New York City

The New York Times' Nail-Salon Exploitation Narrative Is Falling Apart

Another case of advocacy journalism proving full of factual inaccuracies.



In early May, a series of articles published in The New York Times purported to expose rampant labor abuses in New York City nail salons. Reporter Sarah Maslin Nir claimed to have interviewed more than 100 employees of such salons and found that manicurists working long shifts for as little as $10 per day was the norm. Public response was swift and emotional, sending the Internet-outrage-spiral into full force and even influencing New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to pass emergency regulations for nail salons, which included a ramping up of state inspections. New Jersey is currently considering beefing up its regulation of nail salons, as well. 

But as with so much high-profile message journalism recently, the Times article seems based on dubious facts and broad generalizations. In The New York Review of Books, Richard Bernstein challenges many of the claims on which Nir's narrative is based. A former Times journalist, Bernstein now owns two spas with his China-born wife, Zhongmei Li, and her sister Zhongqin Li.

"We were startled by the Times article's Dickensian portrait of an industry in which workers 'spend their days holding hands with women of unimaginable affluence,' and retire at night to 'flophouses packed with bunk beds, or in fetid apartments shared by as many as a dozen strangers,'" writes Bernstein. "Its conclusion was not just that some salons or even many salons steal wages from their workers but that virtually all of them do." 

One of the primary pieces of evidence Nir offered for this assertion is that "Asian-language newspapers are rife with classified ads listing manicurist jobs paying so little the daily wage can at first glance appear to be a typo." She claimed to have "confirmed with several workers" that an ad published in the city's two largest Chinese-language newspapers, Sing Tao Daily and World Journal, featured one Upper West Side nail salon paying workers just $10 per day. 

Bernstein and his wife found this surprising, so they started combing through the employment ads in those papers themselves. What they found—looking at papers from two months before the Times expose was published to several days after—was a lowest rate of $70 per day plus tips, and many higher. 

To test the Times's assertion, my wife and I read every ad placed by nail salons in the papers cited in the article, Sing Tao Daily and World Journal. Among the roughly 220 ads posted in each paper in the days after the Times story appeared, none mentioned salaries even remotely close to the ad the Times described. This led me to wonder if embarrassed salon owners might have changed their ads in the short time since the Times exposed them, so we looked at issues of World Journal going back to March this year. We read literally thousands of Chinese-language ads, and we found not a single one fitting the description of the ads that the Times asserts the papers to be full of.

In fact, only a small number of the nail salon ads indicate a salary at all—most simply describe the job on offer and provide a phone number for an applicant to call. Among the few ads that do indicate a salary, the lowest we saw was $70 a day, and some ranged up to $110. Here is one typical example, which appeared in the World Journal on April 23, several weeks before the Times article was published:

Seeking several large and small work experienced hands. 
Base pay $120 plus tips and commissions.
Small work $70, plus tips and commissions.
Seeking part-time small and large work on weekends.
15 minutes two-way transport Flushing to Elmhurst provided.

The "base pay" in this ad indicates what is known in the business as "large work" salaries—for workers licensed to perform jobs like massage or facial treatments. The "small work" salaries are for manicurists. In our experience, tips and commissions (a percentage of the price for add-on services like massage or special nail finishes) would add between $25 and $50 a day to these figures. A few ads we came across offer higher rates. For example, an ad placed in June by a salon on King's Highway in Brooklyn was labeled "URGENT," and offered jobs at starting salaries of $110 to $130 a day. To attract workers, many ads, like the April 23 one quoted above, promise to provide free transportation from the sort of pickup places where the Times reporter first encountered Ms. Ren, with the ad indicating how long the ride will be. 

Considering that the advertised rates may not reflect reality, Zhongmei Li chose several salons at random and called, speaking Chinese and posing as a potential employee. The lowest compensation she was quoted was $70 per day, by someone who noted that it was "low" but said tips were very good there. "This conformed to the practice at our own two salons, where we offer starting salaries of $70 a day, plus tips and commissions," writes Bernstein. "My wife has learned that if she is unable to assure her employees that they will earn a total of at least $100 a day, nobody will work for her."

Bernstein also challenges other claims made by Nir, such as that paying a fee to secure a salon job is standard and the idea that the state's current inspection regime is inadequate. Twice a year, inspectors show up unannounced at his salons, writes Bernstein, and "unprompted by any complaints … verify our employees' licenses, which, as required by law, are posted on a wall." Figures from the New York Department of State show 5,174 inspections of beauty and nail salons between May 2014 and May 2015.

More than any particular mischaracterization, however, Bernstein suggests that the trouble with Nir's narrative is that it takes one particularly lurid exploitation tale—in this case, the story of Jing Ren, a Chinese nail-salon worker in the U.S. illegally—and portrays it as representative of all New York salon workers. Ren had to pay $100 to get taken on as a sort-of apprentice, working for tips alone for three months until "her boss decided she was skillful enough to merit a wage" of $30 per day, Nir tells us. This is the same deal "as it is for beginning manicurists in almost any salon in the New York area." 

Ren's situation isn't quite as dire as it sounds: like wait staff and bartenders, salon workers are not required to be paid minimum wage because they (allegedly) make a large portion of their income in tips. And within 10 months of starting, Ren had parlayed her initial low-paying job into work at another salon paying $65 per day plus tips. Her mother had also recently started working in a nail salon. Though the article's underlying premise is one of abject misery—under-regulation giving way to an industry in which workers hold no power and thus wind up subject to any number of abuses—what actually emerges is a situation where someone with no nail skills and little English works for less than a year (while being trained) at the lowest pay-rung and then, thanks to her increased labor-market value and the fact that there are a ton of salons in New York City competing for good employees, successfully uses that experience to find more desirable and higher-paying work.  

