Archive for New York Times

“Clarion of Faith?!”: another unpublishable letter to the International Herald Tribune

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on March 7, 2012 by spinoza1111

The fact that this is unpublishable is, in my opinion, the problem.

5 March 2012

To whom it may concern:

In “From ‘Nominal Catholic’ to Clarion of Faith” (Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Laurie Goodstein, New York Times 3 March 2012) the article uncritically narrates Rick Santorum’s “spiritual journey” in a way that your choice of words implies is from “bad to good”.

This is serious bias. This is serious journalistic malpractice.

The notion of a “return” from an out of control Modernism (coexisting in Santorum’s case with religion at room temperature, as your article claims) to dat ole time religion originated almost one hundred years ago as an aesthetic gesture, linked to but distinct from Fascism. TS Eliot claimed to be an Anglo-Catholic and royalist in later life, and CS Lewis narrated a similar reverse journey in “Surprised by Joy”. In painting, Pablo Picasso “returned” to classicism although not to religion in the 1920s. In music, Serge Prokofiev made this gesture at the same time.

The narrative was that the Bright Young Things had found their former lives gay but empty whether they were agnostics, atheists, or in your word “nominal” in their faith. So they return to “faith” and “traditional values” in art and in life.

Dostoevsky’s comment on this is interesting. In The Tale of the Grand Inquisitor, in The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky writes: “But then the beast will crawl to us and lick our feet and spatter them with tears of blood. And we shall sit upon the beast and raise the cup, and on it will be written, ‘Mystery.’” Dostoevsky may have thought that the return might be hard to impossible, and involve something more than joining a wealthy parish, church or temple, and “adoring the Eucharist” for twenty four hours…such mitzvots, for Dostoevsky and Jesus himself, might be useful but also beside the point.

I realize youse guys got a paper to get out. But note that the very phrase “to clarion of faith” can hardly be parsed, and as your lack of objectivity and journalistic malpractice is beginning to generate nonsense. Is Rick Santorum a “clarion”? What is a clarion? A clarion call? But even if Rick Santorum were not a politician and is instead John the Baptist, he would not be a clarion call, he would be making a clarion call for all of us sinners to repent.

But that is not his message; conservative politicians do not call upon us to repent, thankfully; instead, they tell their constituents that they are a “remnant” fleeing the Pandaemonium brought about by liberalism.

No attempt at suasion is made. In the Founders vision, and American practice until recently, the general idea was that the political candidate would attempt, like Lincoln or Stephen Douglas, to convince voters of the justice and wisdom of their cause.

Modern, poll-driven politics assumes on the other hand that our views are autocthonic, somehow pre-formed somewhere, and the Republican politician’s job is to get us to vote those views, including religious views, by persuading us that he will best represent, not something so crude as our interests, but those views.

The voter is either one of the Elect who doesn’t believe in abortion or contraception, or one of Satan’s herd.

Therefore, Santorum claims that because he’s a conservative Christian, he will be a better President of all the right-thinking people, and the rest can go jump in the lake. There is no Constitutional basis for this claim: quite the opposite. The Republicans have created a religious test for high office.

What’s troubling in the article is your use of the word “faith”. First Amendment jurisprudence has long recognized world-views which dispense with religious faith as forms of “religion” deserving protection alongside orthodox religion. Language such as “politician x considers himself a man of faith” creates a divide and implicitly favor the man of faith, although our best Presidents probably had, in secret, a humanistic world view and little “faith”.

But such is the power of the TS Eliot/CS Lewis narrative as to make it fashionable, among people who can afford to be fashionable, to narrate their lives as being enhanced by a return to church or temple observance.

This is said to “ground” ordinary decency although Santorum’s Catholic church does not teach that “ordinary decency” flows from religious belief: instead, it acknowledges that prior to the Christian message, men have both the capability and duty to follow the natural law.

“Faith” becomes a monstrous combination of Blaise Pascal’s terroristic wager (that even if the Christian revelation is false, it’s too risky of eternal damnation not to have faith) and a reason for being a good person…an excuse, as it were.

We need excuses for being bad. Another drink would be good for my weary bones, and a little bit of adultery would help my marriage, so reasons the scamp.

But it is a strange sort of person who needs an excuse for being good. Indeed, Chinese philosophy takes, not a sky-god, but Benevolence itself as logically prior to everything, an enabler of coherence of life and thus, ordinary decency. This belief in the natural law, the order of things, is why multiconfessional societies are possible.

