasies of saving brown people, he actually puts himself at risk to actually make that happen. That’s a hell of a lot more than most of us are doing.

                It is going well beyond critiquing Erik for psychoanalyzing Kristof and appears to indicate a lack of sympathy for the strikers or willingness to consider their positions (which is objectively anti-union).

                • Steve H

                  Please tell me which statement indicates that I lack sympathy for the strikers or am otherwise objectively anti-labor. I didn’t address the strikers or labor in that comment.

                  Do you even realize that your formulation is exactly the one the right-wingers used to squelch dissent in the run up to Iraq? People who suggested that an invasion might not be a good idea were smeared as being “objectively pro-Saddam.” I found it appalling and inappropriate when the right-wingers did it, and I find it even more troubling when done by people I consider on “my side” of the political divide.

      • R Johnston

        Is there any part of my characterization of Kristoff that you actually care to disagree with, or will you simply insist on agreeing with me in a disagreeable manner?

        • Steve H

          Pretty much the entire thing. White Man’s Fantasy or not, Kristof has actually risked his ass and done some good in the world, not only by taking on sex slavery, but also by his reporting during the Arab Spring and publicizing the brutal actions by allies such as Bahrain.

          Have you done anything like that? I certainly haven’t.

          Watching commenters belittle Kristof’s accomplishments and denigrate his motives is like watching Doughy Pantload and Assrocket and the rest attacking soldiers who came out against the war.

          • Linnaeus

            Kristof has done some excellent reporting in some of the hardest places to do it. I think he is to be commended for that. I don’t think that I could have done what he did.

            But there are a lot of people who are doing what they can do, in their own way, to make the world a better place. Many of them are teachers, but they don’t have the platform Kristof has, so they don’t get the publicity he does. Furthermore, I think Kristof himself impugns the motives of the CTU teachers and what they’re trying to do in one of the hardest places in America to do it. And I really, really disagree with that position.

            • CaptBackslap

              That’s a fair attack. Trying to discredit him by using Internet Psychometry to minimize the real good he’s done is not.

              • R Johnston

                Who’s minimizing the good he’s done as opposed to pointing out that Kristof wants to fuck over the middle class and the poor not quite desperate enough to make it into a Kristof column?

                Helping some individuals in no way mitigates shitting all over millions of others.

          • thebewilderness

            No, it isn’t, and yes I have.
            You do not get to weigh up the good and the bad and say well ok then, it balances so you can’t criticize the bad things a man does if he has enough good guy credits. They tried that with the rapist priest scandal and the Jerry whatsit scandal and all you end up doing is sounding like a creep.

            • Steve H

              Sure, but I haven’t said people shouldn’t criticize Kristof for his op-ed, which I assume is the bad thing he’s done.

              I only have a problem Iwhen people are motivated by their disagreement with the op-ed to criticize the *good* things he has done.

              Apparently when it comes to the CTU strike, you are either with us or against us.

            • CaptBackslap

              Holy shit, you definitely do not get to make an equivalence between raping children and writing a crappy newspaper column (and the phrase “all you end up doing is sounding like a creep” turns it from an analogy to an equivalence).

              Also, there’s a difference between balancing good and bad, and impugning the good to better attack the bad.

          • Kristol’s done some admirable work, no doubt about it. But speaking as a woman of color whose mother, grandmother, and most of the women I knew growing up taught in the Chicago Public School system, it’s hard not to notice that most of the liberal pundits lambasting the CTU are white men, while the union is headed by a black woman, the overwhelming majority of teachers in the system are female, and a majority of the teachers are people of color.

            Kristol seems a lot less interested in siding with women of color when they’re in the U.S. and they’re advocating for themselves, when instead of letting the Nice White Man come in and save them, they’re loud and stubborn and aren’t going to be grateful to you just for showing up.

            • Marek


            • delurking


            • DrDick


  • CaptBackslap

    This sort of attack on Kristof always stinks of virtue ethics to me. Even if his motives are partly self-serving, he’s actually doing something to help in the real world (and assuming personal risk in doing so), which is much better than most people do. And for this, he takes such criticism! What, would people rather he do nothing?

