“MSNBC’s Business Model . . . Is Flaying Trump 24 Hours a Day”

Maureen Dowd, a leading opinion columnist at The New York Times, is left-wing but sometimes refreshingly blunt, as in some of her comments from right after the Iowa Republican caucuses.

(p. 2) . . . MSNBC refused to carry Trump’s victory speech at all and CNN cut away from the 25-minute remarks after 10 minutes. Fox News, of course, played it all.

Rachel Maddow said her network’s decision was “not out of spite.” It’s not personal — it’s strictly business, as Michael Corleone said. MSNBC’s business model, after all, is flaying Trump 24 hours a day.

For the full commentary, see:

Maureen Dowd. “Can the MAGA Shrew Be Tamed?” The New York Times, SundayOpinion Section (Sunday, January 21, 2024): 2.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Jan. 20, 2024, and has the same title as the print version.)

Four Entities Succeeded in Sending a Capsule to Orbit and Returning It to Earth: “the United States, Russia, China and Elon Musk”

(p. A14) “In the history of space flight,” Scott Pelley intones in a “60 Minutes” segment, “only four entities have launched a space capsule into orbit and successfully brought it back to the Earth—the United States, Russia, China and Elon Musk.”

For the full film review, see:

Joe Morgenstern. “‘Return to Space’: A Double Booster.” The Wall Street Journal (Friday, April 8, 2022): A14.

(Note: the online version of the film review was updated April 7, 2022, and has the title “FILM REVIEW; ‘Return to Space’ Review: A Double Booster.”)

The Enemies of Horatio Alger “Are Out to Get the American Dream”

(p. A13) Of all the institutions for investigative journalists to put under the microscope, the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans sure is a strange target.

The charity says it has awarded more than $245 million in college scholarships to 35,000 students since 1984. Its 300 or so members cross the political, cultural and business-success spectrum and include Michael Bloomberg and Oprah Winfrey.

So what explains the recent onslaught of critical press coverage? The New York Times has put eight reporters on the case and devoted two 4,000-word Sunday front-page pieces in the past two months to the Horatio Alger Association and its members. ProPublica, which styles itself “an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism with moral force,” produced a 5,000-word article that credited four reporters.

The journalists and the advocates they quote say it’s a matter of judicial ethics, highlighting Justice Clarence Thomas’s role as an honorary board member of the Horatio Alger Association and his friendships with the association’s members, some of whom are prosperous.

. . .

The venom directed at the Horatio Alger Association, though, isn’t only about Justice Thomas and the court. The association’s critics are out to get the American dream.

The association’s website explains that its mission is to “educate all youth about the limitless possibilities that are available through the American free-enterprise system.” The group was founded to dispel the myth “that the American dream was no longer attainable.” Its members are “role models whose experiences exemplify that opportunities for a successful life are available to all individuals who are dedicated to the principles of integrity, hard work, perseverance and compassion for others.”

For the full commentary, see:

Ira Stoll. “Why the Left Hates Horatio Alger.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Aug. 12, 2023): A13.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date August 11, 2023, and has the same title as the print version.)

Feds Release Covid Origin Report on a Friday Evening–A Time to “Put Out News They Want Buried or Ignored”

(p. A12) The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a long-awaited declassified report, which included spy agencies’ findings on the so-called lab leak theory, . . .

The 10-page report said scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology did conduct research on coronaviruses, in some cases had inadequate safety measures and had genetically engineered coronaviruses.

. . .

After three years of study, some senior U.S. officials have said that the spy agencies are unlikely to come to any satisfactory conclusion, in large measure because China has not cooperated with international inquiries and some officials in Beijing are not interested in digging deeper into the cause of the pandemic.

. . .

The report was released on a Friday evening, traditionally a time when administrations put out news they want buried or ignored. Conservatives had criticized the government for failing to meet a deadline of the beginning of the week, though few congressionally mandated reports are delivered precisely on time.

While Biden administration officials have said they have ordered investigations without favoring one theory over another, Republicans have harshly criticized how the White House and its intelligence agencies have investigated Covid’s origins.

“The lab leak is the only theory supported by science, intelligence and common sense,” John Ratcliffe, who served as the director of national intelligence in the Trump administration, said as the report was released Friday [June 23, 2023], adding: “The Biden administration’s continued obfuscation of Covid origins is a disservice to the intelligence community.”

For the full story, see:

Julian E. Barnes. “Intelligence Agencies Remain Divided Over Theory That Covid Came From Lab.” The New York Times (Saturday, June 24, 2023): A11.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date June 23, 2023, and has the title “U.S. Intelligence Report Finds No Clear Evidence of Covid Origins in Wuhan Lab.”)

