Tuesday, June 28, 2011

WashPost does something right -- hires Erik Wemple

The Post rightly got some bad press the last couple weeks for not printing Jose Antonio Vargas, which the NYT magazine ran with. The Post's reasoning against running it was unimpressive.

But whoa, in other news, the Post has a new blog on the press by Erik Wemple. As in, former editor of the City Paper, and then TBD.com, briefly. Among Wemple's past accomplishments: being a terrific critic of the Washington Post.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Post worried by Obama promoting clean tech companies

The Washington Post had an awkward front-pager over the weekend trying to make a case that Obama is visiting too many clean-tech companies -- that there's something unseemly about it all
("Obama’s focus on visiting clean-tech companies raises questions"). Frankly the piece is overwhelmingly stupid. Here's the reply from Joe Romm.


Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings. Richmond, VA. June 24.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

NYT Makes Stuff Up on Medical Malpractice

William Glaberson's front-pager in Monday's NYTimes ("To Curb Malpractice Costs, Judges Jump In Early") has quite a stunner:
The approach, known as judge-directed negotiation, is seen by the Obama administration as offering states a way to curb liability expenses that have sharply increased health care costs nationally.
To understand why this is factually incorrect, you might look to... The New York Times! Here's David Leonhardt, writing in 2009:
The direct costs of malpractice lawsuits — jury awards, settlements and the like — are such a minuscule part of health spending that they barely merit discussion, economists say.
All told, jury awards, settlements and administrative costs — which, by definition, are similar to the combined cost of insurance — add up to less than $10 billion a year. This equals less than one-half of a percentage point of medical spending. There have been years when malpractice payouts rose sharply, but there have also been years when they did not. Over the last two decades, the amount has increased roughly in line with total medical spending, according to a study in the journal Health Affairs, based on a national database.
It's one thing for Glaberson, who covers courts, and not health policy, to make such a mistake. It's entirely another for the top editors vetting page 1 stories to let such an error through.

(For more, see USAToday's 2003 epic, "Hype outraces facts in malpractice debate").

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Joe Nocera Having More Trouble With His Facts

New NYT op-ed columnist Joe Nocera is off to a rocky start. In April, in his second column about hydraulic fracturing, a process used to mine natural gas, he wrote:
The truth is, every problem associated with drilling for natural gas is solvable. The technology exists to prevent most methane from escaping, for instance. Strong state regulation will help ensure environmentally safe wells.
This was industry talking points regurgitated, not careful examination of state regulators in Texas, Colorado and Pennsylvania. Or if he did any examination of the state regulation of hydrofracking there, he completely misunderstood the situation (see ProPublica's "State Oil and Gas Regulators Are Spread Too Thin to Do Their Jobs" -- and also "Many PA Gas Wells Go Unreported for Months" and "Leaked Memo Depicts Bare-Bones Regulatory Environment for NY Gas Drilling.")

In today's column, Nocera has a new problem. The piece calls for Obama to appoint Elizabeth Warren, even if the GOP will block her, because it will be good politics. Great, I agree -- except thing is people were writing this weeks ago (months ago, in fact). And then there was this:
The last time Warren appeared before the committee, on May 24, she was mauled by the Republicans in a brutal hearing during which a North Carolina freshman named Patrick McHenry twice accused her of lying, while conducting a Perry Mason-style interrogation (“Yes or no, Ms. Warren”) that was at once ludicrous and shameful.
McHenry does look young; the first time I saw him I was surprised he was the necessary 25 years to be in the House. But in fact he is not a freshman; he's been in the House since 2005. (For more fun, read up on Patrick McHenry from Alex Pareene'e article. Pardon the blatant SEO work.)

NYT columnists aren't supposed to make such blatant errors.

Update: the Times corrected the error on June 13.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Two convicted in Chauncey Bailey murder

When Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey was murdered in 2007, he was the "first American journalist killed on U.S. soil for reporting a story in more than a decade" (AP). On Thursday, two men were convicted in the murder (SF Chronicle, LAT).

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Metro to change construction schedule and single tracking

This is big, and will have an effect -- for the better or worse -- for the next year and a half, they're saying. They will be doing less weekend single-tracking, and instead just closing more stations outright and providing shuttle busses. See the Post.

Really big development for DC. I hope they know what the heck they're doing. That's sometimes a big hope with Metro. But I'd like to be optimistic on this.

The single tracking has been a mess ever since the crash in 2009. After that, all trains ran on manual, rather than automatic, and train spacing has been a mess ever since. This becomes a particularly wild problem with weekend single-tracking.

Of course, if this new system works better, the question will become, why didn't they do it earlier.


