Scanlyze

The Online Journal of Insight, Satire, Desire, Wit and Observation

Regarding the New York Times Readers Center

To: Clifford Levy
CC: A. G. Sulzberger

Cliff,

I have been a loyal New York Times reader for more than 45 years. I had two newspaper routes in Cleveland as a boy, one for a morning paper and one evening, and the first and most important thing I bought with that money was the Times on Sunday and Tuesday.

I am troubled by the description of the Readers Center position here:

http://www.nytco.com/introducing-the-reader-center/

In particular the following line.

“Collaborating with our marketing department to showcase the value of Times journalism.”

The job of the Public Editor as I am I think most readers have understood it, was to be an advocate for the Readers and to publicly take the Times editors and management to task when they screwed up, to put it plainly.

The job of the Readers editor would seem to be the opposite of that, going by the posted description.

Having the new Readers Center working with marketing is crossing a red line in journalism which should never be crossed.

I should not have to remind you, but the present circumstances indicate the necessity of so doing:

Journalists should:

– Deny favored treatment to advertisers, donors or any other special interests, and resist internal and external pressure to influence coverage.

– Distinguish news from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two. Prominently label sponsored content.

Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics

The Public Editor position went a long way to restoring trust and the Times brand inflicted by inaccurate reporting and lack of editorial responsibility and oversight inflicted by, particularly, the false reporting in the run-up to the Iraq War, and it wasn’t just Judy Miller, though you sacrificed her, not undeservedly perhaps, and Jayson Blair.

Firing the Public Editor and then hiring a new “Readers Center” with the same brief, except for responsibility to represent the views of advertisers rather than those of readers, is a terrible idea in every way, moral, ethical, journalistic, and inflicts incalculable damage already on the Time’s already damaged reputation. The excuse that firing the Public Editor and eliminating that position was a cost-cutting measure seems untenable given that a new role, with a similar brief, was immediately established. With the critical and all-important distinction noted above. Going from being responsible for the insuring the journalistic integrity of the Times to overtly and self-admittedly being a shill and a mouthpiece for upper management and advertisers.

These are self-inflicted wounds, folks, what are you doing? Are you shorting the stock and hoping to make the Times fail? Or is this simply another unforced error committed for no conceivable good reason?

sincerely,

Henry Edward Hardy
former Senior Systems Administrator
Tufts University*

* institutional affiliation for identification purposes only

blog: https://scanlyze.org

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions, need more information, or wish to discuss the issue further.

scanlyze1

4 July, 2017 Posted by | ethics, journalism, New York Times, news, newspapers, Readers Center, scanlyze | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Liberals are unconsciously mirroring and enabling Trumps arbitrary skepticism of the media

I’m seeing a lot of my friends who think they are critical thinking intellectuals and think they oppose Trump, falling victim to imitating his tropes and memes.

Let’s take, “You can’t trust the mainstream media.”

I’ve been a thorn in the side of the New York Times and Guardian for decades now. I guess my high point as a loyal opposition came when the then-current editor of the NY Times, Bill Keller, called me on the phone because Art Sulzberger told him to and I got to tell him for three hours what I thought was wrong with the Times and how to restore it to its former greatness of the 1970’s.

It is fine and good to criticize wrong facts. To criticize the framing of a story. False equivalence. Errors in logic. Lack of historical perspective. Acting as stenographers for State and Defense. Paid content. Trivial articles pandering to the rich and privileged. Ridiculous reasons offered for anonymizing sources. Crappy clickbaitish “reviews” of video games which would never pass muster for books, movies or even TV reviews. Lots to talk about and speak to them about.

But what I am seeing now from a fair number of very smart friends who think they are critical thinking intellectuals and think they are opposing Trump is quite concerning.

“You can’t trust the mass media,” which is Trump’s trope, is spreading far and wide. This is the opposite of critical thinking. It is ad hominem argument.

