Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Post edit page and Fenty

The Washington Post editorial page, usually an ally of Mayor Fenty, used surprisingly strong language against him Wednesday:
MAYOR ADRIAN M. Fenty (D) must think that D.C. residents are so dimwitted that they will buy any excuse for his not showing up to debate D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) on education. Or maybe he just doesn't care. Either way, his latest misstep is another troubling example of the haughty approach to governing that is, in large measure, why Mr. Fenty finds himself in political peril.


If this were an isolated incident, it would be forgotten quickly as just that -- one small incident. But it seems to fit into a pattern of inconsiderate actions.
Ultimately, when it comes to an endorsement, the most conventional outcome, despite editorials like this, would certainly be for them to endorse Fenty. I make no predictions.

But here's how I think endorsements usually work: if the endorsement is conventional, expected, then it's not news when it happens, and not that many people care. It's the unexpected endorsements that the pundits (rightly) make into news. Think the Post and Creigh Deeds in the primary, or the Des Moines Register's 2004 endorsement of Edwards.

Fenty gains little if the Post ultimately endorses him; Gray potentially gains a lot if he gets the nod.

How many homeless youth in the U.S. are LGBT?

I always see different estimates, and never know what's what.

The question came up last week with news that a new plan from the Administration on reducing homelessness has sections specifically on homeless LGBT youth.

That Washington Blade article points to a January 2007 joint study by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Coalition for the Homeless. That study surveyed the existing research and concluded that of an estimated 1.6 million homeless American youth, approximately 20-40 percent identify as LGBT.

Of course, research on homelessness is presumably hard to do; perhaps we shouldn't be expecting too exact a number.

Impersonating a police officer

I always assumed that impersonating a police officer was probably a fairly serious crime. Perhaps it is. But it's also apparently effectively legal in many states in some situations. In Mother Jones' reporting on BP's hiring of off-duty police officers for private security work, Mac McClelland reports:
Louisiana police don't have any right to tell you you can't walk onto a public beach (even to, as Esman puts it, "roll around in sticky gunky tar that I'll never be able to get off—if I want to, that's my right"). However, they do have the right to mislead you about who they're really working for. In Louisiana, as in many places, it's legal for police officers to wear their uniforms regardless of whether they're acting in an official capacity or working for a private corporation. Which is why Andrew Wheelan, the environmentalist mentioned above, was unaware that the cop who pressured him to stop filming a BP building and later pulled him over so that a BP official could question him wasn't on duty at the time.

On Democratic fecklessness

David Roberts has a good post on the latest in Democratic fecklessness and general political incompetency on climate.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Greenpeace announces next target in seafood sustainability campaign: Costco

Here's their Costco campaign page.

Greenpeace had previously campaigned on Trader Joe's, which then improved its fish buying policies. Here's their latest scorecard on the different chains, from April.

Monday, June 28, 2010

HuffPost: SEX!!

The Huffington Post has a photo album up with images from this weekend's "Hands Across the Sand" events around the country (and world), which were a demonstration against offshore drilling. The photo album has both wire service photos and user-submitted ones.

Some of them were really impressive, like Miami:

Others just made good photos:

But which did HuffPost use to promote the photo album? Here's a screenshot from HuffPost's 'Green' (environmental) page right now:

Bikinis! Yes, they found one of the few photos with bikinis. Apparently we couldn't have been trusted to click on the photo album otherwise.

Chicago as seen in thunderstorm

Lots of amazing photos (and video) of the storms in Chicago last week, via Chicagoist.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Post Softens Language on Deficit; Meanwhile, AP Serves up a Whopper of its Own

On Friday, the Post's Lori Montgomery used improved language regarding the public's view of the deficit:
Since then, concern about the deficit has risen dramatically among lawmakers in both parties, many of whom will face voters in this fall's midterm elections.
It's all factually true, but the insinuation -- that voters will punish lawmakers over deficit issues -- is questionable. Here's the situation: there are voters who care about the deficit. But aren't these folks likely to be firm Republican voters anyway? We need more polling on this matter. For now, the notion that swing voters in key senate races are also the folks who care about the deficit more than about jobs is something that there's no particular reason to believe until it is numerically demonstrated.

