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New York Times Sports Gambling Investigation

November 20, 2022 at 9:57 am

A front-page Sunday New York Times article carries the online headline "Cigars, Booze, Money: How a Lobbying Blitz Made Sports Betting Ubiquitous." A sidebar summarizes "Key Findings from The Times' Investigation of Sports Betting."

The investigative journalist explanation that this is all the fault of business buying off politicians breaks down when you realize that people were betting on sports before it became legal, and also that the New York Times has also gotten deep into the business of promoting sports betting, with regular articles such as this one, in the sports section of the same paper that carries the investigation:

How Betting Lines Work

A quick primer for those who are not familiar with betting lines: Favorites are listed next to a negative number that represents how many points they must win by to cover the spread. Buccaneers -2.5, for example, means that Tampa Bay must beat the Seahawks by at least 3 points for its backers to win their bet. Gamblers can also bet on the total score, which is whether the teams' combined score in the game is over or under a preselected number of points.

Betting-market data is taken from Action Network's Public Betting data, and lines are taken from Unabated's real-time-odds tracker.

It's hard to tell whether it's the New York Times or the Daily Racing Form. The Times print sports section stopped printing the baseball standings and batting averages and started publishing betting lines instead. Were the New York Times editors and executives who decided to do this also just swept off their feet by lobbyists offering "cigars, booze, and money"? Maybe what the Times is against is not sports gambling but capitalism, or profitable businesses advocating for their interests with government? The whole investigation, breathlessly presented, seems off, or at least hypocritical, in light of the Times' own sports betting coverage.


New York Times "Lies" About Private Jet Taxes

November 14, 2022 at 9:02 am

The New York Times has become increasingly strident about labeling as a "lie" false claims about the 2020 election. A front page news article on Saturday, for example, reporting on the victory of a Democratic Senate candidate in Arizona, described the Republican candidate as "a venture capitalist and political newcomer who embraced former President Donald J. Trump's lie that the 2020 election was stolen."

The problem with the "lie" label is that the Times applies it so selectively that it makes the paper appear partisan rather than independent. Contrast it with a Times news article, also in Saturday's print newspaper, reporting that "More than a dozen protesters, including scientists, were arrested on Thursday at private airports in the United States, coinciding with similar actions around the world to highlight the toll of private jets on the environment, activists said."

The Times article concludes with this paragraph:

"It is obscene that Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates can fly their private jets tax free, while global communities starve," Gianluca Grimalda, a social science researcher and member of Scientist Rebellion, said in the news release. "It's only fair that wealthy polluters pay the most into climate loss and damage funds to help the most vulnerable countries adapt."

It's simply a falsehood—unlabeled as such by the Times—that Bezos, Gates, or anyone else flies a private jet "tax free." At Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, for example, the state of New Jersey imposes six cents of taxes per gallon of jet fuel or aviation gasoline, which is on top of the 21.9 cent a gallon federal tax on jet fuel. You can say the tax winds up getting paid by the business, but if the passengers on the jets are shareholders in the business, they are essentially the ones paying the taxes. Also wrapped up in the cost of operating these jets are employment taxes for the pilots. Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, one of those blocked by the protesters, is operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and collects a fee for each takeoff.

One can debate whether the taxes should be higher, whether businesses should be able to expense private jets, or what the depreciation schedule should be, or whether the "ticket-tax" or Federal Transportation Excise Tax should apply to private flights, or how to fairly account for personal, family, non-business use of the jets by executives. But no one is flying the jets "tax free." When the Times lets climate-change activists make false claims unlabeled as such, while slapping a prominent "lie" marker on Trump and his allies, it's the sort of thing that undercuts whatever reputation the newspaper has left for political independence and factual reliability.


Times Drops Pretense of Objectivity as Election Nears

November 7, 2022 at 8:24 am

There's no mistaking which side the New York Times is on in tomorrow's election.

On page A2, under the headline "The Consequences of the Midterms," is a question-and-answer-style interview with Astead Herndon, "a Times national reporter." He explains, "If the U.S. elects lawmakers who spread conspiracy theories and who promise to tear down tenets of democracy, that will embolden autocratic leaders in other countries and weaken the United States' standing in the world."

