January 15, 2018

Bias in media, Dan Frommer investigates

By the way, you and I agree on that. What do you think ... The point is ... Focusing this attention on them, it's negative. Do you think they think, "We're going to cycle through this?"

KS: Yes. Yes, I think they do think that. The most cynical of them know it. The others, they're such earnest ... You talk to them. "Oh, we feel bad." I'm sorry. My issue is, they are the richest and most powerful people in the world, and they're always acting like they're victims, and that's exhausting from a group of people that have an ability to actively change the world.

I was talking to, I think it was Susan Wojcicki, someone at YouTube, I think it was Susan. I had interviewed Reid Hoffman, who actually does answer questions, which is really refreshing, and in an honest way. We were at the ADL, which is the Anti-Defamation League, and I pulled up the Google search on ADL, and you got what you get., or whatever, the homepage. Here's some stories about ADL. Here's some issues recently about Charlottesville and ADL. It was all the ones you would expect to get.

When you went to YouTube and typed in ADL, you got alt-right, anti-Semitic videos, one after the next after the next, and it was astonishing that that was what you got. About 20, you got an interview with John Greenblatt, who's the head of it, No. 20 on the search. I think I wrote Susan a note that said, "Hey, you have this company called Google that owns you that seems to be doing a pretty good job on search, why is YouTube search so bad? Why are we getting this vile stream of horror from YouTube, when you're owned by the company who does search very well in regular circumstances?"

January 12, 2018

Facebook fights (some) information

Facebook has publicly acknowledged that its platform has been exploited by governments seeking to manipulate public opinion in other countries - including during the presidential elections in the US and France - and pledged to clamp down on such "information operations".

Facebook urged to step up fake news fight before UK election

In a white paper authored by the company's security team and published on Thursday, the company detailed well-funded and subtle techniques used by nations and other organizations to spread misleading information and falsehoods for geopolitical goals. These efforts go well beyond "fake news", the company said, and include content seeding, targeted data collection and fake accounts that are used to amplify one particular view, sow distrust in political institutions and spread confusion.

"We have had to expand our security focus from traditional abusive behavior, such as account hacking, malware, spam and financial scams, to include more subtle and insidious forms of misuse, including attempts to manipulate civic discourse and deceive people," said the company.

In its effort to clamp down on information operations, Facebook suspended 30,000 accounts in France before the presidential election. The company said it was a priority to remove suspect accounts with high volumes of posting activity and the biggest audiences.

Continue reading "Facebook fights (some) information " »

January 6, 2018

Free speech absolutists needed for Milo ?

Why do free speech absolutists scurry out of the woodwork to defend Milo Yiannopoulos, Richard Spencer, and Ann Coulter, but not Linda Sarsour, George Ciccariello-Maher, or Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor?

Have we made up our mind on whose "opposing views" are okay for college students to hear ?

-- Joshua Adams is a writer, journalist, and adjunct instructor at DePaul University. He holds a B.A. in African American Studies from the University of Virginia and a Journalism M.A. from the University of Southern California.

Continue reading "Free speech absolutists needed for Milo ?" »

January 3, 2018

Onward white evangelical Protestants

Self-identified, self-reported, but doubted:

Indeed it's hard to know who we do feel pity toward, except ourselves -- for we believe that we are the real victims in today's world. Those among us who are evangelical Christians are especially paranoid: While Americans overall are twice as likely to say there is more discrimination against Muslims than against Christians, the numbers are almost reversed for white evangelical Protestants.
And apparently things are getting worse: the percentage of evangelicals who said that religious freedom in the U.S. declined over the past decade rose from 60 percent in 2012 to 77 percent in 2015.

-- Charles Mathewes is a professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia, and a senior fellow at UVA's Miller Center.

December 7, 2017

Facebook's feed is run by Facebook

Facebook had made a small but devastating change. Posts made by "pages" -- including those of organizations like mine -- had been removed from the regular News Feed, the default screen users see when they log on to the social media site. They were now segregated into a separate section called Explore Feed that users have to select before they can see our stories. (Unsurprisingly, this didn't apply to paid posts.)

It wasn't just in Serbia that Facebook decided to try this experiment with keeping pages off the News Feed. Other small countries that seldom appear in Western headlines -- Guatemala, Slovakia, Bolivia and Cambodia -- were also chosen by Facebook for the trial.

-- Hey, Mark Zuckerberg: My Democracy Isn't Your Laboratory. Stevan Dojcinovic (@stevanoccrp) editor in chief of KRIK.

December 4, 2017

What living on $100,000 a year looks like

NPR on what what living on $100,000 a year looks like: more struggle than comfortable middle class.

Continue reading "What living on $100,000 a year looks like" »

October 22, 2017

GoogleBro James Damore, via Joe Rogan

1 - "No, you're wrong. You just have white male privilege."

2 - "People feel that they have to walk on eggshells otherwise they'll get reported to HR by some random activist within the company."

3 - "There's some underground efforts within Google to at least document some of this."
"...and they even have these automated scripts to try to find these negative things on people that they don't like."

4 - "We're going to sabotage their work."

5 - "Now they are trying to get into de-biased machine learning."

-- Via Joe Rogan.

Continue reading "GoogleBro James Damore, via Joe Rogan" »

October 16, 2017

Facebook, Google, and Twitter function as a distribution mechanism, a platform for circulating false information and helping find receptive audiences,

The psychology behind social media platforms -- the dynamics that make them such powerful vectors of misinformation in the first place -- is at least as important, experts say, especially for those who think they're immune to being duped. For all the suspicions about social media companies' motives and ethics, it is the interaction of the technology with our common, often subconscious psychological biases that makes so many of us vulnerable to misinformation, and this has largely escaped notice.

Skepticism of online "news" serves as a decent filter much of the time, but our innate biases allow it to be bypassed, researchers have found -- especially when presented with the right kind of algorithmically selected "meme."

At a time when political misinformation is in ready supply, and in demand, "Facebook, Google, and Twitter function as a distribution mechanism, a platform for circulating false information and helping find receptive audiences," said Brendan Nyhan, a professor of government at Dartmouth College (and occasional contributor to The Times's Upshot column).

Authors Eytan Bakshy, Solomon Messing, Lada A. Adamic (Exposure to ideologically diverse
news and opinion on Facebook)
analyzed the news feeds of some 10 million users in the United States who posted their political views, and concluded that "individuals' choices played a stronger role in limiting exposure" to contrary news and commentary than Facebook's own algorithmic ranking -- which gauges how interesting stories are likely to be to individual users, based on data they have provided.

Continue reading "Facebook, Google, and Twitter function as a distribution mechanism, a platform for circulating false information and helping find receptive audiences," »

July 16, 2017

Chick flick ? Men give better ratings to TV shows watched by men.

Men give better ratings to TV shows watched by men.
Men give worse ratings to TV shows watched by women.

Women give better ratings to TV shows watched by women.
Women give worse ratings to TV shows watched by women.

The trend in men's ratings is stronger; and men give more "1" worst ratings (on a 1 to 10 scale) than women.


Via Walt Hickey, 538.

July 8, 2017

Looking back at sportals and spamalism

search terms offer insight into both our fears ("how bad is caffeine during pregnancy") and desires ("bronies"). And thanks to thousands of poorly paid freelance writers looking to pick up some extra cash or toiling for wages, the results we're served in these vulnerable moments are often hastily scribbled, poorly written, ungrammatical filler text. This old world relic represents a time when getting to the top of Google rankings wasn't dependent on the quality of information you supplied but how many people linked to your site.

Content mills make product to fill a page
, creating the impression that something is there. It's the marshmallow fluff of content.

The differentiator is that although things move quickly in online journalism, writers (freelancers included) are given enough pay to ensure they research the story. They read academic literature; they consider their topic. The legitimacy of a news outlet allows them to call up anyone in the world and pick their brains for a half-hour. Then and only then, once a writer has the best knowledge possible, do they begin clattering fingers against keyboards.