Meanwhile, in an article Thursday about the jobs bill (h/t reader Daniel DeVoto), Associated Press writer Andrew Taylor says:
The bill had long been considered a must-pass measure, but the political sands had shifted since it was first passed in March. That vote came in the wake of a political scalding for Republicans after Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., blocked a short-term extension of jobless aid.

In the interim, however, the debt crisis in Europe and growing anxiety on deficits and debt among voters turned Republicans against the legislation, even though it was cut considerably.
It's hard to do a comparison of the polling from then (mid March) to now; many of the polls did not ask the exact same questions then. Public concern about the deficit may well have gone up a few ticks (thanks in no small report to reporting like this), but remains small. To suggest that public concern about the deficit is some kind of major trend -- and one with political implications -- is questionable at best.

Post fronts feature on speed cameras. (How dare DC enforce the law!)

The Post fronted "Drivers disgusted by 'reward' for slogging along N.Y. Ave.: A speed camera" on Saturday, about how, gasp, DC is enforcing the law with a speed camera. The catch, if it could be called that, is that the camera is just east of Bladensburg Road on New York Ave -- when drivers start to speed up because they are past the traffic lights, and starting to think in highway mode.

Look, there may indeed be a problem here. Maybe the speed limit should be higher in that stretch. I don't know. Perhaps people should lobby for that if they're not happy with the status quo.

But in the meantime, the article is just a showcase for people complaining about DC enforcing... existing law. The article explains that, but that's the case right there for the article's irrelevance. It's not the first time the Post has printed an article of people complaining about traffic law being enforced.

It's a step back for roads reporter Ashley Halsey. Halsey has generally been quite good since he started the beat, though not without some issues.

There's a fair debate out there about the effectiveness of speed cameras. As much as I'd like to think they're an obvious fix, the research is not so solid. That's the real issue here.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Hezbollah on our southern border!


It never ceases to amaze me what things some republican house members will sign on to.

Before TPM and the Daily Show and others flagged these things, what did we not hear about?!

Still no wireless internet on most Amtrak trains

I say "still" because many busses, such as Bolt and Megabus, had wireless starting a few years ago (not totally reliable, but not bad). Amtrak has been slow. Wireless was tested on Acela trains starting a while ago, but Amtrak didn't have it going for real on all Acela trains until March 1 of this year.

As for other Amtrak trains? They say: "Amtrak is evaluating opportunities to implement Wi-Fi on other trains, but has no firm plans to do so in the near future."

Thursday, June 24, 2010

World Cup spirit

Oh my. The small mammal house at the National Zoo has gotten in on the excitement. See this video (turn on the sound).

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Israel's flotilla commission

Amnesty International on Israel's commission of inquiry on the flotilla attack -- how it works and why exactly it's insufficient.

Schumer championed "fighting unions"

Oh I missed this from the other week. Schumer on Blanche Lincoln victory:
Sen. Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) held up two fists and said of her primary campaign: "Fighting Wall Street with one hand, unions with the other."
There was a time -- not all that along ago, I believe -- when a very high ranking Democratic legislator (from the Northeast no less) would not openly make such a blanket attack on organized labor.

(From Dana Milbank, via Michael Whitney).

Monday, June 21, 2010

NYT gets it a bit off on Salazar history

Monday's NYT article about Ken Salazar has this:
Mr. Salazar is a core member of what some environmentalists called a “green dream team” of environmental advisers appointed by Mr. Obama shortly after his inauguration. Others include Steven Chu, the energy secretary; Lisa P. Jackson, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator; and Carol M. Browner, a White House adviser.
Actually, the term "green dream team" was from before Salazar was announced. It was coined by Gene Karpinski of the League of Conservation Voters on 12/11/08, after several appointments had been announced (Jackson, Chu, Sutley, Browner). It was printed the next day in the Washington Post and USA Today.

Salazar's planned appointment was confirmed by the White House later, on 12/15/08.

On 12/17/08 the NYT printed a good article, "Environmentalists Wary of Obama’s Interior Pick.

