Tag Archives: New York Times

I have finally accepted the truth

Other doggy parents will feel joy I will never experience.

It is inescapable now. Otto the rescue pitbull does not like bacon.

I was making breakfast for dinner tonight, and fried up some bacon. When it was done I took a piece out to let it cool on a paper towel. 

I gave it to Otto and he, as he always does with any particularly messy food, carried it into the living room to eat on the new rug. I thought nothing of it.

Then I walked into the living room a few minutes later and there it was. Sitting there, untouched on the carpet. Mocking me.

The uneaten bacon.

I tried everything. I desperately offered it to him again as he was sleeping on the sofa. He turned up his nose then looked away.

I pulled out the big guns. I acted like I was eating it, making “nom, nom, nom” sounds and saying “Mmmm, DELICIOUS!” like I do right before he rejects yet another expensive  doggy treat and then eats some poop.

Nothing. He just looked at me, yawned and then licked his rope toy.

A rope toy? Over bacon?

You turn it over in your mind. Where did I go wrong?

There were signs I ignored. He would not take bacon-flavored treats. He did not like Pupperoni.

I should have known. But I was in denial.

Where did I go wrong? Did I love him too much? Did I love him not enough?

What will the other parents at the dog park say?

“His dog does not like bacon. Also he doesn’t use biodegradable waste disposal bags.”

The words ring in my ears.

I don’t want to talk about it.

I will post a vague reference on Facebook to something being wrong and hope nobody takes that extra step of asking, “What happened? Are you OK?”

The world seems off-kilter right now.

Snowstorm Stella stalks Northeast

With snow predictions wildly varying from less than a foot to more than two feet, the Northeast plays a waiting game as panicked food shopping yields the photo below.

Really, is there anything more New England prior to a snowstorm than a packed Market Basket in Chelsea (MA). And then there’s this one guy who really knows his storm shit with an armful of Hostess snack cakes.

If I had to choose one person with whom I’d like to ride out a civilization-ending snow event, I’m pretty sure it would be Little Debbie. 

Trump war on the press goes into overdrive

The White House press briefing room

This is pretty outrageous:

Journalists from The New York Times and several other news organizations were prohibited from attending a brieäng by President Trump’s press secretary on Friday, a highly unusual breach of relations between the White House and its press corps.

Reporters from The Times, BuzzFeed News, CNN, The Los Angeles Times and Politico were not allowed to enter the West Wing office of the press secretary, 

[snip]

Aides to Mr. Spicer only allowed in reporters from a handpicked group of news organizations that, the White House said, had been previously confirmed. Those organizations included Breitbart News, the One America News Network and The Washington Times, all with conservative leanings. 

Journalists from ABC, CBS, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and Fox News also attended. 

Reporters from Time magazine and The Associated Press, who were set to be allowed in, chose not to attend the briefing in protest of the White House’s actions.

Who knew that Politico, which started as a news source favoring Republicans, would be in this group? Politico seems to have found its journalistic footing while covering The Orange Great Leader.

I may need to renew my lapsed New York Times subscription, which I had let lapse over their shameful following of the journalistic lemmings over the Hillary emails cliff.

If nothing else, Trump is proving that the glorious White House access the media has long held as the sine qua non of prestigious presidential coverage is proving to be somewhat of a bust since the media outlets who are being shut out are doing a better job than the non-right-wing “mainstream” ones still in the White House’s good graces.

Along those lines, David Frum, once a reliably pliant journalist during previous GOP White House regimes, tweeted this very good question:

Front page of NY Times, one year ago

Where are our leaders who teach us to be better than we are?

Leaders who keep us away from our worst impulses, as leaders are supposed to do? Leaders who teach us how to be better citizens of America? Better citizens of the world?

How has this country fallen so far so fast?

How have we become the laughingstock of the world (the part not run by dictators) so quickly? 

 

Stop suggesting Donald Trump is mentally ill

Donald Trump mocks disabled New York Times reporter Serge F. Kovaleski at a campaign rally in November 2015.
Donald Trump mocks disabled New York Times reporter Serge F. Kovaleski at a campaign rally in November 2015.