At $2 for 300 words, you're not afforded that luxury. You can't talk to a quack doctor, never mind the person with the most knowledge in the room. In order to make the sheer volume of work you're expected to produce economical, you simply have to write. A quick glance at Wikipedia might work, but nothing more. (In fact, most writers at such content mills would probably just rather copy and paste Wikipedia content, which is why sites like MyAMS have built-in word matching software to prevent you from doing so.)

Continue reading "Looking back at sportals and spamalism" »

June 23, 2017

Fake News includes bad reporting, slanted journalism and outright propaganda includes bad reporting, slanted journalism and outright propaganda

"Fake news was a term specifically about people who purposely fabricated stories for clicks and revenue," said David Mikkelson, the founder of Snopes, the myth-busting website. "Now it includes bad reporting, slanted journalism and outright propaganda. And I think we're doing a disservice to lump all those things together."

The right's labeling of "fake news" evokes one of the most successful efforts by conservatives to reorient how Americans think about news media objectivity: the move by Fox News to brand its conservative-slanted coverage as "fair and balanced." Traditionally, mainstream media outlets had thought of their own approach in those terms, viewing their coverage as strictly down the middle. Republicans often found that laughable.

May 1, 2017

Not subtle attempt to troll

As an able-bodied white Protestant who was once thrown out of the Junior Republicans for being "above the threshold of racism we tolerate," I know a lot about what it's like to be persecuted.

Continue reading "Not subtle attempt to troll" »

March 16, 2017

Fake campaign news was clickbait to spamvertizers

Sometimes it was hard to tell who was doing the trolling and for what purposes. Aleta Pearce, 54, who lives in Malibu, California, was an administrator of half a dozen pro-Sanders Facebook groups and a member of many others. In May 2016, she posted a memo to various Facebook groups about the fake news issue, warning of bogus sites.

"The pattern I'm seeing is if a member is repeatedly posting articles that are only from one URL that person is just there to push advertising," Pearce wrote. "They probably have a sock account with little to no content. They are often from Russia or Macedonia." (A "sock" or "sock puppet" account uses a false identity to deceive.)

Pearce added, "Please share this with other Bernie groups so we can put an end to this spam bombing that's filling up our pages and groups. It's time to chase the mice out of the hen house and send them a message. They don't know who they are messing with."

The first tidal wave of spam was mostly anti-Bernie, Pearce recalled, posted by Clinton backers. (David Brock's Clinton-backing super PAC had likely paid for some portion of those.) But after Clinton became the Democratic nominee in July, Pearce noticed a switch to anti-Hillary messages with links to fake news and to real news with obnoxious pop-up ads.

"Every site publishing those ― you clicked on the article, you would be slammed with ads and strange articles," Pearce told HuffPost. "It was overwhelming. It was 24/7."

Continue reading "Fake campaign news was clickbait to spamvertizers" »

March 1, 2017

Sheryl Sandberg speaks when needed

What passes for technology journalism today:

Sandberg's only other recent Facebook posts concern a feel-good story about a long-distance swimmer (hashtagged #LeanIn) and a politically defanged feel-good story about a Syrian refugee Olympian, the latter on the eve of the inauguration. On January 21, the day of the unequivocally historic Women's March, Sandberg didn't appear in public, nor did she express her support. Instead, she withdrew comfortably into the same "deafening post-November silence" that for many women in tech isn't going unnoticed.

The streets filled with women from every walk of life, but for Sandberg, who built her personal brand -- and some of her fortune -- around a particularly virulent strain of apolitical white feminism, it appears to have been all too political. (Sheryl, if you read this, pick up some bell hooks!)

Continue reading "Sheryl Sandberg speaks when needed" »

January 22, 2017

Explanations of Donald Trump know few bounds

The Baffler (Sam Kriss) steps up to the plate and explains,

Donald Trump is, to put it crudely, a soppy old bitch. Everything he dislikes is "nasty," every time he doesn't get what he wants it's because of people who "aren't very nice." These are the politics of civility and decorum, petit-bourgeois manners refracted through his own particular neurosis.

In his mannerisms, his gesticulating hands, his New York whine, Trump looks nothing like the conquering strongman of alt-right fantasy and liberal fears. He's turned himself into a living caricature of a garrulous Jew, the mother from a Philip Roth novel. (His own mother, Mary Trump, ran away from the prim and chilly Scottish islands to marry a rich American; she wore, in her later years, an enormous curl of golden hair that looks exactly like Donald Trump's own.)

Continue reading "Explanations of Donald Trump know few bounds" »

January 19, 2017

Hacking the news is social engineering: Clint Watts

The media is getting played, too

"The American press has focused a disproportionate amount of attention on Russian hacking and cyberattacks, and the reporting itself has only muddied the truth for most in the audience:

-- says Clint Watts, a former FBI special agent and Executive Officer of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, in an interview with CJR. Watts is now a senior fellow at the Center for Cyber and Homeland Security at George Washington University, where he analyzes social bots, trolls, and websites that intelligence agencies say are the foot soldiers of Russia's information war.

"The hacking generates information, which promotes Russia's influence campaign, but the end objective is to convince people to choose a candidate based on Russia's preference. This is getting confused, because people hear 'hack' and they think their votes are being changed."

It's a classic page from the Cold War playbook, says Watts, adding that Putin has brought new meaning to the Soviet-Era doctrine of using "the force of politics" rather than "the politics of force."

"The main success of this campaign is not that it took place, but the panic we are in now," Meister adds. "We've lost our self-confidence in our system, in our democracy, in our elections and in our media. That's the biggest success of the Russian campaign."

Continue reading "Hacking the news is social engineering: Clint Watts" »

January 7, 2017

The Baffler, Explanation for what, Vox ?

David Johnson explains Vox.

In its brief history, Vox has become a model in an industry that's moved from entrenchment to retrenchment. Vox's rapid growth, its dream team of policy bloggers, its cachet with the White House, its ability to attract blue-chip advertisers such as Chevrolet and Campbell's Soup, and its tech innovation have become the envy of competitors. Why? What is the secret of and its thriving parent company Vox Media, which, according to a report this spring in Bloomberg Technology, is profitable and valued at $1 billion? Are there applicable lessons for the dwindling segments of the media industry that still care primarily about journalism? Or, is the Vox Media success story largely the product of clever--perhaps even deceptive--marketing?

Targeting an audience advertiser crave:

'who, exactly, are the promontories in this broad range? Let the enterprising Vox staff explain: "We want to find the grad student whose research will change everything, the Hill staffer who sees a better way, the entrepreneur who's figured out what's wrong with the system, the industry leader with a vision of what could be different." If these are the ingredients of a broad range of thought and a freewheeling exchange of opinions...'

Continue reading "The Baffler, Explanation for what, Vox ? " »

July 2, 2016

Facebook makes the news

According to a statement from Tom Stocky, who is in charge of the trending topics list, Facebook has policies "for the review team to ensure consistency and neutrality" of the items that appear in the trending list.

But Facebook declined to discuss whether any editorial guidelines governed its algorithms, including the system that determines what people see in News Feed. Those algorithms could have profound implications for society. For instance, one persistent worry about algorithmic-selected news is that it might reinforce people's previously held points of view. If News Feed shows news that we're each likely to Like, it could trap us into echo chambers and contribute to rising political polarization. In a study last year, Facebook's scientists asserted the echo chamber effect was muted.

But when Facebook changes its algorithm -- which it does routinely -- does it have guidelines to make sure the changes aren't furthering an echo chamber? Or that the changes aren't inadvertently favoring one candidate or ideology over another? In other words, are Facebook's engineering decisions subject to ethical review? Nobody knows.

The other reason to be wary of Facebook's bias has to do with sheer size. Ms. Caplan notes that when studying bias in traditional media, scholars try to make comparisons across different news outlets. To determine if The Times is ignoring a certain story unfairly, look at competitors like The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. If those outlets are covering a story and The Times isn't, there could be something amiss about The Times's news judgment.

Such comparative studies are nearly impossible for Facebook. Facebook is personalized, in that what you see on your News Feed is different from what I see on mine, so the only entity in a position to look for systemic bias across all of Facebook is Facebook itself. Even if you could determine the spread of stories across all of Facebook's readers, what would you compare it to?

