Saturday, July 31, 2010

Post endorses Fenty

blah blah blah

ADL shows its colors

Yesterday's announcement from ADL provides no insight on the Cordoba Center; it provides insight on ADL.

Organizing For America reaching new heights of sadness

Really disappointing, on so many levels.

They might as well have people salute the dear leader.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dan Choi and Harry Reid

I'm a little behind on this. From Netroots Nation this past weekend, the famed Harry Reid and Dan Choi encounter:

TPM follow-up interview with Choi here.

History time: president to sign Tribal Law and Order Act today

At 4:50pm this afternoon, the president will sign the Tribal Law and Order Act in the East Room. The bill passed the House last week and the Senate in June.

More than one in three Native American and Alaska Native women will be raped in their lifetime, according to federal statistics.

The 2007 Amnesty International report "Maze of Injustice: The Failure to Protect Indigenous Women from Sexual Violence in the USA" (summary) drew attention to the issue. (See NYT, NPR 1 2 3). I'm writing about this because I worked at Amnesty at the time and it's one of the issues I don't let go of.

From Amnesty:

According to US government statistics, Native American and Alaska Native women are more than 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than other women in the USA.


Tribal law enforcement agencies are chronically under-funded – federal and state governments provide significantly fewer resources for law enforcement on tribal land than are provided for comparable non-Native communities. The lack of appropriate training in all police forces -- federal, state and tribal -- also undermines survivors’ right to justice. Many officers don’t have the skills to ensure a full and accurate crime report. Survivors of sexual violence are not guaranteed access to adequate and timely sexual assault forensic examinations which is caused in part by the federal government’s severe under-funding of the Indian Health Service.

The Federal Government has also undermined the authority of tribal governments to respond to crimes committed on tribal land. Women who come forward to report sexual violence are caught in a jurisdictional maze that federal, state and tribal police often cannot quickly sort out. Three justice systems -- tribal, state and federal -- are potentially involved in responding to sexual violence against Indigenous women.
The Tribal Law and Order Act was introduced in the Senate in July 2008. No one is saying this is a perfect or final "fix" -- because it's not. But in terms of the legislative side, this is fairly huge. In Amnesty's words today:
The Tribal Law and Order Act is a groundbreaking piece of legislation that tackles the complex jurisdictional maze that allows violent crime against American Indians to flourish. If properly implemented, it will open the door for the U.S. government to address the erosion of tribal authority. In time it will decrease the high levels of rape and finally provide Native women with effective recourse if they are sexually assaulted. In short, this legislation challenges the long-standing mind-set that Native women are not worthy of protection.
In my book it's one of those days -- and there aren't enough -- when I feel like advocacy and government can work. Government (particularly Senator Dorgan, as well as several others) has responded.

But that's remembering, of course, that this is in the context of government failing on this issue for so long. While this particular bill is relatively new, the issue of sexual assault of Native women is one people, particularly Native women, have been working on for a long time.

Without forgetting that context, it's a day for celebration and hope.

Celebs duped into appearing in oil industry ad

A group of celebrities are appearing in a TV advertisement that appears to be for 'cleanup' of the gulf oil spill, but is actually by a front organization for oil companies. It was reported yesterday by Kevin Grandia on Huffington Post.

The front group is "America's Wetlands Foundation" and the ad is actually for trying to get the federal government -- and not BP -- to pay for restoration.

The celebs in the ad include Lenny Kravitz, John Goodman, Peyton Manning, Emeril Lagassi and Wendell Pierce. Sandra Bullock is in the ad, and today she renounced it.

I'm with Grandia on this:
I don't blame Lively, Bullock, Kravtiz and the rest of them for appearing in the video, on the surface this "be the one" campaign looks harmless enough.

But appearing harmless is the whole point of this campaign and now that it has been exposed as an oil company PR campaign I know they will do the right thing and repudiate their involvement.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Cap and trade and deficits

Nate Silver is going with this argument that a cap and trade policy for greenhouse gases may become somewhat more politically possible in the next few years because the revenues raised by it can help reduce the deficit. And those pols are all about the deficit, and stuff.