On Page A16, a Times "fact check" column is headlined "Republicans Revive a Misleading Claim About 87,000 New Tax Agents." The Times insists in bold "These claims are misleading," but the Times itself is misleading and tendentious in insisting so: "The 87,000 figure refers to a May 2021 estimate from the Treasury Department of the total number of employees — not just auditors — the I.R.S. proposes to hire over the next 10 years with funding requested by Mr. Biden. And while the I.R.S. plans to conduct more audits, wealthy Americans and businesses will bear the brunt of that scrutiny, not, as Republicans have suggested, working families." As if there is no overlap between the categories of "wealthy Americans and businesses" and "working families"?

If the New York Times is so worried that its left-leaning readership might deviate from the party line that it's publishing this sort of material at the last minute, the Republican wave expected tomorrow may turn out to be a genuine tsunami.


British Defense Lawyers Strike

October 12, 2022 at 8:22 am

A New York Times dispatch from London about the end of a five-week strike by criminal defense lawyers manages to go on for 18 paragraphs without saying how much money the lawyers make. We read that the government's offer "raises legal aid payments by 15 percent" and "fell short of the lawyers' demand for a 25 percent raise in legal aid fees." We hear that "some lawyers say criminal defense work remains financially tenuous, leading many barristers to quit for more lucrative practices in commercial or family law." But the percents alone aren't much use without numbers about the base.

The Financial Times does a little better, reporting that the barristers "are self-employed and ... can earn as little as £12,200 in their first three years of work."

Is it too much for a reader to ask that newspaper coverage of a pay dispute include information about the average salary, or the full range of compensation, from minimum to maximum, of the employees negotiating for increased pay? Apparently so. It'd be nice to see editors and reporters to press harder to include such information. Without it, it's difficult for a reader to draw informed conclusions.


Two Buck Chuck Too Hard to Find For Times Wine Columnist

September 28, 2022 at 8:17 am

A wine column in the New York Times, pegged to the death of Fred Franzia, is headlined "Two-Buck Chuck: Wine of the People or a Cultural Wedge?" The article assesses the Charles Shaw wines sold by Trader Joe's. Wine columnist Eric Asimov writes, "I remember the wine as uninteresting, but I last drank it more than a decade ago. I wanted to try it again, but the line of Charles Shaw wines, which includes numerous variations beyond the original red blend, is sold only at Trader Joe's. The sole Trader Joe's wine shop in New York shut down last month, so I was out of luck."

This is unbelievably lame coming from what purports to be a global news organization, and from a wine columnist who regularly visits Europe. Is it too much work for Asimov to travel to the Trader Joe's in Westfield, New Jersey, to pick up a bottle? Or would it be too difficult for one of the New York Times' many domestic news bureaus to ask a clerk to go fetch a bottle and deliver it to Asimov?

A similarly unindustrious approach applies to the column's assessment of the winemaker's labor practices. Asimov writes, "How were the grapes farmed, and who provided the labor? What steps were taken at the winemaking facility to ensure some semblance of consistency, since the sources of the wine changed year to year? We can only guess."

Times commenters online said that this was a cop-out. One commenter wrote, "this story isn't up to NYT standards. If there are questions posed about worker treatment, back them up with some decent investigative journalism." Another commented, "I can't believe this made it past an editor."


Two on Yeshivas

September 19, 2022 at 9:27 pm

The Algemeiner has published a couple of columns I wrote about the New York Times coverage of the Jewish day schools known as yeshivas. If you are interested in that topic, please check them out:

Long-Hyped New York Times Investigation of Hasidic Yeshivas Fizzles

New York Times Ups Attack on Hasidic Jews, Publishing Editorial Riddled With Contradictions and Contempt


Times Advises Alcohol as Salve for Sept. 11 Grief, Anxiety

August 8, 2022 at 7:30 am

Today's New York Times features an advice column by a flight attendant responding to reader queries. To the question "I'm terrified to fly since I lost friends on the planes of Sept. 11. Turbulence and the sketchy behavior of other passengers doesn't help. What would you suggest to calm my nerves?" the Times publishes a response that concludes, "A glass of wine may help, too, to help you relax and enjoy the flight."

