Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Greenpeace releases annual seafood sustainability guide

Greenpeace's comparison of supermarket fish-buying policies re sustainability is out (overview). The 1-page chart comparing the different supermarket chains is here. Full report is here. Target edges out the competition for number 1. Trader Joe's made big improvements. Costco is not good.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Critics respond to NYT mag on Politico article

Howard Kurtz has a roundup of critiques of the NYT Magazine cover article on the influence of Politico's Mike Allen.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Brandeis students speak up against graduation speaker Michael Oren

Last week Brandeis announced that Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren would be the comencement speaker. And Dennis Ross will be receiving an honorary degree.

Brandeis students opposed to the choice have started expressing their disappointment on the interwebs, and have penned this letter, saying:
Regardless of the intentions of the Brandeis administration, the choice of Oren will be seen as primarily a political decision to demonstrate their sympathies for Israel's current policies.

This standpoint not only contradicts the purpose of commencement, it is also in conflict with one of our founding values: our integral relationship with the Jewish community. Oren's far-right positions reflect only a small part of the opinion of the Jewish community, and his selection privileges that part as the embodiment of the Jewish people. This marginalizes the significant (and growing) segment of the Jewish population that does not agree with him on these issues, as well as the larger Brandeis community that feels similarly.
I don't think graduation speakers should necessarily be politically neutral. In fact that'd probably be boring. But Oren is fairly extreme, and I think the Brandeis students are right to say that, whether intended or not, picking Oren sends some kind of message, and it's not a good one.

The messaging from the students isn't so much "Oren is evil!" but rather "Oren is not an appropriate choice."

The issue hasn't gotten much pickup yet, but Mondoweiss had a post by one of the students and just now Jeffrey Goldberg has jumped in. Woo.

Paging the Boston Globe, there's a story going on in your backyard.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

2nd Ave subway tunnel, your drilling bit has arrived

Photos and video via 2nd Ave Sagas.

Re: Guam tipping over

When I first heard about Rep. Hank Johnson's concerns that the island of Guam might "tip over" if more US soldiers were stationed there, I thought, ok, it's possible he didn't mean it physically happening. Hard to know.

But when you watch the video, and see his hand motion, and hear him say the word "capsize", it seems pretty clear he meant exactly what it sounds like he meant.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Greenwashing presents the Top Five Dumbest Greenwashed ‘Earth Day’ Gimmicks.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Gizmodo and the iphone

Gizmodo's story on how it got a hold of the next iPhone is told like a thriller or something. Maybe it's all true, or maybe it's true as far as Gizmodo knows, but perhaps they can't really know because they weren't there when the person who obtained it obtained it. Who knows. Andy Ihnatko explores some of the legal and journalistic questions of the episode.

Anyhow, as many have pointed out, it's not the biggest deal in the sense of what's actually been revealed here (really not that much). Rather, it's a big deal in the sense that for the first time in recent history Apple's impressive security wall and accompanying pr machine have been beat.

As for the new iPhone itself, with the apparently long-awaited front camera, video chat is presumably going to become fairly common. It's surprising to me that it hasn't already; I almost never see people in cafes doing it on their laptops. But now there will be a popular handheld device that will let you do video chat. Oy.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Top Chef Producers 1, DC Food Bloggers 0

Top Chef is in DC now, filming the next season. It's a big deal and the party line here is that it says something about DC's food scene coming of age, or something.

The bloggers are trying to keep up with the Top Chef-ers, but seems to me the former aren't doing too well. After various initial rumors about where the Top Chef house is, we now at least know the site of their Kalorama digs. And we know they go to the Whole Foods out in Silver Spring. There have been odds and ends sitings here and there, but it's few and far between. Really, really distant photos pass for news.

DC Streetcars

Post culture critic Philip Kennicott has an excellent column today on our little streetcar battle here in DC. The city is seeking to bring streetcars back (they were once a major mode of transportation here), and has already started laying some of the tracks. The issue is that the streetcars will probably use overhead wires -- which is currently against DC law, which seeks to preserve grand views down the avenues. The city's DOT is currently proposing a hybrid solution, wherein there will be overhead cables for most of each line but breaks in some specific stretches, where the trolleys will run on battery.

Writes Kennicott:
Arguments against overhead wires rest on two essential assumptions: that the city is filled with streets that have historically significant and aesthetically impressive views; and that wires and poles would be ugly intrusions on these grand vistas. The former is questionable, the latter a matter of opinion.

But the deeper issue is Washington's relation to the nation. Do we want to preserve the early 20th-century sense of ourselves as a grand, imperial city that overawes tourists? Or do we want to be a model city for the 21st century, a place where visitors from across the country and around the world can be inspired by innovative experiments in sustainable urban life?

My one gripe is the headline they've stuck on the column in print ("The debate over D.C. streetcars is coming down to the wires.") Already been done! In the Post, no less! The paper's April 6 article on the subject was titled "Streetcar effort may go down to the wire" (the online version went with "D.C. streetcar project may get hung up on overhead wires.")

