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Spike Lee Interview

February 1, 2016 at 9:22 am

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The Times has an interview with NYU professor and movie director Spike Lee. The paper describes him as "thoughtful, chatty and intense." From the interview:

Q. There seems to be no common ground right now. Every time Obama talks about guns, sales spike.

A. Or there's a mass shooting. After San Bernardino, they went up.

It's called scare tactics. I don't think anything good comes out of people using fear, whether it be Mussolini or Hitler.

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Wrong Silverman

January 31, 2016 at 8:06 pm

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A photo cutline in the Times refers to "Rabbi Sarah Silverman, right, of Women of the Wall." The rabbi's correct name is Susan Silverman. She has a sister named Sarah, but that Silverman is a writer/actress/comedian, not a rabbi.


Ski Country Housing Crisis

January 25, 2016 at 9:37 am

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A Times dispatch from Breckenridge, Colorado, reports on what the article calls "a housing crisis in ski country":

Local officials and housing experts say it is a symptom of widening economic inequality, one that is especially sharply felt in tiny resort towns hemmed in by beautiful but undevelopable public land. While the wealthiest can afford $5 million ski homes and $120-a-day lift tickets, others work two jobs and sleep in shifts to get by.

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January 25, 2016 at 9:31 am

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A book review in today's Times asks irritably, "Must we read, for the umpteenth time, about the salubrious effects of faith?"

No, no one "must," not even this Times reviewer, who could have, and maybe should have, chosen to review some other book if she was so hostile to the subject matter of this one.


Gay Arabic Speaker

January 23, 2016 at 10:50 pm

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From a dispatch from Jerusalem in the Times foreign section, under the headline, "Arrest of Leftist Israeli Activist Underlines Political Split":

Here in Israel, it is part of a toxic tug of war over the boundaries of political discourse amid mounting international criticism of Israel's policies toward the Palestinians. The dwindling left is frequently vilified as traitorous, as empowered right-wingers create ever-narrower definitions of Zionism. And the tactics are getting uglier.

Mr. Nawi, a gay Arabic speaker in his 60s and a prominent member of an Israeli-Palestinian rights group called Taayush, was not caught in a sting by the security apparatus for either Israel or the Palestinian Authority.

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January 19, 2016 at 12:44 pm

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Hardly a day goes by without a reminder that personnel decisions at the Times happen very very very slowly.

Item: Mark Bittman, in a farewell piece for the Times Insider, reports: "In 1994, Trish Hall, then the Living section's editor, asked me if I wanted to write a column for the new Dining section. Duh — who would say no to that? Three years later (The Times doesn't often move quickly) The Minimalist was born."

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Oxfam Wealth Inequality

January 19, 2016 at 12:38 pm

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"Wealth Inequality Rising Fast, Oxfam Says, Faulting Tax Havens" is the headline over a Times dispatch on the front of the business section. Not a mention of the fact that Oxfam, as a non-profit, is itself a "tax haven" of a sort. Nor, for all the words in the story, is any space or attention given to any source or organization that might suggest that the inequality is less a problem than the advocacy group claims it is. If there's any difference between the Times article and what an Oxfam press release would say, it escapes me. Okay, it was a holiday weekend. But if reporters and editors are going to just play along with these holiday weekend press releases by practicing stenography rather than skeptical, good journalism, what is the point of paying for the newspaper rather than just signing up for the Oxfam publicity list?



January 19, 2016 at 12:29 pm

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A Times dispatch from Iowa suggests that snowshoeing is some sort of luxury activity. "While he has yet to shoot anything during this campaign, unlike Mr. Cruz, it is probably also unlikely that Mr. Rubio will be shot on film doing anything really fancy-pants, like windsurfing or snowshoeing, anytime soon," the Times says.

This seems like a sentence that was edited in Manhattan or Washington, rather than somewhere like rural Maine or New Hampshire or Western Massachusetts, where snowshoes aren't "fancy-pants" but rather just a practical way of getting to your traps or maple taps or ice fishing hole or outhouse or wood pile or cabin if you can't afford a snowmobile or if the dirt road hasn't been plowed.


Suspicions About Right-Wing Plotting

January 11, 2016 at 9:39 am

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One of the most strange news articles ever appears on the front of the business section of today's Times. It begins:

WASHINGTON — It has been nearly 18 years since Hillary Clinton used the term "vast right-wing conspiracy" to describe the conservative forces arrayed against her husband's administration. But the suspicion about right-wing plotting remains as current on the left as, well, Mrs. Clinton.