No suggestion that the reader consult a mental health professional for help with the anxiety issues. Why bother when you can self-medicate with a drink?

It's possible the advice will be harmless for a portion of people, but for plenty of other people, drinking in response to anxiety can make the problem worse and lead to alcoholism. Basically, it's bad advice, and some editor at the Times should have caught it and cut it.


Why It's So Hard to Find an "Affordable" Apartment in New York

August 2, 2022 at 9:14 pm

Under the headline "Why It's So Hard to Find an Affordable Apartment in New York," the New York Times mainly lays the blame on, of all people, Mayor Bloomberg. "Between 2003 and 2007, the Bloomberg administration rezoned nearly one-fifth of the city, according to a 2010 study by the New York University Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy. But nearly 90 percent of the lots analyzed in the study had their capacity reduced or only modestly increased," the Times writes. Strangely, the Times doesn't say what happened to the other ten percent of the lots, or break down, in the 90 percent, what portion had their capacity reduced and what portion had their capacity increased. Nor does the Times much grapple with the problem that it could also be hard to find an "affordable" apartment in New York even back in the 2003 to 2007 period, before the Bloomberg-era rezoning on which the Times blames the problem.

Not mentioned at all in the Times article: the effects of landmark historic districts that freeze vast portions of the city in place, obstructing dynamism and making new construction difficult. Also not mentioned at all in the Times article: rent control and stabilization laws that for years deterred landlords from improving properties and gave tenants no reason to downsize their space even when their family size decreased. Those rent stabilization laws favored existing longtime tenants over new arrivals to the city.

Also not mentioned—the effects of wealthy people living in unfree countries with weak property rights and corrupt legal systems, like Russia and China—buying New York apartments to get some of their assets outside the reach of the dictatorships. Or the dictators themselves using New York real estate to shelter their ill-gotten gains.

What could have been a good opportunity for the Times to explain to readers the concepts of supply, demand, government regulation, freedom, property rights, and the rule of law instead came out as a clumsy attack on Mayor Bloomberg. How many years after his mayoralty ended will the Times still be blaming him for New York's problems?

And let it be remembered, too, that while costly apartments are a problem for New York newcomers, the alternative—New York housing prices plummeting—is not exactly a sign of the city's health, either. If you are a New York homeowner or landlord, increasing housing costs are good for you, and a sign that the city's economy is booming enough that people want to be there. That's not all bad, by any means.


Berkshire's Owner

July 28, 2022 at 8:20 am

An article in the business section of the New York Times about a settlement with the Justice Department by a unit of Berkshire Hathaway includes this paragraph: "Reached by phone, Debbie Bosanek, assistant to Warren E. Buffett, Berkshire's owner, said: 'There's no one here available for interviews.'"

Buffett is the CEO and Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and a significant shareholder. But Berkshire is a publicly traded company, so it overstates it past the point of inaccuracy for the Times to write it they way they did. It's worth correcting: "CEO and chairman is Warren Bufett's title at Berkshire Hathaway, which is a publicly traded company in which Buffett is a significant shareholder. A business section article incorrectly characterized him as the 'owner.'"


A Democratic Dan Quayle

July 12, 2022 at 8:56 am

In a Bret Stephens-Gail Collins "The Conversation" column, discussing possible Democratic alternatives to Joe Biden in 2024, comes this passage:

Gail:...Along with the rest of the world, I don't think there's much to be said for Kamala Harris. You?

Bret: She's ... a Democratic version of Dan Quayle. I'm also not too keen on California's Gavin Newsom...

From the "I'm also not too keen on," I gather that Stephens considers "a Democratic version of Dan Quayle" to be somehow disparaging. But "a Democratic version of Dan Quayle" could also be read as, well, as the promotional copy for the 1992 book by David Broder and Bob Woodward put it, "possesses much more savvy than his many detractors are willing to admit."

I'm not a Kamala Harris fan either, but Quayle was underestimated. He gave Mike Pence some good advice during the crisis at the end of the Trump administration, and he's always been solid, a leader even, on the missile defense issue. He had good staff in Bill Kristol. Quayle deserves better treatment than this cheap shot!


