Category Archives: Things that Piss Me off from The NY Times

Heiress Trophy Husband Tom Friedman Knows What Public Schools Need

I did not get through whatever drool was spewing from the mouth of the Gray Lady who at this point deserves to face the death panels. I merely opened the new Week in Review Lite section when these words from the middle of Thomas Friedman’s column jumped out:

“In some cities, teachers’ unions really are holding up education reform.”

If you consider “school reform” stealing resources from public community schools to put them into corporate charters for a “lucky” few, then yes, teacher’s unions are standing in the way. If you want those charters to hire new grads eager to pad their resumes before going on to something else because who needs experienced teachers, then yup, the unions will try to block that as well, and sure if you then decide to close the public schools that you gutted to give the charters space and materials, then I’m sure the unions will not be pleased.

Greedy bastards, those teachers. Unlike men who marry heiresses, teachers are all in it for the money.

Friedman goes on:

“But we need to stop blaming teachers alone. We also have a parent problem: parents who do not take an interest in their children’s schooling or set high standards.”

Do such parents actually exist? Yes, they do. But most parents do take an interest, and they certainly want the best for their kids. They may need to work a couple of jobs making talking to the teachers difficult. They might not be proficient in English, and the only available translator might be their kid, but not taking an interest is generally not an issue.

Then he goes on to blame the students.

Finally, he blames the President for failing to create a national campaign to “challenge parents and create a culture of respect and excitement for learning.”

The President is not completely blameless here. His education secretary, Arne Duncan, has put too much faith in charters, but his administration has done more than any previous one to try to build 21st century skills into the curriculum, and to push for excellence, and anyone who popped into a public school during or after the election of 2008 would have seen how much the election of an African American President who extolled education, changed everything.

Instead of blaming teachers, parents and students, why not just try to make schools better? It’s not that hard to look at those schools that work best in poor areas, middle-class and wealthy ones to figure out what the best practices should be. It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that poverty sets up numerous blocks to educational success, and that income inequality in this country is a growing problem. Is there a need for some tough talk with unions Continue reading Heiress Trophy Husband Tom Friedman Knows What Public Schools Need

David Brooks was a Teenaged Pothead but That’s Ok for David Brooks

In today’s The New York Times, David Brooks fondly remembers his days as a teenage pothead. While he finds his experience with the devil-weed did not harm him in any way, he is out to seriously harsh Colorado’s mellow, suggesting that legalizing pot was not prudent and certainly not something government should be doing.

Dear David, just imagine what would have happened if during one of those innocent, frollicky, friendship-deepening marijuana smoking sessions which you fondly recall, you had been busted. Not busted by your friend’s dad, who would have called your parents who would have grounded you for a month, but busted by the police.

Wait. You’re white and middle-class. The police probably wouldn’t have done much. After all back in the 1980s there was that time that Geraldine Ferraro’s son was arrested for dealing coke, and he only got four months in jail, and that was some kind of private luxury jail and that was COCAINE and there was too much publicity for him not to go to jail; plus his mom had lost the election, and Americans hate losers.

The problem with making something against the law isn’t that it discourages use. It really doesn’t. You and your friends were an example of that. (See also, Volstead Act, The) The problem is that laws have consequences and those consequences aren’t always allotted equally. The problem is some kids might get busted and get the shit kicked out of them by police officers. Some kids might even go to jail or lose their ability to get financial aide for Continue reading David Brooks was a Teenaged Pothead but That’s Ok for David Brooks

The Week in Idiocy — What Stupid Thing is Ross Douthat Saying Today

Ross Douthat, I get it. You’re kind of like The New York Times’ answer to Ann Coulter — a “conservative” who entertains the less conservative with your idiotic antics. The difference is Coulter’s more like Sarah Silverman or even Andy Kaufman, edgier, willing to go really far into bad taste territory to stay in character. You, however, work for the Gray Lady and have to be more restrained. You’re like the uncle who baits everyone at Thanksgiving, except purposely dumber so Times’ readers can always answer your argument in their heads before they even finish your column.

You are the Monday Crossword Puzzle of columnists, and I’m one of those people who can’t get through the puzzle by Wednesdays even in pencil with a good eraser, so I’ll play.

