Sunday, June 30, 2019

Be Careful Whom You Trust

Some people are trusting. Perhaps too trusting. 

Take, for example, this recent message on a residential association bulletin board: “We live on XYZ (I redacted the actual street name) and will be travelling during the last two weeks in July and need someone from July 17th through July 29th to come by once a day to feed our cat, take in the mail and water our vegetable garden.”

Hello burglars, or at least those who monitor the Internet for leads on which locations are most vulnerable to easy pickin’. I’ve often wondered why people post pictures of their extended time away from home during their trips. Couldn’t they wait until they returned to make their friends and family envious of their time in the sun or on the slopes? Those postings are open invitations to those with less than socially acceptable behavior to drop by for some extra curricular “play while the cat’s away.” 

In the above cited message, of course, the cat will be home, but it probably is not trained to protect home and hearth. Given today’s Internet-capable ability to hone in on addresses, providing the dates one will be away and the street of one’s home is pretty, oh, let’s just say, it, STUPID!

Oh, one more thing. The person in need of a daily house monitor included their name! Again, STUPID! Why not just leave a key in the front door or, better yet, leave it unlocked?

Am I being paranoid? I don’t think so. What do you think? Are people too trusting for their own good?

Speaking of trusting, Donald Trump’s just completed trip to Japan and Korea, both South and North, if you consider 20 steps inside a corrupt, repressive country a bona fide visit to Kim Jong-Un’s dictatorship, exemplified his foreign policy approach. It is all based on personal appeal. 

George W. Bush thought the same way at first, as when he initially met Vladimir Putin and said he “looked the man in the eye and found him to be straightforward and trustworthy.” Bush said he looked into Putin’s “soul” and believed he could do business with the man, so much so that he trusted him enough to invite him to his ranch. 

Yeah, Putin gave him, America and its allies the “business,” all right. 

Trump believes Putin didn’t interfere in the 2016 election and accepts his word that he will not interfere in the 2020 election. Trump’s security and intelligence chiefs tell him otherwise. He rejects their analyses. 

Trump believes Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had nothing to do with the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi embassy in Turkey. Why, because MBS, as he is known, told him so. But U.S. and United Nations intelligence findings say he is responsible. 

Trump trusts autocrats over his own advisors. 

Trump seeks personal relationships with despots, believing, somehow, they are eager, or at least willing, to enhance the position of the United States over their own country’s interests. 

By contrast, when he has to deal with substance, such as the issue of climate change during the just concluded G-20 meeting in Japan, he is incapable of displaying mutual cooperation with our traditional allies (

Trump is a world class spinmeister. Without achieving any concrete breakthroughs, he has positioned his photo-op meetings with Kim and with China’s president Xi Jinping as building blocks to foreign affairs victories. 

Even his detractors hope he is on the road to success. But wariness abounds that he is being played and that America will wind up no closer to achieving Trump’s objectives of denuclearization of North Korea and a more even-handed trade agreement with China.

Can You Trust The NY Times? The Times is still the gold standard of reporting. But its copyediting/proofreading increasingly leaves something to be desired. As a former editor I read most things with an eye toward what might be wrong (I’m not perfect myself, but at this juncture in my journalism career I am not being paid to get everything right). 

Twice in the last few weeks I spotted the same mistake in two different articles—the printing of “though” instead of “through.” I blame whatever spell check program The Times uses and the laziness of copyeditors/proofreaders to actually read content for clarity. 

A June Op-Ed by Thomas Edsall on meritocracy contained the following sentence: “Much resentment focuses on the way in which the meritocracy is selected, though the education process, and on the winnowing effect of extensive standardized assessments that seek to measure and validate cognitive skills” (

Did you catch the mistake? He meant “through the education process.” Hours after I read the piece The Times corrected it before I could send off a note to Edsall.

But a June 2 profile of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of Abu Dhabi and who The Times called “the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates” still contains the “though/through” mistake: “His military is the Arab world’s most potent, equipped though (should be “through”) its work with the United States to conduct high-tech surveillance and combat operations far beyond its borders” (

I know spell check has been a godsend to many a writer. But copyeditors/proofreaders need to be more careful. They are supposed to be the last line of defense against errors.