Thursday, November 29, 2007

Giuliani making up the numbers

The NYT on Friday has: "Citing Statistics, Giuliani Misses Time and Again"

It strikes me as a fairly honest piece; it doesn't have any of the "appear to contradict the facts" language that the Times, Post and others have used so much.

Some of the news isn't new -- Krugman has written on this as has's factchecker, though some of that previous work focused only on one or a few specific incidents of Giuliani lying.

This article brings up even more. It does admit its lateness though, given that many of these quotes are not new: "In recent days, Mr. Giuliani seems to be taking greater care to be precise." Well, this article is still better late than never.

The other odd point on the timing is how the article comes after pressure from the Romney campaign and others to push this story. It's as if the NYT campaign coverage is waiting for others to tell them what to do. And that's not new: they were several days late in covering the Clinton-campaign-planted-a-question story, for example (NYT published Nov 12; the AP had the story on the evening on Nov 9; and the Scarlet & Black at Grinnell College broke the story earlier in the day on the 9th).

But all that aside, Friday's article is still one to celebrate.

See a fool become even more of a fool

I know this was from back in October, but if you haven't yet seen the Chris Matthews interview on the Daily Show, watch it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

US moves position on Saudia Arabia case. A bit.

Following reports that several men had raped a 19 year old woman in Saudi Arabia -- and that the judicial system then prepared to punish the woman with 200 lashes -- the US offered only the very mildest of criticism.

The US really wanted the Saudi Arabian foreign minister to come to the Annapolis Conference on Tuesday. It was -- even more than normally -- not a time they wanted to criticize the Saudis.

Saudi Arabia continued it's virulent PR campaign against the woman last week, with statements on the 20th and 24th.

On Tuesday the foreign minister did show up in Annapolis, and also he announced that a Saudi court will give some kind of "review" of the case, whatever that means.

And following those developments, the US's position finally changed a bit. Here's Rice on Good Morning America Wednesday:
QUESTION: I want to talk to you now about Saudi Arabia. One of the people there at the peace talks is Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister, and he has said that the government there in Saudi Arabia will rectify something that has really caused quite an international outrage involving the Saudi woman who was raped and then sentenced to 200 lashes. Are you confident that the Saudi Arabian Government will keep its word and rectify this?

Well, we're certainly pleased that they've said they will review it. The world looked at this and there's no way to explain this. This woman was clearly a victim. And so I am pleased that the Saudis have said that they will review it. I think that's a very important step.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

We report, you decide

One housemate did an assignment for an urban planning class. The other housemate thinks it's funny. You decide.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Oh my

Onion News Network: How Can We Raise Awareness In Darfur Of How Much We're Doing For Them?

Monday, November 12, 2007

It is so not Christmas yet

But that isn't stopping some people in this city. Ugh. From the corner of 34th and 7th in Manhattan:

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Wes adds more in grants

Announced this week:

"Beginning with the first-year class enrolling in the fall of 2008, most students whose total family incomes are $40,000 per year or less will receive an aid package that substitutes grants for any loan obligation. Beginning with the same class, all other students who receive aid will graduate with a four-year total loan indebtedness reduced by an average of 35 percent."

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The statistics of campaign 2008 in the news

A few days ago the Project for Excellence in Journalism and the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy released a joint study on the coverage of the presidential candidates so far.

The research has some not-surprising but definitely useful statistics about how much the coverage focuses on the horse race, and how the public wants (or, at least, says it wants) more coverage of the issues.

The study says:
The majority of all stories (63%) were primarily about the “game” aspects of the campaign—topics such as who is winning, who is losing, their fundraising, and how a candidate is performing on the stump. Of these topics, the lion’s share (50% overall) was tactical or horse race—that is polls, strategy and candidate “performance.” The next biggest political concern was campaign fundraising, which made up 7% of all stories.

One line of the study troubled me:
Front-page coverage of Giuliani in the newspapers studied tended to be more negative than anything else (six out of 12), thanks in part to rough coverage from his hometown paper, The New York Times.

Rough coverage? I don't like how they say it. The point is that having 6/12 article be negative is notable, for it is more negative than what many other candidates have gotten. But 'rough', to me, implies unfair.

What's true is that the NYT has run a number of stories that have raised some troubling questions about Giuliani (there's another one on page one today, in relation to Bernard Kerik). But the study doesn't even try to lay out any evidence that these articles have been unfair. In fact, to the contrary, there's a healthy argument that the NYT coverage of Giuliani has bent facts to defend him.

If, hypothetically, Hitler was running for president, and 12 out of 12 articles about him showed primarily 'negative' themes, would we say the coverage had 'roughed' him up? No. Because sometimes people have such a history of lying and making bad policies that negative words about them are only appropriate and accurate.

If you need some references on Giualini's lying, check out Krugman's nice work from Friday.

All of this said, I think the study mostly avoided the mistake of saying that negative coverage of a candidate is necessarily biased.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

I'm not convinced

"The Road to a South African Driver’s License," from Wednesday's front page, was a cute look at just what it takes to be able to drive legally in that nation. I don't doubt it's tough. But I think Michael Wines went a bit overboard in trying to state the case that the system is difficult and ineffective. Take this bit:
For the K53 is just part of the Catch-22 that faces every aspiring motorist here: To drive legally, one very sensibly needs a license. Except that licenses often seem impossible to get.

Well, that's unfortunate for them. But I don't see where a "Catch-22" is involved, or any logical twist, for that matter. You need a license to drive legally. Sort of like a lot of places. Next:
Even though the K53 method has been used for a dozen years — or perhaps because so few drivers have obtained licenses — traffic accidents and deaths are rising fast, to 15,400 fatalities last year, up nearly 9 percent from 2005.

If this was a policy instituted a dozen years ago, why are we looking at the fatality increase from 2005 to 2006? If there is a statistical case that a policy change that long ago would have a sudden impact more than a decade later, Wines doesn't present it. Nor does he give the statistics for the entire time period, from now back to before the change was instituted -- so it's impossible for the reader to fairly judge the matter of cause and effect. Wines continues:
The fatality rate per mile traveled, the best measure of road safety, is five times that in the United States, which is in turn higher than in most developed nations.

It does sound dangerous, and it's useful information to an American reader who might consider traveling in South Africa. But far more useful in making the case of the article would be to compare South Africa to nations more similar to it than the United States or other wealthy nations. South Africa ranks 56th in the world in GDP per capita; a better, if imperfect comparison would be to compare its road fatality rates with those in Croatia, Libya and Chile.

Of course, that's a bit harder to find, so..