In this week’s column, The Three Burials of Obamacare, you explain that the first time the plan was nearly DOA was when Massachusetts sent what you describe as a “pick-up truck driving Republican” to the Senate and he voted agin’ it. Ok. Scott Brown did drive a pick-up. What’s the point? Is that a subtile way of saying “We Republican’s are regular Joe’s as opposed to you elite Democrats”? Granted, Brown looked more natural in his truck and his regular guy clothes than Romney did ever, but most regular guys aren’t lawyers, professional politicians and former centerfolds for magazines catering to gay men – not that there’s anything wrong with that.

You also blame Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid for “maneuvering” to save health care despite voter backlash. Wait, what? The majority of voters in this country have made it pretty clear they wanted health care reform – see Presidential election 2012. Hint – the guy who lost might have lost by less if he hadn’t disavowed the biggest success of his term as governor (and also hadn’t been caught on tape telling us how he really feels about 47% of the population).

Next you blame Chief Justice Roberts for not overturning the law. You conservatives are big fans of judicial activism when it goes your way. (See Supreme Court Coup 2000 – Bush v Gore). I guess that’s what you have to do when your party is going down in flames, and can’t actually win elections.

Then, you blame Sebelius and her “hapless crew” for the website screw up. But why stop there? A lousy website wouldn’t have sunk it if all those Republican governors and legislatures hadn’t made it illegal in some states for people to even help other people navigate the exchanges and had refused to set up their own exchanges leaving all the work to the feds. Here in New York where the state set up its own exchanges and website, we’re doing just fine thank you very much. Why not put credit where it’s actually due?

You also blame the President for what you term the “noble lie,” you know, the stupid screw up when he said everyone could keep their insurance. That implies a lot more intentionality than was probably there. His statement didn’t make the “backlash” worse. The “backlash” was ginned up by the usual suspects – mostly Fox news, and some of the folks they’ve taken up as poster children for the evils of Obamacare even when it turns out they actually benefited from the new law. The reality which most of the reality-based public understands is that while some folks may wind up paying more per month out of pocket for actual health insurance than they were paying for junk insurance, none of them are going to die or go broke because of Obamacare. Without it, people with pre-existing conditions couldn’t get insurance, and there was nothing to stop insurers from canceling policies once people became sick. The Republican party still hasn’t come up with any fix for that other than a lot of mumbo-jumbo about the magic of the market place. Because that’s worked in what other developed country? (Hint: Freemarketstan is not a real place.)

But then you go on and blame the real culprits – liberals, and their desire for “big government solutions.” All of your columns involve this Manichean struggle between the forces of conservatism and the big-spending libertine liberals. Douthat get over yourself. Most people including most of the people who vote, aren’t all that “political.” They don’t get paid to write columns and they don’t spend all their time thinking which label to affix to themselves.

Most voters vote based on their perceived self-interest. Most voters support health care reform. Many of those who aren’t happy with the Affordable Care Act would rather see a single payer system – a public option at least. This isn’t because they think government is an answer to all their problems or as Romney so eloquently put it because they won’t take responsibility for their own lives, It’s because they’re sick of changing doctors every time their employer goes for a better deal and changes providers. It’s because they’re terrified of what could happen if they get laid off. It’s because maybe they’d love to be entrepreneurs and start their own small business, but they can’t afford to lose their employer-based insurance because they aren’t in their twenties and in perfect health, or they have children. It’s because they don’t want to lose all their life savings because of a single accident or illness, a big possibility in the pre-ACA environment.

Let’s not forget that before this became a partisan issue “Obamacare” was “Romneycare” – the signature achievement of a Republican governor, and before that it was the brainchild of a conservative think tank eager to ward off single payer. Obamacare was never what progressives wanted, and conservatives only turned against it because of partisanship.

Your conclusion, as usual, sounds reasonable in that it consists of words written in the correct order, but it doesn’t actually make any sense. You suggest that critics of Obamacare need to actually “wrestle with a system that resists any kind of change.” One wonders what kind of ideas conservatives would come up with. Given their belief in the individual, perhaps something that involves individuals taking responsibility for themselves by buying their own health insurance? Of course, there’d need to be some reform of health insurance laws to make sure the policies they were getting weren’t complete junk, met some minimal standards, and couldn’t be cancelled by providers on a whim. Most employer-offered insurance would meet the standard, but people who were in the individual market might not be able to afford the new private insurance. While getting everyone into the insurance pool would help keep costs down, decent policies might still cost more than some struggling families could afford. What about lowering their taxes? That’s always a conservative favorite. Wait a second, why not give them the tax credit up front, to make it easier to buy their private-market insurance?

