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Poverty and Texas

June 30, 2014 at 9:28 am

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A front-page New York Times article reports on poverty amidst the oil boom in Texas, 50 years after Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty. The Times article blames Republicans and the "philosophy of limited government" for the abject conditions of the state's poor:

despite the boom, Texas has some of the highest rates of poverty in the nation and ranks first in the percentage of residents without health insurance. Republican leaders have supported tapping the Rainy Day Fund for one-time investments in water and transportation infrastructure, but they have blocked attempts to use the fund for education and other services, arguing that it was designed to cover emergencies and not recurring expenses.

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America Under Fascist Occupation?

June 26, 2014 at 9:10 am

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Reviewing a new English translation of Jean Guehenno's "Diary of the Dark Years, 1940-1944," a professor at Yale, Alice Kaplan, asks, "Is there something about our own political climate that allows us finally to hear Guehenno's voice clearly?"

Professor Kaplan doesn't answer the question or even address it further, at all, in the review, leaving this reader, at least, puzzled about what in the world she is talking about. What, exactly, in modern American politics makes the story of France under Nazi occupation resonate? Who are the Nazis of today? Obama? The Tea Party? The Islamofascists? If a professor is going to make such an inflammatory suggestion, the least she can do is explain herself.

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Silverstein's Towers

June 26, 2014 at 8:53 am

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A Times article under the headline "Developer Reaches Deal To Finish 80-Story Tower" begins:

The developer Larry A. Silverstein plans to resume construction of a long-stalled 80-story building at the World Trade Center site immediately, under an agreement the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey approved on Wednesday.
If all goes according to plan, the building at the 16-acre site would join the Western Hemisphere's tallest tower, the 104-story 1 World Trade Center, which is nearing completion, and Mr. Silverstein's first tower, a 72-story office building at 4 World Trade Center.

It is not accurate to call 4 World Trade Center "Mr. Silverstein's first tower." Seven World Trade Center opened in May 2006, years before 4 World Trade Center.


How To Help

June 25, 2014 at 1:26 pm

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If you appreciate the content here at Smartertimes.com and want to send an encouraging signal of support, please consider becoming a paying subscriber. Your paid subscription helps make everything here possible and will allow us to keep growing, expanding, and improving. An entry-level subscription is $1 a week, or, on an annual basis, a mere 0.0002% of outgoing New York Times CEO Janet Robinson's $24 million exit package. The transaction won't take much of your time at all. The link is here. Thank you.


Walmart Responds Some More

June 25, 2014 at 1:02 pm

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Walmart's response to a critical column in the New York Times was the topic of a post here earlier. Now the retailer has also shared a letter to the editor of the Times that the Times has declined to publish. Again, the Internet levels the playing field, so that Walmart doesn't need the Times to publish its letter to the editor; the retailer can just publish it on its own web site by itself.


Working on the Railroad

June 25, 2014 at 12:56 pm

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A Times news article on the state of contract negotiations between the Long Island Rail Road and its employee unions goes on for more than 400 words without reporting how much money the workers make each year. From the article:

The unions have indeed called for 17 percent raises, but over six years, not seven. The authority's proposal also requires new employees, hired after the potential ratification, to contribute 4 percent of their salaries toward the cost of their health insurance. Current employees would be asked to contribute 2 percent. Under the expired agreement, employees did not contribute any of their salaries to health care.

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Drug Policy Alliance

June 23, 2014 at 2:24 pm

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Toward the end of a Times dispatch that runs under the headline "New York Leaders Reach Deal on Medical Marijuana" comes this:

"New York has finally done something significant for thousands of patients who are suffering and need relief now," said Gabriel Sayegh, the New York director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which lobbies for more liberal drug laws. But he added, "The decision about the mode of administration for any medication should be left up to doctors and their patients."

This is a fine example of disparity in the ways that the Times treats billionaire-funded public policy activity on the right versus on the left. When David and Charles Koch spend money on politics and policy, the organizations they fund are identified as such and the Times raises the specter of rich people buying policy influence. But when it is the George Soros-funded Drug Policy Alliance, any mention of Mr. Soros or of the tens of millions of dollars he has spent over the years on advancing the cause of drug legalization is omitted.


More on Ajami

June 23, 2014 at 1:56 pm

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Further to the earlier post here on the Times' nasty obituary of Fouad Ajami, Mike Doran notices that the Times even got the title of one of Ajami's books wrong. It was The Vanished Imam: Musa al Sadr and the Shia of Lebanon, not, as the Times has it, "The Vanishing Imam." Minor point, perhaps, but confirms the lameness of the overall treatment. The only thing vanishing is whatever credibility the Times had left on this one, which was not much to begin with.