When Free Speech Could Be Defended in The New York Times

In 2017, an eloquent op-ed in The New York Times defended free speech by objecting to the students at Middlebury College who violently canceled a speech by Charles Murray. Would The New York Times run such an op-ed today?

(p. 9) The talk that the political scientist Charles Murray attempted to deliver last month at Middlebury College in Vermont must have been quite provocative — perhaps even offensive or an instance of hate speech. How else to explain the vehement opposition to it?

. . .

Some of the protesters became unruly and physically violent, forcing Mr. Murray to flee..

. . .

. . . Mr. Murray’s speech was neither offensive nor even particularly conservative.

. . .

Of course, many of the protesters may have been offended by Mr. Murray’s other scholarship, in particular his controversial 1994 book, “The Bell Curve,” written with the Harvard psychologist Richard J. Herrnstein, which examined intelligence, social class and race in America. Or rather, they may have been offended, as many people have been, by what they assume “The Bell Curve” says; only a small fraction of the people who have opinions about that book have actually read it. (Indeed, some people protesting Mr. Murray openly acknowledged not having read any of his work.)

“The Bell Curve” has generated an enormous literature of scholarly response and rebuttal, a process that is still underway. Many scholars have deemed the book’s most provocative argument — that differences in average I.Q. scores among races may have genetic as well as environmental causes — to be flawed and racist. Some have judged it to be judicious and reasoned, if still controversial. But its academic critics have nonetheless treated it not as hate speech to be censored but as a data-based argument with which they must engage in order to disagree.

This is not how the Middlebury protesters treated Mr. Murray’s talk, and that is an intellectual disappointment. It is incumbent on each of us, in the spirit of free inquiry, to make a decision for ourselves — after actually reading a book or listening to a speaker — about how the views in question hold up to critical scrutiny. It is also incumbent upon colleges to offer protesters meaningful opportunities to share alternative views.

Not everyone deserves to get to speak at a college campus. But those like Mr. Murray who use reasoned, evidence-based approaches to investigate matters of scholarly concern shouldn’t be forcibly silenced after they have been invited to do so.

For the full commentary, see:

Wendy M. Williams and Stephen J. Ceci. “Charles Murray’s ‘Provocative’ Talk.” The New York Times, SundayReview Section (Sunday, April 16, 2017): 9.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date April 15, 2017, and has the same title as the print version.)

The New York Times Informs Its Readers That It May Be a Marketing Mistake to Open a Pro-Castro Restaurant in Miami

(p. D4) MIAMI — A Manhattan restaurant planning an expansion to Miami has drawn the ire of some Cuban Americans after its use of Communist lore was pointed out on social media.

Café Habana, which plans to open a branch in the Brickell neighborhood this spring, was inspired by the Mexico City restaurant where Fidel Castro and Che Guevara were rumored to have planned the Cuban revolution, according to a history now deleted from the restaurant’s website.

. . .

Last weekend, protesters demonstrated outside the proposed Café Habana.

“Many Cubans living in Miami now, and its descendants, blame Fidel personally for being here,” said Jorge Duany, the director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University. “The level of hatred, for quite a number of Cuban immigrants, is quite intense.”

. . .

“I was honestly shocked they had the audacity to open up in Miami,” said Josue Alvarez, 31, the son of Cubans who left the island in 1980. He was inspired to post a TikTok that spread on social media.

For the full story, see:

Christina Morales. “Restaurant’s Move Is Risky in Miami.” The New York Times (Wednesday, February 16, 2022): D4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Feb. 10, 2022, and has the title “Opening a Restaurant in Miami? Invoking Cuban Communism Might Backfire.” The sentence that starts with “Last weekend” appears in the print, but not in the online, version of the article.)

Most Journalists No Longer Aspire to Objectivity

(p. B1) In 1979, two journalists got into an argument. More than four decades later, they haven’t settled it.

The subject of their disagreement was journalistic “objectivity,” a notion that goes back at least to the 1920s, when some of the more high-minded newspapers and magazines were trying to distinguish themselves from the scandal sheets and publications led by partisan and sometimes warmongering publishers.

In one corner, Alan Berger. In 1979, he was a 41-year-old media columnist for the Real Paper, an alternative weekly that had emerged from a rift at its predecessor, Boston Phoenix. Before he started watch-dogging the press, Mr. Berger had grown up in the Bronx, attended Harvard University and taught a class at M.I.T., in French, on the poet Charles Baudelaire.

His target in the debate over objectivity — which has come roaring back to life in the political storminess of recent years — was Tom Palmer. Back then, Mr. Palmer was a 31-year-old assistant national editor of The Boston Globe, meaning he belonged to the establishment and was thus a ripe target for the Real Paper.