But even taking Nir's narrative-spin at face value (i.e., Ren is someone for whom the system is not working), the question remains whether it should be taken as representative. Bernstein says no (emphasis mine): 

Certainly, much of the account Ms. Ren gives the Times is appalling and the treatment she received is reprehensible. As with undocumented and/or untrained workers in any industry, Ms. Ren, newly arrived from China, is particularly at risk of abuse, and exposing the mistreatment of her and others like her is a valuable service. But lacking both work experience and the required license, she cannot perform manicures legally in any salon. Many nail salons, including ours, as a matter of policy and to avoid fines, do not hire unlicensed workers. So how representative is her story?

In one of its few efforts to give empirical support to its claim that exploitation can be found in "almost any salon," the Times says that it interviewed "more than one hundred" workers, only 25 percent of whom said they were paid at least the minimum wage. Very few of these workers are actually quoted from in the article, but in the Times summary, most of them turn out to be like Ms. Ren. "Almost all of the workers interviewed by The Times, like Ms. Ren, had limited English," the exposé says. "Many are in the country illegally. The combination leaves them vulnerable."

In other words, the Times drew its conclusions about the "vast majority" of workers at "almost any" salon in New York by interviewing a pool of mostly undocumented, untrained, or unlicensed workers like Ms. Ren, ignoring clear evidence that tens of thousands of salon workers do not fall into this category.

The question of licenses is critical. It is not clear from the Times story how many unlicensed workers there are and how many salons are willing to hire them. According to the Department of State of New York, as of May 2015, there were 30,610 licensed manicurists in New York; in 2014 alone, 1,182 new "nail specialty licenses" were issued. These facts are unmentioned in the article. To get a license, a candidate has to go to an accredited school for about three months of classes, costing just under $1,000, and then pass both written and practical exams … Ms. Nir offers not a single quote from one of these 1,182 newly licensed workers, or, indeed, from any salon worker who is identified as having a license and a few years of experience, even though such people can easily be found in salons all over the city.  

Perhaps Nir's omission of any info about licensing was a mere oversight; perhaps the info got in the way of a good narrative. After all, the egregiousness of Ren having to pay $100 to be taken on and trained at a nail salon pales a bit in comparison to the $1,000 the state would demand of her. And at least Ren was able to work for tips in her three-month probationary period at the salon; after forking over 10 times as much up front, those in the state's three-month training program don't get paid at all for their time. 

It's also important to note that state licensing requirements and immigration enforcement are largely responsible for the plight of people like Ren. Undocumented, unlicensed workers must accept less-lucrative, more exploitative jobs precisely because they're excluded by the state from participating fully in the up-and-up labor market. Ren could be the best manicurist in the city, but good-paying, government-fearing spas like Bernstein's won't hire her because they don't want to risk the penalties. 

The bottom line is that just as lurid tales of organized gang rape don't tell us much about campus sexual assault in general, the plight of an undocumented, untrained worker who has just moved to the U.S. is hardly representative of all women, even all immigrant women, that are working in the nail industry. Pretending it is might make for a better article—even one that springs lawmakers into action and gets you accolades from all the right people—but it comes at the expense of telling us anything true about the subject in question, and hence doing anything worthwhile to address it. Perhaps like The Huffington Post wanted to do with Donald Trump news, we should relegate such advocacy journalism to the entertainment sections. Clearly stories like Nir's and Sabrina Rubin Erdely's resonate with wide audiences, containing all the good elements of soap opera, conspiracy stories, and more. But maybe 2015 will be the year we start calling them what they actually are? 

Update: Nir and Times editors have been defending the series on Twitter. 

NEXT: Is This the Beginning of the End of the War on Weed?

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  1. Maybe there should be a federal minumum wage law to prevent that from happening.

    1. And if we required gratuity-based employees to carefully document and report their tips, the city could be sure that such workers are making a living wage.

      … said no employee making tips ever.

    2. Keep what from happening, the NYT lying?

  2. OT…

    Jindal is threatening go arrest Westboro Church members picketing the funerals for those murdered last week at the theater. Despite the Church’s picketing activities being 100% protected by the 1st Amendment. Jindal is apparently okay with costing Louisiana millions in taxpayer dollars in settlements for unlawful arrests.

    Friends and family have a better idea: forming a human wall around the funeral services, a tactic that’s 100% legal and vastly more effective and less disruptive than arresting a handful of picketers.

    1. Now, see, this is where systematiz’n of freedoms goes wrong. It’s why trying to account for all as self-ownership is insufficient. A human wall is still a restriction on freedom of movement.

      1. It’s more likely a public accommodation problem creating a situation in which such freedoms come into conflict. It wouldn’t be an issue if the owners were able to exclude certain visitors from entering, but that no doubt would trigger a discrimination lawsuit.

        1. Entering? There wouldn’t be much point in picketing inside, would there? I’m assuming picketing would be done in public view on the sidewalk. If there’s a “public accommodation problem”, it seems to involve the sidewalk or street, which is the ultimate in public accommod’ns.

    2. “Threatening” is free.

  3. *polishes monocle* this sort of muck-raking is absolutely obscene. My orphans work for peanuts and they are as happy as can be. I mean literally I through peanuts at the orphans in lieu of payment. It doubles as an exercise regimen. What do these journalists want, my orphans to get fat? Don’t they care about today’s obesity epidemic?!?

  4. Nir attended the Columbia School of Journalism, and ENB did not, which leads me to conclude Nir is right and ENB is wrong. I will eagerly await ENB’s apology.

    With respect to Berstein’s story, I think I will side with a privileged white woman projecting her guilt, rather than a well-sourced report by a former journalist.

    1. I may be jumping to conclusions, but Berstein sounds like a Reporter, not a Journalist.

    2. “the Columbia School of Journalism”

      the GREAT Columbia School of Journalism, you fool!!! BOW!! BOW!!!!!

      1. haha the Columbia School of Journalism is a Gundam?

    3. Holy shit she did!

      Does Columbia School of Journalism teach people to be worse journalists than they would otherwise be? It seems like a disproportionately high number of shitty journalists went to Columbia, although it’s possible that so many journalists go there that it’s just an issue of raw numbers rather than proportionately.

