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Apologists for Saudi Beheadings

March 24, 2015 at 8:21 am

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Contrarianism and counter-intuitiveness are great, but one can take them too far, too, and it sure looks like that is what the New York Times did in a front-page news article from Saudi Arabia about "avenues for mercy" in the Saudi legal system. The Times reports:

No aspect of Saudi justice draws more attention than punishments like beheading or amputation. But Saudi legal practitioners say that penalties are on the books to deter crime and that the system limits their use.

In Saudi jurisprudence adultery and apostasy merit death, but executions for either are rare because the law makes it hard to secure convictions. Adultery, for example, can be proved by the testimony of witnesses, but they must be four Muslim men who see the sex act itself — proof nearly impossible to obtain.

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Gladwell Coaches NYU Presidential Candidate

March 20, 2015 at 9:46 am

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A Times news article on the naming of a new president of New York University ends this way:

N.Y.U. picked Dr. Hamilton from over 200 nominees. It did not disclose who the other candidates were. But at one point, Michael Lynton, the chief executive of Sony Entertainment, wanted the job, according to emails that were published online during the Sony hacking scandal last year.

According to the emails, Mr. Lynton discussed his desire for the job last fall with the New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell.

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Rand Paul's Sleep

March 17, 2015 at 12:46 pm

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A front-page New York Times news article about Senator Rand Paul and his presidential campaign concludes with this passage:

keeping up with the South by Southwest set is not for everyone. On Saturday night, after he left a concert with the D.J. Mark Ronson, Mr. Paul headed straight for bed. He was asleep by 10:30.

For at least this literal-minded reader, this was an ending that raised more questions than it answered. For starters, how did the Times know when Dr. Paul fell asleep? It must have been hard for the senator to doze off with the Times reporter there staring at him watching for what time his eyes shut and listening to see if he started snoring. If that's not what happened, the Times is relying on someone's say-so without telling us who that person is, or how that person knows.


Friedman's Half-Correction

March 17, 2015 at 12:25 pm

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The New York Times has issued a correction of the Thomas Friedman column we wrote about here the other day. We wrote: "The passage about Mr. Adelson joking 'with another wealthy Israeli' is a strange one because neither Mr. Adelson nor the person he was joking with, Haim Saban, is an Israeli. They are Americans." The Times correction reads, "Thomas L. Friedman's column on Wednesday incorrectly suggested that the businessman Sheldon Adelson is Israeli. He is American."

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Friedman and Adelson

March 12, 2015 at 9:32 am

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In advance of the Israeli election, Thomas Friedman has a column up attacking Sheldon Adelson. One of Mr. Friedman's complaints is that Mr. Adelson invests in newspapers. From the column:

Israel has much stricter laws on individuals donating to political campaigns, so Adelson got around that in 2007 by founding a free, giveaway newspaper in Israel — Israel Hayom — whose sole purpose is to back Netanyahu, attack his enemies in politics and the media, and enforce a far-right political agenda to prevent any Israeli territorial compromise on the West Bank (which, in time, could undermine Israel as a Jewish democracy). Graphically attractive, Israel Hayom is now the biggest-circulation daily in Israel. Precisely because it is free, it is putting a heavy strain on competitors, like Yediot and Haaretz, which both charge and are not pro-Netanyahu.

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Aaron Kushner and the Orange County Register

March 12, 2015 at 9:24 am

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A Times article about Aaron Kushner stepping down from his leadership role at Freedom Communications, publisher of the Orange County Register, reports:

John A. Catsimatidis, the billionaire owner of the Gristedes supermarket chain, is considering making a bid for The Daily News in New York. There have been rumors that James L. Dolan, the billionaire owner of the New York Knicks, may also be interested.
They might look across the country for a cautionary tale. In 2012, Aaron Kushner paid about $50 million, plus the assumption of $110 million in pension obligations, for The Orange County Register, a venerable publication that was once among the most read newspapers in California.

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Kosher Deli's Roots

March 12, 2015 at 9:13 am

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A Style section article includes the following one-sentence paragraph:

The $22 corned beef Polo Bar sandwich may not be the towering meat cake familiar to lovers of New York deli but, true to its roots in a city that, as the 2014 documentary "Deli Man" points out, once had 1,550 registered kosher delicatessens, it is house-brined, served with melted Swiss cheese on marble rye and comes with a pickle and a side of coleslaw.

It is strange that "melted Swiss cheese" is cited as evidence that the Polo Bar corned beef sandwich is "true" to the roots of a city that "once had 1,550 registered kosher delicatessens." A true kosher deli wouldn't let swiss cheese anywhere near a corned beef sandwich — it would violate the provision of Jewish law that forbids mixing milk and meat.