"Facebook has achieved saturation," Ms. Caplan said. No other social network is as large, popular, or used in the same way, so there's really no good rival for comparing Facebook's algorithmic output in order to look for bias.

What we're left with is a very powerful black box. In a 2010 study, Facebook's data scientists proved that simply by showing some users that their friends had voted, Facebook could encourage people to go to the polls. That study was randomized -- Facebook wasn't selectively showing messages to supporters of a particular candidate.

June 30, 2016

Facebook data-mined objective truth unmolested by the subjective attitudes

Facebook has also acquired a more subtle power to shape the wider news business. Across the industry, reporters, editors and media executives now look to Facebook the same way nesting baby chicks look to their engorged mother -- as the source of all knowledge and nourishment, the model for how to behave in this scary new-media world. Case in point: The New York Times, among others, recently began an initiative to broadcast live video. Why do you suppose that might be? Yup, the F word. The deal includes payments from Facebook to news outlets, including The Times.

Yet few Americans think of Facebook as a powerful media organization, one that can alter events in the real world. When blowhards rant about the mainstream media, they do not usually mean Facebook, the mainstreamiest of all social networks. That's because Facebook operates under a veneer of empiricism. Many people believe that what you see on Facebook represents some kind of data-mined objective truth unmolested by the subjective attitudes of fair-and-balanced human beings.

Continue reading "Facebook data-mined objective truth unmolested by the subjective attitudes" »

June 27, 2016

Facebook editorializing


What most people don't realize is that not everything they like or share necessarily gets a prominent place in their friends' newsfeeds: The Facebook algorithm sends it to those it determines will find it most engaging.

For outlets like The Daily Caller, The Huffington Post, The Washington Post or The New York Times -- for whom Facebook's audience is vital to growth -- any algorithmic change can affect how many people see their journalism.

This gives Facebook enormous influence over how newsrooms, almost universally eager for Facebook exposure, make decisions and money. Alan Rusbridger, a former editor of The Guardian, called this a "profound and alarming" development in a column in The New Statesman last week.

For all that sway, Facebook declines to talk in great detail about its algorithms, noting that it does not want to make it easy to game its system. That system, don't forget, is devised to keep people on Facebook by giving them what they want, not necessarily what the politicos or news organizations may want them to see. There can be a mismatch in priorities.

But Facebook's opacity can leave big slippery-slope questions to linger. For instance, if Facebook can tweak its algorithm to reduce click bait, then, "Can they put a campaign out of business?" asked John Cook, the executive editor of Gawker Media. (Gawker owns Gizmodo, the site that broke the Trending story.)

Throughout the media, a regular guessing game takes place in which editors seek to divine how the Facebook formula may have changed, and what it might mean for them. Facebook will often give general guidance, such as announcing last month that it had adjusted its programming to favor news articles that readers engage with deeply -- rather than shallow quick hits -- or saying that it would give priority to live Facebook Live videos, which it is also paying media companies, including The New York Times, to experiment with.

Continue reading "Facebook editorializing " »

June 20, 2016

Krugman on Brexit / Remain: the credibility of pro-E.U. experts is so low

You can argue that the problems caused by, say, Romanians using the National Health Service are exaggerated, and that the benefits of immigration greatly outweigh these costs. But that's a hard argument to make to a public frustrated by cuts in public services -- especially when the credibility of pro-E.U. experts is so low.

For that is the most frustrating thing about the E.U.: Nobody ever seems to acknowledge or learn from mistakes. If there's any soul-searching in Brussels or Berlin about Europe's terrible economic performance since 2008, it's very hard to find. And I feel some sympathy with Britons who just don't want to be tied to a system that offers so little accountability, even if leaving is economically costly.

An adviser (Dan Davies) for Frontline Analysts, a global research outsourcing firm, supports Remain.

June 17, 2016

The Donald is tumescent

Washington Post writer style guide to writing about President/Daddy Donald Trump.

Remember the transitive property of Trump: Whenever Donald Trump loves something, it loves him back. Donald Trump loves women. Therefore, women love Donald Trump. Donald Trump loves Hispanics. Therefore, Hispanics love Donald Trump. Any polls that obscure these truths should be disregarded.

May 28, 2016

Tech coverage by geeks for geeks ?

Twenty-five years ago, tech coverage was the domain of geeks and trade reporters -- people who understood their way around a motherboard, were excited by it and wouldn't dream of crossing certain boundaries. Now, with tech at its zenith, much of the coverage of the industry is still done by enthusiasts. Combine this with the need to get the power players to come to the media's conferences and there is a real reluctance to look behind the scenes.

Elizabeth Spiers, who was the first Gawker writer and is now an entrepreneur, noted on her blog that the "tech press is largely fawning toward successful entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, and mostly unintentionally."

The result, she wrote, is "a sense of entitlement in the industry where denizens of Silicon Valley expect the media to actively support them and any negative portrayals are met with real anger and resentment, even when they're 100 percent accurate."

Sam Altman, the president of Y Combinator, tried to chart a middle ground between Gawker and Mr. Thiel in a series of posts on Twitter.

"Gawker is disgusting for outing people, publishing sex tapes, etc.," he wrote,

February 28, 2016

Prof. Jeff Jarvis

Prof. Jeff Jarvis is the world's leading hyperglocal thinkfluencer and Journalism 3.0 advocate. He is cofounder of the Mogadishu:Reinvent unconference and CEO of Mogadishu Capital Partners LLC. He is not Jeff Jarvis.

But even the byline is a fake -- the author's real name is Rurik Bradbury, according to a 2012 piece in Slate. There is a real Jeff Jarvis, a professor at the City University of New York who writes about media and technology for Buzz Machine. Bradbury told Slate in 2012 why he adopted Jarvis's moniker:

"I chose Jarvis because he epitomizes a certain type of 'thinkfluencer,' " Bradbury told me, "someone with an online influence massively greater than the thoughtfulness of his positions. It's all style and rhetorical flourishes which don't stand up to scrutiny--but do grab attention." But it's not personal. "It's more of a general parody: a composite of Jarvis, Seth Godin, the media 'freetards' who insist paywalls, etc., are bad by definition."

November 18, 2015

Idiocy and pomposity of mass media

"The first blogs were a reaction against the idiocy and pomposity of mass media.
Now social media is dominated by the same stories that would have made the local television news. We're in an era of mass social media. I think smarter readers are seeking refuge in subcultures."

Mr. Nick Denton of Gawker Media, in an interview by Instant Messenger on Tuesday

January 31, 2015


The last century of The New Republic has bestowed a rich legacy of lessons, both positive and negative, on race. At its best moments, the magazine has been a beacon of fact-based reporting and a forum for rich debate over racial issues. At its worst, the magazine has fallen under the sway of racial theorizing and crackpot racial lore. Moving forward, any reformation program should start by honestly acknowledging the past. The range of non-white voices in the magazine needs to expand, not just by having more nonwhite writers, but by having writers who aren't just talking to an imaginary white audience but are addressing readers who look like the world. The magazine has to avoid the temptation to be an insular insider journal for the elite and recognize that its finest moments are when analytical intelligence is joined with grassroots reporting. The magazine's well-stocked and complex legacy shouldn't be jettisoned, but it can be reformed, built on, and made new.

-- Jeet Heer on TNR

Likewise, before his fabrication of articles was revealed in 1998, Stephen Glass penned a 1996 piece about the Washington, D.C. taxi cab industry that seemed to cater to Peretz's appetite for melodramas illustrating black cultural pathology. The article drew an invidious contrast between hard-working, uncomplaining immigrants who believed in the American dream versus entitled black Americans who spurned honest work (and chased after white women). The piece included imaginary details such as, "Four months ago, a 17-year-old held a gun to Eswan's head while his girlfriend performed oral sex on the gunman." Glass also claimed to be in a cab when a young African American man mugged the driver, and celebrated the exploits of a fictional Kae Bang, the "Korean cab-driver- turned-vigilante" who used martial arts to beat up black teenagers who tried to rob his cab. It's fair to say that Glass's fabrications in this piece and others did more damage to The New Republic than any event in its history. And it's hard to accept a piece like the above would have been published in a magazine which wasn't already inclined toward a pernicious view of African Americans.

