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Tag: New York Times

Flocking to Spain

Wednesday, 1 August, 2018

Holidaymakers in Spain are getting more than they bargained for these days. Typical seaside scenes now involve African migrants jumping off dinghies onto packed beaches before asking stunned tourists for food and then heading over the dunes.

But it’s not just the victims of Africa’s dysfunction that are flocking to Spain. Venezuelans of means, fleeing the ruinous chavecismo of their homeland, are pitching up on Madrid’s property market. According to the New York Times, On Spain’s Smartest Streets, a Property Boom Made in Venezuela:

“During a walk around Salamanca, an upmarket district of the Spanish capital, Luis Valls-Taberner, a real-estate investment adviser, pointed out on almost every street a building that he said a wealthy Venezuelan had recently acquired.

Mr. Valls-Taberner would not identify the buyers. Some properties, he said, were purchased through investment companies based in Miami or elsewhere — but the money always came from Venezuela.”

By dinghy or by jet, many of those wishing to escape the most corrupt and decrepit places on Earth, especially the failed states north and south of the Sahara, are streaming into Spain, and the country’s new socialist government, like most of its EU counterparts, seems unwilling to discuss the fact that Africa’s population, now about 1.26 billion, is expected to double by 2050. Expect bigger dinghies.


Whatever happened to Seymour Hersh?

Thursday, 26 July, 2018

That’s the title of an article by Steve Bloomfield in the August issue of Prospect Magazine. The subtitle chronicles a career that’s ending in ignominy: “The strange story of how a legendary investigative journalist came to echo Assad’s propaganda.”

Hersh became a journalistic icon in 1968 when his report of a massacre of Vietnamese civilians by US troops in the village of My Lai, which he filed for Dispatch News Service, was picked up by newspapers worldwide. He was hired by the New York Times and later began a lengthy relationship with the New Yorker magazine. That arrangement came to an end in 2012 when the editor, David Remnick, rejected a conspiratorial piece about the death of Osama bin Laden. But Hersh found willing believers at the London Review of Books, for a while, but they soon tired of his unsourced fantasies.

He found one final outlet for his fabrications before the total descent into shame and the platform was provided by the once-respected German newspaper, Die Welt. What it headlined as “Trump’s Red Line” was rubbished quickly and decisively, however, by Belling Cat. Summing up the Hershian ravings about the Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack, Steve Bloomfield notes in his Prospect article: “Chemical weapons experts say this is impossible.”

Shame then, on Die Welt, the London Review of Books and the New Yorker for offering so much space to a crackpot who is now being treated as a hero by RT, which Bloomfield calls “the Kremlin-funded news channel that slavishly echoes the Russian government’s line on Syria (and, indeed, everything else).”

The decline and fall of a media star is aptly summed up in two letters: RT.


China is driving the electric car

Tuesday, 10 October, 2017 0 Comments

“There is a powerful reason that automakers worldwide are speeding up their efforts to develop electric vehicles — and that reason is China.” So begins the story by @KeithBradsher in today’s New York Times. According to Bradsher, China feels it has little choice in pushing forward to an EV future. “While it is true that electric vehicles fit neatly into China’s plan to become the world leader in sci-fi technology like artificial intelligence, the country also fears a dark future — one where its cities remain cloaked in smog and it is beholden to foreign countries to sell it the oil it needs.”

China Hastens the World Toward an Electric-Car Future does not gloss over the many contradictions involved in the country’s drive for automotive independence. Nearly three-quarters of China’s power comes from coal, which emits more climate-changing gases than oil and, as Keith Bradsher puts it: “Even on electricity, China’s cars are still burning dirty.”

It’s a long road, comrades, as the Great Driver Helmsman would have said.


Glossolalia: Singlish

Monday, 16 May, 2016 3 Comments

It’s the week of Pentecost, which is associated (Biblically) with “speaking in tongues,” a phenomenon linguists call glossolalia. So, in honour of all things etymological, we’re devoting this week’s posts to language and we’re kicking off with Singlish, a hodgepodge dialect of Singapore’s official state languages — English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil — as well as bits of Bengali, Cantonese and Hokkien.

