Wednesday, October 31, 2012

NYC DOC: No Damage at Rikers Island

No big news here, but wanted to note this. NYC Department of Corrections says there was no damage at Rikers Island. Via email Tuesday afternoon, DOC spokesman Matt Nerzig says power was never lost at any of the Rikers jails. As for other DOC facilities, the Manhattan House of Detention and Bellevue Hospital Prison Ward are within the blackout area in lower Manhattan, and were put on backup generators.

Nerzig says that in advance of the storm last year, inmates were moved from one facility to another due to concern of the impact of high winds on the first facility. This year, no inmates were located at that first facility, so no transfers were necessary.

To be clear, I don't mean this as a "stuff didn't go bad, so therefore the preparation decisions were necessarily all correct." As far as I know, the latter is true, but it's not that the former proves the latter; that's not the way risk management works. For example, when the subways were shut down for Hurricane Irene, but did not flood, that in no way means the wrong decision was made.

(Similarly, to note a hot topic in the last 24 hours: if Nate Silver says there is a 2/3 chance Obama wins and a 1/3 chance Romney wins, neither election result by itself proves anything favorable or unfavorable about Silver's predictions).

That said, that DOC says everything went alright deserves noting for the record. Though it's not a very flashy headline.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Another Rikers Angle: Inmate Said he was Moved to Cell Block Full of Trash and Feces During Hurricane Irene

After Hurricane Irene, there were two more follow up articles that brought new information. I had not seen these previously, and they bear noting and further reporting.

First, an article in City Limits last October by Jeanmarie Evelly further explored the issue of a full island evacuation, including comments from the previous NYC DOC commissioner.

Second, Janet Upadhye, writing in the Bronx Ink, reported on two people who were held at Rikers at the time of the storm. The first, Kendell Davis, tells his story through his mother; the second, Jason Mojica, was quoted directly by Upadhye. And his account is troubling indeed:
Mojica was out in the Sprungs, white canvas tents outside of the jail facilities, when he heard news of the storm. The Sprungs sit approximately 100 feet from the shore of the island. Mojica and the men in his tent were moved to indoor facilities where they would stay for the night. “They came Saturday afternoon and told us that we had to evacuate,” he said. “They said there was no room in the main facilities so we had to stay in condemned buildings on the other side of the island.”
He said that they were given buckets, brooms and mops to clean out the cells where they were to stay for the following 48 hours.
“The cells were awful,” Mojica said. “They were full of trash, feces and some black substance covering the floors. Some of the cells had no running water and toilets that would not flush.”
I can't find Mojica's story reported anywhere else. Mojica's account seems to me like the important part of all of this.

That detainees were moved from one facility to another at all was never mentioned by the DOC. It's not that they denied this happened, or that moving inmates is something inherently newsy, it's just that they didn't mention it at all when several of us asked about Rikers and the hurricane. It merits further reporting.

And Mojica's charges about where they were moved, and the conditions there, are of course most alarming. I'll ask DOC for comment, and try to get in touch with Mojica.

Rikers Island Story Begins Again After Bloomberg Response at Sunday Press Conference

And let the games begin.

Mayor Bloomberg was asked about Rikers Island in Hurricane Sandy at a press conference on Sunday. It's at 11:00 in the video:
Reporter: "Any additional precautions being taken for the folks on Rikers Island?"
Bloomberg: "Rikers Island, is, the land is up where they are and the jails are secured. Don't worry about anybody getting out."
Progressives started rightly noting that Bloomberg jumped from talking about the people on Rikers not being in danger to talking about "don't worry about anybody getting out." That was not the question, so, yuck.

The comments were noted by BuzzFeed, and I think spread from there, with some folks noting Bloomberg's nasty words but soon taking it a step further and circling back to recycling the debunked notion that somehow the city is leaving prisoners in danger.

Have we not learned anything from last time, where many progressives got totally burned on this story?

The story has begun anew. Jean Casella and James Ridgeway, who started the "Left Behind" on Rikers story last time, were up with a post Sunday eve. The piece is way, way better than what they did last time, and they have done some reporting, though mostly it covers stuff their follow-up post-Irene covered. Their headline is "Prisoners to Remain on Rikers Island As Hurricane Sandy Heads for New York," which is factual, if a bit provocative for implying this is news when it is not. Will the story quickly get even more trumped up, as it did with Hurricane Irene? Quite possibly. In fact, Solitary Watch tweeted the Casella/Ridgeway article they had published hyped up like this: "12,000 Prisoners Left on Rikers Island As Hurricane Sandy Approaches..."

Left? Please.

And for a wilder version of the story, see David Harris Gershon in Daily Kos.

And while the big news sites and aggregators haven't taken it up yet, the story -- that something wrong is happening here -- is starting to pick up on twitter in the last few hours. Meanwhile, no shortage of actual injustices out there.

Previously: Hurricane Sandy and Rikers Island (10/28/12); Assuming the Worst: How the Rikers Island Hurricane Irene Story Went From Innuendo to Absurdity (8/31/11)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hurricane Sandy and Rikers Island

Since I wrote extensively on this issue after Hurricane Irene ("Assuming the Worst: How the Rikers Island Hurricane Irene Story Went From Innuendo to Absurdity"), I wanted to link back to that piece and recap how this works in case this comes up again with Hurricane Sandy.

