Dear New York Times…

POSTER’S NOTE:  Dear all,

I’ve just done something I essentially never do.  I’ve gone into two comments and redacted a couple of sentences that made what read to me as sexually hostile statements about a specific reporter.

The commenters are long time and respected members of the community, and I not only get that this is a delightfully expressive environment — I’ve certainly had occasion to discuss unnatural acts with oxidized farm tools myself.  But in the real world, reporters are being threatened daily by Trump folks and others — and female reporters get savaged more, and in more horrible ways.  I don’t believe in banning except in true extremis, and the comments edited don’t come close to ban-hammer eligibility.  But I don’t feel OK leaving that particular line of attack up on the blog, or attached to a post under my name.  So I’ve exercised the god-like powers of the blog to take out a couple of lines that hit too close to home, at least for me, in a time and place where women doing difficult jobs have enough to deal with as it is.

If anyone’s bothered by this, write to me, and I’ll make sure you get a full refund —



Hey, folks.  Been spending way too much time on Twitter lately, ranting about coverage and the election, and hence have sucked up all the would-be blogging time.  But in doing so, I’ve managed to begin a conversation with some folks who actually perform such coverage.  One of them asked me to be specific about a charge they found hard to swallow:  that there is a systematic difference between the way Trump is covered and Clinton is in the major venues.

Rockwell fact and fiction

That correspondent and others pointed out, accurately, that at least since May, and in many cases before then, there have been major, damning, utterly critical stories about Trump.  Given that, wouldn’t complaints about, say, stories on Clinton’s emails or the alleged corruption inherent in the Clinton Foundation-State Department nexus suggest more a partisan reaction, hypersensitive about stories critical of the side I favor, rather than a measured accounting of the full coverage record?

My answer was and that while there are indeed such stories, and that many of the Clinton pieces that have enraged me are at some definition of accuracy perfectly on-the-beam.  But then I go on to say that the question of systematic bias is not about each single story.  Rather, it turns on the entire editorial apparatus of campaign coverage: how those stories are assigned, pursued, resourced, and extended past day one or two coverage, and how the facts within them are set up for interpretation.

That argument leads to an obvious and appropriate response:

Prove it.

It’s going to take me some time to do so across the range of questions I’ve actually received.  But there was a piece in today’s New York Times that provides a case study (the fancy name for anecdata) that offers an example of the gap between fine-scale factual accuracy and a truthful exercise in journalism

For the record:  what I’m attempting to do isn’t simply to say “You Suck!” to The New York Times, the first target of my logorrhea below, or anyone else.  It is to help smart and incredibly hard working people realize what’s often hard to notice deep in the weeds and the mud.  That would be exactly where one is in the maze — which would be the first step to navigating to somewhere better.

With that as prologue, here’s what I just wrote to one of my correspondents.  That reporter challenged me on several points, and I began what will be a multipart response by walking back, just a little,  my somewhat incendiary claim that current campaign coverage reminded me of the Times’ Iraq war lead-in coverage — to which I added my own desire to give a specific example of what I meant by a biased approach to a story.  So here goes, in a slightly edited version of what I sent in private:


…The Iraq War mention isn’t a perfect analogy, I’ll agree:  there’s no comparison to Judith Miller in the Times’ current campaign coverage, and there’s no sign I can see of the editorial or management errors that allowed her coverage (and other stuff too, TBH) such impact.

 The Iraq war serves for me, and I think many critics of the Times as a kind of existence proof:  the Times is capable of major failures that have huge consequences, which means, to me, that it’s important to be very vigilant.  I know this seems obvious, and perhaps even insulting to those inside the organization – but from outside the newsroom, it often appears that the NYT has a difficult time admitting errosr, especially those more complicated than a straightforward factual mistake.   A personal anecdote:  I had drinks some years ago with a NYTimes reporter (still there, not on the politics desk) and at one point in our conversation (late, after a number of rounds) he said something like NYTimes reporters don’t write stuff that’s not true; we get more scrutiny than you believe so we make sure it doesn’t happen. (Fallible memory, some years, but that was the gist).  And I’m sure the scrutiny is there (heck – here I am part of it.) But that was not a reassuring statement, as I think you can see. 