      1. Hey, don’t be so surprised that I did my research.

        Does Columbia School of Journalism teach people to be worse journalists than they would otherwise be

        The narrative outweighs the facts. The narrative is what matters. Investigative journalists* want to pretend that they are Woodward and Bernstein (at least the fictional version), but in reality the ones that seem to generate the most attention are just predictable hacks.

        *Obviously there is not true for everyone who claims to be an investigative journalist, but it seems like such a desperate and pathetic industry.

        1. You’re just bitter that Columbia rejected your application.. cream always rises to the top, CJ.. Your dreams of punditry on msdnc and syndicated hackery on wapo.. dashed..

          1. Salt in the wounds, Path.

        2. This is an optics driven society, not a reality based society. Facts just get in the way of emotions, they must be dismissed for the entertainment and emotional satisfaction of society in general.

      2. Why can’t it be both?

    4. “With respect to Berstein’s story, I think I will side with a privileged white woman projecting her guilt, rather than a well-sourced report by a former journalist.”

      A well-sourced report by a former journalist whose wife actually speaks Chinese so they can read the classified ads Nir was talking about.

  5. as “The Huffington Post wanted to do with Donald Trump news, we should relegate such advocacy journalism to the entertainment sections.”

    Fine by me, provided we move all Hillary puff pieces there at the same time.

    1. +1 equal time.

  6. Who are you going to believe- a journalist, or some evil profiteer?

    1. As long as the “journalist” reaffirms my worldview, that’s way more important than any facts. Which is why the NYT exist.

  7. “According to the Department of State of New York, as of May 2015, there were 30,610 licensed manicurists in New York; in 2014 alone, 1,182 new “nail specialty licenses” were issued. These facts are unmentioned in the article.”

    (blank stare)

    “well i’m not sure how that’s relevant, you sexist”

    1. “30,610 licensed manicurists”

      And NY gets $1,000 from each of them ? Is that for real ?

      Holy Bat Cow !

      No wonder they insist that it takes 3 months of training to justify that much $ for a license to paint toenails.

  8. There needs to be a term for this “high-profile message journalism” of late; stories of horrible exploitation or rape, that seem to be more about titillating its audience than telling the truth or actually righting any wrongs. Exploitation porn? Outrage porn? Social justice smut?

    Because it sure as hell doesn’t seem to be journalism.

    1. Self-righteous Pulitzer trolling.

    2. What’s wrong with the term “yellow journalism”?

      1. The chinaman is not the issue here, dude

      2. Yeah, I was going to mention that this kind of journalism isn’t really a new thing. William Randolph Hearst started multi-continent wars with dishonest reporting; compared to him these fools are amateurs.

        We had a few decades in the late 20th century where objectivity was valued in journalism, but now we’re reverting back to the norm.

        1. Did the NYT cheerlead the invasion of Iraq at the time?

    3. The only thing different of late is that the internet is filled with people with the inclination and ability to question these pieces and a readership willing to listen.

      We are old enough to remember countless similar stories. Heck, we have a homeless problem in large part because of stories like this about folks trapped in the nuthouse back in the 70’s. We just didn’t question things back then, both due to a lack of opportunity (only another journalist could command an audience) and a lack of interest (heck, we didn’t question Freddie Mercury or Elton John’s sexuality. For that matter, most of us didn’t even question Liberace’s sexuality).

      1. While I think your first point is correct, the fact is that this story was outed by a old-fashioned journalists doing the actual legwork and basic research to rebut the claims made in the piece.

        The “internet” didn’t help him scour chinese newspapers.

        Although i think the laziness of contemporary journalists is partly due to the assumption that other people would only ever employ the internet to attempt to confirm facts.

        1. And he published in the New York Review of Books. It was in their blog, but if they didn’t have a blog they might well have just published this in the actual Review.

    4. We call it “victim porn” because it wants to make all women into victims of some sort.

    5. Muckraking.

    6. jerk news

  9. The New York Times may once have been a great newspaper; promoting a point of view (how not?) but sticking mostly to verifiable facts instead of fever-fantasy. But that was years, if not decades, ago. Now it is merely a run of the mill hack rag, pandering to a small audience of cultural shut-ins. Why anyone outside of the Liberal Intellectual cocktail circuit pays it any attention whatsoever is beyond me.

    1. Back in the 1980s and early 90s, it made financial sense to keep the bias under control and not rock the boat — because their subscribers came from all over the socio-political spectrum. Now, after the Internet utterly destroyed that business model, to survive they have to cater to the tiny remnant of their subscription base — which is disproportionately old, wealthy, female, and liberal.

      1. This, it is all a result if free market forces, not that any of their readers know what that is….

      2. Not sure which came first; the blatant bias or the restricted audience.

        1. They were nowhere near this bad in the 90s and early 00s.

          1. Well, it’s kind of a feedback loop. The management seems to be bound and determined to Support Truth(er) and (social) Justice. They got lazy during the 1970’s and ’80’s, before theystarted getting really challenged. They were used to dictating the terms of debate, as they did with Nixon (a slob and a RINO, but hardly any more out of control or given to lawbreaking than his two immediate (Democrat) predecessors.). Talk radio came as a nasty shock to them, and the internest was worse. They couldn’t keep a lid on Clinton the way thay had on JFK (to be fair, Kennedy, though hardly the Summer King they made him out to be was one hell of a lot smarter and smoother than Clinton). And so, rather than re-learn the skills of biased but smart reporting (and all reporting is biased), they keep womping up utter hogwash, and thenbeing astonished when they get caught.

      3. And this explains much of the partisan slant we see these days in news media outlets. (It doesn’t explain why most of the slant is leftist, though I have my own sociological theories about that.)

    2. By 25 yrs. ago I was reading it only to find out what “they” were thinking.

  10. “that state licensing requirements and immigration enforcement are largely responsible for the plight of people like Ren.

    Well now that’s just crazy talk. Government programs have a stated purpose. And there’s no such thing as a government program which actually undermines its own stated purpose. Why, next you might be suggesting that the Department of Housing and Urban Development ‘created ghettos!’ Why do you hate good people?

