'Paid In Full'
July 29, 2001
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An item in the Political Briefing column in the national section of today's New York Times runs under the headline, "Sufficiently Scorned, But Paid in Full." The item reports, "After Senator James M. Jeffords of Vermont bolted the Republican Party and became an independent, giving control of the Senate to Democrats, he said contributors to his last election campaign who felt sufficiently scorned could get their money back by sending in a request. Of the 3,230 people who originally gave, 52 asked for refunds. And last week, as promised, Mr. Jeffords made them whole, to the tune of $17,500."
That item and headline significantly mischaracterize both Mr. Jeffords' offer and his action. As an Associated Press dispatch from Montpelier this week made clear, the senator offered a refund only to Vermonters, not to political action committees or to out-of-state contributors. Mr. Jeffords hasn't paid "in full"; he's paid in part. The AP considered that distinction worth preserving in its brief report last week on the refunds; it's hard to see why the Times would blur it.
Erotic Dance: The Arts and Leisure section of today's New York Times publishes a defense of strip clubs. The article really has to be read to be believed. It is written by a "senior research scholar in the dance department at the University of Maryland, College Park," and it warns that "the threat of further assaults on nude dancing looms large." Never mind that some might see that as a hope, not a "threat"; for all intents and purposes, this is an opinion piece, not a news article, and Smartertimes.com will treat it as such.
The article claims that "A police study in Fulton County, Georgia, which includes Atlanta, showed no adverse effects of nude dancing." It's breathtaking that the Times can print this without even a passing reference to its report from Atlanta last week. That report said, "The marathon strip-club trial that promised to embarrass some of the country's best-known athletes and entertainers finally lived up to its billing today when Patrick Ewing, the veteran National Basketball Association star, took the stand and admitted that he received sexual favors on two occasions from dancers at the Gold Club. Mr. Ewing, the former center for the New York Knicks who joined the Orlando Magic last week, said he never paid the dancers for the oral sex he received, or the club for the drinks and the private V.I.P. room where the incidents took place. . . Mr. Ewing's testimony as a prosecution witness was designed to bolster the federal government's case that Steven E. Kaplan, the club's owner, paid his employees to have sex with prominent athletes to raise its profile and lure paying customers. . . .In 1999, the government charged 15 people connected with the Gold Club with a variety of racketeering, money laundering and prostitution charges. The indictment said the Gold Club -- the most prominent of Atlanta's 22 'gentlemen's clubs' popular with tourists -- supplied cash to the Gambino organized- crime family of New York in exchange for protection." The Gold Club's owners have denied wrongdoing. But even in an opinion piece, for the Times to cite Atlanta as a place where there are "no adverse effects of nude dancing" in the face of the Times's own reports about federal indictments for prostitution and mob ties is just amazing.
Today's Arts and Leisure article says, "The legend is that the clubs are gangster-run strip joints, though since the 1980's close to 3,000 well-run, often luxuriously appointed gentlemen's clubs patronized by male and female professionals and businessmen have appeared around the country." The gangster connection isn't merely "legendary," as the Times claims; it's a fact. In addition to Times's own reporting on the alleged Gambino ties of the Gold Club, the Arts and Leisure editors might want to check out a front-page story from the August 30, 1998, Sunday New York Times, which ran under the headline, "Strip Club Partners, Now Ruined, Blame Greed and the Mob." That article reported, "As the 90's began, Michael D. Blutrich and Lyle K. Pfeffer, two men from sedate, middle-class backgrounds, were riding high. Mr. Blutrich, a founding partner in a politically connected Park Avenue law firm, and Mr. Pfeffer, a self-styled venture capitalist, were each taking in more than $500,000 a year. But they wanted more. Greed, they now admit, inspired them to become prominent players in two major conspiracies: siphoning millions from a Florida-based insurance company and allowing the Gambino organized-crime family to become their secret partners in Scores, a topless club on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. "
Today's Arts and Leisure article goes on to claim that "there is no scientifically valid evidence for adverse secondary effects of erotic dance clubs."
The New York Times itself is on record with an opposite view. An October 26, 1996, Times editorial, for instance, praised a Giuliani administration initiative "to foreclose X-rated businesses from clustering in a 'red-light' district of the sort that has historically blighted Times Square, where this newspaper is published." The editorial praised a judge's opinion that "found in the city's various planning studies sufficient evidence of the negative impact on crime, property values and community character to support the city's use of its zoning authority to address a serious neighborhood problem. The city's legitimate purpose was not to regulate speech, she observed, but the negative effects of sex-related shops on their surroundings."
Another Times editorial, on August 10, 1998, referred to the "worthy purpose of protecting communities from the adverse impact of sex-related businesses."
Today's Arts and Leisure article concludes by likening those who would restrict strip clubs to Adolf Hitler.
Readers wondering why this University of Maryland scholar is defending strip clubs with such outlandish claims may chalk her views up to academic isolation. Or they might notice the sentence in the article that states that the scholar was "discovered" by a planner and by a lawyer representing nude dancers in Seattle, who "asked" her to be "an expert court witness." "Asked" is a strange way of putting it; the University of Maryland scholar was "asked" to be an expert witness in about the same way that a woman at a strip club is "asked" to provide a lap dance. A news article in the May 7, 1996, News Tribune of Tacoma, Washington was more direct: it identified her as a "University of Maryland anthropologist hired by club owners."
When the Bush administration tries to name to a government post a respected regulatory scholar like John Graham who has received funding from the industries he studies, the Times goes into an uproar about the supposed corrupting influence of corporate funding on the integrity of research. Yet here the newspaper is printing the lame arguments of a scholar in favor of strip clubs without even disclosing to the paper's readers that she was "hired" by the strip clubs.
Knowing that the scholar was "hired" makes it somewhat easier to understand why she is making such outlandish arguments. It's less easy to understand why the Times is publishing them.
Mired in the Past: As the climactic conclusion to a litany of supposed sins of the Bush administration -- missile defense, arsenic, opposing Kyoto -- the "Liberties" columnist on the op-ed page of today's New York Times writes, "There was even talk last week that the White House might pull out of a U.N. conference on racism."
"Even"! Boy, if the Bush administration is refusing to attend a U.N. conference on racism, it sure must be retrograde and maybe even racist, huh? The Times columnist cites the threat as evidence that Mr. Bush is "mired in the past" and full of "hollow hubris."
You would have had to read Saturday's New York Post to find out that Mr. Bush's stance on the conference has the backing of both of New York's senators, Charles Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton, and that the conference is being planned as a forum to condemn Israel. The Post reported that the proposed language for the conference states, "We recognize . . .with deep concern the increase of racist practices of Zionism. . .as well as the emergence of racial and violent movements based on racism and discriminatory ideas, in particular the Zionist movement which is based on racial superiority." Senator Schumer, a Democrat, told the Post that Mr. Bush is "absolutely right" in his stance on the U.N. conference. Maybe Mr. Schumer can explain this to the Times columnist.
Can't Spell: The lead article in the Sunday Styles section of today's New York Times refers to a fashion designer as "Shoshanna Lowenstein." In fact, the correct spelling of her last name is Lonstein.
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