Continue reading "On TNR" »

September 4, 2014

Douthat abortion counter +1

A pervasive sense that Catholic identity was entirely up for grabs -- that having dispensed with Latin Mass and meatless Fridays, the church might be poised for further revolutions, a major schism, or both. When Walker Percy's novel "Love in the Ruins" imagined Catholicism in the United States splitting in three -- a progressive church modeled on liberal Protestantism, a right-wing "American Catholic Church" that plays the "Star-Spangled Banner" during Mass, and a tiny remnant loyal to Rome -- it seemed more like prophecy than fiction.

It was the work of Ratzinger's subsequent career, first as John Paul II's doctrinal policeman and then as his successor, to re-establish where Catholicism actually stood. This was mostly a project of reassertion: yes, the church still believes in the Resurrection, the Trinity and the Virgin birth. Yes, the church still opposes abortion, divorce, sex outside of marriage. Yes, the church still considers itself the one true faith. And yes -- this above all, for a man whose chief gifts were intellectual -- the church believes that its doctrines are compatible with reason, scholarship and science.

It was understandable that this project made Ratzinger many enemies. It turned him into a traitor to his class, since it involved disciplining theologians who had been colleagues, peers and rivals. It disappointed or wounded the many Catholics who couldn't reconcile the church's teachings with their post-sexual-revolution lives. And it obviously did not solve the broad cultural challenges facing institutional Christianity in the West.

April 1, 2014

Explainers explained, by 'less stupid' Awl.

The Awl's eleven questions about explainer journalism.

January 24, 2014

journalists see value in journalism

"in the main journalists are convinced or easily persuaded that what they do is so good and important that someone should pay them to do it", but this is too broad a conviction to be persuasive to non-journalists. A more carefully argued version of what journalists feel would be that, when done well, institutionally produced news has distinctive, socially advantageous qualities. It can pull together large groups of people with diverse perspectives and interests into a shared public conversation. Jürgen Habermas has presented the rise of the press as having been essential to the creation of the public sphere, and newspapers are also central to Benedict Anderson's idea of nations as "imagined communities". Journalism can provide verified, impartial information about public affairs, rather than offering up a cacophony of opinion and conflicting claims as the internet often does. Reporters can surface and present to the public important material that otherwise would not be available, for example about the misdeeds of the powerful.

-- Nicholas Lemann

Continue reading "journalists see value in journalism" »

December 14, 2013

Skew as a normative descriptor

Among the significant problems that aren't getting resolved is the site's skewed coverage: its entries on Pokemon and female porn stars are comprehensive, but its pages on female novelists or places in sub-Saharan Africa are sketchy. Authoritative entries remain elusive.

Of the 1,000 articles that the project's own volunteers have tagged as forming the core of a good encyclopedia, most don't earn even Wikipedia's own middle-­ranking quality scores.

July 15, 2013

Do what you like

f full acknowledgment of desires, which can be a really vulnerable experience, and one of the things I argue in the book is that so much of the training that young women and young men have had in terms of how to be successful and get what you want and go out and get a degree and get a career, are all very much about being agentic in the world, and they're not necessarily about knowing desires that make you feel vulnerable.

Although, arguably, striving for success is a vulnerable thing too, it's exposing -- but we don't really have a way of describing ambition or desire as something that is vulnerable. I'd sort of like the term "vulnerability" to come to be one that people understand as showing strength, as opposed to weakness.

-- Tracy Clark-Flory

July 13, 2013

NY Times heal blog is opportunity to boast and gloat, not bloat

I'm starting to think these health articles mainly offer opportunities for readers to write in to boast about their superior life style, habits and knowledge...then they advise the rest of us what we should do, when nobody asked them.....i'm sure their relatives steer clear to avoid their annoying lectures..i find many comments are these health articles.....

-- Meredith New York

May 5, 2013

Gatsby III

Leon Wieseltier, the literary editor of The New Republic, understands that we're drawn back to "Gatsby" because we keep seeing modern buccaneers of banking and hedge funds, swathed in carelessness and opulence. "But what most people don't understand is that the adjective 'Great' in the title was meant laconically," he said. "There's nothing genuinely great about Gatsby. He's a poignant phony. Owing to the money-addled society we live in, people have lost the irony of Fitzgerald's title. So the movies become complicit in the excessively materialistic culture that the novel set out to criticize."

He noted that Gatsby movies are usually just moving versions of Town and Country or The Times's T magazine, and that filmmakers "get seduced by the seductions that the book itself is warning about."

A really great movie of the novel, he argues, would "show a dissenting streak of austerity." He thinks it's time for a black Gatsby, noting that Jay-Z might be an inspirational starting point -- "a young man of talents with an unsavory past consumed by status anxiety and ascending unstoppably through tireless self-promotion and increasingly conspicuous wealth."

The problem with the "Gatsby" movies, he said, "is that they look like they were made by Gatsby. The trick is to make a Gatsby movie that couldn't have been made by Gatsby -- an unglossy portrait of gloss."

March 19, 2013

13 - 8 = 8 ?

Correction: March 15, 2013

An earlier version of this article misstated the length of time that the developers of 56 Leonard and 150 Charles waited to begin work on their buildings after the Lehman Brothers crash in 2008. It was four years, not eight.

A Few Signs of Spring Downtown
Two new condos report robust sales, just months after a storm left the area in tatters

13 - 8 = 8 ?

March 12, 2013

Proximity in location-distance, or time ?

This post has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: March 11, 2013

The Grindr app locates other people by distance, not time, as a previous version of this post stated.

The application focuses on proximity rather than location -- showing people's distance.

Continue reading "Proximity in location-distance, or time ?" »

March 8, 2013

Those who pay into Social Security

First, on Jan. 1 the tax wasn't hiked; it was restored to its 2010 level, after a two-year "holiday" that reduced the withholding to 4.2% of employees wages (up to wages of $101,800 in 2011 and $110,100 last year) from the 6.2% level in effect since 1990.

The idea was to deliver stimulus dollars to middle- and working-class families. But the holiday was always a wretched idea, in part because of what everyone knew would happen when the old rate reappeared --people treated it as a pay cut.

The worse flaw was that it was a lousy way to deliver targeted working-class relief. The change replaced the Obama administration's previous Making Work Pay tax credit, which delivered up to $800 to families earning $12,900 to $150,000.

The payroll tax break, by contrast, went only to those who pay into Social Security. So it left out 5.7 million state and local workers (mostly teachers). On the plus side, it fattened the paychecks even of the nation's top earners by a much-needed $2,100 or so.

Continue reading "Those who pay into Social Security" »

February 22, 2013

Cyberspace is dead to me - Michael Lind / Salon

the concept of "cyberspace." The term was coined by William Gibson in his novel "Neuromancer" and defined as "a graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system ..." As a metaphor that borrows imagery from geography, cyberspace is no different in kind from, say, John F. Kennedy's New Frontier. But while nobody thinks that governments are invading Kennedy's New Frontier, or commercializing Kennedy's New Frontier, techno-anarchists on the right or left are constantly complaining that "cyberspace" is being "colonized" by government, business or both.

That's what makes it necessary to state what ought to be obvious: There is no such place as cyberspace. It is not a parallel universe, coexisting with our world but in a different dimension. It is just a bad metaphor that has outlived its usefulness. Using the imagery of a fictitious country makes it harder to have rational arguments about government regulation or commercial exploitation of modern information and communications technologies.

Let's start with government and cyberspace. Most Internet activity takes place in particular territories governed by states. The users of the equipment, as well as the infrastructure of servers, wireless towers, and so on, apart from satellites, are physical entities located in sovereign states. Maybe jihadists in the lawless "tribal" regions of Pakistan are effectively beyond the power of sovereign states. But individuals sitting at their PCs in, say, California are subject to the jurisdiction of the state of California and the United States of America. They may claim to be "citizens of cyberspace," but that is a joke -- the equivalent of presenting a customs officer at an international airport with a passport from the Kingdom of Oz.