Friday, April 16, 2010

Greenpeace at Nestle

Those clever Greenpeace folks, at it again -- this time at Nestle's shareholder meeting in Germany. My favorite part from their write-up:
Participants seeking a distraction on their smartphones and computers were surprised when they logged onto a free wireless network only to find a webpage encouraging them to send a message to Nestle about rainforest protection and orangutans.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Washington Post on a Role: Facebook Coverage Staying Off A1; Will it Last?

It's April 15, 2010, and you know what that means, right?!

Yep, the Washington Post has gone fully SIX MONTHS without putting a Facebook-focused article on the front page. The Post last fronted Facebook on October 15. Today's front page in fact has a batch of five relatively real news articles, with a combination of local, national, and international stories.

In these six months, the Post's front page has had literally dozens of articles that mention Facebook, but none of those have been largely focused on it, even say this one about fewer people sending snail mail holiday cards (which surely could have turned into a Facebook article if some editor really tried).

The question now is, will it last, or will the Post fall back to its old ways? I've gotten my hopes up before on this, only to have them crushed.

Here's a timeline of the Post's Facebook front-pagers:

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

NYT, LAT edit pages criticize WH for not pushing Dawn Johnsen confirmation

Two good editorials today.

It was clear that the White House was not going to fight to save her from Republicans who were refusing to allow a vote on her confirmation.
The White House let Ms. Johnsen twist in the wind for more than a year and then chose to abandon her nomination rather than get into a battle over an appointment just before Mr. Obama makes his second nomination to the Supreme Court.
The LAT is even more forceful:
Dawn Johnsen, who withdrew last week as President Obama's nominee to head the Office of Legal Counsel, has a legitimate grievance against her fair-weather sponsors in the White House.

... Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) never rallied forcefully to her defense, instead allowing themselves to be intimidated by Republican (and some Democratic) opposition.

The administration's unwillingness to fight back against efforts to portray Johnsen as "outside the mainstream" is not just a shame for her and the office; it augurs ominously for nominees who may be similarly smeared -- including Goodwin Liu, the Berkeley law professor Obama has nominated to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, as well as the yet-to-be-named nominee to replace Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.
Update: Even the WaPo edit page is now upset with the White House on this one.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Williamsburg and the census

NPR had a sweet piece over the weekend about the news from a few days earlier that Williamsburg was the NYC neighborhood with the lowest census return rates.
"You know, on a personal note, maybe some people, they figure what's the point to be counted if you dont count for much anyway? If we don't count, why be counted?"

David Gregory: Not our job to fact check!

From Howard Kurtz this morning:
Gregory has hung onto the No. 1 Sunday spot since succeeding the late Tim Russert, averaging 3.5 million viewers this year to just under 3 million for "Face the Nation" on CBS and 2.6 million for ABC's "This Week." The ABC program has been hurt by rotating hosts while waiting for Christiane Amanpour to take over in August. But accepting a challenge from New York University's Jay Rosen, interim host Jake Tapper has arranged for the St. Petersburg Times' PolitiFact site to fact-check what "This Week" guests say after each program.

An "interesting idea," Gregory allows, but not one the NBC show will be emulating. "People can fact-check 'Meet the Press' every week on their own terms."
Not a surprising quote from Gregory, I guess, but gosh, what does NBC pay him and his extensive staff to do, anyway? Why even study up on the issues if you're not going to challenge the guests when they state falsehoods?

Steve Benen has a nice bit on the Gregory quote and why it's so sad.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Staff walkout at Park Slope's Gorilla Coffee

It's not common for seven or eight of the staff at a business with eight staff to walk out because of bad work conditions, let alone in a recession or whatever this is. But that's what happened this weekend at 5th ave's Gorilla Coffee, which did not open its doors Saturday morning (h/t AB).

Here's the NYT coverage.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Dawn Johnsen

The news Friday afternoon that Dawn Johnsen is withdrawing her nomination to head the Office of Legal Counsel would probably have gotten more attention than it did had there not been a lot else going on in the news yesterday and today. It's a big deal.

Glenn Greenwald argues the case that the White House did not expend very much capital trying to get her confirmed, and that while her views coincided with the statements of candidate Obama, President Obama has turned out to embrace much of the Bush Administration's legal views on torture and accountability, and Johnsen would have challenged those positions.

The Juno Effect

The "Juno Effect" was the idea that young women saw glamorous/appealing pregnant teen women like Juno and then were more likely to get pregnant themselves. It was very popular for a while there.

Amy Benfer argues that the stats show that, sure enough, it's not true.

Friday, April 09, 2010

WaPo Serves up Spin on Goodwin Liu Nomination; Little Information in Paper's He-Said-He-Said Account

The Washington Post featured an update Thursday on the battle over confirmation of 9th circuit nominee Goodwin Liu, but provided readers little actual information. The article, "Senate at odds over nominee to appeals court," by Ben Pershing, features a he-said-he-said between Senators Jeff Sessions and Patrick Leahy, but provides little basic reporting about the issues at hand.

