The Grumpy Old Guy Gets Rangy With The New York Times

All right; I admit it: I subscribe to the weekday edition of The New York Times (one of the few dailies that insists on capitalizing its own "The"). I like the feel of holding news in my hand. And usually, the first place I turn to is the editorial/op-ed section, which occupies the final two pages of Section A.

Oddly enough, NY Times editorials (and not a few op-eds) still have influence in the halls of politics; that's probably why Brent "Bozo" Bozell's Media Research Center has a daily mailing called "TimesWatch," which consistently bashes The Times for its positions and the alleged biases of its reporters. (Not to mention its more general leftie-bashing "Newsbusters." One of those whack jobs—oops, pardon me, "news analysts"—"moron" Matthew Balan, was just placed on Time magazine's list of the "Least Influential People of 2010," just after Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and a couple of places ahead of failed beauty queen Carrie "opposite marriage" Prejean ... and Octomom.)

But as often as I find The Times' stances interesting and agreeable, they're hardly water-walkers, and every once in a while, I try to take them to task for their hypocrisy, or when they miss something obvious (like failing to write obituaries for Juliet Anderson, Jamie Gillis and Ron Sullivan/Henri Pachard). (On the other hand, the dead guy who designed the "coffee to go" cup gets front page coverage.)

But it's been a long time since they printed one of my letters, so I thought I'd share a couple of them here: 

To the Editor,

Thank you for coming down on the side of free speech with your editorial, "Policing Indecency" (1/20), but your use of the terms "four-letter word" and "two brief expletives" undercut your extremely valid point.

Indeed, broadcasters currently have no assurance that material they air will not fall afoul of the FCC's fractured policy regarding which programs can safely include the so-called "fleeting expletives" (news, big-budget motion pictures) and which can't (awards programs), and it's indisputable that broadcasters will err on the side of self-censorship rather than risk the millions of dollars in fines attendant to a wrong guess ... but it doesn't help The Times' case that it fails to state just which expletives were used by Cher and Nicole Richie that brought this case to court in the first place.

If anything, The Times' failure to note that Cher said "fuck" and Richie said "cowshit"—instead, using euphemisms for those words—lends support to the idea that if those terms cannot be printed in America's last remaining "newspaper of record" because, for instance, children or religious/conservative adults might object, that The Times is on slippery ground in faulting the FCC for claiming it is protecting those same listeners/viewers from seeing or hearing those words on their radios or TVs.

Fortunately, The Times is not subject to the onerous FCC regulation that broadcasters must maneuver through on a daily basis, so there seems to be little point in employing euphemisms on its editorial page out of fear of ... what? That children will see the words and have the temerity to ask their parents what the words mean, thus forcing the parents to engage in a discussion of the subject sooner rather than have that inevitable talk later? That religious/conservative readers will decry The Times for having printed the very words that are at issue in the case on its editorial page, which is the exact space in the newspaper that should be devoted to such discussions? Rest assured, the religious/conservatives in society already deplore The Times as a "liberal rag," and there is nothing The Times can do to change that image in their minds, other than to kowtow to, among other changes, exactly the self-censorship these people advocate!

The New York Times is better than that, and it should show it by reporting the news as if its editorial policies were covered by the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment freedom of speech clause rather than the Federal Communications Commission's "Golden Globes policy."

Regards, etc.


To the Editor,

Your generally good editorial excoriating the President and Congress for delaying the confirmation of Dawn Johnsen as White House Counsel to the point that she withdrew her nomination ("Politics 1, Rule of Law 0", Editorial, April 13) glosses over one important point: Ms. Johnsen, unlike all of President George W. Bush's appointees to that position—Alberto Gonzales, Harriet Miers, Fred Fielding—has been an outspoken opponent of President Bush's policies regarding torture of political prisoners like those being held in Guantanamo Bay. Such torture—particularly, the form known as "waterboarding"—is and has been (since World War II) illegal under the Geneva Conventions as well as U.S. law, and if Ms. Johnsen were given the chance to do the job of advising the President on legal matters, it seems likely that she would recommend the prosecution of U.S. citizens who engaged in or ordered such torture. Good candidates for such prosecution would include George W. Bush, Richard B. Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, John Yoo, Jay Bybee and others more intimately involved in carrying out the torture.

It therefore seems clear that the overriding reason for Ms. Johnsen's lack of support from the Obama administration is the possibility that she might call for justice to be served on war criminals—and a president who so believes in kowtowing to Republican interests in everything from healthcare to banking regulation could hardly allow such aforementioned icons of conservativism to be prosecuted for violating their oaths of office to uphold the Constitution.

Yours truly, etc.