So it makes no sense to say that California and the U.S. are extending their jurisdiction "into" cyberspace. Cyberspace is not the equivalent of land that has suddenly arisen off the coast and has yet to be claimed effectively by any existing nation-state. The countries of the world already have jurisdiction over all of the activity that goes on within their recognized international borders. How they exercise that authority can and should be debated. A liberal regime will pass legislative safeguards against government misuse of data and communications and will generally take a light hand, when it comes to regulation and taxation, in the interest of personal freedom and ease of commerce. But the fact that bad states may abuse the power to regulate telecommunications does not mean that benign states lack, or should lack, that power.

Michael Lind / Salon

February 16, 2013

Buzzfed Ben Smith, too un-snobby for Brooklyn's Park Slope

Of the many things he learned from his grandfather, snobbery was not one of them. "He said to me at one point, 'I wrote for my friends, and my friends aren't intellectuals,' " Mr. Ben Smith, 36, editor in chief of BuzzFeed, said. "I kind of worshiped him growing up." He and his wife, Liena Zagare, cite a distaste for elitism as the prime reason they fled Brooklyn's Park Slope neighborhood for the less trendy Ditmas Park. "We got tired of being criticized for keeping our kid on a leash," Ms. Zagare, the publisher of Corner News Media, a local news site, said at the Hastings book party.

Mr. Smith is less a political enthusiast than a product of his upbringing. As a child, he was exposed to years of political debate between his father, a conservative Republican who was a partner at Paul Weiss, and his mother, a liberal Democrat who tutors learning-disabled children. "It's a good background for somebody who's not going to have incredibly strong political opinions," he said, refuting the pro-liberal bias he is sometimes accused of.

His grandfather was Robert Smith, a novelist in the 1940s who later turned to writing books about baseball, including "Baseball: A Historical Narrative of the Game, the Men Who Played It, and Its Place in American Life." His grandmother was Janet Smith, a Mark Twain scholar and editor of a 1962 collection called "Mark Twain on the Damned Human Race."

June 30, 2012

Bloggers or travelers: 'You miss your cat back in New York? Let's watch this clip of Werner Herzog talking about chickens. '

What would happen if you traveled to a country you'd never been to and relied on suggestions from blogs and online locals instead of those from friends and guidebooks? Would you end up at a Star Trek convention? Trapped in a basement full of cat hair and moody Swedish folk singers? Not according to my visit at the Skeppsholmen.

I asked Emi if she had a theory as to why Stockholm has so many bloggers, and she said: "It might be partly our inferiority complex. We're feeling kind of alone, all the way up here in the north. We want to reach out and tell people that we're alive. We want to show people that we're on top of everything."

This naturally led to a discussion of hipster-riddled Sodermalm, whose cafes I had recently described to a friend as "laptoppy." Emi reported: "The Stockholm hipsters have gotten very nerdy about bread. And coffee is reaching Brooklyn levels." On the bread front: "Sourdough has gotten huge, especially for stay-at-home dads. The bakery of this deli that we're in has a 'sourdough hotel' where you can leave your starter when you go on vacation." (Sourdough starter needs to be "fed" to keep the yeast active. The "hotel" is a shelving unit that holds some 30 jars of customers' dried or live starter; the top shelf is labeled "Penthouse.") Emi said, "When I first heard about it, I thought it was a hipster joke."

Continue reading "Bloggers or travelers: 'You miss your cat back in New York? Let's watch this clip of Werner Herzog talking about chickens. '" »

June 28, 2012

More right than left: UK newspapers

Looking at the three left of centre dailies: The Guardian sold 367,000 copies a day five years ago, it now stands at 214,128; The Independent 249,536 versus 98,636 today; the Daily Mirror 1,537,243 versus 1,084,355.

Collectively that is a sales decline of 35 per cent.

Looking at the main right of centre dailies, the Daily Mail was selling 2,300,420 copies a day five years ago versus 1,991,275 today; the Daily Express 760,086 versus 568,628; the Daily Telegraph 898,817 versus 576,790; The Times 629,157 versus 393, 187 and The Sun 3,047,527 versus 2,624,008.

Conclusion: tech-savy young lefties don't buy print.

June 24, 2012

Age of malaise, diminished expectations

To understand the broader trends at work, a useful place to turn is Jay Cost's essay on "The Politics of Loss" in the latest issue of National Affairs. For most of the post-World War II era, Cost argues, our debates over taxing and spending have taken place in an atmosphere of surplus. The operative question has been how best to divide a growing pie, which has enabled politicians in both parties to practice a kind of ideologically flexible profligacy. Republicans from Dwight Eisenhower to George W. Bush have increased spending, Democrats from John F. Kennedy to Bill Clinton have found ways to cut taxes, and the great American growth machine has largely kept the toughest choices off the table.

But not anymore. Between our slowing growth and our unsustainable spending commitments, "the days when lawmakers could give to some Americans without shortchanging others are over; the politics of deciding who loses what, and when and how, is upon us." In this era, debates will be increasingly zero-sum, bipartisan compromise will be increasingly difficult, and "the rules and norms of our politics that several generations have taken for granted" will fade away into irrelevance.

-- Douthat

Continue reading "Age of malaise, diminished expectations" »

June 17, 2012

Too busy to save a week's wages ?

For Javaid Tariq, a taxi driver in New York City who sends money monthly to his family in Pakistan, the exchange rate is particularly infuriating because of how much money he loses. When he sent $300 to his family in April, he received 89.2 rupees for every dollar, less than the 91.2 exchange rate that he checks each morning, he said. For his family, that means 599 fewer rupees, or more than a week's salary in Lahore.

Immigrant advocates argue that many people do not have time to shop for better rates.

"These are people working who are often working minimum wage jobs with very little savvy or time about where to price-shop," said Francis Calpotura, the founder and director of the Transnational Institute for Grassroots Research and Action in Oakland, Calif.

May 19, 2012 on attribution_and_credit

Linking is indeed key. You get a story from somewhere else, you link to the original when you post about it. That's the first rule of web attribution.

There are reasons why AllThingsD is far more respected than CNET.

"Enthusiast site" is pejorative. Enthusiast implies that MacStories is produced by zealous hobbyists. Not naming the site at all implied that the site was not worthy of being named. To later attribute it to "" rather than "MacStories" implies that it is something less than a fellow peer publication, and not even worth the effort of hitting the shift key to camelcase the M and S. MacStories is the name of the website; is MacStories's domain name. This is subtle, yes, but it is a disparagement nonetheless -- the most begrudging form of attribution that could have been added.

I don't see the angle on it. Why not err on the side of magnanimity?

Continue reading " on attribution_and_credit" »

December 18, 2011

The real Newt Gingrich, Conservative ?

Furthermore, he has an unconservative faith in his own innocence. The crossroads where government meets enterprise can be an exciting crossroads. It can also be a corrupt crossroads. It requires moral rectitude to separate public service from private gain. Gingrich was perfectly content to belly up to the Freddie Mac trough and then invent a Hamiltonian rationale to justify his own greed.

Then there is his rhetorical style. He seems to have understood that a moderate Republican like himself can win so long as he adopts a bombastic style when taking on the liberal elites. Most people just want somebody who can articulate their hatreds, and Gingrich is demagogically happy to play the role.

Most important, there is temperament and character. As Yuval Levin noted in a post for National Review, the two Republican front-runners, Gingrich and Mitt Romney are both "very wonky Rockefeller Republicans who moved to the right over time as their party moved right."

But they have very different temperaments. Romney, Levin observes, has an executive temperament -- organization, discipline, calm and restraint. Gingrich has a revolutionary temperament -- intensity, energy, disorganization and a tendency to see everything as a cataclysmic clash requiring a radical response.

