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Dwight Garner Versus the 1980s

June 19, 2017 at 8:45 am

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New York Times book critic Dwight Garner begins a review of a book that came out in 1984 by writing, "The 1980s, that otherwise deplorable decade, was a fertile era for satire."

It's a deplorable way to start a review, for a variety of reasons. Mr. Garner doesn't say what he found deplorable about the 1980s. Was it the economic growth? The tax cuts that allowed Americans to keep more of their own money? The Berlin Wall's fall, a Cold War victory that allowed millions to escape the misery of Soviet Communism? The stock market rally?

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Son of Communists Burns Money

June 11, 2017 at 7:16 pm

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Under the headline, "Oskar Eustis: The First Time I Burned Money (and Found My Calling)," the Times arts section features a first-person piece by Mr. Eustis, who "has been the artistic director of the Public Theater since 2005." Highlights:

I was born in 1958 and came of age in the '70s. I was raised in Minnesota by progressive Democrats (on my father and stepmother's side) and deeply committed Communists (my mother and stepfather).... After my parents' divorce, my mother married a second-generation Communist. She then converted and remained a passionate and committed party member until her death in 2014. ...

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Ponzi Scheme

June 8, 2017 at 3:07 pm

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The New York Times business section publishes an interview with Jenna Wortham, a staff writer for the New York Times magazine. It's not clear who conducted the interview; the byline on the article is "By Jenna Wortham," which makes it sound like she interviewed herself. Here is a passage from the interview:

What are your thoughts on Juicero, the $400 Silicon Valley system for squeezing juice that raised bucketloads of venture money but has faced questions over its effectiveness?

It's up there with the greatest Ponzi schemes of our lifetime....

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Drug Deaths Climb

June 7, 2017 at 9:23 am

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"U.S Drug Deaths Climbing Faster Than Ever," is the headline over a New York Times front-page news article.

Why is this happening now? The Times article mentions a state lawsuit accusing "five drug companies of abetting the opioid epidemic." But there's no explanation offered at all for why drug companies today would be more rapacious than they were, say, five or ten or 15 years ago.

The Times leaves causes other than "drug companies" completely unexplored. Could the wave of state- and local- level marijuana legalization and decriminalization campaigns have played any part? The Times doesn't get into the question. Could it have anything to do with the fact that we had a president, in Bill Clinton, who owned up to drug use, and another, in Barack Obama, who wrote about using cocaine? Again, the Times doesn't get into it. It all seems like a fine topic for additional Times reporting.


Red Century

June 7, 2017 at 9:07 am

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The Times is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution with a series of op-eds under the rubric "Red Century." It's hard to articulate precisely how tone-deaf this is; imagine marking the 100th anniversary of Hitler's rise with a series of elegiac articles headlined "Brown Century." For a flavor, check out this piece headlined "The Unexpected Afterlife of American Communism":

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Garner's Disclosure

June 7, 2017 at 8:51 am

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New York Times book critic Dwight Garner, reviewing a novel, writes:

It is impossible to read anything in 2017, or write anything, without thinking of America's political and moral predicament. It's tendentious to mention it in every review, but I am thinking about it while writing every line of every review.

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Fake Fir

June 4, 2017 at 5:55 am

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Times art critic Holland Cotter has a long piece about Henry David Thoreau, about whom a new exhibit has opened at the Morgan Library and Museum. The article begins:

When my father was in high school he worked summers as a lifeguard at Walden Pond. As a kid, I used to hang out there, bird-watching, reading from a slender volume of Henry David Thoreau's journal and soaking up Transcendentalist vibes from the big glacial bowl of clear water ringed with firs and footpaths.

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Hedge Fund Pay

May 16, 2017 at 11:30 am

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Bloomberg's Matt Levine does a fine job of explaining why the New York Times news article about hedge fund manager pay is totally inaccurate. Mr. Levine writes:

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Bret Stephens Anonymouse

May 15, 2017 at 8:27 am

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Saturday's Times column by Bret Stephens, about President Trump, the FBI, and Russia, carries this passage:

On Friday, I asked an astute source with long experience in the intelligence community if he suspects a smoking gun.

"I would guess there is something on paper or derived through witness questioning that has given the bureau an opening, assuming that Trump's actions are in response to growing concern about the Russian probe," he replied, while adding the caveat, "Since we're talking about Trump, a rampantly insecure ego, such an assumption isn't mandatory."

