Archive for January, 2014

Friday Night Music

Posted on January 31st, 2014 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Trent Reznor at the Grammys.

This guy is so damn good….

It’s Fun to Laugh at the South

Posted on January 31st, 2014 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

So…go ahead. Because otherwise you have to cry.

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Court to Glass: No Lawyer for You

Posted on January 30th, 2014 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

The California supreme court has ruled that the state bar association has the right to deny former journalist Stephen Glass admission.

This should bring to an end a long and slightly ridiculous journey that began almost twenty years ago, when Stephen, whom I knew at the time (though not as well as I thought I did), began writing and fabricating articles for various magazines, including the one I worked at, George.

Glass’ argument was that he had reformed and was now both repentant and honest; the court wasn’t buying it.

“Our review of the record indicates hypocrisy and evasiveness in Glass’ testimony at the California State Bar hearing,” the court’s opinion stated. “We find it particularly disturbing that at the hearing Glass persisted in claiming that he had made a good faith effort to work with the magazines that published his works. He went through many verbal twists and turns at the hearing to avoid acknowledging the obvious fact that in his New York bar application he exaggerated his level of assistance to the magazines that published his fabrications.

I don’t take any joy in this decision, but I do think it’s the right one; I never felt that Glass fully came clean or fully addressed what he had done. And I thought that what he had done was damaging to journalism, but was really damaging to minority groups, mostly African-Americans, whom he caricatured and stereotyped in unflattering ways in his work.

I’ve spoken on this subject a couple of times, both to the media and for the legal inquiry, and so I’m quoted in the CNN article and the court’s ruling. (Which is, by the way, fascinating reading; although writers are not always very good lawyers, lawyers can sometimes be very good writers.)

Chuck Lane, Glass’ former editor at The New Republic, is also quoted.

Sad to me, though, is that none of the editors at the other magazines Glass worked for would talk about the matter. Harper’s, which published one of Glass’ most damaging frauds, about gullible black people who believe in phone psychics—seriously—has still never admitted that the article is a fake—even though Glass himself finally did so in this court case. The article is behind a paywall, but you can still find it at Harper’s.com.

Unimpressive.

It’s too easy to blame only Glass for the frauds that he committed; in my view, the folks who edited and published them, including me, owe their readers an honest evaluation of how and why they got taken in. I’ve tried to do that—in public. So has Chuck Lane. Others, not so much. Stephen Glass isn’t the only journalist at fault here.

Paul Krugman Goes to the Bowery Ballroom?

Posted on January 25th, 2014 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

I think my head would explode if I found myself pushed up against a Nobel Prize-winning economist at a rock club. But I suppose…why not?

Larry Summers: “Don’t Embarrass Yourself By Arguing with Me”

Posted on January 24th, 2014 in Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

Here’s a great catch from Jacob Weisberg at Davos.

In discussion with English Chancellor George Osborne, Larry Summers said, “You blew it on stimulating the UK recovery. Don’t embarrass yourself by arguing with me about it.”

Or, as the BBC put it, “There was some disagreement during the session with former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers….”

Now that he’s not up for Fed chair, is the contentious, impolitic, arrogant Larry Summers of old reemerging? Let’s hope so. He’s much more fun that way.

Update: Thanks to the commenters who pointed out that Weisberg subsequently tweeted that the tweet above was a “facetious” characterization of Summers’ words. I’m disappointed, but also a little irritated; there’s absolutely nothing in that tweet that suggests it’s not a quote. (For one thing, it’s in quotation marks.) In any event, I’m glad to correct the record.

Do People Still Read? (Books, That Is)

Posted on January 24th, 2014 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

The Times’ Charles Blow has a nice column about reading books…which is apparently a fading pastime: Since 1978, the number of Americans who didn’t read a book in the past year has nearly tripled.

Among American adults, women were more likely to have read at least one book in the last 12 months than men. Blacks were more likely to have read a book than whites or Hispanics. People aged 18-29 were more likely to have read a book than those in any other age group. And there was little difference in readership among urban, suburban and rural population.

It’s not hard to understand why—the competition for our spare time has grown so fierce—but of course one wonders how this affects people’s ability to think and to learn.

Caroline Kennedy Sticks Up for Dolphins

Posted on January 21st, 2014 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

The U.S. ambassador to Japan just tweeted in protest of “drive hunt” dolphin killing, in which dolphins are rounded up by Japanese men in boats pounding sticks against the water, which disorients the animals. And then they are slaughtered for lunch food for schoolchildren. It is truly barbaric.

According to the Times, Kennedy tweeted, “Deeply concerned by inhumaneness of drive hunt dolphin killing. USG opposes drive hunt fisheries”….

The response from Japan’s chief cabinet secretary: “Dolphin fishing is a form of traditional fishing in our country.”

That settles it, then.

This mindless assertion of tradition really is the weakest of arguments. “Slavery is a tradition here in this country…” Clearly, not all traditions are good ones.

Dirty Money in Politics

Posted on January 16th, 2014 in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

I flew down to Florida for work yesterday, and on the flight read a New York Times article about how the Koch brothers were funding anti-Obamacare, anti-Obama advertisements through front groups across the country.

Democrats are increasingly anxious about an onslaught of television ads hitting vulnerable Senate and House candidates for their support of the new health law, since many lack the resources to fight back in the early stages of the midterm campaign.

In Florida, where your radio choices tend to alternate between Christian radio, top 40, Latin and sports radio (“I would fire him in two seconds”), I turned on the TV last night and saw one of these ads.