I'd make a slightly similar point more rudely. In the two main Republican contenders, we have one man, Romney, who seems to have walked straight out of the 1950s, and another, Gingrich, who seems to have walked straight out of the 1960s. He has every negative character trait that conservatives associate with '60s excess: narcissism, self-righteousness, self-indulgence and intemperance. He just has those traits in Republican form.

Continue reading "The real Newt Gingrich, Conservative ?" »

July 6, 2011

Gingrich lead

Once again America faced a crossroads, though the word itself wasn't used. "There is virtually no middle ground," Gingrich wrote. He later concluded: "To renew or to decay. At no time in the history of our great nation has the choice been clearer." To avert disaster, Gingrich had no choice but to present many numbered lists. In addition to the Six Challenges Facing America -- similar to the challenges we faced 11 years before -- and the "five basic principles that I believe form the heart of our civilization," there were the five forces moving us toward worldwide medicine, a seven-step program to reduce drug use, the nine steps we can take immediately to advance the three revolutions in health care and more. The futurism was still there, too: "Honeymoons in space will be the vogue by 2020."

Meanwhile, his polemics had hardened. "For some psychological reason, liberals are antigun but not anti-violent criminal," was a typically dubious example. As a former professor (an unpublished one, at West Georgia College), Gingrich wrote about university leftism with all the bitterness of an ex-academic: "Most successful [alumni] get an annual letter saying, in effect, 'Please give us money so we can hire someone who despises your occupation and will teach your children to have contempt for you.' What is amazing is the overwhelming meekness of the alumni in accepting this hijacking of their alma mater."

This is sharp and funny and nearly true, but it's not a formulation designed to coax the undecided into agreement. "To Renew America" marks the moment that persuasion faded as a primary purpose of political talk and preaching to the choir took over. Having won at last, and confident that the future was safely in his pocket, Gingrich by 1995 no longer saw a reason to persuade anyone and didn't try. It's the victor's prerogative, but it doesn't give you practice in constructing arguments. And it's catching. Hence talk radio, and in a few years the blogs; hence Fox News and MSNBC.

Liberals may not have liked this new aggressive tone from conservatives, but they had it coming. At least since the Red Scare of the 1950s, mainstream institutions had viewed ideological conservatism with condescension or contempt, as either a joke or a personality disorder -- a series of "irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas," in Lionel Trilling's excellent summary. Gingrich's rhetoric had the ferocity of a backlash. The liberal revulsion toward him obscured how unorthodox -- occasionally, how liberal -- his conservatism was. The books then and now are full of heresy. He showed a willingness to criticize other Republicans, even Reagan at the height of his popularity. He advocated a health tax on alcohol to discourage drinking -- social engineering, it's called -- and imagined government-issued credit cards that would allow citizens to order goods and services directly from the feds. He thought the government should run nutritional programs at grocery stores and give away some foodstuffs free. He was pushing cuts in the defense budget in 1984 and a prototype of President Obama's cash-for-clunkers program in 1995.

Continue reading "Gingrich lead " »

March 14, 2011

Our interest is voyeuristic -- Nick Denton

"It's helpful when someone is a hypocrite, but we should have just said that our interest is voyeuristic. 'We did this story because we thought you would like it. We thought it was funny, so we thought you'd think it was funny, too.' And there was a tidal wave of traffic and attention."

-- Nick Denton at Gawker HQ on Elizabeth Street in Lower Manhattan early this year.

Continue reading "Our interest is voyeuristic -- Nick Denton" »

March 9, 2011

Property tax levied by the village on a typical Bronxville home is now $43,000 annually. Upper middle class ?

The property tax levied by the village on a typical Bronxville home is now $43,000, up 34 percent in the last five years, although the increase was negligible in the last two years as the mayor, the village trustees and school board members responded to their middle class constituents' concerns.

"I don't think we have seen an antitax uprising, but holding down property taxes is certainly spoken about a lot," said Dr. James D. Hudson, the 54-year-old school board president, a dentist with two children in the high school. He is often buttonholed on the subject, he said, at cocktail and dinner parties or while shopping.

"Their concern is that their taxes will continue to spiral up if we continue to do business as usual," said Dr. Hudson. "If you will, we are looking to develop a lean, mean education machine."

Lean and mean were rarely invoked in the past as a goal for America's wealthiest suburbs -- nearby Scarsdale, for example, Shaker Heights on the outskirts of Cleveland, Brookfield and River Hills near Milwaukee, and Greenwood Village in Colorado. Now that talk is commonplace, and it showed up in interviews with officials and in these communities, where property taxes have often risen by 4 or 5 percent a year.

Continue reading "Property tax levied by the village on a typical Bronxville home is now $43,000 annually. Upper middle class ?" »

February 25, 2011

Tom Friedman's Volcano Wakeup Call

A very clever friend sends over today's Tom Friedman column edited down to nothing but mixed metaphors and cliches:

A wake-up call's mother is unfolding. At the other end is a bell, which is telling us we have built a house at the foot of a volcano. The volcano is spewing lava, which says move your house. The road will be long and rocky, but it will trigger a shift before it kicks. We can capture some of it. IF the Middle East was a collection of gas stations, Saudi Arabia would be a station. Iran, Kuwait , Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Iraq, and the United Arab Emirates would all be stations. Guys, here's the deal. Don't hassle the Jews. You are insulated from history. History is back. Fasten your seat belts. Don't expect a joy ride because the lid is blowing off. The west turned a blind eye, but the report was prophetic, with key evidence. Societies are frozen in time. No one should have any illusions. Root for the return to history, but not in the middle.

My friend could have published this himself, but he was between a rock and a hard place with no easy answers.

Continue reading "Tom Friedman's Volcano Wakeup Call" »

November 2, 2010

Paladino vs. Cuomo, battle of NY 2010

Looks like Cuomo is outspending Paladino ten to one on online ads in NY.

June 11, 2010

Vocabulary vs income: Children in higher socioeconomic homes hear 2,153 words an hour; in working-class households only 1,251; on welfare, 616

Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley's landmark 1995 book, "Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children," shows that parents who supply a language-rich environment for their children help them develop a wide vocabulary, and that helps them learn to read.

The book connects language use at home with socioeconomic status. According to its findings, children in higher socioeconomic homes hear an average of 2,153 words an hour, whereas those in working-class households hear only about 1,251; children in the study whose parents were on welfare heard an average of 616 words an hour.

The question is: Will devices like smartphones change that? Smartphone users tend to have higher incomes; research from the Nielsen Company shows that they are twice as likely to make more than $100,000 a year than the average mobile subscriber. If increased use of technology encroaches on the time that well-to-do families spend communicating with their children, some could become the victims of successes originally thought to help them.

Continue reading "Vocabulary vs income: Children in higher socioeconomic homes hear 2,153 words an hour; in working-class households only 1,251; on welfare, 616 " »

June 3, 2010

NYT now recommending python scripts ?

Droopy: A Tiny Web Server That Makes Receiving Files a Snap

Droopy is a mini web server that's designed to make it easy for you to receive files on your computer -- and is especially useful for those times when a less-than-tech-savvy client wants to send you a large file. Instead of them trying to send the file over IM or FTP, or using a service like Dropbox, just give them your Droopy address and they can upload the file using their browser; it will be saved directly onto your machine.

Droopy runs on Unix (Linux and Mac) and Windows machines. It's a Python script, but don't let that worry you. Although you will need to have Python installed and will have to use the command line,

Continue reading "NYT now recommending python scripts ?" »

May 20, 2010

Right food for weight loss and admittance into an Ivy League college

I finally quit reading Gawker's flagship site altogether after a post about the heated jockeying among New York Times reporters over which stories landed on the "Most E-mailed" list. I didn't know why anyone in the nation's most-respected newsroom would compete for the pro-bono, viral marketing services of a group of readers who demonstrably only care about a story if it concerns food, weight loss, or admittance into an Ivy League college--and I didn't want to know. I had a sort of not-in-my-backyard unease about the nothing-based economy.

While journalism had not exactly rewarded me in any quantifiable way, it had exposed me to a large number of people who had taken this vow of poverty for a lot of reasons other than the opportunity to endlessly debate the relative merits of carbohydrates and get their photos taken at parties.