Having so to speak thrown out the baby with the bath water, and arbitrarily rejecting information from the most trusted and reliable news sources, I see many of these folks posting memes and factoids because they agree with them. Many of these are either obviously false on their face from my perspective or have obvious errors in logic or framing and attribution, or lack thereof.

Okay so far not so bad, we all get fooled by trollish disinformation from time to time. Confirmation bias is rife. When I post false/wrong information and I learn otherwise, I acknowledge my error and correct it. If it is egregious, I remove it.

The problem I am seeing is folks who, when given evidence that their post is false, refuse to correct or remove it.

“I didn’t write it.”
“I never said it was true”
“People will be able to tell it is false.”
“I don’t care I like the meme.”
“I think it’s funny.”

No, no, no, no, and no.

This is the opposite of critical thinking. It is “I say it once, I say it twice, what I say three times is true.” It is Trump’s rhetorical answer to facts and logic. Blocking rational thought with solipsism and arbitrary skepticism without a reasonable critique of the facts presented in refutation, ignoring logic and reason because the other fellow is bad. Ad hominem argument. Or they challenge you to disprove their belief. Another fallacy, argumentum ad ignoratiam.

We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.

–Karl Rove, Republican operative

Is that what its come to? The Nazi Big Lie technique normalized and contextualized for all Americans now

1984 knocking at your door.

scanlyze1

Copyright © 2017 Henry Edward Hardy

1 March, 2017 Posted by | ad hominem, argumentum ad ignoratiam, disinformation, Nazi, news, Newspeak, politics, scanlyze, solipcism, Trump | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Aaronsw Is Not My Hero

Seems everyone is lionizing Aaron Swartz. Aaron is someone I was acquainted with peripherally through mutual friends at One Laptop. He was, and remains, my friend on Facebook. I have to say aaronsw is not my hero.

If I thought it was justified to take all the documents in JSTOR I would have done when I was the sysadmin for the company that wrote the first interface to it. I don’t and I didn’t. I never even looked at a single document and I had root on everything.

Same is true for the American Mathematical Society and about a million of their documents I worked on the public interface for back in the 80’s. Never looked at a one.

Aaron was very charismatic, brilliant, and had a lot of good ideas. But he also according to what has come out, acted incredibly stupidly in the whole scenario with JSTOR and MIT. They kept blocking him and he kept coming back. Hello, clue?

But maybe he thought of this as civil disobedience and in some sense meant to get caught. If so I think he totally wimped out rather than doing the six months they offered him or going to trial and potentially taking a draconian sentence.

Not to say I think he was treated fairly. Given that JSTOR and MIT saw no reason to prosecute (or that’s the official story at MIT now anyway), and that there is apparently no evidence that documents were ever exfiltrated off-site or published if I was the prosecutor I would have exercised discretion and taken a pass on this one. No harm, no foul.

It worries me that Aaron is being made out to be a hero who deserves to be be emulated. He wasn’t, and he doesn’t.

Aaron Swartz (wikipedia)

Copyright © 2014 Henry Edward Hardy

12 February, 2014 Posted by | Aaron Swartz, aaronsw, archives, censorship, media, MIT, news, OLPC, politics, scanlyze, suicide | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The United States is in a tizzy about chemical weapons in Syria.

The United States is in a tizzy about chemical weapons in Syria.

Is this the United States which didn’t adhere to the 1925 Geneva gas protocol for 50 years?

Is this the United States which lobbied successfully for tear gas and other chemical agents to be exempted from the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention if used against their own citizens?

Is this the United States which made such extensive use of “nonlethal” chemical munitions in violently suppressing the peaceful Occupy protests of two years ago?

Is this the United States which continues to use mines and cluster bombs in contravention of customary law?

Is this the United States which is preparing to go to war (without a declaration of war) in violation of international law, which prohibits aggressive warfare, which means attacking first. And all in the name of enforcing international law with regard to chemical warfare?