Sounds a bit familiar, doesn’t it?

(Like this post? For more like it, you can read more stuff that pisses me off in The New York Times, but if you’d like to read something different, like say fiction, you should check this out.)

Paid Idiot Ross Douthat Thinks the Poors Can’t Handle Freedom

Last week professional idiot Ross Douthat was ranting about how big gobmint’s forcing people to buy health insurance (eventually no doubt under threat of being sent to the FEMA camps) would be a terrible encroachment on personal liberty, but this week Douthat seems to be in love with the big daddy state, arguing that casinos and pot will destroy families. Like Lenin he believes that liberty is so precious, it must be rationed.

His “argument” begins incoherently, and remains so throughout. He starts off with this statement: “Based on what stirs passions and wins headlines it would be easy to imagine the the only cultural debates that matter in America are the ones that have to do with sex.” Grammatically it’s a complex sentence, but what does it even mean?

Where has he been reading these headlines? The National Enquirer? Which “cultural debates” are he referring to? Could it be gun control? How is that related sex? Is he agreeing that the bigger the gun, the smaller the dick and the whole thing is about the fear of castration? Or is he talking about marriage equality, which is only “about” sex to those who spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about how other people do it? Could he be referring to abortion? Sex does lead to pregnancy. But I thought the anti-abortionists were all about the right to life, and not simply out to punish women for sinning or getting raped? Maybe he’s referring to contraception, and how forcing employees to provide health insurance that covers it is wrong because that leads to non-reproductive sexy time?

Douthat continues – “the way we think about sex and reproduction have wider repercussions as well.” Well yeah, I can see that. I mean if you think everything is about sex, and sex outside of a very narrow parameter is the worst, then yeah that has repercussions. And apparently that is how Ross thinks because then he rants about casino gambling for a couple of paragraphs, somehow linking pro-casino to pro-marijuana legalization. Douthat sees both as part of some kind of “social libertarian” conspiracy. But he never shows how the two issues are aligned. Are bills coming up that link both? Are the same groups that work on casinos also working on pot legalization?

Somehow I don’t see a bunch of pot-farmers worried about the feds seizing their land really caring a whole lot about casinos, nor do I see casino owners who’d much rather see people drunk (and uninhibited) rather than high (and sleepy) lobbying to legalize pot.

Funny, I thought libertarianism was going to be the GOPs next brand — fiscally conservative but staying out of your private life? Ross didn’t get the memo. He’s an old-timey conservative – the kind who wants a society where there’s a tight lid on personal liberty AND lower taxes.

His rant about pot is all over the place.. Since even he can’t suggest that marijuana is worse than alcohol or tobacco, he offers a few statements pulled directly out of his ass, including the idea that legalization will “certainly” increase use. Really? Then how does he explain that cigarettes are still legal, but use in the US has declined considerably, or that the era of the “three martini lunch” is long gone, without much change in the law – other than harsher penalties for drunk driving.

Douthat makes a couple more unsubstantiated claims about marijuana, including that it limits educational attainment and economic mobility. And this is because only kids in the hood light up a dooby before school? Or maybe Douthat believes it’s only bad for the poors. You know what really limits education and economic mobility, Ross? Being stopped and frisked on your way to school, lengthy prison sentences, no access to student grant programs because of “drug violations,” growing up in a single parent home or being raised by relatives because one or more parents are in prison for dealing pot. You know what else limits education? Really crappy schools, lack of equity in public education, and, oh yeah, poverty.

Then he makes one of his trademark irritating leaps into what he thinks goes on in the minds of “liberals” – “social liberals and libertarians regard the costs of family breakdown as a price worth paying for emancipation from sexual repression.”

I thought we were talking about marijuana? Or casino gambling? Or marijuana and casino gambling? Why is he bringing sexual repression into this? Could it be that he’s simply obsessed with sex? I’m just asking the question.

He then goes into the idea that “what seems like a harmless pleasure to the comfortable can devastate the poor and weak.”

Ok. So basically he’s going with the exact same argument used by the pro-temperance forces back in the early twentieth century because that prohibition worked out so well. Maybe Ross would be happier if we lived in a land where we simply had one set of laws for the poors and another for their betters.

And then he brilliantly ends with “pots and slots no less than bread and circuses, it can simply distract their minds, dull their senses and make them easier to rule.”

