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Houthi Moderation

January 27, 2015 at 9:34 am

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One reader observed that the following news article, which appears under the headline, "Experts See Signs of Moderation Despite Houthis' Harsh Slogans," may be "the New York Timesiest thing ever written":

AMMAN, Jordan — At first glance the official slogan and emblem of the Houthis, who are now the dominant force in Yemen, does not offer much hope to American policy makers.

It includes the words "Death to America, death to Israel, damnation to the Jews." Houthis shout it when they march, wear it on arm patches, paint it on buildings and stick it onto their car windows. When pictured, those words are rendered in red, framed by "God is great" and "Victory to Islam" in green, on a white background.

Sometimes the red words are shown dripping blood.

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Climate Change

January 23, 2015 at 8:34 am

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A short Times news article reports on Senate developments on climate change:

On Thursday, the Senate voted 56 to 42 not to take up an amendment offered by Senator Bernard Sanders, independent of Vermont, that declared that climate change is real, is caused by humans and wreaks devastation. The amendment also called on the federal government to lead the way in the national transition away from dependence on fossil fuels.

Senators voted 54 to 46 not to take up an amendment offered by Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, that also declared human-caused climate change to be real and devastating, and urged the government to support research on technologies that would capture carbon emissions from fossil fuels.

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Fact-Checking Friedman

January 21, 2015 at 2:32 pm

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Gawker has a pretty funny fact-check of Thomas Friedman's latest column, which aside from the point Gawker noticed is not a bad column.


Camille Cosby

January 20, 2015 at 10:50 am

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From a New York Times news article on Camille Cosby (which carries a Serge Kovaleski byline, suggesting that the Times has deployed one of its biggest investigative bigfoots to the Cosby story, which it has been treating with relative restraint):

In a 1998 letter to The New York Times, she complained that the newspaper's account of the crime had depicted it as an attempted robbery and omitted a racial slur the killer had used, which minimized race as a motivation. (The letter was never published.)

If Camille Cosby can't get a letter to the Times published complaining about downplaying a racial angle in coverage of her own child's killing, what hope does any mere ordinary mortal stand in trying to challenge the newspaper's coverage in its own columns?


Blaine Harden

January 19, 2015 at 8:48 pm

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A dispatch from Seoul about a defector from North Korea whose story has changed says the defector's story was "memorialized in a 2012 book, 'Escape from Camp 14,' by a former Washington Post reporter that has been published in 27 languages."

It's pretty funny that now that there is a problem with the story, the Times is referring to the author of the book, Blaine Harden, as "a former Washington Post reporter." Back when it came out, Times columnist and former executive editor Bill Keller wrote that "Harden's book, besides being a gripping story, unsparingly told, carries a freight of intelligence about this black hole of a country."

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Al Qaeda Anonymouse

January 16, 2015 at 9:42 am

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The Times has a news article about the FBI director's objection to the Times' granting of anonymity to a source the newspaper described as a member of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula:

"Your decision to grant anonymity to a spokesperson for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula so he could clarify the role of his group in assassinating innocents, including a wounded police officer, and distinguish it from the assassination of other innocents in Paris in the name of another group of terrorists, is both mystifying and disgusting," Mr. Comey said in a letter to The Times.

He added: "I fear you have lost your way and urge you to reconsider allowing your newspaper to be used by those who have murdered so many and work every day to murder more."

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A Bizarre Paragraph

January 16, 2015 at 9:34 am

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Under the split-infinitive headline "Condoleezza Rice Testifies on Urging The Times to not Run Article" comes a Times news story that includes this paragraph:

The Obama administration has persuaded reporters to delay publishing the existence of a drone base in Saudi Arabia, the name of a country in which a drone strike against an American citizen was being considered, the fact that a diplomat arrested in Pakistan was a C.I.A. officer and that an American businessman was working for the agency when he disappeared in Iran.

There are no hyperlinks and no further details about any of this, all of which came as news to me, and I follow this sort of thing, albeit not obsessively. What happened to the CIA officer arrested in Pakistan? What happened to the American businessman? What was the name of the country where the drone strike was being considered? Times readers might reasonably wonder about these things, and the news article is, alas, no help, just a tease.