    • Sly

      Yes. We would prefer he do nothing. Just like “doing nothing” is the only alternative to the grossly efficient, high-stakes standardized testing that overpaid, Aspen Ideas Festival jerkoffs like Nick Kristoff laud.

      • Sly


        • CaptBackslap

          I disagree with that as well. I’m just talking about the attack not directly related to this op-ed.

          • Yes. High-profile riding-along-with-the-cops silliness does nothing to improve the situation of the people involved. If it did, we’d all be indebted to Steven Seagal for his short-lived cable TV show.

          • DrDick

            As was pointed out in the original post about Kristoff’s antics (linked to at the top of the post), while not a bad thing, what he does is not terribly effective and seems mostly to boost the egos of those involved.

  • Leeds man

    [except Krugman]

    I’d just like to know what the hell that means. Deliberately left Krugman off the list? Weird.

    • arguingwithsignposts

      I wondered that myself. It may be because Krugman has a full-time job other than writing for the Times?

  • Timurid

    There is a certain strain of “progressive” thought that obsesses over the fate of Cambodian prostitutes and baby sea turtles… but is totally indifferent to suffering in this country. Their rationale is that the Third World casualties and endangered animals are innocent while the American victims are sinners who deserve their lot…

  • Heron

    It’s actually a little bit more obvious than that, and your choice of sex work perfectly illustrates this. As most experts on the issue will tell you, most of those Cambodian and Thai women working in sex-work weren’t sold into it or forced into it; they chose to do it, and not only did they choose to do it, they’re self-employed(not run by a pimp as common wisdom would have it), and not only are they self-employed, they’re organized, unionized, and regularly agitate for policies(condoms, sex-ed, public hygiene, ect) that make their work safer. The sort of “saving” these “rescue” organizations Kristol supports actually do consists of seizing female prostitutes and forcing them to work in textile mills for meager pay.

    • Heron

      bah; Kristof not Kristol. That’s what I get for posting at midnight.

  • R Johnston

    Dear Muslima,

    Richard Dawkins made a complete ass of himself decrying feminists and anyone else who thinks that women aren’t a pile of shit for wanting better for women than merely not having their genitals cut. His relation to skeptical humanism is the same as Kristof’s relation to labor rights.

    The mere fact that things could be much worse is no excuse for making irrational excuses for the fact that things are totally fucked.

  • melior

    Poor Nick, he’s so misunderstood! Here’s some bonus Nick Kristof:

    Mr. Obama and the Democrats who favor labor standards in trade agreements mean well, for they intend to fight back at oppressive sweatshops abroad. But while it shocks Americans to hear it, the central challenge in the poorest countries is not that sweatshops exploit too many people, but that they don’t exploit enough.

    • Linnaeus

      I can appreciate that a worker might see a sweatshop as better option. But is it really too costly to make sure that workers can escape a fire?

    • DrDick

      What Kristof does not mention is that there are numerous labor activists and labor movements in all of these countries aggressively fighting to improve pay and working conditions in the sweatshops. Of course many of those activists, like most of the factory workers, are women. also he does not tell you that one of the reasons prostitution is such a big problem in Southeast Asia is that for many women working conditions as a prostitute are no worse and the pay much better than in the sweatshops.

  • And what Kristof does not mention is that there are sex workers in Cambodia organized on their own behalf, in concert with the garment workers, who campaign together for fair labor conditions. The slogan of the sex workers’ organizations across the Asia Pacific is “Don’t talk to us about sewing machines; talk to us about rights!”

    Kristof is only concerned w/ “rights” so long as there is room for himself to play a starring role. CTU leaves him no such part. And he can’t very well make the arguments he has made about sex work, that the solution for teachers is for him to “rescue” them from their classrooms.

    Or maybe that is what he’s getting on about w/ his support for “education reform”?

    It’s a hot mess, and Erik nailed it.

    • Anonymous

      Kristof is only concerned w/ “rights” so long as there is room for himself to play a starring role.

      I don’t think that’s fair. If you read “Half the Sky,” you’ll see that Kristof and WuDunn go out of their way to emphasize local efforts to support women’s rights.