To “talk cock” is Singlish for “to talk nonsense” and the definition can be found in The Coxford Singlish Dictionary by Colin Goh and Woo Yen Yen, which was published in 2002, and has sold more than 30,000 copies since. “Bo hee hae ma ho” is the Singlish equivalent of “Beggars can’t be choosers,” and means “When there’s no fish, prawns are good too.” The latter example is courtesy of Gwee Li Sui, the Singaporean poet, novelist and literary critic. “Do You Speak Singlish?” is the question he posed yesterday to readers of the New York Times. Singlish, he said, “is one of Singapore’s few unique cultural creations” and it seems to be thriving, despite official attempts to outlaw it:

“The government’s war on Singlish was doomed from the start: Even state institutions and officials have nourished it, if inadvertently. The compulsory national service, which brings together male Singaporeans from all walks of life, has only underlined that Singlish is the natural lingua franca of the grunts.”

To an outsider’s ear, Singlish sounds like verbalized text messaging: concise, energetic, abbreviated, playful, elastic. Here, Gwee Li Sui tok the tok.


Drezner vs. Khanna: KO

Thursday, 12 May, 2016 0 Comments

 CONNECTOGRAPHY: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization “Parag Khanna may well be the most connected man alive,” writes Daniel Drezner in his New York Times review of CONNECTOGRAPHY: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization. That flattering description of the author is followed immediately by this sentence: “‘Connectography’ represents Khanna’s latest effort to arbitrage his personal networking skills into a theory of geopolitics.” With this kind of praise, we are in Alexander Pope territory, where a compliment is so subtle that it amounts to no compliment at all, or even entails condemnation. The tactic of damning with faint praise was articulated in Roman times by Favorinus, but the expression comes from Alexander Pope’s Epistle to Doctor Arbuthnot (1733): “Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer, and, without sneering, teach the rest to sneer.”

Daniel Drezner, a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, does not rely on indirect criticism, however, of Khanna’s new book. His critique is of the candid kind and some of his observations are scathing. Example:

What is particularly odd is that Khanna believes he is evincing a savvy worldview and yet offers a utopian vision of connectivity’s effect on people. He insists that the forces of connection will overwhelm the forces of division. In the book’s most blasé sentence, Khanna argues that “the virtues of tolerance and coexistence will come to the Middle East through a combination of ‘to each his own’ cartographic remapping and supply chain interdependence.” I would gently suggest that there will be a very long and very violent stretch between the current Middle East and Khanna’s placid vision — and that it’s the bumpy part that is salient right now.

Then, right at the end, Drezner closes in and lands a devastating KO: “I wish that Khanna were right about the power of connectivity. The world would be a better place. I fear, however, that he does not know what he is talking about.”

Tomorrow, here, we’ll have a seven-question interview with Parag Khanna.


Who will buy the New York Times?

Friday, 6 May, 2016 0 Comments

“We have tried everything we could but sadly we just haven’t reached the sales figures we needed to make it work financially,” New Day editor, Alison Phillips, on Facebook yesterday. Birthed on 22 February, the newspaper was buried on 5 May.

How can the world’s remaining newspapers avoid the grim fate of New Day? Well, the New York Times is getting into the food delivery business, Bloomberg reports: “This summer, the New York Times will begin selling ingredients for recipes from its NYT Cooking website as the newspaper publisher seeks new revenue sources to offset declines in print. The Times is partnering with meal-delivery startup Chef’d, which will send the ingredients to readers within 48 hours.”

The NYT is also placing a bet on travel. “Times Journeys” charges readers thousands for tours of theocracies and autocracies like Iran and Cuba. “Chernobyl: Nuclear Tourism” is packaged as “A journey focused on science & nature,” while “An Exploration of Southeast Asia” is undertaken “Aboard the 264-passenger L’Austral, designed to serve both the chic and the casual.” The vessel is “sleek and intimate” and “you’ll feel as if you were on your own private yacht.” With the “Owner’s Suite” priced from $18,390, one would hope so.

Earlier this year, the Financial Times, in a “Big Read” piece by Henry Mance titled “UK newspapers: Rewriting the story,” pronounced the newspaper business dead on delivery. There is no viable economic model for a written news product, Mance concluded. There is, of course, the FT’s solution to the problem. It sold itself to Japan’s Nikkei last summer for $1.3 billion. So, who will buy the New York Times?


Who lost in New Hampshire?