Prominent Author

January 13, 2015 at 11:10 am

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There are already three corrections appended to a New York Times news article about how Fox News and Rupert Murdoch reacted to the Paris terrorist attacks. so I hesitate to pile on. But this sentence — "Another prominent author, Matt Haig, wrote on his Twitter account: 'On behalf of white people I'd like to apologize for Rupert Murdoch.'"— is an example of an editing lapse at the time that I find grating enough to mention. If someone is really a prominent author, shouldn't the Times respect the cultural literacy of its readers enough not to find it necessary to remind them of that fact?

In reality, when you see the Times throwing around terms like "eminent" or "prominent" or "famous" or "authoritative," it's usually a subtle signal that the person about to be quoted isn't actually any of those things, but is in agreement with the Times on some issue, and so therefore qualifies for the privilege of being puffed up by the Times with some sort of inflationary adjective.


Clip, File, and Save

January 13, 2015 at 10:47 am

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A front-page Times news article describes Nevada governor Brian Sandoval, Tennessee governor Bill Haslam, Ohio governor John Kasich, and Michigan governor Rick Snyder as moderate pragmatists. Remember that one for when or if one of them is named as a Republican vice presidential candidate and the Times and the Democrats immediately characterize them as extremist and reactionary conservatives.


Worcester, Utopia

January 9, 2015 at 10:33 am

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No one quite understands how off the mark the press can be until it writes about a subject you know firsthand. So it is with a Times commercial real estate dispatch on Worcester — which has been lingering all week on the Times most-emailed story list — in which any journalistic skepticism is suspended, and the city is described as a kind of paradise:

its primary boulevards are steadily filling up with the civic amenities that attract new residents. They include a busy public transit hub, comfortable and affordable housing, new restaurants and watering holes, computer stores and coffee shops, a performing arts theater, biotech research facilities, incubators and office space for start-up companies, and renovated parks — including one alongside City Hall with an ice rink larger than the one in Rockefeller Center.

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The Republican Congress

January 5, 2015 at 10:38 am

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A front-page Times news article on the new Republican Congress includes this passage:

Yet a sour note is possible on Tuesday as Speaker John A. Boehner seeks his third term as the House leader. Some disgruntled conservatives have said they will not back Mr. Boehner — he was embarrassed when a dozen defected two years ago — and a coup, while unlikely, would represent a disastrous beginning.

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Quinn Hillyer on Steve Scalise

January 1, 2015 at 10:44 pm

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At National Review, Quin Hillyer has an account of his interview with Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "Yes, he quoted the words accurately, but so entirely out of context as to be nearly 180 degrees — call it 175 degrees — from the patently clear message I was giving."


David Duke and the Louisiana Mainstream

January 1, 2015 at 8:40 am

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"Much of David Duke's '91 Campaign Is Now Louisiana Mainstream" is the headline over a Times news article by a freelance contributor, Jeremy Alford.

The article claims: "Two decades later, much of his campaign has merged with the political mainstream here, and rather than a bad memory from the past, Mr. Duke remains a window into some of the murkier currents in the state's politics where Republicans have sought and eventually won Mr. Duke's voters, while turning their back on him."

The article's premise seems unsupported by facts. The only thing close to evidence is the assertion, "Mr. Duke supported forcing welfare recipients to take birth control. Now there are near-perennial attempts by members of the Louisiana Legislature to give welfare recipients drug tests." It seems to me there is a difference between forced birth control and attempts (apparently unsuccessful) to make welfare conditional on a drug test.

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An Atheist Christmas

December 26, 2014 at 10:35 pm

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The New York Times greeted Christmas with not just one but two op-ed pieces about how atheists should approach the holiday. That seemed a bit much even for the Times, but I suppose that paper's editors know their audience better than I do.


Florida Passes New York

December 24, 2014 at 12:46 pm

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The New York Times manages to write an entire news article about Florida passing New York in population without using the word "tax."

"population experts said that the new rankings probably had more to do with longstanding immigration trends — large concentrations of people from Central and Latin American staking out new lives in Florida — than with economic development policies," the Times reports.

What about the people from New York staking out new lives in Florida? And what would the Times ever do without "experts"?

The Times attributes Florida's population growth to "air-conditioning."

For the record, Florida has no state income tax, while New York City and state combined have some of the highest top rates in the whole country.


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