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Surfing Rabbi

September 2, 2014 at 6:34 am

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A Times dispatch from East Hampton about a surfing rabbi includes the following passage:

Marilyn Milanaik, a member of the Hampton Synagogue, the only Orthodox congregation in the area, looked to the Torah for guidance. "It says in the Torah that children must know how to swim. It's a paraphrase for knowing how to save your own life," she said.

The passage is inaccurate in at least two respects. First, there's another Orthodox synagogue out there, Chabad Lubavitch of the Hamptons. Second, it doesn't say in the Torah that children must know how to swim. The passage that Ms. Milanaik is reaching for is almost certainly not from the Torah, but from the Talmud, Kiddushin 29a, which says that a father much teach his son Torah, teach him a craft or a trade, "and there are some who say he must also teach him how to swim." It's the Talmud not the Torah, and it's not "children must know how to swim," but just reporting an additional opinion: "there are some who say he must also teach him how to swim."

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Shelter Island Anonymouse

September 2, 2014 at 6:19 am

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The Times Sunday metro section carries a left-wing column that goes unbalanced by any right-wing column. The latest column complains about helicopter noise in the Hamptons:

"Quality of life truly is being diminished for commercial greed and the convenience of the same people who burned the economy," a longtime Shelter Island summer resident said to me.

"When I look up at small planes and choppers I see a fleet of middle fingers across the sky."

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Rabbi Cancels His Times Subscription

August 28, 2014 at 9:46 pm

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The president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, Richard Block, has an article explaining why he canceled his Times subscription after 40 years:

I am a lifelong Democrat, a political liberal, a Reform rabbi, and for four decades, until last week, a New York Times subscriber. What drove me away was the paper's incessant denigration of Israel, a torrent of articles, photographs, and op-ed columns that consistently present the Jewish State in the worst possible light.


More on Antony Lerman and Liberal Zionism

August 26, 2014 at 8:42 am

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At the Washington Post, David Bernstein has a further response to the Times Anthony Lerman anti-Zionist article that I commented about here over the weekend.


Antony Lerman's End of Liberal Zionism

August 23, 2014 at 9:59 pm

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In the category of vile anti-Israel articles, Antony Lerman's "The End of Liberal Zionism" deserves some kind of award. He writes:

The decision of Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to launch a military campaign against Hamas in Gaza has cost the lives, to date, of 64 soldiers and three civilians on the Israeli side, and nearly 2,000 Palestinians, the majority of whom were civilians.

No. It wasn't Mr. Netanyahu's decision — which in any event was a decision not made only by Mr. Netanyahu, but by Israel's security cabinet — to launch a military campaign that cost the Israeli lives. It was Hamas's decision to attack Israel from tunnels and with rockets.

He writes:

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August 23, 2014 at 9:39 pm

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The following paragraph appeared on the front page of Saturday's Times, in an article headlined, "Blood Industry Shrinks as Transfusions Decline":

Blood bank revenue is falling, and the decline may reach $1.5 billion a year this year from a high of $5 billion in 2008.

It's not clear, to this reader, at least, what the sentence means. Is the Times trying to tell us that blood bank revenue has declined to $1.5 billion this year from $5 billion in 2008? Or is the Times trying to tell us that blood bank revenue declined $5 billion in 2008 from 2007, and will decline $1.5 billion this year from the year before? Or is the Times trying to tell us that blood bank revenue this year will be $3.5 billion, down from $5 billion in 2008?

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Inflation Adjustment

August 19, 2014 at 9:49 am

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A dispatch from Illinois about the Olmsted Locks and Dam on the Ohio River reports that it was "first authorized by Congress in 1988 at a cost of $775 million" and is "now scheduled to be completed in 2020 at a cost approaching $3 billion."

The U.S. government's consumer price index inflation calculator indicates that $775 million in 1988 dollars are about $1.56 billion in 2014 dollars. The calculator doesn't run to 2020, but by then even more of the story won't be typically scandalous government cost overruns, but the erosion of the value of the dollar.

