Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Filling your refrigerator with shoes

This is a clever little piece in the NY Post, and it makes me sad.

I understand that some NYC apartments are tiny, and that some people can afford to enjoy the city's wonderful takeout selection every night. And I understand that many people are far busier than I am. But the whole notion of just "not having time" for cooking anymore -- it strikes me as not only sad but also questionable. I mean, couldn't they have used the time they spent buying a pair of shoes to cook a meal?

As my housemate just put it to me, "How do they think the fridge feels?"

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

More on the New York subway: BDFM

Last week MTA announced that the new line that will be the combination of M and V will in fact be called M and not V.

So what is now the "BDFV" on 6th avenue (I was used to that!) will soon be the "BDFM". Someone make up a pun, I can't think of it.

No really, the 2nd Ave subway is happening

I know, it's hard to believe, because people have been talking about the 2nd ave subway for the better part of a century. But it's really happening -- or at least the first segment, which will be an extended Q train from midtown up to 96th street. As for the other parts, we'll see. (I'll wait for matthew to chime in here with an informed comment).

This photo is one of a batch that MTA just posted the other day. The full gallery is here; I found it via the highlights posted at the blog 2nd Ave Sagas.

Greenpeace wins in "Traitor Joe's" seafood sustainability campaign

Greenpeace pretty much declared victory Tuesday in their campaign on Trader Joe's. The campaign had started after TJ's ranked 17th out out of 20 grocery chains in Greenpeace's survey of seafood sustainability policies. Greenpeace reports:

Specifically, Trader Joe’s has announced that they will:
  • Offer only sustainable seafood in their stores by December 31, 2012.
  • Work with third-party, science-based organizations to establish definitions and parameters for addressing customer concerns about overfishing, destructive catch or production methods, and the importance of marine reserves.
  • Remove “red-listed” seafood from their shelves. Trader Joe’s stopped selling Chilean Sea Bass in 2005, Orange Roughy in July of 2009, and Red Snapper in March of 2010.
  • Provide accurate information on all seafood labels, including species’ Latin names, origin and catch or production method.
  • Use their buying power to leverage change in the seafood industry.

About that NYT story today yesterday on meteorologists who don't understand climate change

Tuesday's Monday's front pager by Leslie Kaufman, "On Global Warming, Scientists and TV Weathercasters Are at Odds" epitomized what has gone wrong at the Times in the last year or two on climate change. They, like many others, have reverted to a lot of he-said-he-said writing on the issue that they had once started moving away from. Joe Romm explains why the article is stupid.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

About those NJ Turnpike rest stops

Ever wonder what the story is with the names of the NJ Turnpike rest stops, like the Vince Lombardi? (wasn't he a Wisconsin guy?). I know I have. Gene Weingarten, the Washington Post Magazine's humor columnist, had a clever look into it.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Lessons on progressive strategy from HCR

The basic history is this: some of the more progressive blogs and organizations got dozens of members of congress to sign on to pledges saying they would vote against health care reform if it didn't have a public option. In the end, all of the progressive members voted for the bill. Their threats were not taken seriously, and thus they had relatively little power in the process.

Glenn Greenwald explores the history and some of the possible lessons here.

Ed Kilgore responds, linking to arguments that the progressives did achieve something, and may not have had the power in this situation to achieve that much more given the circumstances.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

There was a flash mob in South Orange?

From the NYT article today on flash mobs in Philadelphia:
Flash mobs are not unique to Philadelphia, but they have been more frequent here than elsewhere. Others that resulted in arrests and injuries have been reported over the past year in Boston, South Orange, N.J., and Brooklyn.
South Orange? Sure enough, the local paper had this report just this week:
Last year, the town had problems with crowds in the downtown, but nothing like what happened this past weekend. The youths apparently used sites like Facebook and Twitter to communicate their plans for coming to South Orange, a place referred to on the Internet as the “Dah Ville.”
Update: South Orange Patch posted an article yesterday with a bunch of follow-up.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

When do they Sleep?

"Find the sleeping schedule of your Twitter friends!" the site says. Indeed. Clever.