-- from the serial failings and firings of Maureen 'Moe' Tkacik

March 31, 2010

Felix reads the news

I have my laptop running TweetDeck. I have two screens for my official Reuters PC running the Reuters terminal, e-mail and messaging services. And then I have two screens connected to my Mac Mini, which is where I do my real work. The right-hand screen is for the feeds coming in on NetNewsWire and Twhirl, and the left-hand one is for e-mail, web browsing, iChat, PDF documents and drafting blog entries.

The other thing I'm doing throughout the day is tweeting. At the office, there are a couple of twitter aggregators I use: Viewsflow and the Twitter Times. Both aggregate the stories that are most linked to from people I do or should follow. @alea_ is good, as is @moorehn, but really the whole point of Twitter is to aggregate hundreds of streams in one place. The whole is much greater than the sum of the parts.

-- Felix Salmon

March 27, 2010

Brooks' centralized ambition

The free-market revolution didn't create the pluralistic decentralized economy. It created a centralized financial monoculture, which requires a gigantic government to audit its activities. The effort to liberate individuals from repressive social constraints didn't produce a flowering of freedom; it weakened families, increased out-of-wedlock births and turned neighbors into strangers. In Britain, you get a country with rising crime, and, as a result, four million security cameras.

In a much-discussed essay in Prospect magazine in February 2009, Blond wrote, "Look at the society we have become: We are a bi-polar nation, a bureaucratic, centralised state that presides dysfunctionally over an increasingly fragmented, disempowered and isolated citizenry." In a separate essay, he added, "The welfare state and the market state are now two defunct and mutually supporting failures."

Continue reading "Brooks' centralized ambition" »

February 22, 2010

He said, she said reporting due to 'Regression to a phony mean'

This is a post about a single line in a recent article in the New York Times: Tea Party Lights Fuse for Rebellion on Right.... Reporter David Barstow spent five months--five months!--reporting and researching the Tea Party phenomenon.
Based not on a subjective assessment of the Tea Party's viability or his opinion of its desirability but only on facts he knows about the state of politics and government since Obama's election, is there any substantial likelihood of a tyranny replacing the American republic in the near future?

I think it's obvious....that the answers are "no." For if the answers were "yes" it would have been a huge story! No fair description of the current situation, nothing in what the Washington bureau and investigative staff of the New York Times has picked up from its reporting, would support a characterization like "impending tyranny."

In a word, the Times editors and Barstow know this narrative is nuts, but something stops them from saying so-- despite the fact that they must have spent over $100,000 on this one story. And whatever that thing is, it's not the reluctance to voice an opinion in the news columns, but a reluctance to report a fact in the news columns, the fact that the "narrative of impending tyranny" is ungrounded in any observable reality, even though the sense of grievance within the Tea Party movement is truly felt and politically consequential.

My claim: We have come upon something interfering with political journalism's "sense of reality" as the philosopher Isaiah Berlin called it (see section 5.1) And I think I have a term for the confusing factor: a quest for innocence in reportage and dispute description. Innocence, meaning a determination not to be implicated, enlisted, or seen by the public as involved. That's what created the pattern I've called "regression to a phony mean." That's what motivated the rise of he said, she said reporting.

-- Jay Rosen

Continue reading "He said, she said reporting due to 'Regression to a phony mean' " »

November 22, 2009

Twitter ethics panel ? #sponsor

Ted Murphy, the C.E.O. of Izea, now a 30-person business backed by $10 million in venture capital, said the company initially "made a big mistake" by not setting disclosure standards for publishers and advertisers. Today, ad networks promote their standards; Izea's ads on Twitter are typically demarcated with signifiers like "#ad" or "#sponsor."

Continue reading "Twitter ethics panel ? #sponsor" »

November 16, 2009

How do you keep people coming back ?

As Bill Simmons tells it now, all he really needed to know about Internet success he learned as a nearly anonymous blogger -- the term had not gained currency, but it still fits. "The question was, how do you keep people coming back?" he said. His insights were to update his posts frequently and to be provocative, to get a discussion going among and with his readers.

Continue reading "How do you keep people coming back ?" »

November 14, 2009

Malcolm Gladwell's Science

An eclectic essayist is necessarily a dilettante, which is not in itself a bad thing. But Gladwell frequently holds forth about statistics and psychology, and his lack of technical grounding in these subjects can be jarring. He provides misleading definitions of "homology," "saggital plane" and "power law" and quotes an expert speaking about an "igon value" (that's eigenvalue, a basic concept in linear algebra). In the spirit of Gladwell, who likes to give portentous names to his aperçus, I will call this the Igon Value Problem: when a writer's education on a topic consists in interviewing an expert, he is apt to offer generalizations that are banal, obtuse or flat wrong.

What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures by Malcolm Gladwell

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell

The problem with Gladwell's generalizations about prediction is that he never zeroes in on the essence of a statistical problem and instead overinterprets some of its trappings. For example, in many cases of uncertainty, a decision maker has to act on an observation that may be either a signal from a target or noise from a distractor (a blip on a screen may be a missile or static; a blob on an X-ray may be a tumor or a harmless thickening). Improving the ability of your detection technology to discriminate signals from noise is always a good thing, because it lowers the chance you'll mistake a target for a distractor or vice versa. But given the technology you have, there is an optimal threshold for a decision, which depends on the relative costs of missing a target and issuing a false alarm. By failing to identify this trade-off, Gladwell bamboozles his readers with pseudoparadoxes about the limitations of pictures and the downside of precise information.

Continue reading "Malcolm Gladwell's Science" »

August 1, 2009

The utility of Joe Biden

The addition of Mr. Biden was interesting, for a number of reasons. Mr. Biden was able to draw on his credibility with blue-collar, labor union America and his roots in Scranton, Pa., to add balance to the photo op that the White House presented: two black guys, two white guys, sitting around a table.

The four drank out of beer mugs. Mr. Obama had a Bud Lite, Sergeant Crowley had Blue Moon, Professor Gates drank Sam Adams Light and Mr. Biden, who does not drink, had a Buckler nonalcoholic beer. (Mr. Biden put a lime slice in his beer. Sergeant Crowley, for his part, kept with Blue Moon tradition and had a slice of orange in his drink.)

Officer Crowley is said (Carney @Clusterstock) to be a fan of Blue Moon, the faux Belgian Wheat Ale that is actually made by Canada's Molson. According to the Boston Globe, Gates likes Red Stripe and Beck's.
See also BagNews' take.

Continue reading "The utility of Joe Biden" »

July 15, 2009

Mddle class earning up to $280,000 ( $350,000 couples)

The middle class escape new healthcare taxes on individuals earning $280,000 and up and couples earning more than $350,000.

-- Representative Charles B. Rangel of New York, Chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee.

But emerging from daylong committee negotiations Friday, Mr. Rangel said the income surtax would take effect in 2011 and begin at 1 percent of adjusted gross income -- earnings before deductions like those for mortgage interest and charitable contributions -- and would apply to individuals earning more than $280,000 and couples earning more than $350,000.

The surtax would be increased for individuals earning more than $400,000 and couples earning more than $500,000, and step up again for individuals earning over $800,000 and couples earning above $1 million. The precise extent of these increases has not been announced.

Mr. Rangel's committee is also planning to insert language that would raise the surtax in 2013 if expected cost savings in the health care system do not materialize.

Continue reading "Mddle class earning up to $280,000 ( $350,000 couples)" »

July 7, 2009

Between $250,000 and $500,000 is middle income, mortgage-wise

David Adamo, the chief executive of Luxury Mortgage in Stamford, Conn. likened the current mortgage market to a barbell, with pockets of availability for borrowers at both ends of the income spectrum but less for those in between. Those with annual incomes up to about $250,000 have access to mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration, while the very affluent can obtain loans from private banking institutions.

For middle class borrowers with household incomes between $250,000 and $500,000, however, mortgages are not as easy to get, Mr. Adamo said. "These people are living in places where starter homes might be $1 million," he said, "and it's really affecting them."