There seems to be a meme of sorts starting among many members of the mainstream media trying to blame Donald Trump’s complete inability to follow norms of civilized behavior on some sort of mental illness.

During the primary season, as Donald Trump’s bizarre outbursts helped him crush the competition, I thought he was being crazy like a fox. Now I am increasingly convinced that he’s just plain crazy.

I’m serious about that. Leave aside for the moment Trump’s policies, which in my opinion range from the unconstitutional to the un-American to the potentially catastrophic. At this point, it would be irresponsible to ignore the fact that Trump’s grasp on reality appears to be tenuous at best.

Begin with the fact that he lies the way other people breathe. Telling a self-serving lie — no matter how transparent, no matter how easily disproved — seems to be a reflex for him. Look at the things he has said in just the past week.

On Wednesday, at a news conference in Florida, Trump said he has never met Russian President Vladimir Putin. “I never met Putin, I don’t know who Putin is,” he said.

Last November, he claimed that he “got to know [Putin] very well because we were both on ‘60 Minutes.’ ” That made no sense; while the two men were featured the same evening on the CBS newsmagazine show, they were interviewed in different cities and would have had no interaction. But there’s more: In 2014, speaking at the National Press Club, Trump said, “I was in Moscow recently and I spoke, indirectly and directly, with President Putin, who could not have been nicer, and we had a tremendous success.”

 

So was he lying last week, when he was trying to deflect criticism of his admiring words for the Russian strongman? Or was he lying two years ago, when he was trying to convince everyone what a big shot he was?

The answer? He was lying then and he is lying now. And he has been lying all the times in-between.

Stop saying he is mentally ill. Stop writing it.

Trump clearly has mental issues, most notably the worst case of narcissism ever seen outside of the ruling family that has long tormented North Korea. Although one suspects Trump might even give Dear Leader a run for his money in this department.

But to suggest that he is mentally deficient in some global way is to excuse what he is, what his party now represents, and those who are partly responsible for the making of Donald Trump and his rise to power.

First of all, the mental illness argument lets off the hook every single member of the mainstream media who laughed at, and excused, his childish, narcissistic lies all these years. Barbara Walters. Tom Brokaw. The entire casts of the Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning. Every entertainment news show ever created. 

None of them can act shocked now at that which was plainly in front of their faces for so so long, yet ignored by them because they wanted, they needed to be on The Donald’s guest list in New York and Florida.

Are you a member of the MSM who attended one of his parties or fundraisers instead of covering the real story — that he is a racist, sexist, homophobic lying pig who inflates everything about his life? Then you helped create him and, no, you cannot now credibly maintain that he has some mental illness you never noticed before.

Second, to say he is globally mentally ill ignores that Donald Trump is the living embodiment of more than four decades of the grubby, brazenly hateful Republican id. He is what happens when lies and self-aggrandizement are allowed to run their course in a human being without anyone around to tell him the truth of the horrible person he is becoming. He is the ultimate spoiled brat all grown up.

To say he is mentally ill ignores all these years of Fox News and Rush Limbaugh. It’s as if both of those media entities mated and had a child named Donald. This is not mental illness. This is the perfect conception of greed and ignorance.

Stop saying he is mentally ill. He is not. He is the GOP nightmare come to life. And none of those people can now blame mental illness for that which they have created and nurtured themselves.

TrumpPutin

 

 

Who will prosecute the prosecutors?

Judge Marcus Gordon jefferly.com Mississippi New York Times ACLU judicial abuse
Brandon Buskey, a staff attorney with the A.C.L.U.’s Criminal Law Reform Project, describes Mississippi Judge Marcus Gordon’s record on the bench as “Callous. Appalling. Cruel.”

Being poor or middle class and involved in America’s criminal courts system unjustly is a nightmare. If you cannot afford your own high-priced lawyer you are likely stuck (if you even get this much) with an overworked, underpaid form of public counsel who may or may not be able to give you even just adequate representation.