Chris Matthews

Obviously there were lots of pundits on the right who said that the election of Scott Brown doomed healthcare. But it wasn't just the right -- there were all sorts of pundits who made some pretty definitive declaration. My fave right now is Chris Matthews, with his wild Jan 22 rant about how healthcare could never pass via... the route it is now passing.

Monday, March 22, 2010

DCist Likens Anti-War Protesters to Tea Partiers who Spat on Rep Cleaver and Shouted Anti-Gay Slur at Rep Frank

"Click Click: First Fringe of Spring" was the headline Sunday for a collection of photos on DCist and an accompanying write-up by weekend editor Kriston Capps.

The news:
What's a lovely spring day in the District of Columbia good for? Spewing vitriol! Yesterday, residents of the District had their choice of irrational flavors: deranged right or nutbar left.
Oh my! So what did the tea partiers do? Capps quotes Politico:
The Democrats' health care plan wasn't the only thing the Tea Partiers found time to protest. They also booed Europe and a list of Latin American leaders. One protestor shouted an anti-gay slur at Rep Barney Frank (D-Mass.), and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn said that he heard from Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) that another protester called him the N-word. A spokesman for Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) issued a statement Saturday night saying Cleaver had been spat upon.
Hmm. That does sound like vitriol indeed.

What about the crazy vitriol from the left, though? Capps has only this to say:
No one pays any attention to the anti-war left protesters calling for President Bush's impeachment, so who knows how that rally went. Apparently, they want to see more Lady Gaga.
Wow, great news-aggregating! Um, you have to be way more clever than that in your snark to get away with the old I'm-too-lazy-too-actually-check-what-happened blog posting trick. And linking to the Post article would have been such a chore (or Bloomberg,

Now, what's this, people calling for Bush's impeachment? Either Capps is trying to make up some super-clever joke, or he is confused and meant to be referencing the sign (included in one of the accompanying photos) that says "Indict Bush." Impeach, indict, whatever.

To be sure, there were some signs at the anti-war demonstration that I thought were extreme, inaccurate, or said things I thought were wrong. But where were the lefties spitting on people and yelling slurs, though? Capps doesn't have the goods. Probably because there weren't any. Because, actually, in the reality-based world, there is little equivalence to be found between what happened at the anti-war rally and at the Tea Party rally.

Leave the false-equivalence thing to the traditional media, please -- there's more than enough to go around.


Coda: It turns out it's not the first time that Capps has gone after demonstrators on the left. In January, he wrote this:
Around 70 protesters joined Sheehan outside CIA HQ in Virginia, and half of them then marched out to McLean for a throwback protest near former Vice President Dick Cheney's house. It should be noted that Cheney no longer has any authority over the deployment of drones anywhere (I think).
Clever! But it turns out the stated purpose of the stop at Cheney's house was not about Cheney's current authority over the deployment of anything; it was about bringing him to justice for crimes he committed while in office.

Snark is all fun and good until facts get in the way.

Sarkozy and Bruni having affairs!

Oh, hah, not quite, just something people were re-tweeting. Because anything said over the twitter-tubes is obviously fact, just as all information received via any medium should be treated as fact. The Times of London retraces the story.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Fred Hiatt supports single payer! What's next?

Today's WashPost editorial on health care gives us a Fred Hiatt special: basic factual error. The editorial -- urging House members to vote 'yes' on Sunday -- has this:
The first chief benefit would be to cover the uninsured, ending America's position as the only major industrialized democracy that does not provide health insurance to its citizens.
That would be funny if they actually meant what they wrote and did support a system in which the U.S. government 'provided' health insurance to its citizens. Of course, the bill on the table does not do so; it provides subsidies to some citizens, which will cover part of the cost of buying insurance through a private insurer.

Will high-speed rail in California cause more sprawl?

Probably. Not that other things don't cause sprawl too. But fast trains out from the cities to places with cheap real estate could have some bad influences

Jason Kambitsis makes the case about the sprawl potential in Wired. But, he says the problems can be overcome:
Proactive land use policies focused on increasing urban density coupled with incentives for transit-oriented development and suburban infill must be embraced by communities along high-speed rail lines — especially those with planned stops.
Previously, err, a year and a half ago, Ben Adler wrote a related critique of California HSR, as something that was mainly going to help rich businessman who will still have to take a cab when they get to LA at the other end (highly recommended article). He points out that the 2nd ave subway in New York will cost about a third as much and help hundreds of thousands of people each day, not a few thousand. (CA HSR supporters responded that this critique was creating a false dichotomy; that HSR and good public transit in the cities need to go together, and should not be made to compete for funds).