Santorum, and other self-proclaimed men of faith who in such an unseemly way wear their hearts on their sleeves for daws to peck at, project their constituency’s fear that their own lack of a super-ego, corroded as post-modern super-egos are, being systematically replaced over time with advertising, will cause them to do as they wilt. To lose control.

Lack of “faith” is interpreted as somehow less than “faith”, and your newspaper enables this nonsense.

Edward G. Nilges

Doing the math on coverage of the Tea Party versus coverage of OccupyWallStreet

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on October 29, 2011 by spinoza1111

It’s becoming obvious to many that the media ignored the #OccupyWallStreet protests at first and is still somewhat reluctant to cover events nation-wide.

This fascinating graph shows the coverage of the Tea Party in 2009 versus that of OWS in 2010.

What is most striking is that the red line (the coverage of Tea Party events in 2009) is an almost perfect “logarithmic” curve…a curve generated by the equation y=log(x)+K where K is usually zero and always constant. Whereas the blue line (the coverage of Occupy Wall Street in 2011) is close to zero until late September 2011 and then becomes a linear increase (y=x).

A logarithmic curve starts out promisingly if you’re interested in increasing the value of y: almost exponentially (y=x**2). But then it flattens out to y=K where K is a constant. For example, there are a lot of primes close to zero (2, 3, 5, 7, 11…) but later on, as Gauss proved, they converge to a roughly constant rate.

But the coverage of the Tea Party events doesn’t have to increase and can stay at a constant level, or it may collapse at some future date.

The interesting fact is that the Tea Party coverage so neatly conforms to y=log(x) whereas the OWS coverage is ragged and more natural-looking.

We can hypothesize: the TP coverage is push coverage, where editors decide to cover, whereas OWS is pull and driven by events (such as police rioting and attacks on innocent people) and reporters who’ve been themselves on the scene and beaten by police.

“Push” coverage can be expected to manifest a more mathematical pattern because editors form a small set of like-minded people.

In prestige newspapers, the readership of which is declining but older and wealthier, the TP rallies reinforce the rather low haute bourgeois opinion of the petit bourgeois: that such clerks and jerks are useful idiots at best and guaranteed to raise a laugh what with their highly symbolic guns, misspelled signs, and crazed expressions. Editors at the Times and other media have probably assigned increasing numbers of reporters and authorized an initially increasing number of stories on the Tea Party hoping to divert their readers.

Whereas OWS was just another boring left-wing demonstration and precoded as some sort of hangover from the Sixties, an era that the truly au fait claim as theirs, when they showed their virtue, but which they’ve outgrown in a gesture like that of Sergei Prokofiev’s rejection of high Modernism or TS Eliot’s conversion. Therefore the coverage bumped along the bottom until around Sep 25 when rioting policemen maced innocent women.

Editors are still loth to cover OWS and still need coverage that meets the criteria “if it bleeds it leads”. But not only are beat reporters pushing coverage. “Talkback” and “comment” sections of modern Web based editions are also creating pressure. On the New York Times they are running about 99% in favor of the representatives of the 99%.

Here, a ranking of online comments (by number of approvals) attached to Gina Bellafanti’s disgusting 23 Sep article patronizing the protesters, most of which were posted after the women were Maced, shows again 99% in favor of the spokespeople for the 99%.

The “Sixties” are used by people not even there as a point of reference and in a way that displays ignorance and intellectual flaccidity. Gina Bellafanti was born in 1965 yet feels like a real journalist when she writes that a female protester looks like Joni Mitchell.

The message, from people not born early enough to actually experience the 1960s, is that “we”, the au fait, the gratin, the nomenklatura, got over “all that” and that “they” are merely copying “Joni Mitchell” like deluded fools. But in actuality, the au fait, the gratin, the nomenklatura were not part of the movements of the 1960s and instead more or less cowered at Princeton delaying coeducation until 1972 whilst students at state colleges put their bodies on the line.

Actual information, knowledge and I daresay wisdom is receding from the au fait, the gratin, the nomenklatura at the speed of light and their focus on a particular protest or critique is becoming inverse to its worth as they are sucked into the black hole of what George Soros called (in 2005) the “bubble” of American supremacy.

Dickless Wonders Mace Peaceful Women: Dickless Wonders Ignore the Story

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on September 25, 2011 by spinoza1111

Dr Ray Stantz: Everything was fine with our system until the power grid was shut off by dickless here.
Walter Peck: They caused an explosion!
Mayor: Is this true?
Dr. Peter Venkman: Yes it’s true.
Dr. Peter Venkman: This man has no dick.

Ghostbusters, 1981

Comments triggered by this video of peaceful women protesters being Maced and a sniffish little article by Gina Bellafante in the New York Times, under moderation at this time.