Tuesday, 9 February, 2016 0 Comments

Prediction: The big losers in New Hampshire will be the media. The obsessional coverage of Donald Trump and his every quip and comment has put the issues in second place. Donald Trump “Now the airwaves are cluttered, there are too many messages, and in a Tower of Babel society we all focus on that which everybody else does,” wrote Bob Lefsetz in his newsletter a week ago. Snippet:

“But that does not mean television and newspapers did not love telling his story, it injected excitement, it sold advertising, and in the era of big data it was all opinion all the time. True, there were polls showing Trump with significant traction, but the data pros said that at this point in the game polls are unusually inaccurate.

But don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.”

What we are witnessing in this phase of the US presidential race is herd media. The New York York Times has already decided that Hillary Clinton is the best choice, while the Guardian calculates that whipping up Trump frenzy is good click bait. The only alternative to the biased, cynical MSM looks like being Twitter.


Paging Mr Page

Thursday, 28 January, 2016 0 Comments

In total, I have encountered Mr. Page three times for a total of five minutes or so. Once was at an off-the-record gathering where nothing interesting happened, and another was at a press event where he politely shook my hand before heading in another direction.

The other time, I was at Google’s Mountain View campus, talking to an executive, when Mr. Page rode up on his bike to say hello to his employee. I introduced myself as a New York Times reporter and he immediately pedaled away.

“That went well,” the executive said.

So writes Conor Dougherty, who covers Google for the New York Times. He’s been seeking an interview with Larry Page since August 2014 and the result is “Try to Interview Google’s Co-Founder. It’s Emasculating.” And it’s revealing.


Houellebecq: How France’s Leaders Failed

Friday, 20 November, 2015 0 Comments

Just as we end our week of postings about Submission, the important new novel by Michel Houellebecq, the great man himself makes a rare appearance in the public prints to comment on the state of France. In today’s New York Times, under the headline Michel Houellebecq: How France’s Leaders Failed Its People, the writer addresses la Grande Nation in its hour of need.

Soumission Quoting the famous motivational poster produced by the British government in 1939 in preparation for the Second World War, Houellebecq places his faith in the people and says: “Keep calm and carry on.” He regrets that his France does not have a Churchill to lead the nation at this critical moment and despairs of the country’s political class: “It’s unlikely that the insignificant opportunist who passes for our head of state, or the congenital moron who plays the part of our prime minister, or even the ‘stars of the opposition’ (LOL) will emerge from the test looking any brighter.”

He then cites a gap, no, “an abyss”, between the people and their elected representatives. “The discredit that applies to all political parties today isn’t just huge; it is legitimate.” This leads him to formulate four democratic theses and nail them to the door of France in the following order:

  • That the French population has always maintained its trust in and solidarity with its police officers and its armed forces.
  • That it has largely been repelled by the sermonizing airs of the so-called moral left (moral?) concerning how migrants and refugees are to be treated.
  • That it has never viewed without suspicion the foreign military adventures its governments have seen fit to join.
  • That the only solution still available to us now is to move gently toward the only form of real democracy: I mean, direct democracy.

And just to prove that Houellebecq is central to understanding the true nature of the crisis now gripping France, Todd Kliman rows in with The Subtle Despair of Michel Houellebecq in today’s Washington Post. The “d” word is the one that struck him during his second reading of Submission. It “permeates every page, every scene, every observation.” Still, he points out, and this is very true, that “Submission is very funny, easily the funniest of the four Houellebecq books I’ve read.” As regard’s the author’s politics, Kliman concludes that Houellebecq is a man of the right, but a particular kind of right — a right of the long view that is…

“… pessimistic about notions of progress, skeptical of easy answers, or of any answers, a man of measured despair whose immersion in history and literature has taught him that time can’t be measured in election cycles or decades, that technologies exist to distract us and/or give us new means to destroy ourselves, and that people never do change.

Today, in this age, that qualifies as real subversion.”

Submission is, without doubt, the novel of the year. Somewhat plausible, rather worrying, funny, subversive and very, very important.


Knausgaard reads Houellebecq

Wednesday, 18 November, 2015 0 Comments

It was a brave decision on the part of the New York Times to ask Karl Ove Knausgård to review Submission by Michel Houellebecq. Brave because the Norwegian author is not known for his brevity. Knausgård is the author of Min Kamp (My Struggle), six controversial autobiographical novels that stretch across 3,600 pages.