. . .

(p. B4) His former protégé, the national correspondent Wesley Lowery, argued in a widely circulated New York Times opinion essay that objectivity mirrored the worldview of white reporters and editors, whose “selective truths have been calibrated to avoid offending the sensibilities of white readers.” Mr. Lowery, who ended up leaving The Post for CBS News, suggested that news organizations “abandon the appearance of objectivity as the aspirational journalistic standard, and for reporters instead to focus on being fair and telling the truth, as best as one can, based on the given context and available facts.”

That same argument has found an embrace at some of America’s leading journalism schools, as well.

“We focus on fairness and fact-checking and accuracy, and we don’t try to suggest to our students that opinions they have should be hidden,” said Sarah Bartlett, the dean of the City University of New York Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism. “We embrace transparency.”

. . .

Mr. Palmer also never quite let the argument go. He appointed himself a kind of genial in-house watchdog at The Globe, eventually known for his persistent emails to reporters and editors he thought had allowed their liberal views to infiltrate their copy.  . . .

Needless to say, he remains unpersuaded by the arguments against his cherished ideal. They “were dead wrong back then,” he emailed me, “and I believe are dead wrong even more so today.”

“Journalists are simply not smart enough and educated enough to change the world,” he continued. “They should damn well just inform the public to the best of their abilities and let the public decide.”

He also said, ruefully, that he believed his side was losing. The notion of objectivity “was declining before Trump, and that era removed it from the table completely,” he wrote. “I have doubts it will ever come back.”

For the full commentary, see:

Ben Smith. “A 1979 Fight Over Ideals Is Still Going.” The New York Times (Monday, October 11, 2021): B1 & B4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary was updated October 11, 2021, and has the title “Two Journalists Started an Argument in Boston in 1979. It’s Not Over Yet.”)

The Elite Experts Who Have Failed, Tend to Censor the Heterodox Outsiders Who They Fear

(p. 8) When you have a chronic illness and struggle to get better, you try to maintain a certain equilibrium by distinguishing yourself from all those other sick people, the ones who are trying truly crazy things while you are proceeding sensibly and moderately along the path to health.

. . .

These exotic treatments, from acupuncture to IV vitamin C to magnet therapy and more, weren’t the core of what helped me eventually gain ground and improve — strong and various doses of antibiotics played the central role. But they were the most educational part of my slow, still-continuing recovery, in the sense of what they revealed about the complexity and strangeness of the world.

The strangest of them all was the Rife machine.

. . .

Naturally, it worked.

What does “worked” mean, you may reasonably ask? Just this: By this point in my treatment, there was a familiar feeling whenever I was symptomatic and took a strong dose of antibiotics — a temporary flare of pain and discomfort, a desire to move or rub the symptomatic areas of my body, a sweating or itching feeling, followed by a wave of exhaustion and then a mild relief. I didn’t get this kind of reaction with every alternative treatment I tried. But with the Rife machine I got it instantly: It was like having a high dose of antibiotics hit the body all at once.

Of course, this was obviously insane, so to the extent that I was able I conducted experiments, trying frequencies for random illnesses to see if they elicited the same effect (they did not), setting up blind experiments where I ran frequencies without knowing if they were for Lyme disease or not (I could always tell).

. . .

When I set out to write about the entire chronic-illness experience, I hesitated over whether to tell this kind of story. After all, if you’re trying to convince skeptical readers to take chronic sickness seriously, and to make the case for the medical-outsider view of how to treat Lyme disease, reporting that you’ve been dabbling in pseudoscience and that it works is a good way to confirm every stereotype about chronic ailments and their treatment: It’s psychosomatic … it’s all the power of suggestion … it’s a classic placebo effect … poor Ross, taken in by the quacks … he’ll be ‘doing his own research’ on vaccination next

    .

    But there are two good reasons to share this sort of story. The first is that it’s true, it really happened, and any testimony about what it’s like to fight for your health for years would be dishonest if it left the weird stuff out.

    The second is that this kind of experience — not the Rife machine specifically, but the experience of falling through the solid floor of establishment consensus and discovering something bizarre and surprising underneath — is extremely commonplace. And the interaction between the beliefs instilled by these experiences and the skepticism they generate (understandably) from people who haven’t had them, for whom the floor has been solid all their lives, is crucial to understanding cultural polarization in our time.

    On both sides of our national divides, insider and outsider, establishment and populist, something in human psychology makes us seek coherence and simplicity in our understanding of the world. So people who have a terrible experience with official consensus, and discover that some weird idea that the establishment derides actually seems to work, tend to embrace a new rule to replace the old one: that official knowledge is always wrong, that outsiders are always more trustworthy than insiders, that if Dr. Anthony Fauci or the Food and Drug Administration get some critical things wrong, you can’t trust them to get anything right.