But as Brad Plumer rightly responds:
Seems unlikely cap-and-trade will ever pass b/c of deficit reduction. Rs don't care about that.
Well, probably a few. But there's not evidence that many do.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Electricity 0, Dinner 1

The good news is a barbecue requires no electricity. Good dinner was eaten.

(I should probably say that I lifted this photo from Drew. Gracias).

Monday, July 26, 2010

Ruth Marcus on Shirley Sherrod

Ruth Marcus, Washington Post columnist:
I am being unfair, in part, by singling out the blgosphere. The Sherrod story originated there, but the sins of Andrew Breitbart were aided and abetted by bloggers’ co-conspirators on cable news. And, of course, in the Obama administration.
Aha, the culprits are all found! Bloggers, cable news, and the Obama administration!

It's not like Marcus' own esteemed paper played any role in pushing the story as legitimate. No no.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Tree in a house

From after the storms this afternoon, this photo was taken by a friend who lives about a mile away in upper NW DC. Not her house.


barista (noun) -- one who takes the bar exam

Good luck this week, you folks.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Washington Post Fronts Facebook Article for 17th Time

I got nervous earlier this week when Facebook started getting lots of free press by announcing that they had passed 500 million users (there was even pre-hype! months ago!). Then I was excited for the Washington Post because the milestone passed and there was no front-page article, just a few mentions online and a brief in print.

Little did I realize that being a few days late on the peg won't stop the Post. Today we got the A1 "Status symbol: Look at Facebook now" (sub-head: All the kids are doing it. Just about everyone is, in fact. But is it really an antisocial network?"). We should have seen this coming.

The article is the Post's 17th front-pager on Facebook.

The story, by the Style section's Monica Hesse, is about... I don't know. How Facebook has evolved in American culture and perhaps weakened our real friendships? See what you think.

I thought it did have a few enjoyable notes, such as:
Is this site enriching our relationships, or is it making us too lazy to check in with people in person anymore? Have we sustained ourselves on a friend diet of bread crumbs for so long that we no longer want sandwiches?
Certainly a good question -- but it's one people have been exploring for years now.

And that's the problem with the article. It looks at issues that deserve exploration, but just doesn't add that much new. It doesn't belong on the front page.

Here's the updated list of the Post's front pagers on Facebook:
Sept 2006, Oct 2006, Feb 2007, Nov 2007, March 2008, April 2008, May 2008, June 2008, July 2008, Sept 2008, March 2009, April 2009, Aug 2009, Aug 2009, Oct 2009, May 2010, July 2010.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

As climate bills dies (for real), Romm officially sours on Obama

Ouch: "The failed presidency of Barack Obama, Part 1"

That's just up from Joe Romm, one of the most-read climate bloggers. Romm had long been something of an optimist, at times a cheerleader for the administration, saying that Obama really gets it on climate (while criticizing Rahm). But now Romm's got little positive to say for Obama.
I’m quite sure it is going to be a great puzzle to future historians in the hothouse, who will not at all be interested in the story of healthcare reform or financial services reform or the deficit or the war in Afghanistan or all those other issues that Obama and his team think will determine his legacy.
Is that how it will be? The answer shouldn't matter, but I'm curious about it. I feel moderately confident that by a few decades from now, history will start looking not-too-positively on American (and world) leaders on climate inaction. But will it come to be their defining legacy? Who knows. Also, to what extent will a "we all failed" excuse work? I mean, to this day, there are some reporters who not only say "we all failed" when it came to Iraq and weapons, but likely actually believe it.

Anyhow, I'm interested in what the big environmental groups will do now. Not only do we not have a climate bill, but we will soon likely see a further demoralized grassroots and frustrated funder base. Will some of the bigger groups move to more radical strategies? What would that look like?

This can't end well

The good news is that while the boat was heavily damaged, the whale swam away okay. Photo series here.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Copy editing

Lori Fradkin, at The Awl, writes the witty "What It's Really Like To Be A Copy Editor."
Also, people will want to talk to you—outside of work—about grammar. Aside from the guy who called me “awkward, in a cute way,” I think the worst line I’ve heard was from the dude who asked my thoughts on the serial comma.
Hey, hey, what's wrong with asking people their opinion on the serial comma? I mean I'm not saying I've ever done it.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

WaPo's Front Pager on Metro "Seat Hogs" Short on Actual News

I had high hopes for an interesting article when I saw "As 'seat hogs' take up space on Metro, civility is pushed aside" on the front page of Monday's Washington Post. By the time I had finished, I had learned nearly nothing new, and just wondered why this got precious front-page real estate.