Follow the News Without Spiraling into Despair

July 11, 2022 at 9:02 am

"How to Follow the News Without Spiraling into Despair" is the headline over a New York Times article advising readers that following the news "can become overwhelming" and that "it's understandable to feel sad, angry and anxious."

It's the timing of these sorts of articles that is always a giveaway of what Times editors are thinking (or of what they think their readers are thinking). With the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, reinforcing the right to bear arms, and issuing a couple of rulings protecting the free exercise of religion, and with polls and projections showing Republicans poised to take control of at least the House of Representatives in November's election, at least some conservatives are not "sad" or in "despair," but happy.

The Times never runs these "how to follow the news without spiraling into despair" sort of articles after Democrats take over Congress or the White House, or after the Supreme Court upholds ObamaCare, or after developments that make the left happy. It's yet another example of how the New York Times has shifted away from being a paper that simply tells readers the news and is instead taking on a new role, of heavy-handedly instructing readers on what they are supposed to think, or how they are should react, emotionally, to the news.


"Good News"

July 10, 2022 at 6:30 am

A news article linked from the NYTimes.com home page carries the headline: "Some Surprising Good News: Bookstores Are Booming and Becoming More Diverse."

The diversity the Times is talking about is racial diversity ("many of the new stores that opened during the pandemic are run by nonwhite booksellers"), not ideological or viewpoint diversity, which could partly explain why the Times drops the convention of journalistic neutrality and opens the headline with instructing readers that this is "Good News." On other topics the Times mostly at least attempts to pretend simply to deliver the news and defer to the readers to decide for themselves whether the news is good or bad. We don't see, for example, "Some Surprising Bad News: A Mass Shooting at a July 4 Parade."

It's hard to know for sure precisely what accounts for the Times labeling this article explicitly as "Good News." Maybe the Times headline writers don't actually trust the newspaper's own readers to agree that increased racial diversity in bookstore ownership and management is good news, and the headline writers think the readers need to be heavy-handedly told that it is? Or maybe there are internal career-advancement incentives at the Times that reward newsroom employees for signaling that they are on board with the racial-diversity-is-super-important-but-viewpoint-and-religious-diversity-doesn't-matter point of view?

Either way, headlines like this one are not "good news" for those paying Times readers who wish the newspaper would play it straight with the facts rather than bossing readers around about how they are supposed to react.

To be clear, I oppose racial discrimination. But one possibility left unexplored by the Times article is that the rise in racial diversity among independent booksellers is a sign that white people don't think there's much money to be made there. The lead example in the Times article is of someone who raised money via GoFundMe and "a neighborhood grant." It's not exactly venture capital saying, I've got a great idea to earn huge returns on investment by competing with Amazon.com. Is it really "good news" that now that independent retail bookselling isn't really a hugely profitable business anymore, it's attracting more minority businesspeople? By labeling the story as "good news," the Times precludes the consideration of alternative storylines that might be more complicated and nuanced. Not every piece of news fits so neatly into a "good news" or "bad news" box, which is why it's usually a bad idea for headline writers to pigeonhole complicated realities with "good" or "bad" labels.


U.S. Rule Risks Battery Supply Chain

June 21, 2022 at 5:49 am

"U.S. Rule Risks Disrupting Global Battery Supply" is the front-page print headline over a Times news article. It's a strange headline, as what's really risking disruption to the global battery supply isn't the "U.S. Rule" but the Chinese genocide. The print headline treats Chinese behavior as immutable and U.S. policy as malleable. The online Times headline, "Red Flags for Forced Labor Found in China's Car Battery Supply Chain," is better. When there's that big a divergence between the print and online headlines, it's generally an indicator that one or the other is poorly crafted.

The flaws with the Times approach here go beyond the headline, though. The word "genocide" doesn't appear in the long Times article, even though both the Trump and Biden administrations have described what is happening in Xinjiang as a genocide that is "ongoing." There is a Times sentence that reports, "Files from police servers in Xinjiang published by the BBC last month described a shoot-to-kill policy for those trying to escape from internment camps, as well as mandatory blindfolds and shackles for "students" being transferred between facilities." Actually, the Xinjiang Police Files were published by the BBC and by other news organizations but were released by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, which has been doing terrific work. You'd think maybe the Times would find the contents of the files newsworthy outside of the potential effects on the battery supply chain, but apparently not.

