New SEC chairman Mary Jo White shows better sense about it than some newspaper editorialists that could be named [Louise Bennetts, Cato]
Ira Stoll catches the New York Times being tendentious again [SmarterTimes]:
…one reason that Texas is at or near the top of the nation in terms of workplace fatalities is that it is at or near the top of the nation in terms of the number of workers and how many hours they work. If you adjust for that, and take the rate of workplace fatalities — that is, the number of fatalities from workplace injuries per 100,000 full-time workers, Texas isn’t worst in the nation, but somewhere in the middle…
Related: Josh Barro, Steven Greenhut (California as comparison).
“That is quite a correction in today’s Times to Mark Bittman’s column the other day about sugar and diabetes,” notes Ira Stoll. Bittman’s column began with the striking opener “Sugar is indeed toxic” and went on to promote a far-reaching regulatory crackdown on sweetened foods. But it soon came under sustained attack from various commentators (more) for misstating recent findings about the health effects of sugar in the diet; it’s true that sugar intake tends to cause obesity and obesity itself causes diabetes, but it’s a separate, unresolved question whether sugar by itself instigates diabetes through some mechanism of action not common to other highly caloric foods.
Here is the correction:
Mark Bittman’s column on Thursday incorrectly described findings from a recent epidemiological study of the relationship of sugar consumption to diabetes. The study found that increased sugar in a population’s food supply was linked to higher rates of diabetes — independent of obesity rates — but stopped short of stating that sugar caused diabetes. It did not find that “obesity doesn’t cause diabetes: sugar does.” Obesity is, in fact, a major risk factor for Type 2 diabetes, as the study noted.
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman believes you’re living in a right-wing “intellectual bubble” if you think rising disability claims in the Social Security program reflect anything other than “the real health problems of an aging work force.” Thing is, no less a personage than former Obama budget director Peter Orszag wrote in the New York Times that the “spike in disability insurance applications (and awards) does not reflect a less healthy population,” and Orszag’s view on this matter is commonplace among many other analysts whose views are hardly conservative. [Ira Stoll, who has just relaunched his wonderful SmarterTimes.com, one of the best media-criticism sites since they invented the Internet; everyone should start reading it]
A. “Buried in the middle of the penultimate paragraph.”
Q. “Where, amid a long rant against the D.C. Circuit’s decision striking down most recess appointments by the President (“A Court Upholds Republican Chicanery”), would you expect the Times to concede that the practice of holding pro forma sessions to stymie such appointments was pioneered under Democratic Senate rule as a way of restraining President George W. Bush?
No prizes, as distinct from amusement value, in demonstrating what the New York Times thought of the practice back then.
More on the Canning v. NLRB decision: Trevor Burrus/Cato, massive link roundup at How Appealing, John Elwood, Point of Law roundtable, Michael Fox/Employer’s Lawyer (implications for NLRB), @markcalabria (implications for Richard Cordray CFPB appointment), Michael Greve, Mike Rappaport.
My colleague John Samples argues for the venerable instrument of Senate obstruction [Philadelphia Inquirer] And some sort of prize should go to Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) who chided “one of the major newspapers in our country” — he probably meant the New York Times — for siding with anti-filibuster Democratic ultras this time around, though it had taken exactly the opposite position when Republicans controlled the Senate. “We’ve got to be consistent.” [Dave Weigel]
Jacob Sullum: “New York Times Accidentally Admits That Energy Drinks Are Safer Than Coffee.”
Floyd Abrams, famous for representing the New York Times in the landmark Pentagon Papers litigation, writes in to correct the paper’s faulty grasp of the Citizens United decision [NYT letter]
The popularity of auxiliary home power generators is somehow proof that taxes should be higher? John Steele Gordon tries to parse a New York Times columnist’s argument. [Commentary]
A federal judge has declined jurisdiction of the Oglala Sioux tribe’s lawsuit claiming that liquor sellers just over the Nebraska border are legally answerable for the harms of alcoholism on the reservation. The dismissal is without prejudice to possible refiling of the claims in state court; New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof had promoted the cause. [BBC]
P.S. Kristof vs. college sophomore, advantage sophomore [James Taranto, WSJ, fifth item; Robert James Bidinotto] And don’t get us started about his chemophobia.
On July 12 New York Times columnist Jim Dwyer wrote an extensive story about the death of a 12-year-old boy who had been brought to an emergency room with fever and rapid pulse, sent home, and died of septic shock. Lab test results and other indicators of distress allegedly went unheeded, and the boy’s family is represented by Thomas Moore, perhaps the city’s premier medical malpractice lawyer. Some legal blogs had a field day citing Dwyer’s article as an example of flagrant medical malpractice, as they depicted it; other reactions, some gathered in a Dwyer follow-up column, were more mixed.
White Coat, the blog at Emergency Physicians Monthly, has been resistant to the Dwyer-Moore narrative of the case. Its blog posts can be found here,
here, here, and here.