Despite news stories about those few high-profile cases for which public interest law groups or prisoner innocence projects are able to exonerate the innocent, most prisoners, even those who were the victims of the egregious abuses by prosecutors and/or judges, will languish in prison. Even if they are cleared, the law makes it difficult to sue them in civil court because the standard of proof is so high.

But did you know there actually is a way under current law to go after corrupt or abusive prosecutors and judges?

Writing in the New York Times, Brandon Buskey, a staff attorney with the A.C.L.U.’s Criminal Law Reform Project, tells all of us how a little-used statute might be a way to reign in such abuses in the criminal justice system:

When it comes to poor people arrested for felonies in Scott County, Miss., Judge Marcus D. Gordon doesn’t bother with the Constitution.

He refuses to appoint counsel until arrestees have been formally charged by an indictment, which means they must languish in jail without legal representation for as long as a year. Judge Gordon has robbed countless individuals of their freedom, locking them away from their loved ones and livelihoods for months on end.

(I am the lead lawyer in a class­-action suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union against Scott County and Judge Gordon.)

In a recent interview, the judge, who sits on the Mississippi State Circuit Court, was unapologetic about his regime of indefinite detention: “The criminal system is a system of criminals. Sure, their rights are violated.” But, he added, “That’s the hardship of the criminal system.”

There are many words to describe the judge’s blunt disregard of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel. Callous. Appalling. Cruel. Here’s another possibility: criminal — liable to prosecution and, if found guilty, prison time.

The article is an interesting read.

Paris: saved from the Bataclan gunfire

paris jefferly.com Islamic State ISIS ISIL Bataclan New York Times podcast iTunes

A young  Parisian explains how a stranger may have saved his life and the lives of others by pulling them from an emergency exit pile-up at the Bataclan concert hall.

This is from the New York Times iTunes video podcast. It’s very good. Enter this URL into your iTunes podcast directory or go here.

Tiny number of families vying to control election

New York Times election money jefferly.com
While there are a few wealthy progressives supporting the Democratic side, the vast majority of money given by the super wealthy is going to the GOP.

There is an article in this morning’s New York Times which shows what anyone who is tired of a world that is, in Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s words, “rigged against the little guys,” is up against in this election:

They are overwhelmingly white, rich, older and male, in a nation that is being remade by the young, by women, and by black and brown voters.

Across a sprawling country, they reside in an archipelago of wealth, exclusive neighborhoods dotting a handful of cities and towns.

And in an economy that has minted billionaires in a dizzying array of industries, most made their fortunes in just two: finance and energy.

Now they are deploying their vast wealth in the political arena, providing almost half of all the seed money raised to support Democratic and Republican presidential candidates.

Just 158 families, along with companies they own or control, contributed $176 million in the first phase of the campaign, a New York Times investigation found. Not since before Watergate have so few people and businesses provided so much early money in a campaign, most of it through channels legalized by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision five years ago. These donors’ fortunes reflect the shifting composition of the country’s economic elite.

Relatively few work in the traditional ranks of corporate America, or hail from dynasties of inherited wealth. Most built their own businesses, parlaying talent and an appetite for risk into huge wealth: They founded hedge funds in New York, bought up undervalued oil leases in Texas, made blockbusters in Hollywood. More than a dozen of the elite donors were born outside the United States, immigrating from countries like Cuba, the old Soviet Union, Pakistan, India and Israel. But regardless of industry, the families investing the most in presidential politics overwhelmingly lean right, contributing tens of millions of dollars to support Republican candidates who have pledged to pare regulations; cut taxes on income, capital gains and inheritances; and shrink entitlement programs.

While such measures would help protect their own wealth, the donors describe their embrace of them more broadly, as the surest means of promoting economic growth.

Of course that is how they — including the notorious Koch brothers — frame their efforts. If they came out and admitted what they do is meant to benefit only them and people like them, they would lose every election. Instead they build astroturf front groups with high-minded names to fool the electorate.