There's a he-said, she-said aspect to the Times article that is troubling. "Chinese authorities say that all employment is voluntary, and that work transfers help free rural families from poverty by giving them steady wages, skills and Chinese-language training....It is difficult to ascertain the level of coercion any individual worker has faced given the limited access to Xinjiang for journalists and research firms."

Who is limiting the access to Xinjiang for journalists, and by what means? The Times doesn't level with its readers precisely what the Chinese authorities would do to a reporter who set out for Xinjiang and tried to conduct interviews freely, or to people who spoke with such a reporter. If the newspaper did explain to readers what the Chinese reaction to such reporting would be, the reality of the "level of coercion" would be quite readily ascertainable. The Chinese communist coercion applies to foreign journalists and editors as surely as it does to Xinjiang battery workers.


New York Congressional Primary

June 19, 2022 at 9:18 am

Toward the end of a front-page Sunday Times news article about a Democratic congressional primary in New York City that has attracted 15 candidates, including Liz Holtzman, Mayor de Blasio, and Daniel Goldman, comes an extended discussion of how the timing of the election might affect the outcome:

It is also difficult to gauge how many voters will be in the district in late August, when the city gets torrid and all those who can, leave town. Matthew Rey, a prominent Democratic consultant who is unaffiliated with any of the campaigns, estimated voter turnout could be between just 70,000 and 90,000 in a district of 776,000 residents....

Given the overcrowded field and the late summer election date, the race is hard to pin down.

Last week, after dropping off his two children at school in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, Nicholas McDermott said he would absolutely consider voting for Mr. de Blasio.

"I think it's great to have someone with experience who's from the area," Mr. McDermott said.

He was less certain if he would be around in August to vote.

"That's a good question," he said.

This is strange. The Times is constantly telling us that in Republican-run states, rules requiring voters to actually be present to vote in person on election day are "repressive," "restrictive," and even "racially discriminatory." Yet here in a Democratic primary in a state where the legislature and the governor's office are controlled by Democrats, the fact that someone might be in the Catskills or the Hamptons or at the Jersey Shore is supposed to be an insuperable obstacle to voting? Is not a mail-in ballot, an absentee ballot, or early in-person voting available? The Times seems to just take it for granted that if you aren't in the city on the primary election day, you can't vote. Some questioning of this assumption, challenging it, or at least explaining it would seem to be in order. Otherwise it looks like a double standard, where Republicans who narrow the electorate are accused of racism, but New York Democrats who do it are given a free pass.



April 24, 2022 at 9:20 am

From an article in a special Sunday design section, about a family that moved to Vermont from Los Angeles:

After looting broke out near Mr. Costey's Santa Monica studio in May 2020, he rushed to save his most valuable equipment by loading it into his car. It was around that time that living in the city "just kind of stopped being fun," he said. "We were, like, 'What are we doing here?'"

That's interesting that there was looting in Santa Monica, California in May 2020. The New York Times didn't pay much attention to it at the time, describing instead "peaceful protests" over the death of George Floyd. I searched the archives and did find a Times "California Today" newsletter dated June 1, 2020 that did say "Many of the demonstrations started peacefully and became violent, with widespread looting" and that "while many peacefully marched in Santa Monica and Long Beach, looters ransacked department stores and smashed windows."

What's mildly funny I guess is that if you are a Times-reliant reader who doesn't get the California Today newsletter, you've got to find out about the looting by reading a design section article two years later about the redecorated Vermont house house of a family that moved, instead of reading a hard-news article about the looting when it happened. Even now the Times reporting on the looting is frustratingly vague. It "broke out," like a rash on a teenager's face. Who did the looting and why? What was happening in May 2020 that might have resulted in looting? The Times can't bring itself to say. But one wonders how many other families reacted to the looting and violence that accompanied the Black Lives Matter protests by deciding to move elsewhere.


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