A front-page news article in today's Times matter-of-factly reports, "At a time when the Obama administration is lurching from crisis to crisis — a looming Cold War in Europe, a brutal Islamic caliphate in the Middle East and a deadly epidemic in West Africa — it is not surprising that long-term strategy would take a back seat."
The Times' acknowledgment of the existence of "a brutal Islamic caliphate in the Middle East" sent me back to this "White House Letter" from the Times in 2005, reporting somewhat dismissively about Vice President Cheney and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld's warnings of a caliphate:
The New York Times is reportedly ceasing publication of its automobile section. That news must provide some satisfaction to Tesla chairman Elon Musk, who responded online to a negative review that his car got in the Times. Whatever one thinks of Tesla, it has outlasted the Times auto section.
The Times calls in Michael Roth, the president of Wesleyan University, to write a bizarre anti-Zionist book review:
If the Times is going to describe Ruth Wisse and Cynthia Ozick as bigots, fairness would dictate that they at least be given a chance to respond or defend themselves.
"Cuomo's and Christie's Shifts on Ebola are Criticized as Politics, Not Science," is the headline over a Times dispatch. An astute reader-watchdog-participant-community member-content co-creator observes: "You know where a newspaper stands on an issue whenever they accuse a politician of playing politics. In the case of Cuomo, I don't recall stories about Cuomo playing politics with medical marijuana, gay marriage and tax hikes."
Today's Times provides an update on the turmoil in its own upper management ranks. "Her Job Split in Two, Veteran Times Executive Opts To Leave" is the headline the paper hangs over its own story on the departure of Denise F. Warren. The article describes her as "the executive vice president for digital products" and "one of the New York Times Company's top executives."
Add her to the list of high-ranking Times women who have been forced out of the company or left on their own in recent years, including Jill Abramson, who was the executive editor; Vivian Schiller, who was senior vice president and general manager of NewYorkTimes.com; and Janet Robinson, who was CEO of the New York Times Company.
David Brooks writes:
"Unsolved Murders Prompt Outcry on Lack of Justice for the Poor," is the headline over a Times dispatch from Huntington Station, N.Y., reporting on four homicides: "Many who live here said the inertia in the cases proved that the authorities paid too little attention to solving crimes when the victims were poor or Hispanic or lived in the more economically hardscrabble parts of town."
Heads up: I am about to criticize the Times for being unfairly critical of a Democratic politician, which may be surprising given my own center-right political leanings. In a news article about an appearance by Governor Andrew Cuomo and Vice President Biden, the Times reports that Mr. Biden "rambled on for 25 minutes about the importance of rebuilding the nation's infrastructure."
As an aside in a music review of a performance conducted by John Adams, whose opera "The Death of Klinghoffer" has prompted protests, Times critic Anthony Tommasini writes, "Many of those incensed by the opera admit to never having seen it."
The use of the word "admit" suggests that Mr. Tommasini thinks there is something wrong with protesting an opera one has not seen. But the rule he seems to be propounding — than in order to protest something or be angry about it, one has to have viewed it — doesn't make much sense to me. It seems to me to be legitimate to oppose child pornography, for example, without having seen it. Or to be incensed by the beheading of American journalists by the Islamic State without having viewed the videos of the killings.
The New York Times coverage of Ebola has been erratic, as Twitter commentators have pointed out effectively. My former colleague Josh Gerstein notices a Times article that manages to describe the disease as "extremely infectious but also tremendously hard to catch."
Paul Krugman's column is about a force in the book industry whose "power is really immense." He explains that "Book sales depend crucially on buzz and word of mouth (which is why authors are often sent on grueling book tours); you buy a book because you've heard about it, because other people are reading it, because it's a topic of conversation, because it's made the best-seller list." And he says that this force in the book industry, the one he is writing about, "possesses ... the power to kill the buzz."
The force that Professor Krugman is writing about is Amazon, and he calls for the federal government to break it up, or at least "curb its power," on antitrust grounds the way it did with Standard Oil.
But imagine if Professor Krugman's argument were applied to another "immense" power in the book industry — The New York Times itself.
Professor Krugman faults Amazon for its supposed "selectivity." He writes:
For the price of $6,995, the New York Times is offering 13-day tours of Iran guided by Times journalist Elaine Sciolino. Promotional material for the tour on the Times website promises "luxurious hotels" and describes Tehran as a city where "the young and fashionable adopt a new trendy joie de vivre." Also on the itinerary: "a pleasant evening stroll around the colorful bazaars," along with insights into the "accomplishments" of the late Ayatollah Khomeini.
The U.S. Treasury Department website advises that notwithstanding the American economic sanctions on Iran, "All transactions ordinarily incident to travel to or from Iran, including the importation of accompanied baggage for personal use, payment of maintenance and living expenses and acquisition of goods or services for personal use are permitted."
Thomas Friedman's New York Times column is about the Secret Service scandal. Who does he blame? Not President Obama, who as head of the executive branch is in charge of the agency. Not the secretary of homeland security, the department into which the Secret Service was dumped by the George W. Bush administration. No, the three-time Pulitzer Prize winner blames Congress, for going on recess. The one villain named by Mr. Friedman in his column is, wait for it, Eric Cantor, the former House Majority Leader, whose crime, in Mr. Friedman's view, is going to work for a Wall Street firm. Give the Times columnist credit for originality. Who'd have thought there'd be a way to blame the Secret Service scandal on House Republicans?
"Health Plan Cancellations Are Coming, but for Relatively Few" is the headline over an article on page A3 of my print New York Times. It is labeled "The Upshot" but otherwise carries no indication of whether it is news, opinion, or something else. The article begins as follows:
A front-page Times account of the extortion of immigrants by those in the "ruthless," "ugly business of human smuggling" features some vivid and valuable reporting but runs astray in an ideological lecture:
The Times sees the problem with this smuggling arising from the fact that it is "unregulated capitalism." I see it the opposite way — it is an excess of government regulation that caused the problem. Without the government-imposed limits on legal immigration, these smugglers would be out of business.
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