Wednesday, February 29, 2012

"Perhaps the country’s biggest problem"

What is "perhaps the country's biggest problem?"

If you're the front page of Monday's NYT, the answer is.... the deficit!

Look, this is a subjective thing. There's no right answer. We all have our own answer. The best you can do is ask the people of this country what they think the answer is. And in poll after poll after poll, people say their top concern is the economy/jobs. Usually that grabs up over half of the respondents; sometime it's a bit under half, but still by far the most common answer.

The NYT tries hard, often, to not be out of touch with the country. One way it could do better would be not to print silly shit like this.

Seriously, if you want to convey that you are in some elite bubble, saying the deficit is perhaps the biggest problem the country faces is a pretty darn good way of doing it.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Jon Stewart Attributes Bank Bailouts to Obama. They Were Signed by Bush.

In an otherwise excellent opening segment last night on how Republicans made (in 2008) and still make ludicrous claims about President Obama, Jon Stewart used this clip and response (at 1:40):
Rep. Trent Franks clip, March 2008: "If Mr. Obama should become president, I really believe it will be hard to stop the economy from being socialized."

Jon Stewart: "Socialized economy if Obama is elected in 2008, we were warned! And indeed, Barack Obama did take billions of taxpayer dolllars and redistribute them ... to the banks. So it's kind of socialism in a dislexic, uh..."
President Obama has of course been friendly to the banks, and has not exactly moved us toward a socialist economy, so in the broad sense the point about Republicans being wrong about Obama is certainly true.

But Stewart got this piece just wrong: while Obama voted for the bank bailout (TARP), he was a Senator. TARP was signed by President George W. Bush, on October 3, 2008. Polling has shown this to be a very common misconception.

Come on, Stewart. It's one thing for The Washington Post to be making this error. We expect better from you.

Update: a critic responded to me that, hey, the second $350 billion or so only happened because Obama asked for it. (referring to the 1/12/09 request from the president-elect). And I think that's an important point, and you could go broader and say, well, the Obama Administration administered (or whatever the term is) TARP. They owned it, defended it, etc. Certainly. So I should have written this differently. Yes, the Obama Administration literally did give the money to the banks -- and Stewart's words were not technically incorrect. I think the problem is that what Stewart said sounded, to me, like it was Obama's thing.

The bigger context I need to add is that the issue of Obama and TARP wasn't just that he voted for it as a Senator, and carried it out as President. The point in 2009 was that there was this right-wing anger at Obama, tea party and otherwise, that he had bailed out the banks. But most, though certainly not all, of these right wing critics were not criticizing the Bush Administration in the same way for having signed it into law. Wish I had done this a bit differently -- what do you think?

Who'd start this new war, anyway?

Steve Rendall points to perhaps the most absurd bit of Elisabeth Bumiller's NYT article on how Israel might bomb Iran:
Iran could also strike back with missiles that could hit Israel, opening a new war in the Middle East, though some Israeli officials have argued that the consequences would be worse if Iran were to gain a nuclear weapon.
It's only a war once the 'bad guy' sends the missiles. Short of that, you can kill whoever you want and it's not war yet.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Our horrible Honduras policy

Jan Schakowsky is circulating a letter "calling on the State Department to ensure that U.S. aid is not used to support police and military personnel that have committed human rights violations." (via CCR email). More from Univision, CCR. These things are hard to do and I don't have a sense of how that would actually work and what kind of impact it might have. But kudos to Schakowsky for giving the issue attention, and helping to send the message that, uh, currently we are supporting bad things in Honduras, as we have been. Some House Dems have not had the courage to even criticize the administration this much.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mitt likes everything

Via TPM:

Update: the way Mitt lists everything so quickly makes me think of this:

Monday, February 20, 2012

Thomas Friedman still wanting a third party candidate at least makes for good parody

Digby shows why Thomas Friedman is stupid, again.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

How the NYT covers some international stories in the exact opposite way of most US papers

Small American papers, and midsize ones as well -- which no longer have their own foreign bureaus -- don't really do much of their own international news anymore. They use AP stories or others. But they do touch on international stories occasionally. There's the "Local couple was on that cruise boat in the Mediterranean" kind of nonsense. But there are also more significant ones that have been done really well, such as reporting on how the local Haitian community in city X is responding to news of the earthquake.

It's doing local coverage of an international issue, and it can work really well, or be tacky.

I love how the New York Times, though, in particular, has a knack for doing the opposite. They have the resources to send their foreign correspondents to cover aspects of stories that are mostly based within other departments, like metro or sports.

And so for example, in tomorrow's paper, Keith Bradsher (based in Hong Kong) hangs out with Jeremy Lin's proud grandmother in Taipei.

Now you could say this isn't the most important story to cover internationally, and that'd be true, but they have the luxury of being able to cover a lot. And the truth is this stuff makes for good and interesting reading.

WashPost has a good Occupy article

I think the Post's Occupy coverage has been a mixed big, with some good and lots not good. So it's worth noting that they have an interesting article now by Tim Craig and Annie Gowen on the internal National Park Service deliberations over the months. They obtained hundreds of pages of emails via FOIA.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Maggie Gyllenhaal Skipping Shifts at the Food Coop! It Must Be True, Because the New York Post Quoted One Person Saying So

The New York Post's Page Six had a juicy scoop Sunday: Maggie Gyllenhaal is not doing her shifts at the Park Slope Food Coop. The gory details:
According to sources, Gyllenhaal is one of the many celebs and VIPs in the stroller-heavy neighborhood who send minions to work the two-hour, 45-minute monthly shifts required to maintain good standing with the co-op and gain access to its organic quinoa, kale, black futsu squash, Mutsu apples and other produce. 
Sources -- that's plural -- eh? But the Post presents us just one for the claim that Gyllenhaal specifically has had someone else do her shift:
Neighborhood blogs first reported that co-op members were sending nannies, cleaning staff and personal assistants to work their shifts. Annoyed residents say the practice is out of control among the co-op’s wealthier members. 
“Everyone in Park Slope is talking about the wealthy members of the co-op sending people in their place to do their shifts,” one groused. “[The co-op] doesn’t know how to do deal with it. The celebrities are sending other people. While Gyllenhaal has done shifts, she has also been sending somebody else to do her shifts.”
The Post demonstrates that it has no idea what it's talking about:
But an insider said that “fancy members, like big actors,” can arrange “future time-off plans, or FTOP, so if they go on location, they can skip future shifts.”
Uh, you don't have to be an actor to do FTOP.