On March 15, 2016, Times editors Dean Baquet, Matt Purdy, and Phil Corbett issued "new guidelines on anonymous sourcing."

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Dior in the Desert

May 15, 2017 at 8:10 am

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Under the headline "Dior in the Desert," the New York Times wrote about a Christian Dior fashion show in the mountains near Los Angeles:

So what does it say that Dior unveiled the first cruise collection by its artistic director, Maria Grazia Chiuri, in the desert? To be specific: in the Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve in the Santa Monica Mountains in California, where it was the first brand to ever have a show?

Possibly not what Dior intended.

To many, after all, the idea of wandering in the desert — even catwalking in the desert, for that matter — is inextricably entwined with the idea of expulsion: being forced away from one's home and left to fend for oneself until a new sanctuary is found (see: Exodus).

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Three Hypocrisies, One Day

May 12, 2017 at 1:27 pm

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Even for a newspaper where hypocrisy is routine, the Friday, May 12, 2017, number of the New York Times is really something else, and it's a wonder that the paper's management was able to issue the thing without blushing. Consider:

The Times, which on May 9 issued a front-page geshrei about how "13 Men, and No Women, Are Writing New G.O.P. Health Care Bill in Senate," published a front page with nine bylined stories. The names on them were Michael, Peter, Michael, David, Michael, William, Peter, Adam, and Matthew. Not only are they all male, there doesn't appear to be a person of color among them. Donald Trump's cabinet is more diverse than the New York Times front-page bylines today, at least to judge by the race and gender categories that the Times is so fond of applying to everyone else.

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New York Times Claims American Flag Is 'Provocative'

May 11, 2017 at 8:19 am

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A New York Times "Memo From Turkey" — actually the memo is datelined Turkey, but is written by two Times reporters — reports on American foreign and military policy toward the Kurds and how Turkey is reacting to it. It includes this passage:

After at least a dozen Turkish attacks on the Syrian Kurdish militants last month, the United States took emphatic steps to prevent further clashes, by moving troops to the border in Humvees as a buffer between Turks and Syrian Kurds.

They even flew American flags, a symbolic and provocative move usually avoided in Middle Eastern interventions.

The Times doesn't explain what is "provocative" about flying an American flag. That may be obvious "From Turkey," but it is less than obvious to this America-based reader, who sees foreign flags flown regularly without being provoked by them.

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Principle and Principal

May 10, 2017 at 9:53 am

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From the final paragraph of a New York Times article about the television series Baywatch, now a movie:

To hear it from Mr. Berk, though, that additional pressure resulted in "incredible energy" on set that only enhanced the finished film. "Because of the luck and karma of 'Baywatch,' every failure and every creative gamble has led to greater benefits," he said. "It's a Buddhist principal: turning poison into medicine."

The word the Times wants in that spot is not "principal" but "principle." It's a subtle difference, but it's the kind of distinction that readers (at least this reader) hope and expect the Times copy desk to enforce. This is the story of stuff I learned in 8th, 9th, and 10th grade English. It's the sort of thing that you'd want professional users of the English language at a newspaper that purports to be the world's best to get right consistently and without fail.


Thomas Keller, John T. Edge

May 10, 2017 at 9:30 am

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For the second week in a row, the food section of the New York Times has featured a prominently placed article about a white man devoted to extensive complaining about his supposed failings when it comes to race or gender progress.

Each article was by the same reporter, Kim Severson.

Last week the target was Thomas Keller, the chef known for his French Laundry and Per Se restaurants. Wrote the Times:

In an era when authenticity, cultural appropriation and gender and racial imbalance in the kitchen are on the minds of many cooks and diners, Mr. Keller's style of dining and the largely white, male crew of young chefs he mentors are inviting targets.

Preeti Mistry, 40, a classically trained chef with a modified Mohawk who cooks elevated Indian street food at her Juhu Beach Club in Oakland, Calif., and her new spot, Navi Kitchen in nearby Emeryville, was in culinary school when she discovered Mr. Keller's "French Laundry Cookbook." It had become an instant professional and spiritual guide for cooks of her generation.

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We Get It

April 28, 2017 at 9:00 am

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Yesterday's five column, top of the front-page New York Times headline: "Tax Overhaul Would Aid Wealthiest."

Today's, also top of the front-page: "Trump's Plan Shifts Trillions To Wealthiest."

What are the chances they go for the same headline again at the top of tomorrow's front page? To me, it's starting to seem redundant, but I guess that is their story and they are sticking with it.


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