Sessions and fellow Republicans are alleging that Liu has not provided enough information, and that's the center of the article. Here's all the Post gives us on the substance of that issue:
On Tuesday, Liu sent 117 items to the committee, a "supplement" to an earlier questionnaire he filled out about his record, including articles he wrote and events in which he participated, but did not include in his original submission.
Readers then get the committee Republicans' soundbite about Liu hiding his "controversial work" from the committee, and then Leahy defending Liu.

Here's what Pershing doesn't tell us:
  • What information is Liu required by law to submit? Is there any evidence that he knowingly failed to submit information that he was obligated to submit?
  • What is the precedent for what information circuit court nominees submit to the committee? Have most past nominees included some kind of information that Liu failed to submit? Overall, does he seem to have been more or less thorough in his information submission than previous nominees?
  • Is it unusual or normal for a nominee to submit additional information after Senators request it?
That's the basic reporting readers need to understand if Sessions' charges have merit or not.

Sure enough, for those who have looked into it a bit, Sessions' charges quickly look pretty questionable. Liu supporter Jonathan Singer has done some work on this, including comparisons to some past nominees, and makes a pretty good case that in fact Liu's submissions have been rather thorough. Richard Painter, who was an Associate White House Counsel in the Bush Administration, also provides a case that Liu's submission have been thorough. Jonas Lerman looked through the 117 documents and shows that "Nothing among the new items is significant or noteworthy—especially compared to the hundreds and hundreds of pages of his writings that Professor Liu disclosed seven weeks ago in his original submission to the Committee."

Look, it would be one thing if the Kalamazoo Gazette didn't have the expertise or resources to explain to readers how the confirmation process works and what information the nominee provides to the committee. But this is the Washington Post. They're supposed to be good at this. Their article Thursday gave me little more information than I could have gotten from checking Sessions' and Leahy's press releases.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

WaPo Shocker: Edit Page Worried About New Military Spending During Tough Economic Times

In May of last year -- after the Obama administration had issued a budget proposing a slight increase in total military spending -- the Washington Post editorial page was not quite satisfied. They worried that Obama had issued a "lean defense budget."

Indeed, the United States spends about 4 percent of GDP on direct military spending -- way up there in the world rankings, though certainly not at the top (Oman! Qatar! Saudi Arabia!).

But now, in a stunning turnaround, Fred Hiatt and Jackson Diehl have had enough. In an editorial Thursday, they make the case that in tough economic times, increased military spending is not a good idea. Three cheers for them!

Oh wait. They're talking about Venezuela, not the United States. Those Venezuelans, with their military expenditure per GDP that is, of course, a fraction of ours. Gosh, imagine if they just got new military bases by our border.

Why that Ethan Bronner front-pager yesterday was stupid

Palestinians being non-violent! the NYT fronted Wednesday, as if breaking a story.

Here's a handy takedown. (link fixed)


Reviews are up for Treme, the new David Simon show set in New Orleans, which begins Sunday on HBO.

Hank Stuever's informed review in the Post is very positive. The Chicago Tribune's Maureen Ryan is a bit more critical of the show, but still finds things to like.

With the Wire, Simon was writing about his own town. Now, he's writing about someone else's town. It's cause for skepticism, but still, I'd give him a better chance of coming close to getting things right than just about anyone else. Plus, Bunk is in the show.

New Orleans fell out of U.S. attention a few years ago, but now it's getting more ink, with the Super Bowl win in January and a new mayor taking office next month (not the guy I would have picked, but he just might do some good things). The fifth anniversary of the storm is in August.

I imagine the increased attention helps tourism, which is good for a city who's economy has long relied heavily on vacationers and convention goers.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Alan Greenspan Voluntarily Joins 70 Percent Right, 30 Percent Wrong Club

Alan Greenspan said today: "I was right 70 percent of the time. But I was wrong 30 percent of the time."

Those numbers sound familiar? Same numbers as the official Chinese position on how right Mao was.

UFPJ Now Has Zero Staff

This is not that surprising, but still. It seemed notable. An email from United For Peace and Justice today says:
Recently, UFPJ overhauled its organizational structure. With the shift of national attention to the economic crisis and the Obama presidency, the peace movement is no longer at the center of national politics as it was during the Bush years. Our movement simply cannot mount 100,000 person demonstrations twice a year as we used to. But we are not going away. We have cut corners and have become, for now, an all-volunteer operation, a network of member groups. We are rebuilding, paying down our debt and moving forward. We are focused on lifting up the campaigns initiated by member groups and by our working groups.
We will continue to strategize, provide resources and analysis, highlight the best work being done by our member groups and issue calls to action with your input. Make no mistake; UFPJ is in it for the long haul.
UFPJ once had nine paid employees and annual revenue of $450,000, according to a CQ article last year.

Fish Sustainability

In which Greenpeace convinces Bittman that it's not just about chosing the right fish to buy, but the right store to buy it at -- a system by where stores can be pressured to do the right thing.

Monday, April 05, 2010


I don't really know that much about McNabb or the Redskins. But in general when I hear of a struggling football team trying to fix things by bringing in a big name quarterback, I'm skeptical that it's the right thing to do.

I've warmed to the idea a bit after reading Post columnist Michael Wilbon.