Anyway, what's odd about the Post article is it actually goes on to do some due diligence: it quotes another Coop member saying Gyllenhall does do her shifts, and quotes her rep with a great response: "Who would go? She doesn’t have anyone in her employ except me, and I don’t do it."

But despite all of that, and the Post only quoting a single unnamed source, they just went ahead with it anyway. Ok, that's not really surprising, except the part where they actually quoted someone casting doubt on their premise. (h/t Fucked in Park Slope for making this point already, and explaining some backstory: the PSFC 'nannygate' story was covered in the NYC media extensively a year ago; the Post is late to the game, but simply added the Gyllenhaal angle).

What's really sad is what happened after the Post story appeared: the aggregators arrived to repeat the report!

Evann Gastaldo's write-up at at least left the Gyllenhall matter as an open question, and Noreen Malone's piece at the Daily Intel was even a bit skeptical. But here's the thing: repeating the Post report, or even repeating it and being skeptical, is lousy if the initial report is so obviously sketchy in the first place. There's such a thing as good aggregating, but repeating anything you see -- or even repeating it but adding some question marks -- is not good.

And then there's the Atlantic Wire, which threw all caution to the wind: "Maggie Gyllenhaal Shirks Park Slope Co-Op Shift" says the headline. The write-up, by Ray Gustini, puts the claim back into accusation territory, but the damage is done.

Look, my point isn't that Maggie Gyllenhall has indeed done all of her own coop shifts. Maybe she has, or maybe the accusation is actually true and she hasn't. Even if the Post story turns out to be correct, it doesn't put the article or the aggregators repeating it in the right.

The New York Post never pays much of a price for getting stuff wrong or even making stuff up; that's a losing battle. But some of these aggregators, particularly ones affiliated with bigger names (i.e. The Atlantic) -- they need to be shamed. Only if they pay a price will they be deterred from continuing this kind of nonsense. So far, they haven't paid much of a price for day-to-day stuff like this.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Two years ago today, NPR declared macaron the new cupcake. Discuss.

Two years ago today, All Things Considered declared it once and for all: the cupcake is being replaced by the macaron as the treat of choice. "Move Over, Cupcake: Make Way For The Macaroon" was the headline on the website. (NPR went with the macaroon spelling, which, whatever you think of it, makes things more complicated. Better to spell macaron. For a primer on the difference between macaroon and macaron, see here.)

So where do we stand? In DC, there are certainly macaron to be found, but it's not exactly a topic of constant conversation. Or the subject of a major TV show. I'm skeptical of how many people in the country actually eat them that often.

Do people eat macaron where you live? And/or, do they still eat cupcakes?


One time I went to the airport and AirTran's computer system was partially down, so they had to do things manually, whatever that meant. Something with printouts. Anyway, they can let you go through security and get on a plane with this boarding pass?

Saturday, February 11, 2012


Friday, February 10, 2012

Coalition of Immokalee Workers announces a victory on Trader Joe's campaign


Tuesday, February 07, 2012

36 Senate Democrats vote for anti-union FAA re-authorization bill

The Senate voted 75-20 on Monday in favor of an FAA re-authorization bill that's devastating. As David Dayen explains:
The bill avoids the main labor tweak that House Republicans wanted, which would have counted any worker not voting in a union election as a No vote. But it does raise the bar for the number of workers needed to sign cards stating they want to join a union from 35% to 50% of the workforce. Worse, it makes those cards public to the employer, and it weakens the oversight of the lead transit union regulator, the Labor Mediation Board.
The roll call of the final vote is here. The Yes votes were 38 Republicans, 36 Democrats plus Lieberman. The no votes were 5 Republicans (presumably for other reasons), 14 Democrats and Bernie. The No's:
Akaka (D-HI), Blumenthal (D-CT), Brown (D-OH), Cardin (D-MD), Casey (D-PA), Franken (D-MN), Gillibrand (D-NY), Harkin (D-IA), Klobuchar (D-MN), Leahy (D-VT), McCaskill (D-MO), Merkley (D-OR), Mikulski (D-MD), Sanders (I-VT), Stabenow (D-MI), Crapo (R-ID) DeMint (R-SC) Lee (R-UT) Paul (R-KY) Risch (R-ID).
Nice to see Klobuchar and McCaskill in that list.

So in the Democrats who voted Yes, we have folks like Cantwell, Durbin, Feinstein, Kerry, Lautenberg, Menendez, Murray, Reed, Schumer, Whitehouse...

Not to mention that the President is signing this thing.

With friends like these...

Sunday, February 05, 2012



The point is, no matter what you hear in the US media about the Iranian threat to Israel, even the people in Israel who are advocating attacking Iran aren't actually saying they want to do it because they fear Iran would use nuclear weapons in an offensive strike against Israel. They just don't fear that.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Things we probably don't need to read

Op-Ed Columnist

Who's Tough Enough?

Can backbone propel you to the front? Team Mitt and Team Barry compete on spine spin.