      • Jamie Mayerfeld

        Sorry — “anonymous” is me. JM

    • DrDick

      He also does not talk about the large numbers of organizations in the region actively working to address the underlying problems that are responsible for the problem. Rescue efforts of the sort he valorizes, while not a bad thing, really have minimal impact and are the wrong way to attack the problem, as revealed by the fact that half of the (2) child prostitutes he has freed have returned to the brothels. This is insignificant compared to the estimated 5,000 child prostitutes in Phnom Penh alone.

  • I’ve been thinking about this overnight. I wanted to seriously ask Erik how he would have reacted to a Kristof column (hypothetical) that strongly supported the CTU action. Would he have said:

    (1) “While Kristof is not my favorite NYT columnist, and is problematic for a number of reasons, this column…”

    (2) “Kristof gets it right in the NYT”

    (3) Some other response even more positive than the above.

    The reason I ask this hypothetical is that I think it puts a finger on the rhetorical strategy of this post and the previous version- how are Kristof’s other “crimes” or attributes to be treated in an argument about his union stance. Are those other things to be connected as a theme that runs through Kristof work, which seems to make the overall argument more tenuous because it asks more of individuals who are putatively being persuaded, or are they there because they are just additional items in the sink to throw against Kristof? How would these items be treated if he had gone the other way on this issue? I think that Erik’s line of argument here conflates separate issues, or if it doesn’t, at a minimum it makes agreement harder for those that might not be prepared to go “all in” on the multiple fronts alluded to here. So the question is, why do it? Since this is the internet, and very little can be considered genuine in the heat of argument, I am posting this because I think it explains a lot of the reaction to this and other posts.

    • I was hoping at least someone would engage with this comment.

  • Aaron B.

    This education debate is turning in to a hot mess. Does anyone have a resource – book, meta-analysis, whatever – with a good overview of the evidence on the standardized testing issue? Because “IT DOESN’T WORK HERRDERR” and “WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING DERP” is getting really tiring.

    • Well Aaron, this has been covered extensively at the Daily Howler, and what you will at least learn if you try to troll (other definition of word) the archives there, is that there is a very high probability that anyone in the media will not understand anything about the data they are throwing around. If you examine news reports, not widely covered, is that many cases of “magical administrative success” that is tied to education reformers in many cases relates to schools “teaching the test” or actually cheating on the exams. The “accountability” movement is based on wishful thinking, all stick, no carrot, and no structural changes. Education reformers ask for public dollars to go to private schools- punishing existing public schools- and they don’t crusade for the only things that we have evidence that works- pre-K, head start and other very early intervention type education.

      If you read the Howler, you will find that some students entering schools are 2-3 years behind in reading skills. So what you have in some schools are cohorts of children that may be spread over a very wide range of skills. How can these schools be compared to schools where all of the children read at grade level?

    • Aaron B.

      For reference I’m not making fun of these positions, I’ve just mostly seen them angrily asserted and I think the time has come to actually get into the evidence.

      • …so that they may be ignored by a wider audience.

      • Linnaeus

        There may be such a meta-analysis, but most of what I’ve learned (and I fully admit I’m no expert), I’ve gathered by reading individual studies, reviews, summaries. etc.

      • DrDick

        There is also an extensive literature going back at least 20-30 years showing that standardized testing does not do a very good job of predicting future academic or work performance.

        • Aaron B.

          I’d be interested in getting a good overview of that without needing to get a master’s

          • DrDick

            Good luck on that, but try Google Scholar.

  • Joe Benge

    Steven Greenhouse, the NYT’s main labor reporter, is excellent.

    I don’t know much about Kristof, but it seems as if there’s a quite common strain of (neo)liberalism that is supportive of workers in developing countries, but actively hostile towards workers organizing themselves in the US. I guess maybe these people see the economic concerns of working and middle class Americans as trivial compared to those of a garbage colletor in the Philippines, for example.

  • It is actually quickly out there

  • Ronan

    I’ve said it before and Ill say it again, Nick Kr..

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