The matter of people taking up multiple seats on the Metro seems like an issue important enough for some reporting, perhaps even if there isn't a peg. Is there any evidence the problem is getting worse? What, if anything, is Metro doing about it? Have there been any physical confrontations over it? Is it worse on one line than another?

The article, by Metro beat writer Ann Scott Tyson, didn't help much with most of these questions.

The piece gives an anecdote and then tries to make a case for itself in paragraph 4:
As Washington's public transit network grows more congested, with Metro projecting "unmanageable" levels of saturation on its rail system by 2020, the phenomenon of people taking up more than their share of space is becoming increasingly touchy.
Increasingly touchy! (how do we know this?). But the issue of growing peak ridership does sound relevant. More on that later.

The article soon tells us about, a site that is fairly NYC-focused.

Then comes the obligatory quote from an expert, which is set up like this:
Industry experts are hard-pressed to explain the psychology of people who are greedy with space -- blocking off seats, standing in doorways or obstructing aisles.
But we're going to hear from an expert anyway! Ugh.
"It puzzles me," said Norman Rhodes, senior vice president of transportation for the New York consulting firm Hatch Mott MacDonald. "I suppose people don't want to give up their private space."
I mean, really, stop the presses.

Next we get the comparison-with-another-city:
In New York, subway authorities have banned selfishness with seats. A rider who occupies more than one seat, places a foot on a seat, lies on the floor or blocks movement on a train risks being cited for "disorderly conduct" and charged a $50 fine.

"The police . . . enforce it," said Deirdre Parker, spokeswoman for New York City Transit.

Oh do they? We don't find out any enforcement numbers, just a claim. We don't find out if the reporter asked for the numbers and wasn't given them, or why they weren't findable. Either way, we're given an assertion that deserves some very, very basic journalistic skepticism, but doesn't get it.

And wait, the person claiming that the police enforce it... isn't even with the police! She's with NYC Transit, which is part of the MTA. The New York City Transit Police are part of NYPD. We don't even have the NYPD on the record here at all.

The article soon gets back to an earlier idea, that this is all important today because ridership is going to go up in the future:
By 2020, Metro projects that the Red, Blue and Yellow lines will be "highly congested," with 100 to 120 people per car, and that the Orange Line will be "unmanageable," with more than 120 riders per car.
That does sound important and relevant. But then there's this:
Anecdotal evidence suggests that during the morning and afternoon crushes, only the most brazen will attempt to monopolize space on subway cars. Instead, seat hogs tend to inhabit the fringes of rush hour, victimizing less-assertive commuters, Metro riders say.
I think this is correct. Problem is, that makes the whole rush-hour-ridership-is-going-up argument go to irrelevance for this article. Peak hour overcrowding on the orange line is a problem now, and it looks to be a huge problem on the orange/silver in the future, but it's a separate issue from seat hogs.

The article ends with real stories of seat hogs and people who stood because of them. But no real news.

Look, transit stories certainly belong on page one sometimes, even clever ones that aren't hard news developments. But they ought to be real good and give the reader something original.

Think, for example, of spunky pieces the NYTimes has fronted. There was the article on Metro North trains departing one minute late. Or the extensive investigation of Mayor Bloomberg's subway commute. Jim Dwyer's 2009 piece on how the new 2/4/5 trains make the sound from West Side Story's "Somewhere" was perhaps a bit of a stretch for A1, considering the Times had reported on it seven years earlier, but it was a beautiful column, not pretending to have more news than it did, and it even had a quote from Leonard Bernstein's son.

The Post's article Monday added very little new. As it ended up, it certainly did not belong on page one.

Update: Thank you GGW for the link.

Pentagon to Gitmo journos: write a letter saying WHY you're sorry

The Pentagon's press office is even more insecure with the world than I had realized.