In other words, the history was this: the administration named most of the names, got the good quotes in the press from the enviros, and then a few days later announced Salazar. The enviros, in fact, knew immediately Salazar was not going to be great.

The BP oil spill may have been a wake-up call to some people re Ken Salazar, but to the environmental world, Salazar being not so great for the environment is old news.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Attacks on census workers

The Post has a useful piece today looking at the attacks so far on census workers.

Media Matters has done some chronicling of right wing media threats against census workers, including from CNN contributor Erick Erickson.

Vuvuzela guy in NYC

(Featuring the R train!)

"Vuvuzela Guy Cheers for Everything"

Plus: how to filter out vuvuzelas using an EQ.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The gays in Iraq

At Foreign Policy, Zach Strassburger and Taylor Asen write about The gay Iraqi crisis, giving recommendations for what State can do to improve its asylum policies.

Washington Post Alternate Reality: Public More Concerned About Deficit Than Jobs or Economy Overall

A stunning front-page article in Saturday's Washington Post moves the paper firmly into conservatives' dream universe on deficit policy. "Stimulus plans run up against deficit fears" by Lori Montgomery serves up this whopper:
If Congress doesn't provide additional stimulus spending, economists inside and outside the administration warn that the nation risks a prolonged period of high unemployment or, more frightening, a descent back into recession. But a competing threat -- the exploding federal budget deficit -- seems to be resonating more powerfully in Congress and among voters.
There you have it: the budget deficit is an issue that's resonating more with voters than the issues of high unemployment or the possibility of further economic downturn generally. It's a trendy right-wing meme of the last few months, but here it is in the news pages of the Washington Post.

But is this notion supported by what the polling actually says? No. Not even close.

A Pew Research / National Journal poll from early June asked "Which of the following national economic issues worries you most?" Number one was "job situation" with 41%. "Federal budget deficit" got 23%.

An NBC / Wall Street Journal poll from early May asked "Please tell me which one of these items you think should be the top priority for the federal government." Sure enough, "job creation and economic growth" won with 35%. "The deficit and government spending" got 20%.

A Fox News poll also in early May got even more dramatic results. "Economy and jobs" topped the priority list with 47%, while "deficit, spending" garnered only 15%.

A CBS / NYT poll in early April found 27% prioritizing "jobs", 27% the "economy" and 5% prioritizing "budget deficit/national debt."

The only recent poll that gives the slightest hint of support for the Post's thesis is the USA Today / Gallup poll from late May (not even their newest). Participants were asked "How serious a threat to the future well-being of the United States do you consider each of the following." For "federal government debt", 40% said extremely serious, 39% very serious, and 15% somewhat serious. For "unemployment", 33% said extremely serious, 50% said very serious, and 15% said somewhat serious. If you use only the "extremely serious" numbers, you get 7% more for the debt. Greg Marx at CJR makes the case that this poll, nevermind its headline, should not be read as some sort of overwhelming evidence of a shifted public view.

And in fact a newer Gallup poll, from a week ago, asking "What do you think is the most important problem facing the country today?" finds the economy and jobs on top. "Economy in general" gets 28%, "Unemployment/Jobs" gets 21%, and "Federal budget deficit" gets 7%.

The Washington Post's own polls have not asked a question that directly addresses the matter.

If the Post -- and one of its reporters most focused on deficit issues -- really thinks the public cares more about the deficit than about the jobs and the state of the economy generally, this is worrying news.

Update: follow-up and analysis on this from Atrios, Digby, Andrew Gelman, Annie Lowrey, Dean Baker, Ezra Klein and FiveThirtyEight. Thanks for the links!
Update 6/22: NYT has a new poll in today's paper. Economy gets 20%, jobs gets 20%, and budget deficit gets 5%.
Update 6/23: Jon Cohen from the Post argues that the paragraph in question means to be saying that the deficit resonating "more powerfully" means, essentially, increasingly powerfully. In other words, that the sentence is about a trend over time, not a comparison of the public's concerns over the debt with the public's concerns about jobs/economy.
Look, I can't divine what is going on in anyone's heads. What I can say is I just can't imagine very many readers reading the paragraph that way. If that's what they actually meant, there are a million ways they could have written the sentence to say so. Read the paragraph over a few times, and the surrounding paragraphs too, and see what you think.
Update 6/24: FAIR: Inventing a Nation of Deficit Hawks; WaPo, NYT misread polls on public and spending
Update 6/28: My follow-up, Post Softens Language on Deficit; Meanwhile, AP Serves up a Whopper of its Own

Friday, June 18, 2010

Whole Foods in Friendship Heights Discontinues $7.99 Prepared Foods Box

Turns out Whole Foods was just trying to suck us in.

