Monthly Archives: August 2005

FT off the rails

Today’s lead story in the US edition of the Financial Times is US army looks to leave Iraq. A sensational scoop, if there were any particular basis to the story.

It’s based on comments from Major General Douglas Lute, director of operations at US Central Command. When you actually read what he says, it is hedged in a bunch of ways: it depends on improvements in Iraqi forces, on the Sunnis being engaged in the political process, on successful elections. In other words, it’s contingent on just about everything going right in a place where just about everything is going wrong.

Lute concludes: “I will tell you this, as the operations officer of Centcom, if a year from now I’ve got to call on all those army troops that Gen Schoomaker is prepared to provide [Schoomaker, army chief of staff, said last week that troop levels could be maintained until 2009], I won’t feel real good about myself.” Of course it’s a God-given right for Americans to feel good about themselves. But Lute could well be disappointed in 12 months.

It would be wrong to think there’s no one home at the FT during the August holidays. Their US lead story is completely buried on the website. I’ll guess an editor with brains saw that it was part of the usual back and forth jabber of various different senior officers in a difficult, changeable war. There are more and more days, however, where I wonder about the news judgment at the FT. At the same time, there is no better source for global economic and financial news. I suspect they are desperate to have a front page that distinguishes itself from the Wall Street Journal in the US market. They should be careful of trying too hard.

Another great administration policy

The Daily Grist on the new SUV fuel standards:

Yesterday, the administration proposed a new set of auto fuel-economy rules. Tightening the standard for passenger cars? Uh, no, that would stay at an average of 27.5 miles per gallon. Finally imposing some requirements on mega-SUVs like the Hummer H2? Wrong again. Instead, most SUVs, pickups, and minivans would be divided into six categories based on size, each with its own fuel-economy requirements. The administration says the plan would increase the average mileage of these vehicles a whopping 2.8 mpg by 2011, to 24 mpg. Amazing but true! Despite the obvious logic of the plan, it has critics, some of whom point out that it would actually provide an incentive for auto manufacturers to make their light trucks larger, so they’d be bumped into categories with lower mileage standards. “The proposal is almost embarrassing in terms of its effect on fuel consumption,” said Eric Haxthausen of Environmental Defense.

More on the Times and the neo-creos

I should have known that Felix Salmon would be on the case:

There are basically two sides to this debate:

(a) the side which says that there is a real debate and that both sides should be taught in an on-the-one-hand on-the-other hand sort of approach; and

(b) the side which says that there is not a real debate, that Intelligent Design is not science, and that there’s really no place for ID in any kind of curriculum.

The NYT, clearly, is on side (a). Which is very depressing. Just look at Kenneth Chang’s article: the ID types get the full-on “fair and balanced” treatment throughout, and the reader is very much left with the impression that there’s a genuine debate out there that scientists might be on one side or they might be on the other, and that ID poses genuine questions and arguments which it is incumbent upon evolutionists to answer.


The Times and the creationists

Brad Plumer identifies part of what is irking me about the current New York Times series on so-called intelligent design:

The New York Times’ big series about evolution and creationist design is by turns horrifying and hilarious — hilarious in the sense of “Oh my god they really did run a ‘Views on Shape of Earth Differ’ article”.

But it’s more than that. Of course the rise of this neo-creationism is sinister and needs to be marked by any serious newspaper. I distinctly get the tone from the Times, however, that they are treating the “design” advocates with respect they don’t deserve. I know the end of the series will occasion a magisterial editorial piece from the Times decrying the rise of intelligent design. The paper will already have done its part by then in making it acceptable.

Addendum: Brad’s subsequent comment to his own post makes the point better: “Essentially, they’ve enshrined this thing as a “debate,” rather than what it really is: a bunch of crackpots making pseudo-objections to a scientific theory they don’t understand, or care to.”

And am I the only person who is totally mystified by the Gates Foundation helping the anti-science cause, by contributing to the Discovery Institute?

When anybody can become a news organization

Rebecca MacKinnon: “I would rather see education about the practice of journalism better integrated into basic high school English classes, and definitely into the required curriculum for all college students. In a world where all citizens can and increasingly do create media, we need to teach people the skills, social responsibilities, as well as legal and personal consequences of what they post online. I’ve always felt that our school system fails to educate the American public on how the news we consume gets made – and how to be an intelligent consumer of that news. These skills are all the more urgent now that practically anybody can become a news organization.”

The French way

I liked one of the cover lines above the strap in today’s Financial Times: “No rest for Americans, though the president holidays like a Frenchman.” Apparently Bush has set a presidential record by spending 336 days at his Crawford ranch since he took office.

According to the article (which I couldn’t find on the FT website), “an American worker typically gets about 13 days of paid leave a year” — after five years of work for a company. Offered a choice between more money and more spare time, most Americans will take the money. Europeans will take the time.

In glass houses

As a long-time Londoner, recently moved, I’ve been following the aftermath of the the shooting of Charles de Menezes with a horrid fascination. Stuart Hughes makes an unpopular point:

According to Amnesty International, in Mr Menezes’ home country of Brazil last year:

– There were consistent reports from around the country of corrupt, violent and discriminatory policing.

– Official figures cited more than 1500 killings by police.

– Across the country “death squads” continued to participate in the extrajudicial executions of criminal suspects.

– Torture continued to be widespread and systematic in prisons, police stations and at point of arrest.

None of this justifies, Mr Menezes’ killing, of course.

Something clearly went badly wrong at Stockwell Station on July 22nd and his family are right to want the truth to be made public.

But those — especially those Brazilian government officials — currently attacking the Metropolitan Police would do well to remember the situation closer to home as well.

Of course, who ever thought that British bobbies would ever be put in the position of being compared to a violent, Third World police force?