    1. I thought it was Robert Moses who created the ghettos.

      1. He was only able to work his magic in the NYC area.

        HUD/FHA was a tool applied to every corner of our nation. Although Robert Moses should never be forgotten as a man who used that tool to great effect to sweep masses of humans into the darkest corners, his real genius was in the creation of Public Benefit Corporations, aka the “Shadow Government” of NYC

    2. You know who else created ghettos…

      (too easy?)

  11. Bernstein suggests that the trouble with Nir’s narrative is that it takes one particularly lurid exploitation tale?in this case, the story of Jing Ren, a Chinese nail-salon worker in the U.S. illegally?and portrays it as representative of all New York salon workers.

    If it *could* happen we must treat it as inevitable in all cases. The only safe course of action is for the state of NY to operate all beauty parlors. This would eliminate any possibility of non-optimal outcomes.
    Precautionary Principle, FTW!

    1. Stop giving them ideas, this will probably happen in a generation or two

    2. Stop giving them ideas, this will probably happen in a generation or two

  12. Kudos to ENB for this

    my remark the other day was, “this will be roundly ignored”. here’s hoping it is not

  13. Well, what do you expect from a right-wing rag like The New York Review of Books?

    1. The only reason anyone will anyone will ever give this criticism a second glance (if that) is that it comes from within the bubble.

  14. Speaking of smut- Jared Bernstein had an opinion(!) piece in NYT a few days ago about the dire need for a financial transactions tax.

    1. “Bernstein graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from the Manhattan School of Music where he studied double bass with Orin O’Brien. He earned a Master’s degree in Social Work from the Hunter College School of Social Work, and, from Columbia University, he received a Master’s degree in Philosophy and a Ph.D. in Social Welfare.”

      Well, clearly an expert on the benefits of liquidity-provision via financial markets

      1. Why, he was Chief Economic Adviser to *Joe Biden*, no less.

        1. He taught Biden everything he knows.

          It took five minutes.

          1. And that was because he had to repeat everything at least twice….

  15. OT apparently Margret Sanger had views comparable to Donald Trump. Sanger believed that the United States should “keep the doors of immigration closed to the entrance of certain aliens whose condition is known to be detrimental to the stamina of the race, such as feebleminded, idiots, morons, Insane, syphilitic, epileptic, criminal, professional prostitutes, and others in this class barred by the immigration laws of 1924.” ?”A Plan for Peace,” Birth Control Review, April 1932, pages 107-108

    1. How’d you get in?

    2. I could back such a plan, if we were also going to pull the citizenship of all natve born idiots.

      I mean, what better way to get rid of the entire heirarchy of both major Parties, all at once?

  16. Ren’s situation isn’t quite as dire as it sounds: like wait staff and bartenders, salon workers are not required to be paid minimum wage because they (allegedly) make a large portion of their income in tips. And within 10 months of starting, Ren had parlayed her initial low-paying job into work at another salon paying $65 per day plus tips.
    Call me crazy, but in a time not so long ago, this would be viewed as an example of a type of success and self-improvement largely specific to this country. Now we are expected to be appalled.
    DOOOOOOOMED, we are.

    1. There has been a segment of society that thought otherwise, since at least the early 20th century. These pillocks aren’t new, but open disagreement with their idiocy has only made,a,comeback in the last couple of decades.

  17. Tiny Asiany people are less well-off than me, especially those that work in places I frequent, which are usually owned by other tiny Asiany people. They do not speak my language, and if I have to be honest they are just weird. However, I feel guilty when I give them money for performing a service on me. I could generously tip them, but that means I would have to directly hand them something I earned. Therefore, I am so happy my governor came to the rescue to ensure that these tiny, weird, Asiany people are not treated so poorly by their tiny, weird Asiany bosses; it makes me feel better about myself.

    1. And now you have something to talk about at Brunch!

    2. Where do I find these tiny Asiany people?

      You know, for investigative journalism purposes…

    3. I whish this was as outrageous a parody as it should be. Sadly, the Manhattan Liberals are hard to parody, because they are so silly straight out of the box.

  18. “Harmful” drinking prevalent among physically and mentally healthy adults. Wait, what?…..ffluent/2/

    1. Maybe she has an unhealthy “mind her own business” problem

  19. “Needless to say, it is not like The New York Times to get things so demonstrably wrong, or, if it did make a mistake, to show no willingness to correct it. “

    (dutifully begins cleaning up laughter-vomit)

    “I was genuinely mystified by this matter of the classified ads, and I wanted to see if there was some explanation for them…. I received cordial replies from editors, but my questions about the ads were ignored, except by Ms. Sullivan who, in an email, told me she had asked Wendell Jamieson, the editor of the paper’s Metro Section, about them. Mr. Jamieson told her he had “direct knowledge” of the ads and was satisfied that they had been accurately described. I replied to Ms. Sullivan that I didn’t know what Mr. Jamieson meant by “direct knowledge.” Ms. Sullivan wrote again, saying that she had had a chance to “clarify” what Mr. Jamieson meant by that term: “that he has reviewed the newspaper ads over the past few days, and he is confident that they were represented accurately in the story.”

    But these were the very “past few days” during which my wife and I, both of whom can read Chinese, were examining the ads, and the Times description of them was unarguably, incontrovertibly wrong. The Times has neither furnished any copy of the ten-dollar-a-day ad in question, nor identified when it appeared.”


  20. Sad. The editors should be ashamed–down to the last fact checker.

    1. The New York Times lost all sense of shame a long time ago.

  21. When will the NYT shine the gleaming light of social justice on the evil scuttling cockroaches who enslave and exploit journalism interns?

    1. Gawker?

  22. “That woman would be better off home in China among her own kind, plucking chickens for $1.26/day, while waiting for INS to process her visa application. Another mimosa, waiter. Chop chop.”

      1. Derp.

        I was going to say, your characterization of Sarah Maslin Nir as an entitled socialite isn’t actually very far from the reality

        1. SF’d, but her primary job at the New York Times is running a blog where she writes about parties and nightlife shit.

          1. (sigh)

            yeah, that’s what i was linking to, if visually. She’s a fucking Gossip-Columnist who goes to lots of cocktail parties. I have no doubt her passion for the working-class chinese of NYC was born while getting a pedicure after having a Dim Sum brunch.