NYT Headline: CBO scoring of health bill just a Democratic claim!

The headline on today's NYTimes lead story is alright in the print edition. But online, they've served up a whopper:

That's right, the assessment of the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has now been reduced to simply a claim by the Democrats.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Geoengineering is going to be in the news a bunch again: a new book on the topic, by Jeff Goodell, is coming out in a month. David Roberts of Grist has posted an extensive Q&A with the author, and I think it's really useful if you're interested in getting into the different issues involved. This issue is going to be something you're going to hear more and more about.

Goodell comes across to me as a thinking guy. And it's scary that he doesn't come down too much 'against' geoengineering. Says Goodell:
We're not talking about the climate equivalent of putting a housing development in virgin redwood forests. We're already messing with the planet in profound ways, and as Stewart Brand and others have said, we might as well get good at it. It's not crazy that we could learn how to control the levers of this system better.

In a certain way, we're already doing this. Even by setting climate targets -- 350 parts per million, or 80 percent reductions by 2050, or whatever -- we're making implicit judgments about what kind of world we want to live in. One of the interesting things about geoengineering is that it makes that conversation explicit. That's an important idea: we are in charge of the climate whether we like it or not. It's not a question of do we want to try to take control -- we're already in control. We're already fucking with this system in a profound way.

Kurtz Bites the Fox News Channel Spin

Howard Kurtz used his Monday Media Notes column in the Post to examine "The Beck Factor at Fox: Some news staffers say his comments undermine their work." What a joke.

Look, it's true that Beck's program is indeed different than the daytime programming on FNC. And even though Kurtz doesn't directly quote a single FNC news employee critical of Beck (even anonymously), I'm sure there are indeed many 'news' staff at FNC who don't like Beck, for various reasons.

The problem with Kurtz's story is not so much that he fails to get a single person to be quoted, even anonymously, supporting his thesis. It's that his thesis is essentially the line FNC wants out there, and it's, you know, not true.

The notion Kurtz advances is that there are actually a fair number of "journalists" at FNC, who have work that can be "undermined" by Beck. It's the idea that the daytime programming at FNC is somehow hard news.

This is what the whole argument between Fox and the White House was about back in October. It's one thing if, say, Ruth Marcus falls for the idea that daytime programming at Fox is "news". But here we're talking Howard Kurtz, who should know better.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Go Devon!

"This do-right rapper inspires kids to tell the truth, read all summer, and pull their pants up. He also shoved a gun in my father’ s face & tried to kidnap my mother. Today, I might call him a friend."
Check out Devon Haynie's "The Man Who Mugged My Parents" in the current Indianapolis Monthly.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Time to irresponsibly spread rumors

Top Chef coming to DC???

I guess we'll know pretty soon, if they're really starting filming in under a month.

Hurt Locker

I should say I haven't seen the Hurt Locker yet; I plan to. In the meantime, Robert Scheer has this critique from the left.
According to press reports, members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences finally found a movie about the Iraq war they liked because it is "apolitical." Actually, The Hurt Locker is just the opposite; it's an endorsement of the politically chauvinistic view that the world is a stage upon which Americans get to deal with their demons, no matter the consequence for others.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

How Fred Hiatt Thinks

Glenn Greenwald notes:
By publishing a book that clearly and unapologetically defends the Bush torture regime, Marc Thiessen catapulted himself from obscure, low-level Bush speechwriter into regular Washington Post columnist, joining fellow torture defenders Charles Krauthammer and Bill Kristol.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

In Which Joe Lieberman Invokes Prince

Today a group of Senators met with Obama on climate change. While the House passed a not-totally-terrible bill in June, nothing has been going in the senate. Kerry/Graham/Lieberman ("KGL" as they're saying) are working on trying to get something going (yes, Graham and Lieberman are being not totally evil), but having trouble getting that many of the 'moderate' Senators on board for any comprehensive bill at all.