Silly me. I thought the bread and circuses were spectacles like the Ted Cruz faux-filibuster, or Benghazi-gate, or hearings about how forcing employers to pay for health insurance encroaches on religious freedom, or maybe the government shutdown. Aren’t Sarah Palin, the Donald and Rush supposed to be clowns? Isn’t everything on Fox news meant to distract and dull the senses?

(If you enjoyed this rant, you might really enjoy reading an entire novel written by Marion, or maybe starting off with a shorter work.)

What Terrible Offense Did the The New York Times Commit Today?

The New York Times is not as awful as say The New York Post, but that’s an unfair comparison. The Post stopped printing news a long time ago, and is owned by an evil megalomaniac who is destroying America. To its credit, The Times does still carry old-timey news stories written by actual correspondents in remote and sometimes dangerous parts of the world, and while it’s owned by a family prone to nepotism, they probably are not in league with Satan. However, every time The Times tries to do “lifestyle,” “arts” or anything other than straight news or quirky obits, I have to ask myself, “Who the hell do you think your audience is NY Times?

I get it. A lot of this is playing to the aspirations and fantasies of readers. What New Yorker doesn’t enjoy lusting after spacious lofts she’ll never be able to afford  in the real estate porn section? 6000 square feet. So big. Hmmm.

But when every non-news story seems to be written for the 1% of the 1%, it gets to be a little much.

What outrage was committed today? Just a line in Ben Brantley’s review of Wallace Shawn’s new play at the Public Theater, Grasses of a Thousand Colors. I am exactly the type of selective, quirky theater goer who might or might not go to see it. I could be persuaded to part with my limited designated arts dollars by a glowing review. Pareles’ review is glowing. What’s off-putting is his description of the character of Ben. Pareles writes, “You should also pay attention so that you can recognize his ilk the next time you meet someone like him in some fancy environment like Davos or the Four Seasons restaurant.”

Really, Ben? Am I the crazy one here? Am I the only one sitting in the audience at the Public Theater who’s never been to the World Economic Forum or even The Four Seasons? In fact, until I just looked it up, I didn’t even know the Four Seasons still existed. I’ll grant you, theater in the US has become an activity mostly for the few. Ticket prices are high enough to keep away the masses and our capitalist overlords work against government support for the arts. Tourists might go to see a musical spectacular on Broadway – a once or twice in a lifetime treat, but a serious play at the Public? There will probably be people in the audience who have met people exactly like Ben in the places where Ben would be. However, they won’t be all the people in the audience. They won’t even be the majority of people in the audience. Most of us will be more ordinary folk. Not poor, that’s true. But not Davos rich. Teachers, students, librarians, professionals, semi-professionals, artists of all types, retirees, etc. etc. An educated bunch for sure.

We are the ones keeping theater alive in this city. We are the ones sitting on our butts in the parking garage of Lincoln Center waiting for $20 rush tickets to the opera. We are the ones who know to go to the Play Express line at the TKTS booth, or what shows sell rush tickets and when.

If the play succeeds, it will succeed because Ben is not only the type one might run into in the highest circles, but because he shares at least some characteristics with people most of us are more likely to actually know. That doesn’t mean playwrights need to write exclusively about ordinary people, or people who are just like us. It means that in writing even about kings, the audience must see in them our common humanity.

Not having seen the play, going only by Brantley’s review, I understand it takes place in a rarefied atmosphere, but I have no idea whether a groundling like myself would even be capable of understanding it.

Possibly, Mr. Brantley was told to put something in to stroke the egos of the 1% of Times readers who do go to Davos and the Four Seasons. They’re the ones bringing in the advertisers that make even having a print edition possible. But is the aim of a good theater review to help bring in an audience, or is it to cater to a few wealthy patrons? If it’s the former, here’s an easy fix:

“You should also pay attention so that you can recognize his ilk the next time you meet come across someone like him in some fancy environment like Davos or the Four Seasons restaurant the lobby of the Public Theater or a New York Times sponsored event.”

(Marion Stein apologizes to Mr. Brantley if she misread, and he was just being humorous and too subtile for her. Possibly, she’s reached her Emily Latella years, in which case, nevermind. Also, she apologizes to Jon Pareles. Looking at the hardcopy as I wrote the blog, I initially misidentified him as the author. The error was pointed out by an astute commenter below. In any case, while you’re here feel free to look at some other posts or check this out.)