“Before I begin this review, I have to make a small confession. I have never read Michel Houellebecq’s books,” writes Knausgård, warming up to his task. Eventually, he picks up the novel and opens it: “I leaned back in my chair under the bright light of the lamp, lit a cigarette, poured myself a coffee and began to read.”

Submission Submission is controversial, he finds, because “anything that has to do with immigration, the nation state, multiculturalism, ethnicity and religion is explosive stuff in Europe these days. Many of its elements are recognizable, like the newspapers omitting to mention, or mentioning only with caution, conflicts arising out of ethnic differences, or the political left’s anti-­racism overriding its feminism, making it wary of criticizing patriarchal structures within immigrant communities.”

Houellebecq’s savaging of political correctness prepares the ground for “a scenario of the future that realistically is less than likely, and yet entirely possible,” notes Knausgård. In this scenario, the French general election of 2022 is won by the Muslim Brotherhood with which the left collaborates to keep the National Front from power, and France as a result becomes a Muslim state. Snippet:

“What’s crucial for the novel is that the political events it portrays are psychologically as persuasive as they are credible, for this is what the novel is about, an entire culture’s enormous loss of meaning, its lack of, or highly depleted, faith, a culture in which the ties of community are dissolving and which, for want of resilience more than anything else, gives up on its most important values and submits to religious government.

But maybe that isn’t so bad? Maybe it doesn’t matter that much? Aren’t people just people, regardless of what they believe in, and of how they choose to organize their societies? It is these questions that the novel leads up to, since this entire seamless revolution is seen through the eyes of François, a man who believes in nothing and who consequently is bound by nothing other than himself and his own needs… This lack of attachment, this indifference, is as I see it the novel’s fundamental theme and issue, much more so than the Islamization of France, which in the logic of the book is merely a consequence.”

What does it mean to be a human being without faith? For Knausgård, that’s the key question posed by a novel that closes with the faithless protagonist looking forward in time to his own submission, “to the comedy, eventually converting to Islam in order to continue teaching at the Sorbonne, now a Muslim seat of learning.”

In the end, Knausgård is full of praise for what Houellebecq has written and declares Submission to be a great book: “The disillusioned gaze sees through everything, sees all the lies and the pretenses we concoct to give life meaning, the only thing it doesn’t see is its own origin, its own driving force. But what does that matter as long as it creates great literature, quivering with ambivalence, full of longing for meaning, which, if none is found, it creates itself?”


All men are fallible, not excepting the Pope — Fowler

Wednesday, 17 June, 2015 0 Comments

Tomorrow, at noon, the Vatican will issue Laudato Si, a major statement by Pope Francis on climate change. On Monday, the Italian magazine L’Espresso broke the publication embargo and leaked the 192-page encyclical in a “heinous act,” according to a Vatican official quoted by Bloomberg News. “We are not God,” Laudato Si proclaims. “The earth precedes us and was given to us,” notes Think Progress in its translation of the leaked document.

Hailed by many as the “Pope of the poor,” Francis is now linking environmental and economic issues in his encyclical in ways that are certain to ignite heated debate. Right on cue, the New York Times is using the leak as part of its campaign against Republican candidates for the presidency: “A Florida archbishop will highlight the pope’s climate change message in the hope that it will resonate in particular with Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush,” is the sub-head on “Pope’s Views on Climate Change Add Pressure to U.S. Candidates”. Jeb Bush, a convert to Catholicism, responded immediately, saying: “I hope I’m not like, going to get castigated for saying this in front of my priest back home but I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope.”

The “green” Francis has a new supporter in the form of the notorious British atheist George Monbiot and we can expect other unbelievers to follow his lead. Some of them may even cite the atheist H. W. Fowler, author of A Dictionary of Modern English Usage (published 1926): “excepting as a preposition has one normal use. When a possible exception is to be mentioned as not made, the form used is, instead of not except, either not excepting before the noun or not excepted after it: All men are fallible except the Pope; all men are fallible, not excepting the Pope, or the Pope not excepted.”

Pope Francis will be infallible tomorrow for the climate change movement, but its adherents might not like some of his other pronouncements.