            1. That was my assumption. She has lived a privileged life, and after feeling guilty about getting her weekly pedicure she decided to make nail salon fairness her pet cause. She did a shit job sourcing her story, and her editors let it pass.

              1. I’m just impressed you’ve made it this far discussing this woman without saying ‘I would.’

                1. She has a passion for horses which is echoed in her bone structure

                  1. That fucking horse picture.

                    This woman is such a privileged nitwit she makes me want to join the Communist party and walk down Wall Street with her head on a spike as a service to the proletariat.*

                    Maybe we could sing the Internationale while coal covered urchins cheered and her entire family was led to the guillotine.

                    *Note: Should Preet Bharara be reading this, I was speaking hyperbolically and have no intention of actually walking down Wall Street with her head on a spike.

                    1. “Her hair was the color of gold in old paintings. She had a full set of curves, and the kind of legs you’d like to suck on for a day. She gave me a look I could feel in my hip pocket.”

                    2. +1 Long Goodbye

                    3. Why the Communists? In her stated beliefs, if not her actual behavior, she’s probably closer to Communism than any kind of representative Democracy.

                      Admittedly, the one good thing that would come of any Communist Revolution in this country is that the inevitable Stalin would liquidate this woman and all her ilk, just as the “intellectuals” of any society that suffers such a revolution get liquidated.

              2. “and her editors let it pass aided and abetted her incompetence by covering up flaws in her reporting

                The coup de grace of Bernstein’s reporting is really just pointing out the obvious facts which the story purposely *left out*

                I mean, why would details like the # of *state licensed* manicurists be relevant, at all? (or the fees they have to pay to receive said license)

                Basic public-record information is being conveniently ignored for the sake of a contrived narrative. Her crappy reporting was entirely enabled by their desire to push a concept of ‘mass exploitation’ which simple statistics didn’t support. Therefore – omit them.

                As frequently noted – the “campus rape culture” theme relies on entirely the same willful ignorance of basic facts.

                So does most of the media’s reporting on “gun violence

              3. I wonder how much she tips, if at all, out of her own money ? I would gamble that she is a miserly tipper.

                Like Biden and Obama who donated hardly at all to charity until it became public knowledge that they did not, she wants to spend someone else’s money and yet receive credit for it as if it’s her own.

          1. No, he’s less attractive by far

  23. Berstein’s article is a tremendous piece of work, but there’s one part that I think needs to be discussed critically:

    “Needless to say, it is not like The New York Times to get things so demonstrably wrong, or, if it did make a mistake, to show no willingness to correct it. As a former reporter at the paper familiar with its usual close editorial scrutiny of its contents, I was genuinely mystified by this matter of the classified ads, and I wanted to see if there was some explanation for them.”

    Okay – Berstein knew there was something fishy about the nail salon article because he owns two nail salons and it didn’t comport with what he knew. However, he says it’s ‘not like the New York Times to get things so demonstrably wrong.’

    Respectfully, Mr. Berstein, how would you know? The only reason you knew they were wrong here was because you had inside knowledge of the subject. How many times have they been ‘demonstrably wrong’ and you didn’t know because you lacked the knowledge base to call them out?

    I think them being so oddly wrong in this instance should make Berstein consider that they might be wrong frequently and he just doesn’t know.

    1. I just realized I spelled his name wrong three times. It’s not like me to get something so demonstrably wrong.

      1. You were influenced by my poor spelling. Don’t let it happen again.

      2. But unlike the NYT you recognized your mistake and called attention to it.

        You’re my hero Irish ut just to tip you off, ESB has told me via pillow talk that she is just leading you on.

    2. “How many times have they been ‘demonstrably wrong’ and you didn’t know because you lacked the knowledge base to call them out?”

      Isn’t that the Something-Something-Effect?

      1. You’re probably thinking of the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect. I’ve just never seen the effect put on such full display before.

        1. I have a friend who’s worked @ the NYT for near on 20 years.

          You have no idea how huffy he gets whenever i point out its regular, consistent, glaring flaws. A bit of sneering “How Dare You!”-ness, for they perceive themselves to be the absolute apex of journalistic integrity…. and have absolutely zero self awareness of the fact that they’re largely defined by their core-audience of rich, liberal, upper-west-siders, for whom there are no apparent contradictions in publishing stories of their Deep Concern for the working class alongside ads for Tiffany Jewelry and Mercedes dealerships.

          There was an awesome cartoon once (in the NY Press I think) showing a wife-beater-wearing man sitting at the kitchen table in a small walk-up apartment,, reading the New York Times sunday magazine, saying to his wife, “Honey, you’ll just love these quaint get-away ideas in Tahiti… and why, here’s a recipe for mango chutney we just have to try out”

          1. This is the fatal flaw in the modern Liberal Intellectual Radical Progressive establishment. They simply cannot credit that their echo-chamber generated narratives are obvious bushwa when examined in any detail. They are ostentatiously unaware that their expesive college educations are loaded with high grade horse shit. Amd they are incapable of recognizing competence in anyone with whim they disagree – or incompetence on their own side.

            In this they resemble, rather strongly, the Social Darwinists if the late 19th century, the Planter Aristocracy on the eve of the Civil War, and the European Aristocracy from the late 18th century on.

    3. Okay – Berstein knew there was something fishy about the nail salon article because he owns two nail salons and it didn’t comport with what he knew. However, he says it’s ‘not like the New York Times to get things so demonstrably wrong.’

      If he’s not a True Believer in the Times (this incident excepted), he’s paying lip service to their reputation in order for his criticisms to land. If he had taken the “The Times gets it wrong yet again” approach, the average Times reader might get the idea he’s Brent Bozell or somebody like that.

    4. “However, he says it’s ‘not like the New York Times to get things so demonstrably wrong.”

      I think it’s been this way all along, too.

      Back before the interwebs, it was difficult and time consuming to fact check an article. He’d have spent hours and hours looking at microfiche in the basement of a library somewhere.