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Forgetting New York

August 19, 2014 at 9:27 am

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A front-page news article in today's New York Times appears under the headline "Cities Rocked by Past Unrest Offer Lessons." It offers lessons for Ferguson, Mo. from "other cities that endured similar violence." It names "Cincinnati, Oakland, Los Angeles" and Miami and talks about responding to riots and restoring calm. Strangely — bizarrely, actually, the Times omits any mention of New York.

There was a race riot — a pogrom, actually — in Crown Heights, Brooklyn in 1991, which you'd think a newspaper based in New York City might, you know, think about maybe mentioning in a news article about how to respond to an urban riot. The efforts since then to improve relations between the black and Jewish communities in Crown Heights might actually have some lessons for Ferguson.

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Times Sells Marilyn Monroe Nude Photos

August 15, 2014 at 3:15 pm

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The "New York Times Store" is featuring "rarely seen" and "truly historic" photographs of a naked Marilyn Monroe for $3,000 and $1,500 (more if you want it framed). It's not clear how this fits with the Times Company's stated core mission of "creating, collecting, and distributing high-quality news and information." A front-of-the business section Times news article — "Risque Promotion Prompts Outcry From Land's End Customers" — this week went after Land's End for a marketing deal with GQ, which was featuring photographs of scantily clad women, but Land's End wasn't trying to sell the pictures for $3,000 or billing them as "truly historic."


Jeffrey Goldberg, "A Hawk"

August 13, 2014 at 9:51 am

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Maureen Dowd's column today refers to Hillary Clinton's interview with "Jeffrey Goldberg, a hawk, of The Atlantic."

I guess by Ms. Dowd's standards a "hawk" is someone like Jeff, who wants to dismantle many of Israel's West Bank settlements and to ease U.S. sanctions on Castro's Cuba.


Auto Thefts

August 13, 2014 at 9:45 am

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Reader-participant-watchdog-community member-content co-creator Colin G. writes:

Josh Barro has a piece on auto thefts in which he says the "most important factor" in explaining the decline is the introduction of technology in the late 90s/early 2000s that makes it "essentially impossible to start a car without the ignition key."

That's fine, but how does that comport with the second chart included in the piece, which shows the most dramatic declines taking place from around 1990-97 before such technology became available?


Inflation Adjustment

August 13, 2014 at 9:31 am

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In the midst of the front-page New York Times news article about the death of actor and comedian Robin Williams comes this:

At an age when most actors are slowing down, Mr. Williams was engaged with a half-dozen recent and planned projects. They ranged from stage work and low-budget films to an anticipated — though still distant — big-budget sequel to his biggest hit, "Mrs. Doubtfire," which took in about $728 million worldwide in 1993, after accounting for inflation.

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Hijab Fashion

August 11, 2014 at 1:32 pm

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From the you-can't-make-it-up department: A post in the Fashion and Style section reports:

For many Muslim women around the world, the hijab — the scarf covering their hair — is not just a religious accouterment but also a symbol of their identity....As part of a planned article, we invite readers to share Instagram photographs of their hijab with us. Tag the photos with #nytfashion, and selected ones will be highlighted onnytimes.com/fashion this week.

I guess the Times figures that if it's losing Jewish readers over its Middle East coverage it might as well pick up some Muslims to make up for them. We're waiting for the equivalent feature on yarmulkes.


Dave Barry on Pamela Druckerman

August 11, 2014 at 12:02 pm

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Dave Barry has a deft takedown of a New York Times essay about Miami.


That Explains It

August 5, 2014 at 7:09 am

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From today's New York Times editorial, the latest in a series calling for the legalization of marijuana:

One important way to curb use is to tax marijuana heavily, following the post-Prohibition template of replacing criminalization with regulation and taxes....tax the drug based on its potency — which can be measured in various ways, including by the amount of the component THC in a batch — and increase the rate over time to keep up with inflation.

No wonder the Times favors marijuana legalization. It creates the opportunity to raise taxes, an opportunity that for the Times editorial writers trumps any other policy objective. To the sixteen other tax increases previously supported by the Times editorial column (one of the services we provide here is keeping track of them), now add a seventeenth: an inflation-indexed tax on marijuana potency.


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