The other month they kicked out four reporters from covering proceedings at Gitmo, for basically bullshit reasons (printing the name of a former interrogator who had once testified anonymously, though he had also identified himself publicly).

Anyway the NYT is just up with a new piece on the issue, and there's a funny wrinkle:
The Pentagon has lifted the ban for Ms. Rosenberg, Ms. Shephard and Mr. Edwards. But as a condition of their return, they were required by Mr. Whitman to write letters saying they understood why they were banned. Mr. Koring refused and remains unable to return to Guantánamo.
Memo to DOD: as you surely know, these are some of the top reporters covering you. Not 2nd graders. Please.

Monday, July 19, 2010

"One Nation" Coalition

One-hundred seventy or so progressive organizations and groups have been working for months to form a new coalition that will bring together and mobilize people and causes on the left (hey, stop yawning).

Ok, I'm probably getting the messaging wrong, but it's something like that. It's called One Nation. (And it's Google-ranking needs some help, stat).

The group was previewed in a Washington Post article earlier this month that gives a basic explanation. There's not that much else out there on it, except for apparently in some corners of the conservative blogosphere, where One Nation is considered a big conspiracy or something.

There's not much on the group's website beyond promoting the march -- that's October 2, in DC. The march is "to create millions of good jobs, repair our immigration system, and reform Wall Street!"

Those sound like good things to me. Let's hope the sects don't co-opt.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Professional writing, or editing, or something

"By now, everyone no doubt realizes that I am not a fan of the pace at which the federal government has worked to contain the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico."
Is this from a celebrity blog? Perhaps from the 6th grade newspaper? Or maybe from the un-moderated comments section somewhere?

No, it's the lede of an op-ed printed in the Washington Post on Saturday, by Bobby Jindal.

Apples to Apples

There's a Jewish Edition? And a Bible Edition? Has anyone tried these?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Obligatory earthquake post

Alas, I slept right through it.

See DCist: The Earthquake and Why It's Not That Big of a Deal, Really.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Alan Suderman, the City Paper's new politics writer, starts off with a gutsy piece, fairly calling it a "beat poisoner." The article looks at Mayor Fenty's surprisingly dysfunctional press shop.

What does this mean?!

If you haven't yet seen Double Rainbow, watch it now.

Know Your Meme has this video explaining the history a bit and exploring the spin-offs.

The original video went up back in January, but sat largely dormant. Apparently it started getting hot in the last week or two after Jimmy Kimmel tweeted it on July 3rd.

On GMA a few days ago, Paul Vasquez, the video's creator, alleged: "I mean, there's some other videos on my YouTube page where I was a little high, but not that one."

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What if political scientists covered the news?

Christopher Beam writes an article as it should be written, removing the bullshit.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Trying too hard to be cutting edge

One NYT Magazine, two similar headlines.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Verdict in Oscar Grant BART shooting case

ColorLines has had comprehensive coverage of the trial. Here's their chart explaining what the different verdict possibilities were and their meanings.

LAT provides a good summary of the basic issues of the case. SF Chronicle is updating their story on what's happening on the streets of Oakland this evening here and also here. The Chronicle is up with their editorial, saying it's the right verdict, though they also come across as a hint conflicted (is their understanding of voluntary manslaughter even correct? I'm confused). NYTimes currently has a bad headline: "Officer Guilty in Killing That Inflamed Oakland." Yes, all true, but incredibly misleading -- the news here is that the jury picked only involuntary manslaughter.

I followed the news of the shooting back in the days after it happened, but haven't been following the trial. My basic feeling is that it's awfully hard to imagine either of the scenarios -- that the officer meant to fire his Taser and not his gun, or that he knowingly shot Oscar Grant with his gun. Each scenario has a number of reasons that make it highly unlikely.

From a legal sense, it's possible that today's verdict was correct, based on what could be known, beyond a reasonable doubt, about what was going on in the officer's head. I don't know. On the other side, you have the good point made by commenter Michael Blev at ColorLines. A black police officer would likely have been laughed out of court if he used the defense that Mehserle did.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Romney and START

Washington Post op-ed page prints Mitt Romney having no idea what he's talking about. Fred Kaplan explains.