      Back before the internet, people were mostly just interested in getting it right because they didn’t want the paper to get sued for libel. That’s most of the reason why they wouldn’t use real names about people if they didn’t have to–if you can’t get sued for it, who cared whether you got it right?

      I think this guy wrote that stuff about how the New York Times isn’t like this on purpose, too, because he’s afraid of it reflecting badly on him as a journalist. When I’m interviewing someone for a job, I always ask them about their last job and the management there. Nobody wants to hire someone that will badmouth their old boss–especially in public. You can assume that if they’d badmouth your old boss, they’ll badmouth you, too.

  24. “Undocumented, unlicensed workers must accept less-lucrative, more exploitative jobs precisely because they’re excluded by the state from participating fully in the up-and-up labor market.”

    Sort of like how in highly regulated legal prostitution regimes you still have people working outside the legal regulatory framework who have shitty experiences and are then held up by anti-prostitution activists as evidence that we need to keep the whole thing illegal?

    “This woman who was illegally working the street because she couldn’t get a job with one of the prostitution cartels the state set up was raped! Clearly the whole thing needs to be disbanded!”


    Ezra Levant on the clusterfuck that is Venezuela. It includes this comment from a dude from Ecuador:

    “I live in Ecuador, a nearby country, Venezueleans take selfies with steaks when they come here, cause they havent seen one in a long time.”

    1. And speaking of Ezra, he’s again being persecuted for wrongthink. Fucking Canada…

      1. Pan,

        does a Canadian pedicure involve just scraping the blade of a hockey stick along the bottom of a foot, or is there more to it than that?

        1. No stick needed. You dip your feet into a bowl, they put two beavers in and everything is taken care of pronto!
          Best part is, no wrangling about minimum wage.

          1. So beavers at end end of the legs huh ?

      2. We need Hate Speech laws because of Hitler. No really, that was what I was told at college.

      3. As a Member of Parliament, [Fred] Rose proposed the first medicare legislation and the first anti-hate legislation.

        NEVER FORGET!!

      4. Just when you thought the US had lost the plot, here comes Canada.

      5. WOW. I had no idea Canada was so far down the rabbit hole.

        No wonder why Cyto is so eager to nuke everything.

        He wants to nuke Canada but is afraid to say it.

    2. You know who else too a steak selfie?…

      1. Anthony Weiner?

    1. Bad News: This means Bernie Sanders is the nominee. Unless Gore (LOL!) or Biden (LMAO!) join in. I suppose we can optimistic and assume that Sanders can’t win, but still…

      At least it will be confirmation that the Dems have gone full retard…

      1. I’m still looking for where the “bad news” is.

        1. Well the Trump/Sanders race is possible. The amusement value will be epic.

          1. Either one will be better than Hilary Clinton. Or Obama.

            1. That’s not saying very much.

      2. Isn’t Jim Webb also considering running? And I wouldn’t discount the possibility of Michelle Obama running yet, either.

        1. Don’t go giving them ideas. Chocolate rations would no longer be a joking matter.

          1. How does Bernie-brand government shoes (a pair of left shoes that is) and deodorant sound?

          2. Racist!

            …..either that or you really don’t like Webb for some reason.

        2. “I wouldn’t discount the possibility of Michelle Obama running yet, either.”

          Do you still have the original argument you made bookmarked?

          1. In late 2011, I said that Rick Santorum would be a force to be reckoned with in the 2012 primaries. Everyone told me I was crazy. Lo and behold, the Santorum surge followed. Consider carefully whether you want to be on the other side of my presidential campaign predictions now.

            Michelle Obama could raise in a day what most candidates raise in a month. So that ain’t an obstacle.

            1. ” the Santorum surge followed”

              yes, that’s exactly the image that occurs to me whenever you open your mouth.

              1. Santorum Surge – band name or video game?

            2. What does the Urkobold think?

        3. Why do we keep not hearing more about Lincoln Chaffee’s campaign?

      3. I think Sanders would do somewhat better than McGovern, but he’s just too left wing for moderates to accept. “Obama’s economics, only more so!” is not a pitch I can see going over well with the electorate as a whole.

        1. So When Sanders dies will Gillespie call him a libertarian hero?

          1. Hey man, he luvz teh gunz!

      4. I would prefer Bernie to Hillary.

        At least he says what he stands for and while he would fuck up the economy if allowed, he probably wouldn’t just steal it all for himself.

    2. Meh.

      I’m not super-inspired with confidence from the source.

      Although, i have to give them credit for this photo, which should be Alt-Texed, “The Competence & Honesty Committee

      i feel womanhood is being poorly served by its political representatives. I would love to have Sam Power explain how her current enabling of bombing people in Yemen, Syria, Somalia, etc. squares with the noble ideas she rose to power on.

      1. i have to give them credit for this photo, which should be Alt-Texed, “The Competence & Honesty Committee”

        It should be titled the “we all wanted to invade Libya and Syria” committee.

    3. From your lips to God’s ears.

  26. It doesn’t matter. Abused workers is good news and satisfies the NYT’s readers’ sense of truthiness.

    Workers not being abused does neither. Thus, this will be ignored, while the original, truthy story will live on, perhaps for decades, never minding the disconnect with reality.

  27. Anybody that’s read anything Tony or Bo has written knows that progressives don’t care if what they’re saying is factual. It’s the “truth” of the narrative that matters.

    Anybody else remember when This American Life retracted the story about how Apple and its subcontractors were mistreating their factory workers in China?


    It was total horseshit.

    Global warming is the same way. Most climate alarmists couldn’t explain how the greenhouse effect works to save their lives. They make up their minds on what they believe before they see the facts, and they filter their facts through whatever preconceived notion they already had. It’s a cognitive bias, but it’s a cognitive bias that’s supposed to be overcome by critical thinking.

  28. The day before yesterday, Bo was telling me that Saudi Arabia wants Iran to enrich their own uranium–and to prove it, he cited a report from Yahoo News that didn’t say what he said it said. He just wanted it to mean what he wanted it to mean–so bad–that he believed it said what he wanted it to say.