Brooks False Dichotomy

March 10, 2015 at 9:45 am

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Amid an otherwise pretty good column today, David Brooks writes, "reintroducing norms ... will require holding people responsible. People born into the most chaotic situations can still be asked the same questions: Are you living for short-term pleasure or long-term good? Are you living for yourself or for your children? Do you have the freedom of self-control or are you in bondage to your desires?"

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Times Versus Times

March 9, 2015 at 9:48 am

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An article in Sunday's Review section by two Times reporters, William J. Broad and David E. Sanger, expresses skepticism about a nuclear deal with Iran, concluding, "If past is prologue, the West might once again find itself stonewalled." Flip a few pages, and a Times editorial, "Sabotaging a Deal With Iran," appears to have been written without taking into account the issues raised by the two reporters.


Nearly Shut Down

March 9, 2015 at 9:40 am

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The lead front-page news article in today's Times begins:

WASHINGTON — In their first major test of governing this year, Republicans stumbled, faltered — and nearly shut down the Department of Homeland Security.
And that vote may have been the easy one.

So much for the idea that Republicans would get credit for not shutting down the Department of Homeland Security.

Imagine the coverage if the Republicans had shut down the Department of Homeland Security (which wouldn't have actually shut down anyway, because something like 85% of the workers are considered "essential.")

Or imagine if the Times covered Obama that way. The passage of ObamaCare would have been covered with an article that would have begun, "President Obama nearly lost the vote to pass his signature domestic initiative."

Or imagine if the Times covered sports that way. The Patriots Super Bowl victory would have been written up as "the Patriots nearly lost the Super Bowl."

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Times Crops George W. Bush Out of Selma

March 9, 2015 at 9:39 am

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The decision to crop George W. and Laura Bush out of a front-page New York Times photo of the Selma anniversary march is attracting some attention.

Update: The Times public editor tackles the issue and finds the photo wasn't cropped; rather, the Times staff photographer at the event didn't even bother to submit a photo that included President Bush, explaining, "Bush was in the bright sunlight. I did not even send this frame because it's very wide and super busy and Bush is super-overexposed because he was in the sun and Obama and the others are in the shade."



March 5, 2015 at 11:09 am

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It was quite a day for anonymice.

The lead article in the Thursday Styles section, about the supposed news that Uber and Lyft have put a damper on the sex that used to take place in the backseats of New York City taxis, includes the following attributions:

a 28-year-old marketing manager in the tech industry named Suzanne, who asked that her surname not be used because, well, she's a marketing manager, not an adult-film star...

Stephanie, a 23-year-old publicist in Manhattan who asked that her last name not be published because of the damage it might do to her business

Chris, 31, an executive at a tech start-up who also requested that his last name not be used

Then the foreign section has an account of a stabbing attack on the American ambassador in South Korea:

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Bibi's Speech

March 4, 2015 at 9:01 am

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It's actually hard to tell which is the New York Times staff editorial about Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech to Congress and which is the op-ed piece from the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations, which may be one of the reasons that a new effort is under way to get Jewish groups to stop subsidizing this sort of thing by buying full-page advertisements in the Times.


Palm Beach Republicans

March 2, 2015 at 9:26 am

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The lead news article in Sunday's New York Times appeared under the headline, "G.O.P. Race Starts in Lavish Haunts of Rich Donors." It began:

PALM BEACH, Fla. — Instead of the corn dogs and pork chops on a stick ritually served up on the hustings of Iowa, the latest stop on the donor trail featured meals of diver scallops and chocolate mousse. The setting was the Breakers, a sprawling Italian Renaissance-inspired hotel here, where the cheapest available rooms fetched $800 a night. And for the half-dozen Republican presidential candidates invited to the annual winter meeting this weekend of the Club for Growth, an influential bloc of deep-pocketed conservatives, the prize was not votes. It was money.

There are at least two problems with this story.

The first is that one person I know who attended the meeting paid $532 for his room at the Breakers. There was a block rate for Club for Growth people that the Times doesn't mention.

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Book Critic's Onanism Obsession

February 26, 2015 at 11:19 am

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From a book review by Times book critic Dwight Garner that the Times issued this week: "Kinky details are allowed to crawl in. Mr. Christgau says he masturbated when young to the Song of Solomon (the Bible book, not the Toni Morrison novel)."

It seems a bit hypocritical of Mr. Garner to criticize the book author, Robert Christgau, for allowing such details to crawl in, when Mr. Garner himself specializes in including them in his own reviews.

A post here back in September enumerated at least five previous instances in the past four years in which Mr. Garner wrote about masturbation. Smartertimes observed then:

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