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January 11, 2016 at 9:33 am

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As an editor the word "only" is usually a red flag for me. It's an easy way for a reporter to slip in his or her own opinion about whether a number is so high as to merit concern or so low as to not be worth fretting about. A fine example is this paragraph from a dispatch from Regensburg, Germany, which appears in today's Times under the headline "Benedict's Brother Says He Was Unaware of Abuse":

Reports of physical and sexual abuse in the choir, the Regensburger Domspatzen in Bavaria, first emerged in 2010 as part of a nationwide wave of revelations linking officials of the Roman Catholic Church in Germany to the mistreatment of children. But an internal report by the church identified only 72 cases of abuse in the Regensburg Diocese, most involving severe corporal punishment.

"Only" 72 cases of abuse? Seems like a lot to me. The story could have been improved by editing out the words "But" and "only."


Krugman's Pathology

January 5, 2016 at 1:26 pm

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Under the headline "Privilege, Pathology and Power," Times columnist Paul Krugman writes:

it's obvious, even if we don't have statistical confirmation, that extreme wealth can do extreme spiritual damage. Take someone whose personality might have been merely disagreeable under normal circumstances, and give him the kind of wealth that lets him surround himself with sycophants and usually get whatever he wants. It's not hard to see how he could become almost pathologically self-regarding and unconcerned with others.

Who are the people that Professor Krugman presumes to assess as not merely spiritually damaged, but extremely so? Professor Krugman briefly mentions Donald Trump, then quickly advances to his real targets, Sheldon Adelson and Paul Singer. Professor Krugman warns of a "march toward oligarchy," which he describes as... well, here it is:

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Real Estate Spinoff Loophole

December 21, 2015 at 9:39 am

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The lead, front-page news article in today's Times is a perfect example of why I find the newspaper both indispensable and infuriating. It's indispensable, because who else is paying close enough attention, and has enough space, to report that "the lobbying firm run by Norman Brownstein" was mobilized to preserve the "loophole." Mr. Brownstein and his firm have been the topic of extensive coverage over at our sister site FutureOfCapitalism.com, but the Times leaves out all his Democratic connections.

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Toe-Curling Sex

December 14, 2015 at 8:53 am

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From the "Metropolitan Diary" column of today's New York Times:

Sun (not his real name) is a talented singer and rising star whom I hit up on Twitter (where all modern romances begin) to see if I could set up an interview. We exchanged phone numbers and quickly became online friends.

While I was in New York last month, we linked up, went back to my Airbnb and did the whole "Netflix and chill" thing, which ended where you expect it would, with sex. Really good, toe-curling sex.

Is this "all the news that's fit to print"? Is this what has become of what was once a serious newspaper? It has turned into a place where readers can send in sex stories featuring fake names and have them printed? Is there no editor of the paper who is embarrassed by this sort of thing or who thinks the space might be better used for something else, like, you know, actual journalism?


Lost in Eurasia

November 30, 2015 at 9:39 am

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Reader-contributor-participant-watchdog-community member-content co-creator Colin writes:

yesterday's Times had an article about the rise of a new political party in Spain which said the following:

"Having an ambivalent stance on Catalan independence has really hurt Podemos," said Federico Santi, political risk analyst at Eurasia Group, a think tank based in London. "They've not really managed the step from protest party and critic of the main parties to one that can build its own platform."

The problem here is that Eurasia Group is neither a think-tank -- it's a for-profit consultancy (it describes itself as a "political risk research and consulting firm") -- nor based in London. While it has an office in London, its headquarters, as plainly stated on its website, is New York City.


A Times Reporter Attacks His Mother

October 21, 2015 at 10:02 am

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The Times food section today features an article about broilers. It includes this sentence: "Our mothers pressed them into service for steaks and chops (which I must admit my mother ruined by cooking them until they were gray and dry)."

If the Times reporter has a complaint about his mother's cooking, let him address it to her in person (if she is alive). Or take it up in psychotherapy. Instead, Times readers are hauled along into the middle of this intra-family conflict, in which the mother isn't given a chance to respond to the accusation. She might have replied that the Times reporter ought to be grateful that she fed him at all, given the way he was to end up publicly griping about her cooking before an audience of hundreds of thousands of Times readers.

Times reporters who use the paper's columns (and the time of readers) to complain about family members without allowing the family members a chance to respond are a recurrent problem. For an earlier example, see here.

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