    When I suggested maybe a little critical thinking was in order, he started pounding the table claiming that anybody who didn’t believe Yahoo News (and his own bogus interpretation) was like a willfully ignorant redneck…

    I’ve known people who self-identified as rednecks and were entirely proud of their own ignorance, but there’s another special kind of stupid that’s become increasingly common among progressives–a kind of stupid that abandons critical thinking and adamantly insists that the appeal to authority fallacy is the path to enlightenment, knowledge, wisdom, and truth…

    How can the New York Times be wrong–what are you, a stupid redneck?!

    1. “When I suggested maybe a little critical thinking was in order, he started pounding the table claiming that anybody who didn’t believe Yahoo News (and his own bogus interpretation) was like a willfully ignorant redneck…”

      Well, that’s because Bo’s a moron. He’s also the one who claimed that the reason Islamic violence is so bad compared to Christianity is because Christianity is ‘older’ and has therefore ‘evolved’ – as if an ideology is a person that ages along a set trajectory. Of course, Islam is way older than Scientology or Mormonism or Rastafarianism or any of these New Age religions, yet none of those religions commit widespread terrorist attacks.

      I really hate people who make arguments like that because I can’t stand Christianity as a religion either, but I’m forced to defend them every time someone tries to draw a retarded equivalence between Christianity and Islam, which Bo continuously does.

      Also, anyone who knows anything about the Saudis would know they sure as shit don’t want Iran enriching Uranium. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the pre-eminent Sunni power in the Middle East isn’t particularly excited by the Shi’ite regional power across the Persian Gulf gaining the right to enrich fissile material.

      He’s a complete idiot. He has his ideas and anyone who disagrees with him (even when he’s provably wrong) is a secret Republican/redneck/GAMURGATE PSYCHOPATH.

      1. Yeah, apparently he’d socked away the idea that if Iran were free to enrich their own uranium and looked like they were about to develop a nuclear weapon, then Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt would all want their own nuclear weapons, too.

        It’s all about supporting Obama and his treaty with Iran. The reports were saying that the Saudis weren’t being as publicly critical of Obama’s Iran deal as Israel had been. Bo wants Obama to win the Iran deal game, and so he goes out and fishes for whatever facts he can find to support it.

        …to the point that he will actually make up shit that isn’t really there. It’s very much like the way this nail salon journalist was working, I’m sure. When they’ve got this big righteous hammer to fix problems with, every fact looks to them like a nail. I’m sure that journalist thought she was striking a righteous blow for poor underpaid nail salon workers, too.

        One thing I don’t think anyone has discussed here yet is that the fabrication seems…dare I say…kinda racist? They describe the series as suggestive that the entire Chinese community is exploitative and criminal, etc. If they’d printed that about Latinos, blacks, gays, or Jews, people would be seriously pissed. Making blanket, negative statements about an entire race of people or their culture is their very definition of racism.

        If Fox News had published this story, the New York Times would be calling them out as racists.

    2. “Saudi Arabia wants Iran to enrich their own uranium”

      Bo is unquestionably a self-important moron.

      That said, Saudi Arabia will want nukes now more than ever. I don’t know what Bo’s point was re: uranium if it wasn’t that.

      In all the reporting about the Iran ‘deal’, the detail steadfastly ignored (the same way the # of licensed manicurists was omitted by the NYT) is that the US is not Iran’s primary adversary.

      Israel and Saudi Arabia are. and if they don’t agree with what our ‘deal’ allows, then we’re simply increasing the likelihood of alienating them and increasing their propensity for conflict with Iran.

      Given that Iraq is the current setting for an all-out Sunni/Shia civil war (incl. Yemen, Syria, elsewhere), the current US diplomatic efforts are an astounding exercise in mass-hypnosis and reality-denial. The only logical argument for why it is being done is to burnish Obama’s ugly foreign-policy legacy with something that isn’t “just incompetently muddled way through”

      1. He was saying not that Saudi wants to enrich uranium for itself, but that they want Iran to be able enrich uranium. Which is very, very questionable to say the least. Especially when based solely on one tepid, noncommital sentence from the KSA Foreign Minister which contradicts a bunch of stuff he himself has already said in opposition to the deal.

      2. Bo just wants Obama to be right about letting Iran enrich their own uranium, so he dredged this up to counter the point that letting them enrich their own uranium may set off a nuclear arms race–something that the NPT has effectively prevented in the past.

        It’s just about supporting Obama by any means necessary.

        Somehow the facts to Bo always mean that Obama was right, is rights, and always will be right, and the rest of us are stupid rednecks for trying to think for ourselves.

        Like I said, I bet it’s the same mentality that led to this embarrassment of a nail salon article. When you’ve got a righteous cause, somehow the facts always seem to line up to confirm you bias. Just ask a Moonie!

  29. Typical, media promotes scare story that fits the narrative, regardless of how factual it is, in order to create momentum to pass laws and regulations that they want. So even if the story is debunked it has already served its purpose. Those laws and regulations are going away since that means women and children starving in the streets.

    1. Those laws and regulations *aren’t* going away since that means women and children starving in the streets.

  30. I believe Nir went on NPR right after this story broke and did the whole breathless shock spiel about it. I remember how unquestionably her anecdote was made out as a standard industry practice by her and the idiot interviewing her. It got me into one of my cussing at people on the radio who can’t hear me rants. I’m not at all surprised to learn it was indeed a fraud article, but both pleased and surprised to seeing it getting exposed publicly. It gives me a small sense of hope.


    The New York Times was founded as the New-York Daily Times on September 18, 1851, by journalist and politician Henry Jarvis Raymond, (1820?1869), then a Whig Party member and later second chairman of the newly organized Republican Party National Committee

    Seems “unbiased journalism” was in many ways created by the NYT themselves:

    Their focus on objective journalism, in a time when newspapers were openly and highly partisan

    And was always bullshit:

    It was classed as an independent Democratic publication, and consistently opposed William Jennings Bryan in his presidential campaigns.