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will accept only loans below $729,500 in the highest-cost markets like New York City and northern New Jersey. For mortgages larger than that, mortgage brokers and bankers must find other investors who want to take the loans. (Mortgage brokers process the applications on a lender's behalf, while mortgage bankers will finance the loan and sell it shortly thereafter.)

Continue reading "Between $250,000 and $500,000 is middle income, mortgage-wise" »

May 26, 2009

Obama vs Limbaugh in the MSM

Steele was right: his power is not based on politics, it's based on entertainment. Great entertainers like Winchell and Limbaugh manage to simplify politics, to find ways of making it "us against them," to find ways to dramatize, to demonize, to villainize, to narrativize.


February 6, 2009

In coverage of recession, few rays of hope

"The headline that you will never hear is 'The market was down 110 points, a random fluctuation in a very complex system,' " said Eric Schurenberg, the former managing editor of Money magazine who is busy building -- get this -- a financial Web site for CBS. "No one has ever known what was going to happen, but there is this temptation to act like you did. But that fantasy has been exploded."

To engage their audience, business journalists need to act like things are changing all the time. As it turned out, what didn't change much was the fundamental lessons: have a diversified portfolio, don't buy more house than you can afford, don't take on more debt than you can support, or trade on the margin.

-- David Carr

Continue reading "In coverage of recession, few rays of hope" »

December 4, 2008

CNBC Breaking News

CNBC just did a BREAKING NEWS banner with Wagoner's quote:
"We wish economic conditions were better, but they're not".

-- Joe Weisenthal @ 9:32


Joe Weisenthal@9:54: Some guy on CNBC just said "The government will fold" and I thought he meant collapse. But he just meant fold, and give in to big auto.

November 1, 2008

Obama advantage

An advantage in generating appealing factoids:

The Obama campaign spent more than $57,000 at the Four Seasons in Amman, Jordan, during the candidate's overseas trip in July, although a spokesman said that much of that was for rooms for the traveling press corps and that the campaign would be reimbursed by the news organizations. The campaign spent about $60,000 on the staging for Mr. Obama's speech in Berlin on that trip. Then there is the $140,000 that the campaign has spent at companies that make American flags, apparently mostly for campaign events, compared with just $7,000 spent by the McCain campaign.

Continue reading "Obama advantage" »

October 20, 2008

Middle class: only up to $250, 000 annual income ?

The definition of middle class is in flux. Many try to quantify and specify it in income terms.

Here's Charles Gibson of ABC (Via Paul Krugman): suggested that $200,000 a year was a middle-class income.

October 19, 2008

John Cleese on Sarah Palin

Funnier than Michael Palin.

August 12, 2008

FT Alphaville

FinancialTimes' ftalphaville. Instant trends, market moves, as seen from the City outside the USA.

July 5, 2008

Aspen idea merchants

Aspen Idea Festival gathers the idea merchants: journalists, entrepreneurs,
and academics who talk about ideas more than about people, and about
people more than about things.

June 30, 2008

Ethics column done right

One of this country's greatest achievements is its separation
of legality from morality, so that individuals can hold themselves
to a higher standard, as they see it, without forcing it on
everyone else.

-- Slate's William Saletan sets the bar higher than the NYT's 'ethicist'.

June 22, 2008

How to argue part 3: complaining means losing

"When you are crying foul in a presidential campaign, it usually
means you are losing."

-- Mr. Chris Lehane, the Democratic operative, pronounced himself
that the McCain campaign was feeling victimized.

How to argue (without facts or logic), the series.

June 8, 2007

Aspiring arbitror of Washington

Matt Y plays prodigy and future arbitror of Washington.

February 14, 2007

The Politico

The Politico tracks Washington-centric partisan politics,
by ex-Washington Post staffers at Capitol Leader.

February 12, 2007


Tech President covers the race for US President, 2008.

January 16, 2007

WNYC, NPR news of NYC, NY

WNYC, NY NPR news station at 93.9 FM.

October 11, 2006


CBS in NYC: wcbs TV in New York City: news, topstories,
with non-hideous website design.

July 18, 2006

Bobo's two types: purity vs pragma

Not a fight between left and right, a fight about
how politics should be conducted. On the one
hand are the ...

Update: for the 'How to argue...' file
How to introduce evidence you don't have:
So these days, for example, one hears that Lieberman is a

true believersquasi-independents
fundamentalistsheterodox politicians
party disciplinedistrust ideological purity
passionrebel against movement groupthink
orthodoxyJohn McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Hillary Clinton
clear choicesJoe Lieberman

Continue reading "Bobo's two types: purity vs pragma" »

April 28, 2006

Belgian assembly

Brussels Journal tracks crime in Europe and faults the Beeb.

April 10, 2006

Hyphen needed

What to think of, home of financial reporter Lou Dobbs.

LoudObbs ? LouDobbs.

Why not or ?

Like to watch the business commentators, especially during tax filing season.

February 4, 2006

CBS News

CBS News online: example.
Much better than the graphics and advertizing overladen
news portals of the past.

January 22, 2006

Liberal one party Canada 0 vs Blogosphere 1

For the moment, to put it nicely, the same thing has happened to the
Liberals in Canada, as has happened to other long-serving single-party
regimes elsewhere in the world. Technology has caught up with their
ability to manage information; and a sheltered population is losing
its fear. The more the ruling party tries to scare them, with
heavy-handed old-media campaigns, the worse things get --
for the ruling party.

Continue reading "Liberal one party Canada 0 vs Blogosphere 1" »

December 16, 2005

Al Gore's heart and soul, protecting our children from the dangers of smoking

Until I draw my last breath, I will pour my heart and soul into the
cause of protecting our children from the dangers of smoking.

-- Al Gore, 1996.

Today we are fighting in Iraq for the right to smoke.

Continue reading "Al Gore's heart and soul, protecting our children from the dangers of smoking" »

December 12, 2005

Bush the persuader ?

Bush distrusts rhetoric. He hates to explain and persuade. He'd prefer to
decide and delegate. So instead of taking the time to convince members of
Congress -- and for that matter the public -- that the government needs
to start spying on Americans, he went ahead and did it in secret.

-- BowTie.

November 4, 2005

Judith Miller bio

New Yorker bio of person of the month Judith Miller, in the circle
of Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Valerie Palme, Joseph Wilson, Karl Rove
and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

"Unfortunately a lot of fine young people were gotten for perjury
during Watergate."

-Al Haig

October 23, 2005

Nouriel Roubini

Nouriel Roubini's first rate economics blog offers an
essay of macroeconomic commentary about weekly.
Quick off the mark with commentary on new Fed Chairman
nominee on Ben Bernanke.

Previously: Roubini Global Economics.

October 11, 2005

NYT headlines

NYT headline index RSS as it's posted.
Most e-mailed 24 hours | 7 days | 30 days
Most blogged 3 days | 7 days | 30 days
Most searched 24 hours | 7 days | 30 days

obIA: Good use of multiple entry points.

August 6, 2005

Dan Gillmor

Formerly one of the MSM popular press's better technology writers,
bayosphere's Dan Gillmor didn't stay solo for long.

May 25, 2005

No Facts in Common

The Web is a festering cesspool of lunacy and emotion: Free Republic,
Daily Kos, Little Green Footballs, Atrios, Instapundit, on and on
and on. Facts only enter the picture when they're favorable.
Emotion rules. There is no common ground, nor a desire for any.

-- Greg Knauss

Nor common facts among left and right.

April 1, 2005

Busy Busy Busy

busybusybusy is a great leftish summary the
day's talking heads' punditry.

November 23, 2004

John Tierney

Word in the Washington bureau is that John Tierney, a veteran
journalist who worked for the Washington Star, is in position to write
a column from Washington. A reporter for most of his career, he has
written a regional column about New York. He is no doctrinaire
conservative, perhaps a libertarian, but he has taken muckraking
positions on many issues.

Continue reading "John Tierney" »

October 11, 2004

New York Times top 25 articles, most mailed

New York Times top 25 articles. 'Top' is measured by most mailed,
not most viewed.