I happen to be on a visit to Australia. They don’t ignore protests in Australia, and ordinary waiters and workers are not afraid to mention the existence of a minimum wage. The bloke who says “‎”Ye’ll nevah pye full prahce agin! Min’s. Lydie’s. Children’s clothing! Bahgains gahloah”!” in front of the Global Brands Outlet near the el Alamein fountain in King’s Cross gets the Sabbath Day off. And that’s because Australians do protest butt naked when it is appropriate.

Dickless Wonders and the Weimar Republic

The dickless wonders of the New York City Police Department mace peaceful protestors in the dickless wonders of the New York Times ignore, or here, fail to cover the protests out of sheer incompetence and journalistic malpractice.

If you’re looking for a 1930s style protest with people in suits, you need to be aware of something. The ordinary, non-Master-of-the-Universe bond trader cannot join these protests despite his rage because if he or she were to do so, she or he would be terminated.

Many of these protesters are in fact the children of a former upper middle class, and they use Bohemian gestures for the same reason Weimar cabaret artists tried to epater les bourgeois.

In Weimar, the middle-upper classes were in fact dispossessed by the postwar abandonment of the gold standard and the cruel Versailles reparations. Which pushed the Weimar young past a tipping point. There was no sense in conforming when there were no jobs for professors or office workers, or these jobs were paid in worthless paper, or the new Mark was worth billions of the old.

My own postwar generation was told to get a haircut back in the 1960s, to conform and to shape up. Many of us did so, myself included. Our reward was corporate downsizing that commenced in 1981, and the destruction of our own children’s future.

I will dance half naked in protest any time I choose. And shame, shame, and nothing but shame on the New York City police for macing women who are exercising their rights to peaceful protest and assembly under the First Amendment to the American Constitution. Shame, shame, nothing but shame on you and the incompetent cowards of the New York Times.

What Trees Do Dey Plant

What trees do dey plant? – Mayor Richard J Daley, 1968

Da police are not here to create disorder, dere here to preserve disorder. – Mayor Richard J Daley, 1968

But what were the chances that its members were going to receive the attention they so richly deserve carrying signs like “Even if the World Were to End Tomorrow I’d Still Plant a Tree Today”? – Gina Bellafante

Even if the world were to end tomorrow I’d still plant a tree today, Ms. Bellafante. When you work within the system, and use as I am using here good sentence structure and correct spelling, they call you verbose and mount counter-offensives against Keynes.

The justifications for paying trillions to rescue banks and not struggling homeowners are the true Dada and the real hyper-modernism. It’s become a species of d’Annunzio’s futurism where that Italian poet and aviator thought that it was “beautiful” to bomb African villages.

But I do not find the sight of women being Maced beautiful. I find it nauseating as I find the journalistic malpractice of the New York Times disgusting, in its failure to cover this story adequately.

A Note on Ghostbusters

I took the children to see Ghostbusters in 1981 and while we loved it, I thought it rather Reaganite to make the EPA the villain. But the comment was funny, and Bill Murray’s timing was perfect.

International Herald Tribune letter re “trolling” and “bullying” on the Internet

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on December 1, 2010 by spinoza1111

Edward G. Nilges
Lamma Island
Hong Kong
1 Dec 2010
International Herald Tribune

To whom it may concern:

While I found Julie Zhuo’s thoughts (in “Where Anonymity Breeds Contempt”, IHT 1 Dec 2010) interesting and generally spot-on, I don’t think Internet abuse should be labeled “trolling”.

“Troll” is somewhat racist, since it appears to have been used originally to refer to indigenous inhabitants of northern and western Europe by their conquerors, in what became fairy stories. It also conceals the basic evil of Internet abuse, the victimization, anonymous or otherwise, of others.

“Troll” is in fact used by Internet abusers and the merely ignorant quite freely. For example, in my experience, my literacy (often confused with verbosity), gets me labeled a troll even though I’m not anonymous, in a world in which in-group membership is often displayed in making grammatical errors. The fact that I sometimes reply to bullies in metrical verse does not help.

“Troll” is a catchphrase of abuse used by Internet bullies, anonymous or not. While it is used properly by Ms. Zhuo and elsewhere in the New York Times, it is on the Internet street used typically with a sneer, like “Jew” in Hitler’s Germany. Therefore, “troll” should be retired.

“Bully” is a more accurate term, for it’s not Internet abuse unless a person is harmed; system administrators are about the only sort of people to actually complain about harm to computers other than viruses. Merely taking up server space is not, in itself, a crime, save to a geek.