Anyway, Reuters has this write-up on the meeting. But what they don't include is the full quote from Lieberman. E&E News PM has it (subscription required):
Lieberman also downplayed the use of the term "cap and trade" when it comes to limiting emissions, even though that is generally the plan with their bill. "We don't use that term anymore," he said. "We'll have pollution reduction targets. Remember the Artist Previously Known as Prince?"

Monday, March 08, 2010

Questionable NYT op-ed today on funding for Acela

The NYT has an op-ed today by Christian Wolmar, "Slug on the Tracks,"advocating that federal high speed rail funding go toward improving Acela.

He may be right, but the whole thing seems a bit sloppy and, frankly, late. This may be the fault of NYT op-ed editors and not the author, who knows. As Wolmar notes, the federal DOT already made their announcement about where they're spending the $8 billion in high speed rail funds.

Wolmar writes of Acela being "often held up by freight trains and road crossings." Really? I thought the slowdowns were much more because of the commuter railroads. As for freight, there's little of it on those lines, at least during the day. The Acela route is owned and operated primarily by Amtrak, with a small portion operated by Metro North. And road crossings -- there just aren't many. Are there even any at all between NYC and DC? Do the road crossings in CT and RI actually cause any delay at all?

Among Wolmar's recommendations:
Money is needed to improve the overhead electric wires, straighten out curves and upgrade the track. And more trains are needed to increase trip frequency, reduce overcrowding and offer flexibility.

It’s not just a matter of money, though. The government must do away with a host of state and federal regulations that reduce train speed and are far too restrictive.
I'm not so sure about the increase trip frequency part. Holidays aside, I'm pretty sure a lot of the Acela trains do not sell out. And is there actually any research to suggest that there are people who would be more likely to take the train if it ran every half hour than every hour? I'm skeptical.

Wolmar ends with this:
Perhaps someday, like the Trains à Grande Vitesse in France or the Shinkansen in Japan, an Acela train speeding past the Statue of Liberty could be the defining image of a second great American railway age.
I don't get it. The Acela route is a good four or so miles from the statue. You could probably get both into a shot if you really tried. But this is just tacky.

NYT does Michigan Central

Saturday's NYT had a front-page article on the status and future of Michigan Central Station.

Here's another option: make a conscious decision to not do anything. I mean, doing nothing is already what's happening right now, despite the demolition decision by the council last year. But if we're not at a point where any city/county/state/federal agency wants to use the space, ok, that still doesn't mean the building should be knocked down.

Friday, March 05, 2010

The politics of the KSM trial

The story being reported today is that the political team in the White House is changing the plan, and moving toward announcing that KSM will be tried in a military tribunal, not a civilian court.

Suffice to say that would be terrible for a number of reasons. And it's not even good politics, David Kurtz argues.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Good Point

Michael Whitney: Obama Applauds Mass Firing of Teachers, Just Like When He Applauded the Mass Firing of Banksters. Oh wait.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Brad Ellsworth

Eric Kleefield writes: Memo To Progressives: If You Disliked Bayh Just Wait Til You See Ellsworth. Yikes.

I'll add that in the VoteView rankings of the 2007-2008 House, only eight Democrats were more conservative than Ellsworth.

When Melissa Bean and Heath Shuler are to your left, you're in pretty conservative territory.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Why it's sometimes hard to take the Economist that seriously

Obama's stuck on healthcare because he gave over the process to the left wing, rather than courting conservatives! Who knew?!

Where is the Soy Vay?

I suppose that's one place to put it.

Off to Latin America she goes

Monday's NYT has a set-up piece on Hillary Clinton's Latin America trip this week, written by Ginger Thompson and Alexei Barrionuevo. They write:
And while the Obama administration’s leading Latin America appointments were delayed by Washington power struggles, Europe’s political influence has filled the void.
Look, I realize it would take up space in the paper to get into the history of that, some of which the Times covered at the time. But it strikes me that "Senate republicans" would have been fewer characters, and more informative, than "Washington power struggles".