 I’ll get into this more below but my broad framework is that with exceptions, the way the thumb is on the scale (from my point of view) in NYT coverage of the campaign is not at the level you work, on the reporting day by day and the production of individual stories.  It is rather on the editorial apparatus that creates the framework for readers to interpret your coverage.

You ask for specifics – let me give you an example from today’s paper, “Emails Raise New Questions About Clinton Foundation to State Dept.”

[Edited to add:  Hmmm, didn’t realize how long this sucker was on the page. Continued after the newly inserted jump] Read more

Dumb idea of the week

And this is not even directly related to Trump.

my first response is to ask if Ryan Lizza guzzles anti-freeze for breakfast as this is breathtakingly stupid.

Let’s make a few assumptions that I think are verifiable within reality.

a) Hillary Clinton has in all projection systems been favored to win the White House at all points to varying degrees (except the 538 click-bait now-cast)
b) A Republican appointed or de facto appointed Supreme Court median judge produces significantly different policy and political outcomes than a median Supreme Court justice that represents a typical Democratic nominee.
c) The Clinton campaign is better run than the Trump campaign.

Now let’s make a few more slightly shakier assumptions.

d) The Democratic coalition has good reason to believe it is a dominant Presidential level coalition ( 5 out 6 most recent elections had Dem popular vote pluralities etc)
e) The Republican coalition is a maxed out coalition with significant headwinds due to higher death and lower replacement rates of their core voters compared to Democratic core voting blocks.
f) The Donald is a dumpster fire which excerbates E

In football analytics terms, Clinton is ahead and she can win with a good, productive 8 minute offense of low variance but efficient plays. There is little reason for the Clinton campaign to adopt high variance vertical shots down the field to score when she is already up 9 with a better quarterback and a better defense. Scoring point is nice but running time off the clock and winning field position works almost as well. Interceptions and fumbles would dramatically drop win probability compared to a counterfactual of boring productive plays.

Promising to nominate a typical Republican judge as the median SCOTUS vote in order to try to capture 2% to 5% of the core Republican vote is a high variance play for a Democratic nominee. It could be worth it if the nominee was down 9 points with three months left. But that is not the case. Promising to nominate a Kennedy clone or more likely a Roberts clone may or may not get any Republican votes as a Trump Administration would nominate at least a Roberts if not an Alito clone anyways while it would cause a lot of trouble on the left flank. That could be acceptable if the left flank was legitimately faced with a “this sucks but it is the only chance to avoid the true suckage of four years of Trump” choice but that is not the choice out there.

Therefore this is the stupidest thing I’ve read this week.

Friends Don’t Let Friends Read Andrew Sullivan, Part [n]

Further to my disdain below, I can’t say anything to gloss what Andrew writes in tonight’s RNC liveblog.

MSKG - De idioot bij de vijver - Frits Van den Berghe (1926)

Truly, all you need to know about Andrew’s political and intellectual honesty is right there:

8:18 p.m. We have to answer this core question: how is it that liberal democracy in America is now flirting with strongman, ethno-nationalist authoritarianism? What happened to the democratic center?

It seems to me that the right bears the hefty majority of responsibility, moving from principled opposition to outright nullification of a presidency, trashing every important neutral institution, and now bad-mouthing the country they hope to “govern.” But the left’s abandonment of empiricism and liberalism – its rapid descent into neo-Marxist dogma, its portrayal of American history as a long unending story of white supremacy, its coarse impugning of political compromise and incrementalism, its facile equation of disagreement with bigotry – has also played a part. Liberal democracy needs liberal norms and manners to survive. Which is why it is now on life-support.