Of course, the idea of op-ed pages is that while they have a wide range of opinions, the editors are supposed to catch a certain level of bullshit and factual sloppiness. This is why, for example, the NYT was lambasted when it printed an op-ed in 2003 claiming Hussein was not responsible for gassing the Kurds in Halabja.

The op-ed page is supposed to deliver a certain quality -- something to make it different from an un-moderated comments thread. If it doesn't do that, what's the point?

Update, How Fred Hiatt Thinks Edition: Rather than correct a factual error, let's just publish an op-ed that offers the other point of view! That fixes the problem..

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

The Economist caught photoshopping cover image

But they say it's no big deal. Of course not.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

NYT Alleges "Widespread Public Anger at Deficits"

I wasn't going to blog during the holiday weekend, but then this morning the New York Times nearly outdid the Post in cooking up a supposed public outrage about the deficit (h/t Dad). In a page-three White House Memo by Jackie Calmes ("Spend or Scrimp? Economic and Political Teams Debate") the paper asserts:
While President Bill Clinton’s political advisers favored more spending and tax cuts coming out of the recession of the early 1990s and his economic team pushed to start reducing deficits, in President Obama’s circle the opposite is true. Political advisers are channeling the widespread public anger at deficits while the economic team argues that the government should further spur the economy to avert another recession.
Widespread public anger! Yikes! Where exactly are these angry people?

There's another article inside today's Times, with the online headline "Budget Deficit and Wars’ Cost Draw Fire on the Home Front" -- and I thought maybe that would have some evidence of public concern about the deficit. Nope.

What about the polling? The polls haven't directly asked the question "How angry are you about the deficit?" Fifty-three percent of the public doesn't approve of the way Obama is handling the deficit, according to the Times' poll from April. What portion of the public is particularly concerned -- let alone angry -- about the deficit, though, wasn't measured.

A question many of the polls have asked is basically "what's your top concern?" And on that front, not many people go for deficit. I examined those polls in my post the other week; the portion of people who thought deficit was most important goes anywhere from 5% to 23%, depending on which poll you go with. Jobs and the economy in general are much higher priorities for the public.

True, these polls alone don't prove that there isn't widespread public anger about the deficit; it's possible that the public is extremely outraged about jobs, and also pretty outraged about the deficit, and deficit just usually isn't quite the #1 concern for most people. It's possible, yes, but until there's evidence of that, I'm rather skeptical.

I tend to think the reality is rather different: that despite months of deficit hyping by Peter Peterson, many Republicans, some Democrats, and some of the commentariat, there's little evidence that much of the public buys it.

Anyhow, the other worrying thing about the Times article is that the premise -- that there's a debate in the administration over jobs and deficit matters, and that some in the White House are very concerned about the public's supposed worries on the deficit -- may well be completely true. Calmes gets this quote:
Mr. Axelrod, in an interview, said he often argues for emphasizing deficit reduction in part because “it’s my job to report what the public mood is.” He added, “I’ve made the point that as a matter of policy and a matter of politics that we need to focus on this, and the president certainly agrees with that.”
The good advisor may be busy watching cable news, or reading the Washington Post, or talking to certain villagers. Or maybe he doesn't really believe what he said, but thought it was good politics to say it. Either way, not good. Leave advancing the "public freaked about the deficit" storyline to the pundits, please.

Previously: Post Softens Language on Deficit; Meanwhile, AP Serves up a Whopper of its Own (6/27), Washington Post Alternate Reality: Public More Concerned About Deficit Than Jobs or Economy Overall (6/19).

Updates: Thanks for links from Digby, Peter Hart at FAIR Blog and Holly Yeager at CJR, who argues that it's good that the Times explored Orszag's position and why he may have left his job. See also commentary on Peter Peterson's recent "American Speaks" events by Andrew Gelman and CEPR.

Friday, July 02, 2010


WaPo ombud Andy Alexander did a column the other week about how it is hard to contact the Post (hard to find the appropriate contact info on the website, hard to get through the menu choices if you call the main number). Well apparently there was a technical glitch (a link within the website that was supposed to go to an Ignatius column instead led to Alexander's column), and people wanted to notify the website staff about it, but... you see where this is going. Alexander has the story here.