Which begs the question: if what they are doing is so good for America as a whole, why do they have to hide it so much?

New York Times election money jefferly.com
Graphic: New York Times

 

Paxil and teenagers: when science makes mistakes

Paxil jefferly.com

The New York Times has this article up on its web site:

Fourteen years ago, a leading drug maker published a study showing that the antidepressant Paxil was safe and effective for teenagers.

On Wednesday, a major medical journal posted a new analysis of the same data concluding that the opposite is true.

That study — featured prominently by the journal BMJ — is a clear break from scientific custom and reflects a new era in scientific publishing, some experts said, opening the way for journals to post multiple interpretations of the same experiment.

It comes at a time of self­-examination across science — retractions are at an all-­time high; recent cases of fraud have shaken fields as diverse as anesthesia and political science; and earlier this month researchers reported that less than half of a sample of psychology papers held up.

“This paper is alarming, but its existence is a good thing,” said Brian Nosek, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, who was not involved in either the original study or the reanalysis. “It signals that the community is waking up, checking its work and doing what science is supposed to do — self-­correct.”

Of course, scientologists (who generally oppose all psychiatry and psychiatric medications) will have a field day. So will all the voices out there — from climate deniers to vaccine opponents — who will say, “A-ha! This proves it! Scientists don’t know what they are doing with Paxil so how can we trust them on global climate change and childhood vaccinations?”

These kinds of scientific about-faces are confusing for many members of the general public.

First: butter is good for you. Then it was bad for you. Now it’s not bad for you again except if you eat too much of it. To many non-scientists it seems as of scientists have no idea what they are doing and you just can’t trust any of it.

I always tell people who are put off by all this switching and changing that the first thing they can do to put themselves on the road to being a scientifically aware person is this: All of this is perfectly normal. Science makes mistakes. Other scientists correct those mistakes.

Think of when you were first learning how to do something relatively simple — say, drive a car. You were likely not perfect the first time you got behind the wheel. You drove too slow or too fast. You ran over a curb. You could not parallel park. You mowed over your mother’s prized rose bushes.

But you got better at it the more you did it. This is called trial and error and it’s the best way many people learn. Just do it yourself, make mistakes, and learn from those mistakes. Nobody said, “Well, you made too many mistakes. This is proof you are an unreliable driver and we cannot ever trust you to do any better.”

Broadly speaking, science is no different. Think of how simple driving a car is now for you. Yet you made mistakes in the beginning anyway. Now think about a mathematically and logistically complex scientific experiments can be, involving highly technical measurements and calculations taken over years with thousands of variables. Then that mountain of data has to be analyzed by (one hopes) very smart people with years of education and training. But they are still, after all is said and done, just humans. 

Does anyone really expect that there will never be any errors in work like this? It’s naive to think so. 

But then someone else comes along — other scientists — and they take a new look at old data (as with Paxil) or they design a new study which uses better, more modern methods than an older study. 

This trial and error, the catching of old mistakes, is a sign that all is working as it should in the world of science. And some science is easier to quantify, which probably partially accounts for much of the high error rates in the psychology papers mentioned above.

The hard sciences — chemistry, much of physics, etc. — are relatively easy when it comes to getting more exact measurements.  You have known constants and specific end points which you can measure. In the simplest terms, say you wanted to test a substance to see if it turns water blue. You gets the substance, some water and you put the substance into the water. Does it turn blue? That is the end point.  Simple.

But the social sciences, psychology and psychiatry included, can be difficult to quantify because you are relying on self-reported behaviors and feelings. Does this drug make you feel less nervous? Well, that would depend on the person and how they define “less nervous.” Some people are nervous all the time. Some people tell researchers what they think that researcher wants to hear.

Many people — a very great number of people — are susceptible to the placebo effect. You give someone a pill that is nothing but sugar and tell them it’s to increase their energy. Viola! Many people will say they have more energy because they believed the pill is an energy pill. Just believing something is enough to make some people feel as if it is true. Some of those people might even show physical symptoms which suggest they are less sluggish despite the fact that they were only given a sugar pill. The mind’s effect on the body can be incredibly powerful.