    This impulse explains why fringe theories tend to cluster together, the world of outsider knowledge creating its own form of consensus and self-reinforcement. But it also explains the groupthink that the establishment often embraces in response, its fear that pure craziness automatically abounds wherever official knowledge fails, and its commitment to its own authority as the only thing standing between society and the abyss.

    This is a key dynamic in political as well as biomedical debates. The conspicuous elite failures in the last 20 years have driven many voters to outsider narratives, which blend plausible critiques of the system with outlandish paranoia. But the insiders only see the paranoia, the QAnon shaman and his allies at the gates. So instead of reckoning with their own failures, they pull up the epistemic drawbridge and assign fact checkers to patrol the walls. Which in turn confirms for outsiders their belief that the establishment has essentially blinded itself and only they have eyes to see.

    What we need, I’m convinced, are more people and institutions that sustain a position somewhere in between.

For the full commentary, see:

Ross Douthat. “How I Became Extremely Open-Minded.” The New York Times, SundayReview Section (Sunday, November 7, 2021): 8.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date November 6, 2021, and has the same title as the print version. The passages that are underlined above, were in italics in the original. In the underlined passages I use a hyphen were the original had ellipses.)

The passages quoted above are from a commentary adapted from Douthat’s book:

Douthat, Ross. The Deep Places: A Memoir of Illness and Discovery. New York: Convergent Books, 2021.

Bret Baier Documents How Fauci and Collins Dishonestly Dismissed the Hypothesis That COVID-19 Originated in Wuhan Lab

Bret Baier gave a serious report on the substantial and growing evidence that Anthony Fauci, Francis Collins, and other “experts” and officials lied, early and intentionally, in their dismissal of the likely Wuhan lab origin of Covid-19. (The report aired on Bret Baer’s “Special Report” nightly news program on Tues., January 25, 2022 on Fox News.)

Substack CEO Defends Free Speech

(p. B5) Substack Inc. co-founder and CEO Chris Best said he wouldn’t have removed a post or delisted Dave Chappelle if the comedian had published something on the platform that echoed his recent stand-up special on Netflix Inc.

. . .

“We don’t think the answer to speech you disagree with or that you find offensive or challenging is to shut it down,” he said, adding that people should be able to speak freely and discuss ideas.

For the full story, see:

Talal Ansari. “Substack Chief Says Dave Chappelle Is Welcome.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, October 20, 2021): B5.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date October 19, 2021, and has the title “‘Dave Chappelle Is Welcome on Substack,’ CEO Says.”)

Average Global Temperature in 2100 Will Likely Be 2.5 Degrees Celsius Higher than Late 1800s

(p. A15) The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has issued its latest report assessing the state of the climate and projecting its future. As usual, the media and politicians are exaggerating and distorting the evidence in the report.

. . .

As is now customary, the report emphasizes climate change in recent decades but obscures, or fails to mention, historical precedents that weaken the case that humanity’s influence on the climate has been catastrophic. The Summary for Policy Makers section says the rate of global sea-level rise has been increasing over the past 50 years. It doesn’t mention that it was increasing almost as rapidly 90 years ago before decreasing strongly for 40 years.

Extreme weather events are invoked as proof of impending disaster. But the floods in Europe and China and record temperatures across regions of the U.S. are weather, not climate—singular events, not decadeslong trends. Both Europe and China have experienced equally devastating floods in past centuries, but these are forgotten or deliberately ignored. The drought and wildfires in the Western U.S. are part of a trend going back a few decades, but forest management and expanding human presence in the forests are perhaps more important than climate change in causing these events.

. . .

Refreshingly, the report deems its highest-emissions scenarios of the future unlikely, even though those are the ones you’re mostly likely to hear about in media reports. The more plausible scenarios have an average global temperature in 2100 about 2.5 degrees celsius warmer than the late 1800s. The globe has already warmed 1 degree since that time, and the parties of the Paris Accord arbitrarily agreed to limit further warming to another degree. But since humanity’s well-being has improved spectacularly, even as the globe warmed during the 20th century, it is absurd to suggest that an additional degree of warming over the next century will be catastrophic. In fact, the AR5 report from 2014 says even 1.5 degrees of additional warming by 2100 will have minimal net economic impact.

For the full commentary, see:

Steven E. Koonin. “Climate Change Brings a Flood of Hyperbole.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021): A15.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date August 10, 2021, and has the same title as the print version.)

Koonin’s commentary, quoted above, is related to his book:

Koonin, Steven E. Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters. Dallas, TX: BenBella Books, 2021.