Paul Moses

Paul Moses, a professor of journalism at Brooklyn College/CUNY, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009).

By this author

North vs. South in Williamsburg

The New York Times carried a cover story on its Thursday Styles section that explored the cultural divide in the trendy Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, Northside vs. Southside. It is a startling example of how news organizations glorify gentrification by treating the long-time residents of a neighborhood as an afterthought and wallowing in the  lifestyle of  the newcomers. Here is an excerpt:

Grand Street is more than just the dividing line between streets that are numbered north and those numbered south. The border has become Williamsburg’s equivalent of the Mason-Dixon line, cleaving the neighborhood into two: a sleek, moneyed “North Williamsburg” and a gritty, hyper-authentic “South Williamsburg.”

To the denizens of South Williamsburg, the north is now a glitzy playground of glassy condos for banker types, chain stores and hordes of tourists from Berlin; Tokyo; Paramus, N.J.; and, worst of all, Manhattan. They’ve turned the area, especially around the Wythe Hotel, into Brooklyn’s answer to the meatpacking district.

The South, they argue, has maintained its bohemian D.I.Y. roots, with its indie boutiques, bearded mixologists, artists’ lofts and working-class families: in sum, the “real” Williamsburg.

The problem is that the article dismisses the long-time population of Latinos, Hasidic Jews and Italians in two paragraphs, and gives no real consideration to their impact on the culture of the community. They're nearly invisible. One would never know that Latinos are by far the majority of the Southside. In the 2010 census, the Southside's three census tracts are 53 percent, 65 percent and 72 percent Latino.


De Blasio: Exploring a mayoral candidate's past

I don't know if the name of Bill de Blasio, the odd-on favorite to be the next mayor of New York City, is much known outside the New York area yet. But if the Democratic nominee succeeds, he surely will be a national figure.

Faulting media on Francis coverage, again

Carl A. Anderson, head of the Knights of Columbus, writes for the National Review that the news media have created false narratives about both Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI. He argues that Benedict made comments similar to those Francis made in his recent interview, but that they were not covered:

One might think this is the first time a pope said something like this. It isn’t.

Walking Francis's Path

Startling as his recent interview is, one can see in retrospect that Pope Francis started on the path he is walking from the first moments of his papacy when he took the name of the saint from Assisi.

Independent and Catholic: Remembering Robert Hoyt

The Columbia Journalism Review has a nicely done piece on Robert Hoyt, founding editor of National Catholic Reporter, and on that newspaper's origins. I never met Hoyt, but it seems to me that his son, Michael Hoyt,  former editor of the journalism review, has provided a nuanced and well-written portrait of his father in this article. He shows the importance of maintaining an independent Catholic press with outlets such as NCR and Commonweal, for which Robert Hoyt became a senior writer after leaving NCR.

Running against Bloomberg

New York City voters will choose Democratic and Republican candidates for mayor tomorrow, and the vote in the Democratic primary is shaping up in many ways as a commentary on Mayor Michael Bloomberg's 12 years in office.

The major Democratic candidates are probably in reality within a few degrees of each other politically, but have presented themselves to voters in significantly different ways. Early on, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn led the polls and appeared to many to be on the way to becoming the city's first woman mayor. As the second most powerful person in city government, she tempered the West Side activism of her earlier days and allied herself with Bloomberg. If the polls are right, this was a big political mistake.

Bill de Blasio, the city's public advocate, emerged from the pack through timely and rigorous attacks on the Bloomberg's NYPD stop-and-frisk program. His family -- his African-American wife and their son -- played a big role in attracting what polls indicate will be a significant chunk of the black vote ... old-fashioned ethnic politics. Bill Thompson, who is black and is in second place in the polls, is struggling to claim that vote.

Bloomberg gave what could turn out to be a crucial last-minute  boost to de Blasio by denouncing him in a weekend interview -- providing enough of a push to possibly put de Blasio over the 40 percent mark he needs to avoid a run-off against the No. 2 vote-getter. 

Bloomberg has accomplished much in 12 years in office: recovery from the 9/11 attack; lower crime rates; massive re-zonings; and many innovations  in health and education. He had the courage to say the obvious when others were not willing to do so: guns are dangerous; there is a First Amendment right to build a mosque.

Given that, why would a negative word from Bloomberg boost the prospects of a candidate seeking to replace him in office?


A journey through the heartland

 "Frugal traveler" Seth Kugel offers an interesting road trip in the travel section of the New York Times, a south-to-north journey through the nation's midsection, Louisiana to North Dakota. I've traveled the country east-to-west four times, and north to south on both coasts, but this itinerary never occurred to me. He makes it sound very appealing.

Time to stop and think on stop-and-frisk

It should be said that Federal Judge Shira Scheindlin is being vilified for her ruling that the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program is unconstitutional. 

Mayor Michael Bloomberg swiftly charged that the judge had denied the city a fair trial and said he would make this accusation in the appeal. He and other critics have practically accused the judge of murder, saying her ruling could lead to increased violent crime.

At a news conference, he returned to the defense the city has used throughout: that the stop-and-frisk program reduced crime. Under this policy, police made 4.4 million stops over an eight-year period, more than 80 percent involving black and Hispanic people. (In 2.3 million of these cases, police frisked the individual.)  The mayor complained that the judge never mentioned in her ruling how much crime rates have dropped during his years in office.

The Daily News hyped this theme with a front page headlined “MURDER, SHE WROTE - Fear over Return to Bloody Old Bad Days,” with pictures of the judge and of a corpse being covered at a crime scene.

The mayor’s problem is that his effective public-relations strategy – using plunging crime rates to justify whatever the NYPD is doing – doesn’t work in court. As the judge wrote, the issue is whether stop-and-frisk is constitutional, not whether it is effective. Coercing confessions may be effective, she noted, but it’s illegal.

Survey: 1 in 5 Americans are religious progressives

A new survey categorizes about 1 in 5 Americans as “religious progressives.” Catholics make up the largest proportion of that group in terms of religious affiliation, at 29 percent. (Mainline Protestants are next at 19 percent.) Religious progressive on average are younger (44) than the general population (47) and religious conservatives (53).

These numbers, and many more, are contained in the 2013 Economic Values Survey conducted by Public Religion Research Institute with the Brookings Institute. In the big picture, the survey identifies 19 percent of Americans as religious progressives, 38 percent as religious moderates, 28 percent as religious conservatives and 15 percent as nonreligious. 

Dissident Austrian priest's U.S. speaking tour begins

Father Helmut Schüller, whose “Call to Disobedience” attracted the support of many of his fellow Austrian priests, has begun a speaking tour of 15 U.S. cities in an attempt to build a network of support for church reform. He spoke tonight in a Protestant church in Manhattan, Judson Memorial Church on Washington Square. Earlier in the day, I listened in as a group of advocates for church reform asked him over lunch in Brooklyn about his plans for the Catholic Tipping Point tour.