It's almost never a good idea for a Jewish columnist to write a column about a story from the Christian Bible, and David Brooks proves that rule today with a column on the story of the prodigal sons. Mr. Brooks writes:
The idea seems to be that Jesus would somehow have been in favor of "infrastructure-building," i.e., President Obama's stimulus spending or high-speed rail. Mr. Brooks would have been better off skipping the Christian Bible and focusing on the Jewish Bible, which at times takes quite a skeptical view toward these sorts of projects, i.e., the Tower of Babel and the Egyptian pyramids and cities built by enslaved Israelites.
A Times editorial bemoans the use of adjunct and other non-tenure-track professors on college campuses: "the nature of the college work force has changed substantially, possibly to the detriment of educational quality....This increasing dependence on inexpensive adjuncts may be bad for students, as well. ...the new college campus, rife with adjuncts and administrators, does not seem geared to fulfill what is, after all, the major mission of universities: educating students."
The editorial is flawed in several ways. First, note the use of weasel words "possibly...may be...seem." The detrimental effect on education is speculative.
Microsoft's Frank Shaw has sent a letter to the New York Times' new technology columnist, Farhad Manjoo, complaining about Mr. Manjoo's first Times column: "your predictions seem like you are using a rear-view mirror, not a windshield, to look at the road ahead."
On his blog at the Council on Foreign Relations, Elliott Abrams does a wonderful job of debunking a poll that the New York Times covered unskeptically the other day in an article by Rick Gladstone headlined "Majority of Americans Favor Trade With Cuba, Poll Finds."
The Times article described the organization that commissioned the poll, the Atlantic Council, as "a prominent Washington research organization." Mr. Abrams provides some information the Times did not: "the Atlantic Council has a strong position against the embargo on Cuba." Neither article discloses that the Atlantic Council is partially funded by foreign governments that include Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Qatar, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, information that came out during the process of confirming Secretary of Defense Hagel.
From the corrections column of today's Times:
From a Times/Texas Tribune article about a Texas state senator: "Ms. Campbell, a physician certified in emergency medicine and ophthalmology, was elected in 2012 after ousting a 20-year incumbent, Jeff Wentworth, in a Republican primary runoff in Senate District 25, which stretches from northeast San Antonio to South Austin and includes parts of six counties."
If she's a physician, why doesn't the Times call her "Dr. Campbell" instead of Ms. Campbell, which is what it calls her throughout the article? The "Dr." is what Times style usually dictates for medical doctors.
A Times news article reports that Douglas Schoen in 2011 registered as a lobbyist for a Ukrainian steelmaker. Mr. Schoen "had been on a $40,000-per-month retainer as an adviser to Mr. Pinchuk since 2000," the Times says.
Now they tell us! In 2012 the Times published an article by Mr. Schoen that identified him as "a political strategist and Fox News contributor. He is the co-author with Scott Rasmussen of Mad as Hell: How the Tea Party System is Fundamentally Remaking Our Two Party System." That was the same identification the Times had on another article by Mr. Schoen that the paper published in 2011.
A Times news article about the purchase of two radio stations in New York by the owner of a third begins, "In a deal that will align some of New York's most popular radio stations specializing in black music, the owner of WQHT-FM — the hip-hop station better known as Hot 97 — is buying WBLS-FM and one other station for $131 million in cash."
The article continues, "Emmis's deal for WBLS, at 107.5 FM, and WLIB, at 1190 AM, is the latest in a series of changes to black radio in New York over the last few years."
I guess some people use this term "black music," but it struck me as jarring. The music itself doesn't have a color, and it isn't initially clear from the term what music is being played on the station. Afro-pop? "World music"? Jazz? Rhythm and Blues? Rap? Hip hop? Plenty of white people listen to this music and some of them even create it. You don't see the Times writing about classical music radio as "white music."
A Times article about a real-estate development in New Haven reports, "The site, on what is now the edge of downtown, is hemmed in by Route 34, an ill-conceived, 1950s-era highway that walls off the district from Union Station, Yale's extensive medical complex and a neighborhood known as the Hill."
My goodness, an "ill-conceived" highway! To read the Times op-ed page, such a thing is nearly impossible. Just a recent sampling:
From a November 23, 2010 Bob Herbert column:
A Times article about seasonal temporary jobs that the City of New York offers shoveling snow tells about Nadji Colon:
A front-page New York Times article about Palestinian Arabs who work for Israeli companies with factories in the West Bank reports, "But those jeeps also help pay his $1,471 monthly salary at Zarfati, more than triple the minimum wage in Palestinian areas of the West Bank, where a 19 percent unemployment rate and lack of labor laws make finding a decent job difficult."
A Times news article about a Chinese dissident, Xia Yeliang, joining the Cato Institute reports:
The "is known" is a classic Times passive construction. "Is known" by whom? By left-wing Times editors and reporters who think any point of view a scintilla to the right of their own Upper West Side ultraleftism qualifies as "ultraconservatism."
Update: More on this here.
A Times news article about investor Carl Icahn's latest move regarding Apple refers to Mr. Icahn as a "billionaire" and as a "septuagenarian."
There are other individuals mentioned in the article, including hedge fund manager David Einhorn, New York Comptroller Scott Stringer, and Apple CEO Timothy Cook, but the Times doesn't mention how much money they have or how old they are. It seems to me that if it is relevant in the case of Mr. Icahn then it is relevant in the case of the other characters in the article. Otherwise it is a double standard or a discriminatory one in which old or rich people alone have their age and assets mentioned.
Reader-watchdog-community member-contributor-content co-creator Colin77 has a good catch in a Times dispatch from Tunis. The Times article says, "Tunisia — the smallest country of North Africa, with a population of 11 million — failed to contain the spread of violence in the months after its revolution."
This makes it sound like Tunisia has the smallest population in North Africa. What the Times is trying to communicate, I think, is that Tunisia has the smallest land area of any North African country, and it has a population of 11 million. Colin77 points out that Libya has a smaller population.
"Economy and Crime Spur New Puerto Rican Exodus; High Taxes, Prices and Joblessness Driving Many in Middle Class to Mainland" is the headline at the top of the Sunday New York Times front page. It's a welcome acknowledgment by the Times of the reality that talent and capital are mobile and respond to incentives.
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