On Sunday, the city called for an evacuation of Zone A. Here's a map showing zones A, B and C.

Riker's Island is not shaded as any of those on the map. And that's basically right -- the land isn't that low -- with one exception. A DOC spokeswoman explained to me in August (see the post) that almost all of the island is above any of the areas (A/B/C); there's a small part of the island that's low enough to be in Zone C, and that area would be evacuated if an evacuation order included Zone C.

That wasn't the case with Hurricane Irene and, as of Sunday afternoon, is not the case with Hurricane Sandy.

NYC DOC has also issued the following: (excerpted)
Given its elevation, Rikers Island can withstand any storm up to and including a Category 4 hurricane. Rikers Island facilities are NOT in low-lying areas, and therefore like nearby small islands Roosevelt Island and City Island, is not seriously threatened by severe flooding.
The City has carefully reviewed Rikers Island, as it has done with the entire city, and no section of Rikers Island facilities are located in Hurricane Evacuation Zone A.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Leonhardt on A1

The lead article in Wednesday's NYT is David Leonhardt's "Living Standards In the Shadows As Election Issue." And it's really quite impressive. I imagine some critics will say this is advocacy, this is trying to push in an issue into the dialogue that's not there, this isn't just reporting on what's going on. Whatever. This is the real deal.

Also, this paragraph:
One of the more striking recent developments in economics has been economists’ growing acceptance of the idea that globalization has held down pay for a large swath of workers. The public has long accepted the idea, but economists resisted it, pointing to the long-term benefits of trade. “That is starting to change only in the face of very strong evidence over the past decade,” said Edward Alden of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Top Honduras court blocks plan to literally privatize some of the country

Last week the Honduras supreme court turned down the plan to cede sovereignty over parts of Honduran territory to private entities (AP).

The plan, which a few sweatshop investor types were big on, had gotten a burst of attention in the United States a few months ago when Planet Money's Adam Davidson touted it as a brilliant idea in the pages of the New York Times Magazine.

A rare victory for the Honduran people and loss for the right wingers.

Monday, October 22, 2012

NYTimes editorial criticizes Obama for saying government doesn't create jobs

The NY Times furthers a point I made last Thursday with its lead editorial today -- tweaking Obama for joining Romney in saying government doesn't create jobs.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

NY Times takes loose talk of war to Sunday's A1

Here's the first paragraph of the Sunday's NYT's big Iran exclusive:
WASHINGTON — The United States and Iran have agreed in principle for the first time to one-on-one negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, according to Obama administration officials, setting the stage for what could be a last-ditch diplomatic effort to avert a military strike on Iran.
This language -- "setting the stage for what could be a last-ditch diplomatic effort to avert a military strike on Iran" -- is the kind of nonsense that neoconservatives have pushed for a long time. They had a big breakthrough on this in early March, when suddenly a range of media outlets became convinced there was a "crisis" over Iran. President Obama rightly criticized the "loose talk of war" at the time; at some point it died down (the end of the Republican presidential primary may have helped).

Now the New York Times is putting it on its front page.

Note that the Times is careful to use "Iran's nuclear program" as opposed to "Iran's nuclear weapons program" -- they've gotten burned previously on stating that Iran has a nuclear weapons program. But the distinction is likely to be lost and confused on the Sunday shows and going forward.

Friday, October 19, 2012


They debunk it so you don't have to:

Media Matters, Ezra Klein and Dean Baker debunk David Brooks's column Friday.

Also, for a little global warming politics 101, see David Roberts from the other week.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

These numbers don't mean that much! But here's a breaking news email about them!

A "Breaking News" email from CNN this morning:
The number of people filing for initial jobless claims surged 46,000 to 388,000 last week, the U.S. government says.

The previous week the number of initial claims had fallen to a four-year low.

The large swings illustrate just how volatile the data are from week to week, which is why economists often prefer to look at a four-week moving average.

That indicator increased to 365,500 last week and has been hovering in the 360,000 to 380,000 range since July.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Regarding Romney's Claim that the Stimulus Didn't Create Jobs

Romney's notion that the government stimulus didn't create any jobs, said many times and repeated in the debate Tuesday night, is of course absurd. Throw economics out the window. Erase the New Deal from the history books. Erase the 2.5 million or so jobs created by the stimulus.

It's not just crazy on the merits, but it does long term damage when a candidate gets to keep repeating this over and over, sticking it further into people's minds. It helps erase the notion that government is good.

Except, it wasn't just Romney who said at Tuesday night's debate that government doesn't create jobs. It was also President Obama:

"I think a lot of this campaign, maybe over the last four years, has been devoted to this notion that I think government creates jobs, that that somehow is the answer. That's not what I believe."

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Peterson 101

LA Times columnist Michael Hiltzik writes on Peter Peterson, "The most influential billionaire in America ... whose misleading campaign to 'reform' traditional social welfare programs has subtly set the terms of the Washington debate."