Detroit's suburbs

Kaid Benfield of NRDC argues that in all the talk about Detroit's future, the expansion of its suburbs is getting ignored. Says the population of the entire metro area has stayed about the same -- the suburbs have grown over the last decade. Yet this gets left out of so much of the discussion of the future of Detroit. The suburbs themselves need to be right-sized -- or at least stopped. I mean, ideally.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Yo NYT, get your districts straight

From the beginning of Jennifer Steinhauer's article in today's food section about members of congress having local treats in their office reception areas:

THE majority of people who come through Representative Jason Altmire’s office are not in search of a cookie.

But before they settle in for their meeting on hazardous materials transport, federal grants or other matters of import to the people of the Fourth District of Pennsylvania, Representative Altmire’s constituency, they are treated to a sugar cookie decorated with a frosted smiley face, made by Eat’n Park, a chain based in Homestead, Pa., in the Democrat’s district.

I haven't had one of those cookies in years! (now I know I just have to stop in next time I'm in Cannon).

But anyway, isn't Altmire's district out in the burbs somewhere? Yes.

Homestead is in Mike Doyle's district.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Factcheck.org Partially Defends Sarah Palin on Paul Revere Story

Here's the lede from Brooks Jackson, director of Factcheck.org, on the Palin / Paul Revere story:
Sarah Palin's much-ridiculed story of Paul Revere isn't entirely wrong, but it's badly twisted.

Had someone been claiming that every word Palin said had zero relation to the actual history? I haven't seen it. I'm seeing a straw man. I'm seeing a Factcheck.org setup that's desperately trying to find some middle ground, when there's not really much middle ground at all in the Palin / Paul Revere thing.

The point is not, and has never been, whether every single word Palin said was incorrect, or just most of them. That's an absurd standard. Heck, she got Paul Revere's name right, for example. By Factcheck's setup here, that ought to give her points! Perhaps the critics have gone too far by not giving her credit for that!

The Factcheck piece, after the lede, mostly lays out things fairly clearly. But in trying to come up with something Palin did right, Jackson again stumbles:
It's also true that Revere spoke to British officers — though that was by no means his intent. He was seized by a British patrol before he got to Concord. Revere, under questioning, told British officers that 500 Americans were coming to confront them.
I mean, really. Palin's words had been that Revere "warned the British that they weren't going to be taking away our arms, by ringing those bells and making sure as he was riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free."

Somehow Jackson manages to gives Palin an "it's also true" for a part of this. Feels like a desperate stretch.

Slate takes on pie

In true Slate fashion, they have an article that takes on pie ("It's gloppy, it's soggy, it's un-American.")

Where's the line between clever articles and fishing for hits? I mean I mostly agreed with the piece about why outdoor movies are no good. But sometimes it seems they are just trying too hard. And taking on pie, really? In my mind, the problem is bad pie; not pie itself. But that would be a less flashy article.

Here are some future headlines for Slate:
  • "Why 75 degree non-humid days are actually unpleasant"
  • "The case for eliminating grocery stores: they're over air-conditioned, play bad music, and encourage buying more food than you mean to"
  • "Should we get rid of the space bar?"

Saturday, June 04, 2011

The St. Paul RNC settlements

Colin Moynihan has a rather damning report in today's NYT on the settlements out of St. Paul this week in regards to police abuses during the 2008 RNC.

Perhaps one of the most egregious cases (this isn't new info) was the St. Paul Police preemptive attack on I-Witness Video. From NYT:

The other settlement, announced last week, resolved a federal lawsuit filed against members of the St. Paul Police Department and the F.B.I. after the police handcuffed and detained 10 people in a house in St. Paul for several hours. Although nobody was arrested, some of the people said their computers and phones had been searched.

Among them were members of I-Witness Video, a New York City-based collective that assembled videotape evidence during the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York that was used to impeach sworn testimony by police officers in cases stemming from that convention.

An affidavit submitted in support of a search warrant for the home cited 21 heavy packages that had been delivered there and stated that an F.B.I. agent “has information from a reliable source that the packages contained weapons that are to be used during the R.N.C.” No weapons were found.

The Strib says the various recent settlements announced total about $175,000.


Presidential elections and the unemployment rate

Oh. Nate Silver says the correlation of high unemployment rate and a president not winning reelection is actually sort of limited. Hmm.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

What the Justice Department is doing right

From Justin Elliott of Salon:
In a marked shift from the Bush administration, President Obama's Justice Department is aggressively investigating several big urban police departments for systematic civil rights abuses such as harassment of racial minorities, false arrests, and excessive use of force.
It really sounds like they are doing good things here.