Copyright © 2013 Henry Edward Hardy

29 August, 2013 Posted by | media, news, scanlyze, Syria, war | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Letter to CJ Chivers of the New York Times about the improbable narrative on Syrian gas attacks

Mr Chivers,

There are several things about the alleged Syrian gas attack at Ghouta story which don’t seem to pass the smell test.

I’m dubious about the claims that Syrian regular forces were responsible given the use of IRAM (Improvised Rocket Assisted Munition) as a delivery mechanism. Isn’t this more likely to be some militia such as Hezbollah or Al Nusra or one of the US contra fronts?

Given the internecine fighting between anti government forces and the extreme brutality used in these fights, I don’t think it is a given that an attack on rebel territory is ipso facto certain to be of government regular troops origin.

A number of qualified commentators have commented on how the medical and other personnel have been able to handle the bodies without protective gear and without any apparent ill effects. Very odd if we are looking at sarin don’t you think?[1]

Cui bono? There is every motive for the FSA forces who are losing the war to try to change the equation. Likewise there is no motive for the government, which is winning the war, to do so.

Finally, the explanation for why the inspectors were unable to reach a site a few miles from the city center from Damascus just doesn’t hold water. We are told they came under fire from snipers, but no-one was injured.

We both know that is at best utterly improbable. Snipers just don’t work that way.

Snipers disabled the lead vehicle and took out the front windshield and then… did nothing? Really?[2]

Given the “dodgy dossier” and Dr. Kelley’s subsequent “suicide” with almost no blood found at the scene and no fingerprints recoverable from the knife or other objects allegedly found at the scene[3], and the blatant lies pedaled by Colin Powell and credulously amplified by the media including the Times in the leadup to the Iraq war, and given the lack of any direct confirmation at all of the origin of this attack, I smell a rat.

If you do too, please have the courage to go public with your concerns and skepticism.

Also being elided in the Times coverage seemingly is that waging aggressive war is a war crime as defined by the Nuremberg Principles. There is no possible justification for an unprovoked US attack on Syria under customary law absent an attack on the US or a UN Security Council resolution.

And under the US Constitution such actions require a declaration of war from Congress, the in my view, unconstitutional War Powers Act notwithstanding.

Is the New York Times going to repeat all its mistakes from the Judy Miller years? Have you learned nothing at all? You are all falling for the exact same tricks of disinformation again, if not actually knowingly and intentionally going along for the ride.

best regards,

–Henry

[1] AFP reports:

“At the moment, I am not totally convinced because the
people that are helping them are without any protective clothing and
without any respirators,” said Paula Vanninen, director of Verifin, the
Finnish Institute for Verification of the Chemical Weapons Convention.
“In a real case, they would also be contaminated and would also be having symptoms.”

John Hart, head of the Chemical and Biological Security Project at
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said he had not seen
the telltale evidence in the eyes of the victims that would be
compelling evidence of chemical weapons use.

“Of the videos that I’ve seen for the last few hours, none of them
show pinpoint pupils… this would indicate exposure to organophosphorus
nerve agents,” he said.

Gwyn Winfield, editor of CBRNe World magazine, which specialises in
chemical weapons issues, said the evidence did not suggest that the
chemicals used were of the weapons-grade that the Syrian army possesses
in its stockpiles.

“We’re not seeing reports that doctors and nurses… are becoming
fatalities, so that would suggest that the toxicity of it isn’t what we
would consider military sarin. It may well be that it is a lower-grade,”
Winfield told AFP.
Syria opposition says 1,300 dead in chemical attacks by army

Haaretz reports:

