Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Two-Tiered World

The New York Times rolled out its new and improved reader comments feature with much fanfare today, only to have it crash and burn within hours. Before the system imploded under the weight of its own self-importance, more than 200 readers had weighed in on the changes. While many quibbled about the strange new appearance of the reader commenting section, most were incensed that commenters have now been divided between the "trusted" and those who are still in need of the watchful eye of a moderating Big Brother. (translation: a recent journalism school grad/student waiting to break into a real reporting or editing job.) Many readers detest the necessity of signing up for Facebook in order to prove their credibility and identities. More details are on Poynter.

Full disclosure: a couple of weeks ago I got an e-mail asking me to be a trusted commenter because of my "history of great comments".  Naive person that I am, I signed up for Facebook for the sole purpose of becoming a Times Trusty. I have never been a fan of Facebook, especially since the news broke earlier this year that Goldman Sachs was attempting to wrap its slimy tentacles around it, and that Facebook admittedly has breached the privacy of users.  So I signed up with the bare minimum requirements: no photo or any personal info other than my hometown and birthday. About a million sites already have my hometown and birthday, ever since the dreadful day more than a decade ago when I signed up for a discount card at CVS.  Merchants sell this info to each other and it multiplies exponentially in cyberspace. (Helpful hint: clear your browser daily to get rid of those nefarious tracking cookies and also to reset your quota of 20 free Times articles.)

When I first tried out my new status on a David Brooks column, I was thrilled to see my comment appear almost instantaneously.  No more being rejected outright. No more being deliberately shoved in the middle of the commenting pool at #355.  But the thrill quickly turned to chagrin.  I was all alone in Comment World!  Where were all the other trusted commenters?  Apparently, there weren't any.  My comment sat there all by its lonesome for more than 12 hours, before the moderators got around to approving a few more. The reader recommendations that flowed in were meaningless.  Half the fun of commenting is the sport of it all.

I emailed The Times to find out why so few people had apparently been chosen, and one Aron Pilhofer wrote back to explain that he had no earthly idea who the hell I, or any other contributor, was.  He talked about a lot of factors going into the selection, and data being shoveled in and then out of an algorithm, and that it was basically a random process and it was still being tested. But not to worry.  A few more weeks, he promised, and there would be trusted commenters bursting from the boards.

Meanwhile, I drastically cut back on my commenting.  The few people I told about being a trusted commenter were understandably miffed, and I did not blame them!  I tried to explain that my name was simply picked out of a hat and that they, personally, were not being rejected.  A bunch of elite Times editors were not sitting around discussing Times commenters and their merits.  They don't know us, they don't want to know us. They view us as mere $-generating clicks -- the sooner the comments can appear, the more the ad revenue. We commenters, both trusted and mistrusted, are helping pay the salaries of such multimillionaire columnists as Bill Keller and Tom Friedman.  It is no different than the hoi polloi supporting tax-dodging corporations like G.E. and contributing to the pension plans of defense contractors -- not to mention the trillions of dollars we unknowingly gifted to the too-big-to-exist banks a few years ago.  The disparity, the unfairness, the oppression go on and on and on. And so do the divide-and-conquer tactics used by overlords everywhere.

That is why I had to chuckle while checking my inbox earlier. One message in particular got my immediate attention. Michelle Obama Wants to Meet You.  No, I am not that naive: Barack wrote me yesterday saying his next dinner was going to be a double date.  He would be bringing Michelle, and I could bring a guest.... if I contributed $15 and if my name was picked out of another one of those algorithmic computer programs. 

Well, at 10:30 this morning Michelle wrote and the chance to win had been reduced to $5!

At 11:30, she wrote back -- she slashed the price down to  $3!  Elle est désespérée!

This is another example of Two-Tiered World. If you are a member of the 1%, you can fork over thousands of dollars to meet the Obamas in person at any number of fundraisers, any time, anywhere. You don't have to enter for a chance to win.  You have already won. You own the Obamas.

If you are in the 99%, you are asked to pay just a little less, volunteer for a campaign with no pay, and if you're very very lucky you may get to kiss a politician's feet. How this is any different from feudalism is anyone's guess.

The president was in NYC last night for what the Daily News calls three separate cash bashes. Before the prez-induced massive traffic gridlock, the NYPD (whom Mayor Bloomberg only semi-humorously describes as his own private army) started towing cars away. Occupy protesters were penned in far from the frozen zone so that Barack could rake in the bucks in peace. 

I like to imagine that he saw their signs calling him a corporate puppet and war criminal. If nothing else good has happened these past few days, at least the pundits and the politicians have now been disabused of the notion that OWS could ever be co-opted.

Reminder: commenting here is free, sans Facebook, sans ads, and only minimally moderated to stave off the spambots.


Faun said...

Your comment about kissing the feet of politicians really resonated with me. I work for an academic institution which is affiliated with NASA and every time a politician comes by we're expected to roll out the red carpet and bow and scrape. Nothing makes me madder. They should be thanking US for electing THEM. They're WORKING for us, ostensibly. But nobody seems to understand that, as though we should be grateful for their patronage. I can't wait to retire.

Valerie said...

I think the Times is just another corporate mouthpiece for the 1% and truthfully, I don't bother with it unless someone steers me to a good article. Occasionally they have a good story or a good opinion piece by Gretchen Morgensen, Paul Krugman and Charles Blow but after Bob Herbert left, I stopped checking in regularly with the regular columnists. For me, the really interesting stuff was the reader responses anyway. I never thought the ones they picked for the blue boxes were very good, so I always just went to the reader favourites where I frequently got better links, better informed opinions and more information than I did from the actual articles/pieces themselves. Truthfully, I would have thought the Times would have been better served by having a column of guest reader commenters instead of this trusted commenter crap - and it would have made sense that they should have picked the more popular ones that other readers showed they wanted to read.

I am not a trusted commenter and I truthfully could care less. After having so many of my comments buried past 100, I figured "Why bother?" Most of what I thought was usually expressed in the first 25 anyway. But I can see how someone who wants to attract blog readership would want to get their blog known. And truthfully, I wouldn't have found Sardonicky without the Times.

As for the two-tiered world of politics and society, I really didn't care until the last several years. As I have stated several times, most of us don't aspire to be rich, we just want to be financially secure. The wealth of the uber-wealthy never intrigued me and in fact, I didn't really even know that they existed. It has only been since the Recession that I have gotten mad about the gross injustice of the few train-wrecking the economy - both with careless "investment" activities and with off-shoring jobs - and getting richer for it. It has been frightening to watch solidly middle class people sink into the "almost poor" class so quickly and without any hope of changing their situations.

In the end, I see Obama as a big part of the problem. We all voted for change and the DNC and Obama knew that. Yet, they have consistently gone in the opposite direction. As my husband, the pragmatic, pointed out, at least with Bush you knew what you were getting – Obama lied to get elected. There isn’t much I can do about that other than to not vote for him again. Do it to me once, shame on you. Do it to me twice, shame on me.

miketcha said...

I became a paid subscriber to the NYT this past year. One of the biggest reasons was reading the comment sections to the articles. Previously, I spent a lot of time on the HuffPost but as it has evolved I've lost interest in their manufactured blogs and articles, and equally became tiresome of the posted comments. It has been illuminating to read comments in the NYT that challenged their writers and at times provided deeper understanding of the topic than the reporters

Neil said...

Thanks to the Times comments section, I found Karen and Sardonicky. So when I heard that Karen was a trusted commenter, I was happy for her. Why would anyone be miffed that Karen was chosen, regardless of the circumstances? How can people be so petty?

Like miketcha, I left HuffPost too, and add that its censorship of comments was a problem. The Times comments are good, some are more insightful than the story itself. And like Valerie, I find some of the best comments are not chosen as such.

Facebook etc can be a pain. I don’t use my read birth date when I register for some things, they don’t need that information. Sometimes I register in the name of my pet.

Thanks Karen for the ad-free blog and all your work. Maybe some day you can run the newspaper at our intentional community, be the Publisher and Editor-In-Chief.

As for ‘Michelle Obama Wants to Meet You’, for $3 Michelle and Barak can kiss my fat a....

Will said...


I wouldn't have found Sardonicky without the NYT either. I vividly recall thinking, "Who is this major asskicker Karen Garcia whose amazing comments I keep running into around here? I gotta check out her website."

You know what's funny? I can barely even look at David Brooks' smug mug, let alone actually read his garbage. I just scroll as quickly as I can down the page and search for Karen's always brilliant and often laugh-out-loud hilarious take on the situation.

So thanks again, Karen, for everything you do.

Anne Lavoie said...

NYT must be scraping the bottom of the barrel, because not only was I just invited yesterday, but I was not told it was because I made great comments. Bummer! It was just desperation on their part I guess, like Michelle discounting those dinner raffle tickets.

Today I noticed that all you 'trusted' people are flagged so the rest of us distrusted ones know you are special! They are hoping peer pressure and keeping up with the Jones will get us on board maybe. It didn't occur to me that they would actually identify the trusted ones to the rest of us.

For me, it's being corralled/kettled into Facebook's net that I strongly object to. Is that all they are after? Do they also ask if you have a blog or website and ask you to identify it, and if so, do they say why?

We can empty our browser cache, but how do we empty THEIR cache? Where is that hacker group Anonymous when you need them? Facebook is a menace to society.

James F Traynor said...

Anyone who trusted me to be a 'trusted commentator' would have to be nuts. Which suits me to my 'T'. Once, in my rambling through history, I read where a member of the clan was busted out of a British goal by none other than our very own Thomas Jefferson. I've been delirious with joy ever since. We scoundrels stick together.

Karen Garcia said...

Thanks for your support. The whole reason I started this blog was because The Times had rejected my comments for one week straight last January. They had this program that automatically blacked out the regulars at regular intervals. I think they still do. @Anne,
When the new comment system went down for hours earlier today, the thought of "Anonymous" hacking it in protest did cross my mind. It seems to be back up and running for the moment, anyway.

Anne Lavoie said...

To elaborate a bit on my comment about feeling kettled or corralled into the net of Facebook, I have recently discovered numerous news websites that allow comments ONLY through Facebook. Also, the White House's petition site endorsed and encouraged using Facebook to meet the preliminary deadlines and numbers quota to have a petition advance to public voting, giving Facebook more 'friends' in the process. It smelled like a fishy public-private partnership to me.

As far as Karen and Sardonicky goes, I was a fan in the pre-Sardonicky days, as were a few others on this site. Remember the Gulf Oil spill? If I recall correctly, Karen's NYT comments showed her to be one of the few early doubters of Obama when almost everyone else was believing and trusting in him. So that black hole that NYT put her in periodically turned out to be a very good thing for us, because here we are enjoying Sardonicky.

And I agree with Valerie, NYT is hardly worth reading these days anyway.

Slate has a piece about privacy and dickhead Mark Zuckerberg. To read, go to:

Anne Lavoie said...

Off topic, but there is good news, even if the news media isn't covering it.

Rocky Anderson is running for President and forming a new political party called the Justice Party. He is a former two term mayor of Salt Lake City.

I heard him speak years ago and he had some great ideas and I was very impressed with him. That's when he was a Democrat. He has since dropped out of that corrupt, corporate party.

What I know of him, he's the real deal, but wow is he ever going to need all the luck and help he can get just to get on the ballot in just one state, let alone 50. He needs a miracle, but then so do we.

At least it's a start. Occupy Rocky!

Valerie said...

Good to know about Rocky, Anne. I haven't heard of him but I will check him out. Right now my plan is to write in a candidate. Hopefully there will be an effort to organise behind a single candidate via some organisation in the blogosphere. Everyone I know who is planning on doing a write-in is either going to write in Bernie or Liz Warren. Even if one of them gets five percent of the vote, it will be a beginning. And I know, I know . . . neither can win but if I am going to write in a candidate with the expectation of using it to make a political statement, I might as well write in the person I really want rather than a compromise candidate.

I just heard on NPR (We get it here in Australia but just for a half hour a day.) that Obama has just done his first TV ad and he is asking for volunteers! Ha! One of his many campaign people talked to the NPR interviewer about the many people who went door to door for Obama in 08 and that it really made all the difference. I think these smug bots have a little surprise in store for them when the pool of volunteers is a lot thinner than last time.

Kat said...

Today Mr. Brooks manages to be even more loathsome than usual.
"Susan L.", an early (trusted) commenter writes approvingly in response: "When I say "My sentiments exactly", that's high praise."
So, we know there is someone out there that matches Brooks' with respect to his limitless self-regard.
These are the trusted commenters.

DreamsAmelia said...

Here here to all the comments here! Faun--you GET IT--what a freaking shame that without the 99% understanding this, we have feudalism, not Democracy-- where the Prez is yet another rockstar--bloggers are rockstars--everyone is a rockstar/princess. Yuck.

Bernie Sanders was the only senator who responded to our nurses' invitation to speak at our Universal Medicare for All rally--two separate years--and he kept saying, "No, I thank YOU for being here, for doing the hard work, etc" Sadly, you can't run a Democracy with only 1% of people and politicians understanding what pluralism really means!

And thanks for the illumination of this whole NYTimes commenting money making scheme. Yes, we should be proud to be so famous for throwing word bombs that so ruffle the feather of the 1% that we will never be Trusted Commenters. And Karen, you should so throw a monkey wrench as to go out in a blaze of glory and get kicked off their list with some rude and crazy comment!

The internets roots are purely academic and non-commericial. The original internet was entirely for the love and sharing of knowledge, not for the purveying of commercialism.
Thus, to carry on such proud tradition, I highly recommend using Firefox browser with the "Ad Block Plus" plug in, which erases all advertising from every page--you see pure fields of white when you read the Times or any paper. I haven't seen an ad in years!
Then, to make it perfect, use NoScript, which can get a little annoying, but it will get rid of the javascripts that also do permanent tracking.

When I started being tracked in my 20s by store "discount" cards, I made sure to sign myself up as a 100 year old Native American man living in the Ukraine. I'm also a 95 year old man on the Times site...etc. And read the "privacy" policy of all these site--Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo,Hotmail, Google, NYTimes--they all state point blank they data dump all their info to the U.S. Government without your knowledge whenever they are asked. These services look "free" but they are just data-mining devices.

You get what you don't pay for---total loss of privacy.

Kat said...

Anne-- I read Rocky's bio (yeah, at Wiki) and it is very impressive. I like the name-- the Justice party.

James F Traynor said...

Karen, you somehow managed to slip through the gill net; you are entirely too radical to have been made a NYT's 'trusted commentator'. Or are they actually aware of what you're saying ( it's glaringly obvious) and not wishing to say it themselves, for obvious reasons, allowing you a venue as an anodyne for a guilty journalistic conscience. That would be nice.

naluca said...

Re NYT Comments

I called to cancel my subscription
and was offered four more weeks for 99c. I took it, partly since I could also register my complaint.
I also wrote tro the digital editor, as this greatly disturbs my "digital experience"; it is a format problem.

Does anyone know of a mass movement type of pressure to change this? Petition?

I admit it broke my heart a little to see Karen Garcia with a facebook page.

Thew good news is I'm now reading this blog regularly. Thanks.

citizen625 said...

It is a multi-tiered world and the NYT will find, as the WSJ has found that some folks lose interest in uniform editorial approach. I read comments because out here in the fly-over states diversity is sometimes a precious and sought after commodity. If the Times restricts comments to "The Chosen", I'm bored already. I don't want to eat my Conformies for breakfast. Urbanites in NYC because of proximity to the Masters of the Universe may believe they too possess some fraction of the residual stardust, but likely as not they put on their pants one leg at a time.
The advertisers on NYT really are the ones to inform about its course change in comments. Fewer eye balls is fewer potential or informed customers.

naluca said...

Re: Two Tiers

I was in academia for over forty years. One of my onservations, which led to a deeply held conviction, is that modes of intelligence vary greatly, and our society has a huge gap between those who are considered "smart" and those who are considered "dumb".The designations are often wildly inaccurate. Top schools - and I taught among the best exclusively (a drastic mistake made in the interviews, I'm sure)- suffer from a very narrow profile of student, based on even narrower criteria. In both society at large and in academia, huge amounts of information are stripped away, are simply unavailable, but even more important, crucial ways of investigating, of processing,of looking at the world are invisible.
I reading NYT comments, I was particularly interested in those comments which may have been
awkwardly worded but contained an insight and often a passion which
were particularly valuable to understanding the article.

The tiering of the NYT is more than annoying, more than humiliating, more than off-putting.
It's like hearing music through traffic noise: a good deal of the sound is being eliminated, cancelled out. I have come to think that what may be missing, the completeness, is somehow what makes music music.

We are being cheated with this policy; it is dangerous.

WestVillageGal said...

another winning installment, Karen.
thank you.

@ Citizen625, and with all sincere respect:

<< RE: Urbanites in NYC because of proximity to the Masters of the Universe may believe they too possess some fraction of the residual stardust, but likely as not they put on their pants one leg at a time. >>

as a Noo Yawkuh, i can attest to the very opposite: it's not at all uncommon to be (vocally, if not emphatically) hyper-critical of "one's own". and i can also assure that - just as 'Urbanites' can lump others into a group - so can those outside of metropolitan areas be inclined toward the same.

one of the (many) reasons i love NYC - aside from my involvement in the arts and all that this city plentifully offers in that regard -
is its diversity and - if not its population's total acceptance of, at least - its tolerance of said diversity. might i also italicize that The Occupy Movement was launched just a few subway stops from The New York Times' offices? :)

one leg at a time -

me said...

I am angry at the Nytimes. They just destroyed their comment section, which by far was the best on the web and was probably the closest thing there ever was anywhere to a public forum that is so necessary for a democracy to function and perhaps this is why it was gotten rid of. The people who run this world, the people '1%ers' don't want real democracy, only fake democracy that they can easily manipulate to their own ends. Comments like yours (and mine if I should be so presumptuous) were too spot on and publicly accessible to be tolerated by the PTB and so have been effectively muffled, by transforming a real public forum into a fake forum that can be easily monitored and manipulated. Democracy has just died a little more today.

WestVillageGal said...

@ naluca -

at the risk of being too wordy (and, unintentionally, self-referential) - - briefly . . .

i so appreciate (and am aligned with) the spirit and content of your offering:
the (perilously limited, and limiting) quantifying of "intelligence" is no small matter - - widely practiced though it is.
and now, with the "tiering" of NYTimes comments, one more nail-in-the-coffin of inclusiveness has been riveted.

with best wishes -

Anonymous said...

Hi Karen. I actually cited your comments yesterday in my NYT post expressing my dismay at the change. I really liked the way they did it previously - easier to read than the WaPo and the comments - yours and others - often provided a perspective that enhanced rather than detracted from the original piece (even when you didn't agree). The problem with the new way is that it requires a lot more work, scrolling, clicking etc. I liked that I could hit the "reader recommended" tab and then easily read several thoughtful responses without a lot more hunting and pecking. I hope they change it back - do you think there is any chance they will?

Karen Garcia said...

They already got rid of the "read more" feature that made you click to access the rest of a truncated comment.You can still click "readers' picks" to jump right to the most-recommended.
Incidentally, the trusted commenter status is pure b.s. I commented on David Brooks at 8 a.m. today and it is still in the holding bin. When I tried to resubmit, they told me my request was being processed and to get lost. They are still exercising their option to suppress.

DreamsAmelia said...

Karnen, I did finally see your most excellent Brooks comment--but look at something like the Eurozone/Merkel article--some Trusted Commenter (is TC like the ultimate PC?) I've never heard of abuses his auto-posting power to take the first 3 or 4 spots. Funny, no one recommended him. Scroll below him and find other comments with plenty of recommends.
Seems like the Times is giving more self-important people chances to make utter fools of themselves....

Just bring back the sleek elegance of the old forum, please!

Valerie said...


Thanks for the tip about Firefox, Ad blog plus and No script.

James F Traynor said...


They don't want feisty little terriers like you nipping at their heels. Careful, they might reconsider your classification. I know you care immensely. Sic 'em Karen! God, I love this.

naluca said...


Thanks so much.

It's bugged me for years. It's the West (the West Village excepted...): it overlays the totality of what's there with a grid of some sort, to organize things. But the grid has a chosen shape, and, even worse, straight lines and square corners. So when that urknowledged is repeated, it this "organized" form, somethings are left out, the straight lines and square corners (which do not exist in nature, the source of all knowledge) strip away some information, and take away the "roundness" to boot. This form of organization also automatically prioritizes, as well as categorizes. (See Borges on Categories, the requirement, oft overlooked, to include one last category: the one for everything that doesn't fit in the other categories. I'm guessing like you, me, and all those other great un-chosen.

It's like sending you a hologram of me: it's complete, except for the part that's me. The "me" part.

Jung: No problem is solved on the plane of its own existence.

Art Tatum: Tell the man he ain't never gonna get it.

Fight the good fight.

And thanks , again.


Valerie said...

@DreamsAmelia and @John in Lafayette

You might find this article from Truthdig interesting.

Valerie said...

Dennis Kucinich speaks about the 7.7 trillion slipped under the table to the big banks unbeknownst to the American public during the bailout.!

Jay - Ottawa said...

"I just heard on NPR... that Obama has just done his first TV ad and he is asking for volunteers!"

So? .... Volunteer!

Then follow Obama's example and do nothing.

Or, deeper in the spirit of Obama, get all those names and telephone numbers his organization passes out to phone volunteers and do just the opposite of what they expect you to do -- just as Obama did for his supporters on 20 January 2009 and ever since.

Talk up Bernie or Liz with the phone list if you sense an opening after you ask: "Well, it's now four years later from your support in the first campaign. How do you rate President Obama against all the promises he made in the previous campaign?"

Report back here with your straw poll on former supporters. I suggest these categories for your tabulation:

1. I'm a Yellow Dog

2. I'm patient because he IS trying

3. Dunno; I work 3 shifts at WallMart (because I'm homeless now) and can't keep up on the news.

4. I'm "near rich," Honey, and I love the guy

5. No opinion


6. #*&@!!+*!!!@#%**#*&@!!+*!!!@#%**#*&@!!+*!!

Jay - Ottawa said...


Thanks for that link tip to

Good to know there are pastors who realize their place is with OWS.

mac gordon said...

The NYT has indeed shown its true corporate colors with the Facebook focused comments, and two-tiered trusted commenters system.

I have noticed, however, that because the newest comments are posted first. Those who are either, untrusted commenters, or just can't post early, have an opportunity to have their posts read. Which was not likely under the old system.

Anne Lavoie said...


Brilliant idea, and very subversive. A whole herd of trojan horses 'pulling for' Obama. Gotta love it!

We need to keep thinking differently and finding ways to turn ideas and actions on on their head in order to turn this whole system over. Thanks for a great one, or maybe we should give Obama a backhanded thanks for reminding us of a very old strategy.

Anne Lavoie said...

Helpful Hint: If you want to get your NYT comment listed up with the Trusted Ones, just enter a 'Reply' to the remark of #1. You can cut your way right to the front of the pack.

Anne Lavoie said...

Or maybe not. I noticed that only when you select All are the replies visible. It is a funky system - I'm still trying to subvert it!

@Mac Gordon

In the old system you could choose to read the newest ones first also, it's just that New is the default setting on the new system whereas the old system seemed to default to either NYT Pick or Old.

Many people prefer to go straight to Most Recommended. If they do, they will miss out on all the newer comments because they have been online less time to be read and recommended. That's why I am trying to see if piggybacking with Reply can get a comment posted ahead.

DreamsAmelia said...

Thanks Valerie for a great article-YES, Jesus/God/The Holy Spirit is a Radical, and spent his whole life exposing the hypocrisy of the people of his era, to little avail. They crucified him (and John the Baptist) anyway. It's ironic how few people understand or implement the real teachings of the Bible...
I met a guy trying to "convert" me to Christianity at Occupy DC in October, and I was trying to explain to him that Jesus was on the side of the 99%... but the guy didn't care or think political solutions would ever matter.
My first Baptist preacher whom I met when I was 13, was quite radical, and starting inviting African Americans into what had previously been an all-white fold--I adored him for it, but I became repulsed by the frostiness of much of the congregation to the newcomers...that was when I started to become disillusioned with THAT church, and went on to exploring the Unitarians, Quakers, Buddhists, and Episcopalians...It made me really appreciate that we do protect freedom of religion in this country. I just don't think it should leak into politics in the way it tends to on the right these days....

naluca said...

As of now, 1:40 Saturday, the sole article with comments at the NYT is of an interview with Jery Sandusky. This, unless I am missing something in the newly constructed labyrinth, is clearly the direction of this feature: to hook FB folks into interactive slime of the HuffPo sort, or worse. And siphoning off, to keep the peace, of the Chosen.

This has been good for me. I relied too heavily and too lazily on the NYT. My reads now are more international and varied. They made it easy to break a life-long habit of strating the day with the NYT. No more, Jill. This wacky decision and what it points to say volumes about the so-called "paper of record": a particular brand of commercial, NYT faux-liberal facism.

nathanschulz said...

I think I love you. I'm a current subscriber to the New York Times who also comments regularly - I've read this blog a few times after reading your comments, which I truly enjoy. Anyway, I sent a letter to the editor the other day voicing my worries over some of the changes to the comment format - the further limiting of responses to 1500 characters, and for the first time allowing threading.

Clearly, the moderators are trying to get comments out there faster and also save themselves time - but I worry about the possibility of the comments section devolving into a CNN-style flamefest now that people can interact directly. I always thought that not being able to reply to individual comments kept the feedback at least a little more dignified and thought-provoking. It's likely that allowing direct responses is inviting flame wars that the moderators will sacrifice more time controlling than they will save by having a chosen few "good apples" post freely.

I don't necessarily think that "trusted commenters" is a bad idea in and of itself - it just needs to be implemented much more widely to be useful. I do think the fact that they selected you as one of the first is a good sign, and that we should give them a chance to invite a few more before we condemn them. It's a little bit of a stretch to compare identifying regular contributors of good feedback to our $7.8 trillion bailout of the too-big-to-Jesus-Christ-did-you-say-7.8-TRILLION banks.

I'm also not sure how effectively comments increase ad revenue. Sure, you spend more time on the page, but most ad fees are determined by pageviews and clickthrough rates as opposed to time spent browsing. In which case, the old comments system, in which we had to load new pages to view comments, may have been more lucrative for the NYT.

Not to say that these aren't bad changes, but I resist seeing sinister motives where simple stupidity will suffice. One could assume these changes are being made in a misguided attempt to "streamline" the process or make the NYT commenting experience more "social media"-friendly in an effort to entice readers. I mean, at its heart, you're right - the changes being made have an economic basis that completely disregards what made the previous experience unique and successful. What was I trying to say again?

Oh, nevermind. Just keep being your sardonic-KY self (Sorry, but I have always read that word as being a mashup of sardonic and Kentucky or KY jelly).

WestVillageGal said...

@ DreamsAmelia . . .

<< It made me really appreciate that we do protect freedom of religion in this country. I just don't think it should leak into politics in the way it tends to on the right these days.... >>

i would like to respond to a portion of your post . . .

i believe that religion - left, right, center, diagonal - should not leak into politics (or schools, healthcare, etc) in any way, shape or form. i believe fervently in The Separation of Church (Temple, Mosque, Synagogue, et al) and State. we complain (legitimately) about - more and more - becoming an oligarchy. yet our country has been - more and more - resembling a theocracy.

Obama was criticized (crucified?) for not mentioning "God" during his Thanksgiving address.
one broadcast i happened to slide over by while channel-surfing featured someone (?) who argued
that Obama not only should have mentioned "God", but - additionally - referred to "Jesus Christ My Savior".
America's great "Melting Pot" seems to have homogenized.

during G.W. Bush's 2000 campaign, he named "Jesus Christ" as his . . . was it his fave philosopher? most influential person? best buddy? (sorry - i've forgotten.) he also seemed to have successfully integrated the term "faith-based" into matters of government. following the Twin Towers' demolishing, Bush pledged a "crusade" against the perpetrators. apparently The Shrub had never heard of The Crusades and its slaughter of thousands upon thousands in the name of Christianity. and folks wondered why Muslims were affronted by Bush's pronouncement.

to loosely paraphrase from The American Humanist Society:
one needn't worship God to be Good.

i believe wholeheartedly in the right to one's religious beliefs.
as i do in the right to not be subjected to anyone else's.
i believe - along with the many issues of import discussed here on Karen's blog and in our three-dimensional lives - that preserving (and adhering to) the separation of organized religion and the nation state is of utmost necessity if we are to survive as a country . . . as a civilization.

with best wishes to all

Anne Lavoie said...

NYT Update: I managed to successfully piggyback onto Walter Rhett's comment#1 (to Gail's Collins piece) where my #246 comment now shows up just below his in the All view new format.

I didn't really have anything to say (annenigma/montana), I was just testing the system. What's odd is that when you get email confirmation, it sends you to the old format, not the new one which has no numbers assigned.

So we'll see how many people are actually going to use it as a genuine Reply, or to jump the queue. We could all piggyback onto Karen's comment, since we know she will probably be the top recommend. Watch out NYT, here comes the Garcia Brigade!

Valerie said...

Elliot Spitzer has a very good article in Slate about the secret 7.7 trillion loaned to the favoured banks by the Fed during the bailout. He really makes some excellent points. In a perfect world Spitzer would be head the SEC.

Jay - Ottawa said...

At their best, when they most attend to core texts, faith groups should appeal on the grounds of Universal Justice whenever they petition the state for correctives.

Unfortunately, as my father-in-law, a humble doctor, used to say, “The Church: it’s a business.” To say it more harshly, the church is not always a disciple of the master. It is historically, in many lands, a Judas betraying the master.

Too often, when churches start insinuating themselves into state business, they do so with a narrow mind, out of self-interest, and unjustly. They are so quick to compromise, as they must, when negotiating with politicians. If a church prevails with the state on one pet issue, you can rest assured it will be obliged to fall silent on all the rest of its scripture, so as not to break with the earthly powers that giveth and taketh away – for a price -- on that one point. The state bends very little to please its faith petitioners, the churches very much when they negotiate with Washington.

That was the gist of Roger Williams’ argument with respect to church-state relations back in the 1600s, and that position deserves a better hearing today. Williams argued that the institution most in danger of being corrupted when church and state become too chummy was the church itself, not the state.

I believe that is Rev. Madison Shockley message at

He is addressing believers, especially his fellow clergy, when he asks why more of them are not standing beside OWS in demanding justice for all – or at least the most needy 99%. That would be in keeping with the dictates of his scripture. To the extent that the churches are not preaching from their pulpits against the widespread misuse of government power, they are useless, self-censored hypocrites who have yet to be converted by their own religion.

The state may be unjust in skinning the land, waging wars, abetting greed and expanding empire. But that’s what states do, justice be damned.

Where are the churches in resistance, acting as a brake to discourage national folly, shaming the governors and breaking openly, formally with the state when governors persist with gross injustice? Instead, bishops and celebrity preachers sit smiling beside the governors on just about every platform raised by the state. The faithful assume, therefore, the authorities must be doing, well, God’s work.

It’s good to hear Shockley remind the clergy of their roots. I wish him lots of luck in reminding believers, starting with the clergy themselves, of their own scripture. In the meantime, it is OWS that carries the banner of the social gospel.

James F Traynor said...

Church and State. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. 2 by Edward Gibbon pretty much says it all. I'm almost at the end of Vol. 2 but don't think I'll make it to Vol.3. Vol 1 was great, but then the Christians showed up. Gibbon starts to go into it in more detail in 2. Interesting. It could be argued that organized Christianity started with Constantine and not Jesus or even Paul (Saul of Tarsus). The former was a thoroughly nasty character. I think the majority of us, including myself, spend much of our lives in Tooth Fairy Land. It's always been A Two- Tiered World.

naluca said...

On the vile censorship of the NYT, which was as easy for them, given a timid and fawning public, as it was for Barack Obama to be elected to office.

To quote Oriana Fallaci: "You've got to get old, because you have nothing to lose. You have this respectability that is given to you, more or less. But you don't give a damn. It is the ne plus ultra of freedom. And things that I didn't use to say before - you know, there is in each of us a form of timidity, of cautiousness - now I open my big mouth. I say, 'What are you going to do to me? You go fuck yourself - I say what I want.' ".

In memoriam, those anonymous voices that used to be able to find their way ito the great NYT, those sources and potential sources of greatness. You are missed.

Valerie said...

I agree with you, Jay. The Fundamentalists have forced religion into the political realm and have proven themselves to be an arm of the Republican Party. Therefore, the Progressive wings of all religions have to speak up and offer the public, which seems to be so easily swayed on the topic, a different perspective.

I knew an Episcopal priest who was assigned to Washington DC to "lobby" politicians on behalf of the WA Episcopal Diocese. She was VERY progressive and took a strong position in favour of Social Justice. I remember that she was very frustrated because she couldn't get a hearing with most politicians while the pro-war, anti-abortion, conservative, hypocritical religious zealot types were always given an audience.

I believe that politicians will listen to an organised voting bloc, which to their credit, the Fundamentalists understood early on and organised themselves accordingly. Progressive people of faith usually vote but they don’t seem to draw together as a group and present themselves as a large enough voting block for politicians to take note of their “demands.”

And while I agree with WestEndGal and the many commenters here on Sardonicky who are for a complete separation of Church and State, the reality is progressive people of faith sitting quietly on the sidelines and not challenging the Fundamentalist view – as is appropriate when a strong separation of C and S exists in a society - has only allowed Fundamentalism to become stronger and more strident.