Also, it can be difficult to design experiments with humans when it comes to psychiatric issues because you are playing science with people’s mental health, broadly speaking. Suicidal people, for example, deserve the best treatment available. They cannot be dropped into some study where some suicidal people are given something scientists think might help them not kill themselves, and others are given nothing, just to compare the suicide rates of the two groups.

However, advances in brain imaging are moving at an incredible pace. The day is coming when brain scans can be used on a regular, relatively low-cost basis to actually measure whether a person is happy or depressed or telling a lie. They are already being used to measure what effects advertisements have on the brains of the people who see them and judge which types of ads are better at causing the positive feelings that businesses hope will cause you to take that extra step to actually purchase their product.

The point of all this is that if you feel confused about issues where science says one thing one year, and a totally different thing five years later, relax.  This is how it is supposed to work. Eventually the system — coming to an initial conclusion and then having other scientists all from all over eventually test your methods, data and results — is supposed to correct itself. 

Just as science did with Paxil.

And a few mistakes don’t call into question all of science, as many conservatives are trying to convince people in order to cast doubt on global climate change and other issues.

Paxil jefferly.com scientific-research
Much of scientific research is built around trial and error and mistakes are bound to happen. The important part is that they are caught eventually

 

 

 

Is Bernie Sanders being shafted by the New York Times?

Bernie Sanders
A massive pro-Sanders rally in Madison, WI.

In some parts of the country Bernie Sanders is outpolling Hillary Clinton and he’s drawing huge crowds to his campaign events. 

Yet it is the impression of many Sanders supporters — an impression I share — that the mainstream media are not taking him seriously. One of the major targets of ire from Sanders fans has been the New York Times, arguably the nation’s newspaper of record.

If you are one of those individuals, you will be happy to note that the Times‘ Public Editor Margaret Sullivan has taken a look at the issue in a column that ran this morning:

Many readers also found this passage in an Aug. 20 campaign trail article objectionable:

When a gaggle of reporters — “corporate media” in Sanders parlance — mentioned Mrs. Clinton here, he snarled, “That’s the sport you guys like,” meaning their focus on the kind of political questions he disdains. When asked to reconcile his anti­establishment status with being a “career politician,” Mr. Sanders, who except for two years has held political office continually since 1981, glared at the young reporter who asked the question. “Career politician?” he said to her with a disdainful laugh. “Other questions.”

Constance Sullivan of Minneapolis wrote that it was “astonishingly inaccurate: “Sanders didn’t ‘snarl’ (I have seen the video clip). He typically responds calmly and with cool reason that tends to deflate a lot of self­ important young reporters.”

Regina Schrambling of Manhattan (a former Times writer and editor) wrote to me complaining about an early headline on a piece about Mr. Sanders’ popularity on Facebook and Reddit. It read: “A Grumpy Old Socialist and Social Media Sensation.” She couldn’t recall this sort of tone with any of the Republican “fringe candidates” as she put it. The article, too, she said, was dismissive. “It seems the editors have decided the race already and have written him off,” she said.

Beyond the specifics of word choice, many readers have told me in emails and written in hundreds of passionate comments on news stories that they are deeply frustrated by coverage that doesn’t dig into the important issues plaguing the nation, particularly economic inequality and climate change.

And Dave Lippman of Teaneck, New Jersey complained about a circular system of news, in which “fringe candidates are not deserving of respect because they don’t have support because the press doesn’t treat them with respect.”

Sullivan goes on to note:

Here’s my take: The Times has not ignored Mr. Sanders’ campaign by any means but it also hasn’t always taken it very seriously. The tone of some stories does seem regrettably dismissive, even mocking at times. Some of it is focused on the candidate’s age, appearance and style rather than what he has to say.

You can read the rest at the link below.

Source: Has The Times Dismissed Bernie
Sanders? – New York Times