Western experts on chemical warfare who have examined at
least part of the footage are skeptical that weapons-grade chemical
substances were used, although they all emphasize that serious
conclusions cannot be reached without thorough on-site examination.
Dan Kaszeta, a former officer of the U.S. Army’s Chemical Corps and a
leading private consultant, pointed out a number of details absent from
the footage so far: “None of the people treating the casualties or
photographing them are wearing any sort of chemical-warfare protective
gear,” he says, “and despite that, none of them seem to be harmed.” This
would seem to rule out most types of military-grade chemical weapons,
including the vast majority of nerve gases, since these substances would
not evaporate immediately, especially if they were used in sufficient
quantities to kill hundreds of people, but rather leave a level of
contamination on clothes and bodies which would harm anyone coming in
unprotected contact with them in the hours after an attack. In addition,
he says that “there are none of the other signs you would expect to see
in the aftermath of a chemical attack, such as intermediate levels of
casualties, severe visual problems, vomiting and loss of bowel control.”
Steve Johnson, a leading researcher on the effects of hazardous
material exposure at England’s Cranfield University who has worked with
Britain’s Ministry of Defense on chemical warfare issues, agrees that
“from the details we have seen so far, a large number of casualties over
a wide area would mean quite a pervasive dispersal. With that level of
chemical agent, you would expect to see a lot of contamination on the
casualties coming in, and it would affect those treating them who are
not properly protected. We are not seeing that here.”
Additional questions also remain unanswered, especially regarding the
timing of the attack, being that it occurred on the exact same day that
a team of UN inspectors was in Damascus to investigate earlier claims
of chemical weapons use. It is also unclear what tactical goal the
Syrian army would have been trying to achieve, when over the last few
weeks it has managed to push back the rebels who were encroaching on
central areas of the capital. But if this was not a chemical weapons
attack, what then caused the deaths of so many people without any
external signs of trauma?
Following alleged sarin attack || Defense Minister: Assad used chemical weapons multiple times in Syria But Western experts are skeptical that nerve gas was used Wednesday, and describe other viable scenarios.

[2]
Despite Sniper Fire, U.N. Team Reaches Syria Inspection Site
Source: NYT

LONDON — Snipers opened fire Monday on a convoy of United Nations inspectors heading toward the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria, disabling the lead vehicle with multiple shots to the tires and windshield, the United Nations said, but the inspectors still managed to visit two hospitals, interview witnesses and doctors and collect patient samples for the first time since the attack last week that claimed hundreds of lives.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement that he had instructed his top disarmament official, Angela Kane, who was visiting Damascus, to register a “strong complaint to the Syrian government and authorities of opposition forces” to ensure the safety of the inspectors after the assault. There was no indication that any member of the inspection team had been hurt.

Mr. Ban’s spokesman, Farhan Haq, told reporters at a regular daily briefing at United Nations headquarters in New York that the assailants, who had not been identified, fired on the first vehicle in the convoy, which was “hit in its tires and its front window, ultimately it was not able to travel further.”

Mr. Haq said the inspectors, who numbered about a dozen, resumed their trip to a suspected attack site in a Damascus suburb after the vehicle was replaced, visiting two hospitals and interviewing witnesses, survivors and doctors. “They took a number of relevant samples, they feel very satisfied with the results of their work,” Mr. Haq said. A second visit was planned for Tuesday.
Despite Sniper Fire, U.N. Team Reaches Syria Inspection Site

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement after the assault that he had told his top disarmament official, Angela Kane, who was visiting Damascus, to register a “strong complaint to the Syrian government and authorities of opposition forces” to ensure the inspectors’ safety. There was no indication that any inspection team member had been hurt.

Mr. Ban’s spokesman, Farhan Haq, told reporters at a regular daily briefing at United Nations headquarters in New York that the assailants, who had not been identified, fired on the first vehicle in the convoy, which was “hit in its tires and its front window.”

“Ultimately,” he said, “it was not able to travel farther.”

Kerry Cites Clear Evidence of Chemical Weapon Use in Syria

[3] New suspicion over Kelly death – MP

Copyright © 2013 Henry Edward Hardy

28 August, 2013 Posted by | chemical warfare, customary law, gas, international law, lies, military, news, politics, propaganda, scanlyze, war | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment