Tag Archives: The New York Times

In Catskills, Resort’s Death Darkens the View

The closing of one of the last Catskill resorts 20 years ago left its 400-plus employees struggling. David W. Chen writes in a 1998 article at https://www.nytimes.com/1998/11/22/nyregion/in-catskills-resort-s-death-darkens-the-view.html:

It wasn’t supposed to end this way. Not this personally. Not this jarringly.

Everyone knew that the legendary Concord Resort Hotel in the Catskills was past its prime, unable to bring the tourists back to what was once the crown jewel of the resort area. Everyone knew that the hotel was in financial distress and desperate to attract buyers.

Still, when the Concord closed on Nov. 3 after 61 years under the same family, the shutdown hurt more than anyone could have imagined. More than 400 people lost their jobs, including many who had scraped by as full-time workers for 40 years at this hotel in Sullivan County. About 60 employees who had been living in the hotel suddenly became homeless and found their next meal at a soup kitchen. And everyone, it seemed, began flooding local employment and welfare offices, looking for guidance and help.

End of an era.

Bucking a Global Trend, Japan Seeks More Immigrants. Ambivalently.

KASHIWA, Japan — Vexed by labor shortages in their rapidly aging country, lawmakers relaxed Japan’s longstanding insularity early Saturday by authorizing a sharp increase in the number of foreign workers.

Under a bill approved by Parliament’s upper house in the early-morning hours, more than a quarter-million visas of five-year duration will be granted to unskilled guest laborers for the first time, starting in 2019.

[Motoko Rich] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/07/world/asia/japan-parliament-foreign-workers.html

Inside Facebook’s Secret Rulebook for Global Political Speech

An unelected council of a few dozen Facebook employees decides what more than 2 billion people are allowed to share. Facebook “has quietly become, with a speed that makes even employees uncomfortable, what is arguably one of the world’s most powerful political regulators.” Max Fisher investigates in depth at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/27/world/facebook-moderators.html

Women’s March Roiled by Accusations of Anti-Semitism

Farah Stockman, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/23/us/womens-march-anti-semitism.html:

Within days of Donald J. Trump’s election, a diverse group of women united by their concern about the incoming administration gathered at a restaurant in New York to plan a protest march in Washington. They had seen the idea floating on Facebook and wanted to turn it into a reality.

The unity did not last long. Vanessa Wruble, a Brooklyn-based activist, said she told the group that her Jewish heritage inspired her to try to help repair the world. But she said the conversation took a turn when Tamika Mallory, a black gun control activist, and Carmen Perez, a Latina criminal justice reform activist, replied that Jews needed to confront their own role in racism.

I’m skeptical. The Women’s March denounces anti-Semitism several times on its home page. Bigots don’t denounce bigotry. https://www.womensmarch.com/

How to Delete Facebook [Brian X. Chen/The New York Times]

If you’ve been very active on Facebook, deleting your account isn’t easy.

I have avoided using Facebook — or Google, Twitter, or anybody else — to log in to other sites. Bad idea to trust my logins to a third party. It’s not hard to create a separate login for each site and use a password manager (I use 1Password) to track them all.

Why Are We Suddenly Surrounded by ‘Grift’? [Nitsuh Abebe/The New York Times]

We live in the age of the grifter:

The two most jarring events in the past decade of American life both had the whiff of a grand con about them. One was the crisis of 2008, after which a lot of ordinary Americans turned their attention to the financial-services industry and discovered something that looked, on the surface, uncannily like a classic bilking: There was a lot of hard-to-follow shifting about of who owned what and who owed what to whom, and in the end a lot of people found that their retirement savings had vanished. The other was the election of Donald Trump, who has always been fairly open about his talent for old-school hucksterism. To the very end, many people were convinced his entire campaign had been a long-game self-promotional exercise — a man wandering past real estate, casinos, reality television, mail-order steaks and wealth-building seminars to arrive at right-wing politics as a high-quality grift….

But it’s not just these two events. Grift is everywhere.

… it’s not exactly outlandish (or unpopular) for a modern person to note that many of the systems she encounters have been carefully constructed to extract maximum profits, to sustain themselves, to get what they can while the getting is good — not unusual for a modern person to suspect it would be easier to deal with an actual con artist than with Wells Fargo or a budget health-insurance company.

However, there’s hope:

… The opposite of a grift, you find, is creating things of real value, paying fair wages, asking what is right more than what is profitable. The opposite of grift is a square deal.

Grift is complemented by “bullshit jobs,” jobs that create no essential value. As defined by economist and writer David Graeber, an essential characteristic of the bullshit job is that the person who has the job knows that the work they do is worthless, but they need to show up to draw a paycheck. Hypothesis: Grifters hire people to do bullshit jobs to make the grifter look important.


Obama After Dark: The Precious Hours Alone

Fantastic article by Michael D. Shear in The New York Times about our night-owl President, who gets five hours of sleep and spends the dark hours mixing work and relaxation in the White House briefing room.

Great lede:

WASHINGTON — “Are you up?”

The emails arrive late, often after 1 a.m., tapped out on a secure BlackBerry from an email address known only to a few. The weary recipients know that once again, the boss has not yet gone to bed.

Great eye for detail:

To stay awake, the president does not turn to caffeine. He rarely drinks coffee or tea, and more often has a bottle of water next to him than a soda. His friends say his only snack at night is seven lightly salted almonds.

“Michelle and I would always joke: Not six. Not eight,” [former White House family personal chef Sam] Kass said. “Always seven almonds.”

Great quote, from chief speechwriter Cody Keenan: “There’s something about the night … It’s smaller. It lets you think.”

And this:

There is time, too, for fantasy about what life would be like outside the White House. Mr. Emanuel, [former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel,] who is now the mayor of Chicago but remains close to the president, said he and Mr. Obama once imagined moving to Hawaii to open a T-shirt shack that sold only one size (medium) and one color (white). Their dream was that they would no longer have to make decisions.

During difficult White House meetings when no good decision seemed possible, Mr. Emanuel would sometimes turn to Mr. Obama and say, “White.” Mr. Obama would in turn say, “Medium.”

Now Mr. Obama, who has six months left of solitary late nights in the Treaty Room, seems to be looking toward the end. Once he is out of the White House, he said in March at an Easter prayer breakfast in the State Dining Room, “I am going to take three, four months where I just sleep.”


Today, we refer to a man inviting a woman to dinner as “traditional.” At first it was scandalous: A woman who arranged to meet a man at a bar or restaurant could find herself interrogated by a vice commission. In the 1920s and ‘30s, as more and more middle-class women started going to college, parents and faculty panicked over the “rating and dating” culture, which led kids to participate in “petting parties” and take “joy rides” with members of the opposite sex.

By the 1950s, a new kind of dating took over: “going steady.” Popular advice columnist Dorothy Dix warned in 1939 that going steady was an “insane folly.” But by the post-war era of full employment, this form of courtship made perfect sense. The booming economy, which was targeting the newly flush “teen” demographic, dictated that in order for everyone to partake in new consumer pleasures — for everyone to go out for a burger and root beer float on the weekends — young people had to pair off. Today, the economy is transforming courtship yet again. But the changes aren’t only practical. The economy shapes our feelings and values as well as our behaviors.

The generation of Americans that came of age around the time of the 2008 financial crisis has been told constantly that we must be “flexible” and “adaptable.” Is it so surprising that we have turned into sexual freelancers? Many of us treat relationships like unpaid internships: We cannot expect them to lead to anything long-term, so we use them to get experience. If we look sharp, we might get a free lunch.

But for all the hand-wringing, this kind of dating isn’t any more transactional than it was back when suitors paid women family-supervised visits or parents sought out a yenta to introduce their children at a synagogue mixer. Courtship has always been dictated by changes in the market. The good news is that dating is not the same thing as love. And as anyone who has ever been in love can attest, the laws of supply and demand do not control our feelings.

Sexual Freelancing in the Gig Economy – Moira Weigel, The New York Times

Six tiny microbots weighing 3.5 ounces pull a 3,900-pound car

Slow but steady does it.

John Markoff at the New York Times:

A group of researchers at the Biomimetics and Dexterous Manipulation Laboratory at Stanford University has been exploring the limits of friction in the design of tiny robots that have the ability to pull thousands of times their weight, wander like gecko lizards on vertical surfaces or mimic bats.

[Modeled After Ants, Teams of Tiny Robots Can Move 2-Ton Car / John Markoff / The New York Times]

Marijuana legalization hits bumps

Legalized marijuana in Colorado is leading to problems for beginners who take too much, too quickly, and freak out. Including The New York Times’s Maureen Dowd:

The caramel-chocolate flavored candy bar looked so innocent, like the Sky Bars I used to love as a child.

Sitting in my hotel room in Denver, I nibbled off the end and then, when nothing happened, nibbled some more. I figured if I was reporting on the social revolution rocking Colorado in January, the giddy culmination of pot Prohibition, I should try a taste of legal, edible pot from a local shop.

What could go wrong with a bite or two?

Everything, as it turned out.

Not at first. For an hour, I felt nothing. I figured I’d order dinner from room service and return to my more mundane drugs of choice, chardonnay and mediocre-movies-on-demand.

But then I felt a scary shudder go through my body and brain. I barely made it from the desk to the bed, where I lay curled up in a hallucinatory state for the next eight hours. I was thirsty but couldn’t move to get water. Or even turn off the lights. I was panting and paranoid, sure that when the room-service waiter knocked and I didn’t answer, he’d call the police and have me arrested for being unable to handle my candy.

I strained to remember where I was or even what I was wearing, touching my green corduroy jeans and staring at the exposed-brick wall. As my paranoia deepened, I became convinced that I had died and no one was telling me.

It took all night before it began to wear off, distressingly slowly. The next day, a medical consultant at an edibles plant where I was conducting an interview mentioned that candy bars like that are supposed to be cut into 16 pieces for novices; but that recommendation hadn’t been on the label.

Don’t Harsh Our Mellow, Dude – NYTimes.com.

Dowd goes on to describe pot-users who murdered family members under the influence. Maybe Reefer Madness wasn’t crazy.

The marijuana industry needs to put in place sensible programs for education and labeling. And if the industry doesn’t do it, government needs to step in.

Marijuana should be legal everywhere, but let’s remember that the alcohol and  gambling industries have not exactly proven unalloyed benefits for society.