A Twitter account that appears to be created by Fouad Ajami's son Tarik commented, "crappy obit, and I'm a raving liberal."

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Walmart Responds

June 23, 2014 at 9:50 am

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Walmart responds to a column by Timothy Egan on the Times op-ed page by posting to its Web site a red-inked, corrected version.

Pretty great the way the Internet lets Walmart respond in a much more detailed way than a letter to the editor of the Times would ever allow it to do.


Fouad Ajami

June 23, 2014 at 9:31 am

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The writer and professor Fouad Ajami gets a remarkably hostile obituary in today's New York Times. "Edward Said, the Palestinian cultural critic who died in 2003, accused him of having 'unmistakably racist prescriptions,'" the Times writes.

Three paragraphs of the review are devoted to quotes from the hard-left Nation. One, talking about a book by Ajami, says:

The scholar Andrew N. Rubin, writing in The Nation, said it "echoes the kind of anti-Arabism that both Washington and the pro-Israeli lobby have come to embrace."

The final passages of the obituary are also from the Nation:

In a profile in The Nation in 2003, Adam Shatz described Mr. Ajami's distinctive appearance, characterized by a "dramatic beard, stylish clothes and a charming, almost flirtatious manner."

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Affirmative Action

June 17, 2014 at 1:13 pm

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David Leonhardt's "Upshot" column is about two books — Sheryll Cashin's Place Not Race and The Century Foundation Press's The Future Of Affirmative Action — that consider what will happen after the end of race-based affirmative action in college admissions. Without explaining why, Mr. Leonhardt ignores a third recent book about affirmative action in admissions, Cheating: An Insider's Report on the Use of Race in Admissions at UCLA, by Tim Groseclose, which suggests that some colleges will go on using race-based affirmative action even after it is outlawed and even while publicly denying that they are doing so. Mr. Groseclose's book documents how this happened at UCLA. It would have been good to include in this Times column.


Pay and Performance

June 17, 2014 at 11:23 am

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Reuters takes a skeptical look at the executive compensation at the New York Times Company. It finds it to be high relative to peer companies:

As a percentage of revenue, Times Co's compensation is more generous than at six companies and less generous than at three. But as a percentage of free cash flow, it far outranks every company, in many cases by a long way....The study also looked at relative share price performance. While Times Co's stock price surged 86 percent in 2013, it is still more than 37 percent below where it was at the end of 2006, before the financial crisis hit. For that same period, the Standard & Poor's 500 is up about 36 percent.


Dean Baquet Cancer

June 16, 2014 at 10:02 am

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A short news article posted to the Times web site on Monday reports that the newspaper's brand-new executive editor, Dean Baquet, "had a malignant tumor removed from his kidney on Saturday after "doctors discovered the tumor on Thursday."

The Times article leaves many questions unanswered, among them:

•In what hospital did the surgery take place?

•Will Mr. Baquet receive any follow-up treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation?

•What are the chances of a recurrence?

•Why did it take until Monday to disclose a tumor found on Thursday and a surgery that happened Saturday?

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On Iraq, Contradictory Coverage

June 13, 2014 at 9:26 am

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What's happening in Iraq? Today's New York Times offers conflicting stories. A page one article by Tim Arango reports:

residents of Mosul say that so far the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has handled the local population with a light touch. Some residents, hardened by their hatred of the army, spoke of the insurgents almost as if they were a liberating army. The militants, residents said, greet people at checkpoints and ask citizens if they are carrying a weapon, and if the answer is no, they let them on their way.

Many spoke of being able to move around the city more freely for the first time in years, after the militants unblocked roads that the army had shut down for security reasons and took down the blast walls that had become a permanent feature of nearly every major Iraqi city over the last decade.

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National Academy Museum Anonymouse

June 10, 2014 at 2:42 pm

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Times public editor Margaret Sullivan's crusade against the careless or sloppy or unjustified use of anonymous sources is going widely unheeded in the Times newsroom, to judge by what appears in the newspaper. The latest example comes in an arts section article about the National Academy Museum:

A former benefactor of the academy expressed concern that the changes would do little more than perpetuate an image of the institution — as an unstable place. "I don't see any long-range thinking about what to do," the former benefactor said.

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