Friday, October 12, 2012

Divided government

Interesting point from Nate Silver, via twitter:
You could have gotten long odds against the (Dem senate + Romney) parlay in the summer. Very plausible now.
Silver now has Dems having an 83.6% chance of holding a majority in the Senate.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Iraq War. Whose War?

So 10 years ago Wednesday was the vote in the House on the Iraq War. For a war that's often referred to as "Bush's War," it's important to remember all the others whose war it was. A quick look through the roll call shows some of the interesting yes votes:

Patrick Kennedy, Tom Lantos, Carolyn Maloney, Ed Markey, Bill Pascrell, Brad Sherman, Henry Waxman,  Anthony Weiner.

Their war, too.


I think the NY Times article today on Britishisms expanding in American language is not very good. It's not that the trend is untrue; it's true. It's that many of the examples they use are not really the right ones.

The article talks of using the "loo" and someone's "flat." We know what those words mean, and that they're British, but I just don't think very many people are using them.

The bigger issue, really, is the words we don't realize are British. The article links to the blog Not One-Off Britishisms, which is terrific. There, you learn that "snarky" is actually a Britishism. As is "do" in the food sense -- as in, "let's do pasta for dinner."

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

The hack gap

Kevin Drum on how the right would never have responded to the debate the way much of the left did.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Title IX

Starting here with some basics and some links. A woman who was sexually assaulted in 2010 at Beta has sued Wesleyan for damages under Title IX. The suit was filed on Friday, and covered by the Hartford Courant. The full lawsuit is here, via here. The lawsuit says that Wesleyan failed "to supervise, discipline, warn or take other corrective action" against Beta.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

NYT Further Revises Position on Voter Fraud; Now Acknowledges Court Decisions Have Mostly Favored Challenges to ID Laws (or "Victory, Part 2")

I noted yesterday some big progress from the New York Times on voter fraud language: the story online during the day yesterday about the Pennsylvania court decision said that "repeated efforts to demonstrate the existence of in-person voter fraud have shown there to be very little of it" -- which represented a significant change from reporter Ethan Bronner's previous mushy language on the topic.

Now, in the version of Bronner's story in Wednesday's print edition, there's another significant change on language. Today's front pager (which keeps that good language from the online version yesterday) takes the Pennsylvania decision and expands it to a broader theme, with the headline "Voter ID Rules Fail Court Tests Across Country." The story:
The result, that Pennsylvanians will not have to present a state-approved ID to vote in November, was the latest and most significant in a series of legal victories for those opposed to laws that they charge would limit access to polls in this presidential election.
The story continues with more details on that theme.

Why is this reporting of facts such a big deal? Because it is a rather different description from what the NYT previously said regarding the court decisions.

Bronner's article from a few weeks ago that touched off this all had said:
In the last few weeks, nearly a dozen decisions in federal and state courts on early voting, provisional ballots and voter identification requirements have driven the rules in conflicting directions, some favoring Republicans demanding that voters show more identification to guard against fraud and others backing Democrats who want to make voting as easy as possible.
Courts have taken a mixed view of the two sides’ claims. Voter ID laws have been both upheld as fair and struck down as discriminatory. In Pennsylvania, a state judge upheld the voter ID law, and the State Supreme Court will hear appeal arguments on Thursday.
Elsewhere recently, Democrats have won more than they have lost, but appeals are forthcoming.
At the time, I mistakenly said that this was "somewhat true." But not really. That passage was critiqued by Andrew Cohen, writing after the public editor piece appeared. Said Cohen:
I may be missing something but I can recall only a single substantive ruling "in the last few weeks" that has gone the way of the Republicans -- the Pennsylvania ruling now before that state's supreme court. By contrast, during the week of the Republican National Convention alone, I counted eight federal judges, including several Republican appointees, who voted down restrictive Republican election measures (including Texas' patently discriminatory redistricting plan). The score that week was 8-0. If there has been a Republican comeback in court since then on voting rights cases, I'm not aware of it.
The Times got it wrong then, but today's front pager reverses the position and gets it right on what the court decisions have been. And the story gets it right on there being "very little" voter fraud. Two big victories.


Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Big progress: new language from Ethan Bronner on voter fraud

The big Pennsylvania court decision on voter ID is out today, and Ethan Bronner's current version of the story, high on the NYT homepage, has good language on the reality of voter fraud:
In opinion surveys, substantial majorities of Americans back the voter ID requirements despite the fact that repeated efforts to demonstrate the existence of in-person voter fraud have shown there to be very little of it.
The second part of that sentence is pretty clear, as it should be. This is a welcome change for Bronner, and bears noting. Good work, team.

The first part of the sentence, about what Americans think, is also correct, as sad as it is. The link there actually goes to a survey of PA voters, 62% of whom support the voter ID law. What about in the U.S. as a whole? A nationwide NYT poll published on September 14 showed that 70% supported requiring photo ID for voters (see page 27).

Previously:  NYT Public Editor Takes up False Equivalence on Voter Fraud; Sifton and Bronner Make Fools of Selves; Blogosphere Laments, and before that, Ethan Bronner goes murky on voter fraud on New York Times A1.