Furthermore, bullying is not a childhood phenomenon. It starts in the adult world; Phillip Roth, growing up on the mean streets of New York in the 1940s, noted how bullying followed international politics, with Italian kids whaling on Jews because the Fascist grownups back home did so.

Bullying has increased in recent years as a result of American aggression in Iraq, Russian aggression in central Asia, and the smash and grab bailout of the wealthy in 2008, followed by today’s assault on the middle class, all of which have relegitimated brutality towards the apparent weak.

Unfortunately, to label all or most Internet abuse “bullying” might make some people and some institutions uncomfortable, insofar as the latter can be comfortable or not. This is because bullying is a vector of power, the fear of which causes conventional behavior as opposed to speaking out. Like rape as an institution for the subordination of women, bullying doesn’t have to occur in an adult office as long as the threat exists of humiliation.

Kudos to Ms Zhuo’s Facebook for developing a safe way to meet your friends, which for the most part forces its users to take responsibility for their online conduct. But let’s call the major form of Internet abuse by its proper name.

Edward G. Nilges

George Tooker, “Subway”, 1950

Is the New York Times ignoring a major, breaking climate story?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on February 15, 2009 by spinoza1111

This is the second blog of a breaking meta-story: the New York Times has effectively ignored a major climate story, in which it’s been revealed that the situation is far more grave than expected. There was a reprint of the Associated Press story in yesterday’s Times, buried in the Science section, which is no longer on the Web site, unless you search for it. I think the Times has lost credibility for burying this story, which its reporters, including Andrew C. Revkin, don’t seem to fully understand in all of its dimensions, including its sociology.

I’ve gone out for a long run to the Aberdeen channel side of the island on which I live. The New York Times Web site still has no significant content, apparently, on Christopher Fields’ warning that climate scientists have in fact underestimated global warming over the past seven years.

Instead, one Andrew Revkin
assures us that climate is very complex, which it is, but which does not imply that the predictions of climate science are inaccurate with the same margin of error on either side of the predicted values!

Christopher Fields’ report of an error on one side of the prediction, that indicates that predicted carbon release is offset by a higher value, would seem to entail a sociological point.

This is that in excess of their natural built-in caution, scientists have been intimidated and haven’t taken enough of a stand, because of the bullying that they’ve been subject to by the oil companies and other interests, and reduced their values to safe, cautious, “scientific” measures.

This sociology means that the UK’s climate may at this time permanently changed to a climate more characteristic of North Asia than the historical past of Shakespeare’s “emerald isle”.

Its unprecedently severe winter weather, and the return of frozen Dutch canals, were last experienced during the “little Ice Age” of the 17th century, a climate event which contributed to the Thirty Years’ war and the English Civil War.

The UK is an emerald isle because of a current in the North Atlantic which may have already shut down. Note that in a similar fashion to economic data, where Americans didn’t know that they were already in a recession in early 2008, the natural caution of people making actual observations, and the threat of bullying by oil interests and right-wing commentators, is delaying numbers and observations, about the UK’s climate and other phenomena.

In fact, the scientific honesty of people like Christopher Fields will be used against them by the half-educated thugs of media and politics who pretend to be right all the time. At the far right, the error will be interpreted to mean that its equiprobable that there’s no problem…when Oklahoma is experiencing killer tornados in February.

We may, in fine, already have our tits in the wringer. And while it’s busy bewailing the death of the newspaper, the New York Times is dropping the ball. Its coverage of the bullying “war” on the children of Gaza (which may also be a product of climate change: a war over water by the strong on the weak) and now this climate change self-censorship means that the New York Times is rapidly and as I write becoming the house organ of a rapidly diminishing comfortable class of Americans.

Here’s the comment I posted at Revkin’s comment site.

You may find this “skepticism” easy to write and fashionable. The fact is that as of this morning (15 Feb), the BBC World Service is reporting that according to a leading member of the intergovernmental panel on climate change, the seriousness of the change has in fact been underestimated, based on new data on carbon release between 2000 and 2007.

This was released yesterday by the Associated Press: I cannot find the story in the Times.

Christopher Fields was speaking in a sense “ex cathedra”. What I mean here is that despite the lazy saws of self-professed “skeptics” whose “skepticism” is unearned because it is ignorance in some measure, there are levels of language which the New York Times seems here to ignore.