The touted unlimited-prepared-foods-box-for-$7.99 at the new Friendship Heights / Chevy Chase location is in fact coming to an end:


Saturday, June 12, 2010

World Cup time means evictions

World Cup, Olympics, take your pick -- these events tend to mean large scale evictions of poor people from their homes. The Washington Post checks in on the situation in Cape Town.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Whale Wars time

It's that time. The third season starts this Friday night.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

NYT Confident in Rwandan Government Assertion that Peter Erlinder Attempted Suicide. Why?

A few hours ago the NYT went up with "Rwanda Says Jailed American Tried to Kill Himself" by Jeffrey Gettleman and Josh Kron. It begins:
The American lawyer jailed by the authorities in Rwanda last week on accusations of denying the nation’s genocide tried to kill himself with a pill overdose in his cell, officials there said Wednesday, and he now may face a new charge under Rwandan law: attempted suicide.
The AP presents a somewhat more cautious lede in "Police: US lawyer held in Rwanda attempts suicide" by Steve Karnowski and Edmund Kagire:
A U.S. law professor jailed in Rwanda and charged with denying the country's genocide tried to commit suicide by swallowing dozens of pills in his prison cell, Rwandan officials said Wednesday, but his daughter said his family doesn't believe the claim.
An earlier version of the AP story had put it differently, putting the "Rwandan police say" up front, though at that point they didn't yet have the questioning statement from family:
Rwandan police say an American lawyer jailed on charges of denying Rwanda's 1994 genocide has tried to commit suicide.
The NYT lede strikes me as particularly aggressive and confident, given the source. Sure, the NYT won't get in trouble per se if this turns out to be wrong, as they're not quite saying it in their own words, instead attributing it to Rwandan officials.

But when you start your lede out with such a strong statement, followed by "officials said", you are giving the claim a huge statement of credibility. This is how news works. This is the kind of fairly definitive language you use when you have reason to believe what you're being told is in fact true, and that's why, after all, you're sticking it in front of the readers.

It will be interesting to see if the Times sticks with such strong language for the print edition, and if we find out they did or didn't have any corroborating information to give this assertion credibility.

Update: Colored Opinions weighs in with skepticism of the AP's Edmund Kagire.
Update 2: Team Erlinder in Rwanda says it's not true. Obviously this is no proof, but it's worth reporting.
Update 3: Surprise, NYT did not change the lede for the print edition.

Politico does something right

Politico, which suffered an exodus of reporters in recent months, has a coup today in hiring Darren Samuelsohn, currently of E&E, to cover energy.

Part of what makes many Politico articles bad is that most of the reporters are not experts in their topics, if they even have a topic. Rather, they cover 'politics'. This is a problem.

Politico previously hired Laura Rozen, an actual foreign policy expert, to cover foreign policy. And now there's Samuelsohn, who has covered energy/environment in DC for a long time. He knows what he's talking about, and that's good.

Bush appointed oil industry guy to oil investigation panel

Oh actually I lied, it was Obama who appointed William Reilly, of the ConocoPhillips board of directors, to be co-chair of his new commission. Kate Sheppard has a look this morning at the conflict of interest.
... couldn't Obama, who just yesterday criticized the "far too cozy" relationship oil companies have enjoyed with the government, find a Republican who didn't have ties to the industry for this key post?
The other week Marcy Wheeler did a comparison of Obama's commission to what Ed Markey and Lois Capps proposed, arguing that Obama's commission is designed to limit the scope of the review.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010


Here's FAIR on the initial coverage from NYT, WaPo and a few others.