Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The easiest way to separate the yolk and the white

Amazing. Via buzzfeed:

Monday, August 27, 2012


Michael Cohen on Michael Grunwald's book: Why Obama should run on the success of the stimulus.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

WaPo's latest Facebook front-pager

I stopped counting these a while ago, but I can't claim to have totally lost interest. When I saw the piece this week, I thought it looked more serious ("Facebook stock decline shows Wall Street is wary of give-it-away-free approach").

But CJR says the article gets it all wrong.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Rick Snyder

The NYT had a glowing profile Sunday of Michigan governor Rick Snyder -- all about how he's so moderate and such. Which might sound weird to anyone familiar with the extremity of the administration in Michigan. Marcy Wheeler explains.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Ryan's government reliance

Suffice to say, the "self-reliance" schtick is something Paul Ryan made up. And, generally, a lot of the media bought.

Monday, August 13, 2012

On Paul Ryan and the basic media picture

Paul Krugman sums this up nicely on his blog this morning.

The Times Square shooting, and tasers

Regarding the police shooting of a knife-wielding man on 7th avenue on Saturday, WSJ reports:
As the disturbing scene played out Saturday afternoon on a busy Midtown street, police considered using a Taser to subdue the man, identified Sunday as Darrius Kennedy, 51 years old, of Hempstead, N.Y. An officer authorized to carry the non-lethal weapon was one block away when two officers fired 12 shots, striking Mr. Kennedy at least seven times, Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne said.
It's extremely likely, though not certain, that tasers could have prevented Kennedy's death.

The overwhelming majority of taser uses come in situations where, absent a taser, no gun would have been fired. That's the heart of the problem. But there are situations like this one, where the taser likely would have been the ideal weapon. Pepper spray is hard to try to use against someone with a knife (it was apparently tried). Trying to shoot someone in the arms or legs with a gun is hard and there are a number of reasons most police departments don't do it.

There are disadvantages to having every officer carry a taser, among them that they are likely going to get used a lot. But this case is an example of the downsides of having very limited taser access. The ideal policy may be to not have officers carry tasers regularly, but to have tasers in all the cars and have all officers taser-trained. I presume many police departments would be skeptical of this: they spent all the money on the tasers, and they want them to actually be held and used. But it might be the best answer. And even more importantly, they should have very restrictive policies on their use, where they are used only in very dangerous situations, perhaps only in situations where they would otherwise use guns. Few departments have such policies.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Focusing on the serious issues, yadda yadda

The Post editorial page is all giddy: "The best thing about Mitt Romney’s choice of Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan to be his running mate is that it offers the chance to transform what has been a dismally substance-free campaign into a serious clash of ideas."

Well, you could look at it a very different way and say, Romney/Ryan 2012 Means We'll Ignore the Biggest Issue of Our Time.

Friday, August 10, 2012

When the White House Embraces Right Wing Messaging

It was 12:44pm or so on Monday, and in the White House briefing room, Jay Carney was asked about taxing olympic medals (well, mostly the prize money from the US Olympic committee that comes with the medals). You see, on Tuesday of last week, Grover Norquist had written a blog post saying the medal and prize should be exempt from income tax. Marco Rubio quickly made it into a bill. And now the White House was being asked about it.

Carney said the President would sign such a bill if it reached his desk.

This is what we call a messaging exercise. Grover Norquist and Marco Rubio know exactly what they're doing. The White House took the bait.

After Carney endorsed the bill, not much happened, at first. The initial press stories missed the point. It turns out we're pretty used to this White House signing on with right-wing messaging programs.

I'm sure there were some criticisms, but they didn't get much attention until Matt Yglesias called bullshit on the whole thing 27 hours later (you can read more critiques from, i.e., Howard Gleckman in the CSM, Josh Barro in Bloomberg, and the LATimes editorial page).

There are a few possibilities here for how this works in the White House; none of them are good. The first is that they don't get that this is bad policy. This seems particularly unlikely. The second is they know it's nonsense policy-wise, but they don't get that it's serious messaging damage. They think Rubio's bill is a potential problem for them, and that the best choice is just to jump on board, and try to make the problem go away, and that will be that. The third is that they know it's nonsense, and they also get that it's part of a long-term anti-tax messaging campaign they're being drawn into -- but they've decided that it's worth sacrificing the future message battle somewhat to do what they think they need to do in the short term. The long term is someone else's problem, after all.

They're screwing us over in the long term; the question is whether they even get that or not. And it's notable that, just looking at the short-term picture, they think the can win by immediately giving in to the other side. Things have a way of not working that way.

Doing the other side's messaging work is not entirely new; certainly some previous Democratic presidents have done so as well. One easy example: Clinton did some sizable work to build the notion that welfare is essentially a bad thing. My feeling, though, is that President Obama has done this far more. He has, as Ari Berman put it, "successfully used the bully pulpit to undermine the case for progressive governance." From budgets to deficits to regulation to indefinite detention, he's done some serious work for long-term Conservative messaging projects. This is not good.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Flights more "on time" -- maybe

AP would have you believe today that airplane flights in the United States are more on-time of late.

Actually, while that's likely true to some extent, the article doesn't have the data to show it.

The article rightly points to good weather in the last year and fewer flights due to the slow economy. So it's indeed extremely likely that things are better than they were a few years ago.

But doing a comparison of the official "on time" statistics? That's meaningless, because the airlines change the amounts of time scheduled for given flights.

For example, you could have a flight that was once schedule for 60 minutes now be scheduled for 80 minutes. And the average time for arrival could move from being 75 minutes after scheduled departure to 80 minutes after scheduled departure. Yet your "on time arrival" rate would still go up. The AP article actually notes that scheduled flight times have changed.

AP and other outlets should not do historical comparisons of on-time arrival statistics. If they want to do a historical comparison with any meaning, they need to build their own database of how long flights used to take and how long they take now.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Breaking at WaPo: It's August

Dan Zak at WaPo wants you to know it's August, and he has some thoughts on it. The weirdest part is that he actually quotes from Erik Wemple, writing in 2007, on how the Post has written silly ramblings on August for years and years.


Laura Maggi in Tuesday's Times-Picayune:
The most recent arrest occurred on July 25, when Zeitoun allegedly struck Kathy Zeitoun with his fists and a tire iron and attempted to choke her outside a lawyer's office near the intersection of Jackson Avenue and Prytania Street. Zeitoun was on probation for attacking Kathy Zeitoun, his then-wife, in front of their children at one of their Dart Street properties in March 2011. Last summer, he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of negligent injuring in that assault and was sentenced to anger-management classes
Kathy Zeitoun offered several possible reasons for her husband's changed behavior, including his adoption of a "radical" religious philosophy that she emphasized does not reflect true Muslim beliefs. She also questioned whether his imprisonment could have changed him.

"They took his control away; he took mine and my children's," she said.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Those crazy big shows at arenas take a crazy amount of setup

The Post has a great behind the scenes look at what it takes to set up and take down 18 truckloads worth of equipment for a show like J-Lo and Enrique Iglesias. In under 24 hours.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Correction fun

Corrections on NYT Gore Vidal obit getting better and better.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Bronx gentrification, not necessarily the goal

Nice that NYTimes magazine printed three responses to Adam Davidson's article about the Bronx.

Ryan L in the Post magazine, on zoos

Lacz, a mild and steady young guy with blue eyes and a beard, trains Mike among the tortoises on a small patch of topsoil near the giant-river-fish tank.
More here. Go Ryan!