In it, a Latina-looking woman who claims to be a doctor (she is; a radiologist) talked about how she was so worried about the impact of Obamacare, how her patients kept asking her if she was going to give up medicine and she just didn’t have an answer for them. (In other words: “No.”)

The ad then flashed an unflattering picture of a Democratic congressman who had voted for Obamacare and asked viewers to reach out to the congressman and ask him why, why he had done this to them.

It was paid for by a group called The Libre, which of course is Spanish for “the free.”

I looked up The Libre, and it’s pretty much what you’d expect. It describes itself as “a 501(c)4 non-partisan, non-profit grassroots organization that advances the principles and values of economic freedom to empower the U.S. Hispanic community.”

You know that at least two of those descriptions are untrue: It’s not non-partisan and it’s clearly not grass-roots. Its executive director, Daniel Garza, has a history of working in Republican politics. But I seriously doubt that the people who really run it are even Latino.

One of its cover “stories” is headlined, “The Painful Impact of Obamacare on Hispanics.”

The site contains a Twitter feed carrying tweets about The Libre, and the Tweeters don’t even pretend that the group is non-partisan. One says,

Impressed with the efforts of the @LibreInitiative, they are doing a great job of outreach on the Right.

And another says:

Program for tonight’s event with @georgepbush…excited to speak about the work of @LIBREinitiative

And remember, these are the ones The Libre is retweeting.

I learned all this in about five minutes; how much could a reporter learn by taking a little longer? And how can such a group possibly have tax-free status?

The cynicism of this really is striking. Does Obamacare really hurt Latinos? (Or, as the GOP calls them, Hispanics.) I doubt it’ in fact, given that many Latinos in the country are low-wage workers at small businesses, it’s probably terrific for them.

But more important, this is the party the majority of whose members steadfastly oppose immigration reform, which is hugely popular among Latinos, trying to pass itself off as Latinos’ best friend.

It’s all pretty gross. And the worst part of it is that, according to the Times, it’s working.

I googled the ad and got this headline from an article on stupid Yahoo.

“Anti-Obama Ad Highlights Hispanic Dismay with the A.C.A.

Of course, it does no such thing; it highlights the Koch brothers’ hatred of the President.

Living in New York, a state with sometimes bizarre but generally more sophisticated politics, we don’t see a lot of this stuff. It’s pretty depressing.

Anyway, here’s the ad:

Dr. Christie, by the way, turns out to be the daughter of Cuban immigrants and an anti-abortion activist who writes op-ed pieces like “Liberal Definition of ‘Reproductive Freedom’ Endangers the Beautiful, Traditional Role of Women.” Not exactly a non-partisan medical voice.

It Was Like When the Berlin Wall Came Down

Posted on January 15th, 2014 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Or Armistice Day. Or when Osama bin Laden was killed.

Yale beat Harvard in hockey, 5-1, at a sold-out Madison Square Garden on Saturday.

And I was there…

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Take that, Harvard football, basketball and crew….

The Times’ New Website and the State of Newspapers

Posted on January 9th, 2014 in Uncategorized | 14 Comments »

Yesterday at my office two of my colleagues and I spent a few minutes discussing the new New York Times website. They like it; I don’t.

The argument my colleagues made was that the design is cleaner, less cluttered, airier. One of them (a woman) described it as “more feminine.”

I don’t know about that, but I do have this nagging feeling that there’s less information on it than there used to be, and that the website is moving away from being a reflection of the paper’s actual appearance and front page, and toward something intended to approximate “how people read online,” or some such notion. I myself think that we’re so early in the Internet age that no one can say for sure how people read online, and given that, it’s a shame to throw away something as beautiful as a front page.

Plus, I look at the home page today and see this: Four stories on the left that seem fairly serious—a piece on Chris Christie’s jerkiness, chaos in Iraq, a decision by the private equity firm Black Rock to stop trying to get insider information, and a terrorism disclosure by the government.

I guess those stories are supposed to be important—is that why they’re on the left-hand column—but I miss the placement on the front page metaphor that is intended to convey their importance. Is this new left-hand column now the “hard news” space?

And then, in the middle of the page, I’ve just got a lot of fluff. A piece on pop stars doing reality shows; something about the unstylishness of “tech attire”; a piece about MoMa’s planned expansion; and a book review. Is this the Thursday Style section, front and center?

The right hand column is just, well, dribs and drabs, basically. If there’s an organizing principle to it, it’s not obvious.

The Times has a link touting the virtues of its redesign; there are a couple things that seem useful, like the ability to enlarge a photo without leaving an article you’re reading. But on the whole, it doesn’t exactly make the case for fixing something that, to my mind, wasn’t broken.

And given that the paper is launching the redesign at the same time it’s launching its new and controversial “native advertising”—basically, advertorials written by “journalists” and dressed up to look like articles —it’s hard not to suspect that this redesign is not, as the Times says, “a redesigned web experience with you in mind,” but a redesigned web page with advertisers in mind.

Then again, my younger colleagues say that I just don’t like change, to which I will, occasionally, plead guilty. (In my defense, I embraced color photography when the Times introduced it to much outrage way back when.)

So maybe I will come to see the virtues of this redesign in the next weeks and months.

I don’t know, though—I loved that old concept of the front page translated online and thought it worked well. Is there a better invention than the front page?

And I don’t want a front page that reflects what some algorithm thinks I want to see. I want a front page that reflects the perspective of seasoned and thoughtful editors. I may disagree with it, but it’s more engaging than just having my own biases reflected back at me.

As you can tell, I’m conflicted—and curious: What do you think of the redesign?