An excessively privatized media has carefully made it au fait to treat all views as opinions at the same level of authority, with the interesting exception of the views of rich thugs in banks and wealthy politicians. The result is that an official scientific warning, NOT that global climate is a complex system (which it is, which we knew, which you don’t have to tell us), but that the caution built-in to the climate change scientific apparatus, built-in in part by threats from conservative commentators and the energy industry, means that we’ve underestimated the danger.

It means that the war on Gaza was basically an environmental war for water and air by the strong on the weak, and that the end of the world will be Orwell’s “boot stamping on a human face”, because the temporarily comfortable have been licensed by college degrees to relabel their laziness and their ignorance, “skepticism”, and to write snotty and content-free columns that take the place of hard news.

Is a major story being ignored on purpose?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on February 15, 2009 by spinoza1111

As of its update at 1:10 AM Eastern Time, the New York Times appears to be ignoring a major story released by the Associated Press about nine hours before that.

Christopher Field, speaking officially, has told a conference in Chicago that the effects of global warming are increasing dramatically and in such a way that they must be addressed this year. “Feedback” effects, including the addition of carbon to the atmosphere by loss of permafrost, are stronger than expected.

The New York Times is apparently ignoring the story although it broke in Chicago. The Chicago Tribune is also ignoring this story.

However, it was this morning the lead story on the BBC World Service.

Since I get my “daily briefing” from the BBC, have a paid subscription to the online New York Times, and I daily read the International Herald Tribune, I have noticed an increasing lack of “fit” between frameworks and what’s considered a story between US media and world media. Although the BBC refused to carry an appeal for the people of Gaza, its coverage has been balanced, showing consistently a difference between the rocket attacks on Israel and the massive attacks on Gaza.

To the Chicago Tribune and the New York Times, Chris Field is “just” a science nerd who is running his mouth, giving his opinion. Their journalists have no ability to make a simple distinction between an official statement of a scientific body, a scientist speaking officially at some risk, and ordinary language, and they justify this laziness by claiming a tolerance that they do not exhibit at all when it comes to the question of what’s news.

I am familiar with the used of the dismissive category of the “nerd” in a variety of different fields, where the people who do their homework, whether as climate scientists or mere computer programmers, are made to appear to the man in the street as naively retrograde by a debased Hollywood-media elite.

Again: the Platonism of higher education, its bias in favor of the uninstantiated Idea, has created a generation of people who actually believe that Ideas can be manipulated at a grand high “executive” level, which “doesn’t mistake the forest for the tree” while sweeping on to the grand fallacy and the death of the tree.

It operates as a “structuralism”: this is to say that the language game operates at any differential of perceived power. Relative to the editors of the Tribune, the climate scientists meeting in Chicago were perceived as a bunch of nerds doing their thang, so a low-wattage science nerd, herself scared witless for her job, was sent to the meeting.

It is of course a Hollywood fantasy that she’d come back to the newsroom, and say, “stop the presses”. The dream factory, in Adorno’s words, produces dreams that do not dream. The cinematic dream, of living in dark times and making a dramatic difference, is reified into a commodity thereby producing its very own antibodies: in the vortex, “a crowd of people turned away”, alienated from alienation but still, well, alienated.

Instead of the Field story, we read on the New York Times site that a rise in jobless is a threat to the United States.

What the hell is this framework?

A rise in misery is an absolute evil which we do something about because it’s the right thing to do: yet to the Baby Boomer nomenklatura, people more like Hilary and less like Barack (who want Barack to be one of them), we should only worry about what affects us.

As an expatriate, I am familiar with another class of expats. They are very strange people for, having money, they fly all over the world…without knowing any geography, and without learning any either. I was on a flight from Chicago to China a few years ago: we went due north from O’Hare and although this was clear on a display nobody knew or seemed to care why we would do so, since my immediate neighbors, high-level corporate types, don’t “do” maps.

There are many things about which I am ignorant. For one, I have never been comfortable or satisfactory in using a foreign language, even French, with any facility.

But I have never learned that it’s a Good Thing to tune out. As an art student, I agreed with Mies: God is in the details. But the New York Times and Tribune are putting their readers, I think, in a coma.

Well, I’m gonna Do Something about global warming. I already observe a Buy Nothing day every week.

Furthermore, given the danger to the environment, we need to ask ourselves if the depression is a bad thing or the mercy of God. If we could provide a safety net for the truly needy and have a socialistic depression in which the rich “suffered” the most, this might save the Earth!

Be sure you have enough to live on for six months without a job and try to keep at least 500.00 in accessible cash. Don’t stockpile, because stockpiles run out and provide targets for theives. Instead, plan on cooperating with your neighbors. Sure, learn how to use a gun, but only in societies where gun ownership is widespread and your gun is legal.