Is the Washington Post Newsroom Insane? (Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? Department)
When Interior Secretaries Attack!

If I Had Infinite Hours in the Day: 20051217

If I had infinite hours in the day: Mark Kleiman examines the hole that we are digging for ourselves: "Worst-case scenario: We can't leave Iraq because, if we did, the country might fall into the grip of a bunch of religious fanatics who deal with their opponents by pulling out their fingernails. Oh, wait..." An example of value added in the New York Times? No. A false alarm. Jason Zengerle says that John Burns of the New York Times is "always excellent" and has written a "very good mini-profile" of insane moonbat ex-Johnson Attorney General Ramsey Clark. But then Zengerle goes on to say that somehow this always excellent reporter's very good mini-profile "doesn't get at the riddle of what caused Clark" to become an insane moonbat. For that, Zengerle says, you need to read John Judis in the New Republic in 1991. Ummm... May I say that the question of why Ramsey Clark became an insane moonbat is the most interesting question a profile of him should address? That even an adequate profile written by a workmanlike reporter should nail this to the wall? That there is a great cognitive dissonance between claiming on the one hand that John Burns is "always excellent" and his profile is "very good" and noting on the other hand that his profile ducks the most interesting question everyone wants to know about Ramsey Clark?

Here, by contrast, is a genuine example of value added by the New York Times: Floyd Norris: "The Bush administration... is highlighting the jobs numbers, which have shown steady gains since hitting a low in May 2003. The chart shown with this article is part of that campaign.... By invoking historical averages, President Bush may have invited comparisons that do not make the recovery look so good. In terms of job creation, the recovery from the 2001 recession has been one of the slowest since World War II.... [T]here is nothing wrong with a slow start. But the current recovery so far is far from impressive.... Were job growth... measured from the end of the recession, this recovery is the slowest ever.... Any analysis of the recovery after the 2001 recession must ask why huge tax cuts that began in 2001 had so little - and so long delayed - effect. That is not a discussion the Bush administration embarked upon this week... Wilczek Goes Anthropic: "The main idea about anthropics he was trying to push is that anthropic calculations were "just conditional probability", making much of the equation f(p)=fprior(p)fselec(p) for the probability of observing some particular value p of parameters, given some underlying theory in which they are only determined probabilistically by some probability distribution fprior(p). The second factor fselec(p) is supposed to represent "selection effects", and it is here that anthropic calculations supposedly have their role. In the paper the authors argue that "Including selection effects is no more optional than the correct use of logic". The standard way physics has traditionally been done, one hopes that the underlying theory determines p (i.e. fprior(p) is a delta-function), making selection effects irrelevant in this context. The authors attack this point of view, writing: "to elevate this hope into an assumption would, ironically, be to push the anthropic principle to a hedonistic extreme, suggesting that nature must be devised so as to make mathematical physicists happy."... Abigail Nussbaum finds Andrew Rilstone justifying C.S. Lewis's worst literary crime: the Damnation of Susan Pevensie: "God help me, but Andrew Rilstone has very nearly convinced me to forgive C.S. Lewis for what he did to Susan in The Last Battle. He's a dangerous one, that Andrew. He can be very quiet for long periods of time, and you pass by his blog with a forlorn expression, hoping for something new. And then, out of the blue, he'll spring a post on you that's so clever, so insightful, and so fantastically well-written that you'll be nodding your head in stupefied wonder before you even comprehend what you've agreed to..." A live webcam put up by the National Geographic Society, pointing at a watering hole in Botswana called Pete's Pond. Live video feed of wild African animals coming down to drink at the watering hole. People I know, including Liz, rave about the monkeys, zebras, antelope, and elephants they keep seeing. Of course, all I've ever seen is a flock of turkey-like guinea fowl and a couple of warthogs... Jim Hamilton is very unhappy with the peak oilers: "I'm sure that most of my economist readers are shaking their heads in disbelief at this point, but for the benefit of anyone who is not, let me spell out exactly what the problem is with this kind of analysis. How much oil is demanded at any given time depends, among other things, on the price. A very, very large quantity would be demanded if the price were $1 a barrel and practically none would be demanded if the price were $10,000 a barrel. The quantity that is profitable to bring to the market also depends on the price. The reason economists want to pay so much attention to the price is because it is the one variable that is guaranteed to adjust and adapt to any and all unforeseen circumstances that may develop so as to ensure that demand always equals supply. Supply equals demand today, supply will equal demand in 2025, and supply will equal demand in 2050. Whatever Hirsch means by 'peaking of world conventional oil production', it certainly isn't the condition that 'production will no longer satisfy demand'..." Chris Bertram gets snarky: "I'm roused by a post on Normblog entitled At variance with certain depictions in which Geras claims that a new survey of Iraqi opinion gives a more positive view of life there than we get from unspecified sources of whom he clearly disapproves.... I'm sure that any selection of material by Geras was intended to be in line with the standards of balance and accuracy normally to be found on his site, but I fear he's slipped up in failing to notice the responses to the following question: "From today's perspective and all things considered, was it absolutely right, somewhat right, somewhat wrong or absolutely wrong that US-led coalition forces invaded Iraq in Spring 2003? Today 50.3 per cent of Iraqis polled answered that the invasion was somewhat or absolutely wrong. That's an increase from 39.1 per cent in last year's survey... Carpetbagger Report: "About three months ago, the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina was an international fiasco. Bush's handling, in particular, was widely derided, his competence further came into question, and his approval rating fell even further. Time magazine reported a couple of weeks after the storm hit that the Bush gang had crafted a 'Three-Part Comeback Plan.' Part One of the plan.... Spend freely, and worry about the tab and the consequences later. 'Nothing can salve the wounds like money', said an official who helped develop the strategy. 'You'll see a much more aggressively engaged President, traveling to the Gulf Coast a lot and sending a lot of people down there.' That was then. Now, Bush hasn't seen the Gulf Coast since Oct. 11. The massive Marshall Plan-style rebuilding hasn't happened" and White House "strategists" say "'Katrina has kind of fallen off the radar screen in terms of public concern.' It's a fascinating juxtaposition.... It's not the situation on the Gulf Coast has improved; it's that the situation now lacks political significance.... It's the politics of incompetence followed by the politics of limited attention spans..." The Next Hurrah tells us: "Once again, I miss out on all the fun because I don't watch teevee. Jane tells us that Jim VandeHei, Luskin's mouthpiece of choice lately, announced on Hardball that Hadley told Rove of Plame's identity. For the record, I think VdH was telegraphing testimony to Hadley (and that perhaps VdH's editors have become hip to the way this cabal telegraphs their testimony through news reports, after they were the only ones who fell for Libby's bait all those months ago)... Josh Marshall finds this from Howard Fineman to be "a stunning remark, coming as it does from within the highest echelon of the beltway journalistic establishment.... 'Howard Fineman, Newsweek's chief political correspondent, said Monday night in the first program of a Drew University lecture series, that Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward had become a "court stenographer" for the Bush administration. Standing before a crowd of nearly 300, Fineman, said Woodward went from being an outsider "burning the beltway"with his investigative work in the 1970s Watergate scandal under President Nixon to being, " an official court stenographer of the Bush administration." "He's a great reporter," Fineman said of Woodward, "but he's become a great reporter of official history." They must have changed something in the water down there.' Marginal Revolution finds Martin Feldstein talking about why capital taxation should be low... "So I read Condoleezza Rice's Post oped.... I just don't get it. No, I'm not talking about how Rice, who only six years ago wrote the perfect realist treatise, has now become the principal exponent of democratic idealism. People change. No, I'm talking about... 'a balance of power that favors freedom'... I still have no idea what it means.... Rice's emphatic statement about the threat posed by weak and failing states.... She argues that "the danger they now pose is unparalleled." Compared to what -- Nazi Germany? The Soviet Union? Hirohito's Japan?.... One final contradiction.... [W]hatever you think of the Middle Eastern autocracies, they're hardly weak states. The problem, rather, is their strength and, yes, their undemocratic character. As I said, I just don't get it..." "While tuition remains relatively low, steep increases in student fees (which cover everything from sports to health benefits to course fees) and room and board have put a UMass-Amherst education out of reach for many lower-income families..." Can we please get Richard Cohen to shut up and go away? He writes: "To read George Packer's 'The Assassin's Gate' is to be reminded that the Iraq war... [was] made... not for oil or for empire but to end the horror of Saddam Hussein and, yes, reorder the Middle East. They were inept. They were duplicitous. They were awesomely incompetent, and, in the case of Bush, they were monumentally ignorant and incurious.... [M]any liberals, myself included, originally supported the war. It... seemed... well, right -- a just cause." War is a horrible and weighty thing to undertake if your cause is just and if your leadership is skilled, honest, competent, and knowledgeable. What kind of a nutjob would say that he knew that the Republican leadership were "inept... duplicitous... awesomely incompetent... monumentally ignorant... incurious" and think that war was worthwhile? Answer: Richard Cohen

A Fantasy Realm Too Vile for Hobbits - New York Times : "In the vast continent of Westeros, the alliance of the Seven Kingdoms is disintegrating. King Robert Baratheon has been murdered. A strange winter is descending on the countryside. Could this be another ice age? Meanwhile, Queen Cersei is sleeping with her twin brother, Jaime, while their other brother, the cynical dwarf Tyrion Lannister, has gone into hiding. And the woman warrior, Brienne of Tarth, is searching for Sansa, who was married to Tyrion, and is a member of the House of Stark, daughter of Eddard, Lord of Winterfell. And... well, to keep track of it all it helps to have the 63-page list of characters at the back of George R. R. Martin's "Feast for Crows," the fourth and latest installment in his fantasy series, "A Song of Ice and Fire." Published last month by Bantam Spectra, the novel almost immediately hit No. 1 on the New York Times's fiction best-seller list. On Sunday it ranked No. 9 on the list. Reviewing "Crows" in Time magazine, Lev Grossman called Mr. Martin "the American Tolkien," only better: "'A Feast for Crows' isn't pretty elves against gnarly orcs," Mr. Grossman wrote. "It's men and women slugging it out in the muck, for money and power and lust and love."