In between, moderate Christianity, once a unifying cultural fabric creating a fragile civil discourse, has evaporated into disparate spirituality on one side and fundamentalist dogma on the other, leaving us with little in the center to hold us morally together.

Annnnd, Scene!

Have at it, friends.

Image:  Frits Van den Berghe, The Idiot by the Pond1926

They were careless people, Tom and Daisy

This will never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever happen, but it’s a good thought (via):

I have a fantasy. It’s that every politician and pundit who goes on TV to discuss the Iran deal is asked this question first: “Did you support the Iraq War, and how has that experience informed your position?”

Open Thread: Dinesh D’Souza, Meet Jeet Heer

Jeet Heer’s twitter feed is alway worth reading, but whoever hired him to write at TNR deserves a bonus, because now he’s got a reason to say more about American politics. Heer’s cover story for the first issue of the revamped TNR (“Whitewash: TNR’s Legacy on Race“) was rightly lauded. And now he’s handed Mr. “Obama the anti-colonialist doesn’t love America” D’Souza his… pants, in “How to Make It In Conservative America (If You Aren’t White)“:

… Anti-black racism, I’ve often thought, is one of the more unwholesome manifestations of assimilation. If blacks are near the bottom of the perceived racial hierarchy across North America, some enterprising immigrants find it useful to step on blacks as a way of climbing higher.

Racism among South Asians has some peculiar qualities; it’s not so much hatred of the other but the hatred of the almost-the-same, akin to a sibling rivalry. At the heart of this sort of immigrant racism is the desire to differentiate oneself from the group one could easily be identified with…

D’Souza’s racism makes sense if we view it as part of his long effort to succeed in a right-wing milieu that is both anti-Indian and anti-black. Within that context, D’Souza has given saliency to anti-black racism to compensate for a potentially embarrassing background as a Mumbai-born immigrant. Is D’Souza sincere in his beliefs or simply an intellectual mercenary? It’s impossible to know for sure. What can be said with certainty is that as an Indian willing to voice anti-black sentiment, D’Souza has carved out a lucrative niche for himself, enjoying a national audience from the time he was an undergraduate…

One of the saddest things about D’Souza’s racism is that it’s clearly built on some element of self-hatred. By aligning himself with figures like Hart and Burnham, he chose a form of upward mobility that required abasing himself before those who despised his heritage…

A mark, that will surely leave.

Chaitsplaining the Perils of PC

Jonathan Chait has written a lengthy screed on the perils of political correctness. He reviews its history, provides numerous examples of its pitfalls and even name-checks Balloon Juice fave Freddie deBoer, who is quoted as follows:

It seems to me now that the public face of social liberalism has ceased to seem positive, joyful, human, and freeing. There are so many ways to step on a land mine now, so many terms that have become forbidden, so many attitudes that will get you cast out if you even appear to hold them. I’m far from alone in feeling that it’s typically not worth it to engage, given the risks.

It’s a long piece, but if I may attempt to summarize, Chait divides libtards into two camps: Radical leftists (black hats!) who are the intellectual heirs of Marx; these social justice warriors infest Tumblr and other platforms and try to win the day by shutting down opponents. The second group, Classic Coke liberals (white hats!), are the heirs of Enlightenment traditions. These free speech advocates try to win through application of reason. Read more

Long Read Scroll: “Liking Jazz Is Not Enough”


Yes, of interest only to specialists or fellow OCD sufferers: Blog favorite Ta-Nehisi Coates applauding Jeet Heer (who just took a job with the “new” TNR) bashing favorite blog-target Andrew Sullivan.

I’d forgotten (I did hate-read the original “Bell Curve” issue, which caused me to cancel my subscription for the first or second time) that all the TNR writers who were not Andrew Sullivan or Marty Perez had strong disagreements with that article.

You may now resume your regularly scheduled Balloon Juice.