    1. I think the only interesting things there are that Hannity is mostly for Very Old people, MSNBC is basically “news for women”, and that the Wall St Journal “leans democrat”

  32. Maybe the $10/day figure came from a misinterpretation of per day versus per week. The ad quoted says $70, but it doesn’t appear to specify the time frame. The reporter may have assumed (or the source misrepresented) it was per week.Of course a reporter should confirm what it means, but I wonder if that was part of Nir’s problem with the facts.

      1. “since the 7 didn’t have a dash”

        Ugh, how provincial.

    1. ‘The ad quoted says $70, but it doesn’t appear to specify the time frame.”

      You will note that the original story, as highlighted by its critic, never even provided an example of the “$10 a day” ad which they said was so ubiquitous in chinese-language papers

      “”The Times has neither furnished any copy of the ten-dollar-a-day ad in question, nor identified when it appeared.“”

  33. Derp.

    That is all.

  34. I just wanted to comment that I find the whole nail salon manicure/pedicure industry bizarre.

    What sort of people pay $40 to have someone clip their fingernails (much less TOENAILS), and WHY?

    A local nail salon offers these deals that sound like they were lifted from some wierd new-age aromatherapy practice like “peppermint manicure” and “ocean spa” manicure. Yes, you can pay extra to have different smelling ointments applied to your hands.

    At least the “Baby Soft Pedicure” comes with a foot massage. But then, they offer mani-pedi’s for children 10 and under. Yeah, That’s going to be worth the money, right?

    Am I the only person on the planet whose hands and feet basically feel normal without routine massage and ointment treatments? How do these people stay in business? Why does there seem to be this one corner of life where otherwise normal middle-class people waste money on useless bullshit?

    1. I mean, I can’t the answer just be: women are crazy?

      No offense if you are a woman.

      1. Along these lines there are people who golf.

    2. Never been, but I thought it was basically a massage. I think the decadence is the attraction.

      1. I think maybe it’s racist. You get to have a subservient Asian woman wait on you literally hand and foot.

        1. Really?

        2. At least cutting your toenails is something that needs to be done.

          Some people pay to have their nipples pierced–you wanna explain that?

          Some people pay to have stupid pictures tattooed on their arms.

          I don’t know understand why, but it’s a qualitative thing.

          If the customers are happy, what do I care?

          And I’m not sure going to an Asian place to get your toenails cut is any more racist than, say, going to a Jewish lawyer.

          No, your interior decorator doesn’t have to be…flamboyant, but a lot of them just are–for whatever reason.

          1. Ahh, but you don’t see nipple piercing salons in every strip mall. Or tattoo parlours. Those are niche markets. Somehow nail salons manage to be ubiquitous, which means lots and lots of people are paying to have other people clip their nails and give them a hand rub.

            1. There are exactly 130 tattoo shops in Hollywood.

              Count ’em!


              Hollywood’s like five square miles!

              Almost any one of them will pierce your nipples for you.

              I’ve never done it before, but if you want me to, Hazel, I’ll pierce your nipples for you!

              I don’t know what the market rate is, but I’ll give you a 10% discount.

              The thing is that the nail shops in LA are often in the nastiest neighborhoods. The poorest women in the city go. It’s like cosmetics being a consumer non-cyclical in the Dow sector indexes along with heart medication. When there’s a recession, cosmetics stocks don’t go down! A lot of women will go without food before they go without cosmetics. With the poorest women, it’s the same thing.

              My grandmother was the most frugal person in the world. When she was 94 years old (ninety-four), she was still going to the beauty parlor once a week. Why do women spend money on these things? I don’t know, but it’s probably a good thing if you’re a guy who still appreciates the way the woman in your life looks. Although after they’ve been with you for a while, it’s mostly sweats at home. They dress up to impress other women or something. My grandmother wanted to look good for church…

              Anyway, as long as they’re happy, why should I care? Making choices based on qualitative criteria isn’t irrational just because qualitative criteria aren’t quantifiable.

              1. And there are 456 nail salons:


                My point is that going to nail salons is objectively economically irrational behavior. You’re paying a lot of money for a trivial service that you can easily perform for yourself.

                Also, I find the behavior of many women bizaare.

          2. Now that I’m old, cutting my toenails is really hard. They’re curling into a claw shape. It’s hard to get the clippers around even part of them, and takes a lot of leverage to cut them. Not only that, but I’m fat enough that even keeping the toes within reach long enough for the operation is hard.

            1. When that happens, you’re supposed to go to a podiatrist.

              He’ll give you a prescription.

              1. Yeah, a prescription to keep coming back to get them trimmed.

                1. But I did just buy shoes.

    3. HazelMeade|7.26.15 @ 7:15PM|#
      “I just wanted to comment that I find the whole nail salon manicure/pedicure industry bizarre.
      What sort of people pay $40 to have someone clip their fingernails (much less TOENAILS), and WHY?”

      I see no issue here at all. They do so because the want to and can afford it.

      1. That’s a non-sequitor. Their behavior seems irrational to me. Lots of people do irrational things because they “want to”. That doesn’t provide a good rational reason for doing it.

    4. Because I like my hands and feet to look tidy and well-groomed and I’m bad at doing it myself, plus it’s relaxing and my pre-teen daughters enjoy a special treat with their mom by going with me.

      Because it’s not for you doesn’t mean it’s useless bullshit, dingdong.

      1. Nobody looks at your toes unless you’re wearing open-toes shoes.

        Also, getting massages is more relaxing, and clipping your fingernails takes about 30 seconds to do it yourself for free. It’s not that hard.

        Manicures are more like spending $30 a pop to have someone shampoo your hair for you.
        I’m sure it’s relaxing and a “treat” but it’s not a very efficient use of money.

  35. How will this affect the happy ending market? Asking for a friend.

  36. The New York Times prints bogus article…shucks, it’s unbelievable…

  37. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do…… ??????

  38. Sarah Nir responded on twitter with a pic of an add:

    The fucking twitter

    I cant read chinese, but i can read the big $75 on it.

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