Saturday, March 31, 2012

BREAKING: There is no $640 Mega Millions lottery jackpot

This is old news, yet apparently is bears repeating. The number that the lottery people promote is not actually the real number! There is no $640 million jackpot. So, like, media outlets shouldn't be repeating it, since it's not true.

The $640 million number, as always, is the amount that would be paid out over many years into the future. So, less value than that money today. The amount that is offered for an immediate lump sum payment in this case is $462 million.

In what other situation do media outlets report a future value as if it's a present value? That's right, they don't. Because they are different. You might as well say the lottery payout is a billion dollars. It's just as meaningless.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Park Slope Food Coop and the Israeli Products Boycott Proposal

Tonight, the Park Slope Food Coop's general meeting votes on whether to have a coop-wide referendum on boycotting Israeli products.

Here's what's been missing from almost all of the press -- local, national and international -- on the issue: the proposal is extremely unlikely to become policy. It would first have to pass the vote tonight, and then pass the referendum. It's just not likely to happen.

Everyone can call the Coop communist or whatever it is you like, but in reality it's something of a role-model for democracy in action. People make a proposal. People vote on the proposal. Crazy stuff.

In this case, the advocates are getting attention for the issue, which is part of their point. They've benefited from the controversy. I think the anti-boycott advocates had no strategic choice but to publicly and loudly push back, despite how that would bring more attention. The press, though, has missed the point that this whole thing isn't actually going to happen. It's kind of important for the readers to know that.

There are all sorts of things out there that aren't going to happen, and often the press does a surprisingly good job not wasting your time with them. Sure, some of it gets picked up, but often it gets filtered out if it's not going anywhere. Sometimes the problem is actually the opposite. Take the Virginia ultrasound bill -- it got attention because it was about to become law. If anything it should have gotten more attention earlier on as it was gaining support quickly in a conservative legislature.

Alright that's my piece. If you really need to follow it, I'm sure just about every major NYC media outlet has found a staffer who is a Coop member and will be in the meeting and live-tweeting tonight.

Update: 653 voted in favor of holding a referendum, and 1005 voted against holding a referendum.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Boston's Red Line at 100

The Red Line is 100! Apparently it wasn't until 1965 that the subway lines were designated colors. The Boston Globe has a photo gallery here. I love this picture, of excavated Harvard Square in 1981, for the extension to Alewife.

The 2013 NYC mayoral primary, and labor

Chris Quinn is on the wrong side of, among other things, requiring employers to give paid sick leave to employees. Josh Eidelson at Working In These Times looks at the politics of the issue and how the primary might affect it.

I haven't been following the race but, as with many races, I think it's generally important to not just jump in and trumpet one candidate early on, but rather to push the candidates to win your vote.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

One hundred congressional Dems challenge administration's horrific Honduras policy

See this update from Mark Weisbrot. Congressional Democrats don't criticize the administration on that much, but they've been doing it on Honduras policy this month, though it hasn't gotten much attention. There were actually 94 House Dems on the Schakowsky letter I mentioned the other day, and 6 Senate Dems sent a related letter to the administration.

The Senators were: Barbara Mikulski, Ben Cardin, Patrick Leahy, Daniel Akaka, Sherrod Brown and Tom Udall.

A somewhat random sounding combination, though there could be various reasons. Mikulski and Cardin have a Honduran population in their state. Cardin and Udall are on Foreign Relations; Mikulski and Brown are on Appropriations' sub-committee on State Dept and Foreign Ops, of which Leahy is Chair. Menendez, Chair of Foreign Relations' sub-committee covering Latin America, took a pass.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Flying Fish Temporarily Closed

Uh oh. From this afternoon on Mount Pleasant St:

No mice, please don't tell me it's mice. Apparently it's not. In response to my query, Flying Fish tweeted back: "Sorry about the surprise. Forgot to renew a license from dept of health. Should be up and running soon."

UPDATE, 3:55pm: FF added another sign up making very clear that no health violations are involved:

UPDATE 3/22, 9:45AM: FF is back up this morning, per tweet: "We're back! FF is up and running once more."

National Review's Jonah Goldberg praises TAL for financial crisis reporting

Right wing extremist Jonah Goldberg, in follow-up re Mike Daisey and This American Life:
More to the point, This American Life is not a reflexively liberal program. Sure, it’s liberal. But their coverage of the financial crisis was simply fantastic, from any ideological perspective. And I still think their story on the auto industry and the auto unions was one of the best investigations of its sort ever done.
Look, TAL's financial reporting is bad because it's bad (i.e.), not because some right winger says it's "simply fantastic." But the latter does bear noting.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

This just in

"Ann Arbor man punched during literary argument"

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Obama double standard

Josh Gerstein's article in Politico Thursday, "What if George W. Bush had done that?" is pretty good. Nothing super groundbreaking, but I think he puts together the case fairly well. The article features critics from the left (Glenn Greenwald) and right (Mark Corallo, director of public affairs at the Justice Department from 2002-05), laying out the argument that if Bush had done some of the things Obama has done, he would have been criticized from various sides. The extra-judicial executions is perhaps the strongest example, but the other ones are relevant too.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Bittman on fakemeats

Mark Bittman had a piece the other day being excited about developments in fake chicken. Apparently there's going to be this stuff that has just about the same texture as chicken, and if you flavor it up well you really can't tell the difference. And that's exciting news, because raising and killing chickens is not so great for a number of reasons.

Tom Philpott responds that yeah, that's sorta cool, but sorta not. The fake chicken stuff is made out of stuff that's probably not so great itself. Using chemicals to isolate the proteins in soy beans, likely not good. Instead, we should all be eating something simpler and more natural -- falafel.

(fakemeats spelled as single word h/t montesano.)

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Afghanistan killings

I checked a bunch of papers today, and they all front the US soldier killing 16 Afghan civilians. But in their push to get to the "what this means", they go straight to how this is a problem for the United States, not a problem for, you know, the 16 dead people, and their families, not to mention Afghan people living in fear.

From FAIR today:
After Afghan Massacre, War Gets Victim Status; Media treat killings as PR problem for occupation

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Loose talk of war: NYT, AP, NPR, Reuters, Post declare "crisis" over Iran

It's just astounding to me how the crowd that would like to attack Iran has shifted the Washington media dialogue in the last few weeks. The C-word -- "crisis" -- has been thrown around here and there, but the top media have now actually come to something of a consensus around it. Which is stunning.

At Obama's press conference yesterday, for example, the NYT's Jackie Calmes actually asked if it was "Iran’s last chance to negotiate an end to this nuclear question." Sure enough, in her article on today's front page, she leads with a reference to the "crisis over Iran’s nuclear program."

AP's Ben Feller wrote that "Obama insisted that diplomacy can still resolve the crisis over Iran's possible pursuit of nuclear weapons, and he accused his Republican critics of 'beating the drums of war.'" (Note: for the record, Obama did not use the C-word for Iran at his press conference). Reuters cited a "crisis over its nuclear programme."

The Washington Post also went A1 with crisis today, from Joby Warrick and Thomas Edbrink: "The United States and five other countries agreed to new talks with Iran on Tuesday, offering a diplomatic path to resolving the Iranian nuclear crisis after months of bellicose rhetoric that roiled markets and sparked fears of a new Middle Eastern war. ... The new talks — which are expected to begin within weeks — would be the most significant de-escalation of a crisis that has been gathering steam since November, when U.N. nuclear officials publicly confronted Iran with allegations about past nuclear-weapons research."

NPR's John Donvan spoke of "the crisis over Iran's nuclear ambitions." Even the Christian Science Monitor got in on the act. And the editorial page of the Journal-Register, in Springfield IL, conceded only that "It may not rise to the level of the Cuban Missile Crisis..." Umm.

Look, some part of this is just the general overuse of the word 'crisis' in the media. But some other part is DC media falling into a narrative that's being sold to them by the Israeli government, AIPAC, various right wing think tanks and out-of-power (sort of!) uber-hawks sitting at home in Virginia.