The other day the Chicago Tribune documented a longstanding campaign (see Friday link) to get government bodies to adopt standards requiring flameproofing of furniture upholstery, carpets and other household materials. Turns out key actors in that campaign were companies that make the chemicals used in flameproofing, which thereby guaranteed themselves a giant market for their products, as well as cigarette companies that worried that they would face regulatory and legal pressure over fires caused by careless smoking and decided to pursue a strategy of turning the issue into someone else’s problem.
Unfortunately, according to the Tribune series, the supposedly flameproof furnishings 1) aren’t necessarily very good at reducing fire risk and 2) are doused with chemicals that one might not want rubbing off on one’s family and pets. That’s aside from the regulations’ obvious cost in making furnishings more expensive and narrowing consumer choice by excluding producers unable or unwilling to use the chemical treatments. Whether or not you accept the series’ interpretation in all respects — the authors tend to taken an alarmist line, for example, on the chemicals’ environmental dangers — it’s useful as reminder #83,951 that government regulation often is driven by motives quite different from those advertised, and in particular by business lobbies whose interest is frequently squarely opposed to laissez-faire.
On Sunday, Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, criticized lately in this space for his views on supposed Big Beer responsibility for Indian reservation alcoholism, addressed the flameproofing story in his column. After reciting the controversy — laying a particular emphasis on chemical alarmism, long a specialty of his — Kristof concludes as follows:
This campaign season, you’ll hear fervent denunciations of “burdensome government regulation.” When you do, think of the other side of the story: your home is filled with toxic flame retardants that serve no higher purpose than enriching three companies. The lesson is that we need not only safer couches but also a political system less distorted by toxic money.
Which affords James Taranto of the WSJ’s “Best of the Web” this response:
The guy is so blinded by ideology that he fails to notice he has just given an example of burdensome government regulation.
I’ve got a piece out at Reason today in which I de-foam the Times columnist’s highly aerated assertions about beer sales near the Pine Ridge, S.D. Oglala Sioux reservation. And a followup at Cato: Kristof has written about the failures of the Drug War, so why does he not apply those lessons here? See also: NYT “Room for Debate” discussion. A different view: Eric Turkewitz.
No, this isn’t the first time the fashionable, First-Lady-approved theory has been debunked — see posts here, here, and here — but it’s gratifying to see the NYT’s formidable Gina Kolata get front-page space for a thorough treatment. One study found poor neighborhoods “had nearly twice as many supermarkets and large-scale grocers per square mile” as wealthier ones; another “found no relationship between what type of food students said they ate, what they weighed, and the type of food within a mile and a half of their homes.” [Tyler Cowen, Jacob Sullum] And Katherine Mangu-Ward notes the juxtaposition of Kolata’s piece with an opinion piece in the paper the very same day: “Food Deserts Are Not Real. Also, We Can Fix Them.”
In one of the standout instances of media misconduct during the run-up to the recent furor, NBC repeatedly aired, on “Today” and other shows, audio footage misleadingly edited so as to advance the proposition that George Zimmerman was suspicious of Trayvon Martin because of his race [Erik Wemple, Washington Post] While announcing that it had fired the unnamed producer it considered responsible, NBC was less than forthcoming about other details of the scandal, which — as Mickey Kaus points out — may have had a lot to do with its lawyers’ concerns about minimizing a possible defamation payout: “Like other tort laws, libel laws are in practice the enemy of transparency.”
Some have recalled the scandal in which “Dateline NBC” aired footage of supposedly exploding GM cars that in fact had been rigged with incendiary devices. But I’m actually more put in mind of a less celebrated media disgrace from the same era, the Texaco Tapes pseudo-scandal, in which (as I recount here) the New York Times and other outlets avidly promoted systematic misreadings of audiotapes in a hotly disputed racial-bias case, and failed to engage in adequate (or, really, any) soul-searching when the misreadings came to be exposed. In the Martin/Zimmerman case the questionable audio readings included the “two-shot” account influentially advanced by the New York Times when the case first broke nationally, and the supposed racial slur which dominated coverage for a couple of days before being (if the prosecutor’s affidavit is any indication) discreetly laid to rest.
More: Speaking of the New York Times, you have to wonder whether that paper has some sort of stylebook rule requiring it to keep misreporting what Stand Your Ground laws do [Jacob Sullum, more, earlier] And Tom Maguire notes that the paper’s latest editorial appear to be backing off its earlier assertions that the Zimmerman case will hinge on the state’s curtailing of the old “duty to retreat”: “The duty to retreat evidently extends to Times editors.” He also wonders whether, on the much-discussed question of whether Zimmerman flouted the advice of a 911 operator, the NYT editorialists read their own paper. Yet more: Maguire collects the media myths.
I have a new post at Cato rounding up many of my recent writings and broadcast appearances on the subject, under the title, “Why Is Press Coverage of the Martin/Zimmerman Case So Bad?”