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The 40-Year Boom

May 19, 2015 at 9:49 am

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A front-page Times news article reports: "In the aftermath of the Great Depression, the nation's finance industry shrank severely — and remained in a humbled state for most of the next four decades. The economy boomed in this period, with no major financial crises and less income inequality than in recent decades."

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Phony Statistic

May 14, 2015 at 9:20 am

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A Times article about a fatal Amtrak derailment includes this sentence: "Like the rest of the country's crumbling public infrastructure, its aging rail beds and decades-old trains are sagging under increased use, especially in the Northeast, where nearly three-quarters of all travel takes place on the trains, not on planes."

The Times doesn't give the source of this "nearly three-quarters of all travel" statistic, but it's almost certainly bogus. What about cars? Buses? Feet? Does the statistic refer to the percentage of trips or the percentage of passenger-miles? Does it refer only to inter-city or interstate travel? It offers the illusion of authority and precision without actually providing any useful information to readers.


Not Writing Well

May 13, 2015 at 10:12 am

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The Times obituary of William Zinsser, the author of On Writing Well, includes this sentence: "In his late '80s he wrote a blog on popular culture, the craft of writing and the arts for the website of The American Scholar that won a National Magazine Award for digital commentary."

It's a small thing, but there's no need for the apostrophe before "80s." One might use an apostrophe to refer to the decade the 1980s — the apostrophe in '80s would stand in for the missing digits 19. But referring to someone's age, there are no missing digits. So there should be no apostrophe.

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Scrambled Eggs

May 12, 2015 at 9:26 am

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An April 27 Times web feature on "how to eat healthy meals at restaurants" showed up in my print edition of the Times this morning, two weeks after it originally appeared on the Web. The feature includes the following sentence: "Outside of major metropolitan areas, where restaurant choices are more limited, egg-based lunches and dinners are a good way to eat well."

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Birzeit Bombshell

May 12, 2015 at 9:19 am

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A Times dispatch from the West Bank begins, "Lina Halsa certainly made a splash at the student rally for the Islamist Hamas movement here at Birzeit University last month. Wearing a sleeveless top, tight jeans, and with her hair in a ponytail, Ms. Halsa's attire was revealing even by the standards of this liberal, secular campus."

The article runs with no photograph in either the print or the online edition of the Times. The online edition includes a hyperlink to a photo on another site.

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Catching Up

May 11, 2015 at 9:21 am

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A few items I had been meaning to get to sooner over the past two weeks:

Misstep? A Times article on President Obama's nomination of Gayle Smith to be the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development says of Ms. Smith's predecessor, Rajiv Shah:

But Dr. Shah had missteps as well. The Associated Press reported in 2014 that during his tenure, U.S.A.I.D. operated a social media account to encourage young Cubans to revolt against the Castro government. The secret program ran out of funds in 2012, after two years; Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, called it "dumb, dumb, dumb" after it was disclosed.

This wording seems to side with Senator Leahy in characterizing the Cuba effort as a "misstep"; a pretty clear case of left-wing opinion creeping into what is supposed to be a news article.

Correction of the Month: From the May 1 Times:

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Syria Uses Chemical Weapons

May 7, 2015 at 9:51 am

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The Times has a compelling account of the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Strangely, the story doesn't start on page one. Also strangely, it doesn't mention the words "President Obama" or "red line" or note that the Obama administration has touted the disarmament of Syria as a foreign policy victory. If the Iranian nuclear disarmament deal is anything like the Syria disarmament deal, in which Syria is using chemical weapons following the conclusion of the deal, no wonder Congress and Prime Minister Netanyahu are concerned.

The Times story notes that "In contrast to stronger toxins like nerve agents and mustard gas, chlorine is lethal only in highly concentrated doses and where medical treatment is not immediately available, making it more an instrument of terror than of mass slaughter." That's not much consolation to those killed by the chlorine.


Lost in Worcester

May 4, 2015 at 9:19 am

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The lead, front-page news article in today's Times, about a claim by some economists that moving can improve outcomes for poor families, includes this sentence: "The places most conducive to upward mobility include large cities — San Francisco, San Diego, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and Providence, R.I. — and major suburban counties, such as Fairfax, Va.; Bergen, N.J.; Bucks, Pa.; Macomb, Mich.; Worcester, Mass.; and Contra Costa, Calif."

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Choose Your Greenwich

May 4, 2015 at 9:06 am

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An article in the sports section of the Times is a great illustration of the way reporters describe reality in whatever way they want to spin it. The issue is Greenwich, Connecticut. A 2009 Times article described it as "the ritzy suburb and haven for New York City's elite." A 1997 Times article reported "This affluent town, where backyards are as big as Rhode Island and more than a few people take pride in talking like George Plimpton, is committed to maintaining its image as a sanctuary for those with wealth and taste."

Today's sports article takes a different approach; an injured boxer is described as living "in a small bedroom in a working-class neighborhood in Greenwich, in a modest house his family rents cheap from a devoted friend."

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Hebrew or Yiddish

April 24, 2015 at 9:43 am

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A Times account of an Israel Independence Day celebration in Washington featuring Vice President Biden and the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer includes this passage:

Mr. Dermer, using a Yiddish word, said, "We are family, mishpachah." He added, "All families have disagreements," but "what unites us is far more important than what divides us."

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The Labels Giveaway

April 20, 2015 at 2:32 pm

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One way the New York Times demonstrates its left-wing bias is its insistence on labeling conservatives as such without applying similar labels to liberals. It's hard to find a more glaring example of this behavior than in this story from the Times business section about an executive who cut his own pay while setting a $70,000 minimum wage at his firm.

The Times article mentions "Michael Strain, an economist at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative research group in Washington." It mentions "Diana Furchtgott-Roth, an economist at the conservative Manhattan Institute for Policy Research." And it mentions "Tim Kane, an economist at the conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford University." The word "conservative" operates as a kind of warning by the left-wing New York Times to its left-wing readers: "Watch out, be careful, folks, these organizations aren't in ideological tune with what you'd usually expect here."

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Soros Study

April 14, 2015 at 1:26 pm

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The New York Times writes a whole long article about a study of American drone strikes in Yemen issued by what the Times calls "a legal advocacy group," the Open Society Justice Initiative. No mention of the initiative's funding or its chairman, George Soros.

When the Koch brothers or Sheldon Adelson participate in public affairs through philanthropy, the Times calls it "dark money," calls them billionaires, and puts their name in the headlines. But when it is Mr. Soros advancing a left-wing agenda, that billionaire gets a free pass — the Times leaves him out of the story. It sure looks like a double standard.


Another Reclusive Republican Donor

April 13, 2015 at 9:32 am

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A Times article about Robert Mercer, a donor who supports Senator Ted Cruz, describes Mr. Mercer as " a reclusive Long Islander who started at I.B.M. and made his fortune using computer patterns to outsmart the stock market."

"Reclusive" is newspaper jargon for anyone who doesn't drop whatever he is doing immediately and run to the telephone whenever a newspaper reporter calls. Its use in these instances, as in the New Republic's description of "reclusive" Harold Simmons, bears no resemblance to the dictionary definition of the word reclusive, which describes someone living in solitary confinement, secluded from the world like a monk or a hermit. It's a way the newspapers pressure people to cooperate with them by hurling insults at those, especially Republicans, who don't play their game.


Smoke Pot Every Day

April 13, 2015 at 9:22 am

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The Times carries a column that reads like a paid advertisement — free of any skepticism — about a book called "Just Say Yes: A Marijuana Memoir."

The column and the book try to make the point that the author of the book, Catherine Hiller, smoked marijuana "more or less every day for the past 50 years," and "her life turned out nicely."

Plenty of other books from less obscure publishers get much less attention from the Times than this book does, so you have to wonder why it is that the Times fell so hard for this one. The Times column came on top of an article that the author wrote for the the Times about her drug-buying experiences. Maybe this is the sweet spot for the Times demographic — hippies in their 60s and 70s — but for anyone younger or less invested in the pro-marijuana advocacy campaign, it risks coming off as kind of weird.


Times Attacks BMW Drivers

April 6, 2015 at 9:01 am

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From an article in the New York Times Magazine, about the Thomas Guide and driving in Los Angeles:

Out-of-town visitors to Los Angeles like to say things like "driving here is a sport." But really, it's an art. It's an art that requires intuition, patience and a sense of the topography of the region. It means knowing that no matter where you are, there are mountains to the north and an ocean to the west. It means being able to peer into the souls of other drivers and knowing, with almost supernatural certainty, which ones are Grade A jerks who are seconds away from cutting you off in traffic. (Put another way, that means being able to identify newer-model BMWs.)

So everyone who drives a newer-model BMW is a "Grade A jerk"?